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Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow....

Thursday, May 15, 2008 at 11:36am

When is that book coming?

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time

Macbeth -- William Shakespeare

Shakespeare had something completely different in mind when he wrote the above, but it nicely fits the feeling of readers when their favourite author's new book is delayed. I found myself wondering, last night, just who it is that suffers the most when a book doesn't arrive as expected.

The question came to me regarding Walter Jon Williams, whose brilliant new title Implied Spaces (I'm allowed to say that, being fortunate enough to have read an advance copy for review) has been delayed due to press problems. I was also fortunate enough to conduct an interview with Walter at the end of March. Lately, I'd been starting to feel a bit of frustration, having spent some time preparing the interview and now having to make decisions about running it when the book isn't available, or delaying it until we can be sure the books will be here. It occurred to me that my problems were nowhere near the top of the chain. There are all kinds of people who have been inconvenienced by the delay, and my worries about when to put an interview online are pretty near the bottom of the list. In no particular order, here are some of the things that occurred to me:

  • Publisher: has prepared catalogues, hopefully generated some press releases, contacted various bibliographic agencies and large booksellers in order to make sure the information is available to any fans looking for the book.
  • Author: May have done his own publicity, certainly has contacted a number of his regular readers and has possibly spent time and energy doing an interview with a keen bookseller. More importantly, probably has rent due at the end of the month which depends not only on this new book, but on increased sales of his earlier books that may rise out of renewed interest.
  • Booksellers: Having planned to devote a display, interview, review space, are now forced to use non-relevant materials (since they don't have books to sell) or fill in the space with something else they hadn't planned, and hope they can find a place for their pet project later.
  • Fans: While fans may not suffer extensively, they still experience a bit of perfectly reasonable disappointment when a promised title they've been looking forward to fails to materialize.

In the case of Walter Jon Williams, and Implied Spaces, we can hope the delay is minor, a few months of extra anticipation (current bibliographic information indicates publication has been pushed from April to July). Imagine the poor fan who is waiting for the next mammoth book in a series and it is a year late, or two, or more. In this case, hopefully the delay is not long enough for stores to return his earlier titles which they'd ordered in anticipation of interest around the new book. Hopefully it won't even spill over into delaying royalties sufficient to cause the author financial stress a few months down the line. Hopefully the publisher didn't have to assume a large cost over the press problems that causes them financial distress. At best, such issues could cause them to think twice when the author's next book is ready; at the worst, small publishers have collapsed over similar problems, leading to the author never receiving any royalties, along with other suppliers and authors.

At the end of the day, it's essential for all of us to remember that books are a partnership, not just between authors and publishers, but also between them and the booksellers and readers. Without readers, the book industry has no significance. On behalf of authors, publishers and booksellers everywhere, we appreciate your patience.

Categories: Discussions, SciFi & Fantasy, New Releases, Publishing News

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