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Missing in Action

30 July 2016

From author Brian Keene via Cemetery Dance Online:

A decade ago, you could find my books in any bookstore. Indeed, most Borders and Barnes and Noble carried a few copies of each book in my backlist, thus creating a Brian Keene shelf, right next to Stephen King and Jack Ketchum. I can’t tell you how crucial this was to increasing my audience. If you’re a customer browsing the horror section (or even the alphabetical K section) your eyes are naturally going to be drawn to an entire row of books written by the same person, rather than a lone book by a lone author.

When myself, J.F. Gonzalez, Mary SanGiovanni, Bryan Smith, and others in our field killed Leisure/Dorchester to save the genre (and ourselves), those Brian Keene sections went away. Since then, readers have been unable to find my books in stores. That’s because many of the publishers I have since signed with—Deadite Press, Apex Book Company, Thunderstorm Books, etc.—don’t have distribution into those stores. And that’s okay. In truth, I make more money from Deadite than I ever made from Leisure (and I was one of Leisure’s top-paid authors) because of Deadite’s distribution. They sell directly to readers and through Amazon, which means I get paid every month, rather than waiting ninety days or more for the bookstore chains to pay them. And since they are selling their books to readers at full price, rather than at a discount for the bookstores, I get paid a much bigger cut of the cover price.

And that’s the way it has been for many years now, starting with the publication of my first post-Leisure novel, Entombed. I’ve released a dozen plus books since then, and none of them have been available in bookstores. Based on my sales and social media imprint, I had assumed all this time that my former bookstore readers had followed along with me, and were now buying those books via Amazon or on Kindle.

But I was wrong.

Yes, my post-Leisure sales stayed the same (and even increased, somewhat). But it wasn’t older readers following me into the brave new digital publishing landscape. It was newer, younger readers discovering me for the first time. Many older readers hadn’t followed me at all, because they were unaware I had continued writing and publishing.

. . . .

I saw the same dynamics in play the next night at The Poisoned Pen in Phoenix. A standing-room only crowd showed up to see Stephen Coonts, Ben Coes, Weston Ochse, and myself. Half the crowd were over the age of forty, and happy to see me apparently writing novels again. The other half were under thirty-five, and happy that I had never stopped writing novels.

Link to the rest at Cemetery Dance Online

Here’s a link to Brian Keene’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

PG says if typical bookstore customers are becoming older and older, there’s another nail in the coffin of the way things used to be.

In all the data PG has read about the publishing industry, he doesn’t remember seeing any reports comparing the average ages of bookstore and online book purchasers.

Bookstores, The Business of Writing

10 Comments to “Missing in Action”

  1. I heard Brian Keene tell this story on his podcast. I’m sure many of his older readers, in both senses, did follow him. It’s a variation of the “all dogs are mammals but not all mammals are dogs” statement. But this description is truly frightening:

    Readers over the age of forty bring a stack of Leisure paperbacks for me to sign, and they comment that it’s nice to see me back in bookstores again. (Keep in mind, Pressure is published by a mainstream publisher, meaning bookstores carry it, the way they used to carry my Leisure titles). They are under the impression that Pressure is the first thing I have written since A Gathering of Crows (my last Leisure novel). They ask me if I’ll ever write a third book in The Rising series, completely unaware that books three and four have been available for several years now.

    “They ask me if I’ll ever write a third book in The Rising series, completely unaware that books three and four have been available for several years now.”

    Yikes.

    However, in the long run this might represent a problem more for bookstores than for authors.

    I admire the attitude in Brian’s response to the situation:

    And now that I’ve found them again, I need to figure out how to reconnect.

    • the Other Diana

      He doesn’t have a website? Mailing List?

      My mother (in her 60s) is on FB.

      Me, I only signed up because “authors must”. I can’t remember the last time I logged in to FB.

      Authors need to have a website so readers can find them.

      • I don’t know about a mailing list, but he has a website/blog you can subscribe to and a podcast with his name in the title. He is also infamous as a consequence of having pissed off a lot of people over the years. He is not hard to find.

        Despite a prominent public presence, many of his readers assumed he was no longer around when his books stopped showing up on the shelves of their local bookstores. This is a short term problem. Soon those readers will not be having trouble finding their favourite authors shelved in their local bookstore, but having trouble finding their local bookstore.

        Ten minutes after reading this article I saw a review on Amazon for a KKR Diving Universe novel in which the reader wrote they had been wondering why the next book was so delayed only to find out it had been available for a while but from a different publisher. KKR has a very prominent public presence.

        I think these stories show how important it is for writers to make themselves visible because no one else will do it for them. Not publishers. Not booksellers. Not agents. Not even readers. The only person for whom the writer is not a replaceable commodity is the writer.

        Or the lesson could be no matter how much you do some people still won’t notice so why bother trying.

        Pick one. 😉

        • I’ll go with the latter. There are some huge indie authors who, no matter how clearly their books are listed on their website, still receive e-mail after e-mail from readers who can’t figure it out.

          On the other hand, there are readers/customers/consumers/whatever who are easily influenced by the clumsiest marketing and advertising imaginable. The kind of efforts that drunk admen bet against but try nonetheless. Perhaps there’s a happy medium?

  2. Looking for Diving Universe works by KKR I just came across this review on one of the book’s Amazon page:

    I had read the first three books in this series and couldn’t understand the delay in publishing the fourth book. Come to find out that the fourth book had already come out from a different publisher entirely!

    I suspect this is a problem that will fade in time, but it highlights the importance of mailing lists and websites both for writers and readers.

  3. Wait a minute. I’ve seen statistics that show ereader owners by age. And by far the largest group is over 40. Like almost seventy percent. How is it possible his older readers haven’t found him, unless they weren’t looking? I’m confused.

    • They forgot about him until they saw he was going to be doing a signing.

    • Do those statistics take into account genre?

      By far the largest group of ereader owners may be over 40. But we also know the most purchased titles on readers by far are romance. Keene writes horror and splatter punk. Not a lot of cross-over with romance.

      Keene does have a very healthy ereader following. He just assumed it was the same people who had been reading him in Leisure paperback. He was surprised to recently meet so many people at a couple of signings who thought he had stopped writing years ago.

      What these readers have been reading in the meantime is an interesting question. As is why, if they were so eager to continue the series, they don’t seem to have made the slightest effort to find the next book. (One Google search on the author name and/or series name would have pointed them to numerous places they could buy it.) This sub-group of fans didn’t have any contact with other fans who knew how to get his books? It’s deeply weird that many people could be that out of touch and still be the sort of people who attend public events. Maybe there’s a story in where they’ve been and what they’ve been doing all this time.

      You know there is probably someone who has had themselves frozen so they can be revived when George RR Martin finally finished The Song of Ice and Fire cycle.

      • “What these readers have been reading in the meantime is an interesting question. As is why, if they were so eager to continue the series, they don’t seem to have made the slightest effort to find the next book. “

        That isn’t that surprising. It took me years to make the cognitive leap from “I wish I had that old computer game” to searching for it on Ebay.

        Or, consider the pre-internet era when you wondered whether an urban legend was true. How long did it take you to develop the habit of automatically googling a story to see if it was true? (I know people who haven’t learned that behavior.)

        Some people haven’t made that leap yet, is all I’m saying.

      • Yes that’s all true. And its not that there isn’t plenty of competition out there. Maybe they were fans but not rabid enough to search for this particular author. (Or maybe a matter of age related forgetfulness? I have some of that myself.)

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