Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Why I hate publishers even more than I did a month ago

In the month or so since my last post, I've learned a few things.

First of all, let's put this issue of the 2004 "first edition" of Touchstone to rest.  I ordered one from an Amazon-affiliated reseller, and it arrived in pristine condition.  Spine is uncreased, corners are sharp, edges are not yellowed.  I have copies of the genuine first edition that are in similar condition.

However, this new acquisition is not the same. 

To begin with, the front cover does not have the embossed lettering of the title and my name.  The colors are a tad bit faded, as if the inks were slightly watered down.  And there is no Pocket Books logo on the front cover.

The back cover is lacking an ISBN and corresponding barcode; the 2004 edition has only a UPC barcode.  And where the original indicated on the pricing barcode a cover price of $5.99 (U.S.), the reissue indicates that the cover price is now $1.00.

The spine of the 2004 release has no pricing information at the bottom.  The 1996 printing shows that the retail price is $5.99 in the U.S. and $7.99 in Canada, followed by the ISBN.

So much for the exterior.  Inside the 2004 edition, all advertising for other Pocket Books authors and titles is gone.  The inside of the original front cover contained a promotion for my other Pocket title, Moonsilver; inside the back was a brief author's bio.  The last page of the original edition was an ad for Judith McNaught's many Pocket Books titles.  All three of those items are missing from the 2004 printing.

With one exception, everything else about the content of the novel itself appears to be identical to the 1996 first printing.  The only other change is on the copyright page.

The 1996 printing includes the line:
First Pocket Books printing March 1996
followed by the string of numbers that usually indicate which printing; in this case 10  9  8  7  6  5  4  3  2  1 are all there.

The 2004 batch has altered that line to read:
This Pocket Books paperback printing September 2004
followed by the same string of  numbers right down to 5  4  3  2  1.

But the book is not -- NOT -- a first edition.  Not by any stretch of the imagination.

Simon & Schuster collected approximately $14,000 on this printing of roughly 28,000 copies.  Someone purchased all 28,000 copies on a non-returnable basis for roughly 50 cents each and sold -- or tried to sell -- them for $1.00 each.  I'm guessing it was one of the discount retailer chains, commonly referred in the generic as The Dollar Store, but I really don't know.  I don't care.  I do know that my royalty account at Simon & Schuster was credited with $625.05 for the "special sale" of 27,780 copies of Touchstone.

Touchstone sold fewer than 10,000 copies on its initial print run.  I have absolutely no idea why any retailer would want 28,000 more copies of it, but apparently Simon & Schuster thought they could make money off it even at 50 cents per copy.  As a former cost accountant, I can only take this to mean that the actual cost of printing and binding and shipping a mass market paperback in 2004 was less than 50 cents a copy.

I have no idea what the initial print run on Touchstone was, but considering how few copies it sold, I can't imagine S&S was willing to print 28,000 more copies at a loss.  Obviously they had no editorial costs, no typesetting cost, not even any artwork cost.   Just print and bind and ship.

Okay, so that's the 2004 edition of Touchstone.  Not a first edition at all.

But now we get to the 2011 edition.  The one that's on Amazon for $13.59 and due to be released next Monday, 5 December 2011.   Still no way to "review" this one, even though an old review has been attached to it -- one presumes by Amazon and not S&S, because the "review" is pretty stupid.

There's a screen capture as it looks today -- 29 November 2011 -- with the ridiculous list price of $19.99 discounted to $13.59.  The listed author's name is incomplete, even though it's quite obvious from the cover of the book -- unchanged since 1996 -- what my name is.

Barnes&Noble, of course, is no better, and they don't have the cover art up yet.

I should note, too, that Amazon didn't have a cover posted either until just the past couple of days, and it's not like it's NEW cover art or anything.

I can only believe, absent any notice to the contrary from Simon & Schuster, that this is "print on demand" edition, which means they don't have any financial investment in this at all.  But this POD edition makes the work still "available" to the reading public, though at an outrageous price no one is going to pay.  People weren't even willing to pay $1.00 in 2004 to snap up all those cheap copies, so why in heaven's name would anyone plunk out more than $13.00 in 2011?

My day job demands my attention right now or I'd start going through my own inventory to find other books that were published by Simon & Schuster in the mid 1990s to see how many other authors are being treated this way.  S&S can't think that they need to hang onto my rights because I'm going to be famous one day and they'll make bazillions off my backlist (there are only two titles in that backlist anyway). 

No, this is sheer vindictiveness.  They can't put out a digital edition without negotiating "in good faith" the royalty rate with me, and they clearly don't want to do that and run the risk that I'll demand a "fair" rate.  So rather than give me the rights back, which I have asked in writing for, they are making this absurd edition "available" and denying me my copyright.

I can't afford a lawyer to address this, and I'm not a member of NINC or even of RWA, so I don't have them to help.  (Not that RWA has ever done much for me in the past, which is why I haven't belonged for over 10 years.)  But unless and until Simon & Schuster/Pocket Books either plays fair or gives a reasonable explanation for why they're doing this, I will not shut up about it.

I hate publishers.

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