October 21st, 1999

October 21, 1999

Posted at 6:26 PM by Jack Chalker

I delivered the first of a new three volume project for Baen, Balshazzar’s Serpent, today. I have hopes of being able to do one more this year, the last one for Del Rey, who has a lot of my stuff in backlog waiting for publication but with whom I’ve not been on the best terms lately. All but one person who ever knew a Del Rey is gone there, and that person is also the only one left whose background is in original fiction as well. They fired or allowed to retire the rest, keeping the media, TV, film, and comics people, which, I think, shows the direction they are taking. New owners Bertelsman/Bantam haven’t shown much interest in Del Rey one way or the other, and consider their “real” line to be the totally separate Bantam Spectra. Who knows, we may have to wait out the old management. The new ones are certainly, well, different. Claiming my sales are down (everybody’s sales are down, even McCaffrey and Niven!) they cut the print run on Priam’s Lens to the bare bones—we think under 25,000 copies. It sold out almost immediately but they decided not to reprint. The fast sale, they told one buyer trying to reoder who sent an account to me, showed that they had “guessed exactly right,” never mind the reorders, and it wasn’t worth “risking” printing more when they could concentrate on the next month’s books. The bottom line is, if you want most of your favorite writers’ books, buy them quickly and tell your friends. Priam, only released in late August, is already out of print although it did have close to 100% sell-through! No copies were put on the racks; it was bookstore and online sales only even at that. This means that you should also link to writer sites like this one on your own sites and encourage word of mouth (or word of Internet) enthusiasm. Otherwise, the books just will not be there.

We’ve had a good working relationship with Baen, but Baen is, let’s face it, a very small publisher dependent on the big boys for distribution. The money they can pay is not the kind that can regularly pay the mortgage. Still, if sales are good enough (and Baen has a real stake in selling books, unlike Del Rey) they can lead the way. Don’t overlook them.

The latest book to Baen is the start of a series called Tales of the Three Kings. No, we didn’t know about the Clooney movie title until long after the contract was signed. In my case, the Kings are earth-sized and habitable moons of a humungous gas giant. They may also be El Dorado, Heaven or Hell, or lots of other legendary places, or all of them. The first group involves an evangellical spacefaring group who are not idiots, so if you have a hangup over religion, I’m going to push your buttons no matter which way your hangup goes. The second is going to be a combination exploration and mercenary group. The third—well, wait and see.

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