Sunday, December 21, 2008

Quick, Watson: They're Gone, Baby, Gone

Just a bit ago I jumped over to the PacMacmillan website and burrowed down to the MNW imprint pages to grab a link--to me and my book of course--to post in an e-mail. Imagine my surprise to find I was no longer there. I tried sorting by Author's Name, Title, Pub Date...Nope. No Isaak, no David, no Shock and no Awe. Totally 404. Address not found. Closed, cerrado, sayonara, much aloha.

Now, I was recently in London, and met up with many of the people associated with the MNW imprint. I thought it was fun, even amicable. But who knows? The Brits are a notoriously inscrutable lot (or maybe that's the Japanese? I seem to remember this is true about people on some largish island. Reading Kazuo Ishiguro has permanently confused me. Plus they drink tea in both places.) Perhaps I unknowingly offended someone powerful and vengeful, and have been cast into the outer darkness.

I decided to get Sherlock-Holmesian. I arranged the books in reverse chronology on the web site and began paging back through them. Everything seemed fine until I reached the place where Len Tyler's first book ought to have been. Herring-Seller's Apprentice? Missing. One step further back and Cover the Mirrors by my evil twin Faye Booth is also AWOL September, October, November. Obviously not someone who has a grudge against me in particular; just someone who hates autumn. Or, more specifically, Autumn 2007, since the 2008 Fall Lineup is still in place.

Mystery solved? So it might seem, but that's merely a Red Apprentice, because also missing from the list was August's Great North Road by Annabel Dore, suggesting that we are dealing with someone who thinks autumn starts in the heat of summer. But it's harder to explain the absence of Brian McGilloway's Borderlands (April), and Matt Curran's The Secret War (January).

Now, what do all of these have in common? They are all published in mass-market paperback (by Pan, except in the case of Annabel, who is with Picador, and Matt, who is with Tor. So perhaps the books are gone because they don't want the hardback competing with the paperback.

Mystery solved? Well, not really. Alis Hawkins' Testament is also coming out in paperback from Pan next month, and the hardback is still listed--but listed as out of stock. Of course, as we've learned, 'out of stock' in this business doesn't necessarily mean there are no books left; it can mean that the stock has fallen beneath some reserve level. And to confuse matters further, Eliza Graham's Playing With the Moon has been in Pan paperback forever, but she's still for sale in hardback.

And, if you look further back into the mists of time, there are now books missing from the MNW list that have not moved into paperback; they're just gone. So I'm not sure there's a pattern.

My conjecture is that when your book truly goes out of stock and they are sure they won't be printing up more, and that they won't be receiving a truckload of returns to restock, you vanish from the imprint's list. You may still be in print at another imprint (type my name into the searchbar and it will send you to the Pan paperback), but you aren't on the MNW list any more. Initially this might be a bit of a shock, until you recall that the list isn't supposed to be a museum, but rather a place to order books, and if you aren't orderable (is that a word?) then you don't belong in the display window.

I'm afraid I can't declare this singular mystery--which was not without certain aspects of interest--solved. The conjecture above is my best guess.

My stint as Holmes hasn't been terribly successful, has it? Next time I'll try John instead of Sherlock.

9 comments:

Jake Jesson said...

Well, David, I typed your name into the Search bar, and I found this: http://www.panmacmillan.com/titles/displayPage.asp?PageTitle=Individual%20Title&BookID=404913

Looks like your book, walks like your book, quacks like your book...

The plot thickens?

David Isaak said...

Yes, that's my paperback at Pan--and quite pleased I am about it.

What I was noting is that I was no longer on the list of books at the Macmillan New Writing imprint.

Most imprints don't do it like this, but the setup is that they MNW publishes a book a month. (At most imprints, they simply have a quarterly or publishing season catalog of new books; publishing a specific number at specific intervals is rather unusual--and MNW themselves may not do it forever.)

Up until recently, it was a little like being Playmate of the Month: you could scan back and find, say, Miss September 2007 (that would be me). Now if you page though it by moneth, some months are missing.

No one but the author of one of the books could possibly care about this.

David Isaak said...

Hey, Jake--

Note that I added a parenthetical to clarify the issue...

Tim Stretton said...

I hereby declare the hardback officially "collectible"...

David Isaak said...

Tim, my man, you should have pursued a career in public relations.

Ellie said...

From now on I shall always think of you as a playmate of the month, David...

(And the dinner was great fun and very amicable, indeed.)

Eliza

Chris said...

I have another option. You and the other unlisted authors are about to be brutally murdered by a scarf-wielding maverick named Dave, who is the key protagonist in a new murder-mystery fiction book which, several years down the line, will turn out to have been FACT. Of course, by that point it'll be off the MNW imprint list, and Dave himself will have to be murdered.

On reflection I don't think this is a very good alternative idea after all. But I've typed it now, and it seems such a waste not to post it.

David Isaak said...

Hi, Eliza--

Ms. September, to be precise!

David Isaak said...

Hey, Chris--

A lot of the people haunting this blog are novelists, so don't be surprised if your suggestion ends up as the plot of a book...