The DARKBEAST REBELLION Post I Didn’t Want to Write

Posted by on October 16, 2013 in business of writing, darkbeast, darkbeast rebellion, darkbeast series | 29 comments

Sigh.  I didn’t want to write this post.  But I think it’s important to share the news with you, my readers.  (That is, the readers of my pen-name, Morgan Keyes.)

DARKBEAST REBELLION is a victim of our one-bricks-and-mortar-chain-bookstore economy, here in the U.S. 

What does that mean?

As recently as a couple of years back, when Borders competed with Barnes & Noble (“B&N”) for readers’ dollars, each chain carried a different inventory.  Sometimes, Borders championed a book, series, or author.  Sometimes, B&N did.  Sometimes, both chains jumped on board.  An author who found herself with lots of sales at Borders could poke B&N and say, “Hey, look at what you’re missing out on!”  (And vice versa.)

When Borders folded, many authors worried they’d see substantially lower sales.  In part, of course, that was because readers had fewer places to buy books.  In part, though, that decrease would result from the lack of competition.  No one could say, “Hey, look at what you’re missing out on!” (Amazon, of course, continues to compete with B&N, but the reader-experience is vastly different between Amazon and a physical store.  Readers cannot browse books on Amazon the way they can in a physical store; they’re far less likely to discover a new-to-them author.)

Alas, the DARKBEAST series is a textbook case of what authors feared when Borders shut up shop.

Initially, B&N declined to stock DARKBEAST in its physical stores, despite uniformly rave reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, the Horn Book, and Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.  B&N’s decision was made, nation-wide, by one person, the children’s buyer.  Although I’ve tried very hard over almost 18 months to learn the reasoning behind that course of action, I’ve never heard a real explanation.  Various ideas have been floated:

  • The book uses vocabulary words that were beyond various State-approved and -recommended grade-level lists.
  • The book involves the potential of harm to animals (and actual harm to one animal, off-stage) and is therefore inappropriate for children.
  • The book tells the story of a child who rebels against the religion of the adults in her community, choosing individual action over blind faith.

After months of pressure from my publisher, Simon & Schuster (“S&S”), B&N finally agreed to carry DARKBEAST, placing a very limited number of copies in a limited number of stores.  (Nationwide, they bought in the mid-three-figures.)  Those books were shelved in the general middle grade fiction section, rather than the “New Books” children’s section, because the book had been out for several months by the time B&N agreed to carry it.

Shortly after B&N agreed to its very limited distribution of DARKBEAST, B&N and S&S entered into a business dispute, whereby B&N refused to stock the vast majority of S&S titles.  As a result, any store that sold its copies of DARKBEAST could not restock those books.  Ultimately, B&N sold slightly more than half of its tiny stock of DARKBEAST.

And then DARKBEAST REBELLION was released.

B&N passed on the book, saying they would not stock it because sales of the first book were too low.  (Yes, the sales they had delayed by months.  The sales they limited by making a tiny initial buy.  The sales they hampered by not re-ordering.)

Throughout this frustrating time, S&S has made valiant efforts to promote DARKBEAST and DARKBEAST REBELLION.  They have arranged readings for me at independent bookstores and at schools, and they have paid for me to attend various book festivals and independent booksellers conferences to promote the books.  They sent out dozens of copies of both books to reviewers and book bloggers, and they awarded dozens of copies to a variety of online contest winners.  They went back to a second printing on the hardcover of DARKBEAST, they printed DARKBEAST as a $6.99 trade paperback, and they intend to release DARKBEAST REBELLION as a paperback, down the road.

But where does that leave me today?

DARKBEAST and DARKBEAST REBELLION are novels of my heart.  They’re the type of book I loved to read when I was a child.  They *trust* middle grade readers to ask difficult questions and to confront hard truths.  And yet, these books are languishing, “hidden” from the vast majority of potential readers because our one remaining bricks-and-mortar chain won’t sell them.

What can you do?

  • Tell people this is happening — to me and the books I love, and to other authors, too.
  • Post links to this blog on your own blog, Facebook page, Twitter feed, or other social media.
  • Buy DARKBEAST (Amazon | B & N | Indiebound) and DARKBEAST REBELLION (Amazon | B & N | Indiebound) at stores that sell them (Amazon, B&N’s online store, or independent bookstores).

We’re not talking about a huge number of books to make a difference between success for the DARKBEAST series and failure.  Four-digit sales are all we need.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to be grateful for all the hard work that everyone at Simon & Schuster has done to promote DARKBEAST and DARKBEAST REBELLION.  And I’ll be brought to tears by the support of so many of you — my loyal friends and readers.  And I”ll continue to hope for the best for Keara, Caw, and the Darkbeast world….

 

 

29 Comments

  1. This is awful! I discovered your book Darkbeast last year towards the end of the year and it wound up being one of my favorites for the year. While I’m wary of Amazon, at least they have the titles there! But there’s nothing like brick and mortar and the readers that come in to simply browse and happen to pick up the book. I’m trying to shop at more independents when I have a little spending money.

    I’m looking forward to reading Darkbeast Rebellion once my current reading obligations are taken care of!

    • Thank you for the kind words! (In a perfect world, we’d all have a gigantic independent bookstore at the nearest corner…) I still love to browse books, but it’s getting harder and harder to do!

  2. I am sorry to hear this. My blog does not usually review Children’s books, but I will do what I can to promote and also forward to other sites.

    • Thank you so much for the effort! (These books are seeing a lot of cross-over with adult audiences – probably a side effect of my career having started with writing fantasy for adults…)

  3. Borders was always so good at carrying a large variety of books. Thank goodness for Powell’s!

    Do ebook sales help as well, or does it need to be physical copies? Also, does it help if my local library carries more than one copy, either physical or ebook?

    Thanks!

    • Ebook sales *definitely* count! And every copy in a library — physical or electronic — counts as well. Many thanks for asking. (And oh, how happy we would all be, if we all had wonderful independents like Powell’s in our own backyards…)

      • I loved Powells. I lived in Portland for over 6 years. I have never read your books. Now I am curious and will purchase. I wish you well. Unfortunately, we do not have an independent bookstore nearby.

        • I feel your pain. We have a couple of independents around, but nothing on the scale of a Powell’s — with the selection and the knowledgeable staff… Don’t get me started, daydreaming about an indie store that supports genre writing!

  4. Ugh, B&N is doing this *again* to S&S books? One more reason I don’t shop there. I’ve now ordered copies of Darkbeast Rebellion from my independent bookstore for myself and a public library. Good luck!

    • Thank you so much! I’m especially thrilled at the idea of your helping out your public library – a cause near and dear to my heart!

  5. I found this link via Facebook from a friend’s post. So the word is getting out. I live in a very rural area where B&N is over 3 hours away; thus, I order 99% of my books (hard copy or digital) on Amazon. I will, however, go to our local bookstore and inquire about your books. I’ll print your message and give it to someone who will, hopefully, make a difference.

    Good luck.

    ~deanna

    • Many, many thanks (both for asking about the book and letting me know that the word is getting out.) I appreciate your passing on the message!

  6. Just bought it at Amazon. Good luck.

    • Many, many thanks!

  7. Unfortunately, I think this kind of thing is contributing to the demise of B&N. On a trip to NY a couple of months ago, I stopped at an indie store to browse. I found all sorts of things I was interested in, but when I returned home to my local B&N they had not one of the books that had intrigued me. Not only that, they had nothing else I was interested in.

    It’s all very well if you live near Powells or in NY, but I worry about other places not having bookstores at all.

    • Yep. I had a similar experience this past weekend, at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville. I was browsing the tables of books by authors at the festival, and I found dozens that looked intriguing. But I’ve stopped going to our local B&N for browsing, because there just isn’t anything like the range they once had…

  8. Count me in! I just read this from a friend’s Facebook page. I often browse the Children’s Book section at B&N looking for something new and interesting that is not simply another smarmy teen knock-off. I’ll be happy to order for me and my library. Thanks for the suggestions!

    • ::grin:: Many, many thanks! Loving the library angle, I’ve got to say…

  9. I’m in Australia but am seeing the same things happening here. We too have only one large chain left and they seem very reluctant to stock anything not guaranteed as a sale so we have a thousand copies of 50 Shades of ***** Grey and two, if you’re lucky, of a new local author. I’ve gotten used to expecting not to see any of my books in their stores. But at least they don’t have any disputes with publishers – at least that I’m aware of.

    • It’s all tremendously frustrating – especially when we remember how things used to be. I suppose if we were E.L. James, we’d be less frustrated. ::wry grin::

  10. Just wanted to let you know I bought both books from amazon.com and enjoyed them immensely. I hope there are more adventures of keara, Caw and the rest!

    • Many, many thanks for your support! (And for taking the time to let me know you enjoyed the books!)

  11. Something very similar happened to my books…not quite the same, but similar enough that the later ones…the ones with the good covers…never made it to the bookstores.

    If it is okay, I will repost your blog article next week.

    • Yep – empathy can be a strong (but depressing!) emotion…

      Yes, please feel free to spread the word!

  12. It doesn’t make sense. B&N wants to sell books… then stock them. Everyone loses in this situation.

    • So it seems to us…. Bookbuyers, that is. And booklovers…

  13. Canada’s largest bookstore chain, Chapters/Indigo is carrying .

    • Many thanks! Do you know, Mark, if they have the books in physical stores, or are they only available in the online catalog? (I certainly don’t expect you — or anyone else — to make a separate trip to find out!)

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