The DARKBEAST REBELLION Post I Didn’t Want to Write

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….

 

 

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DARKBEAST and DARKBEAST REBELLION Giveaway

I need to write-up a post about the amazing time I had in Nashville, attending the Southern Festival of Books.  Before I get to that, though, I wanted to let you know about an interview I completed for my friend Maria V. Snyder.  You can read her fun questions and my answers over on her blog:

http://officialmariavsnyder.blogspot.com/2013/10/darkbeast-rebellion-author-interview.html

And just to encourage you to comment on that interview — I’ll be giving away books to *two* commenters!  Check out the interview and leave a comment now!

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The BBF That Was

I went up to Baltimore yesterday, for the third and final day of the Baltimore Book Festival.  (Alas, I didn’t make it up there the other two days.)  I’ve been to the BBF a couple of other times, and yesterday was — hands down — the most gorgeous weather I’ve ever enjoyed there!  (Not a huge amount of competition, alas.  The first time I went, I was nearly electrocuted by the *rivers* of rainwater that ran through our tent, over the cords for lighting and microphones.  And the second time I went, it was grey and soggy from previous days’ rains.  Yesterday, it was clear-blue-sky and sunny for the entire day.)

I parked in the garage they recommend for authors and staff, and I was amused by the writers’ license plates I saw as I drove up the ramp, looking for a space.  (There were about a dozen variations on WRITER, with different spellings and from different states.)  Over at the hospitality suite, I immediately ran into Laura Anne Gilman (who was imitating my “smash and grab” trip of last weekend, only in reverse — she got an early morning train from NYC, spent the day in Balto, then headed home by train.)  After making sure my former editor had enough caffeine to make it to her morning panel, I headed over to the Maryland Romance Writers’ tent.

Alas, I wasn’t able to participate in programming with MRW; my schedule had been up in the air when they were setting their schedule.  I *was* able to visit with lots of friends, though.  The tent was already filling with guests, even though the first panel had not yet begun.  (I also got to commiserate with poor Laura Kaye, who was trying to figure out the best way to clean up after someone who had walked a dog — or maybe an elephant, judging by the pile left behind — on the edge of the MRW tent grounds.  The owner had failed to clean up, and Laura had no appropriate clothes or tools for the job.  I don’t know how the matter was ultimately resolved, but the grounds were clean when I returned later in the day!)

I next swung by the SFWA tent, where I had the good fortune to chat with Julie Czerneda, who was signing books.  I lured her back to the hospitality house for a quick snack before her 1:00 panel, and we (along with Julie’s husband, Roger) toured the upstairs of the house — a gorgeous space with wood paneling, intricate ceiling paintings, built-in bookshelves that would make any author drool, and other fine appointments.

Ultimately, I caught up with Stephanie Dray and her white knight, Adam.  We chatted until around 2:30, at which point they went off to peruse the festival, and I decided to take an early look (before my 3:30 panel) at what was going on in the Children’s Bookstore tent.  It was a good thing I wanted to do that — times had been switched from what I had in my calendar, and my panel was actually at 3!

The panel went very well.  Emma Casale, one of the bookstore employees (and an author of fantasy fiction in her own right!) was very prepared with discussion questions that we could all address.  Jonathan Auxier was his usual entertaining self (although without yo-yo accompaniment this time!).  Kit Grindstaff was brilliant as she launched her first novel.  Maile Meloy and Eden Unger Bowditch each made their alternative-history-with-magic novels sound fascinating.

And then we got to sign books.  I was *thrilled* to meet so many young readers (along with their patient, generous parents.)  Much to my pleasure, I signed several copies of both DARKBEAST and DARKBEAST REBELLION to boys (who are sometimes turned off by the rather girly covers.)

All in all, it was a wonderful way to spend the day.  I had an easy drive home (the Orioles game had recently let out, but fans were staying on the sidewalks when I drove by the stadium.)  Now, I have a couple of weeks without a single book event (!), so I can write new stories…

How about you?  Have you ever attended a book festival?  If so, what did you like best about the event?

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A Tale of Two Launches

And today’s book launch is…  Oh.  Wait.  I’m not launching a new book today.  Two book launches a week is my limit.  (At least for now…  ::grin::)

I’m thrilled with the launch for SIX TIMES A CHARM (Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | (more links to come!)  At $0.99, lots of people are stocking up on light paranormal reading — and some folks are giving the set to friends!  (Really, at less than a buck, that’s a great idea, and one I have to admit I hadn’t thought of!)  We continue to float right around 550 on the overall Amazon Kindle list, with #1 in special categories (angels, and demons, and superheroes — oh my!)  Over on B&N, we’re around 150.  It’s been a ton of fun working with my five co-authors, and I’m learning new things from them every day!

DARKBEAST REBELLION is doing well, too.  On Saturday, I headed up to Books of Wonder, for a special pre-launch event.  I took the train up that morning.  Alas, the near-perfect Acela high-speed train experienced door difficulties when we started to leave D.C.’s Union Station.  We were delayed by about 15 minutes.  Ordinarily, that wouldn’t have been a problem, but I only had one hour on the New York end of things, to get into Penn Station and get downtown to the bookstore.  I fretted and worried and planned and stressed, but in the end all was fine.  (I sprinted — yes, *I* sprinted — through Penn Station, found the 1 Subway line, bought a MetroCard, spent 12 minutes anxiously pacing on the platform, jog-walked two crosstown blocks with traffic at a standstill to my left, and ended up being the first author to arrive.)

When I stepped into Books of Wonder, this sight greeted me:

IMG_0056

(That’s three facings of DARKBEAST REBELLION, with extra books tucked in on the sides — what a joyous vision!  DARKBEAST is nestled on the bottom shelf, too.)  The store was fantastic — after walking down aisles full of every book I loved as a kid, I arrived at the reading area in the back — chairs for the audience and a table for us speakers.  The store manager had written personal notes to each of us, which waited beside water, Sharpie pens, and an upright display of our books.  During the actual panel, we used a microphone, which was patched into the store’s intercom system, so people shopping could hear what we had to say, and newcomers were lured back to our corner.

After the panel, the manager asked us if we minded signing stock.  Of course, we were all happy to do so.  And then we were *astonished* to discover just how much stock they meant — I signed a couple hundred books — hardcover DARKBEAST REBELLION, hardcover DARKBEAST, paperback DARKBEAST…  The staff just kept bringing piles of them!  It was fun and festive and a great way to kick off the autumn book-buying season.

What?  There isn’t an “autumn book-buying season”?  Well, there should be.

After the event, I had enough time to head up to Schnipper’s Quality Kitchen (my favorite comfort food in New York).  While they serve great hamburgers, hot dogs, shakes, etc., I indulged in my two favorites — beet-and-goat-cheese salad with a side of macaroni and cheese:

IMG_0057

Heaven.  Heaven, I tell you.

Last night, we celebrated the *official* DARKBEAST REBELLION launch at my local children’s bookstore, Hooray for Books.  We had chocolate and balloons and chocolate and friends and chocolate and guest panelists Catherine Jinks and Jonathan Auxier and chocolate.  Catherine read from her new book, HOW TO CATCH A BOGLE, and Jonathan entertained us with his explanation of the backstory of PETER NIMBLE AND HIS AMAZING EYES — performed by way of yo-yo tricks!

I was truly touched by all the friends who showed up (on a weeknight, in a suburb that wasn’t on the way home for anyone!)  I was also thrilled that there were strangers-to-me who attended.  During the Q&A part of the panel, several kids asked questions, which is always fun.  My sister-in-law caught this pic of me answering one of those questions:

Hooray

So, it’s been a whirlwind couple of days.  I’m excited and exhausted and full of chocolate.  And really, what better way is there to be?

How about you?  What have I missed while I’ve been in Launch-World?

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Trumpet Fanfare and Drumroll, Please — DARKBEAST REBELLION!

I am ***thrilled*** to announce that today is the release day for Darkbeast Rebellion (Amazon | B & N | Indiebound), the second volume in The Darkbeast Series (written by me, under the pen name, Morgan Keyes).

Darkbeast Rebellion

And, in the way of such things, Darkbeast (Amazon | B & N | Indiebound) is now available in a low-cost paperback edition (in addition to its hardcover and electronic versions.)

Darkbeast_150dpi

Here’s the cover-flap description of Darkbeast Rebellion:

Keara, her friend Goran, and the wily old actor Taggart are fleeing for their lives.  They have all spared their darkbeasts, the creatures that take on their darker deeds and emotions and lift their spirits.  But by saving their beloved animal companions, they have defied the law that dictates that all children must kill their darkbeasts on their twelfth birthday.  Now they are  being hunted by the ruthless Inquisitors.

Weary and fearful, Keara’s only solace lies in the rumors of safe havens for Darkers — people who have spared their darkbeasts and live outside the law.  But Darker communities are hidden, and to seek them out is to risk betrayal.  In the middle of winter, freezing and exhausted, Keara and her companions are taken to an underground encampment that seems the answer to all their hopes.  But are these Darkers really what they appear to be?  Danger looms and betrayal threatens in this riveting sequel to Darkbeast.

* * *

If you’re near Washington, D.C. this evening, stop by my official book launch party:

September 24, 2013, 7:00 p.m., Book Launch Party!  Hooray for Books, 1555 King St. Alexandria, Virginia 22314.  Morgan will appear with Catherine Jinks and Jonathan Auxier.

Let’s hear it for pretty new books with gorgeous, glittery covers!  Yay!

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