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….