Monday, November 2, 2009

Ouch.

I got a letter Saturday from Henry Holt, which published my second book, Tested: “Sales of the title shown below are now very modest, and we have therefore decided to remainder our entire remaining inventory.” Which means 411 books will be assaulted with a Sharpie, smacked with a “REDUCED! $3!” sticker and hidden away on that awful shelf with the crockpot guides and off-brand pop-up books that don’t really work. If they’re lucky. Or I can buy them for $1.83 and resell them myself, which feels pathetic.

This happens to nearly all authors, and the timing often sucks. My brother Rick’s publisher let his first book go out of print as his second was coming out, and my friend Hank, whose phenomenal take on Christmas is now hitting the shelves, just got the dreaded letter about his first book.

It actually wasn’t a horrible month for me, bookwise. I heard from the publisher of Not Much Just Chillin’ that it was headed into its eighth paperback printing. Frankly, I think Tested is a better book. But it doesn’t give readers insight into affluent suburban kids the way NMJC does, which is surely why ten companies bid to publish it (and why it would eventually hit the New York Times extended list), while Tested inspired comments like, “We’ll publish anything by you but this.”

One editor offered me more money if I would switch Tested to an affluent school. I have always sneered at the contention that books about poor kids don’t sell, because affluent book-buyers only want to read about people like them. But now I wonder. Are there any books about poor kids, not written by Jonathan Kozol, that have sold really well? Like, New York Times bestseller well? I can think of one or maybe two.

6 comments:

  1. What about this one? http://www.ronsuskind.com/hopeintheunseen/

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  2. Yeah, love that book. Not sure how it sold, but that it's still in print says something.

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  3. Does the infamous *Bell Curve* count, with regard to your last questions? - TL

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  4. "There are No Children Here" by Alex Kotlowitz and "Among Schoolchildren" by Tracy Kidder were national bestsellers (I'm sure there's a difference between that and the NYT bestseller list but I don't know what it is). Some might argue that the latter is more about the middle-class teacher than the poor kids, but it did give some glimpses into the kids' lives outside the classroom. It may say something that both were written about 20 years ago.

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  5. I think books on kids, like Not Much Just Chillin', do better than books on schools. When I wrote my first book I hoped I could market it to a broad audience, but publishers, who were interested, told me it was really hard for a little-known author to break out of the education ghetto.

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  6. I loved "Tested." And bought it in hb at full price!

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