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.