Monday, December 18, 2006

Without Scouts

If you've visited the CSFF blogs (links in the post below), you may have caught the buzz about the third book in the Birthright Project, Scouts, being cancelled by the publisher. While the author, Kathryn Mackel, was incredibly gracious about the whole thing, my initial and current reaction was/is:

That stinks.

Forget about the whole business angle and the books not selling as well as expected, blah blah blah. I'm a reader (even more than I'm a writer, which is saying a lot), and I'm reacting to this as a reader.

(And readers are the ones publishers should be paying attention to, since they buy the books.)

When I read an excellent novel, my emotions get wrapped up with the characters. I care about their lives. It seems cruel for the rest of their stories to be cut off without warning. Sure, Niki's story stopped at a good note, but Timothy's?

Think about other trilogies, and imagine them without the last installment. Lord of the Rings? Dekker's Circle trilogy? A few may be written for each title to stand on its own, but the Birthright Project isn't one of them. Imagine if Pirates of the Caribbean 3 was cancelled. Or Spider-Man 3. Mackel's books fall somewhere between those two with unresolved plot threads.

Look at the flip side. What if an author decided not to write book 3 of an interwoven trilogy? Wouldn't fans be upset? They would understand if a family crisis delayed the work, but if the author only quit because they could get more money elsewhere? Yeah. I'd be ticked.

Then why, when a publisher does the same thing, do people excuse it as a business decision? If anything, it makes me more leery of buying books from that publisher until the entire series is out. And if other readers had the same reaction, it would create a downward spiral, as lower sales for the earlier books might prevent later books from being published anyhow.

Granted, most reader don't follow publishers, but authors. So it's a double slap in the face for an author - not only do they not get revenue from the book, but they start to build a reputation of unfinished series. And sales of the previous books continue to plummet as readers find out they may never get "the rest of the story." An unpublished series finale unravels publicity efforts for the earlier books (like the one Mackel has on her site for creating a mog for Scouts). And in the midst of all this, the author has to be gracious so he/she doesn't ruin future publishing opportunities - no one wants to be an author publishers find difficult. (Note: I'm not saying Mackel's response was only gracious to help her future endeavors. She went far above being tactful and kind with her reaction. Editors should be banging down doors to work with someone like that.)

So, WestBow/Nelson, the manuscript's on your table. Will you reconsider your decision and publish Scouts? Or will you break trust with your readers by not giving us the full story of the Birthrighters?


Anonymous said...

We have been working with publishing for over 16 years and I have NEVER known any publisher to cancel the last book in the series. I am just in shock, and feel for the author. It is a very sad day indeed.

Deborah said...

i've read several series where they were stopped abruptly due to either slow sales or other reasons. two i recall was the apocolypal Omega Trilogy by Gilbert, Lynn and Alan Morris. The third book never got published, you're left hanging after the second book. Also Angela Hunt's Colonial Captives was supposed to be a 4 book series. But on her website she explained that the characters are stuck in the Atlantic Ocean due to low sales so the publisher cancelled the series. I hate it when they do that. Very very frustrating

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Katie, I'm glad you addressed the subject. I've been discussing this week what we can do to alter the perception that Christians don't want SFF. The most important, as I've heard over and over from authors, is BUY the books. But readers cannot buy what the do not know about, so the second is to get the word out.

My challenge from now on is this: buy a good CSFF book, read it, and tell at least 5 other people that they really need to buy the book too.

At A Christian Worldview of Fiction I have a list of something like 10 suggestions posted and some great comments from authors in the middle of this CSFF growth ... or death. The future of the genre may hang in the balance.

At any rate, I think we CSFF'ers--readers and writers alike--need to be praying. That, above all else, will bring the best results! ;-)

Merry Christmas.


Anonymous said...

What do you think of this salary review, that includes many Christian writers?:

"Reformation: 2006 Hall of Fame and Shame"


Anonymous said...

I wrote the publisher (Nelson) a letter via their website about why they should should print Mackel's last book...hopefully if enough of us express our disappointed then they will change their mind.

Nice post. I like your blog.

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