October 21 2008

Sci-Fi Authors Call For Boycott Of Borders

Yesterday Alex Carnevale over at io9 brought up a story about how some science fiction writers are calling for a boycott of the Borders chain of bookstores overthe fact the store had skipped ordering their book.

As I have dug down deeper into the back story of what was going on, it makes even less sense than it did at first blush.  Going backwards, sci-fi authors such as Tobias Buckell and Pat Cadigan are saying that authors should boycott Borders for their recent trend to skip titles in hardcovers or expensive trades.

The Borders chain has been in financial trouble for a while now and is trying to get itself back on track by tightening their belt.  Add in the recent economic news and you will probably find chain stores in numerous industries trying to find ways to cut back on expenses, and that will mean tighter constraints on orders for new products.

The idea of authors withholding new titles because previous were skipped is just asinine, and also probably impossible.  Is anyone in their right mind going to turn down an order of a few hundred copies of a new book because their previous one was passed over?  Get over yourself and get your ego in check.  Add in do you really think the publisher, who is the ultimate say in things like this is going to say to a bookseller, “Oh no, sorry, we aren’t selling this book to you because you hurt the author’s feelings on their last book, and what they say goes!”

Yeah, that isn’t happening.

Andrew Wheeler, a Marketing Manager for John Wiley & Sons, has an incredibly in-depth blog post about how book ordering works and how “skips” suck, but they are part of the nature of bok selling.  All of this is extremely easy for me to relate to from my comic book selling days, and if comic creators had wanted to boycott me for not ordering their previous works, I would have had nothing to sell.  You only have so much budget to work with, so much shelf space and only so many resources to devote to promoting a given project.  Worst of all, unlike book stores, direct sales comic stores have no return capabalities, so it was always a huge risk for us to order, so every book had to earn its way on to our shelves.

In short, I think I am just awe-struck by the ego and entitlement these authors are showing.  While I realize every author wants to sell copies of their books, they should also remember all those authors who can’t even get their books published.  So you didn’t make it in to Borders, fine, you just work that much harder to help promote the copies ordered by other sellers.  However, to punish a book seller that is already in financial problems is just stupid.  Say they ordered 900 copies of your previous book, skipped the next, you boycott them on the next one, they go out of business in the meantime, just how many copies of the project after that one do you think they will order?  Yeah, that’s right, 0.

Your biggest concern right now should be keeping your industry afloat so you have future work, not your bruised egos.  Pull yourself up by your boot straps, put a smile on, and keep your industry going.  Don’t act like tantrum throwing children.

UPDATE: Okay, okay, I get it, I misread the situation!  The authors did NOT, I repeat, DID NOT call for a boycott.

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