Kaitlyn Dunnett, aka Kathy Lynn Emerson, aka Kate Emerson here to share a not-so-little problem that has been accumulating, so to speak, for quite a number of years.
Since 1984, fifty-four of the books I’ve written have been published under several names and by a variety of publishers. Some were paperback originals. Others came out in trade paperback only. Still others had hardcover editions and, in one case, only a hardcover edition. All of them but the first are available these days as e-books and that one, a non-fiction look at women of the sixteenth century, has been superseded by my online “A Who’s Who of Tudor Women.” Why am I telling you this? Because I’m writing today about a problem that is the direct result of having written too darned many books.
Writers receive author copies from publishers at about the same time their books hit stores. By and large, this is a good thing. Author copies are used to promote the book and as gifts and can be sold at signings when there is no bookstore available. But there is a down side. Although small presses generally provide only a handful of author copies, many publishers are extremely generous. Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, the author ends up with a whole lot of extra copies of a particular title.
You’re probably thinking this still sounds like a good problem to have.
Not so much. Not if there are fifty-four separate and distinct titles involved and you wake up one day to realize that your house is overflowing with boxes of your own books. The most recently published titles? Those people want. But older books, what are called backlist titles, aren’t exactly in high demand.
I was writing for Bantam’s Loveswept line when it was discontinued back in 1998. Editors who were about to lose their jobs saw no point in handing out extra copies of those last titles to the folks who’d pulled the plug. Instead, they shipped extra cartons (48 paperbacks in each) to the authors. I still have 55 copies of Relative Strangers, 51 copies of Sight Unseen, 49 copies of That Special Smile, and 57 copies of Tried and True. The first three are set in the same world as the Liss MacCrimmon mysteries, where a few of the characters reappear, but they are, alas, not mysteries.
There are other reasons why I’ve accumulated way too many copies of some books. When I wrote my Diana Spaulding 1888 Quartet of historical mysteries for a small press, sales didn’t go as well as anticipated. I had a choice between buying up extra copies at a discount or letting them be remaindered. I opted to buy, something I’d done before when I’d had a book about to go out of print. I hoped to be able to sell the books at signings, but here’s the sad truth—for the most part, when authors do appearances, most people who attend, if they buy books at all, are only interested in the new one or the first in the current series. Backlist titles, especially if they are in a different genre or set in a different era, gather dust.
Deadlier than the Pen is the first book in the Diana Spaulding 1888 Quartet, my “gothic” novel. She’s a newspaper reporter. He’s a horror writer from Bangor. What’s not to love? But I still have 60 copies in hardcover and 35 trade paperbacks in storage. The other three books in the quartet are Fatal as a Fallen Woman (56 copies in hardcover; 40 in trade paperback), No Mortal Reason (57 copies in trade paperback; there was no hardcover), and Lethal Legend (45 copies in trade paperback; there was no hardcover).
Something similar happened when, as Kate Emerson, I wrote six non-mystery historical novels that came out as trade paperback originals. My contracts called for me to get lots of copies. At the time I was not doing very much promotion and hardly any of that was appropriate for novels that weren’t mysteries. Readers I met wanted Kaitlyn’s books, not Kate’s, with the end result that my storage bins still contain 40 copies of At the King’s Pleasure, 43 copies of The King’s Damsel, and 54 copies of Royal Inheritance.
You may remember that I blogged last month about cleaning out the space under my bed. That’s the only place I have left to put new boxes of books. I just received a carton (48 paperbacks) of The Scottie Barked at Midnight (in stores as of September 27). Hardcovers of the third Mistress Jaffrey Mystery, Murder in a Cornish Alehouse, will be published in the UK on December 31 and copies will show up on by doorstep around the same time. Then there is the stack of hardcover Kilt at the Highland Games currently sitting on top of the file cabinet in my office. As fast as I sell, donate, or give away books, more turn up to fill the void. I’m under contract for five more mysteries in the course of the next two and a half years. Most will have more than one edition. There is no end in sight.
I can’t bear to throw books away, so don’t even suggest taking some of the older ones to the dump. The number of local institutions that will take donations of books is limited. Even libraries balk at being presented with too many, especially if the titles aren’t new. Experiments with Amazon Marketplace, Half.com, and eBay did not accomplish much beyond generating paperwork. I’m happy to shell out postage for a good cause, like the upcoming NHPTV auction, but even media mail rates would break the bank if I started shipping free books to everyone who asked for one. Library rate, sadly, only applies when one library ships books to another.
So, faithful readers, over to you. Can you think of ways to winnow down my book inventory? Any solutions that I can afford and that I haven’t already tried are welcome. In fact, in return for each viable option, I’ll reward the person who first suggests it in the comments section below with a free book. If you come up with something that might work, you can choose any title mentioned in this blog as your prize.
Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett is the author of over fifty books written under several names. She won the Agatha Award for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category for “The Blessing Witch.” Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries (Kilt at the Highland Games) as Kaitlyn and the historical Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries (Murder in a Cornish Alehouse ~ UK in December 2016; US in April 2017) as Kathy. The latter series is a spin-off from her earlier “Face Down” series and is set in Elizabethan England. Her websites are www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com