Publication Realities

Within a week of the publication of the hardcover edition of Recluce Tales, I had several complaints that the hardcover was not the same size as the other Recluce books… and that it didn’t match. Guess what? A great many of my SF hardcovers are printed in the smaller hardcover size, but not all of them, and the different sizes don’t match on my shelves either.

Tor isn’t being arbitrary. Nor is Tor deliberately trying to destroy the symmetry of anyone’s bookcases. It’s combination of two factors. First, because it’s a collection and not a novel, Tor felt, based on past reader reaction, that a distinction needed to be made between the “regular” Recluce novels and the collection. Second, there were also economic considerations.

What some readers may not have noticed is that story collections don’t sell nearly as well as novels, even story collections set in the worlds of very popular series. In addition, single author story collections are selling less well now than they were five or ten years ago. A number of well-known authors had story collections released in full-sized hardcovers eight to nine years ago. My own earlier collection – Viewpoints Critical – was released in 2008 in a full-sized hardcover, but it wasn’t linked to any existing series.

Since then, the economics of publishing have changed drastically, and this is reflected in single-author story collections.

Off-hand, I could only find two authors, besides me, who’ve published a story collection with a major publisher in the past five or so years. Those were Brandon Sanderson, with his Cosmere collection, Arcanum Unbounded, that came out in November from Tor, and Steven Erikson, whose collection was published by Bantam in 2014. Both were also published in the smaller hardcover size. Kim Stanley Robinson, Alastair Reynolds, and Jack McDevitt all had their collections published by the specialty publisher Subterranean Press, at a much higher price, and two of the three were still in the smaller dimension hardcovers.

A great number of collections, some from well-known authors, have also come out from small presses, and some have only been in paperback and e-book format. F. Paul Wilson published Quick Fixes, his collection of Repairman Jack stories in paperback and ebook himself.

Perhaps the most striking point is that when Tor decides to publish something by Brandon Sanderson in the smaller size hardcover, where sales are not likely the only consideration, Tor clearly felt that they had to also distinguish his stories from his novels, as they did with Recluce Tales.

As I’ve noted elsewhere, I frankly feel fortunate that Tor was able to publish Recluce Tales in hardcover, especially given the state of the market, and particularly since it took me over ten years to write those stories.

8 thoughts on “Publication Realities”

  1. darcherd says:

    That’s fascinating that SF/Fantasy short story collection sales are dropping off. I confess that in my younger days, I devoured short-story anthologies, but now I much prefer novels, and especially serialized novels. In part, that’s because I found that the SF short stories in particular tended to be more “grim and gritty” and I started seeking more uplifting fare. I suspect it’s also because when I pick up an SF/Fantasy novel, I’m looking for a well-built world I can get lost in. (Escapist? Guilty as charged). Short stories simply end too soon.

    But it also seems to follow a long-term trend away from shorter literary forms altogether. In the 19th century, one could actually make a living being a poet. Today, poetry is barely mentioned in a high school English class.

    And at the same time, we’re told that the more recent generations have much shorter attention spans, having been weaned on television, video games, and YouTube, which is somewhat counterintuitive – you’d think those same people would be more appreciative of shorter literary forms.

  2. Alan Naylor says:

    I don’t know if I’m close to the norm or not. I tend to pick up anthologies or mixed author collections when I am looking for a new author to read. When I am waiting for the next David Weber book or L.E.M.’s next release I am prone to grab a collection of short stories with an author’s name whom I like and already know as the headliner. This usually lets me read at least one short story I enjoy than read the others and hope to find another author who I will also enjoy in the future.

  3. I am very glad that Tor went ahead with a hardcover edition of “Recluce Tales” despite the changing market. I went ahead and ordered a copy, even though I don’t plan to read it until I complete the main series (I am seven books in).

    I note that DAW fairly recently published a non-standard and presumably commercially-risky book, Patrick Rothfuss’s novella, “The Slow Regard of Silent Things.” It came out in hardcover in November 2014, complete with black and white illustrations by Nate Taylor.

    Hopefully “Recluce Tales” will sell very well 🙂

  4. R. Hamilton says:

    While I went with the ebook version from iTunes instead, I’m thankful indeed that the collection was published, in whatever form. It was like a late Christmas, with all the presents in one package! There were answers to many questions, some of which I hadn’t thought to ask, brief reunions with old friends, and more.

  5. Devildog says:

    I too have been anticipating this collection since you announced it several months ago. I plan on purchasing a copy this weekend and slowly enjoying the world that you have created. Thanks again for the many hours of thoughtful entertainment.

  6. Lydia C says:

    Thank you for writing it. I purchased it as a kindle book since I am traveling. I particularly enjoyed reading about Kiedral. I am now wondering why your editor has pleaded you do not write a book about the founding of Cyador. I feel like respectfully disagreeing …….

  7. David Stevens says:

    I am really enjoying Recluce Tales. Just the kind of thing I wish for when reading or finishing a novel. Also, I ran across an interesting video. I wonder what Lord Kharl would think of modern barrel making?

    1. He’d likely be surprised but not totally amazed.

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