The first week out is the week that determines (nearly always) whether a book will reach “bestseller” status. It’s the week that agents watch over, checking BookScan numbers regularly, checking rankings any place they can find one and making their own calculations of raw numbers v. other books’ raw numbers. In the first week, LIMITS sold a few fewer hardcovers than ECHOES, and a few more e-books, to wind up with a modest increase of total hardcover/ebook sales in the US market. So thank you, all of you who wanted to and were able to buy a copy in the first week. Thanks for talking about the books, and introducing others to them. You’re the ones who keep a writer in bread & butter (and dark chocolate. Can’t forget the dark chocolate.) So what about the gold-standard New York Times bestseller list? We (and I include you folks, because it’s your buying the book that makes it) have hit the NYT extended list several times, sometimes higher and sometimes lower. Not yet (I remain hopeful) the top ten, but on it, which is a happy moment.
This time, we didn’t…but also, this time the NYT had chopped its list from 35 to 25. LIMITS might (or might not) have made the list if the list had been a bit longer…and in any case that’s like saying your horse would have won the race if only the race had been longer. The finish line is where it is; the numbers are what they are, including other writers’ numbers. Unlike with horse races (totally over when they’re over), books continue to sell for more than the first week, and while the first week is important, the long tail is also important. We made #33 on the Bookscan fiction chart, which isn’t peanuts.
I’m happy to see the increase, and so is my agent. He thinks the publisher will be too (though, like all writers connected with other writers, I’ve heard dire tales of “It had more sales than the one before, but not enough more sales, so they dropped the next/the series/me.” Writers looking for something to worry about can always find it…and ten of its closest friends.)
Meanwhile, though I haven’t heard from Editor yet, Agent has suggested some modifications to CROWN. I’m working on that because (having been away from CROWN for a couple of weeks now, and having Mozart out of my head, mostly, I can see that he’s probably right. CROWN will be better if Mmmph has some Errrmh, and Ummph has another Mmmmble, and a particular scene has less the feel of Le Carre and more the feel of, ahem, me. (I had no idea I could write even a sentence that sounded like Le Carre, so hearing that an entire scene evoked Le Carre in my agent’s mind was…startling. I haven’t been re-reading Le Carre during the course of writing this multi-volume opus.) (Did I mention here that the Mozart performance went very well indeed? That a large chunk of the audience surged out of their seats to cheer and clap a heartbeat after the last note? It did. WHEW!)
So CROWN will be a better book (and somewhat longer) once what I’m working on is done. Characters will be sharper. Stuff will happen more obviously. The Le Carre-like scene will morph into something less understated and more obviously what it is. And maybe next year, when it comes out, it will sell as little (or a lot, which wouldn’t hurt my feelings!) better than LIMITS, and maybe by then LIMITS will have continued strong for some months, rather than falling off the edge the way many books do.
The take-home lesson for today, though is Thank You All, very, very much. Thank you for buying the book, or for badgering your library to get it, or reading it over a friend’s shoulder, or talking about it here. Thank you for being a major incentive for me to keep working (including doing the new work on CROWN.) I would write anyway, but I would not write as well as I do if I were not conscious that the books mean something to someone besides myself.