First Week Out

Posted: June 20th, 2013 under Good News, Limits of Power, Reader Help, Revisions, the writing life.
Tags: , , ,

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.



  • Comment by GinnyW — June 20, 2013 @ 5:53 pm


    On the book-buying public side, quirky things can happen. When I went (on June 11) to get my hardcover copy of Limits, my local bookstore, which is also a college bookstore, did not have it out on the new releases. They had the book, but it was not on display because the store is undergoing major reorganization and only displaying about 12 new releases. (Expletive deleted.)

    They are moving the sweatshirts and stuff to the front, the computers to the second floor, the children’s books to the back, etc. As a result all of the science fiction/fantasy are in rolling bins in the middle, shoved together so as to make it nearly impossible to see ANY books in this category.

    Ultimately, this may be good for continuing sales, but it is the pits for the time being. A May release date for Crown would help our local market. It is good to catch the students when they have just finished finals or papers or whatever and want something fun for the trip home.

  • Comment by GinnyW — June 20, 2013 @ 5:54 pm


    Oh! I am always happy to keep a good writer in dark chocolate.

  • Comment by Wickersham's Conscience — June 20, 2013 @ 6:45 pm


    You’ve earned dark chocolate!

    Have I mentioned how happy I am that the next book is written? Some of us have had authors die while we were waiting for a book. Sterling Lanier leaving Hiero Desteen in a cliffhanger.

    Sure, a year of waiting is frustrating, but at least it’s written…

  • Comment by Kathleen — June 20, 2013 @ 6:53 pm


    You keep writing great books and I’ll keep you in chocolate!

  • Comment by elizabeth — June 20, 2013 @ 6:54 pm


    And being rewritten even as I sit here. (However did I manage to type “Inner” instead of “Immer” once? At least, I hope it was only once!)

    Dark chocolate is at hand.

  • Comment by elizabeth — June 20, 2013 @ 6:56 pm


    Ginny W: That kind of thing is SO frustrating to the anxious writer. I remember once learning that an entire box of my new book was in the back room of a bookstore for the entire first week and a half, because that bookstore’s SF person was out sick, and nobody else thought it was as important as their (other genres) books to get it out.

  • Comment by elizabeth — June 20, 2013 @ 6:59 pm


    Hit SEND too soon. Several times in the days of multiple chains, I’d find that my books were in the store, but not on the shelves–or maybe on the top shelf, shoved out of sight along with other new arrivals no one had bothered to shelve properly. From the publisher’s point of view, that doesn’t matter–the books either sell or they don’t. Sometimes there’s hostile staff (I don’t know that it’s happened to me, but I know of an authenticated case that happened to someone else) determined to ruin a given writer. More often, they just don’t care that much. Unless you have a fan in every store, you can be out of luck.

  • Comment by elizabeth — June 20, 2013 @ 7:00 pm


    Kathleen: DEAL! And thank you.

  • Comment by Karen — June 20, 2013 @ 9:08 pm


    I love your books and cannot wait for each to see the light of day, so please keep writing, keep teaching – which you do amazingly well in your stories, so well that I use them to stimulate discussion with at risk teens at the shelter where I volunteer, and keep eating the chocolate.

  • Comment by Sharidann — June 20, 2013 @ 11:44 pm


    Ahh another Dark chocolate fan!!!!

    Keep up the good work, keep us dreaming of your worlds and your words!

    And give us a headsup if you run out of chocolate… The main problem for your european readers would be the FDA but otherwise, I am sure we would manage. 🙂

  • Comment by Naomi — June 21, 2013 @ 5:19 am


    Loved the book,still plugging Deed to my friends too, wonderful stories worthy of buckets of dark chocolate

  • Comment by Jenn — June 21, 2013 @ 6:31 am


    Crown will be longer!!!!!
    To me that is like saying the pile of dark chocolate is higher!!!!!

    Now don’t start with the Hmmpfs and the Hemenahahs. May is a long way away and the pining must not start until September.

    Congratulations on your sales.

  • Comment by elizabeth — June 21, 2013 @ 8:03 am


    Jenn: Longer is better only if I’m increasing the parts you like. Which I hope I am.

  • Comment by ellen — June 21, 2013 @ 5:35 pm


    Loved the book, thank goodness for e books or I’d still be waiting, and thank you, Elizabeth, for another great read! 🙂

  • Comment by Daniel Glover — June 21, 2013 @ 5:47 pm


    What! You’re making Arvid into a LeCarre spook! 😉 I like LeCarre spooks.

    I couldn’t find Limits on the the shelf right away. But talking to the staff got me to them. I did go back and check–only one left on the shelf after the first week. So I think sales we’re OK up here in the northland. But not stellar–they should’ve been sold out. Did see two hardcovers of KotN on the close out shelf now too. So maybe they didn’t send quite as many Limits up here. Hooray for the sales increase, boo for the reduction in the Times list length.

    More chocolate for the Author.

  • Comment by Naomi — June 22, 2013 @ 2:05 am


    Any indication on Amazon sales? I know that if I had waited for Waterstones in Brussels to get their act together I might still be waiting, but on the otherhand they do at least follow up by reordering the other books in the series zhen they do put the newest on sale…

  • Comment by Jenn — June 22, 2013 @ 5:26 am



    I recently finished a trilogy in which book 3 should have been split in two. It felt like the author had more to say but had to edit out chunks of explanatory story that were just glossed over with one paragraph info dumps not seen in the previous two books. After that series I am good with longer books.

  • Comment by Sherri C — June 22, 2013 @ 9:02 pm


    I love longer books. I love anything the world you have created for Paks and her cronies. 🙂 I love the fact that anything to do with horses in these books are written plausibly (nothing throws me out of a book faster than improbablility -” a herd of majestic heifers with calves by their sides…” “he flexed his thigh muscles against the horses flank…” (still trying to picture that one))
    I hope you can write more in Pak’s world… If needs be, let me know where to send the dark chocolate…

  • Comment by Eloise — June 24, 2013 @ 10:28 am


    I was really unhappy to find that one of the larger independent bookstores here in San Francisco (Books Inc) did not have a copy of it on 6-22, and further that they had never had one. I am afraid I made a very tart comment, called Boarderlands, which, while further away had 3 copies.

  • Comment by elizabeth — June 24, 2013 @ 12:15 pm


    I’m not thrilled either, but do realize that not every bookstore can carry every book–space limitations and all that. Every writer thinks her/his book should be in every bookstore, of course, and I’m no exception. I’m delighted that you found a copy, and at Borderlands, which I visited once (on my one trip to SF.)

  • Comment by Karen H. — June 25, 2013 @ 4:04 am


    Gladly supported one of the last local bookstores in the area (Vroman’s in Pasadena) and — what a delight to read!!!!

    BTW, speaking of bread and chocolate, a French childhood friend introduced me to the joys of dark chocolate sandwiched in a baguette…. Yum. 🙂

  • Comment by Sharidann — June 25, 2013 @ 8:16 am


    @ Karen H.

    I do that too, with butter in the middle to boot….usually salted

    Was my favorite snack as a kid (yeah, I am french)

  • Comment by Stephen Marsh (Ethesis) — June 25, 2013 @ 6:18 pm


    Well, we got it from Amazon pre-order, like all the Paks books I spot. Wife read it first, but I just finished it this morning. Wish you luck in cracking the list.

  • Comment by Daniel Glover — June 25, 2013 @ 7:01 pm


    The local B&N has eight fresh copies on the shelf. I’ll be keeping periodic tabs on their shelf life.

  • Comment by Wendy — July 2, 2013 @ 6:29 pm


    I just finished Limits and find myself chewing at my lower lip, ready to pace my bookshelves like the junkie that I am. Thank you Elizabeth!

  • Comment by KarenJG — July 10, 2013 @ 3:15 pm


    Well, I’m glad I pre-ordered then… I contemplated waiting, just because I know the angst of finishing a book and having to wait and wait and wait and.. ::ahem:: Anyway, I did hold off reading it for as long as I could, but that was only a couple of weeks… finished it last night, so now I’m waiting and waiting… well, you know, for CROWN. Which will be FOREVER, in bibliovore years.

  • Comment by LisaMT — August 8, 2013 @ 11:45 am


    I am right now reading LIMITS and loving it!!! But I can certainly see hints of things to come so anxiously awaiting next May!

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment