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UK Glasshouse cover

My first author copy of the British edition of GLASSHOUSE came in the post today. The other author copies are coming from the warehouse shortly, which means it's going to be showing up in bookstores over the next few weeks. So if you're a UK native and wonder what I wrote after ACCELERANDO, now's your chance to find out (and here's the Amazon page to go to if you want to buy a copy).

From the cover copy:When Robin wakes up in a clinic with most of his memories missing, it doesn't take him long to discover that someone is trying to kill him. It's the twenty-seventh century, when interstellar travel is by teleport gate and conflicts are fought by network worms that censor refugees' personalities and target historians. The civil war is over and Robin has been demobilized, but someone wants him out of the picture because of something his earlier self knew. On the run from a ruthless pursuer and searching for a place to hide, he volunteers to participate in a unique experimental polity, the Glasshouse. Constructed to simulate a pre-accelerated culture, participants are assigned anonymized identities: it looks like the ideal hiding place for a posthuman on the run. But in this escape-proof environment Robin will undergo an even more radical change, placing him at the mercy of the experimenters, and of his own unbalanced psyche ...

(Note for American readers: the US mass market paperback comes out in June or July. However, because the dollar has slumped against just about every other currency, I wouldn't recommend importing a UK paperback — retailing at £6.99, it'll set you back $14 before postage, and you can pick up a US hardcover for barely more than that.)

58 Comments

1:

woot! I'll make a note of the US paperback date...I like using them as evangelizing fodder. Great story, Charlie...I got Glasshouse for Christmas and just finished it last week. Keep 'em coming!

2:

On the flip side, that means that your UK readers can pick up a US hardcover copy for about £8.40 before shipping. :)

3:

Andrew G: actually, more like £9.00, and the shipping will add 50% to that. (Amazon.co.uk won't sell them, either -- you'll need to go to the .com branch.)

If you really need a hardcover first edition you might as well grab one, but really, if you're that far into production quality, why not look for the Easton Press leatherbound-and-gold-leaf special edition?

4:

Looking at other country's Amazons, it looks like the UK kinda gets screwed price-wise. Amazon.fr has the US paperback version of Glasshouse coming out in June for 6.52 euros, which I think is about £4.30.

I don't think I get how each country decides the pricing... The Canadian paperback comes to about £4 even and US paperback to about £4.10. Wierd.

So I guess the real question is, why does the UK have to pay almost 50% more?

5:

Just a heads-up, but this was an interesting find in Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1841495670/

6:

Tassos: well, at least they fixed the date on "Saturn's Children".

(Note: if you order it now you will have a long wait. I start writing it next week ...)

7:

That page is very surreal.

Do they have access to a time machine?

I.e. it has a list of books that people who bought "untitled space opera" by Mr Stross, also bought books by Ken Macleod, Alastiar Reynolds, Neal Asher etc.

Maybe they know more about the customers preferences than the customers do?

8:

Guthrie, publishers plan their schedules up to three years in advance, at least for regular authors working their way through multibook contracts. In my case, this will be the seventh book of mine they've published and they're fairly sure I'll deliver something, so they pencil in a slot in their schedule with my name on it.

Then Amazon's database aggregator gets hold of it and ... well, Amazon ain't too fussy where their information comes from.

9:

Tassos: well, at least they fixed the date on "Saturn's Children".

(Note: if you order it now you will have a long wait. I start writing it next week ...)

Is this a sequel to "Iron Sunrise" or is it the space opera noted as NOT being a sequel to "Iron Sunrise"? And with that as a title, you'd be cheating if you didn't confine yourself to one solar system...

10:

Great novel - I love the Atrocity/Jennifer morgue stuff but this is the first one where you're friggin playing with some firey memes, not just insider jokes that IT peeps get like me, but way in the head, dancing. GLASSHOUSE played out steady but I felt there were times you were into bigger stuff you had to work through . . .

Good job!

11:

Tony: "Saturn's Children" is a stand-alone novel, not a sequel to anything. And yes, it's set in a rather mundane future where there's no FTL travel and only one piece of remotely handwavium tech: namely, the people in it.

12:

Glasshouse is due out on 26th February according to Nielsen bookdata. I notice that at one point there was a 16.99 hardback due for release but this was cancelled. Do you have an opinion on this Charlie? Would you have made more or less money?

13:

gmilt: being published in paperback only is better than not being published at all.

The UK market is rather different from the US, not to mention a lot smaller, and it's hard to sell SF hardcovers into it. In fact it's so tough that unless you've got a very good sales prospect you end up being trapped between an uneconomically small print run with high fixed production costs, and your publisher printing so many that they end up with a metric ton of hardbacks rotting in a warehouse because they didn't sell out within a year and the paperback edition has cannibalized their market. Neither of these outcomes are desirable.

Given there's currently a hideous price war on the high street, with steep discounts eating both the publishers' and bookstores' profits, I can't really fault Little, Brown/Orbit for being extremely cautious about gambling on SF hardbacks.

Having said that, I would be extremely happy indeed if someone allocated me the marketing and sales budget and associated print run for Iain M. Banks' next SF novel. (Sigh.)

As it happens, I am currently told that I will be going back into hardcover in the UK with my next space opera, and with other books as and when the sales picture justifies it.

...

To emphasize the point: a British paperback, without discount, sells for £6.99, or about US $13.75 at the current exchange rate. (Some of mine have made it into the 3 for 2 discount sections in some stores, but I'm by no means regular front-of-store fodder yet.) Meanwhile, British hardcovers go for £16.99, or about US $33.50 at the current exchange rate.

This isn't a case of blatant price-gouging: paper and printing costs and distribution costs are higher in the UK, but more importantly, print runs are smaller so the fixed production costs (editing and typesetting and the like) have to be borne by a smaller production run. Let me illustrate this with a spurious-ish example. A British paperback that shifts over 8000 copies is doing well, so the gross on a hypothetical British paperback run of 8000 copies sold at 0% discount maxes out at £56,000. In contrast, an equivalent US sales figure is around 35,000 copies. So an equivalent US paperback run of 35,000 copies at $7.99 would bring in a gross take of $279,650, or about £140,000. Anyway, if we agree that fixed production costs (editorial, design and typesetting) for a book are £10,000, and are roughly the same in both countries, then we can see that the fixed costs amount to almost 20% of the British edition's cover price, but only 7% of the US cover price.

(In practice, neither edition will generate anything like that much profit -- they'll be discounted heavily, and only 50-65% of the print run will sell in the US. The UK is a bit different, and hopefully 80%+ of the run will sell -- paperbacks aren't mass market any more in the sense of being pulped if they don't sell -- but it's still pretty grim.)

14:

PS: Anyway, to summarize: I am happier to receive an advance plus royalties of £X for a book that is only published in paperback, and know that my publisher will come back for more on a regular basis, than to receive an advance of 2 x £X, which my publisher then makes a net loss of 5 x £X on, resulting in them dropping me like a hot potato.

Because, y'know, I'm in this for the long haul ...

15:

I'm guessing that the title of Saturn's Children is a reference to the legend about Saturn/Cronus eating his children in a vain attempt to prevent them from supplanting him.

I'm also guessing (something about the setting and the warped-family-relations reference suggests it) that this may be the late-Heinlein pastiche you've been threatening to write.

16:

Tony: "Saturn's Children" is a stand-alone novel, not a sequel to anything. And yes, it's set in a rather mundane future where there's no FTL travel and only one piece of remotely handwavium tech: namely, the people in it.

So you're ripping off Ben Bova then...

(That could have been worse - my first impulse was to reference Piers Anthony)

17:

Congrats Charlie!

I saw a hardback copy last night in Borders here in Adelaide. It's weird that Australia gets hardbacks before the UK ...

18:

Charlie, I've looked around and can't find one--do you have a handy-dandy overview of what books you have in the pipeline these days, and your best guesses for when they'll be coming out?

19:

Copper: My faq is right here.

(And I need to update it. Tomorrow, I think.)

20:

Charlie,

Congrats on making the Locus list: http://www.locusmag.com/2007/2006RecommendedReading.html

21:

So if you're a UK native and wonder what I wrote after ACCELERANDO...

Charlie--where´s the expat love? Shouldn't that read UK *resident*.

22:

Craig: Oh, okay then ...

25:

I love your books but I wish they would give more of them good cover art. It seems the best SF writers working today too often get the least interesting covers.

26:

Hmm. Which books and which editions (publisher and hardback/paperback) don't you like the covers of?

27:

Jens, Andrew: "Supernova" is indeed the German title of "Iron Sunrise". (For some reason Heyne decided to retitle "Singularity Sky" and "Iron Sunrise".)

28:

Charlie, any chance of doing an E-ARC through Baen's Webscriptions on The Merchant's War?

29:

Thank you, Andrew and Charlie. Amazon (UK) seems to be more than a bit confused by the publishing habits of Charlie Stross :-)

Reminds me of the Danish title of "Die Hard: With a Vengeance" (Die Hard 3): "Die Hard: Mega Hard" (I wish I was kidding).

I must confess that Amazon's sudden withdrawal of Glasshouse, forced me into a seedy used book transaction.... I do prefer that some of the money I pay for a Charlie Stross book goes to Charlie Stross.

Glasshouse is my favorite Stross by the way. Very well done.

30:

Chopper: that is between Tor and Webscriptions and Tor's parent company Holtzbrinck. I'd love to see my work available via Webscription, but it's not up to me.

31:

Charlie-- The Merchants books are available. Hence my question. But if you don't know, that's cool.

32:

Gosh...Eric Flint has been very busy,

-- Andrew

33:

Actually, "Not Currently Available" :/

It's not allways entirely clear with the new layout what's going on with webscriptions, I've found.

34:

Congratulations!

35:

Apologies if two earlier versions of this post show up -- they vanished from my screen. I don't think they were sent, tho'.

Back to publishing: the US market is the more lucrative, other things being equal, which they often aren't, admittedly.

It's a product of population sizes and relative rates of growth.

In 1907, the UK had about 45 million people and the US about 85 million; add in about 8 million in Canada and around 6 million in Australasia. That is, the US was less than twice as large as the rest of the Anglophone market; 85 million vs. about 60 million. London was still the center of the English-speaking literary world.

In 2007, the UK has about 65 million, and the US about 300 million, plus 30 million or so for Canada and about 23 million for Australasia. Which is to say, the US population is more than three times that of the rest of the Anglophone world -- 300 million vs. about 410-420 million.

And the US population is growing faster; not only faster than the UK, but also -- unlike the situation until the 1970's -- faster than Canada or the Antipodes.

By mid-century, on current trends the US ought to be about 450 million vs. about 570 million for the Anglosphere as a whole.

Also on current trends the gap in disposable income should widen over the same period, too.

If -- and it's a big if -- "publishing" in something like its present form survives until 2050, the US market should essentially be the only serious one, with minor regional differences elsewhere.

36:

The Hidden Family covers suck, it took a lot of convincing to get my wife to read the first one. The Atrocity Archives cover sucked. No offense intended, I still buy everything, I think I have first editions of every book ever published in the US with the name Charles Stross on the cover. Besides those the rest of your covers have been good. Richard K Morgan and Alastair Reynolds get the best covers I think. Most SF covers suck, they're just so cheesy. I think it's because most SF sucks so the publishers have gotten into the habit of thinking they can get away with crap cover art.

Re: UK vs. US publishing, it seems like a lot of books come out in the UK market first, but then Charlies seem to always be US market first (which is good for me since I'm in the US). The publishing world seems overly complicated, why not one English language edition released globally?

37:

OT - Charlie

- re your new book -

In case you didn't hear, the computer world Second Life is hiring policemen to work -- in Second Life. I saw an ad in Second Life classifieds a couple of days ago.

Second Life doesn't yet have any fire-breathing dragons that might help to rob a bank, but it does have a bank. And vampires. And furries. And fairies. Elves too. As well as almost normal humans.

Since Second Life allows residents to create things, life there is getting really weird.

38:

By mid-century, on current trends the US ought to be about 450 million vs. about 570 million for the Anglosphere as a whole.

I'm thinking something along the lines of the Left Behind series could be a winner here - "Plague of Boils", or some such. The important thing is to colourfully stick it to lots of the unworthy - a bit like some of your stuff, in fact.

Second Life doesn't yet have any fire-breathing dragons that might help to rob a bank, but it does have a bank. And vampires. And furries.

I heard the furry thing was getting a bit out of hand.

39:

I heard the furry thing was getting a bit out of hand.

That's OK, they're balanced out by all the Goreans....

40:

If -- and it's a big if -- "publishing" in something like its present form survives until 2050, the US market should essentially be the only serious one, with minor regional differences elsewhere.

You're right, but I don't think publishing will be much like it is today. It's hard to project nearly 40 years in the future, but I see either ebooks or print on demand as being the dominant form in 2050.

Regardless of which one is the more popular, they have essentially the same economics working for them. Both will severely tax the current system of separate markets for each country or continent, it's too easy to buy an ebook in Australia if it's slightly cheaper or comes out sooner. PoD is a bit more friendly to traditional markets, but with global booksellers it will be harder to justify.

What I think you'll have is regional advertising markets. Since it essentially will cost the same (per book) to sell 1 book as it will to sell 1 million, the number of titles should be much higher than today. However, Charlie's books might only be marketed in major metro areas around the world with heavy tech industries. Stirling's books, OTOH, might be market heavily on military bases and mid-sized cities.

41:

I reckon Steve is 100% wrong on the relative market size of the English-speaking world.

According to the English Language Society there are something like 1.5 billion people currently learning English as a second language, and their projection is that English will, by 2100, be spoken by >50% of the planetary population. There are more people learning English in China alone than there are people in the USA today. Meanwhile, demographic shifts are turning the United States into a primarily Spanish-speaking country, and by 2100 -- on current trends -- the proportion of the population who speak English as a first language will be higher in Germany and Spain than in the USA.

Outraged by these predictions? You should be. They hold exactly as much water as Steve's: which is to say, all demographic projections more than a decade out are bunk.

42:

Charlie, you raise a good point -- by 2050 it's entirely possible that the entire world will speak English as a first or second language.

But will that translate into buying books English? It's hard to say. It's telling that there are German language versions of your books even though many Germans, if not most, can read English. People may well prefer reading for pleasure in their native language, which would lend weight to Steve's argument.

Even today, Canada is often lumped with the US when it comes to media like books. People talk about the "North American" market, not the Canadian market. Reall, only the US and the UK have a large enough population and economy to sustain a well developed publishing industry. Poor Australia is trapped by Geography, it should probably be included with the UK and other English speaking locales. Australia's about the same size as Florida in population and GNP, and no one would seriously consider that Florida should have it's own publishing industry and be a separate market.

If the UK, Canada, and Australia didn't produce so many great authors (more per capita, IMO) then they would be afterthoughts.

43:

A point about the Webscriptions thing: I know more about it than I can discuss publicly. Let's just say that for the time being you can't buy Tor books through Webscriptions, but hopefully this will change in the near future -- and I'm one of the Tor authors who's going to be first in there.

Andrew G: the rest of the world also produces written SF. However, it's not really possible to earn a living without getting a toe wet in the American swimming pool -- and before you can sell a book to a US (or British) publisher it has to go through several committee meetings. This means, in effect, that it needs to be translated into English before they can decide whether to buy it -- and they're not going to pay to translate it before they know they're going to buy it! Thus, most non-English language SF is locked out of the English language markets, unless the author is able to translate it themselves, or pay to translate it (which is a risky business).

This is a crying shame, as we're missing a good bit of interesting stuff -- and more importantly, there are good authors out there who aren't able to write full-time because they're trapped by a Catch-22 situation.

Unfortunately fiction is one of the hardest translation problems, especially for machine translation, so this isn't going to change any time soon.

Coming the other way, most European publishers can read English ... so they can cherry-pick our market. (For which I am fervently grateful, because with the way the dollar is sinking right now, my cash flow projections show that I'm set to make as much money from Euro-zone translations as I get from the US market within the next year or two.)

44:

Glasshouse is very good. And FWIW, I like the cover art on my (UK, hardbak) copy of The Atrocity Archives and think it is entirely apposite. The cover on The Jennifer Morgue is a pastiche, OK, it is a reasonable pastiche which labels the contents.

45:

Adrian: there is no UK hardback edition of The Atrocity Archives, and in all probability there never will be. That's the American first edition from Golden Gryphon ;-)

46:

So it is. Very good anyway.

47:

...before you can sell a book to a US (or British) publisher it has to go through several committee meetings. This means, in effect, that it needs to be translated into English before they can decide whether to buy it -- and they're not going to pay to translate it before they know they're going to buy it!

So why don't the foreign (French? German?) publishers take the initiative to set up mini-subsidiaries in the US and UK? The mini-subs would publish, in English translations, works written in the home language that the publishers are convinced would have wider appeal. Doesn't sound too hard, and those publishers can't be too happy right now, being locked by language into relatively small home markets.

48:

So why don't the foreign (French? German?) publishers take the initiative to set up mini-subsidiaries in the US and UK?

There's some of that in the Japanese publishing industry, mainly devoted to manga. Tokyopop is a Japanese company that translates graphic novels & regular novels into English and German, as well as distributing them in Japan. They did well enough that they reached a co-publishing deal with HaperCollins, who will publish their products in the US. In return, they publish HaperCollins products in Japan.

49:

Charlie: you may have noticed the missing country in our local klansman's little theory with 750 million English speakers, indeed, pretty much anyone there who can read can read English. India.

The sole explanation that fits the facts is that they are brown people, and therefore do not count. (BTW, rate-limiting comments with a splashpage url "fruitloop.cgi" is a bit Stirling, don't you think?)

50:

Alex,

I have relatives who are Klansmen - or very damned convincing wannabes. I grew up with them. Trust me, Stirling is no Klansman.

51:

Alex, leaving aside your attemps at character assassination, India is something of a special case. While they do have an extremely large English language reading population, they are culturally distinct from the "Anglosphere" to a great degree. That is to say, the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada all have a very similar culture, literature, movies, and music. What does well in one will easily do well in others in most cases.

India, OTOH, has it's own well developed cultural tradition. They have distinct literature, movies, and music. It may change in the future, but as of now there's little crossover between the two English speaking traditions.

There's more to selling books and other media in a foreign market than just language. Japan is probably the largest non-English consumer of American culture, and vice versa. And the language barrier is far greater there than between the US/UK and India.

52:

This thread is overheating and turning nasty.

I'm suspending comments for a day or so while you cool off.

53:

I've found that the English-language bookstores in Amsterdam and Stockholm have better coverage of new UK SF than most UK stores (and that includes all Forbidden Planet outlets outside of London's). Aside from Banks, Reynolds and Asher who seem to have invaded Tescos bookshelves now, I'm usually hard-pressed to find a Stross, Robson or Mieville (for example) on UK shelves.

Walked into the SF store in Gamla Stan (Old Town Stockholm) yesterday and amazed to see lotsa new copies of UK and US hardbacks.

Hardbacks are so expensive in Australia now, that we usually get the trade paperbacks immediately - the ones you can only get at UK airport bookshops.

54:

Found Missile Gap in FP London today (completely unexpected as it wasn't listed on their slow-as-molasses-with-diabolical-UI website).

After I bought it I remembered that I'd pre-ordered it and it's probably been sent to one of my poor relatives in Australia who have a box of books in brown-paper waiting for my return. I'm never sure with Subterranean as they don't issue dispatch emails.

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