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pile of UK hardcovers of Rhesus Chart

It's that time of year again!

We're now 26 days away from the release of The Rhesus Chart, the fifth book in the Laundry Files series. And indeed, the photograph above came from my UK publisher Orbit's office, where the first stack of hardcovers arrived earlier this week: this means they're on their way to warehouses and shops in time to go on sale on the 3rd of July. (I'll have some shots of the American hardcover by and by ...)

For the first time on this blog, I'm going to be running a competition to promote the Laundry Files! Details to be announced, but the prizes will include signed first edition hardbacks and some surprises from the Laundry Souvenir Store. I'll be running extracts from the story, And if you're lucky enough to be in Edinburgh I'm be reading from "The Rhesus Chart" and signing copies at Blackwell's bookshop at 6:30pm on July 2nd!

(Expect more exciting messages from our corporate sponsors to follow over the next month. Meanwhile, we now return you to your usual blogging service.)



Time for a stupid question: how do I pre-order this book?

Bonus marks for bypassing Amazon.

And yeah, I could probably find a link to do that myself. As a fan, I have the motivation; but making it easy is the key to getting casual readers to the 'checkout' page.


See the grey sidebar text at the right of this web page?

The title at the top says BUY MY BOOKS.

Immediately below it are links to "US English Editions", "UK English Editions", and German and Japanese pages.

Follow the links. You will find plenty of places to buy my books, and not just from Amazon!


Google Play has the UK ebook as well should you wish to use a different corporate overlord who isn't currently trying to crush publishers/authors.


A cake?

(That's what I first thought it was on the picture.)


Looks like the Kindle version is still cheaper at £7.99

Those looking for paper from Australia, it appears via Booko that Booktopia is the cheapest (no postage if you go via that route) for the UK edition:

though Book Depository is cheapest for the US version:


Had my UK Kindle copy preordered since the day preorders went up. Really good price too compared to what it is now. (£4.88)


Pre-ordered. Anxiously waiting.


I've had the US edition pre-order in my 'shopping cart' at B&N for a couple months, though I intend to go to the store and do my bit for the Feline Feeding Fund. Hopefully it will be on the shelves; "Neptune's Brood" wasn't when it came out and I had find someone to ask about it.


Isn't this the US cover?

I must say, yet again, I prefer the UK cover. It catches the eye and stands out.


Incidentally, Book Depository was bought by Amazon a while back.


Charlie does where it's purchased from (in ebook format) make any difference to the amount the author gets?

As in do the price differences between sales points tend to come from the retail margin, the publisher or author?


Yup, that's the US cover. (If you look at the "US editions" link under BUY MY BOOKS in the sidebar, you'll see it lined up with the other Laundry Files books.)


As in do the price differences between sales points tend to come from the retail margin, the publisher or author?

All of the above.

The publisher establishes a suggested retail price, then sells books to the retailer at a discount off it (usually 40%-70% off). The retailer then decides how much to sell the book to the public for.

The publisher pays the author a percentage of the SRP. This depends on the sales channel (trade hardback, trade paperback, mass market, or ebook -- occasionally audiobook if they do that directly, but more usually audio rights are sold separately to an audio publisher). If they have to take a deep discount in the trousers, the author takes a haircut as well -- for example, if a discount of more than 50%, the author may get only 80% of their usual royalty, and if sold at 70% off, they may get only 50% of the regular royalty. On the other hand, there's often a "bestseller" clause: hardcovers pay X% on sales up to 10,000 copies (in the US market), then X% x 1.25 on sales from 10,001 to 15,000 copies, then X% x 1.5 on sales above 15,000. As bestsellers are most likely to be deeply discounted, this tends to compensate for the deep-discount haircut.

So ...

Suppose a new hardback book has an SRP of $25. Big River Co negotiates a 60% discount from the publisher. So the author gets 10% of $25 per copy, but then takes a 20% haircut off their $2.50, for a net royalty of $2.25. The publisher is left with $7.75 -- of which around $2.50 is the cost of manufacturing the book, and the remaining $5.25 is split roughly 50/50 between editing/marketing/production costs and actual profit. Meanwhile, Big River Co sell the book at 30% off SRP. The public pay $17.50, and Big River Co make a profit of $7.50.

This is why authors and publishers really dislike Big River Co and their ilk: they act as gatekeepers between us and our readers but take the lion's share of the profits. (Okay, they've got running expenses too, but you get the picture.)

As for royalties and editions ...

Typical SRPs in the US market are: $25 for hardback, $12 for trade ebook (immediately after first release, not discounted) or trade paperback, $8 for mass market paperback, and $6 for mass market/discounted ebook.

Typical royalty rates (without haircuts, bestseller escalators, and the other fine print) are: 10% for hardback, $7.5-8% for trade paperback, 6-7% for mass market paperback, and a whopping 25% for ebook.

So you can see that the ebook (25% x $12 = $3.00) actually makes the author more money than the figures for the hardback-via-Amazon I gave previously.

On the other hand, a hardback bought from a small bookstore for SRP ($25), who in turn bought it from the publisher at a 40% discount, pays the author $2.50 (rather more than AMZN) but boosts the publisher's net revenue from $7.75 to $12.50. So buying from small bookstores isn't just supporting authors and small bookstores -- it also keeps the publishers in business.


Now, how do I get myself to hold off on reading it the minute a copy appears on my Kindle (already preordered) and wait until August so I can read it in London? I like reading a book while being near the location it's set in. Also, is there a way to autograph an ebook?


If you have an ebook reader and a sharpie I will sign the back of your device. (I only sign the front if the e-reader is already broken.) NB: for grey or black tablets/e-readers, silver or gold marker pens work a lot better than black!


Do pre-orders help you in any way?

(I pre-ordered it anyway, through B&N, because of AMZN.)


Will this be in audio book form as well?


Pre-orders help insofar as they ship on the publication date, which means a big boost to first week sales, which means a boost to the probability of the book spiking onto the bestseller lists, which in turn means my marketing people will wuv me forever and put "NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR" on all my book covers, which makes bookstore buyers more inclined to wuv me forever, which is A Good Thing.


I don't believe we've sold audio rights to this one -- yet. All the previous Laundry novels are with Audible in the USA, so it's likely they'll buy this one in due course (within the next few months).

The British picture is more problematic. It's a much smaller market, recording an audiobook is expensive (you have to pay a voice actor for the best part of a week's work, not to mention studio/engineer time), and audible wanted more money for the rights to their existing recording than Orbit could afford to pay. Orbit are now partnering with the RNIB to record genre titles: Orbit sell them commercially while RNIB Talking Books members get them for free, and the two organizations split the costs. They did the first two Laundry novels last year; I'm hoping that they continue to produce them via this route in future, but it will take time to catch up.



Duly pre-ordered.

Waterstones' site isn't as bad as some, but they make it very clear that online sales are not a priority to senior managers, and that Amazon are welcome to remain the market leaders for ease of use in making purchases.

Also, I am really uneasy about storing credit card details on a site as a condition of being permitted to make a purchase.


A new Laundry Files book! How did I not know about that?

Anyway, totally sold, can't wait to see your take on vampires.

Is the only option for reading in Marvin to buy the Kindle edition from Amazon, get file off iPad, import to Calibre, DeDRM, and then import via Dropbox?

Because that's what I normally do, and it annoys me every time I have to, because reading a new book I am really looking forward to and have just paid for should not involve a fucking workflow, but if that's what's required, so be it.


Is the only option for reading in Marvin to buy the Kindle edition from Amazon, get file off iPad, import to Calibre, DeDRM, and then import via Dropbox?

Yes. (At least, that's what I do.)


Does the release of the new book mean that you will be doing a book tour soon, perhaps say to the north eastern bit of North America ?


Why is that so ridiculous? After all, the north eastern bit of North America is a practically untapped market. You'd be hard pressed to find any competition at all in Baffin Island.


Pre-ordered from Saint George's in Berlin, (who don't use Amazon).

Completely off-topic, I'm half-way through Revolution Trade (first reading of the omnibus and third reading of the whole series), and still have no idea who some of the people are in the transcripts, nor who was bugging their conversations (I'm a little slow sometimes).


You're right! And Iqaluit's weather is so much more moderate this time of year than it will be in Florida (today's high: 3°C, with rain).

Thursday it's supposed to get up to 11°C! What's not to like?


What's ridiculous is the idea of me getting a signing tour for what is not yet a breakout/bestseller series. Signing tours are expensive -- they cost on the order of $1000/day to operate, not to mention sucking up huge amounts of time and effort from the marketing department -- and they don't generate enough sales directly to justify the cost: they're a marketing activity to build buzz and attention. I'm probably seen as already having enough brand awareness in the east coast US cities that there's no point -- I'm in NYC and Boston just about every year as it is.

The time you might see me touring is for the book after the first one in a given series to actually hit the extended NY Times bestseller list.

(Note also that signing tours are a gruelling 7-days-a-week 14-hour-a-day work activity involving excessive exposure to the TSA and total exhaustion on top of jet lag. They also interrupt work: in my experience it's utterly impossible to write while on tour. If I can come up with some other canny marketing strategy like, oh, competitions and blogging, that would be way more comfortable from my point of view!)


There's an obvious solution to this - RoboStross! I'm sure the required skill sets are available here to crowd-source a realistic(ish) talking, signing teleoperated simulacrum. Think of the savings - ship it surface mail, spends the night in a cupboard rather than an expensive hotel room, no need to deprive the feline overlords of their minion. And it's all about garnering publicity, right? What can possibly go wrong?! Programming errors leading to killing sprees aside, of course...


Seeing the lovely bloody cover, I can not help but wonder...

Have you (ever) managed to have enough control over the cover of your books to prevent contemptible covers ( -- hey, that pages even quotes you)?


On a very slightly related note, I just finished reading all currently extant Laundry Files books in order of publication according to the Charles Stross en.wikipedia entry.

Since there were no more available I decided to start the newly released Merchant Princes series. My heart fell when I read ( in Wikipedia) that it was available in "Kindle format". But I tried and found it DRM-free immediately and bought it to read on my JeebusPad and Phone.

Then I went into Wikipedia and changed "Kindle" to "DRM-free". It will be interesting to see if that edit holds...

Ps I don't have any financial (or other) interest in Kobobooks, but it has become the first place I look for ebooks. The jeebusDevice Kobo reader is kinda buggy but not too bad IMO. yMMV.


On a somewhat tangential note,given the notorious infighting with US intelligence and military, how tight a grip has the Black Chamber on other bureaus stumbling into OCCINT in the Laundryverse. Just asking because this news had me somewhat chuckling...

"Carnegie Mellon University's Steve Awodey has received a $7.5 million, five-year grant from the Department of Defense (DOD) to reshape the foundations of mathematics by developing a new approach that allows for large-scale formalization and computer verification. The award, part of the highly competitive Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) program, is one of 24 issued this year totaling $167 million over five years. The grant will allow Awodey, professor of philosophy in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and his research team to continue building on his groundbreaking discovery in 2005 of "Homotopy Type Theory," a deep and surprising connection between abstract, mathematical geometry and computational logic."

Wouldn't want anything to happen to those guys, wouldn't we?


"Poor Bob. Not only is he stuck in a mostly boring Government IT job with a boss who shows no sign of retiring, not only is he struggling with his new fad diet, but now his wife refuses to tell him what's really stressing her out. It's not surprising he's intrigued when his beautiful and wealthy former girlfriend comes back into his life, but he's astounded to find out her secret - she's now a vampire!

Will Bob fall for his ex's sexy, supernatural charms? Will his wife choose him over her instrument? Will anyone at work ever believe him, or will the office politics prove too much?"


For the record, it's a faq: "Why did you pick such an awful cover for your book?".

(And also for the record, since the facelift last year I really love the covers Orbit are doing for the Laundry Files. And while I'm less in love with the Ace covers for the US editions, I don't hate them: they're just trying to do something different. ("Atrocity Archives" was great, "Jennifer Morgue" was good, "Fuller Memorandum" was ho-hum, "Apocalypse Codex" was good again, and ditto "Rhesus Chart".) Looking for a much more pulpy feel, which is probably right for the US buying public.)


Laundry Files canon: the Black Chamber is the main US OCCINT agency, like the NSA is the main US ELINT agency. But the USA has a stupid number of intel agencies in general -- the count I heard was 19, but there may be more: apparently the best at doing CIA stuff is the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research -- and there are certainly other, smaller OCCINT agencies in the USA of the Laundryverse who aren't quite so dominated by pure evil, if only because they don't have the budget.


That's actually not a bad blurb for Rhesus Chart ... totally misleading, in absolutely the right way!


And what happens in the Laundryverse when the Royal Society breaks the news that a computer program has passed the Turing Test.

And I like the headline in The Guardian: What is the Turing test? And are we all doomed now?

Hmmm.... What does The Royal Society do in the Laundryverse?


So, about that NROL-39 mission patch...


Personally speaking, since the Laundryverse is the not so unholy ubnion of two (or three) genres notorious for cheesy cover art, namely horror and spionage (and maybe computer literatute, though

seems to be something of an outlier), one could argue pulpy book covers add to the Gesamtkunstwerk, if you excuse my Wagnerian.

And of course, it could always get worse...

(Yes, I'm quite fon of the Kirby/Kidby covers for Sir Pterry, why you're asking?)

As for signing, do you also do laptops? Just asking because I have a CF-18 here that was at least tangentially involved when some girl[1] asked me if I'd mind her praying for me, no idea if the "One Nation under Cthulhu" printout

had anything to do with it. And I daresay what happens with your signature, instant exorcism, maybe[2]?

Last but not öeast, the leaking of BLACK CHAMBER interna into USian mainstream is frightening...

[1] In case nobody noticed, I'm sitting in one of Germany's "black" Roman Catholic corners, AKA Westphalia. Protestants, like the girl in question, seem to get somewhat sectarian under those circumstances, some anecdotal evidence from 80's Punks

in Hamburg indicates similar happens to Catholics in a mainstream Protestant society...

[2] Hm, not that the girl in question would have been my wet (and red-striped) dream of a Dominatrix, maybe a "Zofe" (German BDSM term AFAIK somewhat akin to "Bondage Maid") but I digress...


Last but not öeast, the leaking of BLACK CHAMBER interna into USian mainstream is frightening...

That one's good, but I prefer this one:


Well, I was trying to figure out some way to work in "sparkly vampire" in there, but I couldn't figure it out without giving a major spoiler.


Would you mind signing an elderly Palm Tungsten W which also bears the signature of Lois McMaster Bujold?


Well, that adds a whole new level to certain rock songs, AKA "Eat the Rich". ;)

Sadly, vanity plates are not that easy in Germany, the first letters are somewhat fixed, and for the rest some combinations[1] are forbidden, not that I could imagine any sane person going for an "SS" or like in their vehicle plate under most circumstances:

Though my district being marked by the SIGN OF THE BEAST FROM REDMOND, AKA MS might make for some nice combinations. Sadly, you have only two other letters to add.

BTW, sorry for the "o with umlaut", e.g. "öeast"; it's just that the letter in question is next to the "l" on German keyboards...

[1] This also extends to some numbers, e.g. "18" could be interpreted as an allusion to Adolf Hitler = AH, which explains why the number "18" is popular with neonazis. And of course, it's also popular with redlight districts, which makes for some confusion in front of a "Club 18".


Yeah, I'd be up for that. (But you'd best bring your own marker; I don't usually carry one.)


the number "18" is popular with neonazis

Which is almost amusing. In Hebrew numerology (gematria) 18 = חי - chai, which means life, so it's a popular number. At Bar & Bat Mitzvahs it's common to give money gifts in multiples of 18.

As for vanity plates: my mother once had IROKU2 on her car. It was intended to be her take on "I'm OK, you're OK", but was often read as liking a certain band (one of the plates was stolen once). I had suggested that she should have gone with an M instead of R, but that might have led to damage. (Then there was the Smart car I once saw with ESC POD. Seemed fitting.)


Around Y2K I saw two entertaining plates. One read COBOL; the other XCTL. Never saw a CICS plate, but I wouldn't be surprised if one of them was out there.


My favorite plate is on of my friends YHVH.


Have to say the unified theme for the novels is great, gives them the feeling of "YOU SHALL HAVE THEM ALL TOGETHER TO SHOW OFF"


And seeing as my copy of "AA" seems to have gone AWOL its a decent excuse to upgrade the first 2 I have to the new style. Having said that the JM "rain face" cover I thought was excellent.

aside The Discworld covers they have been pursuing with the bleak look really don't work and it looks like they're returning to the more "original manic if slightly misrepresented style" that made you want to buy them, if you didn't already know his stuff... or maybe its just me that felt they were sombre and wrong and they are just refreshing them again differently to get more sales .

I guess its all a bit hit and miss - I only first starting reading you with Halting State and it was just down to the cover (the cartoon/computer character one - not sure if there are any others out there for the UK ) - it at least got me to pick the book up and read the blurb - pretty much hooked by the end of the blurb though...


sorry for self replying , but does my comma key work ? ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

hmm, yes. Apply those to above, and, make, you're, own misleading, sentences.

Sorry .


Thoroughly off-topic, but why not? Here's a different take on the 'Eugene Goostman' story. The Smartest Computer-Generated Kid Ever Is Jewish; Eugene Goostman First To Pass as Human in Turing Test


The "Turing Test" non-news is almost certainly complete bollocks. I've been ignoring it.

Hint: Read Computing Machinery and Intelligence by A. M. Turing (Mind, 59, 433-460), then develop a critique of Turing's glib dismissal:

The game may perhaps be criticised ... May not machines carry out something which ought to be described as thinking but which is very different from what a man does? This objection is a very strong one, but at least we can say that if, nevertheless, a machine can be constructed to play the imitation game satisfactorily, we need not be troubled by this objection.
"We need not be troubled by this objection" indeed. (See also fifty years of developing conversational bots on IRC, spam generators, and so on. Parsing and text generation are not necessarily signs of "thought". Indeed, Turing's dismissal of criticism seems to me to be as arrogant as Roger Penrose's blind assertion that machines can't think [because quantum] -- and for much the same reason.)

Edit: And now I see that Marvin Minsky agrees with me.


The "Turing Test" non-news is almost certainly complete bollocks.

Yep. Not even almost. I just thought the article had an amusing focus, though not surprising from The Forward. The article does make the point that it's debatable whether it passes the test.


It occurs to me that the US Secret Service may have accidentally come up with the perfect replacement for the Turing Test: a computer that can detect sarcasm.


I noticed that the UK cover of your upcoming Laundry Files novel has a prominent blurb by Ben Aaronovitch. Do his books sell a lot better in the UK than they do here in the US? I was under the (perhaps mistaken) impression that his "Rivers of London" series hasn't done very well in the United States. (Personally, I love his work, going all the way back to "Remembrance of the Daleks".)


Scott Aaronson had a conversation with the so-called AI. Reading the transcript, it's blatantly obvious that it's just a slightly improved Eliza.


It strikes me that one of the few sensible uses of DRM could be to produce an equivalent of the signed book. The author adds a witty inscription to the front of the file and it's then locked.

Of course that would require a widespread DRM implementation, which most of us don't want.

It then further strikes me that the same could be done with a public/private-key based digital signature scheme. So your personalised book would have an ascii-gibberish proof of authorial signature at the end.

If no-one has patented this pretty obvious idea yet, I happily give it to the world.


Oh, that's Kevin Warwick trolling the news media again. Yes, the same Kevin Warwick who declared himself a cyborg after implanting a chip in his arm.

See Techdirt for a good takedown


They do seem to have sold pretty well over here, yes.


Personally, the "artwork" that OGH needs to have on a cover to sell me the book are the words "CHARLES STROSS".


Ok, that cover doesn't specifically say so, but Ben is a "Sunday Times #1 best sellling novelist". In terms of market share in a given week, that's about the equivalent of "NYT Best Seller" in the USA.


Thanks for the Wiki link; German registration plates are something I've been wondering about. There's at least one inaccuracy in the article, though - I've seen plates with more than eight characters. I saw a plate on the way in to work today that read "MTK XX ####", where X is a letter and # is a number. That's nine characters, not including the implicit space after the location code. I guess as the number of cars registered continues to increase, they've had to change the schema.

/end totally off-topic ramble/


Do his books sell a lot better in the UK than they do here in the US? I was under the (perhaps mistaken) impression that his "Rivers of London" series hasn't done very well in the United States.

Yes: in the UK, Ben Aaronovitch is a major bestseller.


It's possible that the mini-genre within which these books appear (London Cops + Dark Fantasy: see also Sarah Pinborough's Dog Faced Gods and Paul Cornell's London Falling) is too strongly based in a place that Americans find a bit alien for it to work well over there.

On the other hand, I don't know how well Gaiman's Neverwhere did in the US.


Hang on, that's not what Turing is saying. His "objection" is that something might count as thinking even if it doesn't pass the TT, so if a machine can't pass the TT, it might still be thinking. And then he's right in saying that if a machine can pass the TT, that objection's moot.

You're saying separately that something might pass the TT without thinking. And that's clearly true for these silly media-circus versions of the TT. But the real TT still looks like a pretty good sufficient condition for thought. Dennett's "can machines think?" ( mindsandmachines/Papers/dennettcanmach.pdf) makes the case pretty well that people underestimate by a vast extent how hard it would be, construed properly.


Ben Aaronovitch is a very good writer. I'm glad to hear he is having a lot of success in the UK. It means I get to read more "Waters of London" novels--and anything else he writes.


[Turing's] "objection" is that something might count as thinking even if it doesn't pass the TT, so if a machine can't pass the TT, it might still be thinking.

Likewise, I've encountered humans who don't pass the Turing Test to demonstrate actual thought; whether this is due to unwillingness or inability is open to question. This reciprocal question is one rarely brought up in computer science, although philosophers have had a fine time wanking off over it.


BTW, for Urban Cthulhiania, may I introduce to to a somewhat drastic video?


months on it reaching Audible! sounds like I'll be breaking out my EYES to read something for once, ugh, I thought this was the future. your new releases always take me by surprise, and it's always such a pleasure!



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on June 7, 2014 10:38 AM.

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