The thing that is most frightening about being an author is the fact that your fate depends so much on the actions of strangers. I go to a lot of conventions and talk to a lot of audiences, but, realisticly, even if I did this every weekend, I probably wouldn't meet 4000 people. Even if I could magically persuade every person I meet over the course of a year to go buy my book, it would probably only sell 1/10 the number of books I need to sell for this thing to be considered a success. In the end, the book is going to rise and fall on the actions of people I don't meet, readers who are going to walk into bookstores without knowing who I am, spot my book, pick it up, and decide to buy it based on the cover art and the text on the jacket.
Luckily, my book has a truly eyecatching cover by the insanely talented Micheal Komarck, and the hardworking crew at Solaris has put the whole thing together into a wonderful looking package. The teaser text on the back accurately captures the conflict of the book without giving anything away, and the front cover has a special printing varnish that gives the eye of the dragon a glossy finish. They eye actually looks wet, enhancing the effect that you are seeing Bitterwood's reflection. I think a lot of people are going to pick up this book once they see the cover.
Fortunately, I already have some evidence of this. When I got my books, they were shipped directly from Simon and Schuster, and the boxes are labled, "Do not display before June 27." But, I was at the Borders in Winston Salem yesterday, and, as I often do, I walked to the spot in the bookstore where my Bitterwood would be if it was released yet. And... they had it. Two copies. But, the way the books were sitting, it was obvious that a third copy had been sitting between the two earlier, as there was a Bitterwood-sized gap in between the two. I met my friend Greg there and he bought a copy. I checked with the information desk to see if they knew how many copies they had. As I suspected, they had started the day with three, but said they wouldn't be able to tell if any had sold until the next day.
That night, Greg took me back to Borders to pick up my car, and I couldn't resist going back inside. For one thing, my book had been sitting spine out, and I figured I'd turn the last copy cover out so that the eye-catching cover could do its magic. That turned out not to be neccessary... the book was gone. Apparently, all three had sold in a single day... at least two to complete strangers.
I swung by the Borders in Greensboro and the book wasn't out yet. The computer said it was "arriving soon."
So, I'd like to ask anyone reading this to do me a favor. Go to your local bookstores this week and let me know if you find a copy in stock. If it's sitting spine out and there's room on the shelf, I'd appreciate it if you could turn it cover out. (Don't be rude about this though... I wouldn't want you to hide someone else's book doing this.) If your local bookstore has a copy, I'd appreciate it if you'd drop me a line, or just post that information here, saying that the book is available at Bookstore X in City Y. Thank you in advance for your hard work and dedication.
There's going to be a lot of news coming up over the next few weeks as Bitterwood rolls out. I hope to have some signings lined up soon. I'll be at Readercon after the 4th of July, and hope to be doing a reading there, though I haven't got my final schedule. I'll also soon be announcing a contest. A very important element of my fantasy novel has somehow made it into print without ever being named. So, once there's been time for a decent pool of people to have read the book, I'll describe that nameless thing and explained why it remained unnamed, and hold a contest to name it. Sorry to be so vague... watch this space.