Friday, November 23, 2007

Getting It Off My Chest

This weekend, I heard from one of my authors that someone had said to them that their sale of an original novel to Pyr was doubly-impressive because, "Lou Anders pretty much only buys stuff that's been previously published in England and Australia." And then, a day later, a friend of mine asked me a question about editing that began, "[since] it seems like the majority of books Pyr prints are US releases of previously published books in the UK and Australia..."

The proximity of these two conversations got me thinking. So I pulled out our catalog, and I counted. We launched Pyr in March, 2005, and we have officially confirmed and announced our publication schedule through August 2008. So looking at those 52 titles:
  • 23 are original works, never published anywhere before the Pyr editions.
  • 23 titles debuted in the UK or Australia first.
  • 6 titles are reprints (of US originals)
So we've actually published exactly the same amount of original fiction as US reprints of overseas debuts. (And quite a lot of it too, for just around two and a half years.) And the "majority" of our books are US in origin, whether original or reprint. We have original fiction published and forthcoming from the very talented likes of Fiona Avery, Michael Blumlein, Keith Brooke, David Louis Edelman, Charles Coleman Finlay, Alan Dean Foster, Theodore Judson, Kay Kenyon, Alexis Glynn Latner, Scott Mackay, Ian McDonald, Michael Moorcock, Mike Resnick, and Chris Roberson.

Ian McDonald? you say. But isn't he British, living in Britain and publishing in Britain first? Here it should be pointed out that while we followed the initial UK publication of River of Gods by some time, his latest novel, Brasyl, is a first edition original. We bought directly from McDonald, he delivered to us, we published 1.5 months before the UK edition, and the UK edition was set from our copy edits, which we provided as a courtesy to the UK publisher. So I'm counting that one as original to Pyr.

Which is not to say that I don't love me my UK and Australian speculative fiction novels, or that I won't continue to bring the best of it across to a deserving American readership, because, well, this stuff is good and it should be published over here. I strongly believe doing so has real value. But I'm a little rankled that there is a perception that that's all we do, as it gives short shrift to our equally great original talents. David Louis Edelman's Infoquake was nominated for the Campbell Memorial Award. Kay Kenyon's Bright of the Sky was chosen by PW as one of the Best SF&F Books published in 2007. Alan Dean Foster's Sagramanda was proclaimed by Asimov's the best novel he has yet written in all his long career. Statements like the ones above don't do them justice.

'sall I'm saying.


Al said...

To be fair, I kind of had that as a partial impression in the back of my mind even though I've bought many, if not most, of the books that Pyr has published. It is because I've often previously bought the UK editions of some of these books years ago so that when I see them from Pyr in the states (like the Meaney books), it kind of looks like that. I'm reading one of the Crossover books now and I've recently read a bunch of Sean Williams' work. You can see how people might get this impression if they didn't do a count.

S.M.D. said...

I don't quite understand why someone would find it necessary to make that statement in the first place. Why does it matter if you guys only publish books from the UK and Aus? (As a what if scenario here of course). If it's good literature, then it's good literature, regardless of the origin. It could be from China, New Zealand, Japan, or from the Nipkool people from the planet Zorbak in Alpha Centauri (anyone can use that, I'm not copyrighting it :P). In the end the only thing that matters is if the book is good. Obviously there has been a lot of great stuff coming out of Aus lately, and I'm really happy for those authors. They deserve the exposure as much as people from the US.
I guess you sort of said that already...

King Rat said...

44% is pretty big. The gist of what your friends are telling you is correct. It's no wonder people have gotten the impression.

Shara said...

Glad to help inspire a post, I think. Though I think what led me to my own misunderstanding (even though I knew the Latner and Kenyon were originals), is the fact that this year, the 2007 releases I've read breaks down as follows:

4 original (Fast Forward, Kenyon, McDonald, Latner)
7 overseas (both Robson, both Shepherd, Williams, Roberts, Abercrombie)

The only one I don't know where it falls is the Moorcock, but I'm thinking that was originally published here. But based on the numbers of the stuff I read alone, it's not hard to see where I, or others, got that impression.

Not that I'm giving you a hard time. I can see how your overall numbers reflect what you guys are really doing, but when focused down to a year, it's easy to misinterpret. :)

Lou Anders said...

Shara, first, no criticism of your comment was implied. It was a fair impression, and I hope you know that I always enjoy your questions and comments/discussion, either here or via email. I think that what you were asking - which was (for everyone's benefit) a question about what, if any, editing I did on books that had already seen prior publication - was tonally different from the statement my author relayed to me above. That one seemed to imply there was something wrong or less worthy about publishing a lot of UK and Australian titles, which, as S.M.D. points out, shouldn't matter as long as the work is good.

Al and King: you are correct, there is a large percentage, if not an actual majority, and I suppose the work should speak for itself and if the perception is that "most" of the books are following UK/Oz publications that's a fair impression for some one to make. I did want to take the occasion to call out the very good original work that Pyr has debuted because the works in question deserve the recognition IMHO and this seemed a good opportunity to do so. But, that being said, I hope it's always clear that I'm equally proud of publishing Bright of the Sky and River of Gods, for example.

It is interesting to me that for some (no one here) this is a negative. When Live without a Net - my first professionally published anthology - came out, there was one review that characterized it as "mostly British" as if that were a bad thing. This fascinated me for two reasons: 1) I couldn't see how being "mostly British" was a serious negative, and 2) the book was actually exactly 1/3 British, which meant that technically it was "mostly" American - but I realized that for this reviewer, more than one or two Brits was somehow too many. Again, nobody here has given that impression.

And, to be fair, I am on record (and will shortly be on record again) in saying that I do have a great fondness for UK writers going all the way back to early childhood, so that's out there too. I should make a Top Ten list at some point and see what my personal percentage is.

Also, occurs to me in retrospect that I may be hypersensitive today too, because when we were out shopping my wife (who is from mainland China) encountered a bit of (fortunately rare) xenophobic racism today. I wasn't present to stand up for her either sadly, so maybe subconsciously I needed to stand up for my writers by way of private atonement!

Thanks, all, for your comments and happy post-Turkey Day. Hope you are as bloated as I am.

Shara said...

You're totally right. It shouldn't matter at all. I don't know why I even pay attention to such things (and such things is not where a book was published first, but rather, where an author is from), because it shouldn't matter, but I guess I like whatever context it gives me. :)

Also, occurs to me in retrospect that I may be hypersensitive today too, because when we were out shopping my wife (who is from mainland China) encountered a bit of (fortunately rare) xenophobic racism today. I wasn't present to stand up for her either sadly

OMG that's horrible. It kills me to know that such racism is out there. I feel your pain. :-/

And happy post-Turkey day to you too! I've finally recovered, but yesterday, I was miserable! :)

Lou Anders said...

Thank you. It was my wife who suffered the most from it. I wasn't there, or it probably wouldn't have happened, and it's infuriating. Very rare for us to encounter anything negative, and when we do, it's that sort of reverse racism "those people are so smart" comments which, while equally unPC are at least said out of ignorance not malice. But today was pure deliberate malice.

Back on our discussion - your desire for context is fine, laudable even. Again, your comment prompted me to post, but I was in no way offended or upset by your comment.

Al said...

It is unfortunate about what your wife experienced. That shouldn't happen and I think we all know it.

As to the books, I always figured it was pretty split but I appreciated Pyr publishing that material because most people aren't going to pay to import British books, for example, and I do. Ones that are published only down under aren't even seen by me, generally. I'm glad good authors overseas are being published and most of my favorite authors are not in the U.S. these days.

That being said, I like the choices that you've made for American authors as well. Pyr and Night Shade are two of the publishers from whom I get most of my current better reading.

Lou Anders said...

Thanks Al.
And yeah, I find that a high percentage of the books I buy these days - which isn't that many books 'tis true, it being very hard for me to read at all outside my own submission pile, but - are themselves Night Shade books. Really admire a lot of what they are doing, and I can't wait for their Paolo Bacigalupi collection.

Shara said...

I've already pre-ordered my Bacigalupi. I can't WAIT for that one!

You realize, Lou, that when Paolo finishes his novel, that you have to publish it, right? ;) He can be another one of your original US prints! :)

And don't worry, no offense taken. I'm glad to see the discussion that's come out of this topic, and it's cool that you took my opinion seriously. Makes me feel like part of the crowd... ;)

Jetse de Vries said...

[quote]we published 1.5 months before the UK edition, and the UK edition was set from our copy edits, which we provided as a courtesy to the UK publisher.[unquote]

I actually bought the Gollancz edition because I hoped that it would contain "football" instead of "soccer", only to find that it's "soccer" all the way through.

Oh well.

NB: I can understand that an American edition of Brasyl would use "soccer", because Americans have inadvertently named a game in which the ball is touched by the foot less than 10 seconds per game "American Football", and therefore don't understand what real "football" is. I can also understand that Gollancz saved some money by using the Pyr copyedit. I'm just disappointed that in an English book by an English author set in Brazil, the world's most popular sport does not have it's original English name.

Anyway: kep up the good work, Lou. I'm not particularly bothered where an author comes from, as long as the work is fine. Also, in the UK -- to the best of my knowledge -- there is no such outcry when American originals are published in the UK.