Friday, May 18, 2007

What I learned from Barnes & Noble and The Mark of Ran

Today has sucked. Way too busy, so no time for a big links post. All I got for ya is a pirate novel update.

I've had Paul Kearney's The Mark of Ran (the first book in his Sea Beggars series) on my To Read list for a while now, but hadn't gotten around to it yet. Yesterday, a friend sent me a link that linked to this announcement on Kearney's message board: "Things have been rather busy as regards the future of the Sea Beggars series. I'm sorry to say that sales of both books have not been brilliant, both in the UK and the US, and so both the UK and US publishers have decided to pull the plug on the series. In the conventional sense, there will be no more books..."

He goes on to talk about his plans for the series and his feelings about the publishing business and it's heart-breaking. It also adds to my thoughts from a couple of weeks ago about the viability of publishing a pirate novel.

My friend's reason for sending me the link was to get me to go buy The Mark of Ran and review it here in hopes that if enough people did that, maybe we could get some kind of buzz going for it and save the series. And because my friend asked, I was happy to scoot over to Barnes & Noble on my way home last night and pick up a copy. Only guess what? No copies. Which is really the problem, isn't it?

It's not that the book's sitting on the bookstore shelf and no one's buying it. It's that the bookstore didn't buy any copies. Or, if it did, they didn't sell so now they've been sent back to the publisher. It sucks.

And it again brings up the question: considering how popular the Pirates of the Caribbean movies are, why aren't pirate novels selling? The closest answer I can come up with is that there's no crossover appeal. Just like everyone who likes the Spider-Man movies doesn't go looking for their nearest comic book store, people who like Pirates of the Caribbean aren't necessarily going to go looking for novels that are similar to it. First of all, the novels wouldn't have Jack Sparrow in them, and Jack -- or Johnny Depp anyway -- is the big attraction with the Pirates movies. Sure, there's a small group of pirate fans (like me) who'll eat up whatever piratey goodness you put in front of them, but they're a niche market.

Barnes & Noble did have a whole display of pirate books right on the main aisle between the front entrance and the Starbucks in the center of the store. All of it was non-fiction. You'd think that Mark of Ran and Crystal Rain would've gone nicely on that display, but nope. And honestly, I'm not complaining. I'm just making an observation that I can hopefully learn from. I don't blame Barnes & Noble. Obviously, it's in their best interest to sell books and for whatever reason, they don't think that pirate fiction, even old pirate fiction that they publish themselves, will sell off of that display. I don't get it, but I accept it.

And part of accepting it means that I've got to lay off Le Corsaire for now. It's time to think about something else as a first novel. 'Cause like I said before: lots of other ideas.

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