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Things Your Writer’s Group Never Told You - Chris Dolley's Journal

About Things Your Writer’s Group Never Told You

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With Magical Crimes due for its official launch on Tuesday I think it’s time to spill the beans about what happened in the four months before Resonance, my first book, was published.

As with all my tales it’s both unbelievable and true. And something no new author should ever have to experience.
But it has a happy ending so – yay!

And it’s funny.

Back in June, 2005 I was floating along on a white fluffy cloud of authorial bliss. I had a book coming out in November and people were already buying it on Amazon.

Then July happened and my book disappeared.

I’d clicked on my bookmarked page to check the Amazon ratings and ... another book had replaced mine. It had my ISBN. It had my publisher but ... everything else was different. It was now called Blackcollar by Timothy Zahn.

I checked the Baen website and there was my book with the right ISBN. But, there too, was Blackcollar by Timothy Zahn. It was due out three months after mine. Could Amazon have switched books? I checked Amazon using Blackcollar’s ISBN and found ... Blackcollar. It had two listings and two ISBNs. How many did it need?

I emailed Baen to tell them and they told me not to worry. It was a mistake and it would be soon rectified.

Along came August and things got worse. Other booksellers followed suit. It wasn’t just Amazon that had the wrong details but Barnes and Noble and the independents. Little by little my book was disappearing. The forces of Blackcollarness were sweeping the planet laying claim to my ISBN wherever they found it.

I emailed Baen again and was told not to worry. These things take time. There was plenty of time before publication.

But I was a new author with a new book and a past history with Fate. If there was a way for everything to go wrong, Fate would find it. She knew where I lived.

(And I speak as a man who was impersonated, robbed, arrested, pursued by wasps across a roof top and menaced by a ten-foot long caterpillar – all within months of moving to France.) 

 So I took action. Amazon had an email address for authors to correct their book details. I used it. And they replied telling me how book details were supplied by distributors such as Ingrams. I tracked down an email address for Ingrams, explained the situation and gave them the correct details.

They were very accommodating and told me they’d have the new details out in a day or so. Yay!

Calamity. Fate must have been listening in – either her or Timothy Zahn – because if early August was bad, late August was worse. Resonance re-appeared with the correct ISBN but I was no longer the author. Timothy Zahn was.

Aaarggghh! All suddenly became clear. This is what life as a new author was like. All the big author kids hanging around the school gate waiting to snatch the little author’s new book from his hand. Would Timothy Zahn and his gang come asking for my dinner money next? 
Only one thing to do. I’d write to his mother.

I redoubled my email campaign. I emailed Baen, B&N, Amazon, Ingrams, Mrs Zahn. I tracked down Australian distributors. Everywhere there was a mistake I tracked it down and left no one in any doubt what the correct ISBN for Resonance was.

Then came the September bombshell. A mistake at Simon & Schuster back in April had caused the ISBNs of Resonance and Blackcollar to be swapped. The error had been discovered in July when they’d been swapped back but the message hadn’t got through to Baen.

And everyone I’d emailed in August assuring them that, as author, I knew my own ISBN ... I had to email again assuring them the opposite.

Fate hates it when I get pro-active.

And if I thought September was bad...

Along came October and the book disappeared again. Then reappeared. Then disappeared. One month to go before publication and suddenly it started mutating with the verve of a randy fruit fly. Strange books started appearing - Blackcollar by Chris Dolley, Resonance by Timothy Zahn. Sometimes they had a November publishing date, sometimes January. The pages could by 400 or 608. The descriptions and covers were interchangeable too. And often we were co-authors of both books.

Somehow I’d entered the world of Quantum Publishing. A world where your Amazon cart could contain a book by me or maybe one by Timothy Zahn. The only person who knew for certain was a cat and, after last time, he wasn’t saying.

With three weeks to go to publication I’d almost got a correct version up on Amazon.com. The only thing wrong was having Timothy Zahn as a co-author. I emailed Amazon and they removed one of the authors. Do I need to say which one?

There is no adequate word to describe the panic and frustration I felt. And if there was, Timothy Zahn would have stolen it.

Seven days to go and I managed to get my name back on the book. Only as a co-author but by that time I was just glad to get a mention. And I wasn’t emailing Amazon.com ever again.

That was a joy I was saving for Amazon.co.uk. They’d just put back the release date of Resonance from November to January – thank you, Blackcollar. Even though they’d started shipping the book to eager customers they promptly stopped. People would have to pre-order it as it’s not out until January.

BUT YOU’VE GOT ALREADY GOT THE BOOK! You’ve been shipping it for days! Uh-uh, that’s not what our database says. The January release date rumour spread to Australia. Bookshops turned away customers in the November/December period because their database (which can never be wrong) said the book wasn't published until January.

Where’s the happy ending?

Here. In December Glenn Reynolds, aka Instapundit, ordered a copy of what he thought was Timothy Zahn’s latest. Later, he posted on his blog that he’d just read a book called Resonance by Timothy Zahn and Chris Dolley and how good it was. Within twelve hours Resonance hit number 32 in Amazon’s SF bestseller list. 
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Date:January 9th, 2010 04:57 pm (UTC)
I've heard you talk about this before, but still ... ugh.

Happy dance for the ending, though :-)
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Date:January 9th, 2010 04:57 pm (UTC)
Good grief. You do seem to attract it, don't you? My sincerest sympathies. I have had a run-in with amazon.com, too, but fortunately for me, it didn't cost me anything at all.

In my case, when I did an ego-earch at amazon.com, I discovered that I was - unbeknownst to me - now a co-author with Margaret Weis! And they'd put my name one several of the Hickman-Weis books. You know, obviously, how difficult it can be to find an email address to send such corrections to amazon.com. I finally did, after deep, DEEP tunnelling in the amazon website. I sent them an email, then checked back, oh, maybe a year later, to find that it hadn't been corrected. So I burrowed into amazon's subsoil again and found believe it or not a phone number, and I called it, and further astonishment!!! a human being answered! I told him about the error, he looked it up on his computer on the spot, agreed it was wrong, and ssured me it would be fixed. I checked back oh, six months later, and guess what, it hadn't. At this point, I emailed Tracy Hickman to explain the situation, thinking maybe the ACTUAL author might have more weight with amazon.com. He replied very nicely, though he assured me they'd listen to him about as effectively as they had me.

Well, I quit worrying about it. I wasn't going to get an royalties so who cared? I have noticed, though, that they've done the same thing with more recent Weis-Hickman books, and there's even one with Tracy AND Terry Hickman, so what do I know? Maybe Tracy has a son or daughter named Terry.

I just hope you're getting YOUR royalties.
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Date:January 9th, 2010 06:38 pm (UTC)
Well I'm sure Timothy Zahn _wished_ he'd written resonance....
Date:April 10th, 2010 04:59 am (UTC)


"Within twelve hours Resonance hit number 32 in Amazon’s SF bestseller list."

It is always nice to get an Instalanche.

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