On DorothyL these last few days people have been up in arms because Chris Grabenstein's John Ceepak series hasn’t been renewed by Minotaur. Some have suggested a write-in campaign and others are calling for everyone to go out and buy his latest hardcover or at least a paperback of one of his four previous books in the series.
For the sake of full disclosure I have to say that I’ve never read one of Mr. Grabenstein’s books and I don’t know him, although his picture makes me feel I’d like him.
He’s won awards, gotten good reviews and he’s the president of the New York Chapter of The Mystery Writer’s of America.
That’s all terrific but it doesn’t translate into having a series renewed. It’s all about the numbers. The numbers of your advance and the numbers of your sales. If you don’t make back your advance, or if the publisher doesn’t make money from you, then nothing else matters.
It’s sad, but publishing is a business. As we just found out from the automobile industry, if you don’t sell cars then you go out of business. Or you get a bail out. That’s where the comparison ends. Nobody is going to bail out Mr. Grabenstein.
Some on DorothyL have said that they can’t believe another publisher won’t snap up the series. I believe it. Those other publishers will look at the numbers over at Minotaur and if the books aren’t selling why would any other publisher want the author on their list? At least with that series.
I might be totally wrong about all this, but obviously I don’t think so. I’m glad Mr. Grabenstein writes other books because no one wants him to fade away. I’m certain he won’t.
This leads me to Shirley Ann Grau. I’ve been thinking about her a lot lately. What? You never heard of her? I’m not surprised. In 1965 her third novel, The Keepers of the House, won the Pulitzer Prize. She wrote a book of short stories and two more novels and then she was quiet for about eighteen years or so. I was surprised just now to find that she’d published a novel in 1996 that I’d never heard about. Imagine, this wonderful writer who’d won the Pulitzer was not even reviewed in The New York Times. I’m pretty sure of that because had it been I can’t believe I would’ve missed it.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that no one is safe. Well, maybe some…you know who I mean, but most writers can’t count on anything. So don’t hang your hat on your laurels and don’t expect that your career will keep getting better even if your writing does.