Wednesday, December 8, 2010

AVAILABILITY ISSUES

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about availability issues: Will THE EXILE be available as an audiobook? Is there a Large Print edition of the books? Why can’t you get an unabridged audiobook of THE FIERY CROSS or A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES? Why can’t you get the OUTLANDER: The Musical CD from amazon.co.uk?


I don’t have answers to _all_ the availability questions, of course, because I don’t actually publish and distribute everything out of my garage {g}; I have contracts with a great many different publishing companies, all of whom deal with those issues in their own territories, and usually I have No Idea. But I can answer _some_ questions!


1. The Audiobooks. OK, follow me like a leopard here. Back in the day, nobody had any idea whether audiobooks would amount to anything; it was new-fangled technology, nobody was familiar with the concept as anything beyond the material for the blind that the Library of Congress’s Talking Books program does, nobody was sure it would ever be worth anything—and it cost a lot to produce one.



That being so, when Bantam-Dell (a subgroup of my US publisher, Random House) contracted with us (me and my agent) fifteen (or so) years ago for audiobooks, they did so very cautiously—and only for the rights to make an abridged version, because the thought of anyone being willing to listen to (let alone pay for) an unabridged version of something the size of OUTLANDER was laughable.


Now, in my naivete, I had no idea that “abridged” actually meant, “butchered into little bloody shreds, one-quarter of which will then be scraped up into a pile and kind of patted into the rough semblance of a story, rather like a sculpture made of raw hamburger.” I did, though, insist on keeping the Unabridged rights, having faith that at some far distant date, someone might be willing to take the gigantic gamble of recording the Whole Thing, down to the last word.


Bantam-Dell fussed about this—publishers hate to give up _any_ rights, whether they know what to do with said rights or not; they might come in handy someday, after all—but eventually gave in, since they were positive that the unabridged rights were worthless. They did, however, insist on a non-compete clause in the contract, just in case: to wit, that if anybody _did_ ever do an Unabridged version, this version could not be sold in retail outlets where the abridged version was sold. (They reasoning—correctly—that if anybody saw the two versions side by side on a shelf, they’d instantly realize that ¾ of the story had been omitted from the abridged version. (Not kidding, here; the FIERY CROSS abridged audiobook contains only 23% of the original book’s text. Just so you know…))


OK. A few years later, I happened to meet some representatives of Recorded Books, Inc. (well, actually, I engineered an “accidental” meeting at a librarians conference, having ascertained that Recorded Books was the biggest of the only two companies who even did unabridged books), got them interested (though they were a little goggle-eyed at the sheer tonnage involved; OUTLANDER was the longest book they’d ever done), and…well, Bob’s your uncle.


Recorded Books has done a magnificent job with the Unabridged audiobooks. They found marvelous readers (the hugely talented Davina Porter, who reads the OUTLANDER novels, and the equally talented Jeff Woodman, who does the Lord John books), and have risen nobly to the challenge of getting the audiobook versions produced more or less simultaneously with the print versions (no easy job, given how close I always come to the pub date in delivering the manuscript).


Now, going back to the original Bantam-Dell contract for the abridged audiobooks: my agent (who was an excellent agent) reasoned that since no one actually knew how the audiobook market might develop, he didn’t want to lock me into the usual sort of semi-permanent contract that we’d do for a book (i.e., you essentially grant the publishing company the right to publish your book as long as it sells. Only if it stops selling and they allow it to go out of print, can you get back the rights to it), and instead sold the audiobook abridged rights on a ten-year license. Meaning that we gave Bantam-Dell the right to produce an audiobook of each title (six books were covered under the original contract; they weren’t all written then, but were all under contract as print titles) for a period of ten years, from the date of publication of each title. So the license for VOYAGER, for instance, expired in 2004, as that book was originally published in 1994. And so on. We could then, if we liked, renew the license for an additional period. Or not.


Well, having seen what a travesty the abridged books are (meaning no offense either to the reader or the production team; there’s just no way of doing a good version of a book from which you’ve essentially omitted every other word), the answer was a resounding NOT, and we’ve been canceling those licenses the instant they come due. (Bantam-Dell is allowed a certain period post-cancellation during which they can still sell whatever stock they have on-hand, but they can’t produce any more.)


Result being that we’ve pretty much stamped out the abridged versions of OUTLANDER, DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, VOYAGER, and DRUMS OF AUTUMN. But THE FIERY CROSS was published in 2001. Which means that its license doesn’t expire until 2011. Which (hahahaha!) happens in a month!! So we’ll get to cancel _that_ license Right Soon, leaving only ABOSA to go.


But that’s the reason why you haven’t been able to get FIERY CROSS or A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES from Audible.com—it’s considered a retail outlet that sells the abridged versions. [I’m putting the following in caps, because I keep telling this to people, but they often don’t seem to notice or understand:]


YOU _CAN_ GET THE UNABRIDGED VERSIONS OF FIERY CROSS AND ABOSA!! You just can’t (yet) get them from Audible.com, which is most people’s default supplier of audiobooks. You totally _can_ either rent or buy the unabridged audio of both books, right here (and here). But I admit that it will be much more convenient for everyone when the license on ABOSA expires as well, and all the Unabridged audios can be found on Audible.com.

(You can get AN ECHO IN THE BONE and all the Lord John books in Unabridged form on Audible now, because none of these books were covered in the original contract with Bantam-Dell, and thus no abridged version of them has ever existed. It’s not going to, either, I can tell you that much….)


2. Well, no, I really don’t think there will be an audio version of THE EXILE, unless it’s made by Recording for the Blind or the Talking Books program (in which the reader describes all illustrations for the benefit of a visually impaired reader). This book is a graphic novel. And while I was quite surprised to discover that there are a lot of people (judging from the one-star reviews on Amazon.com) who have never heard the term “graphic novel” (and didn’t bother to find out what it meant, or to scroll down far enough in the product description to see what it meant, and thus were shocked—shocked!—to find that it was A COMIC BOOK! (and thus concluded that this was calculated fraud on my part…people are Very Strange on occasion))—a graphic novel is, in fact, a comic book. For adults, but it is a novel told largely in visual images.


Ergo, kind of hard to do as an audiobook, I mean. Reading just the dialogue part of the script might not be all that effective.



3. Large Print editions. Well….let’s just think about the logistics here for a minute, OK? How much bigger is Large Print than the normal typeface? 50% bigger? Twice as big? Let’s say 50%, just as a start.


OK. OUTLANDER runs about 700 pages, and that’s the shortest book in the series, at 305,00 words. (FIERY CROSS is the longest, at 508,000, but A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES runs it a close second, at something like 498,00. Those two books are at the physical limit of how many pages you can reasonably bind between covers.)


To get all of ABOSA into one volume, the German publisher was obliged to print it on “Bible” paper—the thin, tough paper they print Bibles on.


So. Multiply those lengths by 1.5, and we’re talking something the equivalent of 750,000 words (just the space that many words would take up, I mean). Chances are that you’d need even more space than that, because of the leading and kerning issues (those are the spaces between letters in a word and between the lines of print—all of which need to be magnified in a Large Print book), but leave that aside for now.


Even OUTLANDER, therefore, would have to be published in two volumes, for a Large Print edition, and several of the later books in the series would need to be done in three-volume sets. The cost of producing a book of X size remains the same, whether it contains _all_ the words in the original text, or only one-half or one-third of them.


So the cost of producing a Large Print edition of the OUTLANDER novels would be 2-3 times the cost of the normal book, the set would sell for 2-3 times the cost of the original ($50-75)—and how big a market is there for such an edition? (There’s also the consideration that many people who might need a Large Print edition would have problems physically _holding_ books of this size.)


Beyond these economic considerations, there’s the simple fact that if you have an ebook reader (and all my books are available in just about any ebook format—true, you need a Kindle app to read them on an iPad, but there _is_ one), the thing is light and easy to hold—and you can adjust the print to be whatever size is comfortable for you, including sizes MUCH bigger than any printed Large Print version could offer.

Anyway. Bottom line is that the only one of my books ever done as a Large Print edition was LORD JOHN AND THE PRIVATE MATTER, which I wrote under the delusion that it was a short story.


4. Amazon.co.uk. Well, now here I’m just reporting, because I have no relations with Amazon.co.uk myself. I do have some correspondence with Amazon.com, and everything seems to be running very well there.


However, Mike, the guy who handles the OUTLANDER:The Musical CD sales for the UK, established an Amazon.co.uk account for it, but hasn’t had as much luck in coming to an agreement with them regarding price, or in having his other concerns addressed. So he’s asked me to let y’all know that he’s suspended that account for the time being, but that if any of you in the UK or Europe want CDs, you can get them here. (Scroll down a bit.)



5. Oh! This isn’t really an availability issue, but fwiw, I was notified this morning that all my e-books are now available on google.books. No idea whether this is a Good Thing or not {g}, but there they are.

26 comments:

  1. got it {g}

    Cheers Jo-Anne
    Australia !

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  2. I just wanted to add that I found the elusive audio books at my local library. Given I had to reserve them and wait my turn, I was able to download all of the discs (there were A LOT) onto my computer and now can listen to them on my iPod. :) Just an option for those wanting the full versions that are not available on iTunes.

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  3. I'm wondering whether Kindle editions of the Outlander series will be made available to Canadians any time soon? I have to admit, as a new Kindle owner, I'm disappointed by the number of books that simply are not available to Canadians. I mean, sure, charging a Kindle in an igloo is challenging... but if Amazon could possibly make the books available, I'll have a word with the sled dogs and see if they wouldn't mind taking a turn at cranking the generator for a good cause! :) :)

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  4. I happily got all availabe books that I could from Audible...(all anabridged) then bought the sets of the other audible books available from Amazon.com. (as I was desperate to hear what was next) When your last book came out - I was delighted to get it from Audible.com - and hope to get your next new book from there too..Sorry - new bookS. ( I have all the Lord John books on audible too) I love listening to them as it leaves my hands free to quilt :)or then again listen to them when driving...they are all on my iPod now.

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  5. Dear Pamela--

    In fact, I just today got a contract from the Canadian publisher for the ebooks publication. Directly my agent gives it the OK, I'll shoot it back, and you should have Kindle editions available Really Soon!

    --Diana

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  6. I just imagined you selling all your books out of your garage. :D
    It has to be a quite big one then.

    Julia

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  7. I would love to know if/when The Exile will be available as an ebook or app. I much prefer to read digitally.

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  8. Diana:

    Thanks so much for replying. That is EXCELLENT news! I have owned my Kindle for less than a year and although I adore it, I have kept checking and checking and checking to see if those books are available. Although I have read them all, I am looking forward to a re-read (as I do each time a new book is released!) and soon, I'll be able to do so on my Kindle. What a great early Christmas present! (the information that they'll be available soon, I mean... unless you want to put in a word for me and let the powers that be know that I am definitely on Santa's good list... and I really DESERVE the Outlander series on my Kindle for Christmas -- I'm just saying! :) ) Thanks again.

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  9. Not to keep beating the Kindle drum BUT - for those looking for large print editions, the Kindle (or other ereader) is a great idea. I went through chemo last year and took my Kindle with me each time. I had a lot of curious folk asking for demonstrations and, most of said folk in the chemo room being somewhat elderly (though I am not ), they were all thrilled with the prospect of upping the font size of any and all books, and not just being limited to what was published in large print. If you have an elderly person in your life who loves to read but needs their books in large print - buy them an ereader! (Sorry about Canada - all DG books are available on the US version of Kindle except The Exile - and as much as I am in love with my Kindle, I'm still not convinced that graphic novels and ereaders are a good mix: the screen is small and the ink is black and white. IMHO, Exile is a work of art and should be seen in its full color, glossy, detailed glory.)

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  10. Now that you mentioned Canada, I have the same problem with my Kobo sold by Chapters bookstore which is the equivalent to Borders. Kobo for the US have all DG e-books but not kobo in Canada, which I find very upsetting.
    Hopefully they will be available soon.

    Deb

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  11. I checked out the abridged version of Outlander for a road trip with my husband. I didn't realize how abridged it was. I had read the books, so I kept stopping the recording and telling him all the stuff that had been left out in the part we had just listened to. Very, Very abridged....they took out most of the interesting stuff.

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  12. *squeee* sorry I just read the response from you that the books will be available for Canadians in Kindle.

    For the folks that want large print, I would suggest purchasing a Kindle because you can increase the font size. That is one of my favorite features. Plus Large Print books are thicker and heavier where the Kindle (or any ebook I just happen to love Kindle) weighs ounces.

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  13. I highly recommend the Recorded Books rental option for FC and ABOSA. For $35 or so per month, I got to borrow four audiobooks at a time. FC and ABOSA were my first choices! Since my CD player in my VW is busted, I pulled the books over to my iPod (maybe Recorded Books would not approve but I don't sell them or stream them - I do it for purely personal enjoyment) and got to listen to both. I decided to keep the Recorded Books membership for at least three months to offset the cost. (It's more like 6 months now and I still think the membership is cost effective...) If you are a 24 credit per year member at Audible, the cost per "book" is $9.56 and you can renew in less than a year - i.e. unlimited books for $9.56 each but you have to buy all 24 credits at one time. With Recorded Books, there is the nuisance of dealing with the CDs but the cost per book is really only about $6.00 per book. If you are an avid listener, if you listen to the books promptly and if you return them promptly, it is a great deal. Recorded Books is a great company and they have a lot of good books in their catalog. I'll admit to being a real audiobook junky. I NEED something to listen to on those boring drives for work and while doing all those mindless household chores. Between Audible and Recorded Books, I can get virtually any book of any length for the price of a trip to a fast food restaurant.

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  14. I just want to tell you have I have listened to all the books -- with the amazing Davina Porter performing. It is so worth it to get the unabridged from Recorded Books, and yes, you can rent them! It is expensived but oh, so worth it. I am looking forward to being able to buy the currently unavailable books to complete my collection, and I will enthusiastically do that as soon as they are available. Thank you, Diana, for explaining the esoteric (to us nonpublished public at least) and complicated process of audiobooks.

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  15. Thanks so much for the explanations. I have all the books from Recorded books and I have all the available ones from Audible. I have been asking Audible about the last 2 since I got an Ipod. My husband just looks at me funny when he finds out what I am listening to. Again!!

    Candy

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  16. Thank you so much for clarifying the issue with the audio books. I think my only remaining question on the topic is: Having seen how successful the unabridged versions have been, why wouldn't Bantam Dell just work out a deal with you for the unabridged versions, record those and sell them?? I'm sure most Outlander fans don't bother with the abridged versions anyway, so it can't be making them that much money...

    Oh, I lied. A second question: If their rights to Fiery Cross expire in 2011, when during the year can we expect to see that recorded book in unabridged form on Audible.com? I'm not sure how long it typically takes to record and distribute those?

    Thanks!

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  17. Thanks for the explanation. In addition to owning all the hardcover books, I have all the audiobooks as well and have made great use of all of them over the years! I did try loading the DOA CDs on iTunes so I could listen on my iPod but found it a nuisance to return to the place where I had left off. Audiobooks purchased through iTunes gives you the option to "Resume" a book. I was gifted with a Kindle for my birthday and was pleased to discover that my iTunes audiobooks are available on my Kindle as well! Look forward to the opportunity to add the last books to my audio collection!

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  18. I was so dissapointed to finish Voyager and order Drums of Autum on CD (I drive an hour each way every day to work) and the next 2 books are over $150 each!!! Im so upset. I wont be able to listen to the rest of the series unless the price comes down. How dissapointing. I never have time to read so Books on CD was the only way to go and what better way to fall in love with Jamie and Claire than listening to their voices! I sure hope the price comes down!

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  19. I LOVE THE BOOKS both AUDIO and WRITTEN, OWN 2 FULL SETS of the books (One for reference or re-read whenever the mood strikes!) One for lend-out...I work out and walk to my audiobooks as I love music but tire of it quickly..not so with my Outlander Saga, Into the Wildnerness, Twilight and NOW wishing the Bronze Horseman. It adds such a dimension to the Saga - and different parts will make you laugh or bring you to tears. Davina Porter does an excellent job - and I quickly got used to her (we always have those pre-conceived notions!) and fell in love with her style, her Jamie, her Claire...she is the reason I think a good English/Australian actor could play Jamie...Jamie was learned, well traveled and did not have as heavy a Scot accent as someone who didn't have these wordly experiences.. anyway. That's why I LOVE Chris Hemsworth for Jamie, everything he has done so far leads me to believe he has what it takes to do this part..Jamie is young through 2 books...actually into the third as they describe his side of the story.. so I differ with those who want to cast someone older all the time... I think Chris (now with scenes from Thor) has that incredible strength of character, ferocity of a warrior and fire inside that is Jamie.. Just so with Emily Blunt...look at that woman, she can smoulder and it's hard to tell what age she is, I think Rachel Weisz and Kate Winslet too old...and too established, Keira Knightly possibly.. but I can just see Emily as a doctor - more realistically and see her as someone a bit set apart from standard beauty - but very beautiful in her own way...and with the depth and acting chops to carry it off...Gerard Butler and Kevin McKidd are flat out too old and look nothing like Jamie..Jamie is a rugged (but beautiful man that turns heads and stands above the crowd - and is graceful..such is Chris H. We will never, ever get a Jamie that fits the bill for all of us, and it took a long time for me to see anyone who even vaguely captured his essence. The man who becomes Jamie must like the series and read it at least twice to become invested in the part...and do Jamie Justice. Again, no-one will be perfect. At first when I listened to the audio I didn't like it, but one must view it as a compliment to the series, another dimension that becomes beloved...UNABRIDGED - which I've said over and over again, is a travesty and GUTS Diana's vision. My local library has mostly abridged with 1 unabridged, through much work I gained access to all of this series unabridged and put it on my computer and my ipod..Another part of my "treasured collection".Thanks again Diana for your marvelous work! I beg you to give us more Jamie & Claire in this one...I love them no matter what they're doing..and Rog and Bree, have come to love them too! I hope frankly, they don't die at the end, just fade away, but if they must be shown in death...make it old and together!!! Your gift is truly God Given!

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  20. The audios are a marvelous addition to Diana's work, once you get used to Davina's rendition of Jamie & Claire...at first I think Claire sounds too old, but we can't have everything and Davina does an amazing job jumping back and forth between male and female, between English & Scots - I walk and clean listening to them and have listened to all, unabridged, several times. MUST Be Unabridged, Abridged Guts her work (Go Diana!!!)

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  21. Dear Diana

    I just saw an old posting of yours, that Ann Peacock was writing a script for Outlander. How exciting I read that she wrote the screen play for the Chronicles of Narnia, which was excellent among many other respectable works. Are you excited? May 2011-12 we will see your beautiful story on the big screen.

    Have a wonderful New Year.

    Cheers!

    Michelle K
    Virginia/England

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  22. Hi Diana,

    Thanks for the great explanation about the rights for the audiobooks. I have the same question as another commenter: if the abridged license to Fiery Cross expires in 2011 when can we realistically expect to have it available on Audible? Also, what year will the abridged license expire on ABOSA so I can mark my calendar? ;-)

    I have all the print versions, naturally, and all the unabridged that are available via Audible. I have a Zune rather than an iPod and while I can rip CDs there's no "resume" feature unless they are from Audible, which drives me bats.

    Nancy in Redmond, WA

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  23. Hi Diana,
    I am currently listening to the divine Davina Porter recite Outlander on CD. It is wonderful and is a nice way to spend my 15 mile drive to and from work each day. Anyways, there are a couple of words that Davina pronounces in a completely different way then I thought they were pronounced and the way I thought you explained them on your website. For example- I thought Laoghaire was pronounced LA-HEER-EE,not LEE-EHR, and I thought Culloden was pronounced CULL-O-DEN,not CULL-AH-DEN like Davina pronounces them. So, I know this is trivial...but would you mind clearing this up for me? Oh! And at the beginning of the CD's she pronounces Geillis GAY-LISS, and somewhere around the 9th CD or so, she starts pronouncing it GEE-LEE. Thanks, Heather

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  24. Hi Diana,

    Now that the Outlander series is going to be available to Kindle-users in Canada, I really hope it will soon be available to users in the Netherlands too. I mean, what's the point of having a Kindle when books are not available, right?

    Crossing my fingers,
    Shinyie

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  25. YES to this one. For pretty much all the reasons you said. I think, if this one lives up to its premise, it'll be insanely fantastic.
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