Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Trans-Atlantic Gems

I know very little about the publishing industry - truly. I have no idea why some novels have such different covers and even titles when they move from country to country. I don't know why an author published by, say, Gollancz in the UK would be published by Orbit in the US - this seems distinctly odd to me.

For the purposes of this post, though, I'm going to talk about how mystified I am by those trans-Atlantic gems that never get picked up in the UK when loved in the US (and, I guess, vice versa - although I'll be relying on any US commenters to present their own view on this in the comments!)

I want to present to you three US authors whose books I have acquired at great expense to myself through importing them from the States or buying books from Forbidden Planet. I don't know if these authors have *ever* been published over in the UK, but I believe it's woeful that UK readers can't pick up their books and that readers seem to have either no interest or knowledge in them.

1) Sharon Shinn

I recently reviewed one of Shinn's books on this blog - Archangel - and tried to emphasise just how much I loved this book. Shinn has now written 20 novels and assorted short fiction. She has a stunning turn of phrase, and creates memorable and beloved characters. I think anyone who likes Jacqueline Carey and Mercedes Lackey would enjoy this author. Why hasn't she been picked up in the UK?

2) Ken Scholes

I have been jealous of the assorted bloggers I read from the States and Canada who have managed to pick up books by this author with ease. Recently I took the plunge at Forbidden Planet and brought the first novel in the series the Psalms of Isaak. Scholes is published by Tor Books in the States, and I am truly curious as to why Tor UK haven't picked him up. From what I've read in reviews, he seems to be a remarkably good fit with a stable of authors that contains Mark Charan Newton, Alan Campbell and Adrian Tchaikovsky. Why haven't Tor UK signed this author?

3) Charles de Lint

Here is the biggie for me! I think anyone who talks to me regularly on Twitter will know I have a love affair with these books. They are mystical and beautiful, truly some of the best fantasy prose you will ever read. The stories encompass other worlds, all the while grounded in an urban setting that rings true. The characters are vividly drawn and stay with you long after the last page has been turned. This author has now written over 30 novels, so there is a massive back catalogue to draw from. It is truly criminal that we can't read him in the UK. Someone bring this author here!

Now over to you! UK readers: which authors from the States do you want to see published here? And how about those in the US - any authors we have that you struggle to obtain the books of?


  1. I purchased Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey. Dark urban fantasy/horror and I was pretty impressed. The good news is that I think he is getting published in the UK this year. Yay!

  2. First read the title of the post as "Trans-Atlantic Germs" on Twitter :-P
    -But I think this subject was just as interesting! :-)

  3. "I don't know why an author published by, say, Gollancz in the UK would be published by Orbit in the US - this seems distinctly odd to me." Probably because one company offered the agent more money than the other!

  4. I feel like it's fate that I've seen three reviews/posts about Sharon Shinn's Archangel books in the past two weeks. I was always a bit iffy on them- they seem very removed from her Thirteenth House series (all-time fav reads of mine).

    I am now convinced that I need to read these pronto!

    Have you read her latest, Troubled Waters? It was fabulous!


  5. Scholes books are very good slow burn fantasy. Perseverance pays off with them. Lamentation spends a long time doing it's build up but has such a fantastic finale. I've got Canticle and Antiphon in my To-Read pile.

    I feel the same way as you do with British authors like Mike Carey, or Alastair Reynolds whose books are notoriously hard to come by over here.

  6. Just a little footnote, but Charles de Lint isn't a US author. To my knowledge, he's always called Canada home.

    That being said, his books are wonderful and are always a pleasure to read!

  7. I'm lucky enough that we in Norway are able to get both US and UK books on release day. The large Norwegian bookstores carry both US and UK editions in their online stores, and often also in their physical stores.

    So for Norwegian there is no US/UK book divide :-)

  8. I'm no expert either, but the questions you pose are not hard to work out. An author's agent may sell the rights to a book for one territory only (say Gollancz UK), and then will try to sell the rights in other territories separately. Or an author may even have different agents for home-territory and overseas. Just because Tor US buys the books of an author, it doesn't mean that Tor UK needs to buy the same books - they're all separate and independent, if connected, entities/companies, and each needs to cater for their own local markets first. On the other hand, some publishers operate with worldwide rights in English - Angry Robot, for example.

    As for the covers and titles, again it is catering to markets. US and UK have different cultural preferences, which is why covers that may appeal to one population may not appeal to the other. Same with titles - take Rivers of London, for example. In the US this is called Midnight Riot, because the original title is too "British". You might laugh at that, but by giving it a less specific title (ie, Midnight Riot), they've eliminated that tiny percentage of doubt that many of the target audience (ie, US buyers and readers) might have.

  9. Amazon UK have Scholes's books in stock and quite reasonably priced.

    Charles de Lint sounds interesting.

    Pyr Books releases are sometimes rather difficult to get ahold of in the UK. Wish they were easier (Kindle makes things easier).

  10. In Germany it is no problem to get US/UK books via Amazon.de or Book Depository. Normally I don't care whether a book is published in US or UK.
    For me it seems this is a topic for people who live either in US or UK.

  11. I'm not sure it really counts as a problem for UK/US buyers. Amazon.com ship worldwide, and indeed I tend to buy quite a lot from the US as US book covers are generally nicer than UK ones (used to be the other way around). Plus books are VAT-free in the UK, so Amazon.com orders don't attract any VAT charge when they come in. Of course you have to pay for shipping, but given most items on Amazon are at a significant discount anyway I find it all evens out.

    Plus Amazon.co.uk will list books that are not actually released in the UK.

    If you buy imported titles in a high street store, then yes, it can get expensive. I picked up the US edition of The Passage by Justin Cronin from Forbidden Planet in London, and paid nearly £30 for it I think. But that's an expensive shop for locally released books anyway.

    The only thing I still haven't been able to work out is how FP had stock of the US Passage a full two weeks before the US release date! It wasn't an ARC or anything, it was the regular retail hardcover.

  12. @Adam - It may not be a problem for readers at home who know what they're looking for and thus can find it easily on Amazon, but for bookshops it's a nightmare! There are tons of fantastic books I would love to have in my shop but the ISBNs aren't listed on our internal system, so I can't even import them. I feel like I'm doing my customers a disservice by being unable to introduce them to great authors they'd otherwise never know about - sometimes I do *tell* them about a book I can't stock, simply because I know they will love it, but it's not the same as putting it in their hand. Lost sales are vexing too, of course, but mostly it's just terribly frustrating knowing there are terrific books waiting to be discovered by eager readers, and I can't make it happen. Grrr. Arrghh.

    But anyway. The comment I really wanted to make was Charles de Lint is amaaaaaaaaazing and everyone should read him. The end. ;-)

  13. Well, he's not from the UK, but I have had a hard time getting the books by Eoin Colfer until just recently. The older ones were really hard to come by.

    BTW, I agree. Charles de Lint is wonderful! Riddle of the Wren and Yarrow were great.

  14. I sometimes think the UK and the US are each paid a mild disservice by our common tongue.

    In cultural terms I think the differences are as broad as those you might expect between the UK and Germany or the US and Mexico.

    We really do think differently and attach value differently. There are a great many who have suffered as a result of underestimating those differences in appetite and perception.

    Selling a book on both continents is a far greater feat than you might expect. Rowling's stories are considered reasonably universal but even the Philosopher's Stone received an edit and a new title when it shipped state-side.

    That said, I'm all for books being freely available globally for those who want them. The internet makes finding reviews and tips a global endeavour so why not purchasing?

    And yes, Amazon is a wonderful leveller.

  15. I'm with Ole and Edifanob. Being from neither the US or the UK, I have to order from abroad anyway, so which edition is largely due to cover and price!

  16. I check out The Book Depository (www.bookdepository.co.uk) for these kinds of books - They deliver around the world for free. I've just checked and they have each of those books mentioned in stock. Also, Abebooks (www.abebooks.co.uk) is also another (and great for supporting local-type book shops).