Books in New York

I’ve just returned from New York…and it was an exhausting and exhilarating experience.  We saw a Broadway show (Legally Blonde, which is brilliant and witty, and not just a lazy musical-of-the movie), ate in delis, stared at the neon lights of Times Square, walked in Central Park, and marvelled at the blend of courtesy and sophistication and tackiness and appalling bloody rudeness which defines the New York experience.  (Next time, I’ll take a scimitar to deal with those dratted New York cyclists.)

Perhaps the most remarkable place we saw was M & M World on Broadway, an emporium devoted to the worship of, er, M & Ms.  You can buy M & M T shirts, M & M leather jackets, and of course, M & Ms.  This is, don’t forget, the only confectionery in the world which has a rap artist named after it. 

Holidays with a child are of course based around the barter system – in return for going to M & M World and the playground in Central Park my wife and I were allowed to visit the Guggenheim and MOMA. 

We also managed a visit to a bookshop, somewhere between Greenwich Village and Little Italy.  And I realised there’s an interesting contrast between the way US publishers sell SF and the way we do it in Blighty.  Bluntly, it’s about money – it costs twice as much to buy a large format paperback in the US as it is to buy the mass market edition. Here, the differential is much less - Debatable Space is being sold for £10 in January, and it’ll cost something like £7 if you wait till later in the year.

So don’t wait!  Can I be any less subtle! Buy it right away!!!

Ooops, sorry about that lapse of authorial decorum, I’ll blame it on the jet-lag.  In the aforementioned bookshop, I found the large format version of Jeff Somers’ The Electric Church,  a matt edition not a gloss edition, but still with that same stunning cover . That book has (as Jeff pointed out in his response to one of my blogs) an excerpt from Debatable Space at the back.  And the US large format paperback has an excerpt from The Electric Church.

I met my editor Tim and his New York team for lunch, and they talked a little bit about this new publishing initiative. The choices of excerpt are carefully made, and it’s intended to be a friendly recommendation, not just a plug. And the inclusion of author’s interviews and essays is an attempt to give novels the equivalent of DVD Extras. 

It’s all part of a general attempt to keep the novel format abreast of or ahead of the pack, up there with movies and DVD box sets.  Pundits once predicted that books would become obsolete; instead, there are more bookshops than ever, and they are cooler, nicer places to be. 

And the decline of the hardback format is, in my view, part of this same general renaissance in novel publishing.  Hardbacks are beautiful, but way too expensive.  No one I know ever buys hardback novels; and the whole notion of massively promoting a format no one will buy, and not having money left to promote the paperback a year later, is surely a holdover from the ancient times of publishing.  Now, you can buy a book when it’s first published, when it’s first reviewed, and when it’s first promoted. 

My current crisis, by the by, is that I’ve run out of places to put my books.  I either need an attic extension, or a spooky derelict house at the end of my road which I can break into and use as a book repository for all those paperback books I keep buying… 

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