How do you deal with the death of an inanimate object?
I mean, we have all had broken favorite china dishes or the great wine glass that cracks in the dishwasher. We feel this lingering sadness for a thing that has become a background fixture in our homes, something we have memories wrapped around. We usually have a brief private grieving ceremony of sorts when we realize that superglue won't work, followed by a gentle kitchen trashcan burial.
Well, yesterday, one of my four parenting books died. The publisher emailed to say that the book was going into "remainders," meaning that they were going to sell all the remaining copies off cheap. It is a classic publisher's ditch-and-run move. And I am wondering whether I should treat this as a much beloved piece of myself and have burial ceremony in the garden, or order up all the copies possible and breathe new life into my intellectual baby?
I tried so hard not to play book favorites. I mean, this book has three siblings who are thriving. In fact the middle book is a superstar, the oldest is the kind of mature, dependable grown-up you can always count on to be there for you. And the baby…well, the baby gets tons of attention. So how is it that despite all my care and nurturing and not drinking or doing drugs while creating, did it end up in a failure to thrive situation?
When I think long and hard about it, the content stands up as insightful and provocative. It just did not strike parents as compelling enough to sell in the tens of thousands and thousands and thousands that my advance would demand. Unfortunately, this is the new reality of big house traditional publishing.
If a book does not make a quick hit upon release, or continue to sell healthy thousands each year, then off with its head. Time to clear out that warehouse and make room for more promising new releases. With nary a backward glance, the publisher zips out a form letter asking how many copies you as the author would like to order before the great book bonfire begins. Hmm...a copy for each potential grandchild, some press copies...okay, I'll take 200 in the hopes of treasuring the words a bit longer.
So as I get ready to toast in the New Year which all it's excitement and promise, I'll be raising my champagne flute and whispering quietly as the ball drops amidst the merriness around me...goodbye beloved book.