Locus Online



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May 1999
Comments from the 2nd Online Poll and Survey
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§ Dear Locus Online:

We watched first in amusement, then in consternation, and finally -- now -- in alarm as our novel Plan B became the center of a controversy caused more by inattention to design in the first Locus Online Poll than by intent -- a controversy thatís effectively more about the nature of the Internet than about our book. We were prepared to ignore the whole thing until the focus of comments went from the poll, and voting patterns of fans, to Plan B itself.

We are especially alarmed now because of the recent juxtaposition of your own (editorial) comments with the comments from a reviewer who casually reviews the merits of an unread book on the basis of 12-year-old memories of earlier books in the Liaden Universe. This May 14 non-review by John Savage calls our readers illiterate and questions the publisherís support for the book. Before that, on May 13, you seemed to also be attacking not the poll results you found questionable but the book itself when you said: ''... I admit I had not heard of the book, and still have not seen a copy of it in any bookstore, which makes its apparent popularity also rather curious.'' Your off-the-cuff assertion that you canít find Plan B in a store has nothing to do with the poll and is particularly insidious, and most alarming to us, as authors.

In fact, your potentially damaging report that Plan B could not be found in stores concerned us so much that we got on the phone and called a few random genre bookstores. Foundationís Edge in North Carolina admitted to having two copies of the hardback Plan B in the store and said they were waiting for a trade paper re-order to arrive. Pandemonium Books, in Boston, admitted to having copies of Plan B. Uncle Hugos, in Minneapolis, reported having stock and said that theyíd sold 50 or 60 copies. They mention Plan B in their catalog. Dream Haven reported waiting for a reorder, having sold out of the last 20. Dream Haven mentions Plan B in their catalog. Closer to Locus, Future Fantasy had Plan B in stock, and Borderlands was enthusiastic -- and had three copies left on their shelves.

All of these book professionals knew Plan B by title, could speak to the series, knew the extent of the reader base, and were pleased with sales. Most could put a hand on the book within fifteen seconds. None had heard about Plan Bís Locus Online award or its mysterious disappearance.

If Locus Online shops in the malls rather than the specialty shops, then a simple request to Barnes and Nobleís order desk -- Plan B was mentioned in B&Nís newsletter several times in the last few issues -- can get a copy, if they are out of stock. Weíve signed at Borders -- they too have or can get copies. We will admit that those who only shop in Waldenbooks wonít find Plan B, which is not carried by that chainís regular distributor.

Mr. Savage throws hints about Plan B lacking publisher support. Weíre not quite sure what Mr. Savageís point here is. If heís speaking about advertising support, heís overlooked the full page advertisement in Absolute Magnitude, the more modest ad in Science Fiction Age, the mention of Plan B in the Locus forthcoming books section, and similar reports in Science Fiction Chronicle. Heís also overlooked the hardcover Plan B, the Meisha Merlin website, and the rather gaudy Plan B poster in the WorldCon dealerís room in Baltimore. That Mr. Savage doesnít get the Liaden Universe stories-for whatever reason -- is clear. That Stephen Pagel, Meisha Merlinís publisher, supports the book is also clear. Meisha Merlin is a young house. That it made the commitment to publish Plan B and six other Liaden Universe novels, including re-issuing the first three books is, in our opinion, an overwhelming vote of support.

Steve Miller and Sharon Lee

[I apologize if my first-person remark about not having seen Plan B came across as a report about its general availability. I regularly shop at 2 Borders, 1 Barnes & Noble, and 1 Bookstar (owned by B&N) since they are the largest bookstores in my neighborhood, and in fact I haven't seen a copy of the book in those stores. Quite likely, given the book's evident reader base, it was merely sold out at those locations by the time I looked; I have seen at those stores copies of publisher Meisha Merlin's other recent titles by Allen Steele and Tanya Huff. -- ed.]

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