Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

The Sadness of Memory

March 6th, 2011

I finally started working on the manuscript for my novel Memory, getting it ready for conversion to ebook and print-on-demand. The process involves cleaning up the styles, converting manuscript punctuation to print punctuation, and adding in the copy editor’s changes—which means going through it page by page.

In the process I’ve been re-reading a lot of the story and it’s left me feeling very sad today. Not because it’s a sad book. Memory is poignant at times, but it’s not written to leave you weeping. The dedication sums it up: “A quest, a puzzle, and multiple lives.” This is an action story set in a unique story world. My sadness is for the book itself. Memory may well be my best book and I think it deserved better than it got. I’m also sad because I honestly can’t see myself ever attempting to write anything on this level again. There just doesn’t seem to be any point to it. Here’s why:

Memory was originally published in April 2003 by Tor. Below are the most recent sales figures I pulled out of the file, as of June 2007. (I’m sure I have more recent figures, but they were probably sent as PDFs and I didn’t bother to print them out and I’m not going to look them up. The figures likely just got worse anyway as more returned books came in.)

Hardcover: 1822
Ebook: 50
Trade paper: 1574
Mass Market Paperback: 7097

That’s 10,543 total units four years after publication—a spectacular market failure by any measure. (On the positive side this means there’s a huge potential market that could still be persuaded to buy the book when it’s resurrected by my publishing company Mythic Island Press.)

I used to want to write a great novel. Now I just want to write an amusing one.

I truly respect the person who wrote Memory, but—you knew this was coming right?—that earlier version of me is just a memory now. I’ll be writing shorter, simpler books for the foreseeable future, hopefully in more viable genres.

I still can’t bring myself to write about zombies though.


Posted on: Sunday, March 6th, 2011 at 12:10 am
Categories: Writing.

15 Responses to “The Sadness of Memory

  1. Toby Neal Says:

    oh my dear.
    I feel this for you and with you.
    But shit damn, amusing is can be fun and meaningful too! Here’s to new adventures, and dare I say, new memories.

  2. Ted Lemon Says:

    That is really sad. Memory is a fantastic book. I hope it sells like crazy when you revive it!

  3. Linda Says:

    Thanks Ted. I do appreciate it–and I hope so too!

  4. Linda Says:

    Amusing is fun and I’m not sorry to try new things, so cheers!

  5. Marc Vun Kannon Says:

    If you weren’t a different person after writing the book then you didn’t write it properly. The good thing about POD is that you can keep the book out there forever.

    I’ve occasionally aimed for comedy, but most of my stories are at least mildly humorous, simply because that’s the way I am. Sustained comedy is a very difficult thing to write. Good luck.

  6. Linda Says:

    Agreed on POD. Also that it’s possible to tweak the presentation of a book so, for example, the first cover doesn’t have to be the only option, forever.

    Mildly humorous is how I describe the latest, as-yet-unread-by-anyone novel. I’m not planning to write comedy–I wish I could!–but am aiming more at quick, entertaining reads.

  7. Bob Mayer Says:

    Be glad you got the rights back and can now bring the book back out. Those numbers are a reflection of the broken business model of traditional publishing, not the quality of the book. I was published by Tor and they did absolutely noting to promote or push my books. Tossed them out there. I couldn’t even get my editor to return a phone call or email. When people ask me what my favorite book is, I always say– the one I’m writing now.

  8. Linda Says:

    Yep, that was my experience at Tor plus tiny print runs–wonder if we had the same editor? I am joyful that I got the rights back.

    Anyway, it’s just sad to me that there is no way I would sit down and try to write a book on that scale now–it just doesn’t make any business or marketing sense to do it. I’m glad I wrote it, I’m proud of it, but it’s definitely time to move on.

    Best of luck with your own books!

  9. Glen Kilpatrick Says:

    I can count three of those copies (two hardcover, one trade) from where I sit typing this, know I gave away two paperbacks. So I’m quite biased, prefer such as _Memory_ to “light reading” any day (and my bookshelves reflect this). But I also know that artists don’t just create for the sheer joy….

    I hope that you also consider a Kindle edition, _one that allows audio playback_ (I understand this to be a “publisher” option). That might just convince me to get a Kindle, eventually, one year…. And I’ll finally get to hear _Memory_, since it now seems unlikely to come out on CD.

  10. Linda Says:

    Hi Glen–and thank you! It’s hard to know what makes a book popular, and after all I have to assume a lot of it is luck. I don’t doubt there is an audience for longer, more serious works, but in my present circumstances it’s hard to justify spending a year or two working on a long, complex novel, entirely on spec. And honestly, I had a lot of fun with my 3-month novel, recently completed.

    I’m formatting the ebook edition of Memory right now. It’ll be available for Kindle and Nook, and I also plan to release it, along with all the other books, on Smashwords.

    I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the audio playback on Kindle, but if not, I think you’ll be disappointed. The voice is easy enough to understand, but the rhythm of the sentences is poor, and I remember a distinct lack of pause at the end of paragraphs which really messes with fiction, where rhythm matters so much.

    That said, I have to say again that I love my Kindle. I actively avoid reading actual print books these days. 🙂

  11. James Says:

    Memory is a well-written, exceptionally well-paced, engaging and insightful book. It is a pity it did not garner the attention it deserved – I was really hoping for a sequel. Just purchased the Kindle version (in addition to the trade paperback I have had for years) – just to offer more support so you will not give up writing at that level. Best wishes…

  12. Linda Says:

    James, thank you very much, for your comments and for your support. I was hoping to do a sequel to Memory, but the publisher wasn’t interested and back then there wasn’t any point in doing it on my own. But maybe someday, who knows?

  13. Peter Grant Says:

    I’m a little sad too, to read this.

    After having been rocked by “Vast” and seduced by “Memory,” I’ve been waiting for your next one in kind. In fact, that’s why I’m here on your blog page – I was looking for hints about what might be forthcoming.

    I’m not very interested in “amusing” SF, or in “shorter, simpler,” so your post is not good news for me. You are a writer of intensely interesting novels, one a handful of favorites from my fifty-year career as a SF reader. I’ll be sad if you wander away from writing serious books.

    I’m one of the 1574 purchasers of the trade paperback of “Memory.” Two things would have tended to keep me out of that number: (1) I buy physical books and don’t buy e-books, so an e-book-only offering would not have appealed, and (2) the new cover would have put me off. The original cover was intriguing, warm, and inviting. The new one would never have caught my eye. (Although, after “Vast,” I probably would have bought it with any cover.)

    I do hope your inclination swings back at some point to writing another “great novel.” (I will keep checking.)

    It probably doesn’t provide much of a “point to it,” but you have my vast appreciation for writing “Memory.”

  14. Linda Says:

    It isn’t so much my inclination that matters, but the marketplace. If the books had sold even moderately I would have kept writing. After I finished Memory I wanted to start in right away on a sequel but the publisher wasn’t interested.

    But now it’s a new age. If I can get the books selling in good numbers I can reassess where I’m going, but if the market still doesn’t support me, I have to find some other means to make a living.

    I’ll eventually be putting all the books out in print-on-demand versions. The Nanotech Succession books will mostly be out this summer. Limit of Vision and Memory won’t be for awhile though.

    Peter, I really appreciate it that you picked up one of the original trade paperbacks of Memory, and that you’ve looked me up after all this time. I hope one of these days I can come up with something else that will rock you. 🙂

  15. Hahví.net » Blog Archive » What’s in a Name? Says:

    […] So around 2000 I packed my metaphorical bags and moved out of the writing world—this despite that one of my best books, Memory, was still pending from Tor. I already knew it was doomed and I was right. Four years after publication it had sold only a bit more than 10,000 copies. […]