Monday, January 08, 2007

A transatlantic issue

An ARC of this upcoming novel arrived via UPS this evening, courtesy of Ballantine. It will be on the next review book list. Normally this is the type of novel I'd snag for myself, eliminating it from the review pile before it even got there, and if I didn't take it, one of my fellow editors (who has similar tastes) surely would.

Thing is, I already own a copy, since it was published by Hutchinson (UK) last April. And when I asked my co-editor about it, she said she'd bought her copy last year, too. But the US publication date isn't until March 2007.

I know we're not the only ones so impatient to read it (or, in this case, own, as I still haven't read it - bad me) that we went to the trouble of ordering from Amazon UK and paying a small fortune in postage. I'm curious how many of the "royal fiction" crowd (you know who you are) did the same, especially non-British folks. I remember reading Susan's review last summer, for example, and had purchased my copy around the same time.

I suspect the year-long delay was unavoidable from the publisher's standpoint. But nonetheless, I wonder if the lag time, along with the ease of transatlantic ordering, will cut into the market for the US edition to any great extent. Elizabeth Chadwick posted about this issue last year on the Historical Novel Society email list, with regard to her novel The Greatest Knight, which, at that time, hadn't found an American publisher. (It still hasn't.) Alison Weir's a well-known name to folks interested in Tudor-era history. The fact that this is her first novel, combined with the popularity of Jane Grey, plus the proliferation of existing reviews - people have been discussing it on forums and blogs for months - makes me wonder if the online "buzz" that normally accompanies new releases has passed.

What do you think - do you regularly purchase novels from overseas booksellers if you know you'll have to wait a while for a more local edition? How long are you willing to wait? And what specific authors, or novels, are you willing to shell out the big bucks (in postage) for?


  1. Well, I probably shouldn't answer this, since I don't buy much new fiction, but I have been willing, and still am willing, to shell out the bucks for overseas postage to order OOP books from the UK. Some of the titles I've ordered are the Swallows & Amazons series by Arthur Ransome, Seven Types of Ambiguity by William Empson, The Private World of Georgette Heyer by Joan Aiken Hodge, and a Vicar's Diary by David Wilbourne. I would also be willing to buy any books by Miss Read that I don't already have.

  2. Anonymous10:21 PM

    I was quite eager to read the Weir novel, so I decided to snap it up instead of waiting nearly a year for it to get to the US. On the other hand, Alison Weir's biography of Queen Isabella was published in the US just a couple of months after the UK edition, so I waited (though in the end, I couldn't resist buying an ARC copy of the UK edition when it came up on eBay).

    I waited on Philippa Gregory's The Boleyn Inheritance to get to the US because the lag time wasn't so long and because I hadn't liked her other novels all that much. Since I really did enjoy TBI, though, I may be inclined to get the next Gregory from the UK. Same with the Weir biography of Katherine Swynford. I may order Reay Tannahill's Having the Builders In if I'm feeling flush one of these days.

    Most of what I've gotten new from the UK lately, though, has been nonfiction books that either weren't scheduled for publication here or that I just couldn't wait to get my hands on. I also buy used books from overseas, like I did recently with a hard-to-find Brenda Honeyman book I found being sold in Australia. (Surprisingly, it arrived here sooner than some books have arrived via media mail within the USA.)

  3. Anonymous12:26 AM

    For me, buying UK editions often has as much to do with formatting as it does timing. I simply enjoy UK internals better (though not only the covers). I order Bernard Cornwell's books from the UK, and Colleen McCullough's roman books. Other UK editions include Susanna Clarke, Neil Gaiman, the above-mentioned Alison Weir, and Ian Mortimer's non-fiction bios. So, add snobbery to impatience, and I'm a very good customer.

  4. This is bad because it reminded me about Having the Builders In. I went and ordered it last night. In this case, I doubt an American edition will appear.

    I buy a lot of OOP books from overseas but very few new ones, because of cost and the horrible exchange rate. This is interesting; I haven't paid attention to the differences in internal formatting, but I often prefer the UK covers. And if I happen to end up with both editions, US and UK, and they have different covers, I find it hard to give one of them up.

  5. Anonymous9:22 AM

    I hardly ever buy from overseas, I'm afraid - I always seem to have a stack of things that I want to read that are already available, so I just read those while I'm waiting.

  6. I just found out about this UK website, which might be useful to you:
    The Book Depository
    It offers free postage from the UK to almost anywhere, including Western Europe, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Also some quite good discounts. I found out about it on the Dove Grey Reader blog - 9 January post, where there
    are also comments from people who have used it:

  7. Thanks, Sarah - I saw your post on the HNS e-list, and the site looks almost too good to be true! The transatlantic postage costs on Amazon UK are the worst, especially since they don't offer surface rates any longer.

  8. Anonymous7:54 PM

    Funny enough, can get me a good many books from UK and US without shipping costs, and I've got more than one before the official release date.

    And the bookstores in York will see a lot of me in April or May. :)

  9. Amazon US has started listing UK titles, but whether they have actual copies in their warehouse is iffy. Oftentimes they're only available from UK sellers and you end up paying a lot in postage. (You can see I'm really big on avoiding the high postage thing)

    York is one of my all-time favorite bookstore towns. I could browse in those shops for days. And have!

  10. Anonymous1:52 PM

    Hm, I better plan an extra day for York then. :)

  11. Anonymous4:01 PM

    I have gotten some books from the UK that I didn't want to wait for. I bought The Boleyn Inheritance and Innocent Traitor back in September (ordering them together saved a few dollars in postage).

    I've also bought some OOP books on ebay - mostly Jean Plaidy.

    I was going to get Chadwicks The Greatest Knight from Amazon UK, but ended up finding it at abebooks here in the US for a more than reasonable price.