Like many of you, I’ve been watching the legal proceedings between Hachette and author Seth Grahame-Smith with a weird combination of curiosity, dread, and schadenfreude. I don’t think anybody is surprised (not even Hachette) that SGS’s post-Pride and Prejudice and Zombies novels have failed to sell as well as that flash in the pan, that one-hit wonder. After all, PPJ was a Borders-era phenomenon, and by the time the film came out earlier this year (really, that was THIS YEAR? It seems so long ago), most folks were pretty much over it. But let’s take a quick look at SGS’s approximate Bookscan numbers (supplied by an anonymous friend):
Actual numbers tend to be higher, but since Bookscan is the rubric by which publishers and bookstores tend to measure things, we’ll stick with these approximations. What do you see? On the surface, I see what’s commonly known as the Retail Death Spiral. Bookstores are conservative. They don’t like taking risks. So they look at what the previous title sold and and order a smaller percentage of the next. So sales numbers get smaller and smaller and smaller. But I also see a failure on Hachette’s part to market The Last American Vampire as a sequel (which it is) to Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. A shame, since they otherwise packaged the book well. Though I’ll admit, I skipped it, and I think that’s also part of the problem: SGS’s literary work is viewed as a gimmick, his mashups sell, more original work, less so.
Which brings us to the manuscript SGS turned in to Hachette, which they rejected, and are now suing him over. Reportedly, SGS turned in something “not original to Smith, but instead […] in large part an appropriation of a 120-year-old public-domain work.” Honestly, they should have expected that. After all, he’s trying for a hit, and that’s what has been hit product so far.
I’m guessing SGS turned in a trunk novel, something he put together a few years ago with Quirk in mind. Looking at books published in the 1890s, I can only speculate: The Red Badge of Courage with Werewolves? The Island of Doctor Moreau with Yetis? The Turn of the Screw with Swamp Monsters?
Actually, if it’s the last one, Seth, call me. I’d love to have it at Word Horde.