Got a fairly angry email yesterday from a former fan - the person had bought Message in the Flames and was surprised to find that it was a reissue of my third novel - a book they'd already read. Disappointment and anger at this waste of funds. I'm not sure what response I can make except to explain how the change in title occured.
It turns out that changing titles is not that uncommon. Happens sometimes when a British novel comes to America or vice versa. Even Agatha Christie novels have undergone the metamorphosis (I think).
More commonly, it happens when a series isn't doing well. For instance, if Grafton's series had started out poorly, instead of T is for Trespass as the most recent title we might have something like "Trespass is my Middle Name." Well, probably not that, but you get the point, I think.
As it happens, the Precinct Puerto Rico novels have never done well. Here is my understanding of sales for the first three books:
1 - Precinct Puerto Rico: Book One (St Martins Press, 2002): This book went into a second printing fairly early. That sounds good, but about 1,000 copies got remaindered eventually so I believe I sold about 4,500 copies total for the hardcover. Still, not too bad for a HC from a first-time author.
When the paperback came out last year (Dorchester/Leisure Books), it is my understanding that the books sold about 15k copies. Not so bad, but apparently a bit anemic when it came to the actual sell-through percentage. (I think I was at about 40% when 50% is better).
2 - Death in Precinct Puerto Rico: Book Two (SMP, 2003): Sales were nowhere near as good. My guesstimate is that I sold about 2,500 HCs. Wouldn't be surprised if it was a little less. A little surprised that SMP signed me for three more titles.
The Dorchester PB edition did about what the first book did in terms of sales and sell-through rate.
3 - Burning Precint Puerto Rico: Book Three (SMP, 2004): About the same as the second book though we were hoping for at least a little gain.
The Dorchester PB edition has only been out for a couple of weeks - I still haven't gotten my copies yet - but they decided to change the title. The whole "Precinct Puerto Rico" thing wasn't helping people make the purchase. There are no figures at all on this PB edition. Not even a rough guess.
4 - Missing in Precinct Puerto Rico: Book Four (SMP, 2006): Notice that the series was on hiatus for a year. The manuscript had been handed in a couple of years earlier. The delay wasn't inspired by me. It was, in fact, made in the hopes that my name would grow, I'd be better recognized or perhaps I'd gain noteriety as a murder victim. In any event, I still don't have any good figures for this book. It hasn't been remaindered...yet. It also hasn't been picked up by a paperback publisher.
5 - The Concrete Maze (paperback original, Dorchester, 2007): No clue how many have sold nor what the sell-through rate has been. I bought and gave away 50 copies myself. If there was an award for "Best Blurbed Book," I'd win. I should find out numbers in another month or two - April at the latest. I'll be happy to report on them when I get them. Well,...happy might be a stretch - willing.
I don't any novel of mine to be published this calendar year. (Besides the reprint, retitled third in the series.) The fifth book in the series (not titled at all yet, but which I turned in the manuscript long, long ago.) should see light of day in 2009. I hope it gets titled: A Daughter of Precinct Puerto Rico. Unless, SMP decides to follow Dorchester's lead and drop the "Precinct Puerto Rico" bit. Then I just hope they tell me what it'll be called.
For the record, I have yet to earn out a single advance. I do think I'm getting closer to a royalty check for the first two books (they were bundled together in the first contract I signed - not a recommended practice).
Next, I expect a publisher to ask if they can change my name on the cover. An indignity? Yes, but what can one do?