I had some really exciting news last week, but I kept it to myself because I wanted a little time to digest it. Back when my editor sent me a preliminary version of the Shadows on the Moon cover art (ssoooo pretty! Can't wait to share it with you guys), she also told me that they were going to be printing a small number of proof copies, otherwise known as Advanced Reader Copies, or ARCS, this September.
Now, for those of you who are scratching your heads over why this is exciting: let me 'splain.
In the US, pretty much every new book that comes out (especially in the YA field) will have thousands of ARCS printed as a matter of course. These get handed out like candy at book conventions (for example BEA), showered among book reviewing journals (like The Horn Book) and book bloggers (like The Story Siren), and sent to teachers and librarians. The author themselves might be given a up to a hundred copies to distribute to friends and family and for any publicity efforts of their own. Unless a book is 'embargoed' like the last Harry Potter books, or like Cassandra Clare's upcoming City of Fallen Angels, ARCS for it are everywhere.
Not so in the UK.
I've often seen mini (and not so mini) debates spring up about why the UK and US book blogging scenes are so different. There are very few blogs dedicated to reviewing only YA books in the UK, and even fewer young adults running their own blogs, while there is a vibrant and thriving young book reviewing community in the US. I believe the main reason for this is that hardly any YA books in the UK get an ARC printing before publication. I mean, hardly ANY. If UK bloggers do manage to get hold of an ARC of something, normally it's from a US publisher.
There are many reasons for this, including the fact that in the UK librarians don't get nearly the recognition or budgets they deserve (so no one bothers to try and woo them with ARCs) that most schools don't have their own libraries or a specialised children's librarian (so that what is a lucrative market in the US is more or less nonexistent in the UK, and again, publishers don't need to woo teachers and librarians), and that most YA books come out straight into paperback here anyway.
So take it from me that for a book being published in the UK in a paperback edition, as mine is, ARCS are rare and special. They only print a few - so few that I can expect to get maybe two or three copies, just as a courtesy - and these are distributed not to reviewing journals or bloggers or librarians but to 'movers and shakers' in the industry, foreign publishing companies, people who can create that all important 'buzz' that authors would chew their own arms off for. And because the smaller a print run is, the more expensive it is, taking this step is a Big Deal in terms of the publisher's investment in your book.
The Swan Kingdom didn't get an ARC run. Neither did Daughter of the Flames. That Shadows on the Moon is being treated differently says that my publisher has a lot of faith in it - that they believe in the story, and believe that getting the book out there really WILL create the all-important buzz.
Thinking about this makes me feel a little bit sick, a lot nervous, and very excited. I always knew in my heart of hearts that Shadows was a Big Deal for me as a writer - that it changed me and challenged me like nothing else I've ever written. Then it won the Sasakawa Prize before it was even finished, and I started to think that it might be a Big Deal in other ways, and for other people. I'm sending out daily prayers to the Writing Gods that I'm right, not just because, you know, it's nice to be able to eat, but also because I want to share this story. I want to invite people into the Moonlit Lands and show them my heroine, Suzume's world. I want them to love it - or even hate it - so long as it moves them.
Ah, well. Fingers crossed.