The Very Short Retail Life of Bree Tanner

Josie Leavitt -- June 8th, 2010

Well, the release of the novella The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, the latest missive from Stephenie Meyer, has been a bookstore dud. I read the listservs for ABC and NECBA and according to booksellers on those lists, sales have been pretty disappointing.

One bookseller even had a midnight release party with bands, pizza and giveaways, only to end the night having sold two, count ’em two, books. Other bookstores reported sales of no greater than four. We’ve only sold three. Why is this, I wondered.

Well, it seems that the book, all 192 pages of it, has been available as a FREE download since noon yesterday. So let’s do some math here. Buy the book for $12.95 at your local indie or wait a mere day and a half after the on-sale date and read it for FREE. Let’s guess what the kids are going to do. However, I totally understand and applaud Stephenie Meyer’s impulse to reward her readers. But if she wants to help actually sell the book and ensure the Red Cross gets its a dollar for every book sold as promised, maybe waiting for a month after the release date would have been a nice compromise. I know there was a push to have folks read the book before the movie, but some sort of distance between the book’s release and the free download would have been great. Maybe, just maybe, this novella would have been better as a web-only read — think of the money the publisher could have saved on not producing a book that doesn’t stand a chance competing against a free download.

What really irritates me is that I was not told when I placed my order for 50 books that it would be available FREE fewer than 36 hours after my strict on-sale date. This kind of competition, directly from the publisher, is frustrating and disheartening. It’s hard enough to compete with the steep discounts of Target, Walmart and Amazon, but to have free downloads available to anyone with a computer fewer than two days after I get the book makes me want to weep.

My only consolation is the book isn’t too heavy, so our five boxes of returns won’t strain my back.