Plus ca Change

Posted on October 28th, 2012 in appearances, reviews

Red Country is published in the UK.  It sold somewhere over 3000 hardcovers in its first week, as a result of which it’s just scraped into the Sunday Times UK Hardcover Bestseller list at no. 10.  The Heroes made no. 3 last year, but at a far less challenging time at the end of January.  This week’s top ten was populated (outside of me) by serious end of year heavy hitters the likes of Rowling, Mantel, Judy Finnegan, Jackie Collins.  Physical sales have, as a rule, dropped by about a third over the last couple of years while e-book sales have soared, especially in sf and fantasy.  Red Country sold some 1500 kindle editions in its first week as well (though for the time being these don’t count towards the bestseller lists, of course), making well nigh a third of its sales digital, and presumably indicating that a whole lot of readers have shifted from hardcover to kindle over the last couple of years.  Not that that’s news.  The English editions also seem to be doing pretty well in foreign markets, with well over 20,000 hardcovers shipped overall already.  Which is nice.

Tour of the UK was interesting.  A couple of ropey events, especially in the daytime, but also some excellent ones in the evening, with Leeds, Edinburgh, and Friday’s homecoming gig at Toppings in Bath being the best.  My thanks to those who went above and beyond to give me gifts, including Glencairn glass from the staff at Guildford and a bottle of whisky from Jason.  Thanks, fellas.

As regards critical reaction, professional and semi-professional reviews appear fairly to very positive.

Sci-Fi Now liked it:

“Red Country is Abercrombie’s love letter to the Western, and unlike many that make a complete hash of the spit and sawdust stereotypes that make up the genre, he gets it magnificently. There’s much love here, but at the same time there’s none of the rose tinted romanticism and certainly none of the cheesiness you’d associate with certain aspects of the Western. As you’d expect from Abercrombie this is chockfull of grim humour, action and violence, and very much aimed at the cynical, gritty end of the fantasy spectrum.

Jared at Pornokitsch had some interesting criticisms and observations to make.  I’d actually like to have seen him follow a few of them further.  But overall it seems he liked it too:

There’s jaw-dropping violence, twists, turns and character arcs that prompt the occasional muted cheer. Abercrombie is fast supplanting George R.R. Martin as the standard by which all contemporary epic fantasy should be measured.

Read it.

His words, not mine.  There was even a four out of five in that esteemed figurehead of the British media, The Sun, of all things, though I don’t have a clipping to hand so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Trawls through amazon, goodreads, and various other websites and fora for a more grassroots response reveal that Red Country is both a triumph and a disappointment, too much of a departure or not enough of one, is overwhelmed by its western elements or expertly masters them, is a severe come down after the triumph that was The Heroes and a magnificent return to form after the disappointment that was The Heroes, that it is more overwhelmingly cynical than ever and shows an undoubted mellowing and all-pervasive optimism.  It’s my best book and my worst.

Ah, plus ca change…

Right, off to Australia day after tomorrow.  I’ll try to cobble a post or two together while down there, but it may be that you won’t hear from me for a while…

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  1. well, i ordred one from amazon.uk and will be buying another copy at my local bookstore in the US when it’s released here as well.

    i’ll also be buying each subsequent cover released, and version; soft bound, tpb, etc….

  2. just finished the book(paperback version), great work. Can’t wait for the new triology (we always want more). Keep it up with your good work.

  3. I preordered Kindle version in the US but after delay I switched Kindle country settings to UK, brought the book then switched back to US (because they have best prices and (often) most of the books out there – just a quick tip for readers with US Kindle that can’t wait for official release. Books from both countries are accessible from another Kindles and from web interface so you should be find. I even didn’t get banned.

    I finished Red country an hour or two ago and I loved it but I’m afraid I’m from The Heroes camp :)

  4. Congratulations on the sales! I couldn’t wait for the US release and begged Devi for a copy and got it last week. I finished it in two days. Absolutely loved it.

  5. I’m in the U.S. and I ordered my copy from Book Depository. First, I like the U.K. cover better than the U.S. cover; and second, it came out a month earlier in the U.K. than the U.S. and I wanted it as soon as possible (I would have had it faster if I’d just suck it up, get a Kindle and buy ebooks, but I love physical books and I will hold out until the bitter end, damnit!). I got it on Thursday and started reading within minutes of getting home from work that evening.

    I have yet to feel in any way remotely let down by anything you’ve put out. The only negative thing I find about reading your books is getting to the end and having to begin the wait for the next one. So in that regard I’m trying to savor Red Country as long as I can. It’s magnificent so far. Really brilliantly done. I’m loving every word.

  6. I’m a US fan who lied to Amazon so I could buy the UK Kindle version. Loved it to pieces! Well worth the hassle of buying it early.

  7. I’m a US fan who lied to Amazon so I could buy the UK Kindle version. Loved it to pieces! Well worth the hassle of buying it early.

  8. Glad to see the new book doing well, I’ll be getting stuck into it next! Also glad to see you’ve had some good events! As you say day time events can be ropey, it’s just the way things go, so was glad to see folk queueing up with us in Glasgow!

  9. I should get my copy from adlibris.se sometime next week.
    Now I only need to finish Last argument of Kings before that. Got 200 pages left, so it should only take one night, if I only had the time.

  10. I’m about 1/3 in and so far the book has had me laughing out loud. Dogs with dresses and witty banter! Thank you Joe! Can’t wait to finish it!

  11. I pre-ordered from Amazon UK but it’s still not here ><. I was really looking forward to having something to do while this Hurricane/Tropical Storm/Nor'easter/Frankenstorm hits the US over the next few days!

  12. Can’t wait to have this in my sweaty little hands. I’m very curious on how you have mixed western with fantasy. This one is certainly next on my list.

  13. Bought it, read it, enjoyed it. I do have to say I agree with Jared at Pornokisch (who writes a very good review of the book with a few spoilers) it’s not your best (in my opinion that’s Best Served Cold) but it’s not bad in any way shape or form, in fact it’s probably the best book i’ve read all year.

    But I just found that I finished it (in about 6 hours!) and had a feeling of…oh. There just wasn’t quite that something that i’d come to expect of your books. A few of the characters were a little lifeless and the scene setting at times felt rushed, also the heroin seemed a little too similar to other female leads which didn’t help.

    But still it’s funny, thoughtfull and absolutely over flowing with brilliant dialogue. It closes a few story arcs and starts of a few new ones (hopefully).

    To quote Jared. Read it.

  14. Great stuff, Joe.

    Can’t wait for the movie adaptation.

  15. Just started it here in the US. I ordered itr and imported it from the UK. I see some of the fun building blocks early on, I think. I have suspicions and I love them.

  16. I also pretended to live in the UK for a day to get the kindle version in th US. Great book joe. I loved it! Thank you so much for this wonderful world you created. I loved the western vibe which I think you nailed. I dare say you would be a top selling American western author if you so chose.

  17. Very happy that i finally got and read the book. I love all the characters – new and “old” -but especially the old ones. It was like meeting old friends after a long time. Great work! Please keep it up!
    One thing i believe it’s missing – throughout the book you have shown a bit of the world through every character’s eyes, except … you know who’s. I really missed the view behind the eyes of THAT guy.
    Oh well… maybe in the next book?

  18. Congrats, Joe, on what appears to be another triumph!

    I’ve only just started and am already tempted to fish for spoilers on Goodreads, because I MUST know who *that guy* is. I’m fairly sure I know. But not entirely certain.

    And then this stupid “work” thing happens and I don’t get to read. How is this fair.

  19. Thank you for the session at Toppings, very entertaining indeed. Also quite chuffed I got to first position in the signing queue, I wasn’t sure how much credit my buying dinner for the wife was going to last if I had made her stand beside me in a long signing queue!

    Also really liked Toppings, obviously a place where they love their books and I feel guilt and shame that I have not been there before on my trips to Bath. Something I will rectify in the future.

  20. I never understood the “not your best…” statements. I suppose comparison is inevitable for all writers; however, people are going to relate to certain characters and elements more than others.

    Another challenge I would imagine is getting it all in one book and preparing or setting the stage for what is to come and where Joe wants to go with it all. I have yet to read the book but I imagine expectations are SUPER high with the return of a major character from the original trilogy. BSC and Heroes all had new main characters scattered with a few guest appearances and references to those we came to know and love(or hate) in The First Law. Everyone, including myself, is chomping at the bit for a totally complete stand a lone story but who’s purpose is possibly that and sort of a prelude to the next book/trilogy. The histories are all being set for a bigger picture sort of thing. Meh, just something I’m thinking about and throwing out there for the harsher commentors out there.

    Keep doing what you are doing Joe!

  21. Was great to meet you in Edinburgh. The next book can’t come soon enough!

  22. I’m glad it is doing well and it seems that my Abercrombie shrine has been working then. George R. R. Martin may live to see another day after all…

  23. Joe, great book. I’m curious about sales numbers. 3000 seems kind of low for the first week. Not sure if that’s about normal for you or what. I know there are 5 guys in my office alone in a little town in Oregon that are clamoring for the book. Seems like if you expand that over all this country and yours there should be many many sales coming.

    Anyway, not sure if you will share this, but is there a certain number of sales you are looking to hit where you can “breath easy” because you have satisfied what the publisher wanted?

  24. Hawkeyye,
    Well, 3100 is just the UK alone, preorders and sales of hardcovers on the first few days. Doesn’t include any export editions or e-books. For comparison, at 1 and 2 on the bestseller list, if my memory serves, JK Rowling and Hilary Mantel were doing somewhere around the 20,000 and 10,000 mark respectively (although those books have been out a while). Jackie Collins was at 9 with about 3,300 or so. The Heroes did marginally better in its first week – about 4,100, but the hardcover market has dwindled significantly since and it had more direct support. I think any UK fantasy publisher would be very happy with those numbers in the current climate, though it all depends on the author. Off the top of my head Dance With Dragons debuted at no. 1 with about 28,000 hardcovers in a week – though a lot of those will have been preorders of course.

    Obviously sales will now flatten off though hopefully stay up over 1,000 a week or so for the next few weeks, steadily dropping. During its total life The Heroes sold about 40,000 in its UK hardcover edition. That doesn’t count US books of course, though it might count UK books sold in the US – you begin to see how confusing this quickly becomes. We’ll hope that over the next year or so we beat that figure in hardcovers, then paperback editions will follow, of course. Again, for comparison, the Blade Itself sold maybe 8-9,000 in UK trade editions, which was very good for a debut. But it’s since sold somewhere round the 150,000 mark in UK mass market paperback, very rough figures, and a fair few ebooks too now. That doesn’t count sales in the US or in translation, though. You aim that over a career you’ll convert more and more of those mass market sales to hardback ones, as your and the publishers profit margin on those books is much higher. Complicated stuff, clearly. But hitting the hardcover bestseller list with a fantasy book, especially this time of year, ain’t bad at all.

  25. Cool, thanks for the response. I hope all your books sell extremely well because A) I want you to be able to keep writing for as long as you choose, and B) I want all your stuff to be made into movies, tv and video games!

    Keep up the great work sir.

  26. Judy Finnegan? when did she start writing books? I think the Mayans were on to something!

    My copy of Red Country is sat in the spare bedroom of my parents house, yay! Sadly I won’t be there until Christmas, boo!

    C’est la vie.

  27. Really enjoyed the fantasy/ western mash or was it western/ fantasy?
    Some great moments, those times when you read a section and want to share it with others around you. Cheers.

  28. Can’t wait for this one. I even took the extra step of pre-ordering the Kindle version, although I am still puzzled by the entire notion of “pre-ordering” an eBook. Can they run out?

    Also, is there a US tour in the works, by chance?

  29. Joe, it seems that most of us are split between “Red Country” VS “Best Served Cold” camps.

    I got the book the first day it came out on Kindle … enjoyed the beginning, and then became extatic after seeing you’ve included our 2nd all time favorite hero (now just waiting to see more of the first again).

    Personally, I’m in the “Red Country” camp – certainly the best since the original trilogy.

    And I’m keeping my fingers crossed you give us another trilogy:) I love all of your books (heck, I give them away as gifts … not my copies, though) (OK, Best Served Cold didn’t blow my socks off), but my favorite still remains Last Argument of Kings.

  30. Ordered 1 copy from Amazon.co.uk….got sent three copies…so the word gets spread at Christmas time for 1 lucky friend (one spare gets put in my collection in mint condition and will be sold down the track for ONE MILLION DOLLARS! bwahahahhahahha!)

  31. So, to what extent do we need to thank Red Dead for inspiring Red Country

  32. Joe, was great to meet you in Liverpool. Just finished Last Argument of Kings. Really enjoyed all three books, loved the characters.
    Can’t wait to finish work and start the next one.

  33. I am so disappointed. This book was supposedly to be available in Canada on October 16th. There’s been no sign of it anywhere. My retailer tells me it’s in transit, but can’t give me an ETA on when I might expect it. I really, really want to read RED COUNTRY. This delay is so frustrating.

  34. Gordon,
    Sorry – I believe it’ll be the US edition in Canada, which means it won’t be available in hardcover until at least November 13th. E-book might be sooner.

    David,
    No US appearances currently planned, I’m afraid. By the time I get back from Australia I don’t think I’ll be wanting to travel much for a while…

  35. Thanks for the information, Mr. Abercrombie. I thought that might be the case, but I was really hoping it wouldn’t be. Oh well.

  36. Joe, is it me, or are you not quite as chirpy as you were at the time of the Heroes’ release?

  37. I read all your books in English on Kindle despite that I am not a native speaker. And I enjoyed all of them. This time, I think I will pick up “Red Country” when it is translated (and that will be a paper book, the publisher of your books in Poland doesn’t have much love for ebooks, sadly) – I want to see if I’m missing anything by reading in a foreign language. :)

  38. I’m on page 200, and I like the book a lot. But it just doesn’t seem (yet) to be as jaw dropping as the previous ones. In the first few chapters I felt like there was a bit of recycling of BSC…But, I have yet to read the book trough, and I don’t doubt that it will be as thrilling as previous versions.

  39. Matej, Joe can’t write the same book every time. He did something different, he wrote a Western Fantasy. It was brilliant. Finish the book and then decide. I loved it!

  40. No worries, Joe. We Yanks still love the books. Perhaps sometime we’ll Skype over a pour of Talisker 18, which I remain convinced was undervalued in your death match.

  41. ” The English editions also seem to be doing pretty well in foreign markets, with well over 20,000 hardcovers shipped overall already” , not much surprise here, me cant wait till its translated neither. Well done with Red Country Joe!

  42. So…what´s next?

  43. Finished it today and certain aspects did disappoint me – not the writing or storytelling, but who got ‘point of view’ chapters and who didn’t. I think readers will know who I am talking about, and I’d be interested in your reasons for NOT giving POV to him Joe?

    I also felt disappointed (cheated, almost) that another character was so under-utilised. I think it would be easier to understand his motives and feelings, if the first guy had a POV.

  44. Geez… People are already talking/asking about what’s next and the latest has only just come. Let’s just take our time and enjoy (i.e. discuss) the new book for the next six months before we starting hassling for more…

  45. Spoilers: I loved it! I liked the Unforgiven like narrative of the older warrior trying to escape his past but being dragged back into it. Having everyone’s favorite “bloody” character back is well worth the purchase of the book alone and I can understand not having his POV in the novel as it would affect the narrative in a way that it would bog it down in my opinion. We know his past, we know the character so well that we can picture what he is thinking/feeling as we go along with him.
    For me the best part was the ending! It was not so much that it was a happy ending but it was an ideal ending. I found myself rooting for our “bloody” friend out loud to at least let him be able to keep his promise. It was a great book. Bravo!

  46. Finished the book a few days ago and it was great. Loved the twists on some characters we know from the earlier books. Keep them coming, Joe, great work :)

  47. Finished it today.

    I’ll do a proper review at some point, but for my money it was the best book you’ve written so far.

  48. Well, I’ve heard it said, “A writer must learn to flourish on scorn. No passage, sentence or even word can be to the taste of _every_ reader.”
    Wise words, undoubtedly written by a wise man. I did wish that man had used an Oxford comma in his list though…

  49. Read it, loved it! I wish there was a forums section I could go to and discuss certain themes and elements with others.

  50. Good idea Anthony. :)

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