Today I received a Syrup royalty statement. This is usually a depressing event, because it reveals either that vast numbers of people are not buying Syrup, or, worse, that the book isn’t for sale any more. This statement, which is the first since Viking brought Syrup back into print, is not quite so heinous. People are buying it. This is a relief not because I get 75c from every copy—well, not just because of that—but because nothing is quite as awful as watching your novel slowly sink into oblivion. Once I got a royalty statement that had negative net sales. I didn’t even know that was possible.
(It’s because bookstores can return unsold stock to the publisher for credit. Even on the royalty statement I’m looking at right now, one bookstore—just one!—returned one copy of the Syrup hardcover, almost five years after it was published. They make me pay back my 75c for that.)
It seems that people are split pretty evenly over whether they prefer Syrup or Jennifer Government, so I cling to the hope that one day the former will be read by as many people as the latter. It still seems possible.
Except in Canada. Now, Canada and Syrup have long had a strained relationship. It has always sold abysmally there, although I have no idea why. I like Canada. I used to work with a Canadian at Hewlett-Packard, Mike, and we got on fine; I don’t think he phoned home to say, “Quick, tell everyone not to buy Max’s novel.” But this latest royalty statement makes the situation truly bizarre. In the last six months of 2003, Canadian Syrup sales were: 6.
Now, serendipitous references to the character in the novel aside, what the hell is with that? Six!? I’ve bought more copies than that! If it was zero, I’d think maybe the book wasn’t available at all, but six—six! It’s enough to make me want to catch a plane to Vancouver and buy an armload full of copies, just to treble national sales. Or maybe I’ll track down Mike and kick his butt.