Friday, December 02, 2005

Valentine is going out of print

The Legend of the Valentine, the second in my picture book career is going out of print as of December 15. The author, Katherine Grace Bond, graciously informed me through an email when I wasn't notified by the publisher.

The Legends series seeks to explain the meaning behind common holiday symbols such as the candy cane; easter egg; Christmas tree, and Valentine. The series is sold primarily through Christian book stores, although, at least initially, it was stocked through major chains such as Barnes & Noble, Borders, Book People, and others. The Legend of the Candy Cane was the first in the series, and it sold something like 200,000 copies at the time I was approached to illustrate Valentine. The Legend of the Easter Egg was another strong seller. Following such great sales successes, it was believed that Valentine would do just as well. I was dubious. I was thankful, appreciative, excited and honored to be asked, however, I was skeptical. I kept my doubts to myself. I was worried because the other books in the series feature caucasian children. Valentine features an African American kid. Therefore — in my opinion — in order for Valentine to compete with her sisters, she would need to be heavily supported by black book buyers as well as white book buyers, and everybody else. Again, because of the Christian subject matter, the majority of these books were sold through stores, not school libraries. The last few times I visited my local bookstore — Christian or otherwise — there weren't very many people who look like me shopping. Need I say more. I won't.

Zondervan offered the author and I an option to purchase the remaining books in stock for about a buck-and-a-half apiece. Although, I'm saddened that they won't be on book shelves, I'm happy that I can purchase the books at such a great price, and maybe resell them at school visits or fairs. There are 879 hardcover copies remaining, and 20,000 board books. Whatever is left over after the author and I purchase our copies, will be sold to the highest bidder.

I suppose I should feel worse than I do, but for some reason don't. again, I somewhat suspected this might happen from the start.

The Legend of the Valentine teaches a very important message. It encourages peace and reconciliation over retaliation and violence, and it does so without getting too preachy. What saddens me most is that this message will not reach children any longer, at least not through this particular book, and I don't know that there are many other books out there that teach messages like this.

Now, looking at the bright side, most books go out of print eventually, many times only after two years in print. Valentine's been around for almost 5 years. It made the CBA best seller list the first month it published, and so far, it's paid more than any book of my picture book career, $15,000+. I can't complain too much.

But I do want to encourage African American parents to support books that speak to our children because — as evidenced here — they will go away if you don't.

Here's a link I found at The Purple Crayon on keeping your books in print.

1 comment:

rindambyers said...

I am sorry to hear about this. Don, did you get all rights back from the publisher on those illustrations you did for that book? Writers can do that with the texts of out-of-print picturebooks, so I can't see why you can't do that on your art as well. Maybe, when the printing technology improves down the road and gets cheaper to do as it is reapidly doing, then, you and the writer can team up for a reprint on your ownsome or resell the package together. Who knows what could happen down the road....I really don't know the ins and outs of this, but you could certainly ask them