Monday night I finished reading Linda Nagata’s far-future epic series The Bohr Maker, Deception Well and Vast back-to-back-to-back, and I wanted to take a break from amazing stories of super-science and find something a little more down to earth, so I looked at my Kindle’s recommendations and something about Mark Gimenez’s Accused caught my eye. Yeah, a new courtroom drama sounded about right.
But the description says it’s a sequel, so I figured I’d try to find the first one in the series. Amazon is useless for that kind of thing, so I Googled up Gimenez’s website and found this:
Well, that’s pretty useless to me. The site does not list the books by series or even in order of publication. So if I want to start reading Gimenez’s work, I have to figure out the publication dates myself. Amazon lists publication dates, but I’d have to look up every book individually. Even worse, the publication dates on Amazon seem to be the date the book was first sold on Amazon, which may not have anything to do with the order they were originally published.
Fortunately, I’ve learned that one of the best sources of this kind of information is the author’s bio page on Wikipedia. Gimenez’s page doesn’t break them down by series, but at least it gives a publication order:
- The Color of Law (2005)
- The Abduction (2007)
- The Perk (2008)
- The Common Lawyer (2009)
- Accused (2010)
Minutes later, I had downloaded and started reading The Color of Law.
But it bothered me. Mark Gimenez wasn’t the first time I’d run across an author whose website didn’t give me useful information about their books. I’d seen it a lot, and I wanted to know why.
I decided to check out what science fiction author Charles Stross did on his website. His blog is one of my regular reads — as are his books — and it’s clear he spends a lot of time thinking about how the publishing industry works. I figured he’d have a pretty good list of books, but no, it’s almost as screwed up as the rest of them.
Stross’s US books page breaks out his two major series, Merchant Princes and Laundry Files, but otherwise all the books are listed in reverse chronological order, with the most recent first. I figured that might make some marketing sense because the casual visitor probably just wants to see if he has anything recent, but it’s a crazy thing to do in a series, especially one like Merchant Princes, which tells a single coherent story. Once you know how Trade of Queens ends, you won’t want to read the five books that came before it.
Because Stross seems to like explaining things like this, I decided to ask him directly why authors’ websites don’t list the series in any meaningful order of publication. He very kindly took the time to respond:
The primary reason is that most readers don’t want to wade through a lengthy list of stuff they’ve already read or which was published years ago: they want to see the new stuff first!
Also, if you’re maintaining a log of books, it’s easiest to add new content at the top.
Also, publication order may not reflect the order in which books were written. Or the order in which series are intended to be read.
But, in a nutshell: the place for an order-of-publication list is a bibliography or FAQ. The place for a reverse-order list with most-recent-first is a promo page telling people BUY MY BOOKS!!!1!!ELEVENTY!!!PLEASE.
(Stross is something of an ubergeek.)
So I guess that’s the explanation. Most of the people checking out an author’s website for books aren’t like me. They don’t obsessively want to read his books from the beginning. They just want to know what’s new.
I assume that people like me who want a specific reading list will just keep looking until we find it. For what it’s worth, I’ve found that if I want to know how to read a particular subset of a particular author’s books in a particular order, the first (and often only) source to check is Wikipedia.