The X-wing Books are Out of Print

Usually when an envelope arrives from your publisher during royalty time, it’s a happy event. This time, not so much. A quick glance at the statements revealed that Bantam Spectra chose, during the second half of 2010, to let my Star Wars™ X-wing novels go out of print.

Getting the news that such a decision had been made that way is kind of like learning your dog has been killed by seeing his squished body in the road in front of your house. Not really a good feeling.

Publishers make such decisions for economic reasons. Clearly they didn’t think enough copies were selling to justify reprints—though other books of mine selling roughly 20% of what the X-wing books do each month are still in print. (Or maybe are on their way out, too? I don’t know.) Publishing is a business, so it doesn’t matter to the beancounters that the X-wing books are the ones that many fans cite as being among their favorites, or that a lot of fans credit with having gotten them started on reading Star Wars™ novels. It doesn’t matter to them that readers have read the books multiple times, or have purchased multiple copies because they’ve worn the other ones out. And it doesn’t matter to them that a lot of young readers—their future customers—have come to reading through the X-wing novels. (I guess they assume that novels about sparkly vampires and emo girls will turn 12 year old boys on to reading… go figure.)

It’s funny that I learn this now. Just last Saturday I gave a talk before a local chapter of the American Association of University Women. It was at their Author’s Luncheon where they raised a lot of money to give scholarships to women going to college. I’d been asked to speak, in part, about my Star Wars novels. It gave me a chance to relive some of the memories; like getting a 7 AM call from my agent saying, “Bantam just offered you four Star Wars novels, I said, ‘Yes.’”

Writing the Star Wars™ books—especially the X-wings—was an incredible amount of fun. The folks at Lucasfilm were incredibly generous with me. They literally let me get away with things I’d not have let me get away with were I running the show. And they were very supportive behind the scenes when contracts and writer politics and publishing all got tangled up at one point and a lot of other writers were very angry with me. They continue to be great and supportive—even though my last Star Wars™ novel came out in 1999, I was invited to the Sneak Peek showing of the Clone Wars™ Season Three opener here in Phoenix. That sort of courtesy and care is rare in business, and bespeaks an incredible amount of class.

Star Wars™ books let me build a friendship with one of my best friends in the business: Timothy Zahn. The hours we spent on the phone passing ideas back and forth when writing books, or collaborating on short stories, were a lot of fun. And the trips and conventions we’ve done are just magic. And being able to bring Aaron Allston into the fold with his X-wing books was incredibly gratifying. I’d known Aaron for years, and when Tom Dupree suggested he could take over for me while I wrote I, Jedi, my response was a very enthused, “Oh, hell yeah!” And Aaron, God love him, hit it out of the park and has just kept going.

The number of people who have told me, down through the years, that Corran is one of their most favorite EU characters is astounding and humbling. I remember, when I got started, I read Tim’s novels. I thought to myself, “These books are the high water mark. This is what I have to aim for.” Talon Karrde and Mara Jade were iconic. I hoped maybe one of my characters might be mentioned as a good utility infielder backing up such an allstar lineup, but to have him voted onto the team, I mean, wow.

And to have had some of my characters made into action figures: double-wow.

And seeing folks designing and wearing costumes for characters or squadons I created… I can’t even begin to explain how cool that is.

I think the thing that saddens me the most is that I had young readers who picked up an X-wing novel and reported that it was the first novel they’d ever read “all by myself.” The X-wing books were not only portals to Star Wars™, but to reading itself. New kids coming up aren’t going to have that chance. Likewise, the soldiers, sailors and airmen (and women) who snagged those books as an escape when the mission ends or the shooting stops won’t have that haven anymore.

When folks only look at the numbers, when they only see people as vehicles for transporting credit cards to stores, they lose sight of humanity and the importance of story to all of us. We need story to help us cope. I remember a young man writing about the fact that he was away at college and had a steady girlfriend back home, but on campus a girl was coming on to him. He said he was really tempted to go with the girl on campus, but then he remembered what Corran Horn did in I, Jedi. Because of that, because of Corran’s example, he remained faithful. I certainly never expected something like that to happen when I was writing I, Jedi, but that it did points to the power of stories that some folks only see as numbers in a spread sheet.

Since I mentioned the X-wing situation on Twitter, a few folks have asked whether or not the books will be reprinted or made available as ebooks. I don’t know on either count. I did mention, however, that if Lucasfilm decides to follow in the footsteps of the Ian Fleming estate and publish ebook editions independently, I’d be more than happy to offer my expertise in setting up an ebook publishing program.

Some other very kind people have asked what the X-wing book status means for me financially. I really appreciate the concern, but I’m doing just fine. My last paper novel, At The Queen’s Command, blew out the doors at Night Shade Books, earning out its advance in the first six weeks of sales. In addition to that, sales of my digital original novel, In Hero Years… I’m Dead, have been unbelievably robust. Digital sales for the Kindle and epub versions of the book have further convinced me that the digital revolution is over and won; and now we’re in that phase of rebuilding publishing in a way that benefits authors and readers alike. (And if you’ve not seen In Hero Years… I’m Dead, you can click either of the above links to snag a copy, or this link to go to the first of three sample chapters.)

I really want to say thank you to all of you who have expressed, over the years; in person and through notes or comments, how much the X-wing books meant to you. Especially gratifying are the parents who’d shared them with their children and grandchildren. Sharing the love of reading is likely the greatest gift we can give another person (that doesn’t include tissue typing and matching). That my books have been a part of that; that you have enjoyed and trusted my work enough to share it with your friends and families, is incredible. I am at a loss for words to explain how deeply this touches me.

Thank you.

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39 Responses to “The X-wing Books are Out of Print”

  1. Hey, Michael.

    I have to say that your books are some of the best I’ve ever read. I have read the entire X-Wing series probably 20 times and I’m actually going through it again right now. I love the way you took characters that were an after thought at most to most people, and made them just as important or noteworthy as the other characters.

    If you’re still in contact with LucasFilm, I would love to see Clone Wars-type show (maybe a little less cartoony) of the X-Wing series. That would be great.

    Thanks for such great stories and memorable characters.

  2. The (limited) amount of experience I’ve had working with LucasFilm suggests that the ending of a licensing cycle may have as much to do with it as anything. I think sometimes they like to just change things around for its own sake … keeps it fresh or some such.

    In any case, congrats on a good run! :)

    -The Gneech

  3. Gneech, book contracts don’t quite work that way in terms of licensing cycles. Publishers have a 7 year window (perhaps less in this case) in which the book can lay out of print before the rights revert. And, as I noted, books that sell fewer copies are still in print, while these are not. It makes little logical sense, but then I’m not an accountant.

  4. Mike,

    I used to run a SW book club as when people came to me asking how to break into the EU I’d tell them to start with the X-wing series. I hope LFL will publish the books or make them available as ebooks. They are far too foundational to the SW Universe to let them become unavailable.

  5. I’m saddened to see this. The X-Wing books mean a great deal to me, I’ve read them several times over and I managed to pursuade my girlfriend to read them and she loved them! They also inspired me to join the 501st Legion, and I’ve ended up making some great friends and tavelleing all over trooping. Thank you for a great ride, it was a blast :) If i ever see you at a con, drinks on me

  6. Rogue Squadron was the first “real” novel I ever bought, when I was eleven years old and had gone through everything on the kids’ bookshelf. It more or less blew my mind, and I snatched up each subsequent book as it came out. I’ve probably read the series a dozen times, and I, Jedi is still in a 3-way tie for my all-time favorite book (along with Dune and Ender’s Game). In fact, your stories played a major role in my deciding to become a writer myself. Sad to hear that today’s eleven-year-olds won’t have the same experience. But here’s to hoping they come out as ebooks by the time that becomes the standard reading choice for kids.

  7. I will always encourage customers to find them, same as i do with your battletech books.

  8. Hi Michael,

    I’m one of those kids who got into reading through the X-Wing series. It was my brother who got me Book 4: The Bacta War for Christmas one year. I didn’t know it was Book 4 at the time, but it got me hooked. So much so that I became a Star Wars fan through the book and repayed my brother for his kindness by hogging the computer playing his X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter game that he got for Christmas that year so much that he gave up on Star Wars and became a Star Trek fan. ;)

    Now I’m writing, in part due to that book. I’m working on becoming a professional freelance author, setting my work hours like a pro author, and hopefully writing books that will one day reach the caliber of the books you’ve written that have entertained me. I’m sure one day there will be a space combat series as well.

    So Michael, thanks. It is truly amazing how our writing positively affects others’ lives in ways we couldn’t have anticipated. I’m very much looking forward to that feeling in my own career.

    Chris

  9. Your X-Wing novels are the reason why I own every other novel you’ve written (with the exception of some out-of-print Battletech stuff); they’re indirectly responsible for much of the way I write novels (X-Wing led to Mike Stackpole led to the Secrets); they’re the books I recommend when a friend who likes Star Wars but doesn’t have the time to wade into the massive EU wants to know where to start; and they’re what led to me realizing what a good story is – do I care about what happens the characters?

    Unless I’m misremembering, yours are the fist Star Wars novels that told an entire story without the focus on movie characters (apologies to Denis Lawson, but you did not have his characterization to lean on). It started a trend carried on by Karen Traviss that some of the best stories in the EU are about characters that never saw celluloid (again, with apologies to Mr. Lawson). The EU owes you thanks for that.

    Thank you for writing them, they remain my favorites. Maybe now it’s time for a full length Shadowrun novel? That franchise could certainly use some of the old talent.

  10. Quote: “Since I mentioned the X-wing situation on Twitter, a few folks have asked whether or not the books will be reprinted or made available as ebooks.”

    Amazon has Star Wars: X-wing 1-4 available as Abridged Audio Editions, but nothing on the Barnes and Noble side for NOOK users. These audiobooks can be downloaded on Kindle or any other devices that have the Kindle app.

  11. Saw this post with a list of Star Wars EU titles supposedly going on sale as ebooks on 8/17, and yours are included.

    The list was obtained from Random House Smart Archive.

    http://lightsaberrattling.blogspot.com/2011/03/star-wars-news-ebooks-and-phantom.html

  12. I can’t even tell you how sad this makes me, Mike. It just makes no sense to me that lesser-selling books would remain in print. I absolutely loved the X-Wing series and you and Tim are, by far, my favorite writers in the Star Wars universe.

    Fingers crossed that they’ll come to their senses and either put out ebook editions or give you the right to do so.

  13. Will "scifantasy" Frank 06. Apr, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    Wait, what? That’s a crying shame. Especially since they seem to have no interest at all in issuing ebooks. (Unless this is in prep for issuing ebooks, which–fingers crossed.)

    Sympathies.

  14. Mike,

    I’m very saddened to hear that the X-Wing novels are now out of print. I’m going to have to head out and find fresh copies of the books while I still can. You’re an incredible writer who brought new and old Star Wars characters to the fore-front as fan favorites.

    May someone have the brainpower to put these into eBook format. They deserve it.

    Looking forward to bumping into you at Dragon*Con, if you’re going.

  15. The X-Wing books are my favorite of all of the Star Wars books. Like you mentioned about Mara Jade, characters like Corran and company had to meet high expectations. They did. I especially enjoyed hearing what the average soldier thought of galactic events. It made the saga more realistic for me.

    I’m a junior high librarian and your books get checked out routinely. My guys love the action. I told them that you played the old LucasArts games and used those experiences in your writing. That elevates you far past any angsty undead in their eyes.

    I’m a little stressed now to think about replacing the books when they get worn down. Unrelated: do you have the comm number for Wraith Squadron? I have a certain clandestine mission for them that in no way involves the stealing of books.

  16. I was really saddened when I saw the Rebel Legion retweet the news that your books were going out of print. Many have been the days I’ve spent in one place or another reading and rereading the adventures of the pilots of Rogue Squadron and Aaron Allston’s Wraith Squadron; in fact not only did I have my parents ship me my well-loved copy of “I, Jedi” right before I graduated from U.S. Army Basic Training, the Rogues and the Wraiths both came with me, tucked into the few cubic inches I had for personal gear during deployment, and on a couple of occasions, I would sit in the rec centers the USO set up with one of those books and have someone – twice a Marine, once a Seabed, and once a member of the British Army – mention how much they liked that book. Just shows how far they spread. Speaking for myself, if ever I get the opportunity to get the X-wing books on my Kindle, it’ll happen as fast as I can shift electrons.

  17. Book 2 wedges gamble was the first SW novel I got my parents to buy for me after watching the original movies when I was 11 (now 26) it got me into reading SW books and just books in general and my book shelf is struggling to hold up my own little library now… thanks Michael!

    Cant recall how many times I have re read the series and enjoy them every time. Book 2 has managed to survive the early years at school in my pencil case and backpack and is looking a bit sorry for itself but I would not replace it for anything.

    I feel sorry for future generations missing out on this awesome series! My future kids will be passed these treasures of mine when they are able to read for themselves to enjoy the rich universe that you helped shape and mold and hopefully bring as much enjoyment to there childhood as it did mine.

    Your one of my favorite authors Michael and I will happily continue buying your printed books in the future

  18. I’m working on my reviews of the X-Wing novels myself. Interesting timing, and I loved reading what you had to say.

  19. We’re going to use this article to jump-start a discussion in e-books vs. Paper tonight on our podcast. X-Wing series is such a popcorn thrill for me. I loved every minute of them and was sad when they stopped the series :(

  20. Michael,

    While I’ve read a lot of Star Wars novels, yours were among the first (I can’t actually remember for certain what my first Star Wars novel was, but it was either the X-Wing series or Heir to the Empire series) and going back, they’re still my favorites. I Jedi is probably my favorite Star Wars novel I’ve read.

    Your books were among the few I enjoyed in the NJO series that followed (which, incidentally, I stopped reading after they killed off the most interesting character not many books afterward – tried to continue through the next book, but Corran was gone and so was Anakin and I just didn’t care enough about any of the other characters).

    It was due to enjoying your Star Wars novels so much that got me into Talion: Revenant and later the Dragoncrown series and Once a Hero. (Quick note on the middle one there: I’ve really enjoyed your Fortress Draconis podcasts, is there any chance you’ll ever create audiobooks of any of your other books for sale?) All of them were very enjoyable.

    So all that to say thanks for all the memories and happy trails.

  21. …oh.

    I read your weblog, but I don’t often comment. But I had to pop up for this, for obvious reasons… I met my evil twin because of the X-Wing books, among so many other friends. (Hi, scifantasy.) In a comment above DC said “The EU owes you thanks” and he/she is completely right. Both for the stories and for the characterization.

    (Especially for Tycho Celchu, but that’s my personal preference…)

    Add me to the list of people fervently hoping for e-book editions.

    “There’s the right wing, there’s the left wing, then there’s Wedge: Antilles/Celchu 2012.”

  22. Mike, just another voice to say that your X-WING books are by far my favorites of the EU. When I was jonesing for a little of that old-time STAR WARS feel of high adventure, I was delighted when I found them, and thankfully they’re sitting in my garage right now patiently waiting for my son to get old enough to have them handed down to him (he is definitely NOT too old to begin the training). Here’s hoping they’ll be available for download to his datapad or retinal implant (iEye?) or whatever he’ll be using to read with in four or five years’ time.

  23. I’d just like to join in with everyone else in saying “thanks” for the amazing books. I loved Zahn’s books of course, but I think your novels really took the Star Wars universe to a new level due to your ability to create compelling characters from never before, or hardly seen characters.

    You set high standards that, sadly, are rarely met in the Star Wars Universe.

  24. Hi Michael, the x-wing series was the first EU books i started reading. unfortunately i never finished them because the books have not been in print in the UK since about 2005. ebay has been the only place i have found them, most being poor quality. is it possible for another publisher to reprint them?

  25. Very sad. I’m one of those who needed to buy replacement copies because my originals were worn. At least I’ll have 2 copies of each, though, so my kids can read them if they stay out of (physical) print and there are no ebooks offered.

    I’ve always enjoyed these books. In the pre-amazon era I hunted each down at area bookstores. Thanks for all the great work.

  26. Okay, I normally never comment on anything, but I couldn’t let this go unsaid.

    Like so many other people, the X-wing series are what got me really into Star Wars. I saw the movies for the first time when I was twelve, and randomly picked Rogue Squadron out of the stack of EU books a friend of mine had.

    And absolutely fell in love. I honestly don’t think it would have happened if I started anywhere else.

    I devoured the rest of the series as fast as I could get them, and can’t even count how many times I’ve reread them over the years. They’ve gotten me through some rough times–whenever I’m feeling down or upset, I curl up with one of them and it’s like I’m flying with Wedge and the boys. I’ve had to replace almost every single one of the series multiple times from lending them or simply wearing them out.

    So like everyone else has said, thank you. Thank you for truly introducing me to something that has become such a huge part of my life.

    And now it’s time to run to the bookstore and buy back-up copies.

  27. Mike…it’s Wade back from the old crew at WotC. Don’t know if you remember me or not, but my wife just told me about the X-wing books, and it is a shame…not to mention shabby they way they have treated you. Anyway, I wish you all the best, and who knows, maybe I’ll run into you at a GenCon someday and get to say hello in person again. Best wishes to you and yours.

  28. Michael,

    I’ll stand in line with the rest of your fan base to tell you that I love the X-wing series. At a yard sale in nineteen-ninety-something I picked up a handful of well-used books and Wedge’s Gamble was among the lot.

    It was the first Star Wars book that I had read and it hooked me forever on the franchise. I have the entire series, including Aaron’s contribution and I can not count the number of times I have read them start to finish.

    Your stories and characters are engaging and I can not wait to introduce them to my son when he is born.

    Thank you,

    - An avid fan
    Justin (Currently using 21 Days to a Novel and loving it.)

    P.S. Wedge’s Gamble makes more sense when you read Rogue Squadron first.

  29. Anthony JP Miller 10. May, 2011 at 12:36 am

    Just my 2 cents.

    The X-Wing series were among the first real novels I’d read. It’s up there with LOTR, and I have a copy of I, Jedi hidden in the dining room table where I do my homework. Mike’s style has deeply affected my own writing and my ideas about what stories can and should be like. I still have all of them, and await the day when I can find hardcovers of them all…and yes I know that you still have some copies of I, Jedi kicking around(requested twice as presents, got In the Name of the Queen instead- good fun, and educational to boot, as I’m Canadian and did not know so much about US history). If you’re ever up in the great white north, drinks on me.

  30. I was just perusing the Amazon kindle store, and a search claims that kindle editions of the x-wing books is available for pre-order, to be released at the end of next month.

    Do you have any info on this Mike? Is this for real?

  31. Apparently it is for real.

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