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2012-04-30: I had the great pleasure of speaking with Harriet McDougal Rigney about her life. She's an amazing talent and person and it will take you less than an hour to agree.
2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."
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Some disturbing news came my way today. I understand that people are making posts at Dragonmount asking where they can get free copies of 'Glimmers', and others are e-mailing copies of 'Glimmers' to them. Wotmania, the other site that partnered with Simon & Schuster in this, has yanked people's memberships for doing this.
The simple fact is, anybody who gives away a copy of 'Glimmers' or accepts one is engaging in theft. Stealing. No different from shoplifting, and only a degree removed from holding up a liquor store.
I've heard the arguments about how information should be free, especially in electronic media, but they all boil down to excuses as to why some people believe they can take what somebody else has created, but not pay for it. And if you think that the fact that an e-book is "only a copy of the original" or that "the author loses nothing because he still has his original," would anyone think they had a right to take a book to the copy-shop and then hand out the copies they made? I'd think they might see that every copy they give away is a copy that the author won't be able to sell. In other words, they have just stolen that royalty right out of the author's pocket.
Real-world and immediate, I suggest that anyone who believes they aren't stealing when they hand around copies of 'Glimmers' should walk into any mall shop and try walking out with their favorite posters. Without paying for it, of course. If anyone tries to stop them, they should just explain that they are only taking a copy. But they should be sure to have money in hand to pay their bail.
Various publishers have approached me wanting to publish the entire Wheel of Time as a series of e-books, but I always say no. One reason is that technology isn't mature enough. Another is the number of people who download e-books and proceed to give away copies. Maybe that makes them feel generous. It makes me feel that I will never allow e-book publication of WHEEL, and maybe not of anything else, either.
All right. I've had a few weeks to rest after the marathon working of Feb, March, and early April. So, it's time to start thinking about the future. The Gathering Storm is turned in. (Quick answers on two questions: First, I don't know if there will be an electronic copy released. Tor doesn't own electronic rights, these belong to Harriet, and I don't know what she and her agent have decided yet. Second, there should be an audiobook released, very close to the initial release of the hardcover.) With The Gathering Storm done, it's time to look at the projects on my plate.
PROJECT ONE: A MEMORY OF LIGHT PART TWO (The working title is Shifting Winds, which WILL change.)
I've gone ahead and added a progress bar for this one. As I've said before, I've got a large chunk of it written—but that writing needs quite a bit of work. I pulled a lot of the cleanest, finished sections to use in The Gathering Storm. The progress bar says 49% completed, but I'd actually put that closer to 25%, if we look at work to be done and not just raw pagecount.
Obviously, Shifting Winds is the most important project for me to finish. It will be getting the largest share of my attention during the next year, and I'm going to do everything in my power to turn it in a little earlier than the previous book, perhaps even allowing for a release earlier next year than November. (I don't know if getting it in early will help that or not, but I'll try.) My self-imposed goal for finishing Winds is November 3rd, so I'll have the rough draft done and turned in before I leave on tour.
My excellent webmaster and brother, Jordan, has added an Events page to the site. I know, people have been asking for a page like that for a while—well, it's finally here! Right now it's got all the dates and locations for my The Gathering Storm tour, as well as an appearance at the Book Academy writing conference later this month and a couple more signings in December (effectively though not technically part of the tour). This page will automatically update itself to remove events that are already past, so it's a good way to keep yourself updated on where I'm going to be.
At Dragon*Con this past weekend there were a slew of The Gathering Storm-related announcemnts from Tor Books and Tor.com, the first of which is that chapter one of the book is now available for free over at Tor.com (free registration required). The prologue to the book (which is much longer than the first chapter, at somewhere around 25,000 words) will be released on September 17 as an ebook, as were the prologues of other recent volumes. Tor also announced the availability of all the books in the Wheel of Time as ebooks, starting with The Eye of the World on October 27, and a subsequent volume following each month after that—and each ebook will feature new cover art. And finally Tor announced the organization of fan volunteer Storm Leaders for each city of my upcoming tour. For more information on all of these topics, please check out Dragonmount's writeup on the announcements.
By now you're probably very familiar with the whole AmazonFail deal that has been going on. Today, Scalzi made a shout-out for author support. I think that was a fine thing to do.
Most of the authors involved don't care so much about ebook pricing either way. They just want people to read their works. In fact, the majority of writers I know care about money only in so much as it allows them to keep writing books. Money is important because without it, we'd all have to be working in a cubicle somewhere rather than creating the art that we love.
Some will argue that $9.99 is too low for an ebook, others that it's too high. I'm not really on either side, to be honest. I see it both ways. But I do agree that what Amazon did in pulling physical books was a petulant, annoying move that harms a bunch of people who had nothing to do with the negotiations. Scalzi, in his nefarious evil wisdom, calls for everyone to show support to the authors and get their books someplace other than Amazon.
This strikes me as particularly important for authors who released books either last week or this week. For those of us who had book launches before the holidays, most of you who want our books already have them. But think of Steven Erikson, who had a new book come out a couple of weeks ago. Or heck, Ben Bova, Charlie Stross, and L. E. Modesitt Jr. had books come out today. First week sales, as everyone knows, are very important for a book's future. What Amazon did to me was annoying; what it did to these folks was downright nasty.
The big story over the weekend was that Amazon temporarily stopped selling all Macmillan books, which includes all my books from Tor, to protest Macmillan's new ebook terms. There's not a lot I have to add to this discussion, except to say that Tor's publicity department thought the illustration accompanying Engadget's article on the affair was hilarious. Still, if you haven't heard about what's been happening, or if you've emailed me asking why you suddenly can't buy my books from Amazon, check out the following links for a thorough rundown.
My evil nemesis John Scalzi probably said it best in the following blog posts (especially the last one): 1, 2, 3, 4. Other comments come from Cory Doctorow (1), Toby Buckell (1, 2, 3), Charles Stross (1, 2, 3, 4), Jay Lake (1, 2, 3, 4), and Scott Westerfield (1). As you might expect, these include quite a bit of cross-linking and cross-commenting. I also made a few comments on my Facebook page.
The current situation is that Amazon has said they "will have to capitulate," but so far they are still not selling any Macmillan books. If there are books of mine you were planning to buy in the near future, I've got a number of non-Amazon links for you here. Or, of course, stop by your local independent bookseller!
It's unlikely. Harriet has much worry about the ebook format, and the fact that we wouldn't have gotten #1 on the New York Times list if we'd done the ebook release at the same time has her extra jumpy. She released the ebook earlier than expected by my request last time, and I think we'll get it even earlier this time. But it probably won't be at the same time.
(Though, it may depend on how the Times counts ebooks then. Harriet feels it's important for RJ's legacy that these last few books continue the string of being #1 hits.)
I certainly hope so. I actually lobbied hard to get it for The Way of Kings.
The problem was not desire, the problem was logistics. However, Baen has this down already. (I believe they sold a recent Honor Harrington hardcover with a CD inside that included ALL of the previous books in ebook for free.)
In fact, if you like ebooks and want to support publishers doing more with them in an DRM free way, go support the Baen Free Library. (My publisher, Tom Doherty and founder of Tor, is a silent partner in Baen, so we might see something similar for Tor eventually.)
I will work hard to get the ebook-hardcover combo working. I don't think it's too far off from happening for popular books. (Where the printing costs of adding a CD are lowered by huge print runs.)
Neil is quite wise. I don't feel that I've lost money to piracy, and feel that it's basically a non-issue. Perhaps some day it will happen that this hurts more than it helps...but so far, everything points toward piracy increasing sales. Libraries have been around forever. Nobody who buys my books HAS to. They do so to support the author.
There are some things that bother me. For example, if an author doesn't want you to distribute their books that way, it's a jerk move to do so anyway. In that case, it has nothing at all to do with 'stealing' or anything like that. It's the author's legal and moral right, in my opinion, to say that. I think they're dumb for making a big deal of it, but it should be their right.
So...I don't know. I'm not going to tell folks to go out and torrent my books. I put one of my own up for free so you wouldn't have to. The biggest argument for piracy, in my opinion, is the "Let them try it out before they spend money on it" argument. So, this way people can try out my books for free. If they like my writing, maybe they'll consider buying the next one and supporting me.
I don't like that Torrent sites are making money by doing what they're doing, all the while hiding behind the idea that they're providing a service for the good of mankind. Some very few seem genuine in their dedication to the freedom of information. The rest just want to make a buck, and do it by cutting as many legitimate people out of the loop as possible.
But as for people sharing my work with friends, pirating an ecopy of a book they already have a physical copy of, trying out a book before buying a copy, and the like—you'll hear no complaint from me. In fact, I probably won't complain anyway, since it won't make a difference and it's really not hurting. There are some things about the entire culture that do annoy me, though.
Kings has by far the most extensive artwork for any book I'd done. However, in the others, you are generally missing out on one or two really excellent maps. (Isaac's work is wonderful in the Mistborn books.)
I think ebooks ofter a lot of exciting opportunities, and some challenges. We can probably start doing full color maps, for example, in all books—but we need to make sure the devices can show them in the right way. For Way of Kings, the hardcover is the way to go for the art. That might not always be the case.
Seriously...This is the crap I hate - Amazon Kindle Link [The book in question is Blue Moon Rising.]
Kindle Price - $12.99
Paperback Price - $6.00
How is that even close? I will buy this book once the price is reasonable. I am OK playing the same price as a paperback, even though that is still highway robbery.
The book has been out so long, you have every reasonable right to assume it will be priced much lower than it is. But, in this case, you are also missing an entire piece of the puzzle.
The paperback listed there is a remaindered version of the trade paperback. Remaindered meaning that Amazon probably didn't buy it from the publisher, but from a wholesaler, who bought it from the publisher at deep discount. The book is officially out of print, and the pricing on the kindle edition reflects the last in print edition—meaning the $15 trade paperback.
Once again, I agree the book is too high priced. However, ebooks and print books are always going to be handled by different arms of the publishing business—and the different distribution methods are going to create oddities like this. Being mad about this would be like getting mad at finding a $2 copy of an old game in a bargain bin at Walmart when you just saw the downloadable version for $5 on Steam. The only difference here is that for books, Amazon is both Walmart and Steam.
I've been thinking lately of ways to give away digital copies of my books when you buy a hardcover. There are some issues with this.
I don't know much about the logistics; it may be impossible. If there is a way to make this work, I'd propose it to Tor and Harriet for A Memory of Light.
Here's a reddit thread where I mention issues with the process. Weigh in here or in that thread to give me advice.
The only way I could think of would be to include one-time use codes with the books. But what's to stop people from selling?
Yeah. The other problem with that is securing the code. Books aren't wrapped up, so the code could be scratched off/stolen easily.
My preferred method would be to put a code in a book that, then, you can redeem for free or a small price. But how do we secure it?
You don't. Your stuff is already being pirated and publishers shouldn't consider those lost sales. Trust people a la Apple.
I'm not worried about piracy. However, a digital code that can be used many times seems foolish. A one-use would be stolen.
One use has to be secured, or the person buying the book is in danger of being ripped off.
Multi-use means that we're hosting the book, and paying the bandwidth, for those who want to pirate. Bad idea, I think.
I'll host it for you. :) No charge.
Lol. One other problem is that this needs to be reasonable enough to the publisher's ears to get them to go along.
My point exactly. Big Pub doesn't get the new model. They consider pirated copies as lost sales. See Seth Godin for new model.
The publishers aren't as ignorant as you think. The investors, however, are another story. (You're right about them.)
Tor has done plenty of giving away free, DRM-free ebooks. They did it with Mistborn, for example.
Ah! To me as an outsider they are one and the same. :)
Publishers and editors in sf/f tend to be techies. Notice that Cory Doctorow, with Tor's blessing, releases all of his books for free.
How is Marvel doing it? They don't tend to wrap Comics either.
I think you order directly from them, and they send you the comic and deliver through their own secure app.
Baen used to put a CD copy of the book inside the hardcover versions of @davidweber1 Honor Harrington books.
I asked if we could do that, and the answer was that it was expensive enough it couldn't become the standard.
Maybe like a gift card where it's only active after purchase?
Yeah, this is probably the best idea. I don't know how hard that is to accomplish, though.
A lot of textbooks used to include a disc in the book for additional material. Discs are a bit harder to steal than codes.
Textbooks also have a much larger profit margin than novels. I asked about discs for my last book, and the publisher said no.
They said it was just too expensive.
Old school tech, I know, but how about a coupon you have to fill in with your email address then post back to the publisher?
Ha. You know, I never thought about that. The problem is, how do we keep people from stealing them out of the books?
People with a nice hardcover don't want to cut their book apart to get a coupon.
Here are a couple of problems with what people are suggesting. 1) We don't want to shrink wrap books, but a code can be stolen very easily.
Anything involving the retailer verifying a code, or printing one out, requires large-scale involvement of retailers.
That's not something I can change. They may be working on this already. I want something I could take to Tor, that we could do in house.
Or if you're talking about securing the code in the book...it seems easy enough with textbooks. Peel-off? :)
People would walk into the store, peel off the sticker, write down the code, then sell it or use it.
How do you stop people from sharing a hardcover copy?
The physical product can be made to set off an alarm. A code can be copied and carried out.
Could codes be single use? That would largely get around the securing problem?
People would walk into the store, write down the code, go home and download the book.
What about one-time scratch codes like what's used on gift cards?
Those are usually activated by the retailer. I'd love for us to be able to do that, but it would involve more than I can do.
Another issue with this is that if I did it, I would need it to work for indy booksellers and not just Amazon/Barnes & Noble.
Can you sell the digital copy at http://tor.com, which provides a coupon for the hardcover?
This is actually what I proposed to Tor a few years back, and they said they didn't want to offend the retailers.
I still like the idea, though.
I won't have time to reply to everyone here, but keep sending thoughts. I'll read and see if I can come up with something to take to Tor.
How about this: Put the code in the book. Don't secure it. Each code works three times. Hope people don't abuse it.
That risks punishing the person who buys the book (but their code has been stolen and used.)
More on the A Memory of Light ebook thing. What would you guys think if I tried to talk Tor into a 'special edition' release.
A kind of 'boxed set' that came with hardcover, ebook, audiobook, a medallion or other keepsake, and maybe some interviews with me & Harriet.
Shrink wrapped & sold at bookstores for, say, $50 instead of $30? Does that get too far away from the 'free ebook w/the hardcover' concept?
It does seem to defeat the purpose, as far as most people would be concerned. Though many would buy it.
A Memory of Light e-book release announced with three month gap. Can you explain the rationale behind this? Lot of vitriol on Tor site.
Harriet worries, among other things, at the impact on the bestseller lists by releasing at the same time.
Ebooks make her uncomfortable.
Making us wait three three months for the A Memory of Light ebook is very obnoxious and shows contempt for the fan base. I have been reading...
...WOT since 1992 and deeply resent this type of staggering.
I've been working on it. The delay is not Tor, but Harriet, who worries at the implications of releasing an ebook immediately.
She originally wanted a six month, or longer, delay. I was able to persuade her to move to three months.
Will the kindle edition of A Memory of Light be released at the same time, as the hardcover?
I'm afraid that Harriet has decided there should be a delayed ebook release.
Brandon you do a lot of interesting stuff with publishing formats like Warbreaker being free, I know you talked recently about bundling the last, the last book with an ebook and a hardcover. So what kind of stuff do you see happening as far as future and what do you like as far as formats?
I think a lot of exciting things are happening, one thing I think is happening is, is the digital revolution is changing things a lot and I think this is gonna let people like me get away with more things. For one thing, digitally our lengths don't matter as much. Theoretically, I doubt we'd be able to pull this off but theoretically, we could do something like re-release Gathering Storms, Towers of Midnight and A Memory of Light reordered with their chapters in the original order as before they were split ,which i think would be awesome. You could release that as one book which in print you never could do, so length shenanigans are sort of things we can do.
I also like the idea of bundling. I think eventually I'm going to be able to convince people to do this. I would love to do something like what we've seen in movies and in records, where we release a really nice special edition of a book with a hardcover and an included ebook copy, with included audio book copy and like something like a book-end or a medallion or like an art book something that we release just for- and you know make it expensive like a two hundred and fifty dollar product that comes signed and numbered and all this stuff. We can do that, and at the same time release a very cheap ebook for those who just don't have the cash for that, or don't have the interest. I think that by doing that we can allow the people who want a really nice collectors thing to pay what they want, and people who want a dollar ebook to pay that and we actually end up at the same amount of money that we're making, except everybody’s happier.
So I don't see why we wouldn't be choosing these sorts of things, there are just so many questions and the big one is we don't want to disenfranchise retailers. A lot of particularly independent bookstores stuck with us over the years and you know a lot of these stores are wonderful in that they will grab new authors like me when I was brand new and really promote them and get behind them and do these wonderful things for them, and we don't want to do anything where we are cutting them out of the loop. I really want there to be strong independent bookstores in the coming years because I think it's really important for the genre, so we have to find a way to work all of this with them at the same time.
Not sure why there's still confusion. It's Nynaeve and Moiraine on the back cover. The yellow and blue dresses should make that apparent. Nynaeve's hair is obviously shorter than it used to be.
I spoke to Michael about the cover as he was finishing it. Since he didn't have the opportunity to read all fourteen books for the assignment, I was one of the people he leaned on to fact check his work.
Michael mentioned there are details the readers (like me) wouldn't be privy to yet. For example, Nynaeve takes the bulk of her jewelry off before this scene.
Callandor is a sword that isn't a sword, right? He's not holding it for defense. It's a source of power as well as his source of light (there's a clue about that in the lighting on his face). He's shielding his eyes as he stares in to the pit. Apparently, the deeper he goes into Shayol Ghul, the brighter it shines.
A little background that some might not know... Michael has studied martial arts, including Filipino Kali and Arnis. The forearm slash position actually has some utility in fights with bladed weapons.
Compositionally, the line of the sword is another element that draws you into the intensity of Rand's stare. Further, the opening of the cave is the shape of an eye; the eclipse suggests an iris. It's as if the gaze of the Dark One is falling on Rand. We see his strength and determination in response. How many illustrators can convey that kind of depth in a scene?
Say what you will, but I think Michael brought a lot to the plate on what was a very difficult cover assignment. He put his stamp on Rand while producing a cover that fits well with the first thirteen that DKS painted.
Thanks for confirming that. However, Nynaeve's hair is still the wrong color and, while it's shorter after the Aes Sedai testing in Towers of Midnight, it should still be in a shoulder-length braid. She never gave up her signature braid. That's why many people don't think it looks like Nynaeve—the braid is the main thing that would identify her as Nynaeve to the readers.
The loose light hair makes the woman on the cover look more like Alivia, who many fans believe is the woman in yellow. So I'm still of the opinion that Whelan did not do a good job with Nynaeve if longtime fans don't even recognize her. I think it's a beautiful cover, but as a reader, the main thing I care about is seeing the characters—who we have been reading about for twenty years—done right, not so much whether the cave looks realistic or happens to symbolize the Dark One spying on Rand. So it's disappointing that Nynaeve ended up virtually unrecognizable. She doesn't even wear yellow dresses in the books, despite being Yellow Ajah (she makes a point of wearing green or blue since that's what Lan likes), so that's not something that makes the woman's identity apparent either.
If you don't mind me asking (not trying to be rude here, it just strikes me as a bit strange), why did Whelan rely on fans to check his work instead of Team Jordan? I'm assuming you work for Tor, but you refer to yourself as a reader who hasn't read the book. To what extent were Brandon Sanderson and Team Jordan involved with the creative process behind this cover?
I was just one of the people helping with the details. Obviously Michael had Irene Gallo's art direction and was in contact with editors including Harriet.
Michael's wife Audrey usually serves as his sounding board, but she hadn't read the books. (For the record, I'm not affiliated with TOR. I've worked with Michael since the mid 90s, primarily on his website.) I'm a WoT fan and that's the kind of feedback Michael was looking for... someone he knew who had read the previous thirteen books.
Michael and I did discuss Nynaeve's dress color. I mentioned that she catered to Lan's color preference of green and blue. The yellow of her Ajah usually came in slashes of color, accents if I recall correctly.
Like I said, I haven't read the manuscript for A Memory of Light and Michael couldn't talk about it. But I distinctly recall Nynaeve taking pride in being a true Aes Sedai finally. Going into the Last Battle, I don't think it's a stretch that she would choose yellow. I suppose we'll have to RAFO on that.
In the background information I provided, I described Nynaeve's hair color as darker brown and referenced previous covers (among them the Melanie Delon's cover for A Crown of Swords that drew criticism for being too red).
I'd have to ask him why he chose lighter highlights. Just my speculation here, but Callandor is a light source. There's also illumination from the eclipse filtering in from the mouth of the cave to consider.
Michael got the length of Nynaeve's hair right, and this isn't simply opinion. Hopefully Brandon or Harriet will confirm at some point that her shoulder length hair was too short to braid.
Interestingly, Michael and I spoke about the challenge of pulling character descriptions from the text. If you're familiar with his illustration, he's known as a stickler for details. But it isn't always easy to translate text literally, especially when Jordan and Sanderson contradict in their description.
In correspondence, Michael wrote,
"Major characters are described as diminutive in size, yet 'commanding' in presence. Faces are youthful, yet ageless. Or young but having eyes full of wisdom of the ages. Rand is tall and manly, yet has an almost "feminine" beauty in his eyes or mouth. It's a bit confusing how one is supposed to render such conflicting elements."
Honestly, I don't mind the nitpicking. Criticism comes with the territory. My point in responding is to state that Michael was mindful of details here. There's evidence of it in the painting. I can tell you that he had Moiraine's kesiera and Nynaeve's ki'sain accounted for before I even spoke to him.
On a personal note, I had the privilege of meeting Robert Jordan before a signing on the Knife of Dreams tour. One of the things we talked about was the cover art for the series. I think Mr. Jordan would be pleased with this one. Obviously Harriet was when she said, "that is the Rand I have waited to see for twenty years."
Firstly, thank you very much for the thorough answer. It answered many of my questions, and it was also interesting to hear more about the creative process behind the cover.
[Nynaeve's hair] got singed off "a handspan below her shoulders" (Towers of Midnight ch 20), and she wore a shoulder-length braid in every scene she was in after the Aes Sedai testing. That's why it seemed odd for her signature braid to be missing on the cover. I don't really care about the dress or even much about the hair color, but Nynaeve isn't Nynaeve without her braid—it's part of who she is. It's like Mat showing up without his hat and ashandarei. And the ki'sain is too small to be visible, so it doesn't do anything to make the woman on the cover look more like Nynaeve.
I also wish Nynaeve and Moiraine hadn't been delegated to the background/back cover—since they're going to be linked with him, they deserve to stand at his side. But that's not an error, just something I wish were different.
However, while the cover isn't what I hoped for, I understand and deeply appreciate that you and Whelan both worked incredibly hard on it, and Whelan remains one of my favorite illustrators. I think he did a wonderful job with Rand.
I appreciate the sentiment but Michael did the actual work. He pushed his calendar aside this spring to make the cover happen. I was just support. But I will admit it took a lot of restraint on my part not to inundate him with questions that I knew he couldn't answer, so there is that.
As readers, we all have so much invested in this series that I completely understand what you're saying. I love Brandon's work, but I felt Towers of Midnight was a bit of a letdown, especially the resolution with Moiraine.
Moiraine has always been a favorite of mine. I would have liked to see her on the front cover as well. Thankfully Dan Dos Santos gave us that in his brilliant cover for The Fires of Heaven.
I think MRJackson & Mr. Whelan made a very good point, in that we have not yet read this book. By the time this scene happens, we may see several other events that make sense of the seeming discrepancies. Specifically, there are only two scenes after Nynaeve's testing which mention her braid, and in both cases it is specifically noted that it is too short and she finds it quite annoying. Quite possibly she'll meet up with Lan and find out that he likes it loose, or she'll simply decide that it's too irritating to fuss with a too-short braid, and we'll see her with loose hair in several scenes before this.
Someone was bothered earlier by the missing jewelry—but now we know that she specifically and deliberately removed the jewelry before this scene, probably so that someone else could use them. (That's what happened during the Cleansing; why not here as well?) Seems to me that we should make the assumption that the same kind of thing might happen with The Braid, instead of insisting that she should look like she did in the previous book, and claiming any discrepancies as mistakes. Such claims are not only rude, they are unfounded. Once the book is out and we've read the whole thing, we might have grounds for nitpicking; until then, not so much.
MRJackson—Thank you for your contributions, both to this thread and to Mr. Whelan.
Glad to be of help. Maybe someday we'll find closure in the great braid debate...
Seriously though, Michael painted Nynaeve's hair at that length (without a braid) for a reason. I wasn't trying to sidestep debate. I was expressing certainty. Michael was aware that the braid was an identifying feature of her character. The painting turned out the way it did through a long process that involved editorial input. I'll leave it at that.
I look at it this way (and this is my opinion)... Nynaeve has grown enormously through the books. She was always uniquely powerful, but it took time for her to grow into that power. More so, it took a dozen books to accept herself and decide who she wanted to be.
Nynaeve worked through enormous difficulty to channel reliably. Remember how she used to tug on that braid? It really was a symbol of who she used to be. Kind of fitting that the symbol is gone.
Old habits die hard, of course, but she isn't that girl tugging on her braid any more. She's a woman who fought to gain acceptance as an Aes Sedai, and she's going to stand at Rand side to face the Dark One. It's impressive how far she's come as a character.
The Fires of Heaven ebook cover was definitely one of the best, though there were a few things the artist got wrong (Moiraine does not have blue eyes). The New Spring cover was great too, especially Lan. It's mostly Nynaeve who has suffered bad luck with the ebook covers. There's A Crown of Swords where she got red hair and Lan looked like an underwater zombie, Winter's Heart where she didn't appear at all despite being linked with Rand for the Cleansing, The Path of Daggers where she got a Saldaean nose and Elayne looked suspiciously like Jean Grey...
I think much of my disappointment with the A Memory of Light cover stems from the fact that there's already an earlier cover (Winter's Heart) where Rand claimed the stage and his female linking partner was left out. "Hero poses manfully brandishing some kind of phallic object" is a pretty tired concept, especially on WoT covers. Rand does the same on Sweet's The Dragon Reborn and The Path of Daggers, the ebook covers for The Dragon Reborn, Winter's Heart, Knife of Dreams... Winter's Heart is probably the worst offender, if you look at the placement of the Choedan Kal. ;)
Sweet's A Memory of Light cover was a welcome break from that—I'm not usually a fan of Sweet's covers, but I liked that he gave Elayne, Min, and Aviendha a prominent role and added some emotion to the cover. So I really would have liked to see something different on the final cover, like Rand having the two women from the Callandor circle at his side. Here, Nynaeve and Moiraine are present, but only in the background, and not at all on the ebook cover.
The only female lead who held the cover spotlight on par with the men was Moiraine, and that is a shame.
There was definitely opportunity to feature Nynaeve linked with Rand on Winter's Heart. Despite the hair, I liked Nynaeve on the cover of A Crown of Swords. Lan not so much. The Path of Daggers was another miss, mostly because the colors were a distraction. I thought I was looking at an X-Men cover. Even if that was intentional, it didn't work for me.
I can only assume Rand was intended to stand at center stage alone on the last cover, but I think what you suggest would have been great too. Moiraine and Nynaeve definitely earned their place at Rand's side on the front.
That was a beautiful description of why Nynaeve is one of the most compelling characters in the series. She and Moiraine kept me invested during some dark years of almost giving up on WOT. I always hoped they would be the other Callandor channelers, as I could not imagine Rand putting himself in such a vulnerable position with anyone else. Aviendha, Min and Elayne included, though I do love Aviendha! So thank you for shedding light on why some things are portrayed as they are on this excellent new cover. Just don't think that it will put a dent in the debate. ;)
Thanks. I feel much the same way about those characters, and I'm sure the debate will keep going on well after the publication of A Memory of Light.
I'm sorry I don't have more specific WoT posts for you—I know that Harriet prefers me to be more closed-mouthed. However...
Maria from Team Jordan has finished her revision notes for the entire book, as has Harriet herself. So we're only waiting on Alan's notes.
As he's playing "Great Captain" for me on A Memory of Light, his notes are vital—and he needs to be detailed. When I get them, I can finish revising.
Sooooo...there might be a sooner release date than the current for January?
It is possible, but I don't know how likely.
Darn, I need to haste to be ready for A Memory of Light once it releases. Is there gonna be a ebook version along with the physical book?
(Winces.) Harriet has a distrust of ebooks; she prefers to delay the release. It is her call. (Ebook is a few months later.)
Do we have chapter names yet? Or do you know how many chapters there will be? Or is that a secret?
No chapter names yet, as it won't be until this draft is finished that I settle on the number of chapters. Some are being combined.
I'm truly hoping this book is 1/3 battles/fights.
More than 1/3, I'd say...
Forgive me for not understanding, but what does this mean? Release date's not going to change, is it?
Probably not. It's just a progress update, so people know things are still moving behind-the-scenes.
How's The Stormlight Archive coming? I need more.
A Memory of Light comes first. I will get to the next Stormlight book soon, but not until A Memory of Light is done to my satisfaction.
So this means we will be reading the final volume sooner than first announced?
It is possible, but I don't know how likely. I still need to do two drafts, I feel. Then there are beta reads, then proofreads, then we need at least two months to get the books printed and shipped.
What does it take to be one of the beta readers?
Be one of the major members of fandom for years, and personally know Harriet. (Sorry.)
Of course, the comic industry isn't quite the same as the publishing industry, as Marvel and DC both have their own apps on the iPad/Android. No middle-man. But I can't believe that the publishing industry hasn't considered a solution like this to keep paper books relevant. In fact, I feel like Barnes and Noble would jump all over something like this: Buy a book in their store, and get a free (or even a $1) digital copy on the Nook.
It's an issue that I've busted my mind trying to figure out. There are several ways to do this, all somewhat problematic.
1) Work directly with someone like B&N. This requires them to sell the digital copy alongside the print edition, probably at the register. Kind of a "Oh, you bought the hardcover. Would you like the digital add-on for a buck?" Then they give you a slip of paper with your digital code on it. There are huge logistical issues here. Not insurmountable, but still tough. How many books do you do this with? All new books? How do you keep all of those slips separate? Do you have a machine that prints one with a code? Who pays for the infrastructure? What happens to all of those slips once a book rotates out of being new? We already have trouble with advance copies being snatched by booksellers (or other) and offering them up for sale on ebay when they were intended to be review copies. (Printed at a high cost and given for booksellers to read.) I could see this, without careful management, going the same way.
Also, what about all of your independent booksellers who are already up in arms about B&N and Amazon getting all of the preferential treatment? What do you do about them? Let them give away an ebook too? It would have to be multi-format, and that means printing and shipping them all the slips on your end.
2) Print a code in the book itself. Easiest answer, I think, but it offers a huge problem. Books are not usually a sealed product. People like to flip through them on the shelves. So how do you hide the code? Make it inactive until it is scanned at the register, like some gift cards? I don't know how much work is required for this. It seems like less than the one above, but still requires and infrastructure change.
This is much, MUCH easier to do with a sealed product like DVDs or CDs.
If anyone has suggestions on how to make this all work, I'd love to hear them. I've proposed giving away digital copies of my books with the hardcovers before, and Tor as scratched its head trying to figure out how to make it all work.
Edits: Logical flow, typo fixes.
EDIT TWO: It has been mentioned on twitter that maybe, a code could be printed on the receipt. Much easier than a method I mentioned above—but the problem remains that it's not something that I can do alone. I MIGHT be able to get a code in my books, if we can secure them somehow. I alone can't get retailers to change so they print something out and give it to a customer. I'm mostly curious about something I can take to Tor, as a suggestion, that we could maybe get to work for the last Wheel of Time book or my future hardcover releases.
What about the system Baen uses? They include a CD with the book in multiple formats already.
Granted, that increases the overhead for the publisher. And the ISO is able to be spread online.
I'm intending to try this again. When I asked last time, they were hesitant because of the cost. (About a buck.) However, that was for one of my books before I hit the level of popularity I have now. The Wheel of Time is something else entirely. Something that might be prohibitive for another book because of small print runs could be much more cost effective here.
However, perhaps a code/CD plus shrink wrapping for certain books might be a good way to go. If we released most copies like normal, but did a certain percentage of them packaged like this with a code for a digital download, maybe it would work.
On this note does anyone know if the ebook release of A Memory of Light will be at the same time as the paper copy? I would prefer to buy it on my kindle over purchasing the physical copy.
She might not delay the launch this time. If she wants to, I might have a better chance of getting her to agree on a special edition with ebook included in the hardcover than I will persuading her to push the ebook launch up. It's one of the reasons I'm exploring this concept now.
Okay Mr. Sanderson, here are my two ideas, but I don't know if they are actually feasible.
Disclaimer: if it turns out I'm fantastic with these ideas, please forward me a copy of A Memory of Light in the next week.
1. Can you know just have two copies released at most stores? One copy would be the non-shrink-wrapped regular book. The other copy would be the 1-3$ more expensive shrink-wrapped copy with the digital code. Or keep the hardback copy+digital behind the counter.
2. Include a scratch-off-code in all the books, but sell the copy at the normal price. The code will require a 3$ activation fee when you activate it online. I realize that the possibility for theft is still there, but I would assume if someone is going to illegally scratch the code and pay 3$, torrenting the book would be the first choice.
Release A Memory of Light early. I know it will help.
1 is a fantastic idea. I've got Avenging Spider-man in my pull (which comes with the digital copy), and this is pretty much how they run it. Comic is in a sealed baggie. They don't offer a version without a digital copy (that I know of anyway) however.
I think your idea is the most feasible on here.
I think this is one of the main options I'm going to try.
Hello people of the internet. I`d like to introduce you to.... email.
Most retailers have them anyways. You buy a book, give your email.
Receive email with direct download link or (heaven forbid) a torrent to relieve stresses on sites selling fast selling books. Harry Potter comes to mind.
Done and done.
Edit: Most B&N stores, among others already use a web based sales format. They just need a small code entry to create a drop box. Containing the Distributor code, and book name.
I think Tor is more likely to want to use Tor.com as a method for this, as getting people to sign up for that (which is free, but includes an optional newsletter) could be valuable for them. When they gave out Mistborn for free, this was how the approached it. Sign up for our website, and we'll send you a book via email.
Scrap number 1. Independent booksellers are awesome. I bought your last book through one.
Print a code in the book itself. Good solution. Proper solution.
Your problem is that it's supposedly easy to "steal the code". This makes a massive assumption, and ignores existing evidence.
First, you aren't the first one to think of this. People already include codes for ebooks in their books. I know this is done fairly often in the tech industry (programming books often allow you to get access to an ebook. Granted, the market is much smaller than what you are probably used to by now, but the target market is also more tech savvy. They know how to pirate the book, even without the code.
And that brings us to the second point: pirating. People who would copy the code can easily obtain your manuscript online already. In fact, getting the code would be far more trouble then it's worth. They have to go to a store, find a copy, write the code down, go all the way back home... or they could simply go one of a few places and have a copy in minutes.
So, this brings us to the third point: who would go to a book store with the expressed desire of picking up your book? Your fans! People who already buy and pay for your books. People who want you to write more. People who want to see you finish your multiple series. And I'd be hard pressed to believe that your fans would open up a copy of the book, copy the code, and use that at home. They know what that costs them.
And even if they did, would they have really purchased your book? Really? What your suggesting is that someone who loves your work, who has followed it, goes to the bookstore with the expressed intention of copying the code and leaving. That's pretty far fetched. Even the MPAA and RIAA can't come up with numbers that support these sentiments (industries that, despite all the doomsayers, continue to grow and earn massive profits).
Yes, a few people might steal the code. And frankly, any system that accepts these codes will need to be lenient in the codes usage. But the reality is this:
1.People will violate your copyright, code or no code.
2.Having a code won't make it any easier.
3.Having a code will only provide additional value to your paying readers.
In the end, the only people who would abuse this are people that weren't going to buy the book at first anyways. You should try this out. You might be surprised.
I don't disagree with anything you've said here. However, you've got to understand that I need to deal with the realities of a large business with investors and corporate overseers.
Tor is not afraid of piracy, as I've said elsewhere. They give away DRM-free books, and have done so with mine. They let me give away on my website one of my books DRM-free in its entirety two years before it was released in stores. However, accepting that people will pirate and hosting the method they will use to pirate are different things entirely.
The Wheel of Time is not something that the publisher wants to experiment with. It is a known quantity, the biggest bestseller for the company by a mile. Things we could get away with for a new author that the company views as being 'built' are not going to work for the Wheel of Time simply because this will have a 'why rock the boat?' kind of attitude.
That's why I'm looking for something for this book that won't rock the boat quite so much. We can rock the boat on my own books, which are still growing, rather than the company's baby.
It used to be that producing a book a year was sufficient, even productive, but now it seems if you’re not getting at least two or three books out there every year to feed the cavernous maw of impatient e-readers, you’re too slow and the tide will just pass you by. What do you think of the difference between e-books and traditional publishing?
Authors are doing some interesting things in e-books. One thing you’re noticing is that in e-books—probably for pricing reasons—the books are growing shorter and coming out faster. It’s moving closer to a much older model, where you would release serialized editions of books that were more like episodes rather than an entire novel. Some of the market is going that way. I think it’s just a different model; I don’t necessarily think it’s going to be the only model. It’s just a new and interesting thing that e-books are doing.
Is there a pressure that has developed from traditional publishers for their authors to be pushed towards more production? When should an author consider self-publishing instead of trying to land a book deal in NY? Should one self-publish while trying to land that book deal and use potential sales numbers as part of the pitch?
I don’t feel that there has been any push from New York to publish books at any different speed at all. In fact, one of the main reasons to publish with New York as opposed to self-publishing is if you are an author who doesn’t write at least one book a year. If we’re to take The Way of Kings as an example, there’s no way that I’m going to be producing 400,000-word epic fantasies as fast as a lot of the self-published writers can put out books. There’s no way that anyone could have made that book at that speed. It’s a book that takes a year, maybe eighteen months to write. So for long epic fantasies, New York certainly has some things going for it.
One of the reasons that it’s really good to publish fast and short when you’re doing self-publishing is that you don’t have any sort of marketing push behind you. You don’t have bookstore shelf presence, which is one of the major forms of marketing—people seeing your book there on the shelves. Word of mouth is always the most important thing, but it becomes even more important for the self-published writer. Publishing quickly and getting a lot of books out helps to get your name in more places in the market and helps to push some of that momentum through. That seems to be the key way to make it as a self-published writer.
When would I self-publish versus New York-publish? I would not abandon either model. Self-publishing has proved itself so viable recently that if I were a new writer, I would be looking at doing both at the same time. Maybe taking the longer, more epic-style books to New York and doing the faster-paced, more thriller-style books online, and seeing what works best.
So the expansion of the e-book market gives you more places to go. That said, if you’re not a particularly fast writer, self-publishing is going to be a very hard route for you because everything I’ve seen—granted, I’m not an expert on this; there are places to go other than me for expertise—shows that being able to produce quickly is a key factor in being a successful self-published author in this market.
How long does it take to be forgotten in this fickle book market, and what should an author be doing to prevent it?
It depends on your method. What you’re getting at here is the balance between promotion and just writing the next book. That’s a balance authors have had to work with for decades, if not centuries—the idea being that promoting your book keeps it in people’s minds. Right now you can do that through engaging blog posts, being on Twitter, going to conventions, doing book signings, and all of these things. They take time. If they take so much time that you’re not writing your next book, then the question becomes are they worth it?
Do you want all your eggs in one basket? Do you want to write one book and then spend the whole year promoting it, trying to get it to take off, or do you want to, in that time, write three books and try to get one of the three to take off? I don’t think there’s any right answer; they’re both valid ways to go. You could end up writing that one book and, with your promotion, turn it into a big success that builds a name for you. Or you could be in hindsight wasting your time promoting it when it never ends up taking off.
So you have to find the right balance for yourself. Part of the question that I would ask myself is, are you an engaging blogger? Can you write interesting things on a topic and build a platform that is not just about “Buy my book!”? Would it be something interesting and fun for people to read, and can you leverage that to make people interested in your writing? If you can, then blogging would certainly be helpful to you.
If you bought Legion hardcover, send me a picture of you and the book/receipt and I'll give you the e-book FREE!
I told people I was trying to figure out how to do this with A Memory of Light. I failed there—the publishing end of that book is too far out of my hands. I can at least do it with stories for which I own the electronic rights.
The sad thing is, this shouldn't actually be news. It should be the standard. I feel that publishing should have figured out how to make this work already.
The next step is to figure out how to make this happen for my Tor books.
As a personal opinion, how good do you feel A Memory of Light is? I feel like I've been waiting for this book since I was a child. As a side note, I just finished The Way of Kings and have been told it will be a 10 book series which makes me worry when it's done I'll feel like I do about A Memory of Light right now.
On The Way of Kings: If it helps, it's two five book arcs. The first five will draw to a natural conclusion. (Kind of how Mistborn one comes to its own conclusion, then two and three are in another arc.)
A Memory of Light is good. How good? Hard to say. I don't know that any book can live up to two decades of anticipation—or, at least, I don't know that any book I write can manage that. I think it will hold its own with the other two I've done, and then will have Robert Jordan's own ending on it, which makes it feel RIGHT to me. I won't try to falsely inflate the book, however. I did my best with it; I hope it is a worthy capstone to the series. The ending sequences are majestic. Some of the lengthy war chapters may drag for some people, though.
Is the ebook date set in stone by now, or is there a chance of it changing?
For Legion or A Memory of Light? I guess I don't need to ask, since they're both pretty set at this point. I wish I could get A Memory of Light earlier (or at the very least, get an ebook sold with the physical copy.) However, I am not in charge of these decisions, and this book doesn't seem the one to use for rocking of the proverbial boat.
True, of course. Thanks for your interactions with the community!
Okay, so it looks like Tor has managed to get hold of English language rights to the prologue in some other countries. It looks like the list does NOT include Australia/UK/Ireland/New Zealand. That would be because Orbit has the rights there.
This isn't my doing—my emails only went out late last night, and this would already have to have been in the works—but many of you should now be able to buy it on Amazon.
I'll keep working on the above mentioned countries. It feels like a strange thing to be fighting for, since I think the prologue should have been free in the first place, but it seems this is enough a point of annoyance for some readers that it's worth me pushing on.
I can't download it from anywhere, it seems. I wouldn't dream of torrenting this under normal circumstances, but there are spoilers all over the internet, and dammit, I have been waiting for well over a decade for the end of this story. I want as much information as I can get—to finish the story, to participate in online communities such as this, and to be able to highfive my bro because its all so awesome. Teasers and pre-released materials are awesome, but it really isn't cool that we have to wait because the publishers can't sort their shit out.
Here is my suggestion—Mistborn, post the damn thing on reddit, please. I cannot imagine that you are content to let fans miss out because of legal wranglings about copyright, so throw caution to the wind and fix this for your European fans if you can!
If it were my own book, I'd do so. It's not mine, however. I don't own it—and it's not just about copyright. It's about my respect for Harriet, and my word of honor to her.
I've said before that I am not, personally, a fan of selling the prologue in the first place. I don't like the idea of people paying twice for the same content. This choice, however, is not mine to make either.
The only thing I can think to do is personally contact the UK publisher, who owns the rights to distribute the book in English everywhere outside of North America, and ask if something can be worked out. I'll try. If I get anywhere, I'll post an update in /r/WoT.
If you really want something to happen, you could also contact Orbit UK and ask if they'd be willing to let it be sold on Dragonmount, with the proceeds going to them.
So how long is the series going to be? RJ's answers from 95–06
Friend of mine posted this on Dragonmount and I got a kick out of it, a timeline of RJ's estimates on just how many books the series was going to be:
He still isn't sure how long WoT will go on for, saying probably seven books but adding that when The Eye of the World first came out he saw the series as four books.
"At present I am indeed hoping to complete the cycle in either seven or eight books. I am 90% confident that I can do it in seven, 95% confident that I can by eight. The thing is, as a famous manager of an American baseball team once said: 'It ain't over till it's over.'"
"It will last several more books, until I reach the last scene, which has been in my head since the very beginning."
"I do hope there will not be ten books all told. I'm planning for eight, at present, and hope very strongly that I can wrap it all up in that length."
He said he writes as the ideas come and he has no clue as to how long the series will be!
"I knew from the start that I was writing something that would be multiple books. I just never knew how many, exactly."
Not only did he decline to set the number of future WoT books, but he denied ever setting a number and says he never planned it to be only a trilogy. But he seemed to indicate he was planning 9-10 books total. When faced with the prospect of about twelve books, his wife threatened to divorce him and his editor began to make jokes about the Irish Mafia.
"Several. Some. A few. I'm not even speculating now on how many books I hope it will take, because every time I do mention a number I hope I can finish it in, it turns out to take longer. It will be at least eight, because I've signed the contracts for books seven and eight."
"I've stopped saying how many more books there will be."
"At one time, I did hope for eight; now I don't think so. I certainly hope (Please, God!) it doesn't go to ten books, but I have stopped saying anything except that I will write until I reach the last scene of the last book, which scene has been in my head from the beginning."
"There will be a few more books, some, not a lot, hopefully fewer than seven more."
"It will be at least ten books, yes. There will be some more books, not too many, and please God, not so many as I've already written. I am, in truth, writing as fast as I can. I want to maintain the pace of the story until I reach the final scene, which has been in my head since before I started writing The Eye of the World."
1997"There will be at least three more books. I'm not saying that there will be ONLY three. I'm saying that I can't finish in fewer than three."
"I believe—believe!—there will be three more books. I am trying to finish up as soon as possible, but I cannot see how to do it in fewer than three books. That isn't a guarantee, mind! In the beginning, I thought that there would be three or perhaps four books total, but it might go to five, or even six, though I really didn't believe it would take that long. It wasn't a matter of the story growing or expanding, but rather that I miscalculated—brother, did I!—how long it would take to get from the beginning to the end. I've known the last scene of the last book literally from the beginning. That was the first scene that occurred to me. Had I written it out 10 years ago, and then did so again today, the wording might be different, but not what happens. It has just taken me longer to get there than I thought."
"When I finished A Crown of Swords, I said it would take me at least three books more to finish. Now that I have completed The Path of Daggers, it looks like it will take me at least three more books to finish. Believe me, guys, I'm trying as hard as I can to get there as fast as I can."
"I don't have a set amount of books planned. I believe it will take at least three more books to reach the ending that I have known for more than 15 years."
"Remember, after A Crown of Swords I said at least three more books....the same thing I say now."
The usual "at least three more books" was mentioned several times in an increasingly loud voice.
"I am only asked that question by about 300 people a day. The answer is that there will be at least three more books. At least. As I said earlier, I know everything that I want to happen and I have known the last scene of the last book for fifteen years. I also know that I cannot get everything that I want to happen into less than three more books. So that's where we stand at the moment."
Firstly, RJ said three more books "at least" and that he'd try to do it in three if he could, but he couldn't promise it would be only three. And he said he thought it would take "at least five years".
"Sigh! At least three more. I know I've said that before, but it's still the case."
"It still sits at three more books to finish, but I've always said from the time I began using the three books that it would be AT LEAST three books—that I'd try to finish in at least three books, but I couldn't promise. I know that I couldn't possibly finish in fewer than three. If I can finish in three, I will. But that's what I'm hoping for, what I'm trying for. NOT a promise."
"There is no set number. It takes as much space as it takes."
The next book will be out very soon after he's finished writing it. He don't know how many more books there'll be. At least three. If he can finish it in three, he will.
There will be no more than five, but also no less than another three books to be expected to appear in The Wheel of Time series.
"There will be at least three more books. The next book will be in bookstores very shortly after I finish writing it, and Michael Jordan is my kid brother whom I taught to play basketball."
"After Crossroads of Twilight, there will be two more books, knock wood, God willing and the creek don't rise. I never intended The Wheel of Time to be this long. The story is progressing the way I planned, but from the beginning I believed I could tell it in many fewer words, many fewer volumes."
"I think twelve."—Harriet
When asked "how many more books?", which of course met great laughter, he responded that he had started the process intending to have only five or six. Now on book 10, he remarked that he would complete the series in two more books if at all possible. If not, then three.
Jordan showed up around 7, and gave a little speech. He said there will be at least two books, and that he will not write a word more than he has to."How many more books will there be? There will be at least two more books. I apologize for that. I cannot finish it in fewer books. I will try to finish it in two more. I have known the last scene of the last book since 1984. I know where I'm going. The problem is...[my tape is once again inaudible and this was one of the few parts of his speech I could not hear, sorry gang]. That's about it."
"I really hope—knock wood, spit over your shoulder, and sacrifice to the gods—that I can finish up in twelve books total. We shall see."
"No, at least two more books, I'm afraid....I've had some people say they'd like five or ten, but I generally throw something at them."
"I hope—please God, are you listening?—that there will be only two more books in the main sequence."
"I very much hope to finish in two more main sequence books. It's not an absolute promise, but I'm very much hoping for it and I think I can do it."
"I sincerely hope it will be possible to tie everything up in two books."
There is only one book left in the series but it will be a doozy. He will fight to prevent it from being "George R.R. Martined," or split for publication.
"I am committed it is going to be 12 books, even if it is fifteen hundred pages long and it requires you to bring a luggage cart to get it out of the store. Bring your knapsack, you may need it, because no matter what the case that is going to be it."
"One more—the twelfth book. That will be so even if that book has to be 2000 pages in hardcover, and require a luggage cart and shoulder strap to get it out of the store."
"I have said it before and will say it again. There will be one more book. Even if it has to be a 1500 page book. It will be the last book even if you have to use a luggage cart to move it."
"For Segovia, my intention is finish with twelve books, and that may mean that the last book will be VERY long, but I really can't say how long it will take me to write. My publisher is always trying to get me to commit to a time frame. I just do a little sand dance until he goes away. I carry a small bottle of sand with me in New York for exactly that purpose."
Book Twelve will end the main sequence if he has to personally go to New York and beat the publishers at Tor, even if it runs two thousand pages and they have to invent a new way to bind the books (shudder). There will be two more prequels a la New Spring, and there might—very big MIGHT—be another trilogy in the same universe.
First, "the next book will be out very shortly after I'm done writing it." Next, "the next book will be the last book, even if it's 2000 pages, and you need a luggage cart to carry it out of the bookstore."
"Can we all say it together? One more book. I don't care if it has to be 2000 pages and you have to wheel it out the door. One more book."
"After Knife of Dreams, there's going to be one more main-sequence Wheel of Time novel, working title A Memory of Light. It may be a 2,000-page hardcover that you'll need a luggage cart and a back brace to get out of the store. (I think I could get Tor to issue them with a shoulder strap embossed with the Tor logo, since I've already forced them to expand the edges of paperback technology to nearly a thousand pages!) Well, it probably won't be that long, but if I'm going to make it a coherent novel it's all got to be in one volume."
Ah, and what a marvelous 2,000 page book it would have been. I was really shooting for this. Turns out, however, that I don't have the influence that RJ did, and couldn't persuade the publisher that printing a 2,000+ page book was viable. You'll have to be satisfied with three 800 pagers instead.
I do kind of hope we'll be able to do a cut of the volume in ebook where I weave the three books back into one, which would fix some of the timeline confusion in Towers of Midnight, which was the big casualty of the split.
(I knew that, in all likelihood, a split would be mandated, and so I prepared for it by deciding on the three book split instead of a two book split, as I feel it fit the narrative flow better. However, I was working on Perrin when the first split happened, and didn't realize until afterward that by jumping back to the beginning of his story after finishing The Gathering Storm, I was going to create the issues it did with Tam.)
So you're planning on doing a Phantom Edit of your own work? I, for one, would be really interested to read something like this, but I think that what you lost in chronological clarity in the split, you gained in pacing and narrative clarity.
That said, you mentioned in a previous interview that The Gathering Storm's intensity also came from an awareness that your first effort in the Wheel of Time really needed to be a home run. Would your decisions regarding the narrative structure have changed if you didn't feel that pressure?
I wouldn't consider it a phantom edit, as I wouldn't be removing sections. I'd be moving them around, adding in a few deleted scenes. More like an extended edition mixed with pacing tweak.
I don't know how my decisions might have changed if I hadn't felt that pressure. I might have chosen to do Rand/Perrin in the first book and Egwene/Mat in the second book. Perrin/Mat have great stories in TofM—but they're not as focused as the ones for Rand/Egwene. I don't know. The timeline might have been even worse.
This is something I'd have to play with, if I were actually to attempt it, to even see if the narrative flow would work that direction now that I've made writing decisions with three books—instead of one—being the reality.
Now that I've finished reading A Memory of Light, I have to say, I think this would be an insane task. Mostly, The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight would be the things caught up in reorganizing, since A Memory of Light's timeline is internally consistent enough to justify things. It would also let you sprinkle the Black Tower POVs a bit more nicely throughout the trilogy, since the frontloading of that plot at the beginning of A Memory of Light is one of the few structural weaknesses I thought I saw.
In any case, congratulations! You've really done it! Those annotations will be fascinating, assuming you get permission to take it on.
You're right on the Black Tower structural weakness. I actually plotted that sequence to go all in Towers of Midnight, but ran up against deadlines and only did a few chapters of it. It would work far better moved earlier.
Thanks for reading. I'll see what I can do about annotations.
That makes a lot of sense. One gets the feeling that a lot of your writing was done with several different forces tugging you one way or another; collaboration can be tough, especially for artists who are used to working in the silence of their mind, and I can't imagine adding a massive fandom to that.
Seriously: congrats. Tai'shar...Utah? :)
Tai'shar Nebraska, actually. But I like Utah well enough. :)
Finally, a summary of some recent Wheel of Time news. The book comes out January 8th, but Dragonmount's Jason Denzel has read it and has written a response to the book in the form of a letter to Robert Jordan. (There are no spoilers.) Also, as has been done in years past, the prologue has been released as an ebook. It's available from Tor in this list of countries, and the UK publisher Orbit will release it in the other countries next week.
I'm still not a fan of charging people multiple times for the same content, but a prologue ebook has been established practice for the Wheel of Time for over a decade, and many readers feel the length of the prologue makes it worth the money. Still, this is something that's really only for the hardcore fans who just can't wait any longer. Most people will wait and that's perfectly okay. There will be free previews too; the first scene of the prologue is available here, and there are excerpts from chapter one and chapter eleven. Tor.com will release the whole first chapter sometime in the next few months, followed probably by an audiobook preview of chapter two. The wait is almost over, folks!
This post will be another run-down of a bunch of different topics.
Weller Book Works is once again handling a signing-by-mail for one of my releases. In this case, since The Emperor's Soul is already out in bookstores, it's going to run slightly differently. They are limiting it to 200 copies, and I'll be signing and numbering them the same day I do my in-store signing there, November 6th. They're also experimenting with cheaper shipping this time around (the book is a trade paperback and much smaller than my usual, which helps), and I hear that the email they sent out to people who ordered previous books says all orders must be done via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. And a note for those of you waiting on ebooks: the ebook will come out toward the beginning of November. Anyone who orders the print version can get a free copy of the ebook (as soon as my assistant Peter makes it) following the routine we used for the Legion ebook.
Why a delayed ebook release for A Memory of Light?
This is not my decision or Tor's decision, but Harriet's. She is uncomfortable with ebooks. Specifically, she worries about ebooks cutting into the hardcover sales. It isn't about money for her, as the monetary difference between the two is negligible here. It is about a worry that her husband's legacy will be undermined if sales are split between ebooks and hardcovers, preventing the last book of the Wheel of Time from hitting number one on either list. (Many of the bestseller lists are still handling ebooks in somewhat awkward ways.)
As the last books have all hit number one, she doesn't want to risk one of these not hitting number one, and therefore ending the series on a down note. (Even though each Wheel of Time book has sold more than its predecessor, including the ones I have worked on.) I personally feel her worries are unfounded, and have explained that to her, but it is not my choice and I respect her reasoning for the decision. She is just trying to safeguard Robert Jordan's legacy, and feels this is a very important way she needs to do so. After talking about the issue, we were able to move the ebook up from the originally planned one-year delay to instead come out this spring.
It will be a few months, I'm afraid. Harriet's decision, not Tor's or mine.
Will A Memory of Light be on iBooks on the 8th?
No, I believe it is April. Harriet insisted. I tried to get it simultaneous. This was the compromise.
Why such a delay for the ebook release?
Harriet is uncomfortable with ebooks. She wanted a year delay. We talked her into a few months.
Super annoyed that ebook versions of A Memory of Light don't come out until April 9th. Own all the other books in ebook form.
I wish it were our choice. Harriet insisted.
Wow, anger about the ebook is brutalizing those Amazon ratings.
Always does. I wish they would realize Tor couldn't change this, nor could I.
A Memory of Light is out today! Yay! On my way to the airport after a brief night's sleep. See some of you tonight in the Twin Cities.
Really??? Then why isn't it on my Nook?
Harriet insisted it be delayed on ebook.
Did anyone ask her why no ebook? Did she answer?
She is worried ebook sales would cause the hardcover to not sell enough to hit #1 on the bestseller lists.
I disagree, as does TOR, but it is her decision. Longer explanation on my blog tomorrow.
A Memory of Light not available on Kindle until April? What a stupid decision.
I'm afraid my hands are tied. Harriet insisted.
I have to say I didn't realize till this morning and was quite bummed. No more physical books get bought here.
I also do not buy physical books any longer. Just found out no Memory of Light ebook and I'm disappointed.
See the end of my blog post today.
@torbooks Please release A Memory of Light in electronic format. cc @BrandSanderson
See the end of my blog post today. Nothing I can do, I'm afraid.
Thanks for your openness. This says "rankings are more important than readers", but your explanation helps.
Well, Harriet doesn't get ebooks. She thinks they're like paperbacks. She figures if paperback readers will wait, why not ebook readers?
Just read about reasons for no ebook... There are now illegal copies everywhere... I am waiting to buy but am very disappointed.
I am very sorry. Wish I could do more.
Any idea when the Kindle or Nook edition of A Memory of Light?
April. (Explanation on my website. Terribly sorry about the delay.)
Your website says at the Atlanta signing priority "may be" given to those who purchased the book from hosting store.
Seems silly to deny loyal fans a chance for lack of buying the book at one specific store.
I used to be pretty annoyed by these kinds of restrictions (which are placed by the store, not by me or the publisher.)
Then I attended a signing with well over a hundred people, for which the store had to hire extra staff, stay open late...
And rearrange their store to accommodate. They sold six copies and lost money since everyone brought their Amazon books.
I can see how stores get annoyed by such things. It didn't used to happen, but e-sales have changed the game.
How do you think the digital space is changing the publishing industry?
It's doing a lot of things. It is making it easier for people who don't frequently read books to run across books. I'm hoping that people who love to play their Infinity Blade games will see the story there and download it, and remember that they once loved to read books. Because a lot of people who are playing games read occasionally. I've found that most people, when they read a good book, say, "Wow, I really do like reading great books. Why don't I do this more often?" It's just a factor of that it slips our mind or we don't find time, or video games and movies are really flashy and books are anything but flashy. But there's just a wonderful experience to reading a book. I think there's space for all of these things, and I hope that more people can discover and be reminded of why they love books.
It's also taking away some of the constraints. Book length is no longer as much of a factor as it used to be. You can have a really long book or a really short book, and the binding doesn't dictate the length of your story, which I really like.
What are the benefits of people becoming more comfortable consuming their books, games, etc. digitally?
Certainly there's just a convenience factor. In book sales, we lost a big convenience factor during the 90s and early 2000s, and that is that we lost mall stores. A lot of the bookstores in malls went away. And a lot of the distribution to little gas stations and corner stores went away, for various reasons that I can't explain in the length of this interview. Basically, our science fiction and fantasy books lost a lot of the places where readers could pick them up. As I said before, a lot of people when they run across a good book and start reading it, they love it. Yet now they don’t have as many opportunities to come across books. Recently they've been having to go to one of these big box stores, they have to make reading a destination. Because of that, all the people who would pick up a cool science fiction book that they would see in their corner store aren't reading anymore. Hopefully if we can show them books on their phone or in their game, they'll be reminded, and we can replace those distribution methods we lost with these new distribution methods where we can sell books for half the price and deliver them right to you in the moment of super convenience. I'm hoping this will encourage more people to look into our stories.
Let's talk about windowing. [Note: Windowing is the term used for spacing out the release dates of different formats of a book. Hardcover followed by trade or ebook, etc.] Harriet windowed this book, and there's a lot of misunderstanding about this. People think that we did it for some selfish reason.
No, it wasn't a selfish reason. The brick‑and‑mortar bookstores were very good to Robert Jordan throughout his career. They are having a hard time now. This was a chance for Robert Jordan to give back to people who had been very good to him for 20 years. That was really the main reason for the windowing.
When I began in this business, which was when dinosaurs roamed the earth, a hardcover would come out and you had to wait a year or more for a cheaper edition to come out. Even now it’s generally more than six months for a paperback to come out after the hardcover. In that context, a window of three months doesn't seem very onerous. It's a way of holding out a hand to the bookstores, where you can have book signings and meet other people who like books and, above all, where you can browse. It's very difficult to browse on the Internet. It's fine when you know exactly what book you want, but how can you have your eye caught by something in the next aisle that you'd never considered, like maybe a book called Knit for Dummies. "What's that? I want to go look at that."
It's so true. We grew up selling books this way. Sure, there's a new, wonderful way to reach more people, but we shouldn't ignore all the things that booksellers have done for us all these years. I understand Harriet's feelings, and I think it's wonderful that she cares and wants to support the people who supported us over fourteen books.
And all the people who found it because they thought: "Gee, that cover looks interesting." Well, when you're online that opportunity doesn't quite exist in the same way.
No, you've got to look at too many things. You can't see it by accident, out of the corner of your eye as you walk around.
Hey there Brandon, thanks for doing another AMA!
Unpublished authors are often told that agents and publishers won't even look at a debut novel longer than 150k words. Your debut, Elantris, was considerably longer than that. How did you get your foot in the door? Was it just a query letter, or did you pitch the novel to someone at a convention/conference? If the former, would you mind sharing that query synopsis with us?
I pitched it at a convention. (World Fantasy Convention, which was in Montreal that year.) WFC does still tend to be one of the best places to meet editors/agents if you're interested in publishing with a mainstream publisher.
Elantris was 250k words, and I had a real rough time getting my foot in the door with it. The editor I met there let me pitch to him after we had a nice long conversation about the authors he was working on at the moment. Dan Wells, who was with me, also pitched and sent his book. His got read far more quickly than mine did. (His was far shorter.)
I waited eighteen months for a reply—so long, that I'd given up on the book. The editor said that every time he sat down to read slush, that enormous book intimidated him, so he picked something shorter to read. When he finally read Elantris, he only got two chapters in before he wanted to buy it—which is nice.
Editors have a love/hate relationship with huge books like this. The big ones do tend to drive the epic fantasy market, but they're more expensive to produce than the short ones, and therefore more risky to take a chance on. I would never suggest writing your books shorter than you feel is the right length, but do realize that both readers and editors will cock an eyebrow at you if the length goes too long. They expect more payoff for the increased size.
Digital formats, fortunately, are helping change this perception. Size (either direction) is no longer as limiting as it once was.
Thanks for the reply! I was actually at WFC this past year and you gave me great advice about going to the room parties. It was definitely an experience.
I waited eighteen months for a reply—so long, that I'd given up on the book.
You have no idea how much a relief it is to hear you say that. Thank you. Currently playing the waiting game on a book I submitted, and I was getting worried. But knowing that it took so long for someone to get back to you and that the answer was in the positive put my mind at rest a little.Thanks again, look forward to seeing you in Connecticut in July!
It's perfectly acceptable to send a polite email to an editor if they've had your book for a long time. Just say that you're curious if it's still being considered, or if there's a chance it has been lost. (Usually, six months is the time to send this.)
What does pitching a book look like? I'm familiar with how that would work in the movie business, but I'd never considered it in the publishing realm.
P.S. love all of your books.
Usually, this is the two or three sentence explanation of a book you'd put in a query letter. It focuses on one idea in the book, kind of the 'concept." Not that different from a Hollywood pitch, only a little less...uh...Hollywood.
For Elantris it was something like "The Prince of a kingdom catches a terrible magical disease, and is locked away in a prison city with everyone else who has the disease. He works to bring unity, hope, and perhaps a cure to the city."
I get this question on occasion, and always feel the best thing for me to do is emphasize that I prefer you to buy the format that makes you the most happy. That way, you are encouraged to keep reading, and that is really what is best for me.
Most authors makes something around the following:
Hardcover, 15% of cover. (Regardless of store, unless it's a bargain book.)
Paperback, 8% of cover. (Regardless of venue.)
Ebook, 17.5% of the list price. (Unless they are self-published, and then it's usually 65-70% of list price.)
So, the best way to get money to an author is to buy the hardcover, preferably during launch week. (That influences how high the book gets on bestseller lists and how much in-store support it gets.)
However, I don't think that is something a reader needs to worry too much about. To be honest, rather than thinking about this, I think most authors would say that the best thing you can do for us is just read the books. Second best is to loan your copies to a friend so they can enjoy the books too.
With these percentages, were you then sharing/splitting it with the Robert Jordan estate for the Wheel of Time books?
Can I just send you money?
I suppose you could—but I'd rather you buy a copy of one of my books and give it to someone. If I have you send me money, then we work around all of the people who deserve their share for helping me out. (Like my agent and editor.)
Risky question time! How do you feel about those of us that buy your hardcover, then go and pirate the ebook?
* This comment is not an admission of guilt.
Risky answer time. I've got no problem with it. I wish I could actively give away the ebook to everyone who bought the hardcover. I can actually do this on books like Legion and The Emperor's Soul, where I retain rights to the ebook. (So I do.)
I'm not encouraging this, mind you. But I'm also not going to complain or make anyone feel guilty. If you've paid for the content once, I feel you should have access to it into the future, whenever you want, in any format you want. (With the exception being audiobook, where the voice actors deserve to be paid for their work above and beyond me getting paid for the writing.)
What about with audiobooks? I subscribe to Audible and I can't help notice the price I pay for my subscription makes the books I get a steal compared to buying them without subscription or buying actual discs. How does that work out for the authors?
Audible has done wonderful things for the audiobook market, helping the format gain a lot of popularity. But their prices ARE rock bottom. I don't know off-hand how much we make. I don't mind, however, because audiobooks in the past were so horribly expensive.
A few random pieces of catch-up news for today. The ebook for A Memory of Light came out this week, if you didn't notice. You can find it at the usual vendors.
Hi. Brandon, I know that you're a pretty big cheerleader of e-books.
And you two have had some discussions over the years about e-books. Could you just take a minute to talk about how specifically the e-books for these three novels kind of . . . evolved.
Yeah. Harriet has been in publishing a very long time, and understands publishing for a very long time. And e-books have kind of blindsided all of us. As she said earlier and has talked about, I swim in the net.
And Harriet does not.
He has gills.
He's very much at home in the e-world.
Harriet, early on with the books, was under the impression that e-books were like the paperback: that you release the hardcover and then a year later, you release the e-book and the paperback. And she was under the impression that was how it would work, and it's come as a surprise to many in the publishing industry that it doesn't work that way.
And let us talk about the elephant in the middle of the room, which is the window for A Memory of Light. The e-book won't be out until the beginning of April, a three month window. And that was my doing.
And I did it for the bookstores. I love bookstores. Bookstores are a vanishing breed. They're just going. Even, I understand, Barnes and Noble is talking about closing half their stores. This, to a freak like me, who just really has a thing for paper and bindings, is very ominous and sad. And I wanted to give the bookstores a break. Bookstores have been very good to Robert Jordan, all his career. And that's why there's a window.
I have been trying very hard to find ways that we can blend this. Because I really like books, too. In fact, I'm a big fan of a lot of the independent booksellers. You'll notice I went to them on tour. Dwayne's bookstore—U books—is one of my favorites.
Borderlands in San Francisco, and Mysterious Galaxy down in San Diego. These bookstores—these are places that supported me when I was brand new—these bookstores that have a focus on genre. You know, you would call some big bookstores and they'd be like, who are you? We're not interested. These bookstores are like, hey, a new author, we want to meet you. Come, and we will bring in our readers, and we will let you talk to them, and things like this. And it's a completely different experience.
And for a small genre like science fiction and fantasy, these stores mean a lot to us. Because, you know, the person at Costco is not going to read our books and sell our books. But Dwayne does. And you can go to Dwayne and you can say, hey what have you read lately? Or, what are people excited about? And he'll say, I read this, it's good. Or, this guy came and he was really nice, and here's what his book is about, and things like that.
And that is something in the small genres that I feel—we're going to be clobbered by the vanishing of bookstores, when people like John Grisham are not going to have to worry about it as much. And so one of the things I've been trying to do is work out a 'you buy the hard copy–either the paperback or hardcover, the print copy—and you get the e book for free'. That's one of the things that I'm trying to do. And so my latest two . . . [applause] Oh, thank you. My latest two smaller releases last year, Legion and Emperor's Soul, I actually will mail you the e book of those two. If you buy the hard copy, and you send me an email, we will respond with a DRM free version in multiple formats that you can just read on any e-reader that you want.
And so that's just something I'm trying, and I'm trying to use this as data points to convince Tor to let me do this for my larger books, for which they own the e-book rights. The small books I was able to retain them on, but that's not something viable for a big release like a Stormlight Archive book or something like that. And so it's something I'm hoping we can convince them to let me start doing with my other books.
I just got done writing an article for Amazing Stories and in doing some analysis I was surprised to see that the percentage between self-published and traditionally published has shifted dramatically. In 2012 it was pretty much evenly divided. But currently 61% of the titles are traditional and only 39% self published. I'm not sure if this is a by product of the holiday and new kindle owners buying "known names" or if it is the start of a trend.
Interestingly the number of self-published authors that have multiple books on the list is 11 as opposed to 9 for traditionally published. Jordan, Tolkien, Sanderson, and Martin eat up 35% of the list. The full lists include:
11 - Robert Jordan (8 solo, 3 2/Brandon Sanderson) ($2.99(short), 5-$7.99, 2-$8.99, 3-$9.99)
9 - George R.R. Martin (3-na, 3-$8.99, 1-$14.99, $1-29.99(omni), 1-$39.99(omni))
8 - J.R.R. Tolkien (6 solo, 2 2/Christopher Tolikien) (1-na, $7.29, 3-$8.32, $9.0)
7 - Sanderson (4 solo, 3 w/Robert Jordan) ($2.99(short), 2-$7.59, 2-$7.99, $8.99, 2-$9.99, $20.69(omni))
3 - Joe Abercrombie ($8.69, $9.79, $11.04)
3 - Michael J. Sullivan (2-$7.99(omni), $8.89(omni))
2 - Terry Brooks (2-$0.99(shorts))
2 - Justin Cronin ($7.99, $13.99)
2 - Brent Weeks ($5.99, $9.74)
1 - Peter V. Brett ($12.99)
1 - Jim Butcher ($9.99)
1 - Steven Erikson ($7.99)
1 - Terry Goodkind ($8.54)
1 - Deborah Harkness ($9.99)
1 - Stephen King ($8.99)
1 - Mark Lawrence ($7.99)
1 - Robert R. McCammon ($8.54)
1 - L. E. Modesitt Jr. ($2.99)
1 - David Mitchell ($11.99)
1 - Patrick Rothfuss ($9.99)
1 - R.A. Salvatore ($2.99)
1 - Martha Wells ($7.99)
1 - Weis/Hickman ($5.59)
5 - David A. Wells ($0.99, 4-$2.99)
3 - T.B. Christensen ($2.99, 2-$3.99)
3 - Ben Hale ($0.99, 2-$2.99)
3 - Michael G. Manning ($0.99, $2.99, $4.95)
3 - M. R. Mathias (2-$0.99, $0.99)
2 - Brian D. Anderson ($3.90, $3.99)
2 - David Dalglish ($0.99, $3.99)
2 - J. L. Doty ($3.99, $4.99)
2 - John Forrester ($0.99 - $2.99)
2 - Joseph Lallo (2-$2.99)
2 - Aaron Pogue ($0.99, $4.99)
1 - Daems/Tomlin ($3.99)
1 - Chanda Hahn ($2.99)
1 - Hollaway/Rodgers/Beely ($3.99)
1 - Brian Kittrell ($3.95)
1 - Toby Neighbors ($2.99)
1 - Stephenie Rowling ($0.99)
1 - Aaron Patterson ($2.99)
1 - LK Rigel ($0.99)
1 - Jason Teasar ($2.51)
1 - Christopher Williams ($0.99)
On a personal note I was happy to be back on the list with all three titles (thanks in part to the Amazon Deal of the day for Theft of Swords, but was saddened to see Anthony Ryan fall off the list now that Penguin has raised his price. My hope was that he would still be able to pull in similar numbers even with a higher price point.
I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that you, Sanderson, and Abercrombie are suddenly sky-rocketing in popularity (at least, from what I've seen). Combine that new-ish popularity with Tolkien's movie release, the end of Jordan's series, and of course Martin's show—everyone can flock to those six authors and be guaranteed an awesome story.
I'm a little saddened to see so few women on the lists. Oh well, such is nerd-dom. I AM happy there are any at all :)
Jordan's numbers are about the same—he's had 9 - 11 books on the Top 100 for as long as I've been watching.
Sanderson's numbers are better (and I assume related to Wheel of Time issues) generally he has 2 - 3 on the list and he has 7 now—the highest I've ever seen him.
Martin's numbers are also unchanged—he's always at the top and has dominated it for a long time.
Abercrombie has definitely seen a boost from Red Country—having it and 2 back lists on there.
I've only recently returned to the list, and am thrilled to have all three books there. It is a direct result of a special that Amazon ran for Theft of Swords and while I hope to be there for awhile, I think realistically I'll fall back off in a few weeks. My hope is to return when my new books come out in the fall.
I too was saddened by just how few women were on the list. I'm hoping its just a matter of timing and we'll have some killer books coming out soon from the ladies and get that adjusted. I know Robin Hobb's soon to be released title is getting a lot of attention—but by all means we need more female fantasy writers.
If it is meaningful to the list, both of my shorts were self published in ebook form. Not sure how you divide these things in your counts, though.
Yep, I know about those works being self-published and Legion is categorized on the Science Fiction List and The Emperor's Soul isn't categorized as just Fantasy so they don't show up on the list I'm reporting on (Epic Fantasy). Not sure how I would handle them—ideally they would be listed as hybrids (authors who both self & traditionally publish) but there really aren't enough hybrids to do this at the moment. I would probably put them as "self-published" but with an asterisk.
Huh. I wonder what that $2.99 one of mine is, then. The prologue to the new Wheel of Time book, I imagine. I saw the low price and just assumed it was one of my shorts, but obviously Legion (which is that price) wouldn't show up here.
Epic is an interesting one to categorize, since my (never scientifically investigated) assumption has been that for self-pubbed works, shorter generally tends to sell better. So I would expect traditional to do better here (where the advance model might work better) when compared to something like heroic fantasy or urban fantasy (where shorter works, published more quickly, don't need the advance crutch as much.)
Has that been your experience looking into these things, Michael, or are my assumptions unfounded? Thinking about it, I don't even know if Amazon has a heroic fantasy subcategory.
Yeah, it is the WoT Prologue. In general, shorter works don't hit the Top 100 often. There were three shorts in this list and I think this is first time I saw that many on it. (Yours/Robert's and two shorts by Terry Brooks).
Most self-published authors don't think of length of work in their consideration of whether to go traditional (advance) verses self. Generally it has more to do with being entrepreneurial, thoughts about maximizing income, or just aversion to contracts that are the larger deciding factors.
And no Amazon doesn't have a heroic fantasy subcategory, or even an adventure fantasy sub or secondary world classifications. The choices are:
Oh, I'm aware why people go self. I've been watching the community with interest. What I was curious about was whether epic, as a genre, has fewer self published hits because of length factors. One of the strongest models for the self-published paradigm I've seen talked about involves doing shorter works, with a first book priced very low.
I can see from the list that some are doing it in epic; what I'm wondering is if my assumption that it's harder to do this in epic than urban is correct. I'd also be interested to know how many on the list above are more heroic (like David Dalglish) than traditional epic.
Note that isn't me trying to be dismissive of anybody's success. It's me trying to keep an eye on what is working better in the self-published realm as opposed to what is working more poorly. My instincts say that for self publishing, putting out a number of works more quickly to generate momentum is going to be far more effective than spending three years between books, then releasing one single capstone work that is as long as the shorter ones combined. Rothfuss, for example, probably had a much better shot at popularity in traditional than he would have in self-published.
Yeah, I saw your class where you mentioned that self-published authors focus on shorter works, and I must say that I respectfully disagree. There are a few who adopt this model—but very few. Most are just writing the story the way any author does...and let the tale dictate the length. Actually, more often than not I'm seeing the opposite where authors who are concerned about the query submission rule of thumb (where many agents say they want works 80,000—120,000) too confining and they like that in self-publishing they can put out a 240,000 novel without problem. I actually find myself trying to convince many authors to divide their books into smaller pieces to maximize income —but most don't think with their "business heads" they think with their "creative ones."
Your "theory" is a sound one—and if self-published author were savvy they would indeed focus on smaller works and more titles than single large works—but I've been in self-publishing for a long time and as I've said I really don't see that much.
We both write in the epic fantasy space but for whatever reason my novels tend to come out in the 100,000—120,000 word range. I sold well when self-published with those lengths...but when I switched to traditional, my publisher did "double them up" and released my six books as three to have the "bulk" that most epic fantasy readers are used to. My next two books (both 100,000 words each) will be released by themselves so now that I'm getting established they aren't so concerned with the length. There are other authors that write shorter epic works—like Saladin Ahmed's The Throne of the Crescent Moon and Jeff Salyard's Scourge of the Betrayer to name just a few.
The authors that do do well in self-publishing are the ones with multiple titles (a few exceptions of course such as Anthony Ryan's Blood Song which has now moved to Penguin). I started finding traction once I had 3 titles out—and yes with multiple titles, many are using the first book low-price incentive to get people to 'take a risk' as it were.
I'm not in the urban market...yet...I do have Antithesis that will be self-published and is urban fantasy, so I'm not as up on it as I am the epic space—but I'm sure I'll be watching that space more closely once I publish it. As to how much of the list is heroic fantasy—I have no idea—I find the breakdown of Amazon categories to be a complete mystery—I mean why have Arthurian (very narrow) but not Adventure or Sword & Sorcery?
With the exception of the very rare (i.e. Rothfuss, etc) all authors (regardless of path) are better off with more titles in a timely manner than a one book per several year model. I would think that much of your success comes from the rate at which you generate quality fiction. But the self-published authors that do well are doing the exact same thing...putting out frequently and putting out a quality level that people are returning to time and time again. Logically that would seem to imply write more smaller books...and again a really savvy person might be adopting that model. But most don't. My books aren't 100,000 words because I know I can write 3 of them in the same amount of time it takes me to write a 300,000 word book—it's just the size that I generally take to tell the tale I want to.
If I were going to council a new author (and regardless what path they go) I would recommend more books of smaller size—but most don't listen to that advice as they can only tell their tales the way that works for them—and most don't really think about the length beforehand. Should they? I don't know I'm of two minds..."business" sense says yes but my "creative" side says—make the book the best it can be regardless of size.
Great post. Thanks for the info. This is the sort of thing I like to try to get from the proverbial horse's mouth, so that when I speak on the topics, I don't mislead people. The big breakouts in the new self model have all been writing shorter books—but I believe they've also been in different genres, where the books are naturally shorter.
From what you're saying, there probably isn't enough data (at least in epic) to back up my hunch, so leaving it as a hunch is probably for the best. Interestingly, I don't suggest to new writers that they write shorter or longer with traditional publishing—I suggest that they write whatever length is appropriate to them creatively. However, this is in part because a publisher is unlikely to publish books in rapid succession.
In regards to myself, for example, I was still locked into the one book a year method for my first years—and my instincts say that is fine with a traditional book, but if I were launching a self published career I'd have wanted to have two or three coming out in a year rather than one a year. (Ideally.)
What you say makes a lot of sense about the mindset of the artists who are choosing this method. As someone steeped in the industry, my natural reaction is to look at the business side of which is better for which project—since, artistically, it would be the same either way to me. But it should have been obvious to me that many, even the majority of, newer writers are not going to approach it that way.
Another informative post, Michael. Thanks for your contributions to this subreddit. I always find them useful.
Here's something you may find interesting. Check out slides 37-42 on this slideshow from Mark Coker. It shows that at Smashwords the bestsellers tend to be longer works.
Of course, someone may still do better with five 80,000-word ebooks instead of two 200,000-word ebooks (and probably would), but on the other hand it suggests that someone who can write fast should still consider releasing meaty novels. Having an indie novel that feels longer than most and still sells for a low price gives you another selling point, and probably leads to happier readers (obviously enough).
It may be a good strategy to do something like this: have 1 or 2 long novels for every 2-4 works that are shorter, such as novellas, novelettes, or collections of shorts. But of course many roads lead to Rome, and novels are always the main attraction.
I did find that interesting, Moses. Thanks for sharing it.
How did The Emperor's Soul e-book experiment work out? (Buy the book, get the e-book for free)
I think it worked wonderfully. I'd like to be able to do it with more of my books. I plan to try to make it work for Words of Radiance.
The Way of Kings e-book is on sale for $2.99!
Sure wish this applied in the UK too.
Huh. You know, I hadn't considered this. Tor, my US publisher, was the one who came to me and suggested the idea&mash;so I said yes. And, stupidly, I didn't go to the UK publisher and suggest they do the same. I'll see what we can do.
Why did Tor want to do the sale? Is the second book close to being finished or something?
Yes. Second should be out later this year. (If I keep at it.)
Would that apply for Australia too?
It should. Email is sent. We'll see if we can prod UK/Ireland/Australia to match.
Thank you for mentioning Ireland. Already have the hardcopy and wanted to get a copy for the kindle but despite having to use the US kindle store I couldn't get it.
The email is off...but it might take some time to get a reply. The time difference sometimes means that having a conversation with the publisher in London has to occur across several days. Should know by early next week.
Out of curiosity how big is the difference in terms of the amount you end up with in your pocket between retail price and sale price?
On ebooks with a traditional publisher, we get 17.5% of the sale price.
What's the best method of purchasing a book/ebook in terms of most money in the author's pocket?
Hardcover puts the most money in the author's pocket per copy sold. And with Brandon's books, if they've been out for a year, you can get a signed one from his website and that puts way more money in his pocket. Though he would rather you just convince five of your friends to read the book, because that will pay off better over the long term.
Thanks, getting signed books would be pretty great. Shipping cost to Australia is a bit high but that can't be helped.
Unfortunately, that is true, and it keeps getting more expensive. The US postal service won't even let you ship things by sea anymore; it's all airmail.
It's not something you should really worry about, honestly. Pick the format you enjoy the most, and go with that. They all have their value.
In my opinion, the best thing you can do for an author is loan your copy of the book out to a friend who hasn't ever read one of them. That's worth far more than the difference between formats.
However, since you asked, I should probably actually answer the question. I get about $4.25 off of a hardcover sale, about $.64 off of a paperback, and 17.5% from the paid price of any ebook. (So about $.52 for each one of these that sells during this promotion.) But again, that isn't something you should really have to worry about.
It's 4.99 here [The Way of Kings ebook]. Yes, I know I say it a lot, but I HATE geographical restriction / pricing for ebooks :(
I do apologize for this, but I honestly don't see a way around it. I'll use the UK as an example, though I don't know where exactly it is that you live.
As an American author, I have a couple of choices. I can sell the UK rights to the US publisher. There's a big risk there that they won't do a good job with it in the UK market—they won't repackage to give a more appropriate cover for the market, they won't have the teams in place to work with the local booksellers. In fact, since the UK is a smaller market, they may not pay any attention to it&mdashand might not even release the book there.
Or I can sell the book to a UK company. The UK readers get a book packaged for them, and get the attention they deserve. But when the US publisher runs a promotion, they don't have the power to change prices outside of the US.
Ebooks have done some odd things to this. For example, in the past, if you found a specific book on sale at one bookstore you'd have no reason to assume it would be on sale at the competing bookstore.
Hopefully we'll find better solutions eventually. I DID send an email to my overseas publishers asking them to match prices for the promo—but that's all I can really do.
I'd be curious to know where you're from, though. It might be a place I haven't contacted yet.
Middle east here. I think there are... more than 8? amazon regions. Each priced differently. Do you really have 8 different publishers?
The Amazon page itself claims Tor as publisher, although that might just not update per region.
I actually have around 40 different publishers at this point, though The Way of Kings only involves fourteen or fifteen of those. Is this English language? If so, it's probably the UK publisher, as I believe they get the right to publish in most places in English language other than North America and the Philippines. If it's Turkish or Hebrew, those are different publishers entirely. Are you on the local Amazon page, Amazon.com, or Amazon.co.uk?
It's English, but I buy through Amazon.com, not amazon.co.uk.
I never realized an author had to deal with so many publishers. I was thinking, 2 - 4 tops. Wow.
Now I can see why this whole international availability / pricing of ebooks is so ... broken. I had no idea. Hopefully once the majority of book sales moves to ebooks, you could simply use one publisher world-wide (or, maybe, different publishers for different devices—one for kindle, another for nook etc.)
I sent an email to my assistant, asking him to figure out if this is just an oversight or if something more is happening.
As for multiple publishers, the problem we run into is translation, as I mentioned above. I don't know if I want my US publisher in charge of deciding how a translation—and a cover—for one of my books should be pitched in Taiwan.
However, for English Language, it is a little less complicated. I basically have four publishers. Tor (US), Delacorte (Teen Books), Tachyon (Novellas), and Gollancz (UK). It comes down to the fact that I'm the owner of my work, though, not the publisher. And I'm not sure I'd want to have just one publisher. If I write a book, and one publisher will offer a better deal (because it's more their specialty) than another, it's often in my best interest to go with that publisher for that specific book.
I DO hope we manage to get this all working more smoothly in circumstances like this, however.
TOR.com International release?
I was wondering if anyone here knows how to purchase The Way of Kings in Australia? Brandon's website says it's $3 and DRM free but none of the links seem to work over here. Any thoughts?
My UK publisher has the right to distribute there, so you should be able to buy it on Amazon.co.uk. However, despite our request, I don't believe that they've decided to discount the ebook to match Tor's promotion. (I might be wrong; perhaps they've lowered the price.)
I'm sorry about this. A lot of things are more expensive down under because of shipping; ebooks shouldn't be one of them.
Not sure what I think of this. Right now, one of the main things that a NY publisher can give you is their distribution chain. Print still makes up a lot of sales, and it's almost impossible to get into physical bookstores in a wide release without a large publisher.
Selling with the intention that it will be ebook only means you lose out on this. Granted, a solid editor is worth some amount. Marketing for a book like this basically will boil down to "We will pay Amazon/iBooks to give good placement for the novel." Publicity will be non-existent. (They aren't going to put you on tour or bring you to BEA for an e-original.)
I'm entrenched in NY publishing, and feel they've done right by me, so I'm not one of these "you MUST self publish" types. However, something about this posting makes me uncomfortable. Perhaps it's because they look like they're specifically seeking people who don't know much about the business, and might not understand a horrible contract if offered one. Then again, I might be too wary.
So, to break this down. As much of an opportunity this is, there's still some stuff not right about it because it won't ever be in print? Crap, back to the long arduous path of writing and publishing. Once you think the skies have opened up, you find it's full of lightning.
What I'm saying is that this might not be better than just publishing the book yourself in ebook form. It COULD be better, but it's not a slam dunk.
Great effort from Brandon!
I just wanted to share with you this mail I got from Subterranean Press, through which Brandon sells his new book Legion.
I think this is a great development, and I hope this experiment succeeds. Keep up the good work, Brandon!
That is fantastic. Brandon appears to be approaching the ebook market in a really wonderful way, embracing it, and delivering intuitively. Now that I have an ereader, I don't buy physical books as much, but I love having the actual paper copy, too.
I will happily purchase the paper copy of books if an ebook comes along with it. Does anyone know which version, the paper vs. electronic, gives more to the author? Ultimately, I want to pay my dues here! Brandon is a really great author, and I'd love to support him as best I can. (Would it be weird to check out a copy from the library, then paypal/mail Brandon the retail price of the book? He's an exception- I wouldn't do that for every author!)
Anyway, I love ebooks and this is a great step towards helping and forwarding the market. Kudos Brandon, thank you for all you do, and for furthering this cause.
The offer will last the life of the book.
In this case, I make about the same from either copy, so don't worry about that. Do remember that this is a novella, however, so either think of it as a very long short story or a very, very short novel. At $20, that length can be a bit pricy for some wallets, which is one reason for the $2.99 ebook.
If you ever read my books from the library, don't feel bad about me money wise. I love libraries, and your interest in my books there makes them order in more copies. If you want to give something back to me in that case, just loan one of my books that you own to someone else and get them to read it. That can do wonders for an author.
Just a heads-up: you may want to have the folks at Dragonmount.com work on their SEO a bit. The page to purchase the ebook version of Legion doesn't come in the first page of search results for "Sanderson Legion ebook."
Ha. Okay, I'll give them a heads up. Thanks. :)
As I write this, my novella Legion is being uploaded to the various ebook stores. It should now be for sale everywhere at $2.99.
Except Europe where it's $5.74 on Kindle.
That's odd. It shouldn't be that expensive. We did the ebook ourselves, so maybe we got a wire crossed somewhere.
Just checked, and it's the right price at Amazon.co.uk. Amazon France and Amazon Germany have it at close to the right price. In which country is it showing up that expensive? I'll go get it fixed.
Even though you can set the prices individually for each country, I think the actual sale price is often more expensive in Europe. This is a 2011 thread about it on the amazon forums. So I think there's nothing you can do about that.
One alternative: Smashwords is a good way to sell ebooks to people in other countries. Whenever someone from another country has a hard time buying my novel, I usually point them there.
If it's been going on since January 2011 as Moses says, and that does seem to be the case, then it looks like all we can do is tell people to buy elsewhere than Amazon.
All of the versions are DRM-free, so you can buy it elsewhere and then convert it for your Kindle. Or you can just buy it from Dragonmount; they include both mobi and epub, and you can put the mobi right on your Kindle.
I did email Amazon about it earlier today but we'll see if they say anything different.
I've seen people in the Netherlands, Sweden, and Finland report it as being $5.74, and someone in Mexico sees a $4.99 price. It's very annoying.
Is The Emperor's Soul available as an ebook?
I know the paper copy is available from many retailers, but I've pretty much switched to reading books on my laptop or Kindle. Is there a way for me to buy a copy of The Emperor's Soul in a digital format?
Yup, Monday, I believe. The March date is for the UK publisher's ebook release. Until then, you'll be able to get it from me, and once they release theirs I will withdraw mine from the UK store and let them sell it.
Sorry it took a little extra time—we weren't expecting the print book to go live as soon as it did. Do note, however, that (like Legion) I will send you a free ebook if you buy the print edition.
She's over-reacting, I think. Most of those eight hundred downloads are not lost sales. Others in the thread have pointed out the collector mentality of many downloaders. If those eight hundred people were reading her book and loving it, then spreading the word, her demand would go through the roof and her sales would as well.
That isn't to say I agree with downloading, at least in all instances. I've said before I have no problem with people who buy a hard copy of my books downloading a digital copy. I think the technology should be there for this to happen already. However, I hate it when people download because of the sentiment of: "Screw you; I don't like DRM, or the fact that the book is too expensive, or that it's not out in my region."
You're not helping, you're hurting. If you don't agree, don't buy the book. Don't read the book. Buy and read something else—something that meets your requirements. THAT will influence change. The other way just influences the publishers to put on stronger DRM and charge more.
However, there's one important point I think both sides of this argument need to realize. This might be THE most important thing for people to realize on the ebook front: Books cannot be consumed as quickly as music or movies. That changes everything.
To those saying: Make all ebooks $.99 and watch the sales skyrocket. (And also to those who complain about the numbers of books being pirated, seeing them all as sales.) Well...I'm skeptical. Certainly, ebooks should be cheaper than they are now. But there's not the same economy of scale here that there is on other forms of media. Reading a book takes a long time. Even hardcore readers are strongly bound by how much time they have to read.
In preparation to write the next Wheel of Time book, I am re-reading the entire series. I just finished the first book. It took me twelve days, reading full time. (About half my time was spent building outlines or researching notes, though, so let's cut that in half.) That means it took about week to read that book, reading full-time.
How many books of that length can someone read in a year? Fifty, if you read all the time? That's for a hardcore reader. A lot of readers have re-read the Eheel of Time series in preparation for the upcoming final book release. The average I hear from them is 6-8 months for 12 novels. So we're looking at people reading 24 books a year, at the length I write, for many readers. I'd guess that your average reader is reading fewer.
Compare that to how many music tracks you can listen to, or films you can watch, if you're equivalently into that form of media. Money is not the limiting resource for readers, not as much as time is. If all prices on books go down greatly, demand will not increase (at least in smaller genres, like sf/f) because there just isn't a large enough group of people willing to dedicate their time to the books.
Hopefully, ereaders will help us grow our audience, and hopefully we'll see prices come down farther than they've come down right now. But it's not as simple as many make it out to be.
(Some facts for you: I watched the latest Grisham book because I was up against him for bestseller lists. If I have his numbers right, his sales on this book in physical plus his digital sales equaled about the same number as his last novel sold—despite the fact that the ebook is $10 and the hardcover, even discounted greatly by Amazon, was $15. Most places would have sold it at $20. Having a cheaper ebook did not create many more sales because many people who wanted to read Grisham books were already reading them. It would be curious to see if the book had been $.99 how many more readers there would have been. Undoubtedly more. But ten times as many? Knowing what I do of the numbers of books sold, I'd call that near impossible.)
A career via e-books?
So I've been reading on the net about some indie authors who have self-published their novels online in e-book format, and they're making a decent living at it! I've also been reading that publishers are accepting less authors these days. So with these trends, would any of you go for the idea of publishing your own novel as an e-book, and trying to make money by selling it at low prices ($3-4 a pop or something)? I think this may be the way of the future for many authors. E-books are starting to revolutionize publishing!
Yes, things are changing. (Finally.) People have been predicting this as imminent for years. It's only now starting to happen. It looks like we might have our first batch of full-time writers publishing only in ebook form. We'll know more (such as exactly how many people are doing this) when Bookscan starts reporting ebook sales. They've said they plan to start doing so soon.
From what I know, it is a myth that publishers are accepting fewer authors. However, as I have no reference to back that up other than personal experience, take the statement with a grain of salt. Still, I see just as many new writers being published now as before. Publishers would be foolish to stop picking up new writers, as the nature of the beast is that people age, and new talent is always needed.
Also, remember that even with these statistics, 91% of books sold are still physical form. That number will shrink. How far it will shrink is anyone's guess right now. The farther they shrink, however, the more that the added money made from higher royalties at ebook only outweigh the larger distribution of a print/ebook split.
The revolution is coming. I'll stick with my publisher, personally, but I think a young writer who is good at self promotion and marketing could do worse than to try a few ebook-only self releases, though I'd still suggest (for now) continuing to submit to New York as well. Might as well cover all of your bases. If you get an offer from New York, but it turns out you've been doing well enough with your own ebook releases, you could turn down the offer.
Thanks for that. If you don't mind me asking how much money does a new author with one book out typically make per year from traditional publishing? Assuming low, to moderate sales numbers (whatever those may be).
This is a really, really hard question to answer because of the wide variety of genres and publishing models out there.
Some genres have what I like to call a larger amplitude. The pool of potential readers is much greater, but people in the genre are not voracious readers—and so, if a book takes off in that genre, you see HUGE numbers. But you also see a very large number of flops because so many in the genre gravitate only toward the popular books, and don't have time to read much more than that.
Other genres have a smaller amplitude, with a small base of potential readers (keeping the highs much lower.) However, these kinds of genres can have better averages because readers in them read a lot. So a lot of books can sell a medium number of copies.
Some genres thrive on hardcovers and early buying, while others thrive on tons of cheap paperbacks. Children's books have a readership that refreshes more quickly, but also a readership that reacts strongly to fads. Some genres have long shelf lives for individual titles, others have very short ones.
Toby Buckell did a survey for the sf/f genre on first book advances, which might answer some of your questions.
Restricting the genre to sf/f, we still have to deal with sub-genre and publication model. But let's say fantasy (as I know it best) from a major publisher with a hardcover initial, and a paperback to follow. Moderate to low sales would be...let's say 3,000 copies hardcover and 10k copies paperback in the first two years. That's high enough that some people are buying the book, but low enough that the publisher is going to want improvement over the next two books. (Often, you can sell three books to start in this genre, and are given until the third to prove you can sell.)
Royalty on the hardcover will be $2.50. Paperback, $.56. So, earnings are $13k. You'll probably have a few over-seas sales in translation, and maybe some book club money, and some sales in the third and forth years. (Though if the series doesn't grab some traction, those will have shrunk by the fourth year to very small numbers.) I'd guess 20k over the life of a book for a mid-to-poor seller.
A really poor seller would be under 5k, and that's when the publisher would enter panic mode. Good seller you're looking at $40k on a first book. Sf/f has a 'small amplitude' you might say, but has really good legs and a long shelf life. So the best gains in sales are made by converting paperback readers to hardcover readers, and by having an enduring book (often in a series) that continues to hang out on shelves for many, many years.
Thank you very much for the in-depth reply! I appreciate it. :)
10% @ 7500 copies. You do the math.
Compare that to 70% @ 7500 copies. Even if the book is $5 or, more realistically, $2.99, you'd make more money.
7500 copies is considered "doing ok," for a new author, just enough to cover an advance (most new authors don't sell enough copies to cover the advance). Of course, some do better, and more do worse.
EDIT: The author of this book has a blog about self publishing. Claims to make 6 fugues. Not bad at all.
Thanks for the blog suggestion. I guess the question is whether one is as likely to sell 7500 copies of e-books as one is if one went with a traditional publisher. The traditional market is bigger, but the royalties are much smaller, hmm...a quandary.
Depends. You'd likely sell more. It's far easier to sell something that costs 99 cents than it is to sell something that costs 11.99 etc. It rather depends on you. (Not to mention people can't return an ebook if they don't like it, and 40% of books usually end up being returned). Most of all, the assumption is not a stretch considering how many absolutely terrible self-published novels have done fantastically, precisely because of price.
And we want people to buy more books. Why buy one 10 dollar book if you can buy 10 ebooks? People are being less cautious about what they buy, more willing to give your book a chance. Just go to the Kindle store, to the self published stuff in any genre listed at 99 cents, or 1.99 and you'll see what I'm talking about. Crap selling @ 1000 copies a week no problemo. In the end, it'll depend on you getting a website, and telling people about your book, trying to create some buzz. No idea how you'd do that. Goodreads, Reddit, whatever you gotta do.
Well, to offer another side to yeahiknow, a few things to consider.
1) You don't get the 70% royalty on a $.99 book. You get 35%. 2) You get the higher royalty at the three buck mark, but here I believe Amazon still charges the author their "delivery fee" for sending your book to a kindle. For a small book, this is cheap. For one of my books, it is $1.20. 3) As I said, 90% of sales are still physical. A good publisher will have your book in every bookstore in the country. 4) Almost all of the people doing really well in ebook only have multiple books out. I think the guy linked has a dozen or so.
That said, there are indeed people out there making more in ebook indy than they could with a NYC contract. It should be noted that others who are doing well are actively seeking a print contract.
None of this is a reason not to try, and the numbers continue to move toward epub. I just think there is more to the discussion than it may first seem.
- J. A. Koranth's blog is a good read (even if his books aren't).
- A third of the Kindle Bestsellers are self-published through Amazon.
- Checking a small genre like fantasy shows that no fewer than half the best sellers are self-published (damn).
- Already many books are dropping in price on Kindle format to compete. Joe Abercombie's Best Served Cold is just 2.99. World War Z is 5 bucks, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo—5 bucks. Not bad.
It certainly is interesting times out there, that's for sure. Thanks for the links.
Again, some things to consider: (also, note. It may seem I'm contradicting yeahiknow, but really, he/she makes excellent points and is directing you to good info. But there are some things to consider.)
Looking at the indy books on that list, I think you will find most of them are a certain type. First, they are really short. Like, 400k short. That's under 200 pages if conversions are the same with some of my books.
Some are $.99. These earn the small royalty %. But then, they are meant as a hook for the series. (Which is often working, mind you. But the .99 book would earn so much less that it shouldn't be looked at for earning potential.)
Finally, almost all the books selling really well right now from indy authors are the more pulp genres. Quick thrillers. Paranormal romance. Shor hack and slash fantasy. There is nothing at all wrong or inferior with these genres. But if you don't happen to be writing them, sales seem to indicate that epub will be tougher for you right now.
If you do happen to write them...strike now. It looks really good.
You're right. I doubt literature would be as successful, although, who knows. Genre fiction like fantasy and mystery are doing quite well.
Why are you up so late, btw? Kindred spirit.
Yeah. For years, I have been a late night worker. I just can't seem to function on an early morning schedule.
Eventually, even the litfic will sell best on ebook. But it is very interesting to me that we see this huge pulp explosion from indies on Amazon. Reminds me of some of the early genre fiction days, actually.
Given the trend in technology, and that paper books are slowly dying to ebook sales, I wouldn't be surprised [that ebooks are starting to revolutionize publishing].
Having a direct connection to authors, and knowing that more of your money goes to the artist, is pretty satisfying.
This is satisfying, though do please keep in mind that the publishing industry is NOT the music industry. The record labels have been gouging their artists (and their customers) for decades; it's now coming back to bite them.
New York publishing, for all of its faults, does tend to treat its authors well. When a book of mine sells, I see a very reasonable amount of the profit. I wouldn't mind more, but I've never felt cheated.
Cheap way to get the e-books?
I have bought the Mistborn trilogy in book and audiobook form. I want to get an e-book version of them as well, anybody know of a cheaper way to do this than just paying another $16 to Amazon for the e-books? It's not that I'm not willing to do that, it's just that I have already paid for these books, and it's annoying to pay all over again just to get them in another format that doesn't cost the author anything to produce! I know, Brandon Sanderson is selling them on Amazon with no DRM, and that's awesome, but...I just feel gipped paying the money just so I can have it on my phone as well as the actual physical books.
I don't have the rights to send you these for free, as I sold ebook rights to Tor way back when. That said, I have no personal problem with people...ahem...finding them through other means, so long as they have the physical books in their possession.
Wish I could do more. I'm trying hard to get Tor to agree to let me send ebooks to those who buy the physical books. I feel they'll budge on this eventually, but so far, I haven't gotten permission.
Wow, and this is part of why you are my favorite author! Your involvement with your fans...and of course, the awesome books.
Seeing your response, I would rather buy another set through Amazon to give to a friend, and get the e-books via the Amazon MatchBook thing mentioned above. Spreading the good books and such. Do you know if Matchbook will be applicable to your books?
I will make ever effort to get Tor to agree to make my books Matchbook enabled. I don't think they'll have a problem with it. (I've been making noise for years, trying to get them to do something like this, and they've complained about logistics.)
How are you seeing the internet impact the industry?
One thing it's really changed is allowing authors to have a lot more direct interaction with fans, which is wonderful because we are directly supported by readers. Even though there are editors and people, there are very few middlemen even in fantasy, even in writing. To the point that, when you interact with me, what I mean is you're interacting with the content creator directly, which is fun. It's awesome. It allows me to actually get feedback from fans, to talk to fans, to thank the people who are supporting me. And like I said, there's very few layers between, but in the old days there was that buffer. You know, people used to send letters to the publisher, and then the publisher would send to the author, right? And granted, the publisher's not opening them and stuff. It's not like there's a big buffer there, but it's taking time, and there's just that step. And that step has vanished, which I like.
It is changing publishing. It's democratizing publishing. I really think this is a good thing for particularly our genre, where you will have a lot of things in sci-fi/fantasy that are not even the mainstream of sci-fi and fantasy. And sci-fi/fantasy alone is already not the mainstream. So when you go a couple niches down, you can find these things that a certain core audience would love, but it's very hard to market nationally. And this helps a lot more variety come into the genre. And that whole connecting directly with fans helps with people building a brand and breaking in, even if they aren't going traditional. The whole self-publishing has been a great boon, I think, specifically to science fiction and fantasy, in helping to add variety.
Ebooks mean that when I write 400,000 word novels, I don't have to apologize quite so much. Because people can buy it in ebook, and I say it weighs the same amount. So there is that. Otherwise, there are so many things changing.
eBooks are such a touchy subject when it comes to lending and these odd restrictions only make it worse.
Publishers insist on treating ebooks like real books, which they aren't. There is no real reason why a library can't lend every single one of its ebooks to every one of its patrons.
It won't take long for consumers to abandon these outdated, artificially scarce sources for more free ones.
I'm not saying I support this decision. But I wonder.
What happens if we really do migrate primarily to ereaders as a reading public? It isn't too much of a stretch to assume that eventually, most avid readers will have a tablet or an ereader and do most of their reading there.
Libraries could very easily have an application for borrowing books on your ereader. Tap here, borrow the book. And you have access to the entire library's contents, for free, with no restrictions. A wonderful thing. Awesome.
And some worry that this would soon cause there to be no new content, as the publishers, authors, and booksellers would go out of business.
I'll admit, I love libraries. I love what they do, and I think book lovers end up supporting authors because they read a lot—and libraries facilitate that. Access to books creates more demand for books. But can you honestly blame the publishers for being panicked about the above situation?
It is amazing to see sales take off when the price falls below some resistance point.
But $0.99 seems very low for a full-length novel. Such a novel probably takes a year to write, and I would have though it was similar in terms of creative effort to a complete album rather than just one song.
See, that's the magic of volume pricing. When it's priced to sell at $.99, an author (no doubt indie, because there is no possible way a publisher, with all their overhead, can price like that and still remain viable) gets two substantial effects: They get the "cash register candy" impulse buyer to pull the trigger without much thought; and, because there are alot more of those readers (as evinced by the explosion in sales of ereaders), they make up in volume what they sacrifice in price.
If you're #60 in the Kindle top 100, you're selling something like 500 copies a day. These ebooks stay for (afaict) an average of 8 weeks on the charts. So 500 x 56 days = 28000 sales. If you're pricing at, say $2.99, you'll get $2.10 a copy after Amazon's cut. 28000 x 2.10 = $58,800. In 2 months of being on the charts. Not saying everyone will do that, but let's put it this way: You have as much a chance as anyone with a novel of similar quality and luck. Now, if you wrote 3-4 breezy, genre novels of sellable quality, and you had even 1/4 of the sales, you can see how this volume pricing can provide you with a pretty comfortable living, even if Amazon takes 65% of the 99 cents.
Such a novel probably takes a year to write
That's the romanticized "Great American" notion of the Novel as singular artwork and the novelist as auteur. It aggrandizes people like Hemingway and Fitzgerald and Salinger to the level of genius (which, arguably, is well-deserved), but not every novelist is like that and writes those kinds of timeless classics.
The two darlings of the 99-cent authors, Amanda Hocking and John Locke (yeah yeah...) are absolutely brand-spanking new to fiction writing. She's written 6 novels, he has 7. Almost all their novels were written within the last year or two (Locke, I believe, never wrote any of his novels before last year, Hocking had one or two of the 6 novels done before hitting it big).
All of their novels are in the top 100 Kindle store, selling, on average, between 500-6000 ebooks a day. Last I heard, Hocking was selling something like 100,000 ebooks a month, priced between 99 cents and 2.99. And, there are hundreds of previously mid-list writers publishing their back catalogs this way and making more on 99-cent or 2.99 ebooks than they ever did as a published mid-lister, even with the modest advances.
There are things you aren't taking into account here. The biggest one is this: all books are not the same. The Gathering Storm took me eighteen months to write. That's not a romanticized "Great American" novel. That's me, writing commercial fiction. True, I hope there's some strong literary value to it. But at the end of the day, I'm a craftsman—and I'm writing every day, working full days. It just takes a lot of time to create a 1000 page novel.
Selling a book at .99 is one thing if it's a short book (which the ones selling for that price are) that is very episodic (which they are.) Write a book at 400k words instead of 70k words, and the difficulty of managing plot lines grows exponentially, not to mention the months it takes to worldbuild a realistic epic fantasy world.
Beyond that, Epic Fantasy—which I write—has a shorter 'amplitude' than something like Hocking is writing. The biggest bestselling epic fantasies—at any price—sell far fewer copies than the best selling romance or paranormal romance books do. There are fewer people who want to read them, and for those who do read them, time is less of a barrier (to many) than price. You can only read so many books of that length. (Well, you can only read so many of any length, but you get what I mean.)
Even accounting for collectors grabbing everything they can at low prices, if you drop epic fantasy books to $.99, the genre will probably no longer be able to support full time writers. That's not to say it won't happen, and maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised at how many new readers we can pick up. But I'm skeptical.
I find the $.99 ebook thing kind of baffling, honestly. We'll pay $10 to go to a movie, we'll pay $10 for an album, but we want a book to cost a fraction of that?
Wait wait. Are you saying you're Brandon Sanderson? I'm honored. I was a big fan of the WoT series but haven't caught up fully due to no time.
I don't know if it's been revealed in TGS, but who exactly killed Asmodean?
It's me. And the killer of Asmodean is revealed in Towers of Midnight. (Brows through the glossary if you want a 'quick fix' answer. It's in there, though the text of the book makes it pretty clear too.)
Getting something published?
I am an aspiring author and I've been searching for information online but I continue to come up mostly empty handed. I'm wondering, where do some of you writers out there submit your work? (Short stories and full manuscripts alike)
This question is very difficult to answer without more context—information like genre, length, target reader age, etc. Also, is this your first novel? I might be able to give you a few pointers, but the industry IS changing pretty rapidly these days. Less than ten years have passed since I broke in, but it already feels like a very different world.
Now I'm curious. How has it changed in the past ten years?
Basically, the ebook front is changing a lot of things. I'd say this the major change. However, the continued shifts in the short story markets (from print to on-line, with smaller and smaller subscription rates) is another thing to be aware of. The changing roles of agents is another piece to all of this.
It will be interesting to see where ebooks take the market. I love my Nook and will probably buy most books from here on out in a digital format (The Mistborn Trilogy being the first btw).
Does that worry you? How different is the ebook vs traditional market from an author's standpoint?
It also interests me that the limitations of a digital format are very different. For instance as an ebook A Memory of Light could be one book.
There will be both challenges and opportunities. The chance to offer an A Memory of Light single volume, with some re-arranged chapters, is one of the opportunities. I'm curious at what the future will bring. As for right now, I AM worried about the plummeting prices on ebooks.
I basically make half as much on an ebook as I do on a hardcover book—but I make more off of an ebook than I do off of a paperback. So it's very easy that volume will compensate for the lowered prices—in which case, everybody wins.
In a more transparent vein, Sanderson differs from his fantasy peers in that he has a progress bar on his blog to keep fans updated on the status of his manuscripts.
"When I was getting into reading, I would often get into a big series and have no way of knowing when the next book was coming out or even if the author was working on it," he says. "Having a progress bar on my website lets readers see what I'm working on and that I'm not sitting idle while they wait for books to come out."
Sanderson also chose to post Warbreaker, one of his stand-alone novels, for free on his website in 2007. Many people, including his agent, thought the idea was crazy, but he stood firm.
"Your time is probably more valuable than your money, so I'll give you the money part for free if you'll give me your time," Sanderson explained.