One Man Audiobook Drops in a Few Weeks

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On May 19th, this will be available:

Yep, the folks at Tantor Media have signed on to make audiobooks of some of my work, starting with this one.

Then, in June through September, they’ll be releasing the four core Twenty Palaces novels:

June: Twenty Palaces
July: Child of Fire
August: Game of Cages
September: Circle of Enemies

And once The Iron Gate and The Flood Circle are finished, they’ll be coming out, too, with “The Twisted Path” piggy-backed onto Iron Gate.

So, that’s a lot of my words to put into the auditory centers of your brain. And… that’s it. That’s what I have to say. Audiobooks incoming. I hope you are keeping safe and comfortable.

One Man Reviews and Discoverability

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One Man has been on sale for nearly two months, and while sales have not been life-changing, they’ve been holding fairly steady. And that’s mainly because of the reviews.

The reviews so far have been very positive, with a number of people saying One Man was the best fantasy they read all year. To which I have to say:

Wow, thank you.

I spent two years on this book. I’m not what you’d call prolific, and I thought it might be wise to stop trying to be. What if, I thought, I stopped streamlining and started dawdling. What if I gave it extra time and attention to make something complex? What if?

Well, publishers said Meh, which has me thinking that what I want to see in a second-world fantasy is not exactly in the mainstream. (Like all my other books, I guess.) But still! There’s space outside the mainstream if I can connect what I love to the readers who would also love it.

Which is why I’m so grateful for the reviews you guys leave, and why I keep asking for them. Last week, One Man passed the fifty review mark over on Amazon, which is a huge boost to discoverability. Amazon likes to prioritize books that get a lot of reviews, and I’m hopeful that One Man will pass the next level for Amazon’s algorithms, which is 100 reviews. Child of Fire has over a hundred, and so does The Way into Chaos.

However, Game of Cages, Circle of Enemies, and several other works of mine have not, so I have to keep coming here to talk about this and ask you to drop a review if you haven’t already.

Amazon makes that easy. When I enter the book title “One Man” into their search function, the results actually include books with that title. It puts them at the top, even.

It’s different for Goodreads, though. Goodreads’s search algorithm seems like it assumes you don’t actually know the title of the book you’re searching for, and throws up a lot of weird results. For example, when I type “One Man” into a search window, the auto-complete looks like this:

autocomplete includes book titles unlike the search string I entered

What you get before you press enter

I get that Camus is more popular than I am, but are they really putting in a book that I didn’t search for instead of one that I did?

What happens, you may wonder, after I press ENTER to see the results?

Search for One Man, get a lot of books with a different title

It’s like they’re ignoring the title I actually entered.

This shows the scroll bar on the side, and you won’t be surprised to hear that my book doesn’t appear on that first page at all. In fact, it doesn’t appear on pages two through five, either.

The reason I bring this up is that some folks have said they had trouble finding the book on Goodreads, especially when it first came out. You’ll have to throw my name in there to actually find the right page, at least until Amazon brings the search algorithms on Goodreads up to the standards of their online store. Or click this link.

And thank you again for the reviews you have already written. I’m incredibly grateful.

By the way, if you want a direct link to an online vendor to drop a review, see below:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Indiebound | Kobo | Mysterious GalaxyPowell’s | Smashwords

Roleplay Twenty Palaces!

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Last night my Kickstarter hit 925 backers, unlocking Stretch Goal: Monitor, the second to last stretch goal. This morning we reached 1000 backers, which unlocked Stretch Goal, Mask, the very last one.

So I created something new: Stretch Goal: You. I encouraged backers to create their own stretch goals so they could create anything they wanted and share it with the other backers, if we hit their goal.

Already we have an indie composer who has promised 20P music, and…

Fred Hicks and Rob Donoghue have promised that, if we reach 1200 backers, they will expand on the Voidcallers section of the FATE Toolkit to let people role play in a Twenty Palaces-style setting. See here.

I’ve said before that there was no need for me to create a 20P supplement because Voidcallers is already it. But if you want sample stunts, special character creation rules, the whole deal, you probably want to join in on this.

We’ve already gone far, far beyond anything I had a right to expect. Can we manage to hit this goal, too?

I have to run out for a meeting, if you can believe it, but I can’t wait to see how this plays out.

And if you have something you want to share with the other backers, please do.

Progress report

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Let’s see if I can briefly cover everything that’s been going on.

First, I’m revamping the Kickstarter page pretty thoroughly. As I mentioned before, I asked some folks with KS experience to check it over and I made a bunch of changes. Then my agent had a look and she told me that I was underselling everything. Like a lot of writers, I’m not the best advocate for my own work. She encouraged me to explain why the books are actually fun instead of, you know, doing the whole “Here’s a thing I wrote you might like it maybe” bit that writers do.

So, revisions. I have new text for the main page ready to go and I’ll be shooting a new video this week. As some of you folks know, I get ugly red blotches on my face when I eat certain foods, so I’m trying to be super careful about every meal until then. I don’t think it would help me make my goal to have leprosy face.

By the way, if you want to know when the Kickstarter launches before anyone else, you should sign up for my newsletter in the form on this page.

The print edition of TWENTY PALACES is still a few weeks off. Everything takes longer than you think it should. That’s the law.

Finally, while the Kindle version of TWENTY PALACES is still only $2.99, there’s a sale price of $5.99 for CHILD OF FIRE, GAME OF CAGES, and CIRCLE OF ENEMIES. If you read from the Kindle and have been meaning to pick up some or all of my books, you’re not going to get a better price.

I recommend starting with the prequel, although I wrote each book to stand alone.

There are shiny new ideas for me to work on, but I have so much revision and other work ahead of me that I don’t expect to get to any of it before the end of the year. Yeah, that sucks; we only get so many productive years in this life, but it needs doing.

More later.

Circle of Enemies reviewed at BLACK GATE

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Here’s the relevant review. Overall, a very nice one.

It’s funny though, what he says about the (lack of) supporting cast. My wise editor recommended that I create one for the series. Yeah, Ray was the lead and Annalise was his boss and that was it. She wanted a colorful group of people who could turn up in every book, the way The Dresden Files does, or Sue Grafton’s alphabet novels do.

Those weren’t the examples she used. They’re just the ones I’m thinking up now.

I resisted, mainly because I envisioned the series having a structure more like a series of private detective novels, where the protagonist gets thrown into a completely new situation each time, surrounded by new people, and has to manage things on his own.

Oh well. There were a lot of choices I made for those books that could have gone another way. They’re all lessons for the future, I guess.

Revision

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Twitter user @UOJim asked me to write a post about revision, and I realized I have never done a systemic evaluation of the way I revise. Writing this will be a way to organize my thoughts on the subject, all of which I will probably forget once it’s time to go back over EPIC SEQUEL WITH NO DULL PARTS next spring when the first draft is finished.

(See how hopeful I am? Finished draft in the spring. It’s like a magic spell: I write it to make it happen.)

The way I figure it, there are two basic kinds of revisions: story-level and text-level. Continue reading

Passing into a new world: Portal fantasy

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Rachel Manija Brown posted something provocative about so-called “portal fantasy.” For those who didn’t click the link: essentially it’s a Narnia-style story, in which a person or persons from our mundane world is transported to a second-world fantasy setting. Apparently, agents reject those stories at the query stage without ever requesting a full manuscript, and the reasons described in the post (all frustratingly second-hand) strike me as extraordinarily bogus.

They’re talking about non-adult books: YA and MG, but I don’t remember seeing a lot of adult-oriented portal fantasies.

But it’s only after I read a post on Making Light that I realize I myself have been All Over Portals in my books.

Now, that Making Light post is talking about Fantasy With Portals In Them rather than Portal Fantasies, which is not exactly a subtle distinction. For one thing, modern person transported to fantasy world setting is a very specific thing. Still, Circle of Enemies and Twenty Palaces both contain literal portals in which Things Intrude Into Our World, and the other two books have implied portals.

What’s more, EPIC FANTASY WITH NO DULL PARTS is full of portals; the barely-Iron-Age society conducts trade through them and they are the center of the plot.

It’s not portal fantasy, per se, but… is this my subconscious calling to me? Has the online discussion finally made me look into my heart and realize that what I’ve really longed to do all this time was write a book about a mafia hitman transported to pseudo-Narnia? Or a pipe-fitter in Osgiliath?

Well, maybe not, but it’s fun to think about.

One year anniversary of the end of 20 Palaces

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I’m writing this ahead of time because I expect to be hanging with my son at the tournament when this posts, but today is exactly one year since I announced that Del Rey would not be picking up any new Twenty Palaces novels and that I was putting the series on hiatus, with all the ominous implications of the word.

And that fucking post is still the most popular thing on my blog. More people have read about my failure than ever read my books.

What has changed since then? Well, A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark is on indefinite hold. The book itself is a major misfire–not in concept but in execution. It needs a massive rewrite before it’s ready to be shown anywhere and that’s not a very high priority for me right now.

What about Epic Fantasy With No Dull Parts? aka A Blessing of Monsters? Well, shit. We’ll see, won’t we? One big change is that I seriously underestimated the amount of story there; what I’d planned to complete in one volume is not, in fact, complete after 140K words. So it will become two books. Possibly three. We’ll see what my publisher says, assuming I find one for it.

As for me, I’m working on a Twenty Palaces short story, which won’t be told from Ray’s POV. I’m hoping to have it finished soonest so I can get to work on Epic Sequel With No Dull Parts. I’m still waiting on editorial notes for King Khan, the game tie-in book I wrote for Evil Hat’s Spirit of the Century role-playing game, and that will likely be the only book release for me in 2013.

I know. 2012 saw only two anthologies: Don’t Read This Book and Tales of the Emerald Serpent, and next year will almost certainly be a single game tie-in novel. I like all of that work and I’m proud of it, but I need to put out original novel-length fiction if I want to keep my career going.

Audiobook for CHILD OF FIRE, if you can believe it.

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I’ve been sitting on this news for about two weeks as I tried to get some further information on it, but SDCC is this week and I’m not going to wait any more.

Child of Fire is out in audiobook right now.

Now, I didn’t know this was going to happen. I didn’t even know there was a audio deal in the works. I went back to my email and searched for the word “audio” and found that the only mention was back in September 2009, when my agent mentioned in passing that she had received a note of interest from an audiobook company, which she forwarded to the publisher (since Del Rey had retained the rights).

After that, I never heard a thing about it until last month when I went to Amazon.com to create a link to the book and notices a new line in the “editions” box. I know there are some authors who are pretty heavily involved in the creation of their audiobooks, but I knew so little about it that I’ve been telling people there was no chance of an audiobook because of low sales.

So! The question you might be asking is “What about Game of Cages and Circle of Enemies? Will they be out as audiobooks, too?”

Unfortunately the answer is still “I don’t know yet.” I’m still waiting to hear back, and I don’t expect an answer on the week of (or after) SDCC. However, when I do hear, I’ll blog about it.

I should also mention, apropos to yesterday’s post about whether book reviews actually sell many books, that the initial note of interest was based on early positive reviews, so reviews can have that sort of positive benefit at least.

By the way, author and bookseller Michele Sagara weighed in on the review conversation yesterday on my LJ. She’s a smart person and if you don’t follow her you should.

Okay, Book. You don’t like me and I don’t like you…

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I just returned from the SFWA business meeting, where I learned All The Secrets. Sure, it was 40 minutes long and I left home at seven am to get there and only arrived at the library to start working at noon (thanks to a missed bus connection) but those secrets were totally worth it. [1]

I probably should have loitered afterwards to socialize, but Saturdays are a big writing day for me and I really really didn’t want to lose any more work time today. Besides, I suck at socializing. I’m the boringest guy ever, so it’s best for everyone if I just walk into a room, sit quietly, then walk out again later.

Actually, here’s a tip: If you hear there’s going to be a SFWA business meeting going on at a convention or whatever, just go ahead and crash it. No one checks IDs or anything; just walk in, help yourself to a coffee and a danish, then sit somberly while the nice folks run through the agenda. If they pass a paper around to record who attended, just write “Harry Connolly” on there or some other unrecognizable nobody, then you’ll be able to kick back for some private time with a bunch of pro writers.[2]

The meeting was at Norwescon, which I attended last year. Considering the public transit times involved, I’ve decided it’s just too far to go. Sure, the crowds will also keep me away, and my weak chat fu, and my general disinterest, but the travel times are another arrow in my quiver.

At least I got to use the nice hotel bathroom rather than the downtown library.[3]

Other news! I created a Facebook Page, and will slowly be changing my FB time to that, and trimming back my “friends” on my regular FB account. Nothing personal, but I need to recapture some of my time. If you find yourself unfriended over there, it’s only because I don’t know you really or I see the content you post elsewhere.[4]

Finally, I have something else I need to mention that keeps coming up. I shouldn’t bury it in a weekend post, but what the hell:

I’m not going to do a Twenty Palaces Kickstarter.

Yes, I’ve been involved in two Kickstarter campaigns. The Spirit of the Century one panned out pretty quickly, and the Tales of the Emerald Serpent shared world anthology is still working its way toward the goal.[5]

But neither campaign has been “mine.” I placed fiction there, but I haven’t set the goals, the pledge benefits, the timelines, none of it. I haven’t made the videos and I don’t post the updates. Those projects are someone else’s babies.

A number of people have asked: why not Kickstart a new Twenty Palaces novel? Here’s the answer: While I’m sure I could set a pledge level that people would be willing to meet, it’s not money that’s stopping me. It’s readership.

Each of the Twenty Palaces books sold fewer and fewer copies than the one before. They diminished.[6] As much as I loved the series (and believe me, I love them like crazy–those books are ten years of my life) continuing to push them would be career suicide.

I have new books I’m working on. Some of you will hate them, some will like them–I’m comfortable with that idea. But I have to be writing books that increase my readership, not shrink it.

The Twenty Palaces setting is a dead horse, and my whipping arm is tired.

Okay. Time to make pages.

[1] I’ll even share one with you: It’s hard to get rich in sf/f publishing. You heard it hear first.

[2] As far as you know.

[3] Confidential to the dude in the next stall: Holy Christ, you have my utmost sympathy.

[4] Stupid timeline.

[5] Check out the $5 and $10 pledge levels. They seem like a great bargain.

[6] Circle of Enemies has sold one-third as many books as Child of Fire, and the numbers have pretty much played out. These books are not going to make a surprise resurgence.