Category Archives: Things I didn’t know about publishing

Concerning Fanmail #3

So a couple months ago, I unlocked another achievement in the great sandbox videogame that is my life.

Specifically, I hit 10,000 pieces of fanmail.

fanmail_10kWhile I occasionally answer questions people send me, or post quotes from letters up on facebook, I haven’t actually written anything about fanmail itself since…

*Pat goes to check the archives*

Wow. Since five years ago. I did two blogs back then. One talking about fanmail in general. And another giving some memorable quotes.

Back in October of 2008, I’d just hit 1500 pieces of fanmail. I was pretty sure it was impossible to get any more mail than that.

Back then, I made a point of answering every piece of fanmail. It’s something I put a lot of effort into, and a lot of time. It was really important to me…

Fast forward to today.

For those of you that are into the specifics, I should clarify that this 10,000 mark is kinda arbitrary. I’m only counting messages that come to me through my website’s contact form. (Right now, because it’s taken me a couple months to write this blog, that total is standing at closer to 12,000 messages.)

That total doesn’t count people who e-mail me multiple times. Folks that contact me through other channels, or messages sent to me through facebook, goodreads, or good old-fashioned paper letters.

20131010_141249[1]

Here’s several hundred RL letters that have been sent over the years. I don’t know if it’s weird for me to keep them, but throwing them away seems unspeakable awful.

I’m guessing that if I totaled up all these varied instances of epistolary perspicacity, it would be somewhere closer to 20,000 pieces of mail.

Back in 2008, I wrote:

Fanmail is great. There have been occasional exceptions to this, like the guy who sent me a message saying that he hoped a dog would bite me on the nuts. But even that made me laugh.

This is still true today. The vast majority of fanmail I get is friendly, witty, touching, or funny. People send me useful info. People tell me stories of how my book has impacted their lives.

Here’s one I got a while back:

Your books have given me a way of communicating with a teenage son who has now metamorphosed from a complete alien to a fine young man.

As a dad myself, I can hardly think of a nicer thing to hear.

Unless it’s something like this:

I would forever live with a small piece of my heart unfulfilled had I not met Kvothe.

I have hundreds of these little snippets from messages my readers have sent me. I hoard them like treasure. Sometimes the best part of my day is a short message someone has sent me. Sometimes it’s a 15 year old girl from Brazil. Sometimes it’s a 70 year old grandmother in Virginia.

But I won’t lie to you. It’s not all good…

*      *      *

Here’s the thing. I used to respond to every piece of fanmail. Even if it was just a brief note. Even if it took me months to get the message out.

Not responding never really occurred to me at first. After all, a lot of these people had written elaborate letters, or said really touching things. Not responding would have felt unspeakably rude….

But eventually I had to give it up. If the reason isn’t obvious, here’s a visual aid to drive the point home….

email-screenshot

That’s a screen capture from my sent items folder back in 2008. If you embiggen it, it paints a grim picture of what my day was like.

So I stopped replying to everyone. It was a slow decline. At first I still replied to most of them. Then half. Then maybe a third. These days it’s dwindled to about one in ten, and even those replies are usually brief.

But the truth is, I never decided to cut back. It’s nothing I ever wanted or deliberately chose to do. It’s something I was forced into because there simply weren’t enough hours in the day. And honestly, I still feel guilty about it.

My one consolation was that I still make a point of reading all my fanmail. On facebook. On goodreads. I read it all.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Sometimes I would get a 4000 word message. Those I skim.

But I’m guessing that the math-savvy among you can see the problem looming, can’t you?

Let’s say I can read each message in just one minute. One minute x 20,000 e-mails ends up being well over 300 hours.

That means just to read that many messages takes me two months of full-time work. That’s assuming every day I did nothing but read e-mail for 8 hours.

That doesn’t count the time it might take me to occasionally respond to a message. Or reading the messages that are more than just 60-70 words long. Many of them are 200-300 words. About as much text as page in a paperback novel.

A more realistic estimate would probably be that it takes me 2-3 minutes on average to read a message.

That means that since 2007, I’ve spent between four and six months of full-time work reading messages people have sent me.

God. I’ve honestly never done that math before. I knew it was a huge chunk of time, but not that much. That’s fucking horrifying.

Because that doesn’t take into account me *replying* to messages or actually taking care of the rest of my daily e-mail. And I get a shit-ton of that, too.

I guess it does make me feel a little better about this though:

outlook screen grab

(Yes. I use an archaic e-mail program. Don’t judge me.)

Let’s ignore the 100+ regular unread messages. And the flashing danger light that is more than 100 unread messages deliberately tucked into a folder called “Important.”

Circled in red, you can see that I’ve got more than 300 unread pieces of reader mail. I’m terribly behind.

And that’s not counting Goodreads:

Good Reads

There’s 80 unread messages piled up there.

My facebook fan page has another 250….

messages tab FB

And that’s *despite* the fact that I’ve pointedly mentioned that it’s a bad place to contact me.

I’d also like to point out that these aren’t a year’s worth of messages. It’s just these last couple months where things have really started to spiral out of my control…

Here’s the worst of it:

photo-6

The stack of unread letters. 50 or 60 of them from all over the world. Probably half a year’s worth. People WROTE these on real paper. They paid money to mail them to me. These are tangible acts of affection, and I’ve been too busy to give them the time they deserve.

And I feel awful about it. All the time.

I was keeping up pretty well until a couple months ago. I jump in occasionally and prune the online messages back…. but it’s like kudzu…

No. That’s not right. Because I’ll say it again, the vast majority of these messages are friendly, or heartwarming, or delightfully eccentric.

Dear Pat,

I admitted to my boyfriend that his only real competition is Kvothe only to have him admit that my only real competition is Kvothe too. I’m simultaneously flattered that only Kvothe can outshine me and impressed that my boyfriend’s sexuality is now under question due to a couple of words you put together.

Though occasionally there are other types of messages….

But I don’t know if I want to get into that. I don’t know if y’all would be interested in hearing about the other kind of messages people send.

On to my point–

Creft. What is my point here? I don’t know anymore. When I started writing this blog hours ago, I really didn’t expect it to get as long as this.

I think these are my points:

1. Part of this is just bitching a little. I’ll cop to that.

And while I’m well aware that it’s hard to get more first-world-problem than: “Oh noes! I have too many fanmails!” the truth is that this *is* my blog. I’m allowed to kvetch a little if I want.

2. Much more than that, this is a blanket explanation and apology to everyone who has e-mailed me and never received a reply.

I am sorry. I wish I had all the time in the world so I could e-mail you back and thank you for taking the time to drop me a line. I wish we could all have lunch together and hang out and talk about fun, useless bullshit all afternoon.

3. I want y’all to know that even if I haven’t replied, I have read your e-mail, your message, your letter, your postcard, your engraved clay tablet, your origami crane, your smoke signal, your telepathic space beam.

I have these missives and appreciated them. They have made me smile and they have made me weepy. They have made me feel proud, and loved, and very, very lucky.

That said, things will have to change soon. I’m not sure *how* they will change, but I need to find a way to keep more time for myself while not feeling hellishly guilty about being selfish for keeping time to myself. This is a hard thing for me.

Until I say otherwise, know that I’m still reading your messages.

Eventually.

Fondly,

pat

Also posted in a few words you're probably going to have to look up, Achievement Unlocked!, fanmail, Surreal enthusiasm, Things I didn't know about publishing, things I shouldn't talk about | By Pat94 Responses

Worldbuilders: Sounding the Advance

We’re about a month and a half away from the start of this year’s Worldbuilders, and I have to say, things are going pretty well so far.

Actually, we’re doing way better than that. Things are going amazingly well.

I wish I could take credit for it. But the truth is, it’s the newly assembled Worldbuilders team who deserves the praise.

You see, last year’s fundraiser was our biggest yet. We raised over 450,000 dollars for Heifer International.

The downside was that it swallowed three months of my life.

And I’m not saying it wasn’t worth it. Because it was. $450,000 is a lot of goats. It’s a lot of well-fed kids and a lot of families that are happier and healthier than they were before.

But it made me realize that I needed *way* more help to run things effectively. We’ve come a long way since 2008 when Sarah and I ran this whole thing out of our living room.

As a result, this year I’ve got a bunch of lovely, capable, and above all *organized* people helping out. They say things to me like, “You know, maybe you should start asking authors for donations before the fundraiser actually starts…”

Its because of them that things are moving along smoothly and according to schedule. Hell, they’re the only reason there is a schedule.

So, with no further ado, a few updates:

  • Alchemystic Pre-Order

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog explaining my mortal enemy Anton Strout’s generous offer to donate $1 to worldbuilders for every copy of his upcoming book that people pre-order. I also mentioned that his publisher, Penguin, generously offered to match that donation up to the first 1500 books.

However, after I posted the blog, I realized that while I had gone into some detail about how much I wished to destroy Anton, I hadn’t done a good job of explaining how generous he was actually being with his offer.

(I will admit, this was not my best threat ever.)

You see, authors make their money by earning a royalty off each book they sell. For paperback books, that royalty tends to be between 6% and 8% of the cover price.

Alchemystic has a cover price of 7.99. Let’s call it eight bucks even just to keep the math easy.

This means every copy of Anton’s book that’s pre-ordered, will earn him between 48 and 64 cents.

That means for every copy of his book that’s pre-ordered, Anton is potentially giving away twice as much money as he’s making on the sale.

Now I’m not asking that you rush out and pre-order his book in an attempt to bankrupt this man. My nemesis. My sworn enemy.

No. That would be petty.

What I’m asking you to do is this:

1. Realize that if you order Alchemystic before Sunday the 23rd, it will count as a pre-order.

2. Consider that if you pre-order the book, two dollars will be donated to Worldbuilders, and, by extension, Heifer International.

3. Look at this adorable picture of a little girl hugging a goat.

4. Do whatever comes naturally.

  • The 2013 Literary Pin-Up Calendar.

So far the calendar pre-order has been going very well.

For example, these are the pre-orders we received just on the first day.

As we promised, calendars will go out in the same order that they came in. So these will be the very first calendars we ship out when they come back from the printer.

If you’re interested in seeing one of the recently revealed pin-ups, you can head over to the pre-order page on the Tinker’s Packs and check it out there. (Hint: It’s Peter S. Beagle’s.)

You can read the blog Lee Moyer wrote about it over here.

Rest assured that we’ll be posting more images as they become available.

  • New Facebook Pages. 

We have recently created a Facebook page for our online store, The Tinker’s Packs.

And another page for Worldbuilders itself.

If you want to keep a close eye on the fundraiser and the store, following those pages might be a good idea. You’re less likely to miss updates that way. And some of the items we’ll be offering on the store, or putting up for auction in the fundraiser are going to be limited in number.

For example, last year someone donated 30 Jayne hats to the fundraiser and they sold out in less than a day. The same thing happened with the ceramic steins someone made for us.

If you tune in to the Facebook pages, odds are you’ll have a better chance of catching these sorts of things before they sell out.

That’s all for now, folks. More soon….

pat

[Edit: Added 1:00 PM]

  • Contact E-mails for Worldbuilders.

If you’d like to make a donation, you can drop us a line at donations (squiggly-at-thinger) worldbuilders.org

If you have a general question about the fundraiser, you can contact us at: Questions (squiggly-at-thinger) worldbuilders.org.

 

 

Also posted in calling on the legions, cool things, the business of writing, Things I didn't know about publishing, Worldbuilders 2012 | By Pat29 Responses

The Dirty Streets of Heaven

One of the coolest things about being a published author is that I occasionally get sneak peaks of books before they’re officially released.

These books are called ARC’s. (Advanced Reading Copies) And publishers send them out to booksellers, reviewers, and authors with the hope of getting promotional blurbs.

This leads to one of the oddest things about being a reasonably popular author: getting asked to blurb books.

As I’ve talked about before on the blog, giving blurbs is something that doesn’t come easily to me. Talking about books is easy. But giving a short, snazzy statement that’s marketable while also being honest…. Well, I often make a mess of it. It’s only recently that I feel as if I have it even halfway figured out.

But in this last year or so, I’ve had to deal with another mind-bending permutation of it all. Getting asked to blurb books by authors I’ve admired my whole life.

For example:

Do you know how weird it is to have a promotional blurb on the front of your favorite book?

You know what my original blurb was for this book? The blurb that I had to get out of my system before I could write the civilized one up there?

It went something like this:

Are you fucking kidding me? You want *me* to tell you why this book is good? I’ve been published for, like, five years. This book has been shining like a pure white diamond of divine fire since 1968. It’s one of the cornerstones of modern fantasy. What is wrong with you? Do you need a blurb on a candy bar telling you it’s sugary and delicious? Jesus, Krishna, and Siddhartha, how can you even consider yourself a fantasy reader if you haven’t read The Last Unicorn? Seriously. Read it. Read it or I will kill you….

Yeah. Like I said. I’m not that good at writing promotional stuff.

And things have only gotten weirder. Earlier this year I burbled a reprint of a Terry Brooks novel. Terry Brooks. His books were some of the first serious fantasy I read back in high school.

Then now we come to this….

For those of you that don’t know, Tad Williams’ newest book just hit the shelves about a week ago. Two words: Angel Noir.

And on the back?

(Click to Embiggen.)

I’m up at the top there. Glibly blurbing away. As if I could somehow sum up how I feel about Tad Williams turning his hand to urban fantasy in 30-40 words.

Part of me wonders where this madness will end. Because honestly, this sort of escalation can only go on for so long….

Okay. Back to the point here. Tad’s book.

Here’s the short version: I really enjoyed it. It might be my favorite book of his to date, and that’s saying something.

Here’s the moderate-length version:

Back around Juneish, I went on a bit of a family vacation. I needed it, and I owed it to my family to get away from work for a while.

So went up north with Sarah and Oot to hang out with my dad. I left my work at home, but I did bring the ARC of Tad’s book. Because for it to really be a vacation for me, I have to have something to read.

I start to read it on the drive up into the north woods, and I got pulled into the story. So pulled in that I would rather read the book than sleep. So pulled in that I end up reading the book late, late into the night. So pulled in that I ended up sitting in a stairwell for hours and hours, until 4 AM, effectively hiding from my family, because I didn’t want to wake anyone up by having a light on. And also because I didn’t want my dad to wake up, see that I was still reading, and give me that look that says, “You know, we’ve got stuff to do tomorrow. You should really get to sleep.”

Yeah. So it was pretty much like high school all over again.

If you still need more encouragement than that, you can read the review I wrote over on Goodreads.

Later folks,

pat

Also posted in recommendations, the art of blurbing, the business of writing, Things I didn't know about publishing | By Pat50 Responses

Fanmail FAQ: Size Matters or Breaking Up is Hard to Do…

Several months ago, I got a bunch of e-mails concerning the German translation of Wise Man’s Fear. They all had a similar theme: specifically, people were upset that the book was going to be broken into two volumes.

Whenever a bunch of people contact me asking the same question, I try to respond on the blog. This is doubly true if people are unhappy about something, and triply true if they’re unhappy for the simple reason that they don’t have all the facts at their disposal.

So I started writing my response blog. I e-mailed the publisher, did some research, talked to some German fans, did some more research….

Then I got the news about my dad and decided I didn’t give a shit about writing blogs for a while.

But now I’m back, and since I know some people out there are disgruntled, I feel I should do my best to gruntle them. Failing that, I can at least make sure folks have all the facts about why the German translation of The Wise Man’s Fear is getting broken up into two parts.

So here we go….

First, here’s a fairly good example of what the e-mails were like.

Pat,

Many of your German readers are very disappointed that “The wise man’s fear” appears here in two parts. There is the long waiting period part 1 and part 2. Worse, we have to pay twice for expensive book. The publisher says, “Patrick Rothfuss agrees with this plan.” But this seems wrong to me. I read your blog, and you do not seem like a person who would make this sort of brazen rip-off.

I am sorry my English is not good. Please forgive my mistakes.

J.

Actually, that’s a very polite example of the e-mails I received. This one is not, for example, accusing me and/or the publisher of maliciously fucking you, the loyal, loving reader out of your hard-earned money.

Let me reassure you.  This isn’t just the publisher trying to chisel money out of you. I wouldn’t stand for that.

The problem is that my books are long. Really, really long.

Take my first book for example. It was over 250,000 words. That’s more than double the length of most fantasy novels.

To put things in perspective, The Name of the Wind is almost as long as the first three Harry Potter novels put together.

It’s for this reason that many publishers (Swedish, Danish, Slovakian…) broke it up into two volumes.

Other countries, namely Japan and Korea, broke it into *three* volumes.

They didn’t do that in Germany. My German publisher printed it as one great, gorgeous, high-quality book.

What’s my point? My point is that The Name of the Wind was 250,000 words long, which makes it a really big book.

Okay? Okay.

The Wise Man’s Fear was even bigger than that.  A lot bigger. The Wise Man’s Fear was nearly 400,000 words long. Almost 60% longer than my first (really massive) book.

How long is that? Well… to put it in perspective, The Wise Man’s Fear is more than twice as long as the final Harry Potter book. It’s longer than all three books of the entire Hunger Games trilogy (Which is barely 300,000 words all stacked together.)

Or how about this: the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, including the appendices, is about 450,000 words long.

Yeah. My second book by itself is almost longer than the Lord of the Rings. I was a little shocked when I found that out.

Anyway, earlier this year, my German editor contacted me and asked if it was going to be okay if they broke the book into two parts. Their main reason was the fact that when you translate something from English to German, it tends to get about 30-40% longer. For example, the US hardcover of The Name of the Wind was 662 pages. The German hardcover was 864 pages.

This meant that since the US version of The Wise Man’s Fear was almost 1000 pages, the German version was going to be upwards to 1400 pages.

I agreed that 1400 pages was a pretty crazy length for a book, and that breaking it up seemed like a reasonable solution. This wasn’t a startling development for me, because, as I’ve said, several other countries had already broken up The Name of the Wind.

That’s why they’re broke it up. 1400 pages is a really insane length for a book. Physically, it’s hard to bind durably so it doesn’t fall apart. It’s harder to ship. It’s harder for bookstores to fit it on shelves. It’s heavier to carry around.

This does mean, unfortunately, that folks in Germany will have to buy two books. And in some ways that sucks. It’s more expensive.

But you have to consider a few things:

1. You’re getting more story.

Take a look at The Name of the Wind and Volume 1 of The Wise Man’s Fear side-by-side.

You’ll note that they’re the same size. That’s because they’re almost exactly the same length. (861 pages vs. 859) You can’t really claim you’re being ripped off. It’s not like we’re cutting a ham sandwich in half and selling it to you twice. This is a full sandwich full of book. Or something. You know what I mean.

I mentioned before that The Wise Man’s Fear is 60% longer than The Name of the Wind.  That extra 60% is, effectively, what’s getting printed in the second volume. Yes, you’re having to buy a second book, but that second book contains… well… an entire second book’s worth of story.

2. Breaking the book into two parts means you get to read the book sooner. Since they’re treating it as two books, the publisher didn’t have to wait for the entire translation. That’s why the the first, larger part of the story came out a week or so ago. If they printed it all at once, you’d probably have to wait until February of next year to get hold of it.

3. The publisher asked my opinion as to where they thought the best place would be to break the story. We agreed that we didn’t want to leave people with a cliffhanger, and chose a natural resting place. When we had a slight difference of opinion, they let me have my way. Which you have to admit is pretty cool of them.

4. You also have to give Klett-Cotta (my German publisher) credit for not dragging their heels with the release date of the second half of the book. Conventional publishing wisdom says that they should wait at least six months between volume 1 and volume 2. But they aren’t doing that. The second half is coming out as fast as it possibly can, in January of 2012.

So there you go. That’s why the German translation comes in two volumes. There’s also a German article about it over here if you’re interested and can verstehen die Deutsch.

More soon,

pat

Also posted in Fanmail Q + A, foreign happenings, Things I didn't know about publishing | By Pat96 Responses

Meeting Terry Pratchett

So as I mentioned yesterday, while I was at NADWcon this weekend, I got the chance to get a book signed by Terry Pratchett.

The thought of getting a book signed is an odd one to me. In these last several months, it’s possible that I’ve signed thousands of books. Many thousands. I’ve signed books to families, to kids, to grandparents. I’ve signed books in warehouses, libraries, bookstores, and colleges….

But honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever approached someone to get their autograph. Not in a formal setting. And certainly not anyone of Terry Pratchett’s status. Not someone I’ve been reading since I stumbled onto a copy of Sourcery in Shopko in 1989….

By the time Monday rolled around, I’d been at the convention for three solid days. And truth be told, I was kinda hoping that I might run into Terry at some point in that time. Maybe we’d be in the elevator together. Maybe we’d meet in the hallway on the way to a panel. Maybe someone would introduce us and I’d get a chance to say a few words….

But it didn’t happen. I wasn’t surprised or disappointed. I know how these things work. It’s a big con, and Terry’s the star of the show. They have to work hard to protect the Guest of Honor at events like this or they’re mobbed by fans. If they aren’t careful, a guest like Terry will have a hard time finding a moment’s peace to eat. I’ve seen some titan-level writers who have trouble simply walking down a hallway at a con without a handful of people asking for an autograph or a picture.

So I didn’t stalk Pratchett. I didn’t arrange an introduction, or just happen to bump into him somewhere. Even when I found out that his room was right next to mine in the hotel, I didn’t do anything like leave a copy of The Princess and Mr. Whiffle outside his door. I didn’t want to be that guy.

The signings were carefully controlled, too. They have to be. Terry has written more than 50 books, and everyone there would like nothing more than to get a bunch signed. If they let everyone get as many books signed as they’d like, Terry would have spent the entire length of the four-day convention signing books.

I’m not being hyperbolic here. It’s the literal truth. He could easily have spent 70 hours signing books if the convention didn’t work hard to control the situation.

This is something I understand only now that I’ve been on my first signing tour.

Take me, for example. I’m a newbie author. I have two books out (compared to Pratchett’s 50+). I’ve been published for four years (compared Pratchett’s 40.)

To put this in different terms, I am currently hovering around 2300 Gaiman-Day units of cool, which isn’t bad.

But Pratchett probably ranks in at more than 60,000. I mean, when you write so well they actually knight you, you’re kind of a big deal.

Despite my relatively newbie nature, when I showed up in Houston back in March, I signed books for 9 hours straight. Given that I’m about 2% of a Pratchett, you can see how quickly one of his signings could spiral into madness if it wasn’t carefully controlled.

My point is, I knew Pratchett wasn’t going to be signing books all higgledy piggledy at the con. Even if he signed a single book for every person there, it would take him 12 hours. Because of that, I knew I probably wasn’t going to have a chance to get anything signed.

That said, I was pleasantly surprised when the guest liaison for the convention told me that if I wanted, he might be able to pull a few little strings for me. Maybe enough for me to get a book signed. Maybe.

I was honest, and said I’d be grateful for the chance. If I could get a book signed, I’d be able to use it for the charity I run every year.

He said that if the book was for charity, we could almost certainly make it happen.

So I bought a copy of Nation from Dreamhaven in the dealer’s room, and on Monday, I wandered to the hall where Terry was signing. He was mostly autographing stuff items that had been sold at the charity auction the day before. I’d had to miss the auction because I was doing some paneling. But it was probably for the best, as I’d already spent more money than I should on swag.

The guest liaison motioned me over and told me it was cool if I got something signed. It really didn’t have to be for the charity, either, he said. I could just get something for myself.

Suddenly I was really conflicted. I’d brought a copy of Where’s My Cow? to the convention, because whenever we travel with Oot, we need to bring about a dozen books to keep him happy. (He’s like his dad that way.)

I’ve been reading Where’s My Cow? to Oot since before he could talk. It’s a great book, and the ending makes me a little weepy, because I’ve turned into a total soppy git ever since I became a dad.

Oot knows what noises the animals make, even the  Hippopotamus. He really likes the page with Coffin’ Henry on it, too, and asks to see it again and again.

He also enthusiastically says, “Buggrit!” Which is a little troubling to Sarah, but pleases me to no end.

So when the guest liaison says I can get any book signed, I realize I have Where is My Cow? in my backpack. I could get Pratchett to sign the book to Oot….

It’s a hard moment, but I decide to get Nation signed for Worldbuilders instead. Because personal isn’t the same as important. The signed book will be a nice draw for Worldbuilders if we throw it into the general mix of prizes. And if we auction it, I’m guessing it will bring in at least a couple hundred bucks. That’s enough for a couple of goats….

I consider trying to get both signed, of course. Because I’m only human. Terry is a nice guy, and accommodating, so I’m guessing if I pulled a second book out of my bag when I was at the table he’d go for it….

But I shake off the thought fairly quickly. I am not a special snowflake. I don’t deserve to get two books signed when everybody else gets one. If everyone tried to pull that shit, Terry would have an extra 2000 books to sign.

The guest liaison brings me up to the table and introduces me, explaining that I’m fellow author and that I’ve hit the New York Times with both my books. That’s nice of him. It lets me stand a little taller.

Terry looks up at me and says, “I’m guessing you’re fantasy, not science fiction.”

I grin and nod. “We do have a certain look, don’t we?”

I’m pleasantly surprised by the fact that I don’t feel terribly tongue-tied or shaky or awkward.

[Author’s note: Sarah just brought Oot in after his shower. He grinned at me and, “Bugit! … Hand and shrimp! Fow Ron!” (This will only make sense if you’ve read a lot of Discworld or Where’s My Cow?)]

I hand over the copy of Nation and say, “This book was absolutely gorgeous. It might be the best book I’ve ever read.”

“I got a lot of letters from children,” Terry says. “They were upset because it didn’t have a happy ending.”

He opens the book and signs his name. His signature is way loopier than mine.

Terry keeps talking as he signs, “But I always reply, ‘It has a ending. It has the right ending.”

“It has the perfect ending,” I say. “It was beautiful. It absolutely broke my heart.”

And that was it. I moved away and made room for the rest of the folk who had things for him to sign.

Would I have liked to talk longer? Maybe chat about writing and the art of ending? Of course. Who wouldn’t?

But there’s only so much time. And honestly, I was happy to wrap things up before I accidentally made an ass of myself.

Besides, though Pratchett didn’t know it, he’s said about the best thing possible to me. I worry about the ending of my story sometimes. I worry that people won’t like it. Most of my readers are hoping for a particular type of ending. They e-mail me with their theories and their hopes. They want X to hook up with Y. They want Z to get his comeuppance. They want such and such story tied up in a certain way….

I know it comes from a place of love. But it makes me nervous.

After talking to Terry, I’m less nervous. I can’t give each of you your own personalize ending, containing everything you specifically wanted out of the story. That’s impossible.

But I can give you the right ending. A perfect ending.

That’s all for now. If you have a spare moment, send a good thought this way tomorrow.

I don’t want to give any specifics, but tomorrow is going to be a little rough for us. If everything goes well it won’t be a big deal. But still, if you have a spare thought, Oot and Sarah and I could use it, just for luck.

Later,

pat

Also posted in conventions, meeting famous people, Oot, signing books, Tales from the Con, Things I didn't know about publishing | By Pat100 Responses

The Way of Kings

I have trouble taking things seriously. If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, this probably doesn’t come as a huge surprise to you.

In medieval times, people probably would have referred to me as “Phlegmatic” and attributed this tendency to an imbalance of my humors. These days people just think of me as an an irreverent asshat.

It’s especially bad when I’m asked to write anything remotely promotional. A good example of this is my endless struggle with biography.

It’s also a real problem when I want to write a blurb for someone’s book.

I very rarely give blurbs, and part of the reason for this is when I sit down to write one, I feel like I have to be all professional and formal. I feel like I should use words like, “Luminous” and “Scintillating” and “Perspicacious” “Resplendent.”

But that’s not how I talk. If I really liked a book, I would say to my friend, “This is a really fucking good book. Seriously. Have you read it? No? Go buy it, shitweasel.”

However, that’s not really the sort of thing publishers are looking to print on the cover of a book.

My most recent experience blurbing a book was when Brandon Sanderson sent me an ARC of the Way of Kings a while back.

I read the book and liked it, which irritated me. Brandon writes way faster than I do, and his books are consistently good. This means that I feel like I should really despise him. Either that or hunt him down like an animal so I can devour his liver and thereby gain some of his power.

But even though I’ve tried really hard, I can’t help but like him. Brandon’s a really nice guy.

So I sit down and try to write a professional style blurb for him. Here’s what I come up with:

“Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite new authors, and The Way of Kings continues his tradition of creating vivid, fantastic worlds for us to visit.”

How’s that for awful? That isn’t just some first quick attempt, either. I worked for like twenty minutes to come up with that. It’s one part bland, one part stiff, and two parts fake-sounding. “Continues his tradition”? Who the hell says something like that? Not me.

So I try again:

“Sanderson knows how to tell a good story, and he’s created another vivid and fantastic world in The Way of Kings.”

If anything, this one’s even worse. It’s more boring. And I’m clinging to the word “vivid” like it’s somehow going to keep me from looking like an idiot.

At this point I’m frustrated. So I quit taking the whole process seriously and write,

“Brandon Sanderson’s books are so good that he’s starting to piss me off.”

And you know what? It feels pretty good. That’s something I’d actually say out loud. And in its own way, that blurb is more honest and complementary than the other two.

So I decide to run with it, and write.

“This book is cool, and Brandon Sanderson smells like fresh-baked cookies.”

“Sanderson’s newest Brobdingnagian epic is sure to please. Look it up, bitches.”

“Brandon Sanderson’s new book is printed on delightfully soft-yet durable paper. With more than a thousand pages, The Way of Kings is sure to bring you several weeks of good, solid use, though that may vary according to your diet and personal hygiene.”

“When’s book two coming out? What’s taking so long?”

“Brandon Sanderson is one of the great new writers on the scene today. And he’s not hard on the eyes either. Rawr.”

“The Way of Kings is a tour-de-force. Luminously meretricious, yet with a round oaky underbite, this book offers notes of toffee and broam with just a hint of having someone’s nephew hit you in the groin with a tennis ball. Best served with fish.”

Writing these sorts of blurbs come really naturally to me.

After about an hour of this, I sent a handful of potential blurbs along to Brandon and his agent. I told them the truth, that I suck at giving the classic blurb.

And that was the last I thought of it until I wandered into the bookstore two days ago and saw that The Way of Kings has just hit the shelves.

I picked it up just to check how many long it was. It’s over a thousand pages, so that made me feel better about The Wise Man’s Fear. Especially because I just added a new chapter yesterday.

Then I flipped it over and saw this:

What’s that down there on the bottom?

Just me and Orson Scott Card, hanging out on the back of Brandon Sanderson’s book.

And you know what? I kinda like my blurb. It’s not fancy, but then again, I’m not a fancy person. But sincere? I’ve got sincere in spades.

If you’re looking for something to read, you might want to check it out…

Best,

pat

Also posted in my dumbness, My Iconoclastic Tendencies, recommendations, the art of blurbing, Things I didn't know about publishing | By Pat130 Responses

Who Fears Death?

Since I’ve become a published author, a lot has changed in my life.

Most of these changes have been good things. Money, for example. These days when I go to the grocery store, I don’t have to buy the 33 cent burritos. Now I can buy the 59 cent burritos, which contain, if not food, then at least a texture designed to emulate food.

When I buy ramen, I don’t have to buy the Chicken Maruchen ramen, which you can get for a dime a packet if you buy it in bulk. These days I can buy really fancy ramen. Ramen with three or four little packets of stuff you add to the noodles. These packets contain flecks of material that I suspect are not merely vegetable colored… they might actually *be* vegetables.

True, I usually buy the Chicken Maruchen ramen anyway. But it’s nice to know that if I wanted to, I could splurge a little.

People recognize me in public now. Not just here in Stevens Point (where I live) or in Madison (where I used to live.) Someone recognized me in a train station in Manchester England last year. It was a surreal experience back then, but it’s happened all over the US now, people come up to me on the street or in a coffee shop and say, “Are you…?”

And, usually, I am.

It’s amazing what you can get used to. I never thought I’d get used to seeing my book in bookstores, but I’ve grown accustomed to it. I’m used to fanmail. I’m used to sometimes getting a hundred comments when I post a blog.

But when I was at Wiscon a couple weeks ago, I got another surprise. My friend Nnedi Okorafor was GOH there and I picked up a copy of her newly published book: Who Fears Death.

Some of you might remember Nnedi’s name because of the fun little interview I did with her a couple months ago.

Anyway, when I was standing in line to buy her book, I flipped it over and was surprised at what I saw there.

(Click to Embiggen.)

It was a blurb extolling the virtues the book… from Patrick Rothfuss.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, of course. I had given her the blurb, after all. But still, it’s not something I’m used to yet.

Everything said, my blurb seems kinda weak compared to some of the others. I kinda suck at giving blurbs for a variety of reasons. But that’s a topic for a different post I suppose…

Despite my lack of blurb prowess, if you’re looking for something to read, you should check it out. This is doubly true if you happen to be tired of the same-old done-to-death fantasy crap. You know what I’m talking about: plucky orphans, schools of magic, faeries, dragons, vaguely medieval settings, stew…

Nnedi’s made a different type of world here, and she’s telling a different kind of story. I can honestly say there were scenes in this book that filled me with genuine horror and dread. I mean that as the highest sort of praise. It’s easy to make me laugh, and you don’t have to work too hard to make me cry. But to make me actually terrified on a character’s behalf? That’s rare stuff.

More news soon, stay tuned.

pat

Also posted in recommendations, the art of blurbing, Things I didn't know about publishing | By Pat66 Responses
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