Category Archives: Things I didn’t know about publishing

I said I’d tell you when I knew….

So my editor has finished reading the great beastly draft of The Wise Man’s Fear I sent her a while back.

It’s the third draft she’s read, but it’s the first one I’ve really had any confidence in. The first one was pure crap. The second one was mostly complete but still pretty shaky in parts.

This draft was good. I’m verging on being proud of it. It still has a few problems, but they’re manageable problems.  They’re problems I can percieve and get my head around, and that means they’re problems I can solve.

So Betsy got back to me with her feedback on the manuscript: a list of 27 things she felt needed attention in the book, arranged in nicely worded bullet points. (The formatting was at my request. I’m fond of bullet points.)

Some of her 27 points are small things. Some are bigger issues. We agree about most of them. Two or three will require a bit of negotiation.

It’s really not a long list, especially when you consider that my own list of things-that-need-fixing-in-book-two currently stands at about 50 or 60 items.

Every time I sit down to work on the book, I try to resolve a few of those issues. Sometimes I fix something and cross it off the list. Other times, a beta reader will bring something to my attention and I add it to the list. As I work, sometimes new problems occur to me, and I add those to the list as well. Sometimes I fix something, and that causes a new problem. So I cross something off and add something at the same time.

It’s kinda like trying to iron all the wrinkles out of a shirt. A huge, living, n-dimentional shirt.

As an example: tonight I worked on the book for about 9 hours. I crossed off four things on my list and added six things. But most of those six things are small, while two of the things I fixed were moderately big and complicated. So it was a good day’s work. (Unfortunately, because one problem tangled me up for four hours, I didn’t get home until 1:30 AM, which means I didn’t get to say goodnight to Oot, which sucks.)

Anyway, earlier today I talked on the phone with my editor about the book. We talked about her 27 points.

My editor asked me if I could have the book done by September.

I thought about it. I thought about her 27 points and my ever-changing 50-60 points. I thought about who I can still use as beta readers, and how many drafts I’ll be able go through in four months. I thought about how many times I will personally be able to read the book in four months.

I said I was sure I could finish it by September.

She asked me if I was sure. Really sure.

I thought about it. Back in 2007, I was sure I’d have the book done by 2008. But I was hugely ignorant and optimistic back then. So I was dead fucking wrong. That caused a lot of grief.

I told her I was really sure I could have it finished by September.

Come hell or high water? She asked me.

Come hell or high water, I said.

So we agreed that I’d have the book finished by September. It was nice. It made us both happy.

So that’s part of the news, that I’ll be finished writing The Wise Man’s Fear by September.

But here’s the rest of the news: that means that the book can’t come out until March of 2011.

Why? Well, for a bunch of reasons. Mostly because there are a lot of things that have to happen before a mass of text becomes a printed book on a shelf. It needs to be copyedited. The edits need to be confirmed.  It needs to be proofed, checked for consistency, fiddled with. Fonts need to be chosen. It needs to go through layout. Then it needs to be proofed again. Marketing needs to happen. It needs to be sent to reviewers, and the reviewers need to have time to read it before they write the reviews. It needs to be put into catalogs of to-be-published-books so people who run bookstores can learn about it and order copies for their stores. It needs to be printed, boxed, warehoused, shipped. We need to sacrifice a black she-goat and pray to strange and terrible gods. Then we need to proofread again.

A lot of these steps are going to take longer than normal because my book is 2-3 times longer than most ordinary novels. Other things are going to take longer because this book is kinda important to a lot of people, and we want to make sure everything gets done just right.

The simple truth of the matter is this: that’s just the way it is. I wish it could be sooner, and I’m guessing many of you feel the same. Believe it or not, if the publisher could wave a magic wand and make that happen, they would. (Remember, they don’t make money on the book until they can sell it.)

But there’s no way the book can come out earlier and still have it be the best book possible.

So that’s what happened today: I found out the publication date for The Wise Man’s Fear – March 1st 2011.

Honestly, it would be way easier for me to sit on this information for a while. I could wait until the date was a little closer, thereby avoid some of the great wailing and gnashing of teeth I expect will follow this announcement. That shit brings me no joy. It damages my calm and makes it harder for me to write.

But I promised y’all I would pass along the *real* publication date as soon as I knew it. So that’s what I’m doing.

March 1st 2011.

pat

Also posted in book two, Things I didn't know about publishing | By PatComments closed

Interesting times….

I really don’t go in for talking about current events on the blog. The main reason for this is the fact that I am profoundly out of touch with the outside world. I don’t have cable and I don’t watch the news. On the rare occasion I miss the news and feel the need to absorb some fearmongering bullshit, I just drop a tab of acid and read a Lovecraft story. There’s less pretense that way.

I generally assume that if something really interesting happens, one of my friends will tell me, or it will show up in some of the webcomics I read. In a pinch, I assume I’ll simply absorb the knowledge through the aether, have it beamed into my mind with alien space rays, or apprehend it directly through examination of my Socratic soul using the dialectic.

I’m well aware that this isn’t the most efficient or comprehensive way to aggregate information. But it still beats the hell out of watching Fox News.

The other reason I don’t talk much about the issues on here is that when things are big enough to be interesting, they also tend to be so big that it’s hard for me to form easily encapsulated opinions about them.

For example, when there was the big kerfuffle about Google digitizing a shitload of books and thereby egregiously violating international copyright law, I was interested. Anything dealing with intellectual property rights effects me personally and professionally. So I read a bunch of stuff about it, thought some thoughts, and had a few really good conversations with a few of my librarian friends.

The upshot of my research? It’s a really complicated issue, and I have mixed feelings about it. Is Google being a bit of a dick and doing morally questionable stuff? Absolutely. But…. Well…. It’s more complicated than that.

See? Any blog I wrote on the issue would be nothing more than a long-winded shrug. Not terribly fun to write, and not particularly entertaining to read.

That’s my recent take on the current Amazon dealio.

For those of you who haven’t heard. Amazon (the bookseller) recently got into a bit of an argument with Macmillan (a book publisher) about e-book pricing. As a result, Amazon pulled all of Macmillan’s books off their website. Not just the e-books. All the books.

I’ve done some research and talked to some people and my conclusion is that.

1. This is a big deal.

2. Amazon is being a bit of a dick, and attempting to bully folks in order to get more of the publishing pie than is really fair.

This feels weird for me to say, because honestly, Amazon has been good to me over the years. They gave me good reviews and really helped promote my book early on. It was really nice.

But it really doesn’t matter how good they’ve been to me in the past. If you’re nice to me, then beat up my neighbor for his lunch money, you’re still a bully. I’m afraid there’s just no way around it.

3. This whole thing is pretty complicated, and I’m not well informed enough make any real intelligent assessment of the overall situation or what it might mean for publishing, DRM, or the future of e-books.

If you’re interested in that sort of thing, you might want to check out this blog written by the lovely and talented Charles Stross. He understands the landscape of publishing WAY better than me and does a great job of summing things up.

Amazon, Macmillan: an outsider’s guide to the fight.

Here’s also a blog from Tobias Buckell that has more technical details. He does some of the math for you and explains what all this really means in a delightfully low-bullshit way.

Link to Buckell’s blog.

Here’s the public statement from Macmillan too.

I’m bringing this to your attention because if you’re like me, you sometimes miss things like this unless someone points them out. Also, I’m guessing most of you kinda like books.

I like books too, and while two companies having a corporate slapfight might seem far removed from the book you pick up, read, and enjoy, the truth is that these corporate manoeuvrings have very real effects on which books get published in the future, their quality, and how well authors get treated in the process.

If anyone else has relevant links they’d like to post in the comments below, please feel free to do so. I’m way too tired to dig up more stuff right now. I’ve got to go to bed.

We’re living in interesting times, folks….

pat

Also posted in a few words you're probably going to have to look up, Things I didn't know about publishing | By Pat52 Responses

Everyone Hates Their Job Sometimes…

Here’s the truth. Sometimes I hate writing this fucking book.

I know this isn’t something most of you want to hear. You want to hear that it’s going well. (Which is it.) You also want to hear that I love every moment of writing it. It’s my baby, right? You have to love your baby…

Well, yes. But technically I’ve been working on this trilogy since 1994. The book is more like a teenager in some ways. You love a teenager too, but you can also be angry with a teenager. And sick of its endless shit.

The problem is this. People want to believe that being a published writer is a beautiful, happily-ever-after, candy mountain place where all your dreams come true.

Unfortunately, that’s bullshit.

This is a part of something I’ve come to think of as The Myth of the Author. I’m not going to get into the details right now. That’s a blog for a whole different day. But the gist of my theory is that, in general, people think of writers as a different sort of person. And by extension, writing is a different sort of work. It’s strange and wonderful. It’s a mystic process. It can’t be quantified. It’s not chemistry, it’s alchemy.

While some of that is true, this belief makes it really difficult for me to bitch about my job.

For example, if a doctor wrote a blog saying. “Fuck! sometimes I hate being a doctor…” People would read it and say, “Yeah man. I can see where you’re coming from. Long hours. Tons of responsibility. People expect a lot out of you. That’s a rough gig.”

On the other hand, if I come on here and bitch about my job. People will be disappointed. Irritated even.

Why would people be irritated? For several reasons.

Reason #1: It’s irritating when people complain about having a simple job.


Of course, writing a novel isn’t simple. Anyone that’s ever tried writing one knows this. The problem is, a lot of people haven’t tried. They assume writing is easy because, technically, anyone can do it.

To illustrate my point: Just as I was getting published, I met one of the big, A-list fantasy authors. (Who will remain nameless here.)

He told me the story of the time he’d met a doctor at a party. When the author mentioned that he wrote for a living, the doctor said: “Yeah, I was going to write a novel. But I just don’t seem to have the time.”

The author got a irritated just telling me this story. “When you say something like that,” he said. “It’s like saying being a writer doesn’t take any skill. It’s something anyone can do. But only a very slim percentage of the population can write well enough to make a living at it. It’s like going up to a doctor and saying, ‘yeah. My appendix was inflamed. I was going to take it out myself, but I didn’t really have the time.'”

Newbie writer that I was, I simply enjoyed the story, privately thinking that surely *my* readers would never be so foolish to assume that. And even if they did, I wouldn’t mind that much…

Fast forward to earlier this year, when I got the following e-mail:

Hi Patrick,

I’m a librarian, former teacher. I just read your book, very good. But, boy do you have a problem. Finishing tasks?? Why isn’t your editor doing a better job of guiding you? Here’s my quick recommendation: stop going to conventions. Your first book is a great hit, you don’t need any more marketing there. Sit down and decide where to END the second part. You don’t need to write any more. If book two is anything like book one, it is basically chronological. You’re done with book two!! Stop in a logical place, smooth out the transitions, and begin obsessing about book three. Good luck.

For those of you who have been reading the blog for a while, this is the letter I was thinking about mocking Waaaay back in May.

Re-reading it now, most of my irritation has faded. But my profound sensation of *What the Fuck* is still as strong as ever.

Let’s not even deal with the first half of the letter. Let’s ignore the fact that this woman isn’t a publicist, an editor, or my personal life-coach. Let’s jump straight to how she explains how I should write my book:

Oh. I need to sit down. I see. I need to know where to END it. I hadn’t thought of that.

And chronological order? Brilliant! Up until this point I’d been arranging all the chapters by length.

I mean seriously. You people do know that I have to make the entire book up, right? I’m not just cribbing it out of Kvothe’s biography, right?

Right?

And I lack the words to express my stupification at the offhand advice that I should just “smooth out the transitions.”

That’s not true. I do have the words. They go like this: “If this is the sort of advice you used to give your students when you were a teacher, thank you for not being a teacher any more.”

I counted yesterday. Do you know book two has eighteen fucking plotlines? Six entirely distinct settings, each with their own casts of characters? How exactly to I smooth that out? Do you think I just go down to the writing store, buy some fucking transition putty, and slather it on?

Okay. I lied. I guess I’m still irritated.

Truth is, I know that this letter comes from a place of love. This person is genuinely trying to help me. Deep in her heart of hearts, this woman believes she knows how to write a novel. The answers are so obvious. It seems simple to her…

This is why some folks will get irritated if I complain about my job. Because they think writing is simple.

But it isn’t. Nobody’s job is as simple as it looks from the outside.

Reason #2: It’s not cool to complain about your dream job.

I’m well aware of the fact that, I’m living the dream. A lot of people want to be published. They want it so bad they can taste it. They’d give anything…

I know this because that’s how I used to feel.

I’m lucky: I got published. What’s more, I’m one of the few writers that gets to write full time. Even better, I’ve gone international, and people all over the world are waiting for the next book.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t hate my job sometimes.

It doesn’t matter what you do for a living. Ron Jeremy probably calls in sick some days because he just can’t stand the thought of getting another blowjob. I don’t doubt that Mike and Jerry over at Penny Arcade occasionally wake up in the morning and think, “Fuck, I’ve got to play more fucking video games today.”

That’s just the way of the world. Everyone hates their own job sometimes. It’s an inalienable right, like life, liberty, and the pursuit of property.

Reason #3: The Myth of the Author.

People want to believe that the act of creation is a magical thing. When I write, I am like some beardy old-word god, hewing the book from some raw piece of literary firmament. When I write, the muse is like a lithe, naked woman, sitting on my lap with her tongue in my ear.

(This would make a great bookjacket photo.)

And you want to know the truth? Sometimes it’s exactly like that. Sometimes when I write, I’m so full of adrenaline that I could lift up a truck. I can feel my my tripartite soul burning in my chest like molten gold.

But sometimes it sucks. Just like any job. I get bored revising the same chapters over and over. My back hurts from hunching over the keyboard. I am so tired of fucking spellcheck. Do you know how long it takes to run spellcheck on 350,000 words?

I’m tired of trying to juggle everything: the plotlines, the character arcs, the realistic depiction of a fantastic world, the pacing, the word choice, the tension, the tone, the stories-within-stories. Half of it would be easy, but getting everything right at once? It’s like trying to play cat’s cradle in n-dimensional space.

The truth is, sometimes I’m so sick of sitting in front of this computer I could shit bile.

There. That’s all. I’m not quitting. I’m not even taking the night off. I just needed to vent.

Thanks for being here. Remember to tip your waitress. I’ll be here all week.

pat

Also posted in BJ Hiorns Art, fanmail, Rage, the man behind the curtain, Things I didn't know about publishing | By Pat285 Responses

New York Times Bestseller: It’s offical.

For those of you who haven’t heard the news yet…..
(Click to Embiggen)

That’s me at the bottom. I’ve come all the way up to #11 since last week.

Something I never knew before: Apparently, “An asterisk (*) indicates that a book’s sales are barely distinguishable from the book above.”

Makes me wish I’d bought a few more copies off Amazon to give away to friends….

Little story: After I got the news that I was now officially a New York Times Bestselling Author, I wandered out of my office and into the hallway, where my girlfriend was looking at her butt in the mirror. You can’t really blame her for this, it’s a nice butt.

“I made it to # 11 on the Times list,” I said.

She made an excited squee-like noise and did something that was kind of like a little excited dance, and kind of like jumping around. It was the perfect response, and I’m glad that she did it. Somebody really has to. If I did it, I’d look demented and feel weird about myself. But when she does it it looks cute and earnest.

“You’re so cool!” she said. “Do you want to celebrate?”

I thought about it. “We could get some Chinese food and watch Doctor Who….” I said after a little bit.

And that’s exactly what we did.

It was only later that I realized when she said “celebrate” she was probably thinking something more… grandiose. It does make sense, I suppose. Making it onto the Times list is a pretty big deal. It’s sort of an occasion. The type of thing that most people would associate with popping champagne and passing around cigars. Or renting a limo and going out to some manner of fancy dress-up restaurant.

Me? Chinese delivery and Doctor Who.

That’s just how I roll.

Later all,

pat

Also posted in being awesome, cool things, Things I didn't know about publishing | By Pat57 Responses

New York Times Bestseller List – Part Two.

As most of you could probably tell from my last post, I wasn’t really too coherent after I got the news about making the bestseller list.

Now that I’ve collected my wits, I figured I’d clarify a few things. Some of which I only recently became aware of myself….

First you’ll note that the date of the list I posted is from April 20th. This doesn’t mean that I know someone with a TARDIS. They make the list available before publication so that industry folks get an early clue-in.

Second, I feel obliged to point out that the list I’m on is the “Paperback Best Sellers EXPANDED list.” The regular NYT list only goes down to 20, and as you can see, I’m at #24.

What’s the difference? Well, if you look in the Sunday edition of the New York Times, you’ll find that they don’t print the expanded list. Also, bookstores tend to only stock the regular list of books. Truth is, I’m not entirely sure if I technically qualify as a “New York Times Bestselling Author” or not.

While I admit I’m hoping to climb those last few places, simply making it onto the list at all is extraordinary. A lot of authors never make it, especially not with their first book.

And the reason I’m on there is you. You bought the book. You told your friends and family about it. You nominated me for awards. You voted for me online. You read it at the library and then posted good reviews on AMAZON or Barnes and Noble. You wrote about it in your blog. You bugged your school librarian to order it. You listed it on your facebook profile. You drew fanart. You visited the website and read the blog….

In short, you helped to spread the word. Thank you all so much.

Lastly, in related news, I started a contest over on FACEBOOK to celebrate the release of the paperback. I thought I’d already mentioned it on here, but looking back on my previous blogs, I see that I haven’t. You’ve got until the end of the month if you’re interested in participating…

Later all,

pat

Also posted in contests, cool things, Things I didn't know about publishing | By Pat9 Responses

A new addition to the family….

So apparently, when a book gets published, it either has a hard publication date, or a soft one. I don’t know if these are technical terms or not, but that’s how I’ve come to think of it….

When my book came out a year ago, it had a hard sell date. They even stamped the boxes with it. I wonder if I can still find the picture I took of it, back in the day.

Yeah. Here it is….

When I first saw this, I remember thinking, “Wow. They must take this release date thing pretty seriously.”

Then I remember thinking about what someone would say if they had to call this number. “I need to report a violation?” Sounds dirty. Personally, I would probably go with something more dramatic. Something along the lines of screaming “Help! My book has been violated!”

So anyway, I was at a signing in Seattle this weekend, and I got two lovely surprises.

The first was that a lovely young woman showed up and described my book as, “a literary orgasm.” Personally, I think that’s something we should put on the cover.

The second cool thing was this….

(I’m talking about the one on the right. The hardcover is just there to provide perspective.)

Yay! The paperback! Isn’t it just the cutest thing?

Now, the official release date is April 1st. But, apparently, this is a different sort of release date. I know this because when I was on my way home from Seattle, I stopped by the airport bookstores and saw copies on the shelves there too.

I just thought I’d let y’all know that it’s out there.

Hmmm…. Now I feel like I should say something sales-pitchy in order to encourage people to buy it. But I can’t think of anything halfway serious.

“The Name of the Wind: even in paperback it will still stop a bullet.”

“Now with 100% less naked man chest!”

“Ladies, all the literary orgasmicness of the hardcover, conveniently travel-sized!”

That’s all I’ve got. If any of you have any flashes of marketing brilliance, you can leave them in the comments section below.

Hugs and Kisses,

pat

Also posted in Things I didn't know about publishing | By Pat27 Responses

Italian Style – Part Two.

Okay, before we do anything else, I feel like I should mention that I’ve updated the TOUR SCHEDULE part of the page. Over there you’ll find a list of some conventions/readings/signings/etc that I’ll be doing this year.

Of particular note are my two appearances in St. Paul this weekend. I’ll be appearing at two separate libraries, one on Saturday, the other on Sunday. It’s free for anyone to attend. I’ll sign books if you bring them, and there will be books there to buy…

More events will be posted in the weeks to come. Seattle folk – I’ll be out near y’all over Easter weekend. I’ll be posting those details soon.

Okay. On to business.

Response to the Italian cover was every bit as varied as I expected. But there was rather more of it than I’d thought there would be. Since there were a lot of good comments and questions, I decided that I’d do a follow-up post to clarify a few things.

Points of interest and/or clarification.

  • The art is done by a guy named Brom.

I didn’t know about him before someone made reference to the cover as Brom-art in the comments of the last blog, but I have seen his stuff before. Mostly on D&D books back in the day….

Side note: I am currently working on a theory that once you reach a certain degree of fame, you get bumped up to a new quantum energy state wherein you only need one name.

This is easier to achieve for artists (Donato, Brom) and musicians (Sting, Madonna).

It’s much rarer for authors. I suspect they need way more energy, like electrons in different valence shells. So for writers, only the SUPER elite have enough juice to make the jump (Cervantes, Tolkien, Shakespeare, Chaucer).

  • Brom’s website is OVER HERE if you’re interested.
  • The art wasn’t drawn for the book specifically. The Italian publisher bought the rights to a pre-existing piece of art to use as the cover for the book.

That means:

  • It’s not Kvothe or one of the Chandrian. Don’t sprain anything trying to make that fit in your head. (Though I would like to see Brom’s take on the Chandrian.)
  • You didn’t miss the part of the book where someone has an eye in his hand. Neither is the eye-hand a mistranslation issue or some strange cultural signifier.

 

  • My favorite comments on the cover:
  • Kip: “It’s obviously a picture of Kvothe LARPing his favorite Vampire: The Requiem Character.”
  • “They must have wanted to picture someone with good eye-hand coordination.”
  • “NOTW? WTF?”
  • Sarah: “Kvothe has some sort of pointy pain stick. He should be careful or it will poke him in the hand-eye.”

A few responses to questions and comments:

“Oh man Pat. As a graphic designer can I just say that that is a bad choice. There is no connection to the book that I can come up with at all. The thing on his hand is so prominent that people are going to wonder why its not in the book. It will be confusing. Then the really bad drop shadow, or black glow around the text is just bad design. The whole composition just was not meant to have text covering it.”

I think you’re right about the composition of the piece. It obviously wasn’t meant to be obscured. I got the permission to show the original artwork from Brom: So here it is…

I’m pretty sure that they used that black shadow and my name to cover up Gothy McHotBod’s nipple ring.

And yes, for those of you who are wondering, my chest looks exactly like that when I take my shirt off. By which I mean that I am pale as a bleached ghost on a moonlit night.

Christian asked: “Pat, I am very curious as to who that person is on the cover of the Italian version of your book. I’m pretty sure you would have a big say into what visually depicts your book to first time ( and in my case, long-time) readers.”

Typically, authors get little-to-no say as to the covers of their books. Part of this is because the cover is, ultimately, a marketing choice, rather than an artistic one. And truthfully, publishers know more about marketing than authors do. Also, authors are word-smart, not necessarily picture smart.

That said, in my opinion it is a shame that authors aren’t included in that process more frequently.

I did get to participate in the discussion about my US covers. But that is the exception to the rule, as my publisher, DAW, is very considerate. And my editor, Betsy, respects my opinion on these things. Still, they didn’t say, “what do you think we should do.” they said, “Here’s what we’re planning, what do you think?”

Still, it’s nice to be asked.

My French publisher asked for my thoughts in the planning stage, and my Japanese editor asked early on if I had any suggestions as to who I would like as an artist. But none of the other foreign editors have included me so far. The first time I saw the Italian cover was about a week ago…

In a few of my more recent foreign contracts, I have approval of the final covers. But that doesn’t mean that I get to design them. If the books continue to sell well, I’ll probably get even more say in the future. I’m guessing.

“Why do they keep changing the cover? What’s wrong with original Shirtless Kvothe and Green man?”

Those covers belong to the US publisher. The foreign publishers would have to buy the rights to them if they wanted to use them. They probably don’t want to do that because they’re marketing the book to an entirely different culture.

That’s all for now, folks. I’m back to work on book two…

pat

Also posted in appearances, book covers, Things I didn't know about publishing | By Pat26 Responses
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