Tag Archives: Ask the Author

Ask the Author #5: Where can I buy the new version of the book?

Since I posted up the new cover for The Name of the Wind, folks have been asking me where they can buy a copy.

Doubtless some of you want a copy of this book because it is clearly A Novel. I also know a lot of folks want this cover because the style will more closely match the hardcover for The Wise Man’s Fear:

I understand your desire, and I feel your pain. I wanted this new cover too, and even though I’m the author, I still had a bitch of a time locating it. I had to hunt around for weeks before I managed to get my hands on one.

The truth is, I don’t know where these new copies will be showing up. These are the books that currently live in the warehouse. If a store orders a book from the warehouse, this cover will probably get delivered to them. But if the bookstore orders from a distributor, the distributor might not have this fifth printing in stock. They might still have first printings, or third printings. It’s a crap shoot.

However, since so many people were asking about it, I worked something out with a guy I met out in Seattle last year. His name is Shawn Speakman, and he runs a business that sells signed books over the magical interweb.

So, when I head out to Seattle at the end of the month for Norwescon, I’m going to swing by his place and sign a bunch of books for him. If you want one you can go order a copy at his store.

Please note that I’d be more than happy to personalize your book for you, free of charge. Just make sure you enter what you’d like me to write when you your order your book.

Now, the more astute of you that have doubtless already clicked on the link and noticed that Shawn is charging 29.95 for the books. Five bucks more than the cover price. This isn’t because he’s a greedy son of a bitch. No. Shawn is a high-class gentleman. I know this because Shawn is giving me that five bucks to help offset the cost of my plane ticket out there. If not for that, I wouldn’t have been able to justify making the trip out to the coast.

Lastly, as an added bonus for those of you who have been dying to get hold of a copy of the Illustrated, Annotated, College Survival Guide, Shawn will be selling some of those too.

Those will be signed by me, and each will have a cool doodle and a signature by my longtime friend, illustrator, and co-conspirator, Brett Hiorns.

Later all,

pat

Posted in appearances, book covers, College Survival Guide | By Pat20 Responses

Ask the Author #4: How Do I Pronounce Kvothe’s name?

And now for a little T&A…

No. Wait. That should be Q&A. Sorry…

Dear Pat,

I know you’re busy, but how exactly do you pronounce “Kvothe?”

I know it’s similar to “quothe,” but I’m still not sure how it sounds. Can you help clarify the specific phonetic pronunciation?

The initial “kv” sound in “Kvothe” doesn’t crop up in standard English that often. But it does appear in the Yiddish term “kvetch.

The “o” is the same as in “roll” or “hole.”

The “e” is silent.

If you’ve been pronouncing it wrong, don’t sweat it. You’re not alone. I’ve heard a lot of different pronunciations over this last year:

Kvahthe. (With the middle sound like you’re saying “Ahhh” at the doctor’s office.)

Kvothay. (With the ending rhyming with “prey.”)

Kvothee, Kvahthay…. No no no. You’re all making it harder than it needs to be. That’s why I put that bit in right at the beginning of his story. “My name is Kvothe, pronounced nearly the same as ‘Quothe.'”

Kv + Quothe = Kvothe. Simple.

Still, even this confusion makes me happy. I remember the Raistlin/Rastlin arguments me and my friends had years ago.

Wow, that’s a warm fuzzy thought. My first year in college, out at someone’s house, drinking homemade sangria in their kitchen and arguing about Dragonlance. I remember thinking, “I never knew there were this many people like me out in the world.”

Those were good times. It almost makes me want to not post this up. That way, people can have that same sort of pointless argument about my book as I used to have about Weiss and Hickmann’s.

Nah. I’ll leave this up. That way when there’s an argument, y’all can step in and seem supercool because you’ve got the inside scoop.

Oh, and one other thing. Tarbean isn’t pronounced tar + bean.

It’s tar + bee + en. The end is similar to how you say “Caribbean.”

And now you know…

pat

Posted in Fanmail Q + A | By Pat57 Responses

Ask the Author #3: What Good Is Fantasy, Anyway?

 
Hello folks. I’ve been elsewhere lately. Things have been busy with writing and getting ready for my trip out to New York for the Quill Awards.

But just yesterday I got the following message from someone asking me to help her settle a debate between her and a friend:

Patrick,

[…] Anyway, her stance is that Literature (her cap) is about enlightenment and improving the human condition, while fantasy is just escapist crap. I know she’s wrong, but I’m not a good debater. I’m not good with words. Can you help me out?

Thanks,

Sami

Sami, your question reminded me of a forum I got drawn into a while back. Normally I resist being pulled into online discussions, but this one struck home with me. The person who started the thread was asking, effectively, if fantasy really mattered in any sort of profound way.

This is the from-the-hip response I made on that forum a while back. If you’re looking for some argumentative ammo, there might be a few things in here. At any rate, it does a pretty good job of summing up how I feel about the issue.

“Can a Fantasy book/author really change anything?”

[First post: July 10th 5:15 AM]

Years ago I was watching a documentary on the Beatles. There was a video clip where a journalist was interviewing John Lennon. He was protesting the war, doing ridiculous things to get press attention so that he could spread the word about his message. He spent his honeymoon in bed with his wife and invited the press. When the press showed up hoping for something racy, John and Yoko used the opportunity to spread their message about peace.

One of the journalists got exasperated with him at one point and said, “You dear boy, you don’t think that you’ve saved a single life with this nonsense, have you?”

I remember watching that and thinking that I couldn’t decide which one of them was being foolish. Lennon for thinking he could change things, or the reporter for being so cynical.

Ultimately, I want to believe Lennon. I want to think that a person can make a change in the way people think.

I think that can be done with a protest. Or a song. Or an interview. Or a fantasy novel.

Hah! I actually found the video clip on youtube. If you watch it for about 40 seconds you’ll get to the part where the reporter says her line….

However, I don’t think that political activism is the only type of change a novel can create. I think a novel can change they way you think about the world. It can expose you to new thoughts or make you reconsider old ones.

Hell, a fantasy novel can teach you things. Any time you learn something it changes your life.

Lastly, but not leastly, we shouldn’t overlook pure entertainment. Back when I was in Grad school my life was a hell. It sucked really, really bad and I was stressed out beyond belief. That’s when I read the Harry Potter books. They were great. They helped me relax and not freak out. They didn’t heal my crippled limbs or stop me from being racist or fix global warming, but they improved the quality of my life. In doing so they hey changed my life in a little way. A good way.

[Second post: July 12th 11:18 AM]

I like what you said about escapism being productive. I think Robert Frost made a point along those lines in Birches.

“It’s when I’m weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig’s having lashed across it open.
I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.”

That is one of the things that fantasy does best.

And laughter is not to be underestimated either. I write a satirical humor column for the local school paper. I write it because I like to make people laugh and it gives me a vent for my humor when my other writing needs to be serious.

After the most recent presidential election I was… distraught. Profoundly distraught and depressed. But my deadline was still there. I had to go in and be funny when I was in no mood. So I wrote about the elections. I made fun of the American populace, and the president, and both parties and myself most of all.

And the column pissed people off. They started a media event about it, got people riled up, and in the end, I almost lost my job because of it.

I remember thinking to myself, “Why do I do this? Why do I work 4-6 hours every week to write a column I don’t get paid for? A column that offends people (as all good satire must) and costs me what small shred of respect I have among the other faculty at the university. A column that at best, gives people a cheap laugh?”

Weeks later I was grousing about the whole experience to someone in the University Center. A student walking past overheard and stopped.

“You’re that guy that writes the College Survival Guide?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said. Inwardly I was cringing against another attack. The media coverage had not been kind to me, satirical humor quoted out of context looks really, really damning, and as a result I’d been having I got a lot of unpleasant attention. Everything pales in comparison to a death threat, or the promise of a beating, but even tongue-lashings get you down after a while…. “Yeah.” I said. “That’s me.”

“I read it all the time,” he said. “After the election I wanted to kill myself. But when I read your column I laughed. I really needed a laugh right then. A lot of us really needed a laugh right then.”

It was like a great weight got lifted off me when I heard that. I remember thinking. Oh yeah. *this* is why I write. If we don’t laugh sometimes we’ll cry. I want to help out with that.

This conversation made me think of a piece of fan mail I got a couple days ago. I’m going to contact the person who wrote it and see if she’s okay with me re-printing it here. If she agrees I think it will be a nice addition to this thread…

[The final post: July 12th 12:12 PM]

She said I could share her letter so long as I removed her full last name. I wanted to share this because when this e-mail came in just a couple nights ago, I thought about this thread.

Even if I never get another e-mail like this again I’ll feel like I’ve done something worthwhile with my life….

Mr. Rothfuss

I read a lot of books. That’s not to brag, it’s just a fact. I read a lot of books, sometimes once, sometimes twenty times, and I’m glad that there’s a lot of books out there because I’m more a little afraid that I’m going to run out one day. But I’m getting ahead of myself. This is really a thank you letter, so I should start there.

I want to thank you for your book, but I want to do it right. I read a lot of books, and it’s been a long, long time since I’ve felt as passionately about a book as I do about yours. I don’t know how to describe this feeling, really – I hope you know what I mean so I don’t sound like a complete babbling idiot. It’s like what I felt when I finished the Tolkien trilogy for the first time. It’s the same thing I felt when I read my first LeGuin, it’s the first time I read Ender’s Game. It’s being eight and fascinated by orcs and elves, and fifteen and shocked by the names of shadows that move inside of you, even if the shadow’s name is your own name. It’s finding love and pain and hope and a piece of yourself in the words on a page that were written far away by someone you have never met.

For the first time in a long time, I had a book that I couldn’t bear to leave: your book. I bought it on a whim at five minutes to closing in a bookstore that I had never been to before, on a street that I have been on a hundred times. I started it at 11:45 on Monday night with a cup of grapefruit juice and a little seed of hope. I think you may know this hope, I think everyone has had it in one form or another. It’s more than the, “gee I hope this is going to be a good trip” kind of hope.

Let me elaborate. (This is, by the way, kind of a personal letter. I hope you don’t mind. You don’t have to write back, it’s okay, since this is really just a thank you.) I’m 19, just finished my first year of college, and living alone for the first time. I’m scared out of my wits, but not about finding a job or making it through school. I’m afraid that now that I’m an adult, there’s no such thing as magic anymore. I don’t want to be jaded any cynical and worldly. I like the crisp newness that varnishes the world. If I have to start paying bills and finding an apartment and paying rent, will I lose that shock, that joy, that awe that I felt when I saw things for the first time? (I had my first snowfall this winter. My first winter up north. It was everything I had dreamed it would be and it was utterly miserable. Who knew cold could be so, well, cold?) I am arrogant, I know, but I have to say it: have I read every good book? I wish I hadn’t squandered so many good first reads in my childhood, when everything was new, when I didn’t know how precious that first read is. That first bite of a taut red apple.

I started reading your book at 11:45pm and stopped at 8:30am when I realized that I probably still needed to show up for work. The first thing I did when I came home was pick it up again, and when I stopped I sat and stared at the wall and cried. Just because some things are over doesn’t mean everything is. There are still people out there who can make magic, who know magic, there is still magic, I can still see magic. Closing the back cover was defeating; everything ends, and really there’s nothing you can do about it. But it was exciting too. I was excited for another read, excited for the sequels, excited for the future.

I am going to go read it again now, and even though it won’t be the first time, it will still be exciting. Thank you for your book. It is beautiful, and bright, and full of magic. Thank you for letting me write you this letter, even if you never read it. Thank you for the hope.

Monica Q.

Hope that answers your question Sami. Everyone else, hope you weren’t bored by the horribly long post.

Later,

pat

Posted in Ask the Author, fanmail, Fanmail Q + A | By Pat9 Responses

Ask The Author #2 – The first step to publishing.

 

Hi Pat,

I have just finished the first draft of my first novel and have a short story that will see print in the Dragonmount anthology for 2006.

Now I have to do the agent thing, and not only would I not know a query letter if it jumped up and bit me in the nose. I dont really know what I should do now. I mean what is the thing that will help me get to the next step. (Feeling very green and newbie at the moment.)

I mean I will have my name in print I want to use that to get to the next step.

Any advice would be welcome.

Thanks for your time.

Karl.

Honestly Karl, my advice is to work on the book before you even start hunting for an agent.

I know that’s not what you want to hear. But it’s the best advice I can give you.

Now believe me. I understand how you feel. You don’t want to wait, revise, tinker, and edit. You’ve finally finished your huge project. You feel awesome. You’ve worked for months or years to get to this point. It’s finally done. Now you can sell it and get rich and famous. Or you can at least take the first step toward becoming moderately less poor and obscure.

I know that’s how you feel because that’s how I felt back in 1999 when I “finished” my trilogy.

I say “finished” because it wasn’t. My story had an ending, sure. I’d written the trilogy all the way through. But was it finished? Good lord, no. Nowhere close.

Let’s approach this from another angle. Let’s say your query letter catches someone’s attention. If you’re lucky, the prospective agent will want to see the first 30 pages of your book. When they read those pages are they going to say, “WOW, this is awesome! I can sell this for sure!” or are they going to say, “Hmmmm, it looks pretty rough.”

I’m guessing if you just finished the first draft, it’s going to be the latter.

At that point the agent either has the option of putting in a ton of time and effort into you and your rough manuscript. OR they can toss it aside and read one of the dozens still sitting on the slushpile, hoping for something that’s clean, tight, polished-up, and ready to sell right now.

Which option do you think they’re more likely to pick?

It’s my belief that you should never show your work to anyone in the publishing world until it shines like a diamond. Rough drafts don’t shine, as a rule. Mine certainly didn’t. That’s why I was rejected for years and years.

I’m actually glad the book was rejected during those years. Sure it was frustrating, but it forced me to go back, improve the story, and improve myself as a writer. I learned things about plot and character, about structure and brevity, about scene and story.

If that early version had made it into print, you wouldn’t be reading my blog right now. That early version of the book wouldn’t have recieved gushy reviews and author quotes. The publisher wouldn’t have ponied up money for this cool website. If that early version had been bought, it would have been read by a handful of people, then probably quickly remaindered and forgotten.

But I was lucky, and I got seven extra years to work on my story. My book is worlds better now, and, as a result, people are really enjoying it.

You say you want to take things to the next step, Karl. Here’s the next step. Revision. The first step is the draft. The second step is the revision. The third and fourth steps might be revision too.

Am I saying you should spend ten years working on your novel? No. Of course not. I’m just saying that first you need to work on your craft as a writer, THEN you should focus on your product, LAST comes the selling of it. Leave that for later.

But when it comes time to get that agent, Karl. Tap me. I can give you some pointers. I spent two years doing it wrong, I can help you avoid my mistakes.

pat

Posted in Ask the Author, Fanmail Q + A, getting published | By Pat6 Responses

Ask The Author #1: Agents


Hey Pat,

What’s the deal with having an agent? I know an editor edits you, but I’m fuzzy on agents.

More specificially, I suppose, I’m wondering if you have one, or if you just deal directly with your publisher?

Emmie.

I do have an agent, Emmie, but I also deal directly with the publishers.

The agent’s main job is finding the right publisher for your book and working out the financial details.

But there’s more to it than just bargaining. The agent is also your navigator. Your trusty native guide in a strange land. Their job is to know the publishing landscape. They know who is looking for what, how much they’re willing to pay, how good the editors are, how good the marketing is, etc etc etc.

Once the agent finds you a publisher, then you start a new relationship with the editor there. The editor’s main job is to work with you on your book. But they also act as your liaison with the publisher, that includes sales, marketing.

But sometimes an agent will help with the marketing too, helping you get author blurbs, etc. It’s not like your agent doesn’t care about you anymore, they still want you to sell as many copies as possible. The more money you make, the more they make. The better your current book sells, the more they can sell your next book for.

My agent gives me advice on editing my novel. I trust him because he knows the genre and because he’s given me good advice in the past. But that’s MY agent. Your agent might be a shark when it comes to bargaining, but know precisely dick about how to tell a story.

Honestly, each editor and agent is different. Some work well together, some don’t. Some will go to bat for you, some won’t. It’s a strange, chaotic thing, and it entirely depends on the individual people you’re talking about.

This I will say. I’m glad I got an agent first. Not only did he help me get my first offer, he also gave me advice so felt comfortable turning that first offer down. (And that was a little hard, I tell you.) I’m much happier where I am now (with Daw) than I would have been with that other publisher.

Also, it’s good to remember is that:

1) Your agent bargains for a living, so no matter how much of a dealmaker you are, they’re probably better. They’ll more than make up for the 15 percent they take out of your advance. Don’t begrudge them their cut.

2) By handling the money end of your business, the agent also helps keep your relationship with your editor friendly. Your agent is a pushy dick on your behalf, so you can come in later and just talk about the book.

Think how awful it would have to be to go in to negotiations hoping for a $10,000 advance, only to have the editor argue you down to half that. So you sign a contract for $5,000 and spend the next six months working with them, editing, promoting, all the while you’re seething about the fact that they screwed you out of the money you thought you were worth.

Just as bad, what if you pushed your editor up to $12,000 and then they carried a grudge against you? What if they decided to skimp on your promotion budget because of that? That’s not a good foundation for an editor/writer relationship.

All in all I really recommend getting an agent. But make sure you get a good one. Tim Powers once said to me, “Who you pick for an agent is just as important as who you decide to marry.”

It’s really true. That person will be representing you to the entire publishing world. If they’re like my wonderful agent, they’ll make you look good. But if you get a bad agent, you’ll look like an idiot by association.

The worst part is that it’s really hard for a new author to tell if their agent is bad. If your publisher screws up, your agent will tell you. If your publicist screws up, your agent will tell you. But if your agent screws up…. well…. they probably aren’t going to be very forthcoming about that…

So do some research before settling on an agent. It’s exciting to get your first offer, but remember, this is going to be a long term relationship. A first kiss is exciting, but you don’t necessarily want to get married because of it.

There are a couple good websites out there with advice about picking agents and editors. So I won’t repeat what they say, I’ll just point you in their direction.

Writers beware.

Editors and predators.

Pat

P.S. While I was writing this, my agent sent me the following e-mail:

“This is your last week as an unpublished author!!!!!! Congrats!!!!”

This reminds me of another important role that agents play. They help dispose of unwanted exclamation points.

I kid. What I really mean to say is that in the best of situations, your agent ends up being more than just a colleague or a co-worker. They make pretty good friends too.

Alright. I’m off to celebrate my final Saturday night of nobody status by eating a microwave burrito and watching some Anime.

Later.

Posted in Ask the Author, Fanmail Q + A, Things I didn't know about publishing | By Pat4 Responses
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