Thursday, 1 April 2021

Look at me self-publishing!

It's here! The long-awaited publication of The Wheel of Osheim / A Roda de Osheim, final book in the A Guerra da Rainha Vermelha trilogy.

Here's an assessment of the Brazilian fantasy publication scene from a Brazilian reader:

"Being a fantasy reader in my country is hard. When Game of Thrones released, there was a boom here, where every publisher started bringing fantasy books, a genre very overlooked in our market. As the initial hype died down, publishers were faced with a hard truth: fantasy does not sell well here. I’m not a researcher so I can only give some assumptions on why that happens: price, size and complexity. The sad reality is that (and other people from the third world may understand what I mean) for a country with a broken economy and high inequality, books would be considered by many a luxury and on top of that, fantasy books tend to be larger or part of series, which make them pricier. Also, the lack of funds for our public schools (thanks politicians) leads to generations of people simply receiving a barebones education which reflects on our low reading index (an average of 2 books per year).

Okay, back from that tangent. So what happened is that publishers gave up on fantasy and this led to most series, and even just trilogies, to be abandoned and left incomplete.

That was the case with Red Queen’s War, abandoned after the first two books were released, despite the Broken Empire trilogy actually selling well here."

I've no complaints about my Brazilian publisher, Darkside, they made some lovely hardback editions of my books and sold them in great quantities. Obviously they had to make some tough choices in a difficult economic climate. 

Once my contract allowed my to take back the Brazilian rights to The Wheel of Osheim I looked into the possibility of having it translated and releasing it myself in e-book. It turned out to be doable, so I did it!

I felt bad about leaving my Brazilian readers without a conclusion to the trilogy, so now it's there for those sufficiently interested to find it. It seems very unlikely that the sales will make enough to cover the translation costs, but I was in a position to afford it, and wanted to do it as a thank you to the Brazilians who bought The Broken Empire books in such numbers.

A big thanks to cover artist Jason Chan for letting me use the cover art for free for this edition. And thanks to Pen Astridge for designing the cover to be similar in style to the two previous books.

Find the book here, and spread the word to Brazilians whose English isn't strong enough to read my blog/social media:


Join my 3-emails-a-year newsletter #Prizes #FreeContent 

Monday, 29 March 2021

The big One, Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh!

I've been doing this for a while now with posts to celebrate my first book, Prince of Thorns, turning 30405060708090 ... and now 100, as in 100,000 ratings on Goodreads.

This time the milestone has fallen just after the release of The Girl And The Stars in paperback and just before the release of The Girl And The Mountain in hardback.

I never really expected Prince of Thorns to get 1,000 ratings on Goodreads - though to be fair, the site was far less popular in 2011 and getting 1,000 ratings was considerably more difficult than it is now. I was surprised to reach 10,000. To reach 100,000 is amazing. I remember reading my contract back in 2010 (well, skimming it) and seeing that after 100,000 sales in paperback slightly more generous royalty rates kicked in. I recall snorting at that and thinking "as if". But here we are!

I really don't think 1,000,000 ratings is on the cards, but I'm very pleased and amazed to have reached this milestone.

We're closing in on Prince of Thorns' 10th anniversary (in August), and plan are afoot for Grim Oak Press to produce a 10th anniversary limited edition - one of their super high quality volumes, signed, numbered, with internal art by the original cover artist Jason Chan. Jason is also doing a new cover in the style of the original but different. The plan is to have a special edition for each book of the trilogy on its 10th anniversary.

This is a sketch Jason produced while considering the cover, and taking reader feedback onboard he's going to work it up into a full cover.

I'm writing this blog post from the Children's Hospital where I'm staying with my daughter Celyn who has sepsis for the 3rd time during the pandemic. It seem appropriate for a Prince of Thorns milestone given that a significant portion of it was written while I was in various hospitals with Celyn.

All of which is to say that you can never tell what's going to happen next. Milestones come and go. They're fun opportunities to look back and see what a strange and meandering path we've plotted. I think though that I've done enough of this sequence. Perhaps if the book ever reaches 200,000 ratings we can check in again.

Join my 3-emails-a-year newsletter #Prizes #FreeContent 

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Prince of Thorns signed hardback giveaway!

Contest Closed

(We had 47 donations across my various platforms and the random winner is Kenneth Bragg)

Simon MacHale had this "going spare" - he describes this as "reading copy" and "not perfect", but to my non-collector's eye it looks pretty much unblemished. Simon very generously sent it to me to find a new home for it.

It's the UK edition and signed in 2011 at a time when my signature was a lot further from a flat line than it is now.

Since it has a certain ££/$$ value and rarity I had a bit of a think about how to find a new owner.

I've collected a fair bit of money for Charlton Farm Hospice over the years but not recently. So I want to remedy that. Charlton Farm provide respite care and end of life care for severely disable children, and I've spent months there with my daughter Celyn having a great time. When Celyn was in hospital this January with septicemia and I stayed with her for the 9 day stay, Charlton Farm sent carers to give me a break.

So - to enter the random draw for this book all you have to do is comment here or on my social media and let me know that you've made a donation to Charlton Farm Hospice. It can be any amount, £1 is fine. And all you get for making a bigger donation is a bigger warm glow from knowing you've done a good thing. Everyone has the same chance of winning. And I'm going to trust everyone - because honestly, would any of my readers lie about doing it? Who wants that karma?

If you're commenting on this page remember comments need to be approved - so don't panic if it doesn't show for a day.

Open internationally.

I'll make the draw for the winner on Friday night (19th of March). 

Join my 3-emails-a-year newsletter #Prizes #FreeContent 

Sunday, 21 February 2021

The Extraordinary Struggle to be Heard.

Any author will tell you that writing a book can be hard work, but it's as nothing compared to the difficulty in getting anyone to notice that you've done it. Breaking through that "noise barrier" - which is millions of other humans with equally valid reasons why you should pay attention to their stuff - is nigh on impossible. I spend a fair amount of time apologising to authors, publishers, agents, etc that I can't read FANTASY BOOK 475. They want me to because they believe I will be able to attract attention to it if I like it. A cover blurb's a nice thing to have, but it's just one of those many sparks you need to shower your tinder with in the hope that one of them will catch. 

George RR Martin has a thousand times my clout (literally 1000x, no hyperbole here) and his glowing recommendation on the front of a book in no way guarantees it will fly. The Dinosaur Lords bears the legend, "It's like a cross between Game of Thrones and Jurassic Park!" from GRRM himself, and has not had runaway success. My own One Word Kill basks in the glow of "I enjoyed the heck out of it. Mark is an excellent writer!" from GRRM (in the Amazon listing - it came too late for the cover), and yet is not a New York Times bestseller.

The stars have to align. I gave a push to Senlin Ascends that I believe did help it on its way to much greater acclaim. But my love for Master Assassins was not able to repeat the feat, despite my many exhortations on the book's behalf. 

There is, however, an enduring and massive overestimation of the impact of my approval among many hopeful new authors. Let me put forward this example in all its statistical glory in an attempt to bring us back to reality.

I'm a fairly popular author. People pay MONEY to read my books. Enough so that I can live off the proceeds. You would think this would mean that, when I offer my writing for free, people would jump on it. At least some of them. I've sold nearly two million books and must have hundreds of thousands of readers. So how many do you think would try on my recommendation not somebody they've never heard of but me: Marky?

On Wattpad I've been putting out chapters of a book I started writing called Jacob's Ladder. I think it's good. I've been alerting the 9,830 people who follow/friend me on Facebook to each chapter as it's posted. I've also been posting about them to the 7,506 members of the Grimdark Fiction Readers & Writers group on Facebook where I'm reasonably popular.

I also have 2,815 followers on Wattpad itself who get alerts when I post the chapters. And I've tweeted about each chapter to my 28,600 followers on Twitter. And I've blogged on Goodreads about it where I have 48,029 followers.

I posted chapter 5 two days ago and it's had 21 views (which are not necessarily reads) at least one of which was me.

All of which I throw out there to demonstrate how ridiculously hard it is to be heard and to have that audience act.

Now, new authors, consider how much of an impact the weeks this slow reader spends reading your book will have on your sales when condensed into a line on the cover...

None of this is to say that I won't read as many fantasy books as I'm able, and that I won't blurb the ones I like. I will, can, and do. It's just to say that it's really not likely to make more than a whisker of difference so that "my life is in your hands" vibe that sometimes echoes through read requests is really misplaced. Your book needs to be crack. It needs to be eye-heroin. But that's just the entry price - beyond that it needs the stars to align, it needs luck, it needs lighting to strike seven times in the same damn spot. It needs, the magic that nobody understands and might just be random chaos, the magic that decides which good books fly and which sink. I am not that magic.

Thursday, 18 February 2021

Binge Culture

I made recent post to encourage people to read my latest book, since my next one is due out in April.

One reply, ending with winking smiley, said "Since George RR Martin let me down I don't read books until the series is finished."

To which I replied:

With respect, this is not an approach based on reasonable evidence and punishes the majority for what has happened to two very famous outliers. I've produced at least one book a year for 11 years (four in 2019), and every trilogy I've had published has been completed before the first book came out. With two notable exceptions it is extremely hard to point to any trilogies and series where the author has not produced the books at regular and reasonable intervals. /rant

Now, it is of course the right of any person to buy/borrow and read books whenever they want. I am hardly going to rail against people who buy my trilogy once it's all out. They are far far more helpful to me that people who don't buy it at all, and I'm very grateful for their custom. I, myself, am a regular participant in binge culture. There's so much TV out there these days that many series I come to are already complete and I watch the lot in a relatively short space of time. I came late to Breaking Bad and watched all 5 seasons in a couple of months.

My only point here is this - we have in that comment a person who was previously prepared to start a series and wait the typical year or two between books. Because of their experience with one series (something that happens with very few authors) they have become a person who isn't prepared to wait at all.

Why is this important? Two main reasons that break up into various sub-reasons. The first relates to the author, the second to the reader themselves.

1. It's very important for an author that the first book in their series sells well. The chatter around it, both the online and water-cooler sort, draws in more readers. To use pandemic parlance, it helps get R>1. It is very common in translated series, and becoming worryingly common in UK/US series, that if book 1 sells poorly then book 2 is cancelled. There's so much choice out there and the conversation moves on so swiftly that sleeper hits are becoming less and less likely. If a book sinks nobody dives the wreck. This issue particularly affects new authors who might have been the one to rock your reading world for years to come.

2. As above, the series may get cancelled. The reader might shrug and say that it can't have been very good then. But that's not how book sales work. Being good is necessary but not sufficient. And it might have been a trilogy from an author you love. You might have been looking forward to reading it. But not buying in on book 1 helped sink it so you'll never get to read it.

Additionally, as a reader I (and I'm sure many others) build a relationship with books and characters. Significant acres of the landscape of my imagination are given over to good times had with books. I am not convinced that those relationships would be so "deep and meaningful" if instead of being fed over the course of years, with time for things to settle and be mulled over, and time to anticipate more, they were replaced by a swift "wham, bang, thankyou, ma'am" as I devoured the series in the days or weeks it took me to binge. 

So, to reiterate: All authors are grateful for sales at any point. But if you let the rare experience of having to wait many years tip you over into binge culture, then I'm just letting you know that it's an almost entirely unfounded fear that does significant damage to authors and even, potentially to you, albeit far less damage than not reading them at all!

Happy reading, binge-reading, and 2021!

Join my 3-emails-a-year newsletter.  #Prizes #FreeContent

Thursday, 4 February 2021

7.4% of you are monsters.

 In the same "sorry not sorry" spirit evidenced by the 7.4%

Imagine a cordon blue chef prepares a fine meal for you at the height of their powers. You sit down to dine ... tuck in your napkin ... and then, for some reason known only to yourself, begin to cram the food up your bum... That, my friends, is how this author feels about anyone who doesn't read the book in the order indicated by the page numbers.

Wednesday, 3 February 2021



I do not collect owls. Here's some of my owl collection.

I was walking along our high street a few years back and two sparkly gentlemen (both ends of the middle rank) caught my eye in a shop window. I'd been noticing them for a week or two, caught between admiring the host of bold textures and scorning their vulgarity. The price, I noticed, had dropped from 'very reasonable' to practically 'free to a good owner'. On a whim I went in and bought them both with plenty of change to spare from a tenner. The shopkeeper was delighted!

    "I've got another one. Shop damaged. Half price." He seemed very hopeful.

    "I'm not starting a sanctuary," I said, aware of the amused smiles of other shoppers as I stuffed my owls into my bread bag. And I scarpered.

    The owls found a perch on top of my tallest bookcase and that was that. Until the next owl arrived.

    "I saw you liked owls," the gift giver said at Christmas or my birthday.

    And that's how it's gone from that day forth.

    I get given owls. It is highly convenient for people to believe I collect owls. The alternative is that I'm an awkward curmudgeon who never admits to wanting anything by way of presents. And now there's a body of evidence, a literal parliament, that people can point to in order to prove I collect owls.

Actually, I've nothing against owls, but there's a broader point to this ramble through this dark corner of ornithology. I don't write grimdark. Ten years ago I was passing my PC and on a whim I wrote a short grimdark book. I got a three book deal, so I wrote two more. Since then I've written twelve non-grimdark books and I'm part way through a thirteenth.

But it is convenient for people to believe I write grimdark. The alternative is that I'm an awkward eclectic who is hard to pigeonhole without a modicum of effort. And now there's a body of evidence, literal pages of google hits, that people can point to in order to prove I write grimdark.

This of course is just an example of our willingness to label people. Reductive thinking may often be comforting and easy but it's hardly the whole story. And you'd think if there were any demographic that should be interested in the whole story ... it would be readers.