Wednesday, 13 November 2019

The Goodreads Choice Awards - 2019

It's that time again!

For the 9th year in a row I have a book in the semi-finals of the Goodreads Choice Awards for Fantasy!

This year (as in 2016 with The Wheel of Osheim) I needed you guys' help as Holy Sister just missed out on the automatic nomination and had to be written in along with books like Burning White by Brent Weeks and A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie.

In addition, for the first time. I have a book in the semi-finalst of the Goodreads Choice Awards for Science-Fiction.

It's not actually my first excursion outside the Fantasy Award, as in 2012 I was the "artist" for my daughter's charity picture book which was a semi-finalist in the picture-book category.

So that's 11 semi-finalists in 9 years. It gets harder every year though, so all votes very much appreciated.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Hollywood and Hollywouldn'ts - your options as an author.

Let's start with my news, and then explain it.

The Broken Empire trilogy has been optioned for TV (I still call it TV, though it might be a Netflix series etc).

And it looks very likely that The Book of the Ancestor and the Impossible Times trilogies will also complete the option process very soon.


What does this mean?

If you're even a mildly successful author it seems, from my experience, that rather surprisingly, Hollywood will come calling.

Obviously my experience is limited to what's happened to me and a few anecdotes from fellow authors - but I've no reason to believe that my journey has been particularly different from that of many of my peers.

It took me by surprise back in 2012/13 when the first of what was to be a minor flood of enquiries from Hollywood rolled up in my inbox. Prince of Thorns had done well but it was by no means a blockbuster hit. There were hundreds of fantasy books on the shelves that had sold far more copies and had far bigger followings. And yet here was a film producer who'd made films I'd heard of, emailing little old me personally. He loved my work. He saw all sorts of potential. He'd love to talk. His number was...

What followed were other producers, studio executives, or (more frequently) people working for these sorts of people, asking whether the rights to The Broken Empire had been optioned? Over the next few years I had somewhere in the region of two dozen such enquiries.

I spent a long time on the phone with very talkative, very enthusiastic, very convincing Hollywoodians. And I HATE phone calls. Hate them.

I was even skyped by the head of the head of a major US TV network's Hollywood studio (CBS). He talked about how many millions would be spent on the (and here I forget the terminology) short taster that would be used to drum up funding for a full film.

I had small film companies showing me their short-form work and conference calling about scripts for different scenes - filming to start in 3 months.

Here's the thing though. All of these people wanted the option on my work. Not one of these people was prepared to pay for it.

The option is a legal agreement that for the period of the option (typically 1 or 2 years) the author will not sell the film or TV rights to their work to anyone else. That's all it is. You haven't agreed to sell them to the person who holds the option (though sometimes you have - more of that later), just not to sell them to anyone else.

When you've just written a book, when you're Joe Nobody, and someone from Hollywood, maybe an actual film producer, maybe a middleman who has fixed up the sale of this and that film, this and that series to major producers, calls you up and enthuses and effuses about your work ... it's incredibly flattering. They spend an hour bending your ear. At some point you get to the bit where you find out they're not offering you any money for the option ... but hell ... all they want is a year to fix something up? And it's not like you'd even thought you stood a chance of a film/series!

So, yes, many times when authors of non-blockbuster books announce they've been optioned for film or TV ... that author has just (for $0) agreed not to sell the option to anyone else for a year.

I did that with the Broken Empire for a year back in 2013 ish. I sold ... well gave ... the option on the Broken Empire to the producer of some well known films for a year. Nothing came of it.

The novelty wore off and I reached the stage where I just forward the emails to my media rights agent who tells them that if there's no money involved there's nothing to say.

So what's this all about? You might (or should) ask. Why would these busy professionals waste their time acquiring the options on loads of fantasy books, knowing that the chances of anything happening with any of them are minute?

Well, Hollywood often says it's looking for something new. The truth though is that mostly they are looking for a bandwagon to jump on. If a film about body swapping makes it big … like BIG did … then they suddenly want to make more body swapping films.

So if, as a producer or someone who supplies opportunities to producers, you have shelves and shelves of $0 options on books, then you are really well placed to react to sudden demands following a mega success.

Also - Game of Thrones was just breaking big, so for the whole time between my debut and now there has been a big push to acquire rights to fantasy books in hopes of finding a replacement or competitor, or at least to ride the wave.

A second type of option - very similar to the first - is one where they pay you some money. However, as soon as actual dollars go into the author's pocket there is (in my experience) an extra layer to the process. They don't want to give you money then put in the work to find a series or film deal and then come to you with it and have you name a ridiculous price, or say "no thanks - I'll just wait the option out". So what they do is along with the offer to pay you money for the 1 year or 2 year option, they will thrash out a detailed financial deal that you pre-agree to in the case of a series or film. Now they can go to market with a neat package - here's this intellectual property and here's exactly what you'll have to pay the author should you want to use it.

So, now the author knows exactly what they're going to get, per episode, per season, on the merchandise, everything. And if someone pays the price, there's no saying no. I say exactly, but some elements are related to the amount of money put in to make the episodes. There is however, a floor and a ceiling, and the range isn't huge, so it's not going through the clouds even if production costs do.

Obviously if you're JK Rowling then you pretty much get to write your own contract, but for little fish, this is the way it is.

And, the sums involved are not large. Obviously making a TV series costs millions, and making a film tens or hundreds of millions. The author's slice is tiny. I wasn't shocked because I'd read a blog about it by Lev Grossman who said something along the lines of "If I told you how little I was getting you'd be shocked."

I won't put a figure on it, but let's say that for a full season of TV I would get less than the advance I get on one book. And I earned more in a year as scientist in the US in 2004 than I would for the season of TV.

The options themselves are also modest. You may have heard of the author of Gravity getting a million dollars when she sold the rights for film. This is not normal. Typically for midlist writers getting one of the much rarer "money options" we're talking low 5 figures. That's a little over 1% of what she got. The way in which this can constitute an income stream for an author is if the option gets rolled over multiple times and they get options on more than one piece of work. In the end you might earn more without ever seeing anything on screen than an author who made it to screen and got just one season.

So basically, my main interest is just for the fun of it. I'd love to see my stuff on TV. It's like getting reader art of my characters but x1000. And of course there is the possibility that a successful series would sell more books - though I'm not convinced it would make a huge impact.

And the chances of something getting made? Slim. Very slim. With a money option the odds are much better than a $0 option. Whatever the slick talkers of Hollywood say, my instinct is that $0 options get to sit on the shelf and hope that the Hollywood tides shift radically in their favour.

When $$$ are put on the table for an option then the party who has paid now has a strong incentive to do something about it before the option runs out. If that happens they've paid for nothing.

However, if they paid $10,000 for the option, or even $100,000 (very rare) or $1,000,000 (super rare), that's still small beans compared to the amount that would have to be invested in a TV series or film. See it a small gamble against being able to get someone else (investors) to make a large gamble.

I don't know what percentage of money options produce an end results, and obviously the more money involved the more likely it is to lead to a result. But it isn't a very big percentage. Think about how many fantasy TV series we've seen. It really isn't very many at all. But I've seen dozens of authors excitedly talk about being optioned. And there must be hundreds more that I didn't see.

So. Don't hold your breath. But on the other hand, there's no way this isn't good news! 😀😀😀

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Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Win Dispel Illusion!


Dispel Illusion is out in ebook on November 14th.

And for reasons beyond my ken it's December 31st for the paperbacks and hardbacks.

But you, dear reader, could be holding a physical copy in your hot little hands much sooner than that!

This contest has as prizes 2 signed hardbacks and 3 signed paperbacks!

All you have to do to enter is either:

Send a photo of you that includes some kind of clock / time-telling device.


Send a photo of you that includes some kind of illusion, no matter how lame.

The 3 paperbacks will be awarded RANDOMLY.

The 2 hardbacks will go to the best entries - best being some combination of … interesting / clever / aesthetically pleasing.

Mail your entries with the heading DI contest to me at

One entry per person - open internationally - ends on November 13th.

Random Winners = 1, 28, 12

Quality Winners (randomly chosen from a smaller set) = 21, 33

Entries will be shown here:

#36 Emmerentia

#35 Brittney

#34 Karl

#33 Jasmine

#32 Brandon

#31 Kristin

#30 Andrea

#29 Jack

#28 Pamela

#27 Simon

#26 Jeremy

#25 Matt

#24 Chris

#23 David

#22 Lisa

#21 Anthony

#20 Trey

#19 Gino

#18 Tammy

#17 Brendon

#16 Arkadiy

#15 Steve

#14 Helen

#13 Matt

#12 Matthew

#11 Shonnie-Lee

#10 Aurel

#9 Tim

#8 Nita

#7 Bhavna

#6 Rob

#5 Joey & Danielle

#4 Grayson

#3 Maggi

#2 Sethia

#1 John

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Thursday, 31 October 2019

The bizarre economics of book pricing.

The pricing of books can be an emotive subject.

There are a number of things that always seem to crop up whenever it's discussed online:

1) Someone who is genuinely poor will come along to decry anyone comparing the price of a book to that of a cup of coffee in Starbucks. They'll remind you that price of both books and coffee-chain coffee can genuinely constitute a big chunk of any disposable income they have - and that the concept of "disposable" income is in fact alien to them.

This is a fair point and hard for that rare beast - the financially comfortable author - to argue with.

A sub-thread will then develop about libraries and how some people live a gazillion miles from the nearest one.

Another sub-thread will develop about whether books and coffee are luxuries, and whether books occupy some niche that coffee doesn't which makes them something that people should expect to have - as the library system seems to imply. We don't, after all, have a public coffee system.

2) Someone - usually many someones - will tell us that somehow putting the book into an electronic file rather than on paper sucks out the value to such a degree that helping yourself to it for free isn't stealing. And even those who don't advocate piracy may maintain that an e-book should be substantially cheaper than one printed on paper.

A sub-thread will develop where authors attempt to educate the world in general (against its will) about the fact that the paper constitutes a small fraction of the price-per-unit and is in fact often smaller than the chunk some governments (the UK for sure) take in tax off e-books but exempt paper books from.

The author will explain that the bulk of the cost of a book is the labour of those involved with its production and that this must be recouped across the number of copies expected to be sold. A calculation that leads to the pricing of both ebooks and paper books across the lifespan of a novel.

Let's put those genuine issues to one side for now and focus on the median book buyer, an individual who can easily afford the occasional Starbucks coffee and the occasional new book.

What's a fair price for a book?

Often the price on offer depends on whether you want the thing NOW or if you're prepared to wait. If you wanted to see Endgame when it came out you'd be faced with a trip to the cinema and a sizeable hole in your pocket. If you wait 3 or 5 years you'll be able to see it as part of your Netflix (or alternative) package or pick the DVD out of a bargain bin outside a thrift store.

With many of my books you'll have to buy the hardback if you want to read it in the first year or buy the e-book at a higher price than you'll have to pay 12 months later.

This is just how the publisher structures its sales. It's not unique to book sales. is currently listing my book for 2020, The Girl and the Stars, at $22.99 for the hardcover and $13.99 for the ebook.

Every year I will get a random outraged email or two complaining that THE KINDLE COSTS MORE THAN THE PAPERBACK!!!!  The fact is, though, that the paperback is listed a year in advance but you can't have it delivered to you until the year is out - and by that time the kindle will have come down to a similar price.

I hope you like my work enough and are sufficiently financially comfortable to treat yourselves on launch day.

However, if either or both of those things are sadly untrue ... then patience will reward you with more economic opportunities to acquire the book in due course.

In fact, if you wait long enough, the ebook will undoubtedly be offered in a promotion for $0.99.

This is a remarkable reduction of ~93% in price.

I assume that publishers have established through trial and error that this is a worthwhile strategy, and that many readers won't stint their enjoyment for months or years to save the money. Many of those readers will blow $10 or more on far shorter lived pleasures than a good book, a pizza they later regret perhaps, or a bottle of wine, who knows?

Book pricing is an odd beast. Some might say that $0.99 for a book is a race to the bottom that gives readers an unreasonable view of the value of the labour and skill involved. Others may point to libraries and second-hand stores and note that we've had access to free or very cheap books for decades - many of them classics loved by generations.

Others might point at Picassos that have sold for tens of millions and say that the fact we can buy a decent print of them for tens of dollars doesn't collapse the market.

Supply and demand are tidal forces that create many strange whirlpools.

My self-published short story Bound retails for $2.99. How do I expect anyone to buy a copy when they can buy whole books for $0.99 or indeed get books for free legitimately both on Amazon and in libraries?

I priced it at $2.99 because that is the cheapest price where Amazon gives the author 70% of the sale price. At any price below $2.99 the author gets 35% of the sale. Which is still far more than they would get if it was traditionally published. So remember - when you buy a book at 99 cents, the author gets 35 cents and Amazon take 65 cents (note: the author gets significantly less than those 35 cents if it's traditionally published - typically 25% of what the publisher gets after Amazon dip their beak).

And yes, I priced it at $2.99 because I thought that a fair number of people would consider that sum in terms of a cup of chain-coffee and just want to treat themselves to another dip into a world that they had enjoyed.

Some (many?) may point in outrage at the story and say $2.99 for a 16,000 word story is some kind of robbery. I have no answer to that other than to suggest they don't buy it, and also to note that many people allow themselves to be "robbed" on a regular basis when treating themselves to all manner of things they want when they want them.

The other answer is that a short story takes a lot longer to write than a similarly sized chunk of a book. And I expect to sell far fewer copies as the market for short fiction is very limited. As such, if it is to be in any way economic for me to take time out from writing books to write a short story, it has to be priced in this way.

You might suggest (correctly) that if I halved the price and sold four times the number of copies I would make the same income. However, my intuition is that the price doesn't act as barrier of that magnitude to the readership as a whole. I don't think if I halved the price of Bound that sales would increase the necessary four-fold. And does anyone suggest that if I keep halving the price then sales will continue to double ad infinitum?

I'll stand by my opening statement: book pricing is an emotive subject. And I'll add that it's emotive at all levels, from external commentary to the act of purchase itself. Logic takes a backseat most of the time and all I (or more often, the publisher) can do is go with our gut and guess.

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Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Dispel Illusion - I have it!

Dispel Illusion is out in ebook on November 14th.

But, for reasons beyond my control, the hardback and paperback editions are not out until December 31st.

I did, however, manage to squeeze some early copies from my publisher. I achieved this by (true story) telling them Joseph Morgan (actor) wanted one. He read and tweeted about the first two, and my wife seemed far more impressed that he'd liked them than that George RR Martin said such nice things about One Word Kill 😃

Anyway, Wobble is guarding this one:

And if you've got a UK address and a fantasy book blog where you've reviewed the first two … then hit me up and I'll fix you up with a copy while stocks last!

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