Friday, 30 May 2014

Fantasy - crossing the border.

 On the face of it there's little difference here. The same book, two languages. Similar covers. There are actually slightly more native Spanish speakers in the world than English speakers so both markets are large and of similar size.

In fact the only noticeable difference is the title. In Spanish it's a rather generic 'Prince of Evil'.

I found out this week that there won't be a Spanish King of Thorns or Emperor of Thorns. I got paid my advances but Principe del Mal didn't sell well enough for the Spanish publisher to want to sink the extra cost of translation in, so they cut their losses.

Why did a trilogy that has sold over a million copies world wide and is still going strong sell not much more than 0.1% of that number in Spanish? National taste? Marketing? I really don't know.

What I do know is that it's a sobering fact. If I were Spanish my books may very well have flopped and I would have disappeared from the shelves with scarcely a whimper.

I've no deep insight to offer here, just questions to offer up. Did a butterfly beat its wings one way in Spain and another in the UK/US? Is success so ephemeral? Or does a road trip of a few hundred miles from London to Madrid really bring around some deep seated difference in reading preferences?

One surprising wrinkle is that much of the Broken Empire trilogy is actually set in Spain! How many fantasy books can you say that for?

As a side note, in Brazil, Hungary, and France it's doing really well (under its original title, or a closely related one). I can't give a full list though as sales figures from overseas publishers are as rare as very rare things (*).

(*) I save the good analogies for books.

UPDATE: The Spanish rights for the trilogy have all reverted to me, so it could be sold, along with The Red Queen's War trilogy and the Book of the Ancestor trilogy whenever a Spanish publisher shows interest.

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Friday, 16 May 2014

paperback payback

I have a significant collection of my books in paperback and no good way to dispose of them.

It seemed like a good idea to mail out copies of Prince of Thorns, to encourage people to buy the trilogy and to spread the word. Mailing out copies of Emperor of Thorns makes less sense, it's been well reviewed, people who haven't read Prince of Thorns aren't going to want book 3, and hopefully people who have will want to buy their own copy - so the expense of mailing them one just to lose myself a sale doesn't make sense.

So, I'm selling them for charity

This isn't all of them!

I have lots of Emperor of Thorns in US paperback (small, white), and international trade paperback (large, white). I also have some UK and US King of Thorns in paperback (not trade paperback).

I'm proposing to sell these and give all profits to the Children's Hospice charity that helps out my daughter Celyn and many other life-limited children.

To get a copy just:

i) email me your address to:

ii) tell me which type of book you want and if you want a plain signature or a signature and dedication (like "To Sam, all the best!")

iii) consult the table below for postage and packing costs

iv) add to that figure the amount you want to donate to the charity (I suggest $5 and up - $5 is fine, not everyone has a lot of money spare)

v) send me the money via paypal (ask me for the email I use)

vi) sit back and wait for your book.

Postage costs

To the USA (or other overseas destination):

US paperback: $8.50
UK paperback: $17.50
Trade paperback: $17.50

To the UK

US paperback: £2.80
UK paperback: £2.80
Trade paperback: £2.80

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Writing Men (without tits) in Fantasy

The phrase under discussion is 'men with tits' - I could have titled this 'writing women' ... but that might imply women were a special case. I could have titled it 'writing people' ... but that would have missed the point that this specifically is about gender. I could have called it 'writing men' but the word 'tits' probably got me most of my traffic, half waiting to be offended, no doubt.

No pictures of man-boobs here, sorry.

So this blog post was occasioned by two seemingly contradictory view points being championed by an overlapping set of people.

Exhibit 1: A series of tweets by Joe Abercrombie

All very reasonable. Absolutely no reason why any trait should be denied to a female character. They can be as ruthless, vindictive, predatory, heroic, bold, dark, and foolish as any male character. No argument there.

The flip side though is that the only use of the 'man with tits' accusation I've seen previously (and I've seen it a fair bit) has actually been by women, concerned with the representation of women in literature (primarily fantasy) and using it when accusing male authors of failing to write a female character convincingly.

I think the idea here is that the male author has essentially written a character identical in style to his male characters and then, after the event, globally substituted 'Mary' for 'Mark' or 'Kate' for 'Chris' and said "job done".

The implication here is that the writer has not been skilled enough to present whatever differences there are between the genders, &/or their experience of the world, in a convincing manner.


But these two cases, both put forward by people firmly in the non-sexist camp, appear to be in opposition. One side is angry at the 'men with tits' accusation because they feel it puts conditions on what a woman can be. The other side is using the 'men with tits' accusation because they feel some male authors write female characters badly and they come across as men ... with tits.

And yet I've seen the _same_ people retweeting Abercrombie as I've seen using the phrase to condemn an author.

I'm not one of the authors I've seen targeted with the accusation, but it is one I've given some thought to because I don't feel I would write a very good female point-of-view character. I think I would write one essentially the same way I'd write a male character and I would get the 'man with tits' label put on them. So, Abercrombie seems to be telling me, "fuck 'em" write that female character any way you want, who are they to put limits on what a woman can be ... and those same people that were dishing out the label ... cheer him on.

Colour me confused.

There are of course two levels to this discussion. Firstly, do the chemical and structural differences from the cellular level to the organ level actually have any impact at all on the behaviour, nature, and character of the genders? I don't know. The question would seem to be so politicized that I'm certainly not going to hazard an uninformed guess.

Secondly, there are clearly very often differences in how the genders experience and act within their societies. These differences may be embodied in the societies' structure and expectations and inculcated into individuals raised in those societies.

My trepidation about writing female characters lies in my lack of confidence that I would do a good job of presenting those differences. I know female authors who do a great job of capturing the small talk and social interactions between women. I don't feel I do a convincing job of that when I try it.

So which is it? You can write a female character just like a man, because that's equality right there? Or there are differences and writing a female just like a male will look awkward and be unconvincing?

Thursday, 8 May 2014


I've sold tens of thousands of books on which I earn 2.25% of the cover price. The implication being that 97.75% goes to someone who didn't write the words behind that cover.

This blog is about those numbers and why I feel the situation to be reasonable. I'll say it up front for anyone lacking the stamina to read any further: I have no complaints whatsoever about my publishers. I am happy with the contract I signed.

My royalty on a book depends upon the price at which the vendor purchases it from the publisher. For paperbacks sold in the UK I get 4.5% of the cover price if the discount to the vendor is greater than 62.5%. I imagine a vendor gets that level of discount by buying in bulk. So Amazon for example will very likely get this discount, meaning I earn 4.5% of cover price on each paperback of mine they sell.

However, because my UK publisher is a sub-contractor to my US publisher for the purposes of my work, my US publisher get 50% of any royalties accruing. So I get 2.25% of the cover price.

So that's:

£7.99 * 0.0225 * 0.85 (agent fees) * 0.8 (UK tax) = 
                                                     12 pence (20 cents) in my pocket.

I very frequently get requests for signatures. The cheapest solution is to send a 'book plate', a sticky white label which I've signed and can be stuck in the book.

Let's say you buy my whole trilogy in paperback from Amazon and ask me to send you my signature to stick in the books.

A little arithmetic shows that I'd be out of pocket on the deal. I'd still be out of pocket if you'd bought Prince of Fools from Amazon in paperback too!

Another way of looking at it is that to make £1000 (the typical monthly rent on a 4 bedroom house where I live - I need 4 bedrooms, I have 3 children at home, one with complex needs) I would need to sell 8333 paperbacks on Amazon. A great many books do not sell 8000 copies in their lifespan, very few indeed sell 8000 a month!

So, why do I think this is a reasonable state of affairs?

Well, first let's caveat these figures by saying that I make significantly more per copy on ebooks, hardcovers, and even paperbacks from bricks and mortar stores probably make me more. Plus, you can double the figures if they're sold in the US.

The first big point here though is that I was offered a good number of deals and signed the one I ended up with. I was under no pressure.

The second big point is that I got a large advance. I much preferred getting that advance to getting a smaller one and possibly larger percentages of each book sold. I didn't know how many books I would sell - most books do not earn out their advance. Mine have, but I didn't know that they were going to and an advance is guaranteed money ahead of time that I don't have to pay back even if I sold just 3 copies. That security was very appealing.

My publisher gambled that money on me. They took all the financial risk. The people behind it staked their professional judgement on my work. If the books had crashed and burned those people's careers would have been damaged, the money lost.

If someone gambles and wins I don't then whine that they have lots of money.

And where did they get the money to gamble in the first place? It came from profits made on successful authors. The very high-selling authors (the successful gambles) subsidize the new authors and allow them to be given a chance.

Success is not guaranteed. I co-authored a book before my Prince of Thorns deal that was published after Prince of Thorns came out, and with a different publisher under a different name. We got a good advance. The book did not come close to earning out. Just as I am not complaining that on some books I make 12p a copy I am not complaining that on my less successful book if you divide the advance by the number sold I made a considerable sum per copy.

Hopefully now I am helping to pay an advance for a new author a couple of places behind me in the queue.

And whatever the percentage or absolute sum I make on copies sold, publishing is far from the most lucrative business on the planet. I have had personal contact over the past three years with publishers that have gone bust and with other publishers that have lost large sums and are struggling to survive. That, more than anything else, convinces me that far from being ripped off I am in fact being dealt with fairly.

I know that in these heady days of self-publishing miracles it's popular to damn the greedy publishers and call for the cutting out of the 'middle men' ... but I just don't feel that way at all.

The other day someone told me that whatever marketing publishers do is irrelevant because he had got hold of my book without any input from the publisher.

He said that all an author need do is email a copy of their book to 20 'notable' bloggers and if it was any good they would be set.

Here's the thing though - those 'notable' bloggers are drowning in books. They receive far more paper books than they can read, and many times more than that in ecopy from hopeful self-published authors. How do they decide what to pick? Very often it's a book that has a 'buzz', or they rely on the quality filtering done by major publishers and pick one from a well known imprint. Bloggers typically want to blog about books that other people have heard of and are likely to read. It's an enormously difficult thing to make it as a self-published author and those that succeed have my greatest respect.

So the reason this guy had heard of my books in order to choose to read them was because other people were talking about them, and that process was seeded by my publishers putting their reputation behind my title and mailing copies to many bloggers/reviewers to give them the chance to read it.

So the tl:dr = Publishers i) take the financial risk ii) deserve to profit on the occasions their gambles pay off iii) use those profits to bring forward more authors

All the Prince of Fools reviews I know about so far!

"The only similarities <to Prince of Thorns> that I found were the consistency of the writing, the creativity, and the sense of humour that ML undoubtedly manages to inject into some fairly dire situations."

The Book Plank -

"Once you get going in Prince of Fools, cancel _all_ your plans. You won't be able to put it down."

Library Journal (starred review) -

"exciting action & quick-witted dialogue make it a fantastic summer page-turner'

G. R. Matthews -

"character driven story that plays neatly with the original Thorns series, adds more flavour to the world, and makes you want to read the next in the series."

Pat's Fantasy Hostlist -

"Prince of Fools is Lawrence's most accessible and fun-filled novel to date! Indeed, it's the sort of work Joe Abercrombie and Scott Lynch would come up with if they ever collaborated on a project."

Beauty in Ruins -

"the darkness goes far beyond dark fantasy, beyond even grimdark territory"

Bloody Cake News -

"I was utterly captured, the prose overwriting my concepts on beautiful, heart stolen away giggle by giggle"

Parmenion Books -

"Prince of Fools is excellent: humour, Vikings, fighting, magic, Vikings, fighting, more humour, lots more fighting. Love it"

Impulse Gamer - ("I have not read the Broken Empire trilogy"

"The Prince of Fools (The Red Queen’s War #1) is a very well written novel that reads extremely well with some great character development."

Whedonopolis -

"the jovial and ludicrously narcissistic recount by the cowardly prince brings an air of levity to even some of the grimmest scenes. In contrast, it makes the sad and bitter scenes all the more touching and tragic."

T.O Munro -

"This is a book which is impossible either to skimread or to put down, and readers would be well advised to start this at the beginning of a weekend"

And of course there are reviews on Goodreads, including some kind words from authors Robin Hobb and Myke Cole!

It was also an RT magazine Top Pick but you'll have to buy the magazine to find out why!

Friday, 2 May 2014

Screen Test - for fun! (also prizes)

So in honor of Hollywood interest in Prince of Thorns I'm going to run a 'screen test' contest.

These are prizes:

(more detailed shot here)

The rules are simple.

i) Make a short video clip of you (or someone else) reading some lines from the Broken Empire. Preferably a bit of dialogue/monologue. Ideally we want face time but if you're shy ... wear a bag on your head or whatever works for you :)

ii) Upload it to youtube, click the share button then the embed button and post the resulting link-code on the Hatcheree challenge.

 Most video files are too big to send to me or for me to post anywhere, so youtube is the way to go - it's easy to sign up, easy to upload.

I will award 3 prizes as follows:

i) Prize 1 will go to the top voted clip posted on Hatcheree. It will be: choose 2 items from the prize photo. (This does not include the chair, bed, or any of the other infrastructure, smartarse). 

ii) Prize 2 will go to a randomly selected entry - so you don't have to be the best actor/video maker etc to win. It will be: choose 1 item from the prize photo.

iii) Prize 3 will be my choice of entry and I'll choose the prize from the prize photo.

If you happen to know any world-class actors who want to be Jorg, then by all means let them know, Wolfgang Hammer will be watching and he is:

a) President of a Hollywood studio
b) Interested in putting the book on screen.

But mostly this is about having fun - so don't by shy, and if all you do is gabble "Ravens. Always the ravens!" with a bag on your head ... you could still win!

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Prince of Fools arrives at Voyager!

Unboxed today at Voyager HQ in London.

Natasha moves in swiftly...

followed by the rest of the pack...

after devouring a large book the voyageremployee often sleeps for up to six days