Monday 18 July 2016

Moving on.

Conventional wisdom ... conventional commercial wisdom ... is that in the business of writing, when you have a good thing, stick to it.

It is enormously difficult to break big in the business of book selling. As an author, if you have a character or world that sells ... you stick to them like glue (I save my good similes for the books).

This is in no small part why we often have fantasy series spanning 10 or 20 ... sometimes 50 novels.

It's not a bad thing. I've read as many as 7 books focused on the same character and enjoyed them.

However, when it comes to writing I like variety. In the Broken Empire trilogy I wrote about Jorg, a dark, intense, fearless and violent young man. In the Red Queen's war the main character, Jalan, is a coward with a short attention span and little ambition. Those books allowed for a lot more humour than the previous trilogy.

Even with the following wind of a successful  first series it's no small thing to carry your readership with you to follow an entirely new character. The Red Queen's War is higher rated on Goodreads than The Broken Empire, but many of the readers who came to it open their reviews with the complaint that "he's not Jorg!". I understand the psychology behind that reaction, but at the same time I have to point out that those same readers don't open any other author's books with the complaint "he's not Jorg!" We are, to some degree, programmed by publishing to expect the same thing from any given author. This is partly because that's what publishing generally wants and gets. Publishing is increasingly a numbers game where the goal is to minimize risk. Risk is minimized by repetition. More of the same is very appealing when that 'same' includes profit.

So I count myself lucky to have publishers who have been willing to let me jump the rails.

And now The Red Queen's War is concluded, what next? Many readers will hope for more from the surviving characters, or more of the Broken Empire's world, or both.

I'm certainly not saying that I won't ever return to those shores or follow the adventures of a favorite character from the previous stories (major or minor). But, just as I didn't want to be bound to Jorg Ancrath for the whole of my writing life (I could be finishing of book 9 of Jorg's saga right now and I'd likely have a healthier bank balance because of it), I also didn't want to be bound exclusively to the world and magics of the Broken Empire.

So, I was very glad when both Ace and Voyager wanted to publish Red Sister and the rest of the trilogy I had started on, (series title: Book of the Ancestor).

We have a new world, a new protagonist, and once again I face the challenge of bringing my readers with me while attracting new ones. And yes, there is no Jorg, there's no Jalan, there's no familiar world. But all these things are also true of every other book not written by Mark Lawrence (of which there are quite a few). And in the plus column, you know you like my writing, and you know I won't keep you waiting. I'm half way through the final book of the trilogy and fully expect to be finished several months before the first book hits the shelves.

After that? I really don't know. I will stare at a wall and see what pops into my head. Everything is on the table.

To conclude: Yes, I would probably sell more books by continuing to turn the handle on the first thing I wrote. No, I'm not doing that. This way lies more fun, more variety, more possibility.


  1. Good for you, Mark. Far better to leave the audience wanting more than writing something that ends up jumping the shark 9 books in and leaves people wondering where/how the hell such a great series went wrong.

    I look forward to your new stuff greatly.

  2. I'm just happy to follow along on your adventures that you write for us all. Your books are easy reading and interesting, the world building in the Broken Empire was amazing and I'm sure Red Sister will be stellar. Thanks Mark you legend....

  3. I've loved all your books and given them all five stars, but he's still not Jorg.

    Can't wait for Red Sister!

  4. I love reading whatever you write! I am very excited for new books! I am sure this new series will be another great success. Can't wait!

  5. Oh I don't think you have anything to worry about! I atleast will read whatever you write. You could write about a turd adventure and I would still read it. You're just that good. Super excited for Red Sister! Cheers to full bank accounts! And if all else fails you can always depend on Jorg to fill it back up again!

  6. Tell the tales that want to be told 😉

  7. It's a reasonably bold move, especially in this genre. And one I salute.

    The familiar, be it a world or a character, is always nice. It's easy. You know roughly what you're getting. The bar for entrance is a little lowered compared to something completely new.

    Take the Discworld, for example. It was built slowly, book-by-book, with enormous scope for stories and characters. Love it. Always have.

    Now look at Nation. Same author, same writing style. Different world and characters. Equally as interesting and entertaining (to me). But a bit of fresh air – something a little different not bound by the confines of its predecessors – to make sure the room doesn't get too stuffy.

    In short, I like the writer and their writing. So, it's quite unlikely you will not be getting your meagre sales percentage from my purchase. Unless you flung me a review copy of course. ;)

  8. Most authors are only gifted enough to produce one solid character or one solid universe in their entire career. I believe you're gifted enough, as a writer, to create many solid new characters and solid new universes. Looking forward to whatever your brilliant little mind cooks up next.

  9. It is always a good thing to move on, I think, whether from success or failure. You can't succeed or experience a different kind of success remaining where and as you are. I'm behind everyone else when it comes to your body of work but there is something about what you've shared of Red Sister that makes me think it will be a different kind of success for you, and the best yet :)

  10. I'm exited to see you trying something new again. A new character, world and 3rd person narrative, with, I assume, a similar voice and style is something I look forward to. You've not let me down so far.

  11. I just love your writing style so I'm onboard for the duration.

  12. I can't wait to see where your journey takes this reader!

  13. I look forward to the next adventure, whatever it may bring. Your writing style is what I enjoy; that's not to say I didn't thoroughly enjoy Jorg or Japan's adventures. Ultimately the more you write about what you enjoy, the more books we'll likely get to read. :)

  14. The builders war I would love to read as many of the characters are already partly developed. I would love to read you in a more sci-fi landscape as I think from what you've already written you're great at it :-) be great to hear the back story of the world you created and it would be hard read as you would know the final outcome but I'm sure you could give it a great spin. But I'm sure you're already hearing the next transmission and I look forward to reading it. (PS I'm sure there is a fear of bad spelling when writing to a writer.. )

  15. ben woestenburg18 July 2016 at 20:53

    Space're a rocket scientist, remember? There are galaxies out there where you could lose yourself a thousand times over. Reach for the stars, my friend! You once told me to go for it, and I did, and now I'm up on Amazon trying to make a real go of it as an Indie because you once told me that you liked my stories -- a long time ago, but not so far away -- so, reach for the stars!

  16. I always respect an author who knows when to let go, and the way you're moving on is pretty admirable.

  17. Why make it easy on yourself? Where's the challenge in that, right? But, the big question, is it a different writing style or just a new world?

  18. I like that you keep your stories to trilogy length. I've given up on a few long-winded 10+ books per series. Mainly, I got bored with the story line, the characters fighting the same things over and over, and that the evil dead characters keep coming back. It's the rare author who knows when the story is done and stops trying to milk a dry cow.

  19. How about another book with Hemar? :)

  20. I appreciate you openly communicating with your readers sir. I have enjoyed the your two series and refered friends to them. I liked Jorg but honestly he was a little over the top violent for me while I absolutely loved Jalan. I enjoyed the parallel and interplay of the two stories and characters.
    I also agree with your perspective on not over doing a person or storyline or world. Too often, as already mentioned, these get played out and readers left frustrated that the series went sideways (or no where at all). This leaves the author with a bit of a broken trust with his readers and while good for short term gain not the best in the long haul...
    Personally, I like to find authors I can trust to keep me entertained and don't mind a variance and in fact prefer it when given the chance.
    Top three worst things a writer can do (my personal really important opinion to me but probably less so to others)
    1. Take too long between books in a series.
    2. Take the series past when it should have ended
    3. End a book with a complete cliff hanger. (I get it in a series by definition there are open items but please break them into coherent start stop points.)
    You seem to be proactively avoiding all the above. So thanks!

  21. I hate first person narrative. I was close to quitting on your first, but decided to "slog" through. I will read anything you publish as I find your writing to be brilliant in many, often subtle, ways.

    I now say that I hate first person narrative other than Mark Lawrence.