Friday 28 September 2018

Holy roughs, Batman!

Here are some of Tomasz Jedruszek's roughs for the UK cover of Holy Sister.

It's always nice when the artist is kind enough to let you share the process, and it's remarkable what a great artist like Tomasz can do with just broad strokes of the brush.

& for good measure, here are some roughs for the Grey Sister cover.

Wednesday 26 September 2018


The "advance" is an often misunderstood financial device that forms the core of traditionally published authors' income.

Often readers hear that an author got a particular advance and imagines this is bonus cash for signing a deal. For example reports about The Night Circus (2011) "Doubleday paid Morgenstern a high six-figure advance for the book".

The publisher gives the author the advance. Typically these are in the $10,000 range for an author with a big five publisher (Harper Collins, Penguin Random House, etc).

Sometimes a book will spark a bidding war and they can stray into the high hundreds of thousands (The Night Circus) or even multi millions ($3.5 million for Justin Cronin's trilogy that starts with The Passage). These are often driven by the early promise of a movie which indicates additional sales down the line.

Often when you see "a six figure deal" for a new fantasy author it means for a trilogy, and generally we're talking $100,000. So $33,000 per book, paid in stages (signing, manuscript acceptance, hardcover release, paperback release).

So if that author releases a book a year, which is the typical model, then their six figure advance from a major publisher (a VERY hard thing to get hold of) is an annual income of $33,000. Set this against the US median household income of $62,000, take away any form of job security or medical insurance ... and boggle.

So, what is an advance exactly?

Well, it's kinda a cash bonus, and kinda not. For authors an advance is a de-risking device, and for publishers it's a risk. For both of them it signals a commitment to the success of the book.

The advance is, in some senses, a gift. It cannot be taken away as long as the author delivers the book/s and they are accepted. If my next trilogy only sells three copies I will still keep the advance.

In another very real sense the advance is not a gift. If my next trilogy sells a hundred thousand copies I won't see a penny as all of the income from royalties that would otherwise by paid to me will instead go to the publisher to pay back the advance. That process continues until the publisher is paid back. At that point the book is said to have "earned out". After that point the royalties (typically ~5 to 15% of the cover price, depending on the format) will come to me.

So whether I have to sell 1 copy or 1 million copies before I see any more money depends on the size of the advance. With no advance I will earn from the first sale. With a million dollar advance I would have to sell many hundreds of thousands of books, maybe millions if most are cheap ebooks.

One extra wrinkle on the advance that I recently became aware of, and that I am assured is a factor in many deals that are heralded across the interwebs, is the "conditional advance" where some or all of the advance is conditional on hitting certain sales targets. A particular number of sales in hardcover, for example, or a particular number of sales in the first year.

To me, this is bullshit, as it heavily waters down what an advance is. A conditional advance is very little different to royalties. If I am offered a million dollar advance conditional on selling a million copies ... it means nothing, because I would have earned a million in royalties by selling a million books.

Anyway, on the diagram below I show in black the advances on my various books. There's no scale, the heights of the columns are for comparisons only. The coloured columns are the total royalties paid to me so far for each book. For Red and Grey Sister the yellow columns are based on the royalties earned in the US reported 2 months prior to this post, projecting similar UK results.

So, you can see that Prince of Thorns has earned out more than four times over.
You can also see that my advance increased slightly from The Broken Empire trilogy to the Red Queen's War trilogy, and again to the Book of the Ancestor trilogy.

I have not included any conditional elements, and I have used contemporary exchange rates, which is the main reason the most recent trilogy shows a slight decline in advances, since half of the advance is in Sterling and the pound has crashed against the dollar during the BREXIT years.

click for detail

In conclusion, the advance is great for those of us who need some measure of financial stability. It also locks your publisher in financially so that you are guaranteed that they will be focused on making your book a success - otherwise they will make a loss.

Anecdotally, I have heard that well in excess of 95% of authors with the big five publishers get less than $100,000 per book (in the States as a scientist I earned more than $100,000 a year as a scientist nearly 20 years ago, so even these big advance guys are not on rock star salaries!). Also anecdotally I hear that the big majority of books from first time authors do not earn out their advance during their lifetime.

The model is that some very successful books subsidise the advances paid to new authors.

For the author the hope is that they have a back catalogue of earned out books that provide an income stream to augment the advances coming in on their newer work (if they are lucky enough to be able to continue to get them).

In short: don't give up the day job just because you get a six-figure advance!

Friday 21 September 2018

One Word Kill

On April the first (no fooling) my first science fiction book is coming out!

Here's the cover:

It's not a ray guns and spaceships scifi, it's set in 1980's London and centres on a D&D group. Find out more about it on or Goodreads.

Pre-order on Amazon US or UK.

There will be a hardcover edition (US only + in special edition form from UK bookseller Anderida Books), and Amazon Prime customers + Amazon First Readers will be able to get the book from April 1st. 

Saturday 1 September 2018

Brothers and Sisters, it's a giveaway.

Competition Closed

I've been sent a bunch of the Road Brothers paperbacks! And I still have a few Red Sister paperbacks left. So it's competition time. I'll send signed copies (or possibly other of my books if I have them) to the winners (anywhere in the world).

There will be one winner per ten entries up to a maximum of 4 books.

Winners will be chosen randomly but you get more chances to be chosen if your entry ticks more of the boxes.

To enter send me a photo of you in a road (the pavement/sidewalk is fine - don't get run over!). Where you live would be good, but any road will do. And let's see some of the street, not just your face and a rooftop. (This gives one chance).

For an extra chance include one or more brothers in the photo. I'm not going to check your genealogical records. If these are guys you consider to be your Road Brothers that's fine.

For an extra chance include one or more sisters in the photo. Same deal as with the brothers.

For a final extra chance have all those in the photo wearing red (like a red top, scarf, or hat, not socks or underwear!).

So each entry (one per person) has between 1 and 4 chances of winning.

Send me your photo at

The winners 
(selected by using the points to weight chances)

Many thanks for all the great entries. It was great to see you guys all over the world.
I always feel bad for the people who didn't win :/  But using absolves me of guilt. Hooray!

#49 Tony
#21 Vladislav
#5 Tamas
#42 Paige
#23 Shannon


#50 Stephanie (3 points) Alberta, Canada

#49 Tony (2 points)  Ireland (being a hard arse I am scoring this for those in the road only)

#48 Ant (2 points) Spain

#47 Raven (4 points)

#46 Alma (4 points), apparently the dog is male and dressed in red.

#45 Matt (1 point)

 #44 Irina (4 points), Constanta, Romania

#43 Will (3 points) The Great North Run ... England (North)

#42 Paige (2 points) Alberta, Canada - a brave attempt to qualify on the basis of red shoelaces!

#41 Mark (2 points) Hungary

#40 Mila (3 points)  Bulgaria

#39 Amy (2 points)

#38 Pulkit (3 points) Paris

#37 Mark (2 points) in Cambridge with his Red Sisters!

#36 Nicole (1 point) who appears to have forgotten about the whole road thing, but who I will give a point to for trying.

#35 Melisande (3 points) Malta

#34 Gareth (4 points) Spain

#33 David (2 points) twins in Washington, Indiana, USA

#32 Deborah (3 points) France

#31 Phil (2 points) Orlando, USA

#30 Mico (3 points) the Philippines

#29 Amar (4 points) Ontario, Canada

#28 Malthe (2 points) on the Greek island of Samos

#27 Rebecca (2 points)

 & proving it's a road

#26 Chris (2 points) in Caye Caulker, Belize (I've been backpacking there!!)

#25 Jan (2 points) in Albania

#24 Aurel (2 points) in Hungary

#23 Shannon (3 points) Leaving it ridiculously late to open their parachutes after being dropped into Monument Valley!

#22 Jon (2 points) Phillippines

(not recommended)

#21 Vladislav (2 points) I guess hedgehogs count now... Dunno where, Russia maybe?

#20 Teresa (3 points) Germany

#19 Anita + sisters (2 points) Chorley carnival, UK

#18 Mathew (4 points) South Africa

#17 Danijel (1 point) in Sarajavo, Bosnia

#16 Brianne (4 points) in Texas.

#15 Pau (3 points) in Barcelona

#14 Barbara (3 points)

#13 Brittany (2 points) beside a car that is the same age as me and wearing the years better.

#12 Scott (1 point) in Vietnam!

#11 Sabine (4 points) in Germany apparently cats count as well as dogs... I feel there is some rule creep going on.

#10 Jessica (1 point) despite a spirited attempt to argue the case for the car!

#9 Erchin (3 points)

#8 Bradley (2 points)

#7 Max (4 points) in Beijing. Max is on end to the right.

#6 Valeria (4 points)

#5 Tamas (2 points)

#4 James (2 points) apparently dogs count...

#3 Thomas (4 points)

#2 Mark (3 points) somewhere in Spain

#1 Calin (4points) sent in an upgrade!