Sunday 22 March 2020

Bitching, George RR Martin, and the underbelly of fandoms.

Eleven years ago Neil Gaiman put it succinctly: George RR Martin is not your bitch.

This is an old horse, long ago beaten to death in many of the internet's alleyways.

But today I had occasion to see how deep and persistent the crazy is. I had a short story in GRRM's Wild Cards universe published on It's a story and a character I'm quite proud of, and The Visitor's origin story in Knaves Over Queens is, I think, one of my best. It did at least prompt GRRM to call me an excellent writer 😀.

Anyway, GRRM tweeted about it today.

Note: The Wild Cards series has been an enduring passion for GRRM since he started it in 1986, a full ten years before A Game of Thrones was published.

Also note: GRRM hasn't written any of the stories in the recent instalments of the series that I've been involved in or seen. He's the head editor but the low to medium level of editing is done by other editors. So his role is important in guiding the thing and keeping the tone and history consistent, but not significant in terms of the time it would occupy out of a year's work.

You have to go to the 30th reply on the tweet to find one that's not scolding him about Winds of Winter. Here are some of the comments:

So I looked at the replies to some of his other tweets - something I hope GRRM never does.

In January he tweeted that he was very saddened by the death of Mike Resnik and linked to a heartfelt post about his old friend and mentor. These were the first three replies:

There's some ugly shit right there.

Writing is a difficult business and the retirement age in many countries is around 65 (in Brazil it was 55 for women (who live longer anyway) and 60 for men until recently 😲). GRRM is 71. Many of us would be expecting to have been kicking back and doing whatever retired people do for the last 6 years by age 71.

If you're upset that the final instalments of A Game of Ice and Fire have taken so long, then by all means make your own private plans not to buy them if/when they come out. Declare your disinterest and move on.

I doubt though that you're as disappointed as the author. GRRM has written some of the world's most popular and beloved books. That's a rare and stellar talent. Don't pretend to know how difficult that was or how hard it is to sustain. I'm a writer and I know many writers. Authors at all levels of success struggle with the act of creation. It is not the turning of a handle on a sausage machine. It is not a mechanical process that can be forced. It varies hugely for person to person - it is deeply personal - it is deeply connected to mental health. Yesterday I spent all the writing time available to me playing a single game of Bookworm. World news had pushed my mind to a place where I couldn't focus on writing. I know authors who have missed generous deadlines and one who surrendered to the fact that his series would not be finished. These are not people rolling in writing money, too busy living the high life to knuckle down and type. These are people for whom writing is everything - who maintain day jobs to pay the bills - who dream of success, or more importantly of their stories finding readers (the distinction being that it's not money driving them but the desire to tell their tales).

So yes, it's disappointing when a great series that you're loving slows or stops. But trolling an old man on the internet ... that's pathetic. Nobody wants those books written more than GRRM does. But if you think heckling him at every opportunity is going to do anything other than make you part of something ugly ... then ... you know nothing, John Doe.

Wednesday 11 March 2020

Foreign Rights

My books have been published in 26 languages (not all of them, but at least one of my books in at least 26 languages). My experience with foreign publishers has been varied. There are several stars who not only uphold their contractual obligations but make significant efforts to sell the books and succeed in doing so.

Sometimes things go less well. A good number of contracts I've signed have resulted in an advance payment and then ... crickets ... for years (in many cases an ongoing silence). Some contracts I've signed haven't even resulted in the payment of the contracted advance. Some have paid the advance but then not translated the book.

An author is an individual with essentially zero power in these cases. Even with the help of an agent you have very little clout. It's not practical to pursue publishing companies in another country over relatively small sums and in the end you're not only trusting them to pay you but to report the sales accurately. All the balls are in their court.

The following example isn't the best or the worst, but perhaps gives new authors a flavour of what they might expect.

In April of 2011 I signed this contract, assigning the foreign rights to Prince of Thorns to a respected publisher in a European country.

(click for detail)

In 2014 my foreign rights agent sent me an email containing:

Wed, 5 Nov 2014 at 18:00

Dear Mark,


I’ve also had a query from your XXXX publisher XXXX. They’re about to reprint PRINCE OF THORNS (they’ve sold about 4,000 copies) and have asked if they could include SLEEPING BEAUTY as a reader bonus in the new edition. Would this be ok?

I replied, and then about a year later I wrote back on the subject again:

20 September 2015, 16:19:24 BST, Mark Lawrence <> wrote:

<snip> about a year ago you asked me if the XXXX publisher XXXX could include my short story in a new edition of Prince of Thorns. You also mentioned that they had already sold around 4000 copies. At the agreed 7% royalty and a retail price of $13 (what they cite in the Prince of Fools contract) this would make ~3200 euros of royalties owing. But the only payment I've ever had from them is the 1000 euro advance.

This should perhaps be chased up?

Also, they *still* owe me 5 author copies of each book - which only hurts their sales and mine as I would give those books away, signed, on XXXX fantasy blogs.

She replied:

2 Nov 2015 at 18:29

Hi Mark,

I’m really sorry about the delay on this. I chased them before the Frankfurt book fair and they promised to attend to the outstanding monies and copies. I’ve chased them again today.

So that was in November 2015. They agreed that they owed me royalties (actually they owed them at least a year earlier in 2014) and promised to pay. The contract said they should be sending accounts of the sales of the book every year.

My excellent foreign rights agent continued to invest a sensibly judged amount of effort into pursuing the matter. Obviously with many books in many languages and good relations to maintain it's not something that demands the application of great pressure. But then it really shouldn't need to.


In March of 2020 I received my first royalties statement from the publisher - 9 years after signing the contract! They've published a good number of my books and have never sent me any of the 5 author copies for each book as per contract.

The part of the royalties statement for Prince of Thorns said that 5893 copies have been sold (not at the $13 I assumed from later contracts but still at a price where the 4,000 sales significantly exceed the advance) and subtracting the euro 1000 advance that left euro 2574, and subtracting the 10% for my agent and the 10% for the foreign agent that left euro 1548 for me. Most of which had been sitting in their bank account for over 6 years. The other books of mine they've published had also generated royalties that were owing to me.

As you can see it would in no way be feasible / cost effective for me to pursue a company in another country for 1500 euros (or even 15,000 euros), especially when they control all the figures and only let slip that 4,000 sale figure in an attempt to get a freebie out of me.

So, foreign sales are a bit of an adventure to say the least. And why is this particular adventure "average" rather than the worst? Because I do at least, albeit 9 years after signing the contract, have sales figures and royalty payments for half of the books of mine they've published. And while that's hardly stellar, it is at least better than the black holes that have resulted from some of my other contracts!

And as a final note - there are of course many excellent publishers across the world, delivering great service and results for both authors and readers.

Thursday 5 March 2020


My first trilogy (The Broken Empire) and my most recent trilogy (Impossible Times) both had the same cover art in the US and the UK.

My middle trilogies and my upcoming trilogy have different covers depending on what side of the Atlantic you are.

I think all my covers are great and the artists behind them hugely talented. Sometimes it's even the same artist on both sides as in the case of The Liar's Key where both the US and UK art are by the excellent Jason Chan.

So this is a celebration of their talent.

However, there is always the long-running discussion of the differences between UK and US covers, and I'm interested in it. So this is a poll on which covers for you best represent the contents of the books &/or make you want to buy the book?


(covers marked with interim results after 162 voters)
US                  UK

This is just a bit of fun. To properly investigate I would need to ask three times as many questions, determining whether you were from the US, UK or 'other' and trying to establish whether the different approaches really were successfully tailored to national tastes - and really I'd have to do it before publication because by now you may well associate these covers with the book you read and be biased towards the one you know best.