Editor’s Note — In late March, I published an essay by Bradley P. Beaulieu about the changing landscape of publishing and why he decided to leave his publisher, Night Shade Books, and relaunch his Epic Fantasy trilogy, The Lays of Anuskaya as a self-published series of eBooks. Seeing this, Michael J. Sullivan, author of The Riyira Chronicles, one of Fantasy’s early self-published success stories, wrote to me with his own valuable take on the world of ‘hybrid publishing.’ You can find more information about Sullivan’s upcoming novel, Hollow World, on the official Kickstarter page.
I first met Brad Beaulieu at ConFusion this January. We were having lunch and after telling me about what was going on at Night Shade we tossed around the various options. I encouraged him to retrieve his rights, do another Kickstarter, and take control of what I saw as a valuable franchise. He was probably already leaning that way. Hopefully I gave him the last nudge to take the leap. I will be taking the hybrid route myself with one of my upcoming novels, Hollow World, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with his decision, and I think it will work out very well for him.
I’m a huge supporter of the hybrid model. Traditional publishing opened doors for me that I couldn’t get when I was self-published. Now that my books are in libraries and bookstore, my audience broadened. I received more foreign deals, and the advances on those were probably larger than they would have been without Orbit. There was even book club and audio versions produced, which paved the way so to Theft of Swords being named a finalist for an Audie (the audio book equivalent of the Grammy). These are all good things, but there are also aspects that I miss from my self-publishing days. Continue reading
In 2011, after much angst and delay, my first novel, God’s War, came out from Night Shade Books. It went on to win the Kitschy Award for Best Debut Novel and was nominated for a Nebula Award as well as a Locus Award for Best First Novel. I earned out my advance in about six months and sealed the deal for the third book in the series not long after that. I’ve also just sold UK and audio rights for all three novels in the series.
Looks like a smashing good success all around when you string it all together like that, doesn’t it? In fact, it looks almost miraculously easy, as if I must have written some kind of exceptional book or something. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love my books. But I also read a lot of other books in 2011 that I thought were a lot better, some of which didn’t make any awards list and many of which are still earning out their (probably substantially larger) advances.
So how did this happen? How does a little book that was rejected at nearly every other publisher as being “unmarketable” and had its first contract cancelled for similar concerns get so much… well – as people kept putting it online – “buzz”?
The real answer is, nobody really knows exactly why some books get talked about and some books don’t. A lot of people will tell you that who you know is what gets you published. And until I went through this process, I’d be the first to tell you that that’s bunk.
What I didn’t realize was that I was about to become one of those “silly punks” myself.
But turns out that once you can actually write a good book, that it does actually matter a good deal who you know and who’s heard of you. Recently, in this post over at Staffer’s Musings regarding the relationship of book bloggers and publishers, God’s War and its marketing came up again in conversation, with an assertion that, hey, you know, it must have been because it was such a good book that it made all these lists.
But there were a LOT of good books that didn’t make these lists. What helped God’s War get noticed? There’s a lot of mysterious stuff that happens among readers with particular books, and I can’t pretend to get that, but what I can do is tell you how I went about trying to get this book noticed, and how a small but passionate bunch of book bloggers, colleagues, and friends helped get this book’s name out in 2011. Is this approach applicable to other books? Sure. If you’re willing to play the game. And accept the fact that what you’re about to launch yourself into is a casino, not a meritocracy. Continue reading