Since Wednesday's announcement about The First Empire being picked up by Del Rey, I've been getting a lot of questions about scheduling and the new series. If you missed the announcements here are some links:
Now, I need to take a step back and explain something for those people who aren't familiar with how I write. Before the first book in a series is released, I write all the other books so I know where the whole story is going to wind up. (An exception for The Riyria Chronicles which isn't so much a "series" but a string of books with the same characters.) But there is a big difference between "written" and "ready for publishing." I mention this because it relates to release dates. So, since so many people have been asking about those, let me fill in some details relating to when the books will come out.
Summer 2016 - Release of Book #1 - Rhune
Knowing that I write the entire series, the first question people are asking me is, "Why is it taking so long to release the first book? Does it really take a year and a half?" Well, let me explain. In general, a publisher needs a year (or sometimes longer) to do all their magic, including editing, cover design, promotion, early reading copies, and so forth. But at this time Del Rey can't even start any of that stuff. So while the "waiting clock" is starting to tick for the readers, the "production" clock hasn't yet started for the publisher. So why can't they start? Well, several reasons.
- We don't have a signed contract yet. All we've done is agreed on the "big items" but until we both have signatures on paper, it makes no sense for them to start working on a project.
- Del Rey doesn't have the "official manuscript" yet. What they have is what I sent them in January, with is essentially the state of the book as it entered the second beta.
Okay, so let's dig a little deeper and explain what will need to happen from here. Let's start with the contract, it can take weeks to get it to me, then the parties will "negotiate" minor aspects of each clause. We've already agreed on the "big items" but getting all the i's dotted and t's crossed could take months. For the Orbit deal, I think we agreed on terms in October 2010 and signed in March of 2011.
As to the "official manuscript," I'm still writing the last book. If all goes well, it'll be finished in April or May. But until that story is written, I don't want to give Del Rey a manuscript because I might need to make changes. In fact, I already know of a few things I need to adjust, but there is no reason to start those until after I finish the series. Plus, the second beta is finishing up and Robin has a number of changes for me to consider from that. Again, I want to work on Rhune (book one), and once I have all the facts I will. Given what's outstanding I predict that the earliest Del Rey can have their "official manuscript for acceptance" will be June or July. So their plans to release in Summer 2016 is in line with a "year after the book is received" timeline.
What will be the interval between books?
Because all the books are written, there are a lot of people who are expecting to read them in quick succession. This is probably complicated by the fact that Orbit released all six books of the Riyria Revelations in a 69 day period (Nov 2011 - Jan 2012).
I should point out that there is no bit difference between The Riyria Revelations and The First Empire. First, five of the six books of Revelations were already published when Orbit was handed them. So they were fully edited at contract signing. Yes, they still had to do their structural, copy, and line editing, as well as final layout and proofing. But they were fully polished when we signed. The books of The First Empire are not at that level at this time.
Just as the first book still needs some attention by me, the other books will as well...and they need a lot more attention than Rhune does You see that first book has been through:
- An alpha read and critique
- Edit from me based on the alpha
- A beta read and critique
- Edits from me based on the beta
- Another beta read and critique
And as I stated it still needs another round of edits from me before submission. But books two through five have only had their "alpha read" completed. All those other steps are still pending. I don't have a list of issues yet, and even if I did, I couldn't start working on them now. I still have to finish the last book and make the changes to the first book.
The alpha critique can take several months to finish, and the beta read process generally takes three months as well. Because there is only one of me and Robin (who does the alpha reading and organization of the beta), alpha), we have to work serially, not in parallel.
The other thing to keep in mind is that Del Rey is doing both a hardcover and a paperback release. Generally, there is some period of time between these releases...and that also has to be taken into consideration. Maybe I'll discuss the reasons for this in a future article. But in any case, they need some distance between these two releases.
Right now, my focus is on book five and soon it will shift back to book one. Once those are done, and I know what changes will be required, the people at Del Rey and I will discuss the various possible release schedules for the other books. Then, I'll work backward from those dates to ensure the other books are ready by the deadlines we come up with.
What about other books?
This is another factor that will affect the release dates. I'm constantly being asked by readers for more Royce and Hadrian (Riyria) and additional stories featuring Ellis and Pax (Hollow World). I really don't want to put off those readers while The First Empire is being rolled out. Ideally, I'd like to progress each of the three series a bit at a time. So, my plan is that between First Empire books, I should be able to release other titles. But this can only happen if there is a "distance" between the First Empire stories. It's important to me that my other projects don't interfere with Del Rey's marketing efforts. The way to prevent this is to have a "window" around their release dates, in which I won't put out my other books. I did this with Orbit and I plan on doing that with Del Rey as well. So, since the books can't come out in back-to-back months anyway, I'll be putting out my other books in the gaps between their books. Make sense?
How big of a gap will that be? Again we haven't finalized that yet, but the bottom line is I plan on having a steady stream of books by both me and Del Rey to keep the readers "well fed."
Wrapping it all up
I know that really didn't help much as far as exact release dates, but hopefully it helps to describe the process and some of the details about how such things are determined. Of course, as soon as I know more, I'll let you all know.