Thursday, December 22, 2016

Why so long for the next one?



It's a question I've often heard since the release of Age of Myth, mainly because people know I wrote the entire series before submitting the first book to a publisher. Some have even speculated that it's a nefarious plan to extend the time between books artificially. I assure you that's not true. What is the truth?  Simple. There's a big difference between finished and done. Let's pull back the veil a bit, so that you can see behind the curtain.

Okay, so I started writing this series in 2013 and finished in 2015. After completing each book, I gave it over to Robin, my wife (and an excellent structural editor).  She deemed the first three books to be in good shape, but the end of the series needed some work. She was right. Among other things, I rushed through the series ending, and it was evident I was trying to "smush" two books into one by ignoring a natural break point in the last novel.

While the series was indeed written, it was far from done. I did, however, have what I needed to submit the first book. I knew that first novel was in good shape (it had already been through two beta reads). I also knew where everything would end up even though the last half the series would still need some significant work. And lastly I had already worked out the required fixes, and it was just a matter of implementing them.

Del Rey offered a substantial advance for a four-book deal.  The only wrinkle was they didn't want any other books coming out from me until their series was fully released (plus a six month period of exclusivity). Since we were negotiating the contract in early 2015 and their first book wouldn't come out until June 2016, that meant six years before another Riyria Chronicle release. That just didn't work for me. So, it was time to get creative, and we came up with the following:
  • Riyria Chronicle #3 (The Death of Dulgath) could be released before the Legend's books as long as it could hit in 2015. 
  • Del Rey would receive the first three books of the Legends of the First Empire and a fourth yet to be named book based in Elan. This last book could be another Riyria Chronicle (assuming people wanted more after book #3's release), the 4th book of The Legend Series, or the first book in a new series that explores when the First Empire fell. This last story is essentially the backstory for Esrahaddon, Jerish, and Nevrik. If you've read the Riyria Revelations, those names will have some meaning to you.
  • We placed the release schedule at once book a year because (a) I knew there was still a lot of work to finish and (b) I knew I'd be able to hit those deadlines.
Okay, so with that decided, the clock began ticking. Priority one was to write the third Riyria Chronicle tale. The good news is it came together quickly and without any major plot issues. I finished the first rough draft in just 68 days. Not a record for me, but faster than I usually work. Robin's first read indicated it was the cleanest of all the books I'd written, and there were remarkably few things that needed addressing. I only needed to spend a few additional days on it, and then I was able to go back to work on the ending of Legends books.

Robin's feedback about the ending requiring work was right on the nose, and I started to implement the changes. I also saw several missed opportunities, and I was able to add additional layers that didn't exist in the original draft. I spent about a year on that, and the series grew from five books to six. Looking back at it now I can see how the series divided quite nicely down the middle with the first three books covering one of the major aspects of the book, and the last three deviating to a whole new setting to provide the finish I wanted.  The time was well spent, but it also meant the second book (Age of Swords) sat idle for a very long time.

Polishing the first draft of the second book didn't start again until the summer of 2016. And it was mostly Robin who needed to copy and line edit to prepare the novel for submission to Del Rey and the beta readers. The deadlines to make the June 20th release date were:
  • Book submitted for approval by October 1, 2016.
  • Book ready for copyediting by mid-December 2016.
Because the book was in such good shape, these deadlines were challenging but doable, and we hit them both. 

In early fall, I was feeling quite confident about the series. Age of Myth had debuted with excellent sales and was garnering positive reviews from new and existing readers. Age of Swords was on schedule for its release, and the rest of the series had gone through the required heavy lifting. With a lot of the uncertainty eliminated, we could now look at dates for the remaining books,  so Robin, Joshua (my agent) and Tricia (my editor) started looking at various proposals  The goals were as follows:
  • To release the Legend's books more frequently than once a year.
  • To release another Riyria Chronicle novel (feedback from The Death of Dulgath indicated that the duo hadn't yet overstayed their welcome)
  • To release the fourth Riyria Chronicle in a way that wouldn't adversely affect Del Rey's books.
From this we developed the following schedule:
  • June 2017 - Age of Swords
  • Oct/Nov 2017 - Riyria Chronicles #4 for Audible/Kickstarter/direct sales 
  • Jan/Feb 2018 - Age of War
  • later 2018 - Book #4/possibly Age of Legends
That's four full-length novels in 2 years! An aggressive but workable schedule. I started this post by mentioning there is a big difference between written and done, and I've not been able to discuss the various steps involved. Given this post is already quite long, I'll leave that discussion for another time. But there are two last things I want to bring up before I go.
  1. If you are interested in getting a copy of the 4th Chronicle book, it won't  be available in bookstores initially. You will be able to get the ebooks, trade paperbacks and hopefully hardcovers directly from me. (NOTE: audio versions will be on sale as well). Since they won't be in stores, you should sign up here, if you want a copy and we'll be sure to let you know about its release.
  2. Retailers have posted pre-order pages for Age of Swords. If you're excited to read the next book, then please consider pre-ordering. Early sales are critical to a book's success as they determine how much exposure a book gets in the stores and also the size of the print run. More pre-orders also means higher marketing dollars from the publisher. Some of the places where you can pre-order the book now include: Amazon US | B&N.com | Amazon UK | Indigo (Chapters) | Books-a-Million | iBookstore.
And that's the skinny. For those who are stressed by the wait between book #1 and #2, that won't be a problem going forward. I want the books out just as fast as possible, but I also don't want to sacrifice quality. I think we're well position going forward to satisfy both goals.

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