Tuesday, November 21, 2017

NaNoWriMo Tip: Tools for finding reputable agents


I'm often asked about how to find agents. It can be difficult sometimes, especially to find good ones, but one of the best ways is to query agents of books that are similar to yours. After all, if an agent was able to place other books, it shows they have a track record.
  • Amazon Charts - lists the top 20 books sold by Amazon in a given week, and most of them indicate the agent that represent the book. For instance, from that you can discover that David Gernert represented John Grisham's The Rooster Bar and Heidi Lange sold Dan Brown's Origin book.
  • Use the "Look inside the book" feature and do a search (from the printed book) on the word "agent." That's because many authors will thank their agents in the acknowledgement of their books.
  • Subscribe to Publisher's Marketplace. It's a site where agents and publishers post the deals they've signed (and usually rank them into various categories that give you and idea about how much the advance was for.  It's a monthly service, but you can subscribe, farm it for agents, then unsubscribe.
  • Agent Query - is a site that has an extensive database of agents and many of them list the books and authors they represent. You can also search the database by selecting the genre that best fits your book.
I know right now you're concerned with writing your book, and querying it may be some time off. But it's good to know about these resources for the future. I hope you find them useful.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Winter is Coming: Featured Pre-order for the Next Riyria Novel



The audio book for The Disappearance of Winter's Daughter is coming in just 20 days! And Audible has made it a featured pre-order.  There's already been several thousand people adding it to their library making it the second highest best-selling fantasy epic pre-order on the store. And look at what's the third ;-)



If you're a Riyria fan, please consider pre-ordering the book. Early sales is one of the driving factors behind the marketing push a book receives, so ordering it now will be a big help to me. And if you've not yet read Book #3 (The Death of Dulgath). I highly recommend you pick up the kindle version for free and add the audio for just $1.99. That deal and a half!

I'm pretty exciting about the coming release, and I hope you are too.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Free: The Death of Dulgath and The Making of the Death of Dulgath


A couple of years ago, I wrote a companion book to The Death of Dulgath that explains quite a lot  about:
  • How I come up with an idea for  a book
  • My writing process
  • How I use Scrivener
  • The beta reading process that Robin puts my books through
  • And a bunch of other things related to publishing and editing of my books
It's a great resource for aspiring authors, and as such it's a nice thing to give to people doing NaNoWriMo. The problem is that much of the content makes no sense without access to the novel, and that normally runs $9.99.  Now I didn't write the "making of" to drive sales to the novel, nor do I have any desire to make money off of aspiring authors (you have enough to worry about). So, I'm going to make the novel free for three days so you can get a copy for nothing. Then, when you are done with NaNoWriMo, you can read the book. Once you're finished, email me to receive a copy of the "making of" (I don't want you to read one before you read the other), and I'll send one your way.

So how do you get this free copy of The Death of Dulgath? Well there are two ways.
  • Pick up a copy during Nov 14 - Nov 16 at Amazon (you'll find that it is free rather than $9.99). When buying this way, you can also add on the audio book for just $1.99 -- which is an exceptional deal and if you've not heard Tim Gerard Reynolds narration, you really MUST!
  • Request a copy from me and I'll send out DRM-free versions that can be used on any reading device (.epub for Nook, Kobo, and ibooks; .pdf for computers, tablets,, and smart phones, .mobi for kindle and kindle apps). That link will also provide you the ability to give it to a friend if you think they may like it. 
I hope your NaNoWriMo is going well. We're not quite halfway through and there is plenty of time left to catch up if you are behind. And I do hope you'll take me up on the free book opportunity. I do think that the "making of" will be quite educational.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

NaNoWriMo Tip: Write For Yourself



Today's NaNoWriMo tip is to write the book that you want to read.  When I was in my twenties, and a stay-at-home dad, I tried to fulfill a lifelong dream of being a novelist. Over the course more than a decade I wrote 13 books. Most of them weren't meant for publication, they were me teaching myself how to write. But I was also trying to write books that I thought had a good chance of being published (based on other books "out there.") I learned two things during that time.
  1. I didn't enjoy writing as much as I would have liked.
  2. Trying to follow publishing "trends" is folly.
For me, I eventually quit writing altogether. At the time I thought I would never return tot the keyboard but a decade later something happened. I picked up a copy of the first Harry Pottter book (for my dyslexic daughter). Sarah didn't read the book, but I did. And it reminded me how much fun a great adventure with characters you love can be. I decided to write again, but with two important differences.
  1. I wouldn't seek publication, as that path led to the dark side 
  2. I would write a book that I wanted to read, and one that I hoped Sarah would like.
That's when I wrote The Crown Conspiracy (the first book of the Theft of Swords Omnibus), and the rest, as they say, is history.  Sarah didn't read that book either...well not until it was published -- apparently reading manuscript on 8 1/2 x 11 paper was frustrating for her dyslectic mind. And Robin picked up the thrown down gauntlet and took it upon herself to get the books published.  I learned a lot from that experience, and it only took me twenty-five years to learn the importance of writing for yourself. 

Hopefully, you won't take as long as I did ;-)


Friday, November 10, 2017

Goodreads Choice Awards: Semifinal Round



I need to take a little break from the NaNoWriMo posts because Age of Swords made it to the Semifinal Round of the Goodreads Choice Award!! There are still two more days to vote and here are the 20 fantasy books in the final round:


If you haven't vote yet, pease do so now. I don't need you to vote for my book, simply choose the book you like the best from this list.

Title
Author
  Shelved  
  # ratings  
  Rating  
Age of Swords
Michel J. Sullivan
16,552
3,719
4.30
Assassin's Fate
Robin Hobb
27,231
11,189
4.67
The Bear and the Nightingale
Katerine Arden
86,964
18,298
4.14
City of Miracles
 Robert Jackson Bennett 
9,428
3,030
4.46
A Conjuring of Light
 V.E. Schwab
71,535
25,388
4.41
Eleventh Grave in Moonlight
Darynda Jones
20,642
7,400
4.39
Etched in Bone
Anne Bishop
22,578
9,883
4.31
Fantastic Beasts
J. K. Rowling
114,868
46,258
4.40
The Fate of the Tearling
Erika Johansen
47,786
16,679
3.79
Feversong
  Karen Marie Moning  
33,688
10,004
4.36
Kings of the Wyld 
  Nicholas Eames  
12,115
3,171
4.42
The Land: Raiders
  Aleron Kong 
3,404
1,917
4.55
Norse Mythology
Neil Gaiman
150,625
48,716
4.10
Oathbringer
Brandon Sanderson
50,390
1,175
4.62
One Fell Sweep
Ilona Andrews
16,835
9,570
4.52
Red Sister
Mark Lawrence
48,269
7,764
4.32
Silence Fallen
Patricia Briggs
33,086
17,020
4.40
Sins of Empire
Brian McClellan
14,683
3,604
4.48
The Stone Sky
N.K. Jemisin
25,201
7,688
4.45
The Witchwood Crown
Tad Williams
9,002
755
4.23

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Writers and Goodreads


There are many social networking sites out there, and authors use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr to tell the world about their books. But I'm always amazed that so few authors are active on Goodreads--a social networking site that is 100% dedicated to books!

Robin (my wife) and I have given plenty of lectures on Goodreads and writers and it would take more than I can easily write about here to go into all those details. But I do want to highlight just a few things.

  1. You can add your book to Goodreads even before it is published. This means you could have months (or years) of it "out there" for people to find it and get excited about it's release. When I started Rhune (the first book of The Legends of the First Empire which was renamed to Age of Myth before release), Robin added a page for the book. And by the time of it's release, more than 10,000 people has already shelved it. So tip #1 is start early, and get your book listed as soon as you start working on it. Don't know the title yet?  That's okay you can put in a placeholder and change it. As I mentioned above, Age of Myth was originally called Rhune, and all the people who shelved it as Rhune came over automatically when it got it's new title.
  2. Be a reader first, and author second. When interacting with others on Goodreads, don't go around yelling "Buy my book! Buy my book!" It doesn't work on Twitter and it doesn't work on Goodreads either. But what does work...being a member of the community, helping others to find books they like (even if it's not yours) and being nice and friendly to fellow book lovers. They'll eventually discover you are a writer, after all your profile says that you are (and lists your various books) but let them come to you rather than the other way around.
  3. Goodreads Choice Award Nominations can really help a book get noticed! As of today I can proudly say I'm a six-time nominee for the Goodreads Choice Awards. That's because Age of Swords was added to the semi-final road as a write-in. I'm honored by my reader's support and I wanted to share with fellow writers what kind of impact a nomination can have.
On Goodreads, people put books on their shelves for books they've either (a) read, (b) have sitting on their too be read pile or (c) have heard of and may be interested in them at some time. If you are trying to read the tea-leaves to see if your book is getting traction, you need look no further than the number of people who have shelved your books.  Goodreads even tracks this information for you (for a certain time period...to keep this data you have to save it off yourself which Robin does for me).  

Here is a graph that focuses in on the last part of 2016 and the first month of 2017 for Age of Myth (the first book in the Legends of the First Empire Series). 


Before its nomination the book was receiving about 42 shelvings per day. But look at the spikes during the various stages of the Goodreads Choice Awards. It went up to 1,230 on the day the nominations were made.  That's a huge increase. But what's even more interesting is that in January, after the awards were wrapped, the books average shelvings went up to 108, a 250% increase as before the award.

So, how do you get nominated?  The selections are made based on the following factors:
  • Books released during the eligibility period (which usually run from mid-November of the previous year until mid-November of the current year).
  • Number of people who have shelved the books
  • Number or ratings/and reviews the book has received
  • Overall rating of the book
The first fifteen books are selected based on this criteria (and some editorial analysis by the people at Goodreads), and then 5 more books are added based on write-ins during the first round of voting. Later, the field will be narrowed to 10 books for the final round of voting and the book with he most votes across all the voting periods win.

I doubt I'll ever see my book as a winner, competition against people such as J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman, and Brandon Sanderson, makes that all but impossible. But to be one of 20 books selected from the thousand of fantasy titles that come out?  Heck, yeah, I'll take that, and I'm honored for the nomination.  

If you want to cast your vote for your favorite fantasy of 2017, voting is open for the semi-final round. You don't have to vote for my book, just pick the one you liked the best.

Monday, November 6, 2017

NaNoWriMo AMA with Michael J. Sullivan



The moderators at the /r/fantasy reddit site have asked me to do an AMA on November 8th.  I, of course, said yes. The focus of this AMA will be on writing related questions since this is National Novel Writing Month, but, of course, I'll answer questions on any and all subjects.  I'll make the post early on the 8th and be in the sub at 7:30 PM (EST) to answer them. If you put in your questions earlier in the day I'll have time to work on them before posting come game time.

For those who aren't familiar with the /r/fantasy sub of reddit. Its a fabulous group that has grown at astounding rates. There are over 207,000 members and it includes not only readers, but a good number of fantasy authors drop in as well.  So, if you have questions...I hope to have the answers. Stop by on Wednesday. I hope to see you there.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Winter Is Coming


Michael J. Sullivan & Tim Gerard Reynolds

In October, I had the pleasure of working with Tim Gerard Reynolds recording my new book The Disappearance of Winter’s Daughter. Given that I’m putting out three books in close succession (Age of Swords, Winter’s Daughter, and Age of War) Robin and I were working right up to the deadline. Tim—who is wildly popular these days, and in great demand— scheduled us for a week in October, so we had to meet that. Robin and I were editing on the train to Newark, where some of the Audible Studios are located. Luckily we were not in the quiet car as we also debated various aspects of the text. People might have thought us insane, but hopefully not rude. 

Alex recording Tim whose face is hidden behind the mike's spit guard.

During the day we monitored the live recordings, on hand to explain pronunciations, answer questions, and on occasions request a different emphasis on a given line. At night, Robin and I continued to edit trying to stay ahead of Tim. At times we live edited as Tim was reading. He would make a “mistake” misreading my text—but I liked it. We would then alter the text to reflect the change. 




The biggest problem we encountered was lingering too long at lunch. The cafeteria at Audible Studios was like a really nice high school. Tim, Alex (our engineer), Robin, and I filled our trays and sat at long tables eating and chatting far too long. But this was as much fun for us as it was work. 


So Winter’s Daughter was recorded and is undergoing (audio) edits. And as always, Tim was fantastic. 

Thanks, Tim.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Scrivener - a Writer's Best Friend


If you saw yesterday's post, you probably noticed I write on a Mac. Anyone who knows me is aware that I'm pretty much an Apple fanatic. I read my paper on an iPad in the morning. I've gotten iPhones for myself, my wife, and all but one of my children (no, I don't love her any less, she just doesn't want an iPhone--go figure. At least she's agreed to use the iTouch we bought and replaced a few times). Let's see...what else. Oh, we have two MacBook Air laptops (one for me and one for Robin). I have an iWatch, and I'm trying to convince Robin that she needs the upgraded model for Christmas.

But it's not because of my love for all things Apple that I write on a Mac, I bought it to run exactly one piece of software, and that is Scrivener.  What is Scrivener? Well here's what Wikipedia says:

Scrivener (/ˈskrɪvənər/) is a word-processing program and outliner designed for authors. Scrivener provides a management system for documents, notes and metadata. This allows the user to organize notes, concepts, research and whole documents for easy access and reference (documents including rich text, images, PDF, audio, video, web pages, etc.). Scrivener offers templates for screenplays, fiction, and non-fiction manuscripts. After writing a text, the user may export it for final formatting to a standard word processor, screenwriting software, desktop publishing software, or TeX.

For me, Scrivener helps me write in more ways than I could explain in a short blog post. In fact, it takes up a fair amount of the Making of the Death of Dulgath ebook and if you read that story, you can get the ebook for free by emailing me (michael.sullivan.dc@gmail.com) and putting "Making of The Death of Dulgath in the subject line.

I also wrote an extensive blog post about Scrivener many moons ago which you can read here.

But what does that have to do with my Mac?  Well, there are two versions of Scrivener and while the PC version is great...and something I used for years, the Mac version is even better, and it gave me an excuse to upgrade my writing system to a Mac.

At just $45, Scrivener is the best bang for the buck any author. I think it's worth at least 10 and probably 20 times that. But, I know most author are strapped for cash so there's something else you should know: There is a 50% discount for all NaNoWriMo winners.

This is a discount the company has been running for years, and while I don't think $22.50 is a huge  incentive to get you to write 50,000 words written in November, I'll take any added benefit I can to get you to use this program. You'll thank me later.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Goodreads Choice Award 2017



It's that time of year again...voting has started for the Goodreads Choice Award for the Best book of 2017. When it comes to this prestigious award, I've had more than my fair share of nods. Currently I have 5: 
  • 2010 The Emerald Storm in Fantasy - the only self-published book that year
  • 2012 Percepliquis in Fantasy
  • 2013 The Crown Tower in Fantasy 
  • 2015 Hollow World in Sci-fi
  • 2016 Age of Myth in Fantasy
Except for Hollow World, each one of those nominations came in round one when the people at Goodreads select the top 15 based on (a) publication date eligibility (b) # of people who shelved the book (c) 3 # of review/ratings (d) total overall rating. Here are the nominees for this year: 

Title
Author
  Shelved  
  # ratings  
  Rating  
Norse Mythology
Neil Gaiman
145,040
47,533
4.11
Fantastic Beasts
J. K. Rowling
112,397
  45,631  
 4.40    
The Bear and the Nightingale
Katerine Arden
79,980
17,527
4.13
A Conjuring of Flight
V.E. Scwab
69,334
24,849
4.41
The Fate of Tearling
Erika Joansen
46,137
16,452
3.79
Red Sister
Mark Lawrence
45,549
7,560
4.32
Feversong
  Karen Marie Moning       
31,695
9,837
4.36
Assassin's Fate
Robin Hobb
25,952
10,903
4.67
The Stone Sky
N.K. Jemisin
22,490
7,065
4.45
Etched in Bone
Anne Bishop
21,694
9,666
4.31
  Eleventh Grave in Moonlight
Darynda Jones
19,322
7,237
4.39
One Fell Sweep
Ilona Anrews
15,444
9,285
4.52
Sins of Empire
Brian McClellan
12,647
3,521
4.48
Kings of the Wyld
Nicholas Eames
9,544
3,004
4.42
The Witchwood Crown
Tad Williams
7,383
690
4.22

There were a number of notable titles missing form the list. The first two I can "kind of" understand as they were released late in the year and just barely squeaked onto the list (Brandon's is only 2 days shy of the eligibility period cut-off). As for my own title's omission, of course, I'm upset, but I'm also surprised as it beats The Watchword Crown on all three metrics: more shelving, more reviews, and a higher rating.

Title
Author
  Shelved  
  # ratings  
  Rating  
Oathbringer
Brandon Sanderson
47,262
1,073
4.61
The Core
Peter V. Brett
21,130
2,539
4.27
 Age of Swords   
  Michael J. Sullivan   
15,819
3,516
4.29

Oh, well, better luck next year, unless of course Age of Swords, gets into round two as a write-in, I'm very confident that the first two books will be. Here's to hoping! In any case, you can vote or write in your choice from this link.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Work In Progress

Being that it is day two of National Novel Writing Month, no aspiring writers should be wasting time reading this blog, but for those who are struggling, I always found it both fascinating and inspiring to see the workspace of other writers. So for those of you interested in such things, here’s my present office. I took this photo today when I was in the middle of work, believe it or not, and I know it isn’t fun at all, but honestly, this is about as messy as it gets for me.  

Where the Magic Happens



STAGES OF WRITING A NOVEL (Written in author-speak)

1. Catching bats at night.
2. Making a puzzle with too many pieces and no box to look at.
3. The desert of temptation and regret.
4. Hope
5. Crisis
6. The joy of finishing!
7. Guilt and depression
1. Bats

Good luck all!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

I've written a novel. Now what?

It's NaNoWriMo time. For those that don't know what that means it's National Novel Writing Month. During the 30 days of November aspiring authors are asked to challenge themselves to write a novel. In an effort to help aspiring authors I'm going to try to do two things.
  1. Have some "writing focused" posts on the blog throughout the month
  2. Host an AMA (Ask me Anything) on reddit/r/Fantasy which specifically focuses on writing related questions. It'll be held on November 8th.
Early today I received the following email:
"I am currently a college student who just recently finished writing a novel. I'm just beginning the peer review process using some friends of mine for help, and I was just wondering how exactly I should move forward if I want my book to be published. My friends are not the most reliable sources of feedback given their studies and other commitments, so should I seek out a professional editor? Also once the final edits have been made, how do I go about submitting my work to publishers without them simply trashing it before reading a word? Any advice at all would be greatly appreciated."

After responding, I realized it would make a pretty good post for NaNoWriMo. So here's what I told young Ben.

Dear Ben,
Congratulations on finishing your first novel! I don't want to sound too pessimistic but I do want to warn you that first books are rarely "suitable for publication." Think about it, you can't play Carnegie Hall after a few years at the piano, and likewise it takes time to develop a full set of writing skills to crate a work that is fit to share with others. For me, it was my14th novel which was the first published. Now, you are likely not as slow a learner as I am, but here are some metrics to keep in mind. Stephen King says you should consider your first 1,000,000 words as practice, and Malcolm Gladwell says you need 10,000 hours working at a task to become proficient at it. Assuming your novel is 100,000 words or so you're 10% there!

 Okay, with that very sobering preamble out of the way, let me address some of your questions and offer some advice. Here goes.

  • After finishing a book. You should put it away for 4 - 6 weeks then pick it up and re-read it again. Pay particular attention to how it opens. It's likely that it doesn't start where it should...something you can't tell for sure until the book is finished. As you re-read, polish, polish, polish. In particular make sure your opening line is a great one, and that the first paragraph sets a stage and hooks the reader in. Make ABSOLUTELY sure the first 5 pages are flawless. If an editor or agent can make it through the firsts 5 pages, it's likely they'll request the full manuscript.
  • You need to find writer critique groups. If you live in a fairly populated area, there should be a number that meet face-to-face. Checkout Meetup.com. If you don't find any, then look online there are plenty and most specialize in a given genre. In these groups you'll read and critique other people's work in exchange for them doing the same for you. You'll actually learn a great deal when critiquing others. You'll see things they do wrong and when you are explaining the problem to them, you'll often realize you did something similar in your own work.
  • Once the book is polished and critiqued seek out beta readers. There are groups on Goodreads.com that are dedicated to beta reading. An important part of the beta reading process is to set expectations for the readers. My wife does an excellent beta program and she sends this document to anyone who wants to beta read so they know what is expected of them. Feel free to adopt it to your own uses. I suggest 3 - 7 beta readers and keep adding them until you have at least 5 people read the entire book (some beta readers will drop out - either because life gets in the way or they don't like the book. 
  • As to a professional editor. They come in three type: structural (sometimes know and content editor), line editors, and copy editors. The first is (a) very expensive and (b) hard to find a qualified person. It's a very subjective process and a bad structural editor can cause more harm then good. Generally I don't recommend paying for structural editing. You can get the equivalent feedback from a few good critique partners and beta readers and I suggest you go that route. As for copy and line editing...these are tasks the publisher is going to do on your behalf, so you shouldn't have to pay for those services. Now, that said, if your work is riddled with errors, it may make reading the submission more trouble than it's worth. In those cases, it is worth paying for someone to fix a manuscript in such a state, but I can't say whether yours will fall into that category
  • As for submitting to publishers. For the most part, you'll want to submit to agents instead. These days mot publishers don't take unsolicited manuscripts, so you get an agent who knows what publishers are looking for what types of books. To get an agent you need to (a) do research to determine who represents your genre of work and (b) write a query letter. This post Writing Query Letters & Where to send them should help you with both.
As you can see, you have only taken the first steps on what is a very long road, but it can be a rewarding trip both professionally and personally. I hope some of the above helps you in some way. Once you have your book in good order send me the first five pages (here is a link that provides full instructions on doing that), and I'll take a look at it and let you know whether I feel it is ready for primetime or still needs some polish. But I warn you, I'm a harsh critic because my standards are high.

I hope this advice helped young Ben, and I hope you found it to be helpful as well. Happy Writing!