Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Road Signs

There’s been a new development in my career. Long time readers of this blog, or those who have slogged through the back posts, will know that I see my progress as a writer to be a bit like driving on a lonely highway through Ontario or maybe the Mojave Desert. The landscape remains an unchanging featureless plain that is so expansive it's often difficult to tell if I’m even moving. I can look at the Amazon ranks and the BookScan numbers, but that’s like looking at the ground next to the car. You can see it moving, but there’s no context. The blur of gravel and grass is memorizing, to the point it’s hard to tell if you’re going forward or back.

Beyond this you have questions that can’t be answered. Are you making good time? How far to the next landmark? And what is the next landmark? 

Careers rarely come with maps, and if they do, they’re always out of date. The roadside diners your heroes raved about were torn down years ago leaving you seeking your own version of that dreamscape. New towns spring up, others sprawl and a few fade away.  Still, there are signs and it is always exciting to see one.

For a couple years I’ve received a trickle of fan mail. The first few I read over and over with a big grin. People liked my books so much that they took the trouble to write me! The trickle turned into a fairly steady stream that demanded I spend time each day answering them. Funny how people are always shocked that an author will reply, as if we don’t have time for our readers.

Recently there have been a couple of changes. I still get the wonderful fan messages from people who just want to let me know how much they appreciate what I wrote, but now I’ve noticed a couple of new types of emails.

The first is from people asking me to come to their organization to speak. This kind of thing never happened before. Robin had to push to get me a gig on a convention panel of twelve other unknown writers discussing what comes first, the character or the setting—clearly a burning question plaguing the literary community just as much as the chicken and egg dilemma is frustrating leading biologists. All of us were jammed into a hotel room behind a folding table where we had played an unintentional game of musical chairs as there were not enough seats. After a few of these I asked Robin not to bother.

Now without trying I’m receiving invitations. Librarians, book clubs, conventions, podcasts, they don’t care what I talk about; they just want me to come speak for an hour. I’m an author not a politician or professor, so why they think I’m any good at speaking is a mystery. I have a whole bunch of appearances coming up in March and as you can see from the previous post, I just appeared at the Library of Congress where I delivered my presentation on the stage of the Pickford Theater, which is the kind of place you’d expect to see a Ted talk. I had a podium with an official seal and a working microphone. They also have a huge screen that I could have used to project images from this lovely computer system if I knew what I was doing. It was three-quarters of a world away from the folding table and jammed hotel room where honestly no one cared if I showed up or not.

The other new correspondence I’ve begun receiving are reading requests. Some are from aspiring writers asking for advice, but others are from publishers looking for me to provide endorsements to be printed on the covers of new books. I hate to turn anyone down, but multiple requests for me to read novels are too much considering how slow I read.

These requests for my time are road signs I never expected to see along the highway. I suppose I just assumed that authors just wrote each day, sent off their manuscripts, and received checks in the mail. Sure some celebrity names like King and Patterson might be asked to speak at some college commencement, or asked to read new releases for their endorsement, or newbie writers might approach them for advice—but me?

I saw these road signs fly by and realized I had crossed some line. Without a map I’m not sure exactly what it means: county line, state, whole new country? Who knows. Sometimes in this vast open landscape it’s just nice to see something go by and know you’re still moving forward.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Talk About Heroic Literature in the Age of Grit

There is some debate over the benefits of being traditionally published. And when I chose that route, it was for specific goals, all of which I’ve succeeded in obtaining, and yet as with any endeavor  there are unexpected surprises. One of those was that people have been asking me to speak at conventions, libraries, and other functions.

One woman was almost giddy when I said yes to talking at her library, then stopped and softly mentioned. “How much do you charge?  We don’t have a lot of money to spend.”

I had to cover the phone so she didn’t hear me laughing. When I composed myself I promptly demanded as my fee, the loftily sum of one bottle of water, but if that was too much I could bring my own. She didn't seem to believe me at first, then mentioned that the session was usually forty-five minutes and asked if I could talk that long. I explained the problem was usually getting me to shut up.

This sort of "celebrity status" invitations didn’t used to happen, and never spontaneously. Now I get calls from the strangest of places asking if I would be so kind as to grace them with my presence. And it was no big deal until I was contacted by Helen Hester-Ossa. She wanted me to come talk at her library too, another forty-five minute chat followed by a Q&A session. Only Helen doesn’t work at the local county branch where they have children’s readings in the morning and adult education classes in the evenings.

Helen works at the Library Of Congress.

That little place down at 101 Independence Avenue, with the cupola capped dome that looks about the size of the capitol building.  The one with the over abundance of marble that houses more books than the library at Alexandria. In fact, the largest most prestigious library in the world.

Helen had seen an article about me in the Fairfax County Times (another unexpected development) and after visiting this website thought I would be a great choice for guest speaker in their Science Fiction/Fantasy forum.

The topic I’m to speak on is: “Traditional Heroic Fantasy vs Current Trends Toward the Gritty & Dark.” The whole thing being sponsored by the library of Congress Professional Association, part of the What If…Science Fiction and Fantasy Forum.

It will be held at the Pickford Theater, Library of Congress, Madison Building (LM-302), 101 Independence Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20559  at Noon tomorrow, February 16th.

I’m no formal speaker. I know even less about talking publically than I do about writing, but I’ll give it a shot. Hopefully people will ask questions I know the answers to, or at least be forgiving of a man who spends most of his time locked in a small room.

I was asked to speak at the Library of Congress.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Covering Crown

Most of you know by now that the Riyria Revelations was not originally published by Orbit. The series actually faced a very long road taking turns being self-published, small independent published, self-published again, and finally traditionally published through Orbit. These changes can perhaps be best followed by the changing covers of the first book of the series—The Crown Conspiracy.

Initially I never intended to publish the books for money. Before ebook readers were invented, when Amazon had only recently started turning a profit, I had decided to just post my books online for free download. I never sent them to a publisher, never sent a query to an agent. I had given up on that waste of time. I was going to write and put them on the Internet, feeling this was better than in a drawer.

I built a website and created this cover for the first book, which at that time I called Heirs to the Throne.

In all the time I had it on the Internet, I doubt a single person ever read it.

Then my wife found me an agent and I took the site down. My agent wasn’t thrilled with the title. Turned out no one was. I pondered the options for days until I settled on The Crown Conspiracy, that everyone agreed was much better.

When my agent was unable to get any traction, and eventually quit the industry for personal reasons, Robin and I set in motion plans to self-publish. This was still before the ebook evolution and we were saving up for the printing and warehousing costs. In the meantime I created this new cover that played off the new title. 

My daughter hated it  having a bias against computer generated art. Turns out she had a point, but the point became moot when before we could implement our plans for self-published world domination, I was offered a contract by AMI a small, independent publisher.

They inquired about what I would like to see on the cover. To give them an idea I pulled some images off the net, most by Alan Lee and sent them this concept art: (you'll notice that Nyphron Rising was at that time entitled Legends and Lore.)

They liked the look and feel and hired their own artist who returned with this sketch. 

I became concerned. The castle was too imposing, more like Dracula’s, the river looked like Harry Potter’s scar, and there was an aqueduct where the Winds Monastery should be. I also couldn’t figure out where they planned to put the title. With Robin’s encouragement I did a cover painting of my own and sent them this:

Which in their wisdom they changed to this:

After financial problems caused AMI to return the rights to me, I then had no choice but to self-published, but this was the Spring of 2008. 

Talk about being in the right place at the right time. Amazon released the first generation Kindles on November 19th 2007, but after selling out in five and a half hours, the devices remained out of stock for five months. Kindles became available in April 2008, the same time Ridan began selling the Riyria Revelations.

Then in 2011 I signed a contract with Orbit Books, changed the title, and work on the covers began all over again. This was the first cover idea I saw back in February of last year. A far cry from the simple, subtle landscapes that I created. 

Eventually this was paired down to the more shelf/series brand friendly:

And this is where we are today except that Royce and Hadrian have escaped and gone international.  Orbit’s UK arm produced this cover using Orbit’s original art.

But I have presently signed foreign language rights contracts or have deals pending with: The Czech Republic, Russia, Poland, Spain, France, Germany, Brazil, Japan, Denmark, and most recently, Bulgaria.  The first of these covers have been appearing as the books are finally being released overseas.





Funny how many different ways a single book can be packaged.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


“Is it in audio?” the guy asked. “I don’t read. I drive two hours to work and two hours home each day. I don’t have time to read, but I have lots of time to listen, and I got bored of music, and irritated by talk radio a long time ago. Now I listen to books. So it is on audio?”

My problem is that I would love to share them with my sister,” she wrote. “She is legally blind and doesn't read anymore.  I get all her books on Audible for her.  Is there any chance that yours will be available as audio books?  I feel guilty telling her how much I am enjoying the books - don't know if I could hold out reading them all to her .”

These are just a couple samples of comments and emails I’ve received inquiring about the availability of the Riyria Revelations in audio. For years, I’ve had to say, “Ah yes, one day…maybe.” For months it was, “Absolutely, I’m just not sure when.”

Today I can finally say this:

THEFT OF SWORDS audio, read by Tim Gerard Reynolds
Projected Pub Date: 03/01/2012

RISE OF EMPIRE audio, read by Tim Gerard Reynolds
Projected Pub Date: 06/01/2012

HEIR OF NOVRON audio, read by Tim Gerard Reynolds
Projected Pub Date: 09/01/2012

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

State of the Books Address

So, finally all the books are released (well at least the hardcover, trade paperback, and ebook editions…there are still foreign language translation and audio books in the works), but now it’s just a matter of  “wait and see.” I think Orbit did an excellent job with the launch. Not only did they create a great fan page on Facebook, but they’ve also provided for premium placement in the bookstores, as well as advertising in Locus Magazine, Facebook, and Goodreads.  They’ve also gotten the books in the hands of a ton of review sites, and combined with Robin setting up a blog tour, I had some nice coverage for the rollout.

Hopefully people are starting to pick up the books. It may take a while to reach the top of To-Be-Read piles, but if they like them maybe they’ll tell a few friends and family members. At the end of the day it’s only word-of-mouth that will make the series a success. No more effort from Orbit or myself is going to make it catch fire – it’s all up to the books now and whether I wrote something that people enjoy.

I must say, that the launch has gone better than I would have expected. I thought it would take a while to “ramp up” but we really hit on all cylinders and showed strong pre-order sales even before the books were released.

  • While I don’t have hard numbers (one of the disadvantage of not self-publishing is you have no idea how many books have sold) indications suggest that the books are selling well. A second printing of Rise of Empire was ordered after only a few days for sale, and there has been both a second and a third printing of Theft of Swords. Orbit is keeping good watch on stock, but even so we actually ran out of Theft, and it became unavailable for a while on Amazon. The new printing is completed and there should be no problem getting the books at this time.

  • The books (both kindle and paperback) have consistently been dominating Amazon’s Hottest New Releases Lists both during preorder and right up until they become ineligible (30 days after release).  They have been found on the following: Historical Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Fantasy, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Action and Adventure, Genre Fiction, Fiction, Literature & Fiction. It wasn’t uncommon to find all the eligible books (both in print and ebook) on the top 100 and often I would see all them in the top 20 having The Riyria Revelations take up 30% of the list. Also, all four kindle books (including Percepliquis) hit the #1 spot in at least one category and Theft of Sword and Heir of Novron hit #1 in both Historical and Epic fantasy.

  • While it’s great to make the Hot New Release List, the one that is even more important is the Best Seller’s Lists. Again the books have performed admirably both in ebook and paperback. Since we started watching the lists in early November there’s never been a time when the books haven’t been on multiple lists. Even now, approximately 10 weeks after the release of Theft of Swords the books are on the following lists:

·         #5, #12, #22, #68, #69, #98 Books: Science Fiction & Fantasy: Historical
·         #23, #4, #62, #78 Books: Science Fiction & Fantasy: Epic Fantasy
·         #58 Books: Science Fiction & Fantasy: Fantasy
·         #80 Books: Science Fiction & Fantasy
·         #28, #47, #82 Books: Literature & Fiction: Genre: Action & Adventure
·         #5, #12, #18 Kindle: Fantasy: Historical Fantasy
·         #18, #26, #45, #58 Kindle: Fantasy: Epic Fantasy
·         #43, #86 Kindle: Fantasy

  • The “Big List” as Robin has coined it is the Science Fiction and Fantasy Books list and it counts the number of days a book has been on it.  Riyria has seen 3 of the 4 titles make this list including:

    • Theft of Swords (10 days – over 2 periods)
    • Percepliquis (3 days)
    • Heir of Novron (7 days so far  – although it may be at the end of its run)

·            We got “oh so close” to making the Movers and Shakers List. This is for books that are under 400 in overall ranking and have seen a large movement in ranking over a 24 hour period. Heir of Novron hit 401 and hovered in the 400’s for a few days but never dipped below the magic number.

  • Sales outside Amazon have also been strong as well. PopVortex reports the top 50 Best Selling Fantasy and Science Fiction Books in the ibookstore and I’ve peaked in on it from time to time and found Heir of Novron ranging from #20 - #38.

  • Another venue is BooksOnBoard, who releases their Top 10 bestsellers in both the US and UK market. I was shocked that the 1/30/2012 UK list had Heir of Novron listed (the only fantasy book on the list) others on the list were a few “up and comers” like Stephen King and James Paterson.

  • I mentioned in my other post about hard covers in the Science Fiction Book Club and the books are hitting the Top 100 there as well.  Last time I looked the books were at #23, #28, and #38.

All in all a very respectable showing and I reached my first goal which was to not embarrass myself  or disappoint Orbit. I must say I’m curious where things will go from here. It could be we’ve had the “big hurrah” and the books will slowly climb in rankings (decrease in numbers sold), we may stay steady for some period of time (hopefully a long period of time) or we could see even better positions on the bestseller’s lists if that old word-of-mouth thing really does start a bonfire from the sparks that Orbit, and Robin, have created.

Whatever the future brings, I’m already a winner. I did exceedingly well as a self-published author and the series is getting a second chance with the Orbit launch. Kinda like eating my cake and having it too.