The Right Way to Buy My Books is Your Way

I have received a number of Tweets and e-mails asking a very flattering question, namely: What version(s) of my books should someone buy if they wanted to maximize my royalty on that sale?

I appreciate this. I really, really appreciate this. It’s a kind and generous impulse and I want you to know it means a lot to me.

But.

Please don’t ever buy one of my books in a format you think will send me a maximal percentage of money. Please buy the format that is most desirable or convenient to you. Buy the format that will enable you to have the most enjoyable reading experience. After all, if I encourage you to buy an inconvenient or uncomfortable format for my own sake, I’m basically telling you to endure unnecessary bullshit for the sake of a few extra pennies or dimes in my pocket. I can’t stand that… no sane writer wants to achieve financial success by scraping it painfully out of their readers, one person at a time.

As I see it, I make my money in the aggregate. It’s why we’ve been doing these “get an e-book of The Lies of Locke Lamora for 99 cents/pence” promotions recently. I earned a respectable advance for a first-time novel on Lies, and it earned out before it was even published. Lies has been delivering regular royalties for seven years now. It’s sold about 300,000 copies in the US and UK/Commonwealth, and I don’t have up-to-date figures for the rest of the world. So… it’s done its job! It’s made its money! Everything since and henceforth is gravy… now the game, as I see it, is about trying to attract new readers and make them comfortable, not gouging them for every last possible penny.

So.

Buy my work in the format that works best for you. The format that will be least distracting. Buy it with yourself in mind, not me. I assure you I’ll be okay. The easier and more comfortable your reading experience is, the more okay I’ll be!

However.

If you are truly interested in seeing the Gentleman Bastard sequence kick in all the doors it can, and in rewarding my editors for their long-suffering patience and hard work, and in tickling the folks holding the purse strings at the various publishing HQs so they’ll cry “More! More Bastards! More Bastards for everybody!”… well, there is a thing you can do, if it’s all the same to you.

Buy a physical copy of The Republic of Thieves. Buy it soon.

There are these lists, you see. Amazon bestseller… NYT bestseller… Locus bestseller… Sunday Times… and so forth. Some of them are silly and archaic and incomplete and maddening, but some of them are worth the trouble to claw one’s way onto. And the more books are sold, and the sooner, and (sadly, for now) the more physical copies are moved… the greater the chance I have of finally nudging my way into the bottom rungs of some of those lists. And that will mean good things, if you want to see more books, and if you want to see them given decent marketing budgets, and pleasant quantities of Advance Reader Copies.

So if you have a mind to do something generous for me and my brain-droppings, don’t aim for getting me a few extra cents. Aim to bump these books up in the numbers game. Like I said, it’s silly. It’s an incomplete portrait of the bookselling market. It’s not something I would pursue for its own sake. But it can’t hurt the future of Locke and Jean one tiny bit. It can only help.

The Republic of Thieves is now available on store shelves (and in e-format) in the United States and the UK/Commonwealth. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you who’ve waited for this day, and to all who’ve pre-ordered or already purchased it. May the book deliver something you’re hoping for.

Rogues and Magi in an Adventure with Firefighters

I’ve been a volunteer firefighter for eight (how can that be possible?) years now, and we’re all well-versed in the theory and actuality of wildland fires (though most of the grass and forest fires I’ve been on-scene for have been very tame by the standards of the big western/southwestern conflagrations). We know that these things can turn on a dime and be deadly in their capriciousness, but even so I don’t think we’re ever quite prepared for sudden mass casualty disasters, not in this day and age. Training and technology help us feel invincible, until suddenly we’re simply not. On June 30, 19 firefighters were killed near Yarnell, Arizona when the wildfire they were fighting overran their position.

The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation is administering the Yarnell Hill NFFF Fire Hero Fund to help the family and coworkers of those killed that terrible day. I want to make a contribution to this fund, so I’m offering a truly one-of-a-kind literary collectible via eBay: The one and only complete unbound galley of The Republic of Thieves:

Follow this link to check out the auction.

“Galley proof” means the book has been edited, copy-edited, and more or less laid out for printing. Galley proofs are the very last chance an author has to correct mistakes and adjust small details. This galley proof is for the American edition of TRoT, and was sent to me in June of this year. My corrections were e-mailed back, leaving the 662-page galley in my hands.

This is straight from the desk of the author (yours truly), annotated and scribbled on in a number of places, containing assorted notes and corrections. This is the one and only unbound manuscript of any of my novels I am ever going to offer for public sale. All the others will be deposited (as have unbound manuscripts of The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies) in the Rare Books and Special Collections Department of the Northern Illinois University Libraries. So if you’ve ever wanted a truly rare piece of Lynchiana, or know anyone who does, this will probably be hard to beat.

This auction will last for five days, ending July 30th. Every penny of the proceeds will go to the Yarnell Hill NFFF Fire Hero Fund. I’ll post a photo of my check (with my personal info blotted out) when it’s about to go in the envelope.

Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens

“When aliens reach Earth, they encounter the clockwork mechanisms and Victorian sensibilities of a full-blown steampunk civilization. Inspired by the classic science fiction adventure tales of the nineteenth century, leading fantasy and science fiction authors will bring us tales of first contact with a twist, as steam power meets laser cannons . . . and dirigibles face off against flying saucers . . .”

I’m one of the anchor authors for the new CLOCKWORK UNIVERSE: STEAMPUNK VS. ALIENS Kickstarter anthology, along with Brad Beaulieu, Caitlin Kittredge, Gini Koch, Gail Z. Martin, Seanan McGuire, and Ian Tregillis. If the Kickstarter successfully funds, the seven of us will write the first of the 14 stories planned for the volume, with the balance to come from authors yet to be selected. This is the first Kickstarter I’ve ever been a part of, so please be kind to it if you can!

I can’t say what direction my story will take . . . discussions at Readercon left me wanting to play with steampunk more than ever, and also flex the sensibilities of whatever I set in the milieu. It’ll definitely be a go-big-or-go-home sort of affair, as fits the high concept. Push us past our modest goal of $10,000 and I’ll be forced to get much more specific!

Now Begins Operation Jay

At this time, I am declaring Operation Steve and Emma to be a resounding success; thanks to your astounding generosity (and to the fact that those two have spent decades engendering warm feelings across the planet), I think they’re now as taken care of as they can be. Both are recovering from their surgeries, and have useful bulwarks against lost time, unforeseen disasters, and un-fun complications. I’m also stuck coughing up the complete list of incentives I offered. :)

And so, I’m turning the beam of Whatever This Not-A-Kickstarter Thing I’m Doing is on someone else. For the future, unless any sudden new emergencies erupt and need to be dealt with, (come on, writers, just quit having mortal frailties already) the 2/3 of QUEEN OF THE IRON SANDS donation income I give away will be going to lend a hand to Jay Lake.

As Jay has recently discussed quite nakedly on his own blogs, he’s currently in his third go-round with his virulent, recurring, simply-will-not-take-the-hint liver cancer. Jay has recorded, in excruciating detail, all the long physical and emotional struggles of his previous surgery and chemotherapy regimens, which have stolen his life for months at a time but not yet shut him up for good. If there’s anybody on earth who’s a Goddamn Cancer Professional, it’s Jay. Chuck Norris desperately wishes that his facts could be anywhere near as bad-ass as Jay Lake Facts:

Jay is trying to be level-headed and pragmatic in his pronouncements, but he says the math is clear… his mortality horizon is likely creeping into a single-digit number of years, and it’s not a big number. And that’s with a significant amount of remaining time being stolen, as before, by the hardships of treatment.

Jay has always worked hard to keep his financial house in good order, but the next few years are going to kick the shit out of much of what he’s worked for. Jay’s got to deal with providing for his teenage daughter, his treatment, his legal and estate expenses… and all of us want to see him claw enough time from this goddamn illness to write at least a few more things, and drop by at least a few more cons.

So know, if you leave a tip in Violet’s tip jar, that that’s where most of it is going for the foreseeable future. Jay’s new round of chemotherapy starts on September 21, one week from this writing. And if you’ve ever appreciated his work or enjoyed his company, let me gently stress that the time to send him notes and good wishes is sooner rather than later.

My Embarrassing Juvenilia, Part One of Several

I’m back home in Wisconsin, and more or less well, and upright and functional again after getting savagely whiplashed by that damned virus I brought with me… chills! Shaking fits! Lassitude! Sweating fits! Major stomach upset! Everything but a chestburster. Not quite the  begging-for-death spectacle that H1N1 was a few years back (imagine a weekend in which approximately 20 pounds of sweat jet from every pore in your body, like you’re some sort of water porcupine). Nor the pneumonia that made my 2006 UK book tour such a joy for everyone. Nor the binary clusterfuck that resulted when I returned from my 2010 UK visit with a nasty flu, and neglected to refill my antidepressant prescription for… a truly stupid length of time. But this thing made a solid fourth-place showing in the Pathogen Olympics.

From the Department of More Gooder News: I did manage to see both Emma and Steve at lunch last week before I was confined to sick bay, and I dispersed to them their shares of your generosity that had poured in by that point (I expect to see them again after Worldcon). Emma was on her feet again post-surgery, with a fetching bandana covering her Sweeney Todd-esque surgery souvenir.

Steve had his own surgery two days ago; by all reports it too went well, and he’s back at home, tweeting and chafing under his post-op instructions, which appear to be “don’t have any fucking fun for two weeks or you will explode.”

Now, thanks to several ludicrously generous donations of late, we are PAST the $4,000 mark, and thus past the point where I owe you the crown jewel of your faux-Kickstarter “prizes.” Oh, you poor creatures. I am still hard at work on the bigger QotIS e-book, having set myself a bit backwards while attempting to work on it while I was still sick and feverish. I have, however, had a long dance with a scanner.

Context! When I was a teenager, I suffered from the delusion that I was going to grow up to be a comic book self-publisher. In those long-ago pre-ebook days, self-publishing went through a sort of mini-golden age wherein all kinds of hip, quirky, niche-hunting stuff that had no chance in hell at any major publisher managed to flourish, or at least bob gamely a few times before sinking. It seemed like genuinely important battles over creators’ rights were being fought before my eyes, month by month, in letter columns and at summits and conventions in exotic places like Everywhere Else But Where I Lived. I wanted to be Dave Sim when I grew up… in those amazing times before he went catastrophically bugfuck nuts, he was my honest-to-god hero.

My collection included Cerebus, True Swamp, Wandering Star, Stray Bullets, Bone, Rare Bit Fiends, Starchild, Strange Attractors, Hepcats, Poison Elves, A Distant Soil, and similar charming weirdness. Said collection, by the way, was stolen in 2000 (whether the thief was expecting pristine Wizard magazine price list investment fodder, or just happened to have randomly exquisite taste in comics, I’ll never know).

Anyhow, there I was, dreaming of a future writing and drawing until my spine snapped in half. Fortunately for myself, and for everyone spared an opportunity to read the stuff I planned, I lacked the discipline to take my illustration past a certain plateau. The following sketches in a 10 x 15 pad still survive; I adjusted the scans a bit in Photoshop to make the pencil work as clear as possible. Thumbnails link to larger versions.

Orbison the Alien thumbnail

 

 

 

1. Cover sketch for Orbison the Alien, 1994-1995

Orbison was intended to be my first foray into self-publishing, a four-issue limited series about an alien broadcast monitor who crashed his personal saucer on Earth and was forced to scrounge up temp work, attempting to communicate using the limited patois of pop culture references he’d gathered from scanning our TV channels. If it sounds like a one-joke concept, that’s ’cause it was. I planned to write, draw, and publish this during my senior year of high school, and by providence I discovered roleplaying games instead. Which was amazing luck… even if I had managed to create the pages, any attempt by me to run a business at that point would have been raw atomic failure.

 

 

 

2. Concept sketch for The Mutt, early 1995

The Mutt was the project I intended to follow Orbison with, a seven-issue science fiction series based on the dumbest premise ever… well, surely a dumbest premise ever. But it did feature a moderately cool alien species obviously based on Velociratpr/Deinonychus. I called ’em the Chensakau (and later adjusted that to the more poetic Chensathra). The influence of David Brin’s Uplift universe on this project was extreme.

 

 

 

3. Chensakau cybernetic combat skeleton concept, 1995

The Chensakau were intended to be a cybernetics-happy species, for a very Cyberpunk 2020 value of ‘cybernetics.’ Their elite royal commando formation, the Giirdaan Regiment, were augmented to ludicrous extremes. You can see from this conceptual sketch of a cybernetic skeleton replacement that I had no real grasp of concepts like “surgically feasible” and “guaranteed death on the operating table.” I mean, damn. Poor space reptiles. “Now comes the part of the operation where we hold your brain very, very gently while we replace your entire skull all at once. This is why you earn your hazard pay, lizard marine!”

I must give my dumbass teenage self a tiny bit of credit, and admit that there are perhaps less cool things in the universe than the notion of hundreds of cybernetic velociraptors pouring across a landscape with laser guns in hand and grenade launchers sticking out of their spines.

 

 

 

4. Chensakau architectural concept, 1995

The original caption, which didn’t fit into the scan, read: “The Imperial Tower, 15,000 feet high. Home of the Empress on the Chensakau Homeworld.” I was aiming for a bio/mechanical hybrid aesthetic, buildings that looked almost grown, studded with technological features and surfaces. This is a concept I’ll revisit at some point, in a story that makes sense.

 

 

 

5. Extraterrestrial dinner conversation, 1995

I’m not sure if the diner on the left was meant to be a Chensakau, or just a variation on a theme. Another major influence on me all those years ago was Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials, an extraordinary work created by a genuine artist when he was just a couple years older than the Scott that produced these sketches.

 

 

 

6. Embarrassing Cyberspace Trilogy Fan Art, 1995

A third major artistic lodestone in my teenage years was cyberpunk, particularly the earlier work of William Gibson and the goofily lovable CP 2020 roleplaying game. This, I think, must have started out as a sketch of one of my characters; by adding MAAS-NEOTEK to his t-shirt I suppose I transmogrified it to Gibson fanart. And doesn’t the woman in the background look thrilled to be there?

More to come…

 

Hope the monkey has his dancing shoes ready…

Some time today, by Crom, that stupid misplaced search box is going down. I’ve received some good suggestions from commenters and I’m going to apply them until either it or me has been vanquished.

Also, can anyone out there tell me why the hell my RSS feed doesn’t seem to be working?

In today’s good news: The response to my previous post has been overwhelming. We are creeping dangerously close to the point where I’m going to have to think up some substance for “Cold Windings of the Murthalump.” Gulp.

My girlfriend, the multi-talented Elizabeth Bear, has agreed to be the one to follow me around with camera in hand and shoot the tour of my fire station. That item, we’ll get to in September, when she’s staying with me following Worldcon.

 

I will be your dancing monkey, hat on the table.

So this is the post where I set out the hat and ask for some help.

Queen of the Iron Sands has always been free to read and supported by free-will donations, and over the years some very sweet people have been kind to me after enjoying it (or at least claiming to enjoy it, heh). I once mentioned on my LJ that my therapist’s office had screwed up one of my bills and over-charged me. All I’d really meant to do was bitch, yet a sudden torrent of donations appeared. It was flattering and heartwarming, but I’ve been careful since then to watch what I say when I talk about the donation buttons.

Well, today I’m talking about them in earnest. I’ve got some people I’d like to help.

Emma Bull, living treasure, author of some books you might have heard of including War for the Oaks, Falcon, Bone Dance, Finder, and Territory, is having a thyroidectomy on August 8th. A 4 cm nodule on her thyroid will be investigated, and either it or the entire thyroid will be removed. Emma provides full details here.

Steve Brust, acerbic man-demon, also a living treasure, is also the author of some books you might have heard of. The 13-soon-to-be-14 Vlad Taltos novels, starting with Jhereg. The Khaavren Romances. A crap-ton of standalone works and stuff with co-authors including Emma Bull and Megan Lindholm.

Steve has congestive heart trouble, and is having surgery on August 22nd to implant an automatic defibrilator in his chest. He says not much at all about it at his blog here.

Steve and Emma between them have made sweeping contributions to the field of fantastic literature. I read them both for years before, through the good graces of my girlfriend, I finally met them and had the chance to follow them around like a little groupie, offering to sharpen their pencils and open doors for them. It’s been rewarding! One time, Emma remembered my name. And about a week later, a day went by where Steve didn’t kick me. I squee’d!

But seriously… watching friends prepare for major medical issues is no fun. Especially when you have to watch from a distance. As I’m writing this, I’m still in Massachusetts. I hate the feeling of impotence and disconnection, of being able to do nothing. It’s goddamn possible cancer and heart failure… what the hell advice can I give, or tricks can I offer?

So here’s the new deal. I’m taking all future donations to Queen of the Iron Sands and I’m going to split them three ways. The first third I’ll keep to help finance the refurbishment of my site, the hosting bills, the commissioning of new art, the addition of useful features to make it a hub for all things Gentleman Bastard and beyond.

The other two-thirds, I’m going to donate directly to people who could use the boost. These people will change over time. But for starters, I’d like to beg for some help on behalf of Steve and Emma.

Neither of them knew about this in advance. Neither of them is blogging out of a cardboard box (nor living on palatial estates to which word-count ought to entitle them). Both of them sing vigorously for their supper (sometimes literally!) and have for decades, and if what the doctors are saying, both of them have good chances for positive outcomes following their surgeries. But the surgeries are going to suck god knows how many days or weeks out of their working lives. The after-effects are going to slow down and disrupt their other plans. That’s just the way major medical issues are.

Neither Steve nor Emma maintains a huge ‘net presence, so the news of their surgeries han’t exactly blanketed the web. But you really ought to give a damn, if you give a damn about good writing. And if you ever felt like being nice to me over Queen of the Iron Sands, be nice to me now, and help me send these two a financial nudge to smooth their recoveries. No complicated process. I’ll send them checks, and eventually I’ll ask them to publicly confirm that I’ve done so.

Hell, I’ll even sing a little for my supper, too.Think of it as a mini-Kickstarter. Hit some goals, and I’ll offer up some treats:

$500  Hit five hundred, and I’ll immediately eBook the full existing length of QotIS in every format I can reasonably manage. I mean to do this regardless, but I can be encouraged to do it faster.

$1000 Hit one grand, and I’ll pull out my pile of graph-paper maps from the early days of planning The Lies of Locke Lamora. There’s a lot of weird stuff in there… early versions of Camorr, rejected and modified versions of Locke’s world, sketches of buildings and costumes, notes to myself. I will scan them all and post them for free at my site. After that they’re going to the NIU special collection archives, so this’ll be your only chance to see them unless you want to visit NIU in person.

$1500 Hit fifteen hundred, and I’ll take you on a tour of my fire station. After a fashion! I’ll have a friend with a camera accompany me, and we’ll shoot a lengthy video. I’ll show you our trucks, our facilities, and my own gear rack, and explain what everything does in mind-numbing detail. I’ll even dress up in my gear for you and wave an axe. Up on Youtube said video will go.

$2000 Several weeks ago, I jokingly tweeted about writing a short story called “Locke and Jean vs. the Loch Ness Monster in Space.” Hit two grand and, by god, I’ll actually write it. The crazy thing is, I have an idea. It would not be a parody. And it would take me at least a month (TRoT first!). But it could be done.

$3000 In Chapter 2 of Queen of the Iron Sands, Violet mentions some of the short story titles in her own brief bibilography. One of them, as recorded in her letter from John W. Campbell, is “Cold Windings of the Murthalump.” Hit three grand and I’ll actually write this… in Violet’s authorial voice, as though it had been written by her around 1948-49, for publication in Astounding Science Fiction. The particularly fun thing about this is I currently have no idea what the hell the title refers to. None. As with “Locke and Jean vs. the Locke Ness Monster in Space,” this could take a little time.

UPDATE- August 7th – FUNDING LEVEL MURTHALUMP. WE HAVE ACHIEVED MURTHALUMP. Aw, god, you guys. I honestly doubted that I’d have to do this. 😛 I guess it’s heatwarming as hell that I was proven wrong so quickly. I’m getting notes from all over the world… people telling me how much Steve and Emma’s work has meant to them (wow, do I feel like I’m basking in somebody else’s sunbeam). I guess we need stretch goals…

$4000 My embarrassing juvenilia. I spent most of my teenage years under the delusion that I was going to be a comic book self-publisher and science-fiction illustrator. My drawing skill hit a plateau and I didn’t have the discipline to drag myself off it, so I swapped to plan B, writing. I do still have two sketchbooks of my SF/F conceptions, dopey ideas, character studies, aliens, mock covers, and so forth. So if this keeps up, I’ll hit the scanner again and upload a bunch of these for everyone’s delectation, dissection, and muted giggling.

If we manage to approach the $4500 level, I think (barring trouble with either surgery, knock on wood) I’ll wind the fundraising drive down. That would be an excellent balance between providing Emma and Steve with useful support and not draining everyone’s charitable batteries too much.

Donation buttons are sprinkled liberally all over the QotIS pages, but for easy reference, go here and glance left.

P.S. If you’re a fan of Emma or Steve, why not leave good wishes for Emma at her place and/or a note for Steve at his?