evergreen posts making books personal: moi? publishing the twisted path words
by Harry Connolly
Along with the release of the sales numbers of my self-published novel has come a flood of requests that I turn to Kickstarter to fund The Twisted Path (that’s the working title of the next Twenty Palaces book). Currently, I have no plans to do that, and I’m writing this post because I want to explain my reasoning to you guys and I want to have a post I can link to when people broach the subject. Because they do broach the subject. A lot.
I want to be a best-selling author.
What’s more, I want to do it on my own terms; I want to write the books I think are cool, and I want a hundred thousand readers to snap them off the shelves the first week they come out. I want to write thrillers with good characters and magic, along with A Few Things I Want To Say. I mean, not to jump up and proclaim that I want to be Stephen King, but I want to be Stephen King. It’s not about making a whole bunch of money, it’s about having my books in the hands of lots of readers from all over the world.
That doesn’t mean I’m going to copy Stephen King, or Nora Roberts or George R.R. Martin or Gillian Flynn. I wouldn’t even try. I intend to write books my own way because honestly believe the things I think are cool will be cool to bunches and bunches of readers.
Or maybe not. We’ll see. That’s what I’m shooting for, anyway.
How does this tie in to Twenty Palaces, a series that you, the person reading this post, quite possibly read and enjoyed? Well, 20P has dedicated fans, but not very many. As mentioned in the Twenty Palaces sales post, I sold over 3700 copies of my book, self-published. Couldn’t I sell at least that many if I self-published The Twisted Path? Or maybe even more if I turned to…
Well, sure. Maybe. Maybe I could write two 20P books a year (or three in two years), and quite possibly the readers I have right now would be willing to pony up the cash I’d need for an editor, cover artist, copy editor, and the disreputable author himself (not to mention covering Uncle Sam’s and Kickstarter’s cuts). A Thousand True Fans, right?
Here’s the truth: I could do that. I could live on that money. I’d probably have to depend on 2.5K mostly-true-occasionally-false fans, but I’m still living on the advance money Random House started paying me in 2008, okay? I live cheap. I have no car, no cell phone, no new clothes, no new glasses…
Oh, wait, that part sucks. Anyway, I’m cheap as hell, I don’t need much money, and I could make that work, right?
Yes. Yes, I could. But you know what? That would be another year of not making my goal. That would be another year of working on a series that didn’t get me where I want to be. Every Twenty Palaces book I’ve written has sold fewer than the one before; do I want to keep going after fewer and fewer readers every year?
Several people have suggested that I could get new readers with a Kickstarter campaign, but I don’t consider that realistic. Take a look at these guys: their campaign has been fantastically successful. At the time I write this, they’re over 11,000% of their goal. However, they have fewer than 8,500 backers.
That’s huge for a Kickstarter but Circle of Enemies sold more copies than that and it’s considered a failure. When I look at fiction projects run by novelists, especially ones who are more successful than I am, the number of backers is usually in the low-three figures.
So no, a Kickstarter campaign won’t bring in new readers. It would sure please the readers I already have, though, and you know what? I want that. Wanting to be read by hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world includes the people who already know and like my work. I’m grateful for everyone willing to buy a copy of my books or to recommend Ray Lilly to their friends.
But to stay with Twenty Palaces when I know the reading public at large–not just the ones who enjoy my work, but the wide audience–has rejected it would be to never move beyond my starting point. It would mean standing in this small safe place. I would be giving up the chance to grow and try something new.
If I were a different writer–someone who could put out 20,000 finished words a week–I’d write Ray Lilly books alongside whatever new things I came up with. I can’t do that. I’m not prolific. It has to be one thing at a time with me.
I just can’t get past the opportunity cost. Twenty Palaces novels are challenging: each one took me a year or more to write, and you know what? I’m not young. Look up at that third paragraph; did I say I wanted to be the next EL James or JK Rowling? Nope, it was “Stephen King.”
Because I’m old. Life is short, and I need to spend my years wisely.
So here’s my plan: I have already written a book in The Auntie Mame Files which needs to be revised. I’ve also written about 200K of The Great Way, which is the series name for my epic fantasy. Everything I’ve written so far has been aimed at publication through New York. Yeah, I know it’s possible (maybe not likely, but possible) to make more money by publishing books myself, but more money isn’t enough. I want more readers, too.
If I Kickstart or self-publish a new novel, it will be one of those books, and it will be because mainstream publishers didn’t pick them up.
I won’t be returning to the Twenty Palaces setting until I’m honest-to-god successful. It’s only when I have, say, 100,000 eager readers buying my books that I’ll reintroduce 20P to see if the series can find new life.
So that’s it: the final word. I could self-publish or Kickstart The Twisted Path, but it’s not going to happen until after I succeed with something else. If you liked the Twenty Palaces books, I hope you’ll like the next thing I write. If not, that’s cool, too.
But please don’t argue with me about continuing the series, or try to explain to me what Kickstarter is, or insist that yes, in fact, truly, it would be the right move for me to write The Twisted Path next. The series is dead. It was starved of sales and died. I won’t be trying to revive it anytime soon.
Sorry if you’re disappointed by that–believe me when I say it hurts me even more–but that’s how it’s gotta be.
Added: As if he used his powers as SFWA president to read this unfinished blog post, John Scalzi put up a terrific post about writing for a living. It’s not just an art, it’s a job, too, and we all have to make realistic choices.
Plus, I’m convinced the dude has installed spyware on my computer or used a time machine to read this post in the future and then come back and pre-empt it. Hmf.
I recommend reading his thoughts on the matter, plus the comments from other pros in the comments. As an addendum: keep in mind that, looking at the numbers in this post, where he’s talking about the sales figures of Redshirts, John Scalzi, as successful as he is, has not yet reached the threshold I set myself for returning to 20P. Just sayin’
I’m going to link to this through the main page on my blog and make it an “evergreen” post, but it’s not going to be what you might think.
One issue I hear from readers (and other writers) is that someone will really enjoy a new series but miss the new books when they come out. (This happens to really well-known writers, too, and I’m talking about big names you might not expect.) Maybe it’s because so many books are released now? Maybe it’s that so many people buy online that they spend less time browsing shelves?
I don’t know. I talk about this sort of thing on my blog, but I also put all sorts of other stuff there, too, and not everyone is interested in all that shit. So do I rely on readers’ willingness to follow my blog when all they care about is book news? Do I rely on the odd “Whatever happened to…?” moments that prompt someone to look me up?
I don’t think so. Here’s my plan: I’m going to set up an email list for people who want to know when I have a new book coming out. I know, right? So high-tech. If anyone out there has a better idea, I’m open to it.
But for right now, if you want to be notified when I have a new book out, and you don’t think you’d see it here on the blog, on Twitter, or where ever, send me a note at harry at harryjconnolly period com asking to be put on the newsletter list. I send those out about once a year, maybe twice; I’m not terribly prolific. I’ll also be happy to take your name off if you decide you don’t want to receive them any more.
Added later: Even easier would be to use this convenient form.
Note: This will get you on the newsletter. If you want to be taken off, please use the email address above.
Anyway, as of today, 12/3/11, all four Twenty Palaces books have been released and there won’t be more for a while. I also have a number of short stories for sale at the usual online spots, including at the “store” on this very web site.
I’m sure I’ll forget to keep that paragraph updated. Sign up for the newsletter if you want to stay up to date.
By the way, this is my 1,500th post on the main blog, and my 3,434th on my LiveJournal.
evergreen posts Twenty Palaces Books: Twenty Palaces
by Harry Connolly
As promised, finally, I have the Twenty Palaces prequel ready for sale. Here’s the cover:
Looks terrific, doesn’t it? It’s by George Cotronis, who will also be doing the cover of Don’t Read This Book, the Evil Hat anthology I wrote a story for.
Here’s the book: When Ray Lilly was 13 years old, a handgun accident landed his best friend, Jon Burrows, in a wheelchair and turned Ray into a runaway and petty criminal. Fifteen years later, Ray returns home after a stint in prison; he’s determined to go straight, but he knows he can’t do that without making peace with his old friend.
What Ray doesn’t expect is to discover that Jon has just received a mysterious cure–not only is he out of his wheelchair, he seems stronger and faster than… well, pretty much anyone. Worse, his cure has drawn all sorts of unwanted attention: the media are camped out on his block, the police are investigating him for insurance fraud, and weird shadowy figures have begun to draw closer, figures who clearly do not mean to do Jon any good.
Can Ray atone for the biggest mistake of his life by protecting his oldest and best friend? What’s more, should he?
Yeah, this is the book where Ray meets Annalise, creates his ghost knife, and sees a predator for the first time. It’s also going to be the last Twenty Palaces novel for a while.
Because I’m self-publishing it, it’s going to be ebook only. I’ll post Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble links when those go live, but I’ll also be offering the book for sale directly from this website. For $4.99, paid through PayPal, you get a DRM-free epub, a DRM-free mobi, a pdf file, or all three if you prefer.
Buy here. (Update: actually, you can’t buy it from me because the shopping plugin didn’t work) Or you can buy from one of the links in the sidebar.
Thanks for reading, folks.
I have a small number of my short stories for sale online. At some point I’ll set something up for a direct sale on my web page, but there’s already a lot on my plate at the moment. For those who would like to buy one of my short stories for their ereaders, here are the links:
There are many, many other online stores, but posting these have already eaten up a helluva lot of time. Sorry, people who read on the Kobo or whatever. Maybe someday I’ll have time to post these there.
Also, I’ll get more stories online as I can.
Hey, I haven’t mentioned this before, but I have a mailing list.
At this point it’s, like, nine people, but it exists. I’ve used it once so far to announce the pub day of Game of Cages.
If you would like an email letting you know when Circle of Enemies (or anything else of mine) publishes, shoot me an email to harry at the URL above sans double u’s, by which I mean harryjconnolly.com. (I type it that way to avoid spam harvesters, sorry.) Alternately, drop a comment in this thread on the main blog and type out the appropriate email address in indicated form.
And that’s all (for now)
It’s long past time I made a FAQ, right? (That’s not one of the questions.) Here goes:
Q: What does 20 PALACES mean? Will we find out what each palace represents and why?
A: Two questions in one, but that’s okay. The Twenty Palace Society is a group of sorcerers who have appointed themselves the magic police of the planet. They’re pretty much ruthless bastards, but their cause is for the good. And yes, I’m planning to show some of the palaces themselves, at some point. The palaces don’t represent anything, though; they’re the homes of really rich people.
Q: Your stance on fanfiction is the first thing that comes to mind here (due to the latest hoopla on the topic.) =)
A: Well, by the time I post this, the hoopla will have died down. In fact, I pretty much can’t remember which particular hoopla we’re talking about. But here’s my “stance:” I consider fanfiction a sign that a property has a devoted following. It means a particular storyline has a healthy following. That said, I don’t want to read any of it, ever. I would find it distressing, so please don’t tell me about it. And don’t try to make money from it (or hinder me from making money), please. Aside from that, have fun.
Q: Where can I get one of those ghost knives?
A: Each one costs a mere $50 million. As soon as your payment clears my account, I’ll send you one. (You might want to wait for book three before you decide if you really want one. Just sayin’)
Q. Are Ray and Annalise using black magic or white magic?
A. Let me first state outright that you will never read the words “black magic” or “white magic” in my books. I’m not a fan of those terms for the obvious reason.
However, there is no good or evil magic in the Twenty Palaces setting. Magic is simply power, and like any kind of power it can be used responsibly or irresponsibly. Whether a spell is good or evil depends entirely on how it was used. In a way, spells are like guns: always dangerous, sometimes threatening, often put to evil purposes, but intrinsically evil? Not to me.
Q. Do you like gladiator movies?
A. Only if they have a. monsters or b. Woody Strode.
Have more questions for me? Let me know and I’ll include it in the FAQ.
evergreen posts making books Twenty Palaces Books: everyone loves blue dog
by Harry Connolly
My original plan was to place all book information into one convenient post. Hah! Turns out that doesn’t work very well; there’s too much! New plan: create a dedicated page for each book.
Game of Cages is the second book in the Twenty Palaces series. (Book one is Child of Fire which came out in September, 2009 and was named to Publishers Weekly’s list of best 100 books of 2009). Check out this Chris McGrath cover:
God, I love that cover. You know what? The inside of the book is gorgeous, too.
The series follows Ray Lilly, an ex-con and former car thief press-ganged in to working for the Twenty Palace society. There are, scattered around the world, a small number of spells and spell books. The magic they allow people to do is often dangerous, but nothing is as risky as the summoning spells that let sorcerers to summon strange, extradimensional beings to our world.
These beings, which the society calls predators, view our world as a fresh hunting ground and see humans as prey.
The Twenty Palace Society hunts these creatures–and the people who summon them–with brutal, ruthless zeal. While Ray is not exactly the nicest guy in the world, he’s a saint compared to the society members he’s forced to work with.
In Game of Cages, Ray is given an emergency job–a predator is going to be auctioned off, and some of the wealthiest and most dangerous people in the world have gathered at a remote mountain mansion to place their bids. Unfortunately, the sale goes wrong and the creature escapes into the small town below with the bidders in close pursuit. Can Ray destroy the predator before it destroys the town?
To buy Game of Cages as an ebook, visit:
evergreen posts making books: everyone loves blue dog words
by Harry Connolly
Del Rey included a teaser for Game of Cages in the back of Child of Fire, but it was just a few pages, not the whole first chapter. Behind the cut, for those who are interested, is the full deal: the complete chapter one of my upcoming novel.
GAME OF CAGES
It was three days before Christmas, and I was not in prison. I couldn’t understand why I was free. I hadn’t hidden my face during the job in Hammer Bay. I hadn’t used a fake name. I honestly hadn’t expected to survive.
I had, though. The list of crimes I’d committed there included breaking and entering, arson, assault, and murder. And what could I have said in my defense? That the people I’d killed really deserved it? more »
evergreen posts making books: harvest of fire reasons i suck
by Harry Connolly
leave a comment
I keep forgetting to mention this: I’m not planning to link to reviews, good or bad. I’m grateful to the people who write them (tremendously grateful), but I think it’s intrusive for a writer to comment or link to it.
Just my opinion, naturally.
evergreen posts making books: harvest of fire publishing reasons i suck
by Harry Connolly
leave a comment
Actually, maybe I have and just don’t remember.
Anyway, I thought people might be interested in seeing the query letter I wrote that caught the interest of my agent (and a couple others besides).
Here it is with the addresses stripped out:
Dear Ms. Blasdell:
Ray Lilly is just supposed to be the driver. Sure, he knows a little magic, but it’s Annalise, his boss, who has the real power. Ray doesn’t like driving her across the country so she can hunt and kill people dabbling in dangerous magic, but if he tries to quit he’ll move right to the top of her hit list.
But Annalise’s next kill goes wrong and she is critically injured. Ray must complete her assignment alone; he has to stop the man who is sacrificing children to make his community thrive, and also find the inhuman supernatural power fueling his magic.
Harvest of Fire is a completed 99,000-word contemporary fantasy in the tone and style of a crime thriller.
I have sold several short stories to the magazines Black Gate and On Spec. The latest is “Eating Venom,” due out in the next issue of Black Gate.
Thank you for your time,
While I’m proud of those short fiction sales, I’m not sure they did much to catch anyone’s interest. At least, editor and agent both convinced me to publish my novel under a different name than those shorts.
Also, the synopsis covers only the characters, setting and the big plot twist that finishes the “first act” of the novel, which falls around page 30-50. That recommendation came from “Agent Kristin” who runs the “Pub Rants” blog (pubrants on LJ) and it really works.
For the synopsis, I described the whole book, right up to the end, ‘natch.
Notice also that I used the word “magic” three times in two paragraphs–word echoes are my enemy.
Anyway, I hope that’s interesting or useful.
evergreen posts making books: harvest of fire words
by Harry Connolly
Here is the first chapter of Child of Fire. It’s under 5K words, and I’ll put the bulk of it under a cut to spare the sensitive and uninterested.
It felt good to sit behind the wheel again, even the wheel of a battered Dodge Sprinter. Even with this passenger beside me.
The van rumbled like a garbage truck, handled like a refrigerator box, and needed a full minute to reach highway speeds. I’d driven better, but I’m a guy who has to take what I can get while I’m still alive to get it.
The passenger beside me was Annalise Powliss. She stood about five foot nothing, was as thin as a mop handle, and was covered with tattoos from the neck down. Her hair was the same dark red as the circled F’s I used to get on my book reports, and she wore it cropped close to her scalp. It was an ugly cut, but she never seemed to care how she looked. I suspected she cut it herself.
She was my boss, and she had been forbidden to kill me, although that’s what she most wanted to do.
evergreen posts making books Twenty Palaces Books: everyone loves blue dog harvest of fire reasons i suck
by Harry Connolly
My first published novel Child of Fire, (cover art at the bottom of this post) is out right now. Yaaaaayyyyyyyy!!!
You can buy a copy from any of the online booksellers listed in the sidebar to the right, or in pretty much any brick-and-mortar store. (Call ahead to make sure they have it.)
If you’d like to read a sample chapter first, that’s available now, too. There’s also the starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. Finally, the book has made Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2009 list!
The sequel, Game of Cages, has been revised, copy edited and the galleys have been checked. Yay! The tentative release date for that one is August, 2010.
The best summary of Child of Fire I have is the one I used in the query letter that caught my agent’s attention. Here it is (edited slightly because I can’t resist):
Ray Lilly is just supposed to be the driver. Sure, he has a little magic, but it’s Annalise, his boss, who has the real power. Ray may not like driving her across the country so she can hunt and kill people who play with dangerous spells–especially summoning spells–but if he tries to quit he’ll move right to the top of her hit list.
Unfortunately, Annalise’s next kill goes wrong and she is critically injured. Ray must complete her assignment alone–he has to stop a man who’s sacrificing children to make his community thrive, and also find the inhuman supernatural power fueling his magic.
Child of Fire is a contemporary fantasy in the tone and style of a crime thriller.
Here are some of the blurbs the book has collected so far:
“Every page better than the last. Cinematic and vivid, with a provocative glimpse into a larger world. Where’s the next one?” — Terry Rossio, screenwriter (Aladdin, Shrek, Pirates of the Caribbean)
“[Child of Fire] is excellent reading and has a lot of things I love in a book: a truly dark and sinister world, delicious tension and suspense, violence so gritty you’ll get something in your eye just reading it, and a gorgeously flawed protagonist. Take this one to the checkout counter. Seriously.” — Jim Butcher
“With an engaging protagonist, an unusual setting, fascinating magics, dark mysteries, and edge-of-your-seat action, [Child of Fire] is everything you could want in a supernatural thriller. An exciting and original start to a great new series that will leave readers hungry for more.” — Victoria Strauss (see also: Writer Beware)
“[Child of Fire] is a fine novel with some genuinely creepy moments. I enjoyed it immensely, and hope we’ll see more of Ray Lilly.” — Lawrence Watt-Evans
“Connolly’s story jets from 0 to 60 in five pages, and never lets you brake for safety. He’s a fantastic new voice.” — Sherwood Smith
“Redemption comes wrapped in a package of mystery and horror that hammers home the old saying ‘Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time’ … and even then you’d better check the yellow pages for one bad-ass exterminator first.” — Rob Thurman
“Classic dark noir, fresh ideas, and good old-fashioned storytelling.” — John Levitt
There may have been other blurbs, but I don’t have a copy of them.
And here’s the cover art:
It’s by Chris McGrath(!)
The tags for each book are the working titles: Child of Fire is tagged as Harvest of Fire, in case you want to read back through all the posts about it (although I can’t imagine why).
Be sure to give the sample chapter a try! Or you can order right now from any of these sellers:
To buy Child of Fire as an ebook, visit:
When I signed on with Del Rey, they asked me for a biography. Unfortunately, my biography is so unbearably dull that, instead of providing one, I gave them a list of things that didn’t kill me.
- A tumble down a flight of stairs onto a concrete basement floor when I was five
- Beatings by nuns in elementary school
- Beatings by junior high public school kids
- Daisy’s green dock light of hope
- A combination of a good friend, a sports van and several six-packs
- An avalanche of beers and bong hits beyond that
- A Separate Peace
- Years as a fan of ’70′s and ’80′s heavy metal
- Ten months living on a couch in a friend’s Seattle apartment
- Seven years picking up dirty towels and flushing urinals at a gym
- Four exceedingly gentle attempts by my then-girlfriend, now-wife to break up with me
- That guy in the Volvo who turned in front of me, nearly snagging my front bicycle tire on his rear bumper
- A long string of menial jobs answering phones, filing and making copies.
- My son (so far)
- This book (whichever it happens to be)
 For values of “kill” that include ruining my life or making me miserable.
If you need to contact me, email me at harryconnolly at sff dot net.