Something Strange Happened on the Way to the NYT Bestsellers List: Fantasy Author Arianne “Tex” Thompson

You know, lately it feels like I’ve been hearing the same thing over and over again:  “Tex, that’s disgusting!

No, wait, the other thing:

Tex, where did you get such a kickass cover?”

And if you’re like me (a writer with an eye on the traditional publishing path), one of the things you hear over and over again is that you will get exactly zero say in your cover.  That’s decided by the publisher’s art and marketing departments, and it really is a visual science: how to communicate – in the space of a single image! – what kind of book this is, and entice the right readers to pick it up.

Needless to say, I was floored when my Benevolent Editorial Overlord emailed me to say “so what do you want on the cover?”

And then “all right, what do you think about this?”

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And then “sure, we can make those changes – how do you like this one?”

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And after a few more drafts, we ended up with this:

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Is that not awesome?  Is that not just excruciatingly rad?  Of course it is! So I did what any writer would: printed it off, tucked it under my pillow, and slept with it until it was yellow and wrinkly.  Like you do.

Then one day, I emailed Solaris to ask for a higher-res version I could use for printing postcards.  “Sure!” the Master Art-Conjurer said, and sent me a couple of samples:

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Uh…thanks bunches!” I replied.  “But what about that original version?”

Oh,” he replied.  “Well, that’s not actually your cover, you see…”

Wait, what?

“What had happened was, we needed to get some title art on there in a big hurry, because we had to have something to put in the summer catalogue, so we ganked some title art from another book to use as a stop-gap.  We’ll re-do your title art later, before the book goes to print.”

Here for the record is Exhibit D.  Devilishly handsome, isn’t it?

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And the denouement is that the Master Art-Conjurer did in fact re-do the title art, which is how we ended up with this gloriously spectacular finished product here.  (Ain’t she a beaut!)

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So at the end of the day, what I really want to emphasize is this: with both of these cover-related vignettes (being given a seat at the decision-making table in the beginning, and the unexpected do-over at the end), what I’ve really learned over the past year is that I am *definitely* flying with the Rebel Alliance, here.  And every now and again the hyperdrive doesn’t work and things don’t happen the way that popular wisdom said they would – but more often than not, that is actually a huge, huge plus, and I could not be more happy or more fortunate.

By the way, once you pop your eyeballs back into your skull, go treat yourself to some of the other amazing artworks by Tomasz Jedruszek (codename: Morano).  He is a digital wizard!


TexThompson

Tex Thompson is a “rural fantasy” author and editor for the DFW Writers Conference. Look for ONE NIGHT IN SIXES, the first book in her epic fantasy Western series, on July 29th – and find her in the meantime at http://www.thetexfiles.com and on Twitter as @tex_maam!

 
One Night in Sixes available for pre-order here: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell’s 

Something Strange Happened on the Way to the NYT Bestsellers List: Author Steve Bein

This is a story of how not to write a trilogy.

 

It is a cautionary tale with a happy ending: my master plan to get a third book contract failed, but I sold the third book anyway.

 

When Penguin picked up my first novel, Daughter of the Sword, they were interested enough to ask for a second book in the series.  I said of course I can write a second book, though at the time I knew no such thing.  I only knew that I’d been pitching this book for seven or eight years, and after all those years of rejection, when they offered me a second book deal I was damn well going to take it.

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So I had to write a proposal for a second book.  This turned out to be much easier than expected.  Daughter spans 700 years of Japanese history, so there’s lots of space to work with.  Plus, I love these characters.  Mariko is a 21st century cop, and it’s impossible to run out of cop stories.  Daigoro is a young 16th century samurai, and as I told my agent in our very first conversation, I can write twenty or thirty books about him.  He’s my Jack Aubrey.

 

So far, so good.  But then I got ahead of myself.

 

I had a two-book deal on the table.  The best way to lock down my third contract, I figured, was to construct a trilogy.  I’d leave some important ends untied in book two, so that Penguin would have to buy book three to see how the story ended.  Leaving readers with a cliffhanger ending is just good technique, right?

 

Maybe so, but publishers aren’t readers.  It wasn’t until after I’d already sold Daughter of the Sword and its sequel, Year of the Demon, that I learned editors don’t necessarily lose sleep over dropping an author right in the middle of a series.  They do it all the time.  No matter how gripping your cliffhanger ending may be, they don’t have to care about what happens next; what they really care about—what they actually get paid to care about—is strong writing leading to strong sales.  So the only thing that would get me a third book contract was a damn good first book and a damn good second book.

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As promised, there’s a happy ending.  I got my third book contract, not because I was oh-so-clever and left a few ends untied, but because readers really liked Daughter of the Sword and Year of the Demon.  My novels aren’t on the bestseller list (yet, I like to tell myself) but their reviews are overwhelmingly positive.

 

So that’s how to write your trilogy: write two good books in a row, then promise a third.

 

My master plan earned me one particularly well-deserved review.  So far my work has been well received at Publishers Weekly.  They gave Daughter a starred review, and gave Demon a hearty thumbs up too, but the Demon review closed with this line: “Despite all the action, this middle volume feels incomplete, but all three stories promise to wrap up in gripping style.”

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I had that one coming.  Thanks a lot, master plan.  On the positive side, I just turned in Disciple of the Wind, due out in April 2015.  This one leaves no loose ends left untied.

 

 

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steve-bein-bwSteve Bein (pronounced “Bine”) is a philosopher, photographer, traveler, translator, climber, diver, and award-winning author of science fiction and fantasy. His short fiction has appeared in Asimov’sInterzoneWriters of the Future, and in international translation. Daughter of the Sword, his first novel, was met with critical acclaim.

His webpage can be found at: http://www.philosofiction.com/

Follow him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/philosofiction

 

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Something Strange Happened on the Way to the NYT Bestsellers List: Author Megan Hutchins

Back in 2007, I attended Life, the Universe, and Everything, a science-fiction and fantasy symposium — my first SFF conference of any kind. Stacy Whitman was the editor Guest of Honor. At the time, she worked for Mirrorstone, the children and YA imprint from Wizards of the Coast. I took notes at the panels. She seemed like an amazing editor, but I was pretty sure I’d never get to work with her. I wasn’t writing anything that I thought Mirrorstone would be interested in seeing.

But publishing is a strange place. In 2009, Stacy founded Tu Books. Now, I’d often heard that you must have an agent before getting a book deal, but Tu Books, at the time, had open submissions. Why not just submit? After hearing her speak at LTUE, I was pretty sure that Stacy was a brilliant editor I’d want to work with (which turned out to be 100% accurate). Honestly, I was also excited by the idea of sending an editor chapters, rather than trying to pitch to agents. Writing pitches has always been incredibly hard for me.

So I sent her Drift, and waited patiently for my rejection letter, because authors who submit novels through the slush are supposed to get rejection letters, right? Instead I got a revision letter, and eventually an offer.

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I know not everyone is a fan of conferences, but I enjoy them. I go to listen to smart people talk, to talk with writer friends, and in more recent years, sit on panels and hopefully say something wise. Being put on the spot on a panel actually forces me to think very quickly and I’ve learned a lot about writing that way, too. And sometimes, the unexpected comes of conferences. I never would have thought that attending LTUE years ago would, rather indirectly, lead to me having a book coming out today.

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MKHutchinsPic-300x298M.K. Hutchins’ debut novel, Drift, is a YA epic fantasy featuring a floating island surrounded by a monster-infested, watery hell. Her short fiction has been published in InterGalactic Medicine Show, Daily Science Fiction, and a half-dozen other places.

She’s studied archaeology in college, compiled histories from Maya glyphs, excavated in Belize, and worked as a faunal analyst. A long-time Idahoan, she now resides in Salt Lake City, Utah with her husband and her three boys.

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