Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Most Memorable Blog Moment...

One of my most memorable blog moments is also the first memorable moment too.  It was with one of my first book reviews.  I reviewed the first book in, what I would come come to find as, a wonderful fantasy series loving each book more and more.  I enjoyed the first book so and write one of my first reviews here. (you can check it out here.)  I was extremely surprised and excited when the author stopped by to say thank you.  I never expected this to happen.  Authors were kind of like movie stars to me.  Someone you admire and think on from a far.  Blogging and all this Internet interaction has really changed that view for me and given me a chance to meet many great people who happen to be talented with words.  I had always thought authors might shy away from reviews, whether good or bad, not because they don't appreciate them but more of a business end.

But I was thrilled to have this author stop by, and it lead to my very first author interview.  It's not as detailed in questions as now, but I did have the author back for a second interview later.

Who was the author and series?  Michael J. Sullivan, author of the Riyria Revelations, starting with The Crown Conspiracy.

Michael is now coming to a close in this series and starting it again with Orbit books.  And his journey continues on.

I asked Michael to join in the posting fun this week.  Thank you Michael for stopping by to share your growth with us.  It's been one amazing adventure thus far, and keeps going for you.
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Michael Sullivan:

I found Melissa via Google Alerts. It is a dirty secret that many authors utilize. We have feelers out on the net and like spiders we know whenever anyone mentions our names, or the names of our books. One day I found Melissa’s review on The Crown Conspiracy, and she is absolutely right, at the time I never made comments on reviews, good or bad. It just felt wrong to enter into a dialog with someone trying to honestly give an opinion of your work. It would be like overhearing two friends talking about you and then walking over and glaring at them as if to suggest: you better be saying nice things!

I made an exception with Melissa’s review because…well I was stupid. I saw the post on the very cute blog and thought to myself, how nice that this person read my books and decided to write a review for her friends about it. I mistakenly thought My World was a tiny, personal blog that a very unassuming, quiet, woman wrote for the entertainment of a handful of close friends. I didn’t see any harm in posting there. Few were likely to see my comments. It was much later that my wife explained how wrong I was. Melissa, as it turns out is an Internet celebrity. I don’t know how active she still is in it but at the time she was a huge contributor on the Barnes and Noble Fantasy and Science Fiction Book Club and even to this day is the most “laureled authors” there. (A laurel is awarded when someone likes one of your posts and Melissa has more than 2,200 of them).

Who knew?

My ignorance, however, resulted in making a powerful friend who has since gone on to herald my books, and defend my virtue throughout cyberdom.

Sometimes you get lucky.

And now for her two year jubilee Melissa has given me the chance to tell you about my books. I’m not here to try and sell them to you; Melissa has already done a fine job spreading the word. She just asked me to tell you a little about the behind the scene drama leading up to now, as apparently unassuming, quiet, women feel such things are interesting to hear about.

I started writing in high school, stapling together books I wrote on a typewriter. I painted the covers back then too. Interestingly enough, those had been fantasy stories about two adventuring thieves named Tagemart and Corin, who bore a striking resemblance to Hadrian and Royce. I married Robin who, drew me out of the fantasy and sci-fi realm and got me reading from a diverse set of authors. I attended only a year of art school and then a few semesters at a community college before I got my first job as an illustrator/designer. That’s when my real education began, and for the first time I started reading the classics and tried to dissect what “the greats” were doing through their writing.

When we had our first child, I stayed home to raise her because Robin made more money than I did. I used my spare time to write novels. We soon moved to the remote northern reaches of Vermont where we didn’t know anyone and the winters are long and isolating. While there I wrote ten novels while reading and studying the best books I could find. I tried to get published and after a decade of failure I quit.

I gave up writing back in 1995 when we left Vermont for North Carolina, and vowed never to write creatively again. I went back into commercial art and started my own advertising agency. I was successful enough to hire Robin as my president. Often we needed copy for ads or brochures, but I never wrote them. I never wrote anything. It was too painful. I had spent too many years wasting my time writing.

Then my second daughter, who was about 13 at the time, was having trouble reading. In an attempt to help her, I bought Harry Potter (which I had heard was popular) and by happenstance read the first book myself. Reading it was just so much fun that I began thinking about writing something myself, something my daughter might like. Back then I had a lot of time on my hands and there was this new thing called the Internet. I decided to write a series of six books—nothing important, nothing literary, just something that would be fun, something to get my daughter to like reading. I wrote the first three and posted them on the Internet for free. No one read them. Not even my daughter who insisted that they had to be published first (she has a quirk about reading loose pages).

In 2005, I decided to close my advertising agency, I had become tired of doing the same job over and over. We moved to the DC area where my wife started a new career as a product manager and I decided I would try one last time to get published. I got an agent, and the books made their rounds but did not find a home. My agent left the business and once more my writing career appeared to die.

I finished the 4th and 5th books of the series and no one was interested in reading them, not even my wife, who at that time was having problems with her job and we, as a family, were having financial problems. Once more I considered giving up writing and went in search of a job to help out, but the recession was on and I don’t interview well. Then in the dark of the winter of 2007, I began writing the last book of the series. I wrote it because it seemed wrong not to complete the story. I also thought that perhaps one day, after I was long dead, someone might find and read the books and if the last book was never completed, they would be quite upset. So I wrote it, and when I was done, I was amazed. When I typed the last few words of that book, I knew it was good. I had this huge grin on my face knowing I had created something wonderful, and it didn’t matter if the world knew it or not.

Still, I was depressed that Robin had never read them and when she noticed just how miserable I had become she sat down and read the series to make me feel better. Once she started, I’m not sure she slept. She even took a day off work because she finished the fifth book, Wintertide, at 6:30 in the morning and she just had to know how it all would end.

She loved them.

That was all I needed. I was happy—but she wasn’t. Robin took it on herself to make sure the books would be published. She started sending it to smaller publishers who would accept unagented manuscripts and found a tiny publisher in Minnesota called AMI who agreed to publish The Crown Conspiracy.

AMI ran into financial problems and were unable to publish the second book in the series. They waited until March to let me know this even though the book was scheduled to be released in April. The only way to release it on time was to do it ourselves so Robin and I pooled our talents and published Avempartha in April 2009. Because self-published books had a terrible stigma associated with them, Robin invented a publishing company and called it Ridan.

Then a funny thing happened. Other writers in the middle of series watched their publishers go out of business due to the recession. Feeling sorry for them, Robin released their books through the Ridan banner. We met people at conventions, other struggling writers, and we picked them up. Soon Robin was hunting for other writers, those that had self published good books, but weren’t selling well. Ridan—this originally make-believe publisher—was becoming a real entity.

I published the first four books of the Riyria Revelations with each one coming out six months after the one before. Robin edited them and I did the layout and cover art. They received good reviews, and Robin promoted them using social networking and by courting book bloggers to do reviews. We found a few people, like Melissa, who loved them and made a point of telling everyone they ran across. Soon I had a few foreign publishers asking for language rights and that led us to Teri, who negotiated the deals.

What happened in the next few weeks was amazing.

Robin began to think that maybe we should try for a big publisher again. I told her that once the last book was out I didn’t care what she did with the series. We both expected it would take years to even get an agent, much less obtain an offer. So Robin decided to get the machinery moving and in September asked Teri if she was interested in representing the series domestically and to our surprise she was.

In October 2010, the fifth book hit the street, and my sales jumped as they usually do with a new release. Teri had put together a proposal and sent it to just over a dozen New York publishers. She immediately had several interested. What was supposed to take two years, if it happened at all, took a month. We accepted Orbit’s offer in mid November (though no one knew about it – the official announcement came in February 2011). Orbit had decided to repackage the series of six into a trilogy, with each book having two parts: Theft of Swords (The Crown Conspiracy & Avempartha), Rise of Empire (Nyphron Rising & The Emerald Storm), and Heir of Novron (Wintertide & Percepliquis).

But good fortune was not done with me yet. A few weeks later my sales went ballistic. I went from selling 1,000 books a month to 10,000. I started feeling like a superstar when I went to New York to do a signing for the ARC (Advanced Reading Copies) of Theft of Swords at BookExpo (a large trade show where all the big publishing people hang). The first reviews are just now starting to appear and so far it looks like the newly revamped version is going to have a very nice reception.

The first book of the trilogy will be officially, (and poetically,) released in November. The second book will follow a month later, and the last book, which will include the final, and as yet, unreleased Percepliquis, in January 2012. Percepliquis will also be released as a standalone print and ebook for those who have the others and want to complete the set.

Meanwhile, that little publishing company that Robin had started, continues to grow without my books. She’s helped to turn a number of once unknown authors into best sellers including science fiction writers Nathan Lowell and Marshall Thomas, and fantasy author Leslie Ann Moore. She’s doing something really different, making a publishing company that puts the author’s interests first and foremost and that is attracting the attention of industry heavyweights. She recently signed none other than Joe Haldeman, and is publishing the ebook version of his classic The Forever War.

So there you have the story of Riyria and Ridan, though we have been at this for quite some time I think we might just be at the beginning. I can’t wait to see where things go from here and I’m very aware that none of this would have been possible without people like Melissa, and others in the blogging community, who took a chance to read some books from a little nobody and liked them enough to tell some others. Thank you…and congratulations on two years of helping to make this author’s dreams (and I’m sure many others) come true.
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Thank you Michael!  It has been a pleasure reading you books, and I'm so glad I could help in just a small way.  Best of luck to you with the next leg of your journey.

If you would like to check out sites mentioned in this post you can:

My Reviews:

Interviews with Michael here on My World...in words and pages:

13 comments:

  1. Great post Michael :D
    Melissa was actually the one that got me interested in your books in the first place. I still have not read one though, I kind of saw that orbit will release them and decided to wait cos I do really want to try these books.

    Oh and she has such great taste ;)

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  2. What a great post! Perfect sentiments about Melissa (who has a great name, btw) who just ROCKS! I loved the story about you and your wife. You know the book is good when she has to take a day off to read the last one. Oh so sweet! Plus to have her in your corner? How great is that?

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  3. What a strange and wonderful moment it must have been when Michael commented. I had the same awe and epiphany as you did when an author contacted me the first time – Oh, authors are real people! A thank you or acknowledgement is never wrong in any case and certainly a good thing in the book blogosphere.

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  4. Very nice story Melissa! Wow, what a road to publication Michael!

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  5. Thanks all. And if memory serves that memorable day was very close to when Mel was celebrating her first 100 followers. Now I see she is at 422.

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  6. What an awesome post. I love stories like this...where the road's tough but the destination is a great one! I look forward to checking out Theft of Swords.

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  7. Melissa what a wonderful memorable moment, know how you felt about getting an author to stop by and read and thank you for a book review because it is a rare and wonderful feeling...

    Glad that you stuck with your craft through thick and thin Mr Sullivan, very happy your wife turned out to be as tenacious as you and look now at what wonderful memories you both have as you did it together with of course a push or two from an unassuming book blogger fan who shared her joy of reading your books!

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  8. Blodeuedd - Oh yes. You HAVE To read this series when it comes out by Orbit. You really do! I think you would love it just as much as I did. And thank you for the kind words. ;)

    Melissa (Books&Things) - Awww, thank you Melissa. You are to kind with your words and praise. ;) *whispering* please keep going. ;D

    StephanieD - Thank you. :) It is such a wonderful feeling when you first chat with an author. :) Thank you.

    Mel (He Followed Me Home) - Oh thank you. :) So glad you liked the post. :)

    Michael J. Sullivan - Thank you for stopping by. And thank you for agreeing to the post. I really do appreciate it. :) Best of luck to you!

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  9. Alisha (MyNeedToRead) - Oh, thank you for stopping by and so glad you enjoyed the post. I was afraid to put up things of me, but I'm glad I am. And I do hope you enjoy Theft of Swords when it comes out!

    JackieB - Hey! Thank you for stopping by! So glad you enjoyed the post. :) It was just a wonderful thing and new with being on line. Thank you!

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  10. Very cool interview and I'm glad to know Melissa from the begining of her rock star days at B&N

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  11. What a wonderful post! Melissa, your enthusiasm for this series has definitely put it at the top of my TBR list and reading about the events that led to the publication of the series has now made me even more eager to read it.
    I remember how excited I was the first time an author that I followed commented on my blog. Developing relationships with authors is definitely one of my favorite things about being a book blogger.

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  12. What a great moment to share. And Michael's story was really interesting. Thanks for sharing.

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  13. Ryan G - Thank you. :) aw shucks everyone... I'm no rock star. ;) Thank you!

    Simcha - Oh, thank you. So glad you liked the post. :) And I do hope you give it a go when Orbit publishes it here later this year. It is so neat to get to know authors. :) Thank you!

    Carolsnotebook - THank you! I had thought Michael's story would be a great one to showcase as he really came a long way, him and Robin. Wonderful work on both their behalves.

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