Book Nerd Guest Post
My name is Michael J. Sullivan and I’m a full-time novelist. To speak (or type) these words is kind of surreal to me. For those that don't know, writing isn't a career that most can make a living at and I’m still amazed to count myself one of the fortunate few. Not only that, but my wife, who supported our family for years while I banged on the computer keys, has now left her day job so her family can stop complaining about me leaching off her.
Like many, my road has not been an easy one, I wrote books in a variety of genres for over ten years and after finding no traction in getting published…I quit…vowing never to write creatively again. Well, never turned out to be ten years as I couldn’t suppress the itch. This time I decided to write something just to please myself (and my family) I had no plans to publish I put my books out to a few friends and at the urging of my wife and daughter I finally relented to give publishing another try.
That project became my debut novels that most are probably familiar with: the Riyria Revelation fantasy series. I wrote all six books before publishing the first one (yeah crazy I know), so that I could intertwine plot threads throughout. I approached the project like a television series, where each episode has its own conflict and resolution, but taken as a whole, there are sub-plots that span multiple books. The first book of the series, The Crown Conspiracy, was published through a small indie press called Aspirations Media. While well intentioned, they struggled financially, and when I sold out the initial printing in the first fourteen months, they couldn’t afford the reprint. So the rights reverted to me.
Prior to AMI I had had an agent that shopped the series around, but she didn’t get any nibbles so I felt my only choice was to self-publish. At the time, self-publishing had a huge stigma associated with it but I was determined to prove it could be done. From April 2009 to October 2010 I put out five of the six books in the series through Ridan Publishing, a small press started by my wife.
Prior to October 2010, I was selling modestly well, averaging 800-1,000 books a month. Unlike most self-published or indie authors (who price their books at $0.99 or $2.99) I sold mine for $4.95 and at that price so I was finally contributing to the household income. By that time my books were showing up on a number of the Amazon Bestsellers lists such as: Historical Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Action & Adventure, and Men’s Adventure. In addition, my name was appearing on author’s pages such as: Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, Brent Weeks, Ken Scholes, Robert V.S. Reddick, and dozens of others as my books were cross selling well with them.
When we released my fifth book, Wintertide for $6.95 my sales skyrocketed and my wife thought it might be reasonable to approach New York publishers again. We both thought it would take months, or more likely years, IF anything ever became of it, but having been turned down in the past we fully expected further rejection. My foreign rights agent, put together a package and sent it to seventeen fantasy publishers. Immediately she interest from seven of them and within three weeks we decided on Orbit (the fantasy imprint of Hachette Book Group). I was shocked that they were not only offering a six-figure advanced, but were going to fast-track the series and put the books out as a trilogy in three consecutive months.
The next part of my story is really surreal as starting in November 2011 my sales increased ten-fold such that I was selling more than 10,000 a month! I was part of an indie freshman class who all saw significant readership at that time. Some of the names you probably know more than mine: Amanda Hocking, John Locke, and Joe Konrath. Unlike my peers, I never hit the Amazon top 100 (though I got close at 102) but I still sold more than 40,000 books between November and February.
As I write this bio, we are on the cusp of the cutover between Ridan and Orbit. The paperback books have already been removed from the market and the ebooks will disappear at the end of August.
Currently Theft of Swords (paperback & ebooks) and Rise of Empire (paperback) are shipping and the other versions are available for pre-ordering. All three books are topping many of the Amazon lists including #1 Hot New Historical Fantasy (kindle) & #2 Hot New Historical Fantasy (books). The books are also showing up on Top Rated as well as Best Seller Lists for Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, and Historical Fantasy. Theft of Swords was selected for Library Journal's Top 10 Fantasy of 2011 List.
I've completed my new novel Antithesis (although it still needs a lot of editing). This is a fantasy but set in modern times. I also have a literary fiction piece, A Burden to the Earth out to some beta readers. This is much different than my Riyria Revelations, and is in fact the book that made me stop writing for ten years. I really love the way it is written, I doubt that those that love The Riyria Revelations will be interested in it as in many ways it is the “anti-Riyria”. Where Riyria is very plot driven with a lot of action and twists, Burden is a very slow moving exploration of a man’s decent into madness. I love the way this book was written. Will I be able to find an audience for it? I have no idea but I’d love for it to see the light of day.
I recently put out a short story, The Viscount and the Witch which recounts how Royce and Hadrian first met Albert Winslow. The events take place twelve years before the start of the Riyria Revelations.
I'm also working on a new novel...which looks like it will turn into at least two, and possibly three. I don't want to say too much about this project as it is far too early to tell exactly what will happen there. For instance, I just realized I need to write an entire book BEFORE this one so I'll probably have both of them done before seeking publication of the one I'm actually writing.
AWARDS AND ACCOLADES
2012 Fantasy Book Critic's Top 5 Anticipated Releases for Q1 (Heir of Novron)
2012 Civilian Reader's Top 5 List for January (Heir of Novron)
2011 Library Journal Top Ten Best Fantasy (Theft of Swords)
2011 Civilian Reader's Top 3 Picks for December (Rise of Empire)
2011 Civilian Reader's 5 Most Anticipated Releases for November (Theft of Swords)
2011 Library Journal Fantasy Debut of September (Theft of Swords)
2010 Fantasy Book Critic #1 Indie Fantasy (Wintertide & Emerald Storm)
2010 Iceberg Ink Award Best Read (Avempartha)
2010 Fantasy Book Critic Top 25 (Wintertide & Emerald Storm)
2010 Bookworm Blues Overall Best Reads of 2010 (Avempartha)
2010 Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fantasy (The Emerald Storm)
2010 Fantasy Book Critic Top 12 Novels as of First Quarter (The Emerald Storm)
2010 Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Finalist (Avempartha)
2010 Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Finalist (Nyphron Rising)
2010 Fantasy Book Critic Top 5 Novels of Second Half of 2010 (Wintertide)
2009 Winner of Book Spot Central's Fantasy Tournament of Books (Avempartha)
2009 Speculative Fiction Junkie's Top 5 Close Contender(The Crown Conspiracy)
2009 Top 10 Books by Dark Wolf Fantasy Reviews (The Riyria Revelations)
2009 National Indie Book Award Finalist (The Crown Conspiracy)
2008 ReaderViews Annual Literary Award Finalist (The Crown Conspiracy)
2007 Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Finalist (The Crown Conspiracy)
OMNIBUS VERSIONS of RIYRIA REVELATIONS (Orbit)
Theft of Swords (November 2011): The Crown Conspiracy & Avempartha
Rise of Empire (December 2011): Nyphron Rising & The Emerald Storm
Heir of Novron (January 2012): Wintertide & Percepliquis
BOOKS OF THE RIYRIA REVELATIONS (Ridan Publishing)
The Crown Conspiracy (October 2008)
Avempartha (April 2009)
Nyphron Rising (October 2009)
The Emerald Storm (April 2010)
Wintertide (October 2010)
Percepliquis* (January 2012)
Traditions (Part of Twists and Turns Anthology)
The Viscount and the Witch (Oct 2011)
WORKS IN PROGRESS
Antithesis - 100% complete needs editing
A Burden to the Earth - 100% complete out with Beta Readers
Untitled - two book series - 50% complete book2, 50% conceptualization book 1
Awaiting Caesar’s Decree
I’m at an interesting time in my “writing career.” I say that using quotes because in many ways I find it somewhat ludicrous to even speak about career and writing in the same sentence…let alone applied to myself. Many readers probably don’t realize that most authors, even those with multiple books, still have a day job to pay the majority of their bills. For the time being, I find myself alongside the fortunate few, because I write exclusively, and my wife (who had been the bread winner) has been able to quit hers. So now I’m the one supporting our family.
So why is now such an interesting time? Well the final book in my Riyria Revelations has just been released (Heir of Novron on January 31, 2012), and I’m on pins and needles waiting to see if my endeavors will turn out to be a colossal waste of time. How much time? Believe it or not twenty-two years…yes more time than it takes to raise a child…that’s how long I’ve spent with this series.
For those that don’t know, I wrote all six-books before publishing the first. In fact, when I started writing them, I had no intentions toward publication. You see, I had spent over twelve years writing novels and all that work ended up going nowhere. I finally decided to quit and didn’t write creatively for more than ten years. What finally got me to start again was reading Rowling’s Harry Potter. I found myself whisked away through an adventurous tale with characters I enjoyed spending time with. Reading The Sorcerer’s Stone reminded me why I had loved writing…and could again…as long as I didn’t care about publishing.
When I started The Riyria Revelations, all I wanted to do was write a book that I would enjoy. I was also intrigued by the concept of a fantasy series with an overarching plot but told through self-contained episodes. I designed each book to have their own conflict and resolution, but I also hinted at ongoing mysteries and wove plotlines across all the volumes. Having such an interconnected story is why I had to write them all together. I would often come up with a great idea in a later book, but that would require some changes in the early ones…and that would not have been possible if the earlier books were already in print.
When you write for publication, there are a lot of rules you need to follow. The first thing is ensuring that the debut novel is strong…really strong…a knock the socks off their feet strong. This generally means a lot of front-loading of information, and for fantasy books a lot of world building and insights into a character’s history. I didn’t do things that way. Since I wasn’t writing for publication, I decided to reverse the equation. I focused on the last book…this was going to be my magnum opus and I carefully planned for the story to escalate and deepen as it unfolded. I wanted to build the characters and world slowly, in layers, and I was pretty certain that my “audience” (a handful of friends and family) would read to the end. Writing in this manner for the population at large is very unconventional, and very risky. Designing a series where each book is better than one before guarantees that the first will be the weakest link, so you just hang on and hope that enough people will follow you onto the next book.
Last year my books were picked up by Orbit (fantasy imprint of big-six publisher Hachette Book Group), and they have subsequently put out the series as a trilogy (with two books in each volume) starting at Thanksgiving of last year. Originally I had been published through a small press, who had put out the first book, The Crown Conspiracy. When they lacked enough capital to print the second, I switched to self-publishing. I’m amazed at the success I had with these books before they had a major publisher. I had always heard that indie authors were lucky to sell a few hundred books, but I ended up selling more than 70,000 (across five titles) and on four occasions my monthly sales topped 10,000 copies. You might think that would be enough for me to conclude that Caesar’s thumb will point upward, but there’s one small problem…I only published five of the six books, and because the final one was the “big one” I still have no idea if the series as a whole will be well received.
This brings us back to now, and the fact that people can finally read the last book, which is where all the pieces come together. You see, the series was named aptly, and there are many revelations that are finally…well revealed. So far, early reports are encouraging. I’ve left a few reviewers speechless with amazement, and the words “masterful” and “outstanding” have been echoed on numerous occasions.
Still the real thumbs up or thumbs down, won’t come from the reviewers…it will be the readers that determine my fate. No series can catch fire without that illusive word-of-mouth that comes from one person loving the story so much that they just have to get everyone they know reading it. But for that, I still have to wait…again. After all it will take time for people to decide to take a risk, then the books have to climb to the top of their TBR pile, then the reader will need to consume all the volumes (which clocks in at more than 2,000 pages), and only after all that they might start recommending. If they get someone interested, then the whole process starts again with the next person.
So here I stand…waiting patiently (or not so patiently) at the center of the arena. It’s hard not to be excited when seeing the emperor finally stand and look around at the crowd before announcing his decree. I can wait a little while longer…after all it only took fourteen years to conceptualize, four years to write, two and a half years to edit, and nine months of down time waiting for the final book’s release…I can wait a little while longer…especially if it means a thumbs up.
The New Empire intends to mark its victory over the Nationalists with a bloody celebration. On the high holiday of Wintertide, the Witch of Melengar will be burned and the Heir of Novron executed. On that same day the Empress faces a forced marriage, with a fatal accident soon follow. The New Empire is confident in the totality of its triumph but there's just one problem-Royce and Hadrian have finally found the true Heir of Novron—-and they have their own holiday plans.
When author Michael J. Sullivan self-published the first books of his Riyria Revelations series online, they rapidly became ebook bestsellers. Now, Orbit is pleased to present the complete series for the first time in bookstores everywhere.
Heir of Novron is the final volume of The Riyria Revelations and includes Wintertide and —-available for the first time—- the final volume, Percepliquis.
BOOKS IN THE RIYRIA REVELATIONS
Theft of Swords (The Crown Conspiracy & Avempartha)
Rise of Empire (Nyphron Rising & The Emerald Storm)
Heir of Novron (Wintertide & Percepliquis)
Like the rest of Michael J. Sullivan’s books in the Riyria Revelations, Heir of Novron is satisfyingly good and did not give any hint of disappointment. It is the third omnibus in the series that contains the last two books: Wintertide and Percepliquis. The whole series in general will remind readers why the fantasy genre makes for great storytelling. Perhaps the best element is the two main characters, Royce and Hadrian. It is hard to believe that these two heroes were once thieves. This what makes the story so different and unique. Although the characters are so different from one another, the bond between the two is inseparable since the beginning and have come a long way.
In Heir of Novron, all of the questions that have been brewing and waiting to boil over are answered. I must admit that many of the things I anticipated to happen were different, but the way the pieces of the puzzle came together is simply brilliant. The flow of every line on each page is liquid-like. The mechanism that Michael uses is worthy of some kind of award. He is a great story-teller that completely clutches your attention from beginning to end and beyond. The world-building, character development and story progression are fully entertaining. With great writing comes a great ending. In The Riyria Revelations Series, Michael has proven it.
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