Tag Archives: Tor Books

Professional Wednesday: Creativity and the Market

As a professional writer — as a professional in the arts — I take on several career roles. I am an artist, of course. I create. I am an editor, and not just in the traditional sense of editing the work of others, as I’m doing now for the Derelict anthology. I also have to edit myself. All the time. Anything I publish will face edits from another editor, but first my work has to get through my own editorial process, which is fairly rigorous.

I am also a business professional. I make career decisions on a weekly-if-not-daily basis, often in consultation with my agent, but not always. Most short fiction projects don’t involve an agent, and the same is true of some projects that I put out through small presses or that I might publish myself.

And, of course, I am responsible for a good deal of my own marketing and publicity. Maintaining this blog, and the websites on which it appears, keeping up with social media, etc. — all of this is time consuming and absolutely essential to my career.

Most of the time, I can fulfill each of these roles without my actions in one coming into conflict with my actions in another. Most of the time. But what about those few occasions when there are conflicts of a sort? What do I do then?

I’m often asked whether my publishers have pressured me to write a book a certain way in order to have more marketing appeal, or (related) whether I have ever had a publisher tell me to write a certain type of book. And the short answer is no. I have worked with many editors on my various series, and (as I mentioned last week) all of them have been very clear in saying that my books are, well, MY books. I retain final creative control over how the books are written. Editors may make suggestions designed to improve the book, but these are suggestions and in the end decisions about content are mine to make.

That said, though, I have throughout my career received suggestions that were designed to maximize the marketability of a book or series. Again, the decision has always been mine to make, but marketing suggestions often come with what we might call “implied incentives.”

“If you do it this way, you may well sell more books and make more money.”

Some of these choices are huge in scope. How huge? Well, when I first pitched the Thieftaker series, I envisioned it as an epic fantasy, set in an alternate world. My editor at the time suggested that turning it into a historical would make it more marketable, and, he added, if I did so Tor would be able to give me a bigger advance. He suggested I set the books in London. I didn’t want to do that, but once I started thinking about it as a historical, I hit on the idea of setting the series in Boston. And, as they say, the rest is history… [Rimshot]

At other times, the artistic/marketing choices are more subtle. And that brings us to the immediate inspiration for this post. I am starting the edits on a supernatural thriller that I have recently sold to a small press. The first book in the series is complete, and I love it. But I have been aware from the very start that the book will not be easy to market. It’s a thriller, intended for adults, but it has a teenaged protagonist and a few elements that convinced my agent we should market the book as a YA thriller. I wasn’t sure about this, but she was, so that was how we pitched it to publishers.

Well, a publisher bought the book, and the series, but like me, the publisher sees the book as an adult thriller and has asked me to make some changes that she feels will make the marketing of the book easier. Her initial suggestions struck me as too drastic, and so we talked and have reached a compromise that satisfies our shared marketing concerns while also preserving my original concept for the book and overall project.

And this is really the point of today’s post.

As an artist, I have in mind a plot, a set of characters, a setting, a tone and pace and voice for the book. I am committed to that initial vision, and certainly will follow it as I write and revise the first iteration. Once we transition from the creative impetus to the actual marketing of the book, though, the business side of my professional brain kicks in a little. I will not jettison my creative vision for money. Not ever. But I also will not — cannot — allow my adherence to a creative vision to undermine a book’s commercial viability. My goal as writer is to put out the best product I can, and to make a living. So, I will strive to find a balance between respecting my creative efforts and working with the publishing professionals who have agreed to put out my book, and who are skilled in the marketing side of the business.

Writing is my art. It’s my profession. It’s my source of income. I’m not interested in preserving my amateur status in order to make the literary Olympics. I want to write, and I want to make money doing it. In order to be satisfied, not only with my work, but also with the results of that work, I need to blend my roles and get the most out of each project — creatively and financially.

That’s what it means to be a professional.

Keep writing.

The Re-Release of My First Novel

To fans of the original, thank you for the support you’ve shown me over the years. I couldn’t be more grateful. To those coming to the series for the first time, welcome. I hope you enjoy reading these novels as much as I have enjoyed revisiting them.

Children of Amarid, by David B. Coe (jacket art by Romas Kukalis)Nineteen years ago, I realized my lifelong dream of becoming a published author of fantasy with the release from Tor Books of Children of Amarid. I followed that up with the second and third volumes of my LonTobyn Chronicle, The Outlanders and Eagle-Sage, books that would win me the Crawford Fantasy Award and establish me in the business.

I have always loved these books, and yet, as I’ve moved forward with my career, I’ve also been aware of their flaws. They were passionate and decently written, but they were also plagued by many of the problems endemic to first novels. For years, I’ve wanted to go back and edit them.

In 2005, they went out of print. Eventually, the rights to the books reverted to me, and at last I was able to revise them. This month, the long process of preparing the books for re-issue finally comes to fruition.

Children of Amarid, art work by Romas KukalisI’m delighted to announce that the Author’s Edit of Children of Amarid is now available from Lore Seekers Press in ebook format and trade paperback. The book bears the original art work by Romas Kukalis, as will the subsequent volumes, which we hope to publish in September and December respectively. I have not changed the story in any way. The plot twists, characters, world building, and magic system all remain as fans of the original novels will remember them. But the prose has been polished, made leaner and more concise. The result is a novel that reads as I wished it had all those years ago.

To fans of the original, thank you for the support you’ve shown me over the years. I couldn’t be more grateful. To those coming to the series for the first time, welcome. I hope you enjoy reading these novels as much as I have enjoyed revisiting them.

And finally, to those attending ConGregate in High Point, North Carolina next weekend, please come to the Friday night book launch. My book will be one of several feted that evening.

A Plea For Calm, Today on the Blog Tour

Today on the 2015 Summer-of-Two-Releases Virtual Tour, I am posting over at Black Gate Magazine. This is a different sort of post for me. I have, thus far, avoided any comment on the Sad/Rabid Puppies-Hugo controversy, believing that I would be best off staying out of it. I write for both Tor Books and Baen Books, two publishers at the center of the matter, and I didn’t want to draw fire from either side. In this post, though, I break my silence. It’s time we recognized that we have far more in common with one another than not. It’s time for an end to this mess. Read the post here.

Today’s Blog Tour Post, by Ethan Kaille!

Today on the 2015 Summer-of-Two-Releases Virtual Tour, we have a special post from Ethan Kaille, the conjuring, thieftaking hero of the Thieftaker Chronicles. Ethan has a lot to say about the state of Boston, his home city, in the winter of 1770, and I’m sure you’ll want to read his essay, and perhaps even pose a question or two. You can find the post at Fantasy Book Spot. I hope you enjoy it.

Dead Man’s Reach, book IV in the Thieftaker Chronicles, comes out a week from tomorrow! Pre-order your copy today!

A New Post About Publishing With Two Houses

Today the 2015 Summer-of-Two-Releases Virtual Tour returns to Magical Words with a post about what it’s like to publish two series, under two different names, with two different publishers. We are a little under two weeks away from the July 21 release of Dead Man’s Reach, book 4 in the Thieftaker Chronicles, which I publish with Tor Books under the name D.B. Jackson. And we’re a little under a month away from the August 4 release of His Father’s Eyes, book 2 in The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, which I publish with Baen Books under my own name, David B. Coe. Hence the post, which you can find here. I hope you enjoy it.