the Author

State of the Author July 2021 edition, ending an era

Posted in self-publishing, DAW, Essalieyan.

This might be a bit on the long side. That’s the warning.

Some of you may remember a couple of months ago I said things were… stressful (possibly worst month ever) on Twitter.

If I had been thinking, I would have made certain to sepa­rate terrible month from pandemic, which has – for my family – remained a large and consis­tent weight in the back­ground. We’ve been lucky; we’ve lost no one. We made sure that the less internet-savvy were signed up and vacci­nated, and we got vacci­nated ourselves; I have no under 12s in my house­hold, and there are none in the house­hold we bubble with when its safe to do so.

Mostly, however, what I was thinking was: How do I tell people? And what do I do going forward?

So let’s start with that first part: Telling people the bad news.

TLDR: DAW will no longer be publishing the West novels going forward.

***

My first four books were published by Del Rey. They were The Books of the Sundered, my first sale. And I watched those with anxiety. I’ve worked in book­stores since I was sixteen years old, so I knew that books that I loved with the passion only an adoles­cent can achieve disap­peared without a trace, going out of print and becoming inaccessible.

It was shocking to me; it was incon­ceiv­able that some­thing so bril­liant could disap­pear without warning: when I was sixteen, I equated “good” with “successful”. If I loved it, how could it be unsuccessful?

The obvious answer is: not everyone loved it as I did, because we all have different tastes (the accep­tance of this obvious answer would not occur until another decade had passed.)

So the first series did not, in the end, succeed at Del Rey.

I there­fore knew that I could pour my heart into some­thing that would, in the end, fail to reach the readers who would love it, a reminder that publishing is a busi­ness. Because I knew that this happened to 95% of all published books, I accepted the loss and continued to write. Because I believed that if I were better, readers would come.

I wrote the Hunter books; Hunter’s Oath was my first DAW title. I wrote The Sun Sword series.

The House War series was, in the end, eight books long. It was supposed to be shorter; it was supposed to be fewer books. It would have been, had Hidden City not insisted on being the book it became, because my intent with that, when I started it six times, was to write a braided past/present narrative.

I always watched the sales numbers with a certain tension, and that esca­lated with time. I have always loved my West readers, and I have always, always loved these books — but truth­fully, the sales numbers failed to climb in any way.

In publishing that’s … not good.

***

I had written 201k words of the first book in the last arc of the Essalieyan Michelle West novels — and I had real­ized that a choice I made at about the 90k mark was the wrong choice. This meant losing 110k words, and also: revising the begin­ning again. As this was a deci­sion about the book itself, an internal deci­sion not a requested revi­sion, it was less of a struggle for me; I’ve frequently tossed out things that don’t work or aren’t working.

In that case, I go back to the point at which I took a wrong turn, and then begin­ning writing forward again, throwing out all the previous words that didn’t work, with the knowl­edge that the book I have now will go forward in entirely different ways. And it’s partic­u­larly neces­sary for a first book.

While discussing this with my editor, a different cloud appeared on the horizon.

***

DAW is, and has been, distrib­uted by Penguin Random House (PRH going forward) for decades (I could go into their distri­b­u­tion gran­u­larly, because they started with NAL, which was absorbed by Penguin NA, and then by Random House, but I think the general state­ment covers that).

DAW has offices in the PRH building in NYC; their books are produced in the PRH produc­tion depart­ment; their books are sold to stores by the PRH sales reps; their books are ware­housed in PRH ware­houses and shipped by those ware­houses. DAW is, however, inde­pen­dently owned. But all of the elements of the publi­ca­tion process are tied tightly into Penguin Random House. Someone with no knowl­edge of SFF publishers could easily be forgiven for assuming that DAW is a divi­sion – like Ace or Roc – of Penguin Random House, given office space, etc.

They aren’t.

Edito­rial is inde­pen­dent. Edito­rial deci­sions are made by DAW, not a PRH edito­rial board.

Distri­b­u­tion, however? All PRH. In order to be distrib­uted by PRH, DAW has a distri­b­u­tion agree­ment, which gets rene­go­ti­ated as it nears the end of its term. This agree­ment is what gets DAW all of the above: office space, production/PR depart­ments, sales force, ware­house and ship­ping-to-book­stores. All of the above is neces­sary.

That nego­ti­a­tion period is this year. And the nego­ti­a­tions have impacted the West novels which are a) too long and b) not great sellers. My DAW editor has, in spite of this, continued to publish the West novels until now, because she’s always loved them.

But she can’t do that going forward.

This isn’t her fault. This isn’t, in the end, PRH’s fault either, although it is largely their deci­sion. I’d like to think it’s not mine, because I wrote the books and as much as I can love anything I’ve person­ally written, I love them fiercely.

But the last leg of the West series will no longer be published by DAW. While writing is a creative art, publishing is a busi­ness. PRH has no personal connec­tion to me or my writing; what they have is numbers, which is how busi­ness deci­sions are ulti­mately made.

***

So, now I’m here. I have an unfin­ished first book (of a theo­ret­ical four, but. Well. Me.)

First, I should make one thing clear: I want to finish the final arc in this series.

***

This has been a stressful couple of months as I’ve tried to envi­sion some way forward. I did try to start again from page zero, to see if I could struc­ture the books to be shorter, because shorter books would be accept­able to PRH. But as this would only be proven true or false when I reached the end, and no attempt I’ve ever made has worked, I gave up on that.

I then began to look at the publisher side costs. Editing. Copy-editing. Proof-reading. Covers. Those expenses would, except for the cover, be at least double what most self-publishers would have to pay, because the books will be longer, and most free­lancers charge by either page or per 100k words.

Revenue neutral activity is, essen­tially, a hobby. It makes no money, but you do it for love. If the costs are higher than the income coming in it becomes an expen­sive hobby. We work to earn money and we pour it into our hobbies because we love our hobbies, right? But… for most of us, a hobby is distinctly sepa­rate from work.

It’s like I’ve been working two part-time jobs to make up full-time income, and I’ve just been laid off from one of them. What I should be looking for is another part-time job, right? That would be the profes­sional deci­sion. In this case that would mean … different books, different publisher.

Purely self­ishly, I don’t want to do that. I want to write these books.

Could I write them in my spare time? Could I tran­si­tion to hobby, to creation entirely for myself? Possibly. But the books would get written glacially slowly, because the hobby must be put aside for the day-job, the work, when there are tight deadlines.

But the West novels have been part of my writing life since 1994 (Hunter’s Oath was published in 1995). Even when I started the CAST novels, I wrote the West novels. At any time I’ve attempted to set them aside because of burning dead­lines, all of the rest of the writing grinds to a halt. Some part of my creative heart rests in, relies on, the writing of these books. I write the West novels (and struggle with them) while I also write the Sagara novels.

Any house­hold layoff has house­hold reper­cus­sions, so of course I’ve been talking about this with the long-suffering husband: Can I skip finding another part-time job for six years, and how will that impact the house­hold? How will the lack of income and the added costs of self-publishing affect the house­hold? How much of those costs could be recouped?

Self-publishing will make some money. But…

Self-publishing is most successful at shorter lengths (like, say, 75k words), and at shorter publishing inter­vals (three to four months).

The Michelle West novels are exactly the wrong type of novels for self-publishing success. I don’t know how many of my current readers will follow ebook only new releases. (The cost for print on demand for Broken Crown, a book whose length I do know, would be 36.00 US for a trade paper­back, assuming I make 1.00 a book, and the PoD service takes the rest. Page-count defines the price of a PoD book, sadly.)

Because the publishing gaps between books would be much longer than self-publishing ideal, and the books would be 3 – 4x too long, I… can’t gain trac­tion, in a purely sales sense, publishing them myself. Also: These are related to the previous books; they’re not some­thing new. They’re not the books that will draw in new readers because I can’t control the pricing/promotion of all of the books.

***

And so, I now turn to you; to readers of the Michelle West novels.

Someone had suggested I look at kick­starter, but I think an actual kick­starter would kill me, because kick­starter relies on excite­ment and hype and a type of bubbly cheer that … I don’t have. I might survive one Kick­starter, but I wouldn’t have to do that for just one book — I’d have to do it, over and over again, until all the books were written. Most of the people who live with me think it would kill me — or kill them by exten­sion. They’re not fans of the idea.

But I think I could start a Patreon.

Patreon allows authors/creatives to create commu­ni­ties of inter­ested readers/fans who can afford to pay a monthly fee (or a per-piece fee) to the author. They keep 8%-11% of that, and forward the rest to me.

The Patreon will focus entirely on the West novels, and the final arc in the Essalieyan universe; that will be its sole purpose. Any content, aside from progress reports, will be about, or come from, the West novels as they’re written.

I do not want this to be any pres­sure for my readers. I under­stand that readers want books, and readers buy/borrow books. Obvi­ously, a Patreon is not a book. I’ll make the finished book avail­able for Patreon supporters around the time its final form is ready for publi­ca­tion, and I will self-publish the book for readers who aren’t inter­ested in the Patreon.

I’m not expecting to earn a living from Patreon, but the Patreon will do two things: It will defray the various neces­sary publi­ca­tion expenses, and it will remind me, when writer-anxiety is at its height (which, sadly, happens inter­mit­tently through every single book) that I’m not the only person who wants to see these books through to the end. There will be some comfort knowing that people who both want – and can afford – to support my Patreon are as invested in seeing these books written as I am. It will be a harbor, a small bubble within which I can continue to work, and from which these books will emerge into the wider world.

I know that covid has kind of knocked many of us side­ways, some of us econom­i­cally. I also know that some people aren’t comfort­able with the Patreon model, and that’s totally fine. Some of you have been with me since the begin­ning – and without you, I wouldn’t have never have come this far. I’m grateful for that.

I will still give State of the Author posts here. I’ll write the books them­selves, and arrange for all of the pre-publi­ca­tion edito­rial processes and covers, and I’ll let everyone know when they finally go up for sale. When they do, they’ll be folded into my web-site the same way they’ve always been.

But having made the Patreon deci­sion? I’m a little bit excited. I’m excited about the idea of contin­uing to write the West novels. I’m excited about writing a book, for the first time since I started The Hidden City, in which I don’t start getting ulcers when the book itself hits 175k words and isn’t finished yet. I’m excited about being able to write the series until it’s done, without that terror. There are so many things I have to return to, to fold back in: The Dominion, the Voyani, Adam & Arkosa, Telakar & Elena, but also, the North & Angel — and more.

And with your help, I’ll be able to do that.

ETA: My Patreon link, because of course I forgot to add it to the post >.<

90 Responses to State of the Author July 2021 edition, ending an era

  1. Joey says:

    Hugs! Thank you for sharing this with us.

  2. Mary Grove says:

    Dear Michelle
    Absolutely behind you on this one. Just let us know as soon as you’re set up. Your West books were the first ones I found and I love them dearly. They’re on my peri­odic re-read list (and not just to remind me what’s happened before I dive into a new one.). I believe they matter, they have room for the wild and fantastic side of fantasy, the mythic strain that touches humans deep in our DNA, in racial memory or what­ever that aspect is of the self that under­stands poetry, hope, joy and despair, even when it’s not our own. I need those books, because they feed that part of me in ways few other authors do (Tolkien, Pat McKillip, Guy Gavriel Kay and Nina Kiriki Hoffman are some others). So please keep writing them and I’ll support you however I can.
    many thanks for all the gifts you given so freely over the years!
    Mary Grove

  3. Adama Hamilton says:

    Please let me know how to sign up to be a Patreon!
    You’re a trea­sure and deserve to be supported for all you offer, the magic, adven­tures, philo­soph­ical pondering, love and beauty you bring to so many by the offering of your writings.
    I’m wishing You Grace & Ease in this tran­si­tion and hope it brings you unex­pected blessings!

  4. Dana says:

    That’s such a stressful situ­a­tion to be in! But I’m so glad you’re going to keep writing. I’ve been reading your West novels since I was 12 and I can’t wait to read the rest of the stories. 

    Best of luck with the Patreon and every­thing else!

  5. Cherie Gardner says:

    I don’t normally do Patreon, but for your books, I will. I love them all.

  6. Kris says:

    That sounds like a terrible struggle to go through but I’m glad (and relieved!) to see you have a thought on how to move forward. I have no idea what it is like to be an author but I know what it is like to be a fan of an author who doesn’t always find enough of an audi­ence for their read­er­ship. And I try to support those authors as much as I can but I am only one person.

    One of those authors is Cath­erynne Valente who can write weird, wonderful, and some­times quite strange novels that are as near and dear to my heart as your books are. She has had a Patreon for a little while now and I’m a patron of hers. I would absolutely be one of your patrons should you choose this path forward. Some months I might be able to sit in a higher patron tier and other months I might have to adjust down depending on my own income but I want to support the authors I love writing the stories I love. And I do love reading the Essalieyan books. Count me in! <3

  7. Miriam says:

    I am so sorry for all the stress around this, and so grateful for expe­ri­encing the world of the West novels (no matter how many more are written,) and so happy that you’re plan­ning to write more. Sign me up for the Patreon! (I didn’t miss a link, did I?)

  8. ElizabethN says:

    Thanks for the update, pass along the link when your Patreon account is up and running.

  9. Sharon Honey says:

    Person­ally, I prefer the written word, however, I will get the books in what­ever format I can. A link would be helpful to patreon. I do want the printed versions and look forward to them. A Gofundme? maybe? Investment?

  10. Laura says:

    Forgive me if I’m missing the link to it in the post above, but sign me up for the patreon! You have been my favourite author for as long as I can remember, and I’d love to support you ❤ And can’t wait to here the end of Kiriel’s story.

  11. michelle says:

    Because I’m nervous in that adren­a­line way, I forgot the Patreon link in the post. I’ve added it to the sidebar, but it’s https://​www​.patreon​.com/​m​s​w​est

  12. I absolutely will join your Patreon. I’ve read your books (and truth­fully the first hook were the absolutely spec­tac­ular Jody A. Lee covers!) since I first found The Broken Crown when it came out (I love your detailed, complex, machi­avel­lian intri­ca­cies) and then the Sacred Hunt Duology, the Sundered, and then Luna’s publi­ca­tion of the Elantra series. To be fair, I am several behind in the Elantra but current on the House War novels. Thank you so much for choosing to find a way to continue the stories of Essalieyan. It would be fabu­lous to be able to continue with Jody’s gorgeous covers if at ALL possible in the print editions, but I just want to continue visiting your worlds for as long as you’ll share them with us. Sending forti­tude and perseverence!

  13. michelle says:

    @Joey: Yes, hugs are good. DAW has always been my secu­rity blanket, for want of a better word.

  14. Laura says:

    Signed up, excited to be supporting 🙂

  15. michelle says:

    @Adama: If you click on the link I added to the post just now, or just look at the sidebar, there’s a link to the Patreon page; if you click a tier, Patreon will then ask you for sign-up infor­ma­tion. Or should. I feel, given I forgot to post the link in the orig­inal post, the universe is set to Monday.

  16. chibipoe says:

    I would be remiss in not lending my aid to this after all these years of following the books and following you on line, from Live­journal to here! <3

  17. I too am not a fan of the Patreon model. But I have been reading your works since 1998 and I ordered the Sundered online because it wasn’t avail­able locally. Thank you for the update. Thank you for making a chal­lenging personal deci­sion that, while compli­cated, still lets those of us so very invested in the series enjoy the journey to the end of the story.

  18. Cindy says:

    I hate to say I haven’t read your West books yet but plan to. What about self publishing ebooks? Patreon is a great idea. I have some musi­cians I help support that way.

  19. Kim Warren says:

    Michelle, I am so glad you will be able to continue the Essalieyan books. There have been too many of my favorite authors that have had excel­lent series and are dropped with no reso­lu­tion. I will be happy to be a patron!

  20. Adama Hamilton says:

    🙏😻🙏

  21. Erik K says:

    I’m so excited to be able to support you directly.

    I know that this is a LOT to be going through for you and I wish you didn’t have to deal with it. But I’m so thankful to have these books in my life. It feels weird to thank you for loving your creation (more!) than I do, but still, thank you for not giving up on a family and world that has been so mean­ingful to me.

    I wish you the best in your new journey!

  22. Philippa says:

    I’m in. A friend lent me her copies of the Sun Sword and Hunter’s books (to that date) in about 2002. I remember, halfway through The Uncrowned King, looking at the remaining pile and feeling so happy there was so much more. I have my own copies now and they are very battered from re-reading. As you say different people like different things: I enjoy the Cast sequence but the Essalieyan novels are the ones I love. I’m very grateful you are contin­uing — and please don’t let finan­cial support (however minimal) ever make you think you have to write what the audi­ence wants. It’s your story.

  23. Dana says:

    I’ve signed up for your Patreon and I’m so very excited to have access to first drafts. I’m currently studying for a Copy Editing Certifi­cate from SFU so it will be very inter­esting to have an inside look at your editing process. I can’t imagine a more enjoy­able way to prac­tice my editing skills. 

    Thank you so much for including the first draft access!

  24. michelle says:

    @Kris: Cat Valente — whose writing I adore — is what my spouse calls paraso­cial. She does a lot of video/discord/etc., stuff that I am… not good at. Really, the only thing I’m good at is writing; my social outreach is sort of Oscar the Grouch. I can talk about writing, about books I love and books I… don’t love, and publishing/business of writing until the cows come home, but suffer from a lack of anything really inter­esting other­wise =/. So: yes, that model absolutely works for her, as it should given the work she puts into it, but it would eat me alive in less than three months.

    So mostly what I’ll do is write, talk about progress in the book, possibly about world-building deci­sions (or: Why Did You Do That, Michelle?)

  25. Melanie says:

    Let me know, I love your novels and will work with you to continue reading them

  26. Hello Michelle,
    First, thank you for laying things out for us. I respect your work and have always, always enjoyed your long-format books, though printing is not an issue to me as I only read them on Kindle. 

    Regard­less, all of this has caused you a large amount of stress and I feel I prob­ably contribute with my frequent comments regarding the length of various books. Again, the length on Kindle is not an issue to me, but I under­stand the length issue for a printed book as well as the issues length brings to “polishing” a book for release.

    I read the West as they become avail­able and frequently re-read the books. I look forward to more West novels and to this series. I love how the House, Oath, and Sun Sword series intertwine.

    Please let us know when you create a Patreon. I will defi­nitely support you at some level.

    Thank you,

    -Robert

  27. Peter Sutton says:

    Your WEST novels are amazing. I love the others too, but if I could only have one series it would be the West/Essalieyan novels.

    I’m in. ANDDON“T CARE HOW FAST YOU WRITE. So no pres­sure. Just even­tu­ally ship a novel and start the next one.

  28. Bryan says:

    I would support you through patreon in order to read the conclu­sion to the series.

  29. Chris Starbuck says:

    I’m so sorry for all the stress you’ve had recently. I know the toll that can take (though my stres­sors are different). But more than my sympathy, I want you to know you have my support (I’ve already signed up on your Patreon). I read a lot — aver­aging about 100 books a year — mostly SFF. I think I’ve read every­thing you’ve published to date that’s avail­able in ebook form. I usually can’t pick just one favorite in any cate­gory (food, writer, artist, singer, what­ever), because I like so many. You are my favorite fantasy author, ahead of Tolkien, Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, S.M. Stir­ling, Tanya Huff, and everyone else. I hope Patreon succeeds in providing the level of finan­cial support you need. My life is richer because of you.

  30. Linda Reed says:

    I am with you. Let us know when the link is avail­able. I have read all your books and tracked down every one I could when they aren’t in ebook form. I enjoy them so much for many reasons: the writing itself, they are not like other sci-fi-fantasy books and I am fasci­nated by where you have gone and will go with them. Keep the faith…I’m sure there are many of us out here.

  31. Phillip Ortman says:

    Go where you will go; in the end, you will return to the Shining Palace, the Shining City; the Northern Wastes birthed you, and they are within you”
    I will gladly support you, as this is the story that dwells within you, and I look forward to finishing the journey with you.

  32. ome says:

    COUNT ME RIGHT IN. No hesi­ta­tion. I began reading your novels with Hunter’s Oath a few weeks after it was published. I’m in the UK. I went into Water­stones, saw the book, loved it and never looked back. At the time Water­stones in Manchester used to have small scale imports of US novel­ists. I don’t think that at the time I bought Hunter’s Oath it had been published in the UK.

  33. sidhecat says:

    Patreon!Patron! What a wonderful idea! I’m all for it! It helps to know you’re not alone, tangibly, when it counts. Write On Michelle!

  34. B says:

    So sorry, this seems so rough. I am a Sagara reader more than West — I have read only a few of those but every Elantra book as soon as it came out. Still I will add you to my Patreon list because I want to support the authors I love and you are one. I hope you manage to to continue writing full time.

  35. Stephen P Engel says:

    Michelle, You are the best writer alive. I am re-reading your West novels, at least my third time. Thank you for finding a ways. Fear not, you will win. :)
    a Proud Patron

  36. Linda says:

    My heart was heavy as I read your words. I’m a long time West fan. I’ve reread the stories many times over. I did an Inktober drawing chal­lenge using your char­ac­ters. The West books mean alot to me. The only time I remember feeling similar is when Kate Elliott didn’t complete her Jaran series. At the time I was sad but thought, hey maybe she would get back to it. She didn’t and I honestly wondered what I could have done differ­ently to keep her writing on this series. This was many years ago and Patreon didn’t exist. Now it does. And I will support your efforts and rejoice in doing so. I’m sorry this has happened to you but I will continue to support so that I can enjoy…your words:)

  37. Andrea H. says:

    I’ve been a reader of the West novels since 1997 and I’m certainly not going to stop supporting you or the books now. I’ve joined your Patreon and I’m looking forward to the process.

  38. I am sorry for the dilemma this temporarily put you in! I confess I am excited for you and defi­nitely count me in! Will this cause you to change your writing process? (I’ve written this 3 times now so I hope this one goes through).

  39. Oh — BTW — maybe you can do a hybrid — do an e‑book with special editions with your signa­ture books in hard­back (charge $100 for them as collector items). I don’t know exactly how Patreon works (please forgive my igno­rance) but maybe have a special run/donation/campaign for hard cover books and when there is enough to cover the cost, again sell a certain number with your signa­ture and the rest on Amazon, etc.

  40. Fiona Cameron-Mackintosh says:

    Count me in!

  41. Alisha says:

    I fully support you finishing your story arc, and the logic behind being unable to self publish due to length and length of time between books. I’m into supporting via Patreon. Can I ask what type of time frame would be between books on this model? Are we talking a year a book, or three to five years? What kind of dead­lines will you give your­self, espe­cially if the Patreon takes off?

  42. Zia says:

    Thank you so much for keeping us updated. I cannot imagine the stress this added to you and hope­fully this helps reduce some of it. I don’t really use patron, but I will defi­nitely be using it now. Thank you for adding the link!

  43. Susan Keyes says:

    Michelle, I am DELIGHTED to be able to support your writing directly — espe­cially if that eases stress for you. I join everyone above in saying that your books are impor­tant to me — espe­cially the West books — their length is part of what makes them so special and memo­rable. Susan K.

  44. ambyr says:

    Nothing else has ever convinced me to create a Patreon account, despite many deserving people I might other­wise like to support; this will.

  45. I discov­ered your books this year and am just now finishing up with War after having devoured all of the others. The complexity of the stories you tell are what make great fantasy IMO and I’m saddened to hear that your publisher won’t be contin­uing to publish them but am glad to hear that you’re going to continue to write them and try to get them to readers.

    And you’re right that the POD print cost for novels of your length is extreme. (Also, as I can attest from my own trilogy collec­tion, they become pretty unwieldy to handle.) It might be worth consid­ering a print run in a mass market size instead when you get to that point. Most self-published authors don’t have an audi­ence to justify that risk, but you prob­ably do and I believe at least Amazon offers a distri­b­u­tion option if you go that route.

    Anyway, I know you weren’t seeking advice from strangers, but if you do need someone to help you navi­gate self-publishing, please don’t hesi­tate to reach out. Across nine pen names I’ve published well over 100 titles so I can at least walk you through the basics of publishing on the various plat­forms. As a reader who loves your books I self­ishly want you to succeed at this so I get access to them.

  46. Katherine Greene says:

    Please tell us if your Patreon monthly amount is not enough for you to do your work. You are a remark­able writer.

  47. michelle says:

    @Alisha: I would give myself the same dead­lines I’ve always given myself (this some­times required grov­eling when I had to, say, throw out most of the first iter­a­tion of SEA OF SORROWS). I know the gap between WAR and HUNTER’S REDOUBT will be longer than the gaps between books in the series — but I also had to take the time to reread and make notes prior to starting the final arc. My hopeful esti­mate is a year between books. The gap between FIRSTBORN and ORACLE was largely due to the fact that I had 430k words worth of “final” book, and then had to split it.

  48. michelle says:

    @purplebuttyrflydiva: No, actu­ally. Having the Patreon will mean I won’t have to change my writing process. I will work on it to the same rough dead­line I’ve always worked on a West novel. Which means I’ll write the new books during the same writing time, the same writing day, as I’ve been doing all along. 

    (Well, not Broken Crown, which was written between 2 – 5 a.m. because I fool­ishly believed that newborn infants sleep 16 hours of the day.)

  49. Tchula Ripton says:

    I’ve joined the Patreon, but I’d also be willing to support ebook publishing, too. What­ever is feasible going forward with these wonderful books. I’d be down for the $100 signed hard­covers as purple­but­ter­fly­diva suggested, if that becomes doable (read prof­itable) in the future. I think we’ve all been going on this journey for so many years, we want to see it through to the very end, what­ever that form may take. Good luck!

  50. Roz Spafford says:

    I so much appre­ciate the way you honour the integrity of the book – what it insists on being, even if it is “too long” in conven­tional publi­ca­tion terms. I think your position/process is one reason the books are extra­or­di­nary. Please post the link to the Patreon while all this energy is bubbling!

  51. michelle says:

    @Tchula: There’s not a way for print to be prof­itable, or at least that’s my prior expe­ri­ence with the short stories. But I’ve been looking at print options to see what’s within a reason­able range and what isn’t – where by reason­able I mean: will pay for them­selves. I didn’t want to promise print because I won’t have a clear enough idea until I’ve finished Hunter’s Redoubt and I know things like actual length and possible page count.

  52. aratariel says:

    I will never forget the day I begged my parents to buy me the Sun Sword novel. I was starving for some­thing that felt like Tolkien but softer, and Sun Sword hit that sweet spot. I’ve bought every West novel in hard­back, and if they went back and did the first arc in hard­back? I’d buy them all again. I’d be glad to help support you write the final part.

  53. @michelle, I would recom­mend some­thing like Grim Oak Press. I don’t know about anyone else, but I would absolutely be down for a special edition of your books like they produce. I’ll pick them up however you find, but I’d adore being able to have hard­covers, etc.

  54. Tanya says:

    I’m sorry for the stress this situ­a­tion has caused. I’ve been reading your books for years and they bring so much joy. I’m delighted there’s a way to support you to continue writing the West novels. Count me in!

  55. Elizabeth Strick says:

    Thank you so much for all the lovely stories you create. While I feel more kinship with Kaylin and the Elantra stories, I found your Sun Sword series when it first came out and have been reading the series since. Thank you for fighting to find a way to finish this story rather than letting it die out and leaving the fans feeling bereft.

    While I am not big on doing patreon, there are a few that I contribute to and you have defi­nitely been added to the list.

    Happy writing!

  56. Shirin says:

    I dont get it. How can Brandon Sanderson earn 7 figures and not you? He is bril­liant, but you are better. Maybe some part has to do with dead-lines. Maybe a faster tempo appeals more to younger readers. I know that you are so good I dont mind waiting for your books because you put so much love in every line it has to take a lot out of you. Besides, I havn’t even read the last 2 books in the House War series because I want to start over.

    I strug­gled against it for years, but now I only read on tablet. Still miss the smell of a book, but apart from that it is defi­nitely more convenient.

  57. Phillip Ortman says:

    My feeling about what made the West novels so special was the fact that there was tremen­dous world building, coupled with a high level of detail into external and internal dialogue. This is prob­ably the my most often recom­mended series, but I know when I make the recom­men­da­tion that they will either not make it through the series, or it will be one of their favorites of all time. And that is special. I am glad that things have progressed to the point where there is oppor­tu­nity like this to bring to light a story that other­wise would not be finished. It holds a very special place for me as my son Devon can attest.

  58. michelle says:

    @Shirin: Purely prag­mat­i­cally, Brandon Sanderson can earn that because he sells really, really well. It’s nothing to do with quality; I think Sanderson has earned his audi­ence because his stories and story­telling are acces­sible while also being big-world and complicated. 

    Ebooks have a lot of advan­tages, the biggest two being: type size and zero shelf space. I still read a lot of print, though.

  59. Sierra says:

    As a reader purely of the Sagara Cast novels, I am plan­ning to subscribe to the Patreon regard­less. Your books have gotten me through both good times and bad times. I don’t think I would be where I am, the person I am, without them. I would be kicking myself if I couldn’t support my favourite author in her time of need.

  60. michelle says:

    @Sierra: It’s truly not neces­sary — you’re already supporting me by buying the books you actu­ally love.

  61. Vance Marker says:

    Michelle,

    Thank you for sharing this information. 

    The “West” novels, as you call them, have had a special place in my heart for some 20 years and I have waited for each new install­ment with an incred­ible sense of antic­i­pa­tion. Without doubt, these books (and you) have become part of my fantasy trinity…. Along with CS Lewis and Tolkien. 

    Thank you for your continued hard work and perse­ver­ance. I will most defi­nitely do my part by purchasing in what­ever form it is ulti­mately published. 

    Godspeed and good thoughts for you as you seek to bring the final arc to fruition!

    Vance

  62. Amber Aberasturi says:

    Michelle,

    I’ve been reading your books since the late 90s. One of the exciting moments in my life was when I emailed you a ques­tion after the publi­ca­tion of The Sun Sword and you answered me :). I intro­duced my hubby to your books after we were married and they are what turned him into a reader. He never enjoyed reading books before yours.

    We are happy to support your Patreon and are so grateful that you are committed to writing the last arc of the story. Thank you for all the time and effort you’ve invested into sharing these worlds with us.

  63. Tracg says:

    Thank you very much about honestly laying out the situ­a­tion and giving us the ability to help. I’ve never been a Patreon before but in this case I am happy to help. Good luck with the writing !

  64. Aëlynn says:

    I’ve read all of your books, after getting blown away by the Sundered series. I’ve also re-read them many times, now usually through the e‑book versions. (Not that we get to travel much these days, but most of your novels aren’t partic­u­larly “portable”. ^_^;;)
    You’re the only author whose books I pre-order (to secure a phys­ical copy) as soon as avail­able. Each new release is some­thing to look forward to, a cele­bra­tion. No matter how much I want to devour each entry as I get it, I have to remind myself to read as slowly as possible. I don’t under­stand why anyone could say they are “too long”. They have always been as long as they needed to be.
    I’m relieved to hear that you’re as eager to complete the Essalieyan arc as I am to read it. I had never partic­i­pated in an online charity auction, but I jumped at the chance of getting a signed copy of First­born. (I’m still rather upset you had to go through such trouble to get it to me, though…)
    I’ve never contributed to a Patreon either, and honestly, if it wasn’t for you, I’d prob­ably wouldn’t, but no. This matters.
    Thank you for writing the books I want to read. Estab­lishing solid world building and creating layered char­ac­ters are skills that are precious when so much is focused on “fast” media. Hope­fully the Patreon will help relieve some of the stress of the past year.

  65. Jurriaan says:

    I really, really want you to write these books — exactly. More need not be said.

  66. michelle says:

    @Aelynn: I’m not upset about mailing the book to you. It’s a bit more hoop jumping but I committed to sending things anywhere in the world — it’s why so many things like this are “US only”. As I’m not USian, I didn’t want to, oh, exclude my own country in the offer. And then, remem­bering how disap­pointing it is to not be able to partic­i­pate, I didn’t want to exclude anyone else’s either. Which turned out to be a good choice. :)

    Thank you.

  67. Aëlynn says:

    No, thank you! As a free­lancer working from home, I’ve had the priv­i­lege of being able to continue working while shielding to protect for my elderly rela­tives as a support bubble. But I’ve seen my share of cancelled projects, delayed projects while the emphasis is put on more prof­itable ones in the short-term, projects seeing their budgets slashed or their scope reduced, etc. Still, I’ve been luckier than some for sure. If anything, the last 18 months have helped me focus on what matters. You really can’t take anything for granted. You being unable to write the end of the series would be an absolute travesty.

  68. Hanneke says:

    Yes please, I’m in!
    Following the link to sign up on Patreon now.

  69. Jo-Ann says:

    Oh Michelle. So very much I want to say. Firstly to echo those who speak of your impor­tance to them and the impor­tance of your writing to them. I’m Liter­ally on my 5th? 6th? read through your books — I mean Liter­ally — I haven’t read anything else (except I tried Once and gave up after 10 pages) for some years now. There IS nothing else that compares. (nothing compares, to you ‑sorry for the song bit). And I agree with that other person, other Persons who say ‘you are above and beyond the.…’ fill in the names of fantasy writer blanks. Comparing you to any other fantasy writer feels…unfair? Maybe That’s it? — meaning, maybe you should Not be consid­ered as a ‘genre’ writer? To me, your writing stacks up to and surpasses in all ways Any and all ‘literary’ fiction I’ve read. I get a bit enraged (sorry) that you are not appre­ci­ated as you should be by the ‘busi­ness’ and that you don’t have the success or support that other Much weaker writers do enjoy. But if this is how it’s gonna be well then — fine. If it works for you then I’m way Way in and will support what­ever you want however you want. Your words, your stories, your char­ac­ters, your Layers (i Will get to explaining what I mean by that, err, someday…) are food for my soul and have enriched my life immea­sur­ably. Thank-you so Much for every­thing you’ve created you Maker you. But. I need a phys­ical copy. Online or digital reading just does Not do it for me.…so there’s that. I’ll cope if I Have to but, well, just sayin’.

  70. michelle says:

    @Jo-Ann: You aren’t the only reader to feel that way. I am looking into options, but — as I don’t have a finished book, research is by neces­sity very general. Because it’s the page/wordcount that defines how much a book will actu­ally cost.

    But the thing about other very popular writers is: they’re popular because readers love their books. Yes, we can have favorites in the core group of authors for whom we read every single word — but the sales are down to readers who love those books.

  71. Bill Peschel says:

    FYI: I saw your post excerpted on The Passive Voice website, and since he asked for a break­down on printing costs for a book your size through KDP, I decided to cut and paste my response here.

    Here’s the break­down using KDP’s calcu­lator (and double-checking against my wife’s book, “The White Elephant of Panchen,” which in trade paper­back is 624 pages long and we sell for $18.95 and realize $3.03 royalty).

     ‘The Broken Crown’ is 768 pages long. (note: I know this is paper­back, but this is all I have to work with.)

    According to Amazon: fixed cost is 85 cents per book and .012 per page, so her book would cost $10.07 to print (and which she could pay to get author copies to resell).

    Her royalty, assuming she sells it on Amazon for $18.95, would net her $1.30 per book.”

    Similar pricing would apply to IngramSpark, their self-publishing vision, but their royalty struc­ture means you’d have to raise your retail price a dollar to get a similar return.

    If you have any ques­tions, feel free to email me for details.

  72. michelle says:

    @Bill: No, this is perfect thank you. The last time I looked at PoD for Broken Crown, it was 38.00 retail (which would be: cost to print and then retail price so book­stores who might order it would actu­ally make their 40% margin). But this was some years ago, and about 2 years ago, someone costed it out on Create­Space as 25.00 (US) but — I didn’t have a book that long at that time. 

    I’ve only done one PoD book (Lulu, for the short story reprint collec­tion) but it was much shorter — 110k words. And actu­ally, the cost is pretty much what the cost at that time was. But going through Ingram means the price has to be higher because book­stores have to make some­thing. Does the 18.95 price apply only to Amazon, do you know offhand? If no, that’s absolutely fine — I can look into when I … actu­ally have a book finished that needs printing.

    (Let me add: if 18.95 is the cost of the book itself, the retail cost would have to be 31.50 for it to make Ingram’s retailer 40% discount. Short-selling at 20% just means the price will still be 31.50 on the book­store end.)

  73. I am so very glad you are contin­uing the West series. I love all your books, and, I believe, have them all. I have read the Sun series many times, as well as the House Wars books. I love getting your updates, and am glad you and your family are doing well through this COVID thing.

  74. I’d like to add that if you are in contact with Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, they recently posted about making paper copies avail­able of one of their most recent Liaden chap­books. They’ve been slog­ging through this whole print on demand bit and know it well. https://​sharon​leewriter​.com/​2021​/​07​/​b​a​d​-​a​c​t​o​r​s​-​p​r​i​n​t​-​e​d​i​t​i​o​n​-​u​p​d​a​te/

  75. michelle says:

    @Jo-Ann: Clearly I am a dinosaur when it comes to PoD. I’ve only done one — for the West short story reprints. At the time that I costed a full length (West) novel out it was … a lot more expen­sive than it appears to be now, many years later. 

    I’m defi­nitely looking into print — but first I have to write the book because every­thing depends on the length of the book itself :)

    @Kat: I will take a look there, as well. I’ve never done sepa­rate chap­books, but we’ve certainly sold them in the book­store before. I know Charles de Lint has done them as well, in the past.

  76. Jo-Ann Pieber says:

    @michelle: Do Not want my own dinosaur ways (not wanting to read digi­tally) to cause you Any anxiety. Do Not fret about phys­ical printing at all (or perhaps Just yet?…) — yes, just write as you can and yes! as much as you can/want. I’m also one of ‘those’ who, in a corner (or out in the open) Will choose based on length — but in a way that is the obverse of most others. The Longer the Better. It’s my short­hand guide to authors who have Some­thing To Say. I want a world full of char­ac­ters and complex­i­ties, inte­rior thoughts and Lots of dialogue, all the magic and myth and the magic in the mundane — and humour too, though that is more preva­lent in the Cast series. p.s I should not have called you a Maker in my earlier comment but rather an Artisan for you are that indeed. Not because you provide the length and elements noted above (although that does help for me) but because In that length and with those elements your writing is engaging, compelling, charming, moving, grip­ping — wonderous and awe-inspiring. So very thrilled for you (and me) that the Patreon thing is gath­ering your readers and garnering the support you need so you can keep writing.

  77. michelle says:

    @Jo-Ann: It’s not just you. There are people who have been with me since 1995, and people who started in 1997, and there *were no ebooks* then. They’ve been print readers all along. I’m very far from having a finished book, but I promise I will revisit this and try to make things work when I do.

  78. Agustine says:

    Michelle, I’m in. I’ve enlisted myself in your Patreon account. Your books have added much joy in my life for more than a decade. Every new books is a promise of endless excite­ment, n i have all of your books (SunSword, Hunters, Sundered, Elantra, Wolves, name them all) in print and e‑books. Write on, Michelle. We do sincerely wish that this Patreon will relieve some of your tensions on your end. Cheers! =D

    Agus­tine

  79. Shirin says:

    I hope it didn’t sound as if Sanderson is unde­serving. Absolutely not. I only compared him because his Storm­light Archives are same scope as your War-series (I think). So I was pondering the reasons why he reaches more readers. I can under­stand how — maybe —  the sword series was a little more intim­i­dating for a new fantasy reader. Is it promotion?

    Also. Good thing you are not US-only since I live in Sweden. That would have been so…mean! :-(

  80. michelle says:

    @Shirin: You didn’t — I kind of rolled up an answer to other things I’ve seen into this one as well =/. The reason writers like Terry Good­kind were popular is because people liked their books. But I’ve never noticed that readers only read *one* author, or love only one author’s books. I might not under­stand why partic­ular authors work for their readers, but… I know they have readers because some­thing about their books absolutely did.

    But… I don’t think it was promo­tion. Broken Crown did sell, but I think the book was just not acces­sible enough. I think the series was, as you’ve suggested, more intim­i­dating for that reason. I’ve worked in book­stores for so long I don’t believe that promo­tion will instantly create best­sellers. I’ve seen some heavy promo­tion fail utterly. And this is because while huge promo­tion might swing store orders, the books them­selves didn’t latch. Promo­tion doesn’t hurt, of course :).

  81. Christine Olson says:

    What if someone wants to donate more than $10/month …say, $25?

  82. chibipoe says:

    Chris­tine, you can adjust the amount if you want to donate more than the top tier.

  83. Zia says:

    @Christine — when you pick the $10 tier it does give you the option to pick your own price. I didn’t test it out myself as I’m on a super strict budget so my choice was already a stretch, but it does look like it’s an option.

  84. Christine Olson says:

    @chibipoe@zia … thank you! I hadn’t looked, and did not know. I appre­ciate the info! If I could afford it, and it would hurry along the finished product, I’d contribute more, ha! But, one cannot hurry genius, I suppose. I’ve been a fan since the begin­ning, and have purchased many of Michelle’s books to give as gifts, and created several new fans.
    @Michelle … we’re all wishing you the very best!

  85. michelle says:

    The state of Michelle’s brain: I saw that these comments had been made, went to the blog, and couldn’t find them. I was looking on the wrong post >.>

    As Zia says, the tier amounts appear to be the *minimum* amount for the tier. I discov­ered this the day the Patreon launched. 

    Hilarity ensued in the house­hold (which means my family found it hilar­ious) while I hesi­tantly wrote to someone to ask if maybe they’d mistyped the amount? Maybe they’d added a zero they didn’t mean to add, and if so changing it before the 1st would mean they wouldn’t have to deal with refunds and correc­tions? (Spoiler: it was not a mistake.)

    The reason I chose the tier amounts I chose is this: $2 a month is $24 a year. It’s the cost of a US hard­cover, an expen­sive trade paper­back, or a very expen­sive ebook. $5 a month is 60.00 a year, which… is the cost of an AU HC, but the cost of 2 trade paper­backs or an extremely expen­sive ebook. And $10 a month is … a lot. But… I’ve spent that much on a single book before because I desper­ately wanted it (it was a hard­cover special edition), so maybe, just maybe that could be justi­fied. Somehow. If it were the only way to get that book? I’d’ve paid it.

    But… I’d’ve also had a fancy book in hand. T_T

    There was discus­sion about higher dollar value tiers. But the discus­sion ended about five minutes in, maybe less, because I was starting to hyper­ven­ti­late, and it was accepted that I could not ask people for more because the guilt would eat me alive. What could I possibly do that would be worth that much??

    Because I’m a mother and an oldest sister, I worry. I try not to worry AT other people because while I’m a mother and oldest sister, they’re neither my chil­dren nor my siblings, and no one likes to be nagged – even by their own families.

    Could I pledge $10 to a Patreon tier? Yes. Now. But I couldn’t have when my kids were young. I might have managed $2. But I prob­ably would have managed none, things were just so tight. 

    Would that have meant I didn’t love the books or the author? NO

    I had two fears: 1. Almost no one would come. That’s a pretty obvious anxiety, so it prob­ably doesn’t need too much expla­na­tion. The other: 2. People would feel oblig­ated to join. 

    I am hugely, hugely grateful that the Patreon worked so well. I’m also a bit over­whelmed — the response was totally outside my expec­ta­tions. But: I did choose tiers for a reason, and I don’t want anyone to think they have to go over those tiers >..

  86. Hey Michelle, sorry to hear that DAW isn’t contin­uing with the series. I know you think Kick­starters would be a lot of work (and stress), but it doesn’t have to be. I think you situ­a­tion is PERFECT for Kick­starter — and I would like to discuss with you some alter­na­tives that would make it hassle free — and successful. Please drop me a line so we can talk more.

  87. DeDe says:

    I just saw this Michelle — so sorry to hear. Feels like a kick in the gut. I can’t imagine how you felt. I have never heard of Patreon, but will defi­nitely figure it out. I have enjoyed your books for so many years, and will continue to support you in what­ever way I can. Thank you for working so hard to find a way to keep writing that final arc!
    I have never read an ebook before — but you will be my first! LOL — I will prob­ably try and find a way to print out the dang thing on my printer. Does that work?

  88. michelle says:

    @DeDe: The hard work was mostly self-inflicted – anxiety and its related stress. But I’ve been so, so lucky. I have the support I was terri­fied to ask for, and I’m writing the books I desper­ately wanted to write. 

    I’m…not sure you can print an ebook. I have been looking at print options since before I started the Patreon. If worse comes to absolute worse, I’ll do what I did for the Memory of Stone paper­back — which is Print on Demand and which I don’t hate. It’ll just be expen­sive to buy. But I’m exploring all possible options, some of which have opened up to me because of this, which I wouldn’t have consid­ered possible otherwise.

    My goal with Patreon was to be able to pay for the pre-publi­ca­tion editorial/production services I consid­ered neces­sary: editing, copy-editing, proof-reading, cover art, cover design. Print on Demand requires a bit more because of pages, page-flow, but — I can now hire someone to do that, although I *like* the print book options Vellum offers: not fancy, but good. (Most books have both a “text” designer and a type­setter; the former designs what the book pages *should* look like; the latter makes it work. Or screams and shouts at the unre­al­istic demands of the designer.)

    The books are going to be written. They are also going to be put out into the world with the same atten­tion & care that all of the prior books were. So mostly I feel relieved, happy, and some­what deter­mined. Don’t worry about me or for me, now — I am in a really good space :)

  89. Celestine says:

    Thank you for going on Patreon. Delighted to contribute. I feel a connec­tion to authors when I can do this as I feel it gives directly back to them. A “You’re Awesome!” kind of thing I can do. I’ve loved your books for over 20 years and share them with everyone I can.

  90. michelle says:

    @Celestine: Thank you <3. I’ve been both surprised and grateful at the number of readers who feel that way.

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