Friday, November 8, 2013


Michael will answers questions on Sunday if you'd like to leave one in the comments.

You all know I live and breathe fantasy, write it and read it. But I'm pretty particular about what I read. So when I say I've become a fan of this author, it's because his books are on my shelf of favorites. That's not a compliment I give lightly.

I'm overjoyed to have Michael J. Sullivan here to discuss his books and teach us something about his remarkable journey from small press to self-published to traditional published, all with the same series of books. He's the author of the Riyria Revelations, the Riyria Chronicles, and Hollow World series as well as some short stories.

I, and I’m sure many others, find it inspiring that you were first published with a small press, then moved to being self-published, and then got your tradition publishing deal, all with the same books, the Riyria Revelations. Can you share a little about that journey and to what do you attribute the success?

The full credit goes to my wife, who has been the architect of “the business side” of my writing. I think it illustrates a kind of persistent determination that is so important in publishing. Robin is the type of person that doesn’t let obstacle stop her. She’ll find a way to go over, dig under, or break through any wall in her path.

Decades earlier, I had tried and failed at the whole publishing game, and when I picked up the pen again it was only on the condition that I wouldn’t seek publication. But Robin was convinced that the books needed to get “out there,” so she took it upon herself to do exactly that. She sent out hundreds of query letters, persevered through the rejections, and eventually landed an agent. At the time, we thought we were on our way. A year later we still had no offers, so she moved her concentration from the big-six to the smaller independent companies. My first contract was with AMI, a small press out of Minnesota. When they fell on hard times, and couldn’t raise the money for the print run on the second book, she jumped into self-publishing. As the series neared its completion, and sales were starting to pick up, she thought it might be worth submitting to New York again, and she was right. Our agent sent the book to 17 publishers (all whom had seen the same project many years before and rejected it). Half of them expressed immediate interest, and Orbit made a really attractive pre-emptive bid…and the rest, as they say, is history.

 What would you say was the hardest step along that journey? Getting your first break? Deciding to self-publish? Deciding to switch to tradition publishing? Getting an agent or something else?

Is “all of the above” too much of a copout? Seriously, though, the publishing business is rarely easy no matter which route you take. I compare publishing much like hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains. You climb, struggling all the way, and just as you reach the crest, you look out to see row after row of other peaks extending out to the horizon. There is always a new challenge to overcome.

Having done the full gamut, I’d say that each path has its own challenges, and I wouldn’t classify one route has harder or easier than the other.  I will say that getting that very first independent person who says “I like this,” is a monumental step. And it, more than any others, makes you think, “I just might be able to make this thing work, and I’m not totally delusional about my writing ability.”

One thing you would change of your writing journey, if you had a magic lamp/time machine?

Honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing about my publishing path. I think doing it the way I have has given me great perspective, which is especially important given all the flux in the publishing business right now. I’m more agile than most, because I’ve done it all and can pick and choose from a wide range of possibilities for each project. My latest novel (Hollow World – releasing in April) is a true hybrid. I sold the audio rights to one publisher, the print rights to another, but I’ve kept the ebook rights. For most authors, they just keep publishing in whatever way they started out with, and I think that they could benefit from a little more diversity.

On the writing end, I wouldn’t have taken my ten-year hiatus. At my writing pace, that could have meant another 20 – 25 books. As I get older, I realize that many of my stories will die with me, as I won’t have enough years left to write them all. At the time I quit, it seemed to make perfect sense; I had written twelve books over the course of a decade and got nowhere. To me it was all just a waste of time, but now I know it was actually laying the foundation for my second go at publishing.

You mention in the acknowledgements of The Crown Tower (recently released) giving up writing for ten years. What drove you to get back to the work of creating worlds and people?

Ha, I promise I didn’t peak ahead. It’s interesting this question follows on the heels of my regret about quitting.  It was probably the confluence of a few things. 
·        I had grown bored of the profession I had been doing (I ran my own advertising agency), and boredom has always been a catalyst for my creative endeavors.
·        My dyslexic daughter was having problems reading, and I wanted to give her a book to ignite a love of reading. The best way to do that was to write something myself.
·        Writing had always been my life’s goal, even when I was a child, and I had reached an age where if I didn’t start then, I would never do it.
·        For that decade when I was going “cold turkey,” the stories just kept coming to me, and they were piling up. I felt the best way to exorcise them out of my brain was to transfer the ideas to paper.

·        The realization that writing and publishing don’t have to be married together. I could write books just for me, my daughter, my wife, and a few friends and the satisfaction would come from the doing…not any form of external validation.

Like George Lucas, you’ve taken your Riyria Revelations series and gone to prequels with The Crown Tower and The Rose and the Thorn. On the one hand you really know the characters well, but what is the hard part of writing prequels to a well-known series?

Well, unlike Lucas, it wasn’t planned that way. I had never intended to write any more about Royce and Hadrian other than the six books of The Riyria Revelations. But my readers, and more importantly my wife, were having major withdrawals, which made me think about writing more. Since the series was so carefully planned and executed I thought “tacking on” would be the wrong thing to do.  So instead, I went to the other end of the timeline.

I think there were two difficulties.  One is that there were pillars, foundations that can’t be messed with, so I’m more boxed in.  The other is that my readers already know a lot, and so I have to push the envelope to grab and keep their interest. My approach was to expand on things only lightly mentioned in Revelations. Whenever I write, I employ the iceberg approach to both character and world building. Writing Chronicles allowed me to open my trunk and tell more about people and events, which only I knew about.  Things like Gwen and Hildfred’s history and the circumstances that put Gwen in the right place at a very critical time.

You seem to be a people person. I see you on twitter and Goodreads. You’re very active in your own marketing and promotion. As someone who successfully self-published would you share some tips on what were your most successful promotional tools, besides writing captivating characters and engaging plotlines?

I attribute my early success to two main sources: Bloggers (who are amazingly hard working people that create works of love with little, or no, monetary reward) and Goodreads which is an amazing community of readers.

For bloggers, it’s important to treat them with the upmost respect. That means everything from doing your research before approaching them, providing them things to make their jobs easier (cover pictures, author bio, book blurbs, buy links, contact information), etc. Also you have to realize that they have a lot of people competing for their attention so you need to “pitch” your book in a way that really gets them excited. Don’t just jot of an email saying, “I wrote this book, do you want to read it?” Instead, create a “mini ad” that has a catchy headline, the book’s cover, some quotes from readers or other reviewers, and  some compelling “back of the book” summarization.  Again respect their time, so be short and sweet, but present your book professionally and you’ll have a better chance of being pushed to the top of their very high TBR pile.

For goodreads, and any venue where readers gather, it’s important to be a member of the community first and only bring up your books where appropriate and only if the rules allow.  Some groups have designated folders for promotional activities; others forbid you mentioning your book at all.  So know what you can or cannot do. If you violate the rules, the wrath will be swift and harsh.  But if you participate in the discussion and are a “genuine” person, then people will take the initiative to checkout your books on their own.  You don’t have to say, “buy my book” that never goes over well, but if you are engaging (and most importantly helpful) then you’ll get sales without ever saying those three words that put so many people off.

What’s the most important thing you can give a first-time reader to turn them into fans for life?

I think the first chapter of the first book of The Riyria Revelations (Theft of Swords) does a really good job at showing my style and voice. It actually reads like a self-contained short story about two guys who are being robbed in the middle of nowhere. Not only do they escape harm, but they also give the robbers pointers for future attempts. It shows the dynamic between Royce and Hadrian, and if people read that chapter and like it, it’s a pretty good bet they’ll like the rest of my writing.

Along the same lines, I also created a short story, The Viscount and the Witch which is free on all the major sites (for some reason I can’t get it free on B&N where it is $0.99, but I’ll always send free copies to people who email me). Like the start of Theft of Swords it is a short, easy to read introduction to my main characters and overall style of writing.

What do you find most fascinating about writing an epic series with multiply volumes like Riyria Revelations?

Without doubt it is the ability to weave threads and plant Easter eggs so that there are actually two stories for the reader.  Each book has its own tale to tell, where there is a main conflict which is resolved fully, but there is also an over arching story and each book provides various clues, or red herrings that people can start to piece together.

Here’s an example.  In the first book of Revelations, the main characters find themselves in a prison where a spell (experienced through constantly played music) dredges up a person’s worst memory, forcing them to relive it perpetually.  For Hadrian, it’s killing a tiger while a crowd shouts “Gillanti.”  Readers aren’t suppose to know what this means, but some will note it as important. Sure enough, several novels later (in the second book of Rise of Empire) they learn the whole story behind that memory and why it’s so painful.

Because I write the entire series before submitting them for publication (a technique I don’t recommend for new writers), I’m able to go back into earlier books and add threads when a really good idea comes up in later books.

This is something a lot of writers have heard over and over from agents: I just didn’t connect. There’s no question that your main characters are full-fleshed out. What do you think makes a main character relatable, and how do you add depth to them?

I cheat. Having a duo, rather than a single protagonist, helps me out immensely. Some will gravitate toward Royce, others Hadrian. I also get to show two sides of the same coin. Both characters wrestle with the regrets of their earlier lives, but their experiences produced different results.

For Hadrian, it makes him desire to be a hero rather than a parasitic thief for hire. He’s the more affable of the two, who is willing to lend a helping hand, as a way of paying pence for years of squandering his skills. Royce, on the other hand, was hardened by his tough upbringing. Distrustful, cynical, and much more concerned with self-preservation, he builds walls which isolate him from any chance of love or redemption. But both affect each other and while Royce is teaching Hadrian to stop being so na├»ve, Hadrian is earning Royce’s trust which gives him a way to break out of the prison of his own making. I think people want to be one or the other, or just have them as friends and share in their adventures.

For those that don’t have duos, my best advice is to write characters that you personally like and would enjoy spending time with. My books don’t follow the current trend in fantasy, of reprehensible characters in oppressive worlds. My characters may not win every fight, and there is death and heartbreak along the way,  but I do have a dash of optimism that people enjoy when reading as a form of escapist entertainment.

There are dire words floating around about the market for fantasy. Agents proclaim no editor wants it, at least in YA. What are your predictions regarding the fantasy market?

I’ve never been “market driven” which probably explains why I failed in the early days. My mantra has been “write books I want to read,” and ultimately I’ve made that work for me. But it’s much easier to live by those words once you’ve “make it.”

I do think we have a lot of diversity right now, and there is still room for more. The truth is that no one knows what will sell, and traditional publishing has more failures than successes. The statistics I’ve seen is something like one book in five produces a profit and has to subsidize the other four that fail. You can’t really try to “time the market” as whatever you are writing now is years from release in the slow moving traditional system.  To complicate matters, publishers operate with a “pack-like mentality.” There was a time with paranormal urban fantasy was hot, but once a certain sub-genre is deemed “oversaturated” they reject everything in that vein. In many ways they perpetuate the system.

The good news is there are now two sets of gatekeepers: traditional (that may lock out certain types at certain times) and self-publishing, where the readers will decide a book’s fate. So in many ways you have to “get it out there” and let the readers decide.

While you can rarely judge what will be hot, there is something that never goes out of style, and that is a good story well told. The will always be room for an engaging story with characters the readers become emotionally attached to.

I’m a firm admirer of using humor in stories. So many main characters are all with the drama and never with the quip. Your main characters never let go of their fun side. What made you decide to go in this direction with them?  

I’ve made no secret that I write books that I want to read, and to me a book filled with dire people in even direr situations isn’t as entertaining as one that makes me smile or laugh. I think sometimes writers feel that adding humor brings their books down a peg, but I don’t think books that lack it are any more complex, realistic, or engaging. In fact, when it comes to realism, I think it hurts the story to omit it. We crack jokes in real life all the time, even when times are tough…or especially when they are tough.  It’s a coping mechanism. As a writer we all want to touch a reader with our stories, and to me that means shedding a tear or laughing out loud. If I can do both on the same page it’s doubly sweet.

I was going to ask who your favorite character is, but that’s like asking which is your favorite child. So I’ll ask what genre is nearest your heart. You do write in a wide variety of them.

It’s funny because everyone thinks of me as a “fantasy writer” because that’s the first thing that got published, but I do write in just about every genre that exists. I wrote twelve novels during my first ten years when I was originally writing to publish. That includes: fantasy, science fiction, thrillers, mysteries, literary, coming of age, young adult, you name it. The only ones I’ve not dabbled in are romance, erotica, and westerns.

Fantasy is my first love, what got me interested in the written word. Prior to reading The Hobbit it was like pulling teeth to get me to finish a book. After it, I read extensively and writing became my favorite pastime. It will probably always have a sentimental spot in my heart because of that, but I do hope to be able to release books in a wide range of styles.

Do you rely on critique groups to go over your writing or did you hire an editor when you were starting out?

I think every author needs independent feedback. My first and most trusted source is Robin, who is great at finding plot holes, and has a really good eye for pacing and character motivation. She’s made immeasurable contributions to my work, long before anyone else sees it. I do also utilize beta testers and my critique group (shout out to the Arlington Writers Meetup). Beta testers read the full manuscript, of course, but my critique group generally only gets the first chapter. I also have a number of writer friends whose opinions I trust, and they are early readers as well.

As to editors, Avempartha was my first self-published book (actually book #2 of the series) and it had gone through the entire production cycle with AMI, so it was already professionally edited when the rights reverted. The same was true for Book #1 which eventually reverted once the print run sold out. Because both of those books were edited by AMI, we only needed to do a bit of proof reading.  For book #3 (Nyphron Rising) and #4 (the Emerald Storm) we did hire freelance copy editors. Book #5 (Wintertide) was edited by Robin and a fulltime intern we had at the time, and Book #6 (Percepliquis) was edited by Orbit. Then, of course,the whole series was re-edited by Orbit once they bought it.

No interview with a writer would be complete without asking are you a pantser or plotter?

If people watched me write a book, they’d probably say plotter, because I start out with an outline and pretty much have the entire framework laid out before I sit down to start.  That being said, I would actually answer that I’m both.  There is no way for me to anticipate where the story will lead once actual writing begins.  So I’m all for deviating from that original outline.

To me it’s like taking a trip. I know what highways I’ll take, what towns I’ll stop in for food or to sleep. But I might find a particularly interesting town and wind up staying a few days even though I had originally planned to just pass through. The side trip might even put me on the road to a different destination, but it is a “known” place. I don’t wander aimlessly, and so when I drive out of town I know where I’m now heading to.

Just for fun, silliest mistake you ever found in your own writing?

I’m famous for homophone errors, and sometimes I don’t even understand that a word that I’ve always used is actually spelled two different ways.  This deficiency has made for some pretty embarrassing mistakes.  The funniest of recent memory is from Hollow World. In it I have a character, who after seeing a brutal murder ended up “balling on a couch” rather than my intended “bawling on a couch”). Too very different acts ;-). It’s even more ironic considering the character in question is from the future where genetic engineering has removed gender and everyone is basically the equivalent of Ken dolls. When my wife got to that part of the book, she just had to come upstairs to teach me there are two versions of that word.

I’m going all fan girl here. Hadrian or Royce from your Riyria books with you on a deserted island?

There is no contest, definitely Hadrian. Did I mention he was the more affable of the two? Royce would immediately leave, finding some out of the way place where he could live out his days in solitude. Picking him would pretty much be equivalent to being alone, but with the added danger that he would kill me if supplies were scarce.
With Hadrian, we would talk, work together to build some kind of shelter, and basically make the best of a bad situation. He would divide rations fairly even though he could pummel me easily. I’d never have to worry about watching my back as he could be trusted at all times.

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  1. Nice interview...gave me a new book add to my to-read list!

  2. Nice interview! And some good advice re writing what you yourself like to read!

  3. I love being able to peek inside the minds of other writers. I'm not a huge reader of epic fantasies but Hadrian and Royce just sound so tempting! Like Jeff, I'm adding the Riyria series to my list :) Oh, and I just love how his daughter was his motivation. So sweet!

    As always, thanks, Michelle. And thank you, Michael Sullivan, for allowing her to share part of your journey with all of us :)

  4. Thanks for the personal teaser, Michelle. You were right, this was a great interview!

    Thank you for sharing your publishing journey, Mr. Sullivan. You buoyed up my spirits today. Your wife sounds awesome, the perfect partner.

  5. This was such a great interview!! Awesome story, Mr. Sullivan, and thanks for sharing.

  6. Fantastic interview! Thank you both for sharing.

  7. Fascinating interview! Michael & Robin make a great team! I'm starting to think all writers are pantster/plotter combinations :)

  8. Thanks Michelle for posting, and everyone for stopping in. I'm in New York right now so won't be on Internet much after this...but if you have questions - feel free to post them and I'll answer them when I get back to D.C. on Sunday afternoon.

  9. Great interview Michelle & Michael!

    Question: I'm a contemporary reader and don't usually read outside of my genre, but I DO want to branch out a bit. What books would you recommend?

    Question: Where do you usually write? Favorite writing place? Also, when do you write? How do you set aside/plan writing time?

    1. Hey Michelle,

      I have to admit that I had to look up the term "contemporary reader." And my reading interests might be a bit outside your own because I tend to do a lot of reading in what would be termed more "historical" in nature. Some recent reads that I really enjoyed include: Shantarm by Gregory David Roberts and Under the Dome by Stephen King.

      I really only write in one place - my office (which essentially is 1/2 of my bedroom. So I have a very short commute ;-). I do "brainstorm" in other places - usually while taking a walk, or sometimes at a local pub that I go to on Wednesdays, but that is just for plotting and I don't do any writing there. I write in the mornings. Usually when I get up until lunch. I never have to "set aside or plan writing time - it is my favorite pasttime so I awake every day excited to get to the desk.

  10. Hey Michael, what really got me was the fact that you write in so many genres. Are you planning on publishing some of them? Also, how do you think a writer should take on the challenge of branching out of 'their' genre? Using pseudonyms, same name, etc.? Because agents sometimes recommend pseudonyms to not risk alienating your fans.

    1. Hey SC. I hope to. A lot of it depends on some things outside my control. For instance I would love to write more books in the Hollow World Universe (science fiction) but if the first book fails miserably it wouldn't make much sense to write more in that vein. I'm currently in the middle of a three book set (fantasy) and I have two more books waiting after that (both fantasy) so that is quite a big back log. But once they are done, I'd like to branch out to something else that is new.

      As for you branching out of your genre. Some of it is going to depend on how you are published. If you are traditionally released, you may not have a chance as the publisher may force you into a pseudonym. I know an author Rachel Aaron who writes fantasy under her own name but my publisher asked her to change her name to Rachel Bach for her science fiction work. She really didn't have a choice in the matter. I'm writing different genre stuff under the same name just because I think it takes too long to build up an audience from scratch. I don't know that writing under a different name is necessary for the fan. They usually find out what other names you write under. As long as you clearly state the genre a book is in - and they decide for themselves if they want to read it - I think you are fine.

  11. This was an excellent interview. Thanks Michelle and Mr. Sullivan.

    1. You are welcome! I'm sorry I didn't get back here to start answering questions yesterday. I was just too beat from a very exhaustive trip so I took yesterday off.

  12. Hi Michelle and Michael.
    I don't know what to add to so many comments, but this was indeed a great and entertaining interview.

    Michael, bouncing back after ten years is really admirable. I loved how candidly you answered Michelle's questions. Your books would always be on my radar from now on. If you could answer a little query of mine, I'd be very happy.

    I also write adult fantasy. I have read Tolkien, Terry Brooks, GRRM, Stephen King, Rowling, and few more authors. I get feedback on my writing that I should read more in my genre, but I cannot take out time to read as voraciously as I should. Can you advise me any authors that I should read in our genre to improve my writing? Who are the 'Big Guys' of our genre who write really well?
    Thank you :)

    1. I'm sorry if I addressed you too casually. I'm not from the west, Mr. Sullivan. I sometimes just go with the tide and forget etiquette. But I do respect you. :)

    2. I think that both Brandon Sanderson and Patrick Rothfuss are the "big guys" these days. They both are almost universally highly regarded. It's tough balancing reading time and writing time, but I find that the more you read, the more it helps improve your writing. I actually read a few pages of my current book I'm reading before I sit down each morning to wake up my brain cells and get my mind in a "writing frame of mind."

    3. No worries Xander, you can address me anyway you wish. I even answer to "hey you."

  13. I'm curious to know how an author can get more reviews of their debut book. Do you recommend giving away a lot of free ebook copies in exchange for them? Do free short stories work to garner reviews?

    1. I have written a few posts on how to get reviews:

      * Do's and Don'ts of Book reviews:

      * How to get your book reviwed:

      You might want to check out those two posts. Giving away a bunch of copies wouldn't be the approach I would recommend, but asking people if they would like to receive a review copy in exchange for an honest review is a tried and true technique. I think a personal approach, targeting people who write a lot of reviews and seem to be pre-deposed to the type of work you write is a good way to start.

      Short stories really aren't a good conduit for reviews, but a free short that is a lead-in to a larger full-length novel is a good way to give readers a chance to try out your work with a very small investment in time and no investment in money.

  14. Ho, Mr. Sullivan. I just have two questions for you:

    What do you think is the hardest part of planning/writing a fantasy series (or any series for that matter) that isn't an issue with stand-alone works?

    How do you avoid the dreaded 'middle book syndrome' or do you not pay much attention to it at all?

    Thanks again for taking the time to do this interview and answer our questions.

    1. I'm sure that this is definitely one of those YMMV questions. So what applies to me may not be applicable to you, or others. I actually think standalones are harder than series. I tend to think of stories in pretty grand terms and it usually takes me sevearl books to adequately tell the whole tale. When writing series, it's important for me to determine what to expose when as I like to have an overarching plot that spans all books that is an ADDITION to the main plot of the book which I think is important to have its own conflict and resolution to.

      I think part of the problem with "middle books" is that there is a lot of front loading in the first book to get enough information into the hands of the readers and the last book is exciting because everything is wrapped up. I don't do that 'front book front loading" thing. I like to slowly expose characterization and world building across the series so even in the middle book you are learning important information. This has its own problems though. If you are too "light" in the first book it may be hard for the readers, or the publisher to connect and you may not get them to come along with you to the second - so it is a delicate balancing act.

  15. Great interview! I'd love to hear your opinion on a recent topic to take over the internet: some authors are saying we write TOO much, there are too many choices of books, especially ebooks. what do you think?

    What kind of writing schedule do you keep? Or do you keep one at all? What is the best advice you ever received?

    1. Well there are certainly more books that I would like to read, and I'll never get through all of them before I die, so we are not lacking books by any means. But does that mean there is no room for more? I don't think so. The trick of course is are you writing something that is worth a person's time and money? I take the reader/writing relationship very seriously and I would never release a sub-standard book just to "get it out there." I feel like the guys in the old commercial who said, "We'll sell no wine before its time." So to me if you are going to put out something sub-standard - then I say you shouldn't. Only put out your absolute best work that you feel strongly about its quality.

      Yeah I write everyday (unless on the road as I was the last few days (I was in New York). I get up, read the paper while drinking coffee/eating a banana, and then will usually read a few pages of whatever fiction work I'm reading at the time to wake up my brain cells then I write. I keep going until lunch and then in the afternoon I might go for a walk to work out some plot points. Sometimes I'll write in the afternoon / evening but more often then not I'm using that time for reading or working on plot issues.

      When I started writing I wasn't "plugged into" any writing communities. Nor did I go to workshops or critique groups so I was never in a position to "get writing advice." I do give quite a bit these days and my favorite one is: "The only way to guarantee failure is to stop trying."

  16. When it comes to commercial publishing, what single aspect most convinced you to give up creative control of your series?

    1. You're making an assumption. I NEVER give up creative control of my work. In fact I've signed three contracts now and in each case the works -- all the works -- were complete before the ink was dry so I could guarantee that the books were the way I wanted them. My editors are free to make suggested changes, but they can't make any changes. To date no one has ever insisted on a change, but if they did...and I didn't agree. I wouldn't make it. In such a case they are free to pull the book, but they can't put out a book that has something in it that I don't agree with. This is a non-negotiable point for me and I'm always very careful about what the language in the contract says regarding changes. I won't sign anything that would mean that I would lose that kind of control.

      All that being said....I know others that weren't so diligent about such matters so they have been in situations where the publisher can and does have final say. I don't want to speak for them as to whether they should or shouldn't have signed a contract made out that way. All I can do is concern myself with me and my writing. And any loss of creative control is a deal breaker for me.

  17. Wonderful interview!

    Mr. Sullivan,
    Do you ever have issues with writer's block? If so, what do you do to get the story flowing again?

    1. I really haven't. I know this is not what those who do suffer from it want to hear, and I don't hae a magic bullet about why I don't get it, but that's the way it is. I think some people get blocked because they are too concerned about getting something perfect on the page. Sometimes it's best to just get something down on paper and then realize that you can come back later and clean it up. Sometimes inspiration comes by doing then to get so wrapped up that you can't get anything down on paper.

  18. What an engaging interview. Mr. Sullivan, how much time do you devote to the marketing aspect of your writing career? Is it another full-time job on top of the actual writing?

    1. I guess that depends on what tasks you define as "marketing." For instance. I frequent forums like /r/fantasy on reddit because I enjoy the people there and I like talking about fantasy - both mine and others. When I'm there - it is just a fun way to connect with others. But being there also does get me readers. Is that the reason I'm there? No. But some may think that's why I am. I also spend a great deal of time trying to help other writers navigate publishing hurdles. In so doing, I may or may not pick up a reader. Again that is, to me, a side benefit, not the intended reason for the act. So it's hard to make a clean line between some activities. For instance, I do a weekly blog post on Amazing Stories - usually about something that is related to publishing. Again it is a means for me to help other authors, but it also expands my exposure - so probably a bit of both that happen simultaneously.

      Here is what I tell authors who are starting out. When it comes to "marketing" wait until you have three books out. Until then your time is best spent writing books #2 and #3. It's really hard to get any traction when you have only one thing for them to read, so when you only have so many hours in the day --- it's worth creating more content THEN you can worry about getting people to take notice of it.

    2. Concentrating your marketing after getting more than one book published, is a really good point that I never considered. Thanks.

  19. Thanks for the additional questions all. Sorry I didn't do them yesterday afternoon but I had a very late night on Saturday in NY and I was just too tired to talk intelligently. I'll be dropping in from time to time in case any follow-up or new questions come in.