Author Michael J. Sullivan is no stranger to the our site. I've reviewed his Riyria Revelations series (Theft of Swords, Rise of Empire & Heir of Novron) and marked it as one of my favorite reads last year. As for redditors out there, he is no stranger to the writing and fantasy subreddits either, contributing as a fan as much as a writer, and often offering interesting insight into the industry. This look at the industry, a formulaic approach that applies to most entertainment industries, is what makes his kickstarter so fascinating.
Though his Kickstarter has already achieved its fundraising goals and still has 17 days to go, it was hard to overlook the chance to offer readers an opportunity to make a pledge and not only get a signed book at a lower price than you usually can in stores, plus a freebie or two thrown in, but also get the book six months earlier than market. Sullivan is on the short-list of writers whose work I pick up because of their name and not the cover blurb now, so I was honored to get a little bit of his time today:
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Michael J. Sullivan and I’ve been published in just about every way there is: small press, self, and traditional. In the past I’ve always been exclusive to one type or another, but I think the “hybrid” author (one who simultaneously publishes through both self and traditional) can have the best of both worlds. I’m Kickstarting my novel Hollow World so I have the funds to produce a high quality project, just as if it were released from New York.
What is Hollow World About?
Technically Hollow World is a science fiction novel, but it also is the classic hero’s journey found in many fantasies. It even has a dash of political intrigue and a murder to solve as well. It tells the story of Ellis Rogers, who decides to time travel in the hopes of finding a cure to his terminal disease. What he discovers, is a world very unlike our own. Some might consider it a utopia, others just the opposite, but the heart of the story is Ellis and what he discovers about himself.
What have you written before and where can readers find it?
Hollow World is my twenty-third novel. The twelve were what are called “trunk novels” which aren’t meant to see the light of day. These are the “practice pieces” used to find your voice and learn the craft of writing. Malcom Gladwell has his 10,000 Hour Rule (the amount of time you to spend to get great at something) and Stephen King belives your first 1,000,000 word are “practice” that is what those first twelve novels were to me.
Of the remaining eleven they break down as follows:
- Six books in The Riyria Revelations currently published through Orbit [ED: as a trilogy collecting two books each] (fantasy imprint of big-six publisher Hachette)
- Two books in The Riyria Chronicles coming out from Orbit in Aug and Sep of this year
- Antithesis & A Burden to the Earth - which will need more editing before they are released
- And Hollow World which officially goes on sale January 20, 2014, but kickstarter backers will get the book in June or July 2013
Are there any books out there on the market Hollow World could be compared to?
You know, that’s one of the things I have to do research on before the book is released to the general public. I don’t write books aimed at a particular audience or “market segment.” I write stories that I want to read and hope that the rest takes care of itself. That being said, I recently read Wool by Hugh Howey, and I can see similarities between the two.
Why self-publish instead of following the traditional route?
I know firsthand the income potential of self, and I love the freedom of being in control of absolutely everything. I’ve been looking for a project so I could go “hybrid” and Hollow World is a perfect choice because it doesn’t align along easily defined lines. Genre-bending books are nearly impossible to get traditionally published because the accounting department can’t create a reliable P&L (profit and loss) analysis which is necessary to green light a project. My editor at Orbit said she loved the book, but the only science fiction selling right now is space opera, and she thought Hollow World would fall through the cracks. I think if I shopped it around to other publishers, someone would have taken a chance on it, but I didn’t even try. Once Orbit passed, I leapt at the opportunity to bring it out myself.
What does the money you raise go toward when you’re self-publishing?
I wanted to launch Hollow World just like any book coming out from New York, so the Kickstarter is paying for industry professionals (the same ones that New York uses) for cover design, structural editing, copy editing, layout, and production. My original goal was picked to cover just my production costs, but since I have exceeded that, I will also get an advance, just as if the book had been signed. The only difference is that my readers are providing the advance rather than my publishers, and by cutting out that middle man more of their money goes directly to me. I’m hoping that this project’s success will help convince other authors that shelving a book that isn’t picked up, is the wrong thing to do. I want to prove that we can operate without New York and the readers and the author will be mutually benefited.
Why should readers check out your book over all others out there?
Right now there seems to be two choices for readers: cookie cutter clones of popular books that sell (put out by traditional publishers) or really innovative self-published works that unfortunately can suffer because of poor editing and inferior packaging (cover design and layout). For me, everything starts with the story, and if people look at the ranking and reviews of my other work, they’ll see I have a natural talent for storytelling. But even a good story can be ruined by poor production, and by using the same talent as New York, Hollow World won’t fall into that trap. A good story, professionally produced…what’s not to love?
Book-lovers should head over to the Hollow World Kickstarter page and offer their support if interested. Pledges vary from $1-$250, but if you are looking at this as a 'very advanced' pre-order to get the story six months earlier than anyone else, you can get started with a $10 pledge for a DRM-free ebook, $25 for a trade paperback PLUS ebook, and the bonuses go up from there. Most of all, I think Kickstarter projects like this are a chance for consumers to show corporations that not every product needs to fit into a certain mold in order for us to buy it.