One Month In, How’s Twelve Kings Doing?

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Twelve Kings in Sharakhai was published one month ago. I’d planned to do a review for my own sake just to see how things are coming along, and I thought, why not share?

Overall, I was blown away by the response. Just take a look at the reviews on the page for Twelve Kings to get a sense of it. It was really gratifying to see how quickly news of the book got out there. I’m not afraid to say I worked really hard in the year leading up to the release. I reached far and wide in hopes of getting reviewers to take a look at the book, to get on podcasts, to do a few blog posts. Plus, on this go-around, I had not only one publicity team working to help get the word out about the book, but two.

You know when you’re at the seashore and waves are rolling in? And sometimes several waves collide and create this massive splash? That’s what it felt like. Me, DAW (and Penguin Random House), and Gollancz all working together to create a splash. It was pretty spectacular.

I’ve never been so busy, book-wise, as I was in the two weeks after the release for the book. Reviews coming in constantly from book reviewers, and on Goodreads, Amazon, etc. Interviews being written and posted. Podcast appearances. Blog posts I’d written in the weeks leading up being posted as well. I felt like Dug in a roomful of squirrels.

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It was so different from my experience with Night Shade Books for The Winds of Khalakovo. Part of that is that Night Shade was a mid-sized publisher with limited reach. And, as I said earlier, I had not just one publicity team working for me, but two. Another big part of the difference here, though, has to be attributed to me being a relative unknown when Winds came out and a somewhat-less-unknown author now. I know a ton more people in the industry than I did back then, and they know me and my work, as do fans of The Lays of Anuskaya series. So in some respects this is just a natural progression. Still, it’s a progression I was very, very pleased to see direct proof of. I’d been waiting for 2.5 years to get this book out, after all, and I’d been anticipating the release the entire time. So it was great seeing that big splash finally happen.

Let’s see, what else? I found out that we sold French rights a few weeks into the release. To Bragelonne! The publisher I was really hoping to work with! That’s seriously kick-ass news. I’m really looking forward to working with them an Droemer Knaur for the German edition.

Twelve-Kings-med

And just last week, Publishers Weekly broke the news that Twelve Kings is one of Baror International’s hot titles they’re bringing to the Frankfurt Book Fair later this month. That’s seriously great news. I’m hoping to reach more foreign audiences with this series.

I also announced a Twelve Kings Tattoo Challenge a week or so ago. That’s going to be interesting to see if the goal of 100 Amazon reviews or 1,000 Goodreads reviews is hit by the end of the year. Right now, Amazon leads at 43 reviews total, but that’s being boosted somewhat by Amazon Vine reviews. I suspect Goodreads will catch up before too long.

So, overall, it was a wonderful, exciting, breathless month.

I also found it extremely stressful.

It’s interesting, even amidst all that good news, how fragile I was in that timeframe. I kept thinking that bad reviews were right around the corner (and there were some). Or that when good reviews came they were somehow less important than the bad ones. I was placing so much weight on the book’s reception that it felt like if certain things didn’t happen, the book was a failure. Objectively, the release was a success, but I’ll admit that there were times when it didn’t feel that way.

Talking with other writers, I know how common this is. We place undue weight on the bad news and not enough on the good. We place unrealistic expectations on the book’s reception and are crushed when the book doesn’t meet them. I know this. And I tried to temper those expectations. And to a degree, it worked. Even still, there were moments when I was pretty down. Dumb, I know. But there it is.

And then there’s book two.

I’ve been plugging away at With Blood Upon the Sand, the second book in the series, this past year, moving that boulder up the hill. And it’s been going more or less well. Every book is a new experience. I felt like I knew where things were headed, but of course the map is not the terrain. As I got closer to the end of the book, I had to alter the route. I had to move the destination from time to time as well.

I had a bunch of words (50k+) that I cut from Twelve Kings and moved to Book 2. I had envisioned them as the ending of the book, and I thought: this is great! I have the ending clearly in mind. I’ll be able to write toward that and it’ll go quickly. In some ways that’s held true. The climax is largely intact. But the stuff leading up to the climax—that’s all changed. The motivations, the mindset of characters, their immediate histories and their immediate goals. All that has evolved dramatically since Book 1. And so, relying on those cut words has been tricky at some points, and outright wrong at others. I’ve had to cut and rework and break and recast over and over, trying to get the old stuff to work. It’s been a bit of a nightmare. I probably should have just kept the ideas and thrown out the words entirely.

But at this point, I’m nearing the end, so I’ll forge forth and be pretty ruthless on the rewrite. I thought I’d be further along by this point. But the book is looking to be a bit longer then Twelve Kings. I added a new POV (no spoilers as to who it is yet), so that’s extending the word count a bit. I also overestimated my ability to write in the weeks leading up to and trailing after the release of Twelve Kings. I got writing in, but at nowhere near the pace I usually set. My mind was on fire. It was so hard to concentrate on the book. And now that I am getting near the end, I feel like I’ve forgotten so much of what came in the early parts of the book. So much so that I’ve decided to launch into a polish draft. I’m going to reread the book as it stands, reworking lightly as I go along, just to load the book into main memory again and hopefully get a good idea of how to wrap it up.

The good news is that things are starting to die down on the publicity and marketing fronts. I’ll still do stuff here and there, but it’s nothing like it was in those first two weeks. So I’ll make good headway from here on out. I hope. Wish me luck!

Before I wrap, I’d like to thank everyone who helped make the release of Twelve Kings in Sharakhai such a success. It wouldn’t have received the reception it got without you!

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Now, back to writing!

2 Comments

  1. M Buckley

    October 2, 2015 at 11:55 am

    It’s strange to think that authors can be upset at a couple of bad reviews, especially when I know they’re excellent writers.
    Everyone is human and I for one am looking forward to more adventures in Sharakhai.
    Try not to let them get you down!

    • Brad

      October 14, 2015 at 1:22 pm

      Thanks so much. It mostly doesn’t, but sometimes self-doubt creeps in, and is enhanced by any negative reviews I might come across. The most sane advice is to just avoid looking at ANY reviews, but it’s hard not to see what people think of something you worked years to produce.