Interview Transcripts

Jay Lake: Fun and Games with Novels 7/27/07

Questions from the Audience are presented in red.
Answers by the Speaker are in black.
The Moderator's comments are in blue.

Mary Rosenblum

Welcome to our Professional Connection live interview.


Tonight we're fortunate to have a return visit with Jay Lake, who is simply a LOT of fun as a guest. :-) As many of you know.


Jay Lake has been the Writer Guest of Honor at MisCon 21 as well as Toastmaster at Westercon 60. His short fiction has been published in 'Year's Best SF', 'Realms of Fantasy', and 'Subterranean'. He has edited Polyphony 6, and TEL: Stories, as well as Spicy Slipstream Stories. Now he has moved into the novel form with


Rocket Science, a fun gee-whiz SF nostalgia novel out from Fairwood Press last year, and Trial of Flowers due out from Night Shade Books in September. Mainspring, a fantasy, will be released by Tor in July of next year. Visit his website at:  Visit his blog at


I really enjoyed Rocket Science and I recommend it. So what have you been up to?

Jay Lake

I've been a busy boy.


I think  I have shortest career arc EVAR as a novelist, I swear...


made a deal spring 2005 for ROCKET SCIENCE...


that hit the stands Sept 2005 with a starred review from BOOKLIST...


which helped get me a deal from Night Shade Books for TRIAL OF FLOWERS...


which, when I turned it in last spring, the publisher said,..


"That was much better than I expected it to be"


(it's due out in September)


meanwhile, with two contracts, Tor came calling last December --


got a two-book deal from them in February

Mary Rosenblum

That's a fantasy yes?

Jay Lake



High concept fantasy called MAINSPRING about a clockwork earth orbiting the sun on a brass track

Mary Rosenblum

So who's your editor there?

Jay Lake

Beth Meacham


who's been wonderful.


Stephan Martiniere will do the cover art, btw.

Mary Rosenblum

Oooh, cool. Do they have a concept yet?


A sketch?

Jay Lake

It’s going to be a two book series, maybe more.


Well, they showed me a sample he'd done for a Daniel Abraham book


said "this style"


and told me which scene


The world has a 100 mile high wall around the equato


where the Earth's gear ring is located to mesh with it's orbi


and there's a long sequence in the book where one of Her Imperial Majesty's zeppelins is making the ascent


with Our Hero aboard


and they visit a bamboo city which stretches vertically for mile


completely abandoned.


That’s going to be the cover, a low angle view of the zeppelin and the city with the Wall towering above.,.

Jay Lake

I'm pretty stoked

Mary Rosenblum

Oh, cool. :-) Sounds like a lot of fun.

Jay Lake

oh yeah


The Night Shade book...


is a decadent urban fantasy


think Mieville or VanderMeer


they've asked for a sequel too.

Mary Rosenblum

What makes it decadent, Jay?

Jay Lake

So I have two books delivered, and sequels for each contracted.


Oh, gosh, the setting and the tone of the language I guess.


It's ginned up from a short story of mine which was recently reprinted online at the Fortean Bureau


if anyone wants to check that out.


"The Soul Bottles"


The city in the story is a combination of 19th century Paris and New Orleans with a dash of declining Rome.

Mary Rosenblum

I'm prodding you on this a bit because 'decadent whatever' gets tossed about rather blithely...I've never quite decided on a definition.

Jay Lake

in this context it refers to a mood of the fiction -- word choices, plot elements.


That's how I interpret it


I didn't know I was writing decadence until after I'd finished it, tho

Mary Rosenblum

That seems to be how it's used. Ha...the reviewers will tell you what it is. :-)


Paris with levees and hurricanes?

Jay Lake

No, more like Paris with syphilitic dwarfs and swamp magic.

Mary Rosenblum

LOL that's the decadent part.

Jay Lake

Lots of running around in the sewers, heavily armed clowns riding giraffes, that sort of thing.


The Seine floweth over

Jay Lake

More like inSeine in this case.


Tell us how you approached Fairwood Press and got accepted there.

Jay Lake

Hey Jane...


Well, I'd sold Patrick a short piece for Talebones a while back.


Then I'd pitched him back in 2003 or so on doing a chapbook for me


of my RUSHES cycle which ran on STRANGE HORIZONS


so we'd worked on a couple of other things together.


I'd been fishing for a novel market


had an agent but no deals


when Patrick approached me and asked me if I had anything.


He’d done well with a book by James van Pelt, BEGGARS AND STRANGERS


and he wanted to do something else with a new writer with decent name recognition


(which I seem to have)


I pitched him on this real dark stuff I have called DARK TOWNS


had 5 or 6 of those in print as short fiction.


Wanted to do a fixup...


He was too squicked.


So I pulled ROCKET SCIENCE out of the drawer.


It was too short for what my agent wanted to represent


but it was a good length for Fairwood.


Patrick took it with some rewrites


so it was a relationship sell, in a way, but the relationship was a professional one of prior sales and projects worked


and of course, the book.


A good relationship is irrelevant if the book doesn't hold up. (I'm big on the value of's one thing I talk about a lot on panels and interviews)

Mary Rosenblum

Yeah, I think that's important to mention her


that it wasn't because you knew Patrick that he bought Rocket Science.

Jay Lake

Not at all.


Believe me, if you start publishing in genre fiction -- fantasy/SF -- it will take you about two years to meet 3/4 of everybody


but that doesn't sell anything.


The work sells. What does help is being known as someone who's easy to deal with...



Jay Lake

Um, grossed out?


It was pretty dark stuff --


right on the line with horror fiction.


It's all about the work, guys.


Trust me, I have a very boring life.


I write, a lot.

Mary Rosenblum

Has working in long form been different for you than doing shorts? You're a write and send it off writer, mostly, aren't you?

Jay Lake

Oh yeah


that's been a real issue for me


I shall elucidate...


as Mary said, I've been a write-it-and-send-it-off guy for some years...


done pretty well with that...


finally started slowing down...


and long form work has really pushed me.


TRIAL OF FLOWERS was written in a very short amount of time...


rewritten over six weeks...


then turned in.




I'm working on right now (was typing on it right before this session)


so I can wrap it up by WorldCon


put it in a drawer for six months


then rework/revise before turning it in next year.


The reason for the change


is the first Tor book, MAINSPRING


was something I wrote 2, 3 years ago


so when I got the editorial direction from Beth


and hauled it out of the drawer


the experience of revising at such a distance from the original effor


was new to me.


The book wasn't in my head anymore.


Made it much easier to see both the flaws and the strength


and I went: "duh, this is what everybody's been yelling at me for fifteen years about"


My process evolves all the time

Mary Rosenblum

So hold on a a sec here, Jay.

Jay Lake


Mary Rosenblum

What do you mean by that? That 'this is what everybody has been yelling at me about...' comment? What did you see?

Jay Lake

Well, I've been workshopping seriously since about 1990 --


made my first short fiction sale in 2001...


have been walloping along since...


and I have been pounded and pounded all those years...


about not taking enough time with the story, not rewriting, not revising...


My point of resistance was always this:


I CAN'T write slow.


It’s like trying to ride a bicycle at walking speed, for me.


So revising felt like slowing down, getting in my own way.


I finally got good enough to sell without good rewriting habits


because my drafts got good enough.


I'm a 'voicy' write


and strong voice often comes through best in fast drafts, where the internal editor isn't active


but the missing piece


was realizing I could write as fast as I wante


then hide the mss from myself until I forgot it


THEN rework it.


Just today Doris Booth ( told us the same thing: to put the manuscript aside for a couple of months and then take it out and revise it - BEFORE sending it out

Jay Lake



It took dumb old me fifteen years to figure it out.


I can tie my shoes now, too!


And it took novels to teach me that

Mary Rosenblum

LOL, so has this changed your short fiction writing? Are you...gasp...revising?

Jay Lake

Well, I might be if I were writing more short fiction right now




so far I've written TRIAL


revised TRIAL




am now writing MADNESS


Yeah, but can ya get the tongues into the proper position??

Mary Rosenblum

That's after his next novel.

Jay Lake

Wow. So many answers to that question

Mary Rosenblum

Yeah and some of them don't belong on a 'family channel' LOL

Jay Lake

I have to write another novel this year, too


I see why you are using the word - madness

Jay Lake



It's the title of the sequel






You were writing and sending short fiction, no queries?

Jay Lake

I'm sorry, onepozy, do you mean no novel queries?


(it is possible to query short fiction)

Mary Rosenblum

I think pozy isn't sure of how fiction is marketed.

Jay Lake




Mary Rosenblum

Not like NF where you do query.

Jay Lake

Well, let me make a couple of comments on that.


In genre fiction, you generally submit short stories unsolicited


as long as the market's open for reading.


There are some great resources to find market listings




but in general genre short fiction has a pretty healthy scene


(genre in this case being SF/F).


Novels can be submitted unsolicited, but that's rare.


You generally query novels


aiming for agents and editors at the same time


seeking to break in from either end.


Does that help?

Mary Rosenblum

I think that's pretty clear. :-)


Why are you writing so much now, or have you always produced a lot?

Jay Lake

Well, basically I'm kind of manic


I'm only half-kidding.


I've always been very productive, whatever I did.


In school, in my professional life (I still have a day job)


so when I got focused on writing, it became an increasingly strong focus


at this point it's a habit which I have no desire to break


Is it possible to make a living as a SF writer?

Jay Lake

but really, anyone who's successful writes LOT

Mary Rosenblum

Yeah, no kidding.

Jay Lake

Hey grayalien, yes it's possible, but not easy.


I know people for whom it is their sole income


but that's rare.


Lots of people do it with a pension, or a working partner, or something.


If I were single and 21, I could probably live on what I'm making now


but I'm middle aged with a kid


so my idea of "making a living" has changed a lot.


Remember, SF is about 4% of all fiction sold. Romance is 55% or so.

Mary Rosenblum

It also depends entirely on your popularity with readers...your sales numbers. And it may depend on whether you want to write what YOU want to write or what will sell.

Jay Lake

What Mary said.


Stuff that sells big = big money for writer.


There's some big money fantasy writers out there


and a lot of big money romance and mystery writers.


Yeah, what Mary said, what YOU want to write.


I don't relate well to romance fiction


as a reade


so I'm not very interested in writing i


and the readers would know if I was faking it.


I need passionate commitment to my work.

Mary Rosenblum

I think that's really a key issue to that 'make a living issue'...

Jay Lake

Remember what I said a minute ago about writing a LOT?


I don't go to movies, clubs or parties


I write 5-7 nights a week


It's what I DO.


What is the average income per book in the genre?

Jay Lake

That varies wildly, xana.


ROCKET SCIENCE had no advance


that means I was given no money upfront.


Not unusual for a tiny independent press.


Most established pros would turn down a deal like that


but I've made pretty good money off it.


The other books got advances against royalties


which I'll know in a year or two how well that went


but for independent press books for larger houses, a few thousand dollars


big New York houses, higher but not a lot.


Until you're established.


In that world you're only as good as your last book's sales figures.


The average shouldn't vary wildly :-) What's the range?

Mary Rosenblum

You're right, xana...the range varies wildly, depending on your previous sales and track record from low thousands to six figures.

Jay Lake



I know someone who got $115,000  for their first book.


Trust me, I got a small fraction of that


it does vary wildly.

Mary Rosenblum

That wasn't in SF was it Jay?


That sounds more mainstream to me.

Jay Lake

No, it was South Asian themed women's lit


though she's an SF writer


so I guess that's not a fair comparison. With writers like Arundhati Roy tearing up they're starving for that.

Mary Rosenblum

Advances in mainstream are highest.


Thriller is a lot bigger than SF/fantasy.


Mystery is about like SF/fantasy.

Jay Lake

A little bigger, mebbe?

Mary Rosenblum

And romance is generally very low at the bottom, very high at the top.

Jay Lake

Romance is the 900 pound gorilla for upside.


There's a lot of romance advances of $3000


for these little tiny category books with a four week shelf life


but if you break up from that


it's a much wider field than SF or mystery.


I was talking to a romance writer and her agent recently.


We were hanging out after a conference.


She mentioned one of her early books had sold out the printing but they didn't think it was worth another run


preferring to market her more recent stuff.


It had done only 80,000 copies, and so wasn't worth t he trouble.

Mary Rosenblum

They don't do a lot of reprinting in Romance except at the very top. :-)


Yeah, the Romance numbers are very large.

Jay Lake

Trust me, in SF, an early career book that does 80,000 copies would be cause for celebration


not yawning


write what you love, guys -- that's what makes it genuine and interesting.


Why do you think your short fiction was published early in your career? Any particular trait/element that makes it stand out?

Jay Lake

Yeah, Elizabeth Bear talks about "the box it came in"


meaning everybody gets certain strengths in their writing for fre


as their natural abilitie


(as opposed to those things they have to learn)


My "box it came in


included good ability to describe settin


and a powerful if somewhat raw voice.


As it happens, decent setting and powerful voice aren't all that common


so I got away with lousy characterization and bunch of other stuff


because my stories were readable and interesting already.


Is your "box" what got you your agent?

Jay Lake

I like to think I've gotten better.


To some degree, speckle.


I have had an unusual career path I don't necessarily recommend to others.


Early on I did a bunch of reviewing (within SF/F)


which meant all the editors knew who I was


and name recognition has value


(this is distinct from social relationships as mentioned earlier


Reviewing has a lot of traps in it, which is why I stopped


but I also had a collection very early, thanks to a somewhat nutty publisher


who saw more than I did in my own work.


I was introduced to my agent by one of her clients who'd read my collection and thought it was really, really good


and by then I had some credible sales.


But that was before my Hugo nom or before I won the Campbell.


She was focused on my writing, some of which was still in that box


but mostly I'd already written and sold a lot, which demonstrated I was productive, and proved people were willing to pay money to read my work.


How do you juggle promotion with your day job and writing or does your publisher do most of that for you?

Jay Lake



that's an excellent question, pthib






Promotion isn't very well managed for newer writers.


No one has the budget for it.


If you go into the economics of a book, you can see why..


(Digression, Anna Louise Genoese, an editor at Tor, keeps a livejournal blog.


A couple of months ago she broke down book economics in excruciating detail.


If  you really want to know, go to her l


and track back to that series of posts)


So a newer writer needs to have some self promotional skills.


Promotion doesn't sell bad writing, but it can help good writing get recognized.


My day job is in marketing.


So I am fairly good at promotion.


one reason I have high name recognition


So the juggling


comes just like the writing.


A lot of careful time management.


A lot of energy.


But in my case, not much malice aforethought.


My entire career has in some sense been an improv performance in front of hundreds, and now thousands, of people.


There is no Master Plan

Mary Rosenblum

Is there ever? Maybe a few writers do that.

Jay Lake



I don't know Mary


but not me...


that's why god invented publicists, I guess -- not that I ever plan to have one.


Do you recommend small press publishers to those who write outside the norm?

Jay Lake

Depends on what you mean by "write outside the norm", but, basically, yes


Small press can take a lot more risks than big press.


Simply because of the numbers involved.


An independent press can make a profit on one or two thousand books being sold in a title


where in New York that would be a miserable failure.


So books which might not appeal to a mass audience


can prosper in the small press.


There’s more to it than that, but it's not a bad way to think of such things.

Mary Rosenblum

But let me break in here for a moment, Jay, and make a distinction between serious small press like Fairwood


and the 'quantity publishers' who simply publish any marginally readable book they get and make THEIR money on a few sales of every title in inventory.

Jay Lake

Oh yeas


vanity, too


yah, be very thoughtful about small presses

Mary Rosenblum

The serious small presses are respected and Jay


is an example of a big NY publisher who paid attention because of a small press publication.


But they do NOT look at the quantity publishers.

Jay Lake

yah, what Mary said.


One way to tell is by looking at who gets strong reviews in LOCUS, PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY, etc.


But rule number always flows to the writer.


You pay nothing, ever, except postage.


If there's any fees involved anywhere in getting published, run, don't walk the other way.

Mary Rosenblum


Jay Lake

ditto for agents

Mary Rosenblum

And a BUNCH of scams exist.

Jay Lake

No reading fees.

Mary Rosenblum

Predators and Editors

Jay Lake


Mary Rosenblum

That ‘beware of scams’ site is pretty comprehensive.


What about editorial fees?

Jay Lake

No such thing in the real world.


Write this on a piece of paper and tape it to your monitors:



Mary Rosenblum

And underline the ALWAYS

Jay Lake

There are some very rare exceptions, but you're not likely to encounter them.

Mary Rosenblum

Including agents.


They pay you...after they get paid by your publisher.

Jay Lake

I'm very skeptical of contests with entry fees, except sometimes where they're explicitly fundraising



Mary Rosenblum

You do not send them a check first.

Jay Lake

I've never sent my agent a dime.

Mary Rosenblum

Me neither. :-)

Jay Lake

She's sent me lots of dimes, after taking her 15%


Is it common for writers to buy copies of their books to resell? Is this ok? Especially when with a small press?

Jay Lake

Oh I do it a lot


but I buy them by the handful


not by the garageful.


If you're expected to buy a portion of your print run, it's a scam publisher.


On the other hand, it's always good to have a case or two around


most of which I give away, actually


but sometimes I'll hand sell at a conference or convention


if the booksellers don't have my titles.


I'd always rather consign first


let them make some money off me.

Mary Rosenblum

And I learned the hard way, scrape the money together to buy more than you think you need. I have ONE copy of my second SF novel.

Jay Lake



Anything you EVER publish buy 3, 4, 5 copies of.


I do with every short fiction appearance.


They wander away.


Mom wants a copy, you take one to show to your boss and it disappears in the office, etc eventually you got nothing ,which feels goofy

Mary Rosenblum

Publishers give you a discount when you buy your own books.


I write "inspirational with an edge" so mine don't necessarily fit the genre of my choice, I'm signed with a SP but the going seems so S-L-O-W..  Should I hang in there or keep approaching the larger houses (and getting rejected) or give up or what?

Jay Lake

hmm...what do you mean by "signed with"?


If a book is contracted, there you are.


A contract's a contract.


That doesn't mean you shouldn't market your next book to bigger houses.


Always be looking up the ladder

Mary Rosenblum

And I suggest you keep track of your sales if you want to market up the ladder.

Jay Lake

And SPs can be is not generally plentiful in that universe.


ROCKET SCIENCE (with no advance) has sold well over 2,000 copies.


For New York that would be a disaster.

Mary Rosenblum

Those are good small press numbers.

Jay Lake

But it nearly overwhelmed Fairwood


and when I tell people in New York those numbers, they're impressed


because in context, that's a runaway bestseller.


How long did it take for the sales to reach over 2000?

Jay Lake

We hit 1,000 in the first 90 days


2,000 in about 7 months


coming up on a year soon, I don't think we'll hit 3,000 in the rolling year, but I think we'll hit in the calendar year


which is pretty cool, frankly.


There's something like 500 copies in libraries.

Mary Rosenblum

It's very good. :-)

Jay Lake

Ya blew our expectations out.


My series is contracted but all of my books are written basically the same way...too steamy & gritty for the CBA and yet too Spiritual for ABA..or so I'm told


pthib, then you have an interesting problem.


You’re trying to carve out a new piece.


It’s always hard, because people want to buy (and publishers want to publish)


stuff that's familiar enough to keep them coming,


new enough to keep them interested.


There’s plenty of examples of that succeeding, but it's a tough road.




if it's what you want/love/need to write, then write it.


MAINSPRING isn't quite one thing or another either, btw


Tor is taking a risk on me with that.


Well the first 2 of the series were originally epublished (with self pubbed print copies) and I sold over 500 copies...


but that doesn't seem to impress the big people...I did that on my own with NO clue as to what I was doing...still...

Jay Lake

Yah good for you, that's a lot of ecopies


if you can leverage it upward through your small press publisher, you're on the right track.


How do you get them into libraries?

Jay Lake

I have no idea how one would do that deliberately.


In my case it was through receiving a starred review in BOOKLIST


which is the journal of the American Library Association.


A lot of libraries take their purchase order list from the BL starred reviews


bingo, libraries all over the US


I get more fan mail off library readers, too, it's kind of funny.


The book is a real nostalgia trip for some folks.


Ok how do you get in Booklist? Have a url or contact info?

Jay Lake

It's like any other review market, pthib, your publisher has to send the books out for review.


To some degree an author can control some of that

Mary Rosenblum

I imagine you can send them yourself to the review editor.

Jay Lake

yah, I think so, but it works better coming from the publisher. Coz the reviews editor is not likely to take the time to sort out whether the mailing from the individual is a self-pub, vanity, quantity or legit pubbed book

Mary Rosenblum

Yeah, they may toss it unread, but it costs you only postage.


Would you recommend authors contact libraries personally or with press kits?

Jay Lake

Review copies are one of the few pieces of promotion a publisher really SHOULD do for you no matter how new you are.


Couldn't hurt to talk to librarians


booksellers likewise, pthib


in your area, or within your speciality


If you're writing inspirational, talk to the Christian bookstores.


There’s one in most towns, I thi


and they're always interested in info.


That's part of promotion.


It takes a lot of patience and fortitude, though


given what you're writing, you might send it to churches that have a men's circle or reading group


try to get word of mouth going


Been there, done that, they won't carry due to the "steamy sensuality and gritty realism"

Jay Lake

Got to keep trying, that's all I can tell you.


I know genre writers that have spent half a lifetime breaking in


for having a vision too off-base.


Ray Vukcevich comes to mind.


One of our most brilliant living writers.


Only in the last few years has he become regularly published


but he's been knocking on those doors since the 1980s


What inspired you to write ROCKET SCIENCE?

Jay Lake


Jay Lake

Want the real story?


(I'll presume the answer is yes...)


Back in 1995 my mom, my sister and I took a roadtrip from Texas, where I lived at the time, to Augusta, Kansas


where she grew up, but hadn't been back since her mom died when she was 19.


I saw the house she lived in, etc.


and Augusta is very much Main Street, USA, one of those very American small towns, almost Bradbury-esque.


I was interested in the place, roots donchaknow, and got to noodling with my thoughts about Kansa


and was struck with the idea of a UFO in Kansas.


So I took my mom's family history wholesale and populated the story with real people


living in a real place


with an improbable situation.


It was fun


My dad read it and said...


"I didn't know you ever paid that much attention to the family stories"

Mary Rosenblum

And that's when you found out about the UFO buried in the family basement?

Jay Lake

pretty much


Two of my three grandfathers were in the aeronautics industry during WWII,


both lame from childhood, both working in engineering roles.


So the whole flight thing sort of folded in...


Never seen an UFO myself


not for a lack of trying


so I make them up instead


Suppose you bought, say, a case of your own book and donated the copies to, say, school libraries. Could you deduct the expense as charitable deduction on taxes?

Jay Lake



The really great thing about being a working writer is the veritable constellation of tax deductible activities and purchases in which you can engage.


I am NOT an accountant or an attorney, and this is NOT tax advice...


but if you look into it, you'll be amazed what you can deduct

Mary Rosenblum

But you DO have to be a working writer. :-)

Jay Lake

I know someone who deducts his cable bill, because he writes media tie in fiction, it's a research expense.


Yes, you must have income, contracts

Jay Lake

and I strongly recommend keeping a work diary

Mary Rosenblum

Or make a serious effort to do that.

Jay Lake

I do, as part of my manuscript tracking system


but a side effect is I can prove it's a serious commercial activity for me.


The IRS sometimes likes to look at writing as a hobby...

Mary Rosenblum

For those of you who do want some CPA input, you can go to the archives of my interviews and look back for my interview with John Caton. He's a CPA who specializes in artists, musicians, and writers and he gave a lot of good tax info.

Jay Lake

yah what she said


See, he's qualified, I'm not


but save your receipts, people


Marketing, great advantage. Mine is insurance sales, but can you give some tips on what works best..give aways, chats, blogging, paid ads, or radio?

Jay Lake

I do a lot of blogging


have about 400 regular readers


plus a lot of drop ins


I also go to conventions and conferences, and have reached the point where I'm being paid to be there


as a guest of honor or an instructor (sometimes, not always).


so I reach out that way.


I don't think much of paid ads, unless you have some very good targeting

Mary Rosenblum

And I think the value of promotion is radically different depending on how you publish. What makes a BIG difference in small press won't affect your sales enough for a big house.

Jay Lake



it's possible to overpromote too

Mary Rosenblum

How so, Jay? On the overpromote?

Jay Lake

Well, consider this...


first book comes out...


writer X (and I'm thinking of a gal here on the West Coast we both know) spends her advance...


sending postcards and kits to pretty much every bookstore in the country...


...gets lots of bookseller interest...


.,,book does quite well...


...second book comes out ON SAME CONTRACT...


...meaning she doesn't have another big advance, because the payout was front-loaded... promotional campaign from her...


...ordinary low-level new author support from pub...


...numbers drop way off...


...any time your numbers drop off with a New York deal, you're in trouble...


...mostly because of the way purchasing and returns work...


The majority of all fiction sold goes through BN, Borders and WalMart/Sam's Club


three buyers control that


and they buy off the computer


so an overpromoted first book, followed by an underpromoted secodn book, creates a sales decline.


It's actually happened to people I know

Mary Rosenblum

Yeah, a guy out here we both know, too.

Jay Lake



It's better to let it build organically


push where you can, when you can.


No one knows the secret formula


except maybe Dan Brown.

Mary Rosenblum

Your best promotion is word of mouth. A good book. Nothing beats that. And it's as Jay said...out of your control.


The Brass Ring Factor.


How far apart should a series be published...what do you think is a good time frame for promo reasons?

Jay Lake

That totally depends.


New York has been experimenting with hurry-up programs lately.


Go look at Elizabeth Bear's bibliography.


But I've got more normal contracts.


Both publishers have me on a one-a-year schedule.


If you write like Nora Roberts, you could publish faster


but the market only absorbs so much at a time, especially from a new writer without an established name.


Some people write under multiple names to deal with precisely that issue.


It takes months for a book to percolate through the review cycle, for one thing


so faster than twice a year would be very dicey

Mary Rosenblum

Even when the publisher starts way early.

Jay Lake



and books take years

Mary Rosenblum

Except in category romance...where about four a year seems usual.

Jay Lake

Right, but that's the market expectation


Do you think prepub or post pub reviews are best? Why or does it matter as long as you're getting good reviews? What about online compared to magazine?

Jay Lake

Depends on the market, pthib


prepub is nice in the big review magazines because libraries and indie booksellers make a lot of their buying decisions from that...


For newspaper and consumer magazine reviews, postpub might be better because of availability


and each (sub)genre has its own reading habits and review markets


plus I belong to the theory that no review is truly bad if they spell your name right...

Mary Rosenblum

There IS no bad publicity. :-)

Jay Lake

Luckily my name is easy to spell

Mary Rosenblum

Yeah, no kidding! Unlike mine! At least they've gotten it right so far

Jay Lake

Heh, try being Ray Vukcevich


I sat next to Robert J. Silverberg at a book signing once


watched him sign hundreds of books


we were chatting as he did so.


He finally turned to me and said..


"You know kid, you're lucky you've only got seven letters in your name"

Mary Rosenblum



I can understand that!


Yeah, poor Ray.

Jay Lake

My thought was, hey, I'm over 40, why is he calling me kid?




No bad publicity? How 'bout getting caught selling secrets to the Russkies??

Jay Lake

Is your name in the paper?

Mary Rosenblum

Hey, you sell your memoir from prison.

Jay Lake



I suppose if you were a serial killer or something that might not be so good...

Mary Rosenblum

Not if you're writing Christian Romance at least!

Jay Lake

but in the context of people talking about your BOOK...

Jay Lake

because mostly other people remember that they heard the name somewhere

Mary Rosenblum

Maybe if you're writing thriller or mainstream.

Jay Lake

True Crime

Mary Rosenblum

Okay, Jay, we're closing in on the end of our time. ...

Jay Lake

Mentions are good, but all of this is irrelevant if you haven't written a good strong story


hey, I brought a party favor

Mary Rosenblum

You want to give us some more good hints about Mainspring?


I love what I've heard.


And by all means, the party favor!!!

Jay Lake



It's a clockwork earth, like I said, the northern half of which is sort of a mutated Victorian England in a worldwide struggle with Imperial China


Hethor is a clockmaker's apprentice in New Haven, CT, which is a colony still


when the archangel Gabriel comes to warn him that the world is running down and the mainspring must be rewound


he embarks on a journey to find the Key Perilous, in order to set thing to rights


the southern Earth is a very strange place indeed


but how can you go wrong with a book that has zeppelins, neanderthals and angels?

Mary Rosenblum

Oh, no kidding! It sounds like a total romp. :-)

Jay Lake

So Mary, can I give away my party favor?

Mary Rosenblum

You bet, Jay!


Tell 'em what's behind the curtain.

Jay Lake

I have (well, will have soon) a copy of TRIAL OF FLOWERS

Mary Rosenblum

A first edition. :-)

Jay Lake

which I will give away to one lucky winner tonight


oh yeah


inscribed by the author, no less


(whoever gets it will need to email me, obviously)

Mary Rosenblum

If you'll choose a number....

Jay Lake

Me or them?

Mary Rosenblum

I'll announce the winner.




That's better than balloons OR confetti!

Jay Lake

What’s my range?

Jay Lake


Mary Rosenblum



Last count

Jay Lake

lucky 7

Mary Rosenblum

That's Oma on my screen.


If you want to send me your address as a question...


I'll email it to Jay.

Jay Lake

Then Mary can pass it on to me, yes



Mary Rosenblum

Congratulations, oma!


I hope you enjoy it.

Jay Lake

cool beans


Are there any last minute questions or comments?


If you like what I say about writing, come to my livejournal and follow the tags for 'process' Lots of stuff there

Mary Rosenblum

How about a Great Last Word on Writing, Jay?

Jay Lake

Easy, that one, too easy:




Thanks, Jay and Mary


Thanks Jay for sharing your nimble mind and fast fingers with us

Jay Lake

Thank you everybody who's had the patience to hang here


you're welcome, guys


it's been a lot of fun


thanks jay!


Just you write any stories with a female main character?

Jay Lake

yes Jane

Jay Lake

I have and do

Jay Lake

one of my unpublished novels has a female protage

Jay Lake


Mary Rosenblum

or something like that

Mary Rosenblum

Ah, there's hope yet.

Mary Rosenblum


Jay Lake

and they all hve important female characters

Mary Rosenblum

Jay, it has been fun. As always.


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