Consider this an intervention.
Listen, epic fantasy readers, real talk time. I know you had a good thing going with George. At the beginning of your relationship there seemed like there was so much potential there, like he really cared, and he’d provide a satisfactory end to your relationship. Only George is fat and lazy, and once he got that sweet sweet HBO money, he didn’t need you anymore. So then you turned to Pat, only he was even sleazier, gas lighting you, promising you a new chapter if you paid his rent, stringing you along for a decade.
So now you’re bitter because you’ve been burned by these two bums. No more abusive relationships for you! All men… er, I mean, epic fantasy authors, are untrustworthy scum, who’ll never seal the deal, and you’re never gonna date/read again! You’re only gonna read epic fantasy series once they’re complete! I ain’t reading nothing unless they put a ring on it! That’s right, epic fantasy authors, don’t come sniffing around here unless your epic 5 or 7 book series is already done!
You sit there with the salty tears leaving mascara trails down your cheeks, drinking your box wine, bitterly posting about how all fantasy authors are trash and you’ll never try their books, because you’ve been burned before! And then you act surprised when no new epic fantasy writers show up to court you…
Alright, enough of that tortured analogy crap. Let’s get down to business.
George R.R. Martin and Patrick Rothfuss have totally fucked over an entire generation of new authors. That will be their real legacy. They wrote some books that got super popular. These books dominated their genres for a lot of years, and hundreds of thousands of readers were glued to them, waiting for the next installment. Only because they are both apathetic sacks of shit with zero work ethic, their fans have been left waiting for over a decade for them to fulfill their promises.
Only this post ain’t about them. I don’t know what makes up the assortment of their particular bag of nuts, or why they suck at doing their jobs now. As a writer who has retained his dairy farmer roots interpretation of what it means to have a work ethic, fuck those guys.
I’m here to talk about you. The readers. The customers. The folks who pay the bills and keep the publisher’s lights on.
Get over it.
I’ve written before about how the whole “unwritten contracts” thing between authors and fans is bullshit. They don’t owe you anything, but they made promises and burned them, so you’re right to be pissed at them.
Only you aren’t taking your anger out on them. Oh no. Thanks to HBO George has got Cheeto money until he dies. People still give Pat lots of money for some charity or something. Beats me.
The people who are getting fucked because of your righteous anger aren’t the assholes who let you down. It’s the entire generation of fantasy authors who came after them.
These authors haven’t wronged you, because you destroyed their careers before they even had the chance.
This post came about because of some conversations I’ve had recently with a bunch of other fantasy authors, so once again it falls on me to be the one to tell people the ugly truth that everybody else is either too polite or scared to.
I had put up some goofy ass reviews from Amazon where various dipshits were whining about how they loved the book, but ONE STAR because the series wasn’t done yet, and something bad might happen that could prevent the series from getting finished.
Well no fucking shit. Forgive authors for not being immortal.
Bragging about not trying new authors unless their series are finished has become stylish. It’s a fucking meme.
But anyways I ended up talking to a bunch of other authors about this, and it was the exact same thing across the board. They write an epic fantasy, and then people don’t buy it because they’re scared it isn’t going to get finished. This has even leaked over into sci-fi. I can’t speak for thrillers or other genres, and I can only hope that those authors aren’t getting burned too because their most famous guy turned to shit or died.
The issue is if nobody buys book 1, then I can absolutely fucking guarantee that the series isn’t gonna get done, because no author is stupid enough to waste a decade of his life not making any money, in the off chance you fickle bastards *might* give it a shot when he’s done.
Let me break this down for you.
Depending on authors, it takes about 6 months to a year of nonstop effort to produce a good epic fantasy novel. Some of us it takes a lot longer. (it doesn’t take any of us a decade, and whoever is telling you that is full of shit). We can make books faster, but the faster you rush an artistic product, the rougher it is gonna be. And epic fantasy is one of those genres where the customer is accustomed to a certain level of quality. So if you do the churn and burn, book of the month indy thing, you might get sales, but nobody is gonna remember that series. When most of us tackle a big epic fantasy series, that’s the thing we’re hoping will stick around and still get read after we’re dead.
Epic Fantasy is a genre that’s also based on fat books and long series. Both of which take time to create.
Now here’s the ugly facts of life. Let’s say there’s a new, unestablished author, who really wants to write an epic fantasy. Let’s even say he’s fucking brilliant. This guy is potentially the next Tolkien/Howard/Sanderson/Erickson/Donaldson/(insert whoever your favorite is here). He’s really that good. He sits in a chair for one year of his life, planning a five book series magnum opus, then pours thousands of hours into a manuscript and writes an epic fantasy novel that’s brilliant. It’s amazing. It’s fucking gold.
He publishes this amazing book… and then a bunch of snide fucks go hur dur I got burned by George RR Martin, so I’m not gonna give any new authors a chance, and that author with potential for greatness ranks in the two million range on Amazon and makes just enough money in sales off that year of labor to buy dinner at Applebee’s.
Now what are the odds this guy is gonna be able to spend another 8,000 hours of nearly unpaid labor to finish that series, while also being broke and poor?
I made one guarantee above. Here’s another. I can promise you with absolute certainty that there are some brilliant authors out there, who you will never read, and never see, and never hear of, because their careers died when their first book was a commercial failure. Whole careers were aborted before they ever had a chance to get started because the market is bitter at a couple of lazy fat fucks.
Just imagine the stories we have all been deprived of. The next Tolkien was right there. Only because you were ass mad at Patrick Rothfuss, Tolkien 2 had to hang up his dreams of being an author and go back to work at the RV dealership because he’s got alimony checks to pay.
This business is difficult to break into at the best of times. It’s harder when the customers are punishing the new guys because they’re pissed off at a billionaire with a stupid hat and scraggly beard.
Now full disclosure, because my regular detractors are gonna claim that this post is because I’m personally bitter, I’m doing fine. I’m 4 books into a 5 book epic fantasy, that’ll be 10 years from beginning to end, but it actually sells pretty good, and I’m successful in multiple genres already. I dodged the stupid Martin/Rothfuss kiss of death because I’ve been doing this long enough I had lots of fans I brought over from writing urban fantasy first. So when I get those whining crybabies talking about how they can’t read Son of the Black Sword until the whole series is done, that makes for amusing Facebook fodder for me to mock for the fans enjoyment, but it doesn’t make enough financial difference for me to actually give a shit.
Guys like me are fine.
Guys like Brandon Sanderson are SUPER FINE. Like piles of money fine. He’s built a fan base that trusts him. This is extra ironic because he owes his career to stepping in to finish another famous author’s series when he died. (and sadly I see assholes lumping Jordan in with Rothfuss and Martin… are you fucking kidding me? Jordan DIED. Rothfuss and Martin are alive but lazy. These things are not the same)
Guys who got established and built fan bases before GRRM smothered epic fantasy with a pillow are good to go.
But guys like I was talking to last week? The new guys? The guys who aren’t bringing thousands of readers with them already? They’re fucked.
I was talking to a friend of mine who just had book 1 of his epic fantasy come out last year. He got endless whining from entitled dicks about Rothfuss and Martin. His sales were okay, enough he can justify number 2 and hope it picks up. He’s one of the lucky ones. His publishing house now desperately picks up authors, tosses a book 1 out there in the hope it sticks, and when it usually doesn’t, the publisher just boots that author, then tries again with the new flavor of the week.
There’s another author I know who did a fantasy trilogy. His reviews and buzz were amazing. His covers were fantastic. Wide distro and good marketing. Book one sold meh. But he was in a financial position that he could keep pushing. Book two sold a bit better, and dragged book one up, as some more people thought okay maybe this guy isn’t a quitter. Again, he stuck it out because he could. Book three finished the trilogy, and then there was a huge spike. Sales took off, and the market breathed a sigh of relief and said, this guy isn’t Pat Rothfuss!
Well no shit. Because the vast overwhelming majority of us aren’t Pat Rothfuss. So quit fucking treating us like we are.
Now, imagine that last author wasn’t in a personal financial position where he could continue investing thousands of hours into labor into something which hadn’t had a positive ROI? Or what if it was supposed to be a 5 book series instead of 3? This arbitrary don’t buy until it is done nonsense, assures that the only people who can stick to it are people with a lot of money from something else… because gee whiz, when you think of the best authors in history, you think of the ones who were rich and sheltered trust fund babies with no life experience!
I’ve written something like 25 novels, 50 short stories, 6 novellas, edited 4 anthologies, and even wrote a non-fiction book about gun rights since George Martin’s last Game of Thrones novel came out, and I still have to listen to entitled dipshits act like I’m gonna suddenly hang it up tomorrow. Motherfucker, if I stop that suddenly it’s because I died, and in that case, oh well. Sorry. If you’re that much of a bitch about artists being human just program a chat bot to spit you out a trash book a day and shut the fuck up.
To those readers who aren’t perpetually aggrieved victims, get back out there. Please give new authors a shot again. Their series might not get finished. They might die. They might get a terminal illness. They might get shot by ATF agents for having a pistol brace on their bumpstock. The entire fucking Earth might get hit with a giant asteroid tomorrow.
But if you want more new good epic fantasy to read, you’re gonna have to take a gamble occasionally and buy some.
This goes for sci-fi too, only they aren’t as infested with this toxic idiocy as fantasy. There’s fucking trashbags like David Gerrold, who started a hit series when I was in elementary school, but apparently it’s easier for him to beg for rent money on the internet in exchange for vague promises of finishing it, than it is to actually work for a living.
Every career field has shirkers, grifters, and beggars like that. Writers aren’t unique. Only you don’t assume that every roofer in the country is a lazy bastard who won’t finish the job, so you just let your roof keep leaking. No. You pick somebody who looks like they can provide a quality product and you roll the dice and hope they live up to expectations. If they don’t, you fucking move on, and hire somebody else. If no customers use them, they can’t stay in business and have to go do something different.
This is true of every business. Why would you expect books to be any different?
We recorded some episodes of WriterDojo last night and talked about this subject. Most of our episodes are light hearted and fun, but this one got a little grim at the end, because this subject is sad. Steve and I could talk about a few authors we know on the show, but during the break we thought of dozens of others who had gotten rolled up in this and broken. I’m talking amazing artists, who would have told wonderful stories. Only the whole world got deprived of their art, because too many of you are still hung up on some other assholes who dropped the ball.
That ain’t fair.
I try to help other authors, but I’m just one dude with very limited reach. I hate seeing good authors and newbs with great potential get fucked over for no good reason. I’m not writing this post out of anger. I’m writing it, begging you, the burned and bitter, to get back in the saddle and go find some new authors to give a shot.
They might suck. They might fail and let you down. They might have the audacity to have lives, or even die… the bastards. Or they might be awesome, and in a few years of practice because they’re able to make a living at this they might develop into your favorite author.
But you won’t know unless you try.
EDIT: adding the link to the post I talked about promises and expectations because some people have got really selective memories with their attempted gotchas.
As for todays post:
Fans don’t owe writers anything.
Fans owe it to THEMSELVES to not let a genre they love die off because they were so pissed off at the last generation of producers they fuck over the new one. Duh.