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Brandon Sanderson’s Self-Publishing & Small Press Releases

Photo by Nihonjoe.

I woke up this morning to find an interesting post on the Fantasy-Faction Forums. It was by a gentleman who was going to be self-publishing a number of titles and printing a few more through a small press. Now, this isn’t unusual – I wake up to find these kinds of threads on Fantasy-Faction all the time. I tend to check out the books and either purchase them, if I find them interesting, or leave them to others, if the premise doesn’t suit my tastes.

This morning was slightly different though, because today it was Brandon Sanderson, New York Times bestselling author, who stopped by to tell us about his small press and self-published projects. WHAT!? You may ask. But Brandon Sanderson is one of the biggest names in fantasy literature…why on Earth would he self-publish!? And what is it he is publishing?

Well, who better to explain than Mr Sanderson himself, check this out:

Brandon Sanderson here. I have been known to write some fantasy stories now and then. I have some self published and small press books coming out this year, and I thought people might not get a chance to hear about them.

The first is self published. I’m taking two of my novellas and printing them together in a print volume, which I’ll be taking to some cons this summer to sell. I should have some up on my website for sale eventually. The stories are Defending Elysium and Firstborn, both of which are free to read on-line. (Defending Elysium is on my website. Firstborn on Tor.com–though I have a link to it in the other link just below.)

http://brandonsanderson.com/library/catalog/Recent-Short-Stories_Full-Short-Stories

Also of interest, I have a book coming out from Subterranean Press in July or August:

http://www.subterraneanpress.com/Merchant2/merchant.mv?Screen=PROD&Product_Code=sanderson01&Category_Code=B&Product_Count=114

Called Legion, it is the story of a man with a very interesting brain. He is a genius, and can master any topic of study in a very short time–however, the knowledge he gains manifests as a person only he can see, who acts as an adviser on that topic. Someone invents a camera that can take pictures of the past, and our hero–along with his band of genius delusions–must recover it after it is stolen.

Finally, as if that weren’t enough, Tachyon is publishing another of my books sometime around November:

http://www.tachyonpublications.com/book/Emperors_Soul.html?Session_ID=new

This story, The Emperor’s Soul, is a fantasy story about Shai, a master forger. The emperor barely survives assassination, and is left a vegetable. His servants can heal his brain, but he just stares in front of himself blankly, as if his soul is gone. Shai is hired (well, brought off of death row) and told she has three months to create a forgery of the emperor’s soul and imprint it onto his body with her magic, so that everyone can continue to act like the emperor is alive.

Both the Subterranean book and the Tachyon book are novellas.

The obvious question is probably, “Why isn’t your New York publisher doing these?” Well, to be honest, these books aren’t right for Tor. They’re just too short, in my opinion, for a traditional bookstore release. (Though I originally did do one of them with Tor.com.) I wanted to release nice collector’s edition print versions and cheap ebooks at the same time. It’s not something that is profitable for a large publisher, and so is better suited to doing myself. (EDIT–Note, with Legion and The Emperor’s Soul, I’m working with very talented small presses for the print editions and am self publishing the ebooks. I don’t want to take credit for what Subpress and Tachyon are doing, as they’ve been fantastic to work with. I love the Tachyon cover.)

I’m not sure if this means I officially get to join the indy writers, or if I’m already too far entrenched in my place to ever be considered indy. However, considering the company, it seems like a great place to be. I’m a firm believer that both indy publishing and big-six publishing will have a place in the future of books, and that both serve very useful roles. Seems like this is one of the best times in the history of publishing to be a writer, with more opportunity for more people and more voices.

Best,

Brandon

p.s. I don’t know if anyone out there is paying any attention, and this thread might just vanish away. But in case it doesn’t, I’ll keep an eye on it for a while and answer any questions that come my way. Feel free to ask.

You can visit Brandon’s thread here.

The Emperor's Soul (cover)So, it appears that self-publishing and small presses have offered Brandon something that traditional publishing was not able to. As an artist, Brandon Sanderson is able to follow his creative urge and break the mould, of what sells and makes corporation sized profits, working towards his own desires. Like a painter who has galleries waiting on him to produce masterpieces to sell in abundance, and yet also loves drawing superheroes for comic books in his spare time, Brandon is able to keep writing those stunning epics such as Stormlight, Mistborn and Wheel Of Time for his publishers, whilst also testing his abilities and working on smaller projects that he really enjoys and believes in.

As Brandon alludes to, novels are a publisher’s speciality – any publisher will tell you that novellas and short stories don’t sell nearly as well as novels. Therefore, as businesses, we cannot blame them for putting emphasis on publishing this medium. However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a big market for shorter fiction and even longer fiction with plots that don’t suit that publisher’s brand. It simply means that for the massive corporations, there isn’t enough money to be made. You have to remember that publishing houses hire hundreds of people and to cover the overheads the books they publish have to sell thousands upon thousands of copies.

Now, by self-publishing, Brandon significantly reduces the overheads of producing a piece of work. It will be him, a cover artist, and a hired editor and then he will probably outsource the typesetting and the printing. For an already established author such as Brandon Sanderson, this is pretty much perfect. He already has a huge fan-base, who are no doubt excited to check out these projects, and he is able to work freely, without any pressure from publishers to write something that appeals to “the market”. Brandon has no doubt earned well from his other writing pursuits, and like most artists, money will only be a small part of the equation. For Brandon, I am sure, getting his work out there and sharing something he believes in will be a big part of the reward.

So, what will the books be like? Should you order them? Sadly, I’ve not had the pleasure of reading any of them yet. However, Brandon’s voice echoed in my mind as I read that forum post just a few hours ago. It was an echo from when I interviewed Brandon in 2011. He was telling me about how he thrived on having creative freedom with his writing projects. He said that “[when I] only gave care to what I thought made a fantastic book, I did a good job.” and he also added a bit later on: “I need complete creative freedom; otherwise my books have no life to them.” Now, those quotes are slightly out of context, so you should probably read the interview to get the full meaning of what Brandon was saying, but surely self-publishing and having an even greater control of his own projects can only lead to greater pieces of work, right?

Editor’s Note: We would like to once again thank Mr. Sanderson for taking the time to stop by our forums and support the small press and self-publishing portion of our community. All of us at Fantasy-Faction greatly appreciate it!

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14 Comments

  1. Avatar MattJoeTom says:

    Amazing follow up from yesterday!

  2. Avatar Overlord says:

    MattJoeTom, Agreed! Mr Sanderson even posted this in the Self Published section of our forums to show his pride in his Self Publishing and Small Press projects.

    Wolfking, haha – I agree! You think that Brandon, which as much work as he has, would board a plane and think – right, no phones and no agents around – I’m going to get some downtime! Instead, he writes a novella of almost 20,000 words 😀

  3. Avatar AE Marling says:

    I doubt Brandon Sanderson has much of what others might call free time. However, he no doubt views any time his words form the stepping stones into the horizon of imagination most free indeed.

    Glad to see Brandon Sanderson has dipped his toes into the waters of self-publishing. Due to his titanic presence, those toes are in fact the size of battleships, and will create great waves indeed.

  4. Avatar MattJoeTom says:

    I think, for him, down time is when he gets to write. That’s why his writing is so great. Once it starts to become work I don’t think any writer can thrive as much.

  5. Avatar Lexie C. says:

    Being the obsessive Sanderson fan that I am, I have Legion pre-ordered, have Emperor of Souls bookmarked to check once a week when I can pre-order and am begging friends to get me a copy of the omnibus collection of two shorts at one of the conventions he attends (since I can’t afford to attend any of them) so…yeah he has no worries on my front. He’s getting all my money ever until he stops publishing books.

    That all said–he’s a true inspiration. He’s so down to Earth and fan-friendly–the few times I’ve seen him he’s been nothing but gracious and doesn’t seem like the sort you’d think is a Bestseller (multiple times over). The fact he’s going this route at all is telling of how seriously he takes his writing–as MattJoeTom said–he doesnt’ see this as ‘work’, its what he enjoys wholeheartedly.

  6. Avatar Jamie says:

    Sounds good 🙂 So long as my TBR pile doesn’t grow again, my next read will be The Way of Kings Part 1. I need to get on the Sanderson wagon, I’ve left his worlds unread for too long!

  7. That’s great for the fantasy market and the self-publishing ventures, a name at this level can certainly carry weight to those looking to take a risk in the market with their works.

    I’ve heard rumblings about other physical published authors wanting to do this, so perhaps this will assist.

    The HUGE pitfall is that you lose control over your content as a reader. If they want to take it away from you (Amazon, B&N, Apple), they can without warning. While this might not affect Sanderson, it can affect others.

    The darker side of self-pub no one wants to talk about.

    • Avatar Anne Lyle says:

      You’re conflating self-publishing with e-publishing. True, most self-pubbers do publish in ebook only (through online providers like Amazon) because the startup costs are lower. But the ebook stores have the same stranglehold over commercial publishers – Amazon has in the past removed the “Buy” button from certain publishers’ books during disputes over wholesale discounts.

      We’re all in the same boat when it comes to online monopolies, unfortunately…

  8. Oh thank you for the information! I’ll definitely have to keep an eye out for these. I would have never known. 🙂 Thank you again!

  9. Avatar AJ Zaethe says:

    Well, I am glad to see that it there is a logical reason for getting these independently published. I myself do not find indy publishing appealing for my own reasons, but I find the move that Sanderson is making will be awesome. Collectors prints? Sign me up.

  10. Avatar xiagan says:

    And you have to appreciate his timing! A day after ‘the incident’. How awesome is that? It really made me laugh out loud. 😀

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