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MILKWEED UPDATE (or, What the Hell is Going on With The Coldest War?)

March 13, 2011 at 3:05 pm

I've been trying to figure out how to write this post for a couple of weeks. 

There are two reasons for the difficulty.  First and foremost, this topic makes me feel helpless, and furious, and very very depressed.  Second, I've been dithering over how much of this I can talk about in public.  The very last thing I'd ever want to do is sound like a disgruntled troublemaker.

But a few days ago I unwisely let something slip in the comment thread to a recent blog post, where I thought very few people would see it.  Instead, it ended up on Twitter.  (I really wish I'd taken a more moderate tone in my off-the-cuff comments there.)

So I'll cut to the chase: My publisher has delayed—yet again—the publication dates for the mass market paperback of Bitter Seeds, as well as for the hardcover of Milkweed #2, The Coldest War.  This means that contrary to my last announcement (which came on the heels of a face-to-face meeting with my editor), Coldest War will NOT debut in October 2011.

This post isn't intended as a woe-is-me story.  But lately I've been getting a lot of questions about the publication date for Coldest War, and I've decided that if I have to announce yet another delay, I'm going to lay out the situation in as much detail as I can.  My intent is to give a clear and complete accounting of the history of the Milkweed books' publication process.  Because it seems that every so often I'm forced to come up here to eat my words and rescind a previously announced publication schedule.  Which makes me look, and feel, like a lying bastard.  Which, you know?  Not fun.

But anybody kind enough to care about my books deserves to know why I keep changing my tune.  Please believe me, brothers and sisters: it ain't by choice.

Below the cut, I'll try to explain how and why this is happening.  (I say "try" because, frankly, I don't fully understand it myself.)   But I want to be very clear that I've never, ever announced a publication date that didn't come straight from my publisher.  And in the meantime, my agent and I have done everything in our power to try to push this series forward, including most especially meeting my contractual obligations and even finishing each manuscript ahead of schedule.  (Which is pretty much the only thing an author has power over.)


OK.  So what happened?  And why will more than 2 years pass between the publication of Bitter Seeds and its sequel, The Coldest War?

First and foremost, nobody wanted things to turn out this way.  My editor didn't, my publisher didn't, my agent didn't, and I sure as hell didn't.  And yet...

Nothing is carved in stone in the publishing world.  But in what follows, bear in mind that a good rule of thumb for your average genre book is that under normal circumstances it can take roughly a year to turn a manuscript on the author's laptop into a physical object in a bookstore.  Of course, the turnaround can be (and frequently is) much quicker for hotly anticipated books from successful, well-established authors.

But for somebody like me, that year is a good benchmark.  Turning a manuscript into a physical book is a complicated process.  Many things have to happen, relying upon input from many different people, for the process to work successfully.  And unless the book is a very high priority *cough*DanceWithDragons*cough* that process takes many months.  So among other things, it means that for a small-fry author like me, editorial notes on a book should ideally arrive no more than a few months after the manuscript has been submitted.  Keep that in mind. 

But nothing is ever ideal; we live in an imperfect world.  Sometimes VERY imperfect.

In what follows, I'm going to lay out the facts of the situation without interpretation or embellishment.  The facts are the facts; nothing here is in dispute.

A Brief History of the Milkweed Books (So Far)

Late September, early October, 2007:  My agent, thinking ahead to how she'll try to sell my trilogy when the time comes, read what I'd written thusfar of Bitter Seeds.  This was an unfinished, as-typed "zeroeth" draft.   A few days later she asked my permission to start showing the book around right then, before it was finished.  I agreed.

Late October, early November 2007:  My agent arranged a meeting between me and my soon-to-be editor at the World Fantasy convention in Saratoga, NY.   He expressed much enthusiasm for the trilogy.  I'm flattered, flabbergasted, and over the moon:  we're on the verge of selling my first trilogy on the basis of roughly the first two thirds of the unfinished rough draft of the first book (complete with notes to myself still embedded in the text!).  Perhaps it was hubris, but I felt elated and proud.

January, 2008:  I signed the contract for the Milkweed books.   It specified the following due dates for the manuscripts:

Bitter Seeds:  May 1, 2008

The Coldest War:  July 1, 2009

Necessary Evil:  September 1, 2010

May 1, 2008:  I submitted the original manuscript for Bitter Seeds to my editor.  At this point, the book was on track for publication in summer of 2009. My editor responded by saying that he was looking forward to reading it, but that it would take "a few weeks" because his current workload was, in his words, akin to a herd of elephants all trying to walk through the same door at the same time.  This would be the last meaningful communication that either I or my agent would have with my editor for the next nine months.

At the time, I saw no cause for alarm.  Everything was going according to plan.  So I focused on my responsibilities, and started writing The Coldest War.

January, 2009:  My editor issued a public admission/mea culpa that his work had slipped quite considerably in the preceding year.  It was heartfelt and sincere.  While my agent and I were disappointed that things had gotten off to a less-than-promising start, we knew that nothing arose from malice or ill will.  It was simply an unfortunate set of circumstances.  Still, things needed to change.

Early February, 2009:   Concerned that nine months had passed without any word on editorial notes for Bitter Seeds, my agent arranged a lunch meeting for her, my editor, me, and a few others.

During the course of that meeting, our suspicions were confirmed:  it was no longer possible for Bitter Seeds to debut in 2009.  The long (and still largely unexplained) wait for editorial notes had shifted the publication date for Bitter Seeds to April, 2010.  This was Delay #1. 

The good news was that Coldest War was now easily on track for publication in ~February, 2011:  ten months after the debut of book 1, which is very good.  So the silver lining of this original delay was that it provided plenty of time to get ahead of the game so that the entire trilogy could be published on schedule.

My editor apologized for the delays.  He also made it clear that if I wanted to change over to a different editor, that he would support the transition with absolutely no hard feelings.  But I declined the offer.  For me, it was a no-brainer.  I wanted to stay with the editor who had initially acquired my books and expressed enthusiasm for them.  I had, and still have, tremendous respect and admiration for his body of work.

We all agreed that everything was back on track, and all delays were behind us.  I took the April, 2010 and February, 2011 dates for Milkweed #1 & #2 as gospel, and publicized them as much as I could.

June 28, 2009:  I submitted the original manuscript for The Coldest War to my editor. 

At this point, 14 months had passed since I submitted the manuscript for Bitter Seeds.  Editorial notes had yet to arrive.  This meant I had written an entire novel while waiting for notes on the previous book.

Mid-August, 2009:  A little over 16 months after submitting the manuscript, I received editorial suggestions in tandem with the copyedited manuscript (CEM) for Bitter Seeds.  As requested by Tor's production department, in order to keep things running on the new schedule, I returned the revised CEM in six days. 

Early November, 2009:  I received the galley pages for Bitter Seeds.  I reread the book in this format, and made minor corrections to the typeset pages.  I sent the corrected pages back to my publisher about a week later.

April 13, 2010:  Bitter Seeds was published.  Hooray!  A very, very happy day.

At this point, I made a mental note based on my one and only datapoint:  production scheduling meant the CEM and editorial notes had to arrive about 8 months prior to publication of the actual novel.  (Which, by the way, is consistent with that one-year rule of thumb I gave above.)  That's not the case in general, but it was my only guiding star for what to expect for the rest of the trilogy.

Mid-June, 2010:   At this point, The Coldest War had been submitted for almost one year.  Judging by the production schedule for Bitter Seeds, editorial notes and/or a CEM for The Coldest War should have arrived around this time to ensure Milkweed #2 came out in February, 2011.   I started to worry.  So did my agent.  But all queries from my agent to my editor went unanswered.

August 12, 2010:   A  conscientious reader emailed me, wondering why The Coldest War didn't appear in Tor's latest catalog.  Didn't this contradict what I'd said online about a Febuary, 2011 release?  I went online to check this for myself.  Sure enough, my newest book wasn't listed among Tor's upcoming Winter/Spring 2011 releases.  This was the first I'd heard about any delays to Coldest War.

I emailed a query to my editor.

August 15, 2010:  I submitted the original manuscript for Necessary Evil to my editor.  This is the second time I wrote an entire novel while waiting for notes on the previous volume.   (Necessary Evil is the longest of the three Milkweed books.)

At this point, I'd met or exceeded all of my contractual deadlines for the Milkweed books.  Aside from editorial revisions, copyedits, and reviewing the galley pages, the bulk of my authorial obligations had been met.

August 26, 2010:  Two weeks after my initial inquiry about the publication status of Coldest War, my editor explained that the decision to delay Coldest War was made at the very last minute, just a few days before the catalog went to press.  This was done in order to give everybody time to devise a new "marketing package" for the Milkweed books.  This was Delay #2.

Early September, 2010:  We met in person (in Australia!) just over a week later to discuss the situation in detail.   During this conversation, my editor explained the new publication plan was to have a mass market paperback of Bitter Seeds out in September, 2011 and the hardcover/ebook edition of Coldest War out in October, 2011.   These books would feature cover art devised for the new marketing plan.  (Also during this meeting, my editor stated that he'd begun reading Coldest War, and that thusfar his editorial suggestions were mainly issues of wording and foreign dialects.)

I announced these new publication dates, and gave a long explanation for the reasons for the delay, here.  At the time, while I felt deeply disappointed about the delay, I was also quite excited about my publisher's decision to push for a repackaging of the trilogy—that's a great show of support for a new author!

At this point, Coldest War had been submitted and awaiting editorial notes for about 14 months.  But, there was still plenty of time for us to hit the new October 2011 publication date.

But five more months passed with no observable progress.  Once again, my agent's queries went unanswered.  She attempted to arrange two separate lunch meetings with my editor during this period; both were cancelled on short notice. 

My agent and I became very, very worried about the Milkweed books.

Mid-February, 2011:  Judging by the production schedule for Bitter Seeds, editorial notes and/or the CEM for The Coldest War should have arrived around this time to keep things on track for publication in October, 2011.  At this point, the wait for editorial notes on The Coldest War had stretched to almost 20 months.

Also in mid-February, I met with my editor again (this a few days after an email conversation).  In this conversation he confirmed the fears that had been causing me months of depression and anxiety: a new marketing/packaging strategy for Milkweed never materialized in time for the September/October 2011 publication dates mentioned above.   This necessitated yet another delay in the publication of The Coldest War.  This is Delay #3.  More on that below.

My editor confessed that during our previous meeting in August, 2010, he'd already begun to worry about the October 2011 date for Coldest War.  Looking back on the situation over the previous 5 months, he expressed some regret that he didn't re-raise the possibility of moving the Milkweed books to a different editor within the same publisher.

He apologized for how things have unfolded with the Milkweed books.  This entire situation is, in his own words,

...a massive failure on my part... it represents pretty much the worst thing I've been completely responsible for in more than two decades on this job. I'm not going to bend your ear about how I got into this hole. It's my responsibility to figure out how to stop doing damage, make what amends are possible, and do whatever I can that will get matters back on track.

It's difficult to understand how things got to this point because, as I said above, never at any point did anything transpire out of malice or ill will.  The Milkweed books just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, and fell victim to an epic case of, in my editor's words, "editorial vapor lock".   I won't go into details, but he did provide a somewhat lengthy description of what that means.  It's not quite the same thing as apathy, but it's impossible to make that distinction from outside.  It may be a philosophical distinction rather than a practical one.

I asked, bluntly, whether the problem stemmed from an extreme distate for my work.  This received a vehement denial.  So too did my suggestion that I'd somehow caused the problem by being unpleasant and difficult to work with.   So I don't think the massive setbacks and delays sprang from an excruciatingly poor draft of The Coldest War.

I don't know what more to say about how these delays came to happen and why they kept happening.  I doubt I'll ever fully understand the situation.  And I know for a fact that everybody involved feels very badly about it.  (Not as badly as I and my agent do, however.)   But this doesn't change the fact that I've watched friends conceive, write, sell, and have published entire books in the amount of time that The Coldest War has been languishing in editorial purgatory. 

I'm only human.  This has been depressing.

In outlining the above sequence of events, I've purposely chosen to focus on my own interactions.  My agent, the fabulous and wonderful Kay McCauley, has been at my side for every step of this struggle.  And, frankly, things would be much worse today if it wasn't for her.  Kay has been an unceasing champion for me, and without her I'd have been lost adrift long ago.  I'm so damn grateful to have her on my side.

Remarkably, and quite unfortunately, I'm not the only one of Kay's clients whose books have suffered in this fashion.  Melinda Snodgrass experienced very much the same thing over the same few years.  She has shared her thoughts about it here.

Looking Back, What Could I Have Done Differently?


I have met or exceeded every single deadline.  And I've strived, to the best of my ability, to write the best books of which I'm capable.   That doesn't mean the manuscripts are perfect—far from it, and besides, there's no such thing—but they were written with 100% effort on every page.

And that's just about all an author can do.  The author is merely the typist; it takes many more people to produce the book. 

I suppose my agent and I might have considered changing editors when the topic first came up in February, 2009.  But hindsight is always 20/20.  I had no intention of breaking with my current editor, whose body of work I greatly respect and admire.   But if I had known this would cost us so much time, I would have done it then.

OK.  So What Now?

Believe it or not, there is hope.

The Milkweed books have moved to a different editor.  (They're staying at Tor, so this is purely an in-house move.)  The move has the blessing of all invested parties: me, my agent, my previous editor, and my new current editor.  It wasn't undertaken out of spite or anger.  The sole purpose of this 100% amicable move, as agreed upon by everybody involved, is to try to put the Milkweed books back on a reliable publishing track.  Because clearly the old arrangement wasn't working. 

When I spoke with my new editor on the telephone a couple of weeks ago, I was blown away by her passion and enthusiasm for these books.  In less than two weeks, she had already read the published version of Bitter Seeds, as well as the 20-month-old manuscript for Coldest War, and was a few chapters into Necessary Evil.  And she even plans to go back and reread Coldest War again before consolidating her notes on the book!  I've been told to expect an editorial letter by the end of this month.  Best of all, we had a broad-strokes discussion of her analysis, only to discover that we're very much on the same wavelength.  I truly believe we're going to make a good team.  We're going to make the remaining Milkweed books stronger than they would have been on their own.  It's exciting.

In the comment thread for the blog post linked up above, I said that the tentative schedule for the hardcover/ebook release of The Coldest War is summer 2012 (again following a month after the mmpb of Bitter Seeds).  I have reason to believe that this time there will actually be an effort to make that stick.  But I'm not making any official announcements for at least a little while.

What About You, Ian?  How Do You Feel About The Whole Thing?

I'm really excited to be working with a new editor.  It gives me a lot of hope.  As recently as a few weeks ago, I'd pretty much abandoned hope that the remaining Milkweed books would ever see the light of day.

But otherwise?  How do I feel when I consider everything prior to a few weeks ago? 

Pretty shitty, thanks for asking.

Look... I know I'm not the only person to ever fall through the cracks of publishing.  And, hell, even though I did, it's not like I rely upon writing to pay my mortgage.   And other writers have been through worse experiences (although this situation is pretty extreme by most standards). 

And in the grand scheme of things, considering the state of the world right now, it's small potatoes.

But you know what?  This was still a crappy situation.  Nobody denies it.

I haven't written much in the past few months.  Once I figured out that Coldest War was getting delayed again beyond October 2011 (I say "figured out" because nobody ever told me up-front about any of these three delays), much of my desire to work on a new novel evaporated.  Sorta seems pointless, you know?   I already have two books languishing in an endless pipeline.  I haven't felt motivated to exacerbate the backlog while it remains unclear how or when that goddamned pipe will get unplugged.

I'm not going to be melodramatic and make sweeping claims that I'll never write again and oh what a tragedy...   That's unrealistic, it's childish, and it's wallowing in self pity.  Of course I won't abandon writing forever.  But I have been very sour on it recently.  Which I think is perfectly reasonable, given the circumstances.

Consequently, I ended up withdrawing from a novel-critiquing workshop that I had planned to attend in April.   It damn near broke my heart to pull out of Blue Heaven this year; I really, really wanted to go.  I love the people at Blue Heaven, and it's a great 'shop— I ran Bitter Seeds through Blue Heaven back in 2007.  But thanks to a long talk with my friend and mentor Charlie Finlay, I came to realize (in spite of his urging to attend regardless the status of my current novel project) that it wasn't the right thing for me to do right now.

Pulling out of Blue Heaven didn't help my mood any.  It was the right thing for me to do... but it also compounded my sadness.  It bummed me out quite a bit.

Like I said up top, this isn't meant to be a woe-is-me story.  Nor am I casting myself as the victim in a melodrama.  Because again, none of this arose from spite or ill will.   But there's no denying that it was shitty, it was unprofessional, and it hurt.  Nobody set out to target me or my books; nobody did this intentionally.  But I hope I've made the case that the Milkweed books have fallen victim to a long series of unfortunate events that I could not prevent.

Other Thoughts

One of the things that bothers me most about this situation is the worry that folks will begin to doubt my claims that I've finished the manuscripts for the Milkweed novels.  Hell, I know that if I were watching this farce from the sidelines, I'd be cocking an eyebrow at that Tregillis jerk right about now.  So let me try to convince you I'm not blowing smoke when I say the books are finished (pending, as always, editorial revisions, copyedits, and galley proofs). 

Last summer, in this blog post, I posted photographs of my research bookshelf.  Prominently displayed on the bottom shelf are the rough drafts of Bitter Seeds, The Coldest War, and Necessary Evil.  Those binders are still there.  And I promise you they aren't filled with blank paper, okay?

Furthermore, I can name at least half a dozen people who have read the entire trilogy from beginning to end.  Vic Milán has even bragged about it, may the sun shine on him every day of his life, as he noted in the comment thread for this recent blog post.  I've been blessed with a dogged and determined group of beta readers, who have patiently slogged through my first drafts.  They made my work better because they read every word of it.  I'm grateful to Vic, and Melinda, and Walter Jon Williams, and Steve Stirling, and Sam Butler, and Char Peery.  Other terrific folks have read wide swaths of the books, but these are the folks who read every.  damned.  word.  (The poor suckers.)

I know I'm probably being a little paranoid.  But I really, truly want folks to know that I've never misrepresented my efforts or my progress.

But it cheers me up when I hear people are talking about this situation and being sympathetic about the delays, such as in the brief twittersation here, here, and here.  (Thanks, Mr. Hatter and Mr. Yeti.)

I don't say this enough:  I am so damn grateful for every single person who has expressed interest in my work.  I can't tell you how much it means to me.  Honestly, and sincerely.  Thank you.

And now, I'd like to ask a favor. 

It's no secret that I'm a complete failure at social networking.  (Who knows... Maybe someday I'll turn that into my "shtick" and use it to become "famous".)  When it comes to spreading information quickly, I might as well be Amish.  So I'd really, really appreciate it if anybody reading this could provide the link to the post to any interested parties.  The number of people who care about Milkweed is pretty small, so I'm not asking for billboards and submissions to Slashdot.  But if you frequent boards where people discuss upcoming SF/F novels, for instance, and if you hear folks wondering about The Coldest War, it would be tremendously helpful if you could point them in this direction.  

Thanks for listening.

[Addendum, 15 March 2011: Melinda Snodgrass has elaborated on her original post about the publication troubles plaguing her Edge series.  Her new post can be read here.]

[Addendum, 5 May 2011:  The situation is improving!  I'm delighted with my new editor, as I've mentioned here.]


March 13, 2011 at 6:15 pm
I hope you can keep us updated occasionally, I'd hate for the site to just stop showing up one day and the books never come out. I'm sure you would too I guess. I really loved the first book and it's stuck with me since I read it which says a lot I guess. Also I think the cover is amazing I can't believe they want to change it!
Ian March 13, 2011 at 6:41 pm
Thank you! That means a lot to me. I'm happy to hear you enjoyed the book. And thanks for letting me know. I'll definitely keep posting updates on the status of the books as things move forward. It's the least I can do for folks who kindly show interest in my work! I love the original cover, too. (It's even hanging framed in my house.) But it doesn't quite indicate what Bitter Seeds is really about. It makes it hard for booksellers to really grok the trilogy.
Brit Mandelo March 13, 2011 at 9:06 pm
Oh, *dude.* I had an inkling that some bad things were afoot, but wow. That's... Astoundingly awful. I think someone should buy you a drink or five. I'm so sorry.
Sandi March 13, 2011 at 9:07 pm
I read "Bitter Seeds" because I heard such great things about it on the Sword & Laser podcast and their GoodReads group. I thought it was really creative, unique and enjoyable. I am really looking forward to reading anything else you might publish. That said, I think that you may be caught in part of an annoying trend I've seen as a consumer. In decades past, "Bitter Seeds" would not have been published as a hardcover. A new genre writer would have been published in mass market paperback. As that writer's reputation grew, eventually he/she would get published in hardback. Many genre readers, myself included, are reluctant to spend the money on a hardcover by an unknown writer. I suspect that booksellers may have a similar reluctance to stock such books. Thanks to GoodReads, I was able to decide that I wanted to read your book, but not everyone utilizes sources like that. As it was, I couldn't find your book locally and had to buy it through Amazon. I know an author on GoodReads who writes some of the best thrillers I've read. He's been dropped by Saint Martins Press, even though his books are a lot better than ones by the big-name thriller writers. I have no idea what the answer is. This kind of thing affects discerning readers as well as authors. I don't want to spend my life reading the same ten authors over and over. I want new and fresh, unfortunately the new writers aren't being given a fair chance.
Ian March 13, 2011 at 10:01 pm
Thanks, dude. It's been kind of a bummer. But I'm trying to keep things in perspective. I'm watching the story unfold in Japan right now and thinking, wow am I lucky.
Ian March 13, 2011 at 10:03 pm
Hi, Sandi, and thanks very much. Your enthusiasm is music to an aspiring author's ears! Yeah, it's a strange thing with the way publishing works these days. Tor's philosophy is that they debut a book in hardcover, and then follow up with a mass market paperback a year later. (Well... a year later when everything is working as it's supposed to.) Part of this comes from the business strategy that strives to make Tor the most well-represented SFF publisher in any given bookstore (occupying the most shelf space). And to Tor's credit, that has worked really well for them. Which is good for us Tor authors. Tor has weathered recent upheavals in genre publishing much better than many other houses. It's a great system and a smart strategy when it works correctly. But the downside is exactly what you point out-- not everybody wants to shell out hardcover prices for unknown and untested authors. And that's speaking as somebody who, like you, is always looking for something new and fresh to read. So I completely understand. I don't blame anybody who decided they wanted to wait before picking up Bitter Seeds. And at the same time I'm doubly grateful to readers like you who decided to take a chance on me! It's a difficult time right now, too, given the situation with Borders. I never saw my book in any Borders stores; around here, anyway, I found it in Barnes and Noble.
Brit Mandelo March 13, 2011 at 10:06 pm
Yeah - I was feeling down about a mess of psychological issues that have cropped up around my trying to finally start the new novel I've been researching for a year, and then I read this, and it certainly put that in perspective. Japan is so heartbreaking I can't watch the news right now. I don't even know what to say about it.
Ian March 13, 2011 at 10:14 pm
I was thinking about what happened with your friend recently, and that put things into perspective for me. I'm still so sorry about what happened. And I realized that I've been an even bigger jerk than usual lately: did I ever ask you about the status of your job? The Borders thing has been on my mind muchly, but for some selfish reason I never put 2 and 2 together and asked how it was impacting you. I apologize, sincerely. Damn, I'm sorry you've been having a rough time of it, too. Kinda wish WFC wasn't so many months away. Some drinks and commiseration would be welcome, no? Well, I guess Readercon isn't quite as far away. Are you going this year?
ChiaLynn March 13, 2011 at 11:19 pm
All the more time to finish my reread of Wheel of Time. Oh, and Dance with Dragons, of course. ;-) Which is to say that while I can barely imagine how frustrating this must be for you, I'll be waiting to pick up th books as soon as they appear. In the meantime, I'll do what I can to help get the word out.
Ian March 13, 2011 at 11:52 pm
And The Wise Man's Fear, too! It's a really good time for fantasy readers. I have a long wait ahead of me, too, so I'm glad there's so much great stuff coming out right now. Thank you very much for the support.
Melinda March 14, 2011 at 1:17 am
A thoughtful and measured analysis of what happened. I thought about going into greater detail about what happened to my Edge books, but even thinking about it left me exhausted and in despair so I settled for my rather brief post. But like you said -- we're not enduring the horrors and hardships of the people of Japan. What is it Rick says to Ilsa in Casablanca. "but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three (or in our case two) little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world."
Jenny March 14, 2011 at 7:55 am
Another Sword and Laser member here, and we really enjoyed reading and discussing Bitter Seeds a few months back. I'm glad you found a new editor, and I'm optimistic that will make a difference. At the same time, this kind of transparency helps everyone - the readers but maybe it will kickstart the publishing world too. P.S. Your website is beautiful.
Steve Halter March 14, 2011 at 8:09 am
Ian, first, I really do hope things go smoothly from this point onwards. It sounds like the new editor is very motivated. Thanks for a really informative post. Publishing is a strange and arcane business. I wrote two Java books back in the 90's. The second one had the marvelous timing to come out right at the end of 2001--see tech bubble collapse and 9/11 for bad timing for a tech book. So, know that your book will be eagerly snatched up whenever it does get out. Second, it is interesting how little conversations off to the side can get spread these days. I was just talking with someone who has to do license verification for open source software and they remarked what unusual things you can find out about people on the internet these days.
Susan March 14, 2011 at 8:16 am
First of all: I really appreciate you sharing this with us--every rough twist and turn. It's incredibly enlightening to see behind the scenes, and it also shows how unpredictable the writer's life really can be. So yeah, I would guess it sucked writing all this out, but I appreciate that you did. Second of all: I'm sorry. Mostly for you because this situation pretty much sucks (though it sounds like it could be wonderful now with your new editor--yay!). But I'm also selfishly sorry for me because I really want to read THE COLDEST WAR. But I will just swallow my impatience and keep waiting for it's release. :) Third: I have shared this with the people I think will 1) care from a reader's perspective, and 2) care from a writer's perspective. You're still a rockstar, Ian. And your readers still can't wait for THE COLDEST WAR, even if it's a tad late. (Um, you DID end on creepy cliff-hanger kinda thingy, so you one can sleep easily until we know what happens next.)
DMS March 14, 2011 at 8:31 am
Glad to hear you've gotten an enthusiastic editor out of this. I'll continue to wait patiently for the sequel and recommend Bitter Seeds to some more of my friends when the paperback is available for preorder.
Cid March 14, 2011 at 8:55 am
I ran past this via Twitter, and I just wanted to say hang in there. You've had a crap hand, and I hope it gets better.
Ian March 14, 2011 at 9:28 am
Thanks, Melinda. I didn't know whether I wanted to spend so much energy composing this (and inevitably wishing I'd done a better job with it). I thought about going into greater detail about what happened to my Edge books, but even thinking about it left me exhausted and in despair so I settled for my rather brief post. We're in a unique situation, because what happened to both of our series was (1) so far beyond the pale, by virtually any measure of "standard" publishing hiccups, and (2) so very similar. Speaking as a reader and fan of your Edge books, the delays to the series have been frustrating and heartbreaking. Speaking as an author who has experienced the same setbacks, it's doubly frustrating and heartbreaking. If you think it would help, feel free to post a comparison between your situation and mine. I'll be glad to append to this post a link to your analysis of the Edge situation.
Ian March 14, 2011 at 9:38 am
You're totally right about that, Jenny. Heck, the delays to my series barely qualify as chicken feed compared to the waiting endured by fans of GRRM and Pat Rothfuss. (And when you factor in that their fanbases are, literally, orders of magnitude larger than mine, the total amount of Waiting Agony in those cases is approximately 17 zillion times greater than any inconvenience experienced by those few folks waiting for my books. It helps me keep things in perspective when I think about it that way.) It's really really wonderful to hear from Sword and Laser listeners. Tom and Veronica blew me away with their professionalism and intelligence and downright amiability. I have super high regard for S&L. I hope the transparency is an interesting and useful look at what can happen in the publishing process. (Every book experiences hiccups, I think. It's just that this case was a little more extreme than most.) I'm not trying to point fingers or be a troublemaker, but not being public about this actually hurt more than trying to be stoic. And thanks about my website. Richard Mueller, my web designer, will be delighted :-)
Ian March 14, 2011 at 9:51 am
Hi Steve, and thank you. Yeah, my new editor has been fabulous. It's been a very heartening change of course. I'm excited. Wow, 2001 must have been terrible for technical writers. I feel kind of silly that I never considered how the tech bubble must have impacted writers. I'm sorry to hear you got hit with that. But at least we writers can swap war stories and commiserate over the things we can't control. Rapid communications are a boon and a curse, aren't they? I try really hard to be circumspect in what I say online. Lesson learned: try harder!
Ian March 14, 2011 at 9:55 am
Hi there, Susan. Thanks for the kind words, and for boosting the signal. I hope my post didn't cause you any worry with regard to the future of your own book. What happened in my situation (and, almost identically, to Melinda Snodgrass, upthread) was really, really extreme and really, really rare. I have a friend who speaks of "luckstorms", both good and bad-- this was one of those. The problem with interminable delays mid-series like this is that it can cause a lot of damage to the authors' ability to build a readership. Now, in my case, I'm lucky, because Tor is working very hard on a rebranding/repackaging/recovering effort that will (we hope) connect with more readers with the mmpb of Bitter Seeds comes out. And in their analysis (and they are the experts in this, so I am inclined to believe them) the new packaging can offset the drop in readership caused by the delay. Of course, if things had gone as planned, the delay wouldn't have been so egregious, and the repackaging wouldn't need to make up SO much lost ground. I'll never be a rockstar, but it's generous of you to say so. Just keep me in mind when you're a household name and need somebody to answer the phone for you.
Ian March 14, 2011 at 10:03 am
I'll continue to wait patiently for the sequel and recommend Bitter Seeds to some more of my friends when the paperback is available for preorder. Thank you! With all sincerity-- that means a lot to me. My new editor has been fantastic. Really happy to be working with her.
Ian March 14, 2011 at 10:05 am
Thank you, Cid! I appreciate it. I do have hope that we're pulling out of the woods now...
arkib March 14, 2011 at 10:40 am
I have to admit, rather sheepishly now that I've read this, that I was a little miffed at the delays with the 2nd book. As you might guess from the tone, I'm chomping at the bit for the rest of the books. I picked up the first one based off some early positive reviews and that's saying a lot because I rarely buy hardcovers these days. I absolutely loved it. Really looking forward to the rest and I'm also pleased for you. Good to see that things are getting back on track and fingers crossed there aren't too many other problems from now on. I really do hope you'll get back to writing soon, it's not very often that I consider myself a fan after just one book, but I would hate for this trilogy to be the last of your work. To be honest I think you are a far better man than I am. If I'd been going through the same thing, I would have been much more scathing with criticism. I was positively fuming at points when reading this post. Not just at the lack of progress for twenty months but the communications blackout. Unbelievably unprofessional. *deep breath* Now that I've calmed down a bit, I realize there may have been extenuating circumstances on the editor's side. Anyway I'm starting to ramble. Just wanted to post this to let you know that I really appreciate your honesty and this post at least has made me a little happier on what was otherwise a bit of a crappy day so far. Whatever that's worth. Hope to read more of your works soon!
Ian March 14, 2011 at 11:16 am
Thank you, arkib, very much. I have to admit, rather sheepishly now that I've read this, that I was a little miffed at the delays with the 2nd book. No need to feel sheepish. As a reader, I feel the same bewilderment and impatience when I'm chomping at the bit for the next book in a series! What this experience has taught me is that the publication process is very complex, and that many things can happen to unintentionally derail a book or series. And I'm genuinely glad you mentioned feeling miffed. The entire reason I wrote this post was because I speculated there might be folks out there feeling like that. It's entirely understandable that you felt that way, especially since I kept going online to say I'd finished the books and to announce publication dates which later proved false. Hell, I would have been miffed with me had I been waiting for The Coldest War. I'm so glad you enjoyed my book. Can't tell you how much I appreciate your willingness to take a chance on an unknown debut author, especially at hardcover prices. Thank you! There have been times when, like you, I fumed about this situation. It still makes me upset. But I try to take solace in the fact that none of it was intentional or malicious. But I think most folks would agree that it was, alas, less than professional. (Then again, some folks would say it was unprofessional of me to post about it in such detail. I hope I navigated this minefield correctly, but they may be right.) I'm glad I could shed some light on the situation. Thanks for stopping by.
Andrew March 14, 2011 at 11:45 am
So as we wait for your continuation in one of the most clever reads created this decade, you sit back and write wondrous scientific and world mystery posts on your blog keeping your fans attention -- not so bad Ian, not so bad at all. I too have been in that writer's funk. Something changing in society, infiltrating the common everyday life and making it harder to have courage for unique thoughts in this world or others. Finding that special jewel of imagination is becoming harder while shelves are being covered with plated gold and the mundane and the tragic squeeze us from every side (4 diminsions?). So what to do? I'm not sure either. Reading MS of peoples' writing I trust does keep me going and picking up books like 'After Hours:Tales from the U-bar' gives me hope. WFC in October? Hmmmm. That's my coast... Maybe I'll hang out at the bar... We trust you Ian. You are a recognizable future of the speculative fiction and your success and hardships, both, gives us a kind of hope and knowledge of immense value. Keep us updated every few months and you won't lose your fans.
Jaime March 14, 2011 at 12:26 pm
Hey Ian, Long time no see. :) Having just sold a series to Tor...this is good to know. Which is all I'm going to say, other than good luck and I hope it all comes together really, really soon.
Ian March 14, 2011 at 12:38 pm
Hey, Andrew! Man, there is some kind of writing funk going around, isn't there? Sucks to hear you've caught it, too. (I hope I'm not contagious.) I keep watching the state of the world and (after remembering how lucky I am) wondering how anything I have to say or write is a worthwhile addition to the conversation. Yep. Reading helps. Reading good stuff really helps. (I hope you enjoy the Ur-bar anthology!) It would be fantastic if you could make it down to WFC. First round on me. Thanks for the extremely kind and generous words. Far too generous.
Ian March 14, 2011 at 12:42 pm
Jaime! So great to "see" you. And congratulations on your recent trilogy sale! I am so jazzed by this. I caught wind of it at Boskone a few weeks ago, but didn't know how public it was or if I was supposed to know about it, so I held off stopping by your own internet haunts to offer my hearty congrats. But now I can say well done! Can't wait to see your books in print. And it tickles me quite a bit to be able to say that we share an editor, owing to your sale and my move :)
cpolk March 14, 2011 at 1:27 pm
I've been waiting impatiently for your book to hit MMPB - no because I don't buy hardcovers from unknown authors, but because I don't buy hardcovers. Can't afford them. So now I know why I haven't seen it in MMPB - i did see it in trade paper in the local Indigo last week though. the high cost of hardcover and the long wait for MMPB is the #1 reason why I want an eReader - I love my hardcopy book collection but I keep running up against the new books I want to read costing more money than I can afford to pay. eBook costs seem to fall between, and I keep hearing people say the writer gets more money from an eBook sale anyway. Sounds good, says I!
Richard Guion March 14, 2011 at 1:33 pm
A serious disappointment, Ian! At the same time, the whole publishing behind the scenes drama is really fascinating to me. Heartbreaking to hear that you were so ahead on your deadlines and we could have read the 2nd novel by now. I started getting excited about Bitter Seeds after I heard Cory mention it, and eagerly read it as soon as it was published. I loved the first book, putting super beings in historical settings is right up my alley. Still looking forward to finding out how Klaus and Gretel fit into the Soviet spy machine. I'll be one of the first to buy the next two books in this series. What I don't think you should do, by any means, is stop writing! Yes, the publishing world has all kinds of process and red tape that drives people nuts. But there are other ways to create fiction and get it delivered to your audience, and you've already got a following here. I would hate to see you lose momentum. What if you wrote a new novel and started releasing it in increments as a podcast, similar to what Scott Sigler has done? Not sure if that is attractive to you or lucrative enough, but it could be a great way to keep busy until your trilogy is finally in print. At any rate, don't feel too depressed. You wrote a very good novel that had lots of positive feedback from fans. I'm a Sword and Laser member too, and the response there was very much in your favor. Keep on writing!
Susan March 14, 2011 at 2:05 pm
You will never answer my phones (haven't we had this discussion before?). And I wasn't worried about my own book, per se...well, perhaps a teensy since I *hope* this is just the start of a full career for me. The big thing is that it never occurred to me that something like this could happen--though now that I know, it seems obvious. Every profession has its cracks (um, I've got a few papers all wrapped up and ready to go that never made it through my MSc supervisor--but he and his desk are just one GIANT ABYSS). Again, thanks for sharing and for doing it in an honest "this kinda sucks but..." way.
Ian March 14, 2011 at 2:06 pm
Hi cpolk, and thanks! (Did we meet on the OWW long ago? I remember getting some very good writing advice from a cpolk on the mailing list there lo these many years ago.) I *really* appreciate your interest in my book, regardless of whether a copy ever makes its way into your hands. It means a lot, trust me. I'm the same way with hardcovers... I love my collection, but I had to start cutting down on purchases. Both for monetary reasons and because I don't have room right now. So I completely understand. I'm starting to hanker for an ereader, too. But life makes it impractical for me. Le sigh. Ebooks are becoming a major source of income for some writers. (Alas, I can only wish it had been my book in the trade paper edition.)
Steve Halter March 14, 2011 at 2:11 pm
I'll second that post. Maybe getting some good consistent editorial feedback will help clear up some of the discouragement.
Ian March 14, 2011 at 2:12 pm
Hello, Richard! Can't thank you enough for the enthusiasm and encouragement. And it's wonderful to hear you enjoyed the book so much. (I'm really indebted to Cory as well as Tom and Veronica for helping spread the word.) Wow, it's so cool to see folks from Sword and Laser showing up here. It is incredibly nice of you guys to stop by. It means a ton to me. I lurk on the S&L group on Goodreads, but I never read the Bitter Seeds topics, just as I avoid reading reviews of my book :-) It's a cool group. I'm sure I'll get back to writing, probably sooner than later. Just this morning I had an idea for a short story that kinda feels promising. Maybe this one will stick... But back when the situation with Coldest War was particularly bleak, and I didn't think it would ever see the light of day, I seriously considered releasing it in installments on the website, as other (much better and more established) authors have done. It wouldn't have been a money maker, but it would have allowed people to see how the story continues. I've also considered putting together an e-chapbook of Milkweed short stories. Again, not as a money maker, but just to have something out there and hopefully keep readers' interest. You've inspired me to keep thinking about that. Thanks again for the encouragement. Very much.
Jaime March 14, 2011 at 2:16 pm
Sharing the same editor is even better! I hear nothing but great things about our editor. Now that I've found you via Brit, I will be back.
Ian March 14, 2011 at 2:29 pm
Thank you, Steve. The new situation has definitely improved my outlook, almost immeasurably.
Ian March 14, 2011 at 2:31 pm
You will never answer my phones (haven't we had this discussion before?) Well, sure, I won't be answering your phones as long as you're in Germany, because I can't speak German. But if and when you move, just consider my services is all I'm saying. (We might have had this discussion already, but I make the same offer to all folks destined for greatness. And so far nobody has taken me up on the offer. WHY don't you people think I can answer a telephone?! I'm sure I would improve with practice.) It's very highly unlikely your books will experience anything akin to what I documented here. This was a very unusual, perfect-stormy kind of thing.
Ian March 14, 2011 at 2:35 pm
I hear nothing but great things about our editor. Me, too, Jaime! Her reputation precedes her. I think she has sharp eyes, and in addition she's been extremely nice to me. Congratulations again on the book deal. It's so good to see your writing finally getting the widespread attention it deserves.
Mari March 14, 2011 at 2:37 pm
Thanks for taking the time to clear this up. I had wondered, since I was looking forward to the sequels. Also, well, this puts some of my own writing concerns into some perspective, as well as giving me some perspective about any upcoming novels. So, again, thanks. Drinks all around at World Fantasy, I think.
Steve Halter March 14, 2011 at 2:41 pm
An "e-chapbook of Milkweed short stories" would be great!. I really liked "What Dr. Gottlieb Saw."
SarahP March 14, 2011 at 2:44 pm
Well, this pretty much sucks. You were a professional throughout; it seems clear to me that your editor was not. What a wretched way to begin your writing career. Hang in there, though! We will miss you a LOT at BH, so come another year, with a new book, okay?
Ian March 14, 2011 at 2:57 pm
Hi, Mari! Thanks for stopping by. (Drinks all around at WFC, indeed. Will you be there? Looking forward to it!) To quote the poster, it's entirely possible that my purpose in life is to serve as a cautionary tale for others. And if this post helps your own writing efforts in one way or another, then I'll consider it well worth the effort. I hope that none of your writing efforts experience quite as many setbacks.
Ian March 14, 2011 at 2:57 pm
Cool! I have a list of about half a dozen stories that would fit into the nooks and crannies of the Milkweed universe. (Including a companion piece to "Dr. Gottlieb" tentatively titled, "What Dr. Ivanovich Saw." ;-) The "Chronicle of Sorrows" game/contest that we ran on the website here a while back contained a hidden Milkweed short story as well. I keep meaning to post that story in the clear, now that prizes have been awarded, so that folks can read it without having to solve the game. Thanks for the reminder!
Ian March 14, 2011 at 3:12 pm
Hey, Sarah-- thank you for the reassurance. I've tried to be a good little soldier throughout. But we're all only human, both writers and editors. I was pretty gutted when I realized BH wasn't in the cards for me this year. Everybody helped me so much the last time I came (and you in particular went above and beyond the call of duty-- I still have the manuscript with your handwritten comments). I'm going to miss you guys, too. A ton. Charlie is an amazing guy. Can we get him knighted or something?
Jo Anderton March 14, 2011 at 3:41 pm
Oh Mate. *unhappy face* I'm so sorry to hear this (although, it explains a few things...). Fingers crossed things start to go well now. And I still can't wait to see The Coldest War in a bookshop, where I will but it, and then read it :) *hugs*
Ian March 14, 2011 at 3:52 pm
Hi, Jo. Thanks for stopping by-- much appreciated! Have no fear that this situation was really unusual and extreme. Nothing will hamper the meteoric success of your trilogy :) (Speaking of which, I'm still so excited to get to read the sequel to Debris. I might have bragged about it a little bit..)
Rae March 14, 2011 at 4:40 pm
I have nothing to add except that you are an amazing writer and you deserve so much better. I really hope everything works out.
cpolk March 14, 2011 at 4:41 pm
and I caught the comment from britmandelo on LJ, so I thought I'd wander over and see what's what - and then went looking around at e-readers and tablets afterward to see what the market is looking like, because more and more it seems if I want to read books the year they come out, eBook format is the way to go. And curse it, wouldn't you know that the tablet I like best isn't yet widely available? it's coming, though.
Jeff Spock March 14, 2011 at 4:53 pm
Hey Ian. Long time no contact. Your post is napalming Twitter, and it's *great* to hear you're still pounding away -- I was starting to wonder. Whenever it comes out, I'll buy a few.
Ian March 14, 2011 at 4:56 pm
And curse it, wouldn't you know that the tablet I like best isn't yet widely available? it's coming, though. What are you leaning toward, if you don't mind the question? Even though I probably won't get one in the near future, I'm really curious about what people like in their gadgets. (I saw that amazing sweater on your blog, btw-- that is a beautiful piece of work.)
Ian March 14, 2011 at 4:59 pm
Hi, Jeff! Thanks for stopping by. Long time, indeed. I was just thinking about you recently, in fact. (You helped me navigate Clarion applications way long ago, as I gratefully remember.) I didn't mean to napalm Twitter. I'm quite surprised by how much traction this post got. Surprised, but also gratified by all the kindness and support. What's up in your neck of the woods these days? Still writing prose fiction?
Mari March 14, 2011 at 5:11 pm
For what it's worth, my first four books, which, well, sucked, were accepted, paid for....and never published. In retrospect this might be just as well, but, still...this is one of the reasons my writing has remained a bit...slow. And I've had certain other setbacks as well, not to mention some current issues, so, yeah...I get it, and it's good to get a sense of perspective. But, back to the more cheerful news, yes, I should be at WFC this year. I've previously stayed at that hotel a few years back and can vouch for the bar, at least. I suspect this will be a much better conference -- for one thing, it's not an HR conference. Right there, bonus.
Ian March 14, 2011 at 5:12 pm
Rae! Thank you. You're far too generous. But I cherish the kind words from one of the finest and most stone-cold talented writers I know. Remember me when you need somebody to answer your phones in a few years.
Ian March 14, 2011 at 5:19 pm
Mari, I'm sorry to hear you've had experiences that dampened your own writing. My sincere sympathies. Regardless of whether you look back on those original novels fondly, that kind of delay can powerfully undermine one's confidence. People who don't get this seem to misunderstand that every person has a unique relationship with writing. I've previously stayed at that hotel a few years back and can vouch for the bar, at least. That settles it, then. Drinks all around!
Ashley March 14, 2011 at 6:13 pm
Ian -- I found out about Bitter Seeds completely via word of mouth (sound of page?) online. Like many others, I had wondered what happened with the other books, and I appreciate you sharing as much as you did about it. It's a window into the editing and publishing process that I don't think a lot of people have; I certainly didn't. If you ever want books to read, I'll be happy to pass on a few. Just tell me what kind. :) I'm looking forward to re-reading Bitter Seeds.
Dan Goodman March 14, 2011 at 6:51 pm
Damn. Ian, I'm really sorry to hear that man. For such an awesome and sincere guy like you, it merely just seems like really rotten luck for this latest turn of the noose. Like really slimy, dusty, moss covered, tear splattered, sweat drenched bad luck. However, it's good to hear about the in-house move, and how the new editor is so enthusiastic. A longer wait, but I'm sure it will work out better for you after all this heartache. Looking forward to possibly meeting up with you at Bubonicon 2011. Actually, put it this way: be optimistic. This is a helluva a lot less worse than being stuck in Japan right now...
Ian March 14, 2011 at 8:03 pm
Hey, Dan, how's it going? I was just checking Literary Musings last night-- looks like you were spending some time in a paradise. Lucky dog. It would be fantastic if you could make Bubonicon this year. It's a fun convention, with lots of writers. Very friendly bunch. This is a helluva a lot less worse than being stuck in Japan right now... Absolutely, emphatically agreed. Like I said, in the large scheme of things, this is small potatoes.
Ian March 14, 2011 at 8:57 pm
Hi, Ashley. Thanks for your note. I'm glad (and a little relieved) to know I wasn't completely out in left field when I speculated there might be folks out there wondering about what had happened to my other books. I'm glad I could try to shed some light on how quirky (for lack of a better word) the publishing process can be. And it's wonderful to hear from somebody who found out about my books via word of mouth-- the most valuable advertising of all! Thank you. I enjoy reading just about anything, but I'm always hankering for more science fiction.
Brook March 14, 2011 at 11:46 pm
But as long as I get books 2 and 3 in my hands eventually I can wait. I hope it doesn't dampen your enthusiasm for writing for too long, there are very few debut novels I've enjoyed as much as Bitter Seeds! Besides if Rusty doesn't pop up again in future Wild Cards books I'm going to have to fly up there and yell at someone ;)
Erik March 15, 2011 at 2:48 am
Got here via Pat's Hotlist. I haven't read your book (don't think it's my cup of tea), but I'd still like to say something. I'v started writing my own novel last autumn. It's tough going! and your tale is quite the horror scenario. I can live with never creating anything publishable, but having something awesome just sitting idly in your house... As to the Small Potatoes - well, don't BS yourself. The books are your baby: conceived with infinite love and anxiety, and subsequently malnourished and neglected by others. Even in the large scheme of things that's not small potatoes, just different potatoes. Belittling it will do you no good. Live, learn and fcking start writing again. Preferably some epic fantasy, I'll definitely buy that :P
not-a-fan March 15, 2011 at 3:34 am
Hi. Interesting... I stumbled on this article via Pat's Holist and was curious... Some time ago, I have read a review of Bitter Seeds - it sounded interesting and I liked the blurb, so it went to my TBR list. I have not yet read the book (and it will be a good while before I get to it - maybe even a year - since I have just too many other "priority one" TBRs in queue). So, I am not (yet) a fan of yours or anything, but I want to tell you: I respect that you stayed strong and clung to your hope despite everything. I'm sure that "itch to write" will return on it's own in due time, so you have my moral support for a timeout, there is really no sense in pressuring yourself. Besides, I'm sure you'll write again sooner than you think. :D Because it's clear you love your books very much and when you write more, you'll have more to love. :) Good luck!
NewGuyDave Fortier March 15, 2011 at 6:31 am
Hey, Ian. I'm glad things are finally moving again. This is pretty awful story and I'm not sure what else to say. Next round is on me? Are you writing any more short stories? Cheers, Dave
Jo Walton March 15, 2011 at 7:49 am
I almost couldn't read this because it was like a nightmare. I really feel for you. And I'm so glad it has a happy ending. I hope the rebranding and everything works out perfectly and it sells and sells. I have been so lucky. And I'm sorry I didn't know about this at Boskone so I could have given you a hug.
Ian March 15, 2011 at 9:42 am
Brook: Hi! Thanks for stopping by, and for the kind words. It means a lot to me that you enjoyed Bitter Seeds, and that you're hoping for more Rusty stories in the future. So am I :-) If he could, he'd say that cripes it's nice to have a fan. And then, if his skin allowed it, he would blush. Erik: Hello, and thank you. I certainly don't expect people to read my book just because they've heard of it, so I take no offense whatsoever. It's extremely cool of you to stop by and weigh in with such thoughtful and supportive comments, even though my book isn't quite your cup of tea. You're right-- our books are our babies. We work our guts out over them. It would be nice if that effort garnered a basic level of professionalism in return... not-a-fan: Hello! Like I just said to Erik, I really appreciate your stopping by to weigh in. It's an amazing feeling when people who don't know me and haven't read my book still feel compelled to stop by and offer their support. I really appreciate it. (I know I've been saying that quite a bit in this comment thread, but I mean it every single time.) And thank you for the moral support! NewGuyDave: Hey, good to see you. (Are you really still a new guy?) What conventions are you hitting this year? It would be great to hang out again before the next Boskone. (I'm kicking around some short story ideas at the moment. Trying to see if one excites me enough to tackle it.) Jo: Oh my gosh, wow. Thank you so much. This means a lot to me. I say that both as a huge fan of your work and as a newer writer grateful that somebody more established feels compelled confirm his perspective.
Daniel Abraham March 15, 2011 at 10:23 am
One of the real asymmetries of the editor/author relationship is that if we don't do our job, we (generally speaking) don't get paid and out editors do. Whereas if our editors don't do *their* jobs, we still don't get paid and they still do. I'm sorry this has been such a bad run for you and Melinda, and I hope that things go a lot smoother from here.
Ian March 15, 2011 at 10:55 am
Thanks, Daniel. Thoughtful as always. That's a very salient point, and I'm glad that somebody other than me brought it up. Aspiring authors are trained that above all things we must always maintain a professional demeanor in both our work and interactions. And that the consequences for not doing so can be grave. (Hence my hesitation about writing this post.) And yet... well, as you say, that expectation is entirely asymmetrical.
JDP March 16, 2011 at 7:09 am
Just wanted to add my name to the list of people who really enjoyed Bitter Seeds. I'll read the other books when they come out but rest assured that - at least for this fan - this delay has in no way affected my enjoyment of your work nor my respect for you as an author. Hope things are looking up. Cheers, James
Ian March 16, 2011 at 9:31 am
Hi, James, and thank you-- I deeply appreciate your patience. (You might be a more patient person than I am.) Thanks for the kind and encouraging words!
Chris Bissette March 17, 2011 at 5:00 am
I've just got to this post via Pat's Fantasy Hotlist. That's a really shitty situation to find yourself in; kudos to you for being able to talk about it so reasonably without slinging insults and cursing everybody who's ruined this publishing experience for you. I'll admit I wasn't aware of your books (book, I suppose, but fingers crossed for the next book coming out on time!) before Pat linked to you, but after reading this I'm going to go out and buy the first one. Show a little support, you know?
Ian March 17, 2011 at 9:48 am
Wow, Chris-- that is extremely kind and generous of you. The words of encouragement alone mean a great deal to me. I can only hope my book proves worthy of your investment. Thank you for the kind words, and for taking a chance on an unknown debut author.
Chris Bachmann March 17, 2011 at 11:46 am
As I was reading my daily dose of news feeds, this came on my radar and thought of you and marketing strategies with your new editor.
Ian March 17, 2011 at 11:53 am
Thanks, Chris! What strange and serendipitous timing...
Jayson Lorenzen March 17, 2011 at 12:29 pm
Ian, hello, I loved Bitter Seeds and while normally I say "I cannot wait for the next one", well ... I actually can (and will) wait. Thanks for the updates here (they go to too, which is how I got here) and sorry for all the trouble. I hope you get back to enjoying writing. j
Ian March 17, 2011 at 1:36 pm
Hi Jayson, and thanks for following the trail over from Goodreads. And thank you for being willing to wait. I'm grateful that so many readers like you are so patient. (More patient than me, it seems...) I'll get back to writing soon, I'm sure.
Sara G. March 17, 2011 at 10:35 pm
In all of my capacious imagination I cannot find even the tiniest bit of room to picture you being unpleasant or difficult to work with. Where do you get these crazy ideas? Technological supermen? Sure, I bought that. Warlocks in WWII? Absolutely, I plan to buy the next 2 as well. Unpleasant Ian? Nope, can't do it. So sorry to hear about all the troubles. It must be frustrating but I hope also at least a little reassuring to look back in so much detail and conclude that yes, in fact, you did everything you could. (And I'm in agreement with your assessment.) I think it would be more torturous to have the books delayed and think yourself to blame. I too will wait patiently for the next book, whenever it arrives. Though maybe you ought to take precautions in case some 'gotta know' story addict decides to raid your homestead for copies of the manuscripts.
Ian March 18, 2011 at 9:40 am
Thank you, Sara. I'd hoped to hear from you when the master's program let you come up for air again. (Or has it?) As always, your kindness and eloquence put me to shame. Head-hanging, red-faced shame. Thank you for the extremely warm words.
Susan Loyal March 18, 2011 at 4:58 pm
Just in case you haven't seen it yet, Bitter Seeds made the top 10 books of 2010 at SF Site Readers' Poll. (And yes, I voted, and yes Bitter Seeds was definitely in my top ten.) In fact, Bitter Seeds is the only novel I've ever reviewed on amazon. Just as I finished reading it, I looked at the responses and you'd been hit by a very lame review, so I decided to do something about it! It's an astonishingly good piece of work. What a very unfortunate publishing experience you've had. I am so sorry. I really appreciate knowing what happened. I'd been looking for The Coldest War in the Locus lists of upcoming publications and worrying about it. Your discouragement is completely understandable, but I hope you find the good courage to return to your word processor soon. You have readers, sir.
Ian March 18, 2011 at 7:08 pm
Hi, Susan, and wow-- if not for you, I wouldn't have known about this. What an honor! Thank you for telling me about it, and thank you again for such kind words about my book. I'm truly glad you enjoyed it so much (enough to feel motivated to review it on Amazon, even!) I appreciate the encouragement. I'm get back to writing (well, typing) before long, no doubt.
Susan Loyal March 18, 2011 at 9:06 pm It looks awfully pretty sitting there in good company. Go look at it. Then be kind to yourself for a while. You've done good work, and people have noticed.
Ian March 18, 2011 at 11:15 pm
Good company indeed! That's one heck of a group... very flattering to see my little book included in that list. Wowsers. Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention.
Sean March 21, 2011 at 5:45 pm
... by the equanimity with which you've handled this situation. It's quite inspirational, and a good lesson in professionalism to other writers aspiring to your success. And yes, it's not an earthquake or a tsunami, but it's money being taken from your pocket through no fault of your own. I'm glad it got resolved. And I followed a link from the Superhero Novels blog, so word is getting out there. Best of luck to you, and I look forward to more of your work. My verification code was 'cthulu!' should I be worried?
Ian March 21, 2011 at 8:36 pm
Thank you, Sean. I like it when people make me sound so mature and level-headed :) I'm not sure I'd describe myself that way, but if I was able to fool people, then so much the better. Seriously, though, I really appreciate the generous words. (Ia! Ia! Ftaghn captcha!)
Mehdi March 23, 2011 at 12:32 pm
Hi, I'm a french reader from Paris, and i just wanted to say I really loved "Bitter seeds". I was looking forward the next book of the Milkweed trilogy, and then, yesterday I found out this amazing story here! I'm working in a book shop, I know some french publishers, I know there's a long long road before a book arrives in a book shop, but wow, what happenned is incredible. Like some others people told in their comments, I don't know how you managed to handle this situation the way you did, it makes me more willing to read the next books. I hope everything will go well for the Milkweed books, be sure you have a reader in Paris who will buy them as soon as they'll be available. Mehdi PS: I had the Cthulu cpatcha too, I love it!!! Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.....
Ian March 23, 2011 at 1:01 pm
Hi, Mehdi! I am amazed and delighted to learn that somebody in lovely, farflung Paris has read my book. What a nice surprise-- thank you so much for your note, as well as for the generous words. I'm really glad you enjoyed Bitter Seeds. Publishing can be a very long road indeed. And this appears to be a universal truth. (Sigh.) Ia! Ia! Cthulu R'lyeh fhtagn!
Ben April 2, 2011 at 1:34 pm
Well Ian luckily for you The Bitter Seeds was a superb book! I was well into it from start to finish. Really disappointed in regards to the delays for The Coldest War, if not just from a selfish point of view as im dying to read what happens next! Really hope a little bit of luck comes your way in the future in regards to publishing dates and getting this fantastic trilogy on the shelves! Good luck mate!
Ian April 3, 2011 at 12:04 am
Hello, Ben, and thank you very much indeed. It's great to hear that you enjoyed my book so much. That means a lot to me. Thanks for the support and the extremely kind words. I hope you enjoy the sequels just as much if not more!
NS Foster April 4, 2011 at 11:47 am
Just read through this via Jacqueline's Carey's post on Facebook. I trust Ms. Carey's word--her recommendations are a certainty for me, so I've already requested the book from my library. (I can't purchase every new novel I'd like to see--I read too damn much--but I promise you, with my love comes purchases of future work and backlists ;) ) What I really mean to say is, though, sounds like the worst is over. I wish you all the best and that the pub date of Coldest War pumps some fresh blood into your veins. Be good.
Ian April 4, 2011 at 12:23 pm
Hello, and thank you! I'm right there with you when it comes to purchasing books. I can't buy everything I want, nor do I even have room for it all. It makes me very happy when people tell me they checked my book from the library. I'm all for anything that will help support libraries. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the book :) Thank you for the very kind words and encouragements. There has indeed been some nice progress on Coldest War in the past few days, which, not surprisingly, is a relief.
Jim May 3, 2011 at 9:06 pm
Well, that sucks, but probably more for you than for we fans: as much as I'd like to get my hands on the goods and find out what happens next in the triptych, as just some random fan I'm only mildly disappointed. However my heart goes out to you, the author that has so much personally and emotionally invested in this project. My interest has a long half life, having survived the delays between Martin, Donaldson, Jordan, and even Knuth's books, I know that eventually we'll get there. Or a loving spouse/family member will gather you notes for some prolific mid-lister to limp with to the finish line. Joking! But honesty, we'll be fine, and you'll see you very fine works through to a great reception made all more sweet for long delay. P.s. Cthulu captcha? Well done sir, well done.
Ian May 3, 2011 at 10:02 pm
Thanks very much, Jim! I'm grateful to know there are patient and kind readers like you. Sometimes long half lives and forgiving natures can be a writer's lifeline :) Once that loving person gathers my notes and hands them off to the prolific midlister (hey, at least the sales wouldn't be so bad, right?) I hope they'll also check me into a nice madhouse. The classy kind, with edible crayons... Thanks for the kind words and encouragement. Much appreciated, sir.
Dan Winton January 16, 2012 at 3:02 pm
Also, I loved the cover art. I look forward to the next book, I hope it comes out in 2012.
Ian January 16, 2012 at 9:10 pm
Thank you, Dan! I'm very glad to hear you enjoyed it -- and thanks for letting me know. Both editions of The Coldest War are moving forward with full speed ahead. The edition is set to debut this week, on January 20, and the ebook/hardcover editions will be out in July. I hope you enjoy the sequel as much as, or more than, you enjoyed Bitter Seeds.
IBPHD January 24, 2012 at 11:23 pm
Hi Ian Just finished THE COLDEST WAR, 2 COMMENTS: 1. BRAVO 2. Clever the way you stuck Santa Fe in the story. Does its likely destruction in your story have some deep psychological meaning. If so there's medication for that. 3. Yup, I know I said 2 comments but what the hell. Great Book B
Ian January 25, 2012 at 9:29 am
Hi, B! 1. Thank you very much indeed. It's a tremendous relief to hear that readers are enjoying it. 2. Well, you know what they say: write what you know. Medication? I doubt medical science even has a term for my... issues. 3. Thanks-- seriously. I'm nervous about this book, so the positive feedback is really wonderful. Ian
Dylan April 6, 2012 at 4:23 pm
After a recommendation on a podcast( This Week in Tech), I looked you up on audible and bought Bitter Seeds straight away for listening on my phone. Gretel's whispering of 'Incoming' was the point that I decided I was going to really enjoy the book, and that's how it turned out. I'm currently on The Coldest War, and now appreciate these books even more having read what you have been through ! Keep it up, and thanks. PS Oh, and what a word capture to enter this comment ! ;-)
Ian April 6, 2012 at 5:04 pm
Hi, Dylan, and thank you! It's really wonderful to hear you're enjoying the books. I'm grateful for your comment-- if not for you, I might not have known that Veronica was kind enough to plug The Coldest War on TWiT. How cool! Thanks for taking a chance on my books. I hope they prove worth it :) You might be interested to hear it was really that "incoming" scene in Chapter 1 that helped me figure out Gretel. I was struggling to get a handle on her until that scene popped into my head while I was walking home from work one evening. As soon as I had that, I had a much better handle on what kind of character she was going to be! It was a fun scene to write, and I'm really pleased to hear that you got a kick out of it, too. P.S. The credit goes to my awesome web designer, Richard Mueller of 3232Design.
Dylan April 11, 2012 at 2:31 pm
Thanks for your reply Ian. Very interesting to find out how important that scene was in her characters development. I remember being slightly puzzled as to what she was doing in that scene, but as soon as she whispered 'incoming' it made me audibly gasp out loud( I remember I was in my kitchen, washing dishes!). I then smiled and thought to myself 'I'm going to really like this book'. I even had to describe it to my wife !! Anyway, it would be interesting to find out what effect the TWiT recommendation had on sales with Audible. I would hope it lead to a good few extra sales for you. Having now finished both books, I will be keeping an eye on your progress with the next one here. Thanks
Ian April 12, 2012 at 9:26 am
I'm not sure how Veronica's mention of the books on TWiT have impacted the sales (I don't see those numbers) but obviously it has! Any publicity is good publicity, especially for a tiny fish in a big pond, like me. It's really cool to hear how that scene plays from the reader's perspective. I remember where I was when it came to me, but it's quite a compliment that you remember what you were doing when you listened to the scene in question. Thank you! Necessary Evil is going into production this summer (copyediting, etc.) My editor and I are doing some last-minute tweaks to the manuscript, while we still have time. Things like adding a sentence here and there to help clarify things, etc. May 22, 2012 at 3:26 am
Thanks for the chronology! Can't wait for the next books!
Ian May 22, 2012 at 9:31 am
You're welcome, and thank you for the interest. The most up-to-date publication schedule, as far as I know at the moment, is available here.
Jeff October 6, 2012 at 11:05 am
Just finished Coldest War on my iPad and linked right in here from the end page. Can't wait to see if Raybould 2.0 can do a better job in Necessary Evil! Thank you for persevering! Btw, Cory on boingboing was what led me to the series to start with.
Ian January 19, 2013 at 9:46 am
Hi Jeff, sorry your comment got stuck in moderation purgatory forever. (We're trying to fix that bug.) Anyway, thanks! I'm very happy that you enjoyed the book! I owe Cory a huge debt of gratitude. He was one of my Clarion instructors and gave me a lot of great advice and encouragement.
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