Plasmatic Fire: My Recap of Tor.com’s Cover Reveal Week
June 16, 2015
I haven’t felt what I’m feeling right now since 2008.
Don’t worry, it’s nothing painful. I mean, nothing newly painful. I feel pain every day. I was a pro-wrestler for ten years. What do you want?
2008 was the year my first book, The Next Fix, was released by Apex. I was filled with that electric-current-over-the-skin, plasmatic fire feeling of the new, of pure possibility.
Of course, then the book came out and took a dump and that feeling went away.
But that’s okay.
To every author.
The point is, I’ve had books and stories and TV series come out since then, I’ve traditionally published and author-published, and I’ve yet to feel what I felt before the release of The Next Fix again.
I’ve yet to feel like I’m doing something truly new.
I’ve yet to feel the truly, endlessly possible.
We now find ourselves hip-deep in the year 2015 and I’m finally part of something that really feels new in “traditional” publishing to me. It’s not going to change the world or cure cancer, but it’s different, it’s unique, and I believe it is at least part of the future.
It’s a good feeling.
Throughout last week Tor.com revealed the truly spectacular covers for its first ten novella releases, which will begin dropping in fall simultaneously in tri-format: Print-on-demand, ebook, and audiobook.
I’m privileged to be part of that line-up with Envy of Angels, the first book in my new A Sin du Jour Affair series.
This is a wholly new model, and Tor.com is delivering on that theme. They’ve already cultivated a sick list of diverse, amazing, award-winning authors who will be offering you everything. Tor.com’s novella line has magic, science, epic fantasy, urban fantasy, stories set in space, on Earth, in the past, in the future, in parallel universes, in worlds unimagined. It’s classical and new. It’s everything SFF is, and there is something for everybody in these books.
I’m genuinely thrilled to be part of it, and just being one of the authors of one of the books that was rolled out last week would’ve been more than enough to amp my spirits and enthusiasm moving forward.
However, something decidedly unexpected also occurred.
Throughout most of last week Envy of Angels was the highest-ranking ebook on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble out of all the novellas announced by Tor.com and made available for pre-order. As of this writing, it actually still is the highest-ranking, on both sites. At its peak it reached just above 7,000 on Amazon, meaning out of all paid Kindle books on Amazon it was ranked 7k in sales.
Like…I don’t even know how to deal with that. Seriously. I was honestly reluctant to even write about it in this post. It seemed like bad form, or bad etiquette, or just an asshole thing to do, like bragging. But it’s really not that.
First of all, those are sales rankings, not actual sales. I have no hard numbers, and the rankings could indicate 30 sales or 300 sales or 3,000. Shit, a single sale can move you up Amazon rankings several hundred thousand positions. On-line sales rankings, particularly Amazon’s model, can be a lot of smoke and mirrors. Far too many authors and pseudo-authors tag themselves “best-selling” based on those rankings, and it often translates to, “My book sold three copies on one Tuesday.”
I will not be one of those authors.
But secondly, and despite those hard numbers being a fluid concept, it’s still a tremendously big deal to me. I didn’t expect Envy of Angels to sell at all at this point, especially considering how soft this release was and how I haven’t even ramped up my own promotional efforts yet. Any and all pre-sales in the past week have been based on my Twitter and word-of-mouth. I didn’t even get the ancillary coverage on sites like io9 and A Dribble of Ink some of the other books received (not at all a complaint, just marveling at the fact).
The fact it not only sold, but out-sold offerings by much more well known authors than me is fucking mind-blowingly unexpected and cool.
Like, really cool.
And again, highly unexpected.
Anyway. If you’re reading this then you probably follow my Twitter and my blog, so chances are you’re one of the folks who’ve pre-ordered the book. I can’t thank you enough. I mean it. It’s really given me a boon and convinced me this series I’m writing and more importantly this novella format has genuine potential.
Earlier today I pre-ordered the other nine novellas announced last week because solidarity, and also because I genuinely want to read all the stories and support all the other authors.
I’ve actually had the opportunity to read Mike Underwood’s The Shootout Solution. Mike also came into this project planning a serial, Genrenauts, and his opening salvo is just a hell of a good hook. I love this concept. A universe in which genre is a living, governing concept of parallel worlds. When the genre of those worlds go screwy, there’s a police force of genre experts and pop culture junkies that corrects them. It’s just a dastardly cool concept, and I’m utterly sold on it and down for the ride.
The rest of the novellas I have not yet had the opportunity to read, and will be absorbing like any regular-ass fan out there.
I’m excited about that. Authors need to remain readers in that way. It’s vital.
My favorite cover (besides mine, obviously) is without a doubt Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti. It’s utterly striking, dramatic, and evokes a deep sense of the story and the world of the novella. The typography and design allude to classic sci-fi while being thoroughly original and new.
It is in all ways bad-ass.
The novella itself is also one of my most highly anticipated from the entire line. I’ve only recently gotten into Okorafor’s stuff, but she’s genuinely brilliant and I’ve been devouring every book I’ve bought. Just knowing this is her take on space-set SFF is enough to sell me. I know it won’t be like any other SFF set in space out there.
Daniel Polansky’s The Builders follows closely for my favorite cover of the week, and the story is again equally intriguing. Stories about animals can be a hard sell for me, but the cover had me before I even read the description or early praise. There’s so much deep, intriguing character expressed on that cover. I want to know who those varmints are, and what they’re all about. It’s a truly splendid job on all levels.
Sunset Mantle by Alter S. Reiss also thoroughly has my attention, for two reasons. The first is the cover, which puts me very much in mind of the cover for Kameron Hurley’s The Mirror Empire, which tied for my favorite novel of last year. The second reason is I’ve never truly read anyone attempt, let alone successfully execute epic fantasy in novella form. And this one sounds like seriously epic fantasy. I’m intrigued, and I want to see how Reiss pulls it off.
Those are the ones that grabbed me the most early on, but the rest of the slate, featuring authors like Paul Cornell, KJ Parker, and Kai Ashante Wilson, will be garnering equal reading time and attention from me. How could they not?
I entered this thing last year with no idea what to expect, and in a lot of ways I still don’t know what to expect (that’s part of the fun and most of the juice). I knew only what senior editor Lee Harris told me they had planned for the model. It was enough to make me want to take a shot and make a run at it.
Now, four months out from the release of my first Tor.com book, I’m looking at the work Irene Gallo and the Tor.com novella team are producing, the list they’re building, the stories they’re buying, the way they’re operating, and I’m 99.9% certain I made the right choice.
Plasmatic fire. I’m feeling it.
Please, folks. Support this new project by Tor.com and buy the shit out of all these novellas. There’s just no level on which this is not a good facet to add to mainstream publishing. It benefits authors, readers, the market, the creative shape of SFF, the whole whack.
Envy of Angels will be released in all formats on October 20th.
I’ll see you then.