Viewing: publishers weekly
“Like occasionally I’m legit pissed about the fact that there doesn’t appear to be a fandom for this fantastic series because sometimes, all I want to do is talk about my SdJ theories with like-minded folks (but then I look at my latest fandom experiences and kind of… resign myself to being a SdJ super-fan in relative anonymity).”
That’s from a review of my newest offering, Greedy Pigs, out today from Tor.com Publishing. Stitch is a book/media blogger, writer, and student, and I just love her to death. She first came to my attention after she posted a drunken review/quasi-live read of my first Sin du Jour book, Envy of Angels, and I’ve followed her stuff ever since. It isn’t just that she gives my books fantastic reviews (although she does), and it isn’t even the fact that she’s a deeply insightful analyst of everything from movies to comics (she is). Stitch perfectly captures the experience of just loving the fuck out of a book you’re reading, and having that applied to my books is immensely rewarding. That’s simply why we do this, to make people feel the way we feel when we read books or comics or watch movies we love that really capture and compel and move us. It’s one of the best things about the human experience, right up there with tasting food and having orgasms.
You can read her full review of Greedy Pigs here, but that highlighted portion above kind of encapsulates how I’m feeling today, the day of Greedy Pigs‘ release (it’s out in ebook and paperback and you should buy it and read it and love it and review it and tell all your friends about it and all of that junk).
I find myself holding onto a mixed emotional bag on this, my fifth Sin du Jour book launch day, and I also find it difficult not to be honest about that. I just finished line edits on Gluttony Bay, the next Sin du Jour novella, and I was rereading an ARC of Greedy Pigs. The latter is my fiancée, Nikki’s, favorite SdJ novella thus far (quite an accomplishment, as she is my toughest critic), while Gluttony Bay, the penultimate book of the series, is my favorite SdJ I’ve done up to this point. I’m intensely pleased by both books, how the series has evolved, and where it’s going. This whole thing started out as a weird experiment (and it still is that, to a large degree) and me just trying to write something as funny and bizarre and unexpected and different as I could. It’s turned into a group of imaginary people I really care about who (I hope) feel/read very real, and work of which I’m very proud. Yet none of that seems to be translating into hard sales, which are, quite frankly, soft. It’s almost two years on and we’re not moving nearly as many physical books as I’d hoped we would, and we’re not reaching the readership I know this series could potentially impact.
Don’t get me wrong. This has been and continues to be a greatly fulfilling experience for me, creatively and professionally. I’ve got an amazing publisher in Tor.com Publishing who love and believe in these books enough to have committed to putting out all seven of them, which is bananas. They are selling. They’re earning out their advances and moving Kindle copies, if not paperbacks. I’ve gotten nothing but love and enthusiasm from virtually all the critics who have reviewed the books, which is unheard of for me. I’ve got readers who connect with the work and get what I’m trying to do and quite obviously love this world and these people. The people who actually take the time to read the books dig ’em. I am grateful for all of that, truly.
However, it also causes me a lot of frustration, especially lately. None of our current efforts seem to be able to break the series wider, and that intense enthusiasm of the readership we’ve built and critics we’ve converted just doesn’t seem to have the infection rate in others you’d hope. I’m a big believer in “if you can convert one, you can convert a million,” and I still am. So while it’s wholly gratifying to see people love the hell out of these books, it’s also frustrating to see the next 999,999 people watch that and shrug and keep moving. It’s amazing to receive starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, four-and-a-half stars and a Top Pick badge from RT Book Reviews, be one of three SFF books recommended by The Washington Post for the month, have SFF book blogs and fanzines like Barnes & Noble, File 770, and Nerds of a Feather consistently gush over the series, but that also creates an even bigger sense of, “Why isn’t any of this translating to sales/readership?”
These are, of course, hardly revolutionary problems. This is the exact same eternal struggle encountered by virtually every author and publisher every day of their publishing lives always. But I’m not every other author, I’m me, and this is my career and these are my books, and this launch day I just can’t summon my usual up-and-at-’em, let’s-keep-fighting-the-good-fight attitude. I do, however, retain my always profound gratitude to those of you reviewing and buying and reading and loving and talking about these books. I see it on Twitter and I read what you write on Amazon and Goodreads and I get your occasional emails, and I can’t express my appreciation enough for your cutting through all that white noise out there to actually give time and attention and customerage to my little books. Thank you.
Don’t get it twisted, we are not defeated. Not even close. I’m currently working on the very last book in the Sin du Jour series, Taste of Wrath, which is due out in 2018. We have another year of SdJ being current and “hot” and “new” and all that jazz, and I am going to step up my marketing/awareness-raising efforts and be as smart as possible about it and make the most of it. I’m also going to take a big cue from Stitch, whose words actually inspired a lot in me over breakfast this morning. Because there is Sin du Jour fandom out there, even if it ain’t the size of Harry Potter or The Dresden Files or anything. It’s just individualistic fandom, scattered like a thousand similar thoughts waiting to be galvanized into a philosophy. I am going to work on bringing y’all together, and in that there is power. I’m noodling some special events and perhaps some kind of forum for you. If you are a Sin du Jour reader who loves the books and would like to talk to others who do also and you have ideas about how you’d like to go about that, feel free to email me at matt AT matt-wallace.com about it.
In the meantime, you keep reading ’em and I’ll keep writing ’em. That’s what we do. That’s all we can do.
I really think you’re going to love Greedy Pigs. Sin du Jour keeps growing up, but I hope it stays funny and weird and wild enough to keep y’all entertained in addition to moving you just an inch or two.
I have to thank my editor, Lee Harris, as well as Irene Gallo and her whole team at Tor.com Publishing. I also want to thank my new copy editor on Sin du Jour, Richard Shealy, who did a bang-up job on Greedy Pigs. My fiancée, Nikki, is the best alpha reader and life partner one could ever hope to find. My agent, DongWon Song of Horward Morhaim Literary, is the only bullet you need in your gun (go #TeamDongWon).
Most of all, thank you for buying another ticket to take this ride with me. Those stubs are my favorite scrapbook items.
Matt Wallace (Los Angeles, CA 2017)
Obligatory pull quotes from critical praise for Greedy Pigs…
“Wallace’s imagination is boundless, and his wryly funny storytelling manages to be heartfelt and completely gonzo at the same time.” – Publishers Weekly
“Once again, Wallace mixes delicious drama and devilishly clever supernatural twists in another stellar Sin du Jour novel.” – Bridget Keown, RT Book Reviews
“Matt Wallace’s Sin du Jour novella series is the best thing to happen to urban fantasy since Anita Blake lusted after her first vampire.” – Joel Cunningham, Barnes & Noble Sci-fi & Fantasy Blog
“…when Wallace delivers, he hits you right in the gut. It’s that gut punch, blended expertly with unmatched wit and creativity that makes Greedy Pigs so damned good.” – Joe Sherry, Nerds of a Feather
“While I may not be sure if I want to live in the weird world of the Sin du Jour series, Greedy Pigs makes it crystal clear that maybe, just maybe, we’re already there. And that’s what makes Greedy Pigs such a fantastic read.” – Stitch’s Media Mix
Did you know Terry Pratchett never won a Hugo Award?
No, seriously. He didn’t. Ever.
I KNOW, RIGHT?
I was shocked. I mean that. I was genuinely gobsmacked when I looked it up a while back. In fact, he wasn’t even short-listed for a Hugo until 2005, thirty-four years into his publishing career. And do you know what he did? This part abso-fucking-lutely blew my mind, folks. He turned the nomination down. The man turned down a nomination he’d been waiting his entire career and a vast portion of his life to receive. Do you know why? Why he would possibly do such a thing? I came upon this quote from Mr. Pratchett himself, I don’t know 100% if it’s legit, but it seems to be: “When they told me I just thought: I can’t handle this, not after all this time, and asked to be let off. That meant I enjoyed the con hugely instead of being a bag of nerves with a blood pressure of 200/95, and when the fateful verdict was given on Sunday night I was eating sushi two miles away. Best Worldcon ever!”
I just…I really couldn’t believe it. I mean, I can absolutely believe it, but I don’t believe it.
Terry Pratchett was arguably the greatest humorist and satirist the SFF field ever saw, and without question the most successful and prolific. The man wrote over 70 books, 36 novels in the Discworld series alone. He sold more than 85 million books worldwide in countless languages. He was the the best-selling UK author of the 1990’s. When he passed, the world actually stopped for a few moments, and rightfully so.
I’m trying to imagine an author with that pedigree contemplating the possibility of not picking up a major award, especially after finally being recognized with the nomination.
It should be a difficult thing to imagine, but actually it’s not. Because of those two words with which I led.
Here’s the point at which I’m getting, ultimately: No one, especially in SFF, respects comedy.
They buy it.
They read it.
They laugh their asses off at it.
They’re moved by it.
They genuinely love it.
But they do not respect it.
Now, I’m not a half-moon in one of Terry Pratchett’s fingernails and I never will be. I have, however, learned a few things about being the author of humorous SFF books as of late. You see, last year Tor.com Publishing really opened up mainstream SFF novellas by creating an entire line of print, electronic, and audio books that are novellas. I had the absolute privilege of writing one of their launch titles, Envy of Angels, which was released in October of 2015 and is the debut book in an entire series called Sin du Jour.
The book stems from an idea I had about who cooks the food the supernatural beings are always eating in urban fantasy novels, and also this notion: I’m fucking sick of how serious and depressing and dystopian everything seems to be lately. I wanted to write a funny book. I wanted to write a wholly unexpected, absurd, hilarious book that would make people happy, but about which they’d still believe in and care about as much as any grounded, realistic story.
And so I did.
Before Envy of Angels came out and for about a month after I had zero thoughts of awards. None. It honestly hadn’t even occurred to me to consider such a thing, and I didn’t even question why. I just wanted the book to be well-received and sell marginally well and I wanted it to be attractive as a television/streaming series property. That was it. That was what I was focused on. Awards? That was like a word in another language. I think because I was solely viewing it in the context of the Tor.com Publishing novella line, which I fully expected and still expect to clean up in that category of every award this year.
And in the back of my mind I knew I’m not the one who wins them awards. Kai Ashante Wilson will win awards. KJ Parker wins awards. Nnedi Okorafor wins awards. They’re all genuinely amazing, serious authors, and I’m the commercial guy peddling my broad, funny books. And that was cool. Honestly.
Except it’s not. It’s not cool. And I’m not “just” anything, and neither is the book I wrote.
Because I noticed a few other things: People were laughing. Readers, critics. The book made them laugh. A lot. And it made them happy. And it made them feel stuff about things. And they got it. And they really dug it.
Most have embraced it outright. But I also noticed an entire other category of review, and it was really weird at first. It’s what I call the apologist category of reviews. And they aren’t negative reviews. I have no issue with people hating the fuck out of my stuff. Comes with the territory. But these were/are people who liked the book, who laughed, who had a great time. And they had no problem admitting that and writing about it…but then, oddly, would come the back of their hands. “That said, obviously it’s just a light/breezy/fluffy/snuggly read that’ll amuse you for a bit so meh.”
It’s like they’re letting everyone know that, even though they’re copping to liking it, they didn’t take the book seriously. Because that’s not what you do with a comedy, especially if you’re a critic. Comedies aren’t serious literature. Everyone knows that. So, you have to nod and wink and make it clear you know it’s still fluff. You’re still a serious critic and consumer of books who knows the rules.
Well, I don’t write fluff.
And that pissed me off.
That’s when I began to recall all the reviews of other humorous SFF books I’ve read. That’s when I tried and failed to recall humor winning a major award. That’s when I looked up Terry Pratchett’s award stats. That’s when I realized I’d been programmed to automatically and outright discount myself and my funny little book from awards consideration because it’s largely a comedy.
That’s when I began writing this post in my head, I think.
And hey, dig this. As I was mulling all of that in the wake of the book’s release, something else tipped me. Lustlocked, the sequel to Envy of Angels, received a starred review in Publishers Weekly. Thus far it’s one of only two books in the Tor.com novella line to receive a starred review from Publishers Weekly, the other being Kai Ashante Wilson’s highly critically acclaimed (and rightfully so) The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps.
I was floored.
I mean, my little funny book? About sexual lizards and goblins? A starred Review? Publishers Weekly?
Thus did I finally arrive at this sudden, inescapable conclusion: Comedy is fucking difficult. It is hard. It is damn hard to make people laugh solely utilizing words printed on a page. It’s even harder to make them laugh and make them give a damn for 250 pages. It’s especially difficult to balance the tone when you mix humor and the supernatural/fantastic, and make it all believable. It’s more than hard, it’s valid. It’s every bit as valid and necessary and needed as any other mode of literature out there.
And you know what? I did a good job.
I did a damn fine job, in fact.
I believe Envy of Angels is as worthy as any other novella in its category for any award. I really do. I don’t claim to be a better writer than anyone, and in a lot of cases I know for a fact I am not, but I do believe I accomplished exactly what I set out to accomplish with this book, executed it extremely well, and achieved a worthwhile, desired result.
So, yeah. Hat. Ring. Thrown.
In his own lifetime, Terry Pratchett accomplished virtually everything an author could, in their wildest fantasies, hope to accomplish with their work and career. Yet after it all he couldn’t stomach spending a weekend waiting to hear that as far as his funny books had come in thirty years, they still weren’t award-worthy.
That still pisses me off, too.
Anyway. That, as they say, is The Argument. I’ve made it. I apologize for the length and breadth, but some of that had been stewing inside of me for a while and it needed to be served up.
Envy of Angels is eligible in every “novella” category of every SFF award covering the year of 2015. If you’re an SFWA member I’d appreciate your support for it in the Nebula field. If you’re a member of the 2016 World Science Fiction Convention I’d appreciate your support in nominating/voting Envy of Angels for a Hugo.
Finally and obligatorily, here are a bunch of nice things critics have said about the book to entice you to read and vote for it!
“A hilarious, whip-smart, gonzo story that feels like the author shoved Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential biography and Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series into a blender and hit ‘puree’.” – SF Signal
“One of 2015’s most sinfully delicious surprises.” – Barnes & Noble SFF Blog
“[Envy of Angels] will leave readers grinning and hoping for more stories featuring the Sin du Jour gang.” – Publishers Weekly
“This fantasy is FUNNY.” – Geekly Inc
“Comedy is hard, and good comedy is even harder to find. In Envy of Angels, it’s woven into every page.” – Geek Ireland
“The best humorous urban fantasy ever!” – The Exploding Spaceship
“A laugh-out loud skewering of the fast-food industry, filled with funny dialog and memorable characters.” – Books Bones & Buffy
“Envy of Angels is far from bite-sized. It is a fully realized story with engaging characters, a strong plot, and a brilliant urban fantasy premise that will make many an author jealous they hadn’t thought of it first.” – NY Journal of Books
“Ridiculous. Hilarious. Kind of gross. Hunger-inspiring.” – Stitch’s Media Mix
“Absurd and yet somehow utterly realistic…‘Envy of Angels’ is a fast-paced jaunt through the mad world of angels and demons which lurks just beneath the mundane surface of day-to-day life for any careless fool to step into.” – Forbidden Planet
“Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace is the meal you’ll never forget, that five course dinner that sets your senses on fire and burns every nerve in your tongue but still leaves you wanting more.” – Examiner
“There are moments so absurdly hilarious, so out-of-this-world-insane that I would be hard-pressed to describe them.” – The BiblioSanctum
“Envy of Angels is a canapé of gourmetdark comedy which will leave you wanting more.” – Geek Syndicate
“[Envy of Angels] is a perfect blend of horror and fantasy.” – FangirlNation