It is not without a sense of irony that I write this on the four-year anniversary of 7th Son: Descent's Podiobooks.com debut. I've been sitting on this news for a few days, pondering how to best present it to you -- you very cool, very gracious people. I realized that my breed of pondering is often an excuse for procrastination, so I'll get on with it and articulate this as clearly and constructively as I can.
St. Martin's Griffin, the publisher of 7th Son: Descent, has chosen to not publish the 7th Son sequels. As with every aspect of our relationship, St. Martin's was kind, clear and up-front with me about this. This honesty has been something I've treasured since I signed with the company in 2007. I consider the team with whom I worked at St. Martin's to be absolute professionals, genuinely interested in my talents, my ideas and my work.
Brass tacks: 7th Son: Descent's sales performance has not made a compelling business case for its sequels. Given the heroic outreach I and St. Martin's marketing/publicity teams put forth to effectively promote Descent, and the ultimate sales results of that outreach, the publisher believed releasing a sequel would not make good business sense. Despite my disappointment as 7th Son's creator, I am able to see the wisdom of St. Martin's decision.
I will not attempt to find another publisher for 7th Son's sequels.
I am not angry about these circumstances. Publishing is a business. Authors who earn a place at a publisher's table must justify the monetary resources required to feed them. St. Martin's took a chance with 7th Son: Descent, and that risk has not yet paid off. I fully understand this, and so should you. I remain head-over-heels for the folks at St. Martin's. We're all still friends. My editor there is very keen to see the next J.C. Hutchins project.
Typically, I'd present a cheerful, rousing plot twist at this point -- a cheeky Hey, everybody!-style rallying cry for which I'm so well known. This time, I cannot.
It became very clear to me very quickly that 7th Son: Descent was not performing as expected. I dare not assign responsibility to anyone but myself for this. Examining the lead up to, and release of, the novel, I cannot see how I could have promoted it any better than I did. I literally went broke promoting this book and Personal Effects: Dark Art (another novel that will not have a sequel; it also underperformed). I conceived numerous brand-new online marketing campaigns that dazzled you and others. I asked you to purchase the novel, and many of you did. I asked my professional allies and friends to assist me in spreading the word, and they did. Those fans and conspicuous colleagues who did not lend a hand undoubtedly had their reasons, which I accept.
7th Son: Descent made history in the way it was promoted: It was the first mainstream novel to be simultaneously released in free serialized audiobook, PDF and in text format (at BoingBoing.net). It was the first book to use serialized prequel audio short stories as part of its release promotion. It was the first novel to have an accompanying music album (the Anyman EP) sung by a character from the book, timed to its release. I am very proud of these groundbreaking accomplishments.
I am also very proud of the long hours I spent re-recording the 7th Son: Descent serialized audiobook to celebrate its print release, and the effort producer Shawn Bishop put forth in creating an excellent product. I also stand by the time investment required to participate in nearly 30 guest posts/interviews for blogs willing to promote the book (for which I am extremely grateful), and more than 40 podcast interviews (for which I'm equally grateful). I do not regret spending thousands of dollars to personally finance additional promotion for Personal Effects and 7th Son. When you're up at bat, you swing for the wall.
For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to make a living wage telling stories. That day has not yet come, and I fear that it won't, unless some serious decisions are made. I've made these decisions, and I apologize for how this will affect you.
Creating podcast fiction does does not generate direct revenue for me. Based on anecdotal and statistical data, very few people are willing to pay for general podcast content, much less podcast fiction. Since my goal is to make a living wage with my words, the current monetization models -- including in-show advertisements -- will not deliver this. Dedicating time and effort to my non-fiction podcast projects will deliver equally underwhelming monetary results.
It is also apparent to me that using the Free model to promote a tangible product, such as I did with 7th Son: Descent and Personal Effects: Dark Art, does not deliver sustainable sales results. I have friends -- some of whom are my best friends, the most talented people I've had the privilege to know and work with -- who have absolute faith in this model. I treasure their trailblazing efforts and enthusiasm. My faith, however, has been fundamentally rattled.
Put simply: The new media model viably supports only the most blessed and talented of authors. The time, effort and money I invest in entertaining you for free pulls my attention and talent away from projects that can generate revenue. While podcasting, podcast fiction, and -- most importantly -- your support and evangelism has positively impacted my life and career in ways I'll never be able to fully express, I cannot continue to release free audiofiction if I wish to make a living wage with my words.
My plans to release a serialized audiobook of Personal Effects: Dark Art are now aborted. My plans to release The 33 as free audiofiction are on hold. I'm particularly heartbroken about The 33, as I'm very proud of the world and characters I've created so far. Unless I experience a financial windfall, or conceive a monetized podcast approach that provides equitable compensation for the effort I invest in writing, recording and editing those stories, I cannot dedicate the resources to freely release The 33.
While these decisions were not made in haste, you are well within your right to feel disappointed or betrayed. My soul aches, for I truly feel that I am letting you down. I do pray you'll look back at the four years of entertainment I've provided, and cherish those stories and memories. I certainly do. Rest well knowing that I owe you far more than you owe me. You made my dream come true. How many people can claim such a miraculous thing?
For the past two years, I've nigh-obsessively wondered about the viability of podcast fiction, and if this distribution method is as powerful and disruptive as it was during its scrappy, eye-opening 2005 and 2006 roots. It's far too early to say. Its days of newness are certainly gone ... but new creators are coming on the scene every day, with new stories to share. I wish them stratospheric success in on- and offline marketplaces.
It's also far too early to say if this model will deliver the kind of mainstream publisher attention it did for creators such as Scott Sigler, Seth Harwood, myself, and others. Blessedly, several additional podcast novelists have secured deals with mainstream publishers; their works will debut in bookstores in the upcoming months. I hope the Free promotional model continues to serve them well, and that the listener and creator communities enthusiastically support them.
I pray this model becomes a viable, sustainable business-driven movement -- and not the fleeting moment I fear it may be.
Regardless of its fate, I cannot currently contribute to it, if I wish to make a living wage with my words. Aside from the sporadic release of nonfiction audio interviews, my podcast feed is going dark. I've spent years "feeding the feed" -- my podcast feed, that is -- and the real-world results of that effort have put in me the red emotionally, creatively and financially.
Some of you amazing people -- you very cool, very gracious people -- are owed far more than an apology. I have made sincere obligations to you, and will deliver on these promises. Fans who are owed Personal Effects "swag bags" and 7th Son "Beta Clone Army Rewards" prizes will receive them. You monetarily supported my work in good faith -- faith in the novel, faith in me -- and I will absolutely honor these obligations. I beg for your patience as I right myself financially, so I can smartly dedicate the monetary resources to making these promises a reality.
For those who bought 7th Son: Descent and Personal Effects: Dark Art, know that I owe you my undying respect and thanks. For those who experienced the audio and text content for free and were not persuaded to monetarily support my work, I appreciate your time, and hope you were entertained.
For the hundreds of fans, friends, and colleagues who went the extra mile in generously sharing the news about 7th Son and Personal Effects with others: I treasure your support above all.
When folks ask me for writerly advice, I usually reply with two words: Writers write. What I rarely say, but absolutely believe, is that writers should be paid for what they write. It's time for me to write. To write my ass off, to tell stories that can be sold in many media, so I can continue to entertain you, and achieve my career goals. I am honored by your friendship, and hope I have clearly explained the circumstances that led me to these difficult decisions.
A final word regarding the 7th Son sequels: I may self-publish Deceit and Destruction later this year. If I do, I'll let you know. It seems like a shame to keep the series' "mad hacker" in a drawer for too long. Kilroy2.0 needs to be everywhere.
Thank you for your love and support in the past, the now, and the to-be.
With endless affection and appreciation,