Where in the Sam Hill is Curse of a Dark God?!

Because of so many reader requests, I think it’s time to explain.

Alas, I must report that she ran off with a no-good tramp. I’m sure she’s realized her error. Either way, I’ve formed a posse. We’re hunting her down.

That’s the true story. For those that want the boring press release that obscures the facts, you may read what follows.

The first draft of Curse of a Dark God was delivered to the editor in August of 2009, two months before Servant of a Dark God was released. That draft had some issues with a few of the story lines. These issues crept (they did not run or slouch) into the text because the author, stressed about an aggressive deadline, decided to adopt the fix-it-when-you-finish-just-get-er-done-you’ve-got-a-freaking-deadline methodology of writing.

But a book of 230,000 words is a big old momma. And if something in a beginning chapter is off, it wankers a whole heck of a lot of story that follows, much like a line of dominoes. But it’s not just one story line. This book had multiple interconnected story lines. So issues in one line rippled out into others. What this meant was that the changes that needed to be made weren’t wee things that could be dealt with in a few weeks. When the dust settled, it was clear the book required a substantial rewrite, even though the draft contained gobs of cool story.

So much for that fix-it-later experiment. You can be sure the author won’t be using that on large books again.

So the author wrote another draft of 245,000 words and delivered it in August of 2010. The story rocked. Unfortunately, there was a miscommunication on size (and there’s no use in having a drama about what was said and who was at fault and why fairies are always tiny hot chicks; despite our best efforts, life is full of bumps; the best thing to do is learn from them and move forward). The book actually needed to be in the 170,000 – 180,000 word range. Same as Servant of a Dark God.

In a 10% edit, you’re tightening a story, cutting out the fluff. In an edit designed to reduce the book by 30% or more, you’re cutting off arms and legs and removing things like livers. The story can’t survive such cuts unless the thing was obese to begin with and just needed to go on a diet. Unfortunately, Curse of a Dark God draft 3 was fairly lean, given the amount of story it contained. It was NOT a candidate for Biggest Loser.

The upshot is this third draft is going to be another major rewrite. Which means, given publishing lead times, that it’s going to take a number of months to get it on the shelves.

(fricken, ricken, grumble, frag a friggen nack)

Because I’m just starting on the outline, we don’t have a delivery date yet. As soon as we do, I’ll post it.

I apologize to all of you expectantly looking forward to the next book. When I started this series, I promised myself that I would not leave my readers hanging. I was determined that my books would come out in a timely fashion. And I have been working like a devil to do just that, but sometimes things happen. What I can promise you is that this draft will go quickly. Furthermore, I already have book 3 outlined. It should go quickly as well.

I know some of you are asking why? Why, the word limit? Aren’t there are plenty of monster books out there?

There are. In fact, about half of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time books are roughly the length of draft 3. Publishers do sell fat books. However, the bigger the book, the harder it is to make it profitable.

First, bigger books cost more. There’s the cost of the additional paper and editing, but there’s also the extra money to ship and store.

Second, you can’t put as many copies out in the stores. You can’t because they take up more of the space that might be allotted to an individual book. So instead of being able to have stores stock four or five copies of a 120k novel, they can only stock two or three of a big old momma in that same space.

Third, bigger books cost you, dear reader, more money. Sure, the publisher might eat some of the additional costs, but some of those costs will be passed onto you.

So because of the increase in cost, the publisher needs to sell more copies; however, the limit on display space and the higher price make it harder to sell those additional copies and actually may lead to selling fewer copies.

Do you see the bind?

This doesn’t mean big books can’t be profitable. It just means that it’s not as easy. It’s a bigger risk. Part of me would want the publisher to take that risk. But the other part of me knows that slow and steady usually wins the race. Neither I nor the publisher want to gamble the long-term viability of the Dark God series. Now, if Tor was doing this all in paperback, this might not be such a big issue. But we’ve got the sweet hardback/paperback deal. And business projections have to be done in that world.

So the short of it is that we’ve run into some business limitations, and it’s going to take me a bit more time to deliver.

I wish I could announce a date at this time, but I can’t. I’ll finish up the outline for this draft and run that by the publisher around Christmas. Then it’s back to work. I promise that what you’ll get will be my best. And that’s what you want, anyway, even if it takes a bit longer to get it into your hands.

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18 Responses to Where in the Sam Hill is Curse of a Dark God?!

  1. jenga says:

    Thanks for the update, John! And thanks for explaining the publisher’s angle. It’s very enlightening.

    Now if only someone could explain why books sold in Canada are more expensive than in the US…

  2. John Brown says:

    The Moose union?

  3. Ben says:

    I also appreciate the explanation of the business problem. It’s nice to see the veil lifted from the holy mysteries of publishing sometimes. People forget that it’s a business, not a fluffy land of unicorns and fairies (hey, why ARE they always tiny hot chicks???).

  4. WEKM says:

    Thanks John. I know it is hard to get this big a tale out. It almost needs a fourth book to spread it out and keep the word count down in each book.
    Stupid publishers stuck in the whole “trillagy” mindset. Who is to say that a great story can’t be told over four, five or even ten books.

  5. John Brown says:

    The accountant in me is slavering for the day when I get to look at an actual profit and loss statement on a book project.

  6. WEKM says:


  7. John Brown says:

    Trillagy trillogy, I kind of like the alternate spelling. I think I’ll name my next daughter that. 🙂

    Actually, my editor wanted to avoid calling it a “trillogy” exactly for that reason. So they went with Dark God Saga so I could write more books if people went gaga. It’s me that’s wanting to get in and out in three books. And there are so many cool stories to tell that I can hardly keep myself from including them. It’s a case of Robert-Jordan-itis.

  8. OlettaLiano says:

    I for one don’t mind the lateness, I know it will be worth the wait. Besides, I have 12 new books on my reading table waiting to be read so I’m not at a loss for something to do until I get your next one into my hands. 🙂

  9. janeite42 says:

    Thanks for the explanation. I don’t mind the delay, either. It’s more important to get the book right. So, does all that extra stuff that has to be cut go into book 3?

  10. John Brown says:

    Janeited42, probably not in this case. The cut parts go to the Island of Misfit Toys or something like that.

  11. bdayton says:

    Thanks for the explanation, John. It’s a little disappointing that all that extra story won’t get into the books. But then again, maybe you can re-craft those extra bits into a novella or something along those lines.

  12. John Brown says:

    That is a possibility. We’ll see what’s left when the outline is finished on this one.

  13. Hezekiah says:

    Very interested in seeing how the final draft looks. The tattoos on my arms are starting to itch.

    Why the devil can’t I remember what those are called in the book?

  14. John Brown says:

    Um. Weaves? 🙂

  15. JoshCarr says:

    This is very sad 🙁

    I have a feeling this whole thing is an elaborate marketing scheme to get us all worked up into a lather about the new book…probably has been done for months.

    seriously though every time you have to start over on something and do some rework it gets better. because of that I am very excited about this second book – should be awesome.

    here is a great book that I read once on that very subject of rework – http://www.amazon.com/Rework-Jason-Fried/dp/0307463745 it happens to be called “Rework”. You should read it.

  16. John Brown says:

    Thanks, Josh

  17. Dave says:

    Thank you so much for the explanation John! I loved the first book and will wait to enjoy the second.