An excellent and thought-provoking article, Janny. I'll post some of my thoughts later after they have a chance to stew for a while.
I totally forgot about Carol Berg - been years since I read any of her stuff and I have 9 of her books on my shelf. As a reader I'm very bad at remembering authors once I've read all their currently published stuff and their unfinished series tend to fall by the wayside if they take years between books.
So how does a large book series stay in readers' minds anyway? I'm ashamed to say I'm one of the many readers who didn't know George RR Martin existed until HBO came out with Game of Thrones. Yet I've known of Wheel of Time for years even after dropping it at around book 4.
Funny thing, I 'discovered' Brandon Sanderson because I wondered who the heck was this unknown (to me) author who was tackling something as massive as Wheel of Time. I soon found out how addictive his stories and magic systems were.
Trying to help a friend write better stories, I watched Brandon's author workshop on youtube and learned about Patrick Rothfuss.
I searched on Amazon for books by Trudi Canavan and discovered Michael Manning since somehow his book was tacked in at the end of the list - a rather nice accidental find.
But I'd have to say most of my great discoveries are still from friends who say read this great story that I find amazing and it's not your genre but it's really good, try it and I capitulate and discover how awesome Jim Butcher's Dresden Files are. I also enjoyed his Codex Alera series.
Or I find out how interesting C Greenwood's stories are (because my friend ran across this book on Amazon and had to show me how cool the cover was and I bought it on a whim).
Or a friend told me how cool Brent Weeks assassin series was and I meandered over into his unfinished Lightbringer series and pined for a week over the cliffhanger ending and feel he really needs to write faster before I break some kneecaps!
I feel online is the way to go for me but readers could definitely use better tools to discover new authors. I tend to get caught in circles with the same books and the filter tools don't really capture what I'm in the mood for, especially when I may not know what I'm truly in the mood for until I see it.
At least you can sign up to be notified of any new books by authors you like so that fixes my earlier problem of forgetting good authors.
I'm curious how other people find new authors.
An interesting article, though one that made me somewhat sad.
As for your question whether those behind social media even recognize maverick gold, I think that - generally spoken - they do not actually care (this is not backed up by facts, just a vague impression). At least this is what I get from all these hypes around a very small number of books: it is not so much about the particular book but the notion of being part of a group and/or a phenomenon.
Speaking from personal experience, I remember quite well what a great feeling it was when years ago the third 'Lord of the Rings' film got released. The biggest cinema in town hosted a special triple feature and a midnight screening and being part of such a big crowd made quite an impression on me. Similar with my younger cousin and her relation with the 'Twilight' book series. When all or at least most your friends in class read the books and constantly talk about it during the breaks, you do not want to get left out. So, reading what other people read may create an imagined or actual bond between you and others. Also, my cousin eventually lost interest in 'Twilight' when she became aware of the fact that the books appealed not only to sixteen-year-olds like herself but also to twelve- and fourteen-year-olds (horror!!). ;-)
I think the aspect of belonging to a group also works the other way around. For example, I once had a lecturer at university who on one occasion stated that he would never buy a book that made it on the bestseller list because, so the implication, for being on such a list it has to be rubbish and without any literary significance.
Safety may also play a part in why people tend to read what others read. Since picking up a book you do not know much about always comes with the risk that you will not like it (meaning a waste of time, energy and money), it may seem safer to read what everyone else is reading. At least when one believes that a big readership/following means the books have to be good, and thus worth one's time.
Both of these are very thoughtful posts - might consider putting them up on Aidan's blog for everyone at large. It might generate some interesting discussion, and also explain why coming of age stories with teenaged protagonists hit big, time after time, and why stories with adult protagonists take a lot longer to gather awareness.
Thanks for the compliment Janny.
I was weird as a teen and read mostly sci fi which didn't have any teen protagonists. However, with todays social media - twitter, cell phones, texting, etc - I can see how anything that appeals to teens would spread like wildfire.
The way I discover new authors has changes a lot over the years. When I was a teenager I used to go a bookshop and pick a book that piqued my interest. Nowadays I do not do this very often anymore for a number of reasons, one of them being that I have become pickier and feel that a lot of the books they have in stock have become more similar in kind to each other and are, generally, a bit meh. At least with regards to crime fiction I found that I prefer specialised bookshops that focus on one genre (in this case crime fiction) as they naturally have a wider range of books on offer. However, for getting to one of these specialised bookshops I first have to travel to another (bigger) city.
My biggest recent discovery was the late Joseph Hansen's Dave Brandstetter mystery series of which I became aware of when I checked the non-fiction book 'The Gay Detective Novel'. In another instance I turned to Wikipedia for help: Having been a fan of George Villier, 1st Duke of Buckingham, since childhood (due to 'The Three Musketeers') I looked up all the books mentioned there which have him as a character. Thus, I was introduced to the books of Philippa Gregory, and while I have no doubt that I will not purchase any further books by her (I am just not into historical romance), I nevertheless enjoyed this one.
Though most of the fictional literature during school and university has not been particularly life-changing, the work of Friedrich Dürrenmatt and W.G. Sebald made a considerable impression on me.
With regards to fantasy books I actually find it difficult to embrace a new author, book or book series and I blame Janny for the most part. Given the complexity of WoLaS I am reluctant to settle for less. It is not like I think there are no other authors out there who are capable of writing mature and multi-layered stories. But, unsurprisingly, a complex story unfolds over time, what means that you can not tell whether the book you are about to pick up will be a satisfying experience in the end just from reading the first few pages or the description on the back of a book. And I trust other people's opinion on this matter only to a certain degree, so reviews are not always that helpful. In a way I expect to be disappointed in the end, what prevents me from searching seriously for fantasy novels by new authors in the first place.
Ypso - your last paragraph - pure GOLD - if word got outside of this known circle (here), it would catch interest with certain readership that won't try Mistwraith or any of my titles because they related to the collaboration and 'presuppose' my work is lighter fare, like Feist's. There are authors working for adult audience, but they are harder to find, or less mentioned. I see posts in r/fantasy all the time, for folks LOOKING for more adult fare and all they are hit by suggestions that (how I WISH) included Light and Shadows from readers in the know. Also many read the first 3 books and there is no 'buzz' that the later series opens out the way it does. Social media could help these books, but there are not enough readers (yet) on the mark with them when the topics arise that fit.
For a more adult read, meantime, if you have not read Kay or Carol Berg's Lighthouse Duet that starts with Flesh and Spirit, I do recommend those.
I have to admit that I haven't been an avid writer of reviews (e.g. on Amazon) so far, so I probably should do something about this rather than just moan.
Maybe I am mistaken but I think that another way of getting a book some extra attention - aside from directly recommending it to other people - could be cosplaying (if the costumes are done well). I have no idea how book fairs work in the USA, the UK or Australia, but here in Germany the two biggest book fairs (Leipzig and Frankfurt) always attract a huge number of cosplayers and they wouldn't be the same without them. One, Frankfurt, even hosts the official German Cosplay Championship. So, assuming that maybe there are some tailors, dressmakers or seamstresses among your readers (and since there are even a few instrument makers it does not seem that unlikely), they could unite their skills and recreate some of the clothes for this purpose. Though I would guess cosplaying requires some guts.
Well, this is only loud thinking on my part right now, but I am actually tempted to sew myself such a dress. Could be fun. Maybe I try to bribe... err, persuade some friends to join as I am too much of a chicken to do this alone. But yeah, just loud thinking for the moment.
Thank you for your recommendations! I have not read anything by Kay or Berg yet, so I will take a close look at them.
If you do decide to make a costume derived from the books, be sure you send a pic for the Facebook fan page! I would post it for sure.
I was usually one of those try before you buy readers, the library when younger or the second hand bookshops and op-shops when older. I always had my favorite author's I would buy new, but I had to discover them first. And even some of those still writing seem to have lost me along the way. Luckily when younger I was an avid reader, although I had to sell off a lot of my books a few decades ago, I still have a nice collection to read through. I do not read as much these days, but still occasionally buy a new book.
I was a slow burn Janny Wurts fan, I read a fair few of Janny's books years ago, even had about 5 on the shelf, it was not till I picking up a second hand copy of Curse of the Mistwraith that I became a fan. I had never read any of the WoLaS books, it was an instant hit with me.
My small contribution was to donate some of Janny's books I brought new to the local library, since when I was trying to first read them that way a fair few had been stolen, I ended up with books arriving from libraries all over Tasmania, some not in the best condition. I am a believer that you need to be seen to be a hit.
The first book I ever saw fly out of the shop was back in 1998, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and I am sure social media was not that big out this way then. But some new Harry Potter fans must have been doing a lot of talking some where. I was in a store when an enormous pile of the books went on sale, and everyone dived on them. I got curious to see what miracle would get preteens to read something the size of a small brick, they seemed very excited about the book. I had never heard of Harry Potter and the cover in no way looked attractive to me, it was aimed at children obviously. After reading a bit I brought it anyway, and all the others as they came out.
I suspect book fairs in Australia do not attract a lot of cosplayers but the SF & Fantasy conventions attract a fair few. I have looked through a lot of convention photos the last few years, but have not yet seen any WoLaS cosplayers. You might yet be the first we see Ypso.
Well, I have to see if I can find detailed enough descriptions of impressive lady-fashion. It seems like the men have all the best outfits, especially Arithon, despite his apparent preference for simpler and plainer clothing.
And yes, should I make a costume, pictures of it will be provided. :-)
I think you're right Annette - I'm also in Australia, (NSW) and if I remember rightly, I found Janny's books through her collaboration with Raymond Feist. My original Empire books have actually disintegrated as a result of my readings, and our now 18 year old son's readings. I then picked up Curse of the Mistwraith and began the WOLAS series. Since then I've enjoyed the Cycle of Fire series (have always hoped for another one!) and the stand alone "To Ride Hell's Chasm" is firmly on my favourites list.
I'm hoping to attend a couple of writers festivals here this year, and perhaps Supanova, so I'll let you know what I see at them if that's helpful.
As far as social media goes, well, I think it's important, but not in a "wave your authorly flag" kind of way - it's more about relationships, trusted recommendations, announcements and interaction, but it's a fine line for most authors to tread.
I saw some research recently that stated that it's still personal recommendations that have the most weight with readers. Unfortunately some of the other research I've read suggests that it's still much more difficult if you're a female author. It's not necessarily reader bias, but more about promotion, marketing and display bias - the causes of which are still not necessarily well researched.
It's an interesting discussion, and I enjoyed the article, Janny.
Ypso, unless you like purple silk, you'll have to go for Lysaer's wives or Maenelle during that first visit with the brothers. I can't think of any other woman who wears finery. Dhirken is well described but her attire isn't "impressive"
Daliana, certainly wears finery, some of it described in detail.
The female Vastmark Shepherds also wore interesting, woven patterned skirts, hide boots, a felt or oiled wool cloak, likely hooded, and would carry bow and heirloom horns. And Dalwyn would have had bells in her braids.
Talith's costumes were striking, though yes, bad luck woman.
If you're a redhead, Glendien's scarlet wedding dress might be interesting to envision.
If you are short, too, what the Sunchild wore in Ch V of Stormed Fortress.
Initiate's Trial, Princess Ceftwin's costume was described also.
The only costume I ever saw reproduced was a very avid reader recreated Arithon's Vastmark shepherd's get up, from the cover of the US edition of the hardback of Ships of Merior/paperback of Warhost, whichever you own. She did a very beautiful job of it, but had to ask me how the turned back sleeves were constructed.
Janny, was she a cosplayer at one of the conventions? Would be nice to see a picture of this intrepid Vastmark shepherd.
Would we be allowed to post high quality pictures of the outfits, accessories and symbols shown on the covers?
Sorry, Annette, this was back in the days before cameras in cell phones, or digital photos at all. I wish I did have a record, she definitely got it right.
We have a photo of a woman who did Mara's costume from Don's cover of Mistress of the Empire and that one was LOVELY!
I'd be absolutely upsidedown thrilled if anyone ever costumed some of the clothing from the series....we will be at MiniCon in April (Minneapolis convention) and they are creating the con bar and calling it the INN OF THE FOUR RAVENS - and that blew me away....wondering if they'll have decor to match....now if a cosplayer showed up there as Elaira and another as Dakar - holy wow....;) The blue-handed dyer would be fun, too....
Dalwyn's outfit would be very nice and I know a fitting place for a photo shooting with sheep, mountains and the see, but being occasionally superstitious I would rather not do her costume... especially not the bells. The poor lady has my heartfelt sympathies.
I adore people with red hair, but mine is of a dark brown colour, often mistaken for black, with strands of (natural) white hair, similar to Rogue in the second X-Men film. That is why I thought that Lirenda may be a good choice; not the best one, with regards to the hair, but still better than most of the other ladies.
Janny, will you take any pictures of the con bar? It would be really nice to see what it will eventually look like.
If they do it up into some sort of decor that takes a stab at the book, you bet - if that happens, I'd post it on FB.