Paul Kearney series dropped by publisher

Werthead

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Oddly appropriate, given the topic "Is Fat Fantasy Killing the Genre" elsewhere, this piece of sad news has come to light.

Paul Kearney, the excellent Irish fantasy author of three standalone novels (The Way to Babylon, A Different Kingdom and Riding the Unicorn) and a completed five-volume series (The Monarchies of God) has been working on a new four-volume series called The Sea-Beggars. Books 1 and 2 (The Mark of Ran and This Forsaken Earth) are out now. Startlingly, Bantam have suddenly dropped the series following poor sales of the second volume, despite the fact that the second volume has not appeared in mass-market paperback yet.

I must admit that this is not something I've seen happen very often. Editors and publishers seem to commit to series for the long haul, sometimes publishing later volumes even if the earlier ones didn't do too well just to have a complete and thus more marketable series to sell later. Being dropped halfway through a series with no warning is not something I'm familiar with (although apparently it's more common in the more ruthless American marketplace). More startling is that this is Bantam UK, the publisher who spent years slowly, patiently building an audience for Steven Erikson's The Malazan Book of the Fallen series even when Gardens of the Moon wasn't an initial runaway success. Erikson, a major fan of Kearney, was responsible for bringing Kearney to Bantam in the first place.

What ties this in the "Fat Fantasy" thread is that Kearney's first three novels were standalone fantasies revolving around identity and reality, the sort of themes that make for a more challenging novel. The excellent Monarchies of God series was a response to his editor's request for a more traditional epic fantasy they could sell to the mass audience, but instead they got a damning indictment of religious fanaticism and a horrific portrayal of the true evils of war (in one short chapter in the fourth volume, The Second Empire, Kearney more captures the horror of war more effectively than Scott Bakker does in his entire trilogy, and he's no slouch).

But Kearney's most interesting attribute is his brevity. Few of his novels have been longer than 300 pages. He's said he simply doesn't see the point of making 900-page-long ten-volume series if he doesn't have the material for it (he acknowledges that Steven Erikson is about the only author he's come across who does need that space), and that this caused enormous problems for his American publishers in particular. Obviously his slim volumes simply disappeared on the shelf next to the latest 700-page potboiler by some third-rate hack like Newcombe. Also, the marketing for This Forsaken Earth in particular was quite poor (after Bantam did a great job on The Mark of Ran).

This is an interesting - and highly disturbing - commentary on the state of fantasy publishing. Epic fantasy novels are often criticised for being too long and too cliched. Yet when a writer tries to buck this trend by writing shorter, biting, more interesting epic fantasy he gets the boot by his publisher.
 

GOLLUM

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Outrageous!!

Kearney is a top notch writer, so hopefully someone else will see the light and pick up the slack. I certainly hope so!.......:mad: :mad:
 

Teresa Edgerton

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Maybe Bantam was the publisher who saw the light, after he parted company with Gollancz, but felt they had to drop him when what was supposed to be his breakout series lost readers after the first book. (It's not uncommon for publishers to put less effort into promoting the second book in a series -- the first one is supposed to establish a built-in readership.)

When a publisher drops a writer whose books buck the trends, you can take that as proof that publishers are going for the easy sell, or you can take that as proof that someone was willing to take a risk on an unconventional author, and then had to cut their losses when the risk didn't pay off.

Another publisher may still pick up the rest of the series, if their sales and marketing department feels that it has some insight into selling the books that the people at Bantam lacked. So if I were a fan of the series, I wouldn't give up hope just yet. (But if someone does pick up the series, I would run out and buy the next book the moment it came out, to show my support.)
 

kaneda

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Outrageous!!

Kearney is a top notch writer, so hopefully someone else will see the light and pick up the slack. I certainly hope so!.......:mad: :mad:
Me too...

Plus, in my opinion it took them a HELL of a long time to release the paperback of TFE. Personally, I wont buy hardbacks, and I know that there are quite a few people like that out there who won't, so that could easily have contributed to the lack of initial sales. Bit gutted over this, really like the sea beggars books.
 
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