Patty Jansen is the author of the Icefire Trilogy (which has been a bestseller on Kobo and #1 fantasy in the iBookstore Australia), the Return of the Aghyrians series (final book out in July) and the Ambassador series. Visit her websitehttp://pattyjansen.com/ to see her books and visit her blog (mostly about photography, writing and art)
1. You are predominantly known for your hard SF writing, but I note that your most recent releases, Books 1 and 2 of the ‘For Queen and Country’ series (Innocence Lost and Willow Witch) are classed as history-inspired fantasy. What has inspired this shift in genre and are you reaching a new audience with these releases?
I have never written only hard SF. It was hard SF that I was able to sell to magazines, but I describe myself as a writer of “space opera, hard SF and weird fantasy”. It is in fact my fantasy series, the Icefire Trilogy, that has, over the past few years, vastly out-earned any advance I would have been able to get as debut novelist.
It is true that with my latest series I’m reaching for a slightly different audience: that of voracious readers. People who read only ebooks, and read a book a day. They tend to prefer shorter works. Each installment in the series will be about 45-60,000 words. But the story structure and style is similar to my other works.
2. Your novel ‘Ambassador’ was published by Ticonderoga Publications last year. However in that sale, you retained the electronic rights and published the ebook yourself as the first in new series. Why was this important to you and what are your plans for the series?
It was important to me to retain the ebook rights precisely because I had the second book already half-written and wanted to bring it out quickly. Russ concentrates on making beautiful print books. Ebooks are not very high on his priority list, so keeping the ebook rights was the best thing for me.
The Ambassador series will have at least one more book, but I’m also toying with ideas for a novella that takes place in between book 1 and 2, and I will not rule out any future projects, because the possibilities are endless. In fact the Ambassador series takes place in the same world as some of my other fiction. The Far Horizon is about the same character as a child. The Shattered World Within is a novella that goes into detail about the society structure of one of the alien races.
3. Since 2011, you have published over 20 books in a variety of different worlds and genres, and you seem very confident in your self publishing niche. Is this the way forward for you, or are you still pursuing more ‘traditional’ publishing deals as well?
With every day that passes, every time I hear how “much” (ahem) advance a traditionally-published author in Australia gets, every time I see my friends being dumped, short-shifted or screwed by a publishing deal, I’m more confident that I will never sell the ebook rights of any of my books to any publisher unless they can convince me that it will be beneficial to me. To be honest I don’t believe large, traditional publishers can make such an offer under their current modus operandum without a rights grab. If one of my books suddenly becomes runaway success, and they offer me a contract, I don’t need them anymore and will certainly earn more by keeping the rights. Ridiculous clauses such as non-compete clauses and right of first refusal would be a no-go for me. I really cannot believe the crap contracts people sign. For 15% of the cover price? Really cannot. And the more I talk to people in the industry, the more I’m convinced that at some point in the near future, one or two (or three) of the main publishers will see a major restructuring. I do not want my books tied up as collateral damage in a big company’s restructuring or filing for bankruptcy. Been there, done that. Never again, thank you very much.
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
I’ve read books by Aurealis-nominated authors Graham Storrs (his self-published work and that from Momentum) and Andrea Host (all self-published), also Dionne Lister.
5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?
The major change since last snapshot is I have totally bombed out on short story writing. When my brain is set on novels, it can’t do short stories. I quite enjoy writing hard SF stories, but it becomes a matter of income. I can spend two months writing eight short stories or I can spend the same amount of time writing a novel. I can maybe sell two of those stories for a few hundred dollars and the rest for a hundred (just a guesstimate). After the rights run out, I can bundle the stories and sell online as a collection… except short story collections don’t sell worth squat.
So I can invest the same amount of time writing a novel. Especially if the novel is book 2 or 3 in a series, it’s a huge investment. I can not only sell it for—say—a few hundred dollars the first month, but I can do the same thing the next month, and the month after, and… OK by the third month I’ll have written the next book in the series, and the income jumps yet again.
It’s really a no-brainer.
Five years from now? That’s a looooong time in publishing, especially if you sell mainly ebooks. The landscape changes all the time. I let my decisions for what to write next be guided partially by what works right now, and write more of that, but I also want to develop different income streams. Since I have no interest in game writing or writing media tie-in fiction, writing in a different subgenre is a type of diversification.