I'm pleased to report that the book auction for my new fantasy novel, The Curse of Chalion, concluded happily the third week of March. I should probably explain what a book auction is, for those unfamiliar with the ins and outs of publishing. It doesn't look anything like what's done with cows or antiques.
Normal procedure for submitting an unsolicited manuscript not otherwise encumbered with prior option agreements is to send it to one publishing house only for their exclusive perusal; eventually, an editor gets around to reading it and either makes a contract offer or returns it with regrets. Lather, rinse, repeat, until book is sold or author dies of old age. But if the stars are right, one of the things a good agent can do for a potentially "hot" book is to submit it to several publishers at once, with a deadline for offers. This was done for Chalion.
From the author's viewpoint, an auction is a lovely event indeed, when one can bring it off; among other things, it assures the best possible deal for the book in question. It doesn't always work. Last time my agent and I tried this, with a portion and outline for The Spirit Ring, it fell rather flat; bids were lackluster, and I ended up back at Baen when Jim Baen, discussing things with my agent Eleanor Wood, said "I didn't know they were going to be such cheapskates!" and put in the high bid. It was all rather embarrassing.
Well, that was ten years and four Hugo awards ago... And it was also a learning experience. One of the things I learned was that it is much better to send a fully finished manuscript into the breach for this sort of thing. Last year, I had gotten enough ahead financially to take a year to write a book "on spec", (short for "on speculation", i.e., not sold before it was written), and embarked on Chalion with the hope of trying this again. It was also, I trust, a better book by the little matter of a decade more of writing practice. In any case, it was a blast to write, in that particular obsessed, hair-tearing, whiny, sporadically triumphant, masochistic way in which writing novels is "fun".
Anyway. Last month my agent placed the manuscript before eight editors at eight publishing houses (including Baen, who had first look). Six returned bids, along with some very delightful letters of response to the work. (Two pairs of houses were under the same parent corporations, and could not bid against each other; only one of each pair was able to respond.) In a win-win scenario, the high bid was placed by Avon/Eos, a division of Harper Collins, and I've accepted it. The agreement will be for Chalion and a sequel.
In return for courtesies and considerations involved in the complexities of setting up this auction (and, of course, a suitable advance), I've also acquired an agreement to write another Vorkosigan universe book for Baen, which I plan to tackle before returning to the Chalion universe for more fun there. So all in all, I look to be fully employed for the next three years or so in creative endeavors, without having to stop and worry about business.
Publication date by Avon/Eos of The Curse of Chalion has not yet been set, but current projections are looking at late 2001 or early 2002. It will appear then in hardcover, with some very nice promotion. (We already have a lovely cover quote from Robert Jordan, who was kind enough to read and comment on the manuscript.) I would expect to complete the follow-up book some time in mid-to-late 2002.
The Curse of Chalion is a fantasy novel recounting the adventures of Lupe dy Cazaril, a rather battered middle-aged ex-soldier come home from the wars, who is caught up in court and theological intrigue. The demands of the royas of Chalion upon his honor and endurance prove to be as nothing compared to the demands of Chalion's five gods... The present novel is a stand-alone (*), its story complete in one volume, but the rich world of Chalion and its lively people are fraught with possibilities for further development. The manuscript is a fast-paced 140,000 words, making it, by fat fantasy volume standards, merely stocky.
(*) -- Or, as some wag has dubbed it, "an aquel", meaning a book that has for some reason failed to spawn its requisite sequels. I hope to correct this defect in due time. :-)
© 2000 by Lois McMaster Bujold
Beginning on 1 March 2001 Harper Collins/Eos started posting the first eight
exciting chapters of The Curse of Chalion - a new chapter
appeared every three weeks until publication on 3 August 2001.
The first eleven chapters can also be found at Fictionwise.com.
A Press Release came out at the beginning of July and this can be found here
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Last updated: August 29th 2005