AMA - Tom Lloyd: author, fantasist, publishing professional and all round fool. Ask me anything!

Feb 18, 2018

I'm the author of ten books published by the Gollancz imprint in the UK and various others throughout the world - the million-word epic series The Twilight Reign, a pair of novels in the Empire of a Hundred Houses world and my latest, the God Fragments, which began with Stranger of Tempest. 

In my spare time I also negotiate contracts on behalf of a small independent publisher and consult for various literary agencies.

If you want to find anything more about me, check out www.tomlloyd.co.uk or come find me on twitter @tomlloydwrites or facebook: www.facebook.com/tomlloydwrites/

So.... ask me anything!

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Conversation (60)

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What book advertising service has been the most successful for you? 

Feb 24, 2:53AM EST0

Since I'm traditionally published, the answer is the publicity department of orion books. It' their efforts plus getting the big bookshops here on board that has sold most of my books. 

Feb 24, 3:17AM EST0

How old were you when you wrote your first book?

Feb 22, 7:54PM EST0

I started when I was 18, not really knowing anything about writing. I then spent 7-odd years learning how to write while finishing and reworking that book, which was published when I was 26. I strongly believe that age doesn't matter much though, it clicks into place for different people and the precocious authors published at 19 for example of don't have a long career even if they start with a blaze of brilliance. Writing may be a habit for life, but it's unlikely to be a job for life. 

Feb 23, 5:29AM EST0

What are some of the writing challenges you face on a daily basis?

Feb 21, 8:07PM EST0

First it's worth pointing out that I don't and believe a writer needs to find their own rhythm. There is some prevailing wisdom on the net that 'proper writers' write every day but it's not true. Proper writers do it in all sorts of ways and find what works for them long term. 

So I write three or four days a week, all things being OK. The distractions range from my natural laziness, kids, Netflix and books! I'm a slow writer and after doing this for many years it's tough to keep motivated, esp in the years where sales dip and you wonder if anyone is going to even want the book you're writing! 

When actually writing, my main concern is with prose and characterisation. In a series you have established characters and a clear plot to work towards, but the readers don't remember or know the characters as well as you and I'm constantly reminding myself to continue to show their development in addition to painting a picture while I plough through the plot. Otherwis I get too focused on the task and forget the art. 

Feb 22, 3:16AM EST0

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Feb 21, 12:51PM EST0

A few months after I started writing! I wasn't great in English at school, not getting much encouragement on that front, so it was only once I gave it a go and realised I enjoyed it. 

Feb 21, 4:06PM EST0

What are the major things that literary agencies looking from you?

Feb 20, 6:05PM EST0

I consult on the contracts side of things with agencies.  Some want just notes on the deal offered and the draft contract sent, others want me to negotiate all details of the contract on behalf of the agency. 

Last edited @ Feb 21, 2:23AM EST.
Feb 21, 2:21AM EST0

What do you love reading in your spare time, and who are your favorite authors?

Feb 20, 5:53PM EST0

I write fantasy because I love to read it, but no one and especially no writer should read just one genre. I try to alternate styles and genres but as for absolute favourites... Steven Erikson, Ellis Peters, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Terry Pratchett, MR James, Ben aaronovitch, Le carre... There are so many I can't bring to mind, so many I've not read enough of their body of work but have loved the few I have read! Some of my favourite books even (Lions of Al rassan, instance of the fingerpost, any human heart, to name a few) are by authors who' other books haven' hit the same heights, but mostly I look for books with humanity and heart rather than chilly clinical skill. 

Feb 21, 2:20AM EST0

Are there any authors you consider to have had the biggest influence on you and your writing?

Feb 20, 4:26PM EST0

Lots, in some ways it' a constant process as my writing evolves. So older influences like M R James and lovecraft can be seen in my short stories, Steven erikson in my epic books, Bernard Cornwall and even TV shows in the God Fragments. There are too many to mention them all! 

Feb 20, 5:16PM EST0

Your books have beautiful covers-- how involved are you in the creating of the cover art?

Feb 20, 3:01PM EST0

More involved than I probably have a right to be! I agree, I've got some really great covers. Normally before the editor brief their art dept they'll ask me what I want or envisage, including the artist, discuss that a bit then go away and some time later I'll see rough sketches. I can then give feedback about approach and technical details, then it' in their hands. So plenty of time to get my opinion across but at some point you need to trust the professionals know what they'e doing! 

Feb 20, 5:11PM EST0

How difficult is to write a series? How were you able to overcome those difficulties?

Feb 19, 4:35AM EST0

How difficult? Ummm, lots? Heh, it's a tricky one to explain that. Plotting a book is tough, fitting it into a series adds a whole new dimension but it's an expansion of the skillset. Each book needs to be an individual entity still, but not all questions get answered and usually there's an overarching plot running in parallel - the balance is hard but like everything else it takes planning and patience. The first meeting I had with my first editor ended with her asking how long I expected the Twilight Reign to be. When I replied "ummm, six books probably?" she just nodded and said, "make it five, you'll thank me in a few years". Now unless you're a big name and the money is there for you to indulge the instinct to expand matters, keeping a tight lid is important. Having a plan at the start is important - readers are sophisticated and if it doesn't look like you're building to an ending that you understand, they'll walk away. 

My new series has been a bit different because I deliberately failed to plan the series in too much detail. I had aspects in my head but I wanted to push myself more while I was writing the books and after a fair amount of experience in plotting, I figured I had the skills to let it adapt and develop organically. If I'd tried that a decade ago I'd have had real problems however. Practice in plotting and planning really does help, it's a skill you are constantly working on just like characterisation or prose. 

It's worth mentioning that the God Fragments is a simpler prospect too. The Twilight Reign has a huge cast, plus all sorts of competing factions and pressures. In many ways I was lucky that I spent so long using The Stormcaller to learn to write before I got my break, it afforded me five years of organic world building to develop the place, theology, myths and monsters so when I set to work on that plan, I understood the world so much better than when I started out. 

Feb 19, 6:27AM EST0

How did you manage to get the publisher publish for you?

Feb 19, 12:28AM EST0

The traditional route - I submitted to agents and one took me on after some edits, then he subbed to editors on my behalf and one of those decided she saw enough good to work with me. These days the editors have less time to develop like that however so the book needs to be in a better shape before it reaches them. I know agents will often do several rounds of editing before they even consider subbing. 

Feb 19, 3:06AM EST0

What are the 2 actions you have taken to market your work that have worked best for you, and the 2 that have worked the least?

Last edited @ Feb 18, 7:16PM EST.
Feb 18, 7:05PM EST0

Honestly it's hard to quantify, being traditionally published you don't get the same access to sales info so success isn't obvious. In general I believe the me-specific events have produced the best respnses, where I've been a guest at a writing event or a genre fan event. Oddly the large genre conventions are the worst for me. While they're fun they are also very expensive and full of big name authors so mid-list folk like me are an afterthought, filler for the main events. 

Feb 19, 3:03AM EST0

Why should or shouldn’t an author publish all his/her books with the same publisher?

Feb 18, 4:38PM EST0

Ah, that depends hugely on the situation. There' a lot of value in keeping your backlist all together so they can build on success and cross pollinate more easily, plus the editor relationship which is a very important one, but is increasingly hard to preserve long term. However diversifying is also useful, new views and a fresh opinion editorially helps you grow and a second company then adds their efforts on your behalf. Plus it keeps them eager to please you when there's obvious competition. My friend Joe Abercrombie has done this very well, his main relationship is with his first editor but he' had a boost from bringing a second company in on the action! 

Feb 18, 5:13PM EST0

When did your book authoring journey start? What inspired you to write books?

Feb 18, 3:53PM EST0

Odd as it may seem, it was two things combining. The first was a friend chucking a fantasy novel away, declaring he could write better than that. I thought if he could, I could and wouldn't it annoy him if I got published first. 

Secondly, I had a long summer before starting uni and my parents were threatening to make me get a job. I thought if I stayed in my room and wrote I wouldn't be under their feet so much! 

So not auspicious but to my surprise I enjoyed it and didn' get bored so I kept going! 

Feb 18, 3:59PM EST0

Which platform do you use to sell your books usually? Why?

Feb 18, 10:07AM EST0

I'm about 50/50 now. Ebooks didn't figure when I was having my biggest success, but the recent books are half ebook, partly because the sales promotions make it attractive to read in ebook so selling more print in comparison is hard. But many just don't like ebooks so...

Feb 18, 11:55AM EST0

What are the important tips would you like to give the budding authors?

Feb 18, 9:08AM EST0

Don't give up, don't expect to be brilliant straight away, and set your own goals. You migth want to be a bestseller, you might want to be experimental, but understand what success would look like to you and think about how that will work. 

Feb 18, 11:53AM EST0

How difficult is for the new book author to get a publisher in the UK?

Feb 17, 11:12PM EST0

Tough, really really tough., There are so many people writing and the standards are so high, I'm glad I got my break over a decade ago! It is still possible, the business model gives all the money to big debuts and bestsellers, but that means you need to really shine to attract a share of that limited pot. 

Feb 18, 11:52AM EST0

Why do you think negotiating is important with the publishers?

Feb 17, 10:24PM EST0

Because they're looking to make a profit, and while nurturing an author's career is often important, the money men run the business and you have to fight for what you get! Authors earn a pittance so it could be a very important extra detail you negotiate.

Feb 18, 11:51AM EST0

Where do you see the printed books will go with the development in digitalization today?

Feb 17, 4:28PM EST0

More specialised. I think it'll end up 50/50 print and ebook, maybe 40/60 but too many people like print (including kids research suggests) that the printed book won't die. especially the beautiful editions and lovely cover art, that's the sort of thing people value. But I bet there'll be some surprises along the way before we get to wherever this shakes out so who knows?!

Feb 18, 11:50AM EST0

Have you ever struck with contents while writing your series? What will you do at those times?

Feb 17, 6:18AM EST0

Getting stuck? It happens quite a lot. I've planned my various series in different ways but I still get stuck - indeed, I've spent the last two weeks fixing things in the new book. I cope with it by writing pages and pages of notes in a big book, sketching out the problem and working round it until I have loads more questions. I rarely fix it there and then, but the issues ticks over in my brain when I'm dealing with the rest of life and usually when I'm out walking the dog, the answers will come to me. If I try to force it, I get depressed and a headache, these things take time but I do trust that I'll find an answer.

Feb 18, 11:48AM EST0

Do you also train/guide new writers or authors on their book publishing journey?

Feb 17, 2:58AM EST0

It would be lovely to have the time, but in practice I just can't. The good thing about being on an imprint list like Gollancz is that the editors actively try to keep it as a family and you do all support and drive each other, even if it's just the nights when you're in the pub complaining about characters and plots with someone who really understands the issue!

Feb 18, 11:45AM EST0
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