Thursday, 3 March 2016

Lois McMaster Bujold on ebooks, villains and not having a UK publisher

One of the biggest mysteries in science fiction publishing is why Lois McMaster Bujold, possibly the most award-festooned living author of the genre, doesn't have an English publisher.
The "pointless dude in hood on the cover" isn't purely a recent phenomenon.

In a new interview with the New Zealand Herald, Bujold expands on this, citing the failure of her novel Paladin of Souls in the UK. The book was not well-marketed and had some pretty terrible cover art (see above). The book sold less than 10,000 copies in the UK, which is unusual for a book that sold hundreds of thousands in the United States and bagged numerous awards, including both the Hugo and the Nebula. With the failure of that book (and the apparent under-performance of several earlier novels when UK editions were attempted), British interest in her work dried up.

This isn't unprecedented. There quite a few authors who are big in the USA but obscure in the UK, or who once were big but have since dropped off the radar. But the sheer disparity between Bujold's American profile and her lack of success in the UK is quite remarkable.

The interview points out that not having a UK publisher isn't simply problematic for attracting would-be UK fans, but also causes issues in getting English-language copies of books to some Commonwealth countries, in particular New Zealand and Australia. However, Bujold cites the rapidly expanding profile of ebooks in helping her win fans worldwide.

She also discusses her new novel, the trouble with writing villains and how she handled her protagonist Cordelia, a woman in her seventies living in a society where people can live into their 120s in reasonable health. It's an interesting read.


mixmastered said...

Is this a reverse of Steven erikson? Iirc he had to move to the uk to get a publishing deal as he had no luck in the states.

Adam Whitehead said...

He didn't need to move to the UK, and he was from Canada anyway. But yeah, he got his deal in the UK and it took the Americans 5 years to catch up. Scott Lynch got his breakthrough in the UK whilst still living in the US, and the American publishers only picked up the book after the UK publishers made some noise about it.

Brian @ SFF Chronicles said...

Is there really something wrong with that cover? Compared to many other fantasy novels in the 1990's, that looks like a good quality one.

Anonymous said...

Thank god for Kindle and book depository. I found the US versions in my local library here in Australia and loved the Paladin books so much I hunted down the books although I am still missing one as it was oop and found the recent novella on the kindle. Very witty books with great protagonists. I'd love to see more in this series. On the other hand I hated the Sharing Knife books and couldn't finish the first one.