Welcome to the Age of Legend. This project marks my 15th published novel and the 4th in the Legends of the First Empire series. The previous book, Age of War, put me on the New York Times Bestsellers list, and the other two novels appeared on the Washington Post Hardcover bestseller list on multiple occasions.
With Age of Myth, Age of Swords, and Age of War, fantasy master Michael J. Sullivan riveted readers with a tale of unlikely heroes locked in a desperate battle to save mankind. After years of warfare, humanity has gained the upper hand and has pushed the Fhrey to the edge of their homeland—but no farther. Now comes the pivotal moment. Persephone’s plan to use the stalemate to seek peace is destroyed by an unexpected betrayal that threatens to hand victory to the Fhrey and leaves a dear friend in peril. Humanity’s only hope lies in the legend of a witch, a forgotten song, and a simple garden door.
I'm running this Kickstarter because I'll be self-publishing the ebook, and paying for the production of hardcovers (which will use the same printer, paper stock, fonts, and dimensions of the other books in this series). The physical copies will be available for sale on July 9th, but people who back the Kickstarter will (a) help to make the print books a reality (b) have their names printed in the acknowledgments as a patron of the arts (c) receive signed printed copies and (d) get to read the book 3 months before the release date.
Currently, we've wrapped up the beta reads for this book (21 participants), and the manuscript is with my two favorite copyeditors so they can work their magic. When they finish, the presses will roll!
Because I've already written the book, I thought you might want to see a sample to determine if my writing style aligns with your reading preferences. I've selected a chapter that doesn't provide too much in the way of spoilers, but to do that I had to take out some sentences. So, this isn't exactly what you'll find in the finished version, but it's close enough to get a good feel for the book. Please note, I've provided the sample chapter before copyediting, so there is still some polishing yet to come. If you find a typo here or there, they will be addressed before the final version.
I should note that if the project doesn't fund, the printed book will still be released, but I'll have to take out a business loan for the printing. I've already talked to my bank, and they don't see any problem with funding for that. Hopefully, I won't have to go that route. Okay, here's some other things you should know about this project.
- All physical books come signed (a perk for ordering the books directly from the author), include a bookmark, and you'll receive a $3.00 discount off the $28.00 cover price.
- All ebooks are DRM free which means you can load the ebooks on all your devices: computer, smartphone, and tablet without any locking feature preventing you from moving it from place to place.
- For backing this project, your name will be printed in the book in the Backer Acknowledgements section, so everyone will know that you are an awesome supporter of the project.
- If you don't have the prior books in the series, there is a reward level that provides all four books in hardcover format -- including Age of Swords which is out of print (I bought up the remaining stock when the publisher retired the title). We're even offering a $22 multi-book discount for this level, so you'll save $5.50 a book. If you want something other than hardcovers, those books are also available in paperback, ebook, or audio formats and you can buy selected versions from my website or pick them up from your favorite retailer.
- If it's been a while since you've read the other books, recaps are available from this link.
- For the levels that provide a physical book, we've bundled the ebook to ensure you have access to the book three months early. If you don't want to pay for the ebook (for instance you only want a physical copy), then purchase from the pre-order links below. If you still want the other exclusive Kickstarter bonuses, you can back at the PATRON OF THE ARTS level, and that $5 will get your name in the book and provide you access to all the other backer perks.
- For people who are interested in the book, but Kickstarter just isn't their thing, there are pre-orders up at all the major retailers including Amazon (US | UK | Canada | Germany) | Barnes & Noble | Apple | Books-A-Million | Book Depository (free shipping worldwide) | !ngigo (Canada) | IndieBound | and Walmart ebooks (Kobo).
The Legends of the First Empire series is a six-book epic fantasy, and the first three books have been released by Del Rey (a fantasy imprint of Penguin Random House) from 2016 - 2018.
Here is a bit about the other books in the series:
Age of Myth: Since time immemorial, humans have worshipped the gods they call Fhrey, truly a race apart: invincible in battle, masters of magic, and seemingly immortal. But when a god falls to a human blade, the balance of power between men and those they thought were gods changes forever. Now, only a few stand between humankind and annihilation: Raithe, reluctant to embrace his destiny as the God Killer, Suri, a young seer burdened by signs of impending doom, and Persephone, who must overcome personal tragedy to lead her people. The Age of Myth is over; the time of rebellion has begun.
Age of Swords: Raithe, the God Killer, may have started the rebellion by killing a Fhrey, but long-standing enmities dividing the Rhune make it all but impossible to unite against a common foe. And even if the clans can join forces, how will they defeat an enemy whose magical prowess makes the Fhrey indistinguishable from gods? The answer lies across the sea in a faraway land populated by a reclusive and dour race. With time running out, Persephone leads a small band of misfits in a desperate search for aid—a quest that will take them into the darkest depths of Elan. There, an ancient adversary waits—an enemy as surprising as it is deadly.
Age of War: The alliance of humans and renegade Fhrey is fragile—and about to be tested as never before. Persephone keeps the human clans from turning on one another through her iron will and a compassionate heart while Nyphron, seeks to advance his own nefarious agenda. Old loyalties will be challenged while fresh conspiracies will threaten to undo all that Persephone has accomplished. In the darkest hour, when hope is all but lost, new heroes will rise . . . but at what terrible cost?
The released books have been well-received and garnered more than 60,000 ratings on Amazon, Goodreads, and Audible.com with 90% of them at 4- or 5-star.
So why isn't Del Rey releasing Age of Legend? Well, When we signed the original contract, the rights included just ebook and print, which was good because the audiobook rights for the entire series had already been sold. When it came time to negotiate for the last three books, a change in corporate policy from Penguin Random House required audiobook rights as well, so it became impossible for us to publish those books with Del Rey.
This handy chart provides a quick and easy way to determine what you receive at the various reward levels. Click here to view a high-resolution version that is much easier to read.
Unlike my past Kickstarters, we won't be having "add-ons" (where you can over pledge and then pick and choose other products like t-shirts and tote bags). We may be adding freebie stuff when we reach various goals, but the chart above shows all the products we'll be providing from a fulfillment standpoint.
Most of the backer levels are pretty easy to understand, but there is one perk that needs a bit more explanation, and that's "The Night in Avrlyn." You see, about two years ago Robin (my wife) built us a cabin in the Shenandoah Valley (near Luray VA). We've moved there full-time and are loving it. When it was built, we put in two extra guest rooms (and we also have a 2-room guest suite above the carriage house). We've had lots of visitors: family, friends, fans of my writing, and other writers. If you would like to come to "The Valley" and hang out with us, we'd love you to visit. And if you're a writer, we'll even critique some of your work. There are a limited number of these rewards, and you must provide your own transportation to the area, but once you arrive, we'll take care of everything else including great food (dinner and breakfast), drinks, and the guest rooms are comfy.
If you want to see more images of where you'll be staying, you can click here.
NOTE: You can choose your own date (we'll schedule based on first-come-first-picked), and it can be any time in 2019 or 2020 (assuming we aren't already entertaining people that is). We are going to "block off" March through May 2020 as we may be out of the country during some of that time. I do recommend the warm months as the pool is terrific, and there is plenty of surrounding outdoor activities to do including hiking, horseback riding, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, mountain biking, tubing, zip lining, and there are also famous caves (open year round) to check out.
Well, since we've funded it's time fo stretch goals. I'm not going to list a whole slew of them let's do them as it goes.
- SG #7 - $100,000 (UNLOCKED): If we make this milestone, everyone who pledged will receive their choice of one of my standalone novels in ebook formats (.pdf, .mobi, and .epub). This includes: The Death of Dulgath (Riyria Chronicles), The Disappearance of Winter's Daughter (Riyria Chronicles), Hollow World (contemporary sci-fi / fantasy). If you've already read these books, then give your copy to a friend to get them introduced to my writing. These books run $8 - $10, so that's a nice freebie, especially for people at the $5 or $10 level ;-)
- SG #6 - 2,076 Backers (UNLOCKED): How about another short story! This one is called "Burning Alexandria and Michael wrote it the weekend that Ray Bradbury died. It's a bit of a homage to him, as well as Twilight Zone, because it has that kind of ending.
- SG #5 - $80,333 (UNLOCKED): Signed bookmarks. Remember that pack of 4 bookmarks that you got for stretch goal #1? Well,Michael will sign one of them in each pack (all 4 would be pushing it, given the number of backers we have). Why such an odd funding number? Well that'll make this project our highest funded of all time.
- SG #4 - $75,000 (UNLOCKED): Another short story! Michael has this short story called "The Game" which isn't centered around any of his other tales. This one is about a game developer who did a little too good of a job with the games Artificial Intelligence. I think you'll enjoy the read.
- SG #3 - $65,000 (UNLOCKED): Music! There is a composer, Will Musser, who is very talented and I paid him to do some original composition for Age of Myth. To date, no one has heard his amazing work which includes Legends of the First Empire, The Mystic and the Oak, The Brown and When Gods Collide. If we reach this stretch goal, I'll commission Will to do 5-8 minutes of music for the other books: Age of Swords, Age of War, and Age of Legend. As backers, you'll get access to all of this music, plus "The Gilarabrywn" a musical piece he did for the Riyria stories.
- SG #2 - $55,000 (UNLOCKED): two video conference calls with Michael and Robin. One will be "reader centric" where we'll talk about the creative process, answer questions about past and future works. The other will be writer centric and discuss the publishing business. We'll take questions both before and during the conference call and they'll be recorded so people who can't attend during the call can see them afterward.
- SG #1 - $45,000 (UNLOCKED): additional bookmarks. We've created bookmarks for all the books, although some of them we may need to reprint. If we hit this goal any one receiving a physical reward will get a set of 4 bookmarks (AoM, AoS, AoW, and AoL) instead of just the AoL one.
Unfortunately, I'm not able to offer the audiobook format as part of the Kickstarter (it's under license to Recorded Books, and only they can distribute it), but that doesn't mean you can't join the fun. You can back at either the PATRON OF THE ARTS level (no ebook) or the DIGITAL DELIGHT level (w/ebook), and you'll still get exclusive bonus perks that only backers of the Kickstarter will receive. Oh, and the audiobook will be available on release day, so be sure to pre-order your audiobook now, so it'll arrive on July 9th.
Okay, so that's a bit about the book, but if you don't know anything about me, let's dive in a bit on that front. As I said, my name is Michael J. Sullivan, and I’m a full-time novelist. To type those words is kind of surreal, as writing isn't a career that most can make a living at. I'm eternally grateful to all my readers who have made it possible for me to live a dream I never thought would be possible.
Like many, too many, my road to becoming an author wasn't an easy one. I wrote in a variety of genres from 1979 to 1994, and after thirteen novels and more than a hundred rejections, I quit…vowing never to write creatively again. Well, never turned out to be almost a decade, as I couldn't suppress the itch to write any longer. Over those years, a story had been growing in my head, and I decided to write it, but with one condition: that I wouldn't seek publication. I hoped that a few friends and my dyslexic daughter (who had always struggled with reading) would take a look, and that would be good enough for me.
After reading the books, my wife made it "her mission" to make sure they saw the light of day. She willed them into existence, first with a small-press (who was well-intentioned but ultimately provided us no income nor any substantial readership), later through self-publishing (which worked much better), and eventually, she attracted the interest of Orbit (the fantasy imprint of a big-five publisher, Hachette Book Group). The rest, as they say, is history.
In the publishing business, I'm what's referred to as a "hybrid" because I've released books through traditional publishers as well as utilizing self-publishing. If you want to learn why I do that, you can look at the Why Self-Publish section below.
All told, I've written 31 novels: 13 are sitting in a trunk never to see the light of day, 11 are released by a traditional publisher, 9 are currently or previously self-published, and 4 are making their way through the editing and release cycle. That number includes the last three books in The Legends of the First Empire as well as the first novel in a new series, which is tentatively titled The Rise and the Fall.
I'm sure it can be disconcerting to back a novel that less than 30 people (beta and gamma readers) have read. So, I'm going to provide some facts about my career to help assuage any fears.
- New York Times Bestselling Author
- 3 books on the Washington Post Hardcover Bestseller list
- 1,480,000 English language books sold
- 379,850+ Ratings (89.5% 4 & 5-star | 8.5% 3-star | 2.0% 1 & 2-star
- 85+ foreign language contracts in 13 languages
- 7 six-figure and 1 seven-figure advance for traditionally published works
- 31 books written | 14 published | 4 awaiting publication
- 1,790+ days (4.9 years) on the Amazon Top 100 Fantasy Author list
- 7-time Goodreads Choice Award Nominee
- 4 Earphone Award Wins and one Audie Award Nomination
- One of the Top 50 most-followed authors on Goodreads
- Named by io9 as one of the most successful science fiction and fantasy authors
- Named to more than 250 best-of or most-anticipated lists including those compiled by Library Journal, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Audible, and Goodreads.
I have one rule when self-publishing a book: it has to be indistinguishable from titles I release through my traditional publishers. To ensure this level of quality, I hire the same professionals that my publisher uses. Could I get this done cheaper? Sure, these are professionals at the top of their game, and as such, they command high rates, but I think they are worth every penny. Here's who is working with me on this project.
Marc Simonetti (cover artist) - Marc has created 13 covers for my books (for both the US and foreign translations) and also has illustrated covers for some of the largest names in the business including George R.R. Martin, Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, Terry Pratchett, and dozens more.
Tim Gerard Reynolds (audiobook narrator) - Tim has recorded 13 novels of mine, and he's also narrated books by Pierce Brown, Mark Lawrence, Larry Correia, Edward W. Robertson, Jonathan Renshaw, and Gail Z. Martin. He's won multiple Earphone Awards and has been nominated for several Audies.
Laura Jorstad (copy editor) - works for multiple fantasy publishers (Del Rey, Ballantine Books, St. Martins, and Sterling Publishing just to name a few). She's edited books by David Gemmel, Naomi Novik, a number of the books in the Star Wars franchise, two New York Times Bestsellers from Steve Berry, and seven of my novels.
Linda Branam (copy editor) - has been editing for 19 years and has a passion for fiction. This is my sixth project with her.
Shawn Speakman (publisher/distributor) - Shawn started up Grim Oak Press to help pay medical bills after beating cancer a second time. Generally, he's produced anthologies and premium hardcovers, and Age of Legend will be the second time he's releasing a trade publication. Some of the authors Shawn has worked with include: Terry Brooks, Brandon Sanderson, Raymond E. Feist, Pierce Brown, Naomi Novik, Jacquelin Carey, Jim Butcher, Stephen R. Donaldson, Mark Lawrence, Janny Wurtz, Peter Orullian, and Barbara Hambly.
I've previously run crowdfunding projects for a number of my novels including The Disappearance of Winter's Daughter, The Death of Dulgath, Hollow World, and an Indiegogo campaign for Age of Swords when the price gougers started charging readers an astronomical amount to buy out-of-print editions.
Two of those projects are the 4th and 6th most funded US fiction Kickstarter projects of all time and the 3rd and 4th most backed.
I think it's important that backers know where their hard-earned cash is going. Before starting this Kickstarter, we did a careful analysis of the costs based on a model of a certain number of contributors and the levels we thought they would back. Based on crunching those numbers, we believe this project will cost $44,480. The price of each component is shown below.
You'll notice the Kickstarter's goal is set at half of that amount, as I'm looking at this endeavor as a partnership. As such, I plan to share the costs 50/50. When the project is completed, I'll provide a full accounting of the money spent as some items (like postage and packing materials) can't be accurately calculated until we know the number of backers.
Since 2011, most of my books have been traditionally published, and so you may be wondering why I'm self-publishing this title. Well, I already mentioned the problem with Del Rey and audiobooks, but I could have (and nearly did) sign with another publisher. So why didn't I? Let me start out by saying I'm not new to the world of self-publishing. Age of Legend will be my 10th indie novel (I released six books from 2009 - 2012 and another three from 2014 - 2018). Having done both self and traditional, I find producing the book myself is (a) easier (b) creates a better product (c) is more profitable and (d) offers me greater freedom. With all those advantages, it's little wonder why I'm going to be self-publishing all my titles from now on.
First I don't have to manage from the bottom up. It's frustrating when you don't like a decision the publisher makes, and you have to try to convince them to do things differently. When self-publishing, I'm "the boss" and people have to do their jobs under my direct supervision. Second, I get to pick the team I want to work with, rather than having the publisher marry my books with cover designers and editors that may not align well with my vision. And third, I make a great deal more money when self-publishing. The more fingers in the pie, the smaller the pieces, and in traditional publishing, it's the author who is paid the least. Also, there are all kinds of contract provisions that can (a) limit the number of books an author releases and (b) decrease their income since not all royalty rates are created equal.
Now, for all the good things about self-publishing, there are some downsides as well. First, it's the publisher that pays all the out-of-pocket expenses...hopefully, the Kickstarter will help on that front. Second, advances ensure a certain amount of guaranteed income. With self-publishing, you could end up losing money, and again the Kickstarter helps with this. Third, traditional publishers get titles onto shelves in bookstores and libraries. To solve this last problem, I'm partnering with Shawn Speakman at Grim Oak Press who will be using his distribution contacts to get Age of Legend in bookstores worldwide. My arrangement with Shawn is quite unconventional. Basically, I'm assuming all the capital expenditures, and he'll take a cut of each copy sold through the retail chains. My hope is this will work well for both of us, and if so, then it may open a whole new business model for Shawn, someone who is already a publishing veteran and thinking outside the box.
Okay, so that's why the book is self-published, but why do a Kickstarter? The obvious answer revolves around the high cost of a large print run, but as I already mentioned, we could take out a loan for that. But having done four other crowdfunding projects, I can tell you we love how Kickstarter is democratizing the creation of art. It's an incredible experience to be part of a group of people all pulling for the success of a project and spreading their enthusiasm to others. Plus, getting the books in people's hands early, can help build excitement before the books start shipping to the population at large. Also, Kickstarter provides a system for me to offer additional perks to the people who are financially backing my project. Without Kickstarter, distributing some of this bonus content would be difficult or impossible.
I also love the fact that Kickstarter removes middlemen. For instance, Amazon takes 55% off the top for any print books sold, and other chains can require as much as 70% of the list price. Ebook margins are better. I only lose 30% with them, but that's still much more than doing a Kickstarter. Yes, Kickstarter is a middleman, but their fees are only 5% (and 3% for credit card processing). That's a huge difference. Doing a Kickstarter ensures the highest percentage of your purchase dollars comes directly to me, the person who created the book.
Well, that's about all I can think of for now. I'll be updating the FAQ's as the project continues and adding stretch goals if the project funds. If you have any questions, just drop me a line.
Before concluding, I'd like to take a moment to thank those who have been reading my books over the last decade. It's because of you that I'm able to live my life-long dream, and it's something that I'm always grateful for. I'll keep writing, and hopefully, you'll continue reading.
-- Michael & Robin Sullivan
Risks and challenges
Generally, the most significant risks with novel projects are (a) will the author finish the book (b) can they write well and (c) can they handle the logistics of distribution? With this project, the book is already written, and my track record with other books (15 novels with average ratings of 4.31 - 4.63) speaks to my ability as a storyteller. As for distribution, for the last six months, I've been working with BoxInBoxOut, and they've shipped more than 1,100 books for me. They will continue to be my partner for this project, and that means timely shipping and carefully packaged parcels.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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