Sunday, April 3, 2011

Strength in Numbers: AKA the Chaz Brenchley Fan Club Conspiracy

It's no secret that an author's career rises and falls on sales numbers and that the ranks of publishers willing to stick with an author they love as that author develops (or even publish work that is good and wonderful rather than commercial crap) are few and far between. If you don't know at least a dozen authors who've been dropped for less than stellar sales figures, you aren't paying attention. (Sorry if that sounded a bit strident; too many of these authors--the best there are--have been my friends, so I'm a bit vehement on the subject).

One of the finest authors I've discovered in the last few years is Chaz Brenchley. I first read Bridge of Dreams when it came my way through a package of circulating books. I knew nothing about him, but it was my practice to give every book a try.

Down in the Shine was Issel, dreaming.

Is that any way to begin a fantasy novel, with such an odd sentence, but one that sings like poetry?
It was a real dream... and I was hooked.

So when I took editing Lace and Blade, I wrote to Chaz and asked if he would send me a story. He responded with "In the Night Street Baths," set in the same world, funny, lyrical, gritty, deeply moving. It was reprinted in Wilde Stories 2009, and if you haven't read it, go grab a copy of either anthology.

Fast forward a couple of years, and the PPTB (Publishing Powers That Be) are playing the change-your-name game, so Chazaholics are now looking under the "Daniel Fox" section of the bookstore for Moshui: The Books of Stone and Water (Dragon in Chains, Jade Man's Skin, Hidden Cities)  These are astonishingly good books with Chinese emperors who ingest jade that gives them superhuman powers...dragons chained beneath the sea, their hearts festering with dreams of revenge and destruction...goddesses and warriors and fisherman's grand-daughters, jade-carvers and generals.And pirates, did I mention pirates? Suffice it to say, these are books worth savoring.But there will be no more and now we are left scurrying to the "Ben Macallan" section (we seem to be working our way down the alphabet).

But we have a secret weapon in the musical-names game. (Besides keeping track of the latest incarnations of our favorite authors, that is.) Instead of waiting for a book to be released, we can generate excitement about it now. Sales figures are limited by print runs, and print runs are determined by pre-orders. Theoretically, we readers have the power to inspire/convince/pressure the publishers in this way. Does it work? Let's give it a chance. Chaz's (or rather, Ben's) upcoming book is Desdaemona.  (The book description reads like it's trying to fit into the LCD urban-fantasy mold, but nothing Chaz does is ordinary.) You can pre-order it from or Powell's online (that's the link above).

Once you're read it, post reviews everywhere, even if they're just a line or two. You don't have to synopsize the plot. Why are these important? Besides their content, once the number of reviews exceeds a threshold (in the case of Amazon, it's 20), the book gets into the site's "suggestion" network, and that can definitely boost sales. (It's the "If you liked X, check out Y")

(And while you're at it, you could do that for my books, too.)


  1. I was following his Moshui LJ and had read the first 2 books and enjoyed them very much. I found out about the 3rd one being out by seeing it on someone else's blog, so I went and bought it. He hasn't posted anything to his Moshui LJ in well over a year.

    Kerry (aka Trouble)

  2. You're right; I haven't heard anything from Moshui in a long time. I think he's mostly posting on Desperance.

    I love the idea of having influence over whether Orbit picks up more books in the new series. Wish I had a time machine to go back and do the same for Moshui, but suspect, it being Del Rey and Del Rey having a reputation for dropping authors when they get too successful, that it might not have helped.

  3. Bridge of Dreams and River of the World are magnificent. Those were the first of his books I'd come across. Am picking up others, now, as they appear.

  4. Liz, have you read the Moshui books? They're marvelous!