Michael R. Underwood is an author, podcaster, and publishing professional. His series include the Ree Reyes Geekomancy books, the Stabby Award finalist Genrenauts series, and Born to the Blade. He’s been a bookseller, sales representative, and the North American Sales & Marketing Manager for Angry Robot Books. He is also a co-host on the Hugo Award-Finalist The Skiffy and Fanty Show and Speculate! The Podcast for Writers, Readers, and Fans.
Mike lives in Baltimore with his wife, their dog, and an ever-growing library. He also loves geeking out with games and making pizzas from scratch.
Serial Box / Born to the Blade
Serial Box brings everything that’s awesome about TV (easily digestible episodes, team written, new content every week) to what was already cool about books (well-crafted stories, talented authors, enjoyable anywhere).
- For Born to the Blade, Mike set up a system of magic which incorporates his enthusiasm for martial arts, in which swords are used to draw sigils to cast spells.
- He approached Max Gladstone who was lead on the first Serial Box series, Bookburners, whose enthusiasm for the experience convinced Mike to pitch the series to the Serial Box team. Once accepted, Mike was able to “put together a team” to include Malka Older, Cassandra Khaw, and Marie Brennan. They began with a writing summit to determine the story’s direction, selected who would be the lead writer on each episode, then continued to collaborate episode-by-episode. Mike wrote episodes 1, 4 and 11 and the team provides input together on all episodes written.
Tor.com & Kickstarter / Genrenauts
When Stories Break, You Send in the Genrenauts!
- Genrenauts is a procedural series of episodic novellas about a team that travels between dimensions to fix stories and prevent their damaged components from rippling out and changing reality everywhere.
- Mike pitched 30 novellas to Tor.com with the intention of releasing a new novella every three months.
- Tor.com bought Mike’s Western and SF story novellas, and worked amicably to ensure that when they chose not to publish the entire series, Mike was able to continue it elsewhere.
- The rest of season one was successfully crowdfunded via Kickstarter.
- One of the challenges with a novella series is that the shorter format doesn’t lend itself to the Audible credit system, where readers try to get the longest novel for their single monthly Audible credit.
Researching a Publishing Partner
- Any writing career can take multiple paths. Indies, small press, and traditional big publishing each have their own advantages and limitations.
- When looking into a publishing partner, consider how they publish existing works.
- Talk to their existing authors.
- Make sure you understand how the potential path will help your books, and what they will require of you.
- See what events and conventions your publishing partner candidate will go to. Where can you find the books they release? How do they package the books?
- Be aware that traditional publishing’s schedule, as required for distribution to retailers, is working 6-8 months ahead of release, which means that a tight release schedule requires immense faith in a series to do well.
- Mike sees that a rapid release timeline often exacerbates whatever would happen with that series (success v failure) rather than increasing chances of success.
- Orbit published the books in the Powder Mage trilogy by Brian McClellan, one per year, while McClellan was able to self-publish novellas (of quality on par with the main entries from Orbit) to support his series while allowing Orbit to work to their own strengths.
- Make sure your visions are aligned with your potential publisher. At all times work toward open communication based on respect and a willingness to make concessions that allow the relationship to be fruitful and positive.
Ree Reyes Series / Pocket Star (Simon & Schuster)
Clerks meets Buffy the Vampire the Slayer in this original urban fantasy eBook about Geekomancers—humans that derive supernatural powers from pop culture.
- Geekomancy MS posted to Book Country as a draft which left to an offer from Pocket Star / Simon & Schuster
- Mike took that offer to find an agent
- The agent was able to get him an increased advance and help him retain sub rights and connect with a media agent
- Mike feels an agent helps an author to investigate opportunities that an author may not be in a position to know about, and advise on what publishers are looking for (to guide a book to contract offers).
- Mike feels selling a book to Big Trad publishers is a high-risk/high-reward offer.
- He went full time as a writer two months before this recording and is looking to “diversify his portfolio” with other available publishing options such as Patreon & Drip, Comics Books, and games writing.
- The best thing you can do for your writing career is always go write another book.
- Don’t waste time regretting choices, just move forward as best you can.
What’s next for Mike? His agent has his new space opera MS and it’s being shopped around to publishers both big and small as we speak. We’re looking forward to finding it cover-out on the shelf in an airport bookstore one day!