Mike Shepherd
 

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Why did you change your name from Mike Moscoe to Mike Shepherd. Are you hiding something?

Answer: As a matter of fact, I am. But not from my readers. It's those pesky computers I'm hiding from.

My first three books as Mike Moscoe was a trilogy that sold, respectfully, 12,000, 6,000 and 4,000. And there was nothing respectful about that third book's sales.

I'm a fast writer so I had First Casualty turned in and Price of Peace already under contract when those lousy numbers started to show up. My editor had suggested I switch from time travel back to 4,000 BC to military SF 300 years from now and boy was I glad she did. (Rule One: Always listen to your editor. They know a lot more than you do about this insane business.)

The military Space Opera books recovered to 10, 11 K sales. But no higher.

This often is the end of a writer's career. The computers that control the buying at one of the main stores would not let me live the third books sales down. They were ordering only two books and not reordering when those sold.

So Ace offered to relaunch me under a new name. I'd been warned about this by older and more experienced writers, so I was ready. And quick as a bunny, I was Mike Shepherd. And Ace did their part. Mike Sheperd got much better cover art then that Moscoe guy ever got. Oh, and Mike Shepherd knew Elizabeth Moon and S. M. Sterling and was able to mooch some neat cover quotes. It is truly amazing what you can do when your first novel is your seventh.

Indeed, if a writer is doing a lot of writing, he or she may well need several names to survive in this business. For example, Harry Turtledove writes SF books with sales in the 100K. When he writes Historical novels that are lucky to have sales in the 5K area, he uses the original spelling of his name, Harry Turtalov (or something like that.) That way, those pesky computers don't lower his SF sales to match his historical sales.

Different genres also have different print runs. A SF novel with a 20K print run is respectable. A Fantasy usually will have a 40K run. Mystery, say 60K, and Romance 100K. Advice is if you are going to write in any of those, be sure to have a different name for each of them.

It's not just the computers, though. Some people love SF and hate Fantasy. If an SF writer suddenly started putting out Fantasy, the SF readers might not follow. Similarly, for the other genres. It's not that way for all writers. Barbara Hambly uses her own name for all the genres she writes in. Keven Anderson has been told that he can't use any other name than the one he's made in SF. Lois McMaster Bujold seems to be making the jump to Fantasy from Space Opera, though I have head some grumbling from a reader or two. None of her major fans, but a few of her dyed in the wool SF types.

So that's the game these days on names. If you look back at a lot of writers in the 50's and 60's you'll see that they were writing under many names. This is not really new. But in the last two or three years, three of my closest writing friends have been asked if they'd reflag, and, based on my experience and advice, two did and are back up to speed. The third declined the honor and is only selling to small press. Such are the decisions writers face.


Question: When is the next Kris Longknife book coming out?

Answer: In November. Ace has pretty much committed to letting me have the lead (or one of the lead) paperback slots each November. As I write this, Audacious is already turned in. It had a November, ‘06 due date for delivery to Ace. It will be in stores November. ‘07.

I’m working on Intrepid for delivery in November, ‘07 and publishing November, ‘08.

Those are the books under contract at this time (February, 07,) but I think you can count on a ‘09 and ‘10 book as well.


Question: Why does it take so long for a Kris book to come out. If you’ve written it, why can’t I read it?

Answer: Because I’m not J. K. Rowlings and, sorrow of sorrows, Ace doesn’t make a million bucks off one of my books.

November 1, sharp, I turn in the book, along with a suggestion of what would make a good cover for it, usually gal with gun. Big gun. And sometime early in the new year Ace commissions the cover art.

While you may be waiting anxiously for the next book, it usually takes my editor a month or two after I turn in the book for her to find time to print it out and read it. Remember, she's got to get the books that are in final production out and in the store, so she may end up reading my book in her spare time, on the bus to work or at home on her own time.

Then the book goes to the copy editor, a contractor who notices that I misspelled Chance on page 195 and 429 and changed the mayor's name half way through the book and .... I get a copy of those edits some time around March with a due date usually in two weeks. This is when I make any final changes I may want in the book.

Somewhere along this time, when the cover art comes in, my editor, Ginjer Buchanan will met with the sales staff and I'll write up an exciting two or three pages treatment on the book that, hopefully, they will read, get excited about and push the book. However, a lot of the decisions as to how many books this or that store or system will buy are made just by someone glancing at the cover ... and at the computer print out of the sales for my last book during the first six weeks it was out. (Now that’s another topic in itself.)

Sometime around July or August the galley proofs come out. Those are the page proofs that will be used for the print runs. One sure way for a writer to make their editor hopping mad is to ask for major changes on those galleys. However, if there's something really wrong, now is when you want to catch them. For example, I had a major goof in my word choices on page one of Resolute.

Now you can see how a year goes by between me turning in a book and you seeing it. Does it go that way for everyone? Nope.

If someone like J. K. Rowlings or Tom Clancy turns in a book the publisher has paid $10 million for, you bet they are going to rush it through production and get it on the racks as quickly as possible. They really want to get that money flowing back to them. Also, a bigger name may be late turning in a book and my editor may have to really work at getting out a book in 6 months rather than 12. Me, I like to make it easy for my editor. If you ever get into writing, I'd suggest you be an easy writer, one who meets his deadlines. It may encourage the publisher to offer you a name change if the sales under your first name bomb.

So it is that Ace gives me a year to write the book and I get them a year to produce them. While I may be trying to write two books a year, I'm still glad that Ace only wants one Kris book a year, I think I can do a better job of storytelling when I'm thinking about her adventures for a solid year.