Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Stark Reflections on Writing and Publishing

Jul 31, 2020

In this episode Mark interviews international bestselling and award winning science-fiction author Robert J. Sawyer about his latest novel release and the multiple ways he has split his IP (Intellectual Property) to optimize his income as a writer.

Long-time listeners might remember Rob from Episode 4 (January 26, 2018) of the podcast, which focused on author branding.

Prior to the interview, Mark shares comments from recent episodes and a personal update. He also shares a word about this episode's sponsor.

You can learn more about how you can get your work distributed to retailers and library systems around the world at

During their conversation, Mark and Rob talk about:

  • Rob's history as a writer, including his first short story published in 1980 and first novel published in 1990
  • The 3-way split rights on Rob's previous novel, Quantum Night (2 Publishers, and Rob self-publishing)
  • What Rob learned from dipping his toe into indie publishing Quantum Night four years ago, and how he applied those learnings to the publication of The Oppenheimer Alternative
  • The story about the title of his previous novel: Quantum Night VS The Zombie Philosopher
  • The timing of Rob's latest novel with the 75th Anniversary of The Manhattan Project and the first use of Nuclear weapons in war
  • The decisions Rob made for the print rights of his latest novel related to wanting solid bookstore distribution
  • The split rights selling of the rights of Rob's novel, in print, to two different publishers in Canada and the United States
  • Rob's control of the eBook rights, audiobook rights, film & TV rights
  • The fact that Rob is still waiting on the "advance" payment from his Canadian publisher for a book that was released almost two months ago
  • Rob's negotiation with his US publisher regarding the book's advance - and how that back and forth negotiation resulted in a situation where Rob maintained his eBook rights in lieu of an advance
  • How it took two months of sales of the eBook (that Rob holds the rights to) in order to earn more than what the advance on the book would have been
  • The direct involvement on the design of the book's cover, both for the edition Rob is publishing as well as the one published by his Canadian publisher
  • The research involved in writing his latest novel, which included purchasing over 100 different books about the people behind The Manhattan Project
  • How The Manhattan Project was the most secret project that humanity had taken on at that point in history and how it was almost the most recorded project - meaning there was plenty of recorded dialogue transcripts that Rob was able to use to write realistic dialogue (both word-for-word actual dialogue - about 20% of it was verbatim from transcripts - as well as for creating authentic dialogue of the scenes that Rob invented/imagined)
  • The debate and origin of the terms sci-fi VS SF as short for Science Fiction
  • How Rob likes to think of The Oppenheimer Alternative not as an alternative history novel, but as a Secret History Novel, and how the story is based on a string of events, evidence, and speculation about something else actually happening that hadn't been revealed or uncovered during that time period
  • The importance of how writing this novel had to be a huge challenge that Rob looked forward to tackling
  • The selling of the audiobook rights to Recorded Books
  • The changes that happened in the lead up and launch of this book (and the planned book tour) due to Covid-19
  • Rob's use of Patreon for his most dedicated/passionate fans
  • A new exclusive audio project that Rob is currently negotiating related to a radio drama style project (which brings him back to his roots as a former radio person)

After the podcast Mark reflects on Rob's recognition of the power that he holds as the IP creator, and the many inventive ways he has split his rights.


Links of Interest:


Robert J. Sawyer — called “the dean of Canadian science fiction” by The Ottawa Citizen and “just about the best science-fiction writer out there these days” by The Denver Rocky Mountain News — is one of only eight writers in history (and the only Canadian) to win all three of the science-fiction field’s top honors for best novel of the year. Rob — who holds honorary doctorates from the University of Winnipeg and Laurentian University — has taught writing at the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, Humber College, and The Banff Centre.


The introductory, end, and bumper music for this podcast (“Laser Groove”) was composed and produced by Kevin MacLeod of and is Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0