Frequently Asked Questions
Welcome to the Robin Hobb ‘Frequently Asked Question’ page. Please skim this page before sending me an email or asking a question on Facebook or other social media. Thanks so much for your courtesy.
This is a difficult question to answer, as the ‘next book’ will vary by which country you are in and which format, such as hardback, paperback or e-book. The best way to get your answer is not to email me or ask me on Facebook, but to go to the publisher’s site for your country and do a title search there.
They aren’t. Not always. But sometimes they are, and it is completely outside of my control.
In different countries and in different languages, my books are published by different publishing houses. They set their own schedules for the publication of the books. If you think about this, you’ll see it makes perfect sense. The publisher picks the date he feels will be best for the book and schedules it to be launched then. So even in English, the books may have different launch dates in Australia, the U.S. and England.
The answer to these questions vary by country and book. Often I don’t know the answer myself. This is a case where Google is your friend! Or a visit to the publisher’s website in your country may give you the answer. As a commercially published author, I don’t create the e-book or the audio book or graphic novel or movie of my books. That is done by whoever has purchased the rights to do so.
The best way, of course, is to come to a signing! I am happy to personalize the signature to you or to a friend if it’s for a gift. I often do book tours right after a new hard back is published. My schedule for visits to bookstores and conventions is right here on my website. If you check my schedule, you can see what towns and stores I will be visiting.
If our lives do not intersect, then the next best way is by mail order. There are two sources I can recommend. If you are a collector and your goal is a signed first edition in pristine condition, then you can visit The Signed Page. There you can not only request an autographed first edition, but ask for a specific inscription. The book will be sent to you carefully packaged; if you are a bibliophile, this may be a good choice.
Year round, signed copies of any of my books are available at The University Book Store in Seattle. You can request a hardback or a paperback, just signed or with an inscription, and it will be mailed to you Fourth Class Postage with no additional charge. Go to their website at University Bookstore or call them toll free at 1-800-335-7323. If you wish the book to be shipped by a different method, you will have to pay for it.
If it’s left entirely up to me, the answer is yes. I’ll be happy to sign any of my books you bring. BUT here is the common courtesy observed at signings. If you have more than three items for the writer to sign, get in line, get three items signed, and then go back to the end of the line. Repeat until your collection is all signed. If a writer is hugely popular and the line is long, you may be asked to limit yourself to a single book. The venue gets to make the rules about that. Occasionally, a bookstore will limit what you can have signed. As a guest of the bookstore, I respect their wishes.
It is also excellent manners to buy the new book from the store sponsoring the signing. It costs a bookstore a lot of time, and effort to bring writers in to sign books. If readers bring in discounted copies of the book, the store will not have a reason to bring in writers. The book store’s objective in hosting a signing is to sell books so the store makes money. If you can’t afford a book but want to hear the reading, that’s great and you are still welcome. If you can, buy a cup of coffee at the café, or a pen, or a notebook. Let the bookstore know you appreciate their effort.
As of this writing in October of 2013, the manuscript for Fool’s Assassin, the first book of The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy, is with the publishers. In the UK, we have a publication date of August 2014. I am still hard at work on the second and third books of the story. For this reason, I’m going to refrain from answering a lot of questions about the content of the book. I’ve found it is very easy to talk a book to death, that is, to drain off all the energy and excitement of actually writing the book by talking about it constantly. And so I intend to privately and quietly keep writing.
Many people know, and even more have guessed from the last few paragraphs of Fool’s Fate, that I originally intended to come back to their tale. The reasons for the long delay are many and varied. But I will say I am writing this trilogy as I originally envisioned it would go, and I am happy and content to be working on it.
Yes. And it’s incredible, even for those of us who don’t speak French and read only a smattering of that language. I recommend it without reservation. Soleil publishes them. You can see some pages at Assassin Royal.
I am always hard at work on The Next Book. Or books. Or possibly the next novella or short story. Like many authors, I am often uncomfortable talking about the work in progress. It is very easy to talk a story to death. If I sit down and started spilling out the details of what I’m working on, two things will happen. It will sound really stupid, because my stories are intended to be written, not told. The second thing is that when I sit down to write it, I will feel bored, as in, “I already experienced this story when I talked so much about it. Now it’s boring. So if I’m going to write it, I’m going to change six things, for the sake of changing them.” I will also honestly tell you that I feel perfectly comfortable telling enormous lies when people ask what I’m working on. If people want me to tell a story, I will. It just won’t be the one they are expecting.
Not intentionally and not consciously. I never take a person from my acquaintance and say, “She’d make a great heroine,” or “I’m going to model a villain on him.” It just would not work. Characters have to be a product of the story they are in. They have been molded by their cultures and shaped by their circumstance. To take a person I know and try to write him into one of my stories would feel false. The flip side of that coin is, of course, that all the characters in my stories are a product of my experience combined with my imagination. So, undoubtedly some of my characters share traits with people I know. But I never transplant any whole person into a book.
I always think that I do. Sometimes I am wrong. I do rough out an outline of each story, but as I write I find that things change. Characters don’t react as I expect them to, events don’t move as swiftly, or what seemed likely now seems contrived. If at any time a different plot path seems more likely, I allow myself to follow it. So far, I have not regretted it. Oddly enough, books often end just as I expected them to, after taking a very round about path to reach the conclusion.
No. Sorry. This answer is absolute.
For me to read your unpublished work is a waste of time for you and for me. I’m a writer. I’m neither an editor nor a publisher. In other words, I cannot truly advise you how to fix something to make it publishable, nor can I offer to publish and buy it. All I could tell you was whether or not I liked it, or how I might have written the story, if it were mine. These might be good insights, but the best places to get such information about your work are in a writer’s workshop, or from an editor. If you are working on technique and learning how to write, then feedback from others in the same place can tell you if you are achieving your goals. If you think you have a saleable story, then you should be sending it off to an editor to see if you can sell it.
Please do visit the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America site at for more information on writing. There you can find information on agents and workshops and scams that prey on new writers. I especially recommend a wonderful writing guide on the site called The Turkey City Lexicon. No aspiring writer should be without it.
It isn’t that uncommon in the writing world to have more than one pseudonym, especially if you write in more than one genre. In my case, Megan Lindholm and Robin Hobb both write fantasy, but in very different styles and in different ‘slices’ of the genre. By using two different pseudonyms, I am able to let the reader know which voice they are getting in a book. Some readers like both styles. Others most emphatically do not. For a comparison of the two voices, you might check out The Inheritance, a collection of shorter works by both Megan Lindholm and Robin Hobb.
The first thing you have to do is write. There is no easy shortcut about that. Having a great agent or your cousin being best friends with an editor won’t change that. First, you have to write the book (or story) beginning to end. Then you have to make it the best story you can possibly create. I’ve always preferred to work alone, not sharing my work with anyone until it goes off to an editor. That’s my quirk. Many professionals attribute a lot of their success to workshops and writers’ clubs. For more information about these, search online or ask your local library or bookstore for information.
The second thing you have to do to be a writer is to keep on writing. Don’t listen to people who tell you that very few people get published and you won’t be one of them. Don’t listen to your friend who says you are better that Tolkien and don’t have to try any more. Keep writing, keep faith in the idea that you have unique stories to tell, and tell them. I meet far too many people who are going to be writers ‘someday.’ When they are out of high school, when they’ve finished college, after the wedding, when the kids are older, after I retire . . . That is such a trap You will never have any more free time than you do right now. So, whether you are 12 or 70, you should sit down today and start being a writer if that is what you want to do. You might have to write on a notebook while your kids are playing on the swings or write in your car on your coffee break. That’s okay. I think we’ve all ‘been there, done that.’ It all starts with the writing.
There are whole websites devoted to this topic. I’ll attempt a very short response here.
To become a traditionally published writer, you submit what you have written. The best detailed guide that I know about on how to do this is still Writer’s Market. Go to your library and get the latest copy from the reference section. Read the sections on how to submit your manuscript. Then follow the advice about studying your markets and preparing your manuscript. And finally, polish the story and submit it. This is the unartistic, business end of the writing profession. It’s a very necessary part of being a published writer. Again, there are no short cuts that I know about. If you find any, let me know!
As I do not regard myself as an expert in e-publishing, I’m not going to attempt to advise anyone on that. But I’m willing to bet that it still starts out with: First, write the story.
I believe in the old saw, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” I’ve had extraordinary cover art from artists such as Michael Whelan (the cover of Assassin’s Apprentice, US edition still leaves me smiling), the amazing John Howe, Jackie Morris, Stephen Stone and Stephen Youll. I’ve been very pleased with the cover art I’ve received, and see no reason to try to tell artists how to do something they obviously do very well. I recommend a visit to Whelen’s site at and John Howe’s site for wonderful art. John’s site has a special section of art that he has done for the books, in his ‘portfolio’ area. Jackie Morris’ site is resplendent with photographs of ginger cats.
Yes. Sites for the e-books will vary by publisher, country, and translation. The quickest way to locate them is to Google them or check the publisher’s site.
No. I am sorry to be so definite on this, but I simply can’t. Tacoma is a rainy place. Packages left outside my door get wet, especially when I’m away for a weekend. And to send an autographed book back to you, I now have to go stand in line at the post office, even if the postage is on the package already, because of the new postal security rules. I’ve also begun to get boxes of books from people, who say, “These are for gifts. Would you please just autograph each one, no personalized inscriptions, and return them all to me?” I feel that’s taking advantage of my time. I will occasionally make exceptions, such as books for charity auctions, if you get prior permission from me. But if you send me a book without getting my permission to do so first, be warned that it will simply come back to you.
The best way to be sure of getting a hardback copy of the book is to buy it as soon as it comes out. The hardbacks are allowed to go out of print when the paperback editions come out approximately one year later. If you are looking for hardbacks of the older books, then you may find them in used book stores, on Amazon, on E-bay or on Addall.com. If you are looking for hardbacks of the US editions of the Farseer Trilogy, they simply do not exist. In the US, the first two books (Assassin’s Apprentice and Royal Assassin) were only issued as Trade Paperbacks (those are the oversized ones.) Only Assassin’s Quest appeared in hardback. In the UK, the entire trilogy came out in hardback, but they are difficult to find now. Recently, HarperCollins Voyager reissued Assassin’s Apprentice in a lovely cloth binding. (March 2013)
Please discuss purchase of these rights or other non-book rights with my agent. If you are interested in subrights, including film, television or other ancillary rights, please contact:
424 250 0465
Please discuss purchase of these rights with my agent. If you are interested in subrights, including film, television or other ancillary rights, please contact:
424 250 0465
No. I’m much worse.
If you are interested in book rights, please contact Christopher Lotts at The Lotts Agency. His email is: Chris@LottsAgency.com
For media, gaming, and those sorts of rights, please contact Vince Gerardis. His email is:
Unfortunately, no, I can’t. The Stone Game is imaginary, a game concept based loosely on Go, Fox and Hounds, and several other old games. I never created a specific set of rules for it, though if I close my eyes, I can see the game cloth in my mind and I know the sort of strategies that I’d want it to have. Someday, when I’m old and retired to a nursing home and have lots of time to myself, I plan to work out all the rules for it. Unfortunately, by that time everyone will consider me a bit barmy and I probably won’t be allowed to have pencils.
No. But thank you for thinking of me.
Just for fun, I made a little film based on your books. I used cuts from copyrighted major motion pictures and songs. It’s up on YouTube and getting a lot of hits. Would you like to link your site to it?
No. I refrain from anything that looks like an endorsement of this activity.
When I visited Amazon, I noticed that the page count for the Bantam edition of Fool’s Fate is a much smaller number than the page count for the UK Voyager edition. Did Bantam cut the book? Should I order it from the UK to get a complete copy? (This answer applies to all titles in various editions.)
Bantam did NOT cut the book. The difference in the number of pages among different editions is due entirely to choices about font sizes, white space and other production values. The US Bantam edition does have the full text of the book. Book club editions may have a different number of pages. It’s about the physical creation of the book rather than any alteration in text.
Can I make a role-playing game based on your world or books? It’s only just for fun, not profit, for this role-playing group on the Internet. Or, Can I make a little film from your books? It’s only for a contest, or just to share with my friends or only to put on my website. I don’t plan to make any money from it. Or, may I self-publish a little graphic novel I made from a scene in your book? I’ll make sure to say that I don’t own any of the rights. Or, I made a YouTube video based on your books/story and put it up and would you link to it from your site?
Rights are a rather tricky thing for a writer. You simply want to set up an RP or make a little movie and have some fun. You are not expecting to market a game or to profit from a movie. Or you made a little ‘mash up’ video from commercial films and music and you want me to link to it.
It probably seems like it would be fun and simple if I simply said, “Sure, go ahead.”
But if the writer gives official permission or endorses something by linking to it, it can have unintended consequences in the future. If a game developer approaches the writer and wants to purchase the rights to make a game based on the books, the writer has to say, “I already gave someone else permission to do an RP of that.” Then the game developer may simply end the negotiation.
In the case of a ‘mash up’ video made from other peoples copyrighted works, we can all get in trouble.
Or if the game developer purchases the rights and markets the game, the game developer may later take issue with someone else doing for free what he has paid for. The game developer may see it as a copyright infringement on the rights he has purchased. Or the person who has made the amateur RP may look at the game developer and say, “You took a lot of the ideas that I first came up with for my RP and used them in your game that you sold for money. That’s not fair!”
Often, when an author sells a publisher the right to publish a book, the contract will specify that the publisher can sell ‘sub rights’ as in movie rights or merchandise rights or gaming rights. If the publisher does sell those rights, then the author and the publisher share in the income from those rights. The publisher might not be happy to discover that the author had already given someone those rights for free.
This is why all rights permissions have to go through my agent. The agent keeps track of what rights have been purchased and by whom. If a writer gives someone permission to make a comic or an audio book version and at the same time the agent is negotiating a sale of those rights, things can get very messy for everyone, with possible law suits.
It is also why I cannot endorse videos based on my books by linking to them from my site or Facebook or other social media.
This is a long answer to what was probably seen as a fairly simple question. But often a writer is seen as stingy or selfish if he or she simply says, “No, you can’t do that, even if you are not planning on making money from it.”