Brandon Sanderson and the Creative Commons

Brandon Sanderson is a fantasy writer who lives Provo, Utah and teaches at Brigham Young University (BYU). He is the author of several novels including “Elantris” and “The Final Empire”. The latter is part of the “Mistborn” trilogy that he’s writing and which is two thirds published at this point.

I read Elantris when it came out on the recommendation of my friend, Duane, at the University of Washington Bookstore. (Duane, by the way, is the primary reason why the UW Bookstore has such a good science fiction section and why no specialty bookstore for such has taken hold in Seattle). I read The Final Empire earlier this week and have its sequel, The Well of Ascension, sitting next to me. Brandon writes what would be considered “Low Fantasy” by some measures in that his characters live in nastier, shades of grey worlds where the good aren’t always truly heroic and the evil aren’t utterly irredeemable or without motivation. I especially appreciated this with one of his main “villians” in Elantris.

I also appreciate that Sanderson is one of the rare breed of thoughtful, yet religious, fantasy writers, as his discussion of Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy and why encouraging censorship is wrong-headed amongst religious people and an affront to the quest for Truth (as also quoted by John Scalzi as well).

Sanderson has been working on a new novel, “Warbreaker”, to be published after his Mistborn trilogy of books, probably in 2009. He worked out a deal with his publisher, Tor, to offer the various drafts of his novel for download under a Creative Commons license. As the book goes from the early stages through to the final hardcover release, Sanderson will be making the drafts available. On the page for Warbreaker, he cites Cory Doctorow and his release of his work for download as part of the impetus for his thinking. Sanderson states:

...Readers can ALREADY get their books for free; I went to the library often myself as a youth. And yet, I still bought books. I often bought the very books I'd checked out from the library, as I liked them so much I wanted to read them again and loan them out to others. What do I really believe? In resenting libraries and used bookstores because they share my books without any direct profit to me? Or, would I rather look at all of that as free publicity? I've been kind of annoyed with how the RIAA has treated the MP3 explosion. I also realize that something Cory says is very true--my biggest challenge as an author is obscurity. I believe in my novels, and believe that if people read them, they will want to read and buy more of them. I believe that readers like to own books and, yes, even like to buy them specifically to support authors they want to write more books. And so, I did something crazy. I went to Tor and asked if they'd be okay with me posting the entire version of Warbreaker AS I WROTE IT. Meaning, rough drafts. The early, early stuff which is filled with problems and errors. They thought I was crazy too (my agent STILL thinks this project is a bad move) but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do something that would involve and reward my readers. For those who are aspiring novelists, I wanted to show an early version of my work so they could follow its editing and progress. For those who are looking to try out my novels, I wanted to offer a free download. (Hoping that they would enjoy the book a great deal, then go on to purchase or check out ELANTRIS or my Mistborn books.)

The downloads are available here.

I haven’t looked at any of the drafts yet but I plan to do so. I’ve enjoyed Sanderson’s work so far, finding him to be an excellent novelist, and I applaud his bold move in making these drafts of his new novel available as he goes. This is interesting in that it is both another writer offering his work for free in hopes of creating attention and readership but also because you can observe the development of his book from rough to final draft as he works on it over time. For those interested in the craft of writing, that is likely to be interesting as well.