Posts Tagged ‘publishing’

  1. After everything you have done to push yourself into your field, your fate will depend on thousands of people you have never met, and never will–unless you succeed, in which case they will inevitably hunt you down and tell you everything you did wrong.
  2. No matter how many times you renew your term, one bad showing and you’re out.
  3. Despite the hundreds of hours you will spend outlining, talking, and writing, people will always insist they know what you “really meant”–even though they’re wrong.
  4. Despite all of the people wrongly insisting they know what you “really meant,” you will still be happy that they are talking about you at all.
  5. No matter how much you outline, events will always take you places you did not mean to go.

Bonus: Why writing is like voting: If you don’t put in the effort, your story will never be heard.



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Now that I’m about to be published by a small press, it’s got me thinking more about the small press world. Specifically, how small presses are perceived in SF as opposed to the other realm about which I know something, mystery writing. I’ve heard from SF writers that small presses do not carry the cachet of major publishers; I’m not talking about money, which is an obvious discrepancy, but the idea that going with a small press in science fiction is seen as less prestigious, whereas in mysteries…not so much. Small press mysteries have much more chance of receiving awards, for example, than have small press SF or fantasy novels.*

Why is this? Why are mystery readers seem more accepting of non-traditionally published novels? I don’t know; I suspect the answer lies far in the past, but not having been part of the mystery scene all that long, I can’t say. (I’ll have to ask; maybe I can give you an answer in a future post.) But that’s not the only discrepancy between the two (publishing-wise), and perhaps the advantages don’t tilt all the way in favor of mysteries. Because you see, where mystery writers may have more opportunities when it comes to novels, SFF writers are far ahead when it comes to short fiction.

I did a little research, and it was surprisingly easy to learn a few facts: There are approximately 192 publishers on the Mystery Writers of America (MWA) site whose novel contracts qualify one for professional membership. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) web site lists about 53.** (Each of these allows more than the markets specifically listed, because of imprints, etc.)

On the other hand, where SFWA has 54 qualifying short story markets, MWA lists only 22. Now, I happen to know that there are dozens more SF short story markets whose acceptances do not count toward qualifying for SFWA, and there are probably equivalent mystery magazines, but I don’t doubt the former easily outnumber the latter.

Again, why is this? Are there more SFF readers than mystery readers? Is it too hard to write short mysteries? Or is it just that there are so many more novel markets out there that fewer bother to write short mystery fiction? Does that make it easier to break into science fiction?

Beats me. It’s a mystery. And maybe trying to raise the reputation of small press books is a fantasy. But I hope in the future it’s possible, because if it’s possible in the future, it becomes science fiction.

And that’s what I write.


*Yes, there are and have been exceptions. But they are just that, exceptions.

**I am a member of SFWA. I used to be a (non-professional) member of MWA, but their meetings were too far away.




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Once, I tried to write a book. How hard could it be? I thought. After all, there are thousands written every year… Oh, the lessons I was to learn. This was how it all went down (and by “down,” I mean careened downhill without brakes).

I started by setting up a writing schedule on my calendar, but I learned my days were numbered.

I tried to outline a plot, but I couldn’t get it write.

So I tried to finish the story in one go but I kept getting a draft.

When I finally finished, I contacted my editor by radio, but he couldn’t read me.

I put my idea to an agent, but she said the concept was too novel.

Then I tried to self-publish, but I wouldn’t make book on my chances.

Every time I tried to format them, the pages took a header.

I thought to publish a custom hard-bound copy so I started to learn bookbinding, but I didn’t have the spine.

And when it was time to hire an artist, I didn’t have enough to cover.

Maybe I should have gone into graphic novels. I could picture that.


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This is not a controversy with which I was planning to get involved. I have little personal experience with the subject of the controversy, and what little I ever had was decades ago, but I believe knowledge is power, and beginning writers need all the power they can get. I was the victim of a scam agent once long ago, and I am sensitive to situations where writers may be taken advantage of, so here I am.*

Some finalists and winners of the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest, and attendees of the associated workshop, have recently published their experiences therewith. These largely concern the workshop, which the contest offers winners and finalists once a year, featuring several well-known authors who have acted as contest judges. They have grown, however, to encompass potentially unseemly practices surrounding the contest itself. Some finalists have consequently withdrawn from the current contest.

Summarily speaking, the problems (as alleged), come down to these:

  1. The contest is run by the Church of Scientology. Although the Church’s connection has never been a secret (see the name), it has always been advertised that the Church had nothing to do with the contest itself, working only through separate affiliates. According to some winners’ experiences, this appears not to be true.
  2. Aside from the religious affiliation itself, the personnel working on the contest and the workshop may be victims of unfair working conditions.
  3. The sales figures for the Writers of the Future annual anthology may be inflated, in that the Church may be buying up large numbers of copies for itself, or coercing its members to buy.

In addition to the above, some writers, editors, and fans could take a dim view of those who have participated in the contest and accepted prize money. You have to balance the potential benefits with the potential hazards.

It’s hard enough entering this field. Should a submit to a market whose publisher may have different political views than mine? How do I know a good contract from bad? Should I stick to short stories, write a novel, self-publish…?

Make your own choices. But know the choices you’re making.

*I do not know if the allegations made are true. My own opinion of their veracity is irrelevant. But I think people should know they’ve been raised.



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Every so often, it pops up: The case against reading fees. I mentioned it myself not long ago. But still, reading fees keep raising their ugly head, and recently I saw them arise in another context: Writing contests.

I got an email advertising a contest, from a publishing industry publication, focusing on unpublished or self-published novels. It offers a cash prize to one winner, but each and every entrant receives a personalized mini-critique, which I can tell you from past experience is the hook upon which a lot of fish will be caught. Unpublished and self-published authors pine for feedback of any kind, and this kind, with blurbs from award-winning authors and editors offered to semi-finalists and above, is certain to lure the desperate and unsophisticated by the hundreds. I myself was attracted enough to read further.

That’s when I got to the catch: a $99 entry fee per manuscript. I closed the window on my computer and deleted the email.

Now, I’m not saying that this contest is phony, or rigged, or that it doesn’t provide exactly what it says. I’m sure it does. But is what it offers worth $99?

Hell, no.

One entrant will win a nice cash prize. Others will be mentioned in a blurb in the magazine, and all will receive a critique, which judging from the samples helpfully offered, runs about a hundred words. That’s a dollar a word. I have belonged to a lot of critique groups where members can review each other’s works and give 500- to 1000-word critiques for free. Actually, it’s better than that, because they expect you to reciprocate, and there is no better way to see the faults in your own writing than to critique someone else’s.

And what’s more, there are a lot of contests out there that don’t require any entry fee at all: Writers of the Future, Minotaur Books First Crime Novel, Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award… Nor does that include publishers who have occasionally held open calls for unagented manuscripts, like Angry Robot and Harper Voyager.

If you want to spend money on your book, self-publish. It’s okay to spend money on editing, and a cover, and some advertising, and your chances of success are probably as good as any contest you enter. At least you’ll know where your money’s going.

If you want to be a writer, you have to pay your dues. But you don’t have to pay reading fees.


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I’ve been wanting to write, honestly I have. It’s just that I’ve been too busy writing. As you know, The Killing Scar is drafted, but that was only the beginning of the work. First I had to edit it, which means I had to re-read it, not an easy task when I just wrote it. It sounds like a lousy pitch for your book that it’s the last thing in the world you want to read, but it’s true. But that’s done now. As soon as I get the cover, I’ll preview it. Then, if the beta readers don’t threaten to turn my ms. over to the police as evidence of a literary crime, I’ll publish. That’s a big “if.”

In the meantime, I have to start outlining Marauders from the Moon (due out in June, and when am I going to start it?). And at the same time I’m re-reading The Choking Rain, because one of the problems with maintaining a series is that you can’t always remember the details from one book to the next, and I don’t want that problem. Yes, I could create a bible (which I probably will if this goes on), but I don’t have one and I don’t have time to write one. (See paragraph above.) It’s been a while since I wrote Rain, but it took a long time to finish, so re-visiting it isn’t a picnic, either. (Honestly, these are good books, you just wouldn’t know it to listen to me.)

Anyhow, I didn’t want more time to go by without touching base. The government might shut down, but my publisher has a schedule to keep, and believe me, he does not like it when I slack off. It may be a while before I get back here.

–Okay, okay, boss! I’m going back to work… Sheesh, what a grouch.



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Somebody sideswiped my car in a parking lot recently. Not a lot of damage, but a lot of stress. Now you get to share.

It’s funny how writing can be compared to so many other things in life, baseball, commuting, sexice cream … and now car accidents. I guess this is because fiction deals with all aspects of life. (More likely it’s because writing is an endeavor so fraught with problems that everyone can relate.)

  1. You never know when something’s going to hit you. It might be a phrase, an idea, or an SUV. You never know.
  2. Once it happens, the results are unimaginable. Which is strange, because writing is imagination. But will it become a story? Will it sell? Will your insurance go up?
  3. Your fate is in the hands of others. You send the story to an editor. You send your car to the shop. When will they return? Who knows?
  4. You have no idea who’s going to pay whom. Will the editor pay you? Will your insurance pay you? Or was all of this some expensive mistake?
  5. Where it all ends up is a mystery. Maybe the editor will publish you. Maybe the editor will reject you. Maybe you’ll get your car back. Maybe it will be totaled. See item nos. 2 and 3.
  6. You will wonder if it’s all worth it. Should you give it up? Should you take the bus?
  7. It will give you an idea. Maybe you should write about a man who has an accident. Maybe you should write about a man who decides to take the bus. Maybe you should write about a man who becomes a bus driver!
  8. You realize that this random event has given you an idea that  you weren’t expecting. You re-read item no. 1.
  9. You realize there is no escape. Accidents will happen. Editors will reject you.
  10. You resolve to do better next time. You will watch the cross-traffic. You will observe the traffic lights. You will avoid the omniscient viewpoint and the present tense.

Bonus: Having an accident and writing a story have this in common: You will never forget what it felt like.


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