Tag Archives: publication

A few things

Doing a run-by because I have a million stuffs to take care of and it’s already noon.

  • I’ll be at WFC tomorrow and Saturday. No, not officially, because I couldn’t afford to go because WFC frankly needs to do some soul-searching. But I’ll be hanging out in the bar and going to dinner with people and such, and I hope very much to see old friends and make new ones.
  • My story “What Glistens Back” is out in Lightspeed. I read it at Capclave, where it got a pretty good reception, and I’m immensely proud of it. It’s probably one of my favorite things that I’ve ever written.
  • I thought I was gonna finish a book by the end of this week. I’m not gonna finish a book by the end of this week. I really think I’ll be done in the next week or so, though.
  • I’ve sold my story “The Horse Latitudes” (originally appeared last year in Ideomancer and can be read here) to Michael Matheson’s anthology The Humanity of Monsters, which will be out from ChiZine Publications in November 2015. The ToC is amazing so far – check it out here.
  • Three of my stories were in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror #6 (2013) Honorable Mentions (“Love in the Time of Vivisection”Shimmer #17, “The Horse Latitudes” – Ideomancer, “Event Horizon”Strange Horizons). Pretty chuffed, especially given the company I’m in.
  • Rookwar, the final book in the Casting the Bones trilogy, is a month away from release. Labyrinthian is a little over two months. Watch for more stuff regarding them, including stuff that is free.
  • I’m finishing up an edit job for a client, so I have an editing slot open. If you have an SFF manuscript that you need help on, or you know someone who does, I’m your individual. And to be frank, any work in that area really helps us out right now, so I appreciate anyone spreading the word.

Okay, back to work.

A few – though by no means the only – ways of getting your book published

courtesy of Sean MacEntee

courtesy of Sean MacEntee

Given that I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, not just in the context of all the (probably tiresome) fandom-related yelling I’ve been doing, I decided that I’d go ahead and toss this up there. I was also having drinks with some dear friends (who are not writers) recently, and they were congratulating me on books, which was lovely, but it struck me again that they didn’t seem to totally understand a) how little money you can actually make in this business, and b) how incredibly labor-intensive building up a backlist is, and how having four or five novels out there almost never means you can quit your day job. Or how you get four or five novels out there to begin with.

I’ve seen a lot of misconceptions. I’ve seen a lot of people – talented writers, to be sure – who seem to think that basically all you need to do to get published is write a great book and wait for people to come to your door and ask to pay you for it. I’ve seen talented writers stumble or get hurt because they didn’t know the lay of the land before they charged enthusiastically into it. I’ve seen talented writers just pretty much never go anywhere at all. Talent is not enough, and alone it’s not a guarantee of anything. It would be great if it was, but it ain’t.

So here, at least, is my experience and my understanding of the process. It’s not comprehensive, it’s not what will work for everyone, and it’s not representative of everyone’s experience. I’m also not by any means the first person to say any of this. Regardless, here are some things that you might or will need to do if you want to sell a book.

  • Finish it. Seriously. There are situations where a proposed book or a half-finished book gets picked up, but on the whole your chances are made immeasurably better if you have a completed manuscript in hand.
  • Edit it. Having a completed book helps. It helps less if it is, shall we say, rough around the edges.
  • Decide what you want to do with it. Because there are a number of things you can do. Do you want to self-publish? Do you want to send it directly to publishers? Large or small press? Do you want to query agents with it? All of these will require different things from you and you need a plan. Regardless of which route you go – with the exception of self-publishing – I would personally create and compile this packet of submission materials early in the process and keep it on hand:
    • A synopsis (publishers/agents differ on length but the general standard is two to three pages)
    • A query letter (in my opinion, every query you send should be somewhat personalized, but the basic content – one-paragraph pitch, bio, etc. will be pretty much the same every time)
    • A sample of the first three chapters of the manuscript (three chapters or fifty pages is often what’s asked for).
  • Research. You need to know your industry. If you’re self-publishing, figure out what you need to do in order to get your book in the shape you want before you put it out there (editing, cover art, etc.) and how to maximize the effectiveness of your promotion. If you’re submitting directly to publishers, large or small, familiarize yourself with who wants what. If you’re querying agents, learn who the good ones are. Make lists of likely candidates. Read the submission guidelines. Then read them again. Then again, just to make absolutely sure you didn’t overlook anything. Don’t waste these people’s time – they are already very, very busy and it makes them grumpy. And make sure you know what your rights as an author are, what industry standard contracts tend to look like, and what to watch for in terms of not getting screwed over. Because yes, there are people out there looking to screw you over.
  • If you’re going the non-self-pub route, submit/query. You have to do this. Yes, a tiny percentage of people skip this step and get offered contracts without looking for them for whatever reason. The chances that you are one of those people are vanishingly small. If you want publishers or agents to take notice of you, you need to put yourself in their faces. If they don’t notice you, that is almost certainly on you, not them.
  • You will get rejected. Submit/query again. Then do it again. Don’t take it personally, because it’s almost never personal. This is a business. Agents will represent books that they think they can sell; they reject books that they love but don’t think they can sell all the time. Same goes for publishers. A manuscript that isn’t right for one might be right for another. This is why I said to make lists, and I generally recommend beginning at the top and working down, because you’re starting at zero and you have nothing to lose. Just, again: you’ll get rejected. It hurts. Sometimes it hurts a lot. I know, my work has been rejected literally hundreds of times. Many of those stories went on to find homes elsewhere. Suck it up and keep moving.
  • Don’t lock yourself into one way of doing things. There isn’t only one way. Authors who have agents and contracts with publishers also self-publish on the side. Authors who start in self-publishing move on to have agents and contracts with publishers. Authors move from small to large presses and back again simultaneously. Authors sell books without agents. Authors get agents right away and never sell anything without one. Authors change agents. Authors change publishers. Authors publish books with more than one publisher. Authors publish with one publisher for the entirety of their careers. Just because you’re doing one thing now doesn’t mean you will or should continue to do it, or to do it exclusively. What you do will be as individual as you are and no one thing will work best for you all the time. Be flexible; in professional writing, flexibility is survival.

Here are some resources that I’ve found invaluable:

And if you are or are becoming a neo-pro speculative fiction writer (someone who’s sold one or more short stories/novels to reasonably respectable markets and is in the early stages of their career), join Codex, which is a writer’s group. It’s probably been the single most useful thing, career-wise, that I’ve ever done.

So go to it. Just make sure you know what you’re doing. You’ll thank yourself when you’re sitting on a pile of money later.

Me and novels and writing: a FAQ

John Scalzi did a novel FAQ today, which was both informative and entertaining – par for the course with him – and it also looked kind of fun, so I thought I’d steal the idea and do one of my own.

novel-writing-ideasBecause clearly I don’t need to be putting my entire life in boxes so we can move next week or anything.

How many novels have you written?

Oh, God. Um. Something like six? And I’m working on a seventh. Two more are in the planning stages. Of those, two have been picked up for publication (Line and Orbit and Crowflight) and two more are likely to be (the sequels Fall and Rising and Ravenblood). One (Wordsinger) is out trying to land me an agent. The other two written novels have been shelved. The moral of the story is that sometimes you have to do this multiple times before you start getting not-awful at it.

Where do your ideas come from?

Everywhere. Seriously, I don’t even know. They just come. At least the first ones do. Sequels clearly come from somewhere in particular. I should also say that when I’m writing something that I know will have a sequel, I usually have at least a very rough idea of where the next book will go, and while I don’t subscribe to hard-and-fast rules in writing, I recommend that.

How do you know if your idea is a novel idea or a short story idea?

Some ideas just feel bigger. When I get ideas for plots the very basic idea tends to come in mostly complete form, and from that it’s generally easy to get a sense of how long it’s going to have to be to let me do what I want. Sometimes I do get fooled, though. At least two short stories that I’ve written have ended up being either planned or actual novels.

Do you plan everything out ahead of time? Or do you make it up as you go?

A little of both. I like to start with a basic outline of the trajectory of a story, and then the details come as they come. I find that more enjoyable, because it means that I’m continually surprised as I write, which makes it more exciting for me. The one novel that I really did plan out scene by scene – which became Crowflight – ended up being underwritten and frankly felt less organic, though I did manage to finish the first draft in only a month. I suspect that not doing excessive planning means that I’m not equipped to handle really complex plots, but I have faith that once I want to write a story like that, I’ll muddle through. Again, even after six of these I’m still learning how to do it.

How did you get your novels published?

Research and time and patience. I mean, the obvious most important initial step is to write the best book you can, but after that there’s still a huge amount of work to be done. You need to know the market. You need to get a sense of what the best  home is for what you’ve written. If you want to go the agent route – which is probably still the best one for most people, if you really want to make money doing this – you need to know about agents as well. Once you know where you want to send it, you need to be ready to repeat the process multiple times, because odds are, you’ll get rejected more than once. And rejections add up to a lot of time. It may be quite a while – months, years – from when you finish your novel to when you actually sell it. And then longer than that to actual publication.

I should note that to date, I haven’t sold a book via the agent route because I don’t yet have an agent. There are some benefits to doing it the way I did. There are also a lot of drawbacks. That might have to be another post.

How many words a day do you write? When do you do your writing?

I try to do at least a thousand words a day, which is twice as much as my minimum used to be. When I’m working on more than one long project simultaneously – which I do not necessarily recommend – I try to do a thousand words a day on each. When I was really burning through the end of Fall and Rising, I was doing between five and nine thousand words a day and it was exhausting.

I try to get my writing done early in the day, before noon if possible, simply because I’ve found that I suffer from brain fatigue as the day gets later. It can also serve as additional motivation – I can’t do anything else until the day’s work is done. I should be clear about the fact that I’m hugely privileged to be able to write that way – one of the pluses of being in the kind of PhD program I am. One of the reasons why I try to write so much right now is because I’m very aware that this state of affairs won’t last forever, and I probably won’t be able to be this consistently productive for more than another year or so.

How long does it take you to finish a novel?

Depends. Line and Orbit took approximately nine months to finish, and so did the two novels I wrote after that. Then Crowflight took, as I said, only a month, and both Wordsinger and Fall and Rising took four or five months. Generally I’d say I’m getting faster, but speed depends on so many different variables, many of which have little or nothing to do with writing itself.

How many drafts do you do?

Generally no more than two or three before I submit for publication. I’m incredibly lucky in that first drafts for me tend to emerge almost fully formed, and usually don’t require a tremendous amount of initial work. As I said, Crowflight was underwritten, and I ended up adding about 30k words to it, but the basic form was fine. The two novels that I’ve shelved were complete as far as it went, but I also just didn’t think they were all that good, and I didn’t feel like I was invested enough in putting in the extensive work that would have been required to make them better. It just seemed like a wiser use of my time to move on to other things.

How do you feel about fanworks based on your writing?

Go for it.

News and updates: I sold a bunch of stuff.

By “a bunch” I mean “three”. Three recent story sales, all of which I’m extremely pleased about. Here they are:

  • “The Horse Latitudes” to Ideomancer (which I have been trying to crack forever so yaaaaaay (I think I might have mentioned this here before? Oh, well)
  • “Love in the Time of Vivisection” to Shimmer, which is sort of slipstream/horror and which is one of my favorite stories I’ve written in a while (and the title for which started out as a joke, no kidding)
  • “A Heap of Broken Images” to the colonial/post-colonial-themed anthology We See a Different Frontier. I’m especially excited about this last one, because a) it’s a terrific project concept, and b) LOOK AT THE TOC. You guys. You guys. asdfghjkl

“The Horse Latitudes” should be out in a couple of months. “Love in the Time of Vivisection” will be out this summer, as will We See a Different Frontier. I am excite.

If you’re not enough before the gold medal, you won’t be enough with it.

Listen to Wesley. He knows what’s up.

A “this was very close” story rejection today got me kind of in a meditative mood, especially given the reflective nature of the New Yearish time of year, and I found myself facing something that I come back to a lot these days when successes are immediately followed by things not working out the way I want them to.

Continue reading