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Writing Update

writing, publishing, stories, novels, fantasy, editing

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Hello, world. Well two reviews have come out for Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies which has my story “It’s Only Words” as the opening story. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet but Des Lewis seems to have delivered another intriguing anthology. The reviews are quite favorable to my story so check them out here: Matthew Fryer’s¬† and Karim Ghahwagi’s.

I am also now working steadily (finally!) on my novel with the working title of Lyranda. It’s the name of the world but will not do for the title at all. It’s medieval style on a different world, with three races. I haven’t read Game of Thrones yet but after watching the first season I was inspired, thinking yes, my novel could be this good.

I tossed out about half of the first 30,000 words and was working on writing through one of the three story arcs, so I had something like chapters 2, 7, 12, 14, etc. done. But I finally got to a point where I needed to go back and familiarize where one of my other characters is going, since the three are on separate arcs till they all meet up halfway through. So now I’m going back and rewriting some of the original chapters. Procrastination is a powerful thing and I think I beat it down, finally. I’m going to try to keep up the impetus there.

“A Book By Its Cover” has just gone through edits and will soon be going to press in the Mirror Shards anthology, edited by Tom Carpenter. Witches and Pagans #23 should be arriving any day and has my poem “Shadow Realms” in it.

I’m working through slush still for CZP and reading a medieval style fantasy right now. That author has also inspired me to get on with my own story. I won’t know whether I’ll send that on to Sandra yet but it’s reading very well (after I asked for some rewrites) and I’m kept intrigued so we’ll see.

A discussion came up recently on our SF Canada list (and seems to be resurfacing): should one comment on a review of their work, especially if the reviewer got something wrong or didn’t read through the full story? The overall consensus is not to comment as it could just get ugly. But it’s okay to say thank you, or in some cases clarify info, but one must tread carefully. To get embroiled in the merits of a review is just not going to go well no matter what. There are even some infamous cases out there of authors going ballistic all up and down a reviewer (Anne Rice) for one and it just does not help. What do you think?

That’s it for now. A bit too busy to write much for the blog but I’m sure that won’t stop me. ūüėÄ

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Writing: British Fantasy Awards & Stuff

I’m listing the recent announcement of shortlisted works for the British Fantasy Awards. I am not nominated but the anthology Cone Zero that my story “The Fathomless World” is in, has been. But then, none of the stories from the anthology have been nominated so I wonder if that bodes ill for the anthology winning the award.

Of course, for me it would have been better if my story was nominate but that’s okay. And it’s too bad that some of the reviews really just recapped the book and my story didn’t make much of a splash. Pooh. I liked it but perhaps the most informative review was a very late, after the fact one, where the reviewer decided to leave his notes as haiku, partly because it was so late. The one which I’m sure was for “The Fathomless World” said something like, “more style than substance.”¬† That would be the middle line of the haiku if you count “style as a two-syllable word.

So it goes. I thought it had substance but I also did it in a mythic style. I continue to send works out and work on new ones. Unfortunately the whole economic crisis has affected story markets to the point that I’m thinking I should just be working on my novel and skip the stories right now. For speculative fiction, whether horror, fantasy, science fiction or other, there are not a lot of markets to submit to right now. Some have gone the way of the dodo, while the majority of the pro markets (those that pay five cents a word or more) are closed to submissions or on hiatus. A sad state indeed.

And it’s always been a sad state that the pay for speculative fiction has been so low. Definitely not a make-a-living type of wage. Literary markets as a whole tend to pay somewhat better but many of them also pay the equivalent of $100 a story, which many anthologies do. Some literary markets pay anywhere from $15-40 a printed page, which again could work out to the same amount.

Why do we write then? For fame? Partly, though that’s a long hard road.¬†Hardly for fortune. And maybe most of all, because we love words and our minds just keep filling with them and we want to tell a story and share in the mysteries of what-if. And not onto the shortlisted works for the British Fantasy Award.

BEST ANTHOLOGY

    Cone Zero(DF Lewis) Megazanthus Press
    Myth-Understandings (Ian Whates) Newcon Press
    Subtle Edens (Allen Ashley) Elastic Press
    The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 19 (Stephen Jones) Constable & Robinson
    The Second Humdrumming Book of Horror(Ian Alexander Martin) Humdrumming
    We Fade To Grey(Gary McMahon) Pendragon Press

BEST NOVEL (THE AUGUST DERLETH FANTASY AWARD)

    Memoirs of a Master Forger(William Heaney/Graham Joyce) Gollancz
    Midnight Man (Simon Clark) Severn House
    Rain Dogs(Gary McMahon) Humdrumming
    The Graveyard Book(Neil Gaiman) Bloomsbury
    The Victoria Vanishes (Christopher Fowler) Little Brown
    Thieving Fear (Ramsey Campbell) PS Publishing

THE PS PUBLISHING BEST SMALL PRESS AWARD

    Elastic Press (Andrew Hook)
    Newcon Press (Ian Whates)
    Pendragon Press (Chris Teague)
    Screaming Dreams (Steve Upham)
    TTA Press (Andy Cox)

BEST COLLECTION

    Bull Running for Girls (Allyson Bird) Screaming Dreams
    Glyphotech(Mark Samuels) PS Publishing
    How To Make Monsters(Gary McMahon) Morrigan Books
    Islington Crocodiles(Paul Meloy) TTA Press
    Just After Sunset(Stephen King) Hodder & Stoughton

BEST NOVELLA

    “Cold Stone Calling” (Simon Clark) Tasmaniac Publications
    “Gunpowder” (Joe Hill) PS Publishing
    “Heads” (Gary McMahon) We Fade To Grey, Ed. Gary McMahon – Pendragon Press
    “The Narrows” (Simon Bestwick) We Fade To Grey, Ed. Gary McMahon – Pendragon Press
    “The Reach of Children” (Tim Lebbon) Humdrumming

BEST SHORT FICTION

    “All Mouth” (Paul Meloy) Black Static 6, Ed. Andy Cox – TTA Press
    “Do You See” (Sarah Pinborough) Myth-Understandings, Ed. Ian Whates ‚Äď Newcon Press
    “N” (Stephen King) Just After Sunset – Hodder & Stoughton
    “Pinholes in Black Muslin” (Simon Strantzas) The Second Humdrumming Book of Horror, Ed. Ian Alexander Martin – Humdrumming
    “The Caul Bearer” (Allyson Bird) Bull Running For Girls ‚Äď Screaming Dreams
    “The Tobacconist‚Äôs Concession” (John Travis) The Second Humdrumming Book of Horror, Ed. Ian Alexander Martin – Humdrumming
    “The Vague” (Paul Meloy) Islington Crocodiles, TTA Press
    “Winter Journey” (Joel Lane) Black Static 5, Ed. Andy Cox – TTA Press

BEST COMIC/GRAPHIC NOVEL

    30 Days of Night: Beyond Barrow(Steve Niles/Bill Sienkiewicz) IDW Publishing
    All-Star Superman(Grant Morrison/Frank Quitely) DC Comics
    Buffy Season Eight Vol. 3: Wolves at the Gate(Joss Whedon & Drew Goddard/ Georges Jeanty) Dark Horse Comics
    Comic Book Tattoo Tales Inspired by Tori Amos(Ed, Rantz A. Hoseley & Tori Amos/ Various) Image Comics
    Hellblazer: Fear Machine (Jamie Delano) Vertigo
    Hellblazer: The Laughing Magician(Andy Diggle/Leonardo Manco & Daniel Zezelj) Vertigo
    Locke and Key(Joe Hill/Gabriel Rodriguez) IDW Publishing
    The Girly Comic Book 1 (Ed, Selina Lock) Factor Fiction
    The New Avengers: Illuminati(Brian Bendis & Brian Reed/Jim Cheung) Marvel Comics

BEST ARTIST

    Dave McKean (The Graveyard Book) Bloomsbury
    Edward Miller (Vault of Deeds) PS Publishing
    Lee Thompson (The Land at the End of the Working Day) Humdrumming
    Les Edwards (Various)
    Vincent Chong (Various)

BEST NON-FICTION

    Basil Copper: A Life in Books (Basil Copper, Ed, Stephen Jones) PS Publishing
    Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale (Russell T. Davies and Benjamin Cook) BBC Books
    journal.neilgaiman.com (Neil Gaiman)
    Mutant Popcorn(Nick Lowe) Interzone – TTA Press
    What Is It We Do When We Read Science Fiction(Paul Kincaid) Beccon Publications

BEST MAGAZINE

    Black Static(Andy Cox) TTA Press
    Interzone(Andy Cox et. al.) TTA Press
    Midnight Street(Trevor Denyer)
    Postscripts(Peter Crowther & Nick Gevers) PS Publishing
    SFX (Dave Bradley) Future Publishing Limited

BEST TELEVISON

    Battlestar Galactica (NBC)
    Dead Set(Zeppotron/Channel 4)
    Dexter (Clyde Phillips Productions)
    Doctor Who (BBC Wales)
    Supernatural (Warner Bros TV)

BEST FILM

    Cloverfield (Matt Reeves)
    Iron Man(Jon Favreau)
    The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan)
    The Mist(Frank Darabont)
    The Orphanage(Juan Antonio Bayona)
    (With thanks to SFWA for supplying the list.)

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Writing: The Process

The writing process is a different beast for every writer. There are those that have a set time every day and write within that time. How I envy them. Me, I abhor schedules at the best of time, which is also my bane. This blog is about as regular as I get. It’s one aspect of the “write every day” rule. The writing process can also be different for every story.

Some stories nearly write themselves in a few days. Some are long struggles. Often the ones I think are going to be easiest (such as writing a fairy tale) turn out to be the worst for getting the idea flowing. Some stories take forever for different reasons. “A Kind Hand,” which I finished last year and is fantasy, took me about eight years to write. I would work on it in fits and starts and stop again. It slowly progressed with a lot of agonizing along the way. And every time I went to work on it, I had to read it again and then try to match the voice I had started in. I also quite like the way I was writing it and didn’t want to ruin it.

In this case I knew the ending because it’s based off of a particular tale about the Germanic hearth goddess Berchta. But in between the ending and the beginning I needed a flow of events that raised the tension. Like many fairy tales, the original tale was fairly bare bones and short, jumping to the one climax. I needed to put flesh on those bones. I got closer and closer to finishing and finally last year worked out the full story. I think I sent it out once but in the meantime also had a friend read it. His comments included that there needed to be more tension so I made the character a bit scarier, upped the ante at the end and sent it to Shroud, and it sold.

My longest running story ever, from start to finish is “Awaking Pandora,” which I’m working on right now. It’s science fiction, which I don’t write as often. I started it about fifteen plus years ago, while visiting a friend in New York. I was struck by all the barges and the prison barge around Manhattan. So I started the story and began writing and writing and realized, if I wasn’t careful, it was going to become a novel. But I didn’t want a novel. I knew it was still going to be a long story.

With this story the problem was that I really didn’t have a finally resolution. I had a conflict, conflicts in fact, but I didn’t know how to solve them. So it sat as I ruminated. I’d pull it out once in a while, read the whole thing, rewrote a bit what I’d started and then let it sit. I discussed it with a friend or two, trying to find an ending. Then, a year ago, there was an anthology looking for novelettes, stories between 10-20,000 words in this case. I tried to finish it but just couldn’t get there. I did finally finish the first draft last year.

Now, again there are two anthology markets that this story could fit into but I’m running out of time on the first. I’ve spent the last month writing and rewriting, taking the comments of two friends. The story was running at 9800 words and is down to 8600 but one market has a limit of 6,000. I’ve looked at it so often, changing word, changing sentences, deleting some, moving some up, some down, expanding and changing.

I’ve changed, more refined, the ending twice and it’s not quite there. I passed it by a third friend last night who said she just couldn’t chop some out as it would take rewriting to remove some aspects and make it shorter (partly because I’ve already removed extraneous words and removing more means redoing the flow). Again, I think this is a good story and I like my characters though I already cut the extraneous ones as too many for a shortish story. I have this weekend to make the thing work as I have to mail it latest by Monday.

It’s a long process, agonizing over a word, a line, a paragraph, a character. Then the conflict; is it enough, does it need to be earlier? This story has been easy for getting description and mood in, and characterization was fairly effortless, but plot. Yikes. Well, I’m back to the writing board and the true test is whether I’ll sell it or not. One last shot at getting the plot right and trying to cut out another 2,000 words and away it will go.

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Writing: The Lovable Bastard

Several editors have said that you have to have a protagonist that the reader can identify with. If the character is a bastard, he has to be a lovable bastard. And in essence this is true. In any story, whether a short story or a novel there has to be some character that the writer can like. Often this will be the main character or one of the viewpoint characters.

The biggest problem, if you make all your characters bastards or despicable murderers, is that no one will identify with them except perhaps the odd psychopath. If no one identifies, then no one cares. The reader is not invested in seeing if the protagonist wins against her personal conflict or not. Does the hero beat the evil overlord or die a valiant death? Who cares if it’s only evil overlords battling each other…unless there is something human about them, a softer side. The evil overlord who has a little puppy that he loves dearly will garner some sympathy from the reader compared to the overlords that eat the puppies.

So why have a¬† lovable bastard at all? As the realm of speculative fiction writing grew and changed, it began to reflect deeper plots with more well developed characters. It wasn’t just about the giant space ship with a tachyon drive going through space with a man, any man,¬†battling the alien elements. It was now about a specific person, a woman or a man, who was much like you and me, but placed in a different time or world. The “every man” “every woman” aspect means that we can relate to these characters because they are human. They’re flawed. They have good days and bad days, have shining aspects of their personalities and flaws that can be their downfalls.

No one is a hero twenty-four hours a day. Even the most valiant knight must eat, drink, fart, defecate and sleep. He’s human. In spec writing you may have an alien, a god, some other life form and they may be truly alien in their actions or thoughts, but if you don’t have some character that the reader identifies with it will remain too hard to fathom for the average reader. I have a story I wrote a long time ago with alien larval and insectoid creatures. No matter who I sent the story to (even when I stopped rewriting every time), one editor would find¬†the¬†character too alien and the next would find it too human.

Perfume,¬†by Patrick Suskind¬†was ¬†a book about a man born nearly blind but with a sense of smell so acute that he could “see” with it, could tell the past and almost the future. It won the 1987 World Fantasy award and though the world portrayed was vivid and nearly magical, I didn’t like this book. The main reason was that the main character, more an antagonist than a protagonist, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille was a bastard, and not lovable in the least. He was a murderer bent on procuring the ultimate scent, who had no compassion for his victims. The victims themselves are not with us long enough for the reader to care for them. The movie took a slightly different twist to probably portray a victim long enough (and her father) so that we had someone to relate to and care about.

Stephen Donaldson, many years ago, wrote the Thomas Covenant series (Lord Foul’s Bane, etc.), which encompassed two trilogies. His main character was again a bastard, a reluctant hero. Thomas Covenant, to me, was not lovable either. He was a big whiner. Being a whiner is okay in a story, if it changes, but Covenant whined until he died and then his girlfriend took over whining. The story was of larger scope than Covenant but the whining made him too unlikable.

A main character may be so flawed that they are not likable. Then the writer needs to have the faithful sidekick, the every woman that you and I feel we could be. Lane Robins handled this deftly with Maledicte. Her main character is tempestuous, jealous, vengeful and ridden by a god that darkens the soul.¬† Maledicte isn’t that likable but then there is Gilly, a human servant, a conflicted man who is just a man. No gods afflict him and he has no special powers. He is the simple unsung hero to Maledicte’s antihero.

Overall Maledicte is more successful as a book than Perfume when it comes to characters and making your reader care. At times I even care for Maledicte and, like any bastard who is the main character, Maledicte should change by the end of the story, and does. Grenouille never changes so that I did not care if he lived or died in the end. With Covenant, I was relieved when he died.

These three books have stuck in my memory, two becaue the characters weren’t likable and one because there was a sidekick who was. You might think this is okay then but Perfume had a unique world and I could never stomach another Donaldson book again. I tried but found the one book I tried had a character too much like Thomas Covenant. I couldn’t put up with any more “poor me” whiners through a complete series.

To have a likable character, whether faithful sidekick or lovable bastard is truly essential to almost all stories. There are exceptions but for a writer starting out, it’s a must. So here is to the lovable bastards out there; may they all have some redeeming qualities.

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Writing: Demise & Panic

In the writing world, whether mainstream or speculative writing, survival depends on sales. For some literary magazines put out through universities, grants and other funding are often delegated to be able to pay the writers. But still a magazine of any style hopes to have a high viewer rate and sell subscriptions, guaranteed revenue for the future. In the case of a university funded magazine, the funding might be cut if the subscription numbers go down.

With individual or private magazines, they are sometimes owned by companies or individuals. In all cases they need to make money to survive unless a rich person is altruistically funnelling money into a labor of love and though they hope to sell out, don’t have to, to keep going.

With the recent panic in the economic rivers, we see various businesses tossing themselves on the banks, gasping for survival, their eyes goggling about and seeing little. In some cases the rivers are still flowing but a ripple has moved through, frightening everyone to make for land before the drought hits. Hmm, it makes me wonder. Is there a need to hunker down, to cut staff, to close offices or is it all anticipation of the worst, and that anticipation is what brings about the apocalypse?

Well, whatever the case, it’s hitting the speculative writing world as well. Realms of Fantasy has just announced that their April 2009 issue will be the last. http://sfscope.com/2009/01/realms-of-fantasy-closing.html¬†I’ve always wondered how all the little paper magazines survived, and have suspected (but have no basis in fact) that sales were never great. The era of the great pulp magazine is truly gone, those sales were dependent on a relatively untried format and genre, the mass marketing of such and more successful when TV was infantile and the internet not even a spark in Daddy Gates’ eye.

Of course, if you’re running a magazine in the US and you¬†sell to 10% of the people, that’s still a respectable number, compared to 10% of Canada’s population (one reason why a writer always wants to sell in the US first). So in some ways the speculative/SF/fantasy markets are hurting as well. Fantasy and Science Fiction has also announced that they’re going quarterly from monthly.

For us little writers it does mean that pickings will be slimmer, especially for the still generic brand writer. Alas. What to do? Well, as I have seen over the years, magazines come and go, publishers consolidate, shrink and grow. Everything is in a constant flux and publishing is an incestuous business with houses often changing hands, being swapped for a better fit. So it goes. I’ll just continue to write and submit.

I’ve also finally fired myself up and started writing on my novel again. Not hugely productive but productive nonetheless. The only way I can keep myself from being distracted is going off to cafes and restaurants and spending some money to sit there and write on my laptop. Luckily I work well with ambient noise. If I’m at home I fritter away the time on all sorts of things, never quite getting to that novel.

I started again two weeks ago and have about 8,000 words. To make it feel like I’m actually accomplishing something I’m writing through one viewpoint character’s chapters¬† before going back to do the other two. It means I’ll have to smooth over the chapter transitions but then this is first draft. I’m not worrying too much about perfection at this point, but just writing and getting the story down. It feels good to be moving ahead. I’m into the second chapter of one of my antagonists.

By the time I finish the book and am looking at marketing it to publishers, maybe things will be more stable. Maybe they’ll want a book that takes place on another planet that deals with economic, political and religious downfall. It might echo this world, but if it does, it’s not intentional. In the meantime I will watch the markets and continue to submit. Really, every few years there is a culling and if one can just find another stream, we’ll survive (So I used all sorts of metaphors here. What the heck, I’m not being paid for this.)

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Book Review: The Very Bloody Marys

Very Bloody Marys

Very Bloody Marys

I’ve owed M. Christian this review for a very long time and since it’s not timely with the release (2007 by Haworth Positronic Press), then why not a review in time for that holiday shopping list? And a huge mea culpa–I didn’t realize it had been that long. I still owe you.

From the title you might think this is about drinking, or murderous monarchs. If you thought one of these, you’re close to the heart of the matter. But really it’s both, about bloodthirsty vampire queens. Some are not so much queen as just murderous gay vampires. If you’re familiar with M. Christian’s work, you know he’s a prolific writer, and his writing includes erotic tales straight, gay, lesbian, etc. He’s very versatile. So I confess to thinking this book would be about gay vampires with¬† a lot of erotica thrown in. Though it has sensuous details this is more the tale of a gay vampire trying to gain experience as a detective. It’s a murder mystery with the supernatural thrown in.

While vampire detectives are not necessarily new, a gay vampire detective is. Valentino is thrust into the crime scene on a personal level, since his mentor is missing. And the crime scene: Vespa scooting vampires are killing the folks of San Francisco and risking the outing of all vampires, who tend to live by a code so that they aren’t hunted down. Coupled with mentor Pogue’s disappearance, Valentino has two mysteries to figure out.

The book opens with three different beginnings as Valentino tries on his authorial voice. This sets the tone, and gives this character high twinkiness. Valentino is a flamer, vapid and vain. The character was so irritating and flittythat I nearly put the book down, but his way in the world was intriguing. I think M. Christian might have cut it down a bit but then I realized there is a good reason about a quarter of the way into the book on why Valentino is acting this way. He comes to discover what’s been done to him and his personality deepens as it’s unlayered.

Valentino relies on other supernatural help and Christian’s writing uses some very descriptive phrases. For being an undead guy, Valentino is vibrantly alive and given to over verbosity that doesn’t stop in describing his zombie driver: “One time–big shudder here–I had caught a look at his eyes, two puss-filled boiled-egg eyes staring, unblinking, straight ahead, and didn’t sleep well for a week.” Of course that should be pus-filled not eyes with cats in them, but I blame the publisher for not putting a proofreader on it or maybe they did and missed it. There are very few typos, which is a good thing.

You get a good sense of Valentino’s world as he sees it. “Finally, the Brass Ass of the Great Emancipator (Abraham Lincoln) led me through silverfish heaven to a narrow doorway between the piles…In it was Saul, tarnished silver hair, rainbow sweater unwinding in spots into primary colors, brittle bones showing where unwinding yarn couldn’t hide it, eyes like bleached robin’s eggs, Indian blanket in his lap hiding the bones I knew weren’t just brittle but also didn’t work, and, because of those legs, an ancient wheelchair.”It took me a moment to realize he meant realbones, not bony legs; the visual setting is very concrete.

Much of Valentino’s descriptions go into overdrive, with buckets of adjectives. They hit their height when he’s talking about his lover, Julian. “Oh oh oh Julian Julian Julian–beloved, adored, venerated companion, compadre, mate, playmate, partner, betrothed, idol, best friend, love, lover–oh oh oh Julian Julian Julian…” A bit much? Yes, but then this is the turning point for Valentino.

Events pick up with dire and catastrophic discoveries. I don’t want to give it away but let’s just say the Very Bloody Marys are brutal, relentless, sociopathic, fashion sensitive vampires. As the fog clears from Valentino’s eyes he finds his world isn’t as he suspected. Sure it still has a few supernatural beings but all is not what it seems. He still richly describes things but there is a darker vein now to the vampire detective’s perspective. “The inky blackness didn’t so much as run as steadily walk out of that doorway. A pooling, a billowing, a smoking, and then up and into arms and legs and a wide-brimmed hat pulled down over hooded eyes.”

When¬† Valentino runs into Ombre, even the supernatural shade notices something has changed though the gay vampire tries to hide it. “It’s just that you seem different somehow. The flippancy is still there, that much is clear, but it’s like something else is missing.”

And Valentino has changed on several levels. In the process of discovering what has happened to Pogue, being threatened with permanent annihilation and in stopping the brutal gang, he earns his wings. He solves the mysteries, stops the Marys and finally grows up a bit after 200 years. M. Christian wraps up the tale in a very satisfying and unpredictable way. It’s one of the many bright spots in the story; very little is predictable. You won’t see this as another tired take on the vampire trope. It’s refreshingly bright and if not a complete happy ending, one with suitable revenge.

If you’re looking for a good, fast paced read, or if you like¬†mystery or fantasy or gay fiction. Or if you just want something different and new, this book will be as satisfying as a vampire’s first drink of blood.

The Very Bloody Marys, M. Christian, 2007 Haworth Press Inc. ISBN: 9781560235354

M. Christian’s site: http://zobop.blogspot.com/

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Writing: Advice on Getting Published

A little while ago someone asked me:

¬†I am here desirous to find a faithful publisher for my book…. What useful counsel can you give to me.

I’m not sure what is meant by faithful publisher but finding a publisher is a mixture of you wanting them and them wanting you. There are literally thousands of publishers. There are some that publish all types and genres and others that specialize. So the first thing to do is figure out if your book is a how-to, a biography, history, fantasy, romance, literary, sports, spiritual, etc.

Once you know who your reading audience is, you can then research publishers. Writer’s Digestputs out a series of books on markets. They’re specific, such as, literary markets, short story markets, romance markets, etc. These books give good information on how to write a query letter, which is the first step to what to include in your submission package. Some publishers only want a query letter. Others want a letter, a synopsis and the first three chapters. Some only want agented submissions, which means you must go through the process of querying agents first. It’s best to read up on what the publisher wants first. They received hundreds of manuscripts and someone who hasn’t bothered to research the market and sends something in the wrong format or way is likely to piss off an editor and have their manuscript tossed.

Writer’s Digest also lists publishers and markets, giving short descriptions, addresses and editor names. It’s good to read up on the advice and then to start submitting. It’s important to make sure you submit your manuscripts in the proper format, which in most cases is double spaced text, no extra space between paragraphs, regular font and size, no right justification, word count, page numbering and name. There is enough information out there that tells you what to send and what not to.

Outlines by chapter, or synopses also¬†are often required so make sure they’re laid out well and contain what is the main action/point of each chapter. Taking courses or workshopping manuscripts as well as outlines is not a bad idea. And of course, making sure your manuscript is polished and free of as many grammatical and spelling errors as possible does improve your chances.

Besides researching the right publisher for your manuscript, it’s not a bad idea to check the legitimacy and publishing record of a publisher. Find out what they’ve published and do internet searches both on the publisher name and the book titles they’ve put out. There are vanity presses that charge you to put everything together. Your chances of making a profit are small. There are print on demand publishers that will work out a deal for self-publishing but depending on how they’re set up, you will need to figure out how to advertise and distribute your book. Unless you know what you’re doing, you could have some very expensive doorstops and going with established well known publishers with marketing departments and established distribution is worth it’s weight in gold.

I once edited a book for a friend who was writing a guide on places to walk your dog. He did his own layout and found a printer. Then he found a local book rep who would market it to the bookstores and see to distribution through a local book distributor. That worked well but the book was locally focused. In most cases you’re going to want national distribution if you hope to make any money or sell your book.

Then all you have to do is keep submitting your book to publishers until they bite. Sometimes they’ll ask to see a few chapters, and then they may ask to see a full manuscript. This process can take months. Expect the average of three months before seeing a reply to even a query. It’s best to send out query letters to many publishers at once. Persevere. Like writing it takes work to get published and some is just the persistence of sending out your manuscript until you hit the right publisher at the right time.

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