Kris Rusch on Non-Compete Clauses

Anyone who’s ever considered tradpubbing a book really needs to read Kris’s Business post this week on non-compete clauses.

Some choice quotes:

If you sign any version of a non-compete clause, you will never be a full-time professional writer. Writing will not be your career. Something else will, and you will write on the side for the rest of your life.

I know of at least two mystery writers who need their publisher’s permission to put up a blog post. I know of several more who have had to get a document granting them blanket permission from their fiction publisher to write nonfiction.

Your current publisher might not enforce that clause; the publisher/business your current publisher sells out to might enforce the clause, and make you pay damages for anything you’ve previously published after you signed the contract (and ignored the clause).

Interested yet? Good. Go read it. Seriously, this is important. :/

Angie

2016 Anthology Workshop

It’s been over two weeks since I got back from the Anthology Workshop. I meant to do a write-up about it before this, but I caught some kind of crud on the flight home (best as I can tell, looking at the likely incubation period) and I’ve only just gotten over the hacking and sniffling. I hate trying to sleep when my sinuses are clogged up; I think the sleep deprivation is worse than the actual hacking and sniffling. 😛

Anyway. Great workshop as always. I only sold one story (an SF mystery to John Helfers for an anthology called No Humans Allowed,) but I had a great time anyway, and learned a lot. I had a chance to talk to a bunch of folks, get to know some new people and some people who’ve been around, but we just never had a chance to really sit down and chat before.

The whiteboard John built his TOC on. My story’s on the right, in darker marker; it was a “Hold” at first, and he decided to add it at the end, when he was filling in stories to make his wordcount.

We wrote stories ahead of time, as always. About 45 attendees wrote about 250 stories, totalling 1.1 million words of fiction. The reading was like a tidal wave, seriously. We’re supposed to be learning to read like editors — who definitely do not read every word of every story that’s submitted — but it’s hard when you’re dealing with quality this high. If this were open-submission slush, most stories could be rejected after a paragraph of two. That’s not the case here. This is a pro-level, invite-only workshop, and people who attend are ridiculously good at this stuff.

Six of the editors — John Helfers, Kerrie Hughes, Kris Rusch, Mark Leslie (aka Mark the Kobo Guy), Kevin Anderson and Rebecca Moesta — had established books they were reading for. We got guidelines for one book per week we were writing, and had a week (or a bit less) to write a story in accordance with the guidelines and get it in. Dean Smith was the odd guy out this year; he read all the stories and had to put together an anthology out of the ones the six other editors didn’t choose, coming up with a set of stories that created some kind of theme as he went. He ended up with a bunch of stories on the theme of Hard Choices, and he had to fight a few of the other editors for some of those stories.

It was fun to watch. 🙂 If the editor for whom a story was specifically written doesn’t want it, any other editor who thinks it’d fit their book really well can steal it. All the editors with established books had dibs over poor Dean, who often found himself wanting a story, but standing in line behind two or even three other people. By the time he put his TOC together on the last day, he say the process had been a lot harder than he’d expected. I definitely wouldn’t want to have to do it, although watching him do it was educational.

Most of the workshop was spent watching and listening as the editors went through the stories one by one, evaluating, disagreeing, arguing. There were a lot of WTF?? expressions scattered through the week as one or more editors loved a story that one or more other editors hated. Discussion got pretty heated once or twice. In the middle of all of this, Kris reminded us that this was because the stories were all very good. If this were a beginner workshop, where all or most of the attendees were still learning how to write, the editors would all agree. Obvious flaws would stick out to everyone. In this group, everyone can write, so the disagreements and arguments were all a matter of individual editors’ taste. Even the common disagreements that sounded like craft issues — like Kris and Dean insisting that a lot of stories had “no setting” (since they’re both really aware of setting) while John and Kerrie often loved those stories and thought they had just the right amount of setting, or that the characters and plot were so interesting they hadn’t noticed or didn’t care that there wasn’t much setting — were really matters of taste. There are readers like Kris and Dean, and there are readers like John and Kerrie.

And that’s the point. Just because one editor, or even five editors, rejects your story, that doesn’t mean it sucks. It might just mean it wasn’t to that editor’s (or those editors’) taste. Keep trying. Some of my stories that didn’t sell would’ve sold to one of the other editors if they’d been editing that particular volume. Which is the point. Keep going. Too many writers get a rejection or three, decide the story sucks and stop sending it out. Don’t do that!

As we’ve done before, we had sign-up lunches in small groups with most of the editors, and a few other subject matter experts, like Christy Fifield, who writes fun cozy mysteries, and is a hotel Controller in her day job; she’s a great source of info for finance and accounting and such. We also had an audio expert, and someone who writes comics for major publishers, for folks who are interested in that. I went out with John, Dean and Christy, and had a great time with each of them, and the other writers who signed up to go with.

Other days we grabbed lunch with whoever was available, and there’s plenty of talent in the room and lots of brains to pick. Dinner was also chaotic in a fun way, and I hung with a lot of different people at various times. Sometimes it’s fun sticking with a few friends — I usually do that at SF conventions, that sort of thing — but at this kind of event, the more people you can hang out with and get to know, the better. The networking at these events is worth the workshop fee all by itself.

Allyson, the Publisher at WMG, announced that they’re starting up a companion line of anthologies called Fiction River Presents. These will be reprints of stories that’ve already been in Fiction River, remixed in various ways. Fiction River is starting its fourth year now, and a lot of people only heard about it recently. Doing the reprint volumes is a good way of giving folks different mixes of stories, so if one theme from the past didn’t appeal to you, maybe another will and you’ll see some stories you’d have otherwise missed.

From the WMG site: “Appropriately, the first volume, Debut Writers’ Showcase, commemorates first sales by up-and-coming authors. Future volumes will revolve around themes such as family, thrillers, offbeat stories, and Readers’ Choice.”

My first professional sale was “Staying Afloat” in How to Save the World, and that story will be in the Showcase volume.

Othere random bits I noted down during the workshop:

Short fiction is an entryway to your work for people who’ve never read any of your other stuff.

Anthologies are an exception to BookBub’s one-book-per-author-at-any-one-time rule. you can only have one novel up at a time, but you can have multiple multi-author anthologies, or a novel and an anthology, or whatever combination.

If you’re looking to build up your sales ranking on sites like Amazon, advertise sales on multiple sites in succession rather than all at once. Start with BookBub and then go through others week by week. BookBub will raise your book up the ranks, and the smaller lists will keep it up there.

A workshop attendee who writes romances puts out a new short story each month. He makes it free on his blog for a week, with a buy button on the page. He sells a few during the free week, then when the story comes off of free, sales shoot up. He sells the e-books for $2.99 and paperbacks for $5.99, and he gets bookstore/warehouse sales; he sees batches of 10-15 of the paperbacks selling. He does this once a month, and now makes a third of his income off of short fiction this way.

“Free” is the most popular search term on Kobo, always, no matter what else is going on or what hot book’s been released.

Writers are generally pretty awful at writing our author bios. I’ll admit I hate doing it, and the standard one I use isn’t great. An author bio should talk about your writing. It doesn’t matter that you have five cats unless there are cats prominently in your work. It doesn’t matter that you like to garden or knit unless your characters are gardening, or some detail about historical knitting is a plot point in your story. What do you write? What have you published? Have you won any awards? Or been nominated? Made any significant bestseller lists? When writing your author bio, remember — not too long, not too short, not too modest. Most of us seem to have a problem with that last bit. 😛

If your story is set during a big, horrific event, it’s hard to get your readers to hang on to it. If you deal with it head-on, it’s better to deal with a smaller part and make it representative of the larger events, with a close emotional grab. Trying to deal with the whole, sweeping thing will probably require a lot of tell-tell-tell narrative, which can get boring. Keep the reader down IN the events, focused on a representative character. Also, use little details, like in the middle of a huge event that’s caused shootings or protests or whatever, there are going to be closed streets. Have your characters deal with that, to make the larger events have an impact on their lives in a given moment.

Make your manuscript readable. Small fonts are bad. Courier is iffy.

Make sure your name and the page number are in the header of every page, because some editors still print things out to read. If they drop a stack of pages, or they go for coffee and the printer spits the pages for a dozen stories all over the floor, the editor’s not going to bother to play literary archaeologist to figure out which pages belong to your story and what order they go in.

Give your story a significant file name. Some markets call out file name formats, in which case follow that. But if a market doesn’t specify, don’t call it “Story.doc” or “Fantasy.doc” or whatever.

Story titles should be memorable. On the one hand, that means that calling something “Aftermath” or “The Game” or “Conflict” probably isn’t a great idea because that kind of title doesn’t call a particular story to mind. On the other hand, words and names in your title should be reasonably familiar and pronounceable. You want readers to be able to talk about your story to their friends, and editors to be able to remember your title when thinking about their up-coming book or issue, or when talking with their staff. They can’t do that if they can’t remember or pronounce your alien name, or your transliterated Arabic phrase. Put the linguistic fireworks in the story, not in the title.

First person can be very distancing because the reader is NOT the person doing whatever

There’s a convention of a type of mystery fiction by people who don’t know police procedure perfectly and that’s fine. You’re just aiming for a different audience of readers than the folks who are experts on procedure and make that a major focus of the narrative.

Put something in the body of the e-mail when you sub a story, or even just edits. Blank e-mails with just an attachment end up in the spam filter. Also, you’re trying to foster a relationship with the editor, so say hi, looking forward to working with you, something. Not a Christmas letter, but a line or two.

If a published story gets picked up for a reprint, gets into a Year’s Best, nominated for an award, whatever, let the original editor know. They might want to use it in their marketing, and even if they don’t, it’s a fuzzy to them too, just to hear about it.

If you’re writing about one of a series of events, what’s special about this occurrence, this character? Why are you writing about this particular one and not the previous one, or the next one, or the first one? Let the reader know why this person/thing/occurrence has a story written about it.

We were talking in the workshop about the layoffs at Random Penguin, which happened while we were there. Someone there who knows people at PRH said that Nora Roberts’s editor was one of the people layed off, which… seriously? How could anyone with more than two brain cells to rub together for mutual warmth argue that that particular editor wasn’t pulling in enough money for the business to justify their salary?? o_O So when word came out about a week later that Ms. Roberts had taken a hike up the road to St. Martins, I wasn’t at all surprised. That was a ridiculously expensive round of layoffs for Random Penguin; I’m sure someone was called to explain WTF they were thinking, or will be when the company start to feel the lack of Ms. Roberts’s sales in their bottom line.

We had a funny thing happen on the way home. I rode back to Portland with Lyn, who was driving, and Laura. We stopped at Laura’s hotel to drop her off, and ran into Brenda in the parking lot. Brenda had dropped Michele off at the airport and decided, spur of the moment, to stay at that hotel herself. Lyn had planned to drive farther before stopping, but with two other writers from the workshop there, she decided what the heck, that she’d stay there too, so she ran in to get a room. I think she and Laura ended up sharing. I had a room at another hotel a couple miles away, and was having dinner there that night with a writer friend who lives in Portland. Under other circumstances, though, it would’ve been pretty awesome to have one more “workshop” night at the hotel. Or better yet, if they’d all been in mine — it’s the hotel I always stay at when I’m flying out of Portland, and my husband got a great deal on a suite. I had a for-real suite, with a main room and a separate bedroom, and my main room had a full size dining table and six chairs. We could’ve stayed up for hours gabbing. 🙂 Maybe next year.

I had a great conversation with Amelia, and a decent flight home the next morning. I came down with the creeping crud a couple of days later, but the trip itself went wonderfully well. I’m already signed up for next year, and there’s still space. If you write short fiction, the Anthology Workshop is an awesome experience, and one I can’t recommend strongly enough.

Thanks to Dean and Allyson for organizing the event, all the editors for helping make it happen, and all the attendees for making it rock. So long as they keep throwing these workshops, I’ll keep going.

Angie

Cover Design

Chip Kidd has been doing book cover design for Knopf for about twenty-five years, and has done some awesome work. He discusses it, with illustrations, in this TED talk, which is well worth a watch, whether you do your own covers or hire other people to do them for you. Knowing what a good cover looks like, and what the possibilities are, is massively helpful when it’s time to decide whether or not the person you’re paying is doing a good job for you.

Note that Mr. Kidd has the unfortunately common Major Attitude toward e-books. [sigh] I wish people would just get over the whole, “But-but-but the smell of a book!!!” thing already. 😛 As someone who prefers paper books, it’s embarassing how some folks who (unfortunately) share my preference get all sneering and snarky about it. Dude, it’s a format. You’re allowed to prefer whichever one you like. No reason to insult the other format, and by extension, all the customers who like it. I mean, seriously, do these people really think that if they just slather on the snark thick enough, often enough, the rest of the world will eventually smack its collective forehead and exclaim, “Wow, you’re right! This whole e-book thing was a horrible idea! Let’s just stop making them and go back to good old (smelly) paper!”

That one annoying quirk aside, Mr. Kidd is a incredibly talented designer. If you have anything to do with making book covers, whether putting them together yourself, or approving and paying for the work of others, give this a watch.

Angie

How to Get a Reprint Offer

So, back in December, I got an e-mail from John Joseph Adams, one of the better known anthology editors in SFF. He’d read my story “Staying Afloat,” and wanted to know if he could have reprint rights for a climate fiction (CliFi) anthology coming out in 2015. I said “Heck yeah!” and we made a deal. The project was confidential for a while, but it’s been announced, so I can talk about it now.

The word rate was good (twice what I’ve seen at a lot of reprint markets, plus potential royalties if the book sells well) and the contract is author friendly. What’s important here, though, is that at the time Mr. Adams wrote to me, I had one (1) science fiction story in print — this one. I was as much of a nobody as you can be while still being published in the genre, but my story came to the attention of a prominent editor. I had someone (who had plenty of options to choose from — check out the TOC below) find me, and write to offer me money, out of the blue.

The take-away here is that you don’t have to be famous or even well known to get subsidiary rights offers, but you do have to be findable. Dean talks about this periodically, about how you don’t need an agent to get sub rights offers, but you need to have a very findable home online, with an obvious way to contact you. Whatever name you write under, that name needs to be easily found, and — no matter how much you hate spam — you need to have an e-mail address out there that folks who want to offer you money can use.

Don’t wait until you’ve “made it” or are “established,” or until you have a “reasonable” number of stories published, or until you’ve had some award nominations, or whatever bar you think you have to clear before anyone will be interested in offering you money and/or work. If you have a single story published, it can happen. Don’t sabotage your own career by hiding.

And now for the book:

This is the definitive collection of climate fiction from John Joseph Adams, the acclaimed editor of The Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy and Wastelands. These provocative stories explore our present and speculate about all of our tomorrows through terrifying struggle, and hope.

Join the bestselling authors Margaret Atwood, Paolo Bacigalupi, Nancy Kress, Kim Stanley Robinson, Jim Shepard, and over twenty others as they presciently explore the greatest threat to our future.

This is a collection that will challenge readers to look at the world they live in as if for the first time.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

o Shooting the Apocalypse—Paolo Bacigalupi
o The Myth of Rain—Seanan McGuire
o Outer Rims—Toiya Kristen Finley
o Kheldyu—Karl Schroeder
o The Snows of Yesteryear—Jean-Louis Trudel
o A Hundred Hundred Daisies—Nancy Kress
o The Rainy Season—Tobias S. Buckell
o The Netherlands Lives With Water—Jim Shepard
o The Precedent—Sean McMullen
o Hot Sky—Robert Silverberg
o That Creeping Sensation—Alan Dean Foster
o Truth or Consequences—Kim Stanley Robinson
o Entanglement—Vandana Singh
o Staying Afloat—Angela Penrose
o Eighth Wonder—Chris Bachelder
o Eagle—Gregory Benford
o Outliers—Nicole Feldringer
o Quiet Town—Jason Gurley
o The Day It All Ended—Charlie Jane Anders
o The Smog Society—Chen Qiufan (translated by Ken Liu & Carmen Yiling Yan)
o Racing the Tide—Craig DeLancey
o Mutant Stag at Horn Creek—Sarah Castle
o Hot Rods—Cat Sparks
o The Tamarisk Hunter—Paolo Bacigalupi
o Mitigation—Tobias Buckell & Karl Schroeder
o Time Capsule Found on the Dead Planet—Margaret Atwood
AFTERWORD: Science Scarier Than Fiction—Ramez Naam

PRE-ORDER THE BOOK:

Amazon | Kindle
B&N | Nook
Other Retailers

Workshop Stuff

I went kind of radio silent for a few weeks there — sorry about that. I have things to post about, but I’m not going to dump it all at once. First is the Anthology Workshop I went to from late February through the first week in March. Great stuff as always. Anyone who has any interest in writing short fiction should try to get into one of these workshops some year. I think the 2016 Anthology Workshop still has space, or at least it’s not marked as full yet. Click through and scroll down.

For anyone going “Huh?” right now, the Anthology Workshop is an intense week-and-a-bit on the Oregon coast with about forty writers and half a dozen editors. We get six anthology assignments ahead of time — submission guidelines, like you’d see for any anthology — starting right after the first of the year. Each assignment has a deadline a week away, and then we get the next one, boom-boom-boom, six stories due on six successive Sundays. You’re not required to write for every book — you can pick the ones you want — but why wouldn’t you? This is a great opportunity to submit work and then listen to a bunch of editors arguing over your stories. Oh, and possibly make some sales to Fiction River, as a nice bonus to eight days of learning.

Most of the workshop days are devoted to going over stories, one book’s worth per day. They start at one end of the row of editors at the front of the room, and each editor says whether they’d have bought the story or not, and why or why not. The last editor is the one (or occasionally a pair, editing a book as a team) who’s actually buying stories for the live anthology. There’s a white board for each book, where BUY and MAYBE stories are listed, along with author and wordcount. Sometimes all the editors agree one way or the other, but usually not. The discussions back and forth between editors of differing opinions can be entertaining, and are always educational. That’s really what it’s all about — seeing how and why different professional editors can and do disagree over a story, occasionally with snark or sarcasm involved. When we’re done with all the stories, the editor(s) look at how many BUY stories they have, and if there isn’t enough wordcount, they go through the MAYBE stories to finish building the TOC. Watching them do this is another great educational opportunity.

So each day, the editors go over one book’s worth of stories. I always write for all the books, and so do a lot of the other attendees. Before this year, if a story was passed up, we were encouraged to sub it to some other pro market right away, but this time we were told not to. Good thing, too.

The six books we wrote for were, in scheduled publication order:

Hidden in Crime, edited by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, a historical crime volume
Visions of the Apocalypse, edited by John Helfers, a book of stories taking place during (not just before or after) the end of the world
Last Stand, edited by Dean Wesley Smith and Felicia Fredlund, stories about characters making a final stand, and no, it’s not all they-died-in-the-end stories 🙂
Superpowers, edited by Rebecca Moesta, a YA anthology about teenagers learning to cope with some kind of super power
Haunted, edited by Kerrie Hughes, an anthology of haunting stories
Pulse Pounders: Adrenaline, edited by Kevin J. Anderson, a book of short thrillers

Click through and scroll down a bit to see the up-coming anthology covers. Last I heard, they’re planning to find new art for the Last Stand book, but the others are pretty set except for names on the covers.

I initially sold a story to Haunted, which is cool; I’ve worked with Kerrie before and am looking forward to working with her again. I missed with John’s Apocalypse book, which was disappointing; I’ve sold stories to him the last two years, but this time I didn’t quite hit what he was looking for. Dean hated my story for Last Stand, but Felicia liked it a lot. I honestly wasn’t expecting to make it in there, but after going over all the stories, they did some horse trading between themselves and Dean got one he wanted that Felicia hadn’t really cared for, and Felicia got mine. 🙂 Kris teetered a bit on mine, but it didn’t quite make it, which was disappointing, but I’ve never sold her anything before, so I was almost expecting it. Then on the last workshop day, she announced that someone not in the workshop who’d been invited to submit to the book, and who’d wanted a 10K word space saved for them, couldn’t submit something after all, leaving Kris with a 10K word hole. She bought two extra stories after all, one of them mine, woot!

Now this year, there was an extra person sitting up front with the editors. Mark Leslie Lefebvre, AKA Mark the Kobo guy, was a student in the workshop last year. He stepped in and offered some Kobo support when a couple of editors had more stories they Really Really Wanted to buy, but which they didn’t have room/budget for. Two of last year’s volumes have special Kobo editions with three more stories in them, which is awesome, so thanks to Mark for that. But this year, Mark was sitting up front. Huh?

Okay, there had to be a reason. Last year, there was some talk about how, if the special Kobo editions were a success and sold well, they might do special editions of all the books this year. But as days went by, they weren’t buying extra stories, and there was no mention of a Kobo edition. Huh. But there was Mark up there, doing the Yes-Maybe-No thing with all the stories. My guess was that he was doing a stealth book, his own anthology, and I was right. 🙂 They went through all the stories that Mark or one (or more) of the other editors had loved, but either didn’t have room in their book, or it was a story for someone else’s book that didn’t get bought. We had a whiteboard for each book (Dean and company screwed each day’s board up onto the wall somewhere in the room after that day’s workshop was over) and then Mark had a couple more where he assembled his picks, plus all the unbought picks from the other editors. Hashmarks showed which stories had a lot of love from the editors, even if the one it was written for didn’t buy it. That last round of TOC building was great, especially for the folks who got last minute surprise buys.

There’s some great stuff in there, stories I’d have bought if I’d been one of the editors. The book’s not on the Fiction River site, but they were calling it Editors’ Cut at the workshop. Fiction River doesn’t always stick to just one genre in each volume, but Mark’s book will have more variety than usual. Should be great for anyone who just loves short fiction.

Like last year, we had sign-ups to eat lunch with the editors and Allyson (the publisher of WMG), and I went out with a few people. And there were great discussions in, around, and after workshop sessions. Some notes:

If you love a trope that nobody’s writing anymore, other people will love it too, so write it to fill that hole. This is especially an opportunity for folks indie publishing — don’t let New York tell you Horror is dead, or Westerns, or romantic vampires, or kids finding weird objects while playing, or whatever you’re into.

Past a certain level of craftsmanship, whether a story sells or not isn’t really about quality, it’s about taste. Don’t let a rejection, or a bunch of rejections, discourage you. If you’re pretty sure a story is well written, keep subbing it, or indie publish it.

If you’re doing a punch story, a short story with a quick hit at the end, do a double-punch — two hits in quick succession — to make it even more powerful.

When you’re writing for submission, readability is key. No 10pt fonts, no weird fonts, don’t try to be “special.” Try to be readable. If the editor notices your formatting, you blew it.

Define what “success” means to you before you plan a promo campaign. You have to know what you want so you can tell if your campaign was successful and worth the resources you put into it.

80% of people who download a free book won’t read it.

You need at least 3-5 books in a series for perma-free on the first book to be of any benefit. (And there’s some disagreement about whether perma-free is ever a good idea. Temporary free promotions might be better.)

Amazon categories — use Fiction, General and Fiction, [Genre] as your two categories. Then your keywords will get you into other categories under those. There are a bazillion categories under Fiction, General that you can only get in through Fiction, General plus keywords

When you sub to a literary market, don’t label the story by genre in your cover letter, and don’t note genre credits. For literary markets, no previous credits are better than genre credits.

Never use the term “self-published” — use small press, independently published, etc. The stigma is still there, so don’t get it on you.

A good title will sell a story before you’ve even written it (in tradpub). It’ll also sell a story to readers.

Stories about the everyday tragedies of human life need to rise above the everyday tragedies of human life. They’re realistic, but a reader needs more of a reason to read about that particular one. Usually it’s not something anyone outside the main character’s family and friends would care about. [Writer]’s story worked because their character was heroic and had a humorous thread in their voice about what was going on with them. Also, you need to balance the tragic event with being an entertainer. The reader has to want to read that story — they’ll want to read it because it’s entertaining. What about the story and the characters makes the reader want to hang with them, especially since most people aren’t keen to spend time with their own family and friends who are horribly sick, or whatever, much less a stranger?

To transcend the horrible mundanity, maybe the character does something different, something heroic. Or the story could have an awesome voice.

If you’re editing an anthology, or putting together a collection of your own short work, the gut-wrenchingly emotional story should be at the end, or maybe in the middle, but most definitely not right up in the beginning.

When building your TOC, figure about 1/3 of readers will read the book front to back, in order.

Don’t start a story with the character’s first and last name — nametag opening. It has to be up front quick, but not the first two words.

Kris’s technique for analyzing someone else’s book/story — Take a book you never want to read again, underline setting words with a different color for each sense. Then go through and color each word for how it supports the story, setting or character or plot. The idea is to load the technique into your head so it filters to your subconscious and five stories [of your own] later you’ll start using it when you write. It’s not deliberate; it comes out of the subconscious as you write.

Dean’s technique — Take a book and type the opening in your manuscript format to get the feel for what the writer was doing word-by-word. You’ll start realizing what the writer is doing and how they do it.

Whenever you get comments about too many details, it’s always the writer putting the setting details in (the writer’s narrative voice) rather than filtering it all through the POV character’s opinion. Everything should be filtered through the character, which makes the words build character as well as setting. If you feed setting in through the POV character, readers won’t notice all the setting coming in; it reads very quickly.

If anyone notices your setting in the beginning, you fucked up.

Don’t use a series name in the title of a story in an anthology because too many people will see that it’s a series story and skip it.

Stories are circles, and the end has to reflect back on the beginning. If an ending isn’t working, it’s probably because there’s a problem with the beginning, or because the ending doesn’t reflect on the beginning.

On a crime story being resolved — the reader needs to know who committed the crime and that the story is over. A mystery/crime story puts order onto chaos. If the story is noir, the reader needs to know that order will never be imposed on the chaos. If it’s not a mystery per se, they might not catch the crook, but in any case the reader needs to have that info.

This isn’t everything, but it’s most of what I had in my Notes file on my laptop. This is an awesome workshop, and I’d be taking it even if I never sold anything. In fact, the first time I went, the anthologies weren’t “live,” and nobody sold anything; we were all there for the learning. This is a wonderful experience, and I highly recommend it to anyone with any interest in publishing short fiction.

Angie

How We Got Here

Camille Laguire just did a great post on the recent history of publishing that’s worth a read for any writer, and curious readers. Those of us who are old enough remember when you could often find a dozen different books by a favorite midlister on the shelves of a bookstore, and when there were book racks everywhere — every department store and variety store and convenience store and hardware store and grocery store and half the gas stations sold new books, even if it was just a spinner rack, and each store had a different selection. That’s all gone now, and Camille talks about why, and what the ramifications have been. She’s focusing on the mystery genre, but the events she discusses affected the entire fiction market.

Definitely worth a read — recommended.

Angie

Great Kickstarter Advice

A band called the Doubleclicks ran a ridiculously successful Kickstarter campaign in February (over $80K funded of an $18K goal) and wrote up a great — if long, but long is good for this sort of thing — article on how to do it. Good stuff, go read it. Thanks to John Scalzi for the link.

One thing I’ve always wondered about was the stretch goal thing. You know, how we’re asking for $20K, but if we reach $25K we’ll send everyone who backs us a free T-shirt or something? So you’ve basically got $5K to spend on T-shirts. That sounds like a lot, but what if you have a lot of people each making small contributions, rather than a smaller number of people each giving more? That’s the same amount of money but more shirts owed. What about postage? What about packaging? What if you actually take in $100K, which sounds awesome but if that’s another 10K people you have to send T-shirts to, plus whatever higher-level stretch goal premiums you promised…?

Clearly there’s a way of making this work — the whole cost + packaging + shipping thing probably explains why things like wallpapers are so popular as stretch goal premiums — but just as clearly some people don’t think about the details when they design their campaign. The Doubleclicks suggest very thoroughly spreadsheeting everything before you take step one of putting your campaign up. Smart advice; everyone should do it.

Another interesting point was that you need to look at how many active fans you have — people who already know you, like your work, and who are regularly in touch through a newsletter or your web site or Twitter or whatever you use. That number is a key factor in how much money you can realistically ask for. People who are already popular will be able to raise more money. People who are just starting out and have no friends outside their mother and their office mate at the day job will have a much harder time. Again, it makes sense, but some people seem to think Kickstarter is a magic pot of money that they just have to reach out and take. The Doubleclicks talk about how to analyze the size of your existing network, compare it with successful campaigns run by people in your business and the size of their networks at the time their campaign started, and figure out about how much you can realistically hope to get. Math is good when you’re dealing with money.

There’s a lot of great info here — if you’ve ever thought of doing a crowdfunding campaign, or might some day, go check it out.

Angie

Who Owns the Selfie?

So this monkey stole a wildlife photographer’s camera, dashed away with it and took a bunch of pictures, including this really great selfie.

The story went around about three years ago (and I missed it somehow) but more recently David Slater, the photographer whose camera was swiped, requested Wikipedia to take the photo down, that it was violating his copyright. Wikipedia said no, it doesn’t, the photo is in the public domain because a monkey took it.

According to David Post,

If the monkey took the photo — and Slater is himself the source of the story that the monkey snapped the photo using his (Slater’s) camera — nobody owns the copyright; nonhumans cannot own copyright (or, as far as I know, personal property of any kind). Slater has no copyright claim, because the photo was not his original work – it was the monkey’s. But monkeys can’t own copyright. Furnishing the monkey with a camera no more gives him a copyright claim in the work than Microsoft’s furnishing me with a word processing program gives them copyright in what I write.

It makes sense to me. If, say, a friend of mine sees something awesome happening right that minute and grabs my camera to take a picture, do I own the copyright to that picture? I wouldn’t think so. If he ends up selling the photo for $10K, I might want to have a discussion about rental of the camera [cough] but I wouldn’t expect to argue over actual ownership of the copyright.

What do you think?

Thanks to Passive Guy for the link.

Angie

Getting Your Book into the Anthology Listing

Some people have been writing to me, asking if I’d include this or that anthology in my monthly listing. I love hearing about new anthologies, but I often have to decline to list someone’s book, so I thought it’d help if I talked about how I choose anthologies to list.

This list started out as a file on my computer, just for me. I’d run across an interesting anthology, but I’d forget about it, or not remember until after the deadline had passed, or not remember the name of the book and not be able to find it again, so I started copying down relevant info, and listed them by due date. Then I figured that if the list was useful for me, it might be useful for others, so I might as well share it, and I started posting it.

Because of this origin, the listing is still based on what I’m interested in, with one or two grandfathered points, and one or two expansion points based on the interests of people I know who read my blogs. So frex., I started out subbing to semi-pro markets, as well as pro, and I still list (some of) them, even though I don’t sub there myself anymore. And I started out only listing anthos in genres and subgenres I write in myself, but then I started listing Cthulu-based books for Charles, and I put in a Wu-Xia book for Winnie, etc., and finally opened it up to all fiction genres. So here’s what I have now:

1. Pay rate. In order to be included on my listing, an anthology has to pay more than a penny per word, which is the rock-bottom semi-pro rate. For anthos that offer a flat payment, some significant percentage of the wordcount range has to work out to more than a penny per word. I don’t write for peanut shells, and don’t want to encourage my friends to do so either, so I don’t list markets that pay peanut shells, or nothing at all. Note that if you don’t state your pay rate on your guidelines, I’ll assume you’re paying nothing. I don’t list royalty-split books, because with an anthology (especially by an unknown editor who can only afford to pay a royalty split) that usually means the editor sends everyone a check for a dollar-twelve every six months, which isn’t worth anyone’s time. I’ll occasionally make an exception to the No Non-Paying Books rule for a charity anthology if I like the charity, but not often. This requirement is the number one reason why I’ve had to turn down requests to list.

2. Demographic restrictions. Some markets have restrictions on who can submit. For example, a lot of Canadian markets which receive subsidies from their government have to publish all or mostly Canadian writers. That’s fair, but I’m not Canadian, so I don’t list these markets. Some anthologies recently have only been open to women; I’m a woman, so if it’s otherwise interesting and the pay is decent, I’ll list those. I’ve seen some where they only want stories from Asian writers, or Black woman writers; I don’t qualify for those, so I don’t list them. Note that if an editor wrote me and asked if I’d list their book, which is open to only, say, gay Latino writers, if it otherwise qualified then I’d probably list it. I won’t list it on my own if I don’t qualify to write for it, but if you ask, I’ll add it.

3. Professionalism. If a book’s guidelines or web site has what I consider red flags, I won’t list it. If the editor falls all over themself to reassure everyone that they’re Not Charging A Fee! to publish your story, that tells me they’re a newbie at this, and coming from the wrong end of the business to boot; I’m not going to recommend writers submit to that book. If they want exclusive rights for an unreasonable amount of time, or subsidiary rights they don’t need (seriously, movie rights? [eyeroll]) then I won’t list that book. If the web site is riddled with copyedit errors, or the text is dark red on a black background, or the artwork is hideous, I’ll assume that’s what the finished anthology is going to look like too, and won’t list the book.

4. General skeeviness. If, in my sole determination, the book sounds like it’s going to be something I’d be ashamed to have my name in for reasons of skeeviness, then I won’t list it. Frex., I ran across an anthology a while back whose primary theme seemed to be based on resurrecting the old pulp era trend of fetishizing, exoticizing or otherwise twisting non-European cultures for purposes of pointing and staring and maybe some sneering. The pay was good, but in the 21st century we really should be beyond that crap, so I didn’t list it.

5. The hassle factor. Does the editor/publisher make it easy to find info about the anthology? If there’s no one page that I can link to where all the info can be found (or maybe two if the book sounds otherwise stellar); if the editor/publisher didn’t put up a page at all, just sent a note around to a few friends so they could post it on their blogs, but there’s no official site for the anthology itself; if it’s going to take too long to scrape together all the info from various sites and pages, I just won’t bother. Seriously, if an editor/publisher can’t get organized enough to put all the vital stats in one place and post it online, are they organized enough to put a book together, get it published, handle the marketing, and pay everyone on time? If you want folks to submit, get all your ducks in a row and then put them on one web/blog page.

6. Up to date info. This applies mainly to books that will remain open to submissions until they’re filled, rather than having a firm deadline. I’ll list an Until Filled book for a maximum of one year, at which point I’ll take it off the list. I check the guidelines page each month to make sure it’s still open before I post it in that month’s listing. Note that I am not going to go on an Easter egg hunt through the editor or publisher’s web site, looking for recent news. Everyone who bookmarks that page or publicizes the antho with a link to that page is going to be looking at that page. There should be an update posted prominently on that page if the book closes, or is cancelled, or acquires a firm deadline, or if anything else a writer needs to know changes, even if it’s just a “NEW INFO!” note with a link to the page where the lengthier update is posted.

Taking all that into account, I’ll list any anthology that looks interesting. I post about two months’ worth at a time, based on deadline. So the post that goes up in August (somewhere between the 10th and 15th) will list books with deadlines between 31 August and 1 November. That limitation is to keep the list manageable. Most books with a firm deadline are on the list for two months, occasionally three depending on the exact due date. I figure two months is enough time for someone serious about subbing to write a story that fits.

If you’re editing or publishing an anthology with open submissions, and you think your book will match my requirements, please do write me at angiebenedetti at gmail dot com, with all the info and a link to your guidelines page, or even just a title and a link, and I’ll be happy to help get the word out.

Angie