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.


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


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.


Workshop and Sales and Business

So the first chunk of the year was pretty hectic, and I’m just getting back to normal. I wrote six stories in six weeks starting in early January, for Dean and Kris’s anthology workshop. The way this works is, there are six professional editors, each editing an anthology that’ll be brought out as part of the Fiction River line. Writers who’ve signed up get guidelines (book title, length requirements, theme, sometimes more info depending on the editor) and deadlines. The deadlines were one per week for six weeks, each Sunday, midnight Pacific time, no late subs accepted, no excuses, period. A lot more students got all six stories in than any of the instructors expected, although considering how Dean pounds the pulpit of getting your butt in the seat and your hands on the keyboard and doing the work, about how writing faster means spending more time writing not just typing faster, of how to make it as a pro you need a good work ethic (see previous about spending more time writing), I’m not sure why they were surprised. :) Personally, I was kind of afraid to sub fewer than six stories and then show my face at the workshop, so I didn’t. Anyway.

The workshop was pretty awesome, although hectic. We all read all the subbed stories, which totalled about 250. So between writing for six weeks, then frantically reading up to and through most of the workshop, I did very little else for the first two months and change of this year. Once we were all settled in Lincoln City and got rolling, the way it worked was that the editors sat up at the front of the room, with the students in rows, sort of like a college classroom, but with rectangular two-person tables instead of those awful little desk-chair things. Lots of laptops and notebooks for taking notes.

We did one book per day. All the editors commented on each story, with the editor who was actually editing the book going last. Other editors either pretended they were editing that particular anthology, or in Kris’s case she pretended she was still editing F&SF, and in Dean’s case he pretended he was still editing Pulphouse Magazine. They went through the stories one at a time, each editor saying whether they read all the way through and why or why not, whether the story hit any of their reader cookies or anti-cookies[1], and whether they’d buy it. The final (actual) editor did the same, but if they said “Buy” they actually were making an offer. Or sometimes they held a story to the end, then looked over all the held stories and made final buy/no-buy decisions while building their TOC on the white board in front of the class. That’s always fun to watch, and instructive.

The point of having all the editors talking about all the stories is to show us that editors disagree. I think we all know this on an intellectual level, but still, there’s a strong tendency in Writerland to assume that because a story gets a form rejection right off the bat, the story must suck. Some writers send a story out once or twice and never again, convinced it’s garbage because it didn’t get bought right away, or because it only got form rejections. (Kris, a bestselling writer, an award winner in multiple genres, got three form rejections just that week. Which is a pretty rude thing for an editor to do to a name writer, but still, it happens to everyone.)

Actually seeing the editors not only disagreeing but actively arguing with one another makes quite an impact, though. Three editors tried to convince Dean to buy the story I’d written for his book. They failed, but they all (including Dean) were pretty sure I’d sell it somewhere else. (It’s sitting in an SF magazine editor’s queue as I type.) Three editors tried to convince Kris to buy the story I wrote for her book. They failed, but again, everyone agreed it’d probably sell. (And it’s sitting in a mystery magazine editor’s queue.) People were still needling Dean about the story of mine that he’d passed up days later. Kris said they’d talked about it at home while they were reading submissions, but she couldn’t convince him, and neither could all three professional editors when they ganged up on him in class.

Now, all this was a wonderful balm for my disappointment at not making this or that sale, but the point is that three professional editors would have bought that story if they were the one editing that particular anthology. We all know that different editors produce different anthologies, that two editors doing similar books with the same or similar themes will put together books that feel different, have a different theme or a different point of view, and therefore a different list of stories. We all know that. But seeing it playing out in front of you, sometimes with raised voices or pointed jokes or annoyed scowls or incredulous expressions? That makes you feel it, not just know it, and I think that after watching the editors arguing over stories one is less likely to think, Yeah, I know a lot of stories just had to find the right editor after fifty submissions, but MY story sucks.

Watching an editor narrow their holds down to the final roster is instructive as well. I imagine most of us have had the experience of being told in a rejection letter, “I had enough great stories for four books, but unfortunately I can only publish one,” or something similar. It’s easy to think, Yeah, but my story wasn’t quite great enough, or maybe, The editor’s just being nice, letting me down easy. But actually watching an editor agonize over the decisions makes it clear that this is hard. One of the editors, I thought she was about to start crying a number of times, and particularly when she was letting down people whose held stories didn’t quite make it.

One difference I noticed from last year was that there weren’t as many invites. Last year each book was at least half full by the time the workshop convened. Name writers were invited to submit, presumably to get some names on the covers that’d help sell the books. (How to Save the World, the book I sold a story to, has David Gerrold and Laura Resnick on the cover, among others.) That makes sense; anthologies are a tough sell anyway, and it’s clear why Kris and Dean, as the series editors and owners of the publishing company behind Fiction River, would want to give their new anthology series the best launch possible. I was expecting the same thing this year, actually, but there were very few invites this time.

Which isn’t to say there won’t be any “names” in the books. Aside from Kris and Dean, who write stories for all the anthologies, Lisa Silverthorne and Ron Collins are regulars at the anthology workshop; their names regularly appear on the covers of SF magazines. And I spent the workshop week sitting next to Cat Rambo. (I managed not to ever fangirl her, because I am not a complete dork one hundred percent of the time. [cough]) But they reported that the series is doing better than they’d expected, reviews have been good, and they’re gearing up for more publicity and some experimentation.

One of the experiments came about during one of the aforementioned sessions of agonizing over the final buy list on a book. There were three more stories Kevin Anderson, who’s editing Pulse Pounders — basically a collection of short thriller type stories — wanted to buy, but he didn’t have the budget. Mark LeFevre, the Kobo Writing Life guy, was also attending the workshop. He cornered Kevin, Kris and Dean during a break and made an offer on behalf of Kobo to help fund the three extra stories for a special expanded Kobo edition of the book. There’ll be an expanded edition of Kris’s book too, Past Crimes, a collection of historical mysteries. He was actually willing to do Kobo special editions of all the books, but Kris and Dean want to start slowly, with the two books that they think have the widest audience. The reasoning is that because this is something new, they want to give it the best chance to succeed. If they do special editions of all the books and some don’t sell well, it might be taken as a failure of the expanded edition concept, rather than just the individual books selling slowly. They want to give the concept the best chance to succeed, so it can become a thing that other editors/publishers and other e-book vendors would consider doing.

Another new thing is that they’re filling and scheduling books a lot farther out, so that they can get ARCs done and available in time to send them out to the major review sites the requisite 5-8 months in advance. For that reason, the two books I sold stories to won’t be out until 2015.

Oh, right, I sold a couple of stories. :) John Helfers, who bought my story for How to Save the World last year, is editing a book called Recycled Pulp this year. It’s a cool idea — he created a bunch of ultra-pulpy sounding titles, and we had to write modern, non-pulpy stories that fit the titles. Each writer who wanted to sub for that book sent in three numbers between 1 and 250, and we got back three of the titles off the list. We could write to whichever title we wanted. My story is called “The Crypt of the Metal Ghouls,” and it was a lot of fun to write.

Kerrie Hughes is editing Alchemy and Steam, which is pretty much what it says on the tin. Kerrie really likes alchemy — it’s one of her reader cookies — and she wanted stories that were a blend of alchemy and steampunk. I wrote a story called “The Rites of Zosimos,” with plot points based on some actual concepts a Greek alchemist named Zosimos of Panopolis wrote about. She liked it a lot and it’ll be fun working with her. And I think I might get a series out of the setting/characters. [ponder]

Alchemy and Steam is scheduled for April of 2015, and Recycled Pulp is scheduled for December of 2015.

And I might have some work lined up for later this year — more info 1) when/if it happens, and 2) when I can talk about it. There’s awesome networking at these workshops, though.

Random notes from the workshop discussions, both during the week around stories and on the last day when we did break-out sessions with experts in various areas:

Kris told some stories about crazy-ass things writers do to get an editor’s attention. Everyone’s heard the story of the guy who sent his manuscript in a pizza box, with a pizza in it, right? With a note saying something like, “Thought you’d enjoy a snack while you read…?” I heard that online back in the 80s. Well, Kris had a better one. When she was editing F&SF, she’d head down to the Post Office regularly to pick up bins of mail, and she got a note to go pick something up at the window. The Postmaster came up holding an envelope dangling at arm’s length. The envelope was black and covered with actual (not fake) cobwebs, and had actual dead spiders glued to it. O_O The Postmaster asked her, “Do you want this?” Kris sort of stared at it and said, “No.” Postmaster said, “Good,” and went to throw it away. Seriously, who thinks that kind of thing is a good idea?

Writers are usually wrong about what genre their story is. If you have something out in submission or indie pubbed that’s not selling, and you’re pretty sure it’s a good, well-written story, that might be why. Have a few people read it cold, then ask them what genre they think it is. You might be sending it to the wrong editors, or have it tagged as the wrong genre/subgenre at the vendor sites. Genre is a marketing tool, so if you mess that up, everything else about your marketing of that story collapses.

Ever notice how SF in books and magazines is such a tiny genre compared with SF in movies and TV shows? SF is huge everywhere except in the books and magazines where it begain. Originally, SF stories all had basically the same endings — science triumphed and the good guys always won. Then in the seventies, SF sort of collectively decided to go all literary, and a story could have pretty much any ending, including negative or depressing or bleak ones. Genre readers like knowing approximately how the story is going to end, though, so SF has lost a lot of readers, both people deciding they didn’t like the new stuff and leaving, and older readers dying without being replaced by new readers. (I can confirm that the attendees at SF conventions centered on book/magazine fiction are greying; I’m probably on the low end of average age at most of those cons, and I’m 50. Whereas media SF conventions and comic book conventions are full of kids in their teens and twenties.) Literary fans expect their endings to be variable, so they read literary and like it. Most SF fans, though, expect science to triumph and the good guys to win, and since the seventies, fewer stories delivered that. So most SF fans watch the movies and TV shows but don’t read the books or magazines. Most fans of book/magazine SF don’t consider the TV/movie fans to be “real” SF fans, but come on, seriously? [sigh] There are still stories with that kind of ending, but you’re not guaranteed to find one if you pick an SF book at random off the shelf. In trying to be literary, SF is slowly strangling itself. (I’ve heard discussions on the convention side that in a generation or two, the traditional, fan-run convention for people who read SF will vanish as its attendees — and the people running the conventions — age and die. Same thing, from the readers’ perspective instead of the writers’.) The take-away from this discussion, IMO, is that if you want to build a good fan base with your SF, and attract younger readers, write stories where science triumphs and the good guys win. Or if that’s not what you’re into, that’s fine but be aware that your reader pool is shrinking.

Genre is moving toward being an author name rather than a traditional genre category. (Dean is pulling all his different genres, written under a pile of pseuds, most of whom nobody knows are him, back under his Dean Wesley Smith name.) You can make this work, especially going indie, but it’ll take longer to build your reader base if you’re writing all over the genre map. Although in reality, if you do want to write across various genres, it’s going to take you a while anyway. It takes a certain number of books/stories — individual titles — to hit a tipping point where your discoverability starts fueling itself. This number, which seems to be between 25 and 50, depending on a lot of factors including luck, is per genre/name. So if you write SF/F, romance and thrillers, for example, it’ll take 25-50 titles in each genre to get your sales and visibility in that genre to take off, if you’re publishing under three names. It’s looking like publishing three different genres all under one name doesn’t change that very much; a lot of readers still read only one genre, although that’s slowly changing.

(Related story — I was talking to a writer friend who knew a third writer who was complaining that his career hadn’t taken off, his sales were abysmal, he needed an agent because he had to have the career help. [sigh] I poked around and saw that he had three pen names, each with one book published. [headdesk] Well, no wonder he hadn’t taken off! Three books under one name would still make him a newbie and almost invisible so far as the readers are concerned. The way he’s been doing it, though, from the POV of the readers he’s three newbie writers, each of whom has only one book out. No wonder readers hadn’t noticed him. Same thing, though — visibility is about volume, about having enough titles out there that readers have a chance of tripping over one and then finding the rest.)

Speaking about short fiction, once an editor starts buying your stuff, show some loyalty to that editor. If you sell an SF story to a magazine, send that magazine all your SF stories first, give that editor first refusal on your stuff. Particularly if you’re writing a series, always send new stories in that series to the same editor who’s been buying the series. Offering a series story first to someone else, a different magazine or an anthology, is rude and unprofessional.

When you set up your business account for your writing income (you did that, right? especially if you’re indie pubbing?) refuse overdraft protection. If someone hacks your account and overdraws it by a few thousand, the bank will be happy to give them that money, then not only charge you that amount but also the overdraft fee.

Be careful about (book) contracts from British publishers, which are reportedly even worse than book contracts from American publishers.

John saw a contract which said that if the copyright laws changed in any way in the future, you automatically agree to it, in perpetuity. It’s unenforcable, but would still be a pain to deal with.

Some setting details are what Kris calls phony setting. So frex., if you say your characters are in “a renovated church,” each reader is going to have a different image in their head, which are all probably going to be different from the image in your head. Actually describe the setting so the picture in the reader’s head is at least close to the one in your own. That prevents sudden jolts later on when you refer to something that doesn’t at all match what the reader was imagining.

The Cricket magazines (which pay wonderfully well) have a horrible contract, but if you tell them you can’t sign it, they’ll send you the good one.

Hard fantasy is like hard SF, but the fantasy is the tech — it’s explained, works consistently, and has the nuts-and-bolts feel that hard SF has, if the world actually worked on magic. (I actually write a lot of hard fantasy and didn’t know it. :) )

We talked some about how Audible was lowering its royalty from 50% to 40%. Dean says that’s a good thing because their business model is sustainable now. Also, they’re dropping the dollar per sale that they paid directly to the writers — circumventing the publisher — whenever an audiobook was sold. They did that to force the publishers to clean up their accounting. A writer who got $X whenever they sold X audiobooks knew that they’d better see X audiobook sales on their royalty statement from their publisher. I wish the e-book vendors would/could do something similar and force the publishers to clean up their e-book accounting the same way.

We talked some about manuscript formatting, and how italics has replaced underlining in modern manuscript formats. Although if a market still demands paper submissions, assume they’re also old-fashioned in their formatting, and use underlines.

The choice to quit the day job and go completely freelance is usually made at a point of crisis — a lost job, frex. — rather than because a reasoned decision has been made. Start thinking about what you’d do and how you’d do it. What if you lose your job next month? And can’t find another one in a month or two or six? Do you know how to gear up to get your writing paying more of the bills, or any of the bills? Having some idea of what to do and how to do it if you have to transition over to full time writing Right Now will make a horribly stressful life roll a little easier.

If/when you do go full time, cut expenses as much as you can. Protect your writing time; that’s what pays the bills. If you’re selling regularly, a cleaning lady can be a good investment. If you make $30/hour or $50/hour on your writing, it’s totally worth it to pay someone $15-$20/hour to wash dishes and vacuum and do laundry. Also mowing the lawn, pruning the trees, cleaning the pool, whatever. Protect the writing, and spend that protected time writing.

Don’t let the publishing overrun the writing; one suggestion is to set aside one day per week for doing your publishing work, formatting and covers and uploading and updating the accounting. The rest of the time, write. New words of fiction. Research isn’t writing, outlining isn’t writing, editing isn’t writing. Marketing/promo is most definitely not writing. (One of the worst things you can do is write and publish one book and then spend the next year on marketing and promo. Don’t do that. Write the next book. And the next and the next.)

One way to protect your writing time is to stay organized. Checklists are good. So are systems you can implement over and over again. Have a long-term plan so you know what you want to accomplish (including non-writing tasks, like learning to do covers, learning to format POD paperbacks, setting up and starting to collect sign-ups for a newsletter, learn/implement a more comprehensive business accounting system, take a class — larger one-time goals you want to hit) and in what order you want to do them. That way, when you find you have time/money for a larger task, you can look on your list and see what’s next, rather than have to dither around, doing “research” and making the decision over again every time it comes up. Your goals and ordered list can change, if there’s a reason, but making that list in the first place is part of your long-term planning.

Have similar plans month-to-month. List deadlines for any trad-pub books or stories you’re doing, plus goals for finishing writing on Book C, formatting on Book B, a cover for book A and uploading it to vendors P, Q and R. Monthly goals should be realistic, based on how much time and/or money you have to spend, but treating it like a business with goals and deadlines makes it that much more likely things will get done. (No, I’m not this organized yet myself.)

Schedule time to learn stuff. There’s a lot to learn if you’re going freelance, especially if you’re indie pubbing. The learning is going to take time, so plan that into your schedule. Protect the writing, but make learning something that’ll help your business a strong second priority.

You need at least 15-20 titles up, per pseudonym, before it’s worthwhile to do any marketing. (Yes, there’s a pattern here.)

Whew. That’s just hilights from what I wrote down in a notes file. There was a lot more, and I absolutely got my money’s worth. I felt the same last year when I only sold one story, and the year before when I sold none. This is an awesome workshop, and Dean is taking sign-ups for next year right now. The workshops on the coast are invitation only, but you can write to Dean and ask for an invitation. Explain your experience and your goals, and why you want to attend. I had no pro-level sales when I wrote and asked for an invite, and I got into the anthology workshop that year. It’s doable, and it’s absolutely worthwhile.

Angie, getting back into the groove

[1] A reader cookie is something you just love to see in a piece of fiction. If you’re really into Cthulu stories, then that’s a reader cookie for you. If you love stories about soldiers, or cyberpunk, or grumpy protagonists, those are reader cookies. Something you seriously dislike, bad enough that it might prevent you from enjoying a story, might even prevent you from reading the story, is an anti-cookie. If you really hate stories with a child protag, or a lot of car-mechanic-jargon-babble, or spiders, then that’s an anti-cookie. Sending an editor a story full of that individual’s anti-cookies means the story will probably be rejected, no matter how good it might otherwise be. Unless it’s absolutely stupendously fabulous in every other way.

New Release — Captive Magic [Updated]

Captive Magic releases today, and is available at the Torquere site. UPDATE: It’s currently available on Amazon, Amazon UK, ARe, Rainbow eBooks, Smashwords (with a 38-page sample), and Bookstrand. No B&N or Kobo yet, and the paperback isn’t up yet at all.

Also, to go along with the new novel release, all my older books on the Torquere site are 20% off. This is a great time to catch up on the Sentinel series, or anything else you might’ve missed.

I love new release days. 😀


February Stuff

I’ve been on the Oregon coast for the last week and a half, doing two workshops back-to-back. It was a grueling experience, as the single workshop I did last year was. And it was awesome, and I’ll definitely be doing it again. I got lots of writing done, and I SOLD A STORY!! Which got the all-caps treatment because it’s my first professional sale, as in more than five cents per word, holy freaking yay!!! 😀

I’m going to have a story in Fiction River’s anthology How to Save the World, edited by John Helfers. (Scroll down a bit — it’s the second book.) Holy sheep, I’m gonna be in a book with David Gerrold!

I’ve been trying to break into mainstream SF/F for ages, so this is a huge deal for me. I’m still getting this really silly grin on my face whenever I think about it, so I beg pardon of anyone who sees me and thinks o_O about my state of mind. :)

I wrote almost 29K words in February, which is good — I’m still well ahead of quota for making my 2013 goal. My wordcount meter says I’m at 27%, so I’m where I was hoping to be at about a week into April. That’s great; I love having padding on my quota. I was hoping for more in February (January was over 35K) but there were several days when I was in the workshop and frantically reading rather than writing. I count those days well spent, though. I also killed my streak, but I was anticipating that, too. No prob; doing an Oregon workshop is one of the better reasons I can think of for having days with no actual writing.

The workshops I did were The Business and Craft of Short Fiction, and the Anthology Workshop. The Antho Workshop is a repeat for me; it’s worth doing over and over, and many writers do. I took a ton of notes, especially at the first one, and learned a lot of stuff I didn’t know before, which is the point. (Wow, a story that’s in a continually extended option with Hollywood can make you a buttload of money, even if they never make the movie!) Great info; it’s going to take a while to absorb it all.

Currently I’m sitting in a hotel room in Portland; I have a flight home at 2:30. I’ll do some writing today, then fall into bed (ten hours last night, still not caught up) and my next Thing To Go To is a dentist’s appointment on Thursday.

Oh, yeah, didn’t blog about that before. :/ So on Wednesday two weeks ago, Jim and I were having dinner at this little cafe across the street. They have these really good ice cream sandwiches — two chocolate chip cookies, made in-house, with in-house ice cream in the middle, then freeze the whole thing. So I was eating my ice cream sandwich when one of my crowns (upper incisor) snapped off at the gum line. :( Luckily I had a root canal before they put the crown on, so it didn’t hurt; I was just damn startled, and then all ACK!! when I realized what’d happened. And that I was getting on a plane Saturday morning to go to the workshops. [headdesk]

I went to my dentist the next morning and they put in a very fragile, non-functional, temporary tooth-like object, cemented to the teeth to either side on the back. I was warned not to bite anything, and not even to brush. And when your dentist tells you not to brush, you know your fragile dental work is FRAGILE. I was very careful, but it was a bit wiggly within about 24 hours. I had some vague hope that it’d last at least until the second workshop, but no luck; it came out just a bit over three days after having been installed. So I’ve been going just over a week now with this huge gap in my front teeth, and talking a little funny.

I feel like I’m seven again. 😛

Anyway, this is fixable, although it’s going to be expensive. Civil Service has notoriously lousy dental insurance, and the Pacific Northwest has notoriously expensive dental care, for whatever reason. So the bill for an implant is going to be very large, and our insurance isn’t picking up a dollar of it. This is our tentatively planned cruise for this year, going into my mouth.

I just hope my other crowns last longer. At least I know to stay away from the Market Cafe’s ice cream sandwiches; that was the most expensive dessert I’ve ever eaten, by a couple of orders of magnitude.


New Contracts and a Sale

I just sent back the contract for Emerging Magic, the full length sequel to A Hidden Magic. At the same time, I signed a contract for a paperback edition of A Hidden Magic, which is awesome. :) I’ve been hoping for a paperback for a long time; I’m looking forward to signing a copy and handing it to my mom. I’m also interested to see whether there are any differences in the process, from my POV, for a paperback. I don’t know whether Torquere does paper galleys, frex.; I never had a reason to ask before. I’ll find out now.

Hidden Magic took almost exactly six months from acceptance to publication, and Emerging Magic is about 50% longer, so I imagine it’ll take at least six months. At least it’s in the pipeline, though. I haven’t had anything new out in a while and I’m looking forward to getting back into it.

While I’m on the subject, Amazon has two of my books at 20% off:

A Hidden Magic is $5.59
A Spirit of Vengeance is $3.43

I have no idea how long these prices will last, but if you’ve been thinking of getting one or both, this is a good time.


A Sale and a Freebie

Torquere is the featured publisher over on Rainbow eBooks this weekend, so all their books there are 20% off, including my urban fantasy A Hidden Magic.

Also, the holiday story fest put on by the M/M Romance group on Goodreads — the event for which I wrote “The Gift” — is wrapping up with an e-book anthology of all the stories written for the event. The book is called Stuff My Stocking, and it’s a free download on Goodreads. Lots of fun stuff there.

September Stuff

Still in the writing rut. :/

2 submissions = 2 pts.
3654 words written = 0 pts. [hides under keyboard]
12,800 words edited = 2 pts.
TOTAL = 4 pts. which is extremely disappointing

If one of the subbed stories had been 2200 words longer, I’d have gotten another point for the pre-sub clean-up edit — I need to write longer. 😛 Of course if I’d written more, I’d have gotten some writing points too, so….

Koala Challenge 4

I got an acceptance on one of the stories I subbed in August, though, so that’s cool. It was for Torquere’s Halloween Sip Blitz (short Halloween stories released in a bunch, sort of like an anthology only not all in one book). It’s another Cal-and-Aubrey story, the characters who starred in “Unfinished Business” and were supporting characters in A Hidden Magic. They’re great guys and their character dynamic together is a hoot; I love writing about them. :)

Earlier in September, my husband and I went on a late-anniversary trip (the rates were better a couple of weeks after the actual anniversary, and I’m not sentimental enough to insist on spending more money for the same trip just because of the date) to San Francisco. I’d planned on blogging about it at the time, or shortly after getting home, like I did last year, but the first four or five days were a total disaster. My, umm, natural cycles hit about ten minutes after we checked into our room, and it was a killer. I haven’t had that bad a time since I was on the depakote, which messed with me something awful — known possible side effect, and I hit the side effect jackpot with that particular prescription. Then just as that was slowing down to the point where I could consider maybe leaving the hotel the next day, my husband (who’d been going out by himself, bringing food back periodically, and generally leaving me alone to cuss and wish for menopause) came back with some wrap sandwiches from this little Mediterranean place. He got me a chicken wrap, and the chicken was a bit dry, but I didn’t think much of it. About five hours later I had a case of raging food poisoning. :(

That took another couple of days of vacation time.

Once I was a few minutes’ walk from death’s door, we went out and had a some fun. We went to the same dim sum place we went to last year, and the food was just as good. Then we walked up to the Museum of the African Diaspora, which is small but has some cool exhibits. We watched a film about Celia Cruz, the Cuban salsa singer. I’m not really into music much, so I’d never heard of her, but the film was very good, interesting even if it’s not one’s style of music. They had some computerized displays with touch-screen monitors in the walls, about different kinds of foods from Africa, and another set about personal adornment, showing native styles of clothing, jewelry, makeup, hairdos, piercings, pretty much anything, and each style morphed into a style you see today in the modern West, to show descent. I hadn’t thought about that, specifically, matching up modern American styles with traditional African influences, so that was interesting too.

We rode the trolley up to Castro and went to A Different Light. I got a bunch of books, and a couple were even on sale — half off, yay! I like e-books, but I really miss being able to just look and browse. Some of the e-book vendors have done a fair job duplicating the experience (and others need to put a lot more work into it) but there’s nothing like browsing actual books on shelves, you know? I’m not one for buying a lot of gew-gaws or souvenirs on vacation — I don’t hit all the fashion boutiques or the big department stores either — but I’ll usually drop some serious cash in bookstores, so I guess that makes up for it.

After the bookstore, we walked up a few blocks to a little cafe Jim had found online. The food was wonderful — I had a really excellent macaroni and cheese — but the chairs were horrible. They were the kind with the bars coming down from the back, diagonally to attach about a third of the way up either side of the seat. I’m sure that’s a fine style if you’re skinny, but if you’re fat it’s torture, and I’m not even kidding. It’s amazing how many restaurants have chairs like this; for places that sell food, and that make more money if their customers eat more, you’d think they’d want to encourage people to come and eat, and people who eat a lot to come often. Sorry, I was in serious pain well before we were finished, and I’m not going back there no matter how great the food was. :(

We took a formal tour on our second-to-last day there; the brochure advertised a bus tour of the city, lunch in Sausalito, and then a trip up to Muir Woods where we could walk around for a while. My Great-Aunt Angie took me on what sounded like almost the exact same bus tour (no Sausalito lunch stop) thirty-some years ago, and the woods had been beautiful, so I was enthusiastic about going again. Jim agreed, so we went. Turned out this one was different. On the tour I took with Aunty, we just drove around the city while the guide did his patter, which was interesting and enjoyable, and then we went to the woods. This time there were nine stops on the tour, seven of them in SF, and it seemed sometimes like we were stopping to get out every three blocks or so. Which would’ve been fine except it started early in the morning and it was cool and dewy (as San Francisco is) and the first stop let us out in a neighborhood street a few blocks from the top of Lombard Street, where we were going to walk down. Getting there, I brushed against some shrubs or something hanging out into the narrow sidewalks, and my leather sandal got wet. So, wet leather strap, swells a bit and roughens, then a long walk down a steep hill with the skin at the top of my foot rubbing against the edge of the wet, rough leather strap with every step. :( By the time we got to the bottom of the hill, I was way past blister — I had an open sore with a couple shreds of skin hanging off, and of course my sandal rubbed on it every time I took a step.

I really wanted to be able to walk around the woods, though, so I skipped about half the remaining stops — just stayed on the bus. It actually wasn’t bad; some of the stops, like Chinatown, were in places I’d been through just a year ago. And as a bonus, once we found a place to park, the driver — who’d been basically silent the whole trip so far — chatted with us and told us a bunch of stuff about Chinatown, which was where he’d grown up. That was pretty cool.

The Palace of Fine Arts is gorgeous, but you mostly go look at it for the outside architecture, and I could see that fine through the bus window. I got out at Grace Cathedral, because it’s beautiful and I haven’t been there since I was in college (I went with a couple of classmates for an art history project), and I looked at the sculpture garden outside the new DeYoung Museum, which was very, umm, modern, and I probably could’ve skipped that too without missing much. Lunch in Sausalito was nice, although we chose a place the tour guide recommended primarily for its speedy service, because you do not want to miss the bus on these tours. :) Then most of the tour folks caught the ferry back to San Francisco with our original guide, while the dozen or so of us going on to Muir Woods got into a smaller bus with a new guide.

If you’ve never been to Muir Woods, I highly recommend it if you ever get the chance because it’s gorgeous. Quiet and dim, huge redwoods, laurels, a little creek running down the middle of the valley… and we saw deer! :) I know that’s kind of a boring, everyday thing for some folks who read this, but it was pretty darned cool for us. The paths are fenced — low, wooden railings on either side — and you’re not supposed to go off the paths. The deer come amazingly close to the paths to feed; it seems like they’ve figured out that so long as they don’t get too close to the path, all the two-legged critters that walk up and down it won’t bother them. The first one, a large doe, was about ten yards or so away. The second, a really small deer our pamphlet said was full-grown, just small, was within about three yards of the path, perched on a big, fallen log and reaching up for leaves over its head. You couldn’t quite have bent over the railing and touched it, but it was pretty close to it. That was pretty amazing. 😀

The valley is narrow, and the path runs on either side of the creek, with a series of numbered bridges. Our guide said that up to bridge three, over to the other side and back was about a mile loop. Up to bridge four and back was two miles. Usually I’d have gone for bridge four, cane and all, but with my foot still torn up I thought bridge three was the more prudent walk, and that one worked fine. We didn’t hurry, and we still got back with plenty of time to spare before leaving; we sat on the railing in the middle of bridge one and just hung out in the quiet, listening to the water for a bit.

The bus took us back to Sausalito, where we took the ferry back to SF. The tour started and ended at the Ferry Terminal building, which is like a three minute walk from the front entrance of our hotel, so that was convenient both ways. At that point I just wanted to collapse and sleep, but I’d made arrangements to see a friend that night, so I took off my sandals and just sort of dozed for a bit.

I’ve known Karen since seventh grade homeroom. She took BART from Livermore, where she lives, to the Embarcadero stop which is about thirty seconds’ walk from our hotel. (It was worth delaying the trip a bit to get back into this hotel — great location. :) ) Karen isn’t a mass transit person, so it was something new for her, but everything went well, both coming over and going home later that evening. I put on my sneakers (lucky I packed two pairs of shoes!) and we went up to the Stinking Rose — the garlic restaurant we went up to last year) taking a cab instead of walking. The prime rib is just as big, and the garlic-cream swiss chard is just as awesome. We had something yummy for dessert, I don’t even remember what, then cabbed back to the hotel. Karen stuck around a bit to talk, then went home; Jim walked her down to the BART station, not only because it was late at night, but to make sure she got on the right train okay, and that all went fine.

The next day, we came home. We got to the airport, checked our baggage, and my pants split. [facepalm] Not the classic up-the-back, luckily, but just the fabric on one side high on the inner thigh. You know, where the fabric gets worn if you’re fat? It was uncomfortable but Jim assured me it didn’t show, so I just ignored it as best I could and we went on. The flight was uneventful, but I lost my pedometer in the cab on the way home from the airport. [headdesk] It’s like Murphy needed a couple of last pokes to remind me he was still on duty after a few good days. 😛

Between this and our last cruise, where I also got sick and sprained my foot, the universe owes us about a dozen completely perfect vacations, seriously, LOL! I’d have had a hard time writing about this in a story and making it sound believable, with one thing piling on top of another, on top of another, on top of another. I don’t think I’ll ever be that good a writer. :) Here’s to October being better. [crossed fingers]


Review of A Hidden Magic

The first review for A Hidden Magic has gone up — Lydia at Rainbow Reviews gave it 4.5 stars. 😀 She said:

All his life Rory has been different, hearing and seeing things no one else can. After he is attacked by Goblins, Rory is introduced to a whole new world, one he’s having a hard time accepting.

With this premise you know “A Hidden Magic,” the first book in Angela Benedetti’s new series Sentinels, is going to be a fun read. Loaded with just about every fantasy creature under the sun, the author sends the reader on an interesting, action packed, journey.

Other than magic, our heroes Paul and Rory really have very little in common. Yet, the author is able to convey a wealth of chemistry that, once Rory can overcome his confusion about his new reality, and an overbearing but well-meaning mother, will burn up the pages. Although Rory and Paul are the main characters, the secondary characters, Manny, Cal, Aubrey and even Azzy, are just as engaging and help move the story along. There are many small twists and turns in this story that will leave the reader intrigued.

The author has done an excellent job weaving a story that is sure to hold the reader’s attention until the last page. I was glad to see on the publisher’s site that this was the first book in a series and can’t wait to see what will happen next.

This is a wonderful review; I’m so glad Lydia enjoyed the book. [beam] This kind of commentary makes me want to get right back to work on the next novel in the series.

Angie, walking a few inches off the ground

PS — Fictionwise has A Hidden Magic for 15% off right now, $5.09 instead of $5.99. I guess it’s not up on the iBookstore yet? Anyway, I don’t know how long the discount will last, but I’m guessing not long.

New Release

I have a new story out, a short called Unfinished Business. It takes place right after A Hidden Magic wraps, focusing on a couple of supporting characters — master mage Aubrey and his apprentice Cal — and a bit of unfinished business left hanging after the novel was over. It’s short and fun and sexy; I just had to write it and let the boys finish what they’d been doing earlier. :)

Drawing: I’m hanging out on Torquere’s LiveJournal community today, playing host, talking about whatever comes to mind, and holding a drawing. For each of my posts you comment on today, you get a ticket in the drawing, and tomorrow I’ll pull a name and send the winner a $5 Torquere gift certificate.

Sale: It just happens that Torquere’s having a sale today and tomorrow. Enter “prejuly” in the coupon code box when you check out, and you’ll get 15% off your purchase. Add that to the fact of the backlist books’ prices going up on 1 July, and that makes these two days a really wonderful time to grab some bargains. Or to just have your five dollars go that much farther if you win the drawing. :)


From “Unfinished Business:”

After a morning of saving the world, apprentice mage Cal Toscani heads down and works a full day in his busy restaurant, because foiling the bad guy doesn’t pay the bills. After midnight, bruised and aching from the aforementioned foiling, and exhausted from a long day of work, Cal goes home hoping for a hot bath, a nice massage and some sex, not necessarily in that order. His lover and master, Aubrey Fletcher, unfortunately remembers that he’d given Cal a lesson that morning before everything got exciting, and he’s determined that Cal’s going to finish that lesson before anything else happens — yes, right now. Cal finds himself naked in bed, trying to figure out how to remove Aubrey’s spell, while a naked Aubrey does his best to be distracting. Cal’s pretty sure he’s going to explode long before he figures the damn thing out!


Cal grinned, tossed his jacket onto a chair, then spread his arms and did a slow rotation in place. “No orc bites!” he reported, his expression a parody of relief.

Aubrey just raised an eyebrow, then pointed at him and drew a twitchy little sigil Cal couldn’t quite catch before it was gone. An ominously familiar warm weight on either side of his head made him groan. Those damn ass’s ears again!

“Now?” he griped. “Come on, I just finished work, I’m tired, I want a shower and was kind of hoping for a nice massage and sex. Can’t we finish this tomorrow?”

His master crossed his arms and leaned against the doorway. “Do you think enemies–”

“–will wait until you’re rested and ready?” Cal chorused with him. “No, I know, but come on!”

Aubrey just stared at him.


One corner of Aubrey’s mouth twitched and his eyes twinkled up into Cal’s. “Maybe.” He uncrossed his arms and moved closer, leaning in until their bodies touched from chest to knees. “Maybe you need some incentive?”

Cal felt a hand slide between them and rub at his suddenly-interested cock. The hand moved away again immediately and he moaned in protest.

“You have six pairs of ears right now,” said Aubrey. His eyes were still twinkling and the old bastard sounded like he was having a grand time. “They’re quite colorful and rather cheery, but I’m assuming you want to get rid of them. For every pair you banish, I’ll escalate.” He lifted up on his toes for a moment and gave Cal a quick kiss, then backed away.


Read the Rest