Living the Dream??

Hello out there, if anyone is still reading.

I apologize for how negligent I have been with my blog updates; I’ve had a lot going on. Actually a lot. I’m not just making that up.

But in the mean time, magic has happened and I’m super excited to announce that I am going to be published! I am looking at a June/July release date… so start saving those pennies! I hope to have links up soon for e-book and paperback purchases. I am looking for sci-fi reviewers to take a look, so if you’re interested, please message me and I’ll hook you up with a review copy. I plan to write a retrospective on how this came about, for those who have been following since the beginning… I just need a moment to collect my thoughts. Please leave any questions/comments below and I will try to address them in my next post!

Cat

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Resource for SF Writers: Small Press Publishers

Greetings from the cold, wet prairies. No, I’m not happy about it either. It’s almost June, people, make with the sunshine already.

Now.

Today’s post is something that will hopefully be useful to my fellow first-time SF and Fantasy writers. To the unwashed (or is that just me?) and unpublished (perhaps the two are connected) masses of hopeful future novelists, I dedicate the following list. But first, a word from your fearless leader:

I’ve recently been looking into smaller publishers, and submitting my science fiction manuscript The Timekeepers’ War to them as well as to literary agencies. If I’m honest with myself, I really don’t want to publish with a small press. I, like all (commercial) writers, have big dreams of seeing my novel in grocery store checkout lanes, in airports, and every other random outlet for those trashy NYT Bestseller racks. I want to be able to make a living at this writing shtick. I’m not interested in winning some hoity-toity literary awards and only being read by intellectual assholes. I’m in it for the money.

Which makes me an idiot.

Because making decent money at writing is kind of the literary equivalent of winning the lottery. It’s a matter of luck, skill, talent, luck, and more luck. Just ask anyone who’s made it. It really kind of just happens. So I have my fingers crossed. And the “big dream” is one of the reasons I’m choosing to seek agent representation in the first place. I realize that a lot of writers do not go this route. They take on the massive burden of pimping themselves to the little guys, and do really well with it. Someday, that might be me. But hopefully, I can have someone do the dirty work for me, and I can just write. That’s what I want.

But, and there is always a “but”, even an agent can be hard to find. So I decided to start looking into the little guys just in case I don’t have the kind of luck required to land a massive multi-novel book deal. You know, just in case reality catches up with me and I find myself sobbing into my latte while I place my first order on Lulu.

And when I decided to look into small press publishers, I realized something. They’re frackin’ hard to find. There’s a bazillion of them out there, but just try to google that shit. Especially as a writer of genre fiction, it can be hard hours of slogging through website after website to find A) Publishers that accept Sci-Fi and B) Publshiers (even small ones) that are open to unsolicited submissions. Plus, most small presses have the life-expectancy of a fruit fly. So just when you thin you’ve hit the jackpot, and you find a list of small press publishers of science fiction—think again. At least half of those links will be rerouted to “buy this domain” websites, and also, strangely, mattress warehouses.

So, I’m going to give you a list of links I found that are still what they are supposed to be: someone to publish your awesome book. I can’t claim that this list will remain current for any specific period of time, but for those of you suffering through the process with me, it will work. Keep in mind that some submissions may be closed at the moment, but will be open later this year. So get your bookmarking fingers ready. Here it is:

Anarchy Books
Fairwood Press
Changeling Press for erotic fiction with sci-fi or fantasy themes
Mundania Press LLC
Old Earth Books
Arkham House Publishing
Necro Publications
for their SF, see Bedlam Press imprint
ChiZine Publications
Elder Signs Press
Sofawolf Press
accepts anthropomorphic fiction only
Tyrannosaurus Press
Edge/Tesseract Books

This list is by no means complete, but I have narrowed these 12 sites down from a list five times its length on The SF Site. I did the work so you don’t have to! I will like likely continue adding to it as I find more. In the meantime, if you want to continue your search, check out this site. I haven’t gone through all the links yet, but once I do I’ll post the good ones here. If you find, or if you are, a small press publisher that you would like to see on the list please let me know. I have purposely discluded those publishers whose websites state that they will be closed to submissions for longer than one year, as well as those who do not accept unsolicited or unagented manuscripts.

Just a quick note about small press publishing. Most small presses offer a higher percentage of net book sales to their authors, which is great! They also tend to have a higher staff:author ratio, so it can be easier to get more personalized service from them. Another great thing about small presses is that they can afford to take risks that larger publishers can’t, so if your work is new and different, a small press might be the best way to go at first. Larger publishers have a lot more pressure to go with the “tired and true” novel formulas, so keep that in mind. The downsides (potentially) to small presses are that they print in smaller runs, and their exposure may be limited. Also, they have a tendency to start up and disappear due to financial difficulty. But there are lots of resources for writers out there if you want to check out a particular agent or publisher’s track record.

If you have a small press publisher that has offered you a book deal, that’s great! But be sure to check them out on Writer Beware before you sign anything. This is a great resource for new writers who want to avoid being scammed by people trying to take advantage of how awesome you know your book is. And it’s a good place to check if an agent or publisher has a good or bad history with their previous clients.

I hope this was useful. Thanks again for reading, and I’ll keep you posted when I find more publishers to add to this list.

 


The Adventures of Querying Continue

Hello, all.

Thank you for sticking with me these days. I hope you’re enjoying some of my other material while we anxiously await news of my query letters. I’ve got book reviews, short fiction, and haiku to distract me (and you) from the elephant in the room. Is that the right use of that expression?

It doesn’t matter.

Some exciting news this week! I’ve had one other agent request a partial of my manuscript. I had to snail mail it to him, which was expensive, so I hope I don’t have to do that too often. But there was something much more real about stuffing my manuscript into an envelope than there is in emailing them, and I think that was the first moment I really felt like “I’m doing this!”. It was kind of cool.

I’ve also had a request for a full manuscript from a small publishing press! That’s my first request for a full, which I’m totally stoked about. It’s kind of backwards, as I had wanted to score an agent before submitting to publishers. But I have found a few publishers who accept unsolicited and un-agented works from new writers, so I’m going to try my luck with them too.

My hope is that, if a small press offers me a deal, I can use that deal to land an agent. Apparently agents are a little more eager to represent clients who already have an interested party. And why not? At that point it’s essentially free money for them, right? Well, not exactly, I guess. But sometimes finding a publisher is the hardest part of the job for an agent. I’ve heard tales of writers who finally found an agent, only to discover that it sometimes takes years for an agent to land you a book deal.

Zoiks!

I can only hope that won’t be me. Anyways, I’ve also sent off a full to another small press: one that doesn’t take queries, it just takes the MS right off the bat. That’s exciting, but it’s not as cool as having someone read your query and then actually ask to see more. I’m also printing off another hard copy to send to an imprint of Penguin books that—miraculously—accepts unsolicited complete manuscripts. It’s a long shot, but DAW would be a pretty major publisher to land without an agent, so I’m going to bite the bullet and ship my MS to them (another $25 “invested,” at least!).

I feel like I have a better chance with agents and publishers who take full manuscripts instead of partials. When an agent requests a partial, it’s usually only 20-50 pages of your work. I guess I’m a little insecure about the beginning of my novel, but the narrative style is a little unusual and I’m not sure that 50 pages is enough to “get it”.

Those of you who’ve been beta readers for me can feel free to jump in and assuage my fears anytime, now.

But anyways, I’ll keep you posted. If anyone knows of any super-awesome SF small presses, let me know in the comments.

Success!: First Tastes

Ok, so after much fretting and rewriting, I sent out another batch of query letters. This time much shorter and (hopefully) more concise than the first batch. I’ve been sending out a couple a day all week. And guess what?

I just got my first request for a partial manuscript!

Cool. Very cool indeed.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, self (does this imply a schizoid personality?). This is just the first of many thresholds that must be crossed before we reach the first-time-novelist’s Holy Grail–the publishing deal!–and each one is more harrowing than the last. Just for fun, though, here’s how success might look:

-write amazing novel, check
-send out enticing query letter to fabulous agent, check
-fabulous agent is properly enticed and requests partial manuscript, check (in this case, the first 50 pages)
-fabulous agent likes what she sees and requests full manuscript, pending
-fabulous agent still likes what she sees and offers to represent first-time novelist, pending pending
-fabulous agent is brilliant as well as fabulous and lands appropriately amazing book deal for first-time novelist’s amazing book, results may vary

I added my own progress report, just to help myself visualize the goal. I saw that on TV once. To the power of positive thinking!

But here’s the thing.

Getting past the query letter stage is an undeniably huge step for me. As it is, I’m sure, for every novelist–regardless what stage of career they are in. Believe it or not, just because you get published once doesn’t mean you’ll get published again. You still have to go through the same process every time. Unless you’re one of those writers who could take a dump in a Styrofoam cup and the NYT would toss on top of the Bestseller list just for shits and giggles. (Someday, Pinky. Someday.) For everyone else, though, publishing is kind of a ball-breaker.

Anyways!

Having an agent read my query and invite a partial submission means that my concept is interesting to at least one reputable person in the business, which is great. Better than great. It’s fan-freakin-tastic! But I’m not throwing myself a party just yet.

Here’s why.

For one thing, my novel can (and is statistically very likely to) still be rejected at any stage in the above process. Even if said fabulous agent likes what she sees in the first 50 pages, she might not like it enough. Or she might request a full and not like the ending. Or she might really like it, but just not feel that she’s the best person to represent it. Or she might have just been bored when she requested the partial and toss it in the slush pile as soon as something more important comes up. Anything is possible.

The possibility of her liking it, through all of the stages, and then deciding to represent me is less than one percent.

Worst of all, is that now that I’ve gotten past that first threshold my novel has to stand up and above the rest entirely on its own merit. No matter how good you are at pimping your work, in the end you have to deliver the goods. At this point, there are no more excuses about wrongly formatted query letters, anemic author bios, or even spiteful interns. She’ll either like my work or she won’t. All I can hope for at this point is that if she doesn’t like it, she might take the time to give me some feedback.

That’s scary!

And kind of exciting. I am looking forward to some real feedback almost more than I am landing an agent. Not because landing an agent wouldn’t be amazing–and ultimately that is my goal, right?–but because this early in the process, feedback is a far more likely outcome. Of course I would like to believe that my novel is perfect just the way it is. I’m sure there are writers out there who would be appalled at the idea of changing a single punctuation point in their capital M Masterpiece.

I, however–believe it or not–do not suffer delusions of grandeur (other delusions, yes). I think I’ve written a unique and entertaining bit of sci-fi fun. And that’s good enough for me! If an agent, or even a couple of agents, feels that my novel has enough potential that it warrants a little extra work, I will drop everything to follow their advice.

Everything!

I’m even aware that I may have to trim up to 100 pages from the thing to fall into the optimal first-novel length (a paltry 100,000 words, pfft) And I’ll do it. It will change everything, mind you. But I’ll do it. I might even enjoy it. Then again, what I lack in delusions of grandeur I make up for in compulsive editing, so I might just be a different breed of weird all together. I could go over this novel until it morphed into a chicklit mystery series and a paranormal romance and back again.

But at some point you just have to stop. Right?

Now. What was I talking about…

Oh ya. Realistically, this is just the first of many partial requests I could receive. If other author’s experiences are any indication, I may never hear from this agent again. Many novelists generate a lot of interest with queries, partials, and full submissions, and still it takes them years to find the right agent. The one who believes in their book as much as they do.

But it’s worth the work, and its will be worth the wait.

So, I’m not throwing myself a party just yet. I’m just drawing up the plans for it in my Simple Soiree Party Planner app.

How to publish a novel (in theory)

It occurs to me that many of you won’t really know what the process of trying to get a book published involves, and therefore have no idea what I’m rambling about when you meet me in the street or find me rocking back and forth in the corner of a dark room. I thank those of you who have born with me thus far. Your patience has not been in vain; I’m about to say something coherent for once.

From what I have gathered, like an information hunting internet squirrel, there are three paths by which a writer can seek publication. The options go a little something like this:

1. Write a book and Self-publish–either hard copy or e-Book. Hard copies cost money from your own pocket!

2. Write a book and send to small publishing houses that accept unsolicited manuscripts.

3. Write a book, find and agent, have agent pimp your book to bigger publishing houses that never accept unsolicited or unrepresented manuscripts.

Now, there are ways around these rules. It is possible to self-publish a book, be extremely successful (which in the self-publishing world means selling more than 3000 copies, preferably a lot more), use these stats to score an agent, and then land a major publishing deal. Or you can try to find a small publisher who is excited about your work and then try to lure an agent with your pending contract.

Of course, I figure, why sell myself short? I’m going to take soul-crushing door number 3. I have next to no credentials, zero industry connections, I don’t really know how to write a proper query letter, and I have not done my research on appropriate agencies but, dammitall!,  I’m going to wrangle myself an agent.

Really. I actually believe that.
If, for some obscure and unforeseeable reason, this doesn’t work… I’ll just have to sneak into some poor unsuspecting publishing house and hold someone hostage until they agree to print my book. Anything to avoid having to self-publish.

Self-publishing is like going to work, and having to pay for the privilege. I realize that a lot of people do it, and do it successfully, but realistically I know that I won’t be one of them. I have no earthly idea where to start when it comes to self-promotion, tours, book signings, websites, whatever. And have I mentioned that I’m a broke-ass writer?

‘Cause I’m a broke-ass writer.

I can’t afford to self-publish. That’s not to say I won’t be crawling on hands and knees to Author House if all other avenues fail. I want to see my book in print badly enough to pay for it myself, even if it will take me ten years of working at a non-writing job to be able to afford a decent run. Which means The Timekeepers’ War will likely be my first and last novel.

Unless I become one of those annoying “one-novel-per-decade” authors who have the audacity to write series’, foolishly believing that their fans will still be alive when the next instalment finally comes out. Which, let’s face it, I probably will.

Moving on!

What does all of this mean? What the hell do I do on a day-to-day basis?

Well, for starters, yesterday I dusted myself off and got back on the damn horse.

After receiving my first real rejection letter on Monday, I dove straight into the downward spiral of over-analytic self-doubt and self-loathing (we’ve talked about this). So, in order to distract myself from the sense of impending doom, I jumped into the internets. I spent most of the day yesterday reading more “How-to-Write-a-Super-Amazing-Query-Letter” resources, decided that mine was all wrong, rewrote it, and sent out another four. We’ll see if I get any bites on batch two before I start tearing my hair out. What’s left of it.

Trouble is, the standard 6-8 weeks wait is killing me. It’s only been two, and in some cases one, and I’m already checking my email like an obsessive compulsive squirrel…
…that has email.

I’ve tried to limit myself to sending out only a couple a day. Well, 2-5 really. Not just because it’s a lot of work, and I’m kind of lazy like that. But this way I won’t get all my rejections back at once and then try to drown myself in the bathtub. See? Strategic preemptive-self-defence manoeuvring. That’s a thing. Once the form-rejections start rolling in, I’ll still have to force myself to get out of bed every morning just in case.

So there you have it. In a nutshell (will the squirrel metaphors never stop?) this is what it looks like to try to get published. If you’re me. There are probably a lot more elegant guides out there, retrospective success stories and the like. But let’s face it. If you or someone you know is trying to get published for the first time, this is probably a little closer to the truth. You know, unless they’re not neurotic, angsty, depressed, anxious, and/or delusional.

But then, they’re not really writers, are they?

Now, it’s time for me to do some real work. I still have a short story to finish and a newsletter to publish sometime this month. Hopefully this was enlightening for some, and useful to others. Let me know what you think in the comments.