Skip to content

Category: publishing

“The Pollen Bath” coming soon to a Line Zero near you…

Well, it would seem my second published short story is going to be in the same publication as my first published short story. No skin off my back; I’m just glad it’s being accepted anywhere. This will be the third issue of Line Zero, and the first publication of The Pollen Bath. Getting something published is always happy news, but it also comes with the unhappy task of contacting every single publication where I sent it for consideration and notifying them, some of which get all pissy about it. Funny enough, I had a pollen bath on my car yesterday and the air made my eyes catch on fire.

Still, it can’t compare to seeing your name in print…

1 Comment

SXSW panel in review: Tell & Sell Your Story

The next exciting panel I attended at SXSW was called “Tell & Sell Your Story,” with panelists that included author Stephanie Klein (@stephanieklein), professor Michael Chaney (@mjchaney), agent David Hale Smith (@davidhalesmith) and writer Ned Vizzini, moderated by agent Alex Lerner.

The panel was billed as one that would discuss how to write a book proposal, how to find an agent, apps you can use, and writing software. Much of this came toward the end of panel, but the first part was highly valuable too. One of my favorites moments was when Klein (who is fabulous and whose work I am going to have to discover) stated that for an author, balance is bullshit. As someone with a full-time and a freelance job, it felt good to hear someone else say it, although I already knew it. It only mirrored my sentiments that you can always do something if you make the time for it.  They talked extensively about how to structure a writing day – everyone has their own method – but some of the suggestions were to create structured, absolute writing days, where you do nothing but spend the whole day writing and don’t break the roll. I haven’t been able to do this since college, but I should probably find a way to do this again and see if it works for me.

Then they discussed writing itself, and again, Klein said something that resonated heavily with me. She said the moment we start to censor ourselves is the moment our writing becomes inauthentic. If you’re worried that someone’s going to be put off by something you wrote, then THAT’s where the gold is. Because The Redheaded Stepchild is a story that’s so close to my heart and doesn’t always speak positively about some of the closest people in my life, I’ve often wondered if I should tone down some of the prose and fictionalize it a little bit more. As such, it was reassuring to hear that I should do nothing of the sort. After all, they’d probably be offended no matter what. And hey, a lot of it IS fiction.

They then asked, how do you get people to read what you’ve read? They stressed the importance of having your own domain for your material, which was one of the first things I did when I decided I wanted to seriously pimp The Redheaded Stepchild, but that having a website means using a unique structure depending on the medium. I always use my own voice, but I’m going to structure my blog posts much differently than my actual writing, as well I should.

After that, they got to the meat of writing a book proposal, and the consensus was that it should have all of the following:

  • The pitch, which has to be written in your own voice, not the cover letter voice you’d use in a resume. The agent should get an idea of your voice after reading the pitch.
  • A chapter summary that everyone hates writing, but summarizes what happens in the story.
  • A market analysis of what makes your book unique compared to similar titles.
  • One or two sample chapters that showcase your best writing and let it speak for itself.

Or something like that. I’ve drank a lot since then. Finally, they outlined one of the best plans for finding an agent – find similar titles to yours and look in the acknowledgments. The author almost always thanks his agent, and that agent can’t turn around and say he doesn’t represent your kind of work.

So what did I learn from this panel? First of all, I need to continue the practice of not censoring myself with my writing. I’ll probably hurt someone’s feelings along the way, but I’d much rather live an authentic life than a safe one. Next, I’ve got to revise my pitch. It sounds like a cover letter for a resume! I’ve got to inject my own voice in there and show them why I’m a writer. I’d heard the agent trick a couple months ago when I went to the Pitchapalooza event, and it bears repeating that I definitely need to do my homework finding books out there that are like mine. I’m sure I’m not the only branch on that tree.

More panel reviews to come, and thanks to the panelists! For audio of the entire panel: http://schedule.sxsw.com/events/event_IAP8326

Leave a Comment

Pitchapalooza in Review

Last night I attended a Pitchapalooza event at the KC library and learned a lot of great things about how I can improve my ability to pitch The Redheaded Stepchild, both in query letters and in casual conversation with people. Here are a few of the takeaways I got:

  • Finding good comparison titles is really important. I need to do a better job of this, cause I’ve really got nothing. But I haven’t been working that hard at it, either.
  • Your pitch should give the pitchee an idea of a beginning, middle, and end to your story. This is a challenge for me since the plot is not chronologically structured, but there’s definitely room for improvement.
  • Ending with a question is a way to hook the audience and build intrigue.
  • You must make the intended audience fall in love with the main character (even if they just love to hate him).
  • Use your pitch as a way to demonstrate what a great writer you are. It shouldn’t sound like a use car salesman’s pitch.
  • Think of your book pitch as if you’re pitching a movie, and think to yourself, “who’s the guy on the poster?”

If you’ll recall, one of my goals for the year was to attend more of these events, so I am glad I went, even though I didn’t get picked to pitch. It was a free event, but I had some leftover cash so I bought the book and got the 20-minute consultation with @TheBookDoctors (find them on Twitter). So here is my pitch from last night… stay tuned for the refined version.

My book, The Redheaded Stepchild, is a series of non-chronological, thematically structured slice-of-life short stories about a young woman coming of age in a small town and her complicated relationship with her newly-appointed but icy stepmother.

Don’t get the wrong idea; it’s far from a Cinderella story. There are no singing animals, evil stepsisters, Prince Charming, or happily ever after – just a small town girl trying to establish her identity as anything else and leave her mark on the world, while struggling to escape the reality of where she comes from, and what her life is now.

At around 65,000 words, this 12-story book has the flexibility for publication as a series or as an entire manuscript. It is a work of mainstream literary fiction that will have a focused appeal to women and young adults, but is written for all who love a great story and have an appreciation for detailed prose.

Leave a Comment

My first electronic publication

One of the cool things about getting smaller works, like poetry and short stories, published is that they are considered small potatoes. The publisher gets one-time rights to print (or copy and paste) your work in their work, and then the rights revert right back to the author, which means the author can do anything she wants with it.

Trouble with this is, no magazine wants to publish something that has already been published somewhere else. They want to be the first ones to publish your work. So, after that manuscript has been published, it’s essentially useless.

Unless, as I recently discovered, you self-publish it as an e-book. I found Smashwords quite some time ago, and was very intrigued with their business model. If you’re unfamiliar, I suggest you go check them out. I decided to self-publish my short story Two Steps Forward, since it was published in a print journal late last year. After all, no one else is going to publish it, and it’s short enough I figured it would be a good one to cut my e-book formatting teeth on.  I read the Smashwords style guide, which was amazing detailed and full of information, but also made me inordinately grateful I wasn’t trying to format a science textbook for self e-publishing.

After a few hours, I had my first e-book. Yes, it’s 3 pages long, but they still call it an e-book. I’m not the only to put their short stories on there, so I figure it’s fair. If you’re a Kindler, as I recently am, you can find it here. Hell, even if you’re not, you can just download the HTML. I have no way of knowing how many people bought the first issue of Line Zero, where this short story first appeared, and I have even less way of knowing how many of those people read my story, but I do know that in less than 48 hours, I’ve had just shy of 1o0 people download my free short story to their e-reading devices, and only two of them are people I know. I’ve also already gotten one four-star review. All with very minimal tweeting and facebook promotion.

I made this one free, since it’s my first crack at it, and it’s already been published in print. You can bet your last dollar that I will definitely be adding more of my own published works to Smashwords. If I can get 92 downloads in two days, I bet I could probably charge 99 cents for my next work and at least make $20. And that will be the first time I get paid as a writer. Hello, 2011.

Unless, of course, you count my professional life.

Leave a Comment

2010 in writer review

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is always a time of annual reflection for me, and as I was reflecting on the year that was 2010, I realized how much of a success it has been, and here’s why:

  • I had a total of seven manuscripts published in either print journals, online magazines, websites, or some other medium. Before this year, I had none.
  • I had nine works get accepted for publication. Two of them (ironically enough, the first two) have yet to go to print, so I can’t really count them in the “published” category. What can I say? The world of traditional print publishing is slow.
  • I got a book deal. I didn’t take the book deal, because it was really crappy, but if I can get a really crappy book deal, chances are I can get a less crappy book deal if I keep at it.
  • I started reaching out to other writers, booksellers, and other publishing industry people on Twitter. My relationships on Twitter are directly responsible for three of those seven publications.
  • I pimped my writing – mainly my novel – at South by Southwest and reached out to industry people at the trade shows. This led to two of my publications, both of which were accepted for the site’s best-of-the-year collection.
  • I got a Kindle. This is going to help me understand how writing for this medium is different and will also give me instant access to other independent writers like me and their work.
  • I read. It should be common sense that all writers are readers, but I think we take it for granted. Every time I read something from another author I learn something new.
  • I began participating in an organization to help me with better public speaking skills. I have this pesky slight stutter that comes and goes, and I am an introvert like most writers, and feel uncomfortable talking about my own work, like most writers.
  • I wrote more than 1o new manuscripts. I started far more, but part of a writer’s work is killing the crap.

So, I would say that on a semi-professional writer’s level, the year was a wild success. But I have to keep getting better. Since resolutions are just imaginary, unattainable pipe dreams, I set yearly goals instead of New Year’s Resolutions. Here are my writer’s goals for 2010:

  • Join a writer’s group. I didn’t do it this year because I am not sure if I will be in Kansas City for an entire year, and I didn’t want to pay the year’s dues if I wasn’t going to be.
  • Attend book tour and other events at local bookstores. I’ve already signed up for Pitchapalooza by Rainy Day Books next month, and I attended my first book tour event this year and couldn’t believe I hadn’t done it before. The more I see how other people talk about their work, the better I’ll know how to talk about my own.
  • Give out more business cards at South by Southwest than I did last year. It was my first attempt last year, and I have to get more shameless about it.
  • Write something new, even if it’s just a sentence, once a week, for a total of 25 new manuscripts.
  • Read more books, with 50% of them being independent authors. The Kindle will come in handy here 🙂
  • Publish 10 manuscripts. If I can get 9 accepted manuscripts in one year, I can get at least 10 more if I try harder.
  • Submit something every week. This is always the goal, but I don’t always reach it.
  • Start submitting my novel to both agents and independent book publishers, especially those who specialize in e-print.

I think this is a good set of attainable goals, and I look forward to all that 2011 will bring.

Leave a Comment

My life with Kindle: Part 1

Apparently the Santa in my life thought I was just nice enough to deserve a brand new Kindle for Christmas. Eventually, maybe, I would have gotten it for myself, but it really is a very thoughtful gift and so far, I love it. It’s also important because it will probably be the first format I publish my novel in, and as writers, we’ve got to get with the program.

My favorite feature on it so far is the ability to download a sample of a book before buying the whole thing. I decided to try this feature out on a writer I follow on Twitter who has done a shitload of self-promotion and whose persistence I figured warranted my no-cost 30-minute (40 if you count the part where I stopped to reheat my leftover Christmas ham) perusal. On Kindle, his book’s list price is $5.99, which is about 3 times what I typically pay for a book, and since I had the option to try it before buying, I leapt at the chance.

I was THIS close to buying the book after the sample, and it wasn’t even that good. Still, it had enough good moments to make buying the book a weighty decision in my mind. I know the sample will sucker me into cracking open the wallet for much better written books in the future.

It also gave me a little confidence boost. After all, this guy isn’t some schmo who self-published in his basement. He’s a guy that got picked up by an independent press that does their business mostly in ebooks. He was trying way, WAY too hard to imitate Tucker Max but did so badly. He overused metaphors and even did some shifts in tense in the same sentence – things even a lowly barely-published writer with a BA in Creative Writing from a state school could pull off. If this guy can get accepted by an independent book publisher and charge $5.99 for his work, then I probably can, too.

New Year’s Resolution to follow…

1 Comment

The winding Internet road

Do you ever start at one place on the internet and end up on a completely different place, with only vague recollection of how you got there?

Today, I was late at work waiting for some other people to provide some stuff for me, so while I was waiting, I decided to catch up on some Google reader. As much as I try to stay up on what’s going on in the industry, it’s really tough, and I often fail. Still, there are a few choice sites that I like to make sure I’m always up on. One of them is midlist thriller writer J.A. Konrath’s blog – A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing. I rarely read an entire post end-to-end, because they are often long and I am lazy, but I was entranced by this one. If you’ve dealt with anyone offering you a book deal, which I have and to this day am SO glad I declined, even though I am a nobody, take 5 minutes and read this post. It’s a lot of fun.

After I read the entire post, I did something else I almost never do – I left a comment, and took some time to read some of the other comments. I typically avoid these because I get overly emotionally involved in comment arguments between strangers hiding behind the safety net of anonymity the internet affords and my temper starts flaring. These things never matter, so it’s usually just best I leave them alone. I once read 3 pages worth of comments on an article about Uggs. People have some seriously strong pro-Ugg and con-Ugg opinions. Despite my general avoidance of comment spaces, I decided to troll the comments on this post for A) other writers and industry professionals I can follow on Twitter and B) to see what the response was on this very flagrant post.

One of the comments left was this:

Hi — love the post! I’m an author and I run a small independent publishing company (Bucks County Publishing) and we are primarily involved in paperbacks but we do eBooks too… it is a side thing really because the overhead is so little to do it. We price all of our full length eBook novels at $2.99 and anything shorter is $1.99. Simple pricing. It is ridiculous that these publishing companies want to gauge the customer OR kill the medium…. or both.

I, too, am an author, and I love small independent publishing companies. So I decided to check out their site, and see if they were accepting submissions, because I am a predatory author. As it turns out, they are, and as far as I can tell, it would be a really really good fit for me and my work. Then again, I’ve thought that about lots of book publishers I’ve submitted to who have summarily rejected me. Still, what luck to just find this by link-jumping on the internets. Then, I got to thinking about other neat things I’ve stumbled upon by random internet jumping…

Line Zero: I heard about this new print journal on Twitter. They were looking for submissions for their first issue, I submitted, and I got accepted. Really, I just lucky at the right time with the right journal.

LinkedIn is notorious for sending me down these weird internet paths. Somehow I got from a friend’s LinkedIn page to Smashwords, and that’s how I found out about them. I am still evaluating whether I want to take the ebook self-pub route, but if and when I do, this will be how I do it.

Rose City Sisters: Another Twitter find. The site editor started following me on Twitter, put out the call for submissions, I threw a flash fiction thing together, and decided it would be a good venue for getting some flash fiction practice under my belt. They’ve posted 2 of my stories since.

The volunteer thing I didn’t get: Another stumbly motion on Twitter.

Oh, and I guess I should mention that I found J.A. Konrath’s blog when I was doing some research for a post on this site regarding my distaste for SASEs.

So, if we’re counting, three of my publications came from internet-winding, even if they’re on independent sites and journals. If the Bucks County Publishing people publish me, that’ll make four. Not too bad for just messing around on the internet and finding the right opportunities at opportune moments. Maybe I should just set aside an hour a week for internet “creative space.”

Leave a Comment

The submission withdrawal process, round 3

I got my first short story accepted for publication, which is super fantastic, but always comes with the horrible chore of withdrawing the manuscript from everywhere else you sent it that hasn’t rejected it yet. The first time I found out a poem of mine was getting published, I was completely overwhelmed by how much work it was to complete this chore, and how rude some of the publications were. Last time around, I got some interesting responses, including the following:

  • “Umm… we don’t have your stuff.” Hmmm… that probably means I put it in an envelope and was too cheap to mail it off. My bad.
  • “How dare you! We don’t accept simultaneous submissions!”  Oops… I must not have read the fine print. But you really should if you want work from real writers.
  • “Mail daemon: undeliverable.” Update your mail server if you want submissions.

This time around, I was much more prepared. I made sure I read the fine print over again for everyone I sent to, to make sure I hadn’t been violating their rules in the first place. I also prepared an email template, so I wouldn’t have to think about what to write every time. So I was both mentally and resourcefully prepared. These are my findings from this round of submission withdrawal:

  1. It was far, far easier than last time. I had sent my poems to about 3 times as many people as I had this manuscript, which significantly lessened the chore.
  2. I had sent this manuscript to a total of 18 publications. Of those 18, 1 accepted it, 6 rejected it, and 11 still had it under consideration.
  3. The range of dates for submission were from March to September.
  4. Of the 11 who still had it under consideration, the longest period was 7 months.
  5. One of the publications who I had still recorded as pending had rejected me without notification.
  6. I was able to withdraw 4 submissions myself using an online manager.
  7. I had to email 6 of the publications I had submitted to.
  8. There was only one snail mail submission that I had forgotten to mail, and I knew it without having an embarrassing response email.

Lesson learned: keep good track of your submissions, and be prepared when you get lucky and one of them picks it up.

1 Comment

My first short story publication!

Happy Columbus Day, everyone! I got an email late last night that Line Zero, a new quarterly arts journal, is going to pick up Two Steps Forward! I almost didn’t believe it, but I took a look at the site this morning and on the post with the finalist announcements was my name.

http://linezero.org/literary-finalists/

The issue comes out in November and I can’t wait to see it. This is a brand new journal, just opened for submissions at the beginning of September. I heard about them on Twitter, I think. It just goes to show that it pays off to keep track of emerging players in the market and get in on the ground floor!

Leave a Comment