An agent talks about publishing

Another article of note, this time a Guernica Magazine interview of superstar agent Chris Parris-Lamb.

He’s mostly into literary fiction, not genre, but he has some very interesting and incendiary things to say about writing, publishing, Amazon, big books, and big advances.

Selected quotes:

On Amazon’s huge efforts to police its relatively tiny returns from publishing: “Almost no one writes books for economically rational reasons.”

On National Novel-Writing Month: “I frankly think that initiatives like National Novel Writing Month are insulting to real writers. We don’t have a National Heart Surgery Month, do we? I’m being intentionally provocative there, obviously—being a good or bad writer isn’t a matter of life or death—but I’m also serious. Great writers are as rare as great heart surgeons—maybe even rarer; I don’t actually know anything about heart surgeons. But I would argue that it takes as much time and work to perfect their craft, in addition to having talent to begin with that most people just don’t. What I really object to is this notion behind these initiatives that anyone can write a novel, and that it’s just a matter of making the time to do it. That’s just not true…But I am really skeptical of the idea that, but for National Novel Writing Month, those gifts would go undiscovered. I think part of the nature of the gift is that you can’t not give voice to it—having received the gift, you must give it in turn. Which is to say, the people who really do have a great novel in them are going to find a way to write them anyway.”

Whether we agree or disagree, the whole interview is worth reading, from an author research angle.

Vulnerability and victimhood

Paraphrased quote from the following essay: ‘One problem with treating (post teen) students as children, is that they become more childlike.’

http://chronicle.com/article/Sexual-Paranoia-Strikes/190351/

This essay may enrage some people, and be used by others as an excuse for terrible behavior. I take it as another data point, on a cultural metamorphosis I’ve been watching unfold for nearly 30 years. 

This post will probably become a longer essay itself, as I gather material and consider it. But I wanted to get a link to this part up right away. 

Why hall costumes? (part 2)

Last year I finished this swing coat, in hand-embroidered linen and cotton:

Vine Coat front

But the seafoam green, gray-tan, and turquoise colorways were not quite right. Too high a contrast.

So a couple of hours with a fiber-reactive dye, soda ash, a big plastic vat, the right kind of salt, and much care, I got exactly the color ranges I needed – a sort of blue-green-gray mix that’s not only very flattering for my ruddy tones, but is rather important in my Lonhra Sequence series.

 


Vine outfit 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I rounded out the experiment by dyeing a linen tunic and pair of pants, the Veil Cap I blogged about last week, and two crocheted cotton gloves. Now everything blends!

Vine outfit 2

The blue embroidery is still blue, the green is still green, just blended into richer background textures. My only problem was using light gray poly thread, which didn’t take the dye as strongly. It gives an interesting contrast, so I’m not unhappy with it.

Vine outfit 3

Whether I use it for mundane gallery openings or a convention hall costume, I finally have the outfit I wanted.

Musa Publishing: a case study

Once upon a time (2007ish) a new publisher came online with the usual bells and whistles, and then devolved into a sea of acrimony and accusation (circa 2011 – 2012). That publisher was Aspen Mountain Press, and out of its ashes a group of authors, editors, and support personnel banded together to create Musa Publishing.

From the start in mid-2011, Musa looked interesting to me. They were ambitious, courting a wide range of genres across many imprints and a short fiction magazine. They promised they wanted more than the ‘usual erotic romance’, and wanted to push the boundaries of genre science fiction and fantasy work, as well as horror, thrillers, mysteries, and women’s fiction. I penciled them onto my submissions list, for when I might be querying a mainstream fantasy and a M/M erotic romance space opera.

Few other publishers are as well-documented on AbsoluteWrite’s publishing forums. Many of the Musa principals had previously been AW regulars for years; there was an undercurrent from outsiders accusing AW of ‘going soft’ on Musa because of that connection. I did see a lot of uncritical enthusiasm, but mostly from new writers like me who didn’t know better. The old pros asked the uncomfortable questions.

I saw cracks in Musa in December of 2011. I queried them anyway for one book, and got a rejection letter I counted as a blessing. I’d already decided to decline any offers.

Over nearly 130 pages of posts on AW, I watched Musa’s rise and fall through the lens of its loyal authors and reasoned skeptics. So many of the former said variations of ‘I didn’t see this coming’. I knew there was trouble early in 2012. I guessed the company probably couldn’t survive, by Q1 of 2013. 

I expressed doubts in public, but didn’t push it too hard: Filigree’s Rule, and the fact that many of those authors were going to be very hostile to me if I did. I actually hoped Musa would trim most of its under-performing imprints and its magazine, and recover to become a stronger market. But I wasn’t willing to commit even one short story to it, until I saw positive change.

At its best, Musa was prompt with royalty checks and transparent about its accounting. Many of its ideas were brilliant, just undermanned and underfunded.

Its principals tried to run a small publisher with the output and scope of a Random House, with marketing leveraged mostly toward authors themselves. Musa took on a huge workload, and many books (and writers and editors, etc) suffered stress because of it. Most of Musa’s staff worked for royalties only, a risky move for a publisher that small (though many of them still do it.) Market forces combined to hit Musa with lower and lower sales per author (at one point, there was an odd consensus that many Musa authors were selling low double-digit copies during the entire life of contract.) By the end, even long-tail marketing of hundreds upon hundreds of books couldn’t bring enough operating cash.

Musa will be gone as of February 28, 2015. To their credit, its principals decided to go out with grace and dignity to themselves and their writers (unlike other meltdown publishers.)

I’d have no qualms about considering any new company they might found, provided they answer the issues that combined to fell Musa.

Those are worth looking at again, as an object lesson to new writers:

1) Reliance on author-based marketing. This may work for one in a hundred small-press authors; the rest are effectively limited to only several hundred sales over life of contract. If that.

2) Staff paid on royalties. I’ve seen this in the art market, too, where it usually creates a downward spiral of more product, rushed production, high staff turnover, and lesser earnings overall, as well as a perception of lower quality.

3) Which leads to too many books published per year, to the point that many of them were not professionally marketed at all.

4) Too many genres to earn a solid industry focus and reputation. Musa had many imprints dedicated to separate genres, plus its Penumbra magazine. Musa’s cover branding was fairly distinct, but it never earned breakout status in any of its genres.

I’m very sorry to see them go. I’m sorry for the authors who now have to decide whether to self-publish, or attempt finding reprint publication with other presses. I wish all of them well – and I’m very glad my debut novel isn’t in that pack.

It’s hammered home to me that authors should be wary of publishing with only one house, or even in one genre.

 

I honestly don’t know what to tell people who only post updates, photos, links, etc on Facebook – and then get huffy when I don’t respond. Chances are, I didn’t even see it. If you’re only interacting on FB, then I’m going to miss a lot of it. Until long after the fact, and possibly never.

I check my FB account when I remember to. Maybe once a week, sometimes once a month. I keep it as a placeholder. I’m not thrilled with the directions FB seems to be going. I’ve already abandoned a personal account. The only social media I find more annoying is Zorpia, and that’s because they don’t stop spamming once they have an email addy.

If you are *a business* and you’re only updating on Facebook – good heavens, what is wrong with you? Cross-post and link to Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, and LinkedIn. Have an actual blog: WordPress, Blogger, Squarespace, and others make it easy. I’m not that social media-savvy yet, and I manage to do it.

Consumers and collaborators like me would probably like to work with you more, if we don’t have to deal with Facebook on the way.

 

Facebook is not the only way

Kushiel’s Dart re-read on Tor.com

I’m linking to this post over on Tor.com, because Jacqueline Carey’s first fantasy series (from 15 years ago, now!) still stands as one of the most breathtaking and interesting fantasy arcs I’ve read. Some very literate and lucid writers are doing a critical re-read, and it’s worth following along. Especially for erotic romance writers who have never read deeply into the fantasy and science fiction genres.

The Kushiel series serves up political intrigue more efficiently than George R. R. Martin’s wallowing ‘Game of Thrones’ series. For people who yawned at ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and its utterly irresponsible relationships, Carey introduces not only BDSM but some of the deeper thought processes behind that kink and others, through the narration of her clever, honorable courtesan-spy protagonist Phèdre nó Delaunay.

See, Phèdre has this thing for pain, a holy calling for it. Literally. And unlike some hapless maidens of popular erotic romance fiction, she embraces her gift, and the wonderful and terrible places it leads her.

The Kushiel series is erotic romance published as mainstream fantasy, with just enough graphic sex to make a romance reader happy. It’s got decent worldbuilding (even if Carey tends to veer into travelogue territory in later series.) It has joy and angst aplenty (Alcuin, dammit, noooooo!) It has philosophy, skullduggery, piracy, madness, some sneaky humanism thrown in, and some of the most luscious descriptions of clothes and costumes I’ve seen in recent fantasy. (And they’re all important to the plot, so ignore them at your peril, lazy reader!)

If you’ve ever looked at these gigantic books and thought, ‘cute girl on the cover, but damn those are big books, maybe I’ll wait’ – the Tor re-read is a good field guide.

 

The script test

Here’s one detail that seems to divide professional genre publishers and many self-pub authors/inexperienced small presses/vanity publishers:

Cover font.

Specifically, a hard-to-read script font.

Font matters as much as imagery and composition. For e-books, the cover may be one of the most important investments an author or publisher will make. The ‘thumbnail’ sized or small-format cover (seen on Amazon, B&N, ARe, and other online vendors) has to manage these tasks in only a few seconds of a reader’s browse time:

Catch the reader’s eye: interesting color choices, strong composition, action scenes, symbols, etc.

Announce the genre: is it epic or high fantasy, science-fiction, romance, magic-realism, contemporary urban fantasy, etc?

Tell us the title and author: who’s claiming responsibility for this thing? In addition, the book cover might sport a series title or tagline.

Many script fonts look amazing at full-size, quite readable and evocative. When shrunk, they are squiggles.

Cover designers: if you can’t read the title, author, or tagline on a smaller-sized cover image, don’t rationalize your gorgeous font or make cosmetic changes like backing it with more contrasting mist or moving it to a less effective but clearer cover location.

Change fonts.

 

More of ‘Night Flight/Night View’

This is actually the first piece I started sewing for this project, back in June 2010: the backdrop, the first thing people will see when they open this fabric pop-up book. Six different fabrics are used in the applique seen here. I’m sewing the rest of the accent beads on now – about 50% done in this shot.

Night Flight hill for blog

The rest of the piece is going to involve some ridiculous engineering of open and hidden hinges, linings, soft surfaces/buried hard anchor points, and tension-balanced strands of bead-knotted poly thread. I remembered a trick from soft-sculpture dollmakers, who often do button joints. Teeny tiny baby buttons will form the anchors for the beaded threads, which will crisscross the ‘vista’ of the unfolded book. It would be great if I could get them in black or dark blue, but I’ll likely settle for clear or pearl, as long as they’re the right shape and flat as possible.

Go here to see a great photo of the landmark that inspired this piece: the South Mountain broadcast towers in Phoenix, Arizona.

Why Hall Costumes?

…and why not competition costumes?

(First, this is a costumer and convention Thing. Wander off, if this bores you. Costume geeks won’t mind.)

Vine Coat frontMy work quality is good enough to at least enter SFF convention costume contests. I’ve entered, and won or at least placed in mainstream fiber arts competitions.

But I dislike the structure, the deadlines, the incurred costs (Do you want to know how much conventions COST? Airfare or driving? Hotels? Food? Memberships? Entry fees?) The prizes are often far less than the amount one puts into the damn costume. Winning gets you kudos. Winning enough times gets you noticed by professional props and costume people, if you’re angling to join that nerve-wracking wonderful business.

I’m not that inspired by manga or movie outfits* right now, not enough to put months of work into one entry. I veer between having stage fright and being completely unemotional on stage, neither of which are good for presentation. I’m much more of a behind-the-scenes person.

teal bronze maskBecause I do other things, I am incredibly slow at assembling costumes. About 50% of my costume stash is derived from thrift-store finds, the other half made from scratch.

So, for the rare times I’m at a SFF convention, and the rarer times I feel like dressing up, I wear hall costumes. Just odd and glitzy enough to be different, but not unwieldy. I like masks and veils. Certain real-world religions and cultures have given facial concealers a bad rap, but there’s a fun and mysterious side to them, too.

Veil Cap final

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Veil and Vine portraitAbove are the newest hall costume components, all designed to work together or in parts: Vine Coat. Steampunk Eyeglass Mask. Veil Cap.

They should be fun to wear, someday.

Added: Eeeek, I got caught modeling them. I almost never do selfies, it’s less painful to make other people point-n-click. But this one didn’t turn out too badly.

________________

* Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing costumes and costumers coming out of Hollywood, Las Vegas, Broadway – and worldwide, really. But nothing makes me want to recreate another person’s designs. The last movie that sparked my creative interest was Disney’s John Carter, and that only in passing.

Then there are movies like Jupiter Ascending, which blew a wad of cash on making the movie pretty, at the expense of making it coherent. (Hangs head in mourning at what could have been. Disney, are you taking notes for Star Wars?)

This movie only proves that just because you can sew thousands of Swarovski crystals onto fabric, you should maybe stop and think before you do. Michael Cinco can do so much better than this near-literal miscarriage of a dress. I cannot be the only person who looks at it and cringes, can I?

———

Added 2-18-2015: (cue evil laughter) I decided that while I liked the gray/seafoam/turquoise/olive colorway, it’s overpowering for a hall costume. So the coat, the hat, a tunic, and a pair of pants have a date with salt and Rit dye this weekend. Still wavering over Evening Blue or a Slate Blue mix – both would yield interesting tones, and bring everything into a cohesive, more-subtle array.

But I need to find a cheap, giant 5 gallon menudo pot, because no way is Rit dye going into any washing machine for which I am financially responsible.

 

 

We’re baaaack!

Hi, everyone. Blue Night is back online after 1) a bit of scheduled maintenance Saturday night led to 2) a Jet-Pack update that went horribly awry. Oops.

Since Sunday morning, I have learned the following: John Stewart is breaking my heart, Brian Williams is breaking my heart, the 24-hour news cycle needs to take a chill-pill, I really hate retread tires and think they should be outlawed, foot pain is stupid, the folks at WordPress are wonderful, there’s a person in Canada I really want to call out for being an idiot*, Valentine’s Day is a special little hell, and my friends and I didn’t win the Powerball lottery jackpot. Sigh. 

OTOH, I’m within 8,000 words of getting ‘Singer in Rhunshan’ up to commercially viable length, if not finding a better title for it. I have the final outlines for ‘Moro’s Shield’ and ‘Leopard’, if I can crowbar in time to work on them post-Singer. I finished another part of a hall costume for the next time I’m at a convention (whenever that is). I’ve received word that my new book arts pieces ‘Arachne’ and ‘Spice Book’ have already sold. 

Life is not great, but moving in the direction of ‘acceptable’. 

*Added 2-13-2015: Okay, so the Canada person redeemed themselves. Sorta.

Option daydreams and nightmares

For authors unfamiliar with show business, few words will evoke the sheer magic of ‘They’ve optioned my book!’ That means someone has paid an author a certain amount of money to allow least the possibility (the ‘option’) of making that story into a movie, television drama, series, webcast, etc.

Hold on there, pilgrim. You’re not on Easy Street yet. Some options can give an author thousands (or millions) in upfront cash, with the promise of further payouts should the project be finished and successful. Having your name on screen credit is also a great way to attach rocket boosters to your backlist.

Tangledjoytumblr_m6s8tsfNKD1qlwcpw

But…not all options are equal. Scam or incompetent publishers like to trumpet that one or more of their books ‘have been optioned by a studio’. If you look deeper, the ‘studio’ is likely to be another of the publisher’s side projects or run by an associate. As with low-quality book trailers, free press releases, and paid YouTube reviews, these ‘options’ are given mainly to make the author feel good and brag to their family and friends. Any legitimate financial payoff is secondary to convincing the (often fee-paying) author to buy more services and publishing packages for more books.

Some options are issued by respectable small studios and developers. But they’re only a few hundred dollars – a token payment – and the projects languish until their contract time or issuing company expires. Most options never amount to much past that one-time payment. Movie studios have been accused of gobbling up options rights and then sitting on them, just to keep them out of competitors’ hands. (I’ve also heard the opposite, that some studios won’t buy until the last possible minute.)

A friend of mine has a short story currently going through pre-pre-option possible negotiations. We’ve all got our fingers crossed for her. Having a movie, cable, or TV option to your credit is a great way to make the non-writerly relatives shut the hell up about ‘getting a real job.’

For some years, M/M fantasy author Lynn Flewelling had an option on her ‘Nightrunners’ series, from a small studio. I would have loved to see that show, but alas, it never happened. I know several other authors who got a couple of mortgage payments or a used car out of option money.

Sometimes (most of the time*) a large studio will option a book or story, make the project after shutting out the original author completely, and the result will look very little like the original story. The Walt Disney Company, sniffing around for material for its ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ franchise, optioned Tim Powers’ On Stranger Tides. (Follow that link for some great movie and book comparisons, and Powers’ own remarkably professional take on options and movies based on books.) That option eventually became Pirates movie #4, which was okay, but nowhere as dark, philosophical, well-researched, or lovely as Powers’ book. But at least they paid him and gave him some screen credit. And maybe more people went and read his books.

Cash is the pleasant daydream. Theft is the nightmare. Most of the time, experienced authors, editors, and agents take great care to explain to anxious newbies: ‘No one is going to steal your book. It’s unlikely, so stop worrying about it.’ Most of the time, those nervous newbies are simply not telling a story worth stealing.

Options are the gray area where theft can happen, often because the author doesn’t understand what they are signing away. Newer or mid-career authors with a solid story are in more danger from unscrupulous and/or incompetent studios. They’re also not as likely to have sharp literary agents and legal counsel, if at all.

There’s a quiet, landmark intellectual property case playing out right now that most authors haven’t heard about yet. I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t, and was thus partly (infinitesimally) responsible for making it worse for the author.

You see, in 2013 I blogged a mostly enthusiastic review of the movie Gravity. Many people saw the movie. Maybe ten saw my review.

What I didn’t realize was that Tess Gerritsen was suing Warner for not only not honoring her option with New Line for her book Gravity (with the same director involved!), but going ahead with Warner’s version of Gravity after buying out New Line. Last month the judge threw out the original case, but allowed Gerritsen to refile an amended claim. If that reaches trial or settlement in her favor, she stands to win a substantial amount of money (probably in a decade or so, because lawsuits are often very sloooooow.)

From what I’ve read online, both projects share more than vague similarities. Gerritsen’s case doesn’t really hinge on those, but on the fact that Warner Bros. may essentially have already owned – but did not honor – the option on Gerritsen’s novel.

What does this mean to the average writer, maybe an e-rom writer working for a tiny publisher? Other than ‘run away from Hollywood!’ Check carefully what rights you are granting your publisher. Can they effectively develop those rights, or are they just doing a rights grab in case your book becomes a phenomenon? If you do not have an agent to help you negotiate options, find one, or a legal professional who knows that part of the business. Brush up on the differences between types of intellectual property claims. Understand the quality of the option and its offering company, the likelihood of it turning into a real studio project, and the timeframe involved.

Tangledsadtumblr_inline_miuv8uN17h1qz4rgp

That could mean the difference between one mortgage payment, a well-earned fortune, or watching your story ride off into the sunset without you.**

* For a hilarious, snarky, and terrifyingly accurate take on how Hollywood actually treats most writers, check out the series Episodes.

** GIFs from the Disney movie Tangled.

Boo Hiss, Hershey

I’m an unrepentant chocoholic. When everything goes downhill and we’re living in a post-apocalyptic, climate-ravaged wasteland, I might actually miss chocolate more than hot water. Just sayin’.

So I’m very disappointed in the Hershey Company, for deciding to use legal threats to keep the British version of Cadbury’s chocolate out of the US. They cite ‘intellectual property’ and protection of their domestic version of the Cadbury brand.

I’m not a big fan of Hershey to begin with…that sour-milk flavor, just – no. But there were some Hershey’s products I ate occasionally. If British brands become unavailable due to Hershey’s tactics, I’ll look for better domestic product.

Even before this news, I’d been concerned about Hershey’s abandonment of the company township, pensions, and other social capital projects that the Hershey Company had been founded upon. The company revamped its lines and public image slightly after news articles and documentaries focused on child-slave-labor in Africa, outsourced jobs to its Monterrey plant in Mexico, and lower-quality ingredients (Barry Callebaut, how could you prop up these guys? How?) I put the resulting Hershey ‘Bliss’ line of chocolates as better than Hershey’s normal chocolate, but not brilliant.

No more. I’ll try to research better, since Hershey has been adept at buying up competing brands over the years. I won’t knowingly buy Hershey products, even though that’s a lot of non-chocolate products to research, too. I’m not the only one.

Boo, I say. Boo.

A Requiem Dawn, by J.L Forrest

RequiemKindleCover-150x240

Blurb:

Five thousand years ago, the Atreianii transcended humankind, reducing men and women to slaves and pets. These post-human demigods reigned for centuries across their world and throughout the solar system, and for a time they created their paradise. Yet it could not last; they warred amongst themselves, reduced the globe to dust and ash, and fled beneath the ground, awaiting better days.

An E’cwn huntress, Nyahri, has awakened one such demigod, one still determined to destroy her own kind, to right old wrongs, and to avenge a long-dead beloved. Dormant powers, older than Nyahri can imagine, draw her from her tribal life into the service of a goddess—

Whose heart beats like anyone’s, longing for her lost companion, a love who may one day live again through Nyahri herself.

#

Go read this book.

J. L. Forrest and I have been trading stories for most of our lives, leading back to a nearly simultaneous discovery of ‘Star Wars’ (I think he found out about it first, by a matter of months. By virtue of living in an actual city and not in Ruralsville.) J. L. is a much, much better writer than I am. I’ve become accustomed to this over the years, because there are lots of better writers than I am. I like them all, and I really enjoy reading what they’ve written.

Other people think he’s a fairly good writer, too: he’s sold SFF stories to Crossed Genres and Analog, which is no easy feat.

Many  years ago, he sent me a draft of what would become A Requiem Dawn. The story stunned me even then, rough as it was, with its post-apocalyptic setting, intricately-extrapolated cultures, super-evolved humans, literary overtones, philosophical depths, and the understated F/F romance of the protagonists.

Is this version perfect? Nope. It won’t be to everyone’s taste. It’s a damn big book. There’s a lot going on. I’m sorry not to see it in a catalog from say, Tor or DAW Books – their loss, if J. L. even pitched it to them. I’m glad to see it’s been published with care and attention by Robot Cowgirl Press, where J. L. is an editor as well.

As I said, go read a sample of this book. If you like it, read the rest. Then talk about it to other people.

Self-publishing no longer has the eye-rolling stigma it once had, but self-pub authors still have one vast disadvantage compared to their commercially-published peers: marketing. They don’t have a large publisher doing expensive industry-direct marketing to booksellers, libraries, international convention programs, and major review sites. Self-pub authors must shoulder the burden of promoting their books by themselves, without becoming tiresome spambots on social media. Small-press authors like J. L. have a little help, but they still have to metaphorically pound the pavement for reviews.

Word of mouth is the single best tool any author has for promotion, and thankfully it works just as well for authors outside the aegis of the Big Five.

Amazon link:

http://www.amazon.com/A-Requiem-Dawn-J-L-Forrest-ebook/dp/B00RYI7N1K

J.L. Forrest’s website: http://jlforrest.com/

 

Responsibility in marketing

I am thrilled to see that the moderators of Marketing For Romance Writers (MFRW), one of the biggest genre marketing support groups online, have made the following announcement:

“Calls for submission may be submitted only by publishers who DO NOT charge fees for services such as editing, cover art, printing, and etc. A publisher must provide these services at their cost.

Marketing for Romance Writers provides access to publishers to issue submission calls as a courtesy but does not endorse anyone. We do, however, feel it is our duty to limit those calls to publishers that do not charge fees for their services.

Read submission guidelines and use your best judgment regarding contract decisions. Sites such as Preditors and Editors, and Dear Author are good spots to uncover information about disreputable editors and publishers. Do not assume a good name has remained good over the years. Staff changes can change reputations as well.

Moderators, Marketing for Romance Writers”

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Why am I happy? Because MFRW’s submissions calls over the last couple of years have unknowingly contained entries from vanity publishers…as well as some incompetent and notorious non-fee-charging publishers. In turn, some of the aforementioned publishers have supposedly used their inclusion on MFRW as some kind of endorsement of quality, when courting new and inexperienced authors.

That is not the case, as verified by the above statement.

Not the mods’ fault, and they shouldn’t be reduced to policing calls-for-submission. Kicking out the vanity publishers is a great step toward making MFRW an even better and safer resource for romance writers.

Even a strong community like MFRW can’t protect everyone, or spot every dubious publisher.

Writers, I hate to hammer this at you like a late-night infomercial, but it’s up to you to do your research on publishers, agents, editors, and other industry professionals.

Writers: treat writing contests the same way you’d treat new agents, publishers, or marketing/publicity firms. With caution. C’mon, you know the drill: trust, but verify. Often, verify before you even trust.

Some writing contests are reputable, honest, and offer great prizes and viable publicity for winners and finalists. Even entry-fee contests for various writing genres can be worthwhile, if they offer an industry-respected status, and the entry fees are reasonable and used toward covering the administration of the contest.

Some ‘contests’ are merely fishing expeditions set up by uninformed or possibly predatory publishers, to build a source of fast capital from entry fees and/or get the names of authors who might become clients.

It’s up to you to research your venues *before* you apply to them. Publishing is a party, and you don’t have to dance with everyone who asks! Ditch the beer goggles and the ‘They like me!’ squee, and focus on who’s asking, and what they can offer.

seriously, research everything

Paths to Publishing – Rachel Leigh Smith

 

Path to publishing s

The last of our Paths to Publishing post is up at the Snarkology blog, where you can join Rachel Leigh Smith for another inspirational story about persistence and broadened horizons.

Rachel read voraciously as a homeschooled child and teenager, putting her love of words to work in an intricate shared-world saga with a best friend and writing partner.

Much later, her writing life was shaped by her rich historical knowledge of antebellum Creole Louisiana, a difficult apprenticeship in the exacting Christian fiction genre, one failed marriage, and a healing sojourn in her grandmother’s oasis of books, quiet times, and emotional support. A haunting dream triggered Rachel’s first Science Fiction Romance novel, which she ultimately self-published.

Here’s why, in her own words:

“From decision to first book coming out was three and a half months. It’s been a heck of a wild ride, and I’m having the time of my life! Doing it myself was the last thing I thought I’d do, yet it’s also a natural fit for me. I’m not afraid to learn new things, I like tinkering, I love researching, and most of all I love retaining absolute control of my story world. I don’t have to change things to meet a publisher’s expectations, or downplay the fact it’s the hero’s story and he’s the star.”

 

Accidental art

A very long time ago when I was in the Society for Creative Anachronism, I knew embroiderers who were so skilled the backs of their pieces were as flawless as the fronts. Same with the work from the masters of the Royal School of Needlework, to which I could never aspire to at my best.

To say I am not in that league is an understatement.

Night Flight front back poemEven so, I can appreciate the accidental mystery of some of my embroidered art, when seen from reverse. These are the back and front views of the text that will be part of ‘Night Flight/Night View’ when that book arts piece is finished.

I love the idea of reversed and obscured texts. That’s why I’m so excited that one of daVinci’s journals is on exhibit at a nearby museum – time for a field trip in the name of art and inspiration.