Alis Franklin: Books of the Wyrd

I’ve talked before about a wonderful fanfic-writer-turned-agented-commercial-author, Alis Franklin. Time for a bittersweet update. LIESMITH has a great sequel, STORMBRINGER, which you can read. And what looks to be a couple of brilliant follow-ups, which you can’t (not yet anyway).

You can find out more about her writing here.

Out of respect for Alis and her agent, I’ll refrain from a more-targeted industry rant. Let’s just use what happened to Alis as a teachable moment for newer authors getting a shiny offer from a Big Five publishing imprint.

Breathe. Do your research again. Find the skeletons in the publisher’s closet before you become one of them.

Be aware that for potentially much higher sales than a small press, you may be trading publishing rights tied up forever. If the book doesn’t sell, the publisher may not accept new books in that series. The publisher will continue to eke out tiny sales on your existing work, and you’ll not only get pennies…you can’t republish it or the sequels elsewhere. If you’re lucky, you or your agent arranged reasonable termination clauses whereby you can get your publishing rights back if sales fall below a certain threshold in a specific timeframe.

I’ve heard rumors that certain digital-only publishers got themselves blacklisted by their greater genre community, for alleged non-standard to overtly-predatory contract items. This often deeply hurt the authors and agents who committed to those deals. Was the shunning merited? It’s hard to say, except by looking forensically at a case-by-case basis.

So if you have an agent recommending such a deal, go over the contract offer with a very fine comb. Especially with digital-only or digital-first offers. Especially if you write in one of the ‘diversity’ boxes like Own Voices, POC, or LGBTQIA! Is that shiny Big Five imprint interested in you as a writer, or only as a checkmark in that box…and only as long as you write predictably and safely ‘on message’? (A blog post specifically about that will follow this one.)

Find out how well similar authors are selling at that press, or its rivals. I know one digital-only Big Five LGBTQIA author who probably sells enough ebooks a month to make her rent. I know others who’ve made low four or even low three figures for multiple books, across several years.

Have a realistic conversation with your agent about how they will handle the worst-case scenarios listed above. Will they support your move to another press and/or another pen name, or cut you loose to find your own way via self-pub?

New-to-publishing authors often fixate on the idea that getting an agent is their main goal, when it’s merely a stage in a journey.

Writer’s Dilemma: 2016 edition

I’ve entered a manuscript into the 2016 Pitch Wars.

I’m one of about 2000 writers vying for 128 slots, to be mentored for two months while I revise the mms. In early November, the mentee authors get a chance to have their work considered by a large group of agents and publishers. I have a very small chance to be selected in this first round, and no guarantee that my mms will go anywhere in November.

I’m doing this to meet other authors, and to get fresh eyes on this story.

The Pitch Wars and mentors have rightfully and repeatedly warned participating authors to watch what we say and do on social media. Normally, I’d agree.

But this is 2016 and America is facing one of the most important Presidential elections in our history. I’m about to post two blog entries that will no doubt earn the ire of many socially conservative readers…among them, prospective writing partners, agents, and editors. If so, so be it. They and I would probably not be good social or business partners, anyway. If this gets me bounced out of this contest or other opportunities…again, so be it.

This particular manuscript won’t be harmed if I trunk it again, or query it directly to the Big Five or good small publishers…or self-publish.

My fiction is important to me, as is all my art. But life is even more important. I couldn’t do much of my art in the world that a lot of the strict religious fundamentalists – of any religion – seem to want.

My art is certainly not as important as this election.

So fair warning, readers.

My Pitch Wars bio

So, apparently I’m doing this thing called Pitch Wars next week. I have my first chapter reasonably polished, hammered together something that might pass for a hook, cooked up an 800-word synopsis, and achieved a query that didn’t make my current CPs barf. I am exhausted but happy.

For people stalking my mms, there’s plenty on that buried in the rest of this blog. I’ll make it simple. It’s a big secondary-world high fantasy quest/romance novel about music, ancient bio-weapons, sentient amnesiac black holes, oppressed populations, incipient civil wars, and three people who really need to talk honestly to each other more often. Like I said, simple.

For people stalking me, I’m really rather boring. The most interesting thing about me right now is my hair, which is partly cobalt blue right now. And my terrible taste in socks.

I’ve been a commercial and fine artist for a couple of decades. Some of my areas of expertise chosen obsessions are silversmithing, beadwork, embroidery, acrylic painting, costuming, couture clothing, masks, book art sculptures, and digital art.

I’ve had art in some national exhibitions and fancy coffee-table art books. My book art pieces are represented by two incredible galleries, who sell my work to collectors around the world. I have art online at a few sites, both for display and for sale.

By day I write marketing and catalog copy for an international jewelry-making supply firm.

In my spare time, I write science fiction, fantasy, fanfiction, and original erotic romance. I’m apparently not supposed to let on how much I’ve written.

Some of it has even been published by royalty-paying publishers.

What do I want out of Pitch Wars? Nearly everyone wants an enthusiastic, skilled agent and maybe a very nice deal down the road. But my years in art have taught me that the outcomes and odds can be so improbable that you’d better be doing something you love. That you would do anyway. That you cannot not do. That the journey itself may be more important, and lead to even more amazing places than you ever dreamed.

So I’m hoping to connect with some more mentors who will become good friends, that maybe I can help as much as they could help me. Even if I don’t make it into the later rounds, just doing this has helped me clarify my goals.

Onward!