Thursday, April 29, 2010

Publishing and Money

Kerry Allen has been talking about self-publishing, and recently posted a response to someone who asked whether there's any money in it, or whether it's just "for play." [cough] Her answer is worth reading, but I thought I'd run some more specific numbers through it, and since she has comments turned off (for reasons she explains in the post) I'm doing it here.

Kerry says:

True Story: Within the past 6 months, the agent of a writing friend who had multiple NY publishers interested in her debut novel negotiated up to a best offer of a $2500 advance and a 6% royalty, single-book deal. Belts have tightened so much up there, not even a “bidding war” puts an author in what could reasonably be called an advantageous position anymore.

Right. A $2500 advance and a six percent royalty. And that was what she got out of an auction.

Up until recently, I'd always heard that the standard royalty rate for paperbacks was eight to ten, presumably negotiable upward for writers with a good track record. Apparently that's changed. Within the last month I was chatting in comments with a successful writer who has more than half a dozen books in print and seems to be doing well. Within the context of our chat, they gave me a number which let me work out that they too make only six percent on their books, or at least on the one we were talking about. I was shocked to get that number out of my calculator (what? you'd have worked it out too, admit it) but it looks like that's a pretty good number now.

I have a book coming out next month. Just for fun, let's run some comparisons.

Let's say that $2500 is a nice standard advance for a first-time paperback with a big New York press these days. And let's assume that a standard mass-market paperback costs $7.99. At six percent, that's about $.48 per book. At that rate, it'll take just over 5208 sales to earn out the $2500 advance.

My book is coming out electronically, and will cost $5.95. I make 35% royalties on books sold through the publisher's site, and 25% on books sold through third-party vendors such as Fictionwise, Amazon, ARe, etc. Just to make the math a bit simpler, let's split the difference and say that I'll make 30% on all sales, since this is theoretical anyway. So I'll make about $1.79 on each sale. I don't get an advance, but in order to make that $2500, I need to sell 1397 books.

Of course, e-books sell in much smaller quantities than mass-market books. But with the tiny royalties and advances authors are making these days, e-book authors don't have to sell as many to even up the numbers -- only 27% as many sales will earn me that $2500. After that, I only have to make one sale for each of a New York published author's 3 3/4 to keep up with them on royalties.

Now, I'm with a small press and Kerry is talking about self-publishing. But New York has always been seen as having this huge advantage, money-wise. And it's still true that you're much more likely to sell 5000 copies of a New York published book than a self-published or small press book, because the NY publishers have much easier access to chain bookstores and other venues such as WalMart and supermarkets and such. (Not that my books would be in WalMart any time in the next century anyway.) I'm sure the writer I was talking to a while back is going to be making a lot more money with his writing than I am on mine for a good while yet.

But the margin is narrowing. If the standard entry-level royalty percentage from New York was 8-10% for a while, and now it's 6%, what's it going to be in another year or two or five? The standard on the e-pub side is 30-40%, with a bit less for third-party sales (because the vendors take a big cut). I just signed a contract for another story yesterday, and with my publisher, at least, the royalty percentage hasn't changed, and I haven't heard any rumors about any of the other small/electronic presses changing theirs either.

This isn't to say that we're all going to get rich while they all go broke; they do still have sales numbers on their side. And the advantage to that $2500 advance is that it doesn't have to earn out; the author gets to keep it no matter how the book sells. But again, that's a really small advance, by NY standards, and that was what came out of at least a smallish auction. What are advances going to look like in the future?

As has been obvious for the last year or two, the industry is changing. If your main interest is making a pile of money, go do something else; writing fiction is and always has been a financial crap-shoot, and there are plenty of ways of getting rich which are much surer and much less work. The odds aren't weighted quite so heavily against the smaller games as they were before, though, and it'll be interesting to see how the numbers -- and the business model -- go in the next five or ten years.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Misc. Links

New animals discovered in Borneo, an economist's analysis of digital content as a public good, a professor of digital media's thoughts about avatars for characters of color in computer games, and a really hilarious journal post.

New Animals Discovered in Borneo -- I think my favorite is the stick insect, like a walking stick only a bit over half a meter long, pictured walking up the side of a guy's head. Oh, and props to the guy, too, for having guts. :) The flame-colored snake is gorgeous, and the lungless frog makes me think about aliens for an SF story.

Why Content Is a Public Good -- this is a guest post by Milena Popova on Charlie Stross's blog. She talks about public and private goods, and rival and excludable goods, and the various combinations and how the market works (or doesn't) to distribute or control the distribution of the various types. I've never seen the subject (primarily e-books and music, but also applies to movies and such) discussed from this point of view before. She starts at the beginning and explains the vocabulary for people who don't have econ degrees. Definitely worth a read.

Chimerical Avatars and Other Identity Experiments from Prof. Fox Harrell -- Prof. Harrell talks about avatars in computer games and the lack of variety available in avatar types, particularly for players of color who'd like their avatar to represent them as they are, particularly if they want a decent range of options beyond skin color. This is a familiar issue in gaming, but it also applies to books.

How often can a reader of color find a character who's like them in mainstream genre fiction? Or a female reader in an adventure-oriented genre? Sure, we can appreciate and empathize with characters who aren't like us, but white readers don't have to do that very often, and never at all if they don't want to. A series of characters who are all basically alike can give readers who are different the impression that this author or series or genre isn't for them, and can give a writer who is different the impression that a genre doesn't welcome their viewpoint. It benefits all of us to encourage a variety of character types in the media we consume, which (for those of us who are creators) means including a variety of character types in the media we create.

I Has a Sweet Potato by Littera-Abactor on LJ -- I'm pretty sure I haven't linked this here before, but it's hilarious so even if I have, there's no harm done. :D

Dog: I am starving.
Me: Actually, no. You aren't starving. You get two very good meals a day. And treats. And Best Beloved fed you extra food while I was gone.
Me: I saw you get fed not four hours ago! You are not starving.
Dog: Pity me, a sad and tragic creature, for I can barely walk, I am so starving. WOE.
Me: I am now ignoring you.
Dog: Did you hear me? I am starving.
Dog: Are you seriously ignoring me? Fine.

[There is a pause, during which the dog exits the room in a pointed manner.]

[From the kitchen, there comes a noise like someone is eating a baseball bat.]

Me, yelling: What the hell are you doing?
Me: *makes haste for the kitchen and finds dog there*
Dog: *picks up entire raw sweet potato, which is what was causing the baseball bat noise, and flees for the bedroom*
Me: *chases dog, retrieves most of sweet potato, less the portion which has disappeared into dog's gullet*
Me: ...That can't be good for you. It's a RAW SWEET POTATO.
Dog: I had to do it. I haven't been fed. Ever.
Me: You realize you aren't normal. Normal dogs don't steal raw sweet potatoes.
Dog, sadly: I was badly brought up.
Me: Yes. Yes, you were.
Dog: By people who starved me.
Me: Oh, no. I am not doing this again.
Me: *exits the room, bearing sweet potato*

There's more. Definitely more. :D Click through and read the whole thing.

Oh, and I got an acceptance on a story called "Unfinished Business," which is a sequel to A Hidden Magic, yay! :D It's short and funny and is basically erotica, picking up on something a couple of supporting characters were doing about two-thirds of the way through the book. It's scheduled for release on 26 June, just a month after HM, which is great timing.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Rewrite and Submit

I've been dinking around with this one story story for a while now, trying to figure out why it wasn't working. I finally figured out that it was the ending -- it was going well up to the last few pages, but then I wasn't sticking the landing. The immediate incident being told in the story was over, but there were ramifications for later on, and the protag had plans for what she was going to do in the future as opportunity and resources presented themselves.

It kind of sounded like the first chapter -- or maybe the prologue -- of a novel, rather than a stand-alone short. Except there really wasn't enough pending action to support something novel length. :/ There was too much blah-blah-blah at the end, too much speculation about what the protag would do some day in response to the immediate situation. It just sort of trailed off rather than giving a firm ending. Not good. This story's been bounced a couple of times before, and now I can see why.

I chopped off about the last thousand words and rewrote the ending. I figured out a different way the protag could respond to the situation, riskier and more immediate, but also more intense and satisfying. Hoping this one works. [crossed fingers]


ETA: closed to coments because of idiots spamming.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Reject and Resubmit, and a Great Resource

One of the stories I have out on submission bounced last night, although with a nice paragraph of personal comments, including the fact that they found the story "intellectually interesting." Hey, I'll take that. :) Also some comments on POV which might be valid, but reworking it as suggested would take like 90% of the suspense out of the story, so I think I'll keep it as-is and see what a few other editors think.

(I've decided to stop specifying which stories I'm discussing in the back-and-forthing, unless/until they sell. We know it's all supposed to be about the story and nothing else, but human nature says that making it easy for an editor to exercise the Google-fu and see that sixteen editors before them have bounced the story is probably not a great idea. [wry smile])

I also signed up with Duotrope and threw them a few bucks. I've been using them on and off for a while now and they're a great resource; it's only fair to contribute. For anyone who hasn't been there, Duotrope provides submission info on like a bazillion fiction and poetry markets. Their searches are easy to do and provide all the basic info you need to sort through markets, with quick links to the market's own web site for more detailed info.

Signing up lets you create an account (which is free, by the way) and gives you access to a personal database to track your submissions. You can enter info about your stories, which lets you run quicker targetted searches when it's time to send something out. It also tracks how long a story's been out, how long it took the market to respond, and what kind of response you got; collecting that info lets them display, on the market's page, what their minimum, mean average, median and maximum response times have been over the past year, what their accept/reject percentage is, how often they reject with a form versus a personal note, etc.

Good stuff, highly recommended.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Boosting the Signal

Rachel D., who is disabled after a back injury, had an absolutely hideous experience flying on United recently. This wasn't just one person being careless, or even an encounter with one jerk. This is multiple bad experiences, over and over, on a single flight, involving employees from two airports as well as flight crew; it looks like evidence of a company-wide issue to me. This is inexcusable, especially the attitude of the customer service supervisor toward the end, who said right out that she wouldn't apologize for anything and didn't feel at all sorry for what'd happened to Rachel. Wow, I'll bet she aced Customer Service 101. :P


Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Jane at Dear Author has a post about cliffhangers up today, with a survey asking whether people like them or hate them or don't care. She's talking about cliffhangers at the ends of books, which have issues of their own, and I left a comment there.

What really annoys me, though, are fake cliffhangers used at the ends of chapters. Something like, "Mary answers the door, then gasps in horror and draws back with her arms curled protectively across her face!" End of chapter. Reader goes "Ack!" and quickly turns the page, imagining that Ivor Evil the Villain is there with a flamethrower or something, only to find that the UPS guy's on the other side of the door with a stack of packages that almost tipped over. He apologizes, hands her the one or two that belong to her, gets her signature and heads off to the next apartment, at which point the conversation Mary and her sister were having before the doorbell rang toward the end of the previous chapter is picked up and the story goes on. The cliffhanger was nothing, meant nothing, and was inserted only to be a cliffhanger.

That kind of a cliffhanger is completely bogus. First, there's no reason to break a chapter there -- there's no change of time, location, POV, or even significant activity. Second, the tension fostered in the reader was a complete fake, with nothing behind it. It's the writer saying, "Haha! I fooled you!"

Then they do it over and over.

I've gotten into discussions about this particular device in the past, and writers who do this sort of thing have indignantly explained that it's "to get the reader to turn the page."

I have two comments for that. One, a writer who pulls this stunt might keep me turning pages through this one book, but I'll never buy anything with their name on it again. And two, if they think they have to resort to these kinds of fake-outs to get their readers to keep reading, they must not have any faith at all in their plot or characters.

Cheap trick. Doesn't impress anybody. Don't do it.


PS -- usual caveats, you can make this work, especially if you're writing melodrama-style humor, etc. Doing it with a straight face, though? Yuck.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Anthology Markets

I've been getting a lot of hits on these posts, so if you've just wandered in off the internet, hi and welcome. :) I do these posts every month, so if this post isn't dated in the same month you're in, click here to make sure you're seeing the most recent one.

Markets with specific deadlines are listed first, "Until Filled" markets are at the bottom. There are usually more details on the original site; always click through and read the full guidelines before submitting. Note that some publishers list multiple antho guildelines on one page, so after you click through you might have to scroll a bit.

Non-erotica/romance writers: check out Music for Another World, Sword and Sorceress, Fear of the Dark, Extreme Zombie Anthology, Panverse, and Horror Library.


30 April 2010 -- Steampunk Romance Anthology -- Samhain Press

Welcome to the world of clockwork pendants and steam locomotives, corsets and lace, dirigibles and difference engines. Yes, we’re talking about steampunk, where fantasy, history, technology and romance mix to create a glorious genre that looks at Victorian and Edwardian Era England and the American wild west through brass goggles.

I’m open to M/F, M/M, or multiples thereof, any sexual heat level, and the romance must end happily ever after or happy for now.

The novellas must range between 25,000 to 30,000 words in length, no more, no less—please note, only manuscripts that fall in this word count will be considered for this anthology—and will be released individually as ebooks in November 2010.

To submit a manuscript for consideration, please include:

The full manuscript (of 25,000 to 30,000 words) with a comprehensive 2-5 page synopsis. Please include a letter of introduction/query letter. Full manuscripts are required for this as it is a special project.

As well, when you send your manuscript, please be sure to use the naming convention Steampunk_Title_MS and Steampunk_Title_Synopsis. This will ensure that your submission doesn’t get missed in the many submissions we receive, and makes it easy for me to find in my ebook reader.


30 April 2010 -- Music for Another World -- Mark Harding

I'm looking for Fantasy and Science Fiction Stories. I am quite broad with definitions, but a fantasy story must have an element of fantasy, and a science fiction story must contain an element of science/technology and speculation about science. I like merged-genre stories, but be warned that I don't want the anthology dominated by 'slipstream' stories.

Story length is ideally between 2000 and 6000 words. However, I will consider stories outside of this range.

The unique points:
Music must be integral to the story: for example, the story might be about music, or the life of musicians, or the effect of a musical instrument, or perhaps a piece of music -- or anything else that I haven't thought of!

This next requirement is equally important. I'm not only looking for great characters, great plot, great entertainment and great prose, but I'm also looking for stories that are intellectually exciting. This is something Science Fiction and Fantasy is best equipped to deliver, so I am going to be explicit about wanting this in the anthology.

What I'm NOT looking for:
A story where the author has changed the lead character from a schoolteacher to a musician, or where the magical object has been changed from a cursed handbag to a cursed violin. Music MUST be integral to the story. If the musical element can obviously be exchanged for something or someone else -- brilliant though the story may be -- it won't fit my anthology.

I'm also NOT looking for:
Sword and Sorcery
Fan fiction
Mozart fighting zombies

Electronic submissions only, in RTF format. Email to mark.musicanthology'@'

Payment: One free copy of the paperback plus £80 per author selected. Payment by Paypal only.


14 May 2010 -- Sword and Sorceress 25 -- Ed. Elizabeth Waters, Norilana Books

Reading period: Saturday, April 17 to Friday, May 14, 2010. Stories received before or after this period will be deleted unread.

Response time is expected to follow MZB's traditional standards: you should hear within a week if we're holding your story for the final line-up or rejecting it.

Deadline: May 14, 2010.

Length: up to 9,000 words, with preference given to shorter stories. The longer a story is, the better it has to be. Long stories should be submitted early in the reading period.

Formatting and Submission:

Format with one-inch margins on all four sides of page.

Please do not use a header or footer.

Your name, full mailing address, and email address must be in the upper left corner, single spaced.

Skip two lines, center the text, then put the title, with your name (or byline) on the next line. We're not going to be as rigid as MZB was about pen names, but we expect them to be reasonable, rather than cute.

The rest of the manuscript should be single-spaced, with the first line of each paragraph indented 1/2 inch.

If you need to indicate a break, put "#" on a line by itself, centered.

Do not underline; use italics instead. Do not use bold face. We prefer Courier New font, size 12.

Word count will be determined by our word processor; that way it will be the same for everyone.

Save your document as an .rtf file (rich text format or interchange format, depending on what your computer calls it). E-mail as it as an attachment to mzbworks at yahoo dot com. The subject line should be "SS25, your last name, story title" (e.g.: SS25, Bradley, Dark Intruder) -- we don't want submissions caught in our spam filter.

Rights purchased: first rights, non-exclusive eBook rights.

Payment: 5 cents per word as an advance against a pro rata share of royalties and foreign or other sales.


15 May 2010 -- Blood Play -- Torquere Press

Three-story mini-anthology of short, sexy stories on the theme, 3-8K words, 35%/25% of cover price from publisher's site/vendors, divided among the three authors.


1 June 2010 -- Working Stiffs -- Amber Allure

Series Type: Gay (M/M) -- Blue-Collar Love Affairs
Novella Length: 18,000 to 39,999 words
Heat Level: 3+ (Love scenes should be extremely explicit and contain graphic language. Stories may also contain sexual situations or storylines that push the envelope -- heavy bondage, spanking, as well as menage, domination and submission, multiple sexual partners, etc.)

Specific Guidelines: Each novella for this "picture/series" should feature at least one blue-collar hero (regardless of industry), who's a hard-working laborer considered "good with his hands" both at work and at play, and tell the tale of his love affair with a man of his own social class/standing (or maybe not�that's entirely up to you). Although stories should have a contemporary setting only, they may also be sub-categorized as romantic comedy, suspense or thriller, action and adventure, as well as BDSM. But once again, please keep in mind that at least one of your heroes must be "blue-collar" worker, just the sort of hero depicted in the above photograph. Moreover, all stories should have a "happily ever after" ending, or at least what is considered a "happily for now" conclusion.

Email Address: After preparing your documents according to the "General Submission/Formatting Info" listed above, please submit the full manuscript, synopsis, and query letter to:

[Heavily edited for space -- definitely click through for specific guidelines, and take note of the peculiarities in manuscript formatting.]


1 June 2010 -- Fear of the Dark -- Horror Bound Magazine Publications

Horror Bound Magazine Publications seeks short stories for an upcoming anthology entitled Fear of the Dark (Temporary Title). The point of the stories should be to investigate the human fear of the unknown, the dark, and the common themes found in nightmares.

Reading Period: We will read stories starting March 5th to June 1st 2010 (or until the anthology is filled). Those who we offer a contract will be contacted shortly thereafter.

Payment: Payment will be $0.01/word CAD, based on the final, edited word count from Microsoft Word rounded to the nearest hundred words, plus one contributor's copy.

All submissions should include an author bio and a short synopsis. We want to know why your short story fits our theme.

Submission guidelines: Stories should be 1500-5500 words, standard format, with the author's name, email address, and word count in the upper left-hand corner of the first page. Stories should be sent as email attachments in Microsoft Word to

We request first print rights and all electronic rights.


9 June 2010 -- The Ladies of Trade Town -- Norilana Books

The stories selected for this anthology will build on that varied background to tell well-crafted tales of the women and men -- and other sentient beings -- who "ply the trade" in a variety of times and settings. I'm looking for original science fiction, fantasy, and related genre short stories that entertain and play to the imagination of the reader. Show me something I haven't seen, read, or written. (For examples of that last, see "Lady Blaze" in Roby James's Warrior Wisewoman 2 and the title cut of the filk CD that gives this volume its name.) Humor, characters of all orientations and gender-identities, and new writers all welcome.

Despite the theme, I am *not* looking for porn, erotica, or gore-soaked horror. Absolutely no child abuse, incest, or non-consensual situations. Also not looking for poetry, fanfic or proselytizing either for or against the theme.

STORY LENGTH: between 3,000 - 10,000 words. Mostly looking for stories in the 5,000 - 6,000 word range, but I'd like to have a few stories on the upper and lower ends in the mix. The upper limit is firm for unsolicited stories.

RIGHTS PURCHASED: First English Language Rights and non-exclusive electronic rights. The anthology will be published by Norilana Books as a trade paperback edition in April 2011, to be followed by an electronic edition to be produced later.

PAYMENT: $0.02 a word on acceptance of completed anthology manuscript by the Publisher, as an advance against pro-rata share of the royalties after earnout, plus one contributor copy.

READING PERIOD: Opens January 5, 2010, closes June 9, 2010. Manuscripts received before or after this period will be discarded unread, unless prior arrangements have been made otherwise.


15 June 2010 -- Mine -- Ed. Shawn Clements, Torquere Press

Sometimes there can be no question about it: you're owned. And that possessive little growl from your own personal vampire or werewolf is the sexiest thing on the planet. "Mine" is a paranormal e-anthology about this most exclusive of bonds, edited by Shawn Clements. We're looking for m/m stories that sizzle, 3,000 to 8,000 words. Payment is a flat fee of $35.00 for first-time electronic rights. No reprints, please. Deadline for submission is June 15, 2010, with publication projected for October. Please submit the story, along with a synopsis, your contact information, and author biography, to with "Mine" in the subject line.


1 July 2010 -- Taken -- Torquere Press

Fangs. Claws. Ghostly shadows in the night. Taken is about the mysterious compulsion of the paranormal as it plays out in a m/m/f menage. An unearthly white lady who bewitches two handsome knights? A hapless mortal who finds himself the captive of the Faerie king and queen? Whatever the situation, you can guarantee the characters will be taken with each other. We want loving relationships and happy endings, though all sensual heat levels are welcome. Preferred length is 8,000 to 12,000 words. Payment is a flat fee of $75.00 for first time print and electronic rights. Deadline for submission is July 1, 2010. Please submit the story, along with a synopsis, your contact information, and author biography to with Taken in the subject line.


1 July 2010 -- Hot Summer Daze -- Amber Allure

Series Type: Gay (M/M) -- Summertime Love Affairs
Novella Length: 18,000 to 39,999 words
Heat Level: 3+ (Love scenes should be extremely explicit and contain graphic language. Stories may also contain sexual situations or storylines that push the envelope -- heavy bondage, spanking, as well as menage, domination and submission, multiple sexual partners, etc.)

Specific Guidelines: Each novella for this "picture/series" should tell the story of a hot and steamy summer affair. Whether your heroes meet at some exotic resort, on a luxury cruise, or even while hanging out at their neighborhood pool, a red-hot romance should develop between them and turn their lives upside down. Although stories should have a contemporary setting only, they may also be sub-categorized as romantic comedy, suspense or thriller, action and adventure, as well as BDSM. All stories should have a "happily ever after" ending, or at least what is considered a "happily for now" conclusion, so show us how the summers will sizzle once your heroes get together and realize what they have is a whole lot more than just a meaningless fling.

Email Address: After preparing your documents according to the "General Submission/Formatting Info" listed above, please submit the full manuscript, synopsis, and query letter to:

[Heavily edited for space -- definitely click through for specific guidelines, and take note of the peculiarities in manuscript formatting.]


1 July 2010 -- Extreme Zombie Anthology -- Comet Press

Comet Press is seeking novelette/novella length stories for a extreme zombie themed anthology to be published in August 2010 (trade paperback). We are looking for the most gruesome, twisted, disturbing, zombie stories imaginable.

Reading period: From February 1, 2010–July 1, 2010 (or until filled).
Word length: 15,000–30,000 words.
Multiple submissions: Up to two stories per author can be submitted. Please send as separate emails.
Payment: 1/2 cent per word, $150 max, plus contributor copy. Payment will be made upon publication.
Reprints: No reprints.
Response Time: 4–6 weeks. Rejections will be sent as soon as possible. Stories that make the first cut will be kept until the end of the reading period. Authors will be notified right away if their story makes the first cut, then the final stories will be selected at the end of the reading period.

We will send a confirmation that we received your story within 2 days. If you do not get this confirmation, please feel free to inquire or resubmit.

Attach the entire manuscript to email as an .rtf attachment.

In the body of the email please include: your name, pen name if any, address and email address, and brief bio. Include a brief blurb summing up the story and word count. Attache the story in a standard formatted .rtf document double spaced, standard font and size. First line of paragraphs indented, no extra spaces between paragraphs, except for scene breaks. Italics should be italized, bold in bold. Put "ZOMBIE SUBMISSION: TITLE OF YOUR STORY" in the subject of the email. Email to:


1 July 2010 -- Paranormal Month: Halloween Novelettes and Novellas -- Torquere Press
[No link -- this was announced on the Yahoo list, but isn't posted on the web site yet.]

Novelettes (Single Shots) 10-20K words, Novellas (Highballs) 20-40K words. Send your submissions to with "Halloween" and the name of the line in the subject line.


UNTIL FILLED -- MM and Menage Steampunk Antho -- Ed. Leigh Ellwood, Phaze

Call: M/M and Menage Steampunk Anthology, Title TBA
Edited by: Leigh Ellwood
Projected release date: late 2010
Format: eBook (with possible print release)
Publisher: Phaze Books
Payment: $50 for one-time electronic and print rights, plus copies

Hey, all you steampunk enthusiasts, grab your goggles and get to writing! Phaze Books is planning an M/M (and bi-M menage) steampunk collection for eBook publication in 2010. If you have a yen for 19th century history with a touch of good humor and technological innovation (and a whole lot of manlove!), we hope you’ll send us your hottest steampunk erotic romance of 10K - 20K words. If you’re not sure about the genre, check out this Wikipedia entry for steampunk ( to get an idea of the style of stories we’re looking for. Think H.G. Wells or Wild Wild West, then turn up the steam factor with an incredible M/M or MMF/MMM match-up!

This call is open indefinitely until the spots are filled. Contributors will offer one-time electronic and print rights to their works and receive a one-time payment of $50 and contributors copies (eBook and/or print, if the book goes to print).

To submit to this anthology, please follow the Phaze Books structural guidelines at and attach your RTF submission to Leigh Ellwood, c/o Phaze Books at submissions @ phaze (dot) com. Please use STEAMPUNK ANTHOLOGY is your subject header.


UNTIL FILLED -- Panverse Three -- Ed. Dario Ciriello, Panverse Publishing

The anthology will be open to submissions until we have enough good stories.

Looking for pro-level novellas of between 17,500 and 40,000 words. Stories should be Science Fiction (except Military) or Fantasy (except Heroic/High/Superhero/S&S). We'll also look at Magic Realism, Alternate History, and Slipstream (whatever that is). The story should be original and unpublished in any medium (this includes web publication).

Depth of characterization will count for a lot – however clever the idea, if we don't care for the protagonist, we'll bounce it. We like stories that instill wonder. Subject matter is pretty wide open. If we care, can't put the story down, and find no big holes in the plot or worldbuilding, you've got a good shot.

What we don't want:

Military SF, High Fantasy, Sword and Sorcery, Horror, RPG, superhero, or shared-universe stuff, etc. Vampires and Cthulhu-mythos stories are strongly discouraged unless you've done something absolutely original with either theme. No gratuitous or wildly excessive sex or violence: what this means is that sex or violence which serves the plot is okay, within limits; the same goes for language. Think R-rated rather than XXX-rated.

[NOTE: there are some unusual bits in their formatting and cover letter requirements. Nothing ridiculous, but definitely click the link and read the full guidelines before submitting.]


UNTIL FILLED -- Horror Library, Vol. 4 -- Cutting Block Press

Cutting Block Press is pleased to announce an open submissions period for the 4th Volume of its Horror Anthology Series, +Horror Library+, to be published in trade paperback during 2009.

We're looking for the highest quality examples of all forms of Dark Fiction, running the gamut from traditional horror, supernatural, speculative, psychological thriller, dark satire, including every point between and especially beyond. No Fantasy or Sci-fi unless the horror elements are dominant. Read +Horror Library+ Volumes 1-3 to see what's already pleased us. Special consideration will be given those pieces that we find profoundly disturbing, though blood and violence on their own won't cut it. While we will consider tales of vampires, ghosts and zombies, we tend to roll our eyes at ordinary ones. They're just too plentiful. Your best bet is to surprise us with something that is different, while well conceived and tightly executed.

Guidelines: Stories will range between 1,000 and 6,000 words, though we'll look at longer works of exceptional merit. In that case, query before submission. Buying 1st worldwide anthology rights. No reprints. Paying 1.5 cents per word, plus one contributors copy. For established authors, rates may be negotiable. Response time: six months or sooner. Deadline: We will accept submissions until filled. All Queries to

Manuscript format: 12 point courier font, standard margins, left side of header: name, contact info, right side of header: word count, top of first page: title, author

Variances from traditional manuscript format: single space, NO INDENTS, ONE EXTRA space between paragraphs, use bold, italics and underline as they are to appear in story

Subject box: Short Story submission - title of story

Attach story in MS Word Document or RTF (only). Please paste your cover letter in the body of the e-mail. Send submissions to

[See the web page for a special offer on copies of Horror Library Vol. 1 for writers doing market research.]

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Housekeeping, Bad Writer Behavior, and Bigotry

Just a few things in passing. First, I updated (after a couple of years of neglect, I think) my bloglist on the sidebar, so folks who are interested in what other people read now have an updated list of which blogs and cetera I'm subscribed to. If yours is there and I spelled your name wrong or something, please nudge me and I'll fix it.

Second, it seems there hasn't yet been enough negative, condemnatory publicity about authors who pitch fits on the internet, whining about critical commentary and getting all defensive about bad reviews on Amazon, so Rob Thurman is giving us more material. I think she's a great sport for sacrificing her professional reputation to give us an excellent negative example. Let's all give her a hand, shall we? Thanks to Writtenwyrdd for linking to this.

And third, I'm sure everyone's heard about Constance McMillen, the high school student in Mississippi who wanted to bring her girlfriend to the prom only to have the school cancel the event rather than let a couple of lesbians show up holding hands or something. Wow, overreacting much? The case went to court and the judge decided that the school was in the wrong, but (if I'm remembering correctly) refrained from ordering the school to hold the prom anyway because at the time there was a private prom being organized by parents and it was understood that Constance and her girlfriend would be welcome there. Well, someone decided that their town hadn't gotten enough bad press (maybe that's where Rob Thurman lives?) so Constance and her girlfriend, along with a few other students, were given time/place information for... a fake prom. No, seriously. They showed up at a country club to find seven people there, plus the principal and some teachers from their high school acting as chaperones, not that there was much to chaperone.

Two students with learning difficulties were among the seven people at the country club event, McMillen recalls. "They had the time of their lives," McMillen says. "That's the one good thing that come out of this, [these kids] didn't have to worry about people making fun of them [at their prom]."

The more I hear from this young woman, the more I like her. Unfortunately she lives in an area with more than its fair share of folks who indulge in master-level gluteal haberdashery. I mean, seriously, did they hold a meeting of the Cool People and decide which students were the unclean undesirables who'd be shunted to the fake event? I can just imagine their delight in realizing that by coming up with a plan to shuffle the lesbians off to the fake dance, they could do it to those other weird, uncool kids too! Score! :/

I'm sure Constance is counting the days until graduation. I hope she has a wonderful time in college and has an awesome life, because she absolutely deserves it for the way she's handled this whole outrageous situation with grace and dignity. And I hope the people -- students and parents and school staff alike -- who participated in turning what should've been a simple, fun prom into an ever-growing mound of hate and bigotry all get what they deserve as well.


Friday, April 2, 2010


I sent in another submission (yay, it's only the second and I have another point already!) this one a short sequel to A Hidden Magic called "Unfinished Business." It focuses on a couple of the supporting characters, and picks up on something funny they were doing in Chapter 17, before the balloon went up and everyone had to scramble.

My original intention was to have it be a free extra, since it occurs right after the novel, and bangs off of something that happened during that story. I was thinking maybe it could be a bonus story included in the same file as the novel or something like that. My editor told me Torquere's only done that once, though, and I got the impression it'd be like pulling teeth with a tweezer to get them to do it again. Which is understandable; I get that they're trying to make a living, and with a story which falls within their wordcount range for a short story, they'd rather sell it as a short story. I was just kind of iffy about whether it could stand on its own; I had this vision of people who hadn't read the novel buying the short and going, "Huh? What the heck's going on here?! This sucks!" and never reading anything with my name on it again. :(

Another option would've been to post it as a free story on my web site, but that gets mainly crickets and tumbleweeds, and I'd really like for a few people to actually read the story. [wry smile]

I e-mailed it to some writers I know, none of whom had read Hidden Magic, and asked if they'd please read it and tell me whether they thought it could stand alone. (Thanks and hugs to the folks who helped me! :D ) They all said they thought it could, with a few suggestions. One, which I got from more than one person, was to de-couple the story from the novel, moreso than it already was. I'd been thinking I needed to fill in the reader on what had gone before, in case they hadn't read the book, but my readers suggested going the opposite way. And... yeah, that'd work. The incident the short story is based on is funny in and of itself, and although it's more funny if you know where it came from, it's not necessary to enjoy the story.

So I did this big "Duh!" and did some rewriting, cutting some specific references to characters from the book and focusing the short more on Cal and Aubrey, the characters that particular story is actually about. It's much better now as an individual story, and I'm much more confident that it'll work out, whether a reader has read the earlier novel or not.

It's one of the downsides of sequels, though, that they should stand alone, at least enough that some new reader who grabs a sequel first won't be completely lost and has a chance of enjoying the story. It's all right if there are details and references they don't pick up on, but it shouldn't be so obvious to them that things are flashing by over their heads that they get frustrated or annoyed by it. I've always preferred episodic series over single-arc series -- with some exceptions, of course, for really well written single-arc stories -- but the need to accommodate a new reader makes it difficult from the writer's POV.

When I was a kid, someone gave me a couple of Nancy Drew books for Christmas one year (I think it was some sort of law that young girls had to have at least a couple of those, back in the seventies) and one thing that annoyed me even when I was eight or nine was the way every freaking book started with this infodump about how Nancy was this pretty titian-haired eighteen-year-old (and she never had a birthday either, although that's a different gripe) whose father was Carson Drew the famous lawyer, and how motherless Nancy had been raised by their kind housekeeper Hannah Gruen. And about her friends, the cousins Bess and George, although in the first two or three books Nancy's best friend was Helen, who was never mentioned later after B&G showed up. And her boyfriend Ned, who was about as sexless as a Ken doll. And her blue roadster. And how much the local Chief of Police loved her and thought she was just so awesome. (I don't believe I still remember all this stuff, thirty-some years later, LOL! At least I forgot the Police Chief's name.)

But they'd give you all this info, Every Single Time, right there on pages 1-2. After a dozen books it was annoying, and by the time I hit forty or so (which was pretty close to where I eventually stopped) I was ready to tear out the first pages of any Nancy Drew book I could get my hands on. I get that they had to present the information, but if your ham-handed repetition is annoying a kid who hasn't even seen her tenth birthday yet, there's got to be a smoother, less blatant way of communicating it, you know?

So all right, this is an issue writers have been having for going on a century now, at least, and I'm probably not going to come up with The Definitive Answer. But I have plans for more stories in this series, and although I want them all to be readable by anyone, I don't want to go the Nancy Drew route of dropping infodump anvils onto readers' heads at the beginning of each new book or story.

In the case of "Unfinished Business," once I'd been clued in on the basic approach, I looked at the story as an individual entity, rather than as part of a series. It's important to the series that readers have a certain amount of background on the characters and the Sentinel team and what they do, but most of that's not necessary for a reader to read and enjoy this story right here. And although the funny in the story is funnier if you know where it came from, it's still funny if you don't know, and trying to explain what was going on before in a long, telly paragraph makes the story less enjoyable, so fun is maximized by leaving that out and shooting for the slightly lesser level of funny.

IOW, shooting for "Funny" and making it (I hope!) is better than shooting for "Very Funny" and having a miss turn the whole story into a "Blah."

I've never had to consider this angle before; I've done other stories in this universe, but "Chasing Fear" and "Candy Courage" were about different characters entirely, and "Chasing Fear" is set a few hundred miles away. It's all part of the same verse, yes, but there's nothing to link the stories except for that, so I didn't have to think about reading order when I wrote those, or A Hidden Magic for that matter. Now that I've tripped over the idea of constructing a story to stand alone based on what will make it good and enjoyable, rather than thinking of the verse or the series first, writing subsequent stories about the same characters will probably be a bit easier. At least I know what I'm shooting for. :)

I know a few people who read here have written series books or stories -- how do you handle the new reader issue? Has it been difficult, or have things just sort of flowed for you? Any tips?


Thursday, April 1, 2010

March Stuff -- Editing and Cover Art and Cetera

Well, I didn't do much writing in March -- a little over 4K words :P -- but I got A Hidden Magic through edits, which was a much larger job than I expected it to be. Vincent, my editor on this project, is sneaky with comments; there are all these little notes that look like nothing when you glance over them, but end up rippling through the manuscript. [laugh/flail] I thought I'd be done in a few days, but it actually took me right up until deadline. I'll know better for next time.

This is my first novel, so I was half expecting structure-level changes. Not hoping for them or anything :/ but I've heard from other writers over the years about having to add chapters or rip out characters, add or subtract subplots, change the whole ending, that sort of thing. I'll admit to a certain amount of trepidation while waiting for edits to actually show up, and a whole lot of relief when there was nothing on that level. Vincent said reading and editing the book were a lot of fun, which is great; it's always cool to get a good opinion from someone who's not a friend, you know?

I went through the manuscript a few times and found a lot of little things I wanted to change or fix, aside from editorial comments. Some of them were mistakes which the proofreader (who gets the manuscript next) might well have caught, but I'm glad I saw them anyway. I'm a pretty good editor of my own work, but no matter how often I look over a story, there's always something, you know? And with 72K words to play with, there's a lot of room for little somethings to hide in.

I filled out the cover art request form in mid-month, and that was a lot more difficult than I'd expected, mainly because I was trying hard to be reasonable and not request anything outside the bounds set by a tiny budget. If I had a few thousand dollars and a couple of years to get on someone's schedule, that'd be something else -- heck, my first choice would be Colleen Doran, whose LOTR art and more elaborate Ovanan (these sort of elf-like aliens) from her comic book A Distant Soil I actually had in mind while developing my elves and their court. The look isn't exact, but the mood and the esthetic is about right, especially for the evil Ovanan, who are beautiful and decadent. Last I saw on her blog, though, her schedule's full for like the next year or so, and I imagine she's horribly expensive. I don't remember exactly what Torquere pays for cover art, but I think it's somewhere in the $50-75 range. Humm, I guess George Perez is out too, right...? [rueful smile]

So I was trying to be reasonable, and figure out what to ask for that'd be doable with stock photos and some Photoshop skill. I gave a few possibilities and a lot of descriptions, and I'll have to see what comes of it.

One thing I did discover, though, while browsing through stock photo sites, is that some of the photographers who upload photos to these places are incredibly optimistic. They apparently think it's worth their while to upload, say, women's portraits to the People / Portraits / Men section, apparently on the belief that their photography is Just So Gorgeous that someone who's specifically looking for a male photo will see these female portraits and instantly think, "OMG! These are absolutely breathtaking! I must have them! I'll rework my entire project concept to use female photos instead of male, just so I can use These Pictures!!" [/sarcasm]

On the other hand, maybe they're just incredibly lazy and can't be bothered to sort out their pictures properly. I suppose that's possible too. :P Whichever it is, the People / Portraits / Men section of one site I looked at was at least 25% female, which annoyed me quite a lot. It took hours to go through all the pictures, and it might have taken 25% fewer hours if the photographers would pay attention to the damn section headers and put their photos where they belong. [mutter]

I still have to fill out the marketing form, with a blurb and an excerpt and such. That should be fun; I've never had a chance to do that before.

Now that the bulk of that's done, though, I'm looking forward to getting back to writing. It's exciting to be getting that much closer to having an actual novel published, but I've missed writing for a while. I've always known I prefer writing fresh to editing (doesn't everyone?) but I've never had this much editing to do with my previous stories. And the fact that my last big push with HM before submitting it was essentially a months-long restructuring, with just as much editing and fussing around at the structural level as actual writing, means that I'm pretty burned out on editing and fussing and reworking this story anyway. :/ I'm at the point where I feel like I can't tell any more whether it's good or not; I'm too close to all the bits and pieces, characters and plot threads and fiddly little details of the world, to be able to see it the way a reader would. I suppose that's normal too, but it's still frustrating.

Oh, and I submitted a story, too, just a bit before midnight. I was working on something earlier for an anthology called Triangulation: End of the Rainbow, but it came out too long. I made a few passes through it, cutting and condensing and trying to get it down to within spitting distance of the mostly-firm upper wordcount limit of 5K, then I set it aside when edits came in. At around 11:30 tonight (last night? on the 31st, anyway) I remembered it and took another quick look. It's at about 5500, which isn't too bad. It's a dark paranormal (no sex [grin]) and I think it'll be an unusual treatment of the theme -- I hope so, anyway. So I sent it along, and we'll see what the editor thinks. At worst I'll have another slip to add to my rejection file, and at best he'll love it despite it being a little longer than he'd like. Keep a set of virtual fingers crossed for me on this one. :)

Anyway, adding things up for March:

1 pt. -- 1 story submission
1 pt. -- 4K words of writing
14 pts. -- 72K words of editing
16 pts. total

Koala Challenge 9

Whee! :D