Ad Astra 2015 wrap post

There are many reasons to love Ad Astra.

It’s enough of a fan con to have a masquerade ball, cosplay, a lego salon, and an anime screening room, but enough of a reader/writer con to have workshops (writing, costume construction, and more), excellent panels for professional development (writing craft, business, research, and fan-based discussions), readings, and great opportunities to network with other authors and industry professionals.

The Guest of Honour Brunch: you get to eat good food and go all fangirl (or –boy) sitting with one of your favourite authors, editors, or agents.

Aside from the con suite, there’s an entire floor of the hotel devoted to special events, book launches, and special interest parties.

There is an art salon as well as the dealers’ room, so you can always find something on which to spend your non-existent disposable income 😛

Astronomy in the parking lot. Need I say more?

It’s local (a four-hour drive for me), and so I don’t have to incur the expense of air fare.

Because it’s a convention, the registration fee is extremely reasonable.

So, I have enough money to feed my book addiction 🙂

Books - swag and purchased

Mind you, this year, I got almost as many free books as I bought.

I would highly recommend that any genre author attend at least one convention. Try it out and see if you like it. I get a lot of value out of my attendance and some encouragement to try new and different conferences and conventions.

Next year, I may even try to get on a few Ad Astra panels myself.

This will be the end of reporting until Can-Con in October. This will be a new convention experience for me, so look forward to lots of Writerly Goodness in the fall.

Up next: The next chapter.

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Ad Astra 2015, day 3: The hero’s journey and the story promise

I lied. Last week I’d said that I’d be reporting on fairy tales this week. Turns out that my notes from that panel were less than a page (!) I was enjoying rather than making notes, again (bad Mellie). So I’m fast-forwarding to the last session I attended at Ad Astra this year.

Panellists: Catherine Fitzsimmons, Cathy Hird, Kelley Armstrong, Nina Munteanu

the hero's journey panel

KA: The first stop on the hero’s journey is the ordinary world. Science fiction and fantasy authors can struggle with this because of the urge to info-dump. We want to share all the details of our intricate world building. You can’t jump straight to the call to adventure, though. You have to set the stage.

NM: The call to adventure is often refused and may require the appearance of a mentor figure.

CH: Refusal is an interesting moment, though. It’s great conflict.

NM: Threshold guardians are another great source of conflict. In most cases, your hero will need help to defeat or circumvent them. Mentors or allies. The descent and return must be accomplished by your hero alone, however. Your hero must transform.

KA: That’s the return with the elixir. Sometimes, though, the hero does not refuse. Sometimes, it’s awesome. I’m in! Hella yeah! And sometimes the threshold guardian just doesn’t want the hero to get hurt. It’s still conflict. It’s just not so overt.

NM: It’s the belief in the quest that carries the hero over the threshold. The mentor believes in the hero. The threshold guardians do not.

CH: In Tanya Huff’s The Enchantment Emporium, the quest is hidden.

NM: The story promise requires the hero to progress on the journey to its ultimate fulfillment.

CF: There has to be a hint, even when the quest is hidden.

KA: Even romance novels follow the hero’s journey.

CF: Literary fiction can be more metaphorical.

CH: Two people may want to achieve the same goal, but in different ways or for different reasons. In some of the epic stories, things fall apart. Every King Arthur has his Mordred.

Q: Is the hero’s journey a western convention?

NM: The template aspect is western, but Campbell studied cultures all over the world to identify the pattern. The basis of the hero’s journey is universal.

CH: The hero’s journey doesn’t fit with some of the eastern stories, though. They can be more cyclic in nature. The Shiva trilogy by Amish Tripathi is an example.

CF: It’s a matter of interpretation.

KA: If you want a simplified version of the three act structure: chase your character up a tree; throw rocks at them; have them climb back down.

NM: In the third act resolution, the hero’s resolve must be tested.

And that was time.

Next week: The Ad Astra 2015 wrap post with my usual picture of my bookish purchases.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Ad Astra 2015 day 3: Making a living isn’t just for the cream of the crop anymore

Here we are, finally, on day 3!

Saturday evening, I attended the Edge book launch event for Jane Ann McLachlan and Aviva Bel’Harold and then on Sunday morning, I got to sit between Charles de Lint (eeeee!) and then president of SF Canada, Peter Halasz at the Guest of Honour Brunch.

EDGE Launch

Jane Ann McLachlan and Aviva Bel’Howard at the EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy launch event

All that to say that there are only three sessions left to report on (including today’s). So we are almost at the end of Ad Astra 2015.

Also, as we’ve hit a new day, I thought it might be handy to reiterate my disclaimer:

These posts are composed of my notes. Often, because of the scheduling, I enter sessions after they’re already in progress. I write by hand, so as I’m writing what I believe to be a salient point, I may miss the next one. I do my best to catch as much as I can, but things will be missed. Also, if, in my haste I recorded something incorrectly, please don’t be shy about coming forward and letting me know. I will correct all errors post-hasty once informed of them.

Panellists: Gail Z. Martin and Mary MacVoy

GZM: Publishers pay twice per year. You have no idea what your royalties might be. When sales trickle off, multiple streams of income is a wise approach.

MM: Multiple streams on income could include traditional publishing, epublishing or self-publishing, Wattpad, crowd funding, Patreon, etc. You have to educate yourself on how each potential stream works.

GZM: Athena’s Daughters was the most successful literary Kickstarter at the time. Be aware, though, that 75% of all literary Kickstarters fail.

Q: How do you grow your following?

GZM: Your current discoverability/sales for your current work will be based on how successful your last novel was. Crowd funding is a way to identify your audience/readers before you have a project out. Kickstarter will not allow charities anymore. Indie-gogo will, however. Go fund me and Patreon might be options, too.

MM: Crowd funding is just one element of building your audience.

GZM: Do you have a newsletter? Do you have YouTube videos? Do you podcast? Can you teach a class? Building an audience is largely about what you can offer.

Q: What advice do you have about working with small or indie publishers?

MM: It’s an option to explore. Some small publishers have excellent marketing and PR packages. Confidence is key when approaching a small publisher.

GZM: Different streams will compensate for each other.

MM: People are looking for an experience. Make sure your audience leaves with a piece of you. Check out the rules of your various social media periodically. They change and you don’t want to run afoul.

GZM: Facebook and Twitter are essentials. Talk about what you’re doing. Build relationships. Don’t spam.

And we got the nod that it was time to clear out for the next panel.

Next week: Fairy tales!

Have an awesome weekend and we’ll catch up with you on Tipsday.

Ad Astra 2015 day 2: Cutting contracts and shaking hands

The business basics of writing

Panellists: Greg Wilson, Monica Pacheco, Gail Z. Martin, Leah Bobet

Cutting Contracts Panel

Q: Do I need an agent?

LB: First, you have to ask yourself what you want. What will your career look like?

MP: If you want a Big 5 publishing deal, film rights, foreign rights, etc., you need an agent.

GZM: Can you do your own taxes or do you have an accountant? An agent has specialized knowledge that’s critical in the publishing industry. Their 15% commission is well worth it.

LB: I have to clarify my response: if you want to self-publish, no, you don’t need an agent. If you focus on short fiction, you don’t need an agent.

MP: Short fiction is excluded in publishing contracts.

GW: The stuff that used to be done by acquisition editors in the publishing houses has shifted to agents. There are many ways to achieve the same result. Having an agent can free up more time to write.

GZM: I don’t need an agent for short fiction, but if I notice something hinky with the contract, I can run it by my agent. He gets paid if I get paid, so he’s invested in my success.

LB: Agents aren’t interchangeable. It’s like a marriage. Fortunately, break-ups are rarely acrimonious.

MP: Your agent is also a buffer between you and the editor, you and marketing, etc.

GZM: My agent can play the bad cop.

MP: There’s an imbalance of power.

GW: A bad agent can be worse than no agent at all. You have to believe in what you do. Get the right agent for you.

GZM: I recommend the Guide to Literary Agents.

LB: Don’t take the boiler plate! [Mel’s note: a boiler plate is a standardized contract that frequently offers the worst possible terms for the author.] When it comes to long form contracts, it depends on the publisher, the genre, and the specific rights asked for.

MP: An agent will get a different boiler plate as a starting point for negotiation. Sub-rights depend on whether the agency has a strong film/foreign rights department.

GW: Also look out for audio rights and gaming rights.

GZM: Ebook rights are now a part of the non-negotiable rights a publisher can ask for. It will differ by house. A lot of authors are doing more hybrid work as their careers progress. Your contract determines what you can do (e.g. when rights revert to the author).

LB: Non-compete clauses are something to examine carefully. Looking at the big picture, publishing houses are figuring out how to proceed in the world of epublishing and publishing on demand (POD).

GW: Distribution wars can have an affect on your novel. When Amazon and Hachette were fighting it out, some authors lost out because their books were getting into the stores.

GZM: The sales of your current book will determine how many copies of your next book stores will order.

GW: Titans fight and the peons pay. I self-published and then I got a traditional deal. Publishing and writers are both more flexible. Hybrid will become the norm. You have to have more awareness of the “shape” of the industry.

MP: We used to search WattPad to find the next author. Now, established authors are publishing on WattPad.

LB: I’m interested to see if WattPad will be monetized.

GZM: How does free translate to readers (which translates to income)? Some people read a book a day. They can’t afford their book habit, but if they read and review, they become influencers.

GW: We now have multiple avenues to get our work out there. You can leverage multiple fan bases. The more each author is successful, the more all authors are successful. The rising tide floats all boats.

LB: YA rules are a little different. It’s flush with money. It’s a gold rush. I’m aware of my limits as a writer, though. 18 hour days on an ongoing basis would kill me. Publishing is built on interns. Books are great, but they’re not everything. You have a life outside of books. Your career is your choice.

GZM: Precarious is in the eye of the beholder. I have a life and I do work long days.

GW: Being a college professor is precarious. You have to learn how to work smarter, not harder.

LB: No one knows what the magic button is.

And that was time.

Next week: We move on to DAY 3 (!) and making a living as a writer.

Ad Astra 2015 day 2: Canadian young adult literature

Panellists: Amanda Sun, E.K. Johnston, Monica Pacheco, Jane Ann McLachlan

Canadian YA panel

MP: What makes a YA novel Canadian?

JAM: Weather. We have a unique obsession with seasons, weather, and winter.

MP: Setting. American cities are the default for most YA authors.

EKJ: The Story of Owen is set in my home town. When I go to read at local schools, the kids are always excited: “Hey! That’s my street!”

MP: There’s a trend for setting becoming a character in its own right.

AS: Can lit is starting to embrace the speculative.

EKJ: We have horror to thank for that.

MP: For me, it always comes down to the writing and the voice.

JAM: There’s a difference in dystopian, too. Americans don’t trust their government as much as we do. It’s a central theme. Canadians are different. Our dystopias are often ecological disasters.

EKJ: One review of The Story of Owen said, “This is a poorly written dystopia.” It’s not a dystopia!

JAM: Even people on the right are left-leaning in Canada. How do we sell to American readers?

EKJ: I actively don’t care. Readers are looking for interesting and different books.

AS: My editor is American. He’s the gatekeeper. What’s March Break? What’s icing sugar (it’s powdered sugar in the States)? You wrote “in hospital.” Did you mean in THE hospital? Are you done work, or done working?

EKJ: I reclaimed Canadian spelling in subsequent printings of my book. It was a victory.

AS: I write in Canadian English.

JAM: I edit to American spelling but I’m afraid we’re going to lose Canadian spelling if all our young people are reading American English. I feel like I’m contributing to the delinquency of our youth.

Q: What’s your opinion of the renaming of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to Sorcerer’s Stone in the States?

[There was a brief discussion of how Scholastic made the decision to rename the book in America and how this translated into the movies. Was it a “dumbing down”? No, just a matter of wording, like icing sugar vs. powdered sugar.]

MP: Both authors and editors expect advocacy. There’s more acceptance of diversity now.

EKJ: Maureen Johnston is an American author, but she wrote an amazing book that is British in every way: setting, weather, politics, and language.

JAM: That’s another thing that distinguishes Canadian YA: our sense of humour and multiculturalism. Canada is a mosaic and America is a melting pot.

EKJ: I have friends in the leadership of the We Need Diverse Books movement. It’s a slow burn.

AS: We don’t understand how divisive race is in America (or other countries).

Q: What about the “white washing” of diverse characters (the character is one of colour, but the cover image shows a white character)?

EKJ: It happened to Beth Revis. In Across the Universe, the male love interest is black. The actor in the movie is white.

AS: I wanted my novel’s Asian love interest on the cover and was nervous, but the publisher agreed. Julie Kagawa’s Clockwork Prince features an Asian on the cover. The cover for Nalo Hopkinson’s Brown Girl in the Ring is culturally appropriate.

EKJ: YS Lee’s Agency series is another example.

MP: I have noticed some of this, but I’ve seen more graphic covers that don’t feature a person at all. I don’t know if I’m reading too much into it, though.

JAM: What about the humour aspect? Canadian humour is self-deprecating.

And that was time.

Next week: We’ll be cutting contracts 🙂

On deck (today): The next chapter June update and a Caturday quickie pupdate.

Ad Astra 2015 day 2: What’s your punk?

Panellists: Ian Keeling, Angela Keeley, Gemma Files

What's your punk? panel

AK: What is a –punk?

IK: Punk, to me, is an attitude. Skate punk, for instance. It’s anti-authoritarian. You find it in video games and anime.

GF: When you punk a genre, you’re deconstructing it.

AK: Punk comes from the music of the same name but is most closely identified with industrial and Goth sub-cultures. It’s an aesthetic. You can have diesel punk, steam punk, and desert punk (think Tank Girl or Mad Max).

GF: It can also transfer from fashion into fiction. “I’ve made this persona and I want a story that this persona can exist in.”

Q: How do you world build in a punk setting?

GF: There’s an element of alternative history. What if the industrial revolution had gotten stuck in the steam age? You look to the relevant historical period and research.

IK: You have to do enough research to make your world feel authentic.

AK: It’s retro-futurism. In fiction, look to H.G. Wells, Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), and Marlowe (Faust).

Q: I’d like to write in a(n) (Art) Deco punk setting. What should I aim for in terms of aesthetic?

GF: The aesthetic of an age is always attached to other things.

AK: Think of Gotham in Tim Burton’s Batman. The tortured but beautiful body was a fascination of the age. The 20’s were glittery and then the Great Depression happened.

Q: We haven’t mentioned cyberpunk yet. What about The Difference Engine?

AK: Charles Babbage was the inventor of the Babbage Engine, or the difference engine. In fiction the invention/thing itself is aware.

Q: Are there any contemporary punks?

AK: It’s hard to write an alternative history about now.

GF: Karl Schrader is a futurist, or rather an “ambiguist.” His question is, how do we make complicated ideas simple/accessible through story? The future is the only period that is wholly ambiguous.

AK: Colonialism belongs in this conversation. It has the transgressive and rebellious aspects required for a punk. Punk is always dystopian. Otherwise it’s gaslight fantasy. The prevailing mood of a dystopia is distrust of government.

IK: I’d argue that we live in a flawed society, not a dystopia.

GF: The horror iteration is splatter punk. It’s extreme in everything. It’s a response to mainstream horror authors like Stephen King, whom some people view as “tame.”

IK: Has punk lost its meaning?

AK: I don’t think so. Look at A Knight’s Tale. That’s medieval punk.

GF: Punk is intended to be offensive and in your face.

IK: Chaucer was a rowdy, irreverent writer. Was he punk, or meta? Is postmodernism the original punk?

GF: The Dadaists, maybe.

AK: Punk lacks the self-awareness of meta or postmodernism. A Clockwork Orange was not punk. It was a visceral reaction to the direction Burgess saw society heading in.

Q: Can you punk gender? How do you write a gender neutral being?

IK: Choose a pronoun/word and use it consistently, but realize that it will make your book more obscure/niche.

And that was time.

This was one of the most interesting panels I attended. It had a distinctively academic/intellectual bent that I kind of appreciated.

Tomorrow: How to get published with M.H. Callway, and Wordstock Sudbury. And things might get a little miscellaneous 😉

Ad Astra 2015 day 2: High quality self-publishing

Panellists: Beverly Bambury, Caro Soles, Catherine Fitzsimmons, Samantha M. Beiko, Stephen Kotowych, Mark Leslie

Self-publishing panel

ML: When you self-publish, do you use your own name?

CS: It’s not professional.

BB: If it’s a small publisher that no one has ever heard of, why not use your own name?

SMB: It doesn’t really matter. The book will speak for itself.

SK: Using your professional name adds credibility.

ML: I run Kobo Writing Life for small publishers and independent authors. The top 15 to 20 best selling Kobo books are independently published.

BB: Does Kobo offer supports?

ML: We’re looking into how to best connect authors and services. There are a lot of predators out there. We should be bringing out something later this year.

BB: Supports vary. Authors have to do more regardless.

SMB: An author will finish writing and editing a book and say, “Well, that was a nightmare.” Fasten your seatbelts, people: it gets worse.

ML: What’s your best advice to the author considering self-publication?

CS: Join writers’ organizations. You find out what’s going on in publishing. Hire a copyeditor.

SMB: Come out to events like this one. Everyone really wants to help everyone else.

SK: Don’t spam people. Offer something of value.

CF: Don’t skimp on the cover, but be smart. Shop around.

CS: I do my own covers. You just have to learn how.

BB: Someone with a graphic design background could be better than an artist. Invest in an editor.

CS: A beautifully written story, if poorly copy edited, will lose competitions for awards and other opportunities.

ML: A good cover catches attention. A good back cover copy reels readers in. Write your next book. Nothing sells you last book like your next book.

CS: An ebook cover has to look good in thumbnail form.

CF: Check out Kindle cover disasters on Tumblr.

Q: You mentioned two different kinds of editors. Could you elaborate?

SMB: There are substantive editors. They look at the big picture, structural stuff. They can cost a lot. A copyeditor or line editor looks at sentence structure, grammar, and syntax. Is this the best way to convey your intent? A proof reader looks at spelling and punctuation.

ML: Who’s looking at the revised copy? If you have beta readers, ask them, “Where did you fall out of the story?”

CF: With beta readers, the more the better.

ML: Beware the hype of the Kindle gold rush. Don’t look at self-publishing as your ticket. It’s a long term game, not a quick buck.

BB: As a publicist, I have people coming to me with unrealistic expectations.

Q: What are your thoughts on giving away your work for free?

CF: You shouldn’t start that way. If you have a complete series, then offer the first for free. If readers like it, they’ll buy the rest of the series.

ML: Kobo uses free in different ways. It works best when the call to action is to buy the author’s next book (series or otherwise).

SMB: If you have a novella, don’t give it away for free. It’s considered an exclusive item. Give it a limited run.

ML: Let’s run the numbers. Say you offer a book for free and 10,000 people download it. Of those 10,000, maybe 2,000 will open the book. Of those, only 350 will finish it. Of those, only 175 will buy the next book.

Q: How do you balance everything?

CS: That’s up to you.

SK: Schools can be a goldmine.

And that’s all we had time for.

Next week: Ad Astra gets punked 😉

And sorry folks, you’ll have to wait until next weekend for my report on Madeleine Callway’s workshop and Wordstock. I’m bushed.

Ad Astra 2015 day 2: Paying your grocery bill: Grants and writing grant applications

Panellists: Amanda Sun, Karina Sumner-Smith, Sandra Kasturi, Chadwick Ginther, Bob Boyczuk

SK: I apply for Toronto Arts Council (TAC), Ontario Arts Council (OAC), and Canada Council for the Arts (CCA) grants for ChiZine and as a writer. OAC runs the Writers’ Reserve. There’s also the Works in Progress (WIP) grant. There are three deadlines a year. If you’re successful, you can’t reapply for two years.

KSS: The first time I applied for a grant, I did everything wrong. Reframe your application in literary or academic terms. I went from applying for a WIP grant so I could write my science fiction novel, to applying for funding to support the creation of post-apocalyptic literature.

SK: The jury changes every round. Keep applying, even with the same application. If you’re turned down in one round, you may be successful the next depending on who’s on the jury.

CG: CCA is the most open to experimental projects, I find. The OAC is the most conservative.

SK: The Writer’s Reserve runs from September to January every year. You send your manuscript to select publishers and one form to the OAC. Publishers get a set amount. ChiZine gets $13,000. That means we can publish about nine books.

KSS: The Writer’s Reserve has funds set aside for residents of Ontario outside of the GTA.

SK: The Speculative Literature Foundation offers two grants per year.

A: Actually they’re up to four now. Check them out.

BB: For the TAC, they ask for five copies of the manuscript and your name is not supposed to be on them anywhere. The judges actually sneak a peek.

SK: Guidelines may be hazy.

Q: What can you tell us about reporting?

SK: It varies between grants and organizations.

CG: There are also literary awards. The CCA runs the Governor General’s Awards. Generally you have to have a publisher to put your book forward for awards.

AS: Register for Access Copyright and the Public Lending Right programs as well.

Mel’s notes: Municipal arts councils will vary in the amount of support they can offer. TAC has money because it’s a big city (may go without saying, but . . . ). The Sudbury Arts Council has to be more selective in the projects it supports and has more limited funding. Provincial arts councils also vary widely. I’ve heard great things about the Edmonton Arts Council and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. Other arts organizations, like the Canadian Authors Association, offer literary awards. Check out the individual sites for further details. Finally, the CCA is currently restructuring its funding programs. Check them out.

Next week: Self-publishing 🙂

Ad Astra 2015 day 2: Put the pen down and back away slowly

Editing your work

Quick note: My apologies. Last week I mentioned that I would be getting uncanny, but I realized (only today when I opened my notebook) that the panel on the new weird, speculative fiction, and uncanny literature was one that I sat back and enjoyed rather than taking copious notes. I guess I needed a bit of a break (!)

In any case, I did take notes on the self-editing panel. And here they are 🙂

Panellists: Julie Czerneda, Anne Bishop, Monica Pacheco, Kelley Armstrong

Self-editing panel

AB: I used to write a scene because I wanted to follow the path for the story. Now, if I know a scene will likely be cut, I can run through it in my mind without writing it.

MP: Do you edit as you write?

KA: If I edit as I go, I’ll never finish. My first drafts are quick and dirty. The faster, the better.

JC: I just finished two fantasies, two literally, sweeping epics. Now I’m writing science fiction, so I find it easier to write to a word count goal. Still, I like to write quick and dirty, though.

AB: I write my first draft to tell me what the story’s about often. Anything goes at this stage and I use a strange font. It tends to free me up.

MP: Where do you start?

JC: If something is bothering me, I’ll deal with it right away. If it can be left until I edit, I leave myself a signal in the text. I use “OOO” so it’s sure to stand out.

AB: I used to be comfortable making notes outside the document, in a separate notebook. Now I write notes inside the document in different colours.

JC: My computer has defaulted to Canadian English and now I have to make a special pass just for that.

KA: As I write, I can flag what needs work. I use Scrivener.

MP: Are you harder on your work than an editor?

KA: Yes. I’m my own worst critic. Working with a great editor teaches you a lot, though.

JC: How do we know when to stop?

KA: When the publisher rips it away from you. We do the best we can in the time we have.

AB: I learn from the audio book version of my novels. Where do I need dialogue tags and where can I use an action beat or piece of description?

JC: I learn the most from my editor’s comments. Sheila doesn’t give me any praise, just notes of what to work on.

KA: If you’re critiquing, you have to be positive.

MP: You have to be careful not to crush spirits.

JC: You have to recognize the good in your work. It was a triumph when Sheila called me up in the middle of the night just to tell me she’d cried twice while reading my manuscript. Because she’s not big on praise, I knew I’d nailed it.

AB: You don’t want to edit the heart out of your story, either.

Q: What’s your editing process?

AB: I print it out, read through it, and make notes by hand.

KA: I put my first draft aside for at least two months while I work on something else. I print it out and mark everything up with a red pen from page one.

JC: I also print it out and edit my drafts by hand, but I like to edit in a separate place from where I drafted.

Q: What do you do about editorial comments you don’t agree with?

AB: My editors know I’m fragile. Most of the time, I can come around to seeing things their way, but it I can’t, I find I have to express why I think the scene or line is essential to the story. If I can offer a cogent explanation, the editors come around to seeing things my way.

KA: The majority of the editors I’ve worked with are great. I know them and what they want to see. We’ve developed a relationship. Some are dead wrong, though. You have to be willing to defend your work.

________________________________________________________________________

And that was time.

I learned a lot from these writerly women. I hope you did, too 🙂

My Next Chapter update and another Sundog snippet will have to wait on tomorrow. I have a retirement party to get ready for (!) Not mine (I wish), but two lovely ladies from the BEA hive at work. I’m the comic relief O.o

Ad Astra 2015 day 2: After acceptance, the fun begins

Panellists: Suzanne Church, Arlene F. Marks, Kelley Armstrong, Monica Pacheco, Charles de Lint

After acceptance panel

KA: I was reading at the University of Waterloo, and a question came up that really caught me off guard. That was my biggest challenge: getting used to answering scary questions about my stories.

AFM: I started on the editorial side of the business. When it came to working that process with my own book, what surprised me was the number of times I had to read my book. It’s a test. If you don’t get sick of your book after reading it 20 or 30 times, it’s a good sign.

SC: I’m a rule-follower. When I heard back from my first editor, I got to work making all the requested changes. What I had to learn was that editors aren’t infallible. You have to learn to fight for your work, when necessary. When you hear from an editor for the first time, read a comment, and then take a drink of tequila.

AFM: My first published novel was with Harlequin, the publisher for whom I edited. A fellow editor suggested I write my book, but when I submitted it, an editor was assigned who was a frustrated author. I went through four rewrites without a contract. Eventually, I went over the editor’s head, but that was only possible because I had a 12-year working relationship with Harlequin.

KA: My Canadian publisher sent out advanced reader copies (ARCs) and wanted me to write a couple of articles. I did, but what stuck out was my stance that what I had written was not horror. There was a terrific backlash from other writers of horror.

MP: I was working with an author under contract. Three days before the book was due, her computer crashed. We had to come forward, explain what happened, and ask for an extension.

CdL: The original cover for The Riddle of the Wren was a collage. I thought it was crappy. My editor, Terry Windling, advocated for me and ended up doing the cover for free.

SC: The promotional piece is challenging, too. Start three months before the release.

KA: Just realizing that I had to promote my own book was a shock. I don’t have what it takes for event planning and blogging. The most important thing I learned, though, is to thank your readers.

MP: Publicists are not magicians. Promotional materials can be as much work as writing the novel.

CdL: I agree with Kelley. Connect with your readers. Find common ground. Recommend the books of other authors that they would enjoy.

SC: I talk about hockey more than I talk about writing. One of my surprises was that you have to convince the library database to feature your books so that libraries will pick it up.

AFM: Never underestimate the value of friendships. Come up with cool swag ideas for your supporters.

MP: At one party, we handed out LED flashlights.

KA: Chocolates are bad promotional tools. They get eaten. Give out screen cleaning cloths, bags, pens, useful things. Every time someone picks up the pen you gave them, they’ll be reminded.

AFM: Bookmarks. Leave that shit everywhere.

SC: Wine is expensive, but cool. Everybody loves cake.

CdL: Giving stuff to kids is fun. The more creative you can get, the better. I’ve written songs to go with my books. I had an artist draw pictures of the characters, sign them, and leave them for the fans.


And that was time.

Tomorrow: I’ll be transcribing my notes from Jane Ann McLachlan’s workshop.

Next week: Ad Astra gets uncanny . . . and my Next Chapter update 🙂