Ad Astra 2016, day 2: Publishing today—old models, new models, and hybrids

Disclaimer: I’m not perfect and neither are my notes. If you see something that needs correction or clarification, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com and I will fix things up, post hasty.

Note: I attended the David G. Hartwell memorial panel first, which was lovely and funny and touching, but not the kind of thing one takes notes about.

PublishingPanel

Panellists: Brett Savory, Sandra Kasturi, Ed Greedwood, Tom Doherty, Mark Leslie

SK: There’s been a lot of change in the industry and some “Chicken Little” doom saying. We’re finding our way.

EG: There are so many options now. Historically, traditional publishing or print self-publishing were the only options for the serious author.

TD: What it’s all about is story. How can we make the story the best it can be? How can we get these stories to the reader? J.W. Campbell was “the” editor for short fiction. Tor now has a novella program. In 1996 we had four hundred and some distributors in the US. Changing models for product wholesalers have meant the loss of book distribution networks. We were back to 1939 for a while. Every pharmacy, airport, and grocery store now has a fiction rack. There’s a lot of competition for the brick and mortar book store, chain or indie. New models for distribution and sales are emerging thanks to the internet.

ML: One of the things I like about digital publishing is that we don’t need three hundred pages bound in cloth.

TD: How do we get new readers? If you don’t or can’t put books where readers are, how do we put a book in their hands? Tor.com reviews movies and television as well as books as a means of attracting readers to the brand.

SK: ChiZine is a small publisher. We have a small publishing budget. HarperCollins used to handle our distribution, but they stopped. If anyone tells you they know the secret to marketing, they’re lying.

ML: You started ChiZine because you wanted to publish the books you wanted to read.

BS: Something like 50 Shades of Gray or The DaVinci Code, we’d like to think we’d stay away from, but if something like that came our way, we’d totally publish it. We need commercial successes so we can fund the outliers.

ML: How does Tor approach it?

TD: You have to have great creative people and you have to let them write what they love. The Gears wrote The People of the Wolf. Their books are archaeology and anthropology, but they’re also speculative fiction in our opinion. Forge focuses on near future science fiction and military thrillers. Science fiction has a pejorative reputation. The classic first contact story can also reveal sociological impact and insight.

SK: We’re fascinated by genre ghettoization, even intra-genre. In our experience, dark fiction isn’t just horror. Dark fiction writers get it out on the page. Writers who keep that darkness inside can get messed up.

ML: Is it all about the story?

EG: The Ed Greenwood Group is not going to compete with Tor, who’ve cornered science fiction and fantasy, or with ChiZine, which is more of a literary press. I wanted to do something I remember from my childhood. I used to fall in love with the setting, the story worlds I discovered through reading, and I created my own stories to go with them. So now I have the Hellmaw universe, which is dark urban fantasy. I have story universes for epic fantasy, space opera, hard science fiction. For each setting, we’re creating music, short fiction, art, novels, and follow up stories (like a coda). We will never let things go out of print. If an author wants to stop writing, or dies, there will always be other authors writing in the milieu. We’re an alternative, not competition.

ML: Is there more collaboration?

EG: The potential is there. Each world has its own lore guardian and art director. Fanfic is not verboten, but a TEGG book is a TEGG book. We’re developing a sandbox area for creators to play in.

ML: Where does a beginning writer fit in?

TD: Tor has been publishing new authors for a long time. Brandon Sanderson’s first book was Elantris. Moshe Feder is his agent. They met at a convention.

SK: ChiZine is open to new writers from August to January through the Writers’ Reserve program. I don’t ever want to be above the slush. There are a lot of talented people out there.

BS: Everything that we published has been edited by one of us. It’s an insane amount of work, but we’re still about 10% of the scale of Tor.

EG: David G. Hartwell chased me for seven years to get my last book. It took seven years to get into print.

TD: We buy more from agents because they screen for us.

SK: I pass on the experimental stuff to Brett.

ML: Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith do the Fiction River Anthologies. I joined their panel for one of them. Each editor comments on each story. It’s amazing to see the variety of reactions. One editor will say, ‘This is the best story.’ The next will say, ‘I couldn’t get past the first page.’ Self-publishing has exploded, but 80% of the industry is still print-based. Publish-on-demand can fill the gap, but there’s no distribution.

SK: It really makes a difference. 90% of our books have had missing information, or misinformation on their Amazon listings. Gemma Files’ Experimental Film was out last fall. Amazon finally has it in pre-order.

EG: Amazon wants to go 100% epublishing, but print is still a thing. They’re saying ‘no’ to 80% of their market. What about outside the US?

SK: One thing epublishing has done for us is that we can re-issue novels where the rights have reverted to the authors.

Q: Publishing has changed over the last fifty years. Attention spans are shortening. Is this why serialized fiction is coming into fashion?

TD: Series have always been important. In a series, the characters become friends. It’s an advantage, but not a necessity. There are stand alones. I have a quarrel with literary fiction. Up to five hundred yers ago, everything that lasted was fantasy. Dickens was reviled for being too popular.

Q: Podcasts and transmedia works, are they the responsibility of the publisher?

SK: We’d love to do all the things, but we can’t. We have to network.

TD: Tor has a contract with NASA because they feel that science fiction brought young people to science. They have a massive education project. We are trying to reach a broader audience.

And that was time.

Next week, I’ll be taking in more writerly goodness at the Canadian Writers’ Summit, so I will be taking a brief blogging vacation. We’ll catch y’all up over the weekend of the 25th/26th when I’ll be presenting my notes from the how to get an agent panel 🙂

Advertisements

The next chapter: March 2015 update

Last month, I wrote about how I was reprioritizing my life because I’d made the realization that pouring all my creative energy into the day-job was not making me happy. It wasn’t getting me any closer to my goals as a writer, either.

I started March out, work-wise, by applying for my self-funded leave and putting in my vacation requests for the first two quarters of the 2015-16 fiscal (to the end of September). I started expressing my opinion (which, of course, did me no favours, professionally) and reframing my experience with the perspective my wee revelation had provided me.

A series of serendipitous learning opportunities came my way, many of them concerned with following one’s dreams, or finding one’s calling. Funny how these things happen when we really need them to.

As I write this post, I’m listening to Michael Hyatt’s podcast on the Disciplined Pursuit of Less. This month’s newsletter from Katie Weiland included a piece on her “spring cleaning” of her subscriptions and social media. She was doing this to reclaim writing time from potentially wasteful or distracting electronic practices.

Having said all that, I was burned out by the time March rolled around. Last fall, when I had originally intended to take my self-funded leave but decided to defer it, I said that I was a little toasty around the edges, but that I’d probably be able to hold out until the spring.

That was before this acting consultancy.

Truthfully, I was burnt before the end of January. Part-way through February, I stopped revising Initiate of Stone and then I stopped drafting Marushka.

With IoS, I had to shift back into drafting mode to rewrite a chapter that was completely altered by my decision to remove a character from the novel. I was blocked, essentially, as I tried to write around the hole I’d decided to make in my plot. I didn’t stop writing per se, but I was having trouble finding my way out of the maze.

I made several abortive attempts to redraft the chapter in Word (which I didn’t count), but ultimately found that drafting by hand (which I also do not count) was much more effective. Once I had the chapter mapped and pieces of it written out, I was able to regain my momentum and complete the new chapter in Word.

Shifting gears with IoS meant that I didn’t have the drafting mojo going for Marushka. By looking at my spreadsheets, I can see clearly that when I stopped revising IoS, about a week later, I stopped drafting Marushka. Once I got back on track with IoS (the word counts recorded in red), again, about a week later, I was able to pick up with the drafting of Marushka again.

So, clearly, while it is possible for me to work on multiple projects at once, I definitely have to be working on them in different phases (drafting vs. revising). I’ve also realized that with the exception of the blog and some short stories, that the limit of my focus with regard to multiple novel-length projects is two.

Interestingly enough, I’m getting close to the end of drafting Marushka. I’ll be short of my 75k goal for the draft, but I’m okay with that. So far what seems to be my evolving pattern is to draft short, rewrite long, and revise/edit to goal length. Will let you know if this new piece of my process puzzle proves to be effective in the long run.

After my staggered, two-week disruptions in IoS and Marushka respectively, I got back on track for the rest of the month.

Judging for the Friends of the Merril contest continues. Originally, when I was notified that my story made the long-list, I was also advised that judging would be complete by March 31st. On March 31st, a post was released on the site indicating that deliberations continued.

I have a 25% chance of placing. The delay is a little nerve-wracking, but I’m trying to remain positive. It means I have some tough competition, but that we’re all in the same quality boat.

I also spiffed up three short stories, including the one I submitted to the FotM contest, and sent them off for consideration in the Sudbury Writers’ Guild anthology.

I’d wanted to revise my longer short story for submission to a magazine, but didn’t have the energy or focus to spare.

I did, however, submit my short story “The Broken Places,” which was published in Bastion last year, for consideration in the Imaginarium anthology. It’s a year’s best anthology put out by ChiZine Publications. It’s a long shot, but I can’t win if I don’t play 😉 So sayeth the lottery gods.

Now, at the beginning of April, and with a long weekend to enjoy, I’ve decided that I’m taking a breather. I’m still burnt, and trying to work all day and then come home and write all night is making things worse.

I have a writing sample to prepare for my workshop with Julie Czerneda and Ad Astra next weekend. So . . . I’m being evil and burning through Avatar on Netflix 🙂

This past week, I walked home from work. Once. I’m still sore. Mellie is out of shape. So I’m going to get back on track with regard to that. My goal is to walk home from work three evenings a week. It’s about five kilometres and takes about an hour. I have a number of books on Audible ready for the purpose.

There are a couple of anthologies that I’d like to write stories for in April, but I’m not sure if I’m going to manage them. My main goal is to complete this round of revision on IoS and my draft of Marushka. Anything else is gravy. Not saying that I’m purposefully disregarding these anthologies; I like gravy, but I’m also aware of my limitations, now more than ever.

Once that’s done, I’m going to shift gears again with IoS and get into query mode and I’ll then be completing my draft of Gerod and the Lions.

Those are my goals for the intermediate future.

Now to take a look at my progress for the month:

March Writing Progress

IoS Revisions (remember these are half counts, except for the new chapter in red, which were all new words): 11,901 words. Compare this with 11,851 in February, and 7,789 in January. I’m at the 50% mark of the novel.

Bloggage: 7,200 words. This has held more or less steady with 6,676 words in February and 8,432 words in January. I’m at 23% of my annual goal, which is more or less where I expected to be for March (one quarter through the year).

Drafting Marushka: 4,520 words in March; 3,859 in February; and my blow-me-away 9,462 in January. I’m at 44% of my drafting goal. I might make 60% by the time the story is finished.

Short stories: 90 words in March; 1,206 in February; and 34 in January. I’m at 27% of my goal for the year which is good.

Totals: 23,711 for March; 23,592 for February; 25,717 for January.

March Summary

So there we are.

Progress is, as ever, being made.

Now, season 3 of Avatar is calling, and Bitten this evening.

Have a lovely Easter, everyone.

See you on Tipdsay!

The Next Chapter