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 🙂

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, March 27-April 2, 2016

Woohoo! Gotz a crap tonne of Writerly Goodness for you this week! When I get excited, I get profane 😛

Sudbury’s literary festival, Wordstock, is maturing 😉 The Northern Life.

The Aurora Awards (think Canadian Hugos) nominees have been announced.

Controversial writing post of the week: For me, traditional publishing means poverty. But self-publish? No way. Ros Barber for The Guardian. I should have known when Kathy Owen tagged Kristen Lamb, asked her to read the article and respond to it in a blog post, that this was going to raise a few eyebrows (and a few hackles).

I posted it because I wanted to engage people in thoughtful, engaged conversation (which I’m happy to say it did). I share posts and articles for writers on traditional and self-publishing sides of the creative divide. I’ve made my decision after a lot of consideration. Please do me the courtesy of respecting that position. And hella yeah, you know I’ll respect yours.

K.M. Weiland discusses how to know when to write ‘the end.’ Helping writers become authors. Later, she wonders, are you telling the right story? On her author site, Katie urges us to make war, not love, because creativity is an act of defiance.

C.S. Lakin explores the action-reaction cycle in novel scenes. Live, write, thrive. Later, she shows us how to construct scenes using a variety of camera shots.

Catherine McKenzie endures publishing exhaustion on Writer Unboxed.

Jo Eberhardt asks, are you a writer or a storyteller? Admittedly, it’s not such a polarizing question as planner vs. pantser, or literary vs. genre, but in recognizing the spectrum of this apparent dichotomy, could we not find our way to a more balanced view of the more fraught debates? Food for thought. Writer Unboxed.

Tracy Hahn-Burkett wonders whether to TK or not to TK? Writer Unboxed. I did this with my most recent NaNo project. Nothing I left out was critical to the story. It’s all pure research.

Emotional wounds thesaurus entry: being raised by overprotective parents. Becca Puglisi. Writers helping writers.

David Mesick explores creating distinct and grounded anti-heroes. Mythcreants.

Jami Gold (with Angela Quarles) weighs in about writer truth: we’re making it up as we go. I’ve recently said this to a writer friend, and as I mentioned in last Saturday’s update, my process is in continual evolution. We try things out, decide what works (for us) and what needs to be set aside. It can be tough when you learn from established/well known authors. My advice? Do you have to tell them it didn’t work for you? Really? 😉

Angela Quarles guest posts on Fiction University about harnessing your day.

Kathryn Craft offers five tips to sustain you in the query trenches. Writers in the Storm.

Martina Boone helps us decode rejections to identify plotting issues. This only works, of course, if the agent gives you more than a form rejection. Adventures in YA Publishing.

Steven Pressfield advises to analyze your novel like a dream.

Joanna Penn interviews Mark Lefebvre of Kobo Writing Life about how to sell more books. The Creative Penn.

Jane Friedman updates her How to Start Blogging Guide.

Katherine Garcia decries four lies we have to stop telling writers, artists, and other creatives. Everyday Feminism.

I’ve posted this before to great controversy. None of us like change, but we can’t prevent it from happening by ignoring it, especially when there are very good reasons for it. Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period. Farhad Manjoo for Slate.

Orna Ross says creatives and creativists cultivate independence.

Linda Wasmer Andrews reveals recent research that supports how walking can make you a better writer. Psychology Today.

Five writing retreats to jump start your creativity. The Globe and Mail.

Ursula K. LeGuin on racism, anarchy, and hearing her characters speak. Literary Hub.

Virginia Woolf, the woman who remade the novel. The Independent.

Sarah Hughes examines our enduring fascination with the Brontës. The Guardian.

From alright to zap: an A to Z of deplorable words. Not really. Read ‘em and weep twitch, word nerds. The Guardian.

And this is just fun: Librarian Rhapsody.

 

Radio Times collects eleven of the best moments from the new Doctor Who.

How Outlander is taking the art of love (and war) to Paris in season two. TV Insider. I can’t believe the wait is almost over! This weekend: droughtlander ENDS!

And this movie looks interesting for the fairy tale set: Tale of Tales. Vanity Fair.

And that should keep you reading through to next week (!) I hope you have a lovely one.

Tipsday

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: An agent and a publisher walk into a bar . . . who do you approach first?

Yes, day 2 has finally arrived!

First, a reminder of 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: Monica Pacheco, Ryan McFadden, Kelley Armstrong, Karen Dales, Mark Leslie

Agent or publisher panel

MP: By the time a book hits the shelves, it’s already 1-2 years old, so to speak. Don’t follow trends. What’s selling now won’t be what’s selling when your novel comes to market.

ML: Is it fair to say that trends are what’s currently selling, plus some kind of twist?

KA: I’ll reiterate: don’t write to trends. There’s no point.

KD: If you focus on what’s hot rather than what you’re passionate about, your readers will detect it. Readers can tell when you’re being disingenuous.

ML: I was at a conference and I pitched my idea for a book without having written it. Dundurn said yes, so I started writing in April. The book was published in October, so that will give you some idea how quickly things can come together.

RM: If I was at the “bar,” I think I’d hit on the other writers. Craft is more important than your ability to sell yourself. Writers will introduce you to their people. Those people can be some very valuable contacts.

KD: I’m working as a freelance editor right now and the way I came by the job was through pitching a publisher. I was talking to an author and asking where I should send my work in progress. The author suggested her publisher. I pitched, and not only was I able to get a contract for my WIP, but I also became an editor for them.

ML: Sometimes I might consider a market inappropriate for me, or a piece inappropriate for the project I’m working on, but for someone else, it may be a perfect fit. I remember working as an editor and having to turn down a great story because it wasn’t suited to the anthology. I recommended that the author submit his story to Writers of the Future. He did, and he won.

MP: We read everything in our slush pile. We’re looking for that gem, and we won’t overlook any submissions.

RM: Networking is everything.

KD: If you’re working with a freelance editor, research them. Develop a relationship. If you’re working with an editor who works with a traditional publisher, it’s different. The money the publisher is willing to invest can change the dynamic.

KA: When you work with an editor for one of the big five houses or their imprints, it’s more important to be aware of what the publisher’s guidelines and preferences are. The individual editor may be gone by the time your book is printed.

ML: What are the differences between Canadian, UK, and US markets?

KD: Canadian and UK publishers are more consistent. In the US, I’m all over the place.

ML: In one instance, the managing editor gave me notes before I even started writing.

KD: The editor has to be an advocate for the author.

KA: Networking, as mentioned, is great, but don’t get sneaky about it. Don’t invite me out to coffee just to get a recommendation, or to ask me to read your manuscript.

KD: Don’t go fishing. Go make friends.

ML: Look at the long game.

MP: So much of the industry is based on relationships.

KA: Don’t do anything electronically that you wouldn’t do in person. Having said that, if someone asks you what you’re working on, be honest. Talk about it positively.

MP: The bottom line is to be professional. Don’t self-denigrate. No scented paper or bribes, please.

Q: Do different publishing houses have different quirks?

ML: Dundurn loves Canadian authors. In fact, you have to be Canadian to be published by Dundurn.

KD: Dark Dragon is interested in good storytelling. They like unique stories and voices.

KA: HarperCollins does amazing covers for their young adult books. Penguin random House is all around great. There was a poll in The Bookseller. Are authors happy with their publishers? The overwhelming response was that they wanted more communication from their publishers. 37% said that if they got an equivalent—not better—offer from another publisher, they’d switch. Subterranean Press is good.

RM: Smaller publishers are better at communicating with their authors. ChiZine, Dragon Moon, and Dark Dragon are like that.

MP: Tor is a dream to work with. Skyhorse Publishing is a good mid-sized, non-fiction publisher. Talos Press is interested in SFF. Simon & Schuster Canada has been very good to Andrew Pyper. They’ve sent him on a national reading tour.


And that was that.

Next week: What happens after acceptance?

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Feb 22-28, 2015

Roz Morris asks the question, can writing be taught?

In a related article . . . things Ryan Boudinot can say about MFA programs now that he no longer teaches in one. The Stranger.

Now, this started up a bit of a kerfuffle. Though the following two posts by Chuck Wendig belong to the current week, I’m offering them as a counterpoint to Boudinot’s. Some people agreed with Boudinot and some with Wendig. Some took exception to the whole conversation. You may judge for yourselves.

K.M. Weiland explores the six elements of an effective story premise in her weekly post and podcast.

And her Wednesday vlog: how to drive your readers wild with hints and hooks without frustrating them. It’s a delicate balance.

Dan Blank posts on becoming a student of your own writing process on Writer Unboxed. I love process-y stuff. This was “in my wheelhouse.”

Heather Webb explores the science of character creation (lots of resources). Writer Unboxed.

The Kobo Writing Life podcast: Mark Leslie interviews Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

This one goes along with my post on Gatekeepers, rejection, and resilience: Ten of the reasons your manuscript might be rejected. Ruth Harris on Anne R. Allen’s blog.

And . . . 12 famous authors on literary rejection. Aerogramme Writers’ Studio.

Tor.com’s Ilana C. Myer deconstructs the strong, female character in SFF.

Okay, I’m gonna link dump here, but each one of these posts on Jim C. Hines’s web site on the topic of representation is well worth the read. Expand your brains.

How to know if you’re really a writer. Authors Publish.

The ALLi watchdog examines the merits of Amazon versus Apple.

May 2, 2015 will be the first ever Canadian Authors for Indies Day. Publisher’s Weekly.

30 books that were challenged by censors. Infographic on CBC Books.

Why How to get away with murder is TV’s most progressive show. The Daily Beast. It’s great storytelling. Also, I watch TV and movies for craft. This belongs in the writing tips post. So sez me.

And that’s all the Writerly Goodness I gots for this week.

See you Thoughty Thursday!

Tipsday

WWC 2014, day 2: An hour with Mark Leslie

Mark is a writer, editor and bookseller who was born and grew up in the Greater Sudbury Region, spent many years in Ottawa and currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario.

Find him online at markleslie.com.

mark-leslie


 

I ended up in publishing because I’ve always loved writing. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. When I was a kid, I told stories with my Fischer Price people.

I got a job in a university books store and I noticed that the new edition of a textbook was being developed before the current one was even on the shelves. Students were getting outdated information. Sometimes the changes were subtle and I realized it was a big money grab. I decided to do something about this abuse of students.

I talked the bookstore into investing in an Espresso Book Machine and we entered into an agreement with McGraw-Hill Ryerson and Nelson publishers. A professor would choose the chapters he felt were pertinent to the class he was teaching and the publisher would provide a .pdf of the chapters. These were printed and sold in store.

The custom edition of the material would be 50-60% cheaper for students. The publisher made more. The store made more. Free digital copies were made available if sales of the print edition were reasonable and everyone still profited.

I tried it out for fiction. Amazon ships in 24 hours, but with the Espresso, I could print on site in 15 minutes.

I learned that if you put authors first, you can both make money.

A textbook that cost $86 could be printed for $25 on the Espresso and we could ship it wherever the client wanted. Later, we uploaded it to Kobo and the ebook is still selling everywhere for $10.

I became a consultant for On-Demand Books and then joined Kobo. When Kobo wanted to put out a writer-centric platform, I wanted a part of that action. Kobo Writing Life came into being. It was less money, but I was passionate about books and authors.

Kobo Writing Life was built for writers. We’re in the top five in every territory. We sell more units than Random House in Canada.

As the platform grew, I gained staff. My team nurtures authors.

Q: How does Kobo Writing Life make self-publishing easier?

Authors used to have to go through the same process as a publisher to get their books on Kobo. Now you can do it overnight.

This raises an important question: you can put your book up overnight, but should you? Many authors rush into self-publishing before they’re really ready. Make sure you’re putting your absolute best work out there.

Q: I was in Adrienne Kerr’s session and she mentioned Booknet. Can you speak to that?

The average author can’t access Booknet. Until we can more of the key players on board, it won’t happen.

Q: If I’m an indie publisher or author, why should I bother with Kobo?

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. The more ways your readers can get hold of your books, the better. It’s not Kobo only, but Kobo and.


 

As ever, my notes cannot reflect the full experience. I can’t write that fast (!) And, Mark, if I’ve gotten anything wrong, please let me know and I’ll fix ‘er up post-hasty.

Up next: a Caturday quickie on the developments (construction and dog-wise) of the week.

Next weekend: Jacqueline Guest: Have Pen, Will Travel.

In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian readers, and we’ll see you on Tipsday with the Writerly Goodness of the week.

WWC 2014, Day 1: Evening keynotes

Here we are at the end of day 1 (for me–I know others partied into the wee hours). At other conferences and conventions, guest of honour keynotes are generally spread throughout the event, often at or after a meal.

The When Words Collide organizers chose to do something different.

Prior to the literary festival, there were several master classes offered by the keynote speakers, and the night before, they all delivered their presentations at a branch of the public library.

Between the extra days of leave I would have had to sacrifice, the cost of the master classes, and the expense of a longer stay, I had to opt out of the pre-conference program.

On the first night (formally speaking) of WWC, then, all of the keynote speakers were well into conference mode and had an opportunity to work out the bugs.

The keynotes were presented as a panel, with all of the speakers up on the stage, seated at tables.

Randy McCharles offered a few opening words, and then introduced the first of the speakers.

  1. Jacqueline Guest, author of 18 published novels, spoke about her adventures as aJacqueline Guest touring author. She has been all over the world, in the arctic, and had some very interesting tales to share. The old advice to writers is to write what you know. Travelling and experiencing all the world has to offer is a valuable way of gathering experience that can translate into your writing.
  2. Mark Leslie, of Kobo Writing Life, chose the subject of the mark-lesliehistory of story. From our earliest gatherings to share news around a fire, through the oral traditions of Greece and Rome, the invention of the printing press, and the advent of the novel, to today’s proliferation of traditionally published and independently published novels, novellas, short stories, anthologies, and all other manner of written storytelling, Mark spoke eloquently of the purpose and value of story in our lives. He ended his keynote with this: when words collide, magic happens.
  3. Dorothy (DJ) MacIntosh, author of the (in progress) Mesopotamian trilogy, spoke
    DJ McIntosh

    photo by Robert Rafton

    about passion and how to keep that precious flame burning. She related the experiences, hers and those of other renowned authors, with rejection, and various reactions to rejection letters. How can we keep our passion alive amidst the darkness that can assail us?

  4. Brandon Sanderson, author of—oh, I’ll just say it—a shit load of bestselling fantasy novels including the
    Photo by Nazrilof

    Photo by Nazrilof

    posthumous conclusion of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, addressed the problem of telling a compelling lie. He started with a grade school experience in which he realized that the story of Columbus and his discovery of the new world was all propaganda. In short, it was a lie, but it’s a lie that has been perpetuated over the years by quality storytelling. You could say that’s when the seed of his desire to become a professional liar was planted. He spoke of Sturgeon’s Law: that ninety percent of everything is crap. He wanted to test that hypothesis and started with Roger Ebert’s movie review site, which revealed between sixty and seventy percent good movies (two thumbs up). He then went to Rotten Tomatoes, a review site contributed to by the movie-going public. He found roughly the same results. There were exceptions, of course. He found one reviewer who didn’t like Return of the King, for example. Reviews are one of the most power tools in any author’s service. Word of mouth is what really translates into sales and a groundswell of support. The bad reviews can be damaging in all kinds of ways. We have to be able to distinguish between someone expressing a personal opinion, e.g. I didn’t like this book, and someone who’s going for the hurt, e.g. this is crap. They are two completely different judgements.

  5. Jack Whyte. I’d seen him last year at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference jack-whyteand knew the power of his presence, but, when Jack took the stage, I put my pen down and sat back. I knew I was about to be entertained. Jack basically extemporized (or, he made is sound like he was), drawing in elements of each of the previous speakers, adding colour with a touch of personal humour, and wrapping up the evening in style.

Next week: We enter day 2 with the Blending Science Fiction and Fantasy Panel.

Caturday Quickie: Calgary, I am in you

I’ve been waiting to say that for a long time. I’m such a nerd.

To be brief:

Thursday afternoon, Phil and I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy. I may have to post a Mel’s Movie Madness about it. For the future. I enjoyed it thoroughly, however.

Yesterday (Friday), I got up at the ungodly hour of 4 am so I could get out to the airport by 5-ish and catch my 5:55 am flight.

All went well, caught my connection, watched the second Hunger Games en route, and arrived at 10:18 am, on the dot, in Calgary.

My friend, Sharon, offered to pick me up and we went out to lunch before I checked in at the Carriage House Inn and started my marathon of sessions.

I attended 5 of those yesterday, plus the keynote speakers in the evening. I also met, in person, several people I’d only known to this point virtually: Angela Ackerman, Diane Walton, Tim Reynolds, and I reconnected with some fellow writers and publishers: Mark Leslie, Ron Hore, Swati Chavda, and Avery Olive.

I had dinner and lovely conversation with Nina Munteanu, and met a few other writers and editors hanging around outside the hotel. I also saw the wonderful Jack Whyte again, and met Brandon Sanderson in the flesh. Brandon was my fangirl moment of When Words Collide so far.

I’ll be in sessions from 10 am to 6 pm today, and then there is the mass autograph session this evening.

It has been a jam-packed conference so far, but I’m having a blast. Prepare for much bloggage coming out of this 🙂

Also got to see the 2014 In Places Between anthology chapbook. The readings and judging take place tomorrow morning. Will let you know (of course) how “On the Ferry” fares.

I think this may be my only post this weekend, just because WWC is proving to be a very fast-paced event.

In the meantime, I shall wish much you all much Writerly Goodness.

Caturday Quickies

Six questions with Mat Del Papa

Mat is a writerly friend and a past-president of the Sudbury Writers’ Guild. He’s published two collections of stories loosely based on the history of the railway in Capreol, and now, he has become an editor, assembling fact and fiction to create Creepy Capreol, a collection of supernatural tales about his hometown.


 

Welcome to Writerly Goodness, Mat!

WG: What inspired the Creepy Capreol project, and how did it evolve?

MDP: The inspiration came from Spooky Sudbury. Mark Leslie and Jenny Jelen put together a great book and I was fortunate enough to be involved in a small way. That got me thinking about doing something more scary than my usual. Seeing the phenomenal success they had combined with the unexpected discovery of two other stories about Capreol in Spooky Sudbury to give me another push. Mark provided the final impetus. We’d been joking, via email, about the various weirdness in Capreol (the river’s burned twice and the fire hall three times — for a example) and he said something like “You should write a book.” I forget who came up with the title, him or me, but it clicked.

WG: How did you go about recruiting your writers and artist? How smoothly did that process go for you?

MDP: I recruited the writers I thought would the best fit first — current and former Capreol residents who already write genre-type stories. Steve Vernon was on top of that list. Born and raised in Capreol he’s had a great deal of success writing horror. Next came Jason Shayer, another Capreol boy who’s gone on to bigger things. Both were happy to contribute and their inclusion gave me the confidence to move forward (until they signed onboard I was more or less toying with the idea — getting two published authors was the final push).

It would have been a thin book though if I hadn’t approached a few members of the Sudbury Writers’ Guild. Betty Guenette wrote about her uncle from Milnet (a ghost town just north of Capreol) and gave me a second story set in Sellwood (another nearby ghost town). Lisa Coleman-Brown had impressed me with her ability to write gross fiction and she delivered another stomach-churner for Creepy Capreol.

The artist proved easiest of all. Robert Michelutti lives in Capreol and volunteers at the local train museum (the Northern Ontario Railroad Museum and Heritage Centre). I’ve had dealings with the museum before (they sell my previous books in their gift shop) and so had an “in” with Bob. I sent him some samples stories and he sent me some sample art — they proved a great fit.

WG: Once you had the writers lined up and their stories in hand, it would have been time for editing. What did you learn from wearing the editorial hat that you may not have known as a writer?

MDP: Editing is hard. Everyone knows that. What I didn’t realize was how many little details there were. Things you have to keep track of at all times. It’s like juggling — only you’re dealing with people and their creations! Getting the best work sometimes meant stepping on toes. I found a hundred ways to say, politely, “Try again. You can do better.” The amazing thing is . . . the various contributors did do better, every time, revising until we both were happy. No doubt they came to curse my very name, but the final product proved the efforts (and swearwords!) weren’t in vain.

WG: Did you do the layout work yourself as well? How was it organizing text and images for publication?

MDP: I did just about everything — that’s the only way to keep costs reasonable. Luckily there are plenty of quality programs and templates available. It probably took me ten times as long as a professional, but in the end everything came together.

The hardest part was balancing the content. I agonized over the order, trying to compliment each story with the one before and after.

WG: What is it like to create a project like this and have a hand in it from start to finish?

MDP: Satisfying . . . and frustrating. I enjoyed 99% of the process. But that last 1% had me almost tearing my hair out. I can live with the odd technical glitch. It’s my own stupid mistakes that gall. Luckily I’ve done the whole self-publishing thing three times before and have learned from most of my mistakes.

Having contributors was a new experience. One I found both difficult and exhilarating. Their enthusiasm pushed me through some rough patches, but waiting on others to revise (in some cases four or five times before getting it right) was a challenge. The fact that I’m not the best time manager meant that the last few weeks were a tight crunch. Still, for all the struggles, the final product turned out better than I could have hoped.

WG: What’s coming up for Creepy Capreol?

MDP: First comes the official launch. I always hold a book-signing/launch as part of the Capreol Days festivities (held on the August long weekend). This summer is no different. I’ll be in downtown Capreol on Saturday, August 2nd with a table of books — Creepy Capreol will be selling at a special holiday price of $14.00 — and encourage anyone interested to come out. There’s music, barbeques, a sidewalk sale — last year had horse rides, kids games, an animal exhibit — and more.

After that I hope to hit Valley East Days in early September. It’s another fun weekend, full of music, food, and entertainment.

The book should be available on Amazon in the fall. Kobo, Kindle, and iBookstore versions are coming soon. And I hope to have it in Chapters Sudbury location for October.

Thank you for taking the time to tell us a little about Creepy Capreol and your journey to publication.


 

About the book:Creepy Capreol
Creepy Capreol
Chilling Tales from a Railroad Town

Introduction by Mark Leslie.
Illustrations by Robert Michelutti.

The book consists of two parts:

Non-Fiction

That Darn Sock Monkey — How a stuffed sock monkey traumatized my youth.
Bigfoot Lives! — A look at the Capreol connection to the famed creature; with references to fact, legend, and some personal observations.
Help! My Wheelchair Is Trying To Kill Me — Humorous take on the many times I’ve almost been killed by my wheelchair. Mostly true, some exaggeration for effect.
Vigilante Justice: Capreol Style — An account of Frederick Chase Capreol’s many failings and lone stellar success. It is mostly factual, but with some humour.
The Mystery Of Capreol’s Mass Grave — Fact-based article that refutes the commonly held belief that between 30 and 80 people are buried in a mass grave.
The Wreck At Drocourt — A poem by Ida Quackenbush and her son George. Originally written approximately 1930.
Ghost Town Trilogy — Loose histories of three local ghost towns.

Fiction

Rolling Stock — Steve Vernon
Set in Capreol’s railyard the story revolves around one man’s late-night encounter with the supernatural.
Not The Basement! — Lisa Coleman-Brown
An overworked PSW is filling in for a co-worker when she discovers a disturbing secret.
The Likely Story — Paul Mandziuk
A literary mystery; it features a vicious murder in a bookstore — with a novel twist.
This Old Man — Betty Guenette
The bond between nephew and uncle are tested as more than age and isolation separate the two.
The One That Got Away — Matthew Del Papa
A northern Ontario fish story as told by the bait dealer who saw it all happening.
Dual Ghost Towns — Betty Guenette
Ghost towns aren’t always empty. Two sisters find this out in traumatizing fashion on a visit to Sellwood.
Stagnant Waters — Jason Shayer
Exploring abandoned buildings reveals something unexpected … and evil.

Mark Leslie workshop with the Sudbury Writers’ Guild

This past Thursday, November 28, Mark Lefebvre of Kobo, who writes under the pen name Mark Leslie, conducted a workshop on self-publishing for the Sudbury Writers’ guild.

Mark spoke a bit about his experience with self-publishing first.

Mark Leslie

Mark Leslie with members of the SWG and Barnaby

His horror short story collection, One Hand Screaming, was published using Lightning Source (now Spark) from Ingram.

For his anthology Campus Chills, Mark and his friend Steve formed Stark Publishing (Steve + Mark). They used the Espresso Book Machine, which got its name because in the time it takes to make an espresso, the machine could produce a book.

At the time, Mark was working for a university book store and convinced the store to invest in the machine. He made the venture a paying one, producing all kinds of books for various groups in the university and surrounding community.

Mark is also an editor, editing North of Sixty, and Tesseracts Sixteen.

More recently, he compiled stories with background research for Haunted Hamilton and Spooky Sudbury, which he co-authored with Sudbury journalist Jenny Jelen. Both books were published with Dundurn Press in Hamilton.

One of the things to keep in mind is that traditional publishing can get you into places that you could never get into alone, for example, Costco.

Now Mark works for Kobo (which is just an anagram of book, by the way).

Why authors choose to self-publish

  • For the new author, it’s a way to break in to traditional publishing, make a mark, get noticed.
  • For mid-list writers, it’s most often used to resurrect their backlist. As copyright returns to authors, they format for self-publication and keep their work in circulation longer than their traditional publisher were willing to.
  • For the NYTBS author, self-publishing offers control.

In general, self publishing offers higher royalties and faster payouts than traditional publishing.

Epub format is the industry standard.

Mobi is the Amazon standard.

Self-publishing is good for long-form journalism. (Mel’s note: we had a fair discussion of this. For those who don’t know what long-form journalism is, it is the full version of the article with bonus research materials. The print article may be a thousand or so words. The long-form version may be five or ten thousand. Think academic essay, but more accessible.)

It’s also good for publishing collections of short stories. If the stories have already been published elsewhere, then it can be seen as a kind of validation or pre-screening, and the collection may have a ready audience.

Services:

  • Kobo
  • Kindle
  • Nook
  • iBooks
  • Smashwords

Kobo started out with Reading Life for their ereaders, and then developed Writing Life for their authors. The Kobo dashboard allows the author to see stats, earnings, and sales figures globally at a glance. (Mel’s note: Hugh Howey used, liked, and promoted Kobo Writing Life.)

You can format your work in Word or OfficeLibre (formerly Open Office). Use Sigil, or Calibre to tweak formatting, and Kobo even has a native WYSIWYG editor which will be familiar to WordPress users.

Follow the formatting instructions of your chosen platform carefully.

A word on DRM: it only hurts paying customers.

Branding

It’s not just about your name.

Mark takes his skeleton, Barnaby, on the road with him wherever he goes. He puts a t-shirt on Barnaby and sets him up outside the bookstore. People wandering by sit down and have their pictures taken, post them on social media. It’s free publicity.

Vistaprint is a great source for promotional materials. Pens, mugs, and t-shirts are just some of the swag you can buy to give away and promote your work.

KDP and KDP select

KDP select is Kindle’s exclusivity line. You can only publish with KDP select, no one else. You can only price books for free on KDP select, but only for five days out of every ninety.

You can work around it. Just publish using KDP and also on other services. Price the book for free on Smashwords or elsewhere, and Amazon will price match if one of your fans reports the competitor pricing.

Diversifying is better. Get your work out there and into the hands, or ereaders, of your fans. Let them choose the service.

Price is a verb

$2.99 seems to be the sweet spot (right now). The lower you set your price point, the more your royalties will be reduced.

You have to know who your audience is.

$1.99 seems to be the price point of doom. Currently, no one knows why.

$.99 is good, as are $3.99 and $4.99.

Authors can experiment. One author change the price of her ebooks from $4.99 to $5.99 and saw sales across all platforms except Kindle increase slightly. Kindle sale went down initially, but within two weeks, they levelled out again and all was well.

The two biggest complaints from marketing about ebooks are:

The cover sucks; and

It’s priced too low.

Free can work as a gateway to a backlist.