Last weekend I attended an event called Swordpunk. Here are a few of my photos from the event.
Last weekend I attended an event called Swordpunk. Here are a few of my photos from the event.
When I was at Eastercon, I had a conversation with David, my editor at Guardbridge books, about book submissions and the process from his perspective. I did a video interview on the subject for my YouTube channel, but there are a few points of advice I thought it was worth highlighting here.
Guardbridge Books publish science fiction and fantasy, usually books that have something a little bit weird or different about them. Yet, I was told that they receive quite a lot of submissions from authors of Christian fiction. I once attended a talk by another editor who talked about how the publisher she worked for, which produced educational books and text books, received loads of fiction submissions despite the fact that their website and information clearly stated they didn’t publish fiction.
If you submit a book to a publisher that doesn’t publish your type of book, it’s a waste of everyone’s time. These days, a lot of publishers accept electronic submissions, but you might also be wasting paper, printer ink, and postage if you submit your manuscript physically. When you’re sending your book out to publishers, do a little bit of research to find out what publishers are likely to be interested. Check who publishes books that are similar in style to the one you’ve written. Don’t waste time sending your book out to publishers that will never in a million years publish it.
Pretty much all publishers have submissions guidelines on their website. These include information on how to approach them (inquiry email, sample chapters, full manuscript) as well as information on the formatting they’re looking for. Most publishers like double-spaced, left-justified, 12 point font, and things like that, but once in a while, you’ll come across a publisher that has a particular format they want to see. You’re shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t follow their guidelines.
There are similar variations when it comes to synopses. Some publishers want a 1 page synopsis, some a 2 page, or 2-3 page. Some will ask for 1000 words or 500 words. And so on. When I was sending my first novel out on submission, it felt like every publisher had their own rules for how long the synopsis should be.
You want to follow the guidelines of the publisher you’re submitting to. After all, if you can’t read their instructions, why should they trust you to write?
This was one that David didn’t mention in the video, but he did mention to me afterwards. The submission doesn’t have to be absolutely perfect, especially since editing and proof-reading is part of the publishing process, but one thing an editor is going to do when looking at a submission is think, “How much effort is this going to take to get ready for publication?” A first page that has two or three typos in it is probably fine. A first page with two hundred is another matter entirely.
If the editor looks at your story and it seems like you don’t understand how to punctuate speech or spell common words, they’re likely to think that your book will take significant effort. If your book is absolutely mind-blowing in other ways, you might get away with it, but you are definitely stacking the odds against you. Publishers put a lot of time and effort into getting a book ready to be released into the world, and the more you can do to convince them it won’t be a trial, the more likely they are to be interested in your book.
Check out the video for the other suggestions and comments David had about the submissions process from an editor’s perspective, and good luck with your publication efforts.
I was involved in a few items on the schedule. The first was an author reading on the Friday evening, which was a bit quiet. Most of the audience were friends of the other authors there as moral support, but one of the other people in the audience is apparently in charge of ordering stock at a Waterstones, and she was asking me questions about the availability of my books afterward, so I’m counting that as a win.
I was on a panel about anime recommendations which was the one I was a little worried about, because while I watch anime I’m by no means an expert on it. Still, I was able to make some suggestions based on my personal favourites and one of them got a whoop from someone in the audience, so presumably my suggestions had merit.
The one I was really looking forward to though was the panel on queer baiting in mass market films. This was with a couple of people who I’d done queer representation panels with before, so I knew we could have some good discussions, and we all got to vent over the examples we found most frustrating. We also got into discussions about queer-coding vs queer-baiting, whether TV is doing better than film in terms of representation, and what things looked like in different parts of the world. All in all, it was a very fun conversation and a few people came up to me afterwards to say it was a good panel or mentioned it on Twitter. There’s got to be something good about any panel that ends in a call for revolution (though frankly I’m surprised D lasted until the last 30 seconds for that (they said afterwards that they’d thought they might make it through one convention without publicly calling for revolution, but they couldn’t help themselves)).
Guardbridge Books, who are the publisher behind Wolf Unleashed, had a table there, so I got to have a nice catch up with my editor. I did a one hour book signing at their table, which turned into a long conversation about our favourite books and tropes we find frustrating with someone who bought a book and the bookseller who was manning another dealers’ table across from us. That was fun too.
I also recorded a couple of interview videos for my YouTube channel, so look out for those coming soon. One of them was about the submissions process from an editor’s perspective, which I’m hoping will be useful for new authors looking to send out their first books.
One of the really nice things about doing these conventions is seeing people I haven’t seen for ages. It was nice to catch up with D, who was one of the people on the queer-baiting panel, and I met up with Francesca and Robert from Luna Press who I’ve met at these events before and tend to only see once a year, and I had some nice chats with the couple from Books on the Hill.
I also managed to continue my tradition of being randomly given a bracelet. In the opening ceremony, someone came to sit next to me on the grounds that I looked familiar so we’d probably met at a convention before. We talked for a bit and I admired her bracelets, at which point she promptly took one off and gave it to me as a gift. This is the second Eastercon in a row where a near stranger has given me a bracelet. It’s a trend I’m happy to continue if anyone wants to give me one next year.
Please start by telling us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a writer and an adventurer, and for me those have always gone hand-in-hand. I’ve driven to meet strangers at 11pm at night. I’ve slow-danced to a Matchbox 20 song at 2am in an airport. I write stories that let me adventure in other worlds. I’m also a hopeless romantic—and of course, falling in love is an adventure unlike any other.
Now tell us a little about your book.
The Dragon’s Curse is a fantasy romance novel, and it was an absolute blast to write. Here’s the short teaser:
Princess Esmerelda, hunted by an obsessed king, struggles to survive and find love in a world where the Gods themselves want her dead.
You’ve written some other stories. Can you tell us a little about them?
I’ve written some weird stories, but the common thread binding them together is romance. I wrote a prequel to The Dragon’s Curse that helped me chart a path through a painful breakup. I’ve published a comedy zombie romance, and a story about a gay ninja who falls in love. I also wrote a comedy porn story for a class assignment, though for my parents’ sakes that one remains unpublished
Do you have a favourite character in your stories?
Out of all the stories I’ve published, Esmerelda is my favorite. Her integrity, her kindness, her brilliant political mind, her sense of adventure; all captivated me. I was completely in love with her while I was writing her
How about a favorite moment?
One of the big themes of The Dragon’s Curse is adventure: life off the beaten path is amazing, even when it’s dangerous. Because even when you’re in danger, you’re fully alive.
Parius (the hero) embodies this, and he thinks the following quote I’ve always loved.
“After their exploits in Farnust, he had made an enemy of a powerful king. He and Esmerelda needed allies in case Bason besieged Larus, and the odds were desperate. If the last few months were any indication, he had at most a couple of days before a monster or a sorcerer tried to put his head on the chopping block, and nothing but his wits to keep him alive.
“And on top of that, a beautiful princess sighed against him. Yes, life was good.”
Are there any authors you particularly admire?
A lot of them! Holly Lisle, for writing amazing books under brutal conditions. J.K. Rowling, for creating a world that captivated me since I was 8 years old. Sarah Maas and Brandon Sanderson, for being true masters of their craft. John Milton, for writing Paradise Lost while he was going blind. Kelly Moran, for writing romances that leave me crying (happy tears). The list goes on….
If you could sit down for a chat with any author, living or dead, who would it be?
J.K. Rowling. Hogwarts has always absolutely enthralled me, and I would love to learn more about it.
Do you have a special place for writing?
I love writing at Barnes & Noble.
What advice would you give someone who is just getting started writing novels?
Two tips. First, read a lot. Read everything—good stories, bad stories, science fiction and romance and political thrillers.
Second, trust your Muse. Your Muse can pull rabbits out of its hat that will leave you amazed. If you need help getting in touch with your Muse, I highly recommend Holly Lisle’s course How to Think Sideways. I don’t get anything for recommending it, but it changed my life and made writing fiction 120% more enjoyable.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m pretty tight-lipped about current projects, because in first draft I’m still exploring the story so it’s hard to talk about. Talking about a first draft is like trying to describe a mountain when you’ve just started climbing it. I don’t honestly know enough about the story to describe it yet. As a favor for reading this far, though, I will drop one tidbit: it’s written in words
Firstly, I will be doing an author reading on Friday evening at 5:45. I will be doing readings from Wolf Unleashed and Shadows of Tomorrow, maybe more if I have time. It will be a shared session with other authors David Allen and Ian Creasey.
On Saturday, I will be doing a book signing for Wolf Unleashed at the Guardbridge Books table in the dealers’ room. This will be at 1pm on the Saturday until 2pm.
On Sunday, I am in two panels. One is at 10:15 in Discovery 1 and is on the subject: Beyond Studio Ghibli. We will be talking about our favourite animes, making recommendations, and offering ideas for where to find new anime to watch. Nothing remotely to do with my books, but it should be a really interesting one.
The second Sunday panel is at 5:45 in Bleriot. It’s on queerbaiting in mass market genre films, and I’m really looking forward to this panel. I’ve done LGBTQ+ representation panels with one of the other panelists before and we can usually have some good discussions. I think this is going to be a really interesting subject to go into. I’m expecting this to be a lot of fun.
I spent most of yesterday at Bath Comic Con, which was a relatively small, one-day con. It wasn’t a great day for sales. It seemed like a lot of other people in the dealers room were struggling, and I wasn’t helped by being tucked into an awkward spot in the corner. Still, despite the challenges, I met some nice people and sold a few books.
I talked to another author who had a few books for sale, including one about a private detective fighting the mummy on the Titanic, which sounds like a lot of fun. I may have to give that one a try sometime.
I also talked to a woman who works in a library in Bristol about the possibility of stocking some of my books, and a couple of creative writing students who were interested in the process of getting published.
I have been working on edits for A Monster’s Kindness this weekend and it feels like I’ve crossed a boundary point. I moved a scene from a little way past the mid-point of the book to a point about eight chapters earlier, which necessitated a significant rewrite of that scene. I’ve now reached the point I stole that scene from so I’ve had to do another significant rewrite to fill the hole. This is probably the largest point of rewriting in the book. Most of the rest of the edits are fixing the odd sentence here and there, putting in a few more details, or adding a few paragraphs occasionally where tension needs to be increased.
So having just completed this rewrite of a whole scene, it feels like I’ve crossed over some threshold and what’s coming from this point on are the quick changes, the short fixes. It’s starting to feel like the home stretch.
That’s a nice feeling. I’m seeing the story come together and I’m looking forward to sharing it with the world.
In this video, I offer some advice for selling books at sci-fi and fantasy conventions, a lot of which is also applicable to book fairs, Christmas fairs, village fetes, and anywhere else you might get a table for a few hours to sell your books.
There’s some general advice and tips from my experience. I’d hope some of it, like being nice to people, would be obvious, but it doesn’t hurt to say it.
In convention news, I will be at Bath Comic Con, on 23rd March 2019. It’s in the Bath Assembly Rooms and I will have a table in the ball room if anyone wants to come along and talk to me about books, writing, or fandom in general.
I just wanted to give you a quick update of where I am with my writing right now. What feels like quite a while ago now, a novella of mine called A Monster’s Kindness was accepted by Less Than Three Press. I’ve just had edits back from them, so I will be spending a lot of time in the near future going through those.
I don’t have a timeline for the publication of A Monster’s Kindness. It will depend on many things, including how long I take to go through the edits and whether another round is required after this, but this book should definitely be published sometime this year. I will keep you posted as it gets nearer to the time.
The third book of the Shadows of Tomorrow trilogy is finished. I’m just putting the final touches on that one before I send it to the publishers. I’m sending it to the same publisher that published the first two books in the trilogy, so I’m hopeful that it will get accepted quickly, but there’s no way to know for sure. Like any submission, I have to keep my fingers crossed. Again, I will keep you posted as I learn more.
I said in last week’s post that I’ve finished the first draft of the next Codename Omega book. I’m letting that one sit for a while. It’s actually good timing getting the edits back because it means I can focus on Monster for a bit to get some distance on Omega before going back and doing the second draft of that.
There’s something really nice about having all these projects in there different stages and seeing the progress moving towards all these new books.
This week, I finished the first draft for the next book in the Codename Omega series. The working title of this book is Codename Blank Slate, but that may well change before it comes to publication. The story carries on from the events of Omega Rising, Traitor in the Tower, and Hidden in the Signal. It actually starts shortly before the end of Hidden in the Signal and we get to see some of the events of that book from a different perspective.
That’s actually the big difference between this book and the others in the series. The previous three books have all been from Jenny’s point of view, but in this story I switch and we get another character as the protagonist, telling the story of Jenny’s war from a different angle. I don’t want to give too much away, especially in case anyone hasn’t read the earlier books in the series, but it’s been a really fun perspective to write and we get to find out a lot more about some of the characters who have been a mystery in the earlier books. I’ve really enjoyed writing this book and I hope that comes across on the page.
I think it’s a really good sign when I finished this draft already knowing how the next book would begin.
There’s still a lot of work to do – I really need to tidy up some scenes in the middle – so it will be a while before this book becomes available, but I’m still really excited and I thought it would be good to share my progress with you.
Watch this space.