Tag Archives: publishing

Talking about Publishing, Editing and Me!

Kate making a silly faceWhy do I volunteer myself for this sort of stuff?!

(Answer: It seemed like a good idea at the time…)

I’m in London on the evening of the 16th January, up in Kentish Town, giving a talk to the Chalk Scribblers about…me.

ARGH.

I mean, on paper it sounds excellent. I’m an editor for an indie and a genre press, both with some nice awards under their belts; I’m a freelance formatter and a published fantasy writer; and I’ve bounced around the writing world enough to hopefully have some interesting insights about the whole thing – plus if Rachel is anything to go by, the group’s going to be super interesting and chatty, so that’s going to be great.

But it involves ME talking about ME and trying to make myself sound INTERESTING and ARGH.

(I did have one friend give me a funny look when he found out I was doing it. I had to assure him that I can actually speak pretty well in public, thankyouverymuch, even if I tend to be more reserved in private. Humph.)

So. Yeah. If you’re around, then maybe see if you can come along? (You need to sign up though.) *chews nails nervously* It’s gonna be fine. It’s gonna be really fun. I just need to stop being nervous now!

Fangirl Squeaking

The Outcast Hours

Aka. I get paid to read things? Amazing things? HOW?!

Basically, I got to copy-edit an absolutely fantastic anthology; it’s ridiculously varied, interesting, strange, weird, wonderful and eerie. I don’t think I have a favourite story – although I do have about six that have captured my heart in various ways – but it’s been fantastic to work on.

And I did have to read through and tell China Mieville if any of their writing could be improved. ARGH. (Spoiler: it couldn’t.) Anyway, The Outcast Hours is now up for pre-order, and has a wonderfully weird mix of stories – I adore it.

We live our lives in the daylight. Our stories take place under the sun: bright, clear, unafraid.
This is not a book of those stories.
These are the stories of people who live at night; under neon and starlight, and never the light of day.
These are the stories of poets and police; writers and waiters; gamers and goddesses; tourists and traders; the hidden and the forbidden; the lonely and the lovers.
These are their lives. These are their stories. And this is their time:
The Outcast Hours.

Including stories by Amira Salah-Ahmed, Cecilia Ekbäck, Celeste Baker, China Miéville, Daniel Polansky, Frances Hardinge, Indrapramit Das, Jeffrey Alan Love, Jesse Bullington, Karen Onojaife, Kuzhali Manickavel, Sam Beckbessinger, Lauren Beukes, Dale Halvorsen, Lavie Tidhar, Leah Moore, Maha Khan Phillips, Marina Warner, M. Suddain and Omar Robert Hamilton.

Also, I recently got to email one the authors of my favourite book ever, basically going “Hi so yes here’s a little bit of business stuff and OMG I LOVE YOUR BOOK SO MUCH THANK YOU FOR WRITING IT I’VE READ IT NINE TIMES AND IT’S STILL SO AMAZING” and also incidentally I got to read it nine times, and it’s still as fantastic the ninth time. So, there’s that. (I should be able to tell you about that soon!)

I’m still mostly in shock about all of this; the amount of fantastic writing, fantastic authors, fantastic editors… I’m currently working on some of the best SFF to come out of 2018 and it’s just amazing.

I get to read wonderful things, and they pay me to do it. My job rocks!

Post-FantasyCon 2018: thoughts and advice

So I was at FantasyCon 2018 this last weekend in Chester, and honestly…it was a bit weird.

I’ve gone from fangirl and small indie author when I last went to the con in 2016, to a senior editor at an indie publisher and junior editor at a mid-list publisher… and that has very much changed the conversations that I’m now involved in. I’ve gone from, “I’ve written a book and I edit stuff” to “what have you written, because I could be interested in it…” alongside “I write and I edit stuff!” – alongside, of course, the always-interested, “So what are you working on at the moment?”

But it did also give me a chance to think about what those conversations were, and how they’ve changed. Being a relative newcomer to the publishing side of things, and having been a writer and editor a very short time ago…actually, what would I have wanted to know two years ago when I was at the con as an author? What could have helped the people I was meeting to get the best of me as an author and writer?

So, some bits of random advice:

Know your elevator pitch

Give me an idea of genre, length, and a very brief idea (as in one sentence) of what your story is, and then another sentence on what makes it stand out (pick one or two themes, characters, settings…) Bluntly, what I need to know is;

a) is this something I can even be interested in as a publisher? (eg. if it’s the wrong genre or style, then I may be interested personally, but I’ll mentally cross it off the list of possibles for my job), and

b) if it is, I want a very brief overview! Catch my interest, make me want to ask you more. And, frankly, this applies to anyone asking about your book, not just publishers – what you’re trying to do is very briefly answer the question, “why do I want to read this?” Because that’s where I’m coming from as a publisher – I want to read it myself first!

And then practise your pitch. Learn it, and trot it out whenever anyone asks – you can always expand on it! But if you start with a long-winded explanation of the background themes…unless I’ve specifically asked about those or we’ve come from a conversation that was relevant to that background, it’s not what I want to start with.

Have your online persona visible

I was guilty of this myself until I put my Grimbold badge on, which has my Twitter handle on it! I recognise names and Twitter handles more than I recognise faces, or I don’t match the two until I see someone – so have it visible!

Mentioning your affiliation is also helpful; if you’re with a particular publisher, or you’ve got a book out that I may have heard of… have a badge, a lanyard, a t-shirt. Give me some hook to go “Oh yes, that thing! You’re part of that/wrote that/know X?”

Or, failing all of that, have something I can ask about! I’m as introverted as the next person – give me something to approach you with, because I suck at approaching people cold.

Your book does not matter until you’ve finished it

Blunt, I know, and it sucks. But I can’t use a half-finished novel, and honestly – as a publisher – I can’t really spend time being interested in it until you’ve proved you can finish it. As a writer and generally Dreadfully Enthusiastic Person, I will likely be cheerleading you on to finish it – but professionally, I can’t do much with something that’s not yet ready!

That said…you can always pitch us! But that’s a bit of a different skill and set of circumstances, and I’d need to see that you have a solid background in actually finishing things before I was interested in a pitch for a not-yet-written novel…which still argues for the “finish something” thing.

Also, if you’re getting caught up with re-writing…please don’t. Get words on the page, finish your first draft, THEN worry about all the problems. Seriously. Just finish the damn thing! (This is apparently a bugbear I didn’t know I had…but man, I got frustrated!)

Write what you want

Do it! Absolutely do it. Yes, you have to write with one eye to the market, and so much of publishing is watching what’s commerical and selling and how the genres are working and…but half the stuff I end up reading is mashups, and I think that’s where the fun of the genre comes from. It might not be as easy a sell, but definitely keep going.

Write, write, write

Don’t pin your hopes on one project. If you want to make a career of writing, you’ve got to keep going – and if you’ve shopped something around and it’s not sold, then shelve it, write something else. If I (or an agent, or a submissions editor) likes your writing and says, “Well, this project doesn’t quite work because it’s the wrong genre/length/style/I can’t sell it at the moment, but what else do you have?” then what else have you got to show off?

 

So, there you go…those are my random thoughts!

FantasyCon 2018: I did the thing!

I was at FantasyCon 2018 in Chester over this last weekend, and it was alternately fabulous, tiring, wonderful, weird and overall pretty exhausting!

First, huge props to the organisers (Allen and Karen) and all the redcloaks – they did a hugely fabulous job with panels, organising, events, answering questions, herding cats… and it was marvellous.

I was on two panels. The first was blogging in genre fiction (which Alexandra Peel did a lovely review of)  – it was great fun as I just got to chat to Alasdair and Kit, and then Micah when he arrived! They’re all always interesting so it definitely felt more like a natter than an actual panel. I did manage to dodge out of my panel on punk on Saturday evening, although I went along anyway – and I’m actually very glad that I did, as my views were very different to everyone else’s! I appreciate that it probably would have made for a good panel, but I also would have got flattened by the combined coilsprings of cheerful rage from Ren Warom and Kit Power, so… selfishly, I’m very glad I didn’t have to talk! (I do want to write a blog post on the subject though). And the second panel was fandom on Sunday, which felt like another natter – we got to talk Marvel, shared worlds and Star Wars!

I also got to see several panels; Writing on a Contract on Friday, which was really interesting; one session of readings from the wonderful Steven Poore, GV Anderson, Allen Stroud and Hal Duncan; a panel on publishing on Saturday afternoon, and one on editing anthologies on Saturday evening; and then a panel on starting out in genre fiction on Sunday morning, followed by underrepresented voices. All the panels were really interesting, and it was great to see so many subjects and voices talking about things they were passionate about – and I learned so much! Plus my reading pile and research list have grown exponentially, as usual… I didn’t haul many books; I picked up Steven Poore’s Heir to the North and Pete Sutton’s Seven Deadly Swords and promptly gave them away to someone who NEEDS TO READ THEM, but I did pick up Margaret Helgadottir’s The Stars Seem So Far Away for myself. I did, however, get a stack of suggestions – as if my reading pile wasn’t bad enough…

In between, I got to talk to people, talk to more people, eat stuff, talk to even more people, get a brief walk around Chester’s wall in the sunshine (absolutely beautiful!) and then keep talking…I spent most of my time with Rebellion’s lovely PR person, Remy, but managed to catch up with a whole bunch of Grimbold Books people, Fox Spirits, some old faces, some people I’d only met so far over t’interwebs, and some new introductions!

I did feel pretty weird throughout the con; I’ve gone from indie author and writer to editor for a mid-list publisher, and I felt I couldn’t win with how I spent my time – I loved seeing everyone I did, but I didn’t feel I spent enough time with anyone! It was very strange meeting so many people as well, having gone from someone who didn’t matter (not in a bad way, just…frankly, I didn’t, two years ago) to someone who might be a good recipient for writing, stories, agent subs, anthology ideas…

So…yeah. I’m still feeling pretty unsettled from that. I was definitely feeling both imposter syndrome and that I was supposed to be filling more of a role that I’m not sure how to work yet; I should have talked to more people, done more deals, found out more about what could be coming our way – but I’m also still the person who was looking at everyone else with wide eyes two years ago, and I still don’t feel I have anything to say. I don’t yet know how to combine those two roles, or how to fill shoes I’ve only been in for six months; I don’t know enough people, don’t know enough about how this world works, don’t know what I can do. I don’t know what my role is meant to be, yet, and every time I stretch I’m wondering when I’m going to hit a boundary or look like someone I’m not.

But. BUT. I’m still the writer, author, editor, the person who loves chatting to anyone and everyone about what they’re writing and hearing about amazing stories. That was my sanity when I was feeling lost, and I think – I hope! – I held on to that well enough to be able to talk coherently to everyone that I did get to speak to! It was amazing to meet so many writers and professionals and enthusiasts; everyone who talked to me was absolutely lovely, and the con has such good energy. Despite feeling unbalanced, I loved meeting everyone.

I’m going to do another post in a sec with some thoughts I had, partly about the above mix of emotions and partly some advice, so keep an eye out for that.

But overall: a fabulous weekend, even if I did manage to miss the karaoke – oh noes! (Apparently it was epic, so I’m half sad to have missed the amusement…but not sad to have missed the chance to demonstrate my awful singing!)

Why Identity Matters: thoughts from Stewart Hotston

Regardless of that, I hope you can be brave enough to buy stories that aren’t obviously about people like you, that aren’t showing you nothing but a blurred out mirror with only the bits you like reflecting back.

Why? because then my friends who write together with those buy, market and publish those stories will be able to justify changing the world – because you’ll have done it first.

From an interesting and thoughtful post from Stewart Hotston that’s worth a read, along with another thoughtful post on race.