August 20, 2018

WorldCon 2018 Report: Day Five — Packing It All In

Monday is typically a slow day at WorldCon. For many people, it is a travel day back to wherever they came from. Dealers tend to start packing up early to avoid the crunch at the close of the convention.

When WorldCon was (is?) held on Labor Day weekend, it makes more sense to me, as Monday is a holiday (at least in the U.S.) when people can attend with their family and free from work. On the other hand, by Sunday night, we tend to be pretty wiped out and Monday is a good day to chill, reflect on the Hugos, and maybe get in some last-minute shopping.

Monday for us was mostly logistics and packing (and a lot of carrying boxes to the car). And, at the end, the table was once again the blank black canvas on which we had built our dreams for the weekend.

To everyone I met, and to everyone I saw: Thank you!

August 20, 2018

WorldCon 2018 Report: Day Five — Autographs: Spider Robinson

I waited in line for an hour and a half. I met some new people — and met up again with a few people from the line on Friday.

Shortly after I arrived in line, I was informed by a staff member that I was the last person probably guaranteed to get a signature. (WHEW!)

And, this time I did. Spider was every bit as charming and personable as you might hope and expect and thought he probably was.

From what I heard, from talking to people later, everyone in line at the time the session started got autographs.

I sincerely hope that this is part of a “comeback tour” for Spider, and not a “last hurrah” as one of the staff members implied.

August 19, 2018

WorldCon 2018 Report: Day Four — Creating a Book Cover: Part 4

Lee will present the illustration to Elliott and Heather. While working through any small requested changes, they’ll contemplate type and line design of the book. Type, design, focus, the spine, and readability on the web will all be discussed.

Panel: Elliott Kay, Lee Moyer, Heather McDougal

This was largely a visual sessions, with lots of images projected, so my notes are sparse as you really need to see what they were referring to in order to understand the context. Also, I won’t repeat points that were made during the first session in this series.

  • “Everyone is an Art Director … and very few are qualified.”
  • “Covers are iconography, not just illustration.”
  • How can you tell when something is self-published?
    • cover image is clearly a stock photograph
    • reliance on basic fonts like Helvetica
    • the cover doesn’t use fonts that reflect the content or tone of the book
  • don’t use crazy fonts or wild special effects with the fonts
August 19, 2018

WorldCon 2018 Report: Day Four — The Paths to Publishing

The publishing market continues to evolve with new technology, new business models, and an ever-changing ecosystem of publishers, booksellers, and distributors. Professional writers looking to profit from their work have more choices than ever. How do you choose between pursuing an indie career or a traditional one? What are the benefits to working with a larger publisher? What are the opportunities available if you do it all yourself? Panelists will discuss the paths to publishing success, how to decide between the options, and the factors that go into making the decision.

Panel: SL Huang, Amanda Bridgeman, Scott H. Andrews, Wesley Chu, Linda Nagata

  • Self-Publishing
    • What do you like to read?
    • Reading short stories vs. novels: “Nibbling on a cracker vs. gorging on a steak.”
    • Be at the point where you’ve actually written something; there’s really no point in doing it sooner
    • How much time (patience) are you willing to invest to do traditional publishing?
    • short fiction is a great way to learn the craft; however, it’s a completely different muscle than writing a novel
    • it’s easier to go from traditional publishing to self-publishing than the reverse; it does happen, but those instances are actually quite rare
    • if you’re not patient, you probably shouldn’t be a writer (particularly if you want to go the traditional publishing route)
    • “There is no easy path.”
    • self-publishing takes a lot of time and mind-time
    • “You have it love it.” (all of the aspects of self-publishing)
    • “Even with traditional publishing, you will get stuck with a lot of the promotion.”
    • “At the end of the day, it’s your book and your career.”
    • It can get frustrating with traditional publishing to get the promotion that you want
    • “Being in control can be very satisfying.”
    • “We don’t see the back end of things with traditional publishing.”
    • “The path of a career in writing is littered with dead associates.” (I think he meant this metaphorically)
  • Agents
    • “An agent is like dating.”
    • at the end, it’s a business relationship
    • “You need to value yourself.” (Don’t stick with a bad agent.)
    • Some agents wear many hats
      • some are editors
      • some are contracts
      • some are sales people
  • “We are declining and depressed industry.”
  • audiobooks are harder to produce outside of the U.S. (because some countries don’t support the royalty-share model)
  • Misconceptions (about self-publishing and writing)
    • “It’s not a mean to print money.” (Sure, some writers get fantastically successful, but you probably won’t.)
    • “If you’re writing for the love of it, you’ll be far happier.”
    • “If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it.” (about writing)
    • “If you need alcohol to write, don’t write.”
    • need an inner drive
    • “When you’re contractually obligated to write, then you’re a writer.”
    • “Everybody in their life has one good book in them.”
  • Social networking
    • if you have no social network presence, then write more books
    • can be very valuable for making connections
    • use it as just another tool in your promotional toolbox
    • you do need to monitor your time on it (vs. actually writing)
  • Promotions
    • email newsletters are the best, but take a lot of time
    • BookBub is a great way to sell lots of copies at a low price
  • How to tell a bad agent
    • want money up front or a reading fee
    • they don’t treat you with respect
    • they ignore your messages
    • people keep bad agents because they believe they must have one
August 18, 2018

WorldCon 2018 Report: Day Three — Which Road to Publication?

The road to publication has splintered into many twisty paths. Options have never been greater for aspiring authors, but navigating the choices has never been murkier. Where do you start? Indie, traditional publishers or small presses? What about Amazon and Kindle Unlimited? A panel of authors from indie to Big Five publishers—and everything in between—maps the routes and outlines the pros and cons of each path in the brave new world of publishing.

Panel: Jennifer L. Carson, J.L. Doty, Tod McCoy, Jonathan Brazee, Jack Skillingstead

  • Issues an author should consider
    • have a goal
      • sell books
      • win awards
      • make a living
    • to sell  100 or 200 or 1000 copies of a book is a lot of work (indie publishing)
    • how much do you want to put into the non-writing work?
      • sometimes you have to pay for the expertise
    • be aware of external factors that can influence sales and/or promotion
    • You can tell how large a publisher is by how long it takes them to get a book out
    • Yes, people really do judge a book by it’s cover
  • How much control? How much effort?
    • particularly for traditional publishing, there is an established methodology
    • it’s hard to sell 100 … 200 … 1000 copies
    • it’s easy to sell 10,000 … 20,000 copies, once the momentum or demand has built
    • How do you do the latter? No idea. Not even the “Five 5” know for sure.
    • traditional publishing and self-publishing aren’t that different in that regard
    • be the best writer you can; find your own voice
    • work hard on writing more books; focus on production
  • Self-publishing
    • review the fiction
    • look for a cover
    • editing
    • formatting
    • cover design
    • copy editing
    • know the difference between the different types of editors
    • consider hiring a designer
    • the hard part is everything after those
    • marketing
  • Money
    • average royalty from a traditional publisher for a paperback book is 50-75¢
    • ebook royalties might go as high as 70%
    • How? No one knows for sure. (See the recurring theme here?)
    • A lot of independent authors go with KDP Select to maximize their revenue, but this puts them exclusive to Amazon
      • Amazon is still trying to stop the scammers who manipulate the page-read system to earn money
    • most self-publishers go print-on-demand (POD) for printed editions, otherwise they have to store and ship the books — more time taken away from writing-related tasks
    • shipping costs eat into your profits
    • most booksellers wanted guaranteed return rights if the books don’t sell; this can kill the independent author as they end up paying for shipping both ways
    • you can expect to pay
      • content/developmental edit: $2,000 – $3,000
      • proofreader: $300 – $500
      • cover design: $200 – $6000
  • Essentials skills (even if you have to hire out for them)
    • copy editing
    • cover design
    • in general, a copy editor should be able to turn your average-length book around in about 2 weeks
  • recommended self-editing process
    • write
    • wait 2 years
    • edit
    • repeat for 25 years
  • the odds of your first novel earning out? Not likely.
  • books that do take off tend of have a “halo effect” on an author’s other works — so make sure you have some to benefit from this
  • “When someone tells you how to sell books, that’s how they did it.”
  • Not every thing that works for someone else might — probably — won’t work for you
  • the fundamental difference from the item above is: You didn’t write that book
  • “Success can’t be predicted from working your ass off.”
  • When you self-edit (or have a bad editor), “You are who you came in as”
  • People want to re-hire editors who made them better
  • getting published with a mainstream publisher has a cachet associated with it, but there is often little other advantage for a new or niche author
August 18, 2018

WorldCon 2018 Report: Day Three — Lady Dings the Prudes

Celibacy and Asexuality in Spider Robinson’s Callahan and Stardancer Books
Sexual diversity is one of the strengths of Spider Robinson’s works. His characters engage in a variety of types of romantic relationships and sexual encounters, particularly at Lady Sally’s Place. At one point, Lady Sally indicates that celibacy is “the only form of sexual dysfunction,” yet this seems at odds with the overarching themes of diversity and acceptance. The speaker will argue to the larger context of asexuality in speculative fiction, and how this all plays out.

Panel: Emily Fleming

The main title alone, right?

I originally had marked this session on My Schedule for two reasons: 1) I was amused by the title and its lovely related pun, particularly for a session on the Academic Track; and 2) it was about Spider Robinson and his stories. Either of those alone would have been reason enough. However …

Emily stopped by the Paper Angel Press table on Thursday and we chatted at some length with her about books and writing and Spider Robinson, and she wisely mentioned that she was doing this panel. I promised her that I would attend, even if I was still mildly leery of a session on the Academic Track.

I am pleased to report that Emily’s presentation (which followed one titled “Questioning Mononormativity: Heinleinian Non-Monogamies”, which was quite interesting as well) was engaging, entertaining, and informative. To achieve either of the first two during an academic presentation, in my mind, deserves great and high praise.

I won’t endeavor to capture or try to summarize the presentation. If I find out that it is available online somewhere, I will post a link to it — although that will be far, far from the actual experience of being there when it was presented.

Summary: I am very, very glad that I went. Emily, you did a fantastic job and I hope your sister believed you.

August 17, 2018

WorldCon 2018 Report: Day Two — Autographs: Spider Robinson

I first discovered Spider Robinson in the October 1977 issue of Analog with his story, “Dog Day Evening”. When I read “God is an Iron” in the May 1979 issue of Omni, I was both more than a little surprised, and also hooked. It was quite different from his “Callahan” stories, yet the theme and payoff at the end of the story definitely has a “Callahan” sensibility to it. That story has stuck with me ever since. (If you haven’t read “God is an Iron”, why not? You need to. Right Now.)

In terms of the session, there’s not much to report here: I waited in line for about an hour and fifteen minutes, got about 5 people from meeting Spider Robinson, then it was 4 o’clock and he had to leave for another scheduled commitment.

Disappointed? Sure.

But I met several really nice and interesting people also waiting in the line, one of whom came to be Paper Angel Press table later and purchased a copy of book, Building Baby Brother — the only hardcover edition we sold during all of WorldCon.

However, this is not the end of this story.

August 17, 2018

WorldCon 2018 Report: Day Two — The Art and Craft of Anthology Curation

An anthology is more than just putting a bunch of stories into a set. They have to make sense together, without being alike and boring the reader. Who does it well? What are some good examples? And what are some tips for writers and editors of anthologies?”

Panel: Lynne M. Thomas, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, Ellen Datlow, John Joseph Adams

  • Where to begin?
    • coming with an idea
    • non-theme anthologies are harder to sell
    • titles: brainstorming vs. agonizing over them
      • sometimes they’re the publisher’s idea
      • some come from Twitter discussions
      • some are reverse-engineered from a planned launch party (don’t do this!)
    • watch trends
    • see if the idea pitch generates excitement with prospective authors
    • most anthologies allow 9-12 months for submissions
    • easier to create with newer writers
    • some anthology editors will only work with established authors — authors with some kind of publishing credentials at minimum
    • reprint anthologies can be created much faster
    • “well-known” is a nebulous term (where? with what audience?)
    • experienced editors and “big names” appeal to publishers
  • Matching stories to ideas
    • go with broad rather than very specific themes
    • send guidelines
    • encourage authors to go against tropes related to the theme
    • get author’s ideas in advance (via a “pitch”)
    • be aware of the tone and voice (point-of-view) while collecting stories
    • rejected stories from other open submissions tend to flood the market closed
  • Anthology construction
    • start with a strong, straightforward story, possibly shorter in length
    • the first should be a “core theme” story
    • strongest, most powerful story last or next-to-last; next-to-last will give readers a chance to “breathe” before the end
    • long stories in the middle
    • complex stories about two-thirds of the way in
    • vary stories by tone, location, and point-of-view
    • if possible, have the stories form an emotional arc from start to finish
    • historical anthologies should be organized in chronological order

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