Category Archives: Submissions

Preemptive Guide to Avoid Evil-Doers

Every day, a batch of people decide to write a short story or a novel. For the vast majority, the realization that writing is a difficult task to accomplish will push them back to Netflix or trying to catch Squirtle on their “Pokemon Go!” game.

For those who do manage to finish a piece of work, they may look at it and realize they’re not quite ready for publication. The hours of work are shoved into a trunk and they begin their next project, understanding that every iteration they go through develops their skills. Soon enough, they finish a project that they feel is ready for submission.

It is at this point where they begin to look around for places to send in their work. Unfortunately, there are sharks in the uncharted waters, all looking for a quick feast. How does a newbie author avoid the hazards that almost every established author already knows?

Ask Questions.

Asking questions on Facebook, of friends, or even at convention panels is an excellent way to avoid some of the more common scams. Mention Author Solutions or Publish America and every knowledgeable author shudders. They’re familiar with some of the most famous scams and methods of fleecing newbie writers. Those of you who know should be helping the newbies by answering their questions. It’s a way to give back to the writing community that was there for you when you were just starting out.

When you see someone asking questions, take the time to be helpful. Even pointing them to articles or websites can prevent someone from becoming another empty wallet. If you look out for others, they will certainly remember your name. With any luck, they’ll buy your next book and perhaps even leave you a nice review. Whether they do or not, others will remember you as someone who was helpful, and that’s a good reputation to have.

Check Writer Beware.

Writer Beware is a website attached to SFWA and endorsed by the Mystery Writers of America and the Horror Writers Association. Started by A. C. Crispin and Victoria Strauss in 1998, the project lists many agents, editors, and publishers with questionable reputations. They include plenty of details, plus give a “recommended” or “not recommended” rating when appropriate.

The website has an extensive series of articles, reviews, recommendations, and red flags for both the newbie writer and the experienced author. It’s always a good idea to check the latest when sending in projects that took a lot of time to develop. Sometimes good publishers go bad, and sometimes others redeem themselves. The website is updated often by a dedicated team.

A good example of what they offer can be found in their Small Press section.

Check Preditors and Editors.

Hosted by the Critters Writing Workshop and Dr. Andrew Burt, this website may make your eyes water with its 1990’s-era design, but it is chock-full of excellent advice on publishers, editors, services, and agents. Each section lists hundreds of entries and if they are recommended or not.

A good example is their Agents section. Each known listing includes as much details as is known, plus some are shown to be members of the AAR or are recognized as professionals by groups such as the Romance Writers of America. If there are any issues, those are spelled out, sometimes with a red Not Recommended rating to warn users against submitting any work to them.

Check the Absolute Write forums.

The Absolute Write “water cooler” is a forum open to anyone who registers. Should anyone have an issue with a publisher, agent, or service, this is one of the first places they go to in order to lodge a public complaint. In fact, if you cannot get a reply back after repeated attempts over a long period of time, posting a query here asking if anyone else has had problems can suddenly wake up the sleeping editors and publishers. Nobody wants to get discussed in a negative way on this website. It is important to note that this should be more of a “last resort”, not a first to-do when they don’t answer your email as quick as you would like.

There are many different forum sections, but the most apropos one for our discussion is at the Bewares, Recommendations & Background Checks forum. You have to register to post, but you can read without doing so. This is a great place to do a cursory search for the name of the business you’re interested in. Remember, just because one person had an issue doesn’t mean that fifty others have nothing but praise. Read through the posts, especially the most recent ones, to get a feel for how they are operating currently.

Professional Organizations.

The pro organizations have some excellent benefits for members. Some, like the Horror Writers Association, have a lower-tier membership for folks who haven’t sold any professional-rate work yet but have been published in semi-pro or “exposure” markets. Others require at least one sale at a professional rate, which SFWA determined is six cents per word in an approved market. Others genres may vary.

Most of the pro organizations have a grievance committee. These assist writers when there is a problem, which can range from contract issues to non-payment for accepted stories. Getting listed as a banned market in a professional organization can be a death-knell for a publisher. Note that the grievance committee works as a go-between when there is a legitimate disagreement. Only if a publisher or agent is found to be dishonest with more than one author will they be considered for a public notification that works published there are not acceptable for professional organization membership.

For those writers who are considering joining a pro org, this is one of the best benefits. Another one is a contract committee, which SFWA does have. This committee has articles on contract ‘gotchas’ to avoid and they can also answer questions on your contract.


And with that, you are now at least starting out your Dungeons and Dragons adventure with leather armor and a sword instead of a raggedy old cloak and a stick. Enjoy your trek, and remember to make new friends along the way.

 


About the Author:DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled US Navy veteran speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® nominee; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, third-party D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.

Slave to Your Work

A Guest Post by Holly Roberds

The problem with self-directed work, whether you are a writer, freelancer, or artist trying to make living or even just a mark, is you never know whether or not you are doing the things to put you on the path to life you want. You try to measure your progress, write more stories, submit more work, but sometimes your efforts never feel like they are enough. While working on your writing career can be a joy, it can also turn you into its slave.

I came upon this revelation after working a twelve hour day at a temp job. Up at five am, I managed an hour’s worth of editing time. Then at lunch, I squeezed in an hour of freelance work, and snuck in more editing throughout the day until I rounded up the edits at thirty pages for the day. I have never accomplished so much in one little day. Thirty pages of edits is an amazing accomplishment for me on days I didn’t have other obligations, so this was monumentally awesome!

Except, it wasn’t. Instead of feeling proud of my uber-productive day, I was absolutely miserable. Not because I felt overworked. Oh no. I was miserable because I internally bemoaned, “I didn’t do enough today! Maybe I should stay up a couple more hours and try to pack in more writing and edits.”

This is when I recognized something was very wrong. I could no longer hang out with friends, family members, or even take the time to sit down and watch a movie without the wormy guilt incessantly tugging me back to work. The ugly and demanding voice, I’d grown used to, chided that if I could get so much done on a busy day then my output should be triple on my days off. Then again, I looked over at my boyfriend who thoughtfully chewed dinner and patiently listened to my struggles. I’d rather not dump kerosene on my relationship with him or the rest my friends and family before switching on the flamethrower.

Something was broken inside me.

My off-button.

I had graduated beyond the initial stages of waffling, enough to finish stories that were of palatable quality. I was shooting short stories into the dark, unforgiving abyss of pro-markets, and gaining massive ground on my novel. Heck, I’d even scored my first publication. It was a good year for me! So why did I feel like no matter what I did, it wasn’t even close to being good enough? So what if I could fit in six hours of writing a week? Twelve hours was better, thirty would be ideal! As a freelancer, with almost total dominion over my schedule, this should be easy right?

Wrong. The more I worked, the more I wrote, the hungrier I got. Eventually I started to feel like a starving wolf, ribs poking out, maw dripping with saliva, so hungry I might start gnawing on my own legs.

I decided to handle this problem like any writer attacks a problem. I researched the ba-geezus out how to feel satisfied with the work I was doing. Most articles target writers who have trouble starting and continuing writing, I couldn’t find any that said to cool my jets. I decided to start to reading books on mindfulness, gratitude, and anything to help me enjoy life and my journey to becoming a better more productive writer without killing myself.

I spoke with friends about my problem. It helped me stay accountable. They were also more likely to notice that glazed look of panic in my eye when I wasn’t working before giving me a sound smack. Thankfully, my friends are supportive and encouraging. They shared they thought I worked harder than most people they knew. That they were already proud of my accomplishments and dedication, so I should be too. Also, they ordered me to (for the love of god!) relax.

The biggest wake-up call occurred during a conversation with a friend who was a freelancer as well as a professional writer.

With a sigh I explained, “Every second of every day, I am scrutinizing if I’m doing enough. Am I putting my energy in the right place? The place that is going to get me closer to my concrete goals?”

Namely that big beautiful publishing deal complete with a novel on the shelf and my name on it.

I paused, then asked him, “Do you know what I’m talking about?”

With a deep, tired sigh, he said, “Yes. Yes, I do. I’ve felt that way.”

Under the assumption this was all just a phase I had to get through, I asked, hopeful, “Really? How long did you feel it?”

“I feel it now, and I have felt exactly what you are describing every day since I started writing and freelancing. The ‘I should be doing more,’ ‘the things I’m doing aren’t enough,’ even if I am loaded up.”

Alarm flooded my brain and body. Sixteen years. He had been writing and freelancing for sixteen years, enduring this soul crushing guilt of never feeling he was doing enough.

No! My internal voice cried. We are not doing this! That is far too long to feel bad. My writing is a pleasure of my life, not my master.

As a writer You are completely self-directed and that is a lot of responsibility on your shoulders. The pressure can suck the enjoyment out of writing, and even life. Don’t let it.

I have had to take several steps back and deliberately make goals with a cut-off point. For example, I would endeavor to write two hours on a given day, but found I was sometimes only able to fit in one hour. Normally, this would send me into a dark cloud of regret, and I’d turn on myself like a punching bag. I’d have to do better the next day to make up for it.

Now, I will put as much deliberate effort into congratulating myself for taking one more step on my journey. I will even say it aloud. “I am doing enough.” “I have done good work today.” Because, personally, I love drilling new age hoo-doo affirmations in my brain, but I’m sure you can find your own style for self-congratulations.

Where I used to pour all my time into constructing plans and concrete writing goals, I now spend equal time planning my ‘do nothing time,’ to free myself of the eternal ‘I could be writing right now’ syndrome. There are times in the week or day where no work is allowed.

Disclaimer: this advice is not for the so called writers who never actually write anything. This is for the people who make progress, whether slow or at careening speeds who can identify with the lack of satisfaction shared here. I invoke the popular adage, “Slow progress is still progress.” Even when we writers get on a role, we can still feel the exact (if not exaggerated) despair and frustration as someone who is doing nothing.

As writers, we know what we have to do. Write more and submit more. So I made a writing/editing plan and I still make concrete goals for writing every month, but the difference is I have decided to put all my faith into the process I built. Sometimes I overshoot word count goals, and there are weeks where my process stands stock-still. Either way, when I’m supposed to be in relax mode I consciously divert my attention from the demons who demand more from me to stay in the moment as much as possible.

Don’t let your writing aspirations dig a bottomless hole in your soul at the expense of the rest of your life and happiness. So if you have written today, submitted something, or devised a grand plot idea on a napkin, let me just tell you, “You are doing a good job!” Better yet. Get in the habit of telling yourself.

 

Holly Roberds:

Holly Roberds lives a strange bohemian lifestyle in Broomfield, CO. She holds down five jobs at any one time which include working for a private investigator, as a freelance writer, writing coach, as well as numerous other alternating positions. Since she is her own boss, Holly has gobbled up countless books, articles, and studies on self-discipline, and effective work strategies. Holly writes science fiction romance, some occasional bizarro short stories, and co-authored the Writers of the Future’s ongoing blog on the craft of writing.

The Art of the Cover Letter

Look at you writing that cover letter like a champion!

Perhaps the most dreaded feedback for a writer or a skyscraper architect to receive is: “Can you make it shorter?” For some writers, this is one of the most painful parts of the editing process. For me, it’s… well, I actually haven’t gotten that note before. I write short, and I friggin’ like it that way.

Turns out I’m not alone. I’ve received some significant compliments from editors and publishers on my short, concise, and to-the-point cover letters. I found this curious, until I realized I have lots of experience with cover letters. At a former job, I was first point of contact for applicants and read literally thousands of cover letters. I’d taken note of what worked, what didn’t, and what could work if finessed. Below, I’ll give you that basic structure based on what you’re submitting to an editor or publisher.

The most important thing to mention is that if you can turn the basic into the unique without it being overblown, braggy, or down-right weird, then do it. Your cover letter is your chance to introduce yourself in a provocative, distinct way. Take advantage of the opportunity!

 

Dear EDITOR/PUBLISHER NAME,

(A)It’s my pleasure to submit SHORT STORY/MANUSCRIPT TITLE for your consideration for PUBLICATION NAME.

(B1) [If you are submitting a novel, directly go in to a little about yourself. In this section about yourself, be sure to mention:

  • If you have met the editor or publisher at an event, immediately remind them when and where you two met, and remind them that they asked to see your work
  • Published works (if you have many, choose your top three or just use the titles of the magazines, for example: My short stories have appeared in Intergalactic Medicine Show, Pseudopod, and Daily Science Fiction.)
  • Ongoing works such as blogging, reviews, or newspaper/magazine columns
  • Soon-to-be published works
  • Long-term works (ex. “I am currently writing a horror fantasy series set in 1920’s Brooklyn.”)
  • Any other writing-related credits (editor, copywriter, etc.)
  • One or two sentences about yourself including your day job, inspirations, aspirations, unique experience you hold that might be attractive to a publisher — this is an opportunity to hook an editor with your personality]

(B2) [If you are submitting a short story, I recommend first talking about the story:]

“SHORT STORY TITLE” is a X,XXX-word GENRE (ex. psychedelic fantasy) set in SETTING (ex. the heart of an acid trip). INCLUDE 2-3 MORE SENTENCES ABOUT YOUR STORY. THIS IS YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH. MAKE SURE YOU REALLY HOOK THE EDITOR WITH THIS DESCRIPTION — MAKE THEM SO CURIOUS THEY CAN’T HELP BUT READ YOUR STORY TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS.

(C1) [For submitting a novel, now is the time to go into 1-3 paragraphs about your story. This will be different than what is explained in B2, as you need to go into a longer pitch of your novel. In these paragraphs, take the editor on a small tour of what they can expect to read in your novel. Go over the main characters and basic plot, then mention the themes you delve into as well. After the long pitch, if you haven’t mentioned it already, state your target audience for your novel, approximate word count, and any other information you feel is important for the editor to know. For example, mention that you gave your novel to ten 5th grade boys (your target audience), and provide quotes of from the boys detailing how they loved the book.]

(C2) [For submitting a short story, now is the time you can talk about yourself. Keep it to a paragraph and just list your past, ongoing, and soon-to-be publications, and a fact or two about yourself (where you live, that you are a professional skydiver, that you have 49 grandchildren, etc.).]

(D) [Thank the editor for their time in this short section, and put it in your own words.] I appreciate your time, and thank you for taking a look at my story/novel “SHORT STORY TITLE”/NOVEL TITLE. I look forward to hearing from you.

(E) [Your personal information goes here such as:]

NAME
E-MAIL ADDRESS
PHONE NUMBER (optional)

As you may have noted, a cover letter for a novel will be a bit longer than a short story, but both should be limited to between four and six paragraphs. You don’t want the editor spending their precious time reading your cover letter. You want to leave them intrigued as to who you are and excited to read your story. So much so, they’ll jump right into reading your manuscript.

Additional (and helpful) resources:

  1. Submission and Formatting Basics: http://www.writersdigest.com/tip-of-the-day/how-to-submit-short-stories-formatting-basics
  2. Submissions 101: http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/literary-journal-submissions-101
  3. Writing a Query Letter: http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/how-to-write-the-perfect-query-letter

Good Omens Gone Bad: Why I Shouldn’t Be Writing

A Guest Post by Aaron Michael Ritchey

I recently read Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, and it’s about dreams, or more precisely, the following of dreams, the wretched path that narrows, and the splendor of the vision. As you follow your dreams, Paulo writes, it’s important to notice omens along the way.

Omens, as in messages from the gods, or God, or the big bright Whatever in the sky. In pursuing my own writerly dreams, I’ve had omens, I guess, maybe. I’m a hugely dramatic man, and the only omens I care about are either engulfed in flames or splattered with the blood of sacrificial virgins. I want impossible-to-ignore omens, dammit, crows that caw my name, and if I don’t get the cawing, it doesn’t count.

As you can guess, I’m disappointed much of the time. I can easily discount every single omen I’ve been gien on my writer’s journey. And I can point out to you, in exquisite detail, the omens my fellow authors have been given. Sure, the crows caw their name, but not mine.

Let’s talk about my first good omen. My dad had a friend who worked for the Modern Language Associations, you know, the MLA. They were to the English language as the KGB was to communism. Nobody messed with the MLA. My dad gave his friend a story to read, and she loved it and praised my talent. It was an omen. Or was it? She was my dad’s friend. I was sixteen and fragile and she was probably just sparing my feelings. Screw that omen, it doesn’t count.

In high school my stories were chosen to be in the literary magazine. That’s an omen, right? No, I had to vote for my own stories in order to win, and Pat Engelking always beat me. No omen for me!

A year after college, I finished my first novel. I gave it to a friend. He cried reading it. Omen, yeah? No, that first book was so bad that my wife couldn’t read it. And I dedicated it to her! The crows sat in silent scorn in the trees outside my house.

I wrote an epic trilogy after that, and my audience doubled to friends loving my work, but it still doesn’t count. I still wasn’t published.

Then? Eight books later, my lucky thirteenth book I’d written, The Never Prayer, not only was a finalist in a writing contest, but a publisher wanted to publisher it! Omens galore! Hide the virgins, the dagger is thirsty tonight!

I didn’t win the contest, and the publisher went under. As in glug, glug, glug. Going down three times, and coming up twice. No omens.

But my second book, er, fourteenth book, Long Live the Suicide King, found a publisher, and I got a strong Kirkus Review! Not just strong, glowing, put on your sunglasses. That’s GOT to be an omen. Kirkus, son, they don’t mess around.

But I’ve read other books that got glowing Kirkus Reviews, and those books were iffy. Some downright bad. Not. An. Omen.

Elizabeth's Midnight Final smallBut what about my last book I published, Elizabeth’s Midnight? Omens? Another good Kirkus Review (Indie, so it doesn’t count), more good reviews on Amazon (blah, blah, blah), and even fan mail. Am I rich and famous? Am I hanging out with Lady Gaga? Do editors read my work and say, “Sorry, man, I’d like to edit it, but it’s too damn good.”

No. No omens.

So yeah, that’s me. I’m a small-minded, ungrateful, hateful little man. I’ve never had a literary agent. I’ve never been signed on by the big six, or five, or one. I’ve not been chosen by the elite.

For me, and this is only for me, my omens come in small packages, and I have the freedom to recognize them as omens, or discount them and be the lead kazoo player in my own pity-party band.

For me, I have to work to believe in my omens. Omen #1? My wife loves my books and is willing to spend money on them. That, my friend, is a bush on fire. She’s a frugal, level-headed sort of woman, and if she didn’t think I could make it, we wouldn’t be spending the benjamins.

Omen #2? My daughters read Elizabeth’s Midnight and loved it. If my wife is frugal with our money, my daughters are even cheaper with their literary praise.

Omen #3? I’ve had fan moments, where actual people, who have read my book, looked at me in wonder. I’ve gotten fanmail. Not a lot, but what I have gotten? Astounding.

The last omen? The only omen that really counts? I WANT TO WRITE BOOKS. I want to write a lot of books. If the good Lord didn’t want me writing, he wouldn’t have given me the desire to create stories. That is the crow cawing my name.

I have been chosen because I am choosing, choosing to write books and get them published, by any means necessary.

Omen enough for me.

 

2Author_Pic_AMR_2014 MediumAbout the Author:

Aaron Michael Ritchey is the author of The Never Prayer and Long Live the Suicide King. Kirkus Reviews called his latest novel, Elizabeth’s Midnight, “a transformative tale for those who believe in magic and in a young girl’s heart.” In shorter fiction, his G.I. Joe inspired novella was an Amazon bestseller in Kindle Worlds and his steampunk story, “The Dirges of Percival Lewand” was part of The Best of Penny Dread Tales anthology. He lives in Colorado with his wife and two ancient goddesses of chaos posing as his daughters. Visit his website at www.aaronmritchey.com.