Tag Archives: Musa

Women Writing the Weird – Publishing in an anthology

Nancy:  Welcome back to The Fictorian’s Publishing Month. Colette and I wanted to talk a little about our experience with the Women Writing the Weird (WWTW) anthology published by Doghorn Publishing since participating in an anthology is a bit different than other forms of publication. So, Colette, what did you think about the opportunity to participate in an anthology?

Colette: I was thrilled when you told me about the upcoming anthology, in part because of the publishing opportunity, and in part because it consisted entirely of women speculative fiction writers. I was excited about that opportunity. I’ve always meant to ask, how did you find out about it in the first place?

Nancy: Accidental networking. Seriously though, I met the editor, Deb Hoag, through an online writing group. Deb approached her publisher – Doghorn – and asked if she could put together an anthology of genre defying stories by women writers. When she got the go ahead, she contacted a group of writers she wanted to work with. Fortunately, I was in that group. Deb later opened submissions up and I sent an e-mail to the Superstars Writing Seminar group to see if anyone had a story that might work. When you said you thought you just might have a story if Deb was willing to accept previously published works, I put the two of you in contact.

Colette: Even though my story, Beneath the Skin, was published in SNM Horror magazine under the title, Becoming, it seemed like the best of my current stories for an anthology called Women Writing the Weird. A were-beetle burrowing into your leg with nefarious purposes fits weird. I was very flattered that despite it being a reprint and one of my earlier stories, Deb still accepted it. Of course, it’s definitely a different tone than a guy in a monkey suit.

Nancy: Yea. The Gorilla in the Phone Booth was definitely very different than your story. The idea for the story came out of a Writing Excuses episode where they were talking about the promises we make to our readers. Howard Taylor mentioned that if you put a gorilla in a phone booth you’d better have darned good reason for it. So I spent the weekend figuring out why. I came up with a twist on the genie story and some land selkies. One of the fun things about WWTW is the stories cross a lot of genre lines and, at least one of the stories, defies classification (in a good way) in my mind.

Oh, and because Colette’s too modest to mention it, I should tell you that Beneath the Skin got a really wonderful review at http://www.kathulhu.com/2011/11/women-writing-weird.html

Beneath The Skin, by C.M. Vernon gives a different twist to the were-creature tale and I think this story would make a great movie. I also couldn’t help but think of Kafka’s Metamorphosis while I was reading it.

You have to love being compared to Kafka.

I won’t put Colete on the spot and ask her about the review. But I will ask her about her thoughts on this publishing experience. So . . . ?

Colette: I thought it was amazing that even though the book didn’t come out in hardcopy until last month, you put together a book promo at World Fantasy Convention in October, 2011. I couldn’t believe what a great job you did with posters, flyers, food…the whole deal.

Nancy: Thanks. Putting together the book launch was a lot of fun and a bit nerve wracking. World Fantasy is a huge writer’s and agent’s convention. Tor hosted a huge party in the suite we used later that evening. For the book launch, Doghorn printed a small number of the book so we could promote it at World Fantasy. Adam Lowe (the head editor at Doghorn) sent me the artwork so I could make the posters, postcards and flyers. I’m not sure the postcards were effective swag, so I probably won’t use them as promotional items again.

We were also lucky enough to get a lunch-time slot to promote. There were no competing lectures. We were also next to the hospitality suite, and when it ran out of food, they directed people to us because we had food. We probably had an extra thirty people drop in because of the food. And they stayed for the readings.

Of course, the book launch wouldn’t have been as successful if I hadn’t sweet talked you into helping. Your reading was great.

Colette: I’ve read in public before, but never my own piece. I was so nervous, but once I started, I have no idea if I did a good job, but I loved it. I would love to be an author who does presentations in schools, book readings, signings, the whole deal.  I look forward to that part of publishing. Speaking of which, it seemed rather odd that you had the book in October, but it didn’t come out in bookstores until May. I haven’t heard much buzz on it, either, but I haven’t been in this business long enough to know if that’s just normal.

Nancy: The book’s been available at the publisher’s website since October, but for some reason the general release was delayed until May, 2012. I’m not sure why Doghorn decided to stagger the release or if the delayed release was just part of its agreements with Amazon and Lulu. Amazon’s currently out of stock on it as well.

I know with the two short story collections I’ve published through Musa Publishing (yes, I had to get them into this post) , Paths Less Traveled and Shots at Redemption, Amazon had the book within hours of it going on the Musa site. But then, the Musa collections are e-books and that might make a difference.

Colette: I have no idea if the book will do well from this point on, but it’s been a fun ride, don’t you think? I wish I had researched the anthology a little better before I jumped on board, not because it isn’t top quality, because it is, but I’m afraid that my participation in a book fondly called by our friends, “the booby book,” is a bit of a misrepresentation of my name as a brand.  I don’t write erotica, and the beautiful cover suggests there’s a fair amount of content in that category. That’s something I’ll pay more attention to in the future, so I don’t confuse any readers as to what they might expect from my writing.

Nancy:  Ah, yes, our cover. One of the things you often can’t control as a writer – what your cover looks like. Coming up with a cover that captures the scope of the anthology would have been tough, and I understand the decision to base the cover on the short story by the best known writer.  But I’ve had web designers decline my job and promotion sites decline the listing because the catfish girl on the cover has very prominent and very naked breasts.  And don’t get me started on telling my folks about the anthology. The artwork is gorgeous but, in accurately rendering the light coming from above, the artist placed a lot of emphasis on the breasts. It wouldn’t have been my choice of a cover if we’d had any say in the matter, and my story did have erotic elements. I think this is one where a bit of strategically placed seaweed would help attract more people to the anthology.

Colette: More than anything, I’ve enjoyed the publishing experience and the chance to interact with fellow writers and readers. I also loved the launch party you put together at WFC.  I may not make any money from this particular sale, but I’ve learned a lot from my experience. I’m grateful for that.

Nancy:  WWTW made me realize how difficult putting together an anthology is.  We have a lot of short stories in the anthology from very different genres.  Deb did a great job bundling them into the three sections based on the type of weirdness. If you’re looking for stories that balance on genre edges, this is the anthology for you.

It’s definitely been fun. I got to know a lot more writers than I would have if I hadn’t participated. I wouldn’t turn down another opportunity to work with Deb or Doghorn. Being invited to submit to the anthology was an honor. Having Deb select my story for it was amazing and my first professional sale. So, WWTW will always have a special place in my heart.



E-Publishing – Why I chose it.

 As you know from my post earlier this month, I have two short story collections published by Musa Publishing. I’m participating in an anthology – The Jack Gorman Project – that was born at an after-conference dinner at the 2011World Fantasy Con, The anthology will release on July 20, 2012. I also have a novella, Apollo Rising, that should be released in September, 2012. All as part of Musa’s line.

So, why did I choose E-publishing?

Well, let’s be honest, Musa said yes.

All kidding aside, I chose to E-publish rather than continue the short story publication rounds or wait on traditional publishers to deem me worthy for several reasons.  But, before I go into those reasons, let me use Celina Summers’ definition of E-publishing from the June 1, 2012 blog.

According to Celina:

(E-Publishing) houses are digital first.  They publish e-books primarily, although some are moving into POD(print on demand) availability for their books.  An e-publisher is a genuine small house, following the same submissions, acquisitions, and editing processes as traditional publishing.  Five years ago, e-publishing wasn’t considered a legitimate publishing credit by agents and New York publishers. That mindset is changing as the popularity of digital books increases.

Okay, now that we are all on the same page, let’s talk about why I chose this path.

Probably most importantly, I met Celina at World Fantasy. I  liked her. We talked for hours about everything and nothing before she gave me permission to pitch her. I can’t stress how important this personal connection is in any form of publishing. I’m not sure I would have trusted my babies (the stories) to an e-publisher, especially one who’d just opened its doors, if I hadn’t met Celina.

On to more general reasons to consider an E-publishing house. I don’t have the time or energy to do all the work the fabulous people at Musa do for me. Self-publishing wasn’t an option for me. E-Publishing has all the benefits of traditional publishing. When I submit a story, a slush-pile reader has to like it enough to take it to the head editor for that genre. If the editor likes it, I get a contract. Once the story is under contract, it benefits from professional editing. Then it goes through line editing. So, we both know we’re publishing a book that’s as clean as possible. Musa has a professional artist that does my cover AND (unlike traditional publishing), for anyone but the N.Y. Time best sellers, I had significant input into what that cover looked like.

E-Publishing has the potential to pay better. Musa’s contract is on its website. You can see how your royalties will get calculated before you submit to it. If I’d sold my short stories to a magazine, I might get 6 cents a page. For a 15,000 word story, I’d be paid $900. It’s a good number, but that’s it until I get the rights back and resell it. Paths Less Travelled  is a 15,000 short story collection being sold for $3.99. For Paths, I make that same $900 after I sell about 460 books. That’s not that hard to do. From book 461 on, I’m making more money than I could have by traditionally selling the short stories.  It is potential that is up to me to realize. Musa will help, but success or failure sits on my doorstep. Which leads me to marketing.

As part of an E-Publisher’s line, you’ll get some limited marketing. But just like with traditional publishing the onus is on you to make sure your book sells. Musa helps me work on my marketing materials. In fact, Musa requires it. Musa won’t release a book unless its tags, blurb and excerpt are turned in. It also has pre-existing deals with Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and other vendors to get my book out to the public. There’s no one but myself to blame if I only sell 100 books. There’s a lot of people to thank if I sell 1,000, 10,000 or more books.

E-publishing also happens a lot quicker than traditional publishing. You might wait 2-3 years between signing a contract and a publication date with the Big 6. Not so with E-Publishing.  As a new author, it’s highly unlikely that a traditional publisher would take a risk on four books in one year. And, as it is said, the best marketing for your current book is your next one. By allowing me to get more stories to my audience quicker, E-publishing helps me build a platform that I can convert into more sales and, maybe some day a print contract.

The nature of E-publishing allows those houses to take risks that traditional publishers just can’t afford. A significant portion of producing a book is in the actual printing process. E-Publishers don’t have this expense. Most first time novels lose money for the traditional houses. Think about that for a minute. A traditional publisher knows that most of its first time authors won’t earn their advance. As a result, a traditional publisher has to limit its exposure to these losses meaning it will be hesitant to take on an unpublished writer. Because of the significant difference in costs structures, E-publishers can take more risks with new writers. Just like I have the potential of making more money this way, an E-Publisher needs to sell fewer books than a traditional publisher to recoup its expenses and start making a profit.

E-Publishing makes novellas and short story collections viable. A novella is a story between 40,000 – 70,000 words. Magazines have problems with novellas. Often, they are too big, and take up too much space. This length of story poses two problems to traditional houses: First, the expense of producing one is about the same as producing a full novel. Second, the spine of the book is going to be too small to show up on a shelf. So, novellas have been a hard sell for traditional publishing. However, E-books breathed new life into novellas and collections. E-publishers don’t have to worry about spine size or shelf space. They can price a book at $1.99, and still earn a profit. Traditional publishers can’t. E-publishing created a market where none existed.

I can’t end this post without bragging about Musa, and how thrilled I am to be part of this house. So, bear with me. Here’s what makes Musa special. Musa is a community of writers. We support each other. We help each other market. Musa offers master classes to help us become more savvy business people and better writers. I don’t know anyone else out there that’s investing in its writers in this manner.  Musa strives to provide more and better services to its writers and readers. We now have books on OverDrive, a library lending program. We have a vibrant blog. Again, if I don’t succeed to the level I want, I have no one to blame but myself.

So, yes, I chose E-publishing and it chose me. Does this mean I’ve given up on traditional publishing? No. I think they are both avenues that should be pursued. But I’m happy to be with this fabulous E-Publishing house. I chose it as much as it chose me.

For my short story collections, Paths Less Traveled and Shots at Redemption, or a host of other amazing stories in just about every genre, please check out Musa Publishing.








Celina Summers: Different Paths to Publishing

  When we started discussing the idea of a publishing themed month, we talked about the different types of publishing. I’m fortunate enough to be part of a wonderful E-Publisher, Musa Publishing. Celina Summers, the  chief editor and founder of Musa, often talks about how she was frustrated that people equated E-Publishing with Self-Publishing. As a result, Celina was a natural choice to be our first guest poster this month. Writers have more options than ever to get to the reader. For a general overview of those options, read on and see what Celina said.

So take it away, Celina.


It’s a great thing to be able to tell your family and friends that you’re published.  After all, you’ve achieved a lifetime goal. Millions of people have written stories or novels without any of them seeing the light of day.  But in the last couple of decades, the publishing industry has changed significantly.  With the onset of digital publishing, self-publishing-once an outlet only the financially well-endowed could consider-took off.  According to The Bookseller (http://www.thebookseller.com/news/publishing-proliferates-thanks-pod-and-digital.html) :

Nielsen 2010 book output figures show that 151,969 new titles were published in 2010, a leap of 14% on the output number given this time last year. The figure is derived from the number of ISBNs Nielsen issues over the year. However, the 2009 figure, of 133,000, has since been increased to 157,039 because of the late addition of digital titles in that year, a factor that may also further increase the 2010 figure. It means that year-on-year book production fell 3.2%, though the trend shows that output has soared: since 2008 it is up 13%, and  since 2001, the market has risen by close to 40%.

Once upon a time, there was one way to get published. You wrote your novel, typed it up, sent it to an agent, the agent loved it and submitted it to a traditional print publisher, who bought it and then published it.  But now, things are a lot more complicated.  E-publishing has taken off, with thousands of young publishing houses releasing digital-only content.  At the same time, self-publishing has exploded, with authors publishing their own books directly to the reader.  And of course, lurking around the sewers of the industry, vanity presses are always eager to prey upon the uninformed author.

But these four terms are not synonymous. There’s a lot of difference between traditional publishing, electronic publishing, and self-publishing.  (And vanity publishing is, at its heart, a scam) Where this becomes a problem is when the writer announces “I’m published!” but doesn’t distinguish between the different types of publishing.  Because unless your self-published book sells millions of copies, chances are that an agent or book industry exec isn’t going to be interested in that publishing credit-or a bookstore.  Regardless of what folks might think, there is a big difference between landing a multiple book deal  with Random House and self-publishing a book through Lulu. So in order to avoid trouble down the line, it’s important for an author to self-represent correctly-and, more importantly, to use the different avenues in publishing wisely, to build a foundation for a writing career.

So, let’s take a look at each term separately.

Traditional publishing-Print. To most writers, this means New York.  These are books that are represented by agents (most likely) and subsequently published by a major house-known as the Big Six-and any of their imprints.  These books are released in paperback. Some come out in hardback.  These books (usually) are where the legitimate bestseller lists originate. The author receives an advance for her book(s), and her titles are found in brick and mortar bookstores. In the past couple of years, the Big Six have jumped on board and begun to digitally publish their titles-at much higher prices and a much smaller royalty rate.

Let me interject that there are hundreds of legitimate, reputable, outstanding small presses out there-independent publishers that have nothing to do with New York or the Big Six.  Indie presses are a fantastic place for a young  writer to start out, especially genre writers.  I’m going to put indie publishers under the traditional publisher title because they, too, publish primarily in print.

 E-publishing-These publishing houses are digital first.  They publish e-books primarily, although some are moving into POD(print on demand) availability for their books.  An e-publisher is a genuine small house, following the same submissions, acquisitions, and editing processes as traditional publishing.  Five years ago, e-publishing wasn’t considered a legitimate publishing credit by agents and New York publishers. That mindset is changing as the popularity of digital books increases.

 Self-publishing-This is when a writer circumvents the publishing industry and releases his work himself.  That also means the writer is completely responsible for making sure the book goes through all the proper processes-editing, typesetting, cover art, formatting, uploading, publicity and marketing. Unfortunately many self-published authors don’t do this.  They release the book and then wait for the millions of dollars to roll in, which, unfortunately, rarely happens.  For every self-published author like Amanda Hocking, there are tens of thousands of authors who never sell more than ten copies of their book.

Vanity publishing-Where an author pays to be published.  Any time a publisher (or agent) asks for money up front, run away. Run fast. Yog’s law: money flows TO the author.

In the past six months, I can’t tell you how many people have told me their book was e-published, attempting to hoodwink me into thinking that another publisher had signed their book, put it through the processes, and released the book-only to find out later that in fact, the writer had self-published. (And no, making up a publishing company that only publishes one author’s work really doesn’t fool a publisher. If you’re self-published, just admit it.) Some come  to me only when their book didn’t make money and they want to try again.  Usually, those writers don’t know why.  I do know why.

You see-there’s a reason for the ‘gatekeepers’ in publishing. The agents, the slushpile readers, the acquisitions assistants all have the same goal in mind: they are looking for publishable books. Books that are strong technically, that are engaging and entertaining. In other words, books that people want to read.  When I am reading through submissions, I might ask to see one manuscript out of fifty.  That’s not because the stories are bad, but because the story is not publishable in its current condition.  Occasionally, however, I will be tempted to put more work into a manuscript because of the writer’s publishing history-her resume.  And this is where the correct publishing types really makes a difference.

In publishing, as in any profession, people need to be accurate and honest about how they present themselves to others.  If a writer’s book was self-published, it does no good for that writer to claim they were e-published.  Sure, the author electronically published his book, but the book never went through any kind of evaluation, most probably wasn’t edited (because many self-published authors wish to retain all creative control over their book) and more than likely didn’t sell more than a hundred copies.  If that book was e-published, to me that means that the author is familiar with the publication process-namely editing.  And that right there predisposes me to look upon that submission more favorably, because I know that I won’t be having to drag an unwilling writer through the process that will make that particular book better.

And of course, once you start talking traditional publishing, unless your books have sold hundreds of thousands of copies, it doesn’t matter very much if you’re e-published or self-published or published-by-your-Uncle-Vinnie-in-Des Moines published.   To a traditional publisher, it might as well be your first book.  However, among the gatekeepers to traditional publishing, e-publishing is no longer considered the red-headed stepchild of publishing.  I asked an agents’ panel three years ago if they considered e-publishing a legitimate publishing  credit. About 70% said yes.

Since we opened Musa Publishing, agents are now submitting to us.

It makes sense, after all. With e-publishing’s higher royalties, lower overhead and international  availability thanks to e-tailers like Amazon, authors and agents are intrigued by the possible financial rewards of a popular e-published success.  Publishers like Musa Publishing are able to create a high quality product that readers enjoy, at a price readers appreciate.  A lot of writers are making the same decision I made too-to begin my writing career in e-publishing. I could make better, immediate money while learning my craft and improving my work.

And the readers are reaping the benefits, as anyone with a fully stocked Nook or Kindle will tell you.

So there are sizable differences in the different types of publishing currently available, and it behooves the author to self-identify correctly.  As a writer, it’s important to understand the differences-and to use those differences wisely as you plot out your career.


Thanks for that great insight. Celina. For my short story collection, Paths Less Traveled, my collection releasing today, Shots at Redemption, or a host of other amazing stories in just about every genre, please check out Musa Publishing.



Marsheila Rockwell: Tie-in Fiction

A Guest Interview with Marsheila Rockwell

Marsheila (Marcy) Rockwell joins us today to talk about writing tie-in fiction. She is the author of three novels for Wizards of the Coast, all of which tie into the Eberron D&D Campaign Setting and/or the popular MMORPG, Dungeons & Dragons Online. They are: Legacy of Wolves (2007, rereleased as an ebook on 5/15), The Shard Axe (2011), and Skein of Shadows (releases 7/3).

Colette: What, exactly, is tie-in fiction?

Marcy: In technical terms, it’s fiction that “ties in” to some other media property, like a television show, movie, video game, or role-playing game. It’s also known as “work-for-hire,” because you can’t just decide to write a novel that ties into one of these properties on your own (unless you want to get sued) – you have to be hired by the property owner to do so.

Colette: How did you decide you wanted to write tie-in fiction?

Marcy: I started reading fantasy when I was three, began playing Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) in the third grade, and penned my first fantasy story at the age of twelve. When TSR (later acquired by Wizards of the Coast, aka WotC) started publishing novels set in the various D&D campaign worlds, I knew that’s what I wanted to write. Of course wanting to do it and getting hired to do it are two very different things.

Colette: So how did you get hired by WotC?

Marcy: Back in 2003, WotC put out an open call for one of the books in the Forgotten Realms “Priests” series, called Maiden of Pain. While I didn’t win that open call, my writing did bring me to the attention of the WotC editors, and I continued to submit to them over the next several years until one of my Eberron proposals caught their eye (the book that later became Legacy of Wolves), and they offered me a contract. So, basically, they let me write a book just so I’d stop bugging them. And I just finished up my third book for them, so I guess it worked out pretty well for both of us. 😉

Colette: What has writing tie-in fiction taught you that has helped your overall writing career?

Marcy: The first and most important thing tie-in work has taught me is how to write to a deadline. When you are doing creator-owned fiction, you write your story, sometimes taking years to complete a book. Then you submit it, and maybe you get lucky and sell it right away. Then, all of the sudden, your new publisher wants another book in 9 months. And then you panic, because you’re used to writing whenever the inspiration strikes, and with a deadline looming, it’s nowhere to be found.

There’s a reason a lot of authors’ sophomore efforts don’t live up to their debut novels, and it’s largely because they’ve never had to write on deadline before. I’ve written 30,000 words in one week to meet a deadline (because of the tight schedules associated with virtually all tie-in writing), so I’ve learned that inspiration comes when butt is applied to seat, and there’s no such thing as writer’s block when the mortgage is due.

Colette: Would you suggest writing tie-in fiction to other authors, or only those that have a passion for a particular property?

Marcy: Writing tie-in fiction isn’t for people who think writing is an art, it’s for the folks who know it’s a business. You have to be able to work under pressure, absorb a lot of information quickly, change gears on a dime, and abide by strict rules, like non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). If that doesn’t sound like fun to you, chances are good that writing tie-in fiction would just leave you frustrated and with only half a head of hair. If, on the other hand, it does sound like fun, I’d suggest a visit to your doctor – they have medication for that now, heh.

Seriously, though – it can be very satisfying to contribute to a property you love, but, generally speaking, it’s a lot of work and it’s not for the faint of heart. If it still sounds interesting to you, you also need to know that it’s largely an invitation-only business. Watch for open calls (Warhammer has one every year), and get some publishing credits out there, in the same genre as the tie-in work you want to do. Go to conventions where tie-in properties are featured, listen to what the editors are saying, and do what they tell you to do. And, if you get the chance to submit something, get it in early. Editors love good writers, but being good isn’t enough. They hire – and keep hiring – the ones who consistently meet their deadlines.

And actually, that advice is sound regardless of whether you’re doing tie-in work or writing creator-owned fiction. Be focused, be flexible, be professional, and never, ever miss a deadline if it’s within your power to meet it. Good luck!


Marsheila (Marcy) Rockwell is an author, poet, editor, engineer, Navy wife and cancer mom. In addition to her tie-in work, she has a new (creator-owned) series of Arabian-flavored, female-centric sword & sorcery stories coming out from Musa Publishing, Tales of Sand and Sorcery. The latest installment, “Both,” released on 5/18. She’s also penned dozens of short stories and poems, and several articles on writing tie-in fiction. You can find out more here:http://www.marsheilarockwell.com/.