Wednesday, November 29, 2006

How To Approach Publishers.

Again and again the question comes up: "I have a manuscript. How do I send it, with a letter to the editor, so that the publisher will actually read it?"

Others can give more extended advice than I, but it's really quite simple.

Try and imagine yourself in an editor's place, receiving a manuscript from an unknown writer. Then use your common sense:

"If I were the editor,what kind of manuscript submission and accompanying letter would make me want to read the manuscript?"

Yes, you need to know the formalities (correct line spacing on a document, begin your letter with "Dear Mr/Mrs." instead of "Yo", locate the correct address of the editor you wish to contact, etc.)... but more than that, you need proper attitude.

1. Be polite. It won't kill you, and it certainly won't kill the editor.

2. Be honest. If you haven't finished writing your book, then you shouldn't send three chapters to a publisher and pretend the rest is already finished. Don't try to be something you're not. They Will Find Out.

3. Be aware of the competition. The bigger the publishing house is, the more manuscripts will flood it every day of the week, every year.
Think of it as the competition among astronauts in training: the seats on a spaceship are SO few, the candidates are SO dedicated, SO 100% focused on success, the odds are naturally stacked against you.

In other words, it doesn't help to write a desperate plea: "Pl-pl-pl-PLEEEASE publish my book! I'll do anything!!" Prepare to be rejected... but don't let that make you cynical, either: "I'm sending you this manuscript even though I know you'll reject it, you money-grubbing bastards."

4. Do your research. There's no point in me listing all known publishers here; the publishing landscape is shifting fast. Make a Web-search. Find the small-press houses that operate in your area/country. (If they haven't at least got a webpage, they're not worth writing to.)

5. Be a cheapskate. Publishers are mostly a conservative bunch. They may demand that you send a printed, double-spaced manuscript, and a stamped return envelope... which means postage and paper expenses for you.

DON'T DO IT. Ignore those publishers until they have learned to accept electronic submissions.

6. Be lucky. I hate to admit it, but there is an element of blind chance. No matter how good you are, there are too many unforeseen circumstances and whims of publishers (not to mention all that competition).

Some people say that the bookstore market is glutted with too many titles anyway. This may or may not be true (at least for Western markets). Are you sure you want to contact a publisher?

7. Fail, then try again. So what if you were rejected? Find another publisher, and try again. If you're not a patient soul, this business may not be for you.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Helpful How-To Articles About The Writing Craft

Writer Sherry Wilson has written and gathered a collection of how-to articles on the fiction-writing craft.
Go HERE to find them.
The articles offer solid, no-nonsense advice about "craft issues such as point of view, story structure, character development, grammar and syntax, etc."

Use them!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Support Your Local Library!

Libraries are a great benefit to writers everywhere.

Way back in the mists of pre-Internet history, libraries were the just about the ONLY places you could locate books that were no longer for sale.

Today, when people can download or order practically any book online, physical("meatspace") libraries are still an asset to writers. The library is often where people first come in contact with books - a loyal following of readers might be born there - and each library copy is read several times by different people.

Librarians can spread good (or bad) word-of-mouth about books, invaluable to writers. So support your local library!

If you have just released your first novel, you should donate a copy of it to your neighborhood library.

Ask your library if they are interested in arranging a meet-the-readers session, where you can get the opportunity to read from your novel/book and generate PR.

But be polite! You must never cross a librarian, or THIS might happen to you...

Friday, November 24, 2006

Shout-Out: Buy Weird Al's new album STRAIGHT OUTTA LYNWOOD

Yo-hoo! I just got my copy of Weird Al Yankowicz' new album, Straight Outta Lynwood.

Buy it! Buy it! Even if you've heard several of the songs on YouTube - support Al! It's a Dual-Disc release with DVD and videos on the other side.

Among the many tracks on this CD/DVD is the unforgettable "Don't Download This Song" (animated video by Bill Plympton).

Buy it, or Earth is DOOMED!
DOOMED, I say!

DOOMED, in case you didn't hear me the last time!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Starting Your Xmas Shopping Early?

Can't come up with an original Xmas present?

Visit the
SHOP on my homepage, and see what you'll find.
We've got prints, posters, books, t-shirts, mugs and more.
How about this framed art print I made myself?

The Magic Key To The Publishing Kingdom: Revealed!

It's so simple. Writing, publishing and selling books is all about location, location, location.

Think about the last time you were traveling by bus, train or airplane. You wander into a tiny airport bookshop or newsagent's shop, and pick some reading material from the rack/shelf -- quickly. Lots of people do.

Or think about the last time you "wandered" into and got lost among the infinite shelves. It's a different shopping experience entirely.

At the airport, you have limited choice and time, so you MUST decide fast or spend the journey with nothing to read.

If online bookstores are like vast caverns you can go spelunking in for days, then airport bookshops are more like disarming a ticking bomb in a moving elevator: "Pick the blue book! No, the red book! Hurry! We're almost there!"

So from a writer or publisher's standpoint, you want to get into those "bottleneck" locations where the potential reader won't have too much choice or time to think.

Problem is, the well-known commuter bottlenecks are expensive locations and pretty much occupied already (by Stephen King, Danielle Steel and the usual suspects).

There must be some other, unexploited "bottlenecks" where potential readers are simultaneously bored, stressed and frustrated, and are about to enter a period of forced passivity -- similar to when they are waiting to catch a plane or a train ride... and would buy a book if they had a limited selection.

I can't come up with one, but maybe you can...

Monday, November 20, 2006

Jon Stewart Explains "The Question Mark" Trick

Now, this is not only a hilarious clip from the Daily Show with Jon Stewart... it also points out a figure of speech that writers must avoid.

If "phrasing a statement like a question to cover your ass" is a stupid trick on FOX News or CNN, then it's also a stupid trick in fiction:

"Was Blast Hardcheese a fifth column for the Thesaurians?"

"Had the whole sequence of events been masterminded by Aunt Petunia's poodle?"

"When she cried 'No, no' did she really mean 'Yes, yes'?"

Just. Don't. Write. Rhetorical. Questions. You don't want to sound like a talking head on TV.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Die, Cliché, Die!!


Rock Hardpunch pulled away the bomb casing and saw a mass of wires nestled around the countdown timer. The time to planetary self-destruct was below 60 seconds.

In Rock's earpiece, Hack Sydekick said in his most nasal, urgent voice: "Rock, you must cut the red wire! Find the red wire and cut only that one! Or the whole planet blows up!"

Rock reached for his multi-purpose knife, when suddenly it dawned on him...

Oh crap, he thought, I'm colorblind.

Read the free issue #4 of SUBTERRANEAN Magazine. The free issue is dedicated -- in stories and essays -- to the subject of Clichés in science-fiction and fantasy.

In her in-magazine essay "Remarks On Some Clichés I Have Known Too Well," Teresa Nielsen Hayden writes:
"Here's a cliché I can reduce to a rule: when a character is a member of a minority social group and was raised in that group's indigenous mystical tradition, but then went on to receive advanced training and have a highly successful career in mainstream science or technology, the conflict at the climax of the story will not be resolved until they abandon all that scientific training and call up on the power of their tribal spirituality.

"(If I were a literarily ambitious member of the First Nations, I'd be tempted to write a story about a white nuclear engineer who can't get an incipient reactor containment incident under control until he downs tools and calls on Saint Anthony of Padua.)"
Use the Force, Oppenheimer. ;-)

I've been guilty of a few cringeworthy clichés in the past (as proven here), but I try to be more careful nowadays. I pledge:

1. To never write a story about someone getting Three Wishes;

2. To never cop out with the "It Was Only A Dream" ending;

3. To never never EVER write a story with the "Adam & Eve" twist (two characters discover they are Adam and Eve, on Earth or some other world).

But why bother...? This isn't going to deter hordes of writer wannabes from thinking, "I can come up with a NEW twist on the Adam & Eve story!"

Your problem, young whippersnappers, isn't that it's 100% impossible to come up with a fresh take on the hoariest old clichés.

Your problem is that hordes -- real, living, slobbering HORDES -- of newbie writers will think exactly as you do:
"I am unique! I have come up with an entirely new version of the Adam & Eve twist!"
And then they send the exact same story to the overworked Editor, who rejects them all. The End.

Monday, November 13, 2006

"Physical Terror" In Small-Press Anthology SCHAKT 003

News for Swedes: The Swedish small-press horror anthology SCHAKT 003: KOSMISKT KAOS OCH ANDRA KATASTROFER is out now.

It contains my short story "Physical Terror" (previously released in English, in the e-book The Face In The Door), and several other horror shorts by Swedish writers. Guaranteed to scare you silly! It's a limited edition, so order now!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Update And Sad News

This week's homepage update is the very long Chapter 7 of The MSTing Of DARC AGES.

Science-fiction grandmaster Jack Williamson, whose books you should order from right now, has just died...

Buy Jack Williamson's books:

Darker Than You Think

The Humanoids

The Legion Of Time

Wonder's Child (autobiography)

It is impossible to sum up in a single blogpost such a long career as Williamson's... read his Wikipedia entry instead.

Friday, November 10, 2006

As Usual, I'm The Last One To Follow A Trend

Darn! I should've thought of this earlier: Podcasting.

Anyhow... I have now made my first recorded reading of a short story, "See", (in shaky English)and donated it to the science-fiction podcast site Variant Frequencies.

As soon as the story is up, I'll post a link.

Advice to anyone who wants to record a story-reading:

1. Are you sure you want to do this? Do you speak like Fran Drescher? Then don't.

2. Find a reasonably quiet space to work in. Wailing babies, low-flying aircraft and humming refrigerators may impede on sound quality.

3. Use the free sound-mixing program Audacity. You may have to edit out a lot of "err"s, "umm"s and stammers to produce a passable recording. (I did.)

4. Have plenty of free memory space on your PC, because these sound files gobble memory something fierce.

5. Use a real microphone, and wrap a sock around it to limit breathing noise.

6. Use the "Normalize" option in Audacity to improve the quality of the final recording.

7. Compress the finished WAV file to MP3 (there are some free utilities available for this online)...

8. ...then, if you've got the nerve, share the MP3 file with one of the many podcasting websites out there.

I could make some more audio recordings of my short stories, but I'm not sure which ones are suitable. Any suggestions?

Actually, I feel really really awkward every time I do a reading in my "serious voice." I'm much more relaxed when I record a goofy spoof, like "Gollum's Love Theme"...

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Das Homepage Update

Yep, here we go with another silly chapter of "The MSTing Of DARC AGES."

Let's see... how many simultaneous novel-writing projects am I juggling right now?

1. The third TERRA HEXA novel, to be released next Fall (writing Chapter 1)
2. An e-book fantasy-novel project for a Swedish publisher (I'm on Chapter 5)
3. The unfinished "futuristic military" novel THE TALE OF THE SOLDIESSE (about 78,000 words written so far)
4. An intriguing idea I just had for a new novel (writing an outline...)

This means some of the other, more ambitious Web-serials will be put aside for a while, as I focus on projects 1-4.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Jumping The Bandwagon

Yep, I've got myself a MySpace page. For the sole purpose of networking.

Charles Stross On Bad Reviews (As In "Stupid" Reviews)

Read this very amusing post and discussion thread on Charlie Stross's eminently readable blog, about stupid reviews.

I know, I know: it's futile to argue with critics. Writers are supposed to develop a thick skin. Everyone's entitled to an opinion, you can't dictate how readers are supposed to read your work, yadda yadda...

...but it still has to be said: Just as there are inferior books and incompetent writers, there are inferior reviews and incompetent critics.

Charlie found some truly telling reader reviews on
BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley:
Ashley Lue wrote:
"This was the worst book that I have ever read! The way that Huxley wrote the book was awful. He was writing about something that could never happen to our society. Back then he thought that our world would pretty much go to hell and the book portrayed the world that we should be living in today. Nothing that he said made sense. I don't understand why he would want anyone to live in that weird world that those people had to live in. People should have emotions and actual relationships. No one should be punished like that. I advise you not to read this book, unless you want to fall asleep!! :)"

ROMEO AND JULIET by William Shakespeare:
Son of Sammy wrote:

"i just read this book. everybody like always talks about how great it is and everything. but i don't think so. like, it's been done before, right?? soooo cliched. omg."

ThE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck:
Jef4Jesus wrote:
"So, I'm only on page 478 of 619, but I've been disgusted at the amount of profanity. So far I've found more than 500 uses of profanity! On average every page (with relatively big writing, even) has more than one swear. Yikes! I'm never going to read Grapes of Wrath again, and won't be recommending it to anyone. If you don't like profanity, be careful.""


Read the rest.

If you publish, you'll have to be prepared not just for harsh reviews that you might deserve, but also clueless reviews: critics who barely understand what fiction is.

And of course, any writer will encounter the "Comic Book Guy" know-it-all type of critic who will explain, with great authority, how you should have done the job (but fortunately won't have to do it for you):
"Bellatrys" instructs Peter Jackson, with detailed storyboards, how he ought to have made the LORD OF THE RINGS movies.

You must listen to criticism. But you must also realize that you can only "reach" so many readers. Many of them are forever unreachable, for their own reasons.