Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Best Laid Plans

I know I said I'd have Shadows of The Past (aka Memories of The Dead Part One) out by this month or the next but it's not to be. Going through the book it's gonna need a LOT of work to make it as perfect as I need it to be, which means it will need by absolute focus. Therefore, I'm putting Shadows on the shelf for an indefinite (but not permanent) amount of time. My energy now and has been focused on putting out new material.

In this vein, I have been working feverishly (sometimes literally so) on the new project Settlers (title subject to change).  Things have been going good there, though that's not to say easy. Complex works never are but I'm enjoying the challenge. When asked if he enjoys writing, George R R Martin replies, "I enjoy having written." hinting that he doesn't like the writing process.

Writing can be a bitch at times...often at times actually, which is weird since it's just putting words on paper but there's the rub. I like the writing process from beginning to end, even when it makes me want to rip my teeth out with pliers and headbutt shards of glass. I suppose I like having written a tad better, though whenever I finish a project it feels like I'm ending a relationship.

Again weird.

But yes, don't expect Shadows of The Past any time soon and know that I'm hard at work on the tentatively-titled Settlers.

In the meantime, "If it looks good, eat it."--Andrew Zimmern


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Getting Published...Ugh! (Part Three: Published)

Continuing from my previous posts:
Getting Published...Ugh! (Part One: Submitting)

Getting Published...Ugh! (Part Two: Rejected)

This one, Getting Published....Ugh! (Part Three: Published) will bring the series to an end.

So no I've written a novel, put together a submission package, and sent it to all my favorite editors, only to receive rejection after rejection. Until one day I got the magical acceptance letter, like finding the Golden Ticket in the Wonka Bar.

The work doesn't end there. After a brief celebratory pause, it's time to edit the MS that you already thought you edited to death after the editor sends your beloved MS back to you marked up with suggestions and corrections.

Once the editing and cover selection process (the latter differs from publisher to publisher) is finished, now all that's left to do is wait for a pub date and smooth sailing from there.

Not quite.

Once the book is actually published (and often long before) the promotion begins. For me it's my least favorite part of the process but a necessary one. Once published, your book is just one of tens of thousands of fish in a really big ocean. So what I do first is whore myself out to the reviewers, who are an important resource in the process. Readers tend to gravitate towards books with a number of positive reviews. For those looking for a reviewer list, here's a good resource: Book Reviewers

Ideally, the best thing to do would be to hire a publicist. If you have a few grand to do so, I highly suggest it; I've heard good things. If you don't then it's up to you to get on the horn, schedule author interviews, join blog tours, and if you have the money, buy a shit load of your own books and then stage a signing at several of your local book stores. Indie authors only of course and then, hopefully, watch your fame soar and the sales roll in.

And this concludes one author's journey, from idea to publication. You might be reading these out of boredom, or to get a glimpse into what it takes to become "published". If your among the latter: as you can see, sometimes it takes years to make it happen, sometimes it happens right away. Remember Rejection is just an opinion not a qualifier. We each have about seventy-five years to accomplish what we need to accomplish in life; a few years is but a drop in the bucket.

The Vatters of Klon



Saturday, April 9, 2016

Getting Published...Ugh! (Part Two: Rejection)

Continuing from my previous post: Getting Published...Ugh! (Part One: Submitting) here is Part Two: Rejection.

For the most part, rejection is part of a writer's life. There are exceptions to the rule, but since I can't name name's and I don't want to sound like a whiny bitch, we'll go with that.

As writers, we work for weeks, months, years on a project, thinking it's the next big thing, then we send it out into the world only to get our souls torn out and stomped on by a cold rejection letter. Some throw in the towel and return to their 9-to-5s, never to pick up the pen again. But most of us, the real writers, the born writers, we gather up our battered souls, stuff them back in, and get back to pounding the keyboard for the next weeks, months and years, willing to endure countless rejections for that one sweet acceptance letter. 

And remember when I said that all those "writing credits" you've accumulated over the years from small/indie houses and mags weren't worth shit to the big boys? Here's a rejection I got very recently from Memories of The Dead

Dear Jason,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to consider Memories of The Dead. The story is well thought out and well written, the world-building deep and immaculate. Unfortunately, Memories of the Dead is far too long for mainstream publication. Previously unpublished authors should stick to a word count range between 80,000-100,000 words.

Thanks again,

Agent.

Previously unpublished???? Should I be offended by that? I kind of was, but I kind of get it. This Agent (name withheld) wasn't being snarky, they were just telling me like it is: there are writing credits and then there are writing credits....keep that in mind peeps. Still, I count that as a "good" rejection.

And believe it or not, there are good rejection and bad rejections. The bad ones are the callous form letters.

     Dear Author,

     Thank you for submitting such and such but it's not a good for us at this time.

     Sincerely,

     The Editor

I've used a million of these as coffee coasters. The good ones are the those that give you feedback, good or bad, sometimes scathing. When I was starting out, I actually learned a lot from those early rejections. I learned what not to do, what editors prefer, and how to make my writing better in general. My ideas have always gotten positive critiques; it was the execution that was terrible.

Here's an example of a good rejection. This one for my unpublished story The Forever God, about a group of crabs living on an island during WW2:

Dear Jason,

Thank you for your patience while our readers reviewed your submission.

Unfortunately, The Forever God has not been accepted for publication in Aurealis. Following is some feedback from our readers, but please remember that all feedback is subjective.

- Well written piece with a nice variation on a common trope, but a not overly compelling read. Some of the elements such as the crab finding the newspaper fragment were important for contextualising the story but were a bit too obvious.

- There's a nice attempt at an interesting POV here and some neat ideas, but the storytelling comes off fairly muddied, and there's a bit too much in the telling of events, rather than the showing.




Here's another for the same story; not constructive, but still positive;

 
Jason,

Thanks for allowing us to consider this one, but I'm going to pass.

Overall, it's just not a perfect fit with what we're currently publishing--as a reader, I liked this a lot, but it's simply not a fit for us. If you haven't already, I hope you'll come by the site and read our January issue--our March issue also lands next week.

Best of luck with this one.

Shimmer Magazine


Here's one for my sci-fi story, The Left Behind Problem, about class discrimination and artificial worlds.

Jason,

Sorry, we have decided not to publish "The Left Behind Problem" in Encounters. Very imaginative story idea... but the character dialogue needs some work, and I think a third-person narrative would have been more effective.

Encounters Magazine  


Here's another for the same story and probably the best rejection I've ever gotten:

Thank you for submitting to Andromeda Spaceways.

Unfortunately, while we liked your submission, so far we
have not found a place for it ... and it is against
our policy to hold onto a story indefinitely. Much as we'd
like to, we just don't have the room to print all the stories
we get -- not even all the good ones. So sadly, I'm going
to have to very reluctantly let this one go.

If it got this far, you can rest assured that your story
is of high quality and you should be able to find a home
for it. I look forward to hearing from you again.

Better luck next time!

I have supplied some notes from the readers, in case you find them useful.
(All these are only the opinions of the readers.)

--------
This is a good sci if story, although needs a little bit of editing work.

In some places it reads like a journal, a little removed and list-like. Also I can tell that the author can visualise the settings described, however at some points the descriptions were difficult for me, the reader, to picture.

A few more instances of dialogue would make the characters stronger.
--------
This had a lot going for it, however I felt that there was a fair bit of non-essential material, particularly at the start of the story, which didn't add to the overall narrative, character development or setting (and a lot of the essential could be worked in where relevant later). This could be trimmed and the whole piece refined/streamlined - it feels a bit padded, at the moment. Additionally, I felt as though, while the storyline was compelling, the protagonist has everything pretty much handed to him in a linear way. Everyone nicely explains everything to him, when he needs it. I don't feel it's quite strong enough, right now, to be published, which is a shame.
--------
This is an imaginative take on the creation of utopia, and its Inevitable distance from realisation.

The universe in this story is revealed without intrusive exposition. Your first-person point of view is consistent, and entwines us with Faber's perspective. Given the arc of the story, I don't believe any other viewpoint would have worked as effectively as the one you chose.

Description is handled deftly, and the scene of the first Disruptor attack is particularly cinematic.

If an energy rifle was levelled at my head and I was ordered to find fault with the story, I might splutter that there were a few lines I needed to read twice to understand, or that the names of the characters Dav and Dez, looked very similar on the page. But it would need to be a pretty scary looking gun.

What I enjoyed most about this, was that at its conclusion, it confounded my expectations. By spinning the idealistic Faber not just 180 degrees, but arguably twisting him 360, into an older and more cynical character, you made me question how I'd act in his boots.

And that's what creates a story which lingers after the last line is read.

-------

And here's perhaps my most embarrassing rejection for my sci-fi novel Let Nature Decide...and if you're reading this post purely as a cautionary tale, then this is why you should NEVER simultaneously submit:
 
Jason,
 
Thank you for submitting your manuscript. However, we were about to contact you regarding offering a contract when I saw that you had published Let Nature Decide on January 17th. Barbarian Books does not take published manuscripts, so unfortunately we must pass on this title. We would like to see more of your work, but please keep in mind that we will not consider any novel published in any format (including websites, blogs and critique sites such as Authonomy). (Publication of up to 30 percent for promotional or critique purposes is permitted.)
 
Sincerely,
 
Barbarian Books 

Face turns red. But at least you can see from the above examples what I meant by a "good" rejection. It was rejections like those that kept me going. 
 
(ahem) Okay, so in my previous post, Getting Published...Ugh! (Part One: Submitting) I submitted my sci-fi novel The Vatters of Klon to DAW Books back in 2010, shortly after I finished writing it. The response time DAW gave was two months but I usually wait double or triple that before I start panicking. At about the seventh month mark I sent the editor an email, asking for an update. He promptly wrote back that Vatters was still under consideration. I wasn't sure if that was a good sign or not, but I kept my fingers crossed. Then twelve months had passed, more...I refrained from sending another email, wondering if I'd been forgotten, but I REALLY wanted to send one. 

And then, eighteen months after submission, I got a response: (abridged)

Dear Mr. Sergi,

Thank you for considering DAW Books for your manuscript, and for your patience while the manuscript was under consideration.

Due to the volume of manuscripts in our backlog, we deeply regret we are unable to comment individually on all manuscripts that have reached second or third reading. However, please know that, because of the significant positive attributes of your manuscript, which the first reader enjoyed, it did reach the desk of a DAW editor. Unfortunately the editor did not find the manuscript right for DAW.  

Best Wishes and Regards,

DAW Books.

I didn't know whether to be happy or sad by that. My soul wasn't exactly battered, but it was still sore. Even so, I count the one from DAW to be the second best rejection I've ever gotten.
 
And that's my rejection experience in a nutshell: ignore the bad ones, forge on ahead with the good ones in mind. Of course, that wasn't the end of Vatters. For the next three years I shopped it around to editors and agents, piling on the rejections, desperately searching for a home for Vatters because I knew it was worthy of one, and then I found one. But that's for the final post in the series: Getting Published...Ugh! (Part Three: Published) Coming soon!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Getting Published...Ugh! (Part One: Submitting)

As a companion to my first "On Writing" series:

The Art of Writing...it varies (Part One: The Idea)

The Art of Writing...it varies (Part Two: The Outline)

The Art of Writing...it varies (Part Three: The Writing)

I bring you another three parter, this one called: Getting Published...Ugh! (Submitting, Rejection, Published) detailing my experiences in the publishing world and all its fine nuances.

Before we go further it should be noted that I am an "Indie Author", meaning, for you lays out there, that I've had my stuff published by small publishers/magazines and/or have self-published my work. I've done both, but bigger commercial houses have always been and still are my goal. In the meantime: I'm a writer, so I must write...and all writers need an audience no matter how large or small.

Okay, so let's get to it. Here's Getting Published...Ugh! (Part One: Submitting)

For this example I will be using my sci-fi novel, The Vatters of Klon. Okay, so you've written a novel, or a short story, or a novella, or something in between, now what? For the most part, we have four options: Submit to a Big House, a Small House, Self-Publish, or File The Story Away in your secret stash. (We NEVER do Vanity Presses...no, no, no. If we get paid to write, we must never pay to publish).

It should be an easy decision but this is where some people get stuck. The common thought if you're a new or little-known author is to submit to the smaller houses or mags for a greater chance of being offered a contract. This is somewhat true but it's not the hard and fast rule. Nevertheless it's a sentiment I followed when I first started submitting my work, to much success, starting with my currently out-of-print fantasy novelette,  The Enigma of The Master Stone, which had been published by the now defunct Sorcerous Signals Magazine, in 2007, and leading up to my most recent, The Vatters of Klon by Double Dragon Publishing, published in 2015.

But in truth, where to submit should actually be dictated by your goals. My goal isn't to be the next Stephen King, or Robert Jordan, or Timothy Zahn; I want to be the first Jason J Sergi.
I want to share my weird and twisted stories with the masses, I want to make those stories the best they can be and grant them the highest validation possible. To achieve this goal, back between 2004-2009, my mission plan was to submit to the smaller houses, use them as kind of a front door to get in, get big, and then head over to the big guys, like an amateur boxer learning his craft before going professional. I should also add that during this time that I had a phobia of agents, the literary kind, because I read/heard that many weren't on the up-and-up, so I avoided them like a girlfriend on a shopping trip.

That was then.

What changed my philosophy was when I used to follow David Farland's Kick In The Pants, his sort of Writers' Resource/ Advice Program for writers, and something I learned a lot from. Anyways, on one of his Kick in The Pants segments, he addressed the issue of Where To Submit? and whether new writers should start with small houses, or some of the bigger traditional houses; his answer was (and I'm paraphrasing heavily here) "Why start at the bottom? If you start at the bottom, you risk staying at the bottom, so why not start at the top?"

It's all clear to me now. My hindsight's excellent but my foresight had been plagued with "Good ideas" and "Clear intentions" all my life. I will expand on this below.

So I finished writing The Vatters of Klon in the summer of 2010.
Using my new "Start From The Top" philosophy, I submitted first off to DAW Books, my reasons being a) I've read and liked many of the authors DAW Publishes, and b) I didn't need an agent to do so.

Returning to the main point of this post: the main thing new writers fret about when submitting to any house, large or small, is FORMAT.  Basically, to start off, you should begin your manuscript (or MS, as we say in the biz) in Standard Manuscript Format. What's that? The format genius William Shunn explains it here in perfect detail. Most editors will want your MS in Standard Manuscript Format, but others will want something totally different while a few others will make you jump through hoops. The main thing when submitting to any publisher is: FOLLOW THEIR SUBMISSION GUIDELINES TO THE LETTER. No matter how arbitrary or asinine, just do it. They have their reasons, and if you want them to pay you, then do as they say.

In addition to the most important thing, your MS, your submission package should also include a cover letter and a synopsis of the MS, at minimum. Individual editors might want more or less, depending on their specific guidelines.

The cover letter is basically you introducing yourself to the editor. Might sound simple, but there are a few guidelines you should follow. For one, make sure you address the right editor. Many editors don't care if you begin with Dear Editor but it's better if you take the extra effort into finding a name. They're there, even if you have to dig. Makes it less impersonal.

Content: short and straight to the point. Tell the editor exactly what your submitting, genre, word count, title, etc, etc, put in a few writing credits for a resume, anything else the editor might have asked for in the guidelines, such as a short bio or pic, and then say thank you and get the hell out. Editors don't have time to read a massive letter filled will useless information about how great your story is. Being concise and informative is the way to go.

But let's go back to writing credits for a sec. Logic dictates that if you've had your work published by any publisher, that work should count as a "writing credit" right? Not so, believe it or not. Unless you're the proud owner of an indie bestseller, if your work hasn't been published by an SFWA Approved house then your "writing credits" simply don't count when submitting to the big boys. Mine as well just write: blah, blah, blah. (I will get into this more in my next post: Getting Published...Ugh! Part Two: Rejection) And while I don't necessarily agree with this sentiment, I do see why.

Most of the indie houses I've worked with have given my books the briefest of edits. I edit the shit of my books but I'm sure each MS could still use plenty of improvement from another set of trained eyes. Also, some other houses seem to only want to expand their catalogue, regardless of quality. Which means your book gets lost in the sea of mediocrity and crap. So, I get it. Just another reason to shoot for the big houses, I guess.

Oh, and back to agents! I no longer avoid them. On the contrary, I've been whoring myself out to them to no avail. Repeat after me: AGENTS ARE AWESOME! For other writers looking for agents as well, this site seems pretty legit:Agent Query. The same general rules apply when submitting to agents as they do to editors so, bonus.

IF ANY AGENTS OUT THERE ARE READING THIS: HELP ME! (collapses sheepishly to sob into my arms)

Okay, so now you have your submission package in order, its time to send it off. Oh, and make sure to only send it to one editor at a time unless they state otherwise, as simultaneous submissions are mostly frowned upon, wink wink. No but seriously, don't do it, wink wink.

Like I said, I sent The Vatters of Klon off to DAW Books back in 2010, but then what? Time to play the waiting game, My least favorite game of all.

Keep an eye out for my next post: Getting Published...Ugh! (Part Two: Rejection) 

PS: Here's a good resource for writers looking for a home for their projects:  Ralan

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Crossroads/Kindle Scout/19 Days Left!

Hi Everyone!

Just posting a reminder that there's only 19 days left of my Kindle Scout Campaign for Crossroads. To those of you who have already visited my campaign page, thank you! For those who nominated Crossroads, thank you, thank you, thank you!!

For those just hearing about it now, feel free to click on the link, and if you like what you see, click to nominate Crossroads. Enough nominations will help get it published; if it gets published, you get a free copy for nominating it.

Here's the link: Nominate Crossroads!

Thanks for checking it out,

JJS

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Shadows of The Past (cover/blurb)

Meet the cover of Shadows of The Past:
And here's the blurb:



In an effort to end the painful, centuries-old practice of Homage—where families are forced to give up loved ones to the tyrannical Grand Despot for unknown reasons—and to force peace between the constantly warring Orders of Jhemiland, Zorfrane, along with the blind curator Walthen Brey and the other members of their secret conclave, enact their plan to kill The Grand Despot and the other Gods of Glimmerblade.
But what Zorfrane and the others don’t know is that by doing so, they have destroyed the barriers which have kept the world Tame and in balance for centuries. As a consequence, not only is the world returning Wild, but the long-kept memories of the gods have been unleashed upon the world as well: everything from the past dead, disasters, plagues, and wars are now returning to catastrophically disrupt the living realm, ending only with The Fires of Creation and the nothing beyond…unless Zorfrane and his secret conclave can find a way to stop them.

Related to my previous post: Memories of The Dead Redux
I plan to release the novel before the end of April. If I can't make that deadline then I'm hoping to have it out within the first two weeks of May; Ebook and Print.
Since Shadows of The Past was already published as the first part of Memories of The Dead,  some of you may be wondering why it would take so long to publish Shadows after all the edits it's already been through. I have a two part answer: 1) I'm adding more material to spruce it up a bit and 2) I'm a better writer now than I was three or four years ago, therefore I'm bringing Shadows of The Past up to my current skill level: shoring up dialogue, tightening scenes, and renovating the prose as a whole.

Shadows' counterpart, Memories of The Dead, will get the same treatment.
And true to my word, work on Settlers continues as well.
I'll keep you posted; hope you're all having a good weekend!
JJS

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