From the Editor’s Desk: The Cost of Running a Magazine

money bagsThere is a cost to just about every business. What surprises me is how many people don’t realize the costs of running a magazine. There is also an assumption that running a magazine is a money making venture, and for most of us it is not.

This was something I was surprised to learn. I knew that my magazine had lots of costs. I pay the writers. I pay the cover artist, I pay Submittable to manage our submissions and GoDaddy to host our domain. There are printing costs, shipping costs, and the cost of office supplies (to print and store contracts). There is a lot of little costs in running a magazine. And I haven’t even talked about marketing expenses.

But I thought I was one of the only people trying to run a semi-professional magazine around my day job. And I thought for certain those that own the professional markets didn’t have to work a “real” job just to make ends meet. But I learned different real quick. What’s rare is finding a market that pays for itself and the owner doesn’t have to work a day job. I’m the common one.

I am not trying to discourage anyone from starting a magazine. But what I am saying is to be prepared for the costs. Don’t expect to get rich with an overnight success. Expect to put in a lot of work, and money, if you want to make it. And, in the interest of transparency, I’ll break down my current costs.

Writer Payments:

I currently pay authors 1 cent per word (and I will be getting to how I plan to increase that below). I budget 25,000 words in each issue (over 10 stories) and there are 6 issues in a year. Total $1500

Artist Payments:

I currently pay $150 for cover art for six issues a year. Total $900

Web hosting and Submittable:

Now, I am lucky. Submittable has raised their rates, but I am grandfathered in so I have the old rate. That is until I need to upgrade (which will be very soon). So right now I pay $10 a month for that.   I pay another $9 per month to host Plasma Frequency‘s two domains which cost me $15 a year each (not to mention another fee on that).  Total: $258

Miscellaneous:

There is postage, printing costs, proof copies, and office supplies. Total $400 a year (YTD 2014)

Grand Total: $3048

Now you notice that I have left off marketing. To be honest, other than my trips to the conventions, I don’t do a lot of marketing. I need to do more, and so that will no doubt be in my future budgets.

Now I bet some of you are thinking $3,048 a year isn’t all that much. And for some it may not be. But, lets not forget I have had to come up with that through two job losses and a move from California to Washington. Add that to the fact that, like most Americans, I live paycheck to paycheck. I have no savings account, no retirement account.  I am raising three boys who love to eat (and they haven’t even hit the teen years). So, $3,000 is a lot of money for us.

And, YTD for 2014 when it comes to magazine sales and subscriptions I have made $326. Not even enough to pay for one issue.

So why bother with running a magazine?

I absolutely love doing it. When I say this is a passion of mine, I can not begin to express how short the word “passion” falls in describing how I feel about this magazine. I get such joy out of publishing short fiction. And that is just it.  If you want to run a magazine, you have to understand that it is a labor of love, not a get rich quick plan.

In fact, I don’t care if Plasma Frequency ever makes money. Yes, someday I would like to pay my all volunteer staff for their hard work. And maybe is ten years, I’d like to see enough from it that I don’t have to work anymore. But will I even be swimming in money because of a successful magazine? I doubt it, but I am okay with that. I just want Plasma Frequency to be successful.

Successful Defined

2013top10fictionzineI want Plasma Frequency to gain a loyal fan base, and maybe even publish some award winning fiction. Personally, I think we already have some huge talent that submit to us. With each issue it gets harder and harder for me to pick stories. And I love that. But in order to achieve more success, I need to invest more money into the magazine. The problem is, I am out of money. Sure, I can keep maintaining our one cent per word, and maintain our current level of success, but I feel I owe it to those I publish to push harder and continue to strive to make Plasma Frequency a household name in science fiction and fantasy.

So how do you get more money?

We’ve tried a lot of things. I stopped giving away our issues for free so that people would buy more and we would make more, but we didn’t.  And my main goal has always been to get these authors and their stories to readers. So that is why I’ve gone back to free by making the stories free to read online. And while I won’t make money that way, the web traffic to my website tripled on the first issue we did that (Issue 13).

I have a Patreon Page up. And we have advertising on our website. But those things need time to ramp up. And I am ready to push Plasma Frequency into the professional publication level.

Professional?

There are many definitions for the word professional. I certainly think I have a professional publication, and professional staff. But, I am referring to rates we pay our authors and artists. I mentioned above that I pay one cent per word. That is the absolute bottom of the barrel in the semi-pro pay rate range. Professional pay rates start at 6 cents per word. And that is where I want to take Plasma Frequency.

That takes money, right?

kickstarterExactly. And that is where I am hoping others in the community that I hold close to my heart will come in and help us out. I’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise just over $15,000 by November 15th. With that, I will be able to use $10,000 just to pay authors and artists more money starting in January. If funded, I would pay authors 6 cents per word and artists $200 for cover art.

Does that mean I won’t be spending my own money? Oh, no. I will still be spending my own money. That will free up money for me to spend on marketing Plasma Frequency.

I’m scared.

I am scared to death this won’t reach funding. The moment I launched the project the anxiety hit me. I have big plans for this magazine, and for two and half years I’ve wanted to see it start paying professional rates. I am scared that others don’t have the same passion for Plasma Frequency that I do. I just launched yesterday and (at the time of this blog) four other people also want to see this succeed. That is great. I am hoping for ten by the end of tonight, it is a lofty goal but we need the supporters. The more people get behind this and start sharing it the better we can be.

If you are a member of the writing community, especially the short fiction one, you no doubt no the importance of a new paying market. There is way, way more quality fiction out there than there are places to publish it, even fewer that pay above 6 cents per word. And when Plasma Frequency started, we gave them a place to be paid and published. Now we want to give writers a place to be published and paid a fair, professional wage.

I really hope you take a moment to check out the Kickstarter. We have some great rewards, including a story critique from one of our editors for just $7. But even if you just have three dollars left over after paying your bills, we would be happy to take it. And you can know that we will put that money to excellent use.

And please remember, I publish Plasma Frequency for all of you in the science fiction and fantasy community. I hope you enjoy it.

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From the Editor’s Desk: New Things on the Horizon for Plasma Frequency

2013top10fictionzineIt is funny how much time I spend blogging on writing, publishing, marketing, and even just random things going on in my life. Yet somehow I don’t seem to do much blogging with my editor’s cap on.  I have touched on it here and there, but most of the time that I mention Plasma Frequency, it is about how it has kept me from writing.  It would seem that something that is taking up so much of my time deserves a bit more attention. I assume my blog followers, being writers, might enjoy hearing what is going on in the short fiction publishing world.

For those that don’t know, Plasma Frequency, in my bi-monthly speculative fiction magazine. We mostly publish science fiction and fantasy, but some horror too. We publish from just a few hundred words up to 7,000 words. And we have been doing this now for two years.  Issue 13 comes out this Friday and it makes the start of our third publishing year.  That is a big deal for someone like me for several reasons: first we got this far, second we continue to grow, and third we seem to be making a difference in the industry.

In a future blog I intend to provide some tips on how to start your own magazine, but for now I want to talk about Plasma Frequency‘s future.

Our First Issue, with Award winning cover art by Tais Teng
Our First Issue, with Award winning cover art by Tais Teng

This is a magazine that I started in 2012 because I wanted to give authors another place to showcase their work.  And not just showcase it, but receive compensation for it.  Writing is a lot of hard work, and while doing it for money isn’t the best reason to get into writing, there should still be some compensation for it.

I wanted to start Plasma Frequency at 3 cents per word, but the funding for Plasma Frequency comes out of my pocket. So we started, and remain at, 1 cent per word.  The main question for me has always been how do we get this pay rate increased. The first year, I tried in-magazine advertising, and that didn’t work out well.  The second year I tried selling the magazine and some crowd funding.  Neither has worked out well.  Selling the issues covers about 10% of the costs per issue. The other 90% comes from my pocket. When you add in web hosting, submission services, and other operational costs (shipping, printing, postage, and much more), about 98% of the magazine’s funding comes from my own pocket.

Since my pocket book has no more room in it to add to the magazine, I spend a lot of time going over some ideas for our third year. We will still be selling the print copy and the eReader copies. That will not change, because readers have told us they enjoy those issues.  But we will be bringing the stories to our website, allowing those who want to read for free the ability to do so.  Now at first that might seem counter productive to making money, but we are hoping that increased reader exposure will also increase donations.

Asking for donations is always hard. People work hard for their money and they aren’t sure they want to donate it to a magazine. But, we hope that by reading our stories free online you will see this is a magazine worth a few bucks. And this year we are started a Patreon page.

Issue 8. The first issue with the new Masthead and the first issue sold via Amazon. Award winning art by Laura Givens
Issue 8. The first issue with the new Masthead and the first issue sold via Amazon. Award winning art by Laura Givens

What is Patreon?  Well Patreon is a way to donate a small amount monthly to us. It can be as little as one dollar, to as much as you see fit. That is a great way to put just a little bit into the bank and it all helps.  I’ve set some goals on there for us to reach. Reaching those goals will help us to raise the pay rates.  Maybe even get to 7 cents a word for authors in our magazine. That means we can attract more writers and bring in a wide range of story styles.  That is a lofty goal, but the good thing about Patreon is that it doesn’t expire. There is no deadline to reach any of these goals.  It is just the road map to our success.

Tying in to the Patreon page, we are also establishing donor levels. You can reach these through Patreon or through one time donations.  All people who reach one of our donor levels (to be officially announced September 5th) will be listed in all issues of our magazine (print and eReader) for the rest of time.  Onetime donations are always accepted, but Patreon is a good way to reach those donor goals without spending too much.  We have started out with some basic rewards, but as we grow so will the rewards.  The editors and I have even talked about some exclusive special editions that only donors will have access too.  We’re also considering early releases to donors and other such fun perks for becoming a donor.

Do you have a book, magazine, product, or service that would appeal to the audience of my magazine?  Oh, lord that sounds like such a horrible sales pitch. We are bringing back limited space advertising.  Official rates will be announced September 5th. But there are only four spaces for sale each month.  And if you buy a space for October, you get the rest of September free!  Your ad will be on every Plasma Frequency webpage, even the home page, for the entire month.  The ad prices are affordable and you will catch people’s attention.  If we consistently sell out the advertising, we could raise the rate of pay to as much as 4 cents per word.

Now you may be a lot like me and not have a lot of money to spare. I get that.  Money is not the only way to support us. You can also share your favorite stories. You can share the Patreon page. And you can follow Plasma Frequency on Facebook and Twitter.  There are sites to review our magazine too.

But aside from trying to raise money we have some other new and exciting things for our third year.  First off we are publishing Steve Coate’s “The Great Exodus”, a six part serial fiction piece.  The first part releases with Issue 13, and it will run for six issues.  This is a great way for us to publish longer fiction that would otherwise fail to fit within our pages.

We are also setting up a more consistent issue style.  In the past I would accept stories as they came in. And when the word count limit was reached, that was that.  Well sometimes we’d have twelve or thirteen stories in an issue, and other times we’d have just six.  I now am accepting stories for the whole year.  We accept just a few longer fiction pieces (typically two per issues) and the rest will be shorter or flash.  The result will be a consistent 10 stories per issue (11 counting Coate’s serial), while also giving a good mixture of fiction length.  The readers should better know what to expect from us.

I touched on this a little bit, but aside from our six issues, we are looking into publishing special editions. Perhaps even with guest

Issue 13: Out September 5th 2014. Art by Tais Teng
Issue 13: Out September 5th 2014. Art by Tais Teng

editors.  We are still talking this over.  I am also thinking of handing one issue over to one of my other editors and letting them have a go in the driver seat.  I am looking forward to working those out.

Of course the Year Two Anthology is also in the works.  The editors and I are choosing our picks, and just like last year our readers are making their picks too.  Voting ends on September 15th.  Then I have to contact the winners and set up the contracts for the issue.  I hope to have it out by late October so that you can have it on your Christmas list.

We will also be archiving our old issues online.  This will take a long time as there are 12 issues worth of stories to code on to a website. We don’t use a WordPress site for Plasma Frequency.  I code it all myself. And, I am learning coding as I go.

Speaking of the website, on September 5th our new website releases. It won’t be hugely different than our site now.  But I have put the stories as the main feature on the first (home) page.  And there are other tweaks along the way.

So that is just a taste of what we have in store for the next year. If you are already a reader, I hope you enjoy it.  If you are not yet reading us, I hope you will join in.

Where have you been?

I know I have been a really bad host lately. I keep inviting people to the party, but then I never show up.  I’ve been less than active on this blog and not very active on social media either. So what has been going on?

Well, I’ve been a bit down about things. I have not felt very validated as an author and have been in one of those self induced moods where I hide from the world.  But, I’ve come back out from my cave, and I didn’t see my shadow. So I think that means I am able to break down this barrier and start working on what I enjoy. And to start, I put out this blog post.

So what have I been up to?

DetCon1

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Well, lets start with the biggest of things that kept me away.  And that is DetCon1. Most of you know how excited I was about being part of the participants for this great convention. And it was really a good time.  I got to meet some great people, break down my fear of reading in public, and even got a few great compliments.

One of the things that was so cool was I got to meet, and for just a little bit, talk with John Picacio. He is one of my all time favorite artists and we talked for brief moment before he was off to do more Guest of Honor stuff.  But, he happened to know who I was.  We’ve interacted a few times on Twitter, and I guess he seemed to remember me from there.  I also attended some of his panels, including one where he broke down how he did “Girl with Microphone”, which is one of my favorite art pieces (bottom left of the picture below is my print copy which I won at the art show!).

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I also spoke to Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld at some length after one of his panels (the day before we sat on a panel together). Clarkesworld, and Neil, have been a great inspiration to my work on Plasma Frequency. And Neil was very much aware of my publication and I was so pleased to know that. He also shared some great insight with me into his own experience in the business and I was quite surprised by things I learned from him. Needless to say, it made me feel as if Plasma Frequency was doing some good in the Science Fiction short market world and I can’t wait to push forward.

Photo by Al Bogdan
Photo by Al Bogdan

I also had a panelist on my first panel tell me that I had a “Stephen King vibe” to me. I took that to be a compliment and he seemed genuinely surprised that I had not hear this before.   Perhaps that means that I am good on these panels and can be invited back for more.  I don’t believe I have signed up for WorldCon in Spokane, so I better do that now.

I had a big fear of reading in public.  I am not the best out-loud reader and I notice if more and more as I get older. I stubble over words when I read out-loud to the kids. So I was really worried.  I did have a reading, but it was late and not many people showed up.  I went last, and many people walked out during my reading. I don’t know if that was from boredom or from it being close to the end of the panel. I hope it was the later.

Plasma Frequency

Oh, this magazine of mine. It is always on the list of things that keep me from writing, but that is a good thing. We are starting year 3 with the publication of Issue 13 on September 5th. We are making some changes to the publication this year. And just like last year we are letting our readers choose half the stories we publish in the Year 2 Anthology.  You can vote on those here: LINK.

We really need the support of our readers if we hope to continue. So we are also asking for your ideas and thoughts in our survey that is just before the story voting.  We are also asking you to pick the cover artist for the anthology.  So if you have read Plasma Frequency at all, please go complete the survey.

A Day Job

So I got one of those again.  Which is good because I was out of a good paying job for sometime.  But I have one that pays pretty good now.  I am still in physical security.  The job is boring, has lots of down time, and the hours really suck.  But, I did finally get a laptop this last week.  So I can now  make use of the down time.  Can’t do much about the bad hours right now.  It is just hard on family time, especially once the kids are back in school.  But, I will make use of the downtime to get things done that need to get done.

A new cover for Volition Agent

Volition Agent eBook

So, I finally decided I needed to do something about the cover for Volition Agent.  The original cover wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t enticing buyers either. So I had Rebecca Treadway at ATRTink redo the cover.  What do you think?  I think it is awesome while still using the model and photographer that worked so hard to get me the first cover.  Also, you can now get Volition Agent on Kindle for just 99 cents. So go pick up a copy here: LINK

Family Time

So I touched on this when I mentioned the new job.  It has meant that when I am off work, I am spending time with the family. This is because I know that time won’t be around when all three kids are in school on my days off and I don’t see them. Especially since I work 18 of my 40 hours on Saturday and Sunday.  So I have been spending the time with them exploring Washington state, our new home state.

My Health

My health hasn’t been so good as of late. I am thinking my gallbladder is acting up. I was in a lot of pain off and on while at DetCon1 and lost 10 pounds in the week I was gone.  Which is odd, considering you don’t typically lose weight on a vacation.  I can’t see a doctor until 2015, unless something changes and I can get insurance before then.   That is a long story.  But I have to have them run a whole series of tests on me, because I am also dealing with some other issues health wise.  All in all I need to make sure I take care of myself.

Feelings of Failing

I touched on this at the start of this blog.  I can’t help but feel as though I am failing at doing what I love. Writing is so much fun to me, but I am just not getting the attention of readers. I recently discovered that none of my books have even broke even. And that is a bit of a sad fact of being a self-published author.  And when you feel like you are failing is can be difficult to motivate yourself to write.  So while I have a whole list above of valid reasons that kept me from writing.  This funk is the real reason.  The rest are just excuses.

So what is coming next?

Well, finally adding a laptop to the equation should help me get back into the swing of things. I will be able to get more writing and Plasma Frequency business done when I am away from home. And that is a huge plus.  It also means I will be able to finally start putting words down on the sequel to Dissolution of Peace, which is starting to be on pace to be a lot longer of a novel than the original is.  I am still trying to think of a good series title for this series.  Any ideas from my readers?

I am trying to keep my chin up.  DetCon1 was a huge boost to that.  I think once the kids are back in school, and before the Washington rain hits, I’ll take this laptop out to one of the great state parks here and use nature as my inspiration to start putting the letters on the page again.  In the meantime, I think this blog post is a good re-connection with the writing world and I’m ready to get things rolling again.

DetCon1 is Coming Fast!

If you follow me on on Facebook and Twitter, you no doubt have heard me mention DetCon1.  You may have even gathered that I am pretty excited about this.  And, it is just over two weeks away!

What is DetCon1?

The simple answer is the DetCon1 is the North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC).  But for those, like I used to be, who are not sure what that means, let me clarify.  WorldCon, to me, is the grand daddy of all Science Fiction conventions.  Well, when WorldCon is going to be outside North America (this year it is in London), there is also a NASFiC.

This year, DetCon1 is being held in Detroit at the Marriott Renaissance Center from July 17-20th.  If you have not thought about going, it is not too late. I strongly encourage any author, publisher, or fan of Science Fiction to attend.

Why should I go?

Last year I finally made it to my first convention. I went to Lone Star Con 3, last year’s WorldCon. I figured I’d go big or go home.  And let me tell you, I was not disappointed. I walked away with a wealth of knowledge for my writing, my business, and my reading list.  It was an entire weekend of fun and it cost me almost nothing.  A small membership fee (way less than $100), hotel and a flight.  But the things I learned made it all worth it.

Anyway, I made up my mind that I was going to go to every WorldCon I could attend.  There are two reasons this is a good idea.  First, it makes me get away once a year.  Second, WorldCon always moves around.  Thus making it a great way to see new places.  I really loved San Antonio, and I would never have thought to go there if it wasn’t for the WorldCon.

Well, as I mentioned above, this year it is in London.  And my move to Washington made it just financially impossible to go.  But even if you are going to London this year, you should also go to Detroit.  The conventions are at different times, just so those that can attend both have that ability.

But here is why you should go:

Panels: DetCon1 will have four days full of panels.  What are panels? A group, typically 2-6 people, discuss a assigned topic for about an hour.  The topics at DetCon1 are very vast. They range from Literary to Scientific, Music and Art, and on and on.  You get to hear experts, novices, publishers, artists, doctors, and other qualified individuals discuss these topics and offer their advice.  Sometimes, if time permits, you even get to ask a few questions. And many panelists are willing to talk to you after the panel, if their schedule permits.

I went to so many panels at WorldCon. And one thing I knew I wanted to do was to speak on a panel. Why? Well, like this blog, I like to help people, and I do that with my ideas and thoughts.  Panels are a great way for me to share those.  And, I applied to be a panelist at DetCon1 and they said yes! (more on that soon).

Workshops:  Where panels are more of a one way communication, a lot like a lecture, workshops are more of a two way street.  You work with others to develop a certain skill or item.  There are a number of these and they vary in type and style.  While you learn a ton of stuff from panels, you practice a lot in Workshops.  These are often intense periods since time is limited. But I love the fast learning method.

Film Festival:  I wish I had known about these earlier when I was at Lone Star Con, because I missed some good ones. Film Festivals show short films made by talented folks. The one I attended showed ten different short films in about an hour and half.  They were amazing!  This is a great way to take a break from the hustle of the convention and see some excellent media art.

Art Show: I could have gone broke at the Lone Star Con art show. And Detroit has some awesome artists.  The Artist guest of honor is one of my favorites, John Picacio.  My hope is to get a chance to meet him and maybe (finances permitting) pick up something of his.  But even if you can only look, I can assure you you will fall in love with the art at the convention.

Kids Programs: This year I am going alone. But last year I went with my whole family and the Kids programming was a life saver for my young kids.  DetCon1’s programming appears to be the same way.  Kids can only take so much adult stuff before they go nuts. Kids programming is built just for them and includes a number of crafts.

Dealers: Merchants of as much variety as you can imagine come to the convention to show and sell their stuff.  Of course you won’t leave without a book or two, but there are also shirts, comics, patches, jewelry, and other great things to buy. I don’t know what dealers will be at DetCon1, but my wallet is already opening.

Also, I discovered some great writers by browsing the Dealer room. The books are excellent and I wound up grabbing a few new names because that was the point. To experience something new.

So much more: Exhibits, Parties, Masquerade, Gaming, and so much more.  DetCon1 is certain to have some great exhibits to check out.   I missed the Masquerade at Lone Star, so I hope to attend this one (but I have a busy schedule already).  I also missed out on a lot of parties last time. I didn’t find out about them until late Saturday. So I hope that I can attend a lot more this time.

So you see, there are more than enough reasons to to go to DetCon1.  You can register online for the full four days for just $75 for adults, $25 for kids (4 and under are free!).  So if you can get to Detroit, you see the value is there.  Not sure if you want to register online, you can do so at the door too.  They also have one day memberships that vary in price based on the day.  So please, go check it out!

I almost forgot the biggest reason you all should go!

I’ll be there. I applied to be a participant this year, and was so honored when the programming staff selected me as one of their participants.  I am even more honored by how many panels they have have assigned me to.  So it would be great if a few of my fans, and fans of Plasma Frequency could come out and see me.

Please note, the below list of panels is not final. Although the programming staff say it is “done” (their quotes, not mine), these things are always subject to change.  You’ll want to check the program when you check in.

Of course when I am not on a panel I will be attending them, and also I will be around looking at all there is to see.

So here is where they have me scheduled (*again subject to change so check the final program).

THURSDAY (17th)

The Very First Thing: Story Titles

Description: How do writers choose story titles? What makes a good title? Who gets to decide what the title will be? And which comes first, the story or the title?

My thoughts: I am lousy at titles, and I have had to adapt to that failing. So I hope to get a chance to discuss how I break down my title block and finally put a title on my stories.

Time: 7pm in the Nicolet A Room*

FRIDAY (18th)

Iron Author Detroit – Late Night Edition

Description: Watch four authors compete for the title of Iron Author Detroit! Witness their efforts at turning the Mystery Ingredient Word into an SF/F short story in five minutes or less. Judge the resulting tales through the magic of the Audience Applause-O-Meter. Who will reign supreme?

My thoughts: I am the Moderator or Emcee for this one. I am excited about this one too. I love short fiction, which is why I publish them. So, getting to see four authors write a story in five minutes or less… oh man this is going to be great.

Time: 10pm in the Nicolet B Room*

SATURDAY (19th)

What am I Looking For?

Description:  Agents and editors talk about the sorts of projects that interest them individually and answer general publishing questions.

My Thoughts:  I am so honored and so excited for this panel. Obviously I will be representing Plasma Frequency on this panel. But,as of right now the other panelists are Diana Pho of Tor books, Kate Baker and Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld, and Sam Morgan who is an Agent.  Now, Clarkesworld has always been a publication I have admired and has been what I aspired for by opening Plasma Frequency.  So to sit on a panel with Neil Clarke and Kate Baker. Man, I really hope they are there and that aspect doesn’t change. However, I am also excited to represent the semi-pro market on this panel. This is a good one to attend if you’ve wanted to know what it is we are publishing and why.

Time: 1pm in the Mackinac East room*

+/- a Shirt: Starting a Business

Description: How to lose your shirt (or maybe get rich) in starting a business.

My Thoughts: This one wasn’t on my initial itinerary, but I am glad they added me. Plasma Spyglass, my company, is my second business. So I am excited to talk about what I learned from my first failure, and what I know from Plasma Spyglass to be successful.

Time: 3:00pm in the Ambassador Salon 1*

Reading: Flores/Haynes/O’Riordan

Description: Richard Flores IV, Michael Haynes, and Daniel O’Riordan read from their work.

My Thoughts: Of all the items on my list, this one I am the most nervous about.  I don’t know which novel I will read from, but I am leaning towards my most recent one, Broken Trust.  Readings are a great way to hear a book in the author’s voice. That was how I discovered the Split Worlds Series by Emma Newman.

Time: 6pm in the Joliet A room*

SUNDAY (20th)

Hobbies as Research

Description: The best way to write about something is by attempting to do it. But the problem with doing this is that it can be easy to let the research take over the story. How do we balance the story with the fun factoids and tidbits we learn while doing things we plan to incorporate into our novels? How does doing it ourselves lend authenticity and credibility to the story?

My Thoughts:  This is a subject about balance. Obviously research is a big part of writing. But knowing what parts to share and what to leave out is a difficult thing.  This will be a great knowledge builder for new and experienced writers.

Time: 11:00am in the Mackinac East room*

*Remember these are the times and rooms as they are scheduled today. DetCon1 can change these, so please check your programs. And please come see me.

 

2014: Looking Ahead

10310_wpm_lowresSo it is 2014, though I am still a bit in denial about that, and now is the time everyone puts up new year posts.  I guess I will too.  There is a saying, “If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you?” I always thought that was kind of a silly saying.  I mean if everyone is doing it, there has to be a reason for it.  So at the very least I’d start gathering some facts.

None of that has to do with 2014, I don’t foresee any massive bridge jumping events in the near future.  In fact, I am not very good at predicting the future.  If I was, the Sharks would have already won the Stanley Cup years ago.  So while I say I am looking ahead, I am really just planning ahead and hoping it all works out.

I’m not much for the resolutions thing.  The meaning of resolution has been perverted over the years, and the definition really should be changed.  Now a days a resolution is a plan you make in January and break by February (March for the diehard folks). Personally, I am so sick of the lose weight and eat better resolutions.  There are no points for originality there.  And the gym advertising that starts in late December and runs through February kills me.  Undoubtedly the gyms make money hand of fist with people who buy memberships in January and never use the gym again after April.

I do like to make plans for the new year though.  A plan sounds better.  And everyone know even the best plans go to shit real fast.  So when your “plan” gets all jacked up, it was expected all along.  I never feel nearly as guilty when my plans fail as I did when my resolutions failed.  That being said, one of my personal plans for 2014 is to lose some weight (yeah, I know what I just said).  So far so good.  Even with the holidays in the way, I’ve lost almost 12 pounds in December.  I have no plans for a gym membership though.  My new apartment has a fitness center on site, so perhaps once all the resolvers have given up, I can start using the treadmill there.  Of course, a walk around the block is also free.

I have a number of personal plans for 2014, but that really wasn’t the point of this blog.  This blog was more about what I plan to do in the writing and publishing aspects of my life.  That is why most people read my blog.  Actually the truth is I don’t really know why most people read my blog.  I’m not even sure how many people bother to read past the few corny jokes.  So I suppose if you’ve made it this far down my blog, I owe you some good solid blogging.  But, as my credit rating suggests, I rarely deliver on what I owe.

broken trustMy first goal for 2014 is to release three novels this year.

Three.  The past two years I’ve only released one a year.  And many writers were surprised I had time to release them that fast.  So three is a pretty lofty goal.

Here is what stands in the way: Broken Trust is already way behind schedule.  So at this point a March release seems impossible.  My editor, who I love to work with, is also very behind.  I’m guessing May before that one comes out.  The sequel to Dissolution of Peace is slow going.  I’ve been hitting a lot of stumbling blocks on that one.  Hopefully the ball gets rolling on that one.  And finally, I don’t have a solid novel idea in place for the third novel this year.

Here is why it can happen: Broken Trust is almost ready right now.  So I just need to get it rolling through the process again and it will be ready for release. All the cards are in place.  The sequel to Dissolution of Peace is being written and once I find my groove, I can tear out a lot of words per day.  For that third novel, I am playing around with a Volition Agent sequel (though I hadn’t planned on one).  Volition Agent was always planned to be a stand alone book.  But I am thinking about writing more about Lexia.  I do also have plans for a third novel in the Dissolution of Peace story line.  And I left Broken Trust open for a sequel as well.  But I also have ideas in their infancy for other novels.  One, could be an elaboration of my first short story “Death Watch“.

My second goal is to increase the pay rates at Plasma Frequency.

I had really hoped to do this in 2013.  I wanted to push hard to triple our rates, but the goal was just out of reach for a number of reasons.  But, I learned a lot in 2013 about the business and have made some changes.  This year I hope to go from 1 cent to at least 2 cents by the end of 2014.

Here is what stands in the way:  The funding is the biggest challenge.  I still fund about 95% of the operating costs for the magazine.  And not that I am out of work I can’t afford to increase those costs.  Also, increasing our readership has been harder than I expected.

Here is why it can happen:  We recently started charging for our electronic issue.  We’ve seen a slight reduction in electronic subscriptions but we did see an increase in print subscriptions.  Amazon gives us more exposure and that has resulted in a steady increase in readership.  We’ve also seen an increase in social media interactions and reader feedback.  All this means Plasma Frequency is on the up and coming.

My third goal is to start speaking at Conventions.

After attending Lone Star Con 3 this year.  I knew I wanted to speak at these convention panels.

Here is what stands in the way:  I don’t have much “cred” to get convention programmers to consider me.  That is the hardest part.  I also have to have the money to get to many of these conventions.  I’m still learning what conventions there are and when they are.

Here is why it can happen:  I’ve already applied to DetCon to participate.  I am already going there and I keep hoping they will contact me for at least one panel.  I’ve also started looking into all the other conventions out there.  Also, I am confident once someone gives me the chance I’d be really good at it.  I love public speaking.  And, as my blog reflects, I love sharing my experience and knowledge with others.

My forth goal is to expand what I do.

I want to be a writer.  I don’t want a day job anymore.  Of course, I need one.  Writers rarely make major amounts of money.  But my hope is to expand what I write and what I publish so that writing become more of a substantial source of income.

Here is what stands in the way:  The odds.  Making a lot of sales on my books is tough.  Also, to make more I need to write more.  And funding so I can publish more is also a challenge.  Plus, once I get a day job that gets in the way of writing time.  Also, it can be hard to write new things when you are so used to what you already write.  I write Sci-Fi.  I’ve considered non-fiction recently but fiction is what I know so that is a challenge in itself.

Here is why it can happen:  If I keep writing, the sales are bound to happen.  The more books I put out (hopefully 3 this year) means the more I have to sell.  Also, in the coming weeks Plasma Frequency will be announcing a plan to publish longer fiction.  As far as non-fiction goes, that is what I blog.  So I suppose that if I put my mind to it I can find a topic to write a non-fiction book on.  Though with my current publishing plans, the non-fiction book likely wouldn’t release until 2015.

So those are my plans for my writing career in 2014.  Now to see what actually happens.

Project Announcements

As always, I have several projects going on in my life.  There are some things that I can’t wait to share with you, so I am going to give you a few updates on some projects.  I’ll ask for a little bit of your on input on some of these.  So please feel free to leave a few comments with your thoughts.  I’d love the feedback.

Dissolution of Peace Second Edition

Dissolution of Peace CoverAs most of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook know, I have hired another editor to do over the manuscript of Dissolution of Peace and fix the mistakes that were missed by me despite my first editor’s best efforts.  I am a difficult person to be an editor for because I simply don’t get it.  There are many grammar and spelling rules that I simply don’t understand.  And even when they are explained to me a thousand times, I just don’t get it.  So even though my first editor was amazing, I still missed a lot of stuff.

I hired a new editor for Volition Agent, and I have since hired her to look over Dissolution of Peace again.  The main reason I felt compelled to get this done right away is that I got a big explosion of reviews. And, while all the reviews seem to love the story, a lot pointed out distracting grammar mistakes.  And, I listed to my readers and feel that fixing those will be a simple thing to do.  My new editor Tiffany Carrera is a great match for my books.  She is patient with me and my lack of knowledge, she deals with me constantly asking “how much longer”, and she has a passion for assisting writers with getting their work to be as perfect as possible.  Tiffany is also a prior member of the military, which is handy since I write a lot of stories with a Military and/or Police element to them.

At last update from Tiffany, she was a little over halfway through it.  My hope was to get it out by the one year anniversary of the book, but that doesn’t look likely.  Maybe by my birthday in November (feel free to send gifts) I will have it out.  I am going to ask Amazon to notify all of those who bought the kindle edition, so that they can download the updated version.  Hopefully that won’t be a problem.  But that will be up to Amazon.  Of course I will update on Twitter, Facebook, and here.

The Next Novel

I am really excited about my next novel.  I recently asked my social media followers to give their ideas on a few titles for the next book.  I am terrible with titles and I always will be.  I originally billed this as being a Post Apocalyptic/ Dystopian novel.  But I think I will cross off the Dystopian part.  In fact, it has more to do with rebuilding than any dystopia.  There are two titles out of the list that I really like.  Broken Trust and The Council’s Mistake.  I am leaning more towards Broken Trust because it plays on several levels of the story and in several different story lines.  Though the story is also propelled by several of the Council’s mistakes, the title doesn’t work for me is some way.  I would like to know what you think of the titles, let me know.

I have also put together a blurb for the book.  Tell me what you think:

Liam Fisher never wanted to be a leader.  But after finding the survivors, protecting them, and founding the city-state of Lagoon Hills; the people demanded he be their leader.  Instead, Liam agreed to sit on a Council with four other leaders, each of them with a specialty.

Together with Talya Brooks, the person who saved his life after the collapse, Liam runs the militia of Lagoon Hills.  And though it was tough early on, the people of the city now live in relative comfort and safety.

But Liam is fighting his own personal demons: The loss of his wife and unborn son. Rachel, his long lost love has suddenly arrived in the city. And a neighboring city-state is threatening war.

The people of Lagoon Hills are counting on Liam for their safety.  Can he keep himself together and be the leader everyone wants him to be? Or will the people closest to him be the greatest threat of all?

I feel like it captures a lot of the essence of this book.

So what is the next step for this book?  Well I am currently about 25% of the way through the second draft.  I don’t waste time of creating a second draft.  I mentioned before that I don’t find much use for a “cooling off period” and so I tend to dive right in.

Once completed with the second draft I will be asking for beta readers.  If you are interested please let me know.  Beta readers are a very important part of the writing process.  All too ofter I have trouble finding Beta readers, and even more trouble getting them to respond in a timely manner.  I am hoping to have it ready for Beta reading by the middle to end of the month.  All of November I will be working on NaNoWriMo, but I would like to work on Beta edits for this book in December.  I hope to get it to Tiffany in January and maybe see a release by March.  Maybe…  Anyway, if you want to Beta Read, please let me know, just make sure a November reading works for you.

Also I am looking for cover art.  Either premade or custom made.  So feel free to leave your artist suggestions too.

NaNoWriMo

I am going to make a first time honest effort to do NaNoWriMo this November.  I already know what I am going to write and I am already working on the plot points in my head.  I will be writing the sequel to Dissolution of Peace and I am excited to get this project started.  I’ve talked before about why NaNoWriMo is so tough for me.  But I really want to do it this year, so here is hoping I am up for the challenge.  I know I am excited about it.  I may actually have a title for the sequel too.  But, I am not sure what to call this series.  I need to give it a series name for the sake of my own sanity.  I have been tossing around ideas for some time now.  If you have some ideas, please let me know.  You can probably expect some other NaNo updates as November comes along.

Author Features

I’ve had a few successful author feature posts over the last two months.  I am really enjoying doing these.  You should sign up if you’d like me to assist you in promoting your works.  I have dates in November and December open for all of the feature types.  You can find out more about those by going to the Author Feature page (under contact me).

Plasma Frequency Anthology

Kindle Cover

After so much work, the Plasma Frequency Anthology has been released and is available on Amazon for your Kindle or in Paperback.  The cover art is amazing and was done by Laura Givens, who has done number of art works for our magazine.  Please consider checking it out.  The money raised from selling the anthology goes right back to the magazine.

On the topic of the magazine, Issue 8 released earlier this month.  We made some major changes to Plasma Frequency after all the knowledge I picked up at WorldCon.  We revamped the website, we revamped the magazine, and we changed how we distribute the magazine.  Working with Amazon and Weightless Books should prove to be a good thing for our publication.

We are also looking for good people to help us with our magazine.  Namely in the marketing and social media and in the need for additional readers.  If you are interested, you can find out more on our website.

WorldCon 2014

I had such a blast at WorldCon this year that I really wanted to go to London.  But, the deck has been stacked against me.  The final straw was when I found out that LonCon 3 will take place right at the same time by kids start school.  And 2014 will be my youngest first day of school ever.  Somethings are more important than conventions, and family is one of those.  So I won’t be going to London, unless something changes, but it is unlikely.

I will however be going to the NaSFIC in Detroit this year.  I am excited about going to this and have already upgraded to an attending membership.  I’ve also already submitted my participant ideas and suggestions.  The odds of me being chosen to speak on any panels is probably slim, but I wanted to try.  As many of my regular blog followers know, I have no problem sharing my opinion and giving tips and tricks that I learned along the way.

I wonder what other conventions would some of you suggest I attend?  I am knew the convention scene and only really know of WorldCon/NaSFIC.  I don’t really know of many others.  What others are great for writers like myself?  What about conventions that would be good for my to attend as an Editor for a magazine?  Let me know what you suggest.  I think I could get used to attending a few convention a year.

Other Events

What other events can you think of?  When Dissolution of Peace is ready for the second edition, I plan to contact a few local book stores for a book signing.  We have a small shop in downtown here.  I think there are some other small town bookstores around.  I don’t know how much interest a Barnes and Noble would have in me.  Any suggestions on that?  What other places might be a good spot for a book signing?  As I release more books, (maybe I will even have four out by the time I go to Detroit) I hope to attend more signings and events.  So I would love to hear your suggestions.

Narrowing Down my Ambitions

I wrote a post a little bit ago about getting focused on what I want.  And besides being so busy with all the stuff above, I have tried to limit all the other distractions.  There are people in my family who don’t seem to understand that I am working to a goal and therefore may spend a lot of time in my office.  And I think next week I will write a blog on the difficulties of choosing a “hobby” as a career. That should be an interesting post.  See you next week.

Listen to Your Critics

free-lemonsWait, what? No I didn’t typo the title of this blog.  I really do plan to talk about reasons you should listen to your critics.  Sure there are countless blogs posts about all the reasons you should ignore your critics.  I have even written one (or two).  There are lots of great posts on how bad reviews and the critics of your work should be ignored.  You can’t please everyone and you can’t win them all.  But, after careful consideration, I am not sure that is really the best tip to provide authors, or any artist for that matter.

Working in the art industry, and we can’t forget that writing is an art, attracts all kinds of people.  You have the people who love just about everything.  You have the people who hate just about everything.  Then you have the people who really don’t know what they like or hate.  And finally you have the ones who know what they like and why they like it (and they usually know why they don’t like something too).  One might argue that you can also attract the jealous artist.  The one who wants to do what you do (and probably could) but they never bothered to really work at it.

In the past two years I have written a ton of book reviews.  I realized that reviewing a book on Amazon and Goodreads really helped authors.  Soon I was writing them for Plasma Frequency, and now I am writing them for my own blog.  And in all those reviews, I used to feel guilty when I wrote something critical about a book.  I felt like maybe I was being a jerk.  And I knew how critical reviews bothered me sometimes.  But I’ve realized that I am only sharing my opinion.  Other readers, and the author, can take it or leave it.  It is just my opinion, and I am but one reader.

But over the past few weeks, especially after all the inspiration I got from WorldCon, I have realized that perhaps I am thinking about reviews the wrong way.  That ignoring the bad ones, and basking in the good ones, was not necessarily the best method.

First, we should get this out of the way.  There is one review that you can always ignore.  That is the review that just bashes your book to bash it.  There is no logic to the reviews.  That would be the “This book sucks because I said it sucks but I won’t tell you why it sucks” kind of review.  Any blog reviewer worth your time won’t publish a review like that.  But on Amazon and Goodreads you will see those from time to time.  When I say you should ignore those reviews, I mean just that.  Don’t bother with it.  Don’t waste your time getting it removed or asking all your friends to vote the review as being not helpful.  I just mean ignore it.  It isn’t worth the time you put into it.

Recently I have seen an explosion in sales and reviews for Dissolution of Peace.  I was lucky to sell five copies each month in the past six months.  And I thought five was a great month.  I also seemed stuck at 12 reviews for a long time.  But now, I find myself looking at my 18th review on Amazon.  And 28 text reviews on Goodreads, which is great in my opinion.  I’ve also sold an average of 1.75 books per day (not counting my free promotion earlier this month).

So things are going well right?  Yes, and no.  There are some critical elements in these reviews.

I’m consistently seeing reviewers that love the story line of my book.  There has been a sprinkle or two suggesting better character development, and another sprinkle or two that love the characters.  There have been a few that hate the ending.  There have been a few that love the ending.  But one critical comment has been consistent.  They don’t like the grammar and spelling.  They seem to find errors that I didn’t catch.

Anyone who follows this blog knows that I am very self conciseness when it comes to grammar.  So my first step in dealing with this was to follow the advise we see across the blogging world.  I simply ignored it.  In fact, anything critical, I ignored.  Anything that people loved I relished in, I noted it for the sequel.  I even bragged about it.

But that is a disservice.  Not just to the reviewer, who took time to review the book (which we know many readers do not do), but it is also a disservice to yourself.

Every artist can grow.  And listening to your readers is a great way to learn where you might want to focus your growth.  It also tells you what you can fix to increase your sales.  For example, I’ve hired a new editor to review and fix the mistakes in Dissolution of Peace that I simply can’t catch.  Once she fixes those, I’ll update the book with a new version.

But grammar isn’t the only critique I have got.  I am looking into how I develop my characters and the way I end my novels.  I am looking into what it is that people really enjoy about the way I write stories.  I’m listening to my readers, even the critics.  Because that is how I will grow as a writer.  That is how I will become better.  And once you think you can’t get any better, you’ve become to arrogant and your readers will eventually notice there is no progression in your work and you will fade out.

So while critics are everywhere, they are also extremely helpful to the arts.  You, as the artists, may not take all their tips.  I am not saying you have to.  But I am saying you should at least listen.  You will benefit from that. If the majority of readers have a consistent complaint, I would suggest correcting that aspect of your writing.  Either in your current book, or in future works in progress.  For those more 50-50 splits, the choice is yours as an artist.  It could be something to change, or it could be that your style is not their style.

But if you want reviewers, you have to listen to them.  You can’t bash them and ignore them.  You can’t accept only the good.  You have to listen to your critics.

I Don’t Have Time: Setting Priorities

008968716-clock-and-gears-looping-animat-713-57Time seems to be something that is rather slippery.  It is also the first thing people ask me about when they find out I am a writer. “How do you have the time?”  Other people who aspire to be authors will tell me, “I wish I could be a writer, I just don’t have the time.” I often find myself running out of time before ever getting to work on the projects I promised myself I would do, especially my writing.

But we all have the same number of hours per day.  We each get 24 hours.  I spend eight of mine asleep.  And since today is my day off from work, I should still have 16 hours to do everything I wanted to do… right? I woke up with that intention.  But, I’d already slept in an extra hour.  Than I spent another hour laying in bed wondering why I didn’t get out of bed.  I spent another two and half hours tinkering with Plasma Frequency‘s website, which was a projects I planned to leave alone for today.  I spent another few minutes thinking about lunch, and now I am finally sitting down to write this blog post.  I’m only about four hours behind schedule.

Now that I am typing I finally feel like I am getting something done.  But really, I had a lot more planned to do today.  I was supposed to write a lot more in my current work in progress and I was supposed to get some time to do a little more reading.  But in two hours from now I get the kids from school.  After that it is snack time, homework time, dinner time, and then I can relax.  No wait, next I have a sports league board meeting to attend.  Once I get home from that I have to get the kids to bed and go to bed myself.  I have a 5 am shift at work tomorrow.

What was supposed to be a day of writing, maybe even 5,000 more words written in my next novel, is actually going to wind up being little more than a blog post day.  Where did all the time go?  It went right out the widow with a lack of priorities.

When I was at WorldCon, I really wanted to be like these folks I saw on panels.  I wanted to speak, teach, and help other writers.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to do that this year.  What I was able to do was listen.  And when I really heard what people were saying, I learned.  One thing that really spoke to me came from a panel that I ducked into while waiting for the next one to start.  Unfortunately I don’t know the name of it, or who to give credit to.  But the speaker said, that you had to set priorities if you wanted to be successful as a writer.  And writing had to be a top priority.  Family should come first, keeping a roof over your head and meals on the table had to be next, and third you needed to focus on what you wanted.

I am paraphrasing, and again I apologize that I can’t figure out who said this.  But it really spoke to me.  I’ve spent my recent years trying so hard to be so successful at something, that I am not being successful at anything.  In recent years I have tried two runs for City Council, I volunteered for a sports league’s board or directors, started a magazine company, published two novels, took a trip to Texas, got a promotion at work, started two other novels, and took on coaching a soccer team.  This is just some of what I am doing.  And all of it means that I am trying to do too much.

Now, let me factor in that lazy time.  You know the time I check Facebook and Twitter every ten minutes.  Or the time I spend just sitting on the couch watching TV that I don’t even really care about.  The aimless internet browsing for no real reason.  Or the time I spend just plain sitting on my ass doing nothing.

So I decided to set my priorities in order.  It is time I consider what I really want in life.  I want a family that loves and supports me, which I have.  And I want to contribute real value to the science fiction and fantasy community. My goal is to write quality fiction, and publish quality magazines.

My first priority has to be my family.  There is only so much time any of us has on this planet and I don’t want to remain forever locked away from my family either.  So I’ve committed to try to get out to more family vacations.  When I went to WorldCon, that was the first vacation my family had together since my wife and I had our honeymoon.  Ten years of no vacations made things rough.

My second priority is to keep my family fed, clothed, and sheltered.  Right now, that means I need the day job.  It pays for those vacations I mentioned above, but it also pays to keep the lights on and the roof over our heads.  So for the time being working a “real” job is a priority.

My third priority to become a successful contributor to the writing community, namely in science fiction and fantasy.  I do that through two methods.  I publish short fiction through Plasma Frequency and I write my own books.

Everything else is not that important.  I enjoy volunteering with the sports league, but I don’t think I will coach after this season.  The time I have to volunteer will be spent on the board of directors.  Facebook and Twitter are important to my writing, but not more important than writing itself.  I will continue to do my best to blog weekly, this is after all writing.  But the aimless TV watching for no reason (I’m not giving up Sharks hockey) will have to stop.  Reading is an important part of writing, so I think I can squeeze that in where it fits.  I can read while I wait to pick up the kids.  Or while they are doing their homework.

I also intent to buy a laptop or tablet I can write on.  Right now I do all my writing on a desktop and that limits the time I have to do it.  Hopefully getting more portable will help.  But I don’t know when I will be able to do that.

All and all, priorities have to be set in order to succeed.  Will I always stick to this plan?  No.  But if I try I know I can be very successful.  It just takes time and hard work, and I am prepared to dedicate both to my goals.

Ten Reasons Why I Won’t be Doing NaNoWriMo

Every one in my writing communities is asking me if I will be doing NaNoWriMo this year.  For those that don’t know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month.  The idea is that you start, and complete a novel in November.  It is actually a great idea.  Especially if you need a quick kick in the ass to get writing that novel you’ve been telling yourself you’d write for years.

I won’t be participating this year.  When I tell my fellow authors that, they all want to know: Why?  I can even hear some of them looking down upon me for my choice to exclude myself.  So I put together my ten reasons why I won’t be doing NaNoWriMo.  You may call them “excuses” but the word “reasons” makes me feel better about myself.  Besides, every now and then I like to put something together that is a little tongue in cheek.

1. November is a production month for Plasma Frequency:

Yep, that is right.  I run this magazine and Issue 3 has to be ready December 5th.  That means that I will be spending much of my non-day job hours working on getting Plasma Frequency laid out and ready for print.  Not to mention designing ads for the issue (you should get an ad to advertise the novel you finish during NaNoWriMo).  And since I likely will be paying for most or all of Plasma Frequency‘s stories and artwork out of my own pocket, I’ll also need to pick up some extra hours at my day job.

2. I have to work my day job.

Believe it or not my writing doesn’t pay all my bills.  I have to work a day job to try to pay my bills.  A day job that doesn’t even pay enough to pay my monthly rent.  So that also means I will be needing to pick up any extra hours I can.  Since I have to pay my rent, phone, internet, power, water, and Plasma Frequency‘s running costs.  In all, I have to put up a lot of hours at work to try to make ends meet.  Those extra hours are all hours I normally reserve for writing, editing, and family time.

3. My family needs me too.

Yep, I am throwing them under the bus here.  But it is true.  And there are a lot of family events happening in November.  My birthday and Thanksgiving being two of them.  These are often all day events in my family so that means two more lost days in the tight schedule.

And since my birthday is in November, I don’t have to do NaNoWriMo.  I think it is in the rules.  If it isn’t in the rules, than I am adding it to my own personal NaNoWriMo rules.

4. I have volunteer commitments

I volunteer on the Board of Directors for my local soccer league.  And, I coach in that league.  And, two of my three boys play in that league.  The season ends in November.  So there are two year end parties to attend.  And there is one weekend ate up to the end of season tournament.  So there are four more days that NaNoWriMo can’t have.

5. I already started a Novel.

I have already started a novel.  My second novel is already in the works.  And in NaNoWriMo you are supposed to start and finish in November.  So if I participated, I would be cheating.  And no one likes cheaters.  I could start the sequel for Dissolution of Peace, but I am not a person that can write two novels at once.  I can edit one and write another.  I can even write a short story while doing a novel.  But I just can’t do two novels at once.  It is my writing style.

6. I didn’t participate last year.

I didn’t do NaNoWriMo last year, in fact I have never done it.  I don’t need to explain myself for past years, those are past years.  But, I am far to busy to start something new in November.

7. I don’t want to sacrifice quality for speed.

I get that you don’t have to have a print ready manuscript by the end of November.  The point is to have the first draft done.  But the first draft is the foundation for that final manuscript.  You have to have something to work with or the story is lost.  At least that is my opinion.  And as you can see I already have a lot of things taking up my time.  I bet I probably could still throw 50,000 words down in the time I have left, but I don’t think they would be worth the paper, or disk space, they are written on.  I would feel like I am sacrificing quality just to get it done on time because of my crowded schedule.

8. I don’t want to be another blogger spending all of November blogging about NaNoWriMo.

Every year the writing blogs fill up with constant talk about NaNoWriMo.  Or even worse, they virtually shut down for a month.  Both, I don’t wish to do.  Sometimes my schedule is so crowded that these posts are the only writing I get done for weeks or months.  And I don’t want to take a break for writing my novel, to tell you about how NaNoWriMo is going.  I’d prefer to be the destination my followers can come to read a post or two that is away from the topic of NaNoWriMo.  Don’t get me wrong, if you participate in NaNoWriMo, you may want to read about the progress of others.  I just don’t feel like blogging about it, and/or not blogging for a month.

“But Richard,” you say. “You are blogging about NaNo right now.”  To those people I say, this doesn’t count.  It is still October.

9.  I have a current novel to promote

We have established that my schedule is tight.  Well, Dissolution of Peace needs to sell.  And it won’t sell with out someone marketing it.  That someone is me.  My October sales have slowed drastically, and I hope to kick it into high gear for November and December.  That means more free time used to find reviewers, advertising, and self marketing.  Maybe even trying to set up a book signing or two.  That all takes time.  So rather then starting a third novel (just yet), I need to market the first one.

10. I have nothing to wear.

You heard me correctly.  No one wants to see me sitting around naked in my office writing a novel.  What does one wear to a virtual writing gathering anyway?  Is it a virtual black tie?  Or is virtual business casual okay?  Perhaps a virtual suit is sufficient.  That’s the thing, I simply don’t know.  And to save myself the embarrassment, I simply won’t attend.  Besides, I heard it was a Sadie Hawkins event and no one has asked me.

NaNoWriMo is a good thing

Sure, I am not attending.  But NaNoWriMo is a great event.  And perhaps one year I will be able to do it.  But that year is not 2012.  If you have time and want to do it, I suggest you check out the website.  There is no better way to stimulate your writing glands and put together something great.  If you are stalling to start writing, but just haven’t done it, NaNoWriMo is a great way to jump in.  At the very least, check it out.  Every year I do.  And as I said before, one year I will do it.

Perhaps I will have my own personal NaNoWriMo.  Who says November has to be the only month you write a novel in?  If you are like me, perhaps you make January your month, or even July.  And even though I joked about the NaNoWriMo related blogs, I tend to learn a lot more about writing when NaNo is going on than I do other times of year.  Authors are always willing to help each other out.  So even if you don’t participate, you are bound to learn something this November.

Form Rejections

When I started out as a writer, I went to work with short stories.  There are tons of markets to share my stories with.  When I got my first form letter rejection, I wasn’t surprised.  I’d known rejection was part of the game and I had been warned that most markets use the Form Letter for rejections.  The question no one could really answer clearly was: Why?

I’d first been told it was because of the sheer volume of submissions.  Which I wasn’t sure about since I didn’t think it took but two seconds more to tell me why I was rejected.

I was told it has to do with editor policy.  Which is true, but doesn’t really answer the why.

I was told it was just the industry standard.  Again true, but not really why.

The point is, every writer danced around the topic because frankly none really knew why.  We just accepted it as the way of the writing world, and went with it.  After all there really isn’t anything any of us can do to change it, unless we all just stopped sending in submissions.  But I’m not going to stop sending in submissions over the type of rejection I get.

I’ve been running Plasma Frequency now for five months and we’ve put out two issues.  And up until yesterday we offered personal rejections on every submission.  Even as our large volume of submission came in, we continued to provide personal rejection letters.  Why did we do that?  I thought that was what writers wanted.  They wanted to be told why their story was rejected.  They wanted to learn from the rejections.  They wanted to know if the editor even finished manuscript.  And if not, why.  So I thought, lets tell them. 

The problem is this.  Authors don’t really want to know.  Not truly.  When they find out from the editor that the opening was boring, it upsets them more than the form letter did.  When an editor say the manuscript wasn’t formatted and submitted correctly, they get aggravated they were rejected on a technicality.   When the editor says the story was great but doesn’t fit the publication, they get mad that the publication doesn’t accept “great” stories.

I realize this is an over generalization.  I get upset at personal rejection from time to time, but I really appreciate that they took the time to tell me why.  And in the end, like most writers, I just move on.  I fix the problem, or don’t, and send it off to the next place.

The problem is that there are a significant number of authors who are not professional enough to move on.  They have to say something back.  Those authors should read my blog post, “Inside an Editor’s Mind (Tips for Writers)”.  The problem is they are rarely correct in their anger, and it is almost always misplaced.

My staff and I have been threatened, cursed at, CAP LOCKED, and cyber bullied.  I already nearly lost one editor because of it.  Here are some of the things we’ve gotten back from authors.

“Well you would know about “overly sexual” you whore.”

“I will find everything any of you have ever written and I will ensure everyone I know rates it as poorly as possible.”

“You can suck my dick!”

“I consider myself above your petty opinions.”

“You must be sleeping with the Lead Editor to get your job.”

“I will tell everyone about your lack of professionalism.”

“YOU CAN ALL EAT SHIT!”

“You are by far one of the UGLIEST people I’ve seen.”

“I will find you and you will regret rejecting ME.”

Your first thought might be that we are doing something wrong.  That we are rude in our personal rejection.  But I discovered I am not the only one getting this behavior, we just rarely talk about it.

John Joseph Adams, editor for Lightspeed, and in my opinion one of the better editors in the business recently tweeted: “This week, have been both called a “tool” for rejecting someone & had a writer reply “FUCK YOU!!!” Still so surprising when people do this.”

While he is one of the only ones I know to publicly say so, many other editors have privately shared the same types of stories.  Writers who complain about how unprofessional we are, while writing to us in an unprofessional manner.  Frankly it is embarrassing to writers as a whole, and if we editors wanted to be truly unprofessional we’d share with you their names so you could rise up against them.  Because the fact remains that the main reason editors stop providing personal rejections is because of the abuse that writers like these give us.

The problem here is the professional divide.  There are many websites warning writers of bad editors.  Editors that take advantage of writers.  There should be.  There are also plenty of people who take to the internet in persecution of an editor or a company simply because of a rejection letter.  That is not right.  I personally have yet to find a website that warns editors of unprofessional writers.  Writers who say things that I’ve mentioned above.

Why?  We have to take the high road.  We have to be professional and accept that is is part of our job.  We are trying to give our opinions to help you understand why your story didn’t make the cut.  They are our opinions.  We are then persecuted, bullied, and abused for giving those opinions.  We just wanted to help.  It makes many editors quit.  And as their boss, I can’t really allow it to happen.  We can take limited steps to protect ourselves, such as switching to form rejection.  That is why we, at Plasma Frequency, stopped providing personal rejections to first read rejections.  We hope to continue to provide them to second and third read rejections.  Hopefully the writers at that level can handle our opinions.

Once again, I recognize that most writers don’t behave this way.  This might come off as a bit of rant.  And in a way it is.But the point is, it is my opinion that many publications use form letters simply because of the abuse the get if they used personal rejections.

Of course, as an editor I still very much respect writers.  I am thankful for the submissions we get.  I couldn’t run my magazine with out them.  I’ll likely still send out a few personal rejections to those who might appreciate the opinion.