Editor’s Gripes

“We are pushing our ourselves to do more.”

I sent an update email to the other editors. It included a spreadsheet with the status of all the stories, and a break down of everything we still had to do.

A lot of our tasks are dependent on previous things. For example, we can draft the table of contacts but we cannot finalize it until the authors have signed the contracts. Authors can easily change their mind in the last minute and its certainly their right to. Once we have their approval, we can finalize the table, which is the blueprint for organizing and formatting the book.

Thus it’s difficult to get a head start on a lot of the end-game aspects of publishing. Our challenge is magnified by the fact that we’re doing illustrations for the anthology too. The con is we can’t rush the art. It’s done when it’s done. But on the pro side, that time can also be spent getting advanced copies to reviewers. And there were a few other issues to deal with. Some marketing opportunities, contract writing. Andrew has to write the introductory letter.

There’s so much we’re doing that’s ground breaking for us personally. I am grateful that, at the very least, we are pushing our ourselves to do more. To try new things and grow, and not be stuck in the complacency of the same thing as the last two anthologies.

But there comes a time one needs a break from it.

I am managing the finances for three separate anthologies. And although one of which comes to an end this year, I want to avoid the potential of grave errors. Once the slate is cleared, I might do a new anthology. It won’t be involved with the Bolthole however.

Anyone who fancies themselves a writer, try it. Try editing. Put together an amateur anthology, learn from it. Discover your mistakes, figure out what sells. You’ll learn so much. Even if you find out it’s not your thing, you’ll walk away from it with improved writing skills and understanding of the business.

You have to get out there. You have to make business if there isn’t any. You can try forever and face a wall of preformatted rejections, or you can find out yourself what sells and what doesn’t.

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Culling Lessons

A review of our recent anthology can be found here. Right now, we’re hacking away at our third anthology, and my last with the Bolthole. Although I do intend to very a more in depth analysis of the last two anthologies, I want to wait until we finish Far Worlds before I do so.

But here are my notes on it so far:

The Black Wind’s Whispers

Pros: Unifying plot device linked stories. Niche, easily identified horror theme. Relatively modern setting eased world building.
Cons: Bad submission methodology. Very late print edition release. Early formatting errors.
Notes: Our first attempt. We tried something different with accepting submissions, where as we got a certain number and ‘locked it in’. This was almost the anthology’s undoing when authors dropped out due to time constraints. Will not repeat this method again. Other issues included formatting problems when going to publishing. These were found and fixed and the lessons learned paved the way to a better second anthology.

Marching Time

Pros: Vastly improved submissions method. More stories of surprising diversity. Faster formatting and swifter print edition.
Cons: No unifying plot device. Time travel theme made for transitional difficulties between story worlds. Time management.
Notes: We definitely learned from our previous anthology with regards to formatting, printing and submission methods.  Our synopsis approach saved time both for writer and editor, as we could weed out stories with bad ideas early. It also helped us create a more diverse anthology. On the downside, we let time get away from us and the anthology ended up being late. There’s also no connecting aspect to the stories. None of them are set in the worlds of any other.

Far Worlds

It’s too early to give Far Worlds a full appraisal as we are not done. Our synopsis submission method really paid off though, as we weeded out and suggested improvements to many potential stories, sparing us dozens of similar tales. We’re entertaining the thoughts of it being two books, but we need to see how many drafts we get first before making those decisions. We’re also trying new ideas to help with transitions between stories.

Once Far Worlds is finished, I maybe tempted towards one ‘final’ anthology, independently published and not of the Bolthole, to round out everything I’ve learned. Work for it will not begin until after Far Worlds is published, as then I can examine the new ideas we implemented and decide what works and what doesn’t. I’ll bring that up in the new year.

Anthology Publishing Theory

An idea came to my during the day. My friend sent me some flash fiction to edit. The flash was intended to go between the stories of a new anthology we’re working on.

The flash was great, but diverse. Some were happier endings, some comical. Some were darker. They hit a wide range of emotions in anywhere from a paragraph to a page in length.

As I finished, a thought occurred to me. In my opinion, the grand problem with anthologies is that their nature doesn’t permit them to be page-turners quite like novels can. A story comes to an end, and you say goodbye to the characters, the setting, the events and plot. You have to start something new.

Every tale has an emotional impact associated with it. So when it ends, I suspect that most people shut the book and set it aside to digest the ending. We’ve made some effort in the past to be careful with the order of our tales, trying to keep similar stories apart.

But as I thought about it, what’s the job of a DJ? To come up with a playlist of songs to keep people dancing, to maintain a kind of energy high so people don’t want to leave the dance floor. If the music doesn’t keep up the pace, people start to hit the bar. (And if the music is bad, people leave.)

A flash vignette is tempting however. If the reader sees that there’s a short passage just after a short story has ended, I suspect that they’d want to read it just because it’s so simple and brief. So could there be a way to balance it? If the short story ends on an evil note, could a hopeful and uplifting flash fiction piece help the audience carry onto the next story more readily?

More initial instincts say that the emotions should contrast to find balance. If something is sad, make it happy. If something is depressing, give them hope. If a tale ends with the bad guys winning, have the next piece contain an outlet for the reader’s anger.

Will have to try it…

A Great Blog by Anne R. Allen

It’s Monday, so I’m going to be brief. But if you’re one of those indie-authors, check this out.

Anne R. Allen wrote a fantastic blog about the changing e-book markets. Apparently, they were an awesome deal sometime back, but the deal has changed somewhat since. This news comes right at the cusp of the Bolthole’s first release, so I will be considering it for future releases if not this one.

Brainstormin’ time.

Book Marketing and the Future

If I have any regrets the last year, it was that I didn’t start using Twitter until very recently.

Fact is, Twitter is a better marketing tool. Brief, to the point, easy to interact with. It can be linked to Facebook. Rather than engaging in ‘mutually beneficial’ friendship arrangements, you simply have followers which you must attract. There are fewer walls and the actual spread of information is way more ‘open’, where as Facebook applies an algorithm to reduce clutter on people’s walls (which can filter you out).

Twitter is actually kind of essential for those reasons. Without walls, fans can connect readily with authors and creators. Although one can get in trouble with the platform, there is quite a bit of power to be harnessed if used carefully.

As I move forward with the anthology, I’m also hacking away at other needs to promote it. I’m examining advertising costs on Facebook. But more importantly, I’m looking at various book reviewing bloggers. Although there are ‘big name’ critics out there in the newspapers, these smaller guys often tend to be quite niche, and really hit the reader bases that we’re writing for. In a way, the smaller guys can be a lot more powerful than the big names, because they know what they want.

This is why, despite an age where anyone can publish anything thanks to Amazon, publishing houses are not going away. They have the power to provide advertising and superior editing services. They usually know their market, and can tap top talent if need be. Self published success have occurred and will continue to happen, but there are services that publishers provide that simply aren’t available to the average author.

Business is really all about networking. Knowing the guy who can do what you can’t, knowing the right people for the job. All of us, especially writers, have to be in business for ourselves. And despite potential competitive aspects of business, a lot of it is also about working together.

Speaking of business, I’ve been thinking about what I’ll be doing next year. I’ve mentioned trying a few drafts against Everyday Fiction. But Narrativium will be in charge of the next anthology, Marching Time. If you’re curious what that’s about, you can check it out. Besides that, there will be the Black Library submission window, of which both myself and several of the Boltholers will have our strongest chance next year to be published.

The major question is whether to attempt my first novel, or self-publish an anthology of novellas. The latter is very tempting. My approach to being published has revolved around an ‘evolving plan’ of difficulty. Flash fiction and short stories started it. There has been at least one novella thus far.

An idea is to go ahead and write more novellas, and get used to longer tales before attempting a novel-length story. Length is a major factor. 300 pages is nothing to sneeze at. My approach has really allowed me to gradually increase the difficulty, while building on the skills I’ve learned in the previous steps.

What I learned from short story telling can be applied to novellas. What I learn from novellas could evolve into a novel. Thus far, that idea has been working. While I don’t want to be complacent, this approach is working thus far.

Star Wars Episode VII

As I drove into work this morning, I was thinking about the very thing that was every nerd’s mind right now. Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilms, and the upcoming new installment to the Star Wars franchise. Episode VII.

As I considered the possibilities, I couldn’t help but feel that there’s just no way the Star Wars movies could get worse after the most recent trilogy of episodes I through III. Web comic artist Zach Weiner(…smith) nailed the sentiments on the head with his tweet on the matter.

In her defense, she's probably the only Disney Princess with a blaster...

In her defense, she’s probably the only Disney Princess with a blaster…

The purchase is a blessing and a curse in my opinion. On one hand, Disney has had very impressive returns after purchasing Marvel. The downside is that Disney would have a lot of incentive to avoid some of the darker themes that were explored in the third episode and persisted through the original trilogy.

I honestly have very, very little idea what Episode VII would contain. My understanding is that the ideas and story for tales of a post-Imperial galaxy exist. Several novels suggest as much. But I really don’t know what to expect. Disney gave themselves a due date of 2015, so I’d like to think they had a game plan on the table. At least a script of somekind and a few ideas of what to look for cast wise.

To be honest, my favorite area of the Star Wars franchise is actually the awesome Knights of the Old Republic series by BioWare. The intriguing first game was so good, I beat it and immediately started a new character. While I haven’t touched the MMORPG, the single player games were fairly awesome and I hope Disney has the guts to continue making them. Perhaps even talk to BioWare about a new KotOR trilogy in the same continuous vein of Mass Effect.

While I don’t know if Disney can do as well as the original movie trilogy, I don’t think they can do as badly as the prequel trilogy. It will probably help that Lucas will not be directing it. Episodes V and VI were not directed by him for one. Guess we’ll find out in a couple of years.

Final Fantasy VII Remake Explained

History repeats! But not for these guys...

History repeats! But not for these guys…

Both Kotaku and IGN have released stories about the shareholders meeting over at Square Enix. And the reasoning they provide as to why they haven’t created a remake actually makes perfect sense: They have yet to make a Final Fantasy better than VII financially and critically anyway. Although in all fairness, the most financially successful Final Fantasy was the first MMORPG, XI.

I had to add financially and critically. There’s always that guy who is quick to say, “FF7 was not my favorite,” as though their opinion obviously meant all the difference in the world.

So the gist of what we’re told is that if they do a FF7 remake before topping the game, then the Final Fantasy series is finished. That would be admitting that they cannot do any better than their crown jewel of the past. So until Square Enix is in a dire financial situation or they finally do come out with a title that tops FF7, it’s not going to happen.

I, however, have a slightly different theory as to why Square Enix doesn’t want to do it. Pride.

Hironobu Sakaguchi left the company Squaresoft in 2004, after the colossal bomb that was Final Fantasy: The Spirit Within. Although he did not direct a game since FFV, his creative touches were felt in the well remembered VI and VII (and several others). To not make a game better than those Sakaguchi helped to create is to admit that they will never be as successful as they once were.

And that’s not a message of weakness Square Enix would want to send.