Thursday, April 26, 2007

If I Can't Say Something Nice...

On occasion, I need to remind myself not to be an asshole.

That is, if I want to become the sort of writer I admire. We've all heard the old saw "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all", but this was repeated to me by Jack Ketchum when I met him at NECON last year. Robert Bloch had given it as advice to him. I LOVE Robert Bloch's work, and his autobiography really makes it clear that he was a genuinely great human being. Someone I want to be like. And part of that is his kindness and generosity.

As I come into contact with more people who write and edit, I need to watch my mouth. Someone who didn't come off well today might well be putting together an anthology I want to be in tomorrow. Or hit it big. Or they might just be having a really bad day and could be a really interesing person. I just never know—but that's not really the point. We really need to be kinder to each other. Robert Heinlein goes to great lenghts to impress on his readers the importance of basic courtesy. I agree with this, but it's something I need to work on.

Today's Writing
600 words (finished chapter 6) on the novel

Today's Reading:
John Goldfarb, Please Come Home by William Peter Blatty
God of War II the Special Edition Game Guide

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Error #2: Print on Demand

There are few greater highs that publication. It's GREAT! When I get opublished, I tend to carry my book around obsessively for at least a week and when people show the slightest bit of interest in it, in such obvious ways as looking at me, or walking past me, I thrust it in their faces screaming "I WROTE SOMETHING IN THIS AND IT'S INCREDIBLE BUY A COPY NOW!" Only I'm such a spaz that it comes out as "IROTSOMTNGNTHISNDNCREDIBLBUYCOPNOW!".

And I want to make sure that I get that awesome feeling of publication as much as possible. 'Cause it's awesome.

Cthulhu Express which you can see on the left, is an actual physical book, and holding it in my hands gives me exactly the same pleasure as those of any other books with bindings that I've got work in. It is, however, Print on Demand, from Which means that nobody read it.

The problem with Lulu dot com is that there are a lot of people who use it to get that GREAT feeling of their own physical book in their hands. The current system of agents, slush piles, and rejection letters exists because not everybody writes well enough to get paid for it. The lure of lulu is that I don't have to go through all that. I get my stuff together, and in a few weeks, I can have my own novel, anthology of short stories, or whatever in my hands. And while it's a great feeling, I have to consider how much effort went into it, and how many people are going to read it.

Nobody read Cthulhu Express. It was on Lulu dot com for four months before RageMachine shut itself down, and in that time, it sold eleven non-contributor copies in that time. Eleven. And I know who bought three of them. Again, I could have written the world's best story, but without people to buy it and read it and discuss it and convince other people to read it, it's not going to sell enough copies for my royalties to be anything but pennies. I put effort and time into these stories. I want my time to be worth more than pennies.

POD has its uses. Every now and then I consider putting out a Whateley Family Bible and sending it to people for Christmas. Lulu would allow me to have an economical print run of forty books. So POD isn't some sort of evil presence in publishing, but it is not the same as selling a story to a venue like Clarkesworld or Weird Tales which will pay me in advance, by the word. And which people will subsequently hear about and read.

1,000 words on William Peter Blatty
300 words of reviews and essays for the EOD

Finished Razored Saddles (awesome book!)
Finished Which Way to Mecca, Jack

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Error #1: There is No Ladder

I used to perceive a ‘ladder’ to publication. First I would beg people to take my work, and they would print it for free. After some time doing that, I would have accumulated a series of non-paying anthologies, and from there I would move up a rung to onto the ‘token’ payment anthologies that pay between $5 and $10 per story. After I placed many stories in ‘token’ anthologies, I would tentatively step onto the next rung, semi-professional payment that pays between one and three pennies per word. Only then, when I had paid my dues and have the weight of several dozen stories pushing me on would I even dare to query a pro-pay magazine like Weird Tales or The Book of Dark Wisdom.

Not only is this not true, it’s self-defeating. I started on the lowest possible pay scale, and since my work got accepted there, I never even looked for anything better for that story. What, did I think I would take it to a higher-paying venue later? How stupid is that? An actually intelligent person who has thought about this starts with the highest-paying venue that would possibly take his work and then proceed down the pay scale. Because I’m going to stop with that sale, aren’t I? And the editors don’t really care who I am until I’m a name. Until then, they’re much more interested in my story than my other publications. A hundred stories in a hundred anthologies the editor has never read or heard of do me absolutely no good if my story is no good. And they’re not going to care if this is the first story I have ever written if it’s brilliant.

Let me show you where this thinking lead me. I recently received a copy of an anthology I placed my work in for free: Atlantean Pub’s The King in Yellow anthology.

First of all, Atlantean Pub has a free website. That’s OK, because not every publisher has to have a good website. However, EVERY publisher has pictures of their books, even if they have a really cheap website. Now, I’m, not getting down on Atlantean Pub. They never mislead me, I mislead myself. I never saw any pictures of their product, so when I assumed that they were going to be small but printing actual books, an assumption on my part that had no basis. I never saw a cover to a single one of their books, and I filled in the blanks with rosy dreams.

A few weeks ago, I received my copy of Atlantean Press’s King in Yellow, which no one has ever heard of, and no one is going to read because it has no ISBN. Thus, it cannot be sold to a bookstore, or even on Amazon. And in fact, it’s not even a book, it is in fact photocopies held together with a binder clip. I could have written the best King in Yellow story God has ever seen. No one is going to know because this isn’t actual publication.

The solution? As you see on the score sheet to your right: I’m, now shopping “Sire” as a reprint, and I make less money the next time I sell it. Meanwhile, I’ve missed other opportunities to get it into paying venues.

Publication is worth what I get paid for it. When I put something in an anthology that didn’t pay, I was competing with people who think their work can only be given away. I’m better than that, and my work is better than that.

Articles and reviews, 1,400 words

Which Way to Mecca, Jack by William Peter Blatty

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Why Flawed Diamonds?

I took the name of my blog from something Nick Mamatas posted to the Shocklines web board.

"Writers generally move from one to two and then manage to somehow crap out a little diamond of originality which sparks a personal response, and then finally some editor is enamored with story and accepts it. Then it's a bunch more rejections — some form and some personal, and maybe a second sale. Slowly the forms begin to disappear, and then the ratio of personal rejections to acceptances starts to shift in favor of acceptances as well." --Nick Mamatas

Thanks for the image, Nick, but he nailed perfectly the stage that I'm at. Something has sparked an editor's attention, I've got my first story out, and now I'm getting form rejection letters. Since they aren't that interesting, I'm not going to post them, but I do plan (with the publishers' permission) to post any personalized rejection letters that I get.

OK, next time, I start writing about the errors I have made in publishing. I consider that I've made quite a few, so that should keep me going for a good, long time.

Still reading:

JLB's Collected Fictions


Finished the essay for a friend at 549 words. Call it 40 words and a lot of polishing.

"Secret History of Earth": 699 Words

The Novel: 400 words

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Writing, Writing, Writing

Welcome to my blog.

I'm John Goodrich, this is my blog about writing and publishing my fiction. It is my sincere hope that by making my experiences in the publishing world available, someone else might aviod some of the pitfalls that I have experienced. I'm not saying that my approach is the right way for anyone else to market their own work. My marketing is a work in progress. As I keep this up, I will see what works and what doesn't.

The Score Sheet, on the right, is a listing of stories I'm currently shopping, as well as those that have alerady been sold. It's listed alphabetically, and it's just a coincidence that the top three have been sold. I suggest reading Brian Keene's World Domination 101 for good, practical advice on how to get a writing career started.

I will also include what I am currently reading and writing, and hopefully get some numbers in the writing bit. I can't write if I don't read any more than I can make pancakes without batter.

Currently Writing:
In the Morning: Essay for a friend 509 words
This Afternoon: The Novel: 650 words

Currently Reading:
Collected Fictions: JL Borges