And so it is time to make the move and after some excellent guidance from a couple of close friends, The Company Articles of Edward Teach/The Angaelian Apocalypse will be the first Twelfth Planet Press title published in this new format. I'm expecting the printer proofs to arrive today for this book and I am looking forward to seeing how it's turning out.
In the meantime, the very talented Thoraiya Dyer, author of one half of this double - The Company Articles of Edward Teach, put together this book trailer for her novelette.
And in response, Matthew Chrulew linked to this clip in Youtube by EvanFlagg for his The Angaelian Apocalypse
And probably these two clips give as much of an overview of this book as anything could.
For more information on Twelfth Planet Press visit us at www.twelfthplanetpress.com.
Over the last few years we've seen the rise of social networking sites like Flickr, Twitter, Facebook and so on. And I've been watching how people use these with great interest. I think like most new things, we all dive in and pick it up and shake it a little to see how it works and like most things, realise at some point that we've gone too far and pull back. We've all heard the stories about people who have been fired from jobs after posting inappropriate material on their Facebook pages like photos of them blind drunk or status updates of fun having whilst they've called in sick to work. And we've all rolled our eyes at that and thought how stupid.
But something I've been watching with interest is the balancing of social networking sites as personal and as "business" networks, where "business" is for publishing and may not be the writer/editor/publisher's full time, employed profession. There is a great danger in using accounts as both personal outlets directed at family, friends and peer support as well as the point of professional contact.
We all know now the importance of having an online presence in the publishing world these days. It's important to have a place where people can come find you, get in contact with you, touch base and do a bit of research on you (what have you written/published etc). But I think it's also quite easy to forget about the people who follow you, friend you and quietly read you without reminding you through comments and feedback. And there is a lot of danger in thinking your audience is only the people who are interacting with you online.
Over the last year there have been more than a few instances for me of reading material posted, blogged, status updated or tweeted that have turned me off wanting or being likely to work with particular writers again. I'm an editor and I want to work with brilliantly talented writers writing work I really believe in. But I'm also a publisher and I want to make sure that the writers we publish are going to not only promote and protect our branding and reputation but more importantly, not tarnish or damage it. And it's now interesting that the way writers behave online is factored into editorial decisions.
I remember being made to feel very stupid by a writer for having bought and published their work. I personally thought the story in question was very well written and I know how much work went into the production of it and also that it was overlooked for awards and in reviews. That sadly is just how it rolls. But the way this writer spoke about the story and bragged about how it was whipped up overnight and that the writer was surprised that the editor bought it considering x, y and z, made me question why I had bought the story too. Not because I thought it wasn't a great story but because I didn't think I or the book or the press deserved to be mocked that way in public. That was the very first moment for me that changed the way I make purchasing decisions. The way a writer is going to promote, or detract, the finished work became a much higher element of the decision process.
A couple of other instances relate to the rejection process. Rejecting work is not something I enjoy and it's not something I do for fun or flippantly. I greatly value it when writers go to the trouble of writing a specific work for me or who take the time to submit work for consideration. And I know how personal the process of showing new work to someone outside is. But now, with the advent of the social network, as an editor you can watch the whole process of sending the rejection, knowing about when the person gets home to read the email and how they react via what they tweet or update their Facebook account with. And I wonder sometimes if writers genuinely forget that the editor in question is one of their "friends" on the network or if they don't forget and the remark is intended and pointed. Either way, it's read and felt too. Just like the rejection.
So for me, I think all this has made me try and be more careful and more aloof from the social networking. I certainly try to be more mindful of the vast array of readers of my various accounts.
Related to yesterday's post, as Twelfth Planet Press has grown, the cold pitches to me for projects has steadily increased. And related to what I was saying yesterday about always being expected to be further along than I actually am, I get a lot of pitches for novels. Additionally, I get a few pitches for single author collections. And often I get writers who have been asked for one thing, trying to bulk it up to something else - for example, writers seem to think that the novella series is about publishing word count and not form and I get a few requests to submit several short stories, linked or not, to make up the 20k to 40 k wordcount. As though I won't notice they are trying to hoodwink me into a short story collection from the novella series. Every anthology reading period, I get random writers asking me if they can submit outside the submission guidelines. Mostly this is at the shorter end of the spectrum since the novella/novelette reading period is always open to submissions. The other common pitch is related to Horn - that I published noir detective so can they submit this other noir detective novel (usually) or that I published this graphic, grotesque horror piece so can they submit x, y or z.
And I really hate saying no. But I also really hate people wasting my time or trying to talk themselves into special treatment or consideration outside the guidelines that everyone else is adhering to. In terms of requests to submit outside the submission guidelines, because mostly writers are asking to submit flash fiction, which clearly shows they are completely unfamiliar with me, my tastes and anything I have published, I am now very comfortable with refusing to consider the submission at all. Surely the first lesson in writing to task is about learning to write within the specified guidelines?
But all the other kinds of cold pitches have really challenged me. Mostly because, in truth, a brilliant piece of work transcends any guidelines or plans that I have for the press. Ultimately you want to publish the story or work that everyone is going to be talking about and that can be any form or any length or any genre. And you need to read the work to assess it for that potential.
But my time is limited. I have a lot of projects already in progress. And I have a very clear vision for Twelfth Planet Press and where it is going and the kind of titles I want to publish. I choose my single author collections very carefully. I am carefully selecting the range and variety of titles that I put out both in a year and over time to fit what we do to the brand of the press I am creating. And I have bought projects to fill the next 18 months of publishing. I am in neither a hurry to acquire new works nor wish to feel bullied into spending money and time on works that I don't believe in or don't fit the vision for the press. And often, it must be said, the cold pitches, followed up by queries and sometimes needling, can feel a little like bullying. Ultimately, there is a lot of hustling in publishing and learning to survive is as much about learning how to be immune to the hustle as it is to learning how to hustle yourself.
What does all this mean? As a writer, you have to learn to send cold pitches, to query and to try to get your work seen by editors and publishers. For me, as a publisher, I have had to learn to keep my vision of what my press is, and what I want it to be, very firmly in the front of my mind when I read these. And to feel confident when turning down projects which don't fit this vision.
For more information on Twelfth Planet Press, visit our website at: www.twelfthplanetpress.com
Something that's been on my mind lately is how the needs and push for growth of Twelfth Planet Press always seem to come before there is budget or cashflow for them. My main goals for 2010 were to expand the number of titles I published for the year, to push the quality of what I published and how it was presented and for the press itself to be self sustaining in terms of cashflow. This was the first year that I didn't pay bills from my personal accounts but rather tried to balance the business cashflow on its own. This was the first year that I took the training wheels off to see if it could work on its own. My feelings being, if projects continually need outside investment, then the press is not financially viable. And this would not meet one of my main overarching objectives.
So this year has been spent walking a tightrope and balancing incomings and outgoings and timing of these in order to see if the whole thing could seriously work. And dreaming of the things I wish I could afford. As the number of titles grow, the amount of work also grows and at a different rate. I'm very lucky to have a number of awesome people who volunteer their time behind the scenes to help me get titles to the printer. There is a lot of work to get a book to publication including layout, design, proofing and so on. And I've been lucky to be able to share some of that work with others. Alas though, the work for a title doesn't finish once it's gone to the printer. There is a whole heap of post production jobs that need to happen and it's some of these that I really wish I could afford to bring help in for.
As an indie publisher you wear all kinds of hats. Hats that really are starting to bug me though include trying to coordinate with couriers for the delivery of the boxes of published books. OMG! Couriers won't deliver to your post box, which would be the most convenient because my postmaster is more than happy to be the person to accept my deliveries. But couriers also refuse to give any time for delivery that is remotely close to the actual time they will deliver. This year the games I've had to play with them for receipt of my deliveries have driven me mad. Most of the time the way it works is, I wait til they leave a card saying they tried to deliver X. Then I call them and ask for them to redeliver the next day and leave the card for them signed to allow them to deliver without person. So sometimes the whole thing can take 3 days to receive the goods. And leaving someone else's place as the place of delivery doesn't work because they don't stick to the time they are delivering and noone else stays at home all day waiting for a courier either. Worse still have been the attempts of the couriers picking up boxes that needed to go back to the printer and then come back to me. One such case I was told I didn't need to be there for the pickup but then I did and the whole thing became a several days long farce. Oh for office space that includes reception!
Anything that requires me being present in person for is difficult. And as the press grows, the need for me to be somewhere in person is increasing. My business hours for TPP are something like 6.30pm to midnight. I have a day job and so this is the thing I do outside of that. But the rest of the world seems intent on treating my business like a real business. Which is both very exciting and frightening but also frustrating because it's starting to stretch into needing my presence during standard business hours. For all kinds of things like banking, taking phonecalls from printers and bookstores and for publicity reasons and so on.
Once upon a time, the business took up the space of a couple of papers and some folders on my laptop. These days it takes up most of my filing space in my cabinets, various surfaces across my house and large stacks of boxes. I dream of warehousing space to at least be able to stack everything in an order that makes sense. At the moment, different titles are stored in different rooms of my house and hidden in all kinds of places so that my home still resembles a nice homey place to live. But that limits the efficiency of the TPP workspace. I dream of having storage catalogued and organised and having packing and shipping areas and then office space with neatly organised files and accounts and so on.
I also dream of someone else taking over organising orders and shipping and someone else to do accounts. Hey, I can dream!
The thing is though, there are always needs which come up before I can even think of any of these things. And they too always seems to require more than cashflow can afford. It's a funny thing to try and elaborate or explain but whenever I achieve or reach X, the first thing that I come up against is the request or pointing out that I really should be doing Y. And all I want to say is, but I've been working on X! It is sort of tied up in the needs coming before the being able to afford it. I'm constantly shocked when people think that TPP is more or further along than it is. And when I mention this shock to others, they point out that that's a result of what we have achieved so far. So examples of what I mean is being approached for jobs like various editorial staff (I wish I had the money for this), expectations about distribution (which requires TPP to be bigger than it currently is), requests to open accounts with TPP for supply, being on Amazon (which I have tried several times and wonder if I am looking at this problem wrong), advertising, promotion, sponsorship and all kinds of merchandising etc etc.
I spent a long time railing against the feelings of not having achieved Y and never really getting the kudos for reaching X. Until I realised that the people pushing me to go for Y are doing so *because* I have reached X. Now I take the praise as implied when/because people take the time to suggest something I should try or let me know about something they think I should know about or push me to shoot for something that I think is way beyond current capabilities. Because in truth, I want to go further and reach higher. And that it's a constant process of building and growing from where TPP currently is. Still, it took a long time to stop seeing it as criticism or coming short :) And a long time to see that maybe publishing always costs more than the current budget and a large component is taking a deep breath, closing your eyes and leaping off the cliff.
For more information on Twelfth Planet Press, visit our website at: www.twelfthplanetpress.com
I'm currently nose to the grindstone for Twelfth Planet Press. I'm working on the final two titles to be released for 2010 which weren't quite ready to come out at Worldcon. They are both novella doubles - The Company Articles of Edward Teach/The Angaelian Apocalypse and Above/Below. They're both in their very very final stages before going to the printer. Now it's really just in the final proofing and final tweaking of the laid out manuscripts. And I always forget just how long finishing and signing off books takes. I'm hoping the first of these will go to the printer's before I head off to World Fantasy Con on Wednesday. Hey, it could happen! And I'll take Above/Below with me to work on whilst I'm away - hopefully I'll have internet access to work back and forth with Amanda.
But having the final two books still on my work books means I am currently working on 19 titles - I have 17 titles scheduled for 2011, with the Twelve Planets counting as 12 titles. It's been interesting so far, workload wise and I think there will be several posts to come discussing this and a couple of other aspects of growing a press.
At the moment though, what's on my mind is the process of buying those 17 titles. Most of them are in fact bought and filled, I've been working on the 2011 lineup for most of this year. But some of them have been notional - I want to keep the novella series ongoing, for example, so I knew I would have one, I just hadn't bought a work for it up until a couple of weeks ago.
It's no secret that I have writers whose work I love and whom I love working with. Having the chance to work on new projects with them is a lot of the reason why I still show up at TPP every day. I love the process of working back and forth on a new project or them dropping me something new to read to see what I think. I love peering over their shoulders on their latest works and seeing where they're up to or where they're taking their work. The bit I've been really not liking is turning down work by writers whom I love. It's actually quite an odd feeling to come across a piece by a writer you adore and finding that it just doesn't work for you or that you don't think it's up to what they usually write or that it's actually not quite there. And in the past month or so as I've been working my way through the very large pile of submissions that have been waiting for me to get to since long before Worldcon, I've been having to write some rejection notes. More than a few. And yet again, I am struck by what it means to be a professional. Without exception, these writers will actually meet these rejections with "oh thank goodness you [agree/you don't just buy all my work, you actually like the work of mine that you buy/you noticed that wasn't quite working/see it too, yes this has been giving me trouble]". And never once do you get those other reactions, that less professional writers will give you. Reinforcing of course, the enjoyment of the process when working with the right people.
Working on The Twelve Planets has been really interesting in terms of having 4 pieces by the one writer next to each other. I guess it's no different from a full single author collection, especially one that includes 4 to 6 new works. But in those you still pepper the new work in between the reprints. Here, it's 4 new pieces up alongside each other. The weakest work, the trunk thrown in or the one story that didn't quite get there on time, really stands out as noticeable. I'm really enjoying this editorial process as I'm really learning a lot.
In September Twelfth Planet Press will publish a boutique collection of short stories by Marianne de Pierres. Glitter Rose features a tragically romantic set of interlinked fantasy stories set on an imaginary island on the Australian coastline.
The collection will be a signed, limited edition, hardcover with beautiful internal illustrations by Australian and American artists.
Details for pre-order can be found here: http://www.twelfthplanetpress.
Including bios for all the contributors was always part of the project brief. It's a chance for each writer to take 10 secs with each Sprawl reader and tell them something about themselves, their writing and most importantly, where else that reader should go to find more of their work.
At Last Short Story, we have had the opportunity to read A LOT of author bios over our time. For something that seems quite flippant - one paragraph after maybe 7000 words of writing - it can be the most memorable part of the experience. There are times when the author bios are the most entertaining parts of an anthology or magazine. That usually says a lot more about the anthology or magazine than the bios but it brings forward something really crucial, I think.
I often ask for bios to include in projects and make no comment about what is submitted in return. An author is entitled to provide any information they like to promote themselves. But the key word in the last sentence was "promote". Afterall, these bios are directed at the reader. And as a reader, I love reading author bios. They can be entertaining and tell me the kind of setting the author lives in, who they live with, what kind of pets they have and whether or not they like to knit. And after reading a paragraph like that I might think, "Aww that's nice, isn't it? They have three furry cats and they're all called Bob. Cute."
Whatever. Because that author has missed a vital opportunity. If I enjoyed a writer's work, I am reading their bio to find out where I can find more of their work. And if I bought the work I am currently reading their bio in, chances are, I am more than likely to go away and buy something else, be that a collection, an anthology or a novel. I can't do that if all the author has told me is their favourite colour and whether they are a cat or a dog person. They have chosen to end our relationship because they didn't leave me their calling card. And more importantly, they have told me, as a publisher, that they do not take every single opportunity they get to promote their work.
“One Saturday Night, With Angel” by Peter M Ball forthcoming in Sprawl.
Story read by Nick Evans.
And that led me to thinking about how many writers concentrate on making the sale. But that this is not the final stage in the writing and publishing process. A story is very rarely ready for layout on submission. I've had the chance to work with some outstanding names and none of them have ever not needed at least a minor copy edit of their work. A few names spring to mind where I've edited their work to add one comma in the whole piece but that is so very rare. Those writers are considered to be at the top of the local scene. Generally, the bigger the name writer I've worked with, the cleaner their work. But even then, they still need at least a copy edit, sometimes more. And every single time I work with a writer like this, I get a chance to watch (and learn) true professionalism. These writers never complain or whinge or write long winded paragraphs on why you are wrong. Sometimes, they do not want to accept one particular change or other, and they simply will say, "I don't want to change this." And as an editor, it's not my job to rewrite the work or change the style. As long as it's not related to house style or a spelling, grammatical or punctuational error, I tend to let that edit go.
Sometimes a work will have intrigued me and pulled me in but it might not work in one place or might lack a punch or the pacing might be off. And I enjoy the back and forth of the rewriting process, especially with pro writers. More often than not, they will agree with you that they know it's not quite working and they appreciate the new set of eyes. The better the writer, the less feedback you need to give and it always amazes me how I will give one or two lines of direction and the story will come back completely rewritten, sometimes with a completely new plot or maybe I can't even tell what the writer has changed and yet suddenly it works. But again, this process is fun because it's constructive.
However, this is not always how the editing process goes with writers. And what I think some, especially new, writers are not aware of is, that the way they behave during the editing process absolutely determines whether they will ever make another sale to that editor. Editors are very busy and the one piece of writing they are working on with one writer is not the only thing they're working on. There are usually many things coming in and going out daily for work and decisions and so on. The editor is working on a timeline that might not remotely seem obvious to anyone else - maybe the layout person is going on holidays or the printer has given a specific deadline for a specific turnaround, or the uncorrected proofs need to go out to review by a certain date. Essentially, the one writer in an anthology or magazine issue is not the centre of it all. And the more difficult that writer makes the editing process of their story, particularly when every other writer in the anthology is promptly and systematically taking their edits/reworks, working on them, handing them back, accepting their proofs, sending in their contacts etc and this one writer is still arguing over whether a particular paragraph is slowing down the pacing or not, the less fun that writer is making it. In fact, that writer is becoming what we like to call a Pain in the Arse. And the next time their name comes up in the submission pile, the very first thing the editor is going to recall is the pain associated with editing them. And then the editor is going to weigh up how good the submission needs to be in order to make the pain of dealing with that writer worthwhile. Now, maybe the next submissions is AWESOME! And if it is, the editor will probably take it. But chances are, unless it *is* AWESOME and requires the most minor of edits, the editor is highly unlikely to take a chance on this writer and their work again. That is, if the editor thinks, "hey this could be a really great story if..." they will be more likely to find a new writer whose work could be really great if ... and edit the unknown than to choose to go into a process that will take 2 weeks longer than everyone else to deliver a story which was not AWESOME! and which hurt a lot more than it should.
Until the contract is signed and payment made, an editor is not obliged to take your story. If agreement cannot be reached on edits, an editor has the right to pull the story from the project. I have done this myself, and never regretted it. Usually in this case, it's because I bought a story that I thought needed work and made the sale on this provision. The writer might have thought, "Well, I'll say yes but then I won't change anything" or they might think that the work needed was less than the editor is suggesting. In the times this has happened to me, the writer in question has tended to refuse any and all editorial feedback, which as far as I was concerned was a breach of the agreement for the sale in the first place, and at this kind of a stand off, I'd rather pull the story than print something that I don't believe I can honestly sell to my readers.
I personally have a list of writers I won't work with again. And editors talk to each other and they swap names on their lists. As my workload gets bigger and deadlines get tighter, I just have less time to give to writers who are too precious to work with. No work is perfect on submission. No work would not benefit from the input of an editor. And very very few writers will ever make it in the business if they think that they are the brilliant exception to the rule. And those writers who do despite how they behave, do so BECAUSE they ARE brilliant. And when brilliant sells thousands of copies, no editor/publisher is going to mind the Pain in the Arse that much. But until then, I just don't really have the time for pain that doesn't deliver.
I have a second list too - a list of writers of extreme professionalism and consistent quality who take deadlines seriously. These writers can be trusted to help pull me out of a jam if say I suddenly have a space to fill in a project. They are also the writers who when they come to me and suddenly need an extension on something, and have a valid reason, I know that I will see the work on the new agreed deadline date. And these are the writers who I am more likely to save spots for in projects or allow extensions to submission deadlines. These are reliable writers who turn in polished pieces of great work. They work to brief, to deadline and with the editor. They make working with them fun and a desirable repeat performance. And some of them have become very close friends of mine through the experience. These are the writers who keep me enthused and motivated and who remind me why I do this on a daily basis. And these are the writers whom I proudly believe in and make it a joy to promote their work.