How an editor made my day.

This year, I had high hopes for #DVpit. I’d just finished polishing a new manuscript. My query was in good shape. I’d struggled with my pitches, but thought I finally had them down. I scheduled them, went to work, and tried to not to sneak peeks at twitter between each student I tutored.

My try was feeble and I checked the internet every chance I got. What did I find?

No agent <3’s from #DVpit.

Short story rejections, including one I had been a little too optimistic about.

It wasn’t even lunch time, and I was miserable.

At some point in in the midst of it all, I opened up a 100-word-story I’d  been working on for a while. I made a few changes based on some feedback and sent it off to an anthology — one that was going to consist entirely of dark drabbles.

Within an hour, I got a response. I read, “I have enjoyed your work to date,” and froze.

Did an editor just recognize my name? I did a little “happy dance” at my desk, which really is just me smiling and bouncing in my seat. My fellow tutor was with a student, so she didn’t notice.

I relished in that thought for a few seconds before reading on to find that not only had I previously published in the same venue as this editor, but he had read my work in another magazine.

I paused again, afraid that despite actually knowing my name, he was still going to reject my story.

Thankfully, he didn’t. He suggested some edits, which I promptly made. The story was accepted, and will be included in Drabbledark along with some of my favorite short story authors.

#DVpit may have been a bust, but knowing that someone who I’ve never met in person new me by my stories was an amazing feeling. Even if it had turned into a rejection, I wouldn’t have cared. As a newish writer, being recognized is a huge victory.

As a writer, take every little victory you get, no matter how small. When you are being battered down by rejections, let that victory be the tiny candle that light up your darkness. As a reader, engage with writers, especially the ones who are just starting out. Tell them when you like their stories. Let them know that you know they exist.

A single sentence can make or break someone’s day.

 

Book Deal = Happier than a Puppy Off- Leash

Power Surge Aesthetic pitch
A visual pitch I made for Power Surge during the last #kidpit. 

This blog post should’ve been up a few days ago, but with storms, a family member’s health issues, and the start of NaNoWriMo, I neglected to write it. However, if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, then you probably already know the information I am going to announce.

I signed a contract with NineStar Press to publish my young adult, urban fantasy novel, Power Surge.

Power Surge was the first novel I began writing with any amount of seriousness, but it was the second one I finished. It’s been revised at least about a dozen times, and if you put the first and final draft side by side, I’m not sure the two would have a complete sentence in common.

I started querying Power Surge to agents on Oct. 31, 2016. A little over 100 of them rejected it. I made a ton of mistakes, got some requests, but they all turned into rejections one way or another. Later, I switched my efforts to publishers with a fresh query and freshly edited manuscript. I got more requests, and eventually, I received to offers. On Oct. 30 2017, I signed a contract with NineStar Press.

I have not figured out my exact stats yet, but I had 72 outright rejections, 45 agents or editors whose lack of a reply was equivalent to a rejection, and 3 instances where I withdrew my manuscript because the deadline I set to respond had passed. Of all my submissions, I only had 6 full requests and two partials if I am counting right. However, many publishers, including the one I signed with, have authors submit the whole manuscript up front.

I kept tract of everything in a table in Microsoft word and am now wishing I had just used power point. Eventually, I will organize my data better and get better numbers. I’m going to do this with my other manuscripts before the amount of submissions gets out of control.

If these numbers are right, that means I sent out 120 submissions with a 6.6% request rate for agents and publishers combined. That rate was much lower than the 10% I was told to aim for, but in the end, it didn’t matter. I received not one, but two offers of publication with no agent.

After researching both publishers, I decided to sign with NineStar. People said better things about them in the absolute write forums. They pay higher royalties. I’ve worked with them before on smaller projects. More importantly, I got the sense that the editor I am going to be working with really understood Power Surge and is the right person to help me make it shine.

I don’t have a release date yet, though I am assuming it will be close to a year before Power Surge is published. Even this early in the game, I am confident NineStar Press is the perfect home for Power Surge.

This is the first step on a long journey, and so far, it has taught me that without enough patience and persistence, anything is possible. Right now, I’m as happy as Tavi (my puppy) when he gets to run off leash.

Now, it’s time to get back to NaNoWriMo2017!

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Celebrate Every Victory, No Matter How Small

NSP-Halloween2017-HalfBreeds-f500.jpgIn an industry full of rejection, it is important for writers to celebrate every victory, large or small. Today, I’m celebrating because my novelette, Half Breeds, is available for pre-order.

It may not really be a “book” or full-length novel, it may not even be available in print, but it is a standalone piece. It’s not me and twenty other authors sharing a virtual container. It’s my story, carefully edited, polished, and proof read, by the editorial team at NineStar Press and myself.

It’s the first time one of my stories has ever been for sale by itself, and I am ecstatic! I’m posting it all over social media, emailing my critiques groups and trying very hard not to dance around the tutoring center at work. I’m eating ALL THE COOKIES!

Some people might look at me think, “What’s the big deal, it’s not really much longer than your short stories, and it’s only $.99. You aren’t exactly going to make much money off of it.”

They wouldn’t be wrong. The piece is short. It’s not expensive. I’d have to sell hundreds of copies to make the $.08 or $.10 a word I got for some of my best short story sales. But what if I do sell that many copies? What if, a couple years down the road, when I’ve published more books, people come back and buy this one too?

While I eventually need to make more money of writing if I want it to be my job, not my hobby, right now, its not so much about making quick money as it is about getting my name out there and building up my list of published works.

Publishing is a slow thing.

Writing becomes a career when an author continuously publishes books. It takes time, patience, and persistence.

This little Halloween novelette isn’t going to make or break my career, and it doesn’t have a ton of monetary value, but it is a start. It’s a story that found a good home with a good publisher, and that makes it a success worth celebrating.

Today, I’m not going to worry about the rejections that have come and will come. I’m going to focus on this victory and know that one day, it will be a novel up I’m announcing.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36308341-half-breeds

https://ninestarpress.com/product/half-breeds/

©2017 Sara Codair

4 Down, 496 Left to Go / 7 Standards for Publishers

Last night I launched my first Publishizer campaign. I received four pre-orders ranging from $8 to $45. I thought that was good night, but my experience selling online is with jewelry, not books. When selling on Etsy, I was thrilled if I had four orders in one evening.

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 10.44.41 AM.pngWhile I’m happy with the orders I have so far, and really appreciate the support people have shown, I still have a long way to go. My goal is to get 500 orders by August 8th since that is what I need in order for  Publishizer  to query my book to top, traditional publishers publishers. I’d be completely happy with an offer from a small or indie press too.  Publishizer queries them when I hit 250 pre-orders.

However, I will not take an offer from “service” or “hybrid” publishers.

I tried to publish a book with a hybrid publisher last year. They got me really excited, but by book never even went to edits. Its been almost a year since I heard from anyone at that company and I’m not sure they even still exist. The best I can hope for is that they forget about me, so  when my contract expires I can try publishing the book elsewhere.

A bad experience is not the only reason I’m avoiding hybrids, though. From what I understand, they use print on demand and other self-publishing methods. Yes, they edit for you, design a cover and do some minimal marketing, but they are also taking a large chunk of the sales. They’re not saving writers any money.

I suppose if one knows nothing about editing or cover design, and has no platform a hybrid or service publisher might bel helpful. For me, not so much. I already have a cover for my book. I have a platform. I even have an editor. What I don’t have is a giant network of Facebook friends willing to throw their money at me. I need a publisher that is going to get my book in the hands people I’ve never met before, one that will expose me to new readers.

I value my writing. I want to build a career off of it. I need to be selective about who publishes my work. After spending some time in Absolute Write’s Bewares, Background Check and Recommendations forum, I’ve come with a seven criteria any publisher I sign with must meet:

  1. The publisher must not charge the writer anything, ever.
  2. The publisher must provide multiple rounds of professional editing.
  3. The publisher must market my book in ways I cannot do on my own.
  4. The owner, editors, PR people and designers should have prior experience in publishing.
  5. The website must be geared towards readers, not perspective writers.
  6. The covers must be beautiful and professionally designed.
  7. The books for sale must have decent amazon rankings and reviews.

My campaign with Publishizer is a new adventure for me — a new path through the publishing word — but I will still hold any offers I get to the same standards as any I get through more traditional methods. If I get under 50 pre-orders, I do have the option to refund my readers. If I get more than 50, but do not get any offers I approve of, then this will turn into my first experience with self-publishing.

Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed my post and want to support my writing journey, please pre-order Earth Reclaimed at https://publishizer.com/earth-reclaimed/

Cats and Email Apps = Bad Combination

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“Look at how cute and innocent I am. I’d never send emails on you!”

I’m pretty sure my cat just spammed my entire gmail contacts list — meaning everyone I’ve corresponded with on gmail. If you got an email from me you didn’t want today – I apologize. If your curious how Goose managed to spam my contacts, read on.

 

Earlier in the year, I wrote a detailed book proposal for Earth Reclaimed, which is one of my novels-in-progress. I used it to apply for a writer-residence-program at the Boston Public Library. I didn’t get in.

When I saw Publishizer was hosting a proposal contest, I realized the one I had written more or less met their guidelines. After doing a few google searches and not finding any red flags, I made some revisions, and created a proposal on their site.

Screen Shot 2017-07-08 at 10.46.29 AM.pngPublishizer is kind of like Kickstarter, but for books. People can use to get pre-orders for works they are self-publishing, however, if an author gets  enough pre-orders, they can also get deals with traditional and indie publishers.

I’m still querying my complete, polished novels to agents. This novel is completely unrelated to those. I thought that while I am trying to make something happen with those projects, I can take a completely different path with this one.

Today, I was getting the campaign ready to launch. One step involved emailing my contacts to see if they want to subscribe for updates. I allowed the app to connect to my contacts list. By default, it had all the contacts checked off. I was carefully going through, unselecting agents and literary magazines who I did not want to bother.

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Mischief Managed

I had only deselected a few people when Goose jumped up on my keyboard and walked across the enter key.

Agents and editors do not like getting mass emails from writers who are trying to promote their books. In fact, many of them tweet about how much they hate it. When I see those tweets, I would think, what kind of idiot would spam agents with their self-published book promotions.

Today, I am one of those idiots.

Not because I intentionally spammed people, but because I let an app connect to my contacts with the intent of sending a group email.

I’ve been pacing around my house in a panic, thinking this is going to lead to rejections. I need to stop. Hopefully, agent’s and editor’s spam filters will catch this so they do not get mad at me. And maybe, some half-forgotten acquaintances I’ve lost touch with will pre-order my book.

Later this weekend, when I officially launch, I will post updates on my blog.

Update: Once I calmed down and asked people if they got my email, no one had actually gotten the email. I logged back onto the site I sent the email from and discovered that Goose had sent a “preview” and it only went to my email account. I am very, very, relieved!

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And Goose needs new mischief to cause….

©2017 Sara Codair

 

A few words about Alternative Truths

I’ve been in my fair share of anthologies, but none of them compare to my experience in Alternative Truths. I’ve worked with good editors and great editors. I’ve been in the company of writers better than me. However, I have not previously had the pleasure of working with a group as engaged and enthusiastic as the Alternative Truth team.

Every time I log onto Facebook and see a new notification, I hope it is for this anthology’s Facebook page. I love knowing that even in the face of a political disaster, people are still writing, and using that as a way to resist.

The writers and editors are committed to this book. They do so much more than share it on social media. They brainstorm places that might review it, they help write press releases and go out in the world and do readings.

Because of the timing, I haven’t been as involved as some of the others, but I have tried to read and participate in comment threads between students and share it on social media when I can.

I haven’t even read the whole anthology yet. I haven’t read much that wasn’t written by students in a few weeks, but I’m trying to sneak stories from this anthology in whenever I can.

The first story is absolutely brilliant. I can’t wait to read the rest!

The groups’ enthusiasm, dedication, talent, and love for the work has made this a success. Please support us by buying a copy and leaving a review.

I’m honored to have my story surrounded by the words of these amazing people!

Can on only child mentality be the key to a successful writing career?

Writing and Publishing with an Only child Mentality

By Sara Codair

Only children, especially those of the millennial generation, have a reputation for being spoiled: needy, narcissistic, socially awkward brats who always get what they want.

While some of the stereotypes may be true for some people, only children have strengths too. We are often comfortable being on our own, imaginative, and self-motivate.

Many of the writers I interact with in “real world,” meaning people I speak to in-person, not online, often seem to marvel at my ability turn out a high volume of stories, handle rejection, persist, and get my work published.

While I’ve been writing since I was old enough to hold a pen, I’ve only been publishing for a little over a year. I’ve done well for my first year, but I still have a long way to go before I reach my goal of being a full-time, professional fiction writer. I’m starting to think that my initial success, and potential for further successes, is tied into my only child mentality.

To start off with, I’m used to getting my way.

“No” was not a word I liked hearing as a child, and often, I could turn a “no” from either parent into a “yes.” At first, I worried this would hurt me. I do hate rejections, but more a market rejects me, the more determined I am to get published by that market. I know I cannot argue with rejections, so I just keep writing new stories so I can send that editor more stories.

I’ve been sending Daily Science Fiction at least one story a month for the past year, and in December, I made it to their second round for the first time. In the end, they didn’t buy my story, but I know I came close, and sooner or later, they will buy one of my stories.

This past fall, I got a rejection from Dark Magic: Witches, Hackers and Robots, an anthology I wanted to be, so I sent them another story, and got another rejection, then sent them a third story, and got an acceptance.

Growing up getting the things I wanted didn’t turn me into a weak, whiny person who cries when someone tells her no. It taught me that persistence, determination, and hard work lead to success.

In addition to being stubbornly persistent, my imagination and comfort with solitude also help me write. When there weren’t other kids to play with, I would entertain my self by making up stories. When there were kids, or adults willing to play like kids, I often directed them in acting out my stories. It was like Live Action Role Playing (LARPing) using my imagination instead of dice or game cards.

Making up stories is a habit I never got out of. I do it when I am sitting in traffic, running, waiting for an appointment and trying to follow asleep. Whenever the current task I am doing is not occupying my full attention, I have a story going in my head, and I don’t mind staying home on a Friday night to type out the story I made while commuting instead of socializing, especially since my friends aren’t really into LARPing.

Even the worst qualities associated with only children can be useful.

A small amount of narcissism can be useful, or almost necessary for anyone who goes into novel writing. The concept writing/publishing is narcissistic at its roots. I have to be a little in love with my self and my words in order to think that anyone would want to PAY for the things I made up while sitting on Boston traffic.

Some might say this is simply confidence, but to me, confidence is believing in your skill to write and tell a story. Believing your imagination is something that needs to not only be shared, but also sold, crosses the line. As long as it doesn’t get out of hand, a drop of narcissism can be the difference between wishing you were writer and actually becoming one.

Like other aspiring writers, I have plenty of self-doubt and anxiety. However, I think the difference between me and my colleagues who “want” to write but never finish anything is that I have that annoying drop of narcissism and entitlement that allows me to believe I can and should sell my work.

I’ve grown up believing that with enough persistence, I can get anything I want. Rejection discourages some writers, but I am fueled by it. This mentality has gotten me published in token and semi-pro markets, and its even led to a few pro-sales. Hopefully, it will eventually lead to a career writing novels.

The Dreaded Short Story Query

The Dreaded Short Story Query

By Sara Codair

Querying short stories is the most stressful part of the publication process for me.

The word query has a slightly different meaning in the world of short stories than it does for novels.When you query an agent of publisher about a novel, you are essentially submitting a cover letter and sample to see if they are interested. However, when you submit a short story, you generally include an extremely brief cover letter and the full manuscript. Writers refer to this as a submission, not a query.

 

The short story query is actually a follow up letter. If the publisher does not respond to the story in their advertised timeframe, then you are allowed, and in some cases, expected to follow up with an email. For me, this is more stressful than the actual submission.

The longer a market takes to respond to my story, the more I start over-analyzing their silence. Did they forget about my story? Did they put it in their maybe pile? Are they just really backlogged? Any of these are equally possible.

If they are just backlogged, I feel bad adding more material to their reading list, even if it is just one email, so I always keep my query email short.

I take cues from their submission guidelines regarding how and when I can query. Most publications will provide some information about querying in their submission guidelines. For example, Firefly has this near the end of their guidelines: “if a month has passed from the day you have submitted to us and you haven’t heard from us, please feel free to send a query with either “Query” or “What The Heck” in the subject line. We find the latter more cathartic.”

I queried them once, but in the end, they were just backlogged and rejected my story. Other markets, like the Sockdolager and Museum of Science Fiction, have responded to queries telling me my story has made it past their first round and is being held for further consideration. The most successful querying experience I had was with Helios Quarterly as it turned into an acceptance.

Some markets have made querying unnecessary with extremely specific guidelines and efficient submission managing systems that allow writers to track their stories progress through the queue. However, many smaller and/or new markets can not afford said software, so they rely on email.

The best advice I can offer is keep it short, and make sure you read the guidelines first. If a market says “don’t query until three months have passed” then make sure three months have passed before you query.

Most of my queries look something like this:

Dear Editor (s),

I sent you my story, “The Best Short Ever,” on June 4, 2016, and have not heard anything. Could you please confirm you received it and provide an update on its status?

Thank you,

Sara

Or

Dear Editor (s),

I sent you my story, “The Best Short Ever,” on June 4, 2016, and have not heard from you. Are you still considering it?

Thank you,

Sara

If I addressed my cover letter to a specific person, I will use their name. Otherwise, “Dear Editors” works fine.

I’ve never had an editor get made at me for querying. Most of the responses I get are sympathetic or apologetic. If a market says you can query after X days or months have passed, then do it. Just keep your letter short and polite. It will give you peace of mind and remind the editor you exist.

Feedback is a Two-Sided Coin

Every writer needs feedback, and I am not exception. I hunt for it more than my cat hunts for bugs. However, I was recently reminded that I really need to be careful with how I use and respond to it in the same way that Goose needs to realize its okay to hunt flies, but not bees. If I’m not careful about what feedback I take, I might just get stung.

Feedback comes from people. People are all unique and different from each other. They have different preferences. One person may hate a story another loves so every writer needs to be careful with how he or she uses feedback. Three personal rejections I received for the same  story illustrate this fairly well.

Rejection A: “Thank you for giving me a chance to read “Berserker.” The opening scene of this grabbed me and it held my attention to the end, and I think it’s an interesting premise, but overall the story doesn’t quite work for me. In part, the changes of becoming a mother don’t feel like they’re really followed through on. In part, Mina’s change of heart at the end feels too abrupt to me, and the story doesn’t deal with the consequences of her getting caught committing an assault. I’m going to pass on this one for ____, but I wish you best of luck finding the right market for it. I appreciate your interest in ____and hope that you’ll keep us in mind in the future.”

After rejection A, I did make some changes. The feedback was specific,and in some ways, objective. It wasn’t just about what the reader likes, but pointing out a loose thread of plot. Once I was confident that I had tied up those loose ends, I started submitting it again. I got some form rejections, but I also received two more personal ones.

Rejection B:  “I like the overall concept. The present tense isn’t helping you. The piece needs proofreading. I wasn’t as engaged as I’d have liked, and her victory over the curse was too easy. The piece relies on the curse selecting people who are definitely bad, which removes some of the most interesting moral potential from the story.”

I thought about making some changes after reading this, but in the end, all I did was fix a few typing errors. The story was about more than just Mina’s victory over the curse, and changing the nature of her victims would take the story somewhere I didn’t want it to go. I was nervous, but I kept submitting.

This was my next rejection:

Rejection C: “We thoroughly enjoyed your story–it’s one of my favorites so far. However, with limited space in the anthology, we didn’t feel like it was the best fit for our theme. It’s a unique premise and the writing is strong, so I have no doubt you’ll be able to find a home for Berserker. Thank you for sharing, and best of luck in seeking publication.”t 

Yes, it is a rejection, but it does validate my opinions of my story. I knew when I sent it to this place that the piece was only loosely connected to their theme. In fact, it took me a fews days to convince myself it had any connection to the theme at all. Even though it got rejected, I’m glad I sent it. The piece is in progress with a few magazines and contest that are not restricted by theme, and to one more themed anthology that it is more directly related to. If at least one of those editors reacts like C, then hopefully, I will get an acceptance letter. If not, I’ll keep on sending it out.

I seek feedback wherever I can get it without spending more than a few dollars, but I am very selective about how I use that feedback. We should all analyze and think critically about how we use the feedback we get. Here are a few tips for doing this:

  • Reflect on your initial reaction to the feedback. If it is something like “Oh, that makes so much sense! I can’t believe I didn’t think of it myself,” then you might just want to take their advice. If it makes you cringe, ask yourself why.
  • Does the reader seem to get the point of the piece? If your answer is yes, then you might use their suggestions. If the answer is no, then you probably shouldn’t take their advice. However, if they didn’t get it, then there must be a reason. Try and figure out what it is so the next reader does “get” your piece.
  • What effect will the suggested revisions have on your piece? Don’t be afraid to explore and take risks, but in the end, you probably should take advice that feels wrong. If it brings your story in a direction you know you don’t want it to go, then don’t do it.
  • Think about how the feedback is framed. Is it about the editors preferences? or an objective comment about the structure, plot or character? Are they using words such as like, prefer or want? These might signify the response is based on their personal preferences. If they use more specific, concrete language, you can get a better idea of whether or not its a piece of advice you want to take.

Remember, the story is your creation. Feedback can help you see things you got too close to notice. It can help you help other people to appreciate your work. However, if you let it control your work, and you find yourself writing to please one editor or another, then your writing will no longer be your own, and more than likely, it will get worse, not better.

Hunt for feedback like an alley cat stalking a mouse. Use it as selectively as a spoiled house cat who only likes a few flavors of fancy feast.

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Half-Awake Thoughts on Publishing Short Fiction

This morning, I woke up to two rejections.

One was a form rejection from the Drabblecast for a flash piece called “The Largest Looser.” I just shrugged it off and started thinking about where to send it next. The flash story is hardly a month old been only been submitted to four places. I have plenty of other paying markets left to send it to.

The second was a rather encouraging personal rejection from Fantasy and Science Fiction for a piece titled “Berserker.” In fact, when I saw the words “The opening scene of this grabbed me and it held my attention to the end, and I think it’s an interesting premise,” I actual thought it was going to be an acceptance. Then came the dreaded “but” followed by a pretty justified reason for turning the story down. Fortunately, I think this is something another revision can fix, so maybe, the next time I submit it somewhere, it will get accepted.

I don’t revise every story after every rejection. Sometimes, a story gets rejected simply because it just doesn’t line up with what the editor wants to put in his or her issue. Sometimes it just isn’t the editors style. Writing is subjective. Different people like different kinds of stories. Editors are people. Just because one or two don’t like a story doesn’t mean its bad. However, when I get personal rejection from a well respected editor that compliments the story then makes a few suggestions, I certainly am going to revisit the story and give his suggestions some serious thoughts.

Fortunately, God, The Universe, and/or my own Hard Work softened the blow of waking up to a double rejection. My article, “Slow and Steady?” was published on Women On Writing’s The Muffin. The piece is a reflection on how an inpatient personality like mine can be both a gift and a curse when writing and publishing short fiction. Right now, the sprinter in me wants to resubmit both these stories without revising. While I might do that with the flash piece rejected by Drabblecast, My gut tells me its better to revise the longer piece rejected by Fantasy and Science Fiction. That piece has gotten a lot more rejections, and the number of pro-paying markets I can send it to is shrinking.

While Fantasy and Science Fiction is now another place I won’t be able to publish, I feel like I am starting to get a better sense of what they look for in a story. Sooner or later, there won’t be a dreaded “but” and “I’m going to pass on this one.” Until then, I’ll just keep swimming.