DON’T LET THIS BE THE LAST NATIONAL BUY A BOOK DAY!

It started on August 19, 2010 with a post at John Ottinger’s Grasping for the Wind. I made the case that we needed a National Buy a Book Day—and in the handful of years that followed I tried to walk the walk, establishing a not for profit foundation in the hopes of gaining enough support to really get this publicized outside the grassroots social media channels.

Have I failed at that?

Despite attempts to raise awareness, and the funds necessary to apply for coveted Federal 501(c)3 status, here we are, another National Buy a Book Day two days in the past, and I’m still not able to manage that.

I blame myself, mostly. I took this on as a side project—a labor of love. But over the past couple years as I started to get busier and busier, I started pushing a bunch of things off to the side, and unfortunately the National Buy a Book Day Foundation was one of them. I didn’t do enough in a world crowded with messages to get the message out, and to be honest I don’t think I had much of a message.

The heart of the idea is simple, and requires no donation from anyone to accomplish.

On September 7th of each year, buy a book.

It’s that easy.

I was hoping that with increased visibility we could bring booksellers and publishers into the fold, make a real event out of it, use the visibility to help support the struggling independent booksellers, and so on. But to be honest, getting that started and working and worthwhile would be a full time job, and I just can’t be a full time volunteer.

So where does that leave the National Buy a Book Day Foundation?

As of today, it can afford to stay afloat for a few more months, and it’s hard for me to ask for too many more donations that tend to go to paying bank fees and other minor administrative costs.

But even if the foundation doesn’t survive, National Buy a Book Day absolutely can, and must.

It’ll live in the ether—on GoodReads and Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr, and wherever readers congregate and talk to each other. Go buy a book every September 7th (and any other day of the year you wish, of course!) and tell us all about it. What did you buy? Where did you buy it?

This year I bought a copy of The Resurrectionist by E.B. Hudspeth and in the spirit of supporting the independents I bought it from Golden Age Collectibles in Pike Place Market in Seattle. It’s been added to the top, not the bottom, of my voluminous to-read list.

What book did you buy day before yesterday? Did you tell people about it? Did you use the hashtags #buyabookday and #september7 ?

If not, do it next year . . . and the next, and the next . . . and who knows, in another four years or so, it might be the Big Deal I was hoping it would be by now. It’s a good idea, and a worthy effort, and good ideas and worthy efforts never die, they just sometimes take a little longer than we hoped.

 

—Philip Athans

 

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A WORLDBUILDING EXAMPLE EXPLAINED AT LAST

n my online and in-person worldbuilding classes I often say that a lot of fantasy and science fiction worldbuilding is done as you’re writing. At certain points our stories will dictate what we need to know about the world. This is meant to caution you against over-worldbuilding, or feeling as though every bit of what the world is like needs to be invented and properly cataloged before you set about trying to jam a story into it. The opposite, in fact, is true: The world should serve your story, not the other way around.

I guess I have to mention the only exception: Shared world/tie in fiction by nature has to begin with the world, but if this is a world original to you, how do you know what you’ll need?

The example I cite so often it’s come to feel repetitious is: You’re writing along, and a character dies. Okay, you ask yourself, now what? Is there a funeral?

Burial sites that date back tens of thousands of years have been discovered that include various totems and bits of stuff, bodies placed in specific poses, and so on, clearly suggesting that some sort of funeral has taken place, that there’s a ritual around disposing of the bodies of the dear departed. It’s something people do, and have always done.

How I got to this as an example, I’m not sure—it’s a little dark—but it’s meant to stand in for all the things we don’t think of in terms of worldbuilding until we get there.

So how about an example? Here’s an actual fantasy funeral from V. Lakshman’s brilliant epic fantasy Mythborn:

 The Last Passage for Lore Father Themun Dreys was a solemn affair and held at the time of the setting sun. The body rested inside a wooden boat as mourners gathered along the beach. The repetitive sound of the waves breaking along the surf was in its own way welcome. It was far off, a building rumble, crash, then bubbling hiss that gave the assembled a sense of peace, as if the entire world waited for the lore father to be put to rest.

Along with the adepts came those elders of the Isle who sought to mourn their loss, these orphans having become part of their family as much as any child born to them. Each carried a small candle set upon a wooden plate. These would be set to float alongside the funeral boat of the lore father. They had chosen a secluded spot on the shore where currents flowed quickly out past the breakers and into the wide, blue expanse of the ocean.

mythborn

Lore Father Giridian spoke of the life of Themun Dreys, his single-minded vision that kept his people alive and protected. He paid homage to a man who had spent the better part of two centuries protecting those he loved and in his final act, saving the Isle from unknown assailants.

At the proper moment, the boat was launched and set afire. Along with it floated dozens of candles, individual flames of tribute to those who had fallen. The boat blazed orange and yellow, like a sun brought to earth, reflecting its light in the deep blue waters. It made its way out to sea, a shining beacon that illuminated the dark, much as the lore father had done during his long life.

Once concluded, some mourners remained, seating themselves on the beach and gazing out at the sea and the stars as they slowly winked into existence. Others wandered back toward the main halls, their purpose lost with the death of those they cherished. It would be some time before those on the Isle who survived would heal, but they would never forget.

Lore Father Giridian watched everyone, his concern plainly evident. They needed answers, a reason why this tragedy had occurred, or else there would be no closure. He motioned to Dragor, who came and stood beside him.

“We need to delve deeper into the lore fathers’ memories. The answer to this attack is somewhere in our past,” he said.

Dragor looked out across the sea and asked, “To what end? You said the memories of Valarius and Duncan are missing. Even if we find an answer, what will we do about it?”

“Come,” the lore father said, moving off the beach and to the Halls, “there is still a lot to be answered for.”

It’s not a huge scene, not terribly elaborate, and it doesn’t in any way overwhelm the story. Mythborn is not a book “about” fantasy funerals. It’s one component to a richly-realized fantasy world that helps to immerse readers in a place and time unique to that work. The characters behave like people, and do things that people do, and not just the happy or exciting things.

I know that by posting this I run the risk of this whole point being misunderstood. This is not me telling you that before you write a fantasy or science fiction story you first have to create a complex funeral rite. What I’m trying to say is listen to your story as you’re writing it. Let your story tell you what parts of the world need “building,” and build to support the story.

 

—Philip Athans

 

 

 

 

 

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ONLINE WORLDBUILDING CLASS STILL OPEN!

Yes, Virginia, there is an online version of my Worldbuilding course and there are still slots open, so go sign up already!

And yes, I am taking this week to pimp that.

This isn’t a webinar-type thing where you have to sign on at a certain time. It’s a bit more self-guided than that. But I will be reading and commenting on written exercises, and answering questions via Writer’s Digest’s Blackboard system.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Session One: Magic & Technology

It’s not fantasy without magic and it’s not science fiction without advanced technology. What your characters can do, the means by which they communicate, defend themselves, travel, and so on, will have to be as plausible as they are imaginative.

A snippet from the Session One “lecture”:

Who can use magic, or operate this technology?

If anyone can do it, and it’s reasonably accessible, how then does magic change the “medieval” world you started with? If your fantasy characters have a magical version of the smart phone, what “apps” do they have? What other magical gizmo has subbed in for technology: hot and cold running water? Computers? Cars? Airplanes?

This is why fantasy authors tend to limit access to magic to some chosen few, or make the sources of magic energy rare and difficult to find, control, and/or protect. So then who can use this thing, only men or only women? Only “special” people? What makes them “special”? Is someone controlling who uses it?

Session Two: Monsters

Monsters and aliens are a staple of the genre, and must be created with care. Discussion will include monsters as metaphor, monsters as characters, and how to build believable yet bizarre and terrifying creatures.

A snippet from the Session Two “lecture”:

Show vs. Tell

And remember the so-often given advice to fiction authors: Show how scary the monster is, don’t just tell us, “The monster was scary.” Describe the reactions of the characters around it. They open their mouths in desperate, silent screams. One of them begins muttering, hands clasped tightly over his eyes in a vain attempt to shut out the memory of the devil’s twisted features . . . That’s more entertaining to read, and is always going to elicit a more visceral reaction than, “Everyone thought it looked bad—like a real monster.”

Session Three: People & Cultures

Humans, elves, and Martians alike, the fantasy and science fiction genres have imagined a wide range of sentient creatures. We’ll learn how to populate our worlds with believable and compelling characters. But people are more than just their DNA. We’ll also take a close look at the way people interact with each other and the world around them.

A snippet from the Session Three “lecture”:

The Other

This is an important question to ask yourself before you even begin to develop your version of elves, aliens, and whatnot: What function do these people serve? A sentient species or radically different race shouldn’t just show up for no particular reason. In fact, nothing in your writing should show up for no particular reason. What do these people do for your story, for the world? And both those question may well be answered by answering this question first: What do they say about us?

Session Four: Government & Religion

If “culture” defines how people view each other, governments and religions define the rules by which they live their lives. We’ll discuss both the positive and negative aspects of the institutions that send us off to prayer or war, a wedding ceremony or a voting booth.

A snippet from the Session Four “lecture”:

Aspirational vs. Cautionary

The United Federation of Planets in the Star Trek universe was created as a shining example of what we might achieve—it’s aspirational: If we continue the social and technological advances of the 60s we’ll defeat racism, poverty, greed, nationalism, and so on. Gene Roddenberry created a government worth fighting for, something Captain Kirk can defend to the death and we’ll cheer him on.

Science fiction has also given us governments that are cautionary. Certainly the most famous is the totalitarian oligarchy of George Orwell’s masterpiece 1984. In this novel, Orwell extends what he saw as the rise of the military industrial complex, the perpetual-war economy of the Cold War, as a trend toward the destruction of individual rights. This became a government that doesn’t support the hero like the Federation supports Captain Kirk, but a government that acts as the villain, to be defeated by the hero.

. . . and lots more, especially since the real value of programs like this reside in the feedback, the give-and-take, question-and-answer . . . what are you waiting for? Let’s build some worlds!

 

—Philip Athans

 

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NO MORE SUMMER, PLEASE

Another summer is rapidly coming to a close. This was a hot and dry one up here in the arid wastelands of the once verdant Pacific Northwest. It’s hard not to look at this summer as a sign of impending climate apocalypse. And here I am in my typically air conditioning-free Seattle-area house. “You really only need air conditioning a few days a year, so why bother?” was the line we heard repeated over and over again. And when we came here in 1997 that seemed more or less true. But now the six-week dry season has turned into a five-month dry season, temperatures are routinely in the upper 80s and low 90s, and by about 2:00 in the afternoon it’s just too hot for me to function in my office. At least I got my old laptop back up and running so I can sit in the “downtown office” in front of a fan that blows hot air full of dust and other allergens at me and is a constant roaring white noise that makes me sick and angry and temperamental and what do you care?

Calm down, Phil, just calm . . . down.

<Pause for deep, cleansing breath, followed by dust-clogged choking spasm.>

Okay, I’m better now.

Let’s find some good news about yet another summer that I have essentially missed while working my butt off, sweating even while sitting down and typing.

“Back to School” approaches. That’s good news. I need these kids out of here for at least some of the day. They interrupt me with their constant need for food, attention, etc. I was under the impression that once your kids left the toddler phase it would no longer be necessary to track their every move. Apparently this will go on forever.

Ooh . . . here’s a good one!

I am more on top of projects and deadlines right now than I have been in a year and a half at least. I have two short-term deadlines that will be reached on time, and two lingering, way-too-behind projects that will be finished up quickly after. I’m looking to my birthday as a goal: Get to September 7 and you’ll be 100% caught up!

Hurray me!

But wait . . . don’t celebrate yet . . . that’s just going to jinx it!

And how about a reality check for me:

These projects are: edit a fantasy novel written by a major author in the field, edit a fantasy anthology that’s almost done (gone to the copy editor), write a novelization I can’t tell you about but that’s a joy to write, teach the last session of this term’s Worldbuilding class tonight, write five more jungle pulp stories, write a hardboiled detective short story for a waiting anthology, edit a fun and quirky role-playing game, edit two more Traveller novels, write a Traveller novel I’m writing myself, edit a fantasy novella the author want to expand into a novel, and finally get started on the big fantasy work-in-progress that hasn’t been progressing at all.

And here I am, whining.

This is my job, and I get paid pretty nicely for it, too.

This is what I’m bitching about.

Wait . . . no it isn’t! I’m bitching about all the things that are preventing me from doing that work, that get in the way, like the oppressive heat, or my equally oppressive children. With the end in sight for both summer heat and summer vacation, coupled with the end in sight for some major deadlines, I’m feeling on top of it for the first time in a while.

Now, if I had sat down to write this after 2:00 this afternoon, I might be singing a different tune.

But where’s the advice for writers in this?

Try not to be me, at least in this sense. If you can make a living in publishing, and concentrate on the genres you love, look for that work/life balance that eludes most overworked Americans, and even if that eludes you, too, quit yer bitchin’.

This is a pretty sweet deal.

 

—Philip Athans

 

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ARE YOU ATTENDING A CONFERENCE THIS YEAR?

Or are you taking a continuing education class? Going to writing seminars at conventions?

What are you doing this year to improve your craft?

And yes, this is at least partially an introduction to a plug . . .

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On Thursday afternoon I fly down to Los Angeles for the Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference. This is an intensive three-day conference specifically oriented toward novelists. The schedule of speakers and topics is fantastic, and once again they were gracious enough to invite lil’ ol’ me!

I’ll be running two sessions this weekend.

First, on Friday morning, an intensive three-hour “boot camp”: How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy Novels. We’ll cover as much as we can in that time, focusing on what makes the SF and fantasy genres a unique writing challenge. And for what it’s worth I can answer that in one word: Worldbuilding.

Then on Saturday morning, I bring my Living Dialogue workshop to LA for the first time. This one is for authors of any genre, and we get into some real kung-fu dialog skills, inspired by a post first offered here.

And you know what else I’m going to be doing this weekend?

I’m going to be attending other seminars.

One of the great benefits to being invited to speak at conferences is that it gets you into the conference itself, so when I’m done being a font of wisdom, I can go drink from some other fonts. There is no point at which you’re done learning to write. This is not something you can perfect—I don’t care who you are. And the more opportunities you give yourself to learn, the better you’ll be.

NWC-300x250

Okay, so maybe it’s not in the budget to, with a couple day’s notice from me, register for this event and book a flight to LA and a hotel room, and meals, and so on. Okay, then what else are you going to do?

When I teach Living Dialog at Bellevue College it costs less than a hundred bucks (I think . . . don’t quote me on that, the college sets the price, not me) and no one so far has driven more than fifty miles or so to attend, so I’m not asking you to book a trip from wherever you are to Seattle for that, though I certainly wouldn’t stop you!

So what’s going on where you live? There are at least two great writer’s conferences in the Seattle area every year, and a couple of SF, fantasy, comic book, video game, and anime conventions that have writing programs. Every community in America has a community college, right?

And then, of course, there’s the internet.

Once again thanks to the good people at Writer’s Digest I’m bringing my Worldbuilding class online. This is a slightly abridged version of the eight-week course I’m teaching now at Bellevue College, but we’ll do some of the same writing assignments, and cover an awful lot of the same ground, and you’ll be able to ask questions, have your text reviewed . . . I wouldn’t have signed up if I didn’t think it was worth it.

Still out of your budget?

Do you have a library? Can you get your hands on a book? Maybe a book about writing? How about any book at all? You can and should be reading constantly—every author who’s ever lived can be a mentor.

There’s wisdom out there for the taking—go get it!

 

—Philip Athans

 

 

 

 

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WHAT PULP CAN TEACH US

I know I’ve been talking about pulp a lot lately, but bear with me. I’m in the middle of teaching a two-session Pulp Fiction Workshop, with the second session coming this Saturday. Students have been sending me their stories and I’ve sent them mine. And mine also happens to be the pulp jungle story I talked about in terms of character bullet points, which will be published under Pro Se’s Signature Series in the fall. So, yeah, pulp and new pulp have been on my mind a bit.

I don’t want anyone to think that now I’ve become Phil, Master of Pulp and that there’s some exclusive Oath of Allegiance that I’ve taken or that I’m asking you to take. I’ve said before that I’ve always, personally, been drawn to the opposite ends of the genres I love, with an equal interest in the most literary or avant garde (authors like J.M. McDermott and Harlan Ellison) on one end and the adventure-heavy pulps (Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs) on the other end. The middle ground, or “mainstream,” I can usually kind of take or leave.

So what can pulp teach you if you’re writing either in the middle, or the mainstream of the genre, or aspire to be one of the few authors who push the genres into uncharted new territories?

I think it can teach you a lot.

But first, let’s run through a couple things that might have people keeping pulp a bit at arm’s length.

Though a lot of the most significant genre authors, especially science fiction authors, got their start in the pulps we tend to think of the best as having started there and progressed out of it, and anyway the SF pulps tended to be a bit more brainy than the rest of the pack. But either way, the heyday of the pulp fiction magazines ran more or less from the mid-20s to the early 50s, and there were two social conventions at play during those times that are difficult for a lot of contemporary readers to get past: institutionalized racism and violent sexism. It’s hard to look at magazine covers like this:

In case you thought hating Mexicans was a new invention!

In case you thought hating Mexicans was a new invention!

. . . or this:

The number of magazine covers featuring women in bondage or being sexually assaulted was ridiculous.

The number of magazine covers featuring women in bondage or being sexually assaulted was ridiculous.

. . . and not wonder what the hell is going on. But what was going on was a segregated America, the era of Jim Crow, and a time when the Women’s Movement was, pardon the pun, barely moving. The stories inside those purposefully lurid covers were often just as racist and sexist as the covers themselves, and I’m not trying to offer any apologies for that, or tell you that was okay, much less encourage you to adopt those “principles” in your own writing.

But think in terms of learning from the pulp storytelling tradition. What I teach in that workshop, and practice in my own writing, is to look at the pulp plot structure, then build on that structure from our more enlightened, contemporary point of view. This is what we mean when we say “new pulp.”

Take my jungle story, for instance. The original jungle pulps tended to be overt knockoffs of Tarzan, and almost exclusively featured white heroes rescuing white women (and in the pulps women came in one of two forms: victim or villain) from black savages. I can’t write that story in 2014, and not because I want to but no one will let me, but being a child of the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Movement, I just don’t know how. Those old stereotypes just ring false to me.

So in my pulp jungle story, the role of Tarzan is played by a black woman who is more than capable of taking care of her own society, thank you very much, without the “civilizing influence” of some white guy. Instead, the white guy becomes my POV character serving double duty as fish-out-of-water victim (ala Tarzan’s Jane) in occasional need of rescue, and as a narrator just like Dr. Watson was to Sherlock Holmes: a sidekick observing the master at work.

Yikes.

Yikes.

But I think I have a fun story, and that’s what’s really important, and what we can all learn from pulp. I’ve written before about how I think science fiction novels have stopped being fun, to the clear detriment of sales. What I also hope to combat is this notion that reading always has to be difficult, and that going in with the primary purpose to entertain is somehow bad.

It’s not.

So what the pulp story structure—and I use Lester Dent’s famous “formula” as a starting point—teaches us can be applied to anything: any genre, any approach. All Mr. Dent really does is remind us to tell a story, and that a story at its heart is characters in conflict. What I told my students, and have tried to bring to my own writing, is that when Lester Dent says things like “murder method” and “kill the villain,” we don’t have to take that literally. He wrote that “formula” to cover hardboiled detective stories, but if you replace “kill” with “defeat” and “villain” with “antagonist,” and so on, you can see that there’s a common thread for any genre, and any approach.

It’s about making your story readable, entertaining, and focused. I just will not accept that any of those three things are bad, and that a story is better for not having all three of those elements, no matter how heavy a message you’re intending to convey, or the infinite variety of word choice, worldbuilding, etc. that goes into making your story completely original, Lester Dent or anyone else be damned.

I think every single writer should take Lester Dent’s “formula” and try one short story using it as a guide. What’s the worst that can happen? After all, there is no Spicy Western Stories to sell it to anymore, and you’re under no obligation to write to their racist cover art.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!

 

—Philip Athans

 

P.S. If you want to read some real vintage pulp magazines, you can find a bunch of them, and their offensive covers, here.

 

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THE FANTASY AUTHOR’S HANDBOOK INTERVIEW: TOMMY HANCOCK

Tommy Hancock is doing something almost no one else has had the courage to do: run a publishing company from the state of Arkansas. Though only “geographically undesirable” from the point of view of the lumbering old giant of traditional publishing, as partner in and editor-in-chief of Pro Se Productions, Tommy has put himself on the bleeding edge of the small press boom. Pro Se publishes fiction by authors like previous Fantasy Author’s Handbook interviewee Logan L. Masterson and yours truly across an amazing spread of genres beginning with a foot firmly in the American pulp tradition.

Tommy Hancock

Tommy Hancock

Philip Athans: Define “fantasy” in 25 words or less.

Tommy Hancock: In fantasy, anything can happen. Noble heroes and monsters usually abide, but fantasy can also live on urban streets and alien worlds.

Athans: Define “science fiction” in 25 words or less.

Hancock: When fact grows into speculative knowledge and is woven into a tale we are both familiar with and new to, that is science fiction.

Athans: Define “pulp” in . . . as many words as you like, and feel free to add a definition of “new pulp”!

Hancock: There was a group of modern pulp authors a few years back, myself included, that came up with a definition for pulp and I tend to use it as a general guideline:

 Pulp is plot oriented fiction that usually focuses on some sort of conflict, normally runs at a fast clip, and often features over the top characters on both sides of whatever equation is in the story. It’s also a style that is not afraid of descriptive words, colorful, sharp dialogue, and even being a bit purple.

I think that definition fits New Pulp as well, although I think New Pulp tends to try to strike a balance between plot and characterization driving the stories. But put simply, pulp is a style of writing. Some try to call it a genre, some a “format,” and so on. But for me, it’s a style of writing.

Athans: I’m often asked by aspiring authors if they should bypass traditional publishing and just self-publish their work and I tend to advise against self publishing. I see the e-book and POD revolution ushering in not a new era of self-published successes but a new era of small presses, so-called “niche publishers”—is that a fair description of Pro Se Productions? And how have these changes in the production and distribution of books helped or hurt you?

Hancock: Pro Se Productions is probably best described as a niche publisher that has grown beyond where it started. Originally considered a company focused squarely on New Pulp, Pro Se has come to be regarded as a publisher of Genre Fiction, granted much of what we publish still being in the pulp style. Our books definitely run the genre gamut and some are definitely more “pulpy” than others.

Pro Se tends to paint “pulp” with a broad brush as far as the style goes and we’ve taken risks on ideas that other pulp outfits wouldn’t touch. Although not every one of those has taken, we’ve had enough success with some pretty out of the box concepts that I’m comfortable saying that Pro Se is more a genre publisher than a niche publisher, even if we’re just at the beginnings of that.

Athans: This is primarily a blog for aspiring authors. What is the most common mistake that inexperienced authors make in their writing?

Anthology on Sale Now

Anthology on Sale Now

Hancock: You’re probably looking for an answer from the technical side of things, the mechanics of writing. But my reply is confidence. Most inexperienced authors have confidence issues, and they’re not always the same. Some writers have absolutely no faith in their work or their ability to write and this leads them often to continually edit, rewrite, and never finish to their satisfaction. Other writers believe that every word they’ve written is a drop of gold from God’s mouth and no one can change a single word or question their choices in punctuation, plot, or anything else. I see both versions of the confidence problem often and unfortunately I’ve watched several promising creators either fade away in insecurity or burn up in their own hubris and just vanish.

Athans: Besides a decent dictionary, and The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction of course, is there one book you think every author should keep close at hand?

Hancock: No, but there are two. Every author should have his or her all time favorite book nearby. He or she should also have the worst book she/he has ever read just as close. Both of these will serve as reminders of what they like as readers and what they don’t like. And both of those thoughts should influence all of us as we write.

Athans: You and your team at Pro Se Productions have recently embarked on a new marketing push and you seem determined to get the word out on Pro Se itself, the books you’ve published, and the authors you work with. That’s always been the biggest challenge for a small publisher—for any publisher really—what can an author do to help market his/her book, and what should he/she expect from the publisher?

Hancock: Every prospective author I’ve ever met only wants to talk about one thing: their story/book/movie/comic idea. That should not change for authors just because their books are published. The way authors (and artists, for that matter) can help the most is to talk about their work. Share what they’ve done in any way they can—on social media, at the coffee shop down the street, on a radio station or TV show if they get the chance. And they should never stop. Even if they end up publishing ten books, they should talk about all of them when they get the chance with the same excitement they had before their words hit paper and someone’s bookshelf.

As for what an author should expect from a publisher, that depends on the publisher. Pro Se, I feel, has done more than many other small press publishers have in terms of promotion and marketing, but I will also tell you we’ve not been able to do nearly enough. Some of that can be blamed on lack of money, limited time (none of us do this full time), and lack of knowledge. We’re taking steps to correct all of those and in the next few weeks and months, we’ll be continuing what has worked for us, marketing-wise, and going several new directions as well.

Will all of them work? No. Will some seem strange and weird? Probably. But Pro Se will be taking steps to raise awareness of the company itself as well as individual authors and the titles that are the core of what we do.

A Chick, a Dick, and a Witch Walk Into a Barn

A Chick, a Dick, and a Witch Walk Into a Barn

Athans: Do you read reviews of novels you’ve published? Have you found any review to be particularly helpful or destructive? Do you encourage the authors you work with to read reviews?

Hancock: Yes, I read every review I can get my hands on. And every review is both helpful and destructive. The best reviews in the world always give me something to go back to that particular work and look for, to see if I see what the reader saw. The worst reviews usually are dead on about most of the issues the reader finds, but all reviews give us one important piece of data. We learn from every review how a book we’ve published has impacted a reader. And that’s extremely important. So yes, I read the reviews and I highly encourage authors to read reviews of their work.

Athans: The Pro Se Web site has a page titled WRITER’S WANTED! How open are you to new, as-yet-unpublished authors, and what advice can you give aspiring authors submitting work to Pro Se, and then for any other publisher?

From Pulp Publisher to Genre Publisher

From Pulp Publisher to Genre Publisher

Hancock: Pro Se has had a reputation since we started for welcoming unpublished authors and that won’t ever change. Several of our upcoming titles are by first time authors. And the best advice I can give any author submitting to any publisher, Pro Se or otherwise, is you need to know the work of the company you’re pitching to. Not just know who writes for them or like their Facebook page, but read what they put out. Pick up a few books, download a few digital titles, whatever you need to get a good feel for what the company you’re looking at puts out. Then submit.

Athans: Where can people go to find out more about you, Pro Se, and what’s coming up next for you?

Hancock: The easiest way to keep up with all things Pro Se can be found in two places. Our website is prose-press.com and you can like us on Facebook. The easiest way to keep up with me, even though most of what I’m doing lately is Pro Se, is to find me on Facebook. Although I wax philosophical occasionally, my personal Facebook page is mostly pulp/Pro Se/writing focused.

 

Thanks Tommy—and now everybody go buy a Pro Se book!

 

—Philip Athans

 

 

 

 

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