Publishing

So you’re going to pitch your book – a guide.

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September 19, 2014

It seems that lately there have been more opportunities than ever before for writers to pitch their as-yet-unpublished manuscript to industry professionals. At writers conventions, festivals and so on, more agents, editors and publishers are making themselves available to hear about your magnum opus. It really is a superb opportunity and these things usually get booked out. But man, I’ve heard some horror stories! It’s a hell of a thing, trying to sell yourself and your work with nerves making your guts into an ice storm. So I thought I’d ask a few key people in the industry for some tips to help you formulate your pitch should you get the chance.

Firstly, I’ll throw a tip or two of my own at you, then we’re going to hear from a small press publisher, a literary agent and a big press editor.

My tips are simple: Know what your book is about so you can formulate a killer elevator pitch. This is so named because it’s based on the premise that you meet a publisher in an elevator and have a few seconds before they reach their floor to sell them on the idea of your book. Here’s the elevator pitch for BOUND, as an example:

Underground cage fighter, Alex Caine, is drawn into a world he didn’t know existed – a world he wishes he’d never found. The harder he tries to get out, the deeper he’s dragged in. It’s magic, monsters, mayhem and martial arts in a fast-paced dark urban fantasy thriller.

After that, my suggestions are to have good ideas for explaining further what your book is about, what it’s like and who might enjoy it. Know your target market. Then have confidence in your work and yourself without acting like a dick. Remember, these folks taking pitches are just regular human people like yourself and they want to find good books. They’re not looking for an excuse to shut you down.

So, let’s hear from some of them directly.

Tehani Wesley is owner/editor at small press outfit Fablecroft Publishing. But don’t let small press fool you, I’m sure this publisher is going places. She’s going to be taking pitches for the first time at Conflux in Canberra in October. Here’s what she had to say:

What do you look for in a pitch?
A confident presentation with a tight synopsis that doesn’t tease me with the story – if I’m going to publish the book, I need to know where it goes, spoilers aren’t an issue! And don’t underestimate the value of a polished manuscript. I also need to see that the author has an understanding that the manuscript is not the end product – and neither is publication. There is a lot more to a successful book than great writing (much as we might wish it otherwise), and I need to work with someone who is willing and able to help drive the book beyond publication.

What advice do you have for pitchers?
I want to see authors passionate about their work – both the manuscript they are discussing, and their passion for writing in general. It’s really hard to work with writers who are negative about their own skill, their work, the life of being a writer, or publishing in general.

*****

Alex Adsett of Alex Adsett Publishing Services is an agent of exemplary power and skill (and I don’t only say that because she’s my agent!) Alex really knows this business, so listen hard.

What do you look for in a pitch?
I’m looking for full length genre fiction only for YA and adults, so SF/F, horror, crime & mystery and romance. Within that though, I’m pretty open to all comers. I’m also looking for a polished manuscript – so it is good to hear that an author has gone through multiple drafts and not only just typed “the end”. I also want to hear that the author has more manuscripts on the go and that they see this as an ongoing career for them and do not just have the one manuscript.

What advice do you have for pitchers?
Don’t panic! The person you are pitching to is there to hear your story and, maybe, see if you have a spark of connection. We do not mind if you read your pitch or just chat to us, it really all comes down to your story, and we don’t read that until later anyway.

Saying that, be prepared. Have an idea of what your book is about and how to articulate that within 3 minutes. To be safe, you should try to have three versions of a synopsis – one sentence, one paragraph and one page, so no matter how much or little time you have with your pitch person, you have something ready to go.

Do your research on the person you are pitching to. For example, there’s no point pitching me your memoir when I’m only after genre fiction. One of the best pitches was when the author rocked up with a coffee for me. I was a big fan of that author. At the same time, the most important thing is that I love the manuscript.

What’s the most common mistake pitchers make?
Panicking! So many authors are incredibly nervous about pitching their manuscripts. This isn’t a mistake, but is unnecessary.

Be careful pitching a manuscript that isn’t ready yet. On the one hand, we probably won’t mind and you might like the practice and building your contacts, but some publishers might feel you’re wasting their time to pitch if it isn’t finished and polished.

Was there ever one particular pitch that just blew your mind? (Not personal details, just generalities.)
Pitches that have a really tight premise that ticks my boxes and make me sit up and take notice. One of the best pitches I ever had was from author J.T Clay. She pitched her zom-rom-com – zombie comedy romance, and it was smart, funny and I just loved the premise. The manuscript absolutely matched the quality of her pitch, and I was desperate to sign her up as one of my authors. That novel is now published with Momentum as The Single Girl’s Guide To the Zombie Apocalypse, and it’s like an Australian Shaun of the Dead with lots of zombie in jokes.

*****

Rochelle Fernandez is the Associate Publisher of Voyager, the science fiction and fantasy imprint of HarperCollins, and Impulse, the digital imprint. She has been an editor for ten years, across fiction and non-fiction and tweets at @roch_town. You can often find her in a bookstore or at a Rabbitohs game. Here’s what she says about pitching:

What do you look for?
In a submission, I look for good writing first and foremost. An original concept is great, and so is an unoriginal concept told in an original way or written in a compelling way. I look for strong, interesting characters – characters people can empathise with, characters that are not caricatures — a too-good hero is just as boring as an all-bad hero.

In a pitcher, I look for someone who knows the benefits of their story. I look for someone who is confident that they have written the best story possible and can articulate what is so great about it. I look for someone who knows who their book is for, who has thought about the type of person who would like to read their story (often writers write for themselves, and that’s fine, but if you want to be published, then someone else must want to read it too!)

I look for whether it fits with what Voyager publishes. I look for whether this sort of story is popular.

What advice do you have for pitchers?
Don’t be nervous! Or if you are nervous, try to hide it. You believe in your story, now make me believe in it too!

Don’t get bogged down by trying to tell the whole plot to me – a few lines about the general gist will suffice.

Think carefully about comparisons – tell me who your work resembles but tell me why it resembles that. Pick accurate comparisons, not just ones you knew sold well or were made into a movie.

Hone your elevator pitch! A snappy line that will stick in my head is a great way to get me hooked into your story.

Don’t expect an immediate answer – it usually takes me about 2 months (sometimes longer!) to get to read a submission.

Tell me if you’ve self-published or submitted to another publisher or been published before.

Tell me what spurred you on to write the book.

Tell me a little bit about yourself too – where you work, what your writing influences are etc.

Describe to me the person who you imagine will buy your story – your target market. Tell me where they shop, what they eat for breakfast, what else they read. The more detail the better!

What’s the most common mistake pitchers make?
Use up all their time telling me the intricacies of the plot instead of condensing it into a few sentences to get me hooked.

Being too nervous and shy and self deprecating. If you don’t believe in your book, why should anyone else?

Was there ever one particular pitch that just blew your mind? (Not personal details, just generalities.)
One was a completely original concept that was such a great storyline I was just blown away. However … I am still waiting for the manuscript! Perhaps that should be a tip – make sure you are ready to supply the manuscript if I like your pitch.

One was really solid – a good concept, well thought out and nicely delivered. There was nothing really stand out about it, but I knew the book was going to be good by the amount of thought the pitcher had put into it.

*****

So there you have it. That’s some seriously good advice from some stellar industry professionals. I hope you find it useful and it helps you to hone your pitch should you get that sweet opportunity. Good luck!

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What a wonderful launch for Bound

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July 11, 2014

I’m on the train heading home from Sydney, tapping away on my iPad, still a little stunned by the awesome night I had last night. Bound was launched at Kinokuniya Bookshop and I have to admit, I was a little nervous.

The bookshop were being wonderfully supportive, the truly excellent Margo Lanagan had agreed to be my official launcher, my publishing team (Rochelle Fernandez, Amanda Diaz, Shona Martyn, my agent, Alex Adsett, and many others) were all in my corner and assuring me it would be great. But what if no one showed up? What if it was a complete flop? At 6pm I started hoping we’d get enough people to have at least one or two folk in each row of seats. By 6.30, all the seats were full and there was an arc of people two or three deep across the back. I couldn’t believe it!

My editor, Rochelle, did a great job introducing us and said things about the book I didn’t know. Things like how it was the third biggest seller at Sydney Supanova. Wow!

Then Margo did a fantastic job of launching, saying truly humbling things about the book and asking me searching questions. There is now such a thing as a “kettle scene”. Here’s a great photo by Jodi Cleghorn of Margo and I enjoying ourselves immensely:

photo1 300x225 What a wonderful launch for Bound

I really did enjoy the whole experience and it seems that everyone else there did as well. They laughed in all the right places and I signed a load of books afterwards and got to chat with an array of excellent people. If I didn’t get to chat with you for long or at all, I’m sorry. The whole evening is a bit of a happy, hazy blur for me and not only because of the wine.

I’m utterly humbled by the event. I am genuinely living the dream here and I plan to soak up every bit of it I can. And it’s all due to the best people out there: my publishers and their belief in me, my friends for their support, and all the people who have taken a chance on buying Bound. I really hope you enjoy it and come back for the next books in the series. I can’t thank all of you enough. All I did was write the best book I could – you all made it real. I couldn’t be happier.

The always generous Cat Sparks took photos throughout the evening and you can see them at her Flickr page here. Thanks Cat!

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A timely repost of the article about authors dying (on the shelves)

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July 1, 2014

I originally posted this back in September 2010, but it seems very relevant to post it again now. After all, the first book in my new (so far) trilogy has just come out. (Yes, it’s all about me. I don’t have a new book come out very often, so give me this. Come on – hug?) I wrote the original post based on my observations as a reader, and now it’s something that applies directly to me as an author. While Bound is a standalone novel, it’s also the first in a series. There’s a big story that arches over the first three books (Bound, Obsidian and Abduction) with threads left for more books in the series, even though each one is a standalone novel too. So please, don’t wait for the others to come out before you buy Bound if you think the ideas interest you. I’ll explain why by reposting my 2010 article below. It was originally, and very sensationalistically (yeah, that’s a word!), called “While you wait for book three, authors die!” So even though Bound is a standalone novel as well as the start of a new series, the principle still applies. So here it is again:

The title of this post is slightly sensationalist, but in a literary sense it’s actually very true. I mentioned recently that I’ve finally started reading A Game Of Thrones, which is the first book in George R R Martin’s A Song Of Ice & Fire series. This comment lead to a few discussions in various places that has subsequently lead to this post.

When I mentioned that I was finally getting around to reading A Game Of Thrones a lot of people assumed that also meant that I’d only just bought it. Especially when, in answer to the question, “Why has it taken you this long?” I replied, “I was waiting for the complete story before I started.”

A lot of people do this, and fair enough. When you notice a big old fantasy series that you think catches your interest, it’s reasonable to assume there’s going to be a whole story told. Often these days a writer will sell a trilogy (or bigger series) to a publisher and that publisher will set a publication schedule to release those books over a relatively short period of time, maybe even inside a year.

However, if no one buys the first book, it’s very possible that books two and three will never see the light of day. An author survives on their sales figures. If they perform poorly at the checkout, the publisher will discard them like a greasy burger wrapper and think nothing of it. That’s business. It’s fucked, but it’s business.

Going back to Martin’s series, when people started telling me how awesome it was, I started buying the books. They’ve sat on my shelf for ages. I wasn’t going to read them until there was a whole finished set, but I bought them to ensure that Martin showed solid sales figures and stayed in favour with his publisher. (I ended up starting to read recently because of the forthcoming TV series, and I wanted to have read the books first).

Obviously someone like George R R Martin doesn’t need my help, but the same thing applies across the board. For example, I was on a panel recently with Paul Cornell and he talked about one of his comic series being cancelled. There was conjecture that the series was cancelled because so many people these days wait for the trade, rather than collect the individual comic books. If no one buys the comic books, the story is considered a failure and there’ll be no trade.

The same applies to big series of novels. If no one buys the first book, the author/story will be considered a failure and there’ll be no release of the rest of the books. The people who read the first one are denied closure, the people who were waiting for a whole series have missed the opportunity and, most importantly, the author is dropped and never has the chance to expand their career. This is a very sad result of market forces and it’s actually a false result.

So if you see the first book of a series that you think you might like, buy it! You don’t have to read it right away – consider it an investment in your reading future. Buy the subsequent volumes as they come out and you’ll end up with a solid reading experience once the whole series is finished. And you’ve done your bit to ensure the success of an author and their literary vision. Hopefully you’ve had a good read too.

EDIT: And you know what’s even more powerful? Early sales figures. The more books an author sells in the first few weeks after publication, the better for that author’s career. So if you think you like the idea of Bound, please buy it sooner rather than later, even if you’re not likely to read it for ages. I’ll be forever in your debt – and I promise you  great read! Learn all about Bound and sample the first three chapters for free here.

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My year in review

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December 20, 2013

I guess this post is more for my own benefit than the interest of readers, but what the fuck? They say blogging is dead anyway. Actually, it’s not, by a long way, it’s just changed. But still. I’d like to think this post might also serve as some kind of inspiration. After all, it’s been a hell of a good year for me, writing-wise, and I’ve been working my arse off for a long time to get to this point. Maybe others can draw strength from that. I started to take being a professional writer seriously in 1997, after all. That’s 16 years ago now. Shit, eh? Where does the time go? We’re all getting older, life’s a bitch and all that. But 2013 was a fucking good year for me, so maybe it can inspire others who are trudging this long road to keep going. One more step. Then another. Art hard and don’t give up, motherhumpers.

After all, a successful person is a simply a failure who refused to godsdamn quit.

And you know, the longer I work at this gig, the more true that becomes. I’ve talked before about how success is basically hard work, luck and determination. It’s really the determination that’s the key. If you’re determined to keep going and keep working hard, you’ll get better. If you get better and stay determined, you’ll get more luck. More opportunities will come along if you’re busy working hard. You just have to notice and take them.

So, professionally, what’s happened this year for me? In short fiction, I’ve had the following publications:

“Not the Worst of Sins” – Beneath Ceaseless Skies #133 (October 31st, 2013)

“Roll the Bones” – Crowded Magazine issue #2 (August 2013)

“The Beat Of A Pale Wing” – A Killer Among Demons anthology (Dark Prints Press, June 2013)

“The Fathomed Wreck To See” – Midnight Echo Magazine, issue 9 (May 2013)

“On A Crooked Leg Lightly” – Dreaming Of Djinn anthology (Ticonderoga Publications, May 2013)

“Quantum Echoes” – Next anthology (CFSG Publishing, April 2013)

“A Time For Redemption” – Urban Occult anthology (Anachron Press, March 2013)

“Tiny Lives” – originally published in Daily Science Fiction (25th December 2012) this was reprinted in the Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror 2012 (Ticonderoga Publications, August 2013)

That’s seven original stories and a reprint published already, including two pro sales (5c/word or more). I’ve still got three more publications due out this year, all in December:

“All the Wealth in the World” – Lakeside Circus 1, due any day now.

“It’s Always the Children Who Suffer” – Midnight Echo Magazine, issue 10, Winner of the 2013 AHWA Short Story Competition (due end of December, 2013)

“Exposure Compensation” – Midnight Echo Magazine, issue 10 (due end of December, 2013)

So that’s 10 original stories published and one Year’s Best reprint. Which is pretty awesome. And you’ll notice one of those originals is the winner of the 2013 AHWA Short Story Competition, another great high point for the year. I’ve also sold a couple of stories already that will be out next year, so it’s good to get a start on that.

Also published this year was Dark Rite, the short horror novel I co-wrote with David Wood. That’s some good, pulpy, Hammer-esque horror fun if you’re into that sort of thing, and barely more than a novella, so a quick, easy read.

All the anthologies, magazines, novels and so on I’ve talked about here, and all the others I’m involved with, can be tracked down via this page: http://www.alanbaxteronline.com/books/

I’d be very happy with all that as a year’s work on its own, but of course, I’m saving the best for last. A couple of months ago I signed a three book deal with HarperVoyager Australia, and they’re publishing my trilogy The Alex Caine Series between July and December next year. That’s not only the high point of the year, it’s the high point of my career to date. I couldn’t be more excited about it.

And on top of all that, my son was born at the end of October.

Oh yes, 2013 is going down as one HELL of a year. It’s hard work all the way, but it’s paying off. I’m getting better all the time, I’m staying determined, I’m working hard and I’m starting to see real results.

You can too. Go for it!

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Ecstatic to announce my three book deal with HarperVoyager Australia

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October 4, 2013

There is no doubt in my mind that October 2013 will live on as possibly the most amazing month of my life. Not only is my first born child due at the end of this month, which is amazing enough news on its own, but I’ve just signed a deal with Harper Collins Australia for their Voyager imprint to publish my new trilogy in the second half of next year. Honestly, I’m bouncing off the walls here. Never has so much Snoopy dancing been done.

This news has been burning me from the inside out while the deal has been negotiated, so it’s an incredible relief to finally be able to announce it publicly. The trilogy is the start of The Alex Caine Series. If it does well, there could certainly be further Alex Caine books in the future. Voyager are looking to publish all three books throughout Australia and New Zealand through the second half of next year, between July and December. The books are modern grim dark fantasy thrillers called Bound, Obsidian and Abduction. They follow the trials of an underground MMA fighter, Alex Caine, and his introduction to a world of magic, monsters, mayhem and life-threatening danger he could never have imagined. That’s all I’m going to say about the books for now, but I’ll certainly be talking a lot more about this series as things progress.

I want to thank my amazing agent, Alex Adsett, for her hard work on this, and the wonderful Rochelle Fernandez at HarperVoyager. I also need to thank three very special people who helped me turn the books from good idea into publishable gems. Firstly, the late, great Paul Haines. I wish he was still here for so many reasons, but not least of which to share this. He was the first person to critique the original manuscript of Bound, even as he was fading to cancer, and he ripped that thing to pieces and helped me make it so much better. I miss you, Haines – thanks, mate. I also need to thank Angela Slatter and Jo Anderton, who subsequently read, critiqued, flensed and cajoled me about both Bound and Obsidian, to really turn those books into something of which I can be very proud.

And above and beyond all that, I have to thank my fantastic wife, Halinka. She puts up with me and believes in me all the way. Extra special thanks are due because I’ve been a fucking mess while this deal was being sorted out and she not only supported me through that, but did so while heavily pregnant! Amazing woman.

So I couldn’t be more excited to be working with HarperVoyagerAU. With any luck, the series will sell into other territories too, as I would obviously love to see it released in the US and UK as well, and then the world! But for right now, I’m having trouble peeling myself off the ceiling with this tremendous news. Please excuse me, while I Snoopy dance into a wall. Again.

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New publications like buses

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April 22, 2013

It’s a funny old game, this writing business. High highs and crushing lows. Hours of toil for seemingly no return, wondering why we bother, then something happens that reminds us exactly why we bother. And I don’t know if this is the case for other writers, but my career seems to always be a fluctuation of flood and drought. Right now, I’m very happy to say, it’s a bit of a flood.

I’ve been banging on about Dark Rite the last week or so, as that book has just been published. I won’t say more on that for now, other than to mention that at the time of writing it’s sitting at #39 in bestsellers for horror on Amazon. That’s great news, so thanks to all who bought a copy.

I’ve also had some excellent news in other areas too. In order of happenings, I’ve sold my contemporary fantasy story, Roll The Bones, to Crowded Magazine. Crowded is a new pro-paying magazine in Australia with a very funky idea on crowdsourcing its content. Do check it out whether you’re a reader (as it has some excellent content!) or a writer (pro rates!) That should be out around the middle of the year.

Secondly, I’ve sold my wild west ghost story, Not The Worst Of Sins, to Beneath Ceaseless Skies, due out around the northern autumn. I’m very excited about this one, as BCS is one of my favourite pro-zines and I’m really happy to get published there.

years best fantasy and horror 2012 New publications like busesAnd, as if all that wasn’t enough, I can announce today that my story, Tiny Lives, originally published at the end of last year in Daily Science Fiction, has made the cut to be reprinted in the Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror 2012, due out soon from Ticonderoga Publications.

See what I mean about a flood? It’s a flood of fucking awesome, is what it is. These are the times you have to remember when the slog is getting you down and the rejections are threatening to drown you. Hard work and perseverance pays off, as long as you have the pig-headed determination to never give up and to always work on improving your craft.

I’m sharing some amazing company in the 2012 Year’s Best. Here’s the full ToC:

  • Joanne Anderton, “Tied To The Waste”, Tales Of Talisman
  • R.J. Astruc, “The Cook of Pearl House, A Malay Sailor by the Name of Maurice”, Dark Edifice 2
  • Lee Battersby, “Comfort Ghost”, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine 56
  • Alan Baxter, “Tiny Lives”, Daily Science Fiction
  • Jenny Blackford, “A Moveable Feast”, Bloodstones
  • Eddy Burger, “The Witch’s Wardrobe”, Dark Edifice 3
  • Isobelle Carmody, “The Stone Witch”, Under My Hat
  • Jay Caselberg, “Beautiful”, The Washington Pastime
  • Stephen Dedman, “The Fall”, Exotic Gothic 4, Postscripts
  • Felicity Dowker, “To Wish On A Clockwork Heart”, Bread And Circuses
  • Terry Dowling, “Nightside Eye”, Cemetary Dance
  • Tom Dullemond, “Population Management”, Danse Macabre
  • Thoraiya Dyer, “Sleeping Beauty”, Epilogue
  • Will Elliot, “Hungry Man”, The Apex Book Of World SF
  • Jason Fischer, “Pigroot Flat”, Midnight Echo 8
  • Dirk Flinthart, “The Bull In Winter”, Bloodstones
  • Lisa L. Hannett, “Sweet Subtleties”, Clarkesworld
  • Lisa L. Hannett & Angela Slatter, “Bella Beaufort Goes To War”, Midnight And Moonshine
  • Narrelle M. Harris, “Stalemate”, Showtime
  • Kathleen Jennings, “Kindling”, Light Touch Paper, Stand Clear
  • Gary Kemble, “Saturday Night at the Milkbar”, Midnight Echo 7
  • Margo Lanagan, “Crow And Caper, Caper And Crow”, Under My Hat
  • Martin Livings, “You Ain’t Heard Nothing Yet”, Living With The Dead
  • Penelope Love, “A Small Bad Thing”, Bloodstones
  • Andrew J. McKiernan, “Torch Song”, From Stage Door Shadows
  • Karen Maric, “Anvil Of The Sun”, Aurealis
  • Faith Mudge, “Oracle’s Tower”, To Spin A Darker Stair
  • Nicole Murphy, “The Black Star Killer”, Damnation And Dames
  • Jason Nahrung, “The Last Boat To Eden”, Surviving The End
  • Tansy Rayner Roberts, “What Books Survive”, Epilogue
  • Angela Slatter, “Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean”, This Is Horror Webzine
  • Anna Tambour, “The Dog Who Wished He’d Never Heard Of Lovecraft”, Lovecraft Zine
  • Kyla Ward, “The Loquacious Cadaver”, The Lion And The Aardvark: Aesop’s Modern Fables
  • Kaaron Warren, “River Of Memory”, Zombies Vs. Robots

And look at that fantastic cover art! You can pre-order your copy of the Year’s Best here. In addition to the above incredible tales, the volume will include a review of 2012 and a list of highly recommended stories.

I’ll be sure to let you know when these publications come out.

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Dark Rite out now!

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April 19, 2013

Dark Rite web 186x300 Dark Rite out now!It’s official! Dark Rite, the short horror novel/very long novella I co-wrote with David Wood, is available now! *trembles* You can find it in any ebook format you prefer, DRM-free, from Smashwords, or you can buy the Kindle or print edition from Amazon. Only $2.99 for the ebook and $7.99 for print. How can you possibly go wrong? It’ll be available in all the usual places soon, so watch your favourite store if you prefer to shop elsewhere. If you click on the cover image there, it’ll take you to a page of information about the book with direct buy buttons.

So it’s happy book day to myself and Dave. It’s always very exciting when a new book comes out, and I hope any of you horror fans out there enjoy it. Here’s a few responses we’ve had from early readers:

“Wood and Baxter have delivered a stunning tale that reminds of an early Stephen King’s talent for the macabre with a pinch of Graham Masterton’s flair for witchcraft and terror. A sinister tale of black magic and horror – not for the faint hearted.” – Greig Beck, bestselling author of Beneath the Dark Ice and Black Mountain

“With mysterious rituals, macabre rites and superb supernatural action scenes, Wood and Baxter deliver a fast-paced horror thriller.” – J.F. Penn, author of the bestselling ARKANE thriller series

“Wood and Baxter have taken on the classic black magic/cult conspiracy subgenre, chucked in a toxic mix of weirdness, creepshow chills and action, and created a tale that reads like a latter-day Hammer Horror thriller. Nice, dark fun.” – Robert Hood, author of Immaterial and Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead

That’s right – Greig Beck said it’s a bit like Stephen King and Graham Masterton. Holy shit, you guys! I think I’ll leave it at that. If you do buy a copy, I’d love to know what you think. You know where to find me.

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Book day nerves and why they’re a good thing

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April 16, 2013

Dark Rite books Book day nerves and why theyre a good thingI’m trepidatious. Kinda nerve-wracked. The novella I’ve co-authored with David Wood, Dark Rite, is due for release tomorrow. Hopefully it will become available then, or very soon after. I’ll be sure to let you know. And because of its imminent release, I’m quietly terrified.

I’m also very excited, of course. It’s great to get a new book out there. While this is technically a novella, it kind of bridges the gap, because it’s bloody long for a novella. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America specify word lengths for each category of its Nebula award categories like this:

Novel – over 40,000 words
Novella – 17,500 to 40,000 words
Novelette – 7,500 to 17,500 words
Short story – under 7,500 words

As far as I know, the Aurealis Awards here in Australia use the same categorisation. Dark Rite is something like 42,250 words. Which is sorta dumb of us, because it will be classed as a novel rather than a novella for awards and we could have cut 2,251 words and dropped it back into the novella category if we really wanted to. But we talked about it and were happy with the tightness and finish of the story. It seems presumptuous and counter-productive to chop at a story purely for award lengths or to accurately describe its category. The story is exactly as long as it needs to be, so we’re sticking with it. And I’ll describe it as a very long novella, even though it’s technically a very short novel.

Nelson Muntz 300x292 Book day nerves and why theyre a good thingBut I digress. Nerves. I was talking about book day terror. Whether it’s a full-length novel, a long novella/short novel, a novelette or a short story being published in a magazine or anthology, the same kind of nerves are always there. Will people like it? Will people read it and point and laugh like Nelson Munz? Will I be revealed for the try-hard, pointless hack my inner demons often tell me I am, in the darkest corners of the night when I’m wondering why I fucking bother.

If it’s a magazine or anthology, the terror is that mine will be the story reviewers talk about for all the wrong reasons. “A tremendous collection of short fiction, with only one story out of place. You have to wonder what the editor was thinking, including this sloppy turd by Baxter.”

Of course, that kind of thinking is an insult to the editor, because they picked the story and included it for a reason, and their name is all over the publication. But publication nerves know nothing of common sense and laugh in the face of logic.

If it’s a book or novella, something that is going out there on its own merit, the nerves are the same, only amplified. There are no other works to hide among. It’s just you, out there in public without your pants on. Metaphorically speaking. You know you can’t please everyone, even Neil Gaiman gets one star reviews, but you hope to please more people than you offend. You want more cries of Bravo! and very few Ha-Has! But you don’t know if you’ll get them. Hell, you don’t know if anybody will even read your work. The only thing worse than bad reviews is no one turning a single fucking page of the thing you slaved over. At least a bad review meant the thing got read.

But I realised, especially reinforced after the recent series of guest posts I’ve run about Ongoing Angst, that this stuff is not only common among writers of every level, but actually a good thing. I’m bloody nervous, because I care. I care not because I want people to like me, but because I want them to like the work. I want people to read my stories and get something out of them, be moved in some way, have a rollicking good time and recommend their friends and family read my stuff too. They don’t ever need to know who the fuck I am, as long as they know and enjoy the work. And my fear comes from the thought that my work might not be good enough. And that fear drives me to always do my best, to always try to be better.

I strive to get better all the time. I work my arse off trying to make my writing as good as it can be. Nerves like this are symbolic of an artist striving to be good enough. If I ever don’t get nervous when a publication is due I’m going to wonder where my fire went. Because I’m certainly not arrogant enough to think people are automatically going to like everything I get published. Nerves are a good thing – they remind you that you’re alive and striving. That this shit matters. Because it really does matter. Through fiction we look at our lives and the life around us, and it matters. Even fun, pulpy horror like Dark Rite has things to say about society and humanity. It’s deeper than just a gloss imagery. And I care about it. I really hope readers do too.

I’ve got a bunch of stuff due for publication over the next two or three months, in magazines and anthologies, and it’s all kicking off with the release of Dark Rite any day now. So I really hope you like it. I’ll be over here, chewing on the bony tips of fingers, cos I finished eating through the nails a couple of days ago.

(Of course, the beauty of this one is that it’s co-authored. So it if does go down well, I’ll bask in all the glory. If it tanks, I’ll just blame David Wood.)

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“The Fathomed Wreck To See” to be published in Midnight Echo #9

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February 28, 2013

AHWA logo3 copy The Fathomed Wreck To See to be published in Midnight Echo #9I’m very happy to announce that my modern myth-based horror story, “The Fathomed Wreck To See”, will be published in Midnight Echo #9. This particular issue called for horror stories based on a modernisation of any established legend or myth. I won’t spill exactly what direction I took, but it’s a story I’m very of, and I’m really pleased it’s found a home here (with thanks to the Drs Brain for their invaluable help!). Midnight Echo is the official magazine of the Australia Horror Writers’ Association, and one of my favourite publications. It’s a big old glossy magazine, always packed full of excellent fiction, articles, art and more. It’s available in electronic form as well, of course. I was published in Midnight Echo once before, in issue 6, the sci-fi horror special.

Issue 9 already has confirmed contributions from Jonathan Maberry (a Joe Ledger short story), James A Moore (a Jonathan Crowley tale), and Robin Firth (a non-fiction dissection of the myths within Stephen King’s Dark Tower series), as well as the selection of submitted short fiction including my story. The full Table of Contents has yet to be announced, but I’m already excited.

You can learn more about Midnight Echo here, and Issue 10 submission guidelines are already up. Ghost stories!

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Chuck Wendig on ThrillerCast

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December 17, 2012

thrillercastlogo2 Chuck Wendig on ThrillerCastIt’s been a while since I posted about a new episode of ThrillerCast, which is a bit slack of me really. In case you’re new here, ThrillerCast is the podcast I co-host with action/adventure author, David Wood. It’s all kinds of chat about anything thriller and genre fiction related, with stuff for readers and writers. In the latest episode, I have a chat with the potty-mouthed paragon of awesome penmonkey advice, Chuck Wendig. You can find the episode here.

In recent episodes, we’ve talked about all kinds of writer-related stuff and had great chats with the likes of Greig Beck, Thomas Greanias, Rich Steeves and many more. Have a stroll through the archives or, even better, subscribe via iTunes.

And if you’re a fan, please drop by iTunes to leave us a rating or review, and tell your friends. If you’re unsure, why not let our two existing iTunes reviews speak for themselves:

Thrillercast is seriously good writer talk. (Five-star review)

by Lynda Washington

David Wood is American writer of action adventure. Alan Baxter is an English writer of dark fantasy/horror with a pronounced Aussie accent. Both are serious students and practitioners of their art, and they share generously with the listener. I’m a serious student, too, though not a practitioner. My judgment is trustworthy. If you want to strengthen your understanding of writing and the writer’s place in publishing, listen to these guys. They are intelligent and focused. The sound quality is good. The episodes never seem to go on longer than they should. No downside.

Great Podcast! (Five-star review)

by GregD65

David and Alan produce an ejoyable, intelligent, and always entertaining look at writing thrillers. Writers and readers of others genres should give a lsiten as well since the advice, interviews, and banter cross genres easily. My only complaint — frequency!!! I need MORE ThrillerCast!!!

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Welcome

The website of author Alan Baxter

Alan Baxter, Author

Author of horror, dark fantasy & sci-fi. Kung Fu instructor. Personal Trainer. Motorcyclist. Dog lover. Gamer. Heavy metal fan. Britstralian. Misanthrope. Learn more about me and my work by clicking About Alan just below the header.

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