Of Twitter, Pitches, and Agents

Something happened last week that sent me all a-Twitter (see what I did there?)

I was working in the office one afternoon when my friend Joe burst in (virtually) on G-chat, demanding I get off my electronic butt and log in to Twitter. Apparently there was a pitchfest going on. A number of agents and publishers were taking tweeted pitches from authors at #SFFpit.

With the kind of subtle prompting only a life in the military could give him (e.g. “GO! GO! GO!”), he convinced me to enter a pitch of my own. His own agent, Sam Morgan of JABberwocky, was one of the participating agents.

I nearly wimped out, but Joe used his Command Voice again (“FUCKING DROP EVERYTHING”).

So I did. I picked one of my more promising manuscripts, a fantasy-comedy-murder mystery.

Here’s what I tweeted:

tweet1

Organic, too.

 

And here’s who responded.

 

Contact info edited out.

Contact info edited out.

The same Sam Morgan who was representing Joe! From the same agency that represented Brandon Sanderson! And Sam wasn’t even aware that I KNEW Joe (at that point anyway)!

I’d pitched articles to magazines before, and queried short fiction magazines, but this was the first time I had received such a positive response so fast! I nearly wimped out again, but I finally sucked it up (with help) and sent in a full query and three chapters.

Sam’s reply included the words “best pitch” and “really excited”, which in turn made ME “really excited!”

Right now, all I can do is sit and wait. It’s still way too early in the process yet—in fact, I don’t even think process has even begun. Sam probably still hasn’t read my query, and when he does he could always say “no” and turn me down. God knows I’ve seen enough of that happen at FFO, where we turn down strong writers just because it’s not the right fit.

But if he says “yes”, and asks for the rest of the manuscript?

Excuse me. I’ve got some editing to do.

P.S. If your email signature reads “Right Hand of Darkness”, I want to work with you.

A Red Thing by Joe Zieja

My friend Joe over at Loose Threads has taken the plunge (well, more like dipped his foot) into the world of self-publishing by putting his dark fantasy short story, “A Red Thing”, up for sale on Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords.

I’m seriously excited for him. Not just because he’s attempting to self-publish, but because his work deserves to be noticed. Joe recently won an Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future (though not for this story), which is kind of a big deal. I’ve read “A Red Thing” before, and it is one of my favorite short stories, not just from him, but in talking about short fiction in general.

Here’s the posted synopsis for those too lazy to jump the link:

A red evil has fallen upon the world. The Maji Benkara, demons who crave sensation and pleasure not accessible to them in their ethereal forms, must possess humans to achieve a vicarious life. They rule with magic, with fear, and with cruelty – but they need a willing host to do it.

“A Red Thing” follows one man’s journey through the dissolution of his humanity as a Maji Benkara takes control of him and uses his body to wreak havoc. The lines become blurred between a conscience lost and a power gained, and he must fight every moment to retain some shred of the man he once was.

So give his ebook a try. It’ll cost you only a buck, and in return you’ll get a great tale that you can share with your friends.

Update 7/10/12: The ebook just hit #45 on the Kindle’s bestseller chart for fantasy anthologies (which is wierd, because it’s only one short story, but there you go.)

Job Postings from Hell: The Fantasist

As a freelancer, I’ve come across my fair share of horribly written job ads. Wrong grammar, unrealistic terms, and horrendously low pay. But I recently stumbled across one that takes the cake, if only because it involves something close to my heart: fantasy fiction.

Here are some of the choicer bits:

I’m not going to lie my book does need some serious work.
How bad is it?
I don’t know I’m not an editor. but the previous editor told me it took her 45min to an hour per page.

45 minutes per page? Writing something from scratch would be faster! I’ve often had to struggle with horrible writing, but come on!

the book is about 70 pages.
the Word count is 30,500

A 30,000 word fantasy novel? That’s shorter than a single chapter from Game of Thrones.

the book is an action adventure book with mythical creatures, magic and sword fighting, hilarious moments, and hints of romance.

This better not be going in your query letter, buddy, because you just described nearly every fantasy novel in existence.

Condensation to be discussed, and agreed upon during the project.

I think I’d rather discuss my pay, and not my house’s moisture level.

I’ve got a news flash for you, pal.

Ouch.

Trust me on this.

Slush Surfing: Crying Hard

Crying baby

Yes, you CAN overdo it.

As authors, we’re always trying to make an emotional connection to our readers. You could argue that emotion is the real driving force of any story. Plot may get your characters from A to B, but emotion is what makes us care.

But you can’t be too heavy-handed. People are smart. They know when someone is trying to play on their emotions.

Most of the stories I voted down had that kind of problem. One story was about a husband dealing with his wife’s death. The father’s grief was written in such grueling, meticulous, painstaking detail that after the third paragraph I was rolling my eyes and skimming the page (This may seem hard-hearted, but remember these are fictional characters we’re talking about).

You can direct emotions the wrong way, too, which ruins a story just as much. One “motherhood” story had the main character actually treating each of her child’s milestones as if they were funerals! She even used the words “death” and “die” at several points, to emphasize the loss of her child-that-was. I would never think of Avi’s milestones that way, and it offended me that the author would even say something like that! I didn’t even need to think about rejecting that one.

Approach the reader’s heart properly, and you can tell him anything. Case in point: one submission’s plot revolved around a middle school girl coming home every day with multiple stab wounds. Brutal and graphic, I know. But the emotion was handled so artfully that it won over most of the staff.

Even though I read a lot of stories that didn’t make it off the runway of emotional connection (and some that took a dive straight into the ocean), I’m not condemning their efforts. I’m trying to find that same balance in my own writing, and I know exactly how hard that is.

The lesson here? Don’t be afraid to dial it back.

Tor/Forge to sell eBooks DRM Free by July 2012

Tor / Forge

For all your sword and sorcery needs.

It looks like Charlie Stross’ prediction came true (at least for this publisher, anyway). Macmillan’s Tor/Forge imprint has announced that they will be selling their ebooks DRM free by July of this year.

I can’t tell you how excited I am at this prospect. Not only that someone is disrupting the (ineffective) status quo by dropping DRM, but that it’s Tor doing the dropping. I’ve been a long time Tor devotee–if they packaged up a 5-page handbook on bicycle training wheels and slapped a cover on it, I’d buy it in a heartbeat. They are one of the largest SF/F imprints in the world, and their success can easily be equated to the success of the genre. This move shows that they’re in touch with the market, in touch with the readers, and in touch with the times.

Charlie Stross has some additional insights on Tor’s plan, including an essay he sent to Tor’s executive management. Have a look-see, it’s a great read.