We wound up with typical attrition of 20-40% of writers not coming through with stories. Luckily I had some name writers who asked to contribute but weren’t on my original list so we wound up with a stellar TOC.
You can click the link to see the full thing but in addition to our headliners: Silverberg, Kress, Resnick and Rusch, we also had names like Sanford, Fulda, Broaddus, Rambo, Torgersen, Brozek, Rubin and Johnson. Very exciting!
“Ever since I was a child, I’ve dreamed about exploring the stars. What’s out there? What strange planets and beings might we encounter?” Schmidt said. As he watched NASA’s budget downsized and space travel, at least in the United States, get turned over to private enterprise, he recalled sitting on his grandmother’s lap as a child and looking at scrapbooks she’d kept of all the NASA clippings. “We used to dream together, to imagine. It fascinated both of us, and it was so fun to just speculate about what it might all mean or bring about.”
Space colonization has been a popular topic for science fiction writers. From Orson Scott Card’s Enderand Shadow series to Frank Herbert’s Dune and more, authors have written millions of words imagining the possibilities. Kim Stanley Robinson (Mars series), Allan Steele (Coyote series), Robert Silverberg (Majipoorseries), Mike Resnick (Kirinyaga and Chronicles Of A Distant World series), and many more novels and stories have been inspired by the subject.
“I love the ideas people come up with, and I wanted a chance to fill the need left by NASA’s downsizing to inspire that sense of wonder in future and present generations,” Schmidt said.
Such was the inspiration for his anthology project Beyond The Sun. “Beyond The Sun is going to feature stories by some amazing legendary science fiction writers, some established writers and some new writers on the subject,” he says. His headliners are all Hugo and Nebula winners: Robert Silverberg, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Mike Resnick and Nancy Kress. All have written novels and stories on the topic before and look forward to exploring it further. Joining them are familiar names such as Cat Rambo, Jason Sanford, Jennifer Brozek, Brad R. Torgersen, Jean Johnson, Erin Hoffman, Jamie Todd Rubin and Guy Anthony DeMarco.
“The writers included are some of my writing heroes and good friends,” Schmidt says. “It’s a thrill to have the participation of such notables as well as giving new writers the opportunity get more exposure for their own work by appearing alongside others with such respected reputations. Plus, you can just tell from the list of names how amazing the anthology is going to be!”
Just between them, the four headliners have 12 Hugo Awards, 5 Nebulas and a slew of other awards. Several other invitees have nominations and awards as well. Schmidt has even lined upaward-winning artist Mitchell Davidson Bentley to do the cover as well as several experienced and up and coming artists to add images for the stories themselves. “It’s rare these days to have artwork inside books, but I think it inspires the imagination,” Schmidt says. “I know that, as a writer, it’s intriguing to see what artists get as inspiration from my own work.” With the project aimed at being family friendly and applicable for educational use, Schmidt also thinks this will add value and interest.
“What better way to get future generations not only reading but excited about science and science fiction than by creating something teachers can use as a resource to stimulate dialogue, discussion, and imagination?” Schmidt explains. “I would have loved to get to read something like this for class as a kid. And I hear from teachers and parents how much they wish they had more quality stories with age appropriate content they could share with their kids.”
Schmidt’s previous anthology as editor, Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales 6, which also featured stories by several authors involved with Beyond The Sun, including a headline story by Mike Resnick & Brad R. Torgersen, has garnered positive reviews and steady sales. Schmidt says, “That publisher has been very supportive, but most small presses struggle to find the money to pay writers pro-rates for stories. On top of that to pay artists and editors. With the Kickstarter, we can package those costs in advance and allow the publisher to put their resources into producing a really good quality, edited, copyedited and laid out final product. Several small presses have already expressed interest. But the project has to happen first.”
If all goes well, Beyond The Sun will be released in late Spring 2013 and available at all major online retailers as well as local bookstores. A number of great incentives from signed art to signed books and even personalized thanks yous and tuckerized names are available to backers via the Kickstarter.
“Mostly I’m doing this because I love the concept and I love helping and working with other writers,” Schmidt says. “What better way than to offer them a great concept and good pay to do what they love?”
Slated to include 20 stories, only 3 of which would be reprints, backing Beyond The Sun is possible through October 17th at the project’s Kickstarter Page, which includes a project video and regular updates. A native of Salina, current resident of Ottawa, and former resident of Kansas City and Olathe, Schmidt is an active convention speaker and instructor. He has had four books published in print and several in ebook as well as short stories featured in magazines and online, all in the last two years. A freelance editor, he regularly edits books and stories for small presses and authors. He also is a regular contributor to blogs at Hugo winning www.sfsignal.com, www.adventuresinsfpublishing.com, www.tobereadbooks.com and www.graspingforthewind.com as well as running his own blog and hosting the live Twitter interview series SFFWRTCHT (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET. More information can be found on Schmidt’s blog here. And you can also find him onFacebook or follow him on Twitter. He can be contacted at 314-781-9120.
This started out to be a top 10 list. You know the saying: “Advice is like buttholes, everybody’s got one.” And when it comes to writing, advice is like sand on a beach: everywhere. But sifting the sand to separate the pure from the soiled can be tricky. Authors seeking publication approach pros all the time seeking help, opportunity, pitching their novels and stories. And often the difference between positive and negative response lies in the professionalism of the author who’s asking. The more informed you are about the business, the better position you’re in to approach people and sell yourself. But all too many still get it wrong.
Then I asked professional authors, editors and publishers I know what advice they wish new authors knew about publishing but don’t and got such diverse and great responses, I didn’t need to write a post, so here they are broken down by category and source. I hope you find them helpful. Although the people I asked are from the Science Fiction and Fantasy end of publishing because those are my circles, most of this advice applies to writers regardless of genre.
1) Asking me to sign a pledge or promise or contract stating I won’t steal their idea. You might be surprised to know this happens once in awhile.
2) Responding to edits in an unprofessional manner. I’m one of the easiest editors in the business to get along with, so I get doubly annoyed when an author gets snotty about suggested edits. Just tell me what you disagree with and let’s have a professional conversation about them. There is a good chance I will side with the author.
3) Being impatient. Publishing is the proto-typical “hurry up and wait” profession. If that is an aspect of the business you can’t deal with, then you’re probably in the wrong business.
Everyone’s heard all the rags-to-riches stories behind franchise authors like J.K. Rowling and Stephen King, but those stories are actually extremely rare. Most published authors continue to hold down a “day job” in order to afford luxury items like food, electricity, and health care. Publication is not a guarantee of riches, especially in the current Depression, which has hit the publishing business particularly hard. If you’re depending on selling your book in the next couple weeks to make your next mortgage payment you’re in serious trouble. It could take a year or more for your book to be accepted by a publisher, and another couple years after that before it actually hits the bookstore shelves. And by then, any trend you might be trying to surf has long-since passed, so don’t try to write a Hunger Games knock-off. By the time you’re done writing it, the Hunger Games thing will be over. Write because you love to tell stories and have a story of your own you’re dying to tell. That’s how you might become “the next J.K. Rowling.” In fact, that’s precisely how J.K. Rowling did it. Be patient, be prepared to work hard, and do not quit your day job!
According to Authors:
Grandmaster James Gunn is the author of numerous short stories and novels, including The Listeners and The Immortals. He’s also a Professor at University of Kansas where he leads the Center For The Study Of Science Fiction, Ad Astra magazine, and the John W. Campbell Conference and Awards, amongst other things. He says:
I like Fred Pohl’s advice: Everything in a contract is negotiable except the name of the publisher, and even that can be negotiated if the book is wanted enough.
CJ Cherryh is a John W. Campbell, Nebula and Hugo winning author of books like Downbelow Station and Cyteen:
a) nowadays publishing houses want e-rights. They will hold their breath until they get them. If it is a big house able to do them well, this is ok.
b) never sell anybody rights that their company is not large enough or diverse enough to use. Sequester those rights from the contract. IE, you can have ‘first’ ‘North American’ ‘serial rights’ (for a story) or you can have’role-playing’ ‘gaming rights’ or you can have ‘board’ ‘gaming rights’ or you may have the ‘audio reproduction’ rights but not the ‘audio drama’ rights and not ‘audiovisual’ rights or ‘stage production rights’ or ‘motion picture’ rights. It should also say ‘all rights not assigned in this contract belong to the author’.
c) always include something like the following: ‘publication of the Work as an e-book shall not be considered publication as defined in’ [the paragraph where it specifies the kind of print publication and says what the Work is and defines the term ‘in print’.] if it is only for e-publication, be sure to include this: “When in any calendar year the proceeds from e-book sales do not exceed 300.00, all rights shall revert to the author.’ At least it’ll make them cough up enough to buy you a shopping trip.
d) be real damned careful about your shalls and wills when you are writing a contract term. Use of the wrong one can void the clause. Get a lawyer friend to glance over it.
e) terms in book contracts don’t mean the same that they do in any other kind of contract. I have had lawyers who have book contracts come to me, who am not a lawyer, to look over for stingers and problems. ‘Royalty’ is in an application unique to the publishing world, and does not mean royalties in any sense understood by the IRS. Remember this.
f) be real damned sure that in case you or your publisher should be hit by a bus, there is a provision for successors in the contract. A book is property. It can be passed to your heirs. A publishing house is a corporation: it can die, or be sold, and if it is sold, its contracts can be part of the sale. That’s why there’s an ‘heirs and successors’ clause in contracts. This prevents you having to hunt down the dogs to get performance and means they have to deal with your heirs.
g) there should be a performance clause, ie, they have x number of months to get this Work on the stands or published.
h) copyright should always be in the author’s name. Insist.
Bestselling urban fantasy author Kat Richardson (Greywalker) offered this advice:
For me the things that are most irritating are the electronic book clauses and the many forms they can take; in one of my contracts it’s under Electronic Rights and in another from the same publisher, it’s under Display Rights.
Also, be very careful of the agency clauses in the contracts as they define the writer’s relationship with the agency, even though that’s actually none of the publisher’s business, but they can effect the writer to the same or greater degree as the actual agency contract or agreement.
Faith Hunter is a bestselling author of the Jane Yellowrock and Rogue Mage novels, amongst others, and member of the blog team Magical Words and said:
Finish and polish the book *before* you try to find an agent or editor.
Dave Gross writes for computer games by day and fantasy novels by night. His next Pathfinder Tales novel, Queen of Thorns, arrives in mid-October. He offers this advice:
The only universally useful writing advice is: Write. Write often, and write in different ways. Don’t be afraid of imitation. Copy the writers you admire, then rewrite those pieces in a different style. Do that a lot, and then set it aside. Come back to it later and write it in your own voice. Write different genres of story. Write poems. Write plays. Try writing at different times. Write in the morning. Take a nap and when you get up start writing. Write after everyone else has gone to bed. Write in different places and with different tools. Write on the bus or in the park. Write in the middle of a food court. If you use a computer, write in a notebook. Try using a pencil instead of a pen. Write the minute after you get out of a movie while your head is still filled with strange images. Write down your dreams. Imagine the dream someone is having in the house down the street, and write that. Write plenty, and rewrite even more. Maybe you won’t see the difference in a matter of weeks or months, but eventually you will see it. When you do, write about it.
International bestselling author Daniel Abraham has over a dozen books in print and has been short-listed for Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. He offers this advice:
Career implosions are normal. Almost everyone who’s been in the business for more than a few years has had their career founder under them at least once. The people who got discouraged are the ones that aren’t around anymore. The folks who stayed are the ones that shrugged off the failures and started trying to break in again. And again. And again
Maurice Broaddus, urban fantasy author (The Knights Of Breton Court) and anthology editor (Dark Faith, Dark Faith 2) suggests:
Guard as many of your rights as possible (the publisher doesn’t need all of them).
Make sure there are reversion clauses (they don’t need ten+ years of your digital/future formats rights).
Bestselling author Jean Johnson who rights paranormal romance and military science fiction (An Officer’s Duty, A Soldier’s Duty, The Sword, The Cat, The Mage) says:
Spelling, punctuation, grammar, and formatting actually do still count.
Slush pile readers, agents, and editors will discard stories filled with errors, inconsistancies, and a blatant lack of care for the craft of the written word. Even if your name is Stephen King, they will be looking at the manuscript for how good it is as a story, and how well crafted it is as a piece of writing. It may seem unfair, but if they see a lot of technical errors in the way words are spelled, how sentences are structured and punctuated, so on and so forth, they’re not going to want to give you a publishing contract because they will not believe you are professional enough to handle the demands of a contract.
In fact, most literary agencies and publishing houses have a standard “X number of errors in Y number of pages = toss it in the rejection pile” policy. Whether it’s a written, official policy or not, they have too many other manuscripts to wade through to waste time on something that makes their eyes cross and their brains hurt.. Yes, you may have written a story, and you can be proud of that. Yes, you may believe that it’s a good story, good enough to be published, and there’s nothing wrong with believing in yourself and your work. However, that does not entitle you to carelessness, arrogance, or anything else which would suggest an unprofessional attitude. This includes an unprofessional presentation of your written works.
There are points where you can stand up for the formatting you want, or the spelling of a specific word, particularly in genre fiction, but understand that most editors and publishers will want your novel to look its best in the eyes of your future readers. Cooperate beforehand by getting your manuscript beta-edited by someone with good literary skills. Cooperate during the review and editing process by carefully considering the changes suggested. Strive diligently to look for and eliminate errors during the copy-editing and draft-editing stages.
Cultivate and cherish a reputation for producing clean manuscripts as well as the good stories we know you have inside of you. Editors, agents, and especially your future readers will love you for it.
I doubt I could do much better than that. Others of you out there feel free to add advice in comments. For what it’s worth…
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince(2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exodus will appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Books For Kids(ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Lost In A Land Of Legends (forthcoming) appeared from Delabarre Publishing in 2012. His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and is working on World Encounters and Space & Shadows: SpecNoir with coeditor John Helfers, both forthcoming. He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.
Welcome to the Beyond The Sun Anthology Project. Launched Monday, September 17, 2012 at Kickstarter! It ends Wednesday October 17, and we have some sneak peeks at artwork stories and even one more big name headliner coming if everything goes well! Please join us!
This is a labor of love for myself and a bunch of fellow dreamers, including Robert Silverberg, Mike Resnick, and Nancy Kress, our headliners, along with up and comers like Jason Sanford, Jamie Todd Rubin, Autumn Rachel Dryden and more. Submissions are coming from people like Cat Rambo, Jennifer Brozek, Matthew Cook, Brad R. Torgersen, etc. All the details can be found on this video and at the Kickstarter. The mock cover by artist Mitch Bentley is looking pretty cool, too!
Check back here for regular updates!
Beyond The Sun
Edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Assistant Editor: Sarah Chorn
Colonists take to the stars to discover new planets, new sentient beings, and build new lives for themselves and their families. Some travel years to find their destination, while others travel a year or less. Some discover a planet that just might be paradise, while others find nothing but unwelcoming aliens and terrain. It’s not just a struggle for territory but a struggle for understanding as cultures clash, disasters occur, danger lurks and lives are at risk.
20 stories of space colonists by both leading and up and coming science fiction writers of today. Mike Resnick revisits the Hugo, Nebula and Homer winning universe of his Africa stories. Grandmaster Robert Silverberg examines Jews who left the contention of a wartorn holyland to settle on their own planet when faced with a dybbuk (spirit) and asking whether aliens can be allowed to convert to Judaism. Autumn Rachel Dryden has colonists threatened by alien animals which burst out of shells on the ground like piranhas ready to feed on flesh. Jason Sanford has Amish colonists on New Amsterdam finding their settlement and way of life threatened by a comet and the English settlers who want to evacuate them. And a new story from Hugo and Nebula-winner Nancy Kress. A fourth big name female headliner has agreed to come aboard when we reach funding.
These and 15 other writers join author-editor Bryan Thomas Schmidt for tales of action, humor, and adventure amongst the stars.
Length: approximately 92,000 words
Estimated Date of Publication: Summer 2013
Like most of my work, this anthology will be family friendly in focus. I want it to be something people of all ages can read, enjoy and discuss. Remember when space exploration filled you with awe? Do you remember sitting around dreaming about what it might be like if you too could go to the stars? That’s the sense I’d like to capture with these stories. I’m deliberately choosing writers with diverse backgrounds, interests and styles with the hopes of getting a diverse selection still united around a common theme.
Authors invited to submit: Hugo and Nebula nominee Brad R. Torgersen, Jean Johnson writing in her Philip K. Dick Award nominated novel universe, Jamie Todd Rubin, Cat Rambo, Jennifer Brozek, Matthew Cook, Erin Hoffman, Jason Sanford, Patrick Hester, Sarah Hendrix, Anthony R. Cardno, Johne Cook, Simon C. Larter, Grace Bridges, Jaleta Clegg, Anna Paradox, Gene Mederos, Dana Bell, Anne-Mhairi Simpson, Selene O’Rourke, Mike Resnick, Nancy Kress, Autumn Rachel Dryden and Robert Silverberg.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince(2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exodus will appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Books For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Lost In A Land Of Legends (forthcoming) appeared from Delabarre Publishing in 2012. His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and is working on World Encounters and Space & Shadows: SpecNoir with coeditor John Helfers and developing another project with co-editor Rich Horton, both forthcoming. He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.
One way to be sure your manuscript is ready to submit is to make sure you get a good developmental edit. Now unless you’re making a lot of money already, paying someone may be out of the question. Most submissions editors will reject anything that’s not at least ninety percent there. They do line edits, proofing and fact checks, not developmental edits. So the onus is on you. If you’re like me, being close to your work, can prevent you from not only knowing what questions to ask but having the objectivity needed to view your work well. Some sort of guide would make a big difference.
In her Editing Basics class, Author-Editor Cat Rambo (Fantasy Magazine) offers the following checklist for doing a good multi-pass Developmental Edit yourself. Cat suggests a multi-pass approach to allow yourself to address various aspects one at a time instead of trying to catch-all in one pass. The checklist is broken out by pass type. But before you begin the checklist, ask yourself the following questions:
1) What works and what doesn’t overall? (Make a list)
2) What is the story? Can you sum it up in a few sentences? If not, there’s a problem.
3) Look at the first and last page. Do they hook the readers in 13 lines or less? Does the story end strong?
Once you’ve addressed these basics, you’re ready for the more detailed Developmental edits. Be sure and ask questions down to a scene level, not just about the whole manuscript.
1) Are the characters likeable?
2) Are the characters acting or reacting?
3) Can readers identify with the characters?
4) Does the reader know what the character wants?
5) Are there too many characters? Can any be combined?
6) What are the missed opportunities?
7) Where don’t we understand what the character is doing?
8 ) Where can we go deeper into the character’s head?
9) Is the dialogue interesting and informative of character?
10) Can the reader put themselves inside the story?
1) Is the ending set up in a satisfying way? Is it the result of character actions?
2) Does the story make sense or are pieces missing?
3) How does the story move? (Is pacing good?)
4) Should pieces be removed? (And what should be done with them?)
5) What are the secondary story lines and are they delivered on?
1) Is the world clear?
2) Does it feel generic? (Is it?)
3) Does it make sense?
4) How important is the science of it?
5) Where should we know more?
6) Are the facts right? (Light fact-checking)
7) Where can the world come forward more?
8 ) How are things ordered? Point A to Point B? Or more like Momento or Pulp Fiction?
9) How hard does it make things for the reader and is the effect achieved worth it? (Because if it’s not there for effect, it’s pointless.)
10) How can it be improved overall?
11) Are the conventions consistent?
12) Where are the info dumps and what strategies surround them?
1) Do the chapters make sense structurally?
2) Does something happen over the course of each chapter?
3) Does the POV change over the course of the chapter? (Should it?)
4) Is the Prologue or Epilogue necessary?
5) Is head hopping an issue?
6) How do you make the book match conventions?
Making these four Developmental Editing passes enables you to focus on specific aspects of your manuscript and strengthen them each in turn. You can be sure you’ll cover other aspects in other passes and thus free yourself to really focus in. I hope this helps you improve your editing strategies not just for your own work but in helping others. What are the questions and approaches you use to self-edit? I’d love to have you share them in comments. And if the checklist still isn’t enough, consider taking one of Cat’s fine classes. They are well worth the money and the time.
For what it’s worth…
John Barth described Cat Rambo’s writings as “works of urban mythopoeia” — her stories take place in a universe where chickens aid the lovelorn, Death is just another face on the train, and Bigfoot gives interviews to the media on a daily basis. She has worked as a programmer-writer for Microsoft and a Tarot card reader, professions which, she claims, both involve a certain combination of technical knowledge and willingness to go with the flow. In 2005 she attended the Clarion West Writers’ Workshop. Among the places in which her stories have appeared are ASIMOV’S, WEIRD TALES, CLARKESWORLD, and STRANGE HORIZONS, and her work has consistently garnered mentions and appearances in year’s best of anthologies. Her collection, EYES LIKE SKY AND COAL AND MOONLIGHT was an Endeavour Award finalist in 2010 and followed her collaboration with Jeff VanderMeer, THE SURGEON’S TALE AND OTHER STORIES.
She has edited anthologies as well as critically-acclaimed Fantasy Magazine, is a board member of feminist science fiction group Broad Universe, a member of the Codex Writers’ Group, and volunteers with Clarion West.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the Hugo-nominated, national bestselling author of the space opera novelThe Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has had several short stories in anthologies and magazines, including official entries in The X-Files, Predator, Joe Ledger, and Monster Hunter International. His fourth novel, Simon Says, is a pulse-pounding near future thriller about a tough macho Kansas City detective with a dislike of technology who must team with an android witness to find his missing partner. His forthcoming novel, Shortcut, has been sold to Roserock Films for development as a motion picture. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.