Beyond The Sun: A SF Dream Come True With A Little Help From My Friends

This is the cover mock up. Fine tuning and details will change once we get funded based on publisher, artist and editor needs

I grew up a novel fan. I read tie-ins to my favorite TV shows and then tore into Silverberg, Asimov, Card and others. I read short fiction at school and on occasion in magazines but long form is where I spent most of my time and, as a result, where I tend to be most comfortable writing. But then two years ago, Flying Pen Press’ David Rozansky invited me to edit an anthology. I had been pitching a concept for an anthology of first encounter stories from non-Western cultural perspectives (one I still want to do), but being unknown as both writer and editor, no one showed much interest except writers. Mike Resnick and several others immediately got excited with the concept. But with Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales 6, Flying Pen Press offered me the chance to prove myself. I had so much fun working on that and with great writers like Mike Resnick that I began envisioning other ideas.

I pitched ideas to people, signed to do a couple with John Helfers, including World Encounters and Space & Shadows: Spec Noir. But then I saw my friend Matt Forbeck’s success on Kickstarter and realized an opportunity might exist. My dad was, by all definitions, a workaholic, and, as much as we mocked him as kids, I inherited that. I don’t sit still. And I also believe if you work hard, you can create opportunities for success. Recalling a favorite story I’d read by Autumn Rachel Dryden in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show anthology about space colonists and deadly alien animals, Beyond The Sun was born.

Since I don’t like to do anything halfway, I decided I was not going to pay shares, I was going to pay people decent wages. The headliners would get pro rates and I’d do my best to fund enough to pay the rest 3 cents a word bottom. I might be creating an opportunity for myself, but why not create opportunities for everyone else, too? The next thing I did was make a list of favorite SF writers on various levels: names, pros, semi-pros, new. Wrote up a brief description and the submissions requirements and started asking. I chose four of my writing heroes, expecting to be turned down by at least a couple. All four said yes–Mike Resnick, Robert Silverberg, Nancy Kress and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. I mean, I own more books by Resnick, Silverberg and Rusch than almost any other writer except Card and Zahn and my Kress library is growing fast. Wow! After that, bringing aboard writers was easy. Only a few said “no” and that was due to other obligations. And so I wound up with an incredible list of names like Jennifer Brozek, Cat Rambo, Jamie Todd Rubin, Jean Johnson, Brad R. Torgersen, Jamie Todd Rubin and so on, many of them friends.

I assembled the list just before World Con then sought Kickstarter advice from Matt Forbeck and Alex Schvartsman, who have prior experience. I found a video editor on Fiverr, recorded the audio narration and sent it to her. $15 later, my two minute video came back looking fabulous. Only a couple of edits requested. Artist Mitch Bentley whom I have worked with since my first novel jumped at the chance to work with these headliners and did artwork demos for me. Another friend. And here we are.

I quickly discovered, while watching the project flounder, that having a PR plan with Kickstarter is vital. I came to the game unprepared. Quick emails to several bloggers I know brought me a string of guest posts at SF Signal, Grasping For The Wind, Jennifer Brozek’s blog and more. Even writers in the pool with no firm guarantee passionately pitched the project and backed the Kickstarter. Once again, my friends came to the rescue.  Are you seeing a pattern?

Then Monday we were less than half funded, but I made a push and asked others to. We wound up with John Picacio, Lynne Thomas, Kris Rusch, Fireside Magazine, Joe Hill, Jason Sanford and more helping spread the word and in the final three hours yesterday we not only doubled funding, we added 70% to surpass our goal. Jamie Rubin, Johne Cook and I watched it and chatted on FB. “It’s hard to get any work done with this Kickstarter today,” Jamie commented. It was like watching a sporting event. The numbers went up every few seconds. I had my parents standing by to push us over if we fell short. They didn’t need to bother.

Writers will get 4 cents a word. The artist gets paid. Backers get a great anthology and so will you next Summer. And I get another step up the career ladder working with writing heroes and a lot of cool friends. Who could ask for a better miracle than that for a week? It all goes to show that if you work hard, believe and pursue your passions, and, I’d add, treat others the way you want to be treated, good things can happen for you. Nice guys don’t have to finish last, you might say.

We look forward to bringing you some great new space colonists stories and revisiting three great reprints as well. We have excerpts up at SFSignal, Grasping For The Wind and the Kickstarter page. And we look forward to enjoying the ride as we begin production.  Thanks so much to good friends! I’m so honored and thrilled to have many of them along for the ride.

I encourage you to pursue the impossible and make it possible when you can. It’s quite rewarding. For what it’s worth…

Accra, Ghana, West Africa, Summer 2000 with Eyram Gbewonyo

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s science fiction, fantasy and humor books, short stories and articles. 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- 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 Beyond The Sun, forthcoming. A frequent contributor to blogs like SFSignal, Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind, he also hosts Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat under the hashtag #sffwrtcht on Twitter and blogs about writing and creativity on his own blog at Connect With Bryan On Google+

A Year Ago Today: 1 Year as A Published Author

Well, it was October 4, 2011 that my first novel, The Worker Prince, became a real book. It was published that Tuesday with a listing on and some fun announcements, and sent out into the world. In December, the book even made reviewer Paul Goat Allen’s Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases of 2011, an Honorable Mention alongside a Scalzi book and Ben Bova’s latest.

Since then, life hasn’t changed as much as you might expect. Despite the purchase of my new mansion, which my friend Hugh still insists is his, even though I bought it fair and square, and the bevy of beautiful half-naked young women who hang around me now, I’m pretty much the same guy I’ve always been. Oh sure, I’m single again, and moved to cushier surroundings from El Paso to Ottawa, Kansas, when I’m away from the mansion, that is. But I’m still a guy who is working hard to make his way in the world.

I have four books out now, with two more on the way. Two more in ebook only and stories in two anthologies, a magazine and some online sites. And I have a growing in popularity blog and freelance editing career. But mostly, the biggest benefit of being published for a year has been the confidence I feel. I can call myself an author, even when standing or sitting beside panelists like Mike Resnick, Jay Lake or Nancy Kress and not feel embarrassed. I have a sense of accomplishment and professionalism that I didn’t have before. And I take pride in the accomplishment. After all, not many people dream up an idea as kids then 27 years later see it published as a critically praised novel. The book’s sold pretty well for micropress, too. 700 copies, I believe at last count. That’s not anywhere near the numbers most New York published authors see, of course, but for a micropress book, it’s pretty good numbers. And that last count was seven months in (another one is due any time). So I’m told those are pretty good numbers for a micropress in six months’ time.

I do get treated a bit differently because people know I have a book out. Not just by readers and fans either, I mean. Fellow authors and pros regard me with more of a peerlike attitude, I’ve noticed. And it’s easier to approach people because my name is not totally unknown. Between the book, B&N mention and SFFWRTCHT, word has gotten around.

Whatever the case, it’s amazing how fast time flew. As imperfect as it may be, and as irritating as having Hugh constantly in my business may be, I’m still proud of my book baby. And I’m pleased that the sequel has come out. Book 3 is over half written as of today. I’m pleased with the anthologies I’ve edited and participated in since and the future opportunities that I see lying ahead.

Thanks to all of you for sharing the moments with me, good and bad. It’ll be amazing to see where we all are a year from now, won’t it? I hope your sense of achievement and success is at least equal to my own.

Coming soon:

Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter – Land Of Legends (Fall 2012)

The Exodus (Saga of Davi Rhii 3) (2013)

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). He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.



Do It Your Way aka Thoughts On Consequences Of Buying Reviews & The Culture of Cheating

There’s always going to be as many different approaches as there are different types of writers. It’s a fact one must accept, despite any strong opinions an author my hold on various publishing & writing related subjects. The furor this past week over the whole “paid reviews” scandal and John Locke’s How I Sold One Million E-Books In A Month is just a sign of the realities. For many authors, writing is an art and integrity is the goal and of high importance. For others, those who buy into the fairly common myth that all authors are rich, writing is a means to fame and fortune. They want to get rich. Writing a quality book is secondary as long as people buy what the put out there. Others lie somewhere in between. Wherever you are on that scale, it’s easy to be frustrated by the many pitfalls and struggles one faces on the writing journey. And when someone seems to take an unethical short cut to get there, it can make you mad.

Paying for reviews has been around for a while. Library Journal, Kirkus, and Publisher’s Weekly allow people to pay to have books reviewed under certain circumstances: 1) it’s three months past release date; 2) it’s self-pubished. There are others which you can find on their websites under Review Policies. But there’s a big difference between paying for their time and attention to your book (they are not cheap in what they ask, mind you) and paying for a guaranteed outcome. Paying for five star reviews is something that’s about dishonesty and cheating. Paying for the time of respected review sites which are swamped and by which association–good or bad review–your book will draw more attention, that’s the reality of the marketplace. So while paying for reviews isn’t new, the trend toward buying success definitely is and it’s quite disconcerting.

Reviewers, like editors, bookstore staffs and publishers, are gatekeepers. What happens when it becomes public knowledge that the keys to the gate can be purchased? For those who count on gatekeepers to weed out the wheat for the chaff, how will they know where the lines of quality expectations are drawn? Admittedly one of the issues with the rise of self-publishing and POD is that sometimes really good books get mixed in with a whole lot of low quality crap. There are no gatekeepers and it’s way too easy, so some people write their book and rush it onto the market with no money or time spent on editing, quality art, etc.  These are not artists, these are capitalists. And so the reader and book buyer is left looking for a way to be sure they spend their limited budget wisely, especially in the current climate. And gatekeepers provide one trusty way to at least cut down the odds that you’ll be buying crap. There’s no guarantee that you’ll like every book you buy from such professionals, but you can at least be sure someone who makes their money warding the gates took a look and signed off on it. You can expect certain standards of editing, layout, art, etc. And for many, those things are indeed a comfort.

So the saddest possible outcome of scandals like this “buy a good review” outbreak is the loss of trust readers may develop in gatekeepers which, in the age of self-publishing and POD, are becoming even more important than ever. Book bloggers are going to play a big role in the future as the publishing industry model changes. This is especially true for independent authors and small presses who don’t have mega-corporate budgets for marketing and must rely on word of mouth.  You need reviewers in whom readers place their trust and confidence to help spread the word about your books. If readers begin thinking all reviewers can be bought, you’ll be in big trouble. This is something you should think about long and hard before buying a review. Because the long term impact on the market could be staggering.

But another sad reality is the pressure some may feel to compromise their integrity and beliefs because “that’s what you have to do to make it.” From fellow authors to small presses, if the trend continues, pressure may grow to participate in buying reviews. As New York trade houses cut their staffs and buy less books by new authors, newcomers may find POD and self-publishing is the best way to open the door. But without marketing, they stand no chance to succeed. If buying reviews is the only option or what works, many many put aside their ethical questions to “go with the flow.” And that would be unfortunate, because such decisions can lead all kinds of places, most especially to regrets about what one can never undo.

I think integrity still matters in life and in writing. Readers who know you continue to sweat over your words and put out quality stories, characters, etc. will wait, despite the length of your process, anticipating your next book with excitement. The integrity of your process may frustrate their patience but it won’t disappoint their sense of respect for you as long as the books are worth the wait. There’s still value in remembering who you are doing it your way. No matter what pressures arise in a culture of cheating like the one that seems to be arising around buying reviews and all kinds of other aspects of publishing. If it truly gets to the point that people of integrity have no place in publishing or in society, we’re in big trouble. We’ve already seen major repercussions of that around the world.

So despite the claims of those who would buy their way to the top, I would still remind and urge fellow writers to Do It Your Way, be yourself. It’s okay to say “No, that’s not for me.” It’s okay to separate wrong from right. It’s okay to pursue dreams with a moral compass and do the right thing. It’s still okay to believe in art.

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.

WriteTip: Diligence Pays Off-Success Equals Talent Plus Work

Okay, this isn’t the usual steps process for sure, but I still think it’s appropriate for a write tip. A few months back I posted about the power of diligence quoting from a Steve Martin interview with Charlie Rose where the comedian/actor talked about how importance diligence has been to his success. Pretty much everyone in the entertainment/media business I’ve met who’s had a career of more than a decade has mentioned the importance of diligence to me, and, in an age where e-publishing has become the rage and feeds our cultural fixation with instant gratification, I think a reminder about diligence is important. In fact, the key lesson is in bold later in this post, but first a little about how diligence has paid off for me.

I started writing fiction prose in summer 2008 with a love story about a divorced couple who fall in love again. My first novel started as a novella then grew. I finished it at around 65k words but it sucked. Or at least, it was’t ready for prime time. So, I went back to school, reading, studying craft, learning, practicing, and about a year later, I started writing my first science fiction book–a Moses-inspired space opera I’d dreamed up as a teen. The Worker Prince, as it’s called, was my debut novel, released in October 2011 and made Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011, quite an honor for a micropress book. Sales are steady but slow and I’ve earned back my advance or am close at around 650 copies. Book 2, The Returning, came out last month and now I’m writing Book 3.

But those novels are far from the only thing I”ve had going on. In 2008, when I started writing fiction, I knew no one writing books besides an old friend, a historian named Leon C. Metz. Now Leon is no slouch. He’s published over 20 books on history, his most famous being a biography of John Wesley Hardin, famous gunfighter. But I didn’t know anyone in science fiction, had never been to a convention, had not taken writing workshops and no one knew who I was.

Now, to be fair, I had been writing nonfiction, screenplays and plays for twenty years, since high school. I’d had some limited success with a script in development at Disney that never got made and a couple of co-written produced plays. I’d sold some nonfiction articles to magazines and such. And I’d had devotionals published. But still, I was unknown in most regards, particularly in the area of fiction books and especially in science fiction and fantasy.

But as I met writers, Ken Scholes being one of the first and I met him on Facebook after reading his wonderful Lamentation,  they always talked about how important it was to write every day. If you get stuck, write anyway. If you’re frustrated, try something else i.e. switch projects for a bit or give yourself permission to write crap just to get words down and exercise the writing muscles. As my friend and fellow novelists John A. Pitts says: “Concert pianists at the height of fame have to practice every day, why shouldn’t writers?” And that’s the truth of it.

So I wrote. I worked on a few novel ideas. I wrote a lot of short stories. And I rewrote The Worker Prince, also starting two fantasy novels, including Duneman, which is in beta reading right now and will hopefully land me an agent and traditional publisher later this year. The main thing was that I wrote, continued studying craft, read a lot, and started going to Cons to meet writers and others. Now, I have a huge network of contacts and friends, and looking at my Goodreads and Amazon author pages, there are 7 titles listed. By the end of the year, there will be 8 and maybe 9. Of those, only 2 are self-published: The North Star Serial, Part 1, which collects a series of flash fiction episodes I wrote for Digital Dragon Magazine and Rivalry On A Sky Course, which is an ebook only release of a prequel story to The Worker Prince which first sold to Residential Aliens before I released it as an ebook. Everything else has been paid for by a publisher and put out, including the anthology I edited and others in which I have stories appearing. (Wandering Weeds comes out any time now.)

What’s my point? Well, I’ve dedicated a lot of time to writing. I’ve treated it like a job, even though it doesn’t pay the bills yet. And I’ll tell you that my total income for writing expenses last year was close to $2000 when you add print cartridges, Cons, travel, paper, supplies, postage, etc. But this year, my expenses are going to be less, but my income should be close to $3000. It remains to be seen and that estimate encompasses four book advances (two pending) and some sales income (still coming in), as well as a few sales, but it’s definitely progress in the right direction. And last year I only attended 3 Cons and 1 Workshop. This year I have attended 4 Cons with 2 more planned, done 4 signings so far and have 4 more planned–all of which involved at least some travel (shortest 10 minute drive, longest airplane, including a couple 6+ hour drives). What’s my point?

I am acting like a full time writer even though I am not one. I am also spending several hours a week on blogging, social media marketing, networking, promotion and reading and running #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat, Wednesday at 9 pm EDT on Twitter). I typically spend 2-3 hours a day writing, 2-3 editing (mostly for other people) and 2-3 on blogging and social media, plus any other work I need to do. (I am seeking full time employment and do freelance gigs from time to time.) Once I get a full time job, my goal will still be to do the 6-9 hours a day devoted to my writing career.

Why? Because I am getting somewhere, not just with the earning income progress but with the amount of material published. My third Davi Rhii book will come out sometime next year and I hope to sell a couple more novels, including Duneman. My first kid’s chapter book is going to come out this Winter (late 2012 or early 2013). I just got asked to do more joke books after my first released today which means nice advances, and I have a celebrity bio contracted, two half novels done, and several short stories, including 10 more North Stars to finish the cycle left to write.


Diligence matters.


   [dil-i-juhns]  Show IPA



constant and earnest effort to accomplish what isundertaken; persistent exertion of body or mind.
So if your passion is writing, storytelling, etc., be diligent. Make the effort to do what you love and follow your passion. Treat it like work, without discipline it won’t happen. But know that if you have the talent and you apply the work to it, things will happen. After all, talent is like 2×4 boards, it takes some tools, nails, effort, etc. to build something with it. But it can be done and will be done if you’re diligent. You may not get rich. You may not become that famous. But you will become very satisfied and you will have a body of work that shows you’re more than just a person who dreams of being a writer. You’ll be a real, published writer, and whether that ever pays my bills fully or not, to me that’s saying something.
For what it’s worth…

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011  Honorable Mention, andThe Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and several short stories featured  in anthologies and magazines.  He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. As a freelance editor, he’s edited novels and nonfiction.  He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter under the hashtag #sffwrtcht. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF PublishingGrasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.