This is the third installment of my posts about lessons learned from slush. You can read the other two parts here: Part One, Part Two.
We read a lot of slush. We’ve written a lot of stuff. Sometimes we see bad habits that we realize we’ve been doing all along. These posts are about lessons we’ve learned.
Short recap of disclaimers:
- I hate canned advice.
- There’s a reason that advice exists.
- This is skewed towards short fiction editors because I am one.
- You can’t account for luck, but you can make choices about your fiction. This is about those choices.
Welcome to part two of “I’ve read a bunch of slush and I think I’ve learned something.” You can find Part One here. You can find Part Three here.
This post also got long, so there will be a part three. Sorry. I babble.
To recap stuff from the other one: we’ve read a bunch of stories over the years, and we’ve noticed things that a lot of writers do that are frustrating as an editor. Many of these things are things we’ve also done as writers, so it’s extra embarrassing. This is a chance to share these insights.
Here’s the super short version of my disclaimers.
- I hate “conventional wisdom.”
- But knowing what editors experience can help.
- I use the term “editor” because I’m an editor. This advice may not apply to other groups.
- This advice is about controlling what you can control, because there’s so much you can’t.
We just finished reading through 240+ stories for our new anthology. Other people have echoed similar sentiments, but reading slush really highlights things I’ve done as a writer that I probably want to rethink. I thought I might share some of the things I’ve seen over five years of slush.
This post got longer than intended so I’m breaking this up into
two three posts. You’re welcome. (Click here for Part Two. Click here for Part Three.)
I’ll try to focus more on things I could do better. When using examples from things we’ve edited, I’ll also try to highlight things from Mad Scientist Journal rather than anything recent.
Before I dig in, here are some disclaimers:
- I dislike the idea of “conventional wisdom.” In part because of survivorship bias. In part because there are constant exceptions to any rule that gets laid down.
- One of the many pearls of wisdom I learned from James Gunn’s writer’s workshop is: never give an editor an excuse to say, “No.” There’s value in knowing why an editor will say no.
- I say “editors” because it’s what I am and what I know. This could apply to agents, publishers, or other literary gatekeepers you want to impress. But I’m just going to say editors because I’m lazy.
- The advice here is about controlling what you can actually control. The universe is fickle and there are variables that you have no way to know about or plan for. So focus on what you can actually do.
It’s Tuesday after the 40th annual Norwescon, held in beautiful and scenic Seatac. While it’s fresh in my mind, I thought I’d jot down a few notes since there had been some interest in things I learned.
I got curious recently, and poked at some numbers for ebook sales. I often wonder whether there’s value in not caving and using Amazon exclusively. Amazon has some perks for people who only publish ebooks through them. You appear in Amazon Unlimited, Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, and get better royalties in some international markets.
But I’ve avoided doing it because it means aiding a monopoly, and it doesn’t sit right for me.
I’ve generally known that my stuff on Amazon sells better, but I don’t usually bother do do an extensive comparison. But here’s a look at 2016 numbers. I’m sharing it here in case anyone is curious.
I’ll be at Norwescon, April 13-17. We’ll be selling books in the dealer room, and I’ll be sitting on panels.
My schedule is below.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my Kickstarters and Patreons. Especially for my personal work, as opposed to Mad Scientist Journal. But the same issues plague both.
In the past, Patreon has seemed ideal for smaller projects that had value for backers individually. This was especially true once I split MSJ into its own Patreon. For the magazine, which produces a lot of content, the monthly model seemed ideal. But for my own projects, which I’m not as prolific with thanks to my tendency to over-commit, I opted to re-frame the content as just shorter pieces, offered up as paid content. Books, instead, deserved their own Kickstarter.
Kickstarter has its foibles, but I felt like it provided a way to build awareness of our stuff. Patreon has mainly seemed like a good way to raise funds if people already know about you. It doesn’t hurt that three of our four Kickstarters were Staff Picks by Kickstarter.
But as I look at actual money raised, I’m less confident about my choices. So here’s some assorted numbers. These are kind of broad strokes, and I probably made some mistakes, but they at least get in the neighborhood.
The first Kensei serial has been collected into a single ebook. You can buy it at any of these fine locations:
I will be at Norwescon next weekend, March 24-27. I have a reading, several panels, an autograph session, and a table in Author’s Alley. I hope to see you!
From now until September 4th, I will be crowdfunding The Love of Danger, the sequel to my book Kensei. I hope you’ll take a moment to check it out!