Tag Archives: review

War Journal 68: Leapolution II

I looked this good 4 years ago... the hell have I been eating?

I looked this good 4 years ago… the hell have I been eating?

Leap Day!  Some of you, two handfuls in fact, remember the last time I posted on Leap Day.  It only comes once every four years, so that first time I wanted to catch my blog in its infancy and see how it grew the next time Leap Day rolled around.

For the many more that are new, here were the stats back then:

I was in Afghanistan.  That kinda sucked.

I had 2 out of 3 pro sales to make SFWA qualifications.  I would later learn that one of those sales didn’t count.  At the time, that sucked even worse than Afghanistan.

I had 16 subscribers.  16!

I had a fierce thirst for more.

Now, four years later, and the only thing that’s still constant is the thirst!  Current subscriber count is 169, which is awesome.  I’m SFWA recognized.  I’ve sold 12 stories at pro pay to places such as Intergalactic Medicine Show, Daily Science Fiction, AE: The Canadian SF Review (making me an international player!) and the Unidentified Funny Objects anthology.  Speaking of, I also became an associate editor, directly affecting the landscape of speculative fiction comedy.  And it kinda rocks reading the work of other writers in the trenches, trying to get their funny on while battling the slush.

Who knows where we’ll be the next Leap Day.  Maybe 1699 followers and a book deal?  Your man can hope.

In the meanwhile, thanks for hanging out with a brother.  It’d be a lot lonelier in the trenches without you.



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Intelligence Report: The New Death & Others

Who doesn’t like fairy tales?

Those saying, “I don’t” would do well to stay away from The New Death.  For everyone else, read on.  James Hutchings delivers 64 tales and all except one would qualify as either a fairy tale or a fairy tale poem.

The New Death defies convention a couple of ways.  Fairy tales aren’t exactly on everyone’s “Hot, Fresh and New” menu.  Not only that, the accessibility of some of the stories are beyond the general audiences, for-all-ages quality that most people associate with fairy tales, as James Hutchings puts in quite a few that are racy, adult only stories.

Being an adult, I found The New Death suprisingly entertaining in a number of places.  Hutchings has a dry humor streak that’s just laugh out loud funny at times.  There’s a story where a bunch of old school monsters are complaining about their changing status and so it goes:

“These are grim days,” the Werewolf lamented. “No one even thinks about us any more, let alone finds us terrifying.”
“Things are worse for us,” said the Vampire. “Everyone knows who we are – we are mascots for breakfast cereal, puppets who teach children to count, objects of lust for young girls.”

Lines like these pepper Hutchings’ tales, sometimes in quirky places you’d least expect.  It makes for a light-hearted irreverent read.

Not all tales are fun filled.  Some are sad, many are ironic, and a few are plain strange.  This means there’s a lot here and plenty of variety for anyone who doesn’t mind a story that starts with “once upon a time” every now and again.

In today’s fiction markets, which is driven wholly on character based fiction, I found The New Death & Others to be a refreshing change of pace.  Sometimes I don’t want to care about the character… sometimes people just aren’t that interesting, whether you made them up or not.  Sometimes I just want the plot to drive the story and not have to keep up with a character’s nuances… I want a demon summoning wizard to stay in his evil lane, I want the princess to be a disposable pretty face in distress, yearning for her prince, and I want the incarnation of Death to be a sickle wielding skull face.  Times like that are what The New Death was made for.  Hutchings’ draw is the plot, sometimes way out there, sometimes close to home.

If you’re a fan a fairy tales, then I’m sure you’re going to get a lot out of the New Death.  And for those of you like me, who enjoys the occasional trip to the land of far, far away, then you’ll get a decent amount of distraction with this one and for cheap at 99 cents.

The New Death & Others is available for quick download here:

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Intelligence Report: The 2011 Publisher’s Survey

They're not dunce caps if you believe in the magical world of gnomes.

You guys remember when I said the HeyPublisher blog was so interesting that I was going to cover it in a later installment of the Intelligence Report?  The first and foremost reason for that is their 2011 Publisher’s Survey.  I have a business degree, so when someone talks about the business end of writing, my ears perk up.  And this survey is so very very juicy. 

I often wonder what the wizards behind the curtain are doing when they’re not showing their hand just to give me a rejection slip.  What’s going on in the Willy Wonka Word Factory?  More to the point, what the hell are they thinking?

I know what I’m thinking.  I’m thinking lovers of great fiction don’t necessarily make for great managers of business.  There appears to be a level of disconnect in the publishing community that is so epic it’s grandiose.

First let’s take look at the death toll.  Survey says “The average lifespan of a new online publication appears to be less than 6 months.”  That means whenever you’re browsing the “What’s New?” section over at Duotrope, most of those fresh fish have a half year shelf life.

Then we have the section of what publishers think writers do versus what writers actually do.  Ranking at number one, publishers think 85% of their writer base finds them through word of mouth.  As in, “have you heard of The New Yorker?  The pay for stories, bro!!”  In actuality, writers report that word of mouth is number 6 and that online databases such as Duotrope leave word of mouth with dust in its mouth. 

Then there’s the social media section.  This is where 60% of publishers believe social media outlets to be important but 53% report that they believe their social media marketing efforts suck.  The folks running the survey said this:  “Though most publishers have some social media presence, a full 33% of those surveyed still do not have a Facebook fan page.  Given that roughly 43% of the US population has a Facebook login, the fact that a third of online publishers are not engaging with their readers on the very platform where their readers are hanging out seems to us to be an inexcusable oversight.”

So let me get this straight.  You’re lucky to celebrate a one year anniversary and if you fail, you’ll likely attribute your lack of good stories to writer’s not spreading the word and your lack of readership on the shortcomings of a Facebook page that failed to create itself?

I know this is the Intelligence Report, but I don’t think I have any intelligent life to report.

Here’s a tip, publisher, writers know who you are.  But if your submission  guidelines sound like everyone else’s, only they’re offering the same pay or better, guess who we’re going to sub to first?  Good luck sorting through the carrion carcass of what the other guys left behind.  Besides, most of you guys work the same way:  if your slush workers weren’t so busy dissing stories before getting through the second paragraph, you may find some awesome gems.

If you want readership, give people something they can’t get anywhere else.  That means content of value, whether its free to enjoy or subscriptions that come with perks.  That means stories that are great but can’t find a home at other places because of their editor’s notions of what their public wants precludes them from buying it.  Try a little something called web design.  Pay for artwork… ever hear the term starving artist?  They work for cheap!

If you don’t know how to advertise, hire someone who does.  Just like a writer may have to align themselves with an agent… get with the program, publisher.  You too young to die.

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Intelligence Report: HeyPublisher

I ran across this site purely out of professional self-interest.  Apex Magazine has started exclusively using HeyPublisher as its submission engine, and I wasn’t NOT going to submit, so what the hey, HeyPublisher.  I figured it was just another submission manager.  Turns out it is, but it professes to be much more.

It’s like the little, fiesty baby of Duotrope and Submishmash.  Like Duotrope, it has a huge database of publishers and it’ll track your submission to any one of them.  Like Submishmash, it’ll keep tabs of where a publisher is on their review process for your work.  Unlike either, HeyPublisher has a bunch more features.  The most notable one is that it will literally store an electronic copy of your entire work on its server.  Another interesting feature is there is an option to workshop with other writers… basically if you get told no by a publisher writers who have been accepted at that same publication can review your story and tell you the specific reasons why editors thought it was garbage. 

I didn’t like it.

That’s just me.  I like to think of myself as relatively keen to embrace new things and technology.  But these guys seem just a little too invasive or too eager or maybe both.  My cynic and skeptic buttons were firing off.

First, they used single-sign on through my email.  I’m just not a fan of sites that grab my email account and say “you now have an account with us too, James Beamon”.  Yes, it’s easier, I get it.  Still, I get the heebies… it’s like meeting someone who asks you where you’re from and when you say it they spit back the first five of your social security number.  Maybe I wanna go through the extra steps to establish an account.

Second, I don’t really like a site automatically keeping a copy of my stuff.  Sure, it’s a smart idea to have an online repository of all your work in case of hard drive failure.  But I’ve had that forever… it’s called email.  Couple that with the fact that you can’t automatically take down your work (you have to email their support team) and it feels clingy.  Putting up hoops for me to jump through just to take down something I didn’t want saved in the first place is not a great way to make friends, even if you are on a first name basis with me because of your single sign on solution.

Three, it doesn’t perform its feature functions better than the two sites it draws from (Duotrope and Submishmash).  Duotrope’s database is more robust, with more entities and better functionality like filtering based on pay rate and response time.  Submishmash gives you a quick and dirty look at your subs and where the publisher’s at… nothing more, nothing less and without being obtrusive. 

Granted, the primary function of HeyPublisher isn’t any of those things.  It’s goal is to allow you to take your uploaded work and submit directly from their site to any publisher in their database. That sounds great… on paper.  The reality is that publishers have a bunch of different guidelines, ranging from file type to manuscript format to what type of things to include (or not include) in your submission letter. 

My attitude can change about this site.  Right now it’s in its infancy.  If publishers adopt a standardized manuscript submission format or make allowances if a submission was received via HeyPublisher, then I can see this being helpful.  But they have miles to go on their publisher database before it’s even remotely as useful as Duotrope.  I don’t know what they can do to make that Rockwell “Somebody’s Watching Me” feeling go away.  Currently the best thing they have going for them is  their blog, which has some really fun stuff on it.  So much fun in fact, that I’m going to discuss it in a later Intelligence Report.

Meanwhile, I’m not trying to naysay for everyone.  I invite you to go there and make up your own mind about it.

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