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Sarah Hoyt

Sarah Hoyt lives in Colorado with her husband, two sons and too many cats. She has published Darkship Thieves and 16 other novels, and over 100 short stories. Writing non-fiction is a new, daunting endeavor. For more on Sarah and samples of her writing, look around at Sarah A. Hoyt.com or check out her writing and life blog at According to Hoyt.com.
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The EU Is Now Selling Citizenship

Sunday, December 15th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Having a fire sale.  Everything must go. Even citizenship.

Having a fire sale. Everything must go.
Even citizenship.

According to the Telegraph, the EU is selling EU citizenship by the euro.

Tiny little Malta recently announced proposals to start selling citizenship rights for €650,000 a pop. Many countries in Europe, including Britain, have similar schemes, but this one breaks new ground. In all other cases, the applicant is obliged to reside in the country for a minimum number of years before being granted a passport, and in Britain’s case, he/she is also obliged to invest in a company.

For Malta, it’s simply a case of pay the fee and get the passport. Now Malta is I’m sure a nice enough place, and no doubt there are some in the world willing to pay this stonking great price to go and live there. But essentially what’s being sold is not the right to Maltese citizenship, but to EU residency. Once in possession of a Maltese passport, you can live and work anywhere in EU.

Of course what they’re REALLY selling is the right to receive the generous EU benefits. But since the reason Malta is selling citizenships is that the high-tax-high-government-benefits model is leading to unemployment and economic collapse all over the world, people buying EU citizenship should take care.

Caveat Emptor: the citizenship you buy might not be worth the money it’s printed on.

Image courtesy of shuterstock, Copyright: Photobac

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How to Make Your Book Look Important

Saturday, December 14th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Just like when setting out to claim your kingdom it's important to look like a princess, when setting out to look for bestsellerdom, it's important to look like a bestseller.

Just like when setting out to claim your kingdom it’s important to look like a princess, when setting out to look for bestsellerdom, it’s important to look like a bestseller.

Selling your Writing in 13 Weeks, Week 10

Yes, I know, it sounds like I’m always saying more or less the same thing: “you have to give the impression that you are traditionally published if you want to really sell.”

Unfortunately, this is true.  The public still views traditionally published books as better.  Though there is an interesting effect happening, maybe because I’ve talked so much about indie publishing, in that some of my fans are contacting me about typos and issues with my traditionally published books, forcing me to say “well, there’s nothing I can do about it now.”

But in general, you want to look like the traditionally published books in your sub-genre.  (Minus the typos – which frankly happen in any publishing, and, yes, will happen to you too.)

Only you don’t want to look like just any books in that subgenre.

Look, in the bad old days the publishing houses had to limit their resources. This meant that most of the books got thrown out into that big, cold world with barely enough work put into it to look decent and professional.

For instance, at a panel at a con, a friend and I were discussing her just-accepted book with the two editors who, supposedly at least, worked on it, and it became obvious to us they’d only read the proposal and never the completed manuscript.

This is because my friend’s book was a second novel, and had been slated to be released with as little support and fanfare as possible.

Now, you’ve gone out and got yourself a publishing house name, and you have a publishing house webpage (don’t do what I do, and forget to update it/not settle on a theme for months on end) and you – frankly – look professional.

So… are you going to just release your book out there, with minimal work/support, like any other mid-list book?

I can hear you protesting now.  “But Sarah, you say, I am a shoe-string operation with exactly one editor and one writer.”

Yes, of course, and we will talk about compromises you can and have to make, but there are also things you can do to make it look like the book is “high list” and important to the house.

“But I can’t make all my books look high list!” you say.

Um… why not?

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Launching Your Book Off Right

Saturday, December 7th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt

Selling your writing in 13 weeks, week 9

Launching a book is like launching a rocket.  You make sure you built it right and have the right fuel mixture, and then you hope it won't blow up in your face.

Launching a book is like launching a rocket. You make sure you built it right and have the right fuel mixture, and then you hope it won’t blow up in your face.

There is something magical about taking a book you finish and letting it out into the world. There is something very scary too.

Back when I was doing only traditional publishing, or as I call it non-Baen publishing (since of all my traditional publishers Baen is the only one I continue to work with because they aren’t like the others) the process often resembled taking your infant and feeding him to the volcano god.

In the later days of the push model – before Amazon forced bookstores to stock in accordance with what was selling and not what the publisher said would sell – you often submitted a book in order to see it endowed with the most absurd cover or edited by a process that made Smashwords’ meatgrinder look good.  And then…  Nothing.  It just vanished without a trace never to rise again.

To call the process soul-killing is to understate the truth. For those of us making a mid-list living and often feeding three or four books – or more – a year into this machine, it became an abusive situation that gave us a feeling of combat fatigue. I found, recently, while looking over my books delivered towards the end of that period, (i.e. when I’d been doing it for a long time, and there was no prospect of indie in sight), that I’d started playing elaborate games with myself, such as including some outrageous detail and wondering if anyone else would notice it. This was, in retrospect, reckless and often stupid behavior. (And no, they were never discovered by the publisher, but that means now I need to discover them myself. No, I didn’t remember most of them.)

So – thank heavens for indie, right?  Where that never will happen?

Well, to quote a line from one of my favorite movies (Independence Day) “That’s not entirely accurate.”

Hence the comment about how putting the book out there is very exciting… and very scary also.

Anyone who has put a few stories or novels out there has experienced the weird release that just won’t sell.  This is particularly puzzling when you have a following that – generally speaking – will buy at least a few copies of anything you put out.  You put the short story or novel up on amazon and… nothing.

Sometimes this is a temporary condition, fixed later as the novel starts selling. And sometimes it just stays that way, and you have no idea why.

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Hoist A Glass To The End of Prohibition

Thursday, December 5th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt

shutterstock_128414861

Remember, remember, the fifth of December (1933) and that even a bad constitutional amendment could be repealed.

So might it happen with all bad laws.

According to This Day In History:

…..Congress passed the Volstead Act on October 28, 1919, over President Woodrow Wilson‘s veto. The Volstead Act provided for the enforcement of Prohibition, including the creation of a special Prohibition unit of the Treasury Department. In its first six months, the unit destroyed thousands of illicit stills run by bootleggers. However, federal agents and police did little more than slow the flow of booze, and organized crime flourished in America. Large-scale bootleggers like Al Capone of Chicago built criminal empires out of illegal distribution efforts, and federal and state governments lost billions in tax revenue. In most urban areas, the individual consumption of alcohol was largely tolerated and drinkers gathered at “speakeasies,” the Prohibition-era term for saloons.

Prohibition, failing fully to enforce sobriety and costing billions, rapidly lost popular support in the early 1930s. In 1933, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was passed and ratified, ending national Prohibition. After the repeal of the 18th Amendment, some states continued Prohibition by maintaining statewide temperance laws. Mississippi, the last dry state in the Union, ended Prohibition in 1966.

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Measuring Up Outlets For Indie Publishing

Saturday, November 30th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt

Selling Your Writing in 13 Weeks, Week 8

Like a beautiful mirage in the desert of publishing, for decades ebooks were cool, interesting, but never quite there.

Like a beautiful mirage in the desert of publishing, for decades ebooks were cool, interesting, but never quite there.

For a long time ebooks were sort of a mirage.

When I attended my first writers’ conference twenty years ago, the publishing world was abuzz with rumors of ebooks and how great they would be.

There were all sorts of panels which in retrospect seem rather silly about how ebooks would change the reading experience. You’d have these integrated “smart books” with lines you could click on to get more background.

Being a notoriously doubtful kind of person, I remember thinking “Uh… not unless people operate very differently from my household.”

There was no way I could lug my monitor to the bathroom or the kitchen.

Besides the whole idea of books with click through points seemed… odd.  It might be okay, I thought, for non fiction – while reading a book on, say, glass blowing, I could see the clicking on some link for “older techniques” (still, unless those excursions were brief, it would become disruptive.)  However, people were talking about “click through to find the character’s personal history” or “click through for a summary of how they got to this situation” or – more ridiculous – “click through for a map of the land” or schemata of the spaceship or…

I was greener than grass, but I was not so green that I did not know the experience of reading is following the writers’ voice and storytelling ability.  As tempting as it is, in the second and subsequent books in a series to cue in the readers who haven’t read previous books without distracting the others, my guess is that the experience would be lacking.

I must have been right.  For the next fifteen years, at conference, workshop, gathering of writers and editors, this wonderful idea of an ebook future was brought up. But, like rejuvenation or teleporting, it was a scientific development that was always in the future.

Does this mean nothing happened?  Oh, no.  Baen Books had a vibrant ebook store, and, as pagers gave way to personal organizers, people started reading on those and on other portable devices.  (At the time my own dream device was the Irex Iliad.  I was never able to afford it)

However most ebook reading devices were massively expensive, uncomfortable on the eyes, and not used unless you had some special incentive – like traveling a lot.  Baen sold comfortably to a segment of the population who liked ebooks, but most other houses – after a few abortive attempts at an ebook department – more or less ignored the whole thing.

The outlet for indie books I became aware of was Smashwords, and the quality of most books posted there, from the bizarrely off-size covers to the writing, reinforced every stereotype of the self-published author.

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CS Lewis Added To Poet’s Corner

Sunday, November 24th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt

Time_cslewis_cover

As the Telegraph explains it, Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey is a curious place:

Horace Walpole spoke of its tombs in “crouds and clusters” and, indeed, dates and names have been cut on to most inches of Westminster Abbey. But the epitaphs are nowhere more crowded than in the Abbey’s South Transept – a place long since renamed Poets’ Corner. Here are buried, or commemorated, Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, Dryden and Dickens – and quite a few others who have stood time’s test less well. CS Lewis, on the 50th anniversary of his death, will become the latest to join this literary “croud” this month. His little plaque, wedged between Betjeman and Blake, is to be unveiled on November 22.

Although it is a high honour for a writer to be commemorated at Poets’ Corner, there is an endearingly undignified genius to the place. The pavement is such a dense patchwork of tombstones that you can imagine, a little below, the great writers’ skeletons tucked up together in a small dormitory.

The truth is sometimes less stately even than that: the spendthrift playwright Ben Jonson couldn’t afford a full grave, and so was buried standing up (to save space) in a less desirable bit of the nave. His thigh bones twice came to light by accident in the 19th century: so much for eternal repose.

Apparently some people dispute CS Lewis’ right to be added to it, but let’s for the moment forget whether or not his two books of poetry merit it. I’d say that his Chronicles of Narnia are poetry. Even The Telegraph describes them as:

Now children’s classics, these limpidly written adventure novels wrangle with the most complex theological ideas. Christianity is reimagined in a parallel world: God in manifest form is a lion called Aslan, neither safe nor tame. By rinsing out the familiarities of liturgy and organised religion, CS Lewis throws into relief what he considers essential – sacrifice and belief, among other things. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the lion allows himself to be killed for the good of all, and is then reborn. In The Silver Chair, when Aslan’s existence falls most under doubt, a stubbornly loyal Narnian makes this case for belief without proof: “Suppose there isn’t an Aslan. All I can say is, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones.”

And if poetry is not the ability to capture in images and narrative feelings that are otherwise rationally indescribable, I don’t know what poetry is.

In fact, as a fellow writer of the fantastic (if hardly in the same league) I can tell you that fantasy itself is an attempt to capture the otherwise indescribable, an attempt to look out of Plato’s cave, for the true reality it’s not given to mere humans to know. And that, in the end, is also poetry.

Welcome to Poet’s Corner, CS Lewis.  It’s a well deserved honor.

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Ensuring Your Book Is All That It Can be

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt

Selling Your Writing In Thirteen Weeks — Week 7

So you maggots think you're novels!

So you maggots think you’re novels!

This is important whether you’re going the “new, new indie” or the traditionally published route. The level to which you want your manuscript bullet-proofed might be different, but you should still have someone look over your story before sending it in.

Yes, I know, the big houses are supposed to do their own editing, checking and proofreading, just like the big newspapers are supposed to have layers and layers of fact checkers. Don’t count on it.

The quality of the editing you get is proportional to their hopes of your selling really well, which in turn is proportional to the size of your advance.

That means if your advance is under ten thousand dollars (and most advances are) you cannot expect your book to get more than a cursory look by someone who finished college last year, and whose most notable reading – let alone editing – achievement was devouring Fifty Shades of Gray at one sitting.

But the more important thing, if your advance is ten thousand or less, is that copy-editing for punctuation and typos might be the only editing you get.

And this is a problem, because no matter how good you are, how smart you are, or how carefully you researched your subject, in the middle of the book, your brain is going to do something utterly bizarre and you’re going to reverse the name of two towns; you’re going to introduce a technology that didn’t exist at the time, or you’re going to forget the color of your character’s eyes… or remember it wrong.

Now how much you spend depends on what you expect to be paid, whether you’re going indie or traditional, what your expectations are of the book and well… who you know.

It also is important that you know what you’re paying for – and what the person reading is supposed to do for you.

So, let’s take this thing in order –

You’ve finished a novel. Good for you! I suppose if it’s your first novel, I can’t prevent you from letting your mom read it. (Unless you’re like me. I give thanks daily that mom can’t speak/read English.)

That’s fine. Just don’t take it seriously. Your mom, unless your mom is a published author in that genre and notoriously mean (ask my kids) in critique, is not an appropriate judge of marketability or how publishers/the market will react to your story.

The first thing you should do is find what we call in the field “beta readers.” This comes from software, where they have beta testers. Every writer should have beta readers. Yes, I know that this can be a problem. Way back almost thirty years ago, as a young author, I had trouble finding three people who knew enough about the genre I was trying to break in and who were willing to read my book. Which was a pity because I desperately needed a reality check.

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Antique Tea Caddy Carved From Tree Shakespeare Planted Auctioned

Monday, November 18th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
535px-Cobbe_portrait_of_Shakespeare

The Cobbe portrait, believed to be the only portrait of William Shakespeare painted during his lifetime.

Okay, not even in his comedies would Shakespeare write something that silly.  However, according to the Daily Mail:

A tea caddy carved from a mulberry tree may have been planted by Shakespeare himself has gone under the hammer for £13,000 at auction.

The antique – which features a tiny carved bust of The Bard – was whittled out of wood recovered from the famous tree planted outside the playwright’s home.

It lay in a private collection for years but was finally passed on for a five-figure sum after it was sold off at Christie’s auction house in London yesterday afternoon.

The immaculate caddy, dated 1760, is emblazoned with Shakespeare’s coat of arms and contains three ornate sliding-lid compartments decorated with intricate mulberry fruit designs.

Reverend Francis Gastrell – who bought New Place in Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire, after Shakespeare’s death – had the tree cut down in 1756 after he became fed up with visitors asking to see it.

He had planned to burn the tree but enterprising locals flocked to purchase the wood in order to create Shakespeare souvenirs – kick-starting the historic town’s centuries-old tourist industry.

Woodworker George Cooper – whose signature is carved into the 6in high by 10.25in wide wood-and-metal box – created dozens of trinkets from the timber.

Good show! And that figure for a box designed to keep your tea in is something the Bard himself — a money-minded entrepreneur –  would not have laughed about!

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How Not To Look Self Published

Saturday, November 16th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
By all means, leap, but look first.

By all means, leap, but look first.

I know sometimes the lot of us who are indie publishing sound like a deranged chorus of school children going “come on in, the water is fine.”

However, as you must have heard once or twice, you shouldn’t jump off a bridge just because all your friends are doing it. Or at least you shouldn’t leap before you look.

Here are a few things I wish I’d known when I started off. Mind you, I didn’t make as many mistakes as I might have, but I still made plenty.

I will give you some resources to check on for indie publishing, in a supplemental post (and I’m sorry I’m behind with those, but I caught the stupid flu) later on, but meanwhile here are some basic things.

While indie publishing lumps together micro presses, some small presses and self-publishing, what we’re going to be talking about here is mostly self-publishing. Or rather, how to not self-publish while self-publishing.

Confused? Don’t be. I’ll explain.

This post will mostly cover forms of self-publishing because the process to submit to micro and small presses is largely the same as to submit to traditional publishers. The advantage versus disadvantage calculations in small vs. large publisher is something you’ll have to do on your own, depending on the self-publisher and what you’re doing. Some small publishers are much better at giving you personal attention, some worse; some are very exacting with their accounting, and some… aren’t. (Then again the same could be said for some larger publishers.)

However, when you self-publish, it doesn’t mean you just throw your work on Amazon under your own name with no publisher.

You can do that of course. The fact that you can do that is one of the beautiful things about the time we live in.

However, even though in publishing circles themselves, and where no one has anything invested in dissuading you from self-publishing (as most traditional publishers do) the stigma associated with self-publishing is mostly a thing of the past – the general public doesn’t necessarily do this.

It is hard for those of us on the inside, seeing how fast the publishing landscape has changed these last four years, and being aware that some people have made fortunes by self-publishing, to realize that most of the reading public isn’t aware of this sea-change.

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How to Write Queries, Synopsis and Proposals

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt

Selling you writing in 13 weeks, supplemental post 1, part 1

We will not teach you how to do this!

We will not teach you how to do this!

 

How to pitch and query.

No, we don’t mean we’ll teach you how to propose marriage, though if you need help of that kind, read the first proposal – by Mr. Darcy – in Pride and Prejudice and then make sure you don’t do that.

However, I promised a supplemental post to my 13 weeks series, about how to approach traditional markets, should you decide to do so.

I don’t know if my experience is normal — since I came from so far outside the field that I came from another country, culture and language – but I spent eight years unable to submit any of my stories, because while I knew how to write the stories themselves, I was in the dark on how to write those strange things “queries” and “proposals” and “synopsis.”

Then one day at a writers’ group meeting I asked a published author next to me how one did it, and – after looking at me like I’d taken leave of my senses – she showed me.  On the back of an envelope.  In five minutes.

Which was handy, because a year later, when I met an editor at a workshop, she asked me to send her a proposal.  And I did.  It was the proposal for Ill Met By Moonlight, which sold to that editor three days after I sent it.

If you’re trying to go the traditional route you will come – perhaps you’ve already come – up on these words “query” and “synopsis” and “proposal”.  If you attend conventions you might also have need of a magical thing called “pitch” or “elevator pitch.”

The only two houses – that I know of, though it’s possible there are still some in Romance and/or mystery – that take submissions in the form of a full manuscript are Baen and DAW (though I heard rumors TOR did, or was intending to.) All the others will have either a line saying “No unsolicited submissions” or “send query”  Or “Send proposal”.

So, let’s start with how you magically turn your submission from “unsolicited” to “solicited.”

This usually involves attending a convention or workshop also attended by the editor you wish to work with.

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How to Make Sure your Story Is Publishable

Saturday, November 9th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
You must look for the flaws in your own work, so you can fix them.

You must look for the flaws in your own work so you can fix them.

So you’ve decided to go indie. What is the first thing you should do?

No, you shouldn’t – really, truly, trust me – make space in your basement for all those piles of money you intend to roll around in. Yes there are some people who made quite a lot of money right off the bat. There are also a lot of people (cumulatively) who win the lottery. However, just like your retirement plan shouldn’t be “first, win the lottery” your plan for indie success shouldn’t be “put one book out, make a pile of money.”

Most of the people who buy a lottery ticket do not win the lottery. And most of the people who have a single book out do not immediately and suddenly become bestsellers with millions of dollars flowing in.

If you are one of those people, you’re one of luck’s own children, and you don’t need my humble advice any more than you need an extra arm or a third eye. Go forth and perform magic, or something.

However, let’s suppose you’re a normal human being and you just wrote a short story or a novel, or a novella, which you’ve decided to throw out there for sale to the general public.

First of all let me caution you: the first piece of completed writing you ever do will seem to you like the most amazing and miraculous thing.

Even if you’ve been writing for years, and have been aware that there was something lacking in your efforts, there will be a story you finish that you know is “a real story.” And you’ll think it’s the best thing since sliced bread.

The same thing happens with your first “real” heart piece, your first “real” song, your first “real” computer program, and just about any other endeavor that involves both art and craft. The first one that you think is “good enough” will also seem wonderful to you.

Most of the time it will not be.

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Selling Your Writing To The Public

Saturday, November 2nd, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
setting up shop by the side of the information superhighway can be a daunting endeavor.

setting up shop by the side of the information superhighway can be a daunting endeavor.

Selling your writing in 13 weeks, week 4

So, you’ve decided to eschew traditional publishing.  It takes too long, or there aren’t many choices, or you think that you don’t have a chance, or you’d rather start making money now, even if it will be less, or you want to cut out the middle man and reach the public.  Last but not least, you might have decided that the best chance at breaking into traditional publishing is to be a success at indie.

All right.

First, note that last sentence, above.  You needn’t abandon all hope (of traditional publishing) once you enter here.  No, in fact there is a very good chance this will be your path to traditional publishing.  My colleague Larry Correia did just that.  He published Monster Hunter International, was a success, and is now happily publishing with Baen books.

Is it guaranteed?  Nothing in life is guaranteed, particularly for writers and particularly right now.

But if you’re going to try this Indie thing, there are ways and ways to do it.

Before we set off, always remember “Money Flows To The Writer.”  This is the same as in traditional publishing.  If you remember that and “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” you’ll probably keep off the biggest pitfalls.

Now, let’s start with some decisions you have to make.

So – you’re going indie.  But how?

Are you going to self-publish?  Go in with a group of friends? Go with an established small or micro publisher?

Which is it best to do?

I can’t make that decision for you – it’s all on how you feel about it, how much work you’re willing to do and how much self confidence you have.  In fact, you probably will want to try all three forms.

First, let’s consider small or micro publishers – the same process for submitting to them applies as for submitting to the majors.  They are usually faster, more responsive and willing to give a try to an unknown.  But they aren’t ALWAYS that.  Some of them are just as bad as the traditionals. And some are worse.  For instance, some of them have worse contracts and some of them are very new and have clue zero how to parse out payments.  (This is not as easy as you might think.  The way electronic outlets pay can get maddening.)

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Being A Professional, The Traditional Way

Saturday, October 26th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Who Stole The Mouse's Cookie might be a riveting "true crime" but that's not what the publishers mean by "True Crime Stories."

Who Stole The Mouse’s Cookie might be a riveting “true crime” but that’s not what the publishers mean by “True Crime Stories.”

Selling your Writing in Thirteen Weeks: Week 3

Check out Sarah Hoyt’s previous entries in her new ongoing series chronicling the collision of new media publishing’s possibilities and the opportunities that still remain in traditional publishing:

Introduction, October 5: Payment Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Week 1, October 12: To Market, To Market With Words to Peddle…

Week 2, October 19: Reasons to Brave the Indie Publishing Jungle

*****

Okay, so you want to try traditional publishing.  This is not a bad idea, if you’re writing short stories.  It’s also not a bad idea if you’re writing science fiction and fantasy novels and want to submit to Baen books.  For all else… well, I wouldn’t do it.  However, it’s your decision.  Just don’t say I told you to.

At any rate, whether you’re submitting short stories or novels, first make sure you’re sending them to the right place.

No, I don’t mean anything as silly as mailing – or emailing – your submission to the wrong address, though heaven knows if you’re sending out a lot of submissions sooner or later you’re going to do just that.  Sooner or later you’re also going to put the story in the wrong envelope.  That’s just one of those fun facts: if you’re human periodically you’re going to do something abysmally stupid, because you’re rushed, sick, or just not feeling yourself. That’s acceptable.  Even if this is a magazine and you have reason to think the editor is tracking you/keeping an hopeful eye on your submission – I’ll go into the reasons to believe that later – don’t imagine that a completely stupid mistake like that will be held against you.  Everyone knows periodically you will make a mistake. That’s fine.

What is not fine, though, is sending a children’s picture book, with hand-drawn pictures to a True Crime publisher.  (Not even if it’s a True Crime children’s picture book called If You Steal A Mouse’s Cookie.)  In the same way, it’s not acceptable to send nonfiction books on making money by flipping real estate to a science fiction publisher.  It’s not acceptable to send short stories to a book publisher and (except in certain circumstances, when the guidelines say they might serialize a novel) it’s not a good idea to send novels to a magazine.

So, first thing you do is you go to Ralan.com or to any other listing for the type of market you’re looking for (in the last resort the Writer’s Market book) and you look for markets that might be interested in your work. And, because this is now the internet, use your favorite search engine to look up the potential markets. Visit their sites, if they have them.

Make absolutely sure that you’re sending something this magazine/book publisher will buy.  Look, sometimes we all take desperate gambles.  If your short story is a little bit science fiction and a lot fantasy, and you’re out of fantasy markets, you might try a science fiction market.

But…

Well, take me for instance.  I’ve told you that I made every possible mistake coming up, right?  Well, my idea was that if my story/book was good enough, people would buy it even if it was completely inappropriate.  Look, I was 22 and had been raised on the myth of the genius.

So I sent a horror short story to a fantasy magazine.  They sent me back a personal rejection and a free copy of their magazine, told me how much they loved my story, but that it was totally inappropriate.  Could I please read the magazine and try again?

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In Australia, Gold Really Does Grow on Trees!

Friday, October 25th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
of course, no tree looks like this!

of course, no tree looks like this!

According to the New York Post:

You won’t believe it when you read this – scientists have found gold growing on gum trees near Wudinnaon the Eyre Peninsula in Australia.

A team of CSIRO scientists discovered eucalyptus trees near the country town draw up tiny gold “nuggets” from the earth via their root system and then deposit the valuable metal on their leaves, bark and branches.

While scientists have found gold on trees before, it was never actually known how it got there.

CSIRO geochemist Dr. Mel Lintern, lead author of the multi-million dollar project, said the discovery could save mining and gold exploration companies “a lot of money”.

“If they’re able to sample the trees (for gold) in place of drilling, then they’re going to save some money,” he said.

“The other aspect about that of course is sampling the vegetation is more environmentally benign that digging big holes or drilling.”

While the latter comment is undoubtedly true, one can’t help but hope that the powers that be don’t become so fixated on this “environmentally sound” way of mining, that they stop doing the old, hard way altogether.  Gold is needed for many applications, and we have the example of the energy industry seeking after the mirage of “green energy” at the cost of industry and human comfort (and lives of the elderly.)

But the idea of gold on trees is, of course, fascinating. When I was a kid in Portugal, the rumor was one could go to Brazil, sit under the “gold tree” and wait for the gold to fall in one’s lap. (I think this was metaphorical, but as a kid I saw it literally.)

Apparently they were wrong.  For the real gold, you’d have to go to Australia.

****

Photo courtesy Shutterstock, © diez artwork

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Lego Figures Will Outnumber Humans by 2019

Thursday, October 24th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Submit, oh helpless humans!  We'll soon outnumber you.

Submit, oh helpless humans! We’ll soon outnumber you.

They told us.  All the greats of science fiction warned us that overpopulation would become a terrible problem.  They were only slightly wrong.  Turns out the problem is not for real humans but only for Lego people.

The Daily mail warns:

Since 1978, millions of tiny plastic people have been populating the Earth.

And now it is predicted that there could be a miniature Lego figure for every person on Earth in 2019.

According to a mathematical online comic, Lego has been making its little people at such a rate that they will outnumber the human population by the end of the decade.

Click through for XKCD’s graphic er… graph of the danger we stand in.  Your daily dose of doom and gloom!

Or, of course, you could be grateful we live in a society that can afford to make that many little toys for the kids to play with.  These “lego people” as they were called in our house, didn’t exist when I was little — of course — but older son had a half dozen of them, whom he treated as designated victims in his car crashes and the collapse of his lego towers.  Younger son had a dozen, and gave them names, and scripted lives for them, including going to work in their lego office and coming home to their lego house.

And I hope society will be wealthy enough to allow my potential, eventual grand-kids to play with them too. A society in which kids have time and toys to enjoy childhood is devoutly to be hoped for.

Like human overpopulation, the dangers of lego-people overpopulation are grossly exaggerated!

****

Photo Courtesy Shutterstock, © Ritu Manoj Jethani

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Reasons to Brave the Indie Publishing Jungle

Saturday, October 19th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt

Selling your writing in 13 weeks — week two.

Before you go it alone in publishing, you should consider some things -- and find a cool hat.

Before you go it alone in publishing, you should consider some things — and find a cool hat.

So, you’ve looked at your options, studied your product, and are considering just taking it indie, which for the purpose of this article means either self-published or with a small publisher.

Very well. Last week we examined the potential pros and cons of going traditional, and this week we’ll do the same for indie.

Sometimes, it’s just clear cut that you should go indie.

Some of these cases are, say, when you’re writing a book about something that doesn’t have a ready market in traditional publishing. Very often these are cross-genre things, and your reception at the two or three places you sent it to was “I love this, but I don’t see a market.” Or if there’s only one or two houses you’d consider in the field you’re writing in, and they’re known to take forever to answer or, for whatever reason, you’ve come to the conclusion you have no chance with them.

In most cases, things are not that clear cut. You’re sitting there, with your finished manuscript and considering “Indie or traditional.”

Well, traditional will give you money upfront, but after that you only get at best 8% of cover price. And your book is not fully in your control. Someone could slap an awful cover on, and nine times out of ten you have absolutely no say in it.

On the other hand, in Indie Publishing most of the time you have full control. (At least if you’re self-publishing. If you are publishing with a small press, you might still relinquish some of the control, such as you might have cover consultation, but it’s doubtful you’ll have cover decision.)

That’s good and bad.

Let’s take indie publishing pros and cons.

The most important advantage of indie publishing, at least in my opinion, is that in a market that’s as volatile and unpredictable as the publishing market is just now, you don’t stand at risk of losing the copyrights to your books to someone else’s lawsuit. (This might not be true with small presses, so investigate them carefully and, as always, have an IP attorney read any contract.)

The con in this case is that no one is going to pay you big money for the licensing of that copyright. You’ll put the book up and you might make a few thousand dollars in a year or you might only make a few hundred. There is no telling.

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Can Google Make You Sick?

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Whatever you do, don't tell the doctor you're suffering from Housemaid's Knee.  He might have read Three Men In A Boat.

Whatever you do, don’t tell the doctor you’re suffering from Housemaid’s Knee. He might have read Three Men In A Boat.

When I was very young, reading Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome, I came across the passage where he’s left alone with a medical encyclopedia for a few moments, and becomes convinced he suffers from every possible disease excluding only Housemaid’s knee.

Since then, and particularly in my household since I got married and formed my own family, the name for any unspecified and most likely imaginary malady of the type that prevents kids from doing homework and adults from going to work when there’s a snow storm out is “Housemaid’s Knee.”

Apparently, due to google, a lot of people are suffering the same syndrome as the main character of Three Men In a Boat.

Imagine my delight when this Telegraph article refers to precisely that passage in Three Men in a Boat:

The finest medical advice in literary history comes in the opening pages of Three Men in a Boat. The narrator recounts how, on going to the British Museum to read up on some passing ailment, he starts flicking through the pages of a medical dictionary. To his consternation, he discovers that, in every instance, the symptoms correspond exactly to his own. From ague to zymosis, via cholera, gout and St Vitus’s Dance, it turns out that the only disease he has escaped is housemaid’s knee – an omission he cannot help but find rather vexing.

In something of a panic, he visits his doctor, and informs him of this melange of maladies. He is given this prescription: “1 lb. beefsteak, with 1 pt. bitter beer, every 6 hours. 1 ten-mile walk every morning. 1 bed at 11 sharp every night. And don’t stuff up your head with things you don’t understand.”

The hypochondriac impulse is universal. We don’t all take it to the extremes of a Florence Nightingale, who spent a good two thirds of her 90 years confined to her bed, convinced she was at death’s door. But who hasn’t felt the temptation to translate a fevered forehead into a full-on case of swine flu, or – if you’re Norman Baker – a conviction that the men in dark suits have finally resorted to the old polonium cocktail in an effort to silence you for good?

While there’s no doubt they’re right, and that there is a bit of hypochondriac in all of us — a reason they warn medical students of this tendency — if you’re levelheaded and scientifically literate, you can usually narrow down your possible ailments for your doctor’s consideration. On the other hand, you’d best make sure your family doctor knows you very well, or he’ll roll his eyes and think you’re suffering from housemaid’s knee.

Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock © William Perugini

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Waiter, There’s a Government in My Beer!

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Government officials -- proceed with care!  We had an entire revolution over tea!

Government officials — proceed with care! We had an entire revolution over tea!

Now this just turns this small-l libertarian into a raging uppercase Libertarian.

The shutdown theater has blocked our veterans from their monuments, allowed thuggish park rangers to terrorize visitors to Yellowstone, and even caused park rangers to block lanes of a highway to stop people from pulling over to look at Mount Rushmore.

But enough is enough and this is going too far!

According to the Washington Times:

The government agency in charge of approving new breweries, recipes and labels is on furlough, leaving in limbo the ability of suds-makers to get their brews on store shelves.

And that means beer connoisseurs who like to constantly try out new samples may have to make do with the presently approved stocks.

“My dream, this is six years in the making, is to open this brewery,” said Mike Brenner, a beer maker who was hoping to open his brewery business in Milwaukee by December, The Washington Post reported. But that’s all on hold because of the government shutdown — and the delay may cost him big, to the tune of about $8,000 each month.

“I can’t get started because people are fighting over this or that in Washington,” he said. “This is something people don’t mess around with. Even in a bad economy, people drink beer.”

The agency in charge of processing his application is the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

In my more radical moments, I’ve been known to agitate for the abolition of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (You only think that no good arguments can be made for that. And you can only think that if you believe that only the government saves us from individual larceny and dishonesty. And, as my colleague, fellow Baen author Michael Z. Williamson, is fond of saying, that name should belong to a convenience store, not a federal bureau.)

It’s not something we normally make a big point of, though, because it takes too long to explain.

But now they’ve gone too far. They’re delaying the beer!

I have two observations: government involvement in beer regulation is a bridge too far, and if you believe that government regulation of beer is essential, you certainly cannot consider it a non-essential service.

Either way, it’s time to get the government out of our beer!

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A Bullet to the Head Could Not Dissuade her From Learning

Monday, October 14th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt

I am Malala book

Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl who was outspoken about female education intends to continue learning, despite having paid for her daring by having a Taliban member shoot her in the head.

According to the Telegraph:

She talks with the fierce clarity of a prophet, and observing her calm, resolute gaze is the nearest we will come to knowing what Joan of Arc looked like when she declared: “I am not afraid. I was born to do this.”

Exactly 12 months ago, Malala Yousafzai was in the back of an open truck on the way home from school when a Taliban gunman asked for her by name and shot her in the head. The bullet exited her brain, but they had to remove part of her skull to relieve the swelling. When I heard what had happened, I hoped that she would die. The thought of that eloquent spirit unable to speak or think or hear was unbearable. But she didn’t die.

When she awoke, she was in a Birmingham hospital. Her doctor says she never cried, not once. The eloquence came back, reborn fearlessly in one who had cheated death. A campaigner for female education, she spent less and less time in the classroom herself. She said she missed geography, but there was no time; her job now was making history.

Tomorrow, 16-year-old Malala may become the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Which would restore just a little of my faith in the deeply abused prize. However, my confidence in the committee leads me to say they will give it to Putin, the “tzar” of Russia.

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To Market, To Market With Words to Peddle…

Saturday, October 12th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Banks that hold mortgages steadfastly refuse to be paid in purrs.  No, we don't know why either.

Banks that hold mortgages steadfastly refuse to be paid in purrs. No, we don’t know why either.

Last week we agreed – well, at least I agreed, since I am after all writing this – that the purpose of writing is to be read by as many people as possible and that the best way of knowing there are people reading and enjoying your work is to sell it. No one is going to give you money for your writing just to make you feel better.  Okay, maybe your mom.  But she isn’t going to keep doing it.  So, if you’re making a living from your writing you have to know people are enjoying it.

Besides being a useful indicator of popularity, money is good for all sorts of things. For instance, the local grocery store takes it in exchange for food (and takes more of it each week it seems) and no matter how much we explain to our bank that we’re running what amounts to a non-profit cat shelter for delinquent cats, it still insists on having us pay our mortgage in cash instead of warm fuzzies.  (I know, I know.  Very narrow minded of them.)

So, you’ve finished your manuscript, be it a novel or a short story, or even a collection of articles on delinquency in cats, and you’re looking for a way to market it.  But how exactly do you go about it?

Well, first of all, you don’t know how lucky you are.  When I finished my first novel, back in pre-history (it was 1985 and we chiseled our work on slabs of rock) I honestly had no idea what to do with it.  As it turned out, I should have burned it, but since I didn’t know it at the time, I went to the library, got a copy of Writers’ Market and proceeded to send it out to all sorts of inappropriate places, from whence it was returned at speed (The Writers’ Market is more reliable for non-fiction, and event here the listings are often outdated by the time it goes to print.)  It was years before I found the appropriate places (which as it turned out also returned it at speed.)

Nowadays, you can do a lot of the research for where to market your book on line.  Sites like Ralan list markets for Science Fiction, Mystery, Fantasy and Horror ranging from the professional-paying to literary and little.  I was actually chuffed to find out they still existed.  They used to be my go-to market listing back ten years ago when I was regularly submitting to magazines.  (I haven’t done that in about ten years, because I’ve been submitting to by-invitation anthologies, and fulfilling book contracts.  It’s one of those problems you trade up for in the writing field.)  A friend of mine also uses something called The Grinder Diabolical Plots which is a combined submission tracker and market resource.

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Bring Back an Appreciation of Nude Females

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt

Not that this appreciation has ever been lacking among straight males.  However, among the Militant Feminist Wing of the Current Cultural Insanity (TM) , it’s become normal to decry any representation, no matter how artistic, of the unclad or partially clad female. They blur the lines — or pretend not to understand the distinction — between art and porn, and charge blithely ahead into Victorian-like prudery.

For instance, I caught more than a little trouble for the cover of (Prometheus Award-winning) Darkship Thieves, which the Militant Feminist Wing deemed to be “demeaning to women” for featuring a partly clad female.  They thus revealed both their ignorance — since even much better known authors than I have little to no say on their covers — but also their hypocrisy since none of them objects to the covers of Urban Fantasy books which often feature far more suggestive covers.

This cover is highly offensive because it shows a beautiful and confident female.  This means women are exploited.  Or something.

This cover is highly offensive because it shows a beautiful and confident female. This means women are exploited. Or something.

I confess that while I’ve always been aware of what a “beautiful woman” is and I’ve appreciated paintings like Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, I didn’t fully appreciate how the human form — male, female, old, young, conventionally beautiful or not — can be rendered beautiful in art.

Sandro_Botticelli_-_La_nascita_di_Venere_-_Google_Art_Project_-_edited

The crazy wing of feminism would have you believe Sandro Botticelli painted this because he hated women.

Now, according to the Telegraph, efforts are afoot to make sure the female form is enjoyed as art, once more.

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘camgirl?’ Do you instantly think of Botticelli’s Venus, Manet’s Olympia and Picou’s Andromeda – beautiful, proud, sometimes tragic, nudes, lounging around in famous art galleries for the entire world to see?……………..

Well thanks to 21-year-old former London College of Fashion student Vanessa Omoregie, this perception of camgirls could be about to change.

Omoregie’s tumblr blog, Camgirlsproject, invites any woman to copy the pose of a nude from a famous painting on a webcam and send it to her. She then merges the original painting and the webcam image, to create some quite visually startling, and some stunning, works.

I wish them luck, of course.  Will they succeed?  Probably not.  I mean, most people looking at Webcams aren’t doing it for the art.  On the other hand, their efforts are bound to make the crazy wing of feminism even crazier, and that counts as a win in my book!

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Surviving a Scandal With Humor and Aplomb

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Mandy Rice-Davies, left, and Christine Keeler, pictured in 1963.

Mandy Rice-Davies, left, and Christine Keeler, pictured in 1963.

The Telegraph shares words of wisdom on how to survive a scandal from Mandy Rice-Davis, the former model who, as part of the Profumo affair helped bring down Harold McMillan’s government:

At the launch of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical about the scandal, Stephen Ward, Rice-Davies declared that Profumo’s error was lying about his affair with Christine Keeler: “Had he actually stood up and told the truth, he would probably have gone to the back benches, maybe.”

Rowan Pelling from The Telegraph adds that:

However, I feel Rice-Davies would have even more pearls of wisdom about the role of humour in extremis. One key difference between the blonde bombshell and the more self-contained Keeler is that Rice-Davies always had a joke on her lips and a wink to the gallery. It was she who perkily declared to a packed court, on being told Lord Astor denied having an affair with her: “He would, wouldn’t he?” The Welsh-born glamour puss looked like she was playing a leading role in “Carry On Profumo”, and enjoying every second of it.

I don’t know.  I tend to think it is best not to be involved — much less caught in flagrante — in scandals of this nature, and that when caught one should have to pay no matter how charming or humorous.

However, I must say Rice-Davies’ approach seems preferable to our current public personages who seem to cover a scandal with a new and worse one.

Photo via Keystone.

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Woman Marries Herself!

Monday, October 7th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Fine.  If he doesn't come, I'll marry myself.

Fine. If he doesn’t come, I’ll marry myself.

As Powerline blog notes, commenting on this same article, it’s getting harder and harder to distinguish supposedly serious news sites from the Onion.

According to the ever-entertaining and self-aggrandizing Huffington Post, Nadine Schweigert married herself and “opened up about self marriage.”

A 36-year-old North Dakota woman who married herself in a commitment ceremony last March has now spoken about her self-marriage choice in an interview with Anderson Cooper.

The marriage took place among friends and family who were encouraged to “blow kisses to the world” after she exchanged rings with her “inner groom”, My Fox Phoenix reports.

“I feel very empowered, very happy, very joyous … I want to share that with people, and also the people that were in attendance, it’s a form of accountability,” Nadien Schweigert told Anderson Cooper.

Schweigert said the ceremony was a celebration of how far she’d come since her painful divorce six years ago that led to her two children to decide to live with her ex-husband.

“Six years ago I would’ve handled a problem by going out and drinking,” she said. “I smoked, I was 50 pounds overweight … this is just celebrating how far I’ve come in my life.”

Note the delicate construction in that whole passage — six years ago she left her husband, and that’s how she handled “a problem” then — so what problem does she still have?  Presumably the fact that she remains alone, since women who have remarried rarely have to “marry themselves.”

And what form of “accountability” is she emphasizing?  What exactly is she promising herself?  To do the best she can for herself?  I thought that was just what we owed ourselves and society?

Or is her “commitment” and accountability to make the best of being alone?  And make it sound like a grand adventure?

Marriage by definition is the union of two individuals, who commit to each other.  Committing to… yourself?

Oh, honey, in my day we just called that being a spinster.

*****

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock,© Frantisek Czanner

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Oldest Plant Yet Brought Back To Life

Sunday, October 6th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Jurassic Park Meets Little Shop of Horrors

Jurassic Park Meets Little Shop of Horrors

According to National Geographic:

A Russian team discovered a seed cache of Silene stenophylla, a flowering plant native to Siberia, that had been buried by an Ice Age squirrel near the banks of the Kolyma River (map). Radiocarbon dating confirmed that the seeds were 32,000 years old.

The mature and immature seeds, which had been entirely encased in ice, were unearthed from 124 feet (38 meters) below the permafrost, surrounded by layers that included mammoth, bison, and woolly rhinoceros bones.

The mature seeds had been damaged—perhaps by the squirrel itself, to prevent them from germinating in the burrow. But some of the immature seeds retained viable plant material.

The team extracted that tissue from the frozen seeds, placed it in vials, and successfully germinated the plants, according to a new study. The plants—identical to each other but with different flower shapes from modern S. stenophylla—grew, flowered, and, after a year, created seeds of their own.

Okay, so it’s not the stuff of Jurassic Park, unless they can coax the rather pretty white flowers to roam the countryside overturning jeeps and terrorizing tourists, but pretty exciting, nonetheless.  And maybe next time they’ll find seeds for some massive ancestor of Venus Fly Trap and recreate Little Shop of Horrors.

What?  Oh, it would be terrible of course.  But think of all the people you could send one of those to.  I bet Washington DC would be full of flower pots and carnivorous plants before you could say “inadvisable horticulture.”

Picture courtesy of the author’s frighteningly bad photoshop skills! Stop me before I spoof again!

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