Live on #Spotify, Ep 1 of the #ArtsyRaven! #ChrisGorman, #fantasy #writer, shares his #writing tips and reads from Dawn of Magic!

The first episode of The Artsy Raven podcast is live! It’s available on Spotify and YouTube at the moment. Anchor will be sending out the podcast to other channels as well, but it’s still early so the computers are all talking to each other and negotiating, I presume. Bonus content about the secrets of success from the guests for each episode is available exclusively on Patreon.

We had a tiny party with myself, my husband and my little one because of COVID and we didn’t feel comfortable asking people over to our tiny apartment. The cake was baked by Ginny who is fighting on Food Network’s Great Chocolate Showdown and it is a chocolate cake. She said all sorts of fancy words like “caramel something” and “ganache something,” I will have to ask her for exact terms before I post about the specifics of the cake! But it was yummy, that’s the important part!

Chris Gorman, the first guest on The Artsy Raven, has been recording the Words with Writers podcast for a while now and he was the most prepared guest. I had sent him questions and he actually wrote out almost every word he was going to say and even practiced reading the entire transcript to note his speaking time! Of course when we actually did the recording, we interjected impromptu things and I had to cut him off from answering three questions or else we would go overtime.

It’s a bit frightening how fast the podcast went up after the files were ready for uploading. With the click of a button, it was live on Spotify/YouTube and I could see it in the search engines when I look for it. Editing the podcast took a few hours in comparison and I hope in the future I can produce these episodes faster as I become more experienced. At the moment I’ve booked a lot of “local” guests and the challenge in the future is asking “strangers” to come onto the show. I feel I need to have a few more episodes up before approaching big potatoes to come onto the show.

Forward and onwards!

Trying not to get confused with so many #artsyraven podcast scripts! 8 guests confirmed!

Yesterday someone dragged me into a Zoom conference about selling and customer retention. One of the guests said that you need at least 35 YouTube videos before anyone notices you are alive! Eek!

For my new Artsy Raven podcast I have confirmed 8 people to be guests for me to interrogate (um, interview), so in a few months I’ll have over 35 podcasts and people will hopefully notice I am trying to spread the love of reading, writing and publishing! In a way I feel like I’m on a conveyer belt right now, just churning out podcast scripts and graphics. Maybe one day I’ll be rich enough to hire a minion to help me…

I start off with a template script and for each guest I modify based on what they write or what their occupation is. One of my upcoming interviews is with a book marketer – Chris of The Idea Shop, and I am super excited about talking to him. Authors want readers and he is a book marketing master for the Canadian market. I’m sure he will share lots of great ideas will us struggling writers!

To organize the scripts I numbered them onto my Google Drive. This way I can also share them easily with my guests and they can edit too before we meet. Onwards with another day!

Scheming and planning for The Artsy Raven Podcast where writers are the superstars!

Everyday I turn down the chance to promote authors 99% of the time because the magazines I work with have limited capacity for interview pieces. As an author I know that writing is hard work and marketing is even harder. For a long time I pondered how to help these people and finally I decided I should launch a podcast with the writers as superstars!

Whenever I finish listening to an author interview on a podcast, I often want to hear them read. So I thought why not? Let’s make a show to interview authors and then ask them to do a reading!

In parallel my husband is bugging me about how come I didn’t earn enough as a writer and publisher to pay the accountant in 2020. I had thought about Patreon in the past but a combination of self-doubt and imposter syndrome led me to not do it. Under some buckling pressure, I decided to launch my own Patreon page and made an account on Ko-Fi (digital coffee) to hit the goal of paying the accountant next year. I can do a lot of things, but accounting ain’t one of them!

I don’t know if this podcast will succeed or fail. But I am ordering a small cake for the podcast launch from Ginny who is competing on “The Great Chocolate Showdown” on The Food Network Canada right now so at the very least I will have dessert. What’s another five pounds on top of my already gained COVID weight?!

As Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”

As my mom says (whenever I start a crowd funding endeavor), “I will give you money, stop groveling and stop writing!” If this was about money, I would have taken her up on her offer a long time ago.

Meanwhile we did make an awesome trailer for The Artsy Raven, please have a look! And so we begin another adventure…

Capricon 41 Panels

This year I’m doing a few talks at Capricon 41 (Feb 4-7, 2021), a spec fic convention based in Chicago. I’ve been sent their panelist invites a few times, but this is the first time I’m attending.

To my surprise after receiving the schedule, I saw that I’ve been paired up with a few people I know from Toronto and someone I met at Detcon1 years ago! Looking forward to meeting these friends virtually again!

The con features many panels on writing, science and fandom – so if you’re looking for people to chat passionately with about geek topics, come hang out!

To get a pass to events (free/donation), visit http://capricon.org/

My schedule and panels:

  • Diversity, Inclusion, and Safety in Our Creative Spaces, Willow room – Fri 6:00 PM CT / 7:00 PM EST
  • Publicizing Your Book: Tips, Tricks, and No-Nos, Willow room – Sat 1:00 PM CT / 2:00 PM EST
  • Horror and Dark Fantasy Writing, Ravinia room – Sat 2:00 PM CT / 3:00 PM EST
  • Future of Publishing, Willow room – Sun 1:00 PM CT / 2:00 PM EST

Hope to see you there!

Rejections…one win and author logos

Lately I’ve been querying more and have been getting lots of rejections. As usual I wonder why the heck I am a writer. We are the most depressing people we know! I won one short story contest which was fantastic and I’ve been promoting that by making a cover for it (The Blue Son), but the glory is over in ten seconds!

With this COVID stuff going around, everyone is scared and rethinking about what’s important to them. I’ve been writing a more since I’m leading a writing group for the Canadian Authors Association’s Toronto Branch and have an obligation to keep writing. I horrified a few writers by confessing that I tossed out the draft manuscript for my second vampire book (sequel to The Undead Sorceress) and am starting again from scratch. Between publishing my first book and now, I have learned a lot from my creative writing teachers, my style has changed and my ideas of plot lines for the book has been thought out more. I’m also selling/publishing more short fiction as they are easier to pitch than novels. For the Asian Canadian Writers Workshop, we are working on another anthology and that will probably come out next year.

Today a friend sent me an article about author logos. It’s a pretty good read and talks about advantages of having one. Similar to any corporate logo, it will only take you so far because at the end of the day, you still need a good product (your writing). I made one as an exercise for fun and am not sure if it works or not. The logo has robots because I write a lot of sci-fi/people and the flower is for fantasy/Asianess. I write horror too, maybe I should have added some bloody drops? Or a ghost rising out of the flower? Should I add I’m a publisher too? Will have to think about this some more!

Please enjoy your time while this COVID nonsense is going on and stay safe!

Ingram Spark Vs Amazon KDP Createspace

For publishing purposes, mainly I’ve been using Amazon Createspace (print division) and Amazon KDP (e-books) for distribution. These two were merged recently and not much has changed other than the fact you don’t have to fill in tax info and log in twice. Some past receipts have gone missing, but other than that, the transition has been quite flawless. Creating a title for publishing has been great on Amazon. There is no charge for uploading, you keep what you earn minus fees.  If the print book comes damaged, they will offer to re-print another copy.

Some of my indie publishing friends have gone with both Amazon and Ingram Spark because they want the most out of distribution. Amazon distributes to limited venues and although Amazon captures 60% of the market, the other 40% is still land worth venturing into.

The site Ingram Spark has gone through many changes lately since I visited a few years ago out of curiosity. They provide very detailed manuals on how to publish and upload files. They have a live chat and telephone customer support system during office hours.  However, it costs $25-49 to upload a title and for every revision it will cost $25. There used to be an annual fee of $12 per title, but I believe that has been dropped now. Regardless, I had high hopes for Ingram given they are a giant distributor and supposedly more “professional” for publishing than Amazon.

Last night I tried to set up a title for both print and e-book distribution on Ingram Spark to try out their service. The first snag was the software on the website not allowing me to save the book title. The title “Trump Utopia of Dystopia” has no funny characters, so I was surprised at this happening. After the 10th try of pressing enter, something happened and I was allowed to go to the next page. This hope was false because I would hit other errors on the worldwide rights page and ISBN page. No matter what I did, the page would’t move on. I renamed the title to draft and tried again, only to be stuck on the title error once more. After numerous attempts and running into the same errors over and over, I gave up and went to bed because their customer service hotline was closed.

Waking up, I called them first thing and told them what happened. They asked what browser I was using. I said I tried chrome, explorer and safari. The person on the line advised me to download firefox. So I did and behold, firefox didn’t work either! After calling them back, they sent an email saying tech support will get back to me (unknown about timeline). They mentioned that the issue was trying to use the print/e-book uploading option. Apparently if you upload just print or e-book it’s fine. There is a bug in the code to do both print and e-book at the same time and they it’s been happening after their last software update.

In comparison, Amazon’s software has been fairly flawless for me. Their print and e-books are separate processes with the option to link both onto the product page later. The only time I’ve had a mental breakdown with publishing on Amazon is due to formatting but it’s nothing to do with their software not working.

I am on the fence about using Ingram Spark. If their tech people ever contacts me perhaps I will try again. However, my time is worth something and with tons of things to do, the price of putting up with flawed software might not be worth it in the end for me.

 

 

 

 

Editing speculative fiction and diversity panel – part 2

To reiterate, next week I’m giving a talk to Editors Toronto, the largest branch of Editors Canada (also known as the Editors’ Association of Canada) on a panel entitled “Editing Worlds: Speculative Fiction and the Editorial Process”. Tickets are available here on their website (free for members). Part 1 of post is here.

The Trump: Utopia or Dystopia book slush pile wasn’t that big, about 100 submissions. However, we still had to sort through all stories to pick ones we thought had potential of being great stories after some polishing. Our pay rates were token rates, which meant the editors would have to spend more time with writers as experienced writers would more likely submit to higher paying publishers.

While thinking about how to present the slushpile, I came across Neil Clark’s slushpile bingo blog post. He presents why Clarkesworld, his sci-fi magazine would reject a story.

Given we are speculative fiction publisher and not solely sci-fi, our version of why we would reject a story is slightly different. However, it gives writers an idea of why a story didn’t make it through the slushpile at Dark Helix Press.

Out of 100 stories here are the stats:

  • 100 submissions received (17 females, 83 males, 6 visible minority)
  • published 32 stories (8 females, 24 males, 4 visible minority)
  • percentage published/submission (47% women, 29% men, 67% visible minorities)

As a female and visible minority, with a mandate to publish as many diverse writers as possible, special attention was paid to stories from females or visible minorities.

However, at the end of the day, publishing good quality stories is the basic principle. If the story is horribly written, it doesn’t matter if you are from a diverse group or not, we just don’t have the time to rewrite entire manuscripts.

To make the odds of publishing diverse writers higher, they also have to send in more submissions. Looking at just our Trump book, by far, the highest number of submissions were from male, white writers.  I’m not sure what the stats are with other book projects, but I’m willing to bet they are similar, unless there were exclusion guidelines in place (eg. female only or LGBT only, etc).

Overall my co-editor Jen Frankel and I have been very happy with the authors selected and feel proud of this book even when people look at us in disgust that the main subject is Trump!

Now I have to go rehearse my talking points! Practice makes perfect!

Editing speculative fiction and diversity panel – part 1

Next week I’m giving a talk at the “Editing Worlds: Speculative Fiction and the Editorial Process” panel to Editors Toronto, the largest branch of Editors Canada (also known as the Editors’ Association of Canada). Tickets are available here on their website (free for members). Here is a link to short quirky interviews with all panelists: Jen Frankel, JF Garrard, Dominik Parisien and Drew Hayden Taylor.

Jen Frankel, my co-editor for Trump: Utopia or Dystopia will be joining me in talking about the process we went through on editing this anthology along with the issue of diversity in speculative fiction. We’ll be touching on:

  • the realities of indie publishing, crowdfunding, editing, and world building (Jen Frankel and JF Garrard);
  • the lessons learned from panels on writing and pop culture about the need for diverse stories in literature, film, and media (Jen Frankel and JF Garrard); and
  • strategies for supporting authors of different backgrounds and identities while keeping their voices intact throughout the editing process (Jen Frankel).

For my portion I’ll be using PowerPoint and thought I would share some of my more interesting talking points.

To kick off the diversity issue, I’m going to present the findings from Lee and Low book’s 2015 Diversity Baseline Survey. This independent publisher conducted a survey with 40 publishers and review journals. They sent out over 13K surveys with a response rate of 26%, a bit over 3K responses.

The categories they surveyed included executives, sales, marketing, pr and book reviewers. The results found that nearly 80% of those surveyed identified as white.

Source: https://blog.leeandlow.com/2016/01/26/where-is-the-diversity-in-publishing-the-2015-diversity-baseline-survey-results/

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the majority of the gatekeepers in traditional publishing are white. Going forward, if change is to happen, it’s going to take all of us, white and not-white to make the effort to change if diversity is truly an issue we all care about as a society.  However, it has to be done in a way to prevent “diversity branding” which is backlash with the illusion that things are fair and leads to bias against certain groups. Sometimes diversity programs lead to more negativity and it’s something that we all have to be aware of.

Similarly, I’ve been having a debate with another indie publisher about Dark Helix broadening it’s subject matters from only multicultural subjects. At the end of the day I want to be known as a publisher who provides great stories to readers and be inclusive, regardless of race or gender. To brand my company as solely for diverse authors is excluding other populations. This touches on the diversity branding mentioned earlier.

As a business, by being too niche, it’s very difficult to sell to the general population. In being more inclusive about writers and broadening subject matters, I hope to attract new readers to my publishing house who will then take a chance on the multicultural titles I have to offer as well.

But to publish more diverse writers, they also have to send in more submissions. In Part 2 I’ll talk about the slush pile for the Trump book and stats gathered from the making of this book.

Trump book published on Christmas!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The Trump: Utopia or Dystopia anthology is now live and available for sale or free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers on Amazon!

I’m not sure if I ever want to publish a book on Christmas again as it is quite stressful. A lot of frantic phone calls, emails and general panic about last minute changes. Although these things are typical of the publishing process with any book, I wasn’t sure if anyone would be working at Amazon on Christmas day to make it happen. It turns out there is a lot of automation I presume and at least one poor person (hopefully making triple salary) processing kindle books out in Amazon land.

Sadly, I’ve discovered that the previewer in Amazon isn’t that great. However, once I download the book or see it in the official previewer software for publishers, the book looks fine. Apparently it’s an ongoing problem that hasn’t been fixed by Amazon yet.

Jen Frankel and I are proud of the Trump book as it is one of the most creative exercises we have ever taken part in! All the writers have been great to work with and I’ve noticed that a few are in other Trump anthologies as well.

Our family also had fun with a Duplo building contest to see which design was deserving of a copy of the Trump book! There were a lot of abstract builds!

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In the new year I need some energy to finish an anthology about Canada and will be working with Sarah Water Raven. She will be the main editor as I will be contributing a story, so I need someone else to tear me to pieces. One becomes blind to their own writing after a while and the only cure are fresh eyes!