Sunday, December 22, 2013

Amazon Exclusivity and KDP Select: Book Marketing without B.S. #7

Book Marketing without B.S. is a weekly publicity and marketing advice column for writers and other creators who prefer a realistic, clear, and no-nonsense approach. My goal is to help you cut through the bullshit with direct, understandable advice you won't be embarrassed to follow. Send your questions to beverly@beverlybambury.com.

Once I began working independently of a publisher, I ran into an issue that I hadn’t dealt with before: exclusivity with Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select program. From a publicity perspective I found it frustrating, as I have contacts affiliated with other book-buying outlets and I am unable to call on them in exclusivity situations. Why would they help with a book they can’t sell, after all? Still, I know it is more complicated than that, so here are some thoughts. I hope you'll share yours, too.

I want to make clear that I have no problem with authors and publishers who choose to use the KDP Select program. I understand why. What I am bothered by is Amazon's program itself. Since people make a large percentage of sales through Amazon, they’re often going to be tempted by the higher royalty rate, or rather, seek to avoid the punishment of the 35% royalty rate. There are other benefits as well, such as five days of being able to offer your ebook for free download (though Amazon has nerfed the impact of that  by changing the visibility of the top free books list) and members' books are available for free borrowing by Amazon Prime members, which may net more reviews and definitely nets a share of money.

In a fascinating article by Eoin Purcell,  he compares KDP Select's desire for exclusive content to Netflix’s production of exclusive content. The point that sticks out the most to me is that it reduces user churn. In other words, Netflix wants to keep its current viewers as much—if not more—than it wants to attract new ones. It does this in part by producing and purchasing content that only appears on Netflix. Netflix then promotes this content and funnels it to viewers' eyeballs.

While we have no direct evidence of this one way or another, it makes a lot of sense that Amazon may be trying to do something similar. It wants to keep people paying for Amazon Prime membership, and one of those benefits is free borrowing of ebooks exclusive to Amazon Kindle. It’s no-overhead income for Amazon. Indeed, retaining subscribers is a big moneymaker for pretty much anyone who does subscriptions. While Purcell contends that Amazon is getting this exclusive content without paying for it, I’d argue that it's paying for it with higher royalty rates. Still, they’re not paying publishers and authors what they probably should be given the extent of the benefit to Amazon, and given that all the work of writing, editing, layout, marketing, advertising, and publicity falls squarely on the creators and publishers.

Purcell raises another interesting point when he says that Amazon also gets to see how self-published authors sell during this exclusivity period, which gives them an edge in possibly offering publishing contracts for Amazon Publishing, and of course scads of general sales and marketing data, all paid for (in many ways) by publishers and writers.

One thing that was previously difficult for creators and publishers to control was the timing of promotional pricing. It was hard to predict exactly when it would kick in. Now Amazon has introduced Kindle Countdown, which lets one set parameters of timing. But, naturally, one has to sign up for KDP Select to use it, creating yet more pressure for exclusivity, when someone really ought to be able to schedule the dates and pricing anyway.

How big is the benefit to creators? Many argue that it’s not worth the exclusivity to limit yourself. I myself don’t have any experience that is definitive one way or another. Two publishers I’ve worked with prefer to go this route, but others don’t. I can't argue with the ones who like it when they feel they get a consistent benefit from it, after all. Still, both publishers are fairly young and neither had large marketing and publicity campaigns (of which I am aware, anyway!) prior to doing the exclusive arrangement.

This piece by Jane Litte over at Dear Author raises a really good point that gets to one of the reasons I feel uncomfortable with exclusivity. It starts to feel (to me, not in Litte’s words) a bit like the “company store” phenomenon. What Litte does say is that it can be dangerous because with all your eggs in one basket, what happens if the bottom drops out of the basket? Remember when Amazon removed lots of erotica? What if they come for what you write next for some reason? I know that’s a long shot, but exclusivity gives them complete control over that if they choose to exercise it. What if they decide to change terms in some other legally-covered way? You’ve undoubtedly agreed to a host of terms and conditions when you go with KDP Select, and Litte points out that Amazon changes terms at other times writing, “Just recently they increased the amount you have to buy in order to get free shipping from $25 to $35.” Do you fully understand what you signed when you joined KDP Select?

She also argues that exclusivity harms readers, too. Litte says that by reducing or eliminating competition, some of the drive for innovation—and thus perks for customers—disappears. If Amazon has no competition, they don’t need to win your business. They’ll be the only game in town, then we’re back to the company store of books. Again, though, I can’t blame people for doing it. When most of your sales come from Amazon, and Amazon sweetens the deal, then what’s a struggling small publisher or self-publisher to do?

In any case, many people have looked at this more closely than I have, and authors have generously written about their experiences. You can read, in addition to the above, the below interesting posts, and I am certain that a quick search will net more.


To sum up, on a purely theoretical basis I encourage people not to use Amazon’s KDP Select/exclusivity; but, in the pragmatic sense, I understand why people use it, and I still gladly work with publishers who are part of the program. We all have to work with the resources at hand, and when money is tight (and when isn’t money tight for a small publisher?) then we take what we can.

I am really interested in your experiences and I can even do a follow-up post about what readers are willing to share. Contact me at beverly@beverlybambury.com if you want to discuss your KDP Select experiences. I imagine there is a wealth of experience out there!

Keep those questions coming, and sign up to get my posts sent directly to your email by clicking here. Thank you once again for your continued support.

Remember, I am on blog hiatus until the second week of January. Happy New Year, everyone!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Inspiration vs Newsjacking: Book Marketing without B.S. #6

Book Marketing without B.S. is a weekly publicity and marketing advice column for writers and other creators who prefer a realistic, clear, and no-nonsense approach. My goal is to help you cut through the bullshit with direct, understandable advice you won't be embarrassed to follow. Send your questions to beverly@beverlybambury.com.

My client, writer Chris Irvin, did a blog post about the assassinated Mexican physician and politician Maria Santos Gorrostieta, which inspired his novella, Federales. He was concerned that the post might be interpreted as using a tragedy for his own marketing benefit. I advised that the post was just fine, and that the real problem were things such as the infamous Cairo tweet from Kenneth Cole. Sure, Kenneth Cole got a lot of attention; but, the majority of it was bad, and despite what you may have heard, bad publicity is not as good for your company as good publicity. 

It's not hard to learn more about this concept of marketing tie-ins to tragedy or events. In general, this is often called “newsjacking”, a term coined by David Meerman Scott. Scott does not advocate the use of tragedy in this way; however, and even spoke out against marketers making light of Hurricane Sandy, which you can see in the comments of this controversial HubSpot blog post.

I admit I don’t see how newsjacking could ever be a positive term. I think appending “-jacking” onto something creates a negative connotation. So, what is good newsjacking, then? Why is it a thing? This blog post was a helpful run-down of positives and negatives to watch out for. Finally, if you're interested, it may be useful to also read Danny Brown's reply to the HubSpot post and its replies. .

Consensus is definitely on the side of staying empathetic, kind, ethical, and.... well... classy. Of course there still seem to be people who have no problem making light of tragedy with an eye to profit. I personally find things like that distasteful and certainly the person doing the newsjacking may create a negative association for the brand or individual in the eyes of many potential customers. It's risky at best, and dangerous and cruel at worst.

So did Chris newsjack in a bad way with his post about Maria Santos Gorrostieta? No, not at all. For him--and for all artists--this served as inspiration to create a bigger story, to create art. This wasn’t a casual, off-the-cuff tweet intended to drive traffic to his web site. Indeed, I think painful or tragic incidents are often the inspiration for people to create, which is a healthy, humanist response. A callous marketing effort this was not, and so I feel comfortable saying that inspiration is not newsjacking. They're totally different things, and respectful blog posts about one's inspiration, such as what Chris wrote, is something you should feel completely free to do. If you're ever worried about the tone, ask a trusted (and 100% honest) associate for his or her thoughts.

What do you think about newsjacking and using tragedy to inspire art? Is there a difference? What examples have you seen (of either) that have been particularly bad, or particularly good?

Keep those questions coming, and sign up to get my posts sent directly to your email by clicking here. Thank you once again for your continued support.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

GenreLitChat #1: Storify Transcript

The first #GenreLitChat this past Thursday went well. The three authors who were on the panel (John Mantooth, Heidi Ruby Miller, and Nathan Ballingrud,) had a good time, and as the moderator I found myself surprised by how quickly the hour went. I had several questions I wish I'd had time to ask. All in all, it's not a bad thing to be left wanting more!

If you missed it, you can check out the Storify transcript below. You can also follow the #GenreLitChat hashtag via Twitter itself, or on Twubs.

Let me know what you think in the comments, and thank you--as always--for reading.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Calls for Submission #2

Greetings! Thanks to Beverly, and to you readers, membership on the Facebook Call For Submissions groups is growing every day.

In this week's column, I'd like to bring everyone's attention to the upcoming changes to the SFWA's membership requirements. At present, both the Horror Writers' Association (HWA) and SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) consider professional payment to be $0.05 per word. In order to become a member of the SFWA, one must have three paid sales to a Qualifying Professional Market, for a cumulative total of at least $250. As of July 1, 2014, in order to qualify as a professional market, the minimum payment will be raised to $0.06 per word. The HWA has not announced any plans to change their membership requirements. Note: Any sales made prior to June 30, 2014 at the old rates still qualify.

As with most changes, there will be positive and negative returns. The concern is, of course, that writers should always be paid, and the SFWA requirement for a Qualifying Market means that writers might be paid a little more. This is good news for writers. However, it may (somewhat) limit the number of Qualifying Markets and in effect make membership to the SFWA a little more exclusive. For more information, please visit the SFWA page.

In that spirit, here are a few markets that currently qualify for the new SFWA rates. Be aware, competition is stiff. These are very tough markets. Most have ongoing deadlines, and prepare for a long response time. And yes, sci-fi tends to pay better than fantasy or horror.
Now, heat up the computers and sharpen your pencils, because December is going to be a very busy month! Read guidelines carefully before you submit, and I hope some of these listings end up as a happy holiday surprise. Have a great holiday and I'll be back the first week of January with more.
Pro Rate ($0.05 per word) Paying Markets currently accepting fiction submissions: Semi-pro paying markets accepting submissions:
  • Lamplight. Quarterly market. Looking for "literary dark fiction," 2k-7k, pays $150 for stories ($50 for flash up to 1000 words). Next deadline: January 15, 2014. http://lamplightmagazine.com/submissions/
  • Tesseracts 18. For Canadian writers only. Theme: Wrestling with the Gods (Faith in Sci-fi/Spec-fic). Max 5000 words, deadline December 31, 2013. Pays $50-150 for short stories and $20 for poetry. http://tesseracts18.com/tesseracts-18/
  • Weird Tales. No deadline listed. Upcoming themed issues: Tesla (must have inventor Nikola Tesla as a character) and The Ice Issue. Pays $0.03 per word. http://weirdtalesmagazine.com/submission-guidelines/
  • The Midnight Diner. Quarterly publication. Looking for hardboiled fiction, 3000-6000 words, with "a Christian slant." Not interested in hard sci-fi or sword and sorcery. Pays $60 for fiction, $40 for non-fiction, and $20 for poetry. Deadline December 31, 2013. http://www.themidnightdiner.com/submit-your-work/
  • Insert Title Here. Fablecroft's unspecified spec-fic anthology. Pays $75 (AU) and a contributor's copy. http://fablecroft.com.au/about/submissions Deadline February 28, 2014
Token and Royalty Markets accepting submissions: Contests

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Review Copies, Ebooks, and Pirating: Book Marketing without B.S. #5

Book Marketing without B.S. is a weekly publicity and marketing advice column for writers and other creators who prefer a realistic, clear, and no-nonsense approach. My goal is to help you cut through the bullshit with direct, understandable advice you won't be embarrassed to follow. Send your questions to beverly@beverlybambury.com.

Want reviews? Of course you do! This means that you have to send review copies, and this can get expensive with numerous physical books to send. Many of you are paying for these directly or are with a small publisher whose budgets are as tight as your own. A few of you lucky devils will be with large publishers who furnish all review copies, whether physical or through NetGalley. In fact, this post may not be as useful for you if you're on a major publisher. Check back next week!

Anyhow. I digress.

For the rest of you, this means you're thinking about ebook review copies. For some writers this is a stressful idea, bringing on fears of piracy and the death of sales. First this post will look at how to prioritize physical vs. electronic review copies, and then I'll discuss piracy fears and why you probably shouldn't worry too much about it.

How should I prioritize who gets physical review copies and who gets ebook review copies? Generally it's good to prioritize this with a simple cost/benefit analysis. If a site or publication is higher-traffic or is heavily influential, seriously consider a phsyical copy--if that's their preference. Some actually will prefer an ebook. If it is a lower-traffic or a less influential site/publication, then it is most cost effective to see if they will accept an ebook version to review. This applies to comics as well as prose books. The final choice is between you, the reviewer, and your publisher; these ideas are simply decision-making tools.

You can determine priority by checking site traffic using a tool such as alexa.com to compare statistics among the places you want to review your book. A lower number is better (i.e. a higher rank), and if you can get sites better than a 500,000 rank, it's a great start. I can't suggest that you only decide with site statistics, however. You should be aware that some sites might have lower traffic ranking, but are influential. A good example of this is Weird Fiction Review. It's a site with strong influence among many authors and readers in genre circles, but its Alexa ranking is so-so at over 1.8 million. Still, it would be a plum spot if you wrote the type of things that they like. Try your best to strike the balance between web traffic stats and less measurable aspects of influence. And, as always, take the time to read submission policies, reviews, and articles so that you get a good feel for what the site is looking for. It always benefits you to ensure that it's a good fit for your work before you approach them.

One other note: if you send a physical review copy unsolicited, make sure it comes directly from you or your publisher, and includes a one-sheet. If you've corresponded with the person on the other end and they're expecting it, it becomes solicited and this is when you can consider having it shipped right from the source (without the one-sheet) if you're doing print-on-demand.

What about ebooks and piracy? First, let me be completely, unequivocally clear: I want creators to be paid for their work. If you don't get paid, I don't get paid. So read this with the understanding that I am firmly on the side of your intellectual property rights.

OK, all that out of the way, I want to say that piracy is not likely to be a big deal for a majority (though not all) writers and comic creators. Let me explain: chances are if you're looking for marketing advice you are in need of audience growth. Audience growth will result from reaching more readers. Reaching more readers happens with word-of-mouth and well-placed advertisements. Ads are really expensive, so the majority of your marketing, especially early on, will be reviews by professional reviewers, and reviews by readers who share their thoughts on Amazon, Goodreads, and other similar sites.

Reviewers to whom you send an electronic review copy are nearly all good, ethical people who will not share the ebook with anyone. The few who may leak it can't be helped. If the book gets out and gets read by people who then discuss it with others, some of those people will end up with a pirated version; but, some of them are going to buy your book. If you somehow are lucky enough to go viral on torrent sites, you're going to get more sales and more fame even with people illegally downloading your work. This will ultimately translate into more money for you down the road. And really, the chances of your book going viral are quite slim anyway, so your lost revenue is negligible, if anything at all.

One of the best ways to get more readers for your work is to keep writing. The more you write, the more you tend to sell. So focus as much of your energy on writing and creating as you can, and over time it is most likely that you will get better sales.

One other thought about piracy is that it's difficult to measure the impact. Are the people pirating your ebook the kinds of people who would have bought your book in the first place? It's impossible to say, really. I suspect that in many cases they wouldn't have bought it anyway. I know, I know. I don't have evidence, but going on the principles of word-of-mouth marketing and the effectiveness of samples as a sales tool, I think it's rational to conclude that over time a few pirated copies will ultimately benefit you.

So send review copies, ebook and paper, as you need. Don't worry about it. Don't fuss over DRM. (Unless, of course, you're with a larger publisher and don't have a choice. In that case you can use NetGalley, or send plenty of paper review copies that aren't out of your own pocket. Lucky devils indeed.)

Keep those questions coming, and sign up to get my posts sent directly to your email by clicking here. Thanks for all the support!

Tonight don't forget to join #GenreLitChat with John Mantooth, Nathan Ballingrud, and Heidi Ruby Miller. Tomorrow is Calls for Submission #2.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

#GenreLitChat: An Occasional Twitter Chat about Genre

Introducing #GenreLitChat, an occasional Twitter chat with writers on the state of genre, and how their work does--or doesn't--fit.

The kickoff chat is just in time for your holiday book buying needs! It's this Thursday, December 5th at 8:30 p.m. EST/5:30 p.m. PST with John Mantooth, author of The Year of the Storm (Berkley/Penguin), Heidi Ruby Miller, author of Green Shift (Raw Dog Screaming Press), and Nathan Ballingrud, author of short story collection North American Lake Monsters (Small Beer Press).

When you join the chat, you can use this page (http://twubs.com/GenreLitChat) which will focus only on the hashtag, and even automatically insert the hashtag for you if you ask questions or reply.
Alternatively, you can follow the hashtag #GenreLitChat right on Twitter, but make sure you use the hashtag or your questions and comments may be missed!

You can send questions to me, the moderator, during the chat (@BeverlyBambury). You are also encouraged to send questions ahead of time to beverly@beverlybambury.com and I'll add the best ones to the list.

Questions? Email me or ask in the comments. Hope to see you during #GenreLitChat in a couple of days!

SFContario 2013 Wrap-Up and Upcoming Webinar

My Sunday presentation at SFContario, Self-Planning for Self-Promotion, went well. The audience gave great feedback and seemed to get a lot out of the material. They also had several good questions and comments around topics such as users of the Create Space platform being able to get into book stores to do readings, the uses of video, and timing for back list versus upcoming releases. I'll be expanding the slide deck and adding more detail, and in the new year I plan to do a webinar for which I'll charge a small fee. I may even do an in-person class locally, but that will depend on several factors.

In any case, thanks again to everyone who came out, and thanks also to the people who expressed interest in my doing the course in the future. Your support is deeply appreciated.

I enjoyed my other panels, too, even the ones in which I may not have been a good fit. People had a lot of good things to say, and I had great company up at those front tables! I had fun being in the audience, too, such as when author GoH Seanan McGuire (a.k.a. Mira Grant) spoke passionately about epidemiology on the same zombie panel that also featured my husband, James Bambury, and one of my favourite local authors, David Nickle. I even got treated to a fantastic politics and science panel with the highly knowledgeable Hayden Trenholm, Derek K√ľnsken, Lorne Kates, and David Stephenson.

I had a good time at the convention, though there were some organization issues and it appeared to be a little more sparse on attendance than last time. Hopefully things will bounce back for next year.

Later this week are "Review Copies, Ebooks, and Pirating: Book Marketing without B.S. #5" and "Calls for Submission #2". Don't forget to sign up for email delivery of blog posts by filling out this easy form: http://feedburner.google.com/fb/a/mailverify?uri=BeverlyBamburyPublicity. See you soon!









Thursday, November 28, 2013

My SFContario 4 Schedule, Including Free, Open to the Public Workshop

Book Marketing without B.S. is taking a week off for U.S. Thanksgiving. Check back next week for #5. In the meantime, I will be at SFContario 4 this weekend (as will my husband. As you can see below, I am not the only Bambury out there!). Saturday is a busy day of panels for me, and Sunday I am running a free, open to the public workshop that will help you create a marketing and publicity plan for your creative work.

Take a look, and if you see me, please say hello! I promise I don't bite. Talk a lot, maybe, but no biting.

Finally, don't forget to check out my recent guest post by Effie Seiberg, all about doing conventions on the cheap.

A Hard Hobbit to Break, Ballroom BC, Sat. 9:00 AM
James Bambury (M), Colleen Hillerup, Beverly Bambury
Three movies? Does Peter Jackson's approach work? Many fans were disappointed in the first film. Will they continue to watch? What was successful, and what failed, in Peter Jackson’s treatment? What are you looking forward to (and what do you fear) in part two, coming out next month? Come out for a lively discussion of all things Hobbit.

SFContario Idol, Courtyard, Sat. 5:00 PM
Debra Yeung, Sandra Kasturi, Hayden Trenholm, Beverly Bambury
Attendees bring in the first page of their manuscript. A presenter from SFContario will read out the manuscript (anonymously) until a majority of our panel of judges ‘buzz’ the story to a stop. Discussion ensues on why they stopped it, what didn’t work, and what did work. A great exercise in story openings that will provide immediate valuable feedback to the writers.

New Philosophies for Science Fiction, Solarium, Sat. 8:00 PM
Karl Schroeder (M), Tamara Vardomskaya, Beverly Bambury
Looking at the values of the past, it is unrealistic to think that people in the future would think the same way we do and hold our values, yet looking at old SF it's exactly what you do see. How do we get beyond that and come up with new ways for people to think about their new worlds?

Don't Blink, Solarium, Sat. 9:00 PM
James Bambury (M), Debra Yeung, Colleen Hillerup, Beverly Bambury
Do Daleks keep you up at night, checking under the bed? Do the Weeping Angels haunt your dreams? Or are you more likely to cower from The Silence or Cybermen? Are you my mummy? Our panelists discuss which of the Doctor’s monsters or arch-enemies scare them the most.

WORKSHOP- Self-Planning for Self-Promotion, Solarium, Sun. 1:00 PM (90 minutes)
Beverly Bambury
Are you a published author being left adrift by your publisher? Are you a self-published author with only yourself to rely on? A plan will help you decide timelines and create an automatic list of things to do and when to do them. In this interactive lecture you will learn how to create a plan for promoting your book, and learn some research tips and tricks to help you along the way. By the end of the program participants will have initial concepts for their marketing plans as well as an outline of what to do next.This workshop is open to the public!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Calls for Submission #1

Figuring out where to submit your short stories and novels? This is the first of a reoccurring column by Selene MacLeod, who administers Facebook groups Call for Submissions: Poetry, Fiction, Art and  Open Call: Science Fiction, Fantasy and Pulp. Sign up to receive this blog's posts by email; make sure you don't miss useful stuff in the social media shuffle!

Today's post is an introduction as well as a listing. With that, I'll leave the rest to Selene.

Greetings to Beverly's readers! Whenever I see Beverly's name, I always think of that nursery rhyme "with bells on her fingers and bells on her toes." Kind of hard to type that way, but it's a pretty picture.

As promised, I will be giving you a taste of some of the listings that pop up on groups I administer. Aside from the groups mentioned in the intro, I'm also one of the more active members on the groups Open Call: Horror Markets, Open Call: For the Love of Horror, and Open Call: Crime, Thriller and Mystery Markets. I actually "met" Beverly over on Ravelry, so I feel I should also point out that I'm one of the admins on the Poets and Writers who Knit group there. In fact, I'd probably write a lot more if I spent as much time writing as I do researching markets! 

Why do it, if it takes so much time? Well, it started when Duotrope started charging fees. I understand why they do, and it's a very reasonable fee ($5 a month) I don't mind paying, although the debate rages on about markets that charge fees to cover reading costs, and For the Love (FTL)/unpaid markets, and a whole lot of bickering among writers. You can read my blog about FTL markets here, if you like. 

I'm hoping to avoid too much debate here. Instead, I will always try to list markets that pay at least royalties, and stick to speculative fiction (which includes horror, science fiction, fantasy, magical realism/slipstream/weird western, and so on). I will also note if they're paying professional rates ($0.05 per word or more), token-paying, royalty split, etc. If I list a FTL market, rest assured it will be because I think the market is unassailably cool. Likewise, there is the sticky matter of fee-charging markets. I only post if the fee is $5 or less, or if it's a contest where there's a giant prize at stake. Cool factor also applies.

I'm sure if you're reading Beverly's blog, you're familiar with the submissions process, but I will remind you to follow guidelines carefully for every publisher, especially document formatting (William Shunn has the best tips and resources on his page), and to read some samples from the market before you submit. 

Now, on to the good stuff. November and December are going to be GREAT months for submitting work.

Pro Markets Accepting Submissions:
Token and Royalty-Paying Markets Accepting Submissions:
  • Mammoth Book of SF Stories By Women. Reprint market only (must be previously published). Max 10,000 words. Pays $0.02 per word plus a contributor copy. Deadline November 30, 2013. (Note, I find it hilarious that the subject line has to be "MAMMOTH WOMEN.") http://www.alexdallymacfarlane.com/2013/10/call-for-reprint-submissions-mammoth-book-of-sf-stories-by-women/
  • Imaginarium 2014: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing. Reprint market. Looking for work published in 2013. Canadian speculative fiction authors only. Deadline January 31, 2014. http://www.chizine.com/content/imaginarium-2014-open-submissions
  • Scheherezade's Bequest. Updated fairy tales, themed issue. From the Sea: Something Rich and Strange. Deadline December 31, 2013. $30 for fiction, $15 for poetry. Max 4000 words. http://www.cabinetdesfees.com/2013/scheherezades-bequest-updated-guidelines/
  • World Weaver Press. Krampus Anthology. Looking for dark fantasy and horror stories about Krampus (sort of the anti-Santa Claus). Max 10, 000 words. Pays $10 and a copy of the anthology. Deadline November 30, 2013. (Note: They have enough Santa as serial killer and gore stories, looking for psychological horror). The publisher also has an open call for their upcoming Fae Anthology. Pay rates, deadline, and word count are the same. Looking for dark fantasy takes on the Fae (urban fairies, goblins, pixies, etc.). http://worldweaverpress.com/submissions/calls-for-anthologies/
  • Solarywyrm Press. Asia-Pacific Speculative Fiction. Looking for speculative fiction set in the real world, Asia-Pacific region. Read guidelines for specifics. 1000-8000 words. Pays half a cent a word, max $40. Deadline November 30, 2013. http://solarwyrm.com/
  • Lectores Coffee. Literary market, but slipstream/magical realism would work. Looking for short fiction (no more than 500 words), creative non-fiction, and poetry. Must be short, as the entire piece has to fit on a coffee label. $1.50 submission fee (or $6 with a coffee sample). Pays $25 and a bag of coffee. http://www.lectorescoffee.com/pages/submit
  • Chupa Cabra House. Primarily a horror market, has several anthologies open. Stories should be 3,500-9,000 words. Pays royalties, although some anthologies also offer a token payment (check guidelines). Upcoming: Small Town Futures (apocalyptic stories set in small towns, deadline April 1, 2014). New Whakazoid Circus (Circuspunk, which encompasses horror, bizarro/slipstream, must be a circus/freak show/carnival setting, deadline January 31, 2014). Weird Westerns, deadline February 1, 2014.  http://www.chupacabrahouse.com/search/label/submissions
I'll be back in a couple of weeks with more listings. In the meantime, if you're interested in a cool vacation and want to work on your horror writing, consider a retreat at the world famous Stanley Hotel (basis for The Overlook in The Shining) next October. 

How Far in Advance to Hire a Publicist and a Book Marketing Plan Timeline: Book Marketing without B.S. #4

Book Marketing without B.S. is a weekly publicity and marketing advice column for writers and other creators who prefer a realistic, clear, and no-nonsense approach. My goal is to help you cut through the bullshit with direct, understandable advice you won't be embarrassed to follow. Send your questions to beverly@beverlybambury.com.

Today brings another pair of related questions. The first is "How long before my book comes out should I hire a publicist?"

It depends to a certain degree what you're looking for and on how in-demand the publicist is. My business is relatively young, so six months is plenty of lead time for me, and I can absolutely work with much less if required. I've even done emergency publicity!

Ideally, for prose novels, pre-work work for publicity should start anywhere from 4-6 months before release (for long lead-time review spots such as Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Library Journal). It is helpful to give your publicist plenty of time before that to plan and, if necessary, work with your publisher. Graphic novels and comics can work with a bit less lead time.

While this represents the ideal, it's possible to do good work with much less time, too. Just bear in mind that for the biggest and busiest review spots that if you don't give them at least a few months you aren't likely to get reviewed. Other than that, 1-3 months is plenty for most reviewers and for setting up a lot of your publicity.

What if you try it yourself and suddenly realize, right before (or right after) release that you want some help after all? You can get help at the last minute, too, but it's important to understand that many major spots won't accept books that are either close to or post-release. Many excellent reviewers and sites will; however, so all is not lost. Just realize that you're not going to get The New York Times from a book that is already released. Not even John Scalzi's Big Idea, for that matter.

So for you TL;DR types: the best time to contact a publicist (at least for this publicist) is 5-6 months before release, but anything can work (even post-release books) as long as what you expect from your results is realistic.

The next question is "What timeline should I use to plan my book marketing?"

As  I mentioned above, if your book is eligible to be reviewed by Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Book Slut, and other long lead-time publications., then send those review copies/galleys out 4-6 months before release date. Send these with a one-sheet, which is important to include with mailed copies.

For the rest, you'll query. (Unless they say it is OK to send a book, of course, then you send the book with a one-sheet or via email/NetGalley, depending on the reviewer's preferences.) A query is just seeing if a blogger or reviewer wants to look at the book and of course an offer to send one. As far as the timing, my assumption is that you've read other websites' and publications' and bloggers' review and publicity submission guidelines. If you have, you'll know how to stagger the rest of the schedule. Some will need to go out 3-5 months, some 1-3 months, some 5-6 weeks. This is one of the more time-consuming things: finding the right targets and making sure that you have them scheduled correctly. Don't be shy about writing these down in order or using an electronic calendar to keep track. 

Make sure that as you query--particularly blogs and media you know accept guest posts and do interviews--ask for what you want from that site. Something along the lines of "If you like the idea or the book enough, I'd love the chance to do a guest blog post for you. I can do it on (sample topic 1) or (sample topic 2), or if you have something you'd like to hear about, I'll gladly write that instead."

2-4 months before release: if you want to set up book signings or readings, now is the time. Note that very popular reading series, such as KGB, may require 6-7 months of lead time. 

3 weeks to release date: handle your correspondence and write guest blog posts as required. If you have an interview or need to finalize any in-person events, make sure you have what you need. If you do book signings/talks, then you'll want a poster of some kind to take with you.

What about those queries? Once it's been 2-3 weeks, it is OK to follow up with people to whom you have sent QUERIES. If you've already sent an actual book (often those long lead time publications from above,) then don't follow up. While we're at it, if you ever send a press release (and usually you do not send those for books,) don't follow up on those, either. Anyway, queries you can follow up, but they should be super polite and low pressure. 

At release time and after: make sure you're meeting your deadlines and following through on commitments. If you get a good review or a guest blog or an interview, share it. Share when your book is released, too. Anything like that is fine. A bit more often on Twitter than on Facebook. Don't forget though: if all you do is push your books, people will stop listening to you.

You may also find it helpful to revisit 5 No-BS Twitter Tips for Authors and 5 Steps to a Quality Blog Tour

Anyhow: this is a very rough and basic guideline. Each project will have to be planned based on its own requirements and based the resources of you and your publisher. As always, let me know if you have any questions about your situation.

That's all for this week. Keep an eye out for the first of the semi-regular calls for submission columns. 

Keep those questions coming, and sign up to get my posts sent directly to your email by clicking here. Thanks for all the support!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Cheapskate’s Guide to SF/F cons: A Guest Post

Today's guest post by Effie Seiberg goes through some handy tips on travelling to conventions on a tight budget. It would be easy to extrapolate some of these tips into general travel on a budget, too. Part of why I put out a call for this topic is that beginning in January I'll be full-time freelance, and paradoxically, this means I'll need to go to more conventions in a professional capacity. But. You know. With less income. So thanks again to Effie for all of her tips, and I'll be seeing you around at as many conventions as I can manage in 2014.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, so in January I did the exact thing people tell you not to do: I quit the “real world” for a year to write. Writing full time is fantastic, but with no income coming in (and a professional need to go to cons) I had to be very strategic about which I went to, and how. The fear of starving and dying is a great one to promote some frugality, but I still managed to go to FogCon, BayCon, Westercon, WorldCon, and ConVolution. So, here are some tips on keeping the costs way down but still getting your con on. 1) Prioritize.
There are a million awesome cons, and you’ll need to balance how awesome they are with their costs. The most expensive parts are usually the plane tickets and the hotels, so if there are any close to you where one or both of those don’t apply, start there! I’m lucky enough to live nearish to where several local cons were held. I also added WorldCon as my one expensive con, just because it’s so big, has amazing people there, and has the Hugo awards.

2) Keep down the travel costs.
I live in San Francisco, where I’m lucky enough to have several local cons around me. FogCon was in Walnut Creek (an hour away), BayCon in San Jose (an hour away with no traffic, three years away with traffic), WesterCon in Sacramento (90 minutes away with no traffic, until the end of time with traffic), and ConVolution in Burlingame (20 minutes away).
Driving: If you can drive or take public transit to your con, it’s probably going to be cheaper than flying. Cons frequently have parking validation for whichever hotel they’re in. At ConVolution, a daily $33 parking pass turned into a daily $10 parking pass. Carpooling with other local buddies is good to split gas and parking costs.
Flying: Airfare: If you must fly, set up a fare alert for your route in advance on a site like airfarewatchdog.com, and wait a bit. It’ll tell you how the price of those tickets might be changing day by day, so you have an idea of what the cheapest flights really are. You can also use a site like hipmunk.com to find cheap seats, but bear in mind that they don’t include some of the smaller, discount airlines like JetBlue or Southwest, so you’ll need to look those up separately.
Flying: Everything else: Airports are great ways to squeeze you of your hard-earned dimes. Bring a solid snack to help avoid the temptation of the tiny $7 bag of M&Ms, and pack everything into a carry-on to avoid baggage fees. You can do a whole week’s worth of stuff in a single carry-on, and I say this as a gal who likes her hair products. It takes a bit of tetris-ing, but it can be done.   
3) Keep down the lodging costs.
This is the second large cost of any con, and is often the biggest. If you’re relatively close by, drive back and forth and avoid it altogether. Yes, it’s a pain to drive 90 minutes home when you’ve already gone to several parties, but you’ve just saved $170 by doing so. If you must use a hotel room, you have several options.
Find it cheap: the con will have a discounted rate at the preferred hotel. That’s great, but there may be even better deals nearby. For WorldCon, the con hotel was about 30% more expensive than the hotel I found, and my hotel was closer to the conference center where everything was held. Look on sites like hipmunk.com and expedia.com to see what’s around. You can also try airbnb.com for cheap rooms, but they’ll usually be a bit farther away from where the action is.
Split the costs: roomies are great! If you have a friend from a writing group, a fan board, a costuming club, or whatever, share a room to split the cost. As a bonus, you’ll have someone to talk to late at night.
Crashing in a room: your mileage may vary on this one. As a female I’m disinclined to do this unless I know the people very very well. But that said, if you do know people who have a room and don’t mind you crashing there, you can usually get a cot from the main desk (at Westercon it was $15/night) which you can roll into the room. If there isn’t room for one, you can DIY it by asking for a lot of extra pillows and blankets, and build up your own little nest in a corner. You’ll get weird looks at about the 5th extra pillow, but it’s worth it. Lay a line of pillows down to make a makeshift mattress, then a blanket on them to roughly keep them together, and then you plus a blanket and another pillow go on top of that.
3) Frugal food.
At a con, you’re running from place to place with barely any time to get anywhere, so scouting out a cheap place to eat isn’t always an option. Hotels know this, and charge exorbitant amounts for what is often really bad food (thanks, $6 coffee swill that’s been sitting in the bottom of the coffeemaker all night).
Bring your own: Yeah, I’m the person with granola bars and fruit in my bag. They don’t take up a lot of room, and you can quell your munchies quickly. If you’ve driven, you have a whole trunkful of space to put food to bring with. Nuts and granola bars have protein to keep you sated, fruits and veggies have fiber to fill you up, and most of them don’t need refrigeration. (Protip: do not leave your fruits in a very hot car all day. Apples might survive, but softer fruits like cherries will ferment and stink. I tell you this from experience.) Bring some cookies and such to share, too!
The con suite: The Secret Masters of Fandom at one point decided that cons should give out food, and hooray for them. Con suites usually have light snacks like fruits and veggies and cheeses and chips, plus coffee. They ask that you don’t just use the suite for your three squares a day, but you can wander in and grab what you need. Especially free coffee. Did I mention the coffee?
But everyone’s going to a restaurant: Yeah, sometimes this is what’s going to need to happen. If your favorite author invites you to join and you get starry-eyed at the mere mention of their name, you’re going. You can either go nuts and suck up the cost, or you can fill up on other food prior (your own, the con suite) and just order something light. You’ll still get to go, and a single appetizer won’t set you nearly as far back.
Drinks: This may be the hardest one on the list. You can of course bring your own, but then you’re that sad person drinking alone in their room. Most parties will just give you alcohol, so start with those and get your drink on. If you’re going to barcon (you know, where people have their own little con at the bar), you can always order a ginger ale instead, which is far cheaper. Especially since you still have your buzz from the parties.
4) The Dealer’s Room, the Art Show
Oh dear god, the dealer’s room. Where merchants specifically attuned to your needs and interests bring out their wares and spread them in front of you appealingly. And then the art show, where you find everything your walls have been missing. A few good ways to keep to your budget:
The "Little Luggage" Technique: Only buy what you can fit in your existing, tiny luggage. And you’re already squashing a fair amount of stuff into just a carry-on.
The "Cash Only" Technique: Set a budget in advance, and put it in cash in your wallet. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. No plastic.
The "Gifts Only" Technique: If you can justify it as a gift for someone, great. Nothing for you though. Those are too easy to justify. The enormous broadsword is awesome, but would your brother really appreciate it enough for you to spend the cash? Nah, he’s not that cultured.
5) Happy Tech
I don’t know about you, but I need my devices happy and healthy for a good con experience. I take my laptop for taking notes, my phone for following what’s going on on Twitter, and a veritable rat’s nest of cables.

Connectivity: The rule is that the nicer the hotel, the more they’ll charge for wifi. Different hotels will give you differing amounts of connectivity, but most will have free wifi in the lobby. Hang out there when you can, when you need your internet time. If you have an unlocked phone, or a plan with tethering, you can make internet happen through your phone instead (this is what I tend to use). Do be aware that if you’re going through your phone, you may need to pay attention to how much data you’re using. You don’t want to hit your limit and get throttled. And finally, you can avoid all of this if you go phone-only for everything and not even bother with a laptop or tablet. Unless you’re in a black hole or the bowels of the San Antonio Conference Center, a few bars will do the trick.
Power: Not exactly a frugal trick, but keeping your devices charged keeps them usable, which sometimes tells you when someone has an extra case of beer/cupcakes/whatever that they need help getting rid of. Bring a power strip, and you’ll be everyone’s new best friend.

So there you go. You can get pretty cheap with cons and still get to go to a bunch while avoiding the whole “starving and dying” thing. Have fun!

Effie Seiberg lives in San Francisco near a sculpture of a pirate bunny with a skull in its mouth. She's a graduate of the 2013 Taos Toolbox writing workshop and is shopping around her first novel, a comic fantasy which is a snarky romp through chaos theory, with an ostrich. In a previous life, she worked in Silicon Valley tech. In a previous previous life, she was a lab rat with machinations to take over the world. Things change.
You can follow Effie on twitter at twitter.com/effies or on G+ at google.com/+EffieSeiberg, or just check out effieseiberg.com if you don’t feel like committing to continued interaction.