A publisher's view of fantasy - Guest Interview

I will be a panelist and have a booth at the mammoth virtual fantasy convention FantasyCon coming up (November 1 - 8). This is a new kind of book-lover's event. The kind of nerdy conventions that hard-core fans used to spend thousands to attend can now be had by anyone with an internet connection. There will be fantasy games with real prizes (money, books and swag). There will also be at least 200 real authors to meet and a ton of free and discounted books to explore. It will truly be a fantasy paradise. 

Each day of FantasyCon is devoted to a sub-genre of fantasy. And some who aren't fanatical about fantasy might not even know what some of them are. To gear up for the event then, I am going to host a series of guest posts from FantasyCon authors clarifying the different sub-genres over the next few days. First, however, I am going to post an interview with another kind of FantasyCon participant--a publisher.

Please welcome Carly McCracken of Crimson Cloak Publishing. And thank you for joining us today, Carly.

1. From a publisher’s point of view, how would FantasyCon help you and the authors in your company?

FantasyCon helps by making more people than we would normally have access to, aware of us, our books, our authors, our brand, and our mission.

2. Can you see online events as part of an author’s role in the writing world?

Absolutely!  Authors need to continually put themselves in the public's (and potential customers’) eye.  This is just one more way to achieve that!  Plus it has its advantages.  For instance, an author doesn't have to actually LEAVE his home, his family, his life to participate, and he/she can potentially reach a MUCH bigger audience.

3. What do you look for in a good fantasy and sci-fi manuscript?

It MUST have good story flow.  You know, the kind that keeps you interested through almost every step of the entire book.  It should have a well-rounded story, built with interesting and memorable characters.  It doesn't have to be action-packed to accomplish this either!  A good plot, characters that seem to come to life, and good dialog around a campfire can accomplish this as well as a good action scene.  It SHOULD have some action somewhere, though.  :)

4. This genre is filled with an abundance of sub-genres. In your opinion, what is the future of fantasy and sci-fi? How does this genre stand up against the many other genres in the industry?

Wow, that's a tough question.  My personal favorite is Sci-Fi/Fantasy.  I think this genre has the biggest possibilities, but even a good children's book is enjoyable if written well.  The future is hard to predict at any time, but I don't think many parts of Fantasy Genre will suffer.  They have been around a long time, and I think they will continue to interest people.  I think there are a lot more people interested in Fantasy than any others.  The only one that probably compares would be self-help books.  Those get a lot of sales too.  For good reason.  

5. What draws you to fantasy and sci-fi, both as a reader and a publisher?

I love a good story.  I love aliens, and space, and time, and magic.  I love interesting characters.  I love ghosts, and anything paranormal.  It's all so fascinating, and different from the mundane stuff we deal with every day.  I think that is what draws me (and most others) in.  The escape from reality.  We can imagine we are the character, or there with the character, and we can experience things we wouldn't be able to otherwise.

6. Can you offer some advice to fantasy or sci-fi writers in the community about manuscript to publishing?

Not much more than I have already said.  You need to keep your story moving.  If it flat-lines, you need to look at why, and either remove what is causing it, or try re-writing it.  Also, be open to re-writes.  A lot of authors get married to their work.  While this is a WONDERFUL quality that will help you sell books (enthusiasm for one's own work will draw people), you don't want to be SO married that you aren't willing to listen to your editor.  Editors DO know what they are doing, otherwise they probably wouldn't have their job.  So please be open-minded, and be willing to work with your editor on re-writing parts of your story that might need this.  You do NOT want the reader to lose interest in your book.  Usually once lost, they will put the book down, and never pick it up again.  Another thing you don't want to do is over-complicate your story.  If you do this, you will make your book hard/frustrating to read, and that will lose you potential sales, or a good review.  One bad review can do 10x more damage to your sales/reputation than the good that 10 good reviews do.

Code of the Outcast (Book 4 of the Kyrennei Series) is out!

Code of the Outcast, the long-awaited next installment in the series, is now live on Amazon. This book departs a bit from the first three, focusing on new characters, but it is more of the desperate adventure in the world ruled by the Addin. The series is best if read in order. If you're new to it and looking for a gripping read, try The Soul and the Seed.

Please don't be shy and drop a review of Code of the Outcast on Amazon. Reviews matter. They don't need to be long or convoluted, but they're a big part of what keeps your favorite authors writing. 

Here's the story

When a masked gunman barges into a university acoustic-dynamics class and abducts Maya Gardener, she knows she has to fight for her life. But her supposed rescuers may want her dead, and the kidnapper insists that the world as Maya knows it is a lie.

It’s present-day America and society is as dysfunctional as always. Democracy and even the “freedom to shop” is a sham. A powerful elite wields clandestine control over human will to maintain hegemony in every aspect of modern life. 

It’s been that way for a thousand years, but today there are finally a handful of people who might possess the power to resist and to shield others… if they only knew how. Maya isn’t a fighter by nature, but the random chance of genetics chose her and now she’ll have to learn to help herself and others. 

She was always an outsider—trapped in the borderlands between races, cultures and families. Now she’s hunted through the biting cold of a Wisconsin winter, and the only thing that holds her body and soul together is her love for Kai Linden, the fierce-eyed musician and comp-sci major who claims there is one place she truly belongs.  Read more.

The big lie about writing and getting rich

There's a modern obsession about a mythical connection between writing and making tons of money on the internet. At every turn, I encounter some version of this question recently asked on Quora, "Through what ways can I become wealthy if I am an extremely talented writer?"

Leonid Pasternak - The Passion of creation (public domain image)

Leonid Pasternak - The Passion of creation (public domain image)

It brings me back to a wonderful moment when I got to meet one of my personal heroines as a teenager. I read a book called The Cloud while I was an exchange student in Germany. It still hasn't been translated into English, so this was a challenge, but it was so well-written and the story was so gripping that I was hooked. The author, Gudrung Pausewang, was a very well-known author in Germany at the time and I read several of her other books and loved them all.  English speakers may not know her but Germans certainly did in the 1990s.

A few months after I read that first book, a foreign friend of mine had to visit a sweet German lady who was a friend of his father's to deliver something. He asked if I would like to go along because he'd heard that the old woman was a writer. Ironically, he was from Czechoslovakia (Pausewang's birthplace) and he didn't know her name. 

I went with him that day. And yes, the woman was my newly discovered favorite German author. I was blown away to meet such a staggering figure. 

But I was also a little disappointed. I assumed that being a famous, best selling author during her lifetime meant that she would be wealthy. Instead she lived in a humble cottage amid flowering shrubs with little more than the essentials and her bookcases. She was far from wealthy, although otherwise she lived up to my expectations in wit, wisdom and sheer presence. 

Gudrun Pausewang, author portrait

Gudrun Pausewang, author portrait

This was one of the hard lessons of my youth. Fabulously talented writers don't become wealthy by writing. Period.

If they become wealthy, which is rare, they do it by having a relative in the publishing business, by being a celebrity in some other capacity (actor, well-known psychologist, president, etc.), by developing excellent marketing skills, by investing inherited or previously acquired financial assets (in marketing), by utilizing interpersonal manipulation and similar pursuits. 

Writing is an adjunct skill. It is helpful to many other careers or conditions, but it isn't the primary vehicle.

When I was an up-and-coming journalism intern in 1999, one of my mentors gave me some good perspective:  "Writers who are good enough to write for a top newspaper are a dime a dozen. But not many make it. The real deciding factors are connections and bull-headed persistence." 

It's as true today as it was in the 1990s--probably more so.

The vast majority of people who make a living writing actually make a living through using (rather than wasting) some degree of prior celebrity, through skillfully working social or family connections and through intelligently investing money in marketing. Despite the fact that these sorts of careers are out of reach for most people, they still require motivation and hard work even for those born into privilege.

Here's the cold hard facts about publishing today.

  • There are many poorly written, moderately successful books. These books are successful based purely on other skills or preconditions. There are a few wildly successful, well-written books. These combine other skills/conditions with excellent writing.
  • There are thousands upon thousands of fantastic, rock-your-world books that are languishing in obscurity. They had the benefit of good writing but the writer lacked other conditions or skills necessary to make them successful.
  • Obviously, there are also millions upon millions of crappy, boring books also languishing in obscurity (camouflaging the relatively few good ones) written by authors who lacked both the conditions and skills to make money and the ability too write well. That's true but it, unfortunately, doesn't mean that just because your book is great, you will find success.

So, when I'm asked about what a talented writer should do, I have my own set of advice based on today's conditions:

  • First, determine if you really can write well. Get some independent, very critical opinions from professionals who don't know you. Insist that you want a real assessment.
  • If it turns out that you can write "extremely well" AND you have one of the prized pre-conditions (some celebrity in a field, a lot of inherited money and/or social and family connections in media, publishing and/or entertainment industries), I would suggest you spend the next ten years perfecting your writing skills, writing a minimum of 2,000 focused words per day. And if you stick with it, you have a reasonable chance of at least making some money from "writing," even though you will actually be making money from capitalizing on your pre-existing conditions and there may be a lot of other ways you could do that that would be more lucrative.
  • If you don't have the preconditions but you are assured that your writing is spectacular, decide if you love writing beyond anything else. If so, spend the next ten years developing your writing further as described, while working a marketing or media job as hard as you possibly can. With a large dose of luck, you might be moderately successful. though you will have to accept that those born into better preconditions will always outpace you.
  • However, if you are assured that your writing is excellent and you have a job or a life you can tolerate, just write. Forget about becoming wealthy and write. Pity the poor fools who think wealth is important when they already have the joy of writing.

I have made a living writing in one way or another most of my adult life. However, most of that time was spent writing what an editor told me to write in the style that a boss wanted. For me "getting rich writing" would mean having the financial independence to write the stories I have always wanted to read without having to worry about the next paycheck.

What does getting rich mean to you? Do you have a passion that you'd love to make your living at? How much marketing and networking can you do before that becomes your primary occupation? What are you willing to do to follow your passion? I love to hear from you. Comment using the comment's button on the lower left and share this post with your friends using the button on the lower right.