Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

What Kinds of Awards Exist?

Posted: August 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

In writing, as with many fields, there are a number of awards that can be won. In fact, there are many, many awards. We will not create an exhaustive list. However, here are several, discussed in brief, and linked appropriately. Some have strange or specific guidelines, or other sorts of requirements which are detailed in the relevant links.

Hugo Award | Awarded by the members of WorldCon. These are the SFF Oscars equivalent. The rules attached to each Hugo Award are outlined by the by-laws of the WorldCon. The award is a rocketship with a base that changes for each WorldCon.

The World Fantasy Award | The World Fantasy Award is awarded at each World Fantasy convention to honor the best fantasy of a given year. The award is shaped as the head of HP Lovecraft

Nebula Award | Nebulas are presented by SFWA and voted on by SFWA members. They are similar in some ways to the Screen Actor’s Guild award. The award is shaped like a galaxy (or a nebula).

Campbell Award | The Campbell Award is Not a Hugo. It is, however, presented at the Hugo Award Ceremony at WorldCon. This is given to the best author (as voted by the members of WorldCon) who has only been publishing for the last two years. The award itself is very nice, but the winner is given a diadem to wear for the year. HERE is a picture of Mur Lafferty wearing the diadem.

Lambda Award | Awarded by the Lambda Literary in a number of categories for works in the field of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender stories. The award is a plaque.

Mythopoeic Award | Awarded at Mythcon for mythopoeic works in the last year. The award is a figurine of a seated Aslan from CS Lewis fame.

As you may gather, with a group of people, generally organizations follow. There are a number of organizations available to writers of different genres. Some of these organizations have membership requirements, while others do not. Rather than summarizing or creating an exhaustive list, please find a number of these organizations below, as well as links to their membership requirements, where available.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). Website. Membership Guidelines

Horror Writer’s Association (HWA). Website. Membership Guidelines.

Mythopoeic Society (MythSoc). Website. Membership Guidelines.

Romance Writers of America (RWA). Website. Membership Guidelines.

What is a Convention?

Posted: August 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

WorldCon? Sasquan? Loncon 4? What are these things?

They’re Conventions. A convention is a large gathering of people in a particular location to celebrate, discuss, and promote all things Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Writing, or whatever the convention is about. Some of them are small. Some of them are large. They are often named after their location. Each convention may have different types of programs offered. Some offer group talks on topics such as “Why Do We Love Sparkly Vampires?” or publishing things “How to Get your Short Story Published?” These panel discussions are generally run by a moderator who will ask question to the group, and will support questions from the audience.

Some will offer readings by authors or social gatherings like masquerades. Some have gaming options for tabletop gaming o LARPing. It generally depends on the Convention.

Conventions usually have a Guest of Honor, who is the highlight of the convention. There are periodically children’s programming as well. Some of them also have music options (sometimes called Filk). Your best bet is to look at the programming options from a variety of conventions, several of which are listed below.

Also worth saying is mentioning the national conventions are sometimes named strangely. WorldCon is the name for a particular type of convention. It is a world-wide convention, and moves ever year. The 2015 WorldCon was held in Spokane, Washington, USA. The convention is called Sasquan. The name of the WorldCon changes each year as it moves.
Check out some conventions:

Sasquan (WorldCon 2015)


World Fantasy




You SOLD YOUR STORY! That’s super exciting! Your novel was sold! And now the Business begins (sidenote: the business began the minute you sent your novel out for submission). In this area your Agent will be invaluable. They act (as we discuss in other topics) as your advocate, to ensure that you are working out the best deal possible with the publishing company.

So how does this whole payment thing work, you ask. It’s a little complicated. I begin by directing you somewhere else. Justine Larbestier has a really great essay about first novel advances HERE. Which was agreed upon and expanded on by John Scalzi (he’s a SFF guru, peer reviewed, reviews the peers, etc). HERE.

Your publishing deal will possibly come with an Advance. This advance is the publishing house fronting you a portion of what will be your Royalties. Royalties are the percentage of each book sale that you, as the author, are contractually entitled to. This is laid out in the contract you signed. The Advance will be based on a number of factors, including what the publisher believes your sales will be.

Generally you will be paid in installments. Sometimes you will be paid when your sign the contract. Sometimes you will be paid when the manuscript is accepted by the editor. Other times you will be paid upon your book’s publication. Again, this will be (you guessed it) outlined in the contract that you signed, that your agent negotiated. The funds will be sent to your Agent (per your contract with the publisher and the agent). The Agent will take their percentage that you have agreed upon for their effort (generally 15%) and will send the rest on for you. Keep in mind, too, that in some instances a large Advance will be paid in installments over the course of a year or more. Do the math before you buy your Dream Castle and because you got a big advance.

You will not earn additional money until your Advance is paid off. This is called “Earn Out”. Some books do not Earn Out their Advance. This is not the end of the world for your publishing career, but it is less than ideal. Should you Earn Out your Advance, you will be paid per your contract (generally quarterly). These funds are sent to your agent. The agent will take their percentage (generally 15% of the royalties) and then the remainder will be sent to you.

One last thing about this whole money situation. You will notice that at no time were taxes taken out of either your Advance or your royalties. You will need to pay taxes on your income. This will require a level of expertise that we will not cover in this particular article, but is something you should be aware of as you enter the field. Happy Sales!

I am a devotee of the Church of the QueryShark. QS is an agent who has a compendium of information regarding the Art of the Query. I strongly suggest that you check out the enormously helpful catalog and examples of novel-length query letters. HERE. Many of the things I will paraphrase here is information I learned here.

A novel-length query letter is designed to succinctly explain and introduce a prospective agent or editor to your novel, the characters of your novel, as well as show the main conflict and risk in your novel. It is not a plot synopsis (which we will discuss elsewhere).

Several authors have shown the query letters they’ve used with their work. Check them out:

Anne Leckie – Science Fiction – Ancillary Justice

Martha Wells – Fantasy – The Cloud Roads

You will find some similarities here. One is brevity–these letters aren’t long. They are under one page. Additionaly, they present the main character, what they want, and what prevents them from getting what they want. Also, what happens when they dont get what they want. Closing up the Query is a succinct statement regarding similar work as the writer’s. All of these are to the good. Here’s another example, for a story that is from a trunk novel of mine:
Dear FIRSTNAME LASTNAME (I suggest using a full name rather than a salutation, just a personal preference)

Serai is the daughter of the Govenor of Jerath in the Allani Commonwealth. She is well educated, quiet, and her family is completely destitute. Serai has been promised to the first born son of the Governor of Oriad to cement a trade agreement that will bring wealth to both their families. Only, Serai is harboring a secret. Like her mother before her, she has the power of Calling and can bend people’s minds to her will. If she is discovered, she will be forced into government service, the trade agreement will fail, and her beloved Jerath will be sold to pay off the island’s debts.

When Serai arrives in Oriad, however, things are not what they appear. Her future husband, Callan, is not in residence and the Govenor of Oriad suggests that he never existed at all. Caught without allies, or family, or money, Serai must navigate the political currents in this new strange place while hiding her secret powers. Only, it appears that the people of Oriad are on the edge of revolt and if they revolt, the Callers will come to put down the resistance. Serai will get caught in the crossfire.

Serai must use all of her cunning, all of her daring, to keep the peace in Oriad and uncover the truth of what happened to Callan. To save her people, her family, herself.

Stormsong’s Triad is fantasy novel complete at 125,000 words. Readers of Michelle Sagara’s Cast in Flame will appreciate it’s engaging style, while fans of Robin Hobb’s Fool’s Assassin will enjoy the secondary fantasy setting. I greatly appreciate you time and consideration. I look forward to speaking with you.


Sean Robinson

Hope this helps! Happy querying!

In many of these posts, we will be referencing the guidelines of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) guidelines. For writers of SF/F, this is the industry standard. You can find this website online HERE. In other posts, we will talk about the professional organizations available to speculative fiction writers. However, back to the point:

You wrote a story. Go you! You’ve edited it and want to send it out. Double Go You!! But where do you send it, what kind of story is it?

In publishing, the Word Count of a story dictates if it’s a short story, novella, novelette, or a novel. In High School, we talked about page count, but in professional publishing, its on word count.

Flash Fiction – Less than 1,000 words

Short Stories — 1,000-7,500 words

Novelette – 7,500-17,500 words

Novella – 17,500-40,000 words

Novel – 40,000 + words

Keep in mind, as we discuss submissions, that each market may vary with their definitions of length. But make sure that when you read submission guidelines, you adhere to their word count requirements. Some places will not accept flash fiction, others will not accept stories over the 7,500 word mark, or even less. Always go with the requirements and submission guidelines of a market.

In many of these posts, we will be referencing the guidelines of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) guidelines. For writers of SF/F, this is the industry standard. You can find this website online HERE. In other posts, we will talk about the professional organizations available to speculative fiction writers.

Short story markets are generally defined by SFWA on a number of criteria. One of these is the rate of pay each market offers. Professional-level pay rates are generally paid by the word. When submitting to a market, they will generally discuss what their pay rate is. Look at the guidelines prior to submitting.

Pro-Rate – 6 cents or more / word

Semi-Pro – 1 cent to 5 cents / word

Token – Less than 1 cent a word or offers a flat-rate

No Payment – No payment for a story. May offer contributor copies

Royalties – A percentage of each sale will be given to the contributor

So, you finished a story. AWESOME! You’re reading to submit it to a market. You have checked the submission guidelines. Awesome! Do the guidelines request you to address specific things in your cover letter? Sometimes this includes past publishing credits, or nationality if there is some sort of submission requirement. It may ask for wordcount or genre. Always follow the written requests.

If there are not any specifically laid out in the Submission Guidelines, then you should follow a simple approach. Short fiction cover letters are not novel query letters. Short story fiction needs a brief cover letter, don’t get fancy, don’t get pretty and it is advisable to never, ever, include a synopsis of the story unless you are specifically asked to do so. A sample one is below.

Submissions may be done via e-mail, or third party such as Moksha or Submittable. When in doubt, read and follow the directions. It demonstrates that you care enough about the editor and the process to do what they ask. They will demonstrate they care but not summarily reject your story. So long as you’re following the rules.

Here’s a basic example of a short fiction query letter:

Dear Editor,

Please find my short story “Aardvaarks From the Planet Klepton” attached for your review. I believe it will be of interest to your readers.

My work has appeared in Annals of Fantasy, Horror Creepers Online, and is forthcoming from MLP Short Fiction.

Thank you for your time.


Author Awesome


You should note a few things here. One is that it, as recommended, is short. Pick your up-to-three-total best publication credits. Best means ones you’re most proud of, or ones that you think will get you the most “street cred”. Don’t make up publications, and if you dont have any, dont worry. This isnt novel querying, this is short fiction.

Good luck!

Here we will compile a codex, if you will, of publishing terms so you can review them. Some of them lead to bigger conversations that many people have spoken eloquently on. We will link to appropriate external resources for more in-depth discussion as we can.


Standard Manuscript Format (SMF) – The way a story is professionally formatted. Not doing so demonstrates that you’re not a professional. Chuck Rothman speaks about it at length at the SFWA website HERE.

Simultaneous Submission – Sending a story two more than one place at a time. Often frowned upon. Check the submission guidelines to see if your market will take simultaneous submissions.

Multiple Submission – Sending more than one story to a market at a time. Most places would only like one story at a time. Others prefer a selection. When in doubt, read the gudelines.

First Publication Rights – Most markets will purchase the right to publish a story for the first time. If it has preiously been published, you cannot publish it for the first time. This is really complicated and is better outlined by Neil Clarke, editor of Clarkesworld Magazine. If you would like to read more about rights HERE.

Reprint –  Reprint is the sale of a story that has already been published.

PodCast – A podcast is an audio recording of a story. There are many venues that offer audio recording with their publications

SFWA – Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Association. Professional writer’s organization


It’s important to identify that the processes of Short Fiction and Long Fiction are, in many cases, completely and radically different. With that in mind, let’s look at some suggested lengths. The length of your novel (we’re talking novels here) is really going to be dictated by one or two things — first is the genre of the story you’re writing, the second is the readership you’re looking for. These are not hard-and-fast rules, but they’re things to look at.

Genre readers have, good or bad, been programmed to respond to certain lengths of books. Epic Fantasy will have a different wordcount / page count than a young adult novel, generally. When you begin the Querying process (which is outlined in other posts, and is totally different from the query of short fiction) it’s important to know how your manuscript stacks up against the conventions of the genre. If you’re too short or too long, you may need to consider beefing up, or slimming down your project.

In this, I will bow the research of Colleen Lindsay at The Swivet. Available HERE as I’ve found this resource super helpful.

Middle Grade – About 35k (Plus or Minus)

Young Adult – 45k-80k

Paranormal Romance – 85k-100k

Cozy Mystery – 65k-90k

Hard SF – 90k-110k

Space Opera – 90k-120k

Epic / High Fantasy – 90k-120k

Urban Fantasy – 90k-100k
If you’re a little under, or a little over, it’s up to you to decide what to do about it. If you relieve feedback that your story feels too thin, or too thick, take some time to consider your options. You’re a writer! You finished novel! Go you!