Tag Archives: business

Great Cause, Great Books

Hi all!

I’m at the WotF workshop right now–having a blast, by the way–and I promise to post a full overview of the week when I get back.

Our instructors for the workshop are Tim Powers and David Farland/Wolverton.  Both have been fantastic so far.

Mr. Farland’s attendance has been especially appreciated, since he and his family very recently experienced a tragic hardship.  If you don’t know, his son, Ben, was severely injured in a snowboarding accident just a few days ago.  Besides broken limbs and bruised organs, Ben also suffered internal bleeding and brain damage.  He’s been in an induced coma at the hospital and still has not woken up.

Since there was nothing he could do for his son but wait, Mr. Farland decided to come teach our workshop.  I and the other winners really appreciate him being here.  It can’t be easy.

So, to give back to him in turn, we’re all participating in a book bomb.  We’re trying to get the word out about his books Nightingale (A YA novel he published last year to much acclaim), and Million Dollar Outlines (A non-fiction book on how he approaches plotting and the like)

Both can be found on Amazon (see links below).

The bills for Ben’s medical expenses are already high, and are estimated to continue to skyrocket.  The Farland family can use all the help they can get.

So, if you’d like to help out a deserving family and get a great book at the same time, please consider purchasing one of these books today.  Spreading the word would also be a tremendouse aid.

Nightingale: http://www.amazon.com/Nightingale-David-Farland/dp/B008SMUL2E/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1365604883&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=david+farland+nightingale

Million Dollar Outlines (2013 Edition): http://www.amazon.com/Million-Dollar-Outlines-ebook/dp/B00B9JYJ6W/ref=pd_ys_sf_s_154606011_a1_n_1_p

Thanks everyone!


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Updates on Submitomancy and The Submissions Grinder

These are the two Duotrope alternatives I introduced a few weeks ago.  That post is here if you’d like to familiarize yourself with it.

Sadly, we’ve lost Submitomancy before its launch.  Its Indiegogo campaign was unsuccessful, meaning they did not receive the funding they needed to get off the ground.

Though Submitomancy frequently posted aesthetically pleasing screenshots of the possible site on both their Indiegogo page and their facebook page, I’m afraid not having a working model to sample hurt them.  When Duotrope closed to those who could not or were unwilling to pay their subscription fees, those who fled were ripe for the picking.  I believe the Submissions Grinder ran away with the bunch, since it launched in about a week after Duotrope’s pay model went into full effect.  Because there was already a free, functional alternative, and there was no working model of Submitomancy to test, I believe most people did not see a clear reason to donate to the cause.  Why pay for something that looks pretty but may not work at all?

Perhaps if its creators ever decided to take another shot, they might put up a basic, functional version to heighten their appeal to donators.

The Grinder, on the other hand, is in full swing.  It’s highly functional as a sub tracker and market database, and they’re adding new features all the time.  I have to say, I’ve never seen a nonprofit venue work so hard to accommodate every user.  If you’d like to see a function, just suggest it.  If it makes practical sense, it will go on a to-do list.  I really hope they can keep their customer service up, as it’s run by just two individuals (that I’m aware of) in their spare time.  Their mission statement declares that their users will never have to pay a mandatory fee for an account–but man are they earning their donations.

Two things really excite me about this site.  First, the one thing I’ve longed for in a sub tracker are graphs.  Bar graphs, line graphs, stem and leaf charts–anything to make the data more accessible to the visually-oriented.  I always meant to suggest it to Duotrope, but I could never find a suggestion box on their site (if they had one, it wasn’t very obvious).  Right now the Grinder has histograms that display response times on each individual market page.

The second thing I’m excited about is a feature not yet available.  In addition to submissions tracking, they also want to add sales tracking–which is brilliant.  Only tracking submissions means that tracking ends with either an acceptance or a rejection.  But that’s not helpful to those who actually sell their stories.  There’s a world of things to keep track of afterwards: edits, publication dates, payment, rights reversion, etc.  To the professional, having a system to track these things accurately and consistently is priceless.

So, if you do use the Grinder, I hope you’ll seriously consider donating.  They are working hard to make writers happy, and they know that not everyone can afford a subscription.  Here’s their link again, if you haven’t tried the site yet: The Submissions Grinder.


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Being SMART With Your Goals

Ok, I might be a little late here.  A goal-oriented post usually belongs at the beginning of January, not at the end.  But…

I want to discuss setting real goals vs. setting non-goals.  You’d be amazed (or, perhaps not) at how many writers I’ve seen this month declare non-goals for 2013.  Non-goals don’t help anyone, least of all the person who sets them.

Non-goals are more easily defined as dreams–something you wish would happen, but don’t actually have any control over.

A real goal is entirely self contained and under your control.

Example of a non-goal: Qualify for SFWA.

Example of a real goal: Write ten short stories and submit them to SFWA qualifying venues.

See the difference?  Some people don’t.  At least, not right away.

There’s a well known model for goal setting that has circulated widely in the business world.  Which, naturally, means that writers are the last to hear about it  (I don’t know how many times I have to say it, but if you want to SELL something you’re in a BUSINESS, so we artsy types can all stop acting like ‘business’ is the eight-letter ‘b’ word).

This model is called SMART.  It’s an acronym that stands for Specific, Measureable, Actionable, Relevant and Time-bound (actual words may vary depending on who you’re talking to, but the system remains the same).

Specific.  This one’s easy.  It’s the What, Where, Why and Who portion.  What are the requirements and restrictions? Where do I have to go/send/be in order to accomplish this?  Why is it important that this goal be accomplished?  Who is involved in making this goal happen (hint: if the goal requires someone in addition to yourself they have to be working towards the exact same goal.  Most editors are not working towards the same goal as you are, neither are agents or publishers.  They do not count as goal partners)?

Measureable.  This means you must have a concrete way of assessing your progress towards the goal and the goal’s completion.   You are looking for quantitative, not qualitative criteria.  How questions prominently figure in here.  For example:  I must write X number of stories and submit them.  Not: I must write a bunch of good stories and submit them.

Actionable.  This means the goal can be implemented and attained through your direct action only.  Which means it must be within your power to attain.  It is not a goal so lofty that you cannot reach it.  Nor is it only attainable if outside forces or circumstances happen to aid you.

Relevant.  Is there a point to this goal?  Will your career suffer should you fail?  Will it be aided should you accomplish it?  If the answer is no, it’s not really a relevant or worthwhile goal.  Is the goal of stamping and addressing twenty envelopes in a row relevant to your career as a writer?  The action might be necessary at some point, but it should not be a focal point.

Time-bound.  This one is especially important, I think, to writers.  It’s all about When.  How many people do you know who say, “I’m going to write a novel one day”?  I’m guessing a lot.  Most likely those people will never write that novel (they might never even start it, let alone complete it), because they have not deemed it important enough to put a time frame on.  A worthwhile goal must be constrained by time.  I will write ten stories someday will most likely leave you feeling unaccomplished come 2014 when you’ve failed to meet that non-goal.  Whereas if you say, I will write ten stories by June first, you have given yourself a time limit, an area of temporal space in which to work, and most importantly, complete your task.

So, it might be time to reevaluate your most recent goals.  You’ve lived with them near a month by now, how far along are you?  How close are you to completion?  When will you finish?  What is there still to complete?  If you have no way of concretely answering such questions, you might want to scrap your non-goals and set some real ones.

Non-goals only leave you with heartache when they are left incomplete.  We all want to have real goals that pull our dreams down to Earth and help make them our reality.  Otherwise, what’s the point of setting them?


Was this post helpful?  Did you reexamine your goals?  Were your goals solid the first time around, or did you need to change a few things?  I’d love to know!  Leave me a comment.


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Duotrope and Alternatives

By now, if you’re at all involved in the short story community, you’ve heard that Duotrope is going paid.

That’s fantastic.  Nothing wrong with someone who provides a service getting paid for said service.  Everyone’s got mouths to feed and bills to pay, and no one should be expected to provide a service at a loss simply because others would prefer it to be free.

That said, anyone who charges for a service really needs to price it practically.  You’ve got to understand what your business is worth to consumers.   No one’s going to pay $35 for a glass of lemonade or $65 for a loaf of bread.

And on that note, I won’t be paying Duotrope’s exorbitant yearly subscription price of $50.  Why?  Because it’s not worth that to me.  And I’d be hard pressed to believe it’s worth that to anyone else, save in entertainment value.  (I also need to point out that you can subscribe on a monthly basis for $5–but who would really use it only a couple of months a year?)

Duotrope is a wonderful convenience to me.  It takes all the things I have at various places (market lists, submission tracker, response times) and puts them all together in one convenient, user-friendly space.

But that’s just it: it doesn’t give me anything I can’t get elsewhere.  Its entire worth to me is based on two-to-ten minutes worth of time saving per submission.  Course, it probably costs me more than that in the time I spend procrastinating using the site to check response times (which does nothing for my own submissions–I’ll hear when I hear).

The convenience of using Duotrope is not worth $50 of my hard earned money.  I would have to sell one flash piece a year just to cover it as an expense, and since it does not make me money (it does no marketing, it does not put me in touch with editors, it does not get a single story of mine in front of anyone who can buy it.  I have to do all that leg work myself), I can’t really justify spending my entire income from one story on the privilege of using it.

It was absolutely worth the $5 they claimed every user needed to pay a year in order to cover their expenses.  I’d hazard it would even be worth $10 or $15 to me.  I know it’s worth $20 to $30 to other people, as that’s what they’ve donated in the past.  I haven’t met anyone who claims to have donated anywhere near $50, so where that price tag comes from, it’s hard saying.  And the anonymous Duotrope staff have been less than transparent about their financial goals.

I think their misguided pricing is based largely on a belief that those who have donated regularly in the past will be more than happy to subscribe now.  Unless they already had a ton of people donating more than $50, they’re going to lose more by charging more. I think they don’t quite understand how differently people perceive a charitable organization vs. a private business.

When it’s on pure charity, people are willing to pay the way of others as well as themselves: “They need $5 per person? Alright, how about I pay for myself and three others who can’t afford it? Spread the love.”

When it becomes a business, the consumer has to go into business mode as well: “How much am I getting out of this service? Is it worth to me what they’re charging?”

Basically, I think they’re over estimating what their product is actually worth. And I think it will be worth even less now, because they’re driving away the source of their worth, which is the large data pool they draw from

I don’t want to see a site like Duotrope disappear. And I’m complaining about the price because I think they’re shooting themselves in the foot. I think they’ll find their business model not only ineffective, but damaging. I can only hope the staff can change directions quickly enough to avoid disaster. I want them to stick around, because I appreciate what they’ve created and the time I’ve spent using their service.

But, at the same time, I can’t justify telling poor writers to spend $5 a month or $50 a year on a service they don’t need.

So, here are a few alternatives to the services provided by Duotrope, should you be unable or unwilling to subscribe come January:

Market lists:




http://www.speculativeliterature.org/Writing/mktlists.php   (This one is a list of market lists.  I have not explored it yet.)

Submission tracking:



ETA: http://www.spacejock.com/Sonar3.html (Suggested by J. Deery Wray)

Submission response times:



It’s also very easy to create an Excel sheet that tracks your subs and also doubles as a market list.  I also have a separate file that matches editors to their market and the market’s physical or digital address–a service which Duotrope does not provide.

If you are part of a large on line writing community, you could also start tracking your response times as a group.

I’ll be leaving this post up on the front page the whole week–so no Wednesday post.  I feel it’s important.

If you’ve got any other link suggestions, or just want to discuss Duotrope’s decision, feel free to comment!


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Thank You and Happy 4th!

Here’s wishing everyone a safe and fun Fourth of July (whether it’s a holiday for you or not)!

I just want to take this moment to say how much I appreciate everyone who has commented on my blog thus far.  I strive to be interactive here, and you all make that happen.

I also want to spread the writer-comradery.  The support I’ve gotten thus far from other writers (both aspiring and established) has been invaluable.  Whenever I have a hard rejection day, those I share my endeavors with help to perk me up.  It’s great to know that even though we toil in a highly competitive industry there really is a wonderful sense of community amongst writers.

There’s also a great deal of support from editors, publishers, and agents.  They’re the writer’s cheer-leaders.  They want writers to succeed, to produce the best products they can.

We all love the written word, no matter what part of the business we focus on.

So, thanks everyone for making my first few years as a focused writer great–even if it has been a struggle.


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“Writerly” Much? Don’t be this Guy

For today I have a nice little anecdote about what it means to be a writer versus wanting to be “writerly.”  I’ve been sitting on this story for about nine months because I couldn’t quite figure out in what context I should present it. 

Recently there was a thread on the Absolute Write forums that discussed the differences between loving writing and loving the idea of being a writer (I posted a summary of this incident in that thread).  This story is the perfect illustration of the differences, I think. 

I hope you find the story as amusing as I found the experience baffling. 

Sometimes I go to a coffee shop to write. When I’m there I’m working. One day I met another writer there–he went on and on and on and on about writing, made a big show of having his laptop out and his blank word file open and his nice little notebook at his side. I’d say we had a long conversation about writing, but really it was a lot of him gushing about how being writers put us on this “other intellectual level” and me politely nodding.

Of course, he changed his tune a little when I told him I write science fiction. That was so plebian of me.  Never mind that many scientists and engineers point to science fiction as their inspiration for entering the field.  Oh no, writing about the future was just so passé.  

After insulting my chosen genre for a little bit, we moved on to how I approach writing.  He really changed his tune when I told him I look at writing as a job, that I approach it in a business manner.

You know what he said after that?  “When people start being business minded they forget about families and grandchildren.”

Say what? 

He was of the opinion that people who are professionals are all selfish, greedy, and out to crush the little guy.  Talk about stereotyping.  And this comment came after a long speech about how being a writer made him more open minded.

I told him I wanted to sell a lot of books to reach a large audience.  He said, “But not too many books, right?  Like, you don’t want Oprah to endorse your book or anything?”

I fail to see how someone recommending a book and promoting literacy is a bad thing.

Then he went on and on about sustainability.  Publishers (not just the Big Six–I’m not even sure he knows there’s a Big Six) were all evil corporations who didn’t care about trees.  That’s why he was going to publish his own books by hand, because he cared about the paper and they didn’t (he was still using mass-produced paper, mind you).  I was completely confused as to how his use of paper was better than theirs, but he insisted it was.  Then he mentioned how he was proud of our library for installing solar panels.

Yeah, those solar panels are great.  And guess what?  My husband’s business help put them there.  If there weren’t people around who were business-minded there wouldn’t be things like solar panels.

He completely failed to see how there wouldn’t even be a coffee shop for him to sit pontificating in if someone somewhere wasn’t being “business minded.”  How the business part of sustainable business practices was just as important as the rest. 

I asked him if he’d submitted anything.  He said no.  I asked him what he’d written.  He said a (note the singular) book of poems.  How long had it taken him?  “Years,” he proudly proclaimed.

And those are just some of the highlights.  This conversation was weird, believe me.

Eventually I had to stop him (after he asked me if I was worried Duotrope might steal my copyright I just couldn’t take it anymore) and politely informed him that I only had another hour and I really had to get my word count in. He grudgingly left me alone, and when I left the shop he had a game open next to his blank page.

In the two hours I was there I wrote 2,000 words. He wrote zero.

True story.

I’m biased, but which of us do you think enjoys writing and which enjoys the idea of being writerly?

Writers write.  Writers who want to be read research the industry and copyright law.  They understand professionalism.  Real writers are essentially the opposite of this man.

And I’m still trying to decided if this guy was crazier than the dentist who told me there was a government conspiracy to hide a twelfth planet in our solar system with intelligent life on it (yeah, I know, if you count poor Pluto we’re still missing ten and eleven–not sure what happened to those).  But that’s another story.

Truth is stranger than fiction.


P.S.  He also wanted to move out of the country and into a big city because he heard it was a “green city.”  Hu?  A green city is an oxymoron, man.  I’m all for practices that protect our environment, and I assure you moving into a big industrial center is not one of them.


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