Crafting an Anthology

There’s a lot that goes into building an anthology, but let’s start with the basics. An anthology is a collection of works (stories, articles, poems, etc.) by multiple authors while a collection includes work by a single author. Anthologies may have an overarching theme tying the stories together or no theme and can have one editor or multiple editors. 

What’s an anthology theme? This is the topic that links all the stories, to one degree or another. It can run from something very specific, like Clarion Graduates of 2250, to the more general Horses in Fantasy or Cats in Space. Why do anthologies have themes? The usual reasons include ease of marketing, a draw for certain authors and tapping into one or more specific audiences. Do they have to have themes? Nope. It can be helpful, but it can also limit your audience to some extent if a reader likes a given author but isn’t excited about the theme.

Where do anthologies come from? There are two main paths and many side routes:

  1. An editor (or a team) has an idea and pitches that idea to a publisher. The publisher accepts the idea, agrees to figure out some or all of the funding and the editor/team finds the authors and stories.
  2. An editor/team has an idea, assembles authors and stories and either puts the book out themselves or pitches the complete proposal or even the completed book to a publisher.

If you are reading this because you are considering editing an anthology yourself, bear in mind that while it can be very fulfilling, it is also very time and energy consuming. It can also be expensive, depending on how you are handling cover art, copy edits, paying authors, shipping and other factors. Being excited about the project for a lengthy period of time will definitely help so choose wisely.

How are anthologies funded? Generally speaking, one of two ways:

  1. Directly by a publisher, editor(s) or even by the authors themselves as a collaborative project.
  2. Crowd-funded. There are many reasons for this approach, ranging from the painful fact that many anthologies do not earn out or even cover their costs to achieving the kind of lift that a successful crowd-funding campaign can give to a project. 

Whether you are writing for an anthology or planning on editing/publishing one, it is helpful to know how it’s getting paid for. If the authors get paid a percentage of the sales, for example, the book needs to be selling in quantity in order for them to get paid. If it’s dependent on a crowd-funding campaign to pay for everything, then that needs to be successful or nobody gets paid for their time. Anthology costs can include everything from cover art to author royalties, copyediting, book design, ISBNs, mailing books to contributors and more. There may also be additional rewards for a crowd-funding campaign. Factor all this into your budget if you are the one planning the anthology.

How do authors find out about anthologies? They usually fall into the following categories:

  1. Invitation-only. The editor and/or publisher determine which authors will receive an invitation to write for the book. Getting an invite is often a matter of a combination of networking and publication track record. 
  2. Open call. This means that anyone can submit before the deadline if they think their story is a fit.
  3. Mixing things up. The editor might request stories from specific authors and do an open call for the rest, or vice versa if they’re not seeing the kind of stories that they want.

Where do editors find writers for an open call? They generally use a “call for stories/submissions (CFS).” These are the guidelines that an editor puts out on a website, newsletter, online group or writer’s forum that includes the theme (if any), word count, deadlines, what kind of stories they do or don’t want to see, payment information and more. You can find them by joining a Facebook group that posts CFS, following publishers and editors on Twitter or other media, subscribing to newsletters, checking out websites like Ralan.com, etc.

What does the anthology editor do with those submissions? They send out acceptances and rejections, decide on story order and word count, send out author contracts and all the other pieces that go into creating a good anthology. Note for those of you who are authors: anthologies generally sell better when the authors actively promote the book and that usually benefits everyone in the long run. At the end of the day, each anthology is unique and everyone involved has a part to play in that.


Rethinking Success

Success is qualitative not quantitative. In our era, where so much of our activity is based around the internet, it is easy to get bogged down by analytics and the desire for the rapid validation of likes and clicks. These systems of tracking engagement force us to focus on numbers and statistics rather than real life connection with our audiences and what the work actually means to them. Add click farms and bots to this mix and we find ourselves looking at sets of numbers that have little relevance to what’s happening in meatspace. As we let ourselves be driven by these numbers, we tend to forget that each number allegedly has a human being behind it, and it is connection with our fellow humans that is the true measure of success. It is better to have a few “real” fans than it is to have a multitude of clicks that don’t really amount to connection with the work.

When measuring the “success” of our endeavors, whatever they might be, several important factors are often overlooked: does this work make you happy, are you doing / creating the things that you want to see exist in the world, do you enjoy the relationships that you have with the people you work with… These are the truly important questions, because if you are doing what you love, then you are successful, and if you are passionate about what you do others will eventually become interested and begin to share your passions. When we love what we are doing then it does not feel like work. When we enjoy the relationships that we have with the people we work with then we have made meaningful connections, and ultimately connection is the true measure of success. 

Another modern misconception about success is that it is related to celebrity, or that we should strive for fame as an indicator of whether or not we have “made it”. Many of us creative types are introverts, so the prospect of being a public figure is a horrifying one. But success and admiration are not the same thing. Think of the many amazing, important jobs in the fields of the arts that are not public facing: editors, copy editors, casting agents, engineers, graphic designers, videographers, etc. Without behind-the-scenes jobs like these the humanities would not flow, and they don’t have to be tied into celebrity to make them worthwhile or a success. And despite what your work may be you can choose to opt out of the public facing side of the work, it is a choice not a requirement. As long as the work remains satisfying you’re doing fine and people will find the work eventually. It is perfectly acceptable to avoid bohemian notions that the artist must be on display along with the art. The internet has caused this to seem like a requirement, but it is not.

Still, as creators we desire to know how people respond to our work and this is where connection comes in again. It can be difficult to feel like you are operating in a vacuum and the time it takes to earn an audience can feel lonely and long. It is important to remember that fans are earned one at a time, and that each one of these people is important – crowds after all are made up of individuals. The idea of smashing overnight success is propaganda created by companies like YouTube, incredibly rare, and seldom long lasting. In reality, it takes years to build an audience, and this is yet another reason you should use your happiness and love for the work as a barometer for success – it is going to take a while, so you should definitely be enjoying the ride. 

So, when trying to find your success remember that every individual that you encounter in context of your endeavor is important and should be treated with respect. Engage when possible, and only to your comfort level. Request fan mail, start a Discord server to speak with the audience, book a live event where you can meet people, respond to comments, connect in the ways that you feel comfortable with. You may not get along with everybody, but you will make friends along the way, meet interesting people, and hopefully love your life just that much more. Ultimately, how much we love our work is what makes us successful, and when we love our work that love will spread and grow. 


Tips and Resources on Art Submissions

If you read my article on How to Build an Art Portfolio, and you already have your shiny, clean and organized portfolio in hand, you might be wondering what to do next. 

Since you’re on Dream Foundry, I’ll assume you’re an artist who’s interested in illustrating books or short stories. And since I’m an art director for a short story magazine and have experience in comics, my focus here will be on how to get started as building illustrator, and, potentially, comics, since both medias are focused on art with storytelling.

 

Payments

Together with your portfolio, you will need a payment option: most hiring magazines can pay in cheque, but if you’re not based in the United States, it’s important to have a PayPal account, since it’s the most popular payment method for illustrators worldwide.

I also recommend having a separate email for art-related business, and linking said email to your PayPal account.

 

Places to Submit

Paper Cat Press is your new best friend. Paper Cat Press is a weekly curated collection of opportunities for illustrators, comic creators, and even writers, run by fellow comic artist and illustrator Leanna C. Most of my first gigs were found through their weekly round up, neatly organized in categories like Awards and Contests, Animation, Comic & Illustration opportunities, all with their respective deadlines. 

If you’re focused on comics, another great resource is Comic Oportunities, run by S.W. Searle, and Find Anthologies!, run by Stephanie Cooke. Both of them are curated lists on Twitter of comic anthologies. Cooke also maintains Creators Resources, a website providing tools and resources for comic book freelancers.

 

Twitter Art Events

As an art director, I use Twitter a lot to find artists that might fit a specific story or thematic issue, and I use it by browsing specific hashtag-based events. The broadest of those is #PortfolioDay, an event that happens every three months, and where artists can link their email and portfolio and share a sample of four illustrations, in hopes of landing potential freelance work.

There are also specific hashtag events, like #DrawingWhileBlack for Black creators, #ArtMubarak for Muslim creators, #VisibleWomen for woman artists, and so on. 

Those events are like easily-searchable mini-portfolios, so choose your strongest four pieces, and run some tests to see how to properly crop those images, as Twitter’s automatic crop can be rather unkind at times.

After you’re done, you can pin that tweet in your profile, like I did

 

Submission etiquette

A lot of the opportunities you’ll find in curated collections like Paper Cat Press involve submitting a pitch through a form, which means filling a quick questionnaire with your information and idea. They usually things ask for your social media handles, portfolio and/or art samples, email and other professional information, but it’s also common for those questionnaires to ask for a mini bio, so I suggest having a bio of 65-75 words in length about who you are, what’s your experience as an artist, etc. In submissions, those mini bios are usually in first-person, but it’s useful to have a third-person mini bio at hand, too (those are often asked after you’re accepted, which is the fun part).

Others, like magazines—including Strange Horizons, where I work as art director—tend to accept submissions through e-mail. Keep those e-mails short, with a brief greeting and first-person bio, and a link to your portfolio. Don’t send any attachments—links are always preferred. And, of course, pay attention to the guidelines! It’s polite, and you will already be ahead of many other submissions if you do. 

The magazine will contact you back if they’re interested. If they don’t, I’d wait at least a year or so to contact them again with an updated portfolio or such.

 

Submitting art files

If you’re accepted by, say, a print magazine, your artwork needs to be in the right format: 300dpi is the minimum for printing, CMYK, and preferably in single-layer .tif format. 

For online magazines, RGB is preferred. The sizes vary, but work big, since resizing down is easier.

 

Finding an Art Agent

Like writers, artists can have an agent to represent their work. Agents work as the middle-men between the creator and an eventual publisher, handling contract negotiation and payments. They receive a percentage of what you get with each work, but you never pay them.

If you’re interested in working with picture books, art books and graphic novels, you need a literary agent. If you just want to work with art, you can find an artist representative. 

Artist representatives will find art assignments for you, that range from newspaper and magazine work to books, and usually work in the same way as a literary agent—they only get paid when you get paid.

An excellent resource for art representation is Agent for Illustrators, that lists literary agents representing art, and provides several guides, like how to query.

 

With all that being said, you’re ready to go. Good luck!


Words that Sell: Writing Marketing Copy for Your Novel

Let’s begin with the notion that brevity and clarity are the soul of wit. Or, at least, are the basis for what you can use to make your books stand out in a good way and attract a reader’s attention. Do readers automagically buy a book on the first reading of your best and most fabulous copy? Sometimes! In any case, writing good marketing copy helps your work find its people, and that is the name of the game.

What does marketing copy include? 

  • Your book description. This includes the two to three paragraphs that appear on the back of print copies of your book (we’re assuming you’re writing your own here) as well as on the websites that will sell your book. You will need short (a couple of lines) and long descriptions to upload your books onto the various sales platforms. 
  • Blurb – Sometimes used interchangeably with the description, but generally this refers to nice things another author says about your book. You don’t write this kind of review blurb, but you can decide which phrases to quote for the most impact.
  • Taglines. These are short phrases that capture the tone of the book. “Airships. Piracy. Murder. The Occasional Cup of Tea…” is the tagline for one of our steampunk titles, for example. “Winning What You Want May Cost You Everything” is another very popular example. Taglines are used on the back of your book and can be added to the description on sales platforms. 

Common mistakes:

  • The description is too long, detailed and/or dull.
  • The description tells the reader nothing about the book.
  • Blurbs rely on overused words and clichés.
  • Taglines are trite and/or tell the reader nothing about the book.
  • There are typos or grammatical errors.

Think of your description as something akin to an elevator pitch for your book. You’re aiming for something that a potential book buyer can skim quickly. Limit yourself to 3-4 sentences per paragraph and stick to 2. The description should include:

  • A lead in to your central conflict.
  • The name of your main character or characters (assuming a smallish cast).
  • Enough information to tell someone what kind of story they’re looking at.
  • Emotional payoff: what will they get from buying your book?  This can be stated (“Fall in love all over again”) or implied (“X must happen to do Y. But at what cost? The empire is about to find out.”)

There is really only one kind of reader that you’re looking for and that’s the one who that description will speak to, thereby inspiring them to buy and read your book. Not everyone who’s ever read a book or even all fans of your particular genre.  Think about that reader when you write your copy.

Are you writing your copy for the first time?

  • Do some research. Look at what other writers in your genre are writing about their books. Look at the word choices and descriptions and see what works for you, as well as what doesn’t.  
  • Make a list of things that resonate. Does a phrase intrigue you enough to want to learn more about that book? Can you come up with an original description of your own book that works the same way for you?
  • Make a list of other things you’re seeing as well – are some words and phrases overused? Just not working for you?

Look at taglines and ads too: 

  • Do they sound intriguing?
  • Do they sound enthusiastic?
  • Would you considered buying this book based on how they present it?

Some day, when we can have book tables at conventions again, it’s very helpful to watch people when they pick up your books and read the back. That reaction can be magical or disappointing, but either way, it tells you when your copy grabs someone’s attention. In the meantime, look at your reviews, particularly the ones from readers. If they are consistently “expecting something else,” that may be a sign to review your marketing copy and ask writer friends to help you vet it. Look at your click throughs too, if you are running ads, and experiment with those. And finally, bear in mind that mistakes are generally fixable. Marketing copy doesn’t need to be static and can grow with your work.


Recommending Books the Old-Fashioned Way

Recommending Books the Old-Fashioned Way without Keywords or Algorithms

As a bookseller, I am often asked for book recommendations both in the bookstore and online. Connecting someone with the right book can be a great pleasure, but giving an unfit recommendation can leave a bad taste in the reader’s mouth that they’re not likely to forget. It is important to realize that reading a book is a commitment, both in time spent reading, and in emotional investment. Not every book is for everyone, and it is important to keep this in mind for booksellers and authors alike.

When asked to provide a book recommendation having read the book you are recommending is the best preparation. For this reason it is always useful when an author has provided me with an ARC (advance reading copy). I prefer to read hard copies, but many booksellers are also fine with an ebook – a cheaper solution for the author or publisher. Not every bookseller will have the time to read your book, but the gesture, and the sign of professionalism can go a long way.

To connect a reader with the right book can be tricky, especially if they are a new customer and I am unfamiliar with their tastes. Because of this I always ask what was a book they loved, and what was a book that they hated. This information is extremely helpful for narrowing down the selection, both thematically and in the density of the material that they enjoy reading. For instance if someone has enjoyed Vonnegut and Adams, I know they are looking for something light-hearted and humorous. 

Biographical information can also be super useful when connecting a reader with a book. I have found that often just sharing information about the author can be helpful in piquing the interest of the reader. For this reason, I always read the bio in the back of books to prepare me for the customer’s questions. If you are an author releasing a book do not forget to put a bio in the back, as many readers will go to this section first to see if they are interested in pursuing the book. Mention awards, interests, location etc., all of this information may interest the potential reader. Many authors use humorous or caddy bios to try and attract attention. In my experience this is generally a turn off for the reader, after-all you want the reader to take the book seriously (unless perhaps it is a book of humor). 

Genre can sometimes be a factor in purchasing a book, and it is certainly a helpful tool for marketing and where to shelve a book, however in my experience most readers read more broadly than one particular genre. Often a reader can be turned off to a book they may otherwise enjoy because of stereotypes surrounding genre. Because of this, I find it helpful to try and ascertain the more general taste of a reader, and this is why it can be helpful to include interests outside of genre when writing your bio or marketing your book. 

Other factors that may help connect a reader with your book are shelf talkers and signed bookplates. The latter is useful because many readers also collect books and many of us collect signed first editions. Signed bookplates are a great way to open up a conversation with a bookseller and often offer the extra incentive needed for the customer to take a chance on the book. 

Display space is also extremely useful for catching the customer’s eye when browsing. By putting a book on display in the bookshop it is an automatic endorsement of the book and it is more likely to sell. Often authors and publishers request that their books be on display, but I would caution against this, as display space is valuable real estate and highly coveted (some booksellers even charge for the space). If you are lucky enough to get your book featured in the display space, it is important to make sure that you have compelling cover art, and this is not an area of your book you want to skimp on. For self-published authors it is also extremely important that your book has a printed spine because otherwise it will disappear into the shelves and will likely never sell.

Ultimately, when a reader reads your book you are opening up a one way relationship and it is important to treat it like any other relationship. If your book is packaged to look like it delivers a certain type of experience than it had better live up to that expectation. The more points of entry you give the reader the more likely they are to love the book, and the more likely a bookseller is to include your book in their list of recommendations. 


Mailer's Syndrome: The Freelancer's Dilemma

Intriguing right? Never heard of it? That’s fair. The title ‘Mailer’s Syndrome’ is something I came up with in a comical attempt to help you realize what I am about to say has more than a tinge of seriousness attached to it.

As freelance writers, sending pitches and looking for opportunities are a part of our work. Most of this pitching is done via email. Emails to the freelance writer are more than a means to get information, the very livelihood of the writer depends on it. 

Now because I have graced myself with the authority to name this ‘syndrome’, allow me to talk a bit about myself in relation to this topic. 

Naturally I am not a social media person, I have created more than 3 Facebook accounts, 2 Twitter accounts, 3 Instagram accounts with countless “Forgot password’ or ‘username’ requests. However, early on as a writer, I found myself slowly growing obsessed with checking my mails as many as 12-15 times in an hour, in anticipation of responses from editors. I know, that was bad… with a big foot in extreme!

At first, I convinced myself that I was merely being ecstatic about getting a response, and that even if they were rejected, I just wanted to have my ideas acknowledged. But soon I realized that I was unconsciously motivated by a need to ‘just check’ for no specific reason. Even when I was not expecting an email from anyone, I’ll still want to check. I tried to interact with other freelance writers to know if this was normal. Many of these freelancers had either faced the exact same thing at one point or another in their careers or were going through it at the present, and for several reasons as well.

However, what we all had in common was the fact that we recognized that this habit was doing more harm than good. For the sake of this piece, I have listed out some of the consequences that apply the most to freelancers.

  • Checking emails and stress:

According to studies, approximately 92% of employees show elevated blood pressure and heart rate when handling emails at work. The studies proved that there was a spike in anxiety and stress levels when employees wake up to their emails. When employees feel they should check and respond to emails in their spare time, they become emotionally drained. A dilemma arises, as they cannot separate every other part of their lives from their work, and thus could cause negative effects on the individual’s health and well-being.

  • Checking emails and reduced productivity:

Statistics from Business Insider, show that more than a third of Americans check email regularly throughout the day. According to an AOL survey, 47% of respondents said they feel the need to check mail constantly, 25% cannot do without it for more than three days, 60% check mail on vacation, and 59% even in the toilet. During the study, work in the office, scientists found that 70% of e-mails recipients responded within six seconds after receiving, and 85% within 2 minutes.

  • It takes time to recover:

According to a massive study by McKinsey, employees are distracted from work every 10 minutes on an average, this is about 56 times a day. The study also states that it takes about 25 minutes to concentrate on the task again fully. Thus, on average, about 2 hours spent on the recovery of concentration accumulates in a day. 

When I realized that this was a real problem, I did the only reasonable thing I could think of, I took a break from checking my mails. That was by far the hardest thing I have had to do in my journey as a freelancer. However, it was completely ineffective! After 2 weeks, I was right back where I was before I took the break. So here is the first advise for you, stopping isn’t the solution. At best you join the steadily growing pool of extremists on one side of the wall.

Researching further, I tried to find out is there was a way to reduce the amount of time spent checking our mails, yet not reduce our effectiveness. I found a Harvard Business Review about time management quite useful. The methods prescribed include (emphasis are mine):

  • Turn off notifications and schedule time (about 5 to 8 minutes) every hour to check email
  • Move every email out of your inbox the first time you read it
  • Use the search functionality with search operators to re-find emails (manually searching takes longer)
  • Set up just two email folders and use shortcuts to archive emails there
  • Avoid processing irrelevant or less important emails individually

In conclusion, the pathophysiology of ‘Mailer’s Syndrome’ is primarily mental and emotional ending up as a full-blown madness that seems to thrive on a sane logic. However, as writers we must learn to watch out for it as we choose to be better versions of our writing-selves.


Podcast Promotion – Marketing the Old-School Way

There are thousands of articles out there about how to market a podcast, and the majority of them focus on the same things: social media, websites, mailing lists, etc. These are all great ways of promoting, however most of these articles tend to ignore tried and true, old-school, ways of marketing that can be just as effective, if not more so. Some of the ways of promotion covered in this article can cost a little bit of money, others are free, but hitting your promotion from as many angles as you can is the best way to reach the largest audience possible.

Press Releases

When I first started working in the field of PR the main instrument of the press release was the fax machine. Fortunately those days are over, but the power of the press release has outlived that technology and can now be done via email. Whenever you release a new episode, or reach a milestone it is worth sending out a press release. Focus on your local newspaper, radio station, and small press outlets that deal with your subject material. Pay attention to the copy in these press outlets and emulate the style in your press release. You can also write your press release in the form of an article, and in many cases the local newspaper will run the copy verbatim. Typically the press outlet will want the press release about six weeks before the item you are promoting occurs, but the smaller outlets sometimes need less lead time.

Events

Contact a local bookstore, café, bar, or community center and set up a live event (or do an online zoom event). Some venues will want to charge you, others are happy to lend their space for free or in exchange for help bringing people in. If possible, record your podcast live in front of the audience. This way people get the opportunity to feel involved, and as a bonus you get an episode recorded that is unique and has that great live feel. Events are a wonderful way to meet your audience and to open up a dialog, there’s no better engagement than speaking directly with your listeners.

Radio

Often overlooked these days but still one of the most powerful forms of media is the radio. If your podcast is clean (free from swearing and adult content) then you have a good chance of getting it on the radio. If there is cussing, it’s worth doing radio edits of each episode. Contact your local radio station and ask if they would be interested in running your show. Many small radio stations focus on community and you will often find that they are hungry for new content. Beyond your local radio station you can host your podcast on https://www.prx.org/ and http://www.radio4all.net/ to help connect you with radio stations in other areas. Getting your show on even one radio station can bring you thousands of additional listeners, but it won’t show up in your stats - which is fine because success is qualitative not quantitative.

Business Cards, Fliers, Stickers

Make physical promotional materials to hand out and put up on bulletin boards. Fans are always happy to receive a sticker too and will proudly display them, further helping you get the word out. For the fliers, make small tear-aways at the bottom with a QR code or link, that way they don’t forget to check it out later. Put up your fliers at cafes, libraries, your local book and record stores, or anywhere that allows fliers to be posted. You never know where your next listener will come from and the more ways they can find you the better the chances of gaining their interest.

Word of Mouth

When it comes to promotion nothing works better than actually talking to people. Tell people about what you do (without being pushy) and you’ll often find that they are interested in the subject matter, or have been looking for a new podcast to check out. Follow up your conversations with a business card, so that they remember to look it up. Let them know what platforms your podcast is available on and how they can get involved if possible. Remember that listeners are people just like you and there’s probably a thousand people out there who are wanting material just like you provide, don’t be shy, try to connect with them. And there’s no better feeling than finding out that they might already be a fan of your show.

Lastly, keep in mind that it can sometimes take years to develop a large and loyal audience. Stick with it, don’t give up, and be persistent – the right audience will eventually find you if you let them know that you exist.


How to Deal with Rejection as a Freelancer

Rejection is something everyone experiences at one point or another in their lives. However, for the freelancer, rejection comes with the job description. Nevertheless, the feeling of rejection could be devasting. The disappointment that courses through our minds when doors are shut against what we feel is our greatest idea or the genius of our achievements yet and we are brought again to that point where we have to decide whether we are going to move forward or give up. 

Every freelancer should be familiar with this feeling, whether you are an artist, a writer, musician, or designer, that feeling of having to start again is what every freelancer encounter often. You probably have held a piece in your hand and savored your genius only to have no attention paid to it at all.

Well, you are not alone. The thoughts that now run through your mind once filled the minds of freelancers you probably look up to now.

In this article, I will be talking about how you can handle rejection, outlining things you should know and can do to help you go through the phase bravely while forging forward.

 

  • Start Here: Get Used To It!

If you have decided to stick with freelancing, you have chosen to become a competitor. One of the most important conclusions you must come to and settle with yourself early is that you will face rejection, most definitely. Your ideas might still be looked down on, rejected or flat out ignored. It is hard to come to terms with this, but possible rejections come with the job.

 

  • Value Dreaming.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

-Eleanor Roosevelt

Have you allowed yourself daydream about having your work accepted or published by a prominent organization? You most likely envisioned what the pay would look like sitting in your bank account, you probably even planned a budget around that imaginary milestone payment. Got you!

Believe it or not, dreaming is an important part of the creative process. As childish as it might seem dreaming happy thoughts is good for you on two basic levels. First, it helps your body release happy hormones that basically prepares it to give its best, motivating it to push the extra mile, even allowing it to give up its cravings. Next is that it motivates the mind to allow creativity. It helps us to become better versions of our creative selves.

However, when rejection comes, there is a tendency for us to shut off this ability because our expectations have been with an equal level of disappointment. Most people are scared to fail. Don’t slip into this, instead, allow yourself daydream about the possibilities of the future. How the next idea would be your greatest hit yet.

 

  • Before you allow the rejection to overwhelm you, why don’t you take a closer look at things. 

Rejection could work constructively for you, or it could destroy you, depending on how you see it. It could act as mirror reflections of how much you have improved, what you are doing better and what still needs to be worked on.

For example, you pitched an idea for an article to an editor. The editor responded to the pitch but rejected it. But the editor responded right? 

Well instead of looking at the pitch as an utter failure, why don’t you pay attention to the fact that the editor actually responded.

That could mean that something about your pitch caught his/her attention. It might be the format, the structure, something about the way you introduced the idea or even the idea itself, whatever it is, what matters is that you caught their attention.

When you find out exactly what you did right, then you can replicate it in another pitch or using another idea. This way, you are encouraged to strive to be better.

 

  • Give Your All; Move Forward; Repeat.

As much as you daydream, you have to learnt to anticipate rejection. Accept that no matter how good the piece is, or your pitch is, there is a possibility that it will be rejected. With this mindset in place, you will be able to give your all only to the present project. Once you send a pitch, let it go! Move on! Start working on another project immediately. Keep yourself busy.

Rejection is inevitable for every freelancer but choosing what each disappointment will mean to you is the best way to ride on without flinching while reaching to be better.


3 Things to Consider For Authors Starting Podcasts

Are you an author considering starting a podcast? A year ago, I was in that position, and while it was easy to find information on equipment, editing, promotion, and other aspects of the trade, I couldn’t find anything that addressed my concerns as someone whose top priority is their fiction writing. 

I’ve had various short stories, poems and a novella published, and I’m working on my first novel. In 2020 I felt like I needed a different sort of creative project, but how would I keep it from interfering with the writing and sucking up all of my free time? As I was grappling with this, a panel of authors who were also podcasters, at the Flights of Foundry con, was extremely helpful in sharing their experiences. 

So, here’s my attempt to pay it forward and share my own thoughts on starting a podcast as an author, now that I’ve done it: 

 

  1. Statistics and Metrics

Nothing about being a writer prepares you for the sort of stats and metrics you get with a podcast. I wrote non-fiction for over a decade, including being published in big, mainstream venues, and never got access to how many people from which country had read how many paragraphs of my articles. With fiction writing, seeing any kind of data is rare, and even established writers who get sales reports don’t get numbers immediately or with a ton of parameters. 

But with a podcast, the day I put up a 30 minute episode that explains why the TV show “Hannibal” is the best existing adaptation of Nabokov’s “Lolita”, I watched in real time how people from all over the world were downloading the episode, how much of it they were listening to, when and how. I could see how many of my listeners subscribed to the podcast, I could see how many had quit listening and at what point.

As a writer, it can be transformative to see people reacting to your work immediately, to have tangible proof that more and more people are subscribing, that they’re listening to the episode all the way through. It gives you confidence in your voice and your perspective that feeds back into fiction writing. 

 

  1. Time investment

I started a podcast because pivoting from media criticism to writing fiction meant I no longer had the time to pitch articles to editors or write regular columns. But I still had ideas about media I wanted to express somewhere. 

Since my biggest worry when I started Pop Culture Sociologist was that it would eat up time I had zealously saved for writing, I decided up front that fiction was more important, and the podcast would always come second. 

I designed the podcast in a way that would let me do it consistently on the one hand, but make it a manageable commitment on the other, even though it meant compromising on how “successful” the podcast could be. 

For example, I settled on releasing an episode a month, for 6-7 months out of the year, which went against every commonly given advice for how often episodes should come out, because I knew any more than that and promoting the episodes would eat into my writing time. 

In retrospect, I’m very glad I made that decision because if I hadn’t set those clear boundaries for myself, I would have absolutely spent more time on the podcast, if only because the feedback and excitement around it was so immediate. 

Writing is such a long-term time investment, battling distractions is already hard enough. Decide in advance what priority the podcast will take, and accept that if it doesn’t come first it might always feel like you’re not doing enough to make it the best it can be. 

 

  1. Feedback

Aside from stats, the other major thing a podcast gets you is immediate feedback. People listen and they want to talk and share their ideas, respond somehow. With short stories, unless your story is nominated for an award or appears in a major publication, often you’ll get very little feedback from readers. 

So, this is the one thing I encourage you to plan ahead and designate a space for. Whether that’s a website where people can comment, a Discord server, a Facebook group, etc. All of those take time and resources to maintain, but if it’s possible to fit into “budget”, this is the one investment I would recommend a writer to make. 

Writers face so much rejection, regularly, that having people to tell you your voice and your efforts have affected them can be transformative even if those people are commenting on your podcast rather than your stories. And of course, in an age when every writer is advised to get a platform, maintaining a community of people who are already interested in something you’re doing can only benefit your writing career. 

 

For me, I’ve found that the podcast is always a balancing act between the joy of seeing immediate metrics and getting feedback from listeners, and the feeling that I’m failing somehow, because if I was willing to dedicate more time to the project it could really take off. But that feeling is also familiar for most writers, I think, because it’s always how you feel when balancing writing with everything else (job, family, etc). “If only I had more time to spend on this” is a trap – if the time you have is good enough to produce something you like and other people enjoy, it’s usually worth the investment.  


Preparedness, the Archive, Your Bio and Blurb

The work of writing requires another kind of work  --- the work of preparing materials that support your presence as an author. It can be a drag or it may be a joy; sometimes it's both.

Most publications now request and require a couple of things that you should have at the ready: these are a bio and a head shot. Not having them at the ready can also affect your future publication and participation in a particular venue.

Every writer should have at hand a bio, short for biography. This biography can take many forms depending on where you are in your journey.  Most often requested in the third person, it includes your name, perhaps where you're from or where you currently live, perhaps your degrees, your awards, and your publications. I strongly suggest that you write a long one, maybe two pages, and then a one-page one, and then 100 word  and a 50-word one. The publication will specify the kind they want and the length of bio they want. More and more request them upon submitting. I've been asked for 50-word bios, 100-word bios, and, more rarely, 150-word bios. You must think of this well before the time of request or submittal, and have it at the ready because the moment that it is required is rarely a moment that you want to think of the cleverest and most authentic way to present yourself. I recommend that you review this annually and that you update it. Read it aloud, get a friend to vet it.

I also recommend that you keep a literary vita, a literary resume where you list every publication, including the name of the editors, the date of publication, and the website linked to it. This forms the basis for your bio recollection and having this data kept updated regularly is very useful, should you want to apply for nearly anything. I keep such a list and I came to find out that I've been published every year since 1974 except one. Isn't that a cute and compelling line? It doesn't survive every bio I write, but when there's more room it's a nice thing to mention. I’m able to say that and prove it because I've kept a list of my publications from 1974 to date. You should keep a list of your appearances if you do readings as they do accumulate and may be fodder for your bio or information for some other application.

Another thing that you have to have,  in this era of internet and online worlds is a headshot, in other words, a picture where your face is prominent and there's nothing else in the frame. This too may be requested, as any number of publications like to show who the authors are, as well as tell who the authors are. If you have it at the ready, it makes life so much easier for a presenter. I use the image of the reader in the promotions that I create for my reading series. I create several different flyers for each reader and release them at different times so it's helpful for me to have the headshot and the bio.

I have also needed bios for collections and anthologies that I've worked on. Readers want to know a bit about the authors, don't you? Every time I read a piece I like and look for a bit more about the author, it enhances my experience to make that connection. So know that you should be ready to provide that for your readers.

A timely response is as critical as having these tools–– that is, a commitment to timeliness in answering professional emails. From the editor/presenter's perspective, nothing is more irksome than chasing down authors for their information.  If you get a lot of emails, consider getting an email account dedicated to your writing so you can see immediately when a publication/venue is trying to get in touch.

I’ve had writers miss pay days because I needed their information or a grant. They didn’t get back to me for weeks and so missed the funding. These are people I never want to work with again, because while it was their loss, it was also an expenditure of my energy and concern. Sometimes days are too long when everyone else answers in hours, the person that took 3 days is out. When a bunch of people answer immediately and one doesn’t – there’s a message there.

Your goal as a writer or creator should be to routinize and make the administrivia as seamless, automatic and pain free as possible. Routinize recording your publications and appearances, keep a head shot handy and organize your email.