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.


Non-Fiction Writers: The Unsung Heroes of the Industry

For some reason or another, non-fiction’s never gotten its due. When we debate who belongs in the pantheon of great writers, rarely will the likes of Maya Angelou, James Boswell, or Ralph Waldo Emerson be brought up. If they happen to be, they’ll likely be relegated to their own category away from the ‘real’ writers that we should be talking about. As is usually the case in publishing, speculative writers have it even worse, with only the nonfiction written by noted spec-fic writers receiving any significant attention (barring a few exceptions here and there). Those who channel their energies exclusively into short nonfiction seem to be left out of the conversation entirely, their work being treated more like a flavor of the day conversation piece than a genuine literary accomplishment. Which is a damn shame because, for years, short nonfiction writers have toiled away at quality work for measly sums and little-to-no recognition even though they are as integral to the speculative genre as any of the major fiction writers.

We mustn't forget that short nonfiction is the primary outlet for us writers and readers to air out our grievances with the SFF market and, more importantly, to propose ideas on how to change things for the better. Short nonfiction also informs us on what to (and what not to) do when it comes to both our writing and careers, offering us invaluable advice that we’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere.

We are as influenced by short non-fiction as we are by the classics and what’s popular in the market right now, but that influence never translates into anything substantial for short nonfiction writers. As it stands, their work is never recognized in any significant way, their writing is rarely, if ever, collected, and more often than not, pro magazines don’t even pay them pro rates. There are very few outlets that even bother to publish speculative nonfiction, and writers who place their works in academic journals are bound to go both unpaid and unread.

If we want to move this industry forward, we have to do something about this. We can no longer allow the unsung heroes of speculative fiction to be taken advantage of like this. They deserve better, and I don’t think anyone reading believes otherwise.

So how do we remedy this?

For starters, their pay needs to be bumped. It might be tough right now to allow to them make a living off it, but at the very least it should be worth their time. If that’s not feasible, and I doubt it isn’t, they should at least be recognized for their work in this field in a way that would further their careers and up their pay. That’s why the major spec-fic awards need to begin recognizing short non-fiction writers. Having some of these awards on your resume is a career boost that few other accomplishments in this field could ever hope to match. Even if someone doesn’t pay heed to awards, it’s hard to argue that some of these awards won’t open doors that would otherwise be closed for these writers based on their work in this niche. And even if they don’t, we should still do it because short non-fiction writers deserve to be recognized just like anybody else.

Now, the industry isn’t entirely to blame for this. They merely cater to what we readers are willing to pay for, and the noticeable dearth in essay and article collections is mainly on us. Even writers who are having their fiction published will have a hard time trying to sell their nonfiction because they’re not big enough names to warrant it. We’ve also developed a nasty habit of shirking at the thought of paying for what we read from magazines or new sites. Many thought a sustainable model could exist with ad revenues, but as these revenues trend downward, publications are having to rely on donations more and more to sustain themselves. If it works, that’s great, but the way the market currently operates has it prioritizing fiction writers' pay with non-fiction being treated as an afterthought that could be included if the budget permits it. Plenty of short non-fiction writers are even expected to work for free, and those that aren’t have better-paying options elsewhere.

After all, writing quality nonfiction is hard work. It takes a certain skill set and talent that’ll allow you to excel in other fields where your efforts would be more appreciated. The only reason anyone even bothers to write these short non-fiction pieces is because they’re passionate about what they have to say and want to change things for the better with it.

We shouldn’t make them pay the price for that.


Literary Agents for Illustrators

To seek rep, or not to seek rep? For illustrators, this is a daunting question. In publishing, we talk a lot about the benefits of agents for writers. Agents have helped writers build their careers throughout modern publishing history. Illustrators, meanwhile, have always connected directly with art directors and editors. As publishing markets grow, however, more artists are seeking out literary agents, and more agents are opening submissions to illustrators. Even if you don’t have an agent now, it’s possible that seeking representation might be the right move for your career.

What is an Art Agent?

In the abstract, art agents help artists sell their work. There are as many types of art agent as there are types of artists. Some agents, also called “art representatives,” connect illustrators with companies looking to buy original art. Potential buyers can range from greeting card companies, to magazines, to package designers. Fine art reps represent artists to galleries and private collectors.

This article will be focusing on literary agents. Literary agents mainly work in the publishing industry, connecting illustrators with publishers. They may help illustrators get work illustrating books (novel covers, children’s books, graphic novels), or they may help illustrators pitch their own book ideas to publishers.

What Are the Benefits of Having an Agent?

An agent should make your work as an illustrator easier. There are numerous benefits to having a literary agent, but I think the following points are key.

They connect you with publishers
Many larger publishers are “closed to unsolicited submissions,” which means you cannot pitch a book to them unless you are invited or have a professional connection. Literary agents serve as that professional connection. They cultivate relationships with editors and can get your book proposal in front of a wider pool of acquiring editors than you could on your own.

They help you get the best deal for your work
Agents will help you sell your work competitively, so that you get the most money possible and also preserve your creative ownership of the work.

They help you negotiate contracts
Publishing contracts can be long and daunting, and are rarely written with the author’s best interests at heart. It’s not just money that a contract determines; when you sell work, you’re selling an entire package of usage rights to the publisher, telling them in what formats they can publish your work, in which countries and languages, and for how long. If the author is new to reading and negotiating contracts, it can be hard to know what you can and should ask for. A good agent knows the ins and outs of contract negotiation and will make sure that you’re happy with the terms.

They help you maintain a professional relationship with the client
When the client is being difficult, it can be hard to fight back and also keep a professional relationship. When communication breaks down, the agent steps in to run interference. They play the mama bear so you don’t have to.

They can offer guidance for the length of your career
Some agents will represent an author for the sale of only one project, but it’s much more common that agents sign authors with the intent of representing them for their entire careers. An agent will talk with you about your projects, connect you with editors who understand your vision, and help you cultivate a sustainable career.

Which Literary Agent is Right for Me?

There are hundreds of literary agents to choose from, and every illustrator should do thorough research when putting a submission list together. Here are two points to consider:

Look for an agent who represents the types of work you want to publish
Consider who the agent represents. One tactic is to research illustrators doing the work you want to do and see who represents them. Many illustrators include their representation on their websites.

Look for an agent with a solid sales track record
If you want to make graphic novels, look for agents who have sold graphic novels. Publishers Marketplace is a great, but pricey source for researching an agent’s sales record. You can also sometimes find this info through Publisher’s Weekly’s rights reports.

Other considerations are personal to the illustrator. You will need to think hard about what you want your relationship to be. You can also discuss these things when an agent offers representation. For now, researching agent listings and talking to other illustrators about their representation is a great first step.


SFF Craft and Industry Resources for and by Black Creators

Here at Dream Foundry, we encourage and support new creatives in the field of SFF. As the internet has provided a wealth of resources for new and emerging creators, we've compiled a list specifically geared toward Black creators and helping get more Black voices out into the world.

The list currently skews quite heavily toward writing but we continue to search for and add to this page as new opportunities arise. Please feel free to check back and/or to drop us a line if you see something we haven't added.

Representation

Manuscript contest with the award being rep by DongWon Song. Genre: Commercial fiction, also MG and YA speculative and contemporary and graphic novels. Black writers only.

https://publishingishard.substack.com/p/the-only-lasting-truth-is-change

Scholarship/Resources:

Jobs

Residency:

Events:

Art/Design

Directories:

Lit Mags


Flights of Foundry, May 16-17, 2020

Flight of Foundry

Dream Foundry is thrilled to announce Flights of Foundry, a virtual convention for speculative creators and their fans. Registration is open and the convention will take place May 16-17. Our guests of honor are:

Comics: Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu
Editor: Liz Gorinsky
Fiction: Ken Liu
Games: Andrea Phillips
Illustration: Grace Fong
Translation: Alex Shvartsman and Rachel S. Cordasco

In addition to panels and information sessions, our programming will include workshops, a dealer's room, consuite (yes, a virtual consuite!), and more.

There is no cost to register, though donations to defray costs and support Dream Foundry's other programming are welcomed. Dream Foundry is a registered 501(c)3 dedicated to supporting creators working in the speculative arts as they begin their careers.

To register, go to: https://flights-of-foundry.org/registration/
For more information about the convention: https://flights-of-foundry.org/
You can learn more about Dream Foundry or check out our other programs by visiting our website: https://dreamfoundry.org/