Mashup of Art and Business (Part 2)
Continued…(Here’s the link to Part 1.)
What I wanted to write was, at that time, considered “Mixed Genre” and doomed.
For my first sale, (it’s really bad by my standards today) I studied the editor of a magazine, took the universe I had created for my Romance stories, and wrote a short story for that editor designed (think Patron ) to trigger a ‘liminal’ experience in that particular editor’s mind.
It worked. That story sold on first submission. It’s the first Sime~Gen published, but not the first written (first written is posted for free reading on simegen.com).
The story of that first sale is posted here. That page desperately needs updating – maybe I’ll get to it before you read this, but meanwhile here is more current information.
That first sale was followed (4 years of hard work and hard marketing later) by my first novel, House of Zeor, set in that same universe, different time and different characters. There are now 12 volumes extant (paper and ebook; audiobook forthcoming) in the Sime~Gen Universe.
Recently, I was invited to join a Group on Facebook SCIENCE FICTION ROMANCE BRIGADE
I was invited to that Group by a writer who had reviewed a Sime~Gen Novel on http://www.thegalaxyexpress.net/
The founder of Galaxy Express found me because I was invited by a Romance writer to a co-blog of very widely published SF Romance writers, Rowena Cherry.
On the Science Fiction Romance Brigade Group I posted a note about progress on the audiobook (for audible.com ) of House of Zeor.
I posted that same note in the SIMEGEN Group on Facebook, where one of the fans of Sime~Gen (a group of fans who have produced more words of fan fiction in the Sime~Gen Universe than Jean Lorrah and I have produced professionally published Sime~Gen).
Here’s the note:
I’ve just been told by the reader ( Michael Spence ) that the audiobook (audible.com, iTunes, Amazon etc) of my novel HOUSE OF ZEOR is almost ready to be sent to the publisher. It was my first novel, and my shout-out to the Science Fiction world that they were missing something vital in their science fiction approach — ROMANCE. (It’s now in paper and ebook)
Here’s how I described the book to some Romance writers:
Of course, a romance wouldn’t sell into that market at that time, so the story is a Western-type setting where a guy teams up with mortal-enemies to travel into alien territory to rescue his ONE TRUE LOVE — only then he gets caught by her kidnappers and she has to rescue him and his new buddy.
This woman’s rescue of this guy (unbeknownst to SF readers of that time) changed that created world in the kind of “drastic” way that Love always does! Now the 12th novel in that universe is available in print and ebook, which likewise tiptoes around the edge of Romance but shows how Love Conquers All if you’ve read the other novels. Several of the other Sime~Gen novels are actual SFR, notably Jean Lorrah’s TO KISS OR TO KILL which is a fair introduction to the series, though it’s a sequel to ZELEROD’S DOOM.
If you want to look it up, you’ll see the fans are arguing House of Zeor is not ROMANCE (which is true) so I answered as follows:
Oh, yes, that’s exactly the point. The Romance had to be hidden deep inside, way underneath the basic (bare bones) Love Story or it would never sell — and as it was, it was rejected by every SF publisher in Manhattan, and finally Doubleday took it for their line that’s pre-sold to Libraries so they didn’t have to worry about people choosing the book, they had a guaranteed sell-through. Now notice how the fans all want the story of what happens between Klyd and Aisha after the end of the novel? What I was selling was something there was no market for — but I knew readers really REALLY wanted badly.
One other oddball fact, decades later, one of the editors who rejected House of Zeor (Don Wollheim, founder of DAW books) admitted he’d made a mistake rejecting that book.
My novel, House of Zeor, was NOT “the” genre-changer for Science Fiction. Most historians credit Marion Zimmer Bradley’s little story (mind blanking on the title, but it had Cloud in it) in a mid-1950′s magazine with that pivot point.
Bradley’s Darkover novels were selling well before House of Zeor was published, but she had not at that time adventured into the deepest of the personal relationship driven novels. Besides, she was on a completely different path than I was — headed into totally different directions. But still, most Sime~Gen fans are Darkover fans, too.
But this was a pivotal decade where a generation grew up on YA Vampire novels, and grew into STAR TREK fan fiction (printed on paper.)
What Star Trek fanfic writers did with the aired universe introduced ROMANCE in various forms and transformed the entire field of science fiction, which eventually spat out all that ‘stuff’ and created the genre now known as “Fantasy” (which did not exist prior to Star Trek fan writers entering prof fiction arenas.).
Here is the story of the connection between Sime~Gen and Star Trek (a page that likewise needs updating).
The main thing to take away from that page though is that I am the primary author of the Bantam paperback STAR TREK LIVES! which blew the lid on Star Trek fandom and introduced the world to what is now known as “/” fiction. (New York Times reporters blushed)
And to gain a readership for my first novel, (and to learn to write) I created an alternate Star Trek Universe called Kraith, and at one time had 50 creative Star Trek fans contributing to the stories in that universe. Those stories were published, scattered over many fanzines, and then collected in Kraith Collected which went many printings on paper. The stories are now posted online for free reading.
On that page, you will also find a series of Star Trek fanfic stories which we believe might be the very first example of INSPIRATIONAL SCIENCE FICTION ROMANCE.
When it was first published in an expensive hardcover edition, I sold HOUSE OF ZEOR on a money-back guarantee to over 60 Spock Fans because the book was written specifically to prove my thesis in STAR TREK LIVES! about the reason that people love Star Trek, but especially about why they love SPOCK. I never had anyone return a copy for their money back. I nailed it. I captured the “liminal” effect that “Spock” creates for a very small, very well defined sub-set of the Star Trek viewers.
My first novel proved that I understood the parameters of a new, unknown, unnamed ‘genre’ (which I now call Intimate Adventure) — as my first story sale proved I understood a particular magazine editor’s enchantment with Science Fiction.
So Sime~Gen has ridden a wave of genre-changing, genre-reinvention, genre-generation into the ebook/audiobook world where the printing press has been un-invented or supplanted.
And it all started with a “pitch” to an editor I studied and wrote specifically for just as Patronized Artists wrote for their Patrons.
For my first novel (which I wrote concurrently with my first non-fiction book, Star Trek Lives! and my Star Trek fanfic Kraith) I abandoned aiming at a particular editor and aimed at a specific readership. I had a terrible time selling that first novel (it is WAY out of spec for the SF of the time because it has way too much Romance; and is way out of spec for today’s SFR). But when it did sell, the specified audience did respond as I predicted.
My second novel, Unto Zeor, Forever (#2 in Sime~Gen now) won the Galaxy Award for Spirituality In Science Fiction and is much closer to today’s SFR style. (talk about mixed genre!)
There’s a couple of blogs about Unto Zeor, Forever that pertain to the staying power of Romance over the years, even when you hide it under layers of other genres:
http://editingcircle.blogspot.com/2011/12/unto-zeor-forever-mentioned-lovecats.html (has a link to a blog in Australia which specializes in Romance)
Editing Circle is my blog where I post writing lessons.
I post on aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com on the topic of how to elevate the prestige level of Romance in the eyes of the general public.
To keep up on all these developments, you might want to subscribe to the newsletter/blog
On that blog you’ll find a link to THE FARRIS CHANNEL, Sime~Gen #12, that came out in January 2012. One of the tabs at the top of that blog leads to an “Amazon Store” which lists all my titles that are currently available – several “pages” so you have to click the numbers at the bottom to see it all.
Or join the Facebook SIMEGEN Group and just ask someone.
Now, the original question sparking this post was about “pitching” a fiction project at editors.
I had commented on another blog that the key to break the ‘stage-fright’ that writers fall into at the idea of “pitching” is to present yourself and your project as the solution to the editor’s problem.
To do that, you must understand what that editor’s problem is (from their point of view.)
How to do that is detailed in a 7 part series of blog posts on Editing that I have done on http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com
Here’s post #7 with links to the previous posts (my blog posts series are not always in order; sometimes it’s months later that another installment in a series comes along):
After you get a grip on what their problem is (as I did for my first story sale), then you need to get a grip on what the READER’s (i.e. your ultimate market’s) problem is, because your story must solve their problem (i.e. how do I get my head out of my mundane existence?)
You also need a grip on what your problem is (e.g. What Art was my Soul created to promulgate?)
You may need to add a lot more data points such as History, Science, Archeology, Anthropology, Folklore — who knows? Writers are known for the habit of collecting trivia about everything and anything.
Once you’ve drawn the line between your soul and the soul of your ultimate target (the reader) — SHOOT. Let that arrow fly.
That’s not so easy, as any beginning writer swiftly discovers. There’s an entire craft to writing, way beyond any art involved. It isn’t enough to know your story – you have to arrange it into a form and format that the reader can recognize and enjoy. But that isn’t enough. It must also fit through the delivery channel between you and that reader.
Today’s world (beyond the Printing Press world) is morphing faster than the world did during the 300 years after Guttenberg’s movable type printing press.
But the bizmod of the writer is very much the same, as are the laws of business rooted in supply and demand.
With the advent of the self-publishable ebook format, and Print On Demand, the supply produced by writers has far outstripped the demand of Traditional Publishers.
Meanwhile, the customers of Traditional Publishers have discovered other supply channels — channels which have not yet formed to the point where they can be trusted.
Even a FREE download on Amazon may be passed over by a Kindle user browsing for something to read — because it’s free! It’s not worth the time it takes to figure out whether this book is readable or not.
So the whole bizmod structure for editors, copyeditors (there’s an online group of copyeditors who are launching an entire online business to copyedit for self-publishing writers, but I know a bunch of freelance copyeditors worth their pay) and publishers is morphing day by day.
I frequent a chat on twitter ( #scifichat ) on Friday afternoons Eastern time which is run by an ebook publisher. His education and expertise is in MARKETING but SF and SF Gaming has been his lifelong hobby. His company, Flying Pen Press, specifically looks for writers who have built themselves an online following before he will publish a book by them.
At this time, I have 5 of my novels (originally mass market paperbacks, one of which, DUSHAU, won the Romantic Times Award for Science Fiction) up on Amazon Kindle (but nowhere else), as an experiment in self-publishing.
The second two in that trilogy are also there.
And I have an interstellar Military SF novel and its sequel up as an omnibus version, HERO and BORDER DISPUTE.
On the strength of that, I’m a member of http://backlistebooks.com a group of widely published, award winning professionals who have retrieved their rights and reissued their own titles.
But in doing that project, and listening to that group talk, I realized that I’d rather spend my time writing. I’m NOT a publisher. So all the rest of my titles, (well most, not all as I’m still scattered among publishers) are with Wildside Press and its Borgo Press imprint.
That’s where you’ll find the Sime~Gen novels, and several collections of my own short stories, plus forthcoming this year an anthology of Vampire stories by online based fanfic writers — mostly fans who wrote Forever Knight fanfic. It’s titled VAMPIRE’S DILEMMA.
I’m a member of EPIC (Electronically Published Internet Coalition) and life member of the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA).
So as you can see, I get around, listen to and study a lot of people at all levels of this structure I call the Fiction Delivery System. It once was a well organized, monolithic system. It’s now chaos. We live in interesting times, and I love it!!!
Just look at my “Friendfeed” badge on my blogs or pages, and see how many social networks and blogs I am on. There’s a reason for that. This is the world I was born to live in, the world I thought I was living in when I pitched my first story at that poor-unsuspecting-towering-icon-of-the-SF-Field, and he bought it.
He, Fred Pohl, later bought my first non-fiction book, Star Trek Lives!, when he was editor at Bantam. See?
It’s all about who you know, but more importantly who knows you, who sees you as the liminal gateway to their success.
And that’s the same game Artists have had to play since Patronage was the only way to survive.