On Sunday, August 4th, 2013, at 1:00 pm, I’m going to hold a 2-hour short fiction workshop at Bakka Phoenix Books. The workshop, “The Guts of the Machine: Understanding the Short Fiction Market,” which will consist of interactive discussion and a Q+A (I’m sticking around past the two-hour mark, so the Q+A can continue as long as attendees have questions and/or until the staff boot us out of the building) is geared, primarily, toward new to mid-level writers of short fiction, and will cover a range of topics related to selling short fiction.
Please note that this is not a writing workshop. While I am going to teach better techniques for revising fiction during the workshop, this is a workshop about learning how to sell your fiction in the current short fiction market, as well as tools to keep selling as the market shifts. Specifically, I’m going to teach attendees about the short fiction market itself (through discussion, advice, and information on individual story markets); talk about editing, revising and the necessity of self-evaluation; discuss the advantages and pitfalls of using market listing systems and websites (Duotrope, The Grinder, Ralan.com, and so on); explain how to network effectively with other writers to keep abreast of changes/opportunities/open calls; discuss how to properly navigate the submissions process (including formatting, cover letters, dos and don’ts, and more; speaking as an editor, this is where most people fuck up), as well as when to accept a contract and when to walk away (or run, as the case may be); and what the field actually looks like from an editor’s perspective (there’s a fairly blunt wake-up call coming on that last perspective, so consider yourself warned).
This is a ticketed ($20.00 per person), limited seating workshop, and the ticket price includes a print copy of the Masked Mosaic anthology, refreshments, and a 10%-off coupon for any other merchandise purchased at Bakka Phoenix Books the same day as the workshop.
(If you’re going to be attending and you already have a copy of Masked Mosaic, talk to me once you’ve purchased a ticket and we’ll figure out an alternate book.)
And now some quick answers in advance of questions:
So, why hold the workshop?
Whether it’s at an author event/appearance, the Q+A following a convention panel, or just in general conversation, newer short fiction writers invariably ask other writers/editors/anyone who will listen the following question: “Can you tell me where to send my work so someone will buy it?” Admittedly, the question all newer writers should be asking themselves is “Is my work good enough to sell yet?” but that level of critical self-reflection comes with time and experience.
Most authors, and even most editors, are not in a position to discuss the short story market at length. Especially not in the middle of another event, or when they’re promoting their own work. Truth be told, it’s a fairly long and multipartite discussion. Learning to successfully, consistently, sell short fiction takes work on your part, and requires that you know what the hell you’re doing. Workshops like this one act as a concentrated crash course in how to understand the short fiction market – which is an absolute necessity if you’re going to sell your work – and teach you to use that knowledge to your advantage.
The point is this: You’re going to end up learning how to do this by trial and error (and, realistically, writers in mid- and late-career constantly have to adjust their methods to sell in the shifting market as well). There’s no way around that. But having someone else show you the ropes (and from the editorial side) lets you avoid a whole whack of pitfalls, and will help you get started/sell better.
You want proof of concept? I couldn’t sell a damn thing (and had been trying for four years at that point) until I sat down for an hour with Karl Schroeder back in 2010 when Karl was doing his Writer in Residence stint at the Merril Collection. We talked about a number of things, but chief among what we covered was how the fiction industry (long and short form) actually works. I made my first sale about a year later. So, yes, knowing what you’re doing helps.
What qualifications do I have to run this workshop?
Yeah, I know, I’m not exactly the most prominent of people in the industry. That’s partly because I’m quite private, and partly because a lot of what I do in the industry occurs behind the scenes, as it were. But a brief breakdown of why I know what I’m talking about when I talk about the industry looks like this:
- I’m a submissions editor with Apex Magazine (a pro-rate SFWA qualifying publication).
- I’m a marketing/editorial assistant with ChiZine Publications.
- I run the CSFL, or Can Spec Fic List, which acts as a repository of Canadian speculative fiction content, and I have to keep an eye on the international speculative fiction markets in order to do it.
- I’m a published writer with about 15 sales (mixed fiction and poetry) to my name, most of those to semi-pro markets.
And while I do other things that are, I suppose, tangentially related to this, those are the most pertinent qualifications.
In the end, learning how to revise your work, how the short fiction market works, and how to sell your work, is a matter of getting the right information and applying it effectively. (Which, ultimately, is true of most things in life.) That learning process is made far easier by finding someone who already knows what you need to know, and learning it directly from them.
Also, because I’m running the workshop in Toronto and, obviously, some of you reading this do not exactly share my version of “local,” I recommend that anyone seriously interested in trying to sell their short fiction take a look at Douglas Smith‘s ongoing series of articles, “Playing the Short Game,” that’s been running over at the relaunched Amazing Stories website. Doug comes at selling short fiction from the perspective of someone who is solely a writer, so it’s a little different from my own perspective, but Doug knows what he’s doing, he does it extremely well, and his advice is well worth heeding. Actually, I’d advise having a look at Doug’s advice whether you’re going to come out to my workshop or not, as more information is always better than less.
And if anyone needs to get in touch with me re this (or anything else, really) you can contact me at “firstname.lastname@example.org”.