The Announcement

One morning in early July, I woke up to an email from one of the editors at Tor.com Publishing. They’d recently had an open unsolicited submission window and I’d submitted the manuscript for my sci-fi novella Killing Gravity. It had received a really quick form rejection from another publisher just a few weeks earlier, so I had basically convinced myself there was no way a publisher with as much clout as Tor would want it (Lesson the first: personal preference is a strong condideration in editorial decisions. Just because one editor rejects a story, it doesn’t mean it [and by extension, you] are rubbish). The email subject read “Offer on Killing Gravity,” and I had so thoroughly convinced myself of the impending rejection that I actually thought, That’s a strange way to phrase a rejection.

Honestly, if the email subject had simply read: “RE: Submission – Killing Gravity” there’s a chance I might have deleted it unread (Lesson the second: never, and I mean NEVER, self-reject).

Needless to say, I opened the email.

I literally couldn’t believe it, I was in shock. My first response was to send my partner (the award-winning author of Welcome to Orphancorp, Marlee Jane Ward) a message reading: “Fuck. Motherfucking Tor want to buy my fucking book.” 6am eloquence is not my forte. My second response was to stumble through, knock on my housemate’s bedroom door, and repeat the news to her more-or-less word for word (she later said she thought something terrible had happened, like a death in the family, because I was white as a sheet. When I said ‘in shock’ I meant literally).

Flatiron Building
Photo credit: Marlee Jane Ward

Marlee and I had already planned a trip to the States, which meant it was perfectly timed for us to be able to meet up with my editor Carl Engle-Laird in New York, and even receive a tour of the tour offices in the historic Flatiron building. It also meant I could have an editorial meeting with Carl over beers in Kansas City while we were there for WorldCon. Sure, the internet’s an amazing tool, but there’s nothing quite like face-to-face. It’s great when everything just falls into place.

Now here we are, a few months later. The announcement has been made, including the amazing news that Tor.com Publishing are going to publish Killing Gravity’s sequel, and now I can talk publicly about it. Something I mentioned on twitter is that a big part of why this is so exciting (besides it being my first book, which is a huge deal on its own) is that Tor.com Publishing’s line of novellas is consistently of a super high quality, with multiple award-winning novellas, brilliant emerging and established authors, beautiful cover art, and an editorial desire for better representation with their authors and books. To think that Killing Gravity got chosen out of slush to be published alongside Victor LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom, Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti, Kij Johnson’s The Dream-Quest of Vellit Boe, as well as upcoming titles from Charles Stross, Cassandra Khaw, and Laurie Penny (not to mention all the other well-regarded authors whose work I haven’t checked out yet), is incredible. Talk about external validation… (I’d had 130 short story rejections in the 18 months before this sale, so Lesson the third: it’s all about forward motion).

So if you need me, I’ll be here, talking about Killing Gravity, offering advice, posting fiction (my own, and links to others), and trying to make the most of this opportunity to kick-start something resembling a writing career.

The Business of Writing

I’ve recently had cause (which is equal parts *squee* and frightening) to start paying attention to the business aspects of writing, and coincidentally I came across this post here, which details much of the business/financial side of things, from someone who either knows, or has at least done plenty of research.

But whilst that post deals with the end result of having written and sold a book, Peter M. Ball has been posting about treating your writing practise as a business. Peter M. Ball’s blog often has some interesting and insightful bits of writing advice (of particular interest is this series of posts about Die Hard), but as well as that, he’ll sometimes have advice geared more to the business side of writing (something I plan on talking about more here… eventually).

His recent post – Dear Writers: What’s Your Business Model? – is full of insight. Maybe your writing practice is a magical, soulful, unpredictable beast, but… you want to make money from it right? Ideally you’d like to make a living from your writing? Then, like it or not, you need to think about it like a business.

When I started putting together a business plan, I had to think beyond that: who was a writing for? What was I giving them? Who were my competitors and how would I do better than them? Most important: what was my business model? Where did the money come from?

And because small business book after small business book stressed the importance of that, I set aside my eager enthusiasm for 48 hours or so and did some research. By the time I was done I had rough answers for all those things – enough to make me confident about the potential income – and for the next eighteen months my estimations were pretty accurate.

That 48 hours gave me a niche to fill, an identity that set me apart from the other people working in that space, and reasonable idea of what I needed to do to start generating cash-flow. It told me the most valuable places to focus my energy – what to do, and what not to do, when time was limited.

My plan and research served me well enough that I was surprised other weren’t doing it, given that it was largely put together with 48 hours of research and some scrap paper. I had a clear business model – this type of product, released this often, with this kind of focus – that gave me a clear measure of success or failure.

I had never had that, with anything I’d written before. It was remarkably focusing.

Check out his full post here.