Douglas Smith's blog

Workshop #2 on marketing & selling short fiction

Playing the Short GameThis Sunday, Sept 22 at 4pm EDT, I'll be teaching the second in my series of three online workshops on how to market and sell short fiction, based on my PLAYING THE SHORT GAME writer's guide.

A wealth of courses and books exist to teach you how to write stories. But what happens when you’ve finished writing? Do you know how to sell what you’ve written? Do you know what happens after you sell a story and how to handle all the steps?

These workshops are offered via SFWA President Cat Rambo's "Rambo Academy." The first workshop focused on how to get your first story sale, including understanding rights and licensing, how to decide where to submit (and where not to), finding markets, how to submit (and what not to do), and more.

This second workshop takes a writer from when they learn an editor wants to buy their story to after it's published and the reviews start coming. Trust me, it's worth it for the discussion of contracts alone.

Topics include:

  • Understanding how editors and slush piles work
  • Why editors choose or reject stories
  • What to look (and look out) for in short fiction contracts, and how to ask for changes
  • How to work with an editor during the editing process for your story
  • How to handle rejections and reviews
  • How much promotion is reasonable when you sell a story
  • Cool things that might happen: Awards, best of anthologies,…and even movies

Registration information on workshop #1 as well as full details on the workshop series can be found here on Cat's blog.

Workshop #1 in series on marketing & selling short fiction

Playing the Short GameOver the next three months, I'll be teaching a series of three online workshops on how to market and sell short fiction, based on my PLAYING THE SHORT GAME writer's guide.

These workshops are offered via SFWA President Cat Rambo's "Rambo Academy." The first workshop is this Sunday, August 25 at 4pm EDT and will focus on how to get your first story sale:

A wealth of courses and books exist to teach you how to write stories. But what happens when you’ve finished writing? Do you know how to sell what you’ve written?

Based on the popular writer’s guide, Playing the Short Game: How to Market & Sell Short Fiction, this workshop will give you critical advice on how to sell your short stories to professional markets and to build a career as a short fiction writer. Topics covered include:

  • Rights and licensing for short fiction
  • A strategy for selecting your target markets
  • Finding short fiction markets
  • Selecting the right market
  • Submitting short fiction to a market
  • What not to do when submitting
  • What to do after submitting

Registration information on workshop #1 as well as full details on the workshop series can be found here on Cat's blog.

Publication news: some recent story sales

I've sold a couple of reprints of previously published stories. Black Infinity will publish my YA SF tale, "Jigsaw," in their 5th volume, which will feature the theme of space derelicts. 

And the Tokyo-based Excalibur Books will reprint my Japanese martial arts romance fantasy, "The Red Bird," in Excalibur 2020: Tales From Beyond Tomorrow, Vol.3, an anthology themed to honour and highlight the Tokyo Summer Olympics of 2020.

My Writing Process: Background Sounds & Music

Musical Notes

I've had a good response to sharing some insights into my personal writing process, so I'll keep sharing for a while or at least until I run out of thoughts. And if you have questions you'd like me to answer, please drop me a note.

This time it's another common question writers get asked and that they ask each other: What do you listen to when you're writing?

My answer is it depends on where I'm writing. If I'm in a perfectly quiet spot, I can handle silence. But that is rare, unless I have the house to myself. Even in a library, there will be nearby conversations. If I'm in a coffee shop, I can make do with just the background buzz sometimes. As long as I can't make out individual conversations, it just becomes white noise to me. 

But usually, there are spoken words to be heard (or overheard), and that is the worst distraction (at least to me) when I'm writing. So I go with earbuds and music stored on my laptop. What kind of music? Well, first it must NOT have lyrics. Hearing words in my ears makes it hard to write my own words. Second, it must NOT have any strong emotional element to it.

I'll be reading at the Toronto launch of Pulp Literature issue #23

Pulp Literature #12 coverI'll be one of several Toronto authors reading at the launch of issue #23 of the most excellent speculative fiction magazine, Pulp Literature.

I'm not in this issue, but my story "The Last of a Thing" appeared in issue #12 (pictured here), and the nice people at PL have invited local past contributors to attend the event as well as Toronto-area writers who are in the new issue. 

All of us will be reading from our Pulp Literature stories as well as from current works-in-progress. So if you want to hear me read from my current urban fantasy trilogy, drop by:

Another Bar
926 Bloor St. W.
6:00-9:00 pm, Thursday, August 8, 2019

You'll be able to buy copies of the new issue (and past issues) of Pulp Literature and have them signed by the authors. Attending authors will also be selling and signing their own books.  Hope to see you there.

Ad Astra convention appearance this weekend

I'll be at the long-running Toronto genre convention, Ad Astra, this weekend, July 12-14. The con is held at The Sheraton Parkway North, 600 HWY-7 E, Richmond Hill, Ontario.

The Ad Astra site has a full list of panels and events. Here's my personal panel and reading schedule:

Friday, July 12:

7-8pm, Panel: Keeping a Canadian identity in an American world (Room: Markham A)

8-9pm, Panel: How to Edit like a Pro (Room: Markham A)

Saturday, July 13:

1:30-2:00pm, Reading (Room: Buttonville)

Sunday, July 14:

10-11am, Panel: How to Solve Writer's Block (Room: Oakridges)

12-1pm, Panel: Eye of the Tiger, Hide of the Rhino -- handling rejection (Room: Oakridges OR Markham B -- the schedule conflicts with itself)

Also, all of my print titles will be available at the Myth Hawker table in the Dealer's Room. Drop by MythHawkers to take advantage of special convention pricing and also pick up your download code for a free copy of an award-winning story of mine (no purchase necessary).

Hope to see you there!

The Writing Life: Outliner or Pantser?

I've had some of you ask for insights into my writing process, so I thought I'd start with the classic question that writers ask each other: am I an outliner or a 'pantser'?

Meaning, as a writer, do I develop detailed plot outlines before starting to write a story, or do I write "by the seat of my pants," just diving into the story and letting it take me where it takes me?

The answer for me is neither. Or maybe both. I describe my writing approach as "headlights on a highway," which I take from this quote by E. L. Doctorow:

“Writing is like driving a car at night: you never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” 

I use a three-act structure generally for my novels. I know how the novel will end and the major event or twist at the end of each act, as well as the inciting incident that will start the story. I also know my characters very well and know the journey I want them to travel. 

But beyond that, as far as the plot, as far as how I will tell the story, I usually outline the next 2-4 chapters and write those and see where they take me. And then the next 2-4 chapters. I've found that this gives me enough structure to not drift too far off course, but enough freedom to explore new characters who show up and new twists and ideas that occur. 

Do I ever get lost on the highway? Yeah, occasionally. But not often and not too far. This approach, for me at least, is the perfect balance between control and freedom. A story is discovered in its telling. The "headlights on a highway" approach lets me have the main idea of the story as my signposts along the way but lets me discover the story my characters want to tell without trying to stuff them into boxes where they don't fit.

Fantastic podcast of "By Her Hand, She Draws You Down"

By Her Hand coverA few years ago, an independent filmmaker adapted my supernatural suspense tale, "By Her Hand, She Draws You Down" into a brilliant short movie. Well, now it has been adapted into an audio drama. The story was recently featured on the No Sleep Podcast.

Wow! I was blown away by the production and performances in this adaptation. Excellent narration and voice acting, and the synth score is a perfect fit. My sincere thanks to everyone involved at No Sleep Podcast for making my little tale sound so wonderfully creepy.

"By Her Hand..." first appeared in the UK magazine, The Third Alternative, and was selected for The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror #13. It was also a finalist for Canada's Aurora Award. 

The story: Cath, a beautiful young sidewalk artist, is driven by a mysterious hunger that feeds from the portraits she draws of her victims. Joe loves Cath still, but as Cath’s hunger grows, so does Joe’s fear—fear that one day she may draw him down

"A haunting variant on the vampire legend with an understated and brutal ending." —Publishers Weekly

Check out the podcast performance here. The story performance of "By Her Hand..." starts at 5 minutes and 40 seconds.

Four for four in Black Infinity Magazine

Black Infinity #4 coverI'm thrilled to have my Aurora Award-winning story, "The Walker of the Shifting Borderland," appear in Black Infinity #4, now available with yet another fantastic retro cover (see right) plus "202 pages chock full of great stories by great writers, weird science, retro movie reviews, comics and so much more."

"The Walker of the Shifting Borderland" first appeared in the excellent Canadian speculative fiction magazine, On Spec, in 2012 and won the Aurora Award for Best Short Fiction the following year.

I've now had a story in each of the first four issues of Black Infinity. This time I get to share the cover with SF greats Philip K. Dick and Clifford D. Simak.

Together with the fiction, the issue also includes columns on retro movies by Matt Cowan, weird science by Todd Treichel, a classic comics story by Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko, and more.

I hope you'll check the issue out here and pick up a copy.

Cover art by Allen Koszowski.

Dragons! "The Last of a Thing" reprinted in new dragon anthology

Wings of Change coverWings of Change, a cool new dragon-themed anthology, out now from Camden Park Press, has reprinted my environmental dragon tale (no, really), "The Last of a Thing."

"The Last of a Thing" first appeared in the most excellent Canadian magazine, Pulp Literature, in 2016.

I must admit I was a little concerned when I sold the story to Pulp Literature. Most writers, if they've been doing this long enough, have a "market killer" story, a tale that keeps selling but never gets published because the acquiring magazine or anthology dies before they publish your story.

"The Last of a Thing" was my market-killer. I'd sold the story at least three times in the past but... yeah, well, you get it.

But Pulp Literature continues to publish beautiful issues filled with excellent fiction, so I'm happy to say they survived having the excellent taste to buy my tale wink.

I hope you'll check out this new anthology, available from all major retailers here. "The Last of a Thing" was a fairly recent sale, so it does not appear in any of my collections nor is it currently available as an individual ebook.


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