Author Etiquette - Rolling the Dice: Taking Chances and Improving Your Odds

by Jennifer 28. February 2017 10:58

Hello again and welcome to another Author Etiquette.

Being an author is never easy. First you have to learn the rulesyou know those pesky things like grammar, punctuation, and spelling that (hopefully) you learned in school. Then you have to understand things like plot arcs, the difference between a protagonist, antagonist and anti-hero, why subplots don’t usually work in a short story and how to tie everything up at the end. And only when you finally understand all of that, you must learn to break the rules, but do it in a way that makes sense in the story you are writing. And all along there’s pressure to be published.

It’s no wonder that people feel like imposters and talk about writer’s block. There’s just so much to this business, that it often overwhelms you. This is why sometimes you need to change gears.

You write stories, send them out, collect a pile of rejections. Then suddenly, you realize you are stuck. Your stories are dull and read like a checklist. Your protagonists are very much the same type. Even your villains seem lack luster.

Or maybe you are doing well in your writing field but want to write something different. Thoughts of how your fans will take the news of you changing gears keeps you up at night. After all, they’re the ones buying your books right?

Perhaps you aren’t worried about those things but want to try something else. Your fondest desire is to work in the gaming industry or write a tie-in book for your favorite TV show. Your focus wanders more and more into a world that isn’t your own.

It may be time to roll the dice and take a really big chance.

Taking a chance is scary. Even established authors are a bit nervous about taking the plunge into a new venue. Whether it’s a new series, working in a different field or working in a different format, everyone gets the jitters, especially when it’s not a sure thing. But there are things you can do to reduce your risks.


First of all research your new venture. Don’t jump in blind. If you are changing gears from writing hard science fiction to romance, reading that genre would be a great idea. If you want to get into the gaming industry, play some of the games that you’d like to write for. The same with writing tie-in. Watch the programs and get familiar with the world.

These things give you a basis in the worlds you are going to write in. Familiarize yourself with the common tropes and stereotypes. Learn about the fans and what they like or dislike about the genre. Learn more about the companies that produce such works.

Talk With An Author

It’s not difficult to find an author that writes in the field you want to take a chance on and most of them are pretty open about the work they do. They may not be able to talk about specifics (non-disclosure agreements), but they might be able to give you some advice.

Advice from an established author could be insight on the market or what they think the “next big trend” will be. They could drop information on who to work for or not work for and even introduce you to others in the industry. Having an established author vouch for you can sometimes lift your name to the top of a very long list.

Do Your Homework

After you’ve researched and talked with a few authors in the field you want to try out, next you explore the possibilities and find out what the submission requirements are. Changing genres means you need to write a few things in the new genre you are exploring. For game writing you might need to write up a Curriculum Vitæ (CV) to show your writing experience. Tie-in markets might want to see writing samples and question you on how well you know the series.

Seek out several companies and publishers and compare guidelines. Some are by invitation only while others welcome new authors. Perhaps there’s an opportunity to get your foot in the door by doing smaller works before you can move on to larger ones.

Follow the Instructions

This is perhaps the most important step in any writing submission. READ and FOLLOW the instructions. Your submission, CV or writing sample is the only opportunity for you to show editors that you are a professional and can work to specifications. A sloppy submission or writing sample with lots of errors, won’t give you a vote of confidence. Neither will a CV with very little writing experience. Make sure you have the right experiences for the job or are at least heading in the right direction.

Double check your work. Have a fellow author look at what you want to submit. Remember that you won’t catch all of your mistakes, having another set of eyes could catch something embarrassing. Before you submit, recheck to be sure you have included everything requested in your packet. And just to be sure, check it all again before you hit send.

Be Patient

Like everything in publishing, hearing back from your submission could take a while. Your best bet is to continue writing, researching other venues and sending out more work. This will help keep your mind off of decisions you aren’t involved with. Not all companies will have a response time listed so it could be months (if ever) before you hear back. For the most part, don’t send out queries unless you’ve been instructed to.

Don’t Be Angry If You Aren’t Chosen

Even if you’ve done everything right, you might not get accepted. That’s a fact of publishing. Perhaps your work is too similar to someone they’ve already hired. Maybe they’ve filled their writing stable for now. Whatever the reason, don’t be angry about it.


Don’t give up either. There’s plenty of time to learn and grow as a writer. Another company might have an opening that’s perfect for you. Heck, that story you’ve worked on for the past year might be the thing that opens up the doors that seem closed right now.


Every author has at some point taken the plunge and tried something new. Sometimes it’s successful, and sometimes it’s not. But research, following the instructions, and being patient can improve your chances in gaining a spot in another writing field.


Wishing you all the luck in your next venture.


Author Etiquette - Your Stories Matter

by Jennifer 31. January 2017 08:53

I had to think long and hard about writing this, but with the current events unfolding, it’s more important than ever to say it.

Write your story; the story only you can tell.

Edit it to the best of your ability and get it out there.

Then start another, something better.


We’ve arrived in a new round of turbulence. It’s a growing pain of sorts, where we can either set back the clock 50 years or once more progress. It takes energy, protests and force to push through the darkness that has descended. Every day might seem darker, the oppression more solid, but there are others out there fighting with you.

Not everyone can be on the front lines. Major protests happen in larger cities, it’s often a long drive for many. Phone calls (most effective) and emails only take a few minutes. Donations take even less. I do cheer at those taking steps in becoming elected officials, but that’s not for everyone.

Then what do you do with your time? Fret over the latest kerflunkle? Watch newsfeeds explode with more bad news?

Or do you focus that anger, insecurity and tension into something else. Something constructive. Something that could either give comfort or entertainment or plant seeds that changes someone’s mind.

As artists, we have a very unique power. We are the things that people fall back on. When they need a rest, they may pick up a HEA (happily ever after) book such as a romance. When they need to see the possibility of what’s to come, they may pick up an apocalyptic horror. And when they need to find the strength to carry on the fight, they might look for a fantasy or science fiction book that features heroines and heroes fighting back against injustice.

These stories don’t just come from thin air. They come from from what’s inside. That fear you have about clean water in the future? That’s a SF novel set on another world where industry is poisoning everything. Problematic legislature? There’s a fantasy short story that involves a council judging someone unfairly. Alternative history? Well there’s too many current things to point out.

Write the story then edit it

I know it’s hard. The fear and frustration that twists your gut and makes you want to run screaming out of the country is difficult to get control over. It kills your desire to write. But you can fight through it. You can focus. Take it a few words at a time. It gets easier.

Sure it might be a hot mess of a first draft. But once it’s on the page, you can fix what’s wrong. You can make it better. You can select words to clarify what you mean. Eventually you’ll have a story you can be proud of. It’s ready for the rest of the world, if you want to share it.

Submit that story

If you do decide to send it out into the world, you will probably find writing may not be the hardest part. Sending it out is possibly even scarier. But that’s where you have to stand true. Find markets that are open to your particular genre and style. Research, follow guidelines and then submit. If you get rejected, find another market. Keep sending it out.

Beware of fallout

Authors introduce things through a non-confrontational media to anyone who reads or looks at our work. With a book or poem, there’s no one to immediately argue with. This is why at some points in history artists of all types were regarded as dangerous. Art challenges and changes ideas. Not everyone likes having their ideas challenged.

I won’t lie, it’s very possible that people will post negative reviews, try to discredit you, make you afraid. However, you won’t be alone. There are other authors right now, writing these types of stories. Right now there are people getting threats because they wrote something that challenges someone’s worldview. You might feel alone, but you aren't.

Is it political?

Currently there’s a lot of discussion about whether certain subjects are political in writing. Women’s rights, QUITLBAG characters, environmental changes and more mirror concerns in our current society. Your story may not be about politics but if they contain certain views, there could be push back.

Accept that writing about these things IS political, even if you feel as though it shouldn’t be. It’s going to be clear from your work that you support progressive or conservatives causes. And that’s fine. Your stories are your world. Not everyone is going to agree.

Stand together

Other authors are already putting their emotions to good use. Their work is out there but it can’t just be one story out there that begins the process of changing people’s minds, it has to be many. I’ve been seeing the movement for a while now, more inclusiveness of QUILTBAG characters and main characters with mental illness and disabilities. I’ve found more stories that aren’t set in European settings. More foreign stories.

Each one opens up our world to new and unique ideas. And those ideas eventually changes the worldview of our readers. Changing the worldview changes the world. Hopefully, making it better for everyone.

Don’t worry about the genre. We all need a HEA at times. Sometimes a grand long adventure. Other times, a dose of horror to put things into perspective. Just write it. Help change the world, one reader at a time.

So take a few hours.

Write the story.  No excuses.

Edit it to the best of your ability.

Send it out.

Write another.

~The Shadow Minion

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Author Etiquette - It’s Okay to be a Weird Kind of You

by Jennifer 29. December 2016 09:43

“Today you are You,

that is truer than true.

There is no one alive

who is Youer than You.”

- Dr. Seuss


I love that I can look on my Facebook wall and see a variety of posts from all of my friends. I see artwork, thoughtful discussions, silly posts and questions on various topics. Photos range from beadwork, to book covers, what’s for lunch and cat photos. Everyone has a unique personality, style and tone. Some can be a bit harsh but the topics they touch on are the ones that really open my eyes.


And even though I see all of these people owning what and who they are, there’s still hesitation on my part to open up that weird sideyou know the one who geeks out about science, and brightly colored beads, and (insert favorite author)’s new book. It’s not because I’m secretive but because I want to feel normal, like I belong. It’s sometimes hard to do that when you feel more like a square peg.


I know, it’s a silly thing. Our genre is full of people who have learned to speak Klingon, dress up as their favorite video game character, or spends a weekend on a single D&D campaign. Geekiness is our calling. We love the weird and call it wonderful.


But there’s always this voice that says loving (insert character) is a bit over the top, because most people like this other character so much. Or maybe you might seem suspicious if you talk about the blood splatter patterns you researched for eight hours to get a writing scene just right. (not that I’d ever do that…) There’s always this fear that our (or at least my) geeky tendencies are a little too weird even for the speculative fiction community.


But there’s one thing that I am learning. We all have that hesitation. Whether it’s hiding the fact that you spend a few minutes a day looking at the model data for the future weather forecast, or found some vintage toy you played with as a kid at a thrift shop, it’s always a toss up on whether you are going to have a good or negative experience when you reveal your geekery. There’s always some arsehole who is going to try to toss a wrench into what makes you happy.


Why? Hell if I know and, truthfully, I don’t want to.


I won’t make excuses for people who don’t accept that there are all sorts of people with all sorts of views. So long as it’s harmless to everyone else, who cares. I’ll like the photos you took of alien encounter sites on your vacation. If you post a photo of a bug or a bird I might just know what it is. And as to crime scene investigation, I’ll probably read every post with rapt fascination. I’ll be happy that you are happy, so long as you can accept my own weird little quirks.


I’ve become more accepting of my own geeky delights because of my kids. One is an artist with a strong sense of justice. I’m proud that his artwork features odd characters with their own little geeky quirks. My youngest is the musician and muscle car fanatic. He’s got his own style and lots of dreams. Both of them have helped me see how important those little geeky loves are for everyone.


I’m going to try to let more of my geek out this year. I’ve got my eye on some hoodies and t-shirts that endorse some of my current interests. Maybe talk a little more about some other interests on my blog. Make more art and, gasp, maybe even try my hand at some fan fiction. I’ll find out more about some other things that have tickled my interest of late.


And I encourage you to do it too. After all, the world would be a very boring place if everything was the same right? Let’s celebrate the things we love, and try to make the world better.

Be the youest you.
~Shadow Minion


Author Etiquette - Promotion in Times of Turmoil

by Jennifer 29. November 2016 09:20

Welcome again to another Author Etiquette. We are glad you have joined us. Author Etiquette is a column where we discuss various things that come up in publishing. We started this little series because we love authorswe wouldn’t be in this business if we didn’t. But authors are human. Sometimes they make mistakes. Whether you are a new author or a seasoned pro, we hope this column will give you some perspective on issues and help keep you out of trouble.

As we’ve said many times before, very little in publishing moves quickly. Publishers plan things months and sometimes years ahead of time. Book launches, membership drives, and big publishing events take lots of preparation, work, and coordination. For the most part, things run on schedule and things are successful. But you can’t always count on long terms plans when turmoil arises.

Turmoil, whether it’s a natural disaster, sudden illness or death, or other upheaval, isn’t something most publishers plan on. No one looks at a calendar for the upcoming year and says, “I think I’ll wait to launch (NEW BOOK) for another month because there’ll be (insert your favorite flavor of chaos).” Instead, a publisher selects a launch date by making sure a new acquisition has plenty of time for edits, formatting and cover art adjustments. Authors try to start a crowdfunding project at a time when they can dedicate time and effort into the project. Conventions and subscription drives are usually the same time every year.

And yet, no matter how hard you plan and how ready you are for a project, there’s always a chance that chaos can arise. And when it does, authors and publishers are caught in the middle of a sticky situation.

The question then becomes what do you do? Can you suspend a book launch or crowdfunding project? What do you do if you can’t?  What do you do?

No one wants a project to fail. Launching a book, crowdfunding project, or a subscription drive during turmoil will often negatively affect your success. There are some steps you can take to help minimize the damage and even turn it around into a bigger success.

First of all, be realistic.

Being realistic means that you are aware that the turmoil going on will have an effect on sales and participation. It might be lower than expected or not succeed at all. Disappointing as it may be, people’s attention will be focused on the situation, not on your book.

Suspend your promotions.

The first 24 hours of a disaster is critical for several reasons. Many people use social media to contact friends and family or spread information about what’s happening. Attention is going to be focused on whatever turmoil is going on. Whatever promotions you have, delay or suspend them for those critical hours. People appreciate a feed free of promotion when they are hurting, scared or just trying to figure out what’s going on.

Be an ally.

Being an ally means that you are signal boosting verified information, support and understanding. If you’ve got a large public following, the messages you send will go farther and reach more people. Do check what you are sending out though. Misinformation can be as harmful as whatever is going on.

Delay or suspend a launch.

We know you’ve worked hard to make sure your book is ready for the masses, but when turmoil strikes, not everyone is going to be in the mood for your new book. Talk to your publisher about what options you can use. While you might not be able to delay the launch, you might be able to take advantage of a soft launch.

You can use the soft launch approachwhich means pushing back your main promotions for short time. This allows some time for things to get back to normal before you push your book. A week or two should long enough for things to settle down.

If you have a launch party scheduled, speak with your guests on how to proceed. They might agree to push the date back, use the party as a signal boost platform, or have connections on pairing up with an organization involved that needs a platform.

If you have a crowdfunding project launching or about to launch, see if you can delay it for a few days. Trying to compete with turmoil will not help your project and a successful launch needs a lot of attention in the first few days. If your project has already launched, try to be low-key for a couple of days. If it’s ending soon, try not to jam up the feeds if possible.

Don’t be “THAT” guy/gal.

Two things that will get you muted or unfriended on lots of social media feeds. First, if you hop on and begin blasting promotional material when most people are focused on a disaster. Second, go on other people’s feeds and try to argue with them. Neither of these are going to gain you any friends or support of a project. In fact, it could very well have a negative effect with future projects.

And PLEASE don’t use the turmoil to boost your promotions. Having a “Fire Sale” during wide scale wildfires is crude at best.

Even though disasters strike, it doesn’t mean that everything has to stop. You can promote your book/event/whatever, but do be subtle. Here are some tips to help you promote your work in times of turmoil

Pair up with support organizations.

Pairing up with an organization that assists those affected by the turmoil helps both parties. Having profits go to one of these organizations on any sales helps you and them. It also allows people to do something to help, and get something in return. Just make sure that the organization you pair up with is legit and you hold up your end of the bargain.

Subtle and quiet is best.

After that first 24 hours, you should get back into the promotional groove. But you don’t want to go full blast. A few posts, a blog update and background work should be the most you should send out for a few days. This gives people a gentle reminder that you have something going on, but you aren’t pushing them.

Delayed launches.

Even if your book launched, you can delay a celebration to a more appropriate time. A few weeks or even a month after is plenty of time for people to recover and appreciate your newest project. Plan some fun events and giveaways to help attract people to your event.

The biggest thing to remember when you are promoting a book, event or anything is to be aware of what is going on around you. If people are concerned with current events, they aren’t going to want to celebrate your newest work. Their brain power is going to be concentrated on friends, family, and information.

By freeing up the social media feeds you are allowing a distraction-free feed. And while most people won’t realize that you have cleared up this space in the virtual world, those of us who do know greatly appreciate it.


Author Etiquette - Social Media Safety

by Jennifer 26. October 2016 09:06

For many of us, social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr are a part of our everyday routine. We use it to keep track of family and friends, publishers and co-workers along with submission calls and freelance opportunities. It’s made our lives easier, as we can visit one or two places and have much of what we need at our fingertips.

But even though it’s a relatively nice place, social media has its darker side.

How many of you have heard of this situation or had it happen to you?

You’ve had your Facebook page for quite a while and although you have a professional page you don’t have as many followers on there. So when you promote your work you simply post it first on your main page and then on your professional page when you get around to it.

One afternoon you open up your Facebook to check how your friends are doing and find that your account is locked. All because you unfriended someone and they took exception to your decision and decided to retaliate.


You joined in a conversation on Twitter. At first, things seemed okay but as the conversation wound on, it became heated and you found yourself facing a wall of opposition. Soon after you start receiving one star reviews on your books and death threats in your inbox.


You receive a message from one of the many friends you have on a certain media site. The message has a link. You click it thinking it’s a funny video of something. Instead it’s some news site. Later, you start receiving messages from close friends telling you your computer has been hacked.

In the past few weeks I’ve heard of actions similar to these used against authors and publishers and I’ve heard of and seen many more over the past few years. While these things were infrequent in the past, the weaponizing of social media has become much more common.

For some of us, our first experiences with social media were pleasant. MySpace and the very first versions of Facebook were new and exciting places. It was fun to chat with people miles away, exchanging experiences and building online communities. On occasion there were some creepy people, but they were far and few between and easily avoidable. Internet safety wasn’t a big thing as there was this assumption that most people were nice and harmless.

Over the years that has changed.  Hacking, spoofing, doxxing, and bullying are tools used by others to either gain access to accounts and data or disrupt businesses and personal lives. Over the past few years, threats online have become more common--especially against women, POC, and minorities. However, anyone can be a target.

While there’s lots of discussions as to why, we won’t go into that here. Instead we will touch on types of attacks,how to keep you and your accounts safer and what to do if it happens to you. Note, I did not say safe. Very little is safe when using the internet.

First, let’s look at some different types of social media weapons before we discuss how to protect yourself against them.


I’m sure you’ve seen other authors or artists warn people that a second account has shown up that doesn’t belong to them. This is called spoofing and it’s more of an annoyance than an actual attack. 

What happens is someone copies photos and information from your actual homepage and then creates a new account. Friend requests are sent from this new account. Unsuspecting people accept the request and are then usually bombarded with ads for sunglasses or are propositioned for personal information. Most of the time this is a sneaky ploy to gain access to the people you know; however, it could be a concealed plan for more active attacks.


How many of you have seen a strange post on a friend’s wall or received a random link in a message. Hopefully you’ve not responded or clicked on those posts because more than likely that account has been hacked.

Hacking is a process where someone else gains control of another’s account. This can be done through various methods but the most common is a keylogger script that records what keys you touch when you log into an account or freely given because of an email scam. Your computer can be infected by visiting webpages that are infected with various viruses or those sneaky emails that look like something official from a website you frequently visit.

Hacking can cause you serious trouble. If you tend to use only a few passwords for all of your accounts, you could be open to more serious damage even if you don’t see it right away. It can even load various botware and viruses into your computer. Some of which may be activated much later.


I know it’s fun to find out what your Halloween Monster name might be, but you might want to think twice about posting that information online. While some of those memes are harmless many are venues for information gathering. While using the letters of your first and last name might not amount to much, pair that with the street you grew up on, your first pet and what kind of car you drive (all security questions for other websites) you might open the door for hacking or worse. Tie up that information with a keylogger, your personal information could be compromised.


This is perhaps one of the most devastating attacks that can be launched on social media. Cyberbullying is the use of pressure, fear and manipulation against another individual online. It can start out small with one person but can then expand to include groups. It can also lead to other kinds of attacks such as doxxing (broadcasting personal information) and DOS (Denial of Service) attacks against websites and companies as well as threats of physical harm.

Mostly, cyberbullying occurs when someone displays an opinion or worldview that does not agree with another group. Attacks begin with just a few people, but because information spreads quickly, a cyberbullying attack could include thousands in just a few hours.

Many people who have come under attack have had to shut websites and social media accounts down. A few have even lost jobs, had to move or requested police protection. Cyberbullying can even push people to commit suicide.

Kind of scary isn’t it?

If you didn’t already know, sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit aren’t all unicorns and butterflies. Social media attacks happen every day, but there are ways to protect yourself from the worst of it.

Don’t get involved

For many people this is the go to option. It’s safe--for the most part--and easy to do. Posting and responding to vanilla discussions means you aren’t putting yourself at risk and making a target out of yourself.

A very limited social media presence can keep you safe from a lot of the attacks seen above. But it also limits your contact to family and friends.


Setting up a Google Alert for your name, user names and company can help you track down conversations that mention you or your product. When a spoofed account on social media pops up, you could be immediately notified of a problem. Also, when your name comes up in conversations you might get a head’s up before a firestorm hits.

Password Protection

Many people do not use passwords that are secure enough to deter a hacker. Plus most people tend to use the same password for several sites or variations of the same password. It’s a potentially troubling scenario. If a hacker gets a hold of your info, you could spend a lot of time and money putting things right.

There are programs that manage your accounts and passwords. While this might seem like a bad idea (having all of your passwords in one place) these management systems are pretty secure. They can automatically change your passwords on any device they are connected to plus with a random generator, you aren’t relying on similar phrases which could get hacked.

Know What You are Clicking on

Social media is full of interesting things, articles and links to other sites. However, it’s also a hacker’s playground. Before you click on that link with the baity headline, look to see where it originated from. Could it be sent from a questionable site? Is this something that person would normally post?

Also, be wary of friend requests. The temptation to friend everyone and build your numbers is very strong, but you really don’t need to be friends with everyone. When you get a new friend request, check out the profile. See what they have up on their wall. If the account was activated yesterday or two years ago and it has only a few posts, there’s a good chance that account is a spoof or someone who’s going to be asking you for money or personal questions later.

Use Your Firewall and Virus Scan

Two things that can help protect you against hackers are your firewall and virus scan. Your firewall should always be on. It helps stop unwanted signals from reaching your computer. Your virus scan should be setup to automatically update and scan your computer at least once a week. Blocking, finding and destroying programs such as keyloggers and viruses help keep your information safe. Also backing up your data is really important.

Be Aware of Changes in Terms of Service

Social Media is an ever changing beast. As time goes on, many sites change focus, and changes in the Terms of Service shift. It’s why everyone needs to read through any changes in policy--especially if you are running a business (which being an author is.) For the uninformed, this could be used against you. A good example is Facebook’s name policy. Your primary account should be your name as written (or verified) on public documents. The account should not be shared. It should not be used as a primary promotion platform. (Authors, artists and publishers should have a business or fan page. Do promotions from there, then you can like and share posts on promotion to your main account.)

More than one person has had their account shut down because of these rules. It’s impossible to verify who flagged the account but usually there had been a disagreement with someone in the near past.

Unfortunately, even if you make yourself as safe as possible, you could still be a victim. A spoof account in your name pops up, someone hacks into your account, you are the target for cyberbullying. What do you do then?

Spoof Accounts

Spoof accounts can pop up at any time. All anyone has to do is copy photos and information from your account or website.If you are notified that a spoof account has been spotted, report it immediately. Different social media sites have different steps so be sure to do a bit of research on that first. Usually the account will be closed quickly.


Even if you are careful, your account could still be hacked. Many times someone doesn’t realize they’ve been hacked until a friend or family member notifies them. Changing your password blocks the hacker from doing more harm but be sure it’s full of random letters, numbers and special characters. Write it down or use a password manager. Don’t use the same password for different sites. Run an update and scan your entire computer.


If you experience cyberbullying, first screenshot all conversations.  Many times those words on the screen will disappear or change. Secure the information on a flash drive or external hard drive. This way you can take it to the police if you have to make a report. If possible have someone else also screenshot the bullying.

Reports can be made to the social media platform, although it’s questionable as to what can be done. If the accounts that are harassing you dummy accounts they can be shut down.

Share what’s going on. The more people who know what’s going on the better. First of all you gain support from friends and family. Second of all, those people can become a buffer if they are so inclined.

If the bullying gets to the point where personal information is shared online and threats are made, the police should be notified. While these types of threats aren’t always deemed serious, new laws and procedures are on the way.

Sometimes you will need to back away from what is going on and let someone else handle it or even close your accounts for a short time. And other times, you might need to seek out legal help.

Everyone has probably experienced some sort of cyber attack on social media at some point or another. Mild ones can be frustrating but do little actual harm. However, always be aware that things can escalate. Caution is always your best option even when posting to friends and family.

Be safe out there folks.


Praise for AIP's Non-fiction

by Jennifer 4. October 2016 11:02

Industry Talk by Jennifer Brozek
"This is a clear, informative, and insightful guide. I enjoyed the conversational tone and was reassured by its professionalism. Jennifer Brozek has a broad range of experience in a number of facets in the industry and she's packed a lot of wisdom into this collection of essays. It isn't going to tell you every little thing, but it does provide excellent points of focus."

Jay Lake's Process of Writing by Jay Lake
"There are so many fascinating details & process gems in Jay's writing book. I've seen a lot of this stuff in his blog over the years (it’s mostly composed of blog posts), but reading it all in one place is mind-blowing. It's an unconventional writing book, but definitely worthwhile to study the evolution of Jay's writing process and his various other ruminations on the subject. Write more!"



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Author Etiquette - Reminders on Professionalism

by Jennifer 27. September 2016 09:14

For those of you who have been writing for a while, you are probably going to find yourself nodding quite a bit and maybe mentally adding a few more bullet points to our discussion. Go right ahead. In fact, if you’d like to leave comments, we’d love to hear them.


Today’s Author Etiquette is all about professionalism. Professionalism is a certain set of manners and polite actions that indicate you are an adult and a professional in your field. While it varies from place to place, there are some underlying factors such as common courtesy, minding personal and professional boundaries and not being a d*ck.


There’ve been quite a few incidents over the past few months that leave many authors with their mouths hanging open wondering what the heck happened to things such as manners and being polite. About every author has stories about unprofessional actions that they’ve witnessed. So unfortunately, it’s time for another reminder on how to act in person, in email and in social media situations.


Rule #1 of Professionalism

Mind Your Manners

When we were kids we learned several rules about interacting with other people. It’s mostly things like don’t talk with your mouth full or interrupt someone when they are speaking. But it’s also more complex than that. Manners is a guide on how to interact with people you know and don’t know. It’s a good thing to follow whether you are at a convention or at home on your own computer.


Some simple manners to follow are:

  • Respect other people’s space: This has several aspects. While some people enjoy crowds and physical contact, not everyone does. When you meet someone for the first time, wait to see if they’d like a hug or if they offer you a handshake. Watch how close you stand to someone. Most people like a little distance between them and the person next to them but some like more space. Try to watch for little clues such a someone backing away which might indicate they are feeling uncomfortable with someone in their personal space.

  • Don’t interrupt:  In a personal setting such as a conference, there are many varieties of conversations you might want to participate in and interesting people you might want to meet. It’s really easy to get carried away and barge in. However, it’s not a good idea unless you have a good reason. A polite “excuse me” in the pause of a conversation is often enough to let you slide into a conversation especially if you have more information on the subject or if you need to speak with someone.

  • Don’t say things to deliberately hurt someone:  That old adage that states “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say it at all,” should always be kept in mind. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like someone or if you don’t agree with what they are wearing or their looks, if what you say could be construed as hurtful or misinterpreted don’t say it aloud or type it publicly on social media. And always use caution when in a discussion. Expressing your opinion is great, but always remember someone out there is going to disagree with you. When discussing a subject keep the conversation on point, don’t attack the person with the opposing view and don’t feed the trolls.

  • Apologize: Everyone at some point or another has put their foot in their mouth and said the wrong thing at the wrong time. It happens. So long as it is not intentional, it can be forgiven, but you have to apologize. Do it in person or privately and as soon as possible and do be sincere.

  • Say please and thank you: This should be a no-brainer, but some people still have trouble with this one. Most children realize that please and thank you can get you a lot further than a demand, but some adults just don’t get it. Nor do they get the satisfaction of saying thank you to someone who has helped them. This is rude behaviours that are relatively easy to correct. There’s no excuse folks.

  • Share the attention: We all know someone who’s loves being in the spotlight all the time. These people like to dominate conversations and either won’t let anyone else say anything or constantly interrupt the discussion for their own gain. A simple “how are you today?” is a great opening for another person to join a conversation if they’d like to.


Rule #2 of Professionalism

Be Aware of Boundaries

The next rule of professionalism is boundaries. We aren’t talking about physical lines such as country borders or city lines, but those invisible lines that separate one person from another. Sometimes they are difficult to see but they are there.


I’ve already mentioned personal boundaries above, but let me expand a bit here. Personal space is a very real thing and standing too close can make someone feel very uncomfortable. It’s an imaginary circle around each person. Some have a very small personal space and enjoy having people close. Others prefer a very circle with lots of room. If you are unsure, stand about an arm’s length away. If someone is comfortable they’ll move in closer.


Another boundary to be aware of is professional boundaries. Unlike personal space, professional boundaries are more of a set of rules of politeness. Mostly they are things you should, may or do not do while interacting with other authors, illustrators, editors and publishers.


Some things you should do:

  • Introduce yourself and what you do

  • Exchange business cards

  • Ask if they have time to speak about business (if that is your reason for contact)

  • Listen and participate in panels and discussions

  • Go back and learn about what’s being talked about/Listen to those with experience

  • Ask where someone got something

  • When emailing, state your name, why you are emailing and if you’ve met in person


Things you MAY do (depending on the situation and people involved):

  • Hug or give other signs of affection

  • Exchange personal information

  • Politely insert yourself into a conversation

  • Respond to social media conversations in a polite manner


Things you SHOULD NOT Do:

  • Follow editor/publisher to bathroom/elevator/room to ask about rejection/critique/pitch your work

  • Touch someone without permission

  • Demand someone listen to you/tell you something

  • Get angry when author/publisher/editor/artist doesn’t have time to meet with you personally

  • Respond hatefully to a rejection (or respond at all to a rejection)


I’m sure that there’s many other things that could fill the page, but these are some that are on the top of my head today.


Now to the really fun part.


Rule #3 in Professionalism

Don’t Be a D*ck

This really should be self explanatory, but apparently it’s not. These are actions that go way beyond being rude or being socially awkward. This is behaviour that will get you blacklisted on review sites, conventions and in the publishing world. Continuation of these types of behaviors will ruin your career.


Seriously, if there’s anything on this list you are considering doing or if there’s any way people will think you are a d*ck because you did something like this. Just DON’T.*

  • Don’t ask a reviewer to make sure they are on their meds/be in a good mood/or not read your book during that time of the month.

  • Don’t threaten or pressure anyone for a good blurb or review.

  • Don’t join in conversations and derail so that it focuses on you, your personal opinion, or hurt feelings.

  • Don’t publically trash a review site or publication because you received a bad review or a rejection.

  • Don’t belittle other authors, artists or publishers because they don’t share your views or have rejected your work.

  • Don’t harassass anyone (sexually or otherwise) in person or online EVER.

  • Don’t touch, ogle, or make rude comments to cosplayers.

  • Don’t behave in a manner that is against convention or group policy.

  • Don’t complain when you act badly and then are called out for your behavior/ejected from a group/banned from event.

  • Don’t act badly and then pull the socially awkward card especially when other people know you act accordingly most of the time.

  • Don’t take advantage of other people. Especially those who may be young, impressionable or unable to determine your motives.

  • Don’t blame someone or something else for your actions.


These are all actions that are inexcusable, and we see them happen again and again. Most of these have been from the past few weeks but there are so many more. If you are doing or thinking of doing something on this list, don’t. Authors, editors and publishers speak with each other. If they hear of people acting badly and even worse see someone behaving badly, it will be taken into consideration when they receive a submission.


People should be polite to each other and work together to make the publishing world a great place for everyone. Unfortunately, some people missed the memo about being polite and/or respectful to others. With social media, it’s easier for people to misbehave. On the other hand, it’s much easier to spread the news about people being d*cks.


Remember, professional behavior is always welcome. If you aren’t sure what that means, watch and learn from many of the upstanding people in publishing. Go to a panel or class that focuses on professional behavior or on authors behaving badly. Read books on manners. Have someone go with you to social engagements to help you with social clues or look over your letters before you send them so that you can have a different viewpoint. Change any behaviours you can that are questionable. It’s difficult sometimes but being seen as a professional is important.


*If things like this have happened to you, please accept our sincere apology on behalf of all of the good people out there.


Author Etiquette - How to be a Good Panelist...or Audience Member

by Jennifer 9. August 2016 14:40

A few months ago we talked a little about conventions. They are great places to meet other writers, editors and fans. While many people go to have fun, others go for business related things such as networking. No matter what your reason for going, it’s also best to always remember to remain professional.

One of those professional opportunities that authors, artists, publishers and editors get to participate in and listen to are panels. Panels are discussions between selected professionals on topics that interest those who attend the convention. They can cover a wide variety of topics such as costume designs or editing. The panelists speak about the topic, answer questions about the subject and try to encourage people into discussions. They are great fun, and you can learn a lot. But what does it take to be a good panelist or a good audience member?

A Good Panelist
First, we are going to look at what makes a good panelist. For those who have been to conventions and listened to panels, you know there are some fantastic ones and some well, not so good ones. At times, it’s the subject but other times it’s the speakers. A panelist who is prepared to discuss the topic, engages the audience, is courteous, and doesn’t make more than the obligatory point to their books, is often one of the better panelists in the room.

Be prepared
To be a good panelist you must first be prepared. Most of the time when you are invited to speak on a panel, you are given the topics that will be discussed. Most of the time you are put on discussions that you are familiar with. But sometimes you get tossed into an arena you’ve never stepped in before.
If you are given a topic you aren’t familiar with, it’s time to do some research. It’s something we writers are probably very familiar with. Get to know the topic, the history and try to think up some questions that might arise. Who knows, you might just have the answer someone was looking for!

Show Up
Many a fan has been disappointed when they sit down for a panel and their favorite author or artist isn’t there. If you are asked to be on a panel, it means that someone believes you are a professional. And being a professional sometimes means doing duties you either don’t want to do or aren’t exactly comfortable doing (like talking in front of an audience.) If you are sick or there’s been an emergency, you can be excused, but notify the convention staff  and a few of the other panel members to let them know what’s happened. Your fans will understand you being sick, but they might not forgive you not showing up.

Engage the audience
Now that you know the answers, or think you do, it’s time to wow the audience with your brilliant mind. Not really. If you are spitting out facts and names and facts that are causing the audience’s eyes to glaze over, you are doing paneling wrong. I know it’s kind of terrifying being up there in front of people, and the default brain setting is to stick with safe stuff, but take a look at your audience. If they are nodding and agreeing, go right ahead, but if they look a little lost, ask one of them a question.

Maybe they are in the wrong room. Maybe they are dying to ask you a question that may or may  not be related to the topic. By interacting with the audience they have a sense of being a participant not just a listener. And for some, that makes quite an impression and sometimes a fan for life.
Don’t hog the spotlight but don’t try to hide from it either

Panels are timed events. Most of the time they last about 45 minutes but sometimes longer depending on the discussion. That’s not a long time to discuss complicated topics especially when there’s four (or more) people plus a moderator*. While there’s no way to split up the time officially, each panel member needs to be aware of how long they speak.

Some panel members like to talk a lot while others might be more shy. But each person should try to take control of the discussion for a little bit.


Because people are put on panels because they have different experiences, worldviews and ideas. It’s the combination of those that gives audience members a well-rounded experience.

Be attentive
While on the panel, be attentive to the other speakers. Don’t just give your opinion, then sit back and fiddle with your phone. Instead, look at who is speaking. Nod in agreement or raise your hand or get the speaker’s attention when you want to disagree. Participate in what’s going on.
Disagree as few times as possible (unless it’s really important)

Not everyone is going to share the same opinion on every subject or topic. Panels sometimes become sparring matches between two opposing ideas, especially on hot topics. When a point is brought up that you disagree with get the speaker’s or moderator’s attention and state your point but avoid a tennis-match type of discussion.

Except when it’s really important. If someone is saying things that could cause harm to others or is spreading verifiable information, then it’s up to you on how to proceed.

Laud your own work in moderation
While panels are a place to show writing muscles when it comes to certain topics, it’s also a way to promote yourself and your work. While the people in the audience might be interested in your book, they aren’t interested in hearing about it every other sentence.

When you are introduced, point out you have a new book, when it’s available and where. That should be about all of the pimping you should do. Unless of course, you can answer a question by pointing out a segment of your book.

Sometimes it’s best to go with the flow
While many panels run smoothly, sometimes there’s hiccups. You might be a last minute addition to a discussion topic you know nothing about. Or you might have a small audience and want to have a more informal panel. Panel coordinators can get mixed up and leave a room full of devoted fans but no speakers. And sometimes you find an audience member or two who are much more qualified to speak than you are.
In these cases, it’s okay to just go with it if the other panelists agree. Sometimes having a relaxed organic discussion is much better than digging through the few notes you were able to print off the internet.

A Good Audience Member
It goes without saying, if you aren’t on the panel, you are an audience member. Whether you are attending because you are a fan of one of the speakers, are interested in the topic or are curious about something, being a good guest makes the experience pleasant for everyone. Much like being a good panelist, a good audience member needs to remember a few things.

Arrive on time
The first thing everyone needs to do is arrive on time. Whether you are a speaker or an audience member, arriving early helps the panel run smoothly. Arriving early means you can take your seat and get comfortable before the show begins. Plus you might just have a moment to get a word in with your favorite author!

If you do arrive after the panel starts, do so as quietly as possible. Try not to disrupt the discussion.

Be attentive
This goes without saying, be attentive to the discussion. Turn off the ringer on your phone and pay attention. Don’t start a conversation with your neighbor. While not everything on a panel is going to interest you, being respectful and paying attention means a lot to the panel members.
Wait your turn
Many panels have a few minutes for questions from the audience. It’s often difficult to wait your turn when you know the clock is ticking but don’t rush to the head of the line or blurt out your question without being asked to.

After the panel
Often 45 minutes is not long enough to completely discuss a topic. If you or your group would like to continue talking about it, that’s great, but make sure that you clear out the room incase there’s another panel setting up.

If you’d like to speak with one of the panel guests, ask if they have time for a cup of coffee or if you could meet them at another time. But don’t be upset if they simply do not have time. (Remember, the guests are here for business purposes and they may have a full schedule.) If nothing else you can grab a business card and continue your conversation via email.

Being a good panelist and audience member allows everyone to have a good time at conventions. With just a little bit of courtesy, preparation and  attentiveness, everyone can have a good time.


Author Etiquette - Submission Services and the Importance of YOUR Data

by Jennifer 12. July 2016 14:12

Good day readers. It’s time for another Author Etiquette. We started this little series because we love authorswe wouldn’t be in this business if we didn’t. But authors are human and sometimes make mistakes. On occasion we don’t understand and miss some fundamentals in the writing world. Whether you are a new author or a seasoned pro, we hope this column will give you some perspective on issues and help keep you out of trouble.


After you write your story and edit it to the best of your ability, the question becomes where to send it. It’s a question that faces every author each time a story is ready to go out. In the years before the internet, authors bought market report books that gave information on markets, when the windows were open and where to send a submission. But now, we have a much more streamlined process in submission services such as Doutrope, The Submission Grinder and Ralan.  These services provide quite a bit of information to authors seeking to submit work but authors should always remember that not all information is accurate and an author should always double check by either checking the website updates or sending a polite query.


What is a Submission Service?

Submission services are an online database that provides a wonderful service to authors. Instead of relying on complex searches, word of mouth or a bit of lucky information, authors can go to a single service, run a search and find a list of markets for their particular story. It can be narrowed by genre, word count and even payment level. This saves authors a lot of time and effort. Some are run for free (with an option to donate) while others run on a submission service.


Who Are They and What Do They Offer?

Ralan is one of the older submission services. To use, you simply pick a particular market category and search the alphabetical listings. There’s quite a bit to go through but it lists many different types of markets such as mystery, horror, science fiction and fantasy. The lists are updated as often as possible. Ralan is free to use.


The Submission Grinder and Doutrope are very similar submission services. They both require you to log in and with an account you have access to many features including a submission manager that shows you where you have sent in stories and calculates your acceptance rates. You can also see updated listings and recent responses from other authors. In either one you can run advanced searches for markets, suggest markets not already listed and find newsletters and helpful information. Doutrope is a paid subscription service$5 per month or $60 for a year. The Grinder is free although they do love donations.


Where Does the Information Come From?

Much of the initial information received by submission services is from publishers. This information includes when the submission window is open, where to send the submission, and what the normal response time is. Most publishers update this information as necessary, but it’s really easy to forget if things get busy.


The rest of the information such as response times are reported by authors and users of these sites. People can log in submissions and report rejections as they get them. Also they can report changes to the market in case the publisher hasn’t made an update yet. With this information, the submission services creates a list of data such as response times, acceptance rates and how many submissions are pending. In The Grinder, you can even see a graph of some of this data.


Submission Managers

Many authors use spreadsheets to help them manage their story submissions, but several also use the submission managers too. Why? Well because it’s simple and can augment the information you have already. With The Grinder and Doutrope, you click a button, which brings up the manager menu, enter in a few simple things and it’s entered.  Then when you check back, you can easily see how many days out it is, what the status of other submissions and can click back to the submission page to check out the data there.


Submission managers keep track of your response times and notify you of when your story is approaching the average response date. It can add a bit of anxiety when you know your story approaches that average response time but unless you keep a very complex spreadsheet it’s difficult to keep track of everything.


Response times are important to authors and publishers. An average response time varies from publisher to publisher. Some are a day or less while others can take many months and even over a year. The response time is an average of when most authors hear back from a publisher and it is determined by the amount of submissions and the amount of slush readers. Well known publishers get a lot of submissions and often their response times are longer. But on average, many publications respond in 30 to 90 days.


If you’ve not heard back from a publisher about a story after the average response time, and you’ve checked the website and other social media outlets to check to see if they are behind, you know it’s time to send out a query.  Many times, you get a quick response to say your story is still in the queue, but sometimes, there has been an issue and something gets lost. Most publishers will work with you to bring you up to speed on where your story is in the queue or pull your submission to the front if there has been a technical problem.


Why Are There Issues?

The data that submission services rely on is provided by humans. Yeah, those sometimes forgetful, complex creatures that tangle up data until everything is in knots. While Ralan has a very simple (market/dates open/last updated response time) submission database, Doutrope and The Grinder rely on user data. That submission manager that I mentioned a few paragraphs above is the cornerstone for the acceptance rates and response times. But it’s not required!


Not everyone who uses submission services submits any sort of data at all. That fact causes publishers headaches. You see, when a marketespecially a small onehas a listing and no one reports submitting, it makes it seem as though the market is dead even if the publisher is over run with submissions. Many authors are reluctant to submit to markets with no responses on a submission manager even if it’s been open for months. Some authors even get nervous and pull submissions simply because there are no reports in 30 days. Submission services do request you check out websites for responses but that doesn’t mean every author will look. So many good stories that could be perfect for a market either never get submitted or are pulled before they go through the slush pile.


Other issues arise when users forget to update their submission manager. I know it’s an easy thing to forget; however, it is still important. If a submission remains un-updated, it soon becomes an outlier, or oddity in the data. It can screw up accurate response times and acceptance data. Most submission services will weed out this data, but it still messes things up.


What Do You Do?

While not everyone wants their data out there on the web, submission service stats are important for other authors and publishers. If you use it to find markets, please use the submission manager. It takes just a few minutes and the data helps everyone.


If you are concerned about your story, check back to see if the average response time is close.  These are often posted on the submission page and in regular updates. Check the website or social media feeds to see if the publication is running behind. Or send out a query. A polite question on the status is all you need. Publishers often respond very quickly to queries.


There’s no need to pull a story unless 1) the market has folded or 2) there has been no response to a query and the story has been sitting in the queue way beyond the normal response times.


It’s nice to have a bit of help in finding publications that are available for submission. Submission services offer authors some really great options to help track stories, find publications and track other data. But it’s up to authors to use the information responsibly. By updating the status of your stories you help the submission services post accurate stats which in turn helps authors and publishers. So if you are considering using one of these services, use all of the options available. Oh and give a donation if you aren’t using a subscription service. It helps keep things updated and running smoothly.


Author Etiquette - Conventions, Networking and Professionalism

by Jennifer 7. June 2016 15:37

Good day readers. It’s time for another Author Etiquette. We started this little series because we love authorswe wouldn’t be in this business if we didn’t. But authors are human and sometimes make mistakes. On occasion we don’t understand and miss some fundamentals in the writing world. Whether you are a new author or a seasoned pro, we hope this column will give you some perspective on issues and help keep you out of trouble.


While conventions happen throughout the year, most of the cons are scheduled in the spring, summer and early fall. If you look at the calendar you can probably guess convention season is in full swing right now. Social media is alight with people sharing where they will be, what panels they will participate in and plans for cosplay costumes. It’s a great place to meet up with friends and make a lot of new ones.


For those who haven’t had a chance to attend a convention, let me give you just a bit of a taste of what goes on.


Conventions come in many different genre flavors. From romance to horror, you can find a con that fits your specific tastes. Many conventions have a theme or specific genre they cater to, but some are a wonderful combination of pop culture, artists, and authors. You can find cosplayers and costume designers alongside actors and musicians. Often there are panels that range from putting together a steampunk costume, to how to approach publishers about games, art or stories. Artists sometimes offer demonstrations on their techniques. Some conventions even have gaming sessions.


Cons are busy places. In between panels, and demonstrations and performances, you can find groups of people talking about costumes, publishing and art. Interviews and podcasts are being conducted along with people networking for new projects.


If you are curious, seek out something small at first. Most cities have at least one convention during the year, some more than one. Check the websites to find out who the special guests are and what days and times the convention will be held. Then go and have a good time. Talk with the people there and make new friends, because one of the best things about conventions is the ability to network.


To the new authors out there, networking is an important skill to develop. While social media does give people the opportunity to network and work together, talking to someone face to face often has better results. Conventions give you the opportunity to talk and contribute to discussions. It allows people to put a face to the name. And it allows you to listen to what’s going on in person.


Networking can be very important for a few reasons. First, you may hear of a new anthology you may want to write for. You might be introduced to an agent or other publishers. You can also get a feel for the industry when you network. When people get together, they talk about their experiences. Some good. Some bad. Listening to how others handle situations can give you some insight on what is going on and perhaps a lead on where things are heading.


Speaking with people you have only heard of or met online can open up opportunities. You might gain contacts for freelancing work. Or hear of a new publishing company. It depends on who you talk to or happen to sit next to at the bar.


There are some basic rules for networking but first and foremost is be professional.


This should really go without saying but always be professional when you are at a convention. Sure you are there to have a good time, but you never know when an opportunity will knock at your door. By being professional you are presenting a demeanour that will make an impression and at a convention, impressions can make a difference.


First, always introduce yourself. An author or a publisher may not recognize you. A simple, “Hello I’m, (Insert Name) and I had a story in your (insert anthology or magazine.)”  or “Hi, I’m (Insert name) and we talked a few weeks ago on FB about (insert discussion.)” helps to jog the memory sometimes. But don’t be disappointed if they don’t remember you. Remember that authors and publishers talk to many people on social media and during a convention and it may be difficult to remember everything.


Don’t block the table. If you’d like to speak with a publisher, author or artist about something remember that they are there to make money. Having a booth and attending a convention is expensive. Don’t block their booth or insist they speak with you while things are busy. Stand to the side and be patient.  Ask if they have time for a cup of coffee or would like to meet up after things die down. And again, don’t be angry if they simply don’t have time for you.


Leave a business card. Your business card can speak volumes. First it must have your name and your contact information (email only is fine). A simple logo or photo of your work will help someone recall who you are. Also a reminder of what you do on the front helps. Words such as author, editor, publisher or publicist, helps people categorize what you do. Lastly, leave the back blank. This is so that people can write notes so that they can remember who you are and what you talked about.


Follow up. Hopefully you grabbed a business card or already have the contact information of the people you spoke with at a convention. A simple polite email stating that you enjoyed speaking with them, the subject of the discussion and a wish to work with them in the future works great. If the author, publisher or artist is available to speak further, they now have your information at hand. But please don’t expect an immediate response. Most publishers and authors have a lot to unpack and catch up on.


Conventions are a great way to expand your knowledge of the publishing world and to meet new people. Networking can lead to a lot of great projects or ideas. Being professional ensures that everyone has a great time. I encourage everyone to attend at least onemostly because I know you’ll attend more.


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