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Lobo_Luna's In Depth Questions 5-8

5. How did you market Grants Pass to would-be publishers?

I did a lot of research into which big publishing houses did anthologies and would accept unsolicited material. For those that did accept such, I sent query letters, sample stories and anything else the submission guidelines required. I did most of my early manuscript shopping around online. I got nowhere fast. I would not be surprised if an old Grants Pass query or manuscript was still sitting in a slushpile somewhere.

Next came the conventions. I shopped Grants Passaround at every gaming, sci-fi and literary convention I went to in 2007 and 2008 – whether I was a pro-guest, a volunteer or just an attendee. I got a lot of polite interest, some real interest, and even a couple of email addresses from editors of big publishing houses but nothing ever came of them. Most emails were not even responded to. That was very disappointing. But I did not give up.

After some thought in late 2007, I shifted my paradigm from the big publishing houses to the smaller, independent publishing houses. I started the whole thing over again. But, this time, I focused on smaller publishing houses with good track records. I think the most frustrating thing about that experience was the fact that those smaller publishing houses were all closed to new submissions though 2008. Obviously, that would not do. Some of them opened up a little when I met the publishers at conventions and discussed Grants Pass with them.

(As an aside – it really helped to have copies of my query letter in hand with me at the conventions so I could give them to the editors and publishers that I spoke to as a follow up and a reminder of who I was when I emailed them after the convention.)

Then, I started getting small hits – requests for the full manuscript. This was very exciting for me. Also, by this time, some of my Grants Pass authors had gone on to do bigger and better things; like cmpriest published a trilogy and markdeniz created an independent press company and was publishing books I discussed some of these tentative hits with Mark and, during one IM conversation, asked if Morrigan Books would be interested. I really did not believe he would say "Yes." Then, he did – "but only if my acquisitions editor likes it." After that he requested the full manuscript.

The rest, as they say, is history. Though, Mark removed his own story for integrity's sake as the publisher (which was a shame because it was a very strong story) and we discussed the fact that there would be stories cut and some other changes.

I was OK with that. I had found my publisher at last. My baby was going to be published.

6. Can you bring us up to speed on where you are with Grants Pass now by telling us about working with an additional editor and a publisher, editing/organizing the stories, the cover selection process, and pre-marketing activities? Please add anything I am missing.

My publisher, markdeniz, was easy. He pretty much introduced me to amandapillar, my co-editor and fled… I mean, backed off and did not micromanage. By that time, he and Amanda had already gone over the original set of stories and left her with the dirty job of negotiating the whole thing with me.

Amanda was a little more difficult but not nearly as bad as she might suppose. I am fairly easy to get along with – until I'm not. Which does not happen that often. We just had to make sure we had the same vision. First, she gave me her professional background and we went over each story and why Morrigan Books would or would not accept the stories. Three categories – yes, no and maybe. Most of the "no" stories I agreed with after careful thought. A couple of the maybe stories I fought for and explained my position on why. In the end, we agreed on the ones to keep and the ones to reject. Amanda was kind enough to take on the task of rejections.

(It was fascinating to get her perspective on why a story was good or not. It was also very interesting to go through the editing process with her as a co-editor and an author. Most anthologies send out your story with a single request for edits. I don't think there were less than three rounds per story – Even Ed's and Jay's. Though, most of that was clarification on unrecognized local terms. But, I digress.)

Next up, we needed to tighten up submission guidelines. Amanda was far more strict on the how's and why's of the apocalypse because she wanted the foundation of the stories to be firm. She did not want anyone to criticize the back-story of the anthology as "implausible" when what was important was what happened next; especially since I wanted to keep one foot in reality. We talked and hammered them into shape. Finally, all of the accepted stories were sent back to their original authors for edits while we invited twenty new authors to participate.

In the meantime, we worked on the cover idea. I told Amanda what I wanted and she tentatively agreed. She handed the task over to wedschilde who did a bang up job on what I wanted. However, Amanda wasn't satisfied and told Reese to "come up with something," her own idea. Darned if there isn't a reason I'm an author and not a graphic artist. I much preferred Reese' idea and so did everyone else. The coolest thing? She incorporated the Grants Pass sign into the cover like I wanted.

Pre-marketing activities. Well, I'm less familiar with this part of it. I know we are advertising it on the web and I believe there will be a book trailer for Grants Pass as well. Mark has discussed his thoughts of unveiling the next four books that Morrigan Books will be releasing at San Deigo Comicon. Also, Mark, Amanda and I have all started setting up reviewers to receive ARCs of the anthology right around the time we open for pre-orders. I suspect that will be in May 2009 or so. I'm looking forward to experiencing that part of this process.

Also, the most interesting thing I've done so far – I emailed the mayor and city council of the city of Grants Pass, Oregon, to let them know about the anthology. While I don't think it will be a "Forks, WA" issue, I thought it would be good for them to know that their little town was about to be put on the international map. They haven't responded to me yet.

7. While you are not busy with Grants Pass, I know you have currently and have had several other projects going on. Can you tell us a bit about them?

I do have a number of projects going on at any given time. I break these down into the following: TEoP, short stories, novel work, RPG work, and 'pays the bills' work.

TEoP – This is my webzine, The Edge of Propinquity. Now in its fourth year of publication, this is the first year that I am not writing for the webzine. I have been the sole editor for it for four years and an author for it for three years. For the first three years, I wrote the universe story called Kendrick while editing the webzine, choosing the monthly guest authors, and publishing it on the 15th of each month. This project was my next "baby" project after the Grants Pass anthology.

Short Stories - Each year, I have a certain number of short stories I intend to write. Most of the time, I have no idea what I will be writing until I find a call for submission for a webzine or an anthology that speaks to me. Then, I write a story for that venue and hope I get in. If I don't (which happens more often than not), I file the story away and look for other venues that it would be appropriate for. Sometimes, this is easier said than done. If I get the same basic rejection for a single story more than once, pointing out similar flaws, I know I need to revamp the short story before I send it out anywhere else.

Novel Work - Novel work includes editing completed novels and writing new novels. Currently, I am not working on a novel. Mostly because I need to decide which thing I want to work on next. I have the choice of the next in a Sci-fi space opera story, the next in a fantasy series or to start the Young Adult series I've been noodling on for a while. When I am in novel mode, I have word count goals per day to shoot for and I try to write the whole novel in a single stretch. I don't want to lose momentum by having a convention or vacation in the middle. If I do have a convention, I basically suck it up and take my work with me. A novel started needs to be finished.

RPG Work - Much of my professional publications comes from the work I do on Role Playing Game projects. I already have several contracts set up for this year and, occasionally, I end up being put on last minute projects as a pinch hitter for writing, editing or proofing. RPG work is paying work but it really doesn't pay that much. But I really enjoy it. I love world building and working in RPG worlds. I've had the pleasure of working in Dragonlance, Shadowrun and Serenity worlds.

My current contracts include a couple of PDF settings for Rogue Games' Colonial Gothic – horror in 1776. Later in the year, I have a project for White Wolf SAS to work on – something I am really looking forward to doing.

Pays the Bills Work - Since I have shifted to full time writing, I have some work I call "pays the bills" work. This is, most often, freelance technical writing. I do everything from write copy for websites like Amazon.com to proof reading large PowerPoint presentations to writing up user guides for new (or old) products. This work isn't exciting but it does pay the bills that I have and that's important. It also allows me time to work on my many other writing projects.

8. The Edge of Propinquity has a unique world setup. Can you give us a bit of background on how you built the world, tell us what you seek from your contributors, and share some of the differences between editing an anthology and an ongoing webzine?

Originally, The Edge of Propinquity was going to be a game setting for an online game I wanted to run. That proved to be too time consuming for both my players and myself. However, I had done a lot of world creation for Kendrick and was not willing to give it up. Then it came to me, why not have my own webzine?

Well, there are many reasons on why not and many reasons on why to.

I had the website setup already. fullcontactmuse had given me space and the infrastructure for the website already. When I shifted to the idea of a hosted webzine, he was happy to continue providing the service. With the most basic foundation of a webzine – its host – taken care of, I had the opportunity to sit back and think about what I wanted for the webzine. It came down to three things: Universe stories, appropriate images for those stories and guest author stories.

Universe Stories – This was the big one. I had a setting - The setting is a modern day story focusing on a character deep within the hidden world that surrounds mundane society. I wanted to tell stories about what could be going on around us at any given time. I wanted several overall arcing storylines that people could come back to and enjoy. But, at the same time, I wanted to set yearly "Themes" that all of the stories would encompass. A secondary thread that would bring together all of the stories of the webzine in an underlying cohesiveness. For that, I had to find the right authors.

Appropriate Images – The next thing I decided I wanted was images for each story but rather than having drawn images, I wanted black and white photography. Each photograph had to fit the story it would be assigned to. For that, I had to find the right photographers. Fortunately for me, I had a photographer right here (fullcontactmuse) and the rest of my authors either took the images for their stories themselves or had photographer friends willing to help out.

Guest Author Stories – The final thing I wanted was the opportunity to showcase a guest author each month. I will tell you that this thought was not completely altruistic and solely for the love of reading. I wanted to be able to advertise my webzine all over. I wanted people I didn't know to bring people in to read their stories and I wanted the opportunity to see if some of my other author friends would be willing to write for me.

The difference between editing and an anthology is both huge and not. It is the same in the fact that you are looking for quality stories that meet your guideline with excellent technical writing. That's all any editor wants. Read the guidelines, write a good story and be technically proficient. The same is true for an anthology and for an ongoing webzine.

The differences come in when you are producing a webzine every month. You have more work to do in an immediate fashion and you must have an excellent memory for details and consistency. With the Universe authors, my biggest pet peeve is getting them to remember to send me their story in a particular format and on time. The more out of format it is, the more work I have to do and the later the story is, the grumpier I get. Some of my authors have seen a very unpleasant side to me when their stories are late and not formatted as requested.

Also with Universe stories, you need to remember who is doing what in which story. You need to be able to help direct your authors when they say, "I'm not sure what to do here" or to point out when something doesn't make sense or is falling flat. You also have to remember how they write their stories and make sure they remain consistent over a period of at least 12 months (the minimum stint for a TEoP author). Finally, you need to be able to critique in a constructive manner when the storyline is slipping.

As for Guest Author stories, there is the reading of the slushpile (which is something I believe ALL authors should do at least once in their lifetime), choosing of the story, sending out the contracts, getting all of the appropriate information and headshots from the guest author and paying them once the story is published.

Choosing the story is the hardest part of this. In TEoP, all manner of beasties can exist. However, I try very hard not to have more than 1, maybe 2, stories of the same type of beastie in a single year. So, if I already have a werewolf story, another werewolf story is already at a disadvantage unless it is told in a completely different manner. For example, in 2008, I allowed two vampire stories in. One was told first person perspective from the vampire. One was told in third person narrative from the mortal hunting the vampire. They were both the same type of beastie but two very different stories.

The final difference between editing a webzine and an anthology is the fact that webzines come out once a month in softcopy and the anthology will come out only once in hardcopy. Each has a different sense of gratification that it meets. Webzines are more immediate and keep on going. Anthologies are long term but when they are over, they are over.