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AHWA chats with Australian Editors (part 1)

by AHWA

[ANW] OK. Can the special guests please introduce themselves?    

[skullmnky] I'm James - I edit/publish Dark Animus and write a smattering of short stories

[Stuart Mayne] Hi, I'm Stuart. Editor of Aurealis since 2006ish. Housedad, cold, tired.

[angela] *stands up - waves hand* Hi All - I'm Angela and I.... ummm I never know what to say at this point....

[mondy] I'm Ian. I'm editing Midnight Echo issue 1 with the delightful Ms McDermott. I've also written a number of Doctor Who short stories... and a story that was published in BloodSongs about 100 years ago.

[angela] Oh? That’s easy -- thanks for the lead guys -- I'm Director of Brimstone Press and have just started up a new mag called Black

[Stuart Mayne] It was a sad day when Bloodsongs went to the US. Great Aussie mag.

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Hey folks, I'm Shane, managing editor of HorrorScope, the new mag Black, occasional writer, and man about town.

[skullmnky] Hi all and thanks for all showing up

[kirstyn] I'm Kirstyn, I'm editing Midnight Echo with Ian and I also write some stuff sometimes

[mondy] It was an excellent Aussie mag Stuart

[KaaronW] I loved Bloodsongs

[Felicity] Nice to officially "meet" you all, James, Stuart, Angela, Ian.

[ckbezant] Hi Shane, Hi Kirstyn    

[mondy] Same here Felicity

[BT] ditto

[ckbezant] we are your students. Teach... (or something like that)

[ANW] I am going to start - Q regarding Black - How are sales going so far... can you tell?

[angela] It's difficult to be accurate...

[angela] Retail sales feedback is not avail for 4 mths but...

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Anecdotally, Black is selling well. Perth Borders has sold out...

[KaaronW] I read someone say they thought the publicity was very good

[mondy] Well, it's a fine looking mag

[angela] The email & phone response has been phenomenal

[Stuart Mayne] I had to go to three newsagents to find a copy. Apparently it rushed out the door.

[kirstyn] It's a brilliant magazine

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Now *that's* great feedback! Thanks.

[ckbezant] I have to say I've seen it in about 5 newsagents in Perth and Borders too. So the distribution’s working. 2 guys stood near me in one and read out the history of the joker. They loved it!

[angela] It has brilliant contributors!

[ANW] My mum said considering the size it had about double the actual content of most magazines

[mondy] I think Black is going to really give Horror here in Australia a major boost.

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] And yet size does matter, Adam! Issue 1 was smaller than we'd hoped. Issue 2 will have more pages and wider variety of content

[angela] From the heart - no bullshit - I don't see this as *my* magazine ... it is the result of my co-ordinating skills 'tis all! This mag belongs to (and is a direct result of) the AHWA

[MartyY] Yeah, but you and Shane and the ones with the grey hairs through all the hard work, so take some credit, damnit!

[ANH] Yeah, amazing job

[Felicity] I've got a question for all the guests, if I may?

[ANH] Felicity... shoot

[Felicity] What are you looking for at the moment by way of fiction contributions to your respective publications - tips for those keen to make it in? (I'm sure we're all interested.)

[mondy] Is it bad if I answer with a cliché and say - good storytelling?

[Felicity] Yes    

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Cliché, Mondy. Go to the corner, young man!

[mondy] yeah... thought so...

[skullmnky] Dark Animus generally has a leaning toward strong character driven fiction. We're open to subject matter, but if your characters are strong it'll generally appeal to our tastes.

[Felicity] Thanks skullmnky    

[Andrew_McK] Is it easier to answer: "What are you NOT looking for"? Apart from bad story-telling that is?

[kirstyn] Midnight Echo is closed from our end at the moment, but Angela and Shane are editing issue#2, open for subs this Friday

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Bugger Kirstyn, you had to remind us of ME #2!

[kirstyn] heh, sorry I think Angela just fainted

[Felicity] Ah, so Shane and Angela can answer for Black AND ME#2    

[MartyY] I can hear her screaming again

[angela] I look for words that create imagery...

[Stuart Mayne] I'm not looking for anything just now. I had a big crash and have to reconstruct my submissions workbook. I was a month behind in June and about to be up to date for the first time since Keith left and boom! Crapola. Now I'm 4-5 months behind.

[Felicity] Yes, I, er, emailed you, Stuart... *cough*    

[KaaronW] Oh no! That's awful.

[KaaronW] Not the sub, the crash.

[Stuart Mayne] Having said that... I've been impressed by the quality of the work from the AHWA submitters. There has been a lot of Australian focussed content, which I enjoy.

[angela] I don’t really have a problem with ‘it’s been done before.’ New readers are born every day – it will be original to them!

[mondy] Generally, Kirstyn and I were really drawn by those stories that kept us reading. When you're reading off a screen (because you're green and eco etc) it's very easy to get bored. That said, not all the stories we chose were conventional.

[kirstyn] And good writing helps. I mean that, I'm not being facetious. We received some very badly written stories where the author hadn't even bothered to use a spell-checker.

[ckbezant] A lot of zines, etc, are sick of certain tropes in horror ("I don't want to see any more vampire stories" etc). Does anyone feel the same here, or is that just the certain editor's point of view?

[angela] No I don't feel that way, Craig ... if it's a well written story -- I don't care if it's been done a million times before ... It was by different authors.

[skullmnky] I did a year sub-editing for Bloodlust-UK which accepts only vampire fiction. Generally 98% were the same-old same-old but those 2% were brilliant so I am not adverse to tropes.

[Felicity] "Nothing new under the sun", then, Angela?

[angela] Totally Felicity - they've *all* been done before

[KaaronW] Are there any obvious opening lines that would put anybody off?

[kirstyn] kaaron: "It was a dark and stormy night ..."

[KaaronW] hahahahaha

[Stuart Mayne] "Jorel practices Atlantean sex magic..."

[Felicity] Once upon a midnight dreary...

[Andrew_McK] I'd read that one, Stuart!    

[ckbezant] I always liked James Herbert's "Once upon a death..." in Once

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Is there much of a common thread between your ME stories, Mondy and Kirstyn?

[mondy] Not a common thread as such. But we did sort of gravitate to stories that were a bit more complex in terms of theme and story

[Felicity] You did? *preens*

[BT] What is the submission load you guys receive?

[mondy] For ME it was over 100 stories.

[Felicity] Over 100, for the first ever issue? Wow.

[Stuart Mayne] Oh, I get some doozies. There was the Green eyed red haired Central European vampires fighting the Nazi's. Guess who the chief Nazi was?

[kirstyn] We received over 100 subs in the 3 months or so we were open

[mondy] Yeah, we were happy Felicity

[Stuart Mayne] Last year I got 226 subs. This year by May I had 150.

[kylaw] But who was the chief Nazi?

[KaaronW] That's a good number. I wonder if the broadness of the theme (ie, no theme!) helped? Lots of anthos are specific, aren't they?

[kylaw] Oh! I think I've just worked it out.

[Stuart Mayne] The old "father" vampire who disappeared a few centuries back.

[kylaw] Not Van Helsing? Phew.

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Horror seems pretty popular right now. When the reading period for the Black Box e-antho was open last year, we had over 400 subs.

[mondy] I'm glad it wasn't 200 for ME; I think that would have driven me insane.

[mondy] Wow - 400 subs

[kirstyn] I have to admit that I compulsively read every submission right to the end, even the truly awful ones, just in the case the ending was spectacular (it never was). I don't think I'd do that again.

[Felicity] That's impressive, Kirstyn

[KaaronW] Did you ever change your mind about a story by the end?

[mondy] Kirstyn is a far, far better person than me. I didn't.

[kirstyn] "Anal" might be another word for it, Felicity!

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] You'll do you head in, reading everything, Kirstyn! I read maybe 50%

[Felicity] Nothing wrong with anal!

[angela] That's Dedicated, Kirstyn!

[mondy] HA Felicity

[kirstyn] Well, you know, there just might have been a gem in there I was willing to work really hard one

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Too much bad fiction is bad for the editor's brain

[Felicity] I didn't mean that the way it came across...

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] My take on it is if you can't find a good story in the first 50%, then forget it - most readers won't last that long

[skullmnky] Sometimes but you can always talk with the author and tell them what you felt the strengths and weaknesses of the piece were. Sometimes they rework it into something really good... and sometimes not.

[angela] When you have the time tho James ... I often *want* to do that -- but it just puts you *even* further behind

[kirstyn] Well, it was my first really full on editing gig, if you don't count my stint with Bloodsongs too many years ago to count.

[angela] That's my fault too Kirstyn ... dogmatically looking for *that* elusive *gem*

[mondy] I'm probably being a bit harsh. I did *try* and read the stories till the end... but some of them I simply couldn't.

[kirstyn] I was keen. I wouldn't do it again. Now I'd give a badly written story a couple of pages to see if the author got into a stride and, if not, bye bye baby

[Andrew_McK] Do you have time, energy to work with an author on a story if you think it has potential? And to what extent? Or does the story have to be there when you're reading the sub?

[mondy] That's an interesting question Andrew. K and I believed that the stories had to be 80% there, at least.

[Stuart Mayne] I like to send a mss back with queries on all accepted stories. When it comes to a 'maybe', I'll keep the mss for a few months, mull it over and write notes to the author.

[kirstyn] 80%? I was going on 90% plus! We have a short deadline with ME, so don't have a lot of time for really full-on rewrites

[skullmnky] Yeah - I only do it for something I felt had the potential to be really special though

[ANW] I know that one of my few published short stories wouldn't have been without Shane and Angela. So once again thank you :)

[mondy] And I have to say that the one's that had potential were the one's that worked as first drafts. With some of the stories you could sort of detect a kernel of an idea, but the prose sort of killed it dead.

[angela] For me, I'll only work with the author if I have decided that I will take the sub regardless

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Andrew, may I remind you of the time you and Angela sat in our Canberra hotel room editing your Macabre story. I reckon that counts as one example of having time/energy to work with authors.... you were editing, right?    

[kirstyn] I agree with Angela. I wouldn't want to ask a writer to do significant work if I didn't intend to accept the story.

[Andrew_McK] Shane, yes, definitely. I know the deal with Angela. She's been a gem. I was just trying to tease an answer from the others    

[Felicity] So you would only request a rewrite if you thought you'd take the piece regardless?

[Robhood] Hi, all. Thanks for the choral welcome! Sorry to interrupt.

[kirstyn] That would be a tough call, Felicity

[Andrew_McK] And yes, we were just editing... even though you'd fallen asleep and wouldn't know WHAT we were doing    

[mondy] Felicity - for me that's why the piece has to be mostly there already.

[kirstyn] Ian and I actually rejected a story because it required a substantial rewrite and we we're totally sure it would get there. Better safe than sorry.

[mondy] Stephen is on his way...

[skullmnky] If it failed - as sometimes it does - I'd have a serious second look at the piece and usually get second and third opinions and reach a decision after extensive discussion with my sub-editors

[kirstyn] But it might have been a really good story.

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Felicity, rewrites are a tricky thing... I don't think too many editors would ask for a rewrite if the story wasn't very close/

[skullmnky] I agree with Shane

[mondy] I agree with Shane as well

[Stuart Mayne] Rob, when would you work with an author on a rewrite? Only if you'd accept it? Or if it had potential?

[Felicity] Yes, I did suspect a rewrite request meant you were *almost* there and, so long as you didn't totally stuff up the rewrite, you could almost assume success. This mostly verifies that - thanks!

[Robhood] In my editing experience, it's the same. Once I started asking for rewrites I'd pretty well decided I'd take the story -- but only if the author acted on whatever problems I'd identified... and successfully.

[angela] I never took them on because I’m too much of a control freak (Terrified of losing that elusive gem) -- but that was my downfall with Shadowed Realms ... I've had to learn to loosen up for Black

[kirstyn] One thing I always have to be very careful of when I'm editing (or critting, of which I've done a lot more over the years) is not to impose a change just because it's the way I would have done it. It's a tightrope sometimes.

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] In my experience, rewrites require pretty major editing or structural changes, so it's definitely a major investment - there has to be something in the first draft to convince the editor the time/effort is worth it

[Robhood] I admit for Daikaiju in a few instances I asked for rewrites on stories that could not have been published as they stood. In on case it was pure potential -- and it took a lot of work.... on the author's part and on mine.

[mondy] Rob, did they all make it into the antho in the end?

[BT] On a bit of a tangent, how does one become a reader for these mags? Not an editor as such but one of these slush pile readers I hear about?

[angela] BT as far as I'm aware, you just ask... most people are desperately looking for slush readers aren't they?

[Stuart Mayne] Hey, I'll need more readers to get through my new backlog :(

[BT] Happy to help Stuart

[Felicity] *slips BT some money* I've got a sub there...

[Stuart Mayne] Cool. Email me.

[BT] Shall do

[Robhood] A few just didn't want to deal with the problems. Fair enough. I wasn't paying a lot.

[mondy] Actually, payment is another issue. Will the writer be willing to put in the effort for a complete re-write if you're only paying 1 cent a word?

[BT] How many here are writing only for the money?

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Good Q, Mondy. I would rewrite, regardless of the pay, because I'm pretty selective in submitting to markets these days.

[Felicity] I did a very significant rewrite for Leaves of Blood and I think that works out to around 1.5c p/w

[Felicity] Yes, what Shane said

[KaaronW] If I respect the editor and like the publication, I'd do it.

[Andrew_McK] Depends how precious you are about your stories I guess. If I get a bite from an editor I'm happy to hear their opinion and massage a story to publication. If I'm too precious I'd never sell anything!

[KaaronW] Money is very rarely the motivator. It's finding the right home for the right story.

[angela] That must be why you're selling well ATM, Andrew

[mondy] BT It's not just the idea of writing for the money. I mean, when I was writing my Doctor Who short stories, a number of writers wouldn't have a bar of it because it only paid 120 quid.

[mondy] It wasn't just that they were going for the money - they honestly thought they could do better. Although that might mean the same thing...

[Felicity] Um, it's DR WHO

[Felicity] For many of us that makes for instant giddy happy feelings

[kirstyn] Not many of us gonna get rich writing short stories!

[Felicity] I can't believe anyone would knock that back due to money!

[mondy] Felicity - are you dissing Doctor Who!?!?!? Shame on you    

[Felicity] God no, I'm drooling with groupie fervour over Dr Who!

[KaaronW] I thought she was doing the opposite!

[Robhood] For Daikaiju most of the writers wanted desperately to be in the book. Money was a minor issue. Which is just as well because the payment levels were minor indeed!

[Felicity] Rob, that's interesting - so extending the rewrite opportunity sort of puts extra pressure on the ed, too

[Robhood] Absolutely, Felicity. But you have to be tough in the end and if the story doesn't make it over the minimum level, despite work done, you have to drop it.

[skullmnky] Well said Rob

[Stuart Mayne] Oh yeah. I agree. The editor is under pressure of expectation to like the story after a rewrite

[ckbezant] If I were to put out an anthology, what would be the minimum payment most people here would accept or offer?

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Craig, I don't think the money matters too much, but these days, if I did an antho, I'd pay min. $50

[BT] Has nothing to do with the money Craig, it's the theme and the authors you attract that would interest me

[Robhood] I agree with Shane. I felt bad about paying so little for the Daikaiju books. But there was no choice. I'm not sure I'd do it again.

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] One of the latest mantras from the US Horror Writers Association is "it's not about getting published, it's about being published well." Money is a factor. Admittedly, but other factors like distribution come into play

[Felicity] Yes, and I think learning to choose your markets (as opposed to just being desperate to be published) probably comes with experience and confidence increasing.

[KaaronW] Agreed, Felicity

[mondy] Felicity Good point

[Felicity] I'm just starting to learn about prestige/cred and beginning to actively target markets as opposed to flinging my work at every wall in desperate hopes it will stick

[KaaronW] With Daikaiju, you had a respected publisher and editor and a great concept. That brought the good authors in.

[Robhood] You're right, Kaaron. But several complete newbies got in it. Fans rather than experienced authors. At least one got in.

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Daikaiju was high prestige, cos Godzilla rocks. You could have paid in bananas and people would have subbed, Rob!

[Robhood] I like being edited by tough editors, so long as I trust them. It's pointless changes for ill-defined reasons that irritate me.

[Robhood] One of my best experiences with an editor was with Belinda Bolinger at Hodder with "Backstreets". Tough editing but she was great and the book got better and better, even when I was angry and depressed by all those bad red scrawls all over the ms.

[angela] What I find particularly disconcerting is that all the people here pretty much know all these answers because you're all *serious* about achieving. Where are all the people who say "Editors never give you feedback - just 'form' rejections"? *They* are the people that should be here and their absence is a testimony to their dedication ... which is why writers who network are often accepted first

[KaaronW] Who are 'they'?

[Andrew_McK] 'They' are the ones who write whinge and complain about it in their blogs, but are forever absent when their questions can be answered.

[angela] They = the emerging writers that complain re lack of feedback

[KaaronW] Yes! I get it. 'They' totally should be here.

[ANW] Hopefully 'they' will read the transcription

[Felicity] People actually make that complaint en masse, Angela/Andrew/Kaaron?!

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Yeah they do, Felicity

[KaaronW] I've seen it on blogs, but not heard it in person, Felicity

[Felicity] Um. I'm (perhaps naively) shocked by that.

[Andrew_McK] I've never had a bad rejection or a lack of feedback. I've been extremely happy with every editor and publication I've ever sent a story too. They've all been professional, which makes it easy.

[angela] It has very little to do with the 'boys club' references often bandied around

[Felicity] Yes, Angela, I have opened myself up to people in this genre community and *without exception* I have received nothing but support and professionalism in response. There's no boy's club here.

[BT] talking feedback - there isn't much in the way of Aussie online crit groups though

[ANW] AHWA could have a crit group, would be easy to implement

[BT] I’m in

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Aussie horror is a helluva lot more supportive than some of the other genres, IMO

[Stuart Mayne] Are you kidding Shane? Boys club? I get at least a third of subs from women.

[mondy] I agree with Shane. It's scary out there...

[Felicity] I think boy's club was figurative - or was it? Now if you tell me there're accusations of sexism I'm going to laugh out loud.

[mondy] At the beginning, most of ME's subs were from blokes. But as the months wore on (all three of them), the tables started to tip in the other direction. Which was great. And it shows in the finished mag

[Andrew_McK] Yeah, I think it was figurative.

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] No, not a boys club, Stuart... just commenting on the complaining newbies. I've found the genders very balanced, in fact

[Stephen Dedman] Eidolon was once accused of sexism, but Ellen Datlow pointed out that she received relatively few subs from women.

[kirstyn] We still did have the majority of subs from guys, though. It's a genre thing. More males read/write horror then females.

[Stuart Mayne] Next issue of Aurealis is an all women's issue. Got a great bunch of submitted stuff out of the blue over a 6 month period. Brilliant.

[Felicity] I'm definitely a non-complaining newbie. I think the Oz spec fic scene is *expletive*ing fantastic.

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] But there are more men than women, and 2/3 to 1/3 sounds right

[Stuart Mayne] Shane. Ah. Got you.

[ckbezant] do you really even think about gender when selecting a good story?

[mondy] And Jonathan Strahan is having a headache now with Eclipse 2 being all male. There was a huge outcry over that (which I thought he handled well).

[ckbezant] obviously readers do then

[angela] Never! In fact, there's been several times when reading a story that I wrongly assumed the authors gender ... there's an earmark to a decent story

[Stephen Dedman] I don't think I've ever selected a story on the basis of a writer's gender, no.

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] That thing with Strahan was complete twaddle, IMO. I think too many critics are reading in phantom gender biases

[kirstyn] The men/women balance thing is always going to be an issue, even if it's a somewhat senseless one these days. Do women bitch about the romance genre being dominated by XX chromosomes. (Maybe they do; I hate romance)

[KaaronW] God knows what people say about romance! I know what I say...

[Andrew_McK] Yes, nobody cares about the gender bias in 'Paranormal Romance' do they. Silly thing.

[Stephen Dedman] Elaine went to a romance writers con last year, Kirstyn. She said there were a few male writers there, but they use female pseudonyms.

[Felicity] Horror is dominated by men? *ponders* I suppose to some extent it is. Wow, that's kinda weird. I know a *lot* of women into the genre in a big way. Maybe not all writers, though.

[angela] Felicity ... Men write horror Women *live* it *ducks for shelter due to gender bias answer*

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] You haven't lived my live, then, Angela?    

[mondy] Stuart Mayne - I thought the attack on Jonathan, for reasons such as that, were unfounded. But they were loud

[Stuart Mayne] Sad that he's judged from antho to antho and not career wide

[Felicity] Yes, the gender talk is befuddling me a little, I'd honestly never considered it before - as a writer or as a reader.

[Stephen Dedman] Apparently women won't buy romance they know are by male writers, just as men won't buy westerns or war stories they know are written by women.

[Robhood] I didn't choose stories on the basis of genre either, but if it came down to an even choice between two equally decent stories -- one by a male and one by a female -- the fact that I had so few women in Daikaiju definitely affected the decision.

[angela] Really Rob? I'd hate to think a story was chosen based on affirmative action rather than quality

[Robhood] But Angela that's the point. The genre thing only would have affected the decision when the quality was even. And that wouldn't have happened if the ratio hadn't been so low.

[angela] Quality is never *really* equal though, Rob. No 2 stories are identical

[Robhood] Maybe not objectively equal, but when one of two stories equally deserves a place and neither stands out over the other? Isn't that possible?

[angela] Well Yeah I take your point Rob -- but personally I hate to be 'boxed' by any reference ... particularly female *scratches balls*

[Felicity] Angela, perhaps you're my doppelganger. I was informed three times last week alone that I have balls. I replied I have ovaries.

[Robhood] Don't worry, Angela, I never boxed any of the female writers. They would have flattened me, easy.

[Andrew_McK] That's what all the girls say, angela 

[mondy] It's interesting but the bulk of ME's female writers who submitted were Aussies. We got plenty of overseas subs, but 90% of them were from guys

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] I'd say there is a distinct skew in horror to men (numbers, not necessarily quality)

[Stuart Mayne] The New Space Opera had a good gender mix.

[kirstyn] We absolutely did not choose a single story because it was written by a woman, but I will confess to feeling somewhat anxious half-way through when we hadn't received any quality subs from the ladies.

[Felicity] *hopes she subbed after halfway through*

[Stephen Dedman] We had a lot of fun when ConSensual 1 came out, because we didn't put the authors' names on the stories, just the back cover.

[ckbezant] especially when it's abbreviated, like P.J. Tracy - you don't know till you read a bio

[kirstyn] You were definitely in the second half, felicity, don't worry!

[Felicity] I really appreciate the honesty in answers here

[kirstyn] Just anxious what the criticism we might get

[Stephen Dedman] Several readers tried to guess who had written what, and a few picked the genders incorrectly.

[KaaronW] What about the voice, then? Do you like to balance male/female voices, or is that not a factor?

[kirstyn] you know, Kaaron, I’m still to work out *exactly* what differentiates a male from a female voice (despite the octaves, that is!)    

[KaaronW] Kirstyn, I guess I meant character voice, rather than the writer's voice.

[kirstyn] Ah, I see, Kaaron

[Stuart Mayne] I don't worry about voices and balancing them in an issue. Story quality will win out.

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] You know, I tend to think too many distinctive voices can make an unsettled antho/mag...

[kirstyn] I do think about balance, and I guess voice plays into that, but it needn't just be about gender.

[ANW] Question - Online vs. print. There are examples of both sides here. What are your thoughts?

[skullmnky] Dark Animus is going online for the next issue simply as it was unaffordable for a regular print schedule and that defeated our purpose of giving exposure to emerging writers

[mondy] I personally am a print man... but online - for small enterprises - provides a better business model.

[ckbezant] James, how are you finding the transition from print to online zine for Dark Animus? Do you think it will affect your readership (for better or worse)?

[skullmnky] I am hoping it will increase readership with the right software to make it easy to read the publication online with a magazine reading experience *fingers crossed*

[mondy] I just think online provides a heap of flexibility for the publisher. However, in terms of the reader.... well print is always better. At least on the eyes.

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] I reckon DA's move to online is a great step forward. Best of luck with the new format, James

[skullmnky] Thanks Shane

[angela] *Phew* sorry if anything is missed... it's moving sooo fast

[Stephen Dedman] Greetings all.

[mondy] I say we pepper Stephen with questions...

[ANW] Stephen - anything new happening at Borderlands. Any needs or wants story wise

[Felicity] Stephen - one of my previous questions was, what are you looking for in a Borderlands fiction sub - and don't say "good stories"...    

[Stephen Dedman] Next issue of Borderlands already has enough fiction (unless we decide to make the issue larger), but not much non-fiction yet.

[Stephen Dedman] But I'm not the nf editor, so I don't know what he's solicited.

[ckbezant] How many issues do you fill at a time, Stephen? One at a time or way into the future?

[Stephen Dedman] We normally fill one issue at a time: we have just decided that one recent sub should go into the issue after next, however, because it deals with a similar theme to a story we'd already bought for issue 11!

[Felicity] But generally speaking, Stephen, what can you tell us (and those who will read the transcript) about writing fiction for Borderlands? Or is each issue loosely thematic and thus no general answer exists?

[Stephen Dedman] What we look for in a Borderlands sub is (i) good writing that's pleasant to read and doesn't require much editing, (ii) content that surprises us.

[mondy] Well said Stephen! Surprise is important as well. We received plenty of stories that were written quite well, but we'd seen it all before.

[Felicity] Seen it all before in terms of the subject matter, Ian, or more specifically how it was dished up?

[Stephen Dedman] Likewise, Mondy. Most of the stuff we receive is competently done, but a lot of it is predictable or just not very interesting.

[mondy] If the narrative structure had of been different - you know a bit more inventive - then it might have sparked interest. But mostly they were competently written subs, that read really well, but that you could predict the ending two pages in (or less)

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] One of the biggest hurdles never writers face is retreading old ground, old tropes. Surprising editors is a great thing!

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] never = newer

[kirstyn] heh, I like “never writers”

[Andrew McK] you beat me to it Kirstyn, I like it too.

[KaaronW] Interesting typo! I bet some of them are 'never' writers...

[ANW] Yes, my lack of recent success could be due to being a never writer

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] I’ve seen a few of those never writers, too

[Felicity] Perhaps angrily absent writers are never writers...  

[Stephen Dedman] Yes, there was a 'never writer' at Eidolon; after one story he submitted, the managing editors refused to consider anything more he sent us!

[BT] I think that's why Chuck's reading list is so important for new writers. You need to read to know what came before.

[mondy] Well said BT. But some of the ideas we read were really old and tattered. God, that sounds rude. But you sort of read them because you thought there must be a twist here, or something... and there wasn't

[kirstyn] and then they would end .... "and he was actually a vampire!" or "and she realised had been dead all along" or some twaddle like that

[Stephen Dedman] My first pile of Eidolon slush included 3 "vampire with AIDS" stories

[Andrew_McK] But I've been reading horror since I was 9 yrs old. Now all those tropes are blending together in my mind and I don't know what's old and what's my own invention any more!

[KaaronW] I think the blending is okay, Andrew!

[Robhood] Don't you think the hardest choices for editors are the stories that are competent and interesting, but just lack some barely definable spark?

[Stephen Dedman] I'd say that was right, Rob.

[Stuart Mayne] Yep, agree with Rob. Get lots of em, almost but.....

[Stuart Mayne] Trouble is it's hard to define what the spark should be

[Stuart Mayne] I'm finding it hard to find a balance in each issue of Aurealis. There is no focus, but I want to try and represent all the best subs that I receive.

[ckbezant] To go completely off track, our guests have all been involved in starting up/working with zines and presses. What would you say to a young blood like myself who is interested in starting his own imprint?

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Craig: don't do it!

[kirstyn] ckbezant: don't

[ckbezant] crazy, huh?

[Stephen Dedman] Kirstyn's right. Worst mistake you can make.

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] ok... my real advice, Craig....

[Stephen Dedman] Unless you already have distribution lined up, Craig, or are looking for a tax dodge... just don't.

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Research what your readers want... (I'm gonna get controversial here...)

[skullmnky] My advice is to do it for love and not money as personal gratification is really the only true reward in any small press zine.

[ckbezant] That's what it would be for, James. And tax dodge? What the?

[angela] Bravo Craig! In fact, I often pop over to your zine ... and I'm very remiss for not providing you with affirmations ... I *have* been meaning to for some tie now

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Some Aussie zines have been ill-conceived because they had very specific themes and with no market research to see if readers would actually read that type of story.

[angela] Shane’s right!

[Andrew_McK] Yeah, someone has a brain-fart and next thing you know we're all trying to write stories to some obscure theme nobody else understands.

[angela] I've learnt soooo much from jumping on and having a go

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] When starting out, get your distribution right, and importantly set money aside for advertising. LJ/blog marketing only has a limited pull

[Stephen Dedman] Craig, I meant that unless you can afford to lose the money and time, don't try it.

[angela] Absolutely Craig ... save some pennies in preparation ... that's been the only thing that has saved Brimstone ... forward planning

[skullmnky] And ask yourself will you still want to be doing it a year or two down the track because it is relentless and often thankless work

[angela] Nup Sorry James again don't agree -- it's not thankless

[angela] People may not actually say thanks -- but I'm really proud and satisfied with some of the authors I've been fortunate enough to provide a vehicle for

[skullmnky] true Angela - I agree with that

[angela] If you want to have a business -- plan it like a business

[Stuart Mayne] You have got to get the advertising in if you want to survive. Asking people for money is fun.

[ckbezant] So when I win the lottery, I'll start one up heh?

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Craig, if you win the lottery, have a distributor, have a marketing budget, and have material people will seek out, then go for your life.

[ckbezant] I’ll crawl into a hole now where it's safe

 

Continued in Part 2

Document Created: 7th August, 2008 | Last Updated: 5th August, 2008