Two weeks in, a UFO7 submissions update

April 13, 2018

UFO7 submissions opened two weeks ago and my team and I have been reading non-stop.

We have reviewed and rejected approximately 325 stories to date. There are fifteen stories held in the second-look pile. Those stories are in all sorts of stages; some have made it into our final consideration stack while others have been read by one or two of the associate editors and are awaiting further evaluation.

There’s another small handful that haven’t been read yet. At this point we’re responding to most submissions in under 24 hours; the unread stories all came in today.

There’s plenty of room in the book yet, so please do send in your fiction. Don’t wait til the last possible moment; at this time highter-tier rejections include an invitation to submit a second story. We will not be doing that toward the very end of the submissions window because there’s always a big surge at the end (I expect 100+ submissions in the last 24 hours) and we know we’ll be busy. So submitting early might earn you a second shot.

#SFWAPro

 

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Flash Drive Giveaway Winners

April 10, 2018

Last week I hosted a Rafflecopter giveaway for five copies of a custom 8 GB flash drive loaded with my ebooks. Here is the list of winners randomly generated via Rafflecopter:

Doc X.
Christina L.
Nelson L.
Jenny H.
Haley S.

I emailed the winners directly and will ship out the flash drives once I get their snail mail info.  Thanks to all those who participated and I’ll run more giveaways in the future.

Meantime, those who didn’t win can grab a copy of my latest collection on Amazon and elsewhere.

#SFWAPro

 


The Golem of Deneb Seven and Other Story Launch Day and Giveaway!

April 2, 2018

The official release date for The Golem of Deneb Seven and Other Stories is tomorrow, but it’s been uploaded onto all the major platforms and you can get it whenever you want!

Here are some of the places you can obtain a copy of this book:

[Buy direct: Paperback | E-book]
[Amazon] [Google] [iTunes] [B&N] [Kobo]
.
But wait, there’s more. I’m running a Rafflecopter giveaway where FIVE lucky winners will receive a custom 8 GB flash drive preloaded with my three books: Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma, H. G. Wells, Secret Agent, and The Golem of Deneb Seven, in EPUB, MOBI, and PDF formats. I will sign the drives, too.
This offer is open to readers in the United States. Because the cost of international shipping is pretty high, any international winners will receive all the ebooks by e-mail instead.

To enter the giveaway, click this link.

#SFWAPro

 


UFO7 Submissions Open

April 1, 2018

Submissions are now open for UFO7. A brief reminder of the common problems in the slush pile:

* We’re looking for humorous stories. If you send us a Hugo-worthy horror/drama/whatever story that isn’t humor you’re wasting your time and ours, because even if we love it a lot, we can’t use/buy it.

* One submission per author, unless you’ve been explicitly and directly invited to send another.

* The word count range we’re looking for is 500 to 5000 words. Not 250. Not 5500. If you’re off by more than a handful of words, we won’t appreciate that.

* Don’t go for the low-hanging fruit. In any given year there will be a dozen deal-with-the-devil stories, another dozen fairy tale retellings, and a brainless amount of zombie stories. Not that we will never buy those themes — we’ve published a little bit of each — but you’ll improve your odds a lot by sending us something original and surprising.

* We’re not the right market for stories written mostly to showcase how much you hate Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton, or anyone in-between. You’re welcome to take pot shots at either, but if those pot shots are the main point of your story, we aren’t interested.

* We’re especially interested in translations as well as submissions from authors for whom English isn’t their native language. We love seeing stories from previously unpublished authors. We welcome submissions from writers of all genders and backgrounds. Ultimately though, no matter who you are, all we really care about is how good and funny the story you sent us is.

With all that in mind, send your stories here:

https://alexshvartsman.com/ufo-unidentified-funny-objects/

#SFWAPro


Custom USB drives!

March 15, 2018

Writers have to do much of their own marketing work, and the most effective marketers show up at conventions armed with more than just business cards, bookmarks, and postcards. I’ve seen all kinds of interesting swag ideas, from pens (pretty commonplace) and custom pins, to T-shirts and even hairbrushes branded with the author’s website or book info.

I’ve been a long-time fan of using flash drives. Although they’re more expensive than a pen, they’re generally cheaper than a custom T-shirt and they are useful so readers will hang on to them and keep them around – same ideas as the bookmarks, but less disposable.

Flash drives are a game-changer for e-books at conventions. Sure, you can sell an ebook and email the files to the reader, but handing over a physical drive (which they can also use for other purposes) makes it far more appealing. And especially so with audio books, which are huge files, often too large to burn onto a single CD. In most modern cars, one can plug the drive into a USB slot and start listening. Likewise, they make much cooler giveaway items than merely emailing the winner the book files.

In the past I used regular boring flash drives I picked up in bulk, but while they were practical, they didn’t serve the additional purpose of being cool convention swag. I’ve been wanting to step up my game, so when the opportunity came along to team up with usbmemorydirect.com and test-drive their custom-made flash drives, I jumped at the chance.

They offer a wide range of wholesale drives, and I briefly considered this business-card like tab, perfect for displaying a particular book cover, but ultimately I settled on this adorable wooden drive designed to look like a book, and here’s how they came out:

I used the steampunk smiley from the H. G. Wells, Secret Agent book cover on one side, and my website on the back. And look: plenty of room for a signature! This neatly gets around the whole “you can’t sign ebooks” dilemma, and it’s nicer than just signing a postcard.

I’m going to be using these as giveaways as I launch The Golem of Deneb Seven collection later this month, as well as a part of backer rewards for the UFO7 kickstarter. What other cool uses are there that I may not be thinking of? Please share your ideas in the comments!

 

 


Where is the UFO7 Kickstarter?

March 5, 2018

 

Several folks have reached out to me this week to ask why this year’s UFO Kickstarter campaign has not been launched. In the past several years I ran the campaign in March and followed it with an open submission window in April. First of all, thank you for the concern! Please do not worry, UFO7 will be published on schedule and we’ll open to submissions on April 1 as promised. However, I’ve decided to run the campaign after the submissions close, probably starting around mid-May this year. There are several reasons for this:

 

  • Late last year I ran a (much smaller) campaign to fund my second collection, The Golem of Deneb Seven and Other Stories. While I doubt many people would mind, I still feel somewhat uncomfortable asking friends and fans for more money before I deliver that book. Golem should be ready in about a month, but not in time for an early March campaign.
  • Running a crowdfunding campaign is really hard work, and I hope that some additional signal boosting from 20+ authors will make reaching our goal a bit easier. To be clear, no one is expected to help promote the campaign. This will be purely voluntary.
  • Due to various other projects and business obligations, this March is an especially tough month for me to run the campaign in.

 

This is a bit of a risk for me. I will accept stories and pay ten cents per word, just like last years, assuming the campaign will fund. If it does not, I will pay everyone out of my own pocket. I may look for ways to lower the upfront costs a bit (such as printing the anthology via Print on Demand instead of an offset run) but none of those measures will jeopardize the quality of the stories, the layout, and all the other things you might care about as a reader. At the end of the day, I feel reasonably confident that there are enough people out there who want to read the books and for the series to continue and that the campaign will fund.

In any case, you have a month or so to get those stories ready. My team and I can’t wait to get reading!

#SFWAPro

 

 


Why Anonymous Submissions Are a Bad Idea

January 6, 2018

The new year brings fresh opportunities and projects. New magazines and anthologies are being launched, and some of them are embracing anonymous submissions in what has become somewhat of a trend lately. “We want to democratize the submission process,” those editors and publishers say. “We want the new authors to stand a better chance against headliners. We want authors from historically disadvantaged groups and backgrounds to enjoy an equal playing field.” All of those are worthy goals. Problem is, anonymous submissions accomplish none of those things.

Once upon a time I, too, was a proponent of anonymous submissions, but that is no longer the case. When I started editing UFO anthologies, I used semi-anonymous submissions for several years. The reasons were generally good ones — to judge each story purely on its merit, and not to let the Big Names and shiny publication credits sway my readers one way or another… but the more experience I gained as an editor, the less I liked anonymous subs. My reasons sounded good but the logic behind them didn’t stand up to scrutiny. Every editor must make their own decisions on this, but here are just a few reasons why I’m glad to no longer use this system (from least to most important.)

1) I trust myself more.

Early on, I was worried that publication credits and other accolades might sway me as an editor, but I quickly discovered that none of that matters. The only thing that matters is the story. An amazing writer whose work I’m a huge fan of can write a story I won’t like and won’t publish, while someone with no impressive credits whose submissions I’ve been rejecting for years might craft a tale I instantly fall in love with. Moreover, I’m far more excited about submissions from brand-new, previously unpublished writers than from almost anybody else, because I want to be the one to discover the next big talent in our field. I suspect most editors worth their salt — whatever their position on anonymous subs — feel the same way.

2) Anonymous submissions do not truly level the playing field.

Many (though not all) of the stories from Really Big Names published in various magazines are solicited directly from the authors or their agents. Most of those magazines do not anonymize submissions. The ones that do, tend to be newer venues, still looking to make their mark, and authors seeking to be published there probably won’t compete with too many Big Name writers anyway.

3) Neopro writers don’t like them.

Some of the writers who actively submit their short fiction but are good enough to be at least a little picky about their venues tend to push venues that require them to reformat their document in any way further down their submission hierarchy. Creating an anonymous version of the story file doesn’t sound like a lot of work, and it isn’t, but when you’re shuffling a lot of submissions around you tend to want to just send the same file out until someone buys it. Venues that require anything non-standard may become overlooked or at least left for last, thus somewhat lowering their chances at acquiring a good story because other editors will get their chance at it first.

4) Anonymous submissions can actually disadvantage stories written by minorities, foreign authors, and especially translations.

There are certain liberties an author that belongs to a community might be able to take that another author probably shouldn’t. My copy editor once sent notes asking James Beamon to tone down the Ebonics spoken by a magical sword in one of his stories. James responded by e-mailing her a photo of himself. 🙂 There was at least one other time where my team (which is pretty diverse) pointed out a somewhat-insensitive use of a racial stereotype in a story that I might have missed as a reader, and that at least one of them wasn’t super comfortable with since in this case, the author’s background did not align with that culture/background. We discussed the situation at length and I made the author aware of the team’s findings. The author was able to make the necessary changes and we accepted the story.

When we read a story in a vacuum (as we do with an anonymous submission) we’re missing out on what might be important cultural context. A Native American author writing a Native American character should be trusted more with their portrayal of such a character than an author of another background. It doesn’t mean that someone else can’t write a great Native American character, but I feel that, if an author has a close personal relationship to something they’re writing about and wishes to let us know this in their cover letter, we should take this information into consideration when evaluating the story.

This is especially true of translations or stories written outside of the traditional Western culture. Russian stories, for example, tend not to open with a strong hook. The Russian writing style wasn’t influenced by Hemingway nearly as much as English writing has been. Most stories tend to take their time, immersing the reader in the setting of the story rather than dunking them into the tale in media res. So if I want to ever publish Russian translations that aren’t intentionally written to imitate an American story, I should probably know that I’m reading a translation and make certain allowances. I’m also willing to make allowances for how well the story flows before edits, if it’s a translation or a story by an author for whom English is a second language.

As an author, I have no problem with making anonymous submissions (beyond the minor inconvenience factor described above.) If an editor feels the system is helpful and works for them for any reason, that’s fine. But as an editor, I don’t foresee using them again in the future, and I encourage other editors to consider their reasons carefully before electing to utilize this method of reviewing submissions.

#SFWAPro