Guest Post: Bubonicon 47 – Tea Time! by David Lee Summers

David Lee Summers with his daughter Verity at the their publishers table.
David Lee Summers with his daughter Verity at the their publishers table.

Folks, it is my great pleasure to have author and publisher David Lee Summers back on the blog. I was unable to attend New Mexico’s once-a-year scifi convention this year and asked (perhaps ‘begged’ is a better term) David to let me life vicariously through him. He was kind enough to offer up this guest post about Bubonicon 47.

Tea Time!

Who Can It Be Now: Characters With Flaws panel. From left to right: Ben Bova, David Lee Summers, S.M. Stirling (scratching his head at whatever Davids saying), Walter Jon Williams, and Caroline Spector.
Who Can It Be Now: Characters With Flaws panel. From left to right: Ben Bova, David Lee Summers, S.M. Stirling (scratching his head at whatever David’s saying), Walter Jon Williams, and Caroline Spector.

I enjoy attending science fiction conventions because they are a wonderful opportunity to connect with fellow readers and writers.  One of my longtime favorite conventions is Bubonicon in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  There are an amazing group of writers who live in or near Albuquerque and regularly attend Bubonicon including Walter Jon Williams, Jane Lindskold, S.M. Stirling, P.G. Nagle, and George R.R. Martin.  These writers, working with an outstanding convention committee, present a great set of panels and readings along with a diverse dealer’s room, art show, and gaming room.  What’s more, the convention has a great name, given when Egypt placed travel restrictions on New Mexico because Bubonic Plague had been reported in the mountains east of Albuquerque.  For most of the last two decades, Bubonicon has also been the convention closest to my home in Southern New Mexico.  That honor was only recently supplanted by Las Cruces Comic Con.

Red or Green panel.  From left to right: Dr. Catherine S. Plesko, Dr. Larry Crumpler, Christine MacKenzie, David Lee Summers, Loretta Hall, and Zachary Gallegos.
Red or Green panel. From left to right: Dr. Catherine S. Plesko, Dr. Larry Crumpler, Christine MacKenzie, David Lee Summers, Loretta Hall, and Zachary Gallegos.

The theme of Bubonicon 47 was “Women of Wonder” and featured an all-woman lineup of special guests.  The guests of honor were Tamora Pierce and Catherynne M. Valente.  The guest artist was Ruth Sanderson.  The toastmaster was Mary Robinette Kowal (in her own words, she’s a toastmaster because she’s nobody’s mistress!).  I was especially pleased to meet Ms. Kowal who, like me, had a story in the anthology of near-future stories 2020 Visions edited by Rick Novy.  Another special thing about that anthology is that it also features Bubonicon’s 2016 Guest of Honor, David Gerrold.  The convention schedule included such theme-related panels as “The Inescapable Romance Subplot: Passing the Bechdel Test?”, “Curse of the Strong Female: Pitfalls and Cliches”, and “Writing Different Genders: Your Point of View.”

Mary Robinette Kowal, right foreground. Photo credit James L. Moore and Jane Lindskold.
Mary Robinette Kowal, right foreground. Photo credit James L. Moore and Jane Lindskold.

Panels weren’t limited to the theme.  I participated in such panels as “Whither Ghost? Dancing With the Definitely Dead?” where we discussed ghost stories and stories with ghosts.  Of particular interest we talked about how ghost stories can take a science fiction twist when you imagine humans uploading their consciousness into a computer, becoming a “ghost in the machine.”  I also participated in a science panel called “Red or Green: NM as Mars Analog” in which we looked at how sites in New Mexico can be quite similar to sites on Mars, to the extent that they can be used to test Martian rovers or be used as test beds for humans traveling to Mars.  I moderated the panel, “It’s Alive: Scientists in Science Fiction” in which writers and scientists discussed how science and fiction have influenced each other.  Our conclusion was that although there is a societal perception of a “mad scientist” trope and a certain distrust of science in the media, science fiction writers generally respect scientists and the work they do.

David Lee Summers  Hillary Estell serving tea. Photo credit James L. Moore and Jane Lindskold.
David Lee Summers Hillary Estell serving tea. Photo credit James L. Moore and Jane Lindskold.

One of the highlights of Bubonicon for me is the Sunday Afternoon Author’s Tea.  The tea, which is unique as far as I know to Bubonicon, was conceived as a way for the authors to say thank you to the fans who attend the convention.  Seating is limited, simply due to limited space.  Because of that, there are sign-up sheets for the three sessions, but there is no charge.  Although there is no requirement to dress up for the tea, authors donate prizes and those who are judged to wear the best hat and glove combinations get to pick from the donated prizes.  Those fans who attend have the opportunity to sample four teas donated by the St. James Tea Room in Albuquerque.  This year’s choices included Lady Londonberry, a traditional black tea with a hint of strawberry flavoring, Black Pearl, a black tea scented with vanilla, Hesperides Golden Delight, a green tea scented with golden apples, and Daybreak in Martinique, a Rooibos scented with lemon myrtle and French lavender.  The authors also provide a range of sweet and savory snacks that range from smoked salmon and sausage balls to blueberry scones and lemon muffins.

SummersOwlDanceWhen not speaking on panels, giving a reading, or pouring tea for fans, I hung out at the table for my company, Hadrosaur Productions, in the dealer’s room.  This year, the dealer’s room was full of vendors selling books, comics, toys, and jewelry.  I found a snazzy steampunkish pocket watch to replace one I broke earlier this year along with several wonderful books.  The danger of hanging out in the dealer’s room is that my cash and I have a tendency to part company much too fast.  That said, I do like spending time there because it gives me a chance to interact with readers and writers, which of course, is the whole reason I’m there.

Places to Find David Lee Summers

Hadrosaur Productions

Tales of the Talisman

David Lee Summers: Wrong Turn on the Information Superhighway

David Lee Summers’ Web Journal

Goodreads

Amazon

Facebook

Twitter

You can also delve into David’s mine by reading his past interviews here on Dab of Darkness: 

David as an Author

David as a Publisher

SummersOwlDanceBook Blurb for Owl Dance:

Owl Dance is a Weird Western steampunk novel. The year is 1876. Sheriff Ramon Morales of Socorro, New Mexico, meets a beguiling woman named Fatemeh Karimi, who is looking to make a new start after escaping the oppression of her homeland. When an ancient life form called Legion comes to Earth, they are pulled into a series of events that will change the history of the world as we know it. In their journeys, Ramon and Fatemeh encounter mad inventors, dangerous outlaws and pirates. Their resources are Ramon’s fast draw and Fatemeh’s uncanny ability to communicate with owls. The question is, will that be enough to save them when airships from Czarist Russia invade the United States?

SummersLightningWolvesBook Blurb for Lightning Wolves:

It’s 1877 and Russians forces occupy the Pacific Northwest. They are advancing into California. New weapons have proven ineffective or dangerously unstable. The one man who can help has disappeared into Apache Country, hunting ghosts. A healer and a former sheriff lead a band into the heart of the invasion to determine what makes the Russian forces so unstoppable while a young inventor attempts to unleash the power of the lightning wolves.

HowellSummersKeplersDozenBook Blurb for A Kepler’s Dozen: 13 Stories About Distant Worlds That Really Exist

A Kepler’s Dozen presents thirteen action-packed, mysterious, and humorous stories all based on real planets discovered by the NASA Kepler mission. Edited by and contributing stories are David Lee Summers, editor of Tales of the Talisman Magazine, and Steve B. Howell, project scientist for the Kepler mission. Whether on a prison colony, in a fast escape from the authorities, or encircling a binary star, these exoplanet stories will amuse, frighten, and intrigue you while you share fantasy adventures among Kepler’s real-life planets.

SummersSpaceHorrorsBook Blurb for Space Horrors:

Space Horrors is the fourth anthology of the Full-Throttle Space Tales series. Edited by David Lee Summers, Space Horrors contains blood-chilling tales of vampires and ghouls in space, by established and rising-star authors. Terrifying tales contained in this volume: “Poetic Justice” by Alastair Mayer: Space hibernation does strange things to a man. “Listening” by Anna Paradox: It’s Halloween on the run to Mars. What could go wrong? “The Walking Man” by Glynn Barrass: A giant robot on Mars is in the hands of mutineers. “Natural Selection” by Simon Bleaken: The Zoological Institute warned Rebecca not to go study the bugs. “Oh Why Can’t I” by C.J. Henderson: The Earth Alliance Ship Roosevelt is pitted against a world swallowing creature. “Last Man Standing” by Danielle Ackley-McPhail: Mining can be hard work, depending on who – or what – is doing the mining. “Anemia” by David Lee Summers: Vampires prefer the eternal night of space, it seems. “Chosen One” by Dana Bell: A particularly unnerving game of cat and…something. “Sleepers” by Selina Rosen: Sometimes the nightmare you wake from is not as bad as the one you wake up to. “Divining Everest” by Patrick Thomas: When the vampires call for help, you know it’s bad. “Into the Abyss” by Dayton Ward: Ghosts haunting the depths of space. “Salvage” by David B. Riley: Insurance investigator Sarah Meadows is on a ghost ship and in trouble. “The Golem” by Judith Herman: A friend in need is a deadly reckoning. “In the Absence of Light” by Sarah A. Hoyt: Have you heard of the drifters? “A Touch of Frost” by Gene Mederos: Space is a hostile environment – except for zombies, of course. “Wake of the White Death” by Lee Clark Zumpe: Who will rescue the rescuers? “Plan 9 in Outer Space” by Ernest and Emily Hogan: Making bad space horror more horrible ain’t easy.

SummersDragon'sFallBook Blurb for Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order:

Three vampyrs. Three lives. Three intertwining stories.

Bearing the guilt of destroying the holiest of books, after becoming a vampyr, the Dragon, Lord Desmond searches the world for lost knowledge, but instead, discovers truth in love.

Born a slave in Ancient Greece, Alexandra craves freedom above all else, until a vampyr sets her free, but then, she must pay the highest price of all … her human soul.

An assassin who lives in the shadows, Roquelaure is cloaked even from himself, until he discovers the power of friendship and loyalty.

Three vampyrs, traveling the world by moonlight—one woman and two men who forge a bond made in love and blood. Together they form a band of mercenaries called the Scarlet Order, and recruit others who are like them. Their mission is to protect kings and emperors against marauders, invaders, and rogue vampyrs—and their ultimate nemesis, Vlad the Impaler.

Culhwch & Olwen: A Tale of King Arthur & His Warriors performed by David Lee Summers

Tofu used as a bookstand, again.
Tofu used as a bookstand, again.

Where I Got It: Bought a copy from the publisher.

Narrator: David Lee Summers

Publisher: Hadrosaur Productions (2000)

Length: Approximately 70 minutes

Music: Kevin Schramm

Author’s Page

Around 1100 AD, the story of Culhwch and Olwen was committed to paper. It had long before been part of the Arthurian and Celtic oral tradition of tall tales. Now, David Lee Summers has brought that tale back to modern audiences with a grand telling, complete with music, on a modern CD.

This was highly amusing! It is a grand, tall tale indeed. When listening to it, I had to picture Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail. The basics are that Culhwch wants to marry Olwen. However, her father sets him this long string of impossible tasks before he will consent. Luckily, Culhwch is good friends with King Arthur and his Round Table knights.

Each noble man sets off on his assigned quest. Mostly, these quests are to obtain ridiculous grooming supplies! There’s a witch to kill, a couple of giants to defeat, a dwarf’s pot to steal, and so much more.

It’s great to hear this tale brought to life once again. I think those interested in Arthurian tales or even Celtic or English lore would find this amusing. I often found myself chuckling out loud.

The Narration: David Lee Summers tell the story with vigor and an underlying amusement. The music is a nice touch, putting me in mind of a Medieval court telling of the tale.

What I Liked: An old tale brought to life; such an amusing tall tale!; a bardic performance; accompanying music; the cover art.

What I Disliked: Nothing –  I really enjoyed this little slice of historic legend.

Interview: David Lee Summers of Hadrosaur Productions

David Lee Summers giving a reading.
David Lee Summers giving a reading.

Everyone, please welcome author, editor, & publisher David Lee Summers to Dab Of Darkness once again. This time, he graces us with his knowledge on publishing, small presses, and the mysterious hadrosaur mascot of Hadrosaur Productions.

1) Often in the publishing world, we see that cover art and even illustrations may be wide interpretations of the actual story. As a small publisher, how do you match art to the story?

First off, as a writer, I find it exciting to see how an artist envisions one of my stories or novels.  I even love it when the artist’s vision doesn’t precisely match the vision I had in mind, as long as it’s a valid interpretation of what I wrote.  It’s the process of seeing what I wrote through a reader’s eyes.  I love seeing the elements of the story the artist found important.

TalesTalisman8-4-coverThe way the process works at Tales of the Talisman Magazine is that I send the stories that require illustration to our art director, Laura Givens, along with summaries of the stories.  Laura then does her best to match the stories with the artists she works with, typically looking at how the “mood” of a story will match the tone and flavor of an artist’s work.  Once the artist has the story, they’re free to go off and interpret it how they want.  Laura works with them to create a technically good piece of work and then she sends it to me and I pay the artist.  I very rarely interfere with the process.  I only send something back to Laura if I feel an illustration gives away too much of a story’s ending, if I feel something could be interpreted as a copyright violation, or if I just can’t understand how the illustration relates to the story at all.  I think I have only sent three or four illustrations back in eight years.

As for the covers of Tales of the Talisman, or an anthology like A Kepler’s Dozen, I really just tell Laura the mood or feeling I want to convey in the cover.  Most of the time, she goes away and about 48 hours later has something for me.  I swear, Laura Givens is a mind reader.  Most of the time, what she sends me is perfect.  In the few times I’ve asked for a change, it’s usually some detail that I don’t think was quite right and often it’s fixed the same day.

2) Concerning publishing etiquette, are unsolicited manuscripts a welcome treat or something that immediately goes to the bottom of the pile?

Let’s start by defining terms.  A solicited manuscript is one that an editor has asked for.  We often think of those as being equivalent to submissions made through an agent.  Well, sorta.  The way that happens is that the agent goes to the editor, makes a pitch and then the editor invites the agent to submit, hence the solicited part.  Magazines, even big-name magazines like Asimov’s or Cemetery Dance, rarely solicit work through agents.  They tend to buy short stories directly from the authors.

Tales of the Talisman takes submissions from anyone during its open reading periods.  As long as the stories conform to the guidelines, these unsolicited manuscripts are absolutely a welcome treat.  Our reading periods typically start on January 1 and July 1 of each year and we read until full.  (Note, we did cancel our July reading period this year to allow us to get back on track with our publishing schedule.)  The guidelines are available on the web at http://www.talesofthetalisman.com/gl.html

HowellSummersKeplersDozenThe anthology A Kepler’s Dozen presents thirteen stories set on exoplanets discovered by NASA’s Kepler Mission.  In this case, we wanted each story to be set on a different exoplanet.  Because of that, writers had to tell us which star system they were going to feature in their story and then they were given the go-ahead to write their story.  So, in this case stories were “solicited” even though they didn’t come through an agent.  What this meant was that an “unsolicited” story was unlikely to be used.  Even though I say that, we did get a submission for Tales of the Talisman that was perfect for the anthology, so I asked to buy it for the book instead of the magazine and fortunately the author was happy to oblige!

3) When considering a short story or even a novel for publication, are tales that fit snugly into a well-established genre preferred over tales that are cross-genre?

As a reader, I absolutely love it when authors play with genre boundaries and tropes to create something fresh and unique.  The only real requirement is that everything works in the story’s internal logic.  No surprise, then, that I love doing the same thing as a writer.

The reasons for genre compliance are really to give bookstores a place to shelve books and to give readers a sense of what to expect.  Being a magazine of science fiction and fantasy, Tales of the Talisman doesn’t have to worry much about either of those things.  When we’re lucky enough to be on a bookstore shelf, we’re shelved with the other science fiction and fantasy magazines.  Because we are a magazine of multiple stories and poems, people expect a potpourri.  So, in fact, I love to see cross-genre stories.  That said, my preference is generally for good stories regardless of where they fit in genre definition.  So, I usually buy a mix of stories that fit in well-established genres and ones that cross genres.

I don’t consider novels for Hadrosaur Productions, but I have considered them when I’ve worked as an editor for other publishers.  My sense is that small presses are a bit more open to cross-genre works than bigger presses simply because they’re selling more of their works as ebooks or through online retailers and again don’t have to worry so much about how the books are going to be shelved at the local big box bookstore.

4) Do small publishers locate beta readers for their works, or is that generally left up to the author?

Again, I think a definition could be handy.  A beta reader is someone who reads an author’s manuscript and provides an early critique.  I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of any press, big or small, finding beta readers for books.  Typically that’s something left up to the author.

Generally, a publisher will run a manuscript through three levels of editing.  First is acquisitions, where the manuscript is selected. Second is line editing, where someone will read for plot holes, characterization issues, factual problems, problems with sentence structure and so forth.  This is probably the closest a publisher will get to a beta reading phase.  Finally there will be copyediting or proofreading, where the basics like spelling, punctuation and grammar will be fixed.  Depending on the size of the press these jobs may be handled from anywhere from one to three or more people.

Some small publishers will send a novel out for review blurbs.  These are the little quotes you may see on the front or back cover of the book that tell how wonderful it is.  This really isn’t the same as a beta reader.  If the blurb writer loves the story, they will generally send you a short paragraph telling what they loved.  If they don’t like story, they generally won’t provide a detailed report.  They’ll just decline to provide a blurb.

5) Series versus stand-alones: What are the pluses and the possible pitfalls?

When a situation and a set of characters click, readers and publishers love series.  Readers love them because they can come back and spend more time in a beloved world.  Publishers love them because they have a ready-made audience for the next book in the series.

An author should only agree to do a series if they absolutely love spending time in the world.  If not, they’re not going to create a series that readers will come back to.  Ideally, a writer should also treat each book of a series as possibly the last, and wrap up the plot sufficiently that if the publisher cancels the series, readers won’t feel cut off.  By the same token, writers should recognize that a reader may start a series in the middle.  So, the book has to be able to function as a first book as well.  In other words, the perfect series book is a stand-alone that functions in the context of a larger story arc.

In fact, as a writer, I’ve never set out to write a series.  I always started with a standalone book, because a new set of characters and a new world is an experiment.  That’s the beauty of the standalone.  It’s a chance to try new things out.  Sometimes those new things are wonderful and need to be explored in more books.  Sometimes, that first book will prove sufficient.

On a related note, Tales of the Talisman did try publishing serialized fiction in some of its early issues.  A few readers were enthusiastic about the serials, but generally these were people who were already loyal subscribers.  New subscribers generally didn’t go back and look for past installments, and single-issue buyers didn’t rush to buy subscriptions to find out the next installment.  Perhaps this was a reflection on the specific serials we bought, but it didn’t seem like this was the path to creating loyal subscribers and it kept us from buying as many wonderful stand-alone stories as we would have liked, so we ultimately decided to drop serials from the mix.

6) How important is self-promotion for an author that has signed with a small publisher?

I’m going to say something completely heretical in this day and age.  Forget what you’ve been told about “self-promotion.”  Figuring out how many tweets per day to send out about your book is a fool’s errand.  Intentionally trying to build buzz is just going to get you put in people’s spam filters.  What sells books is word of mouth by engaged readers.

The job of an author is to come up with an idea so wonderful, a story so eye-poppingly well told, characters so dynamic that readers will have no choice but to gush about the book.  In fact, the book is going to be so terrific, you’re not going to be able to help yourself as you geek out about it to your friends on Twitter, Facebook and at conventions and book fairs.  When you’re done with the first book, your job is to go on to the next book.  It’s going to be so great, you’re going to have no choice but to talk about that one, too.

The best publishers, large or small, have always worked with the author to help share the enthusiasm, but all publishers have limited resources.  Small publishers in particular are going to be people just like you, struggling to make ends meet with a day job, but who have a passion for the craft.  On top of that, they also have a bunch of other authors they’re working with.  If there is one specific promotion job I can encourage you to do, it’s to work with your publisher to figure out how best to dovetail your energies spreading the enthusiasm about the book, but do it with a spirit of partnership and cooperation.

So, yes, self-promotion is vitally important to an author who has signed with a small press, but the idea I want to get across is that if you’ve done your job as an author, the enthusiasm will flow naturally.  It will be infectious.  A few curious people will see and check out the book.  If the book really is great and strikes a chord, word will spread quickly.  If the book’s greatness eludes people, it doesn’t matter.  Even though you’re enthusiastic and spreading the word, you’ll already be working on the next great book.

7) How did the hadrosaur come to be the mascot?

My wife, Kumie, and I both love dinosaurs.  There’s one dinosaur in particular that we found particularly striking.  It’s a Chinese hadrosaur called tsintaosaurus.  It’s a duck-billed dinosaur that had a strikingly unicorn-like crest, in effect making it the creature of science and the creature of fantasy.  Here’s a good page describing the dinosaur:  http://museumvictoria.com.au/melbournemuseum/discoverycentre/dinosaur-walk/meet-the-skeletons/tsintaosaurus/

What’s more, when Kumie was going to graduate school for her Masters in Business Administration at the University of Arizona, her final project to create a company.  That company became our small press.  While working on her project, hadrosaur fossils were discovered near Tucson.  We took it as a sign and named our small press hadrosaur after the creature of science and fantasy, and we use the tsintaosaurus in our logo.

8) In this electronic age, is distance between author, cover artists, illustrators, and publisher an obstacle?

The distance between people really isn’t much of an obstacle at all.  These days I do the majority of business by email and it really doesn’t matter if the person I’m working with is across town or half a world away.  Editing stories is largely a visual exercise, and emailing manuscripts marked up in Microsoft Word is very simple.  Paypal has generally made it very easy to pay people, no matter where they live.  The only thing that can be a very slight obstacle is that it costs more to mail contributor copies of physical books to people in other countries than it does to mail them to someone in the United States.

SummersSolarSea9) What is your take on book trailers and their effectiveness in promoting a single book or a catalog of books?

I think book trailers can be very eye-catching if done well.  Like a good book, a good book trailer needs to be able to stand out from the pack and do something memorable.  There are a lot of sites for sharing book trailers and it becomes another way for an author or a publisher to share their enthusiasm for a particular title.  However, I’ve seen some book trailers that look like amateur YouTube videos.  Nothing about them really captures my attention.

If you’re going to take the time to make a book trailer or spend the money to have one made, make sure it’s done right.  Don’t just do it because it’s the “in thing” to do.  Do it because it’s something you’ll be proud to show off.  I haven’t assembled any book trailers lately simply because I haven’t had the time to make one of the quality I’d find satisfactory.   The last one I did was for my novel The Solar Sea.  It’s a little dated, but I think it still stands up, largely due to Laura Givens’ excellent artwork.  I even made an animation for the video.  It’s at http://thesolarsea.com

10) When you are actively scouting for new authors or artists, what are some things you look at for compatibility?

The process of “scouting for a new author or artist” is largely one of putting up a notice saying we’re open to submissions.  An author will send a story or a novel (depending on what we’re looking for).  An artist might send us a link to their online portfolio.

In the case of short stories, the process is simple.  If they send me a story I love, I most likely will send them a contract.  As long as they handle the contract and payment process in a business-like way, I’m happy to continue doing business with that author in the future.

In the case of artists for Tales of the Talisman, generally Laura Givens looks at the artist’s portfolio to see if the work fits the kind of tone and quality she wants to maintain.  If it is, she emails the artists to make sure they’re happy to work for the pay we can offer and deliver the illustrations we need in a timely fashion.  She’ll generally try them out with one piece.  If all goes well with that first assignment, she’ll contact them for a future assignments.

Most of my experience with novels comes from acquiring books for other companies.  Still, when a publisher commits to buying a book, it’s a relationship that will need to last at least a few years to be successful.  I generally start by evaluating the cover letter to see if the author presents herself in a businesslike and professional manner.  From there, I like to see what kind of track record the author has.  Ideally, I’d like to see a few story sales or at least some indication that she knows how to work well with an editorial team.  I also like an author who can carry on a conversation either online or in person.  Conversely, I don’t want someone who will dominate a conversation or whose ego is so big, I don’t feel like I fit in the same room with it.  I also like to know what an author plans next.  Do they have another book planned?  Is it a sequel or another standalone?  There’s not necessarily a right answer to those questions, but I don’t want an author who has invested all their hopes and dreams in the one work sitting in front of me.  Those authors are invariably disappointed when their baby didn’t make them a millionaire overnight or someone gave them a one-star review on Amazon.

11) As a well-established small publisher, what are a few pieces of advice for folks thinking of founding their own publishing company or joining one?

If you’re thinking of joining a small publishing company, look at their track record.  Do their books look like they’re professional quality?  Do they pay royalties on time?  Do they treat their authors well?  Do they have clear guidelines for the work they expect you to do?  Talk to other people working with that press to find out if they’re happy or not and why.

If you’re planning on founding your own company, plan for the long haul.  It can take years for a small publisher to find their niche and be successful.  Stay within your means.  Don’t publish more books than you can afford to.  Don’t take on more projects than you can handle in a timely fashion.

Educate yourself about the process.  Understand the workflows needed to create the products you plan to sell.  For example, if you plan to publish both print books and ebooks, learn how to manage your workflow so you can do both in a timely manner.  Understand how to create a print book and how to create an ebook.  Even if you ultimately plan to contract these jobs out, it’s the best way to know whether you’re getting a fair price for the jobs performed.

Educate yourself about the marketplace.  Where are you going to sell your books?  How do you place those books with those vendors?

As a small publisher, treat your authors well.  Pay your royalties on time.  Keep clear channels of communication open with your authors and your staff.  That said, remember, the readers always come first.  Fill your orders in a timely fashion and pay attention to what your readers like and don’t like.  They’re the source blood of any publishing venture and your mission will always boil down to finding the best way to get good books into their hands.

Thanks again David for sharing your time and knowledge!

Places to find David Lees Summers and Hadrosaur Productions

Hadrosaur Productions

Tales of the Talisman

David Lee Summers: Wrong Turn on the Information Superhighway

David Lee Summers’ Web Journal

Goodreads

Amazon

Facebook

Twitter

Bubonicon 2013: The Meat

Here we have Suzy Charnas, Daniel Abraham, Josh Gentry, David Lee Summers, and Joan Saberhagen.
Here we have Suzy Charnas, Daniel Abraham, Josh Gentry, David Lee Summers, and Joan Saberhagen.

Saturday of Bubonicon 2013 was an all day event, with the con suite opening at 9am. I opted to have tea in my hotel while messing around on the computer. 10AM brought about the first panel of the day: Short Fiction in the Era of Digital Publishing. Josh Gentry of SnackReads moderated this panel of Daniel Abraham (The Dragon’s Path), Suzy Charnas (The Holdfast Chronicles), Joan Saberhagen (manages the literary estate of Fred Saberhagen), and David Lee Summers (Owl Dance). This was a fascinating talk about how publishing has changed since ebooks came about, but also about how digital publishing has changed in the last few years and continues to change. Of special interest to this panel, was the subject of short fiction: how to sell it, should you sell it?, what format to provide it in, etc. Everyone agreed that ebooks were a great way to put an author’s backlist out there, but perhaps not the best way to become known as a new author (for a variety of reasons).

Walter Jon Williams reading a short story from a forth coming anthology.
Walter Jon Williams reading a short story from a forth coming anthology.

After that I bounced over to the 55 minutes with Walter Jon Williams. He was amazingly entertaining last year, doing the various voices for his characters in the short piece of fiction he read. I was hoping he would be just as charismatic again; he did not disappoint. His story, which will be published in a forthcoming anthology, was just a little longer than we had time for, but he paused in a good place. Of course this only added to my desire to pick up the anthology when it comes out. Let me just point out that I had a choice of listening to Brent Weeks for 55 minutes, or Walter Jon Williams. Sorry Brent, but I am sure you had plenty of fandom to glory in and my shy attention wouldn’t have added to it.

Back in the big main room, George R. R. Martin and Tim Powers had an hour long discussion about dark fantasy: Whatever Happened to Dark Fantasy. While I have read some of George Martin’s works going back to the Wild Cards days in my highschool days, I have not yet had the pleasure of reading Tim Powers’s works. Even with that bit of ignorance, the talk was fascinating. Both authors seemed to shy away from such categories as ‘dark fantasy’ or ‘horror fantasy’. I have to agree with them; having recently explored some H. P. Lovecraft works, ostensibly horror, I found them to be fantasy with some dark elements. Martin and Powers are discussed the differences between fantastical horror and psychological horror (where nothing magical is involved).

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Time Powers & George R. R. Martin

After all that sitting, I needed a walk, and what better place to walk than the art show. Lots of cutsy kitten & some magical or SF element art was on display. Some made me laugh out loud with the fun of it. Of course there was the requisite armed and nearly nude women that permeate the SFF world (some of which I appreciated, others I found improbable even with suspended disbelief). This year also had pottery and I loved that there were a variety of mugs named for Tolkien characters. While I bid on a few items in the silent auction, I failed to win any. Perhaps next year.

David Lee Summers giving a reading.
David Lee Summers giving a reading.

At the dealer room, I swung by Hadrosaur Productions and said hi to David Lee Summers. While we chatted, author Mario Acevedo happened by and stopped to chat. Of course I had to mention that I recently read his book, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, and from there we were off on conspiracy theories involving aliens and such. The dealers room had several more sellers than last year, which was nice to see. I wandered, looking for a corset to amuse my man with. Alas, I only found a few and nothing that struck my fancy. Perhaps next year.

I sat in on David Lee Summers‘s 25 minute reading. He entertained us with a short bit from his novella Revolution of Air and Rust, which is a steampunk or alternate history set in early 1900s near the beginning of WWI. Having recently finished the Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld, I really enjoyed the short bit that Summers shared with us. I’ll be picking up my copy for reading in the winter (when I have much more time for eyeball reading versus audiobooks).

Diana Gabaldon & my shoulder (since I was making a stunned bunny face).
Diana Gabaldon & my shoulder (since I was making a stunned bunny face).

On a whim, I then attended a writing workshop hosted by Diana Gabaldon, How (And How Not) To Write Sex Scenes. I don’t write, other than bloggity stuff and government reports (which may or may not be fiction), but I had not attended anything with Diana Gabaldon yet and didn’t want to miss out. The room filled completely. While we had a few minutes before beginning, Diana Gabaldon invited folks to come up and take pictures with her. I couldn’t resist, but the lady I passed my camera off to looked at it dubiously and caught me making a distressed face that could be mistaken for gas. It was way cool of Gabaldon to make the offer to the room. This was one of the funnest hours of the entire con. We laughed often and loudly. The room was full of women and a few brave men. I read a few of her Outlander books way back in college and recently reread the first book, The Outlander, so I had a good idea of her sex scenes. She gave a lot of great advice that was highly entertaining to even those who don’t have an interest in writing.

Brent Weeks moderating a panel with Darynda Jones & Diana Gabaldon.
Brent Weeks moderating a panel with Darynda Jones & Diana Gabaldon.

The last panel of the evening for me was Assassins & Serial Killers in Fantasy moderated by Brent Weeks (The Night Angel trilogy rocks!). Diana Gabaldon, Darynda Jones (Charley Davidson series), John Maddox Roberts (well known for his SPQR series), and Melinda Snodgrass (who has done script writing for Star Trek: The Next Generation & other TV series) joined him. Once again, this was another great panel. Brent Weeks, well known for his assassin trilogy, was the perfect moderator, keeping the questions coming as the panel explored the various differences between serial killers and assassins. John Maddox Roberts pointed out that the traditional assassin, the hashashin, were folks who were called upon once in their life to take out one person, and then they were expected to die in the back blast of vengeance. The panel also explored the dark, disturbing attraction to serial killers whether in fiction or in the media.

John Maddox Roberts waiting for the panel to get started.
John Maddox Roberts waiting for the panel to get started.

After that was the mass autograph signing. I think I will do another post showing off the treasures I got signed as this post has grown a bit long. You can tell my enthusiasm though.

Melinda Snodgrass chatting as Brent Weeks looks on.
Melinda Snodgrass chatting as Brent Weeks looks on.