All posts in Publishing

09 Oct

THERE’S DISASTERS NEWS + a shiny new newsletter

In Book Extras,News,PR/Marketing,Publishing,The Disasters by MK England / October 9, 2017 / 0 Comments

DISASTERS THINGS ARE HAPPENING. So much has gone on behind the scenes over the past two months and I’m so excited to tell you EVERYTHING! If you want to be the first one to know all the things, I’ve created a shiny new monthly newsletter for you to sign up for:

Subscribers get first dibs on all news and announcements (including release date, cover reveals, tour dates, and more!), exclusive content, early excerpts from THE DISASTERS, subscriber-only giveaways, and more. For the writers out there, each issue will also have Particles, a monthly #writetip where I share some bite-sized knowledge I’ve learned along this publishing crash course.

I’ll only be sending one email per month, so don’t worry about me clogging up your inbox. Click here if you want to sign up! And if you wanna be amazing, you can also help me spread the word by RTing this tweet here or reposting this on IG. THANK YOOOOU!

Sorry for ghosting on y’all lately, but at least now you can have a monthly reminder that I’m not actually dead, right?

Happy October!

 

16 Jun

The Problem With “Good” Media

In Gaming,Personal,Publishing,Reading by MK England / June 16, 2017 / 0 Comments

Hi folks. I’ve gotta rant for a minute so I can get this out of my brain and focus on drafting today.


I actively put my money toward things I want to support. Books by authors of color, movies directed by women, video games with queer characters, and so on. And yet, when I dare say that I want to see a movie or buy a book because I want to financially support it, I often get this line: “I don’t care about any of that. I just want a good story.”

There’s a problem with this thinking.

It seems fine on the surface, right? Why shouldn’t we just support GOOD media, no matter who makes it? At the end of the day, we all want a good story. Of course we do.

The problem is that it assumes all creators are on equal footing from the start. It assumes all good stories receive the funding, industry support, advertising, and so on that they need to succeed, that good stories don’t get buried in flooded markets and go unnoticed because of who made them or who’s in them. It requires us to live in a society where there’s no racism, sexism, homophobia, islamophobia, etc. influencing the decisions made by industry gatekeepers: producers, casting directors, professional reviewers, literary agents, editors, and ultimately the audience.

An author of color submits a book to a white agent, then gets a rejection letter that says they just couldn’t connect to the story. Sometimes it’s the fault of the story. We’ve all gotten that rejection before. But sometimes it’s that the white agent couldn’t connect to an experience outside their own, thus silencing that voice. A reviewer can’t connect to a movie completely dominated by women, with minimal male characters. Sometimes the story is weak. Sometimes it’s that a male reviewer can’t connect with being in the position women find themselves in every day. (Note, though, that many folks have no problem connecting to elves, wizards, trolls, and animated lions. A Black character in present-day America, though? Suddenly that’s difficult.)


This is not news to any marginalized person who works in a creative field. It’s not (or shouldn’t be, at this point) news to anyone in the YA and children’s publishing world, where the last four years have seen a huge push for better representation, and representation by #ownvoices authors (people with lived experience of whatever they’re representing). And some change can and should come from within, as is slowly happening in publishing. The structure of power within these media industries needs to shift.

Audiences need to change too, though. We vote with our dollars. That’s what we can do to change the industry from the outside.

So yes, if I have a limited pool of cash to spend, I’m going to spend it in a way that gives support to marginalized creators. Because their stories are good, and because they deserve the support that the industry denies them. That might mean I don’t see the latest awesome, critically-acclaimed movie written, directed, and starred in by straight cisgender white dudes. And I feel fine about that. They don’t need my support. I’ll see it on Netflix.

But you’re damn right that I’ve seen Wonder Woman twice, that I pre-ordered The Hate U Give and The Gauntlet, that I played Gone Home and Dragon Age: Inquisition. With the dollars I spend, I tell the industry, “Hey, this thing you did here? I like it, and I’m willing to pay money for it. Please give me some more.”

After all, broader perspectives and more diverse creative teams lead to new ideas and—dare I say it?—good media.

So, if you want good stories, consider being more deliberate with where you place your limited funds. Yes, this may help me in some ways and hurt me in others. If you buy my books because I’m gay*, genderqueer, or mentally ill, awesome. If you don’t buy my books because I’m white and you want to buy something by an author of color instead, also awesome. Either way, you’re shaping the future. High five, you.

And in the meantime, we can dream of a world where everyone’s works are on equal footing in the battle for the title of Good Story.

20 Mar

Why I Write YA

In Publishing,Questions Answered,Reading by MK England / March 20, 2017 / 0 Comments

Someone on my fandom tumblr just asked me why I write YA and what the primary characteristics are. I, of course, LOVE to nerd out about this very topic and yet have NEVER put into words what I love about YA. So, here:

gif-belle-books

First, let’s define YA fiction as best we can. Terminology: YA is not a genre, it’s an age category. Genres are things like romance, mystery, sci-fi. Age categories are things like middle grade, young adult, easy reader, adult. So, any given book will have both a genre and an age category. Next, misconceptions: YA is not only for teenagers. YA is not dumbed down, shallow, or lacking complexity. You cannot make any assumptions about quality, and very few assumptions about content, based on the fact that a book is shelved as YA.

So, what is it? Most YA books feature a protagonist aged 14-15 for lower YA or 16-19 for upper YA. The book is written in a teen’s voice and through their point of view, which is influenced by where they’re at developmentally. This authentic teen voice is critical: Not all books with teen protagonists are YA books. YA fiction is published for and marketed to ages 12-18, but is very widely read by adults as well. There are a few limitations on content. YA fiction can absolutely tackle tough topics like rape, drugs, sex, lots of swearing, violence, etc. The only real limit is that torture and rape can’t be gratuitous (nor should they be in adult fiction, but that happens all the time, ugh), and there can’t be any really explicit on-page sex.

So, why do I write YA?

The simple answer is: I write YA because it’s what I love to read. Any writer needs to read extensively in their chosen age category and genre, so it really helps if you actually love it. My other job is being a YA librarian, which means both my careers are heavily teen-centric and YA fiction-centric. They jive.

But you’re looking for something deeper than that, and there’s plenty. WHY do I like to read and write YA? Oh, so many reasons. In no particular order:

1) There’s no shame. Read romance, read sci fi, read literary, read horror—the culture of judgment just doesn’t exist in the YA world to the same degree it does in the adult world. Oh, it’s definitely still there, especially among awards committees, but the perceived gap between a YA literary novel and a YA romance novel feels far less than that between a National Book Award winner and a bodice-ripping adult romance. NOT, let me clarify, because the YA literary novel is not of equally significant quality and value to the National Book Award-winning adult book, but because the YA world has much more of a read-and-let-read mentality.

2) Teenagers are at the greatest point of change in life, and that makes for fascinating characters to explore. Throw someone who is growing and changing and forming their identity into challenging circumstances and watch the magic happen. Many adults are quite set in their ways. Teens are more likely to be adaptable, fierce, open-minded.

3) Teens are (in general) less bogged down by “life stuff”. They haven’t had 30, 40, 50, 60 years of friends and family dying, failed relationships, lost jobs, destroyed homes, and all the other bad shit we accumulate in life. There’s a freshness that I find appealing in a character, and I enjoy being able to mold a character as I see fit without having to work around the giant elephant of their history and baggage. (That said, there are absolutely teens who have had extremely rough lives, and there are YA novels that tackle that, too.)

4) I think teen voices are vastly undervalued in our society (at least, in American society, can’t speak to elsewhere). I respect and value teens and by writing them I get to put a little power back into their hands.

5) The YA world is where the charge is being let for large-scale change in the publishing world. Check out the We Need Diverse Books movement, originated by YA authors. YA authors are making real change in the publishing world, working for authentic, sensitive, and equal representation of marginalized groups in fiction. While the rest of the world cries about lack of diversity in the media, YA authors are Getting Shit Done.

6) That energy permeates the entire YA fiction world. It’s an electric place to be.

7) LGBTQ+ content doesn’t preclude a book from being a major financial success in the YA world. LGBTQ+ rep is becoming increasingly common and welcome. YA agents are actively seeking it. YA editors are more and more open to it. It’s beautiful.

8) It’s fun and I love it.

I’m juggling three adult projects right now because I contractually can’t sell a third YA novel until late next year anyway and I’m having a great time with them. I’m not saying YA is BETTER than adult. But, I am saying the COMMUNITY around YA fiction is better, and that it’s a different experience that I really enjoy. I’m also unabashedly trying to convince all of you that YA is legitimate and is not in any way less than adult fiction, because every loser who writes an inflammatory column in the New York Times about YA lakjsdhflkashd okay this is a whole other thing that makes me really angry so I’ll stop now YA IS GREAT OKAY BYE.

mic drop

Save

14 Oct

Book Deal Announcement

In News,Publishing by MK England / October 14, 2016 / 0 Comments

So, funny story. The public announcement for my book deal went up two weeks ago. I celebrated on twitter, I finally told facebook, I announced to my coworkers, and so on. Aaaaaand I forgot announce it on this website.

Uh.

LET’S FIX THAT.

book-deal
Those who have been around for a while might notice the new title. It’s true—Space Academy Rejects is now THE DISASTERS, and I love love love this new title! I also love the way my rockstar agent, Barbara Poelle, pitched this book. She makes it sound so awesome, so now my job is to make it live up to her pitch while revising with my new editor, Abby Ranger. I’m thrilled to be working with Abby and HarperCollins to bring these space nerds to you, and I hope you love these characters as much as I do.

For those interested in the mechanics of all this, I’ll be posting about my own path to publication soon.

Follow me on twitter @Geektasticlib for updates!

28 Jul

Pitch Wars Live Video

Last night I was on Pitch Wars Live answering your questions from Twitter about Pitch Wars wish lists, submissions, and the craft of writing. It was a TON of fun, and we got some really great questions! I haven’t been able to go back and watch it because I know I make incredibly stupid faces when I talk, but if you want to be entertained by my face, you can watch below, or on youtube here.

If you want to follow up on any of the questions I answered, or get answers to any of the ones I skipped, let me know in the comments!

10 Nov

#PitchWars Wrap-Up & Celebration

In Editing,Publishing,Writing Process by MK England / November 10, 2015 / 1 Comment

Okay. I think I’m finally ready to talk about #PitchWars, the novel contest that has been consuming my life for the past two months. Between the agent round of #PitchWars and the start of NaNoWriMo, my feelings lately have been a lot like this:

at-at_faceplant

But here’s the real talk: participating in #PitchWars has been THE single most valuable experience of my writing life.

— But MK, I heard that #PitchWars is two months of complete editing hell! How did you deal?

Not gonna lie. The going got rough for a while, but I’m the sick sort of person that thrives on that kind of thing. I love it. Give me an impossible deadline and I will pound the caffeine and go hard until I make it. Is it healthy? Mmm, maybe not, but it sure is satisfying. It’s the same sort of feeling I get from crossing things off a list. I love to work really hard and feel things falling before me like opponents on a battlefield. Look how much I’m getting accomplished! Like a BOSS. Personal validation, you are MINE!

roar

Here’s a look at my #PitchWars timeline:

  • September 1st: Selected to be a #PitchWars mentee by the fantastic Sarah Glenn Marsh! I blogged about it here.
  • September 2nd: Received edit letter from Sarah, along with homework. Created a revision outline based on Sarah’s feedback, mapped out character arcs more thoroughly, and discussed changes with crit partners. Also submitted answers for my joint interview with Sarah.
  • September 13th: Began revisions, with a rough goal of one chapter per day and a finish line of October 2nd. Some chapters took more than one day, others took less.
  • October 3rd: Sent revised manuscript out to critique partners and new beta readers. Breathed a huge sigh of relief. Immediately read books, played video games, and wrote fanfic to recover. Somewhere in here I submitted my 50-word pitch and excerpt that became my #PitchWars contest entry.
  • October 16th: Beta reader feedback deadline. Read over comments from six people and digested the feedback. Discussed all feedback with Sarah, made minor changes to fix how people were perceiving two characters, and fixed typos/consistency errors.
  • October 21st: Delivered final manuscript to Sarah for one last read through. Tweaked paragraph spacing, and DONE!

You may notice that I devoted nearly as much time to creating my revision outline and brainstorming solutions as I did to actually revising. That’s pretty typical for me. I have to know the solution to a problem before I can start trying to fix it. I’ll roll around and brainstorm and pace and go crazy asking ‘what if?’ questions until every plot hole is plugged and every character is ready for their final bow. After that, it’s only a matter of execution.

My revisions took about 2.5 weeks of going to work, coming home, grabbing a quick dinner, and sitting down to revise until about 11pm. I had to take a cheat day in the middle to give my brain a break, but I managed to finish on time and get the manuscript to give my beta readers two weeks with it. It was intense.

crazy typing

I have never been happier with this manuscript. I was already in love with it, but I worried that after working so hardcore I’d end up sick of it. Not the truth at all. I believe in it more than ever, love it more than ever. And I can’t thank the incomparable Sarah Glenn Marsh enough for guiding me through this experience. She’s been my greatest cheerleader, my window into the publishing world, and her incredible eye for character really made this manuscript shine. I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor!

comforting

One of the best things to come of #PitchWars has been the community of mentees. The #PitchWars class of 2015 is full of amazingly talented folks with stories that need to be shared with the world, and the support and camaraderie in our group in unparallelled. It’s been fantastic celebrating everyone’s successes and rejections as a group. Thanks for being awesome, fellow mentees!

everyone in this bar

I am so incredibly grateful to Brenda Drake, Sarah, and everyone else involved in Pitch Wars behind the scenes. Y’all are effing rockstars. You’ve really built something great.

 

14 May

Fandom, pt. 2: Fanfic vs. Original Fic

In Fanfiction,Publishing by MK England / May 14, 2015 / 0 Comments

fanfic time gifLast week I talked a bit (okay, a lot) about the synergy between my life as a writer of original works and my life in fandom. There’s more overlap and interplay between the two than you might think, and they’re both essential to my life and creative health. There are some differences between writing for fandom and writing original work, though, which is what I’d like to talk about today. Surprisingly, most of it has nothing to do with the writing or the stories themselves.

The obvious one
Let’s just get this out of the way right at the start. When you’re writing fanfic, of course you’re drawing on characters, worlds, and situations created by another writer. Some believe that this automatically demotes fanfic to a lesser art form. I would argue that creativity is born of limitations. How can I tell a new, interesting, creative story within the limitations provided? How can I make those characters my own? How can I get to the heart of what motivates them using only the information given to me through the original media? Also, anyone who believes there is no character development to be done in fanfiction has never written any. Place those characters in an alternate universe (AU) setting, and you’re honestly so far from the source material that it may as well be original fiction. If this is an impression you have, I encourage you to seek out some fanfic recommendation lists in a fandom that interests you and try reading some.

Shouting into the void
Writing original fiction can sometimes feel…a bit demoralizing, on the bad days. You put weeks, months, years into a project that may never see the light of day. It’s entirely possible that no one will read your book other than your critique partners. Even if you post on Wattpad or another such archive, it’s difficult to get noticed. Fanfiction certainly fulfills the need most writers feel to share their work with the world. Even poorly-received fanfic typically gets something in the way of attention and comments. It’s a little less lonely than writing original fiction. A little less like shouting into the void, hoping someone, somewhere will take notice and care about what you’ve written. If you write to create purely original worlds and people and love that process more than anything, then fanfic won’t entirely scratch the itch for you. If you write purely for the joy of sharing your work with others and have no other motives, though, fandom may be the most fulfilling place for you. I love, love the process of writing original fiction, and I even love the grind and stress of trying to make it in the professional publishing world. The joy of sharing a fanwork and being embraced by an enthusiastic and welcoming community is wholly different form of reward, though.

Will it float?
Similar to above, when you’re writing original fiction, you never know whether it will amount to anything. It may never gain readership. It may never sell to a publisher. Reading original fiction requires more investment from readers than reading fanfiction does; when you read fanfic, you already know that you’re signing up for characters and a world that you enjoy. Original fiction is much more hit-or-miss. You never know whether someone will ever read and enjoy your work. Fanfiction has a built-in audience, so there’s a good chance that you’ll at least find a small readership.

No money, no approval structure, less pressure
Fanfiction is free. Since the characters belong to someone else, fanfiction can never legally be sold (with few exceptions, noted below). Original fiction can be free, but typically the goal is to be published and earn money. Places like Wattpad are giving more of an audience for freely available original fiction these days, but for the same reasons noted in the previous section, it’s a bigger risk for readers to take. The fact that there’s no money to be made from fanfic also means there’s no approval structure or third-parties involved like there is with original fiction—no editors or agents to win over, or to work with you on making the story better. While the lack of oversight can result in falling back on tropes (which fandom admittedly loves) or laziness in editing, it’s also quite freeing. You can write with the sole intention of enjoying the process, or making your readers happy. Knowing that there’s no money, no sale, and no professional ramifications at the end can make the process of writing much less anxiety-ridden for some. It can automatically remove some of the barriers that keep people from getting their butts in the chair and putting the work in. This can be especially valuable for new writers.

Publishing options
For the most part fanfic is published solely online, with the occasional exception of fanzines. However, there’s a growing trend of editors seeking out highly-praised novel-length fics with huge audiences and then having the authors “file the serial numbers off”, or rewrite them to remove all traces of the original fandom while maintaining the elements of the fic that drew readers in to begin with. This is especially common with Alternate Universe fics, which are already so far removed from the original fandom as to be a mere hop away from original anyway. The classic example is 50 Shades of Gray, but as much as it’s a popular example, it’s not a very good one. Many, many others have been done to much better effect. While this practice is hotly debated, it’s still a potential path to publication through fandom, and is a way for writers to combine their fandom and original writing lives. After all, you spent months or years of your live writing that 120,000 word Sherlock/John Wild West AU*, at the end of which the characters bore little resemblance to their BBC counterparts thanks to the events of your story—so why not do the extra bit of work and get it ready for publication? For original fiction, you have so many options for publication: Get an agent and go for a Big 5 publisher, submit directly to mid-size or small presses, self-publish, and so on. There’s tons of competition, but the rewards are bigger.

* – I actually don’t know of a story meeting this particular description, but I’m sure it exists, and I do know of plenty of similar ones.


 

There are probably more differences, but those are the ones that jumped out at me as I started making my foray into writing fanfiction. What about you, creatures? Have you noticed any other differences between fanfic and original fic as either a reader or a writer? Let me know in the comments.

Resources and Further Reading:
The Organization for Transformative Works FAQ
Archive of our Own — A fanfiction archive run by the OTW
Fanlore — A wiki by and about fandom