Friday, January 05, 2007

So You Want to Publish Your SF / Fantasy Novel, Part 2

Note: I’m assuming you’ve read Part 1, the previous post. If not, go back and read it.

More about the industry: conventions, workshops, and time

You’re still trying to get that novel published. Good. So how about conventions? If you can, go to sf/f conventions, and meet other writers and (hopefully) agents and editors. Networking takes a pretty extraverted personality, and/or some kind of in (i.e. someone who can introduce you around). Getting yourself out there can be good for your career, and you can get useful advice from professionals (not to mention finding a community, if you keep going). But don’t be too forward, and don’t try to jump right into a conversation with an SFWA Grandmaster or a New York editor. Remember, you're a fan until you're a pro.

The major sf/f conventions include the World Science Fiction Convention, known as WorldCon. WorldCon is in Nippon, Japan in 2007. Attending WorldCon means you get to vote on the Hugo Awards. When WorldCon is overseas, a smaller con, the North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFIC) is held in the U.S. The other major con is World Fantasy Convention, (World Fanatsy or WFC) geared toward sf/f professionals—a tough crowd if you’re unpublished. WisCon, the world’s only feminist science fiction convention, is sometimes even bigger than World Fantasy, with a really lively, and friendly yet challenging atmosphere.

You can check out some smaller cons, from listings courtesy of the diligent folks at Locus. You'll probably find that there’s a con near you that you might want to check out. Some cons are more involved with the more media-oriented aspects of sf/f (TV and movies), which are sometimes affectionately, sometimes derisively, referred to as skiffy. For better and for worse, fandom is everywhere.

Workshops can be helpful to hone your work, and at a higher level, to meet editors, publishers, and professional writers. Clarion West is the most prestigious sf/f workshop open to unpublished writers, and it’s by invitation only, based on your writing submission (Clarion, the original incarnation of the workshop, is now only on the West Coast). Clarion West is an amazing opportunity to work with some of the most important writers in the genre, and its emeriti have gone on to some great careers (though not all of them in writing). One of Clarion's founders, Kate Wilhelm, wrote a book that all aspiring sf/f writers should read, Storyteller. But you don’t need to go to Clarion. A local workshop can give you much-needed feedback and support. Also, if you workshop a first novel, you can get a much better idea of whether it’s ready for prime time, or if you should stick it in a drawer (a.k.a a trunk novel) and work on something new for awhile.

How long will it take to get your novel published? Ten years. Or ten minutes. Or never. I admit I can’t really answer this question. It depends on the quality of your work, your persistence, your connections, and sheer luck. To shorten your path, you need a champion—an aggressive agent, editor, or publisher. Someone who pulls your book out of the slush, or a pro who can do you some good. Any kind of writing’s obviously a very tough business to get into, fraught with rejection and frustration. I know brilliant sf/f writers who took more than ten years to break in, but they did. I also know a couple of writers who published the first story they sent out, and even won a major award for it.

In case you’re wondering, major sf/f genre awards include the Nebula (voted upon by sf/f professionals), Hugo (voted upon by sf/f fans at WorldCon), and World Fantasy (juried) awards. The John W. Campbell Award is the award you should focus on, because it’s for new writers and you can win it for a short story. Career booster. There are many other awards, including international, regional, themed, new writer, reader poll, and academic awards. You must be published to win any of these awards.

Some last thoughts. Write a lot. Don’t send anything out that you aren’t confident is ready to be published. Make sure you do send things out. Be unrelenting but very respectful. Professionalism is surprisingly rare and always appreciated.

Good luck. Keep at it.


Resources—or, Part 1: The nuts and bolts (or nut and bolt, in this case)

SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, have a comprehensive website that includes advice for new sf/f authors. The site is well worth a thorough going over. Start in the Writing section.

Another essential resource is Locus Magazine. Locus is *the* trade magazine for sf/f, an invaluable place to learn about the genre industry. Their links page is a treasure trove.


Blogger Kevin Standlee said...

Every other year, WorldCon alternates between a U.S. and an international location....

I know it might seem that way if you look at 2002-2008, but in fact Worldcon does not alternate that way. Yes, the period 2002-2008 happened to work out that way (San Jose, Toronto, Boston, Glasgow, Anaheim, Yokohama, Denver), but that's not actually how the system works, and there's no guarantee that the 2009 Worldcon will be outside the USA (although 2010 almost certainly will be).

Worldcons are selected two years in advance by a vote of all of the members of the current year's Worldcon. Groups bid for the right to host a Worldcon, and any site more than 500 miles (800 km) away from the site hosting the election is eligible. This means the site moves around, but doesn't guarantee that it will move US/not-US.

The sites bidding to host the 2009 Worldcon are Kansas City and Montreal. The only site bidding to host the 2010 Worldcon is Melbourne, Australia. So if KC wins, that means there will be two consecutive US Worldcons, but if Montreal wins, there will be two consecutive non-US Worldcons, because it's highly unlikely that anyone will run against Melbourne.

According to the table of Worldcons, it has only been in the past twenty or so years that Worldcon has been traveling outside the USA so often. In its earlier years, it stuck to the USA. Now it is much more of a "world" con.

When WorldCon is overseas, a smaller con, the North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFIC) is held in the U.S.

Actually, NASFiCs can be anywhere in North America (although so far, all of them have been in the USA). As you point out, Worldcon has to be "overseas" to trigger a NASFiC. There was no NASFiC when the Worldcon was in Toronto in 2003, nor will there be one if Montreal wins their bid to host the 2009 Worldcon.

1/06/2007 9:48 PM  
Blogger Tachyon Publications said...


Thanks for clarifying. I've edited out the line about the alternating of WorldCons, which I think takes care of (if not completely explains) the process. I thought I'd been pretty throrough in my research, but I figured someone(s) would catch any egregious errors.


1/08/2007 5:37 PM  

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