HOW CON: How to Conduct an Interview

How to Conduct an Interview

By Naching T. Kassa

Welcome to HOWCON 2021!  I’m Naching T. Kassa, and I conduct Chilling Chat Interviews on the HorrorAddicts.net Blog. I also interview for the Horror Writers Association Newsletter.

Why should you learn to interview? Here’s the answer. You can meet many people through interviewing and, for a writer, meeting people is essential. We need to network to get our work and skill out before the right people. Also, it gains the attention of potential publishers. Publishers look for websites and blogs which conduct interviews to showcase their writers. Think about it. Someone could come to your blog for the interview you’ve done and stay to look at your books.

The following are two lists. The first is a DO list. These are things you should do to conduct an interview. The other is a DON’T. Avoid these things at all costs.

DO

  • CARE—Whether you are assigned an interview or whether you write one up for your blog, always—ALWAYS—care about your subject. This is a person you’re speaking to and not a lump of cheese. You’re not Oprah or Barbara Walters. You’re not Geraldo Rivera. The subject is doing you a favor by granting an interview. Don’t ask them what kind of underwear they wear and what color. It’s rude and creepy. The least you can do is care about your subject. Treat them with respect.
  • CONTACT YOUR SUBJECT—Always contact your subject prior to the interview. Don’t just turn up and start asking questions unless they suggest it. Give your subject options for interviews. Ask them what date and time are best for them. Since all my interviews are done online, I make it clear they are text only and we will not be speaking on the phone or through Skype. I then ask whether they would like to do a text interview through Facebook Messenger or e-mail. (Facebook Messenger is my preferred way of interviewing. It shortens the time taken to conduct the interview, is easier to transcribe, and allows you to see whether your subject is finished writing or in the process of writing their answer.)
  • PREPARE FOR THE INTERVIEW—This is a VERY important step. A successful interview depends on your research. If this is an assignment, read the information you are provided with. If there is none, or you are interviewing on your blog, Google your subject. Look at their website. If they’re a writer, check out their Amazon page. If they’re an actor, check out YouTube or watch their movie. If they’re a musician, check out their music. If you don’t know your subject, you won’t ask pertinent or interesting questions.
  • WRITE OUT A LIST OF QUESTIONS BEFORE THE INTERVIEW—Always write a series of base questions before you conduct an interview. (Since I interview people involved in the horror genre, I like to ask them how they became involved in horror, what they’re favorite horror movie is, etc.) You can use the base questions to keep you on point. I tend to go off on tangents when interviewing because my questions are organic and are reliant on the subject’s answers.
  • ALWAYS INTERVIEW THE SUBJECT ON TIME—Make sure you contact your subject at the agreed time. First impressions are important, and you are conveying professionalism and trust by being WHERE you’re supposed to be, WHEN you’re supposed to be.
  • HAVE FUN—Interviews often start stiff because, usually, neither you nor the subject know one another. Be sure to ask questions which are interesting to your subject. This will engage them. Let’s face it, you don’t want an interview where all the answers to your questions are either yes or no.
  • –OPTIONAL—HAVE A CONVERSATION ON THE SIDE—I like to converse with my subjects during the interview. How do I accomplish this? I speak to them in parentheses. At the beginning of the interview, I tell the subject that nothing within the parentheses will appear in the interview. Then, as I ask questions, I can give them my true reactions. I interviewed Nancy Holder—the well-known horror writer and Sherlockian—and throughout the interview, we discussed how much we adored Sherlock Holmes. None of this appeared in the interview. It was just a fun conversation that made both of us feel more at ease. Someone who’s having fun will tell you more than someone who isn’t. And, don’t feel bad if the person doesn’t message you back in parentheses. You’re letting them know how you feel. People appreciate that.
  • ASK PERMISSION—If a subject tells you something in private conversation, and you think it would be good for the interview, ask permission to add it.
  • SHOW APPRECIATION—Once the interview has concluded, thank the person for their time. Again, your subject deserves care and respect. Plus, you may want to interview them again one day.
  • EDIT YOUR INTERVIEW—What I mean when I say edit, is make sure the grammar and spelling are correct in your interview. (You don’t want to post an interview where you misspelled your subject’s name, do you?) Also, read it over carefully. If some tangent questions could fit in a better place, and they will not ruin the context of the question, then move them.
  • E-MAIL INTERVIEWS WITH A SET SERIES OF QUESTIONS—Sometimes I have to interview multiple subjects on a deadline. When this happens, I usually come up with a series of ten questions which I send to all of them. This is not my preferred way of interviewing. It’s a bit too impersonal for me. However, many people do it and do it well. It’s all a matter of taste.
  • TELL THE SUBJECT WHEN THE INTERVIEW POSTS—It is essential you tell your subject when and where their interview will appear. I like to inform my subjects the day of and I like to share the link with them. Your subject will then share for you, bringing attention to your site and your work.

Ok, we’ve covered the good stuff. Here’s the bad.

DON’T

  • DON’T MAKE THE INTERVIEW ABOUT YOU—An interview is not about you. The subject isn’t here to talk about your new book or your website. Don’t ask questions that pertain to yourself.
  • DON’T STALK YOUR SUBJECT—Researching a person is not the same as stalking. Do not be Snoopy McSnooperson and go to their Facebook account to investigate their friends, relatives, and pictures. Only research what is essential to the interview. Again, unless you’re Oprah or Barbara, you don’t need to know about their personal life. Not unless they bring it up and give you permission.
  • DON’T GET OFFENDED—If you are an easily offended person, interviewing is not for you. Some people may be grumpy or difficult. Be professional at all times.
  • DON’T MOVE ANSWERS OUT OF CONTEXT—When editing, do not move the answers out of context or add to the answers. You are there to report what the subject says. You are not there to put words in their mouth.
  • DON’T BE MERCENARY—Do not ask your subject to like your Facebook page, write a review for your book, or otherwise endorse your work. Networking is all about reputation and if you do this, you’re creating a bad reputation for yourself. The subject will let you know if they’re interested.

Remember: the most important rule when interviewing anyone is to CARE about them and RESPECT them. It’s the best way to network and the best way to be—well—human.

HOW CON: How to Plan a Workshop

How to Plan a Workshop
by Kate Nox

As an author, publisher, or event coordinator, you may be called upon to provide a workshop or in some way fill a time slot on a subject you know (expertise). You may be an expert in your field, but many of us have no idea how to pull a presentation together. This HOW Workshop will give you some guidelines to help you master this task with greater ease and aplomb.

Imagine with me:
You have been asked to provide a workshop for a group of 40 persons on a given subject.
You will have a time period of 40 minutes for your presentation.

Absolute step ONE:
Get the facts about what is desired by the group inviting you to present. Just like in the advertising class you took in college or high school, you get the 5 basics – Who, What, Where, When, How many?

Who – Is it a group of newbies to the subject or a group of your peers who will already know a bit or even more than you? You will want to tailor your information to your crowd.

What – is the subject the group is wanting you to present? Have they chosen a theme? (ie. Do they want your view on 14th century Ghost Exploration?)

When – is the workshop to take place? Include time and time frame. (40 minutes? 2 hours?)

Where – will it take place, what kind of room is the workshop to take place in? I once had to provide a craft workshop for 30 women sitting on half-log benches in a dusty outdoor amphitheater without electricity! Now is the time to find out if there will be projection equipment, a loudspeaker, or a podium.

How many – people will be in attendance? One of my pet peeves is attending a meeting or conference where there are not enough handouts for the crowd.

Step Two:
As soon as you get the topic plant it in your head – Tape it to your mirror, pin it to your car sun visor, log it on your phone, tack it on a bulletin board and exchange topics with a friend.
I have done these things for years and have even had several years of themes written where I can see them readily. I worked in a job where I was required to train and inspire people. Having the topic in my face frequently helped me to focus and catch the topic when I heard it or saw it elsewhere. It is amazing when reading an article in the newspaper or even seeing a billboard, or watching a TV show can spark an idea that becomes the direction for a presentation.

A friend of mine in a similar position and I always exchange what we are working on for the next year and often were able to provide information to help each other flesh out the post-it – notes on the mirror into a full presentation. I think we call that networking.

Step 3: Take a large piece of paper and just brainstorm. Write down everything you can think of that fits the subject. Cross off what is not helpful, then circle the important. Do your research, amass important information. Gather whatever you need to provide the information.

Step 4: 
After you have researched – Weed through and select the most important points you want to relay to your audience and write each on a 3×5 inch card.

Step 5: Use the cards to lay out the points in a logical flow toward your conclusion.

Step 6: Now that you have your topics and the information for each, work on connection lines. This is how you will get from one point to the next. These can be elaborate or as simple as “in light of that” or  “in conclusion”. This is one hint that will make you sound like the smoothest presenter on earth.

Step 7: Write your introduction last. You cannot know what you are about to say until you have decided what your information is.

Step 8:
 Talk it through with a timer and allow time for questions. The more you do this step, the more you will know your material and it will be more natural to talk about it.

Step 9:
 Prepare handouts, bibliography, and any video presentations.

On the day 
– Always take a few minutes in-the-space. Sit in the furthest chair, observe anything that may be blocking the view. Take a few minutes to stand behind the podium or wherever you will speak from. This time will give you the opportunity to change anything that makes you uncomfortable before your listeners arrive.

Presenting a topic is a privilege. Enjoy your opportunity!

HOW CON: Overlooked Elements of Promotion

Overlooked Elements of Promotion
by Loren Rhoads

You’ve completed your grand opus. You’ve decided to self-publish. You’ve got your first book edited, formatted, and ready to go. What next? Let’s talk about the overlooked elements of promotion.

Promotion is a huge subject and each of these headings should be an essay on its own. Because of that, I’ll just do a link roundup and we can discuss each topic more in the comments.

1. A Good Author Bio

The #1 thing you can do to boost your promotion is to write a good author bio. The bio should do three things: name you, name your book, and demonstrate your credentials to have written that book.

Some exercises on the subject:

lorenrhoads.com/2016/09/15/writing-an-author-bio/

Bad author bios:

scribewriting.com/how-to-write-your-author-bio-and-why-it-matters/

2. A Good Headshot

Amazon wants an author photograph. Goodreads wants an author photograph. If you guest post or are interviewed anywhere, they’ll want a photo of you. If you’re using your Facebook page to connect with people at conventions, they’ll want to know who to look for.

Theodora Goss had a great post about how to fake being photogenic:

theodoragoss.com/2014/01/19/being-photogenic/

There’s also this, if you need more inspiration:

venuscomb.tumblr.com/post/42145730399

3. A One-Sheet
/Media Kit

When I worked for a record label, we wrote one-sheets to go with every new release. You should write one for every book you publish. It will go in every paperback copy of your book that you send out to reviewers. You can use it as the book’s homepage online. Your one-sheet should include your book cover image, the book’s description, blurbs, and information on release date, publisher, and a list of where it will be for sale: bookstores, Amazon, Indiebound, your website, etc. It should also include contact information, in case the recipient has questions.

Most crucially, it should be no longer than a single printed page.

This is the one-sheet I wrote for my space opera trilogy, even though those books were published by a traditional publisher:

lorenrhoads.com/writing/the-dangerous-type/one-sheet-for-the-dangerous-type/

4. An Author Website

Now that you have the basics nailed down, you need an author website to display them. This is your home on the web, where interested readers will come to find out what you are doing next. It’s also where interviewers and podcasters will come to see if you’re worth their time. It needs to look absolutely clean and professional.

I used to have a designer-created website, but it was frustrating because I couldn’t update the pages myself. This is the easiest list of how to set up your own site: en.support.wordpress.com/five-step-website-setup/

Elements every author’s website needs:

janefriedman.com/author-website-components/

5. An Amazon Author Page

Every author needs an Amazon page. Amazon doesn’t make them easy to find, but you can set up a page at authorcentral.amazon.com. You will need your photo, bio, and website info handy. If your book is sold on Amazon already, you can claim it as yours and Amazon will add it to your author page.

Personally, I think Amazon’s design is kind of busy, but it allows you to link your blog and add all the books you have stories in. Here’s my author page, as an example: amzn.to/2GXj7I2.

6. A Social Media Strategy

You can’t do it all. Seems like a new social media site pops up every month. Usually it’s not worth being an early adapter, unless you want to stake your name, because it isn’t worth wasting time calling into a ghost town.

There are many theories about when you should post on social media. This one made sense to me: blog.kissmetrics.com/science-of-social-timing-3/.

7. An Author Blog

Blogging is a great way to draw people to your work. There are many blogging platforms, from the abovementioned WordPress to Blogger to Blogspot for text, Instagram and Tumblr for images. There are more blogging sites all the time. (See above: shouting into a void.)

I’ve heard that Google’s algorithm prioritizes sites that update frequently, but you risk chasing readers away if you post too often. People unsubscribe if they can’t keep up with you. I’m an advocate of blogging once or twice a week with text, but daily on Instagram or Tumblr.

WordPress has a free online course for beginning bloggers: dailypost.wordpress.com/blogging-university/blogging-fundamentals/.

8. Guest Blogging

I am a huge proponent of blogging for other people’s sites. I know there’s a long list of reasons why working for exposure will kill you, but your work isn’t going to magically sell itself to people you don’t know. You need to get it out in front of strangers. Either you can spend money on ads, or you can spend time writing a guest post. You tell me: which one is more likely to sway you to buy a book?

This site has annoying popups, but the information on how to pitch a guest post is on point: www.convinceandconvert.com/content-marketing/9-tips-to-perfectly-pitch-your-guest-blog-post/.

9. Goodreads

Too often, writers make the mistake of joining writers’ groups, then trying to sell their books to other writers. If you want to connect with readers, go where readers are. I lean toward Goodreads over LibraryThing because I like the way it is set up. At the very least, if your books don’t have a listing, you should add them. Beyond that, you should have an author page. Review books that are similar to your own as a way to draw readers’ attention. You can also review books that inspired or influenced your own work.

How to use Goodreads’ author program: www.goodreads.com/author/how_to

My Goodreads Author page: www.goodreads.com/author/show/976431.Loren_Rhoads

10. Step Away from the Computer

After you’ve done everything you can online, it’s time to think about doing live events. I encourage everyone to do readings. If there isn’t a reading series where you live, set up an event at your local library, bookstore, or coffee shop.

The #1 thing people forget when they’re going to read in public – whether you set the event up yourself or you are appearing as part of someone else’s show – is to ADVERTISE it. Let people know. Invite your friends. It’s awful to stand in front of an empty room.

I don’t necessarily advocate solo book signings. Unless you can count on all your friends’ support – or you have mad selling skillz and can seduce strangers out of their hard-earned cash – signings can be frustrating. With a reading, they’re getting a free taste of the work you want to sell them. Do it right and they’ll be in the mood to treat themselves.

Here’s the distillation of my knowledge on giving readings:

lorenrhoads.com/2016/09/19/reading-your-own-work/

So. Whew. That’s the quick list of ten things you should be doing to sell your books right now. Have you tried any or all of them? What worked for you? What would you like to try next?

HOW CON: Preventing the End

Preventing the End

by Michele Roger

Remember the voice? She spoke to you the moment when it became clear that combining sounds and letters made words, words made sentences, sentences made stories, and stories made friendships in other worlds. She was the one who opened the door to the first book that swept you away and kept you up all night.

Go ahead,she said. Heres the key to this door.Then she handed you a ring of keys (or she did back then, now kids tell me she just shows them how to use the retinal scanner.)

Later on, it was her who reminded you that while Asimov could take you to other planetary systems, if you didnt stop reading him and start studying for your physics test, youd never get into college. Part of you argued.

College-smollege, as long as I have the library Ill be fine. It worked for Ray Bradbury.

Ooooh,she smiled. You never said you wanted to be a writer.

Wait, what? I didnt say that.

Yes you did.

No. I distinctly remember saying the library worked for other authors…”

Mmm Hmm.

Ok, fine. I admit,I myself confessed at this point. Hence why Im a writer. I wasnt cut out for interrogation. Your experience may be different when it happens to you.

And then it started happening.

They walk (and sometimes crawl) across the earth at night. Sometimes they fill the moonless sky. The ghosts just float up and hover over my bed, chilling my bones in an attempt to tell me their story. The witches arrive next and recite terrifying incantations in my ears. Vampires politely wait outside in the garden. They havent been invited inside but they wait patiently. They have a lifetime to sit outside my window and wait for me to fall in love with one of them on a starry, sleepless night.

The broken-hearted lovers who have died tragically are the worst. All they do is cry and moan, begging to tell their tragic story to anyone, particularly me, who will listen. I toss and turn and put the pillow over my head. I tell them to go away. I have a real job I have to get up and go to in the morning. Go haunt another writer.

Instead, they come. Night after night they become more insistent.

Tell our stories or well cast a spell that makes your door to the hallway return back here to your bed.

I protest, But I have to go to the bathroom!

They shrug, Tell it to someone who cares. Better yet, tell our story first.

The weeping ghosts of dead lovers moan louder as they reach for one another in a perpetual, unattainable grasp.

If she tells our story, we might help prevent someone from befalling our fate.

Now, the vampire is spread out impossibly in my window ledge wearing Armani and drinking a glass of wine. A spider is dancing across his fingers.

I could keep you busy for a million lifetimes.His dark, alluring double meaning isnt lost on me. I have to take a deep breath to prevent myself from swooning.

Enough!I shout out to the voice. I didnt ask for this! This feels crazy. I feel crazy!

The reply isnt shouted back. No. Shes far too calm and clever for that. She giggles and its kind of a whisper at first.

Do you remember all the Ann Rice that you read in college? The Clive Barker, the Poe, Steven King, Nancy Farmer? Not to mention your obsession with Pratchett and Gaiman?

Yes. So?I hold up my keys as if to say that I had permission. I jingle them for effect.

She coos. Permission? Yes. But you couldnt possibly think that all those worlds and friends came free.

Uh,is all I manage to say.

No, no. And all those authors you came to love? Theyve paid their debt back as well. Just look at Gaimans basement cave of a library. You must pay back at least a fraction of what you take. Thats how it works. Other writers, librarians, and even ancient historians have always known this.

But, you never said.

She interrupts me. No. I never did say. You did. You said you wanted to be a writer. Here are just a few of the stories that need to be told.She presents the creatures crowded around my bed. When youve finished with these, I will send more.

More?I ask.

Reading and writing never stops,she explains. If they ever do, it will be the end.

The end of what, exactly?I ask.

She sighs. Everything.

HOW CON: Getting out of the slush pile and staying out!

Getting out of the slush pile and staying out!
(Publisher/Editor View)
by Emerian Rich from HorrorAddicts.net

Choosing a sub call

*Investigate the publisher, familiarize yourself with their publications. Know what they stand for and what they’ve liked in the past.

*If there is time, ask trusted writer friends if they have dealt with them.

*Have time to write what they are asking for or have a story in your locker that you can change to fit.

Subbing

*Concentrate on the deadline and give yourself a doable work schedule.

*Right before subbing, revisit the sub call guidelines on their actual site to see if anything has changed, or if you missed anything.

*Make sure you put your name and contact information on the manuscript in case it gets separated from your email.

*When in doubt, use the William Shunn method: www.shunn.net/format/story.html

*Create a proper, short but informative cover letter. In the cover letter, you should include:

*Word count

*Story name and elevator pitch. Shorts: 1-2 sentences, Novels: 3-5 unless stated otherwise

*Your name and 50-word bio.

*Anything else they may ask for in the sub call.

Example:

Editor, Please find attached my 3500-word story, “Full Moon Over Washington.” In this fantasy comedy story, werewolves fed up with the nonsense of humans take political office.

Joe Wolf is the author of the werewolf series, Dark is the Night. He’s been published in a handful of anthologies by publishers such as Dragon Moon Press, FullMoon Publishing and White Wolf Press.
To find out more, please visit: joewolf.com

Thank you for your consideration,

Joe Wolf

Don’ts in a cover letter:

*Don’t assume the gender of the editor if you don’t know. Mr. Mrs. Miss. Ms.? Old-fashioned and can be taken wrongly. I would prefer Emerian or Editor.

*Don’t assume an acquaintance with the editor until he or she has reciprocated. Even if you met at a convention, they may not remember you. Reminding them by saying, “We met at WolfCon. I was the guy in the elevator who chatted about Walpurgisnacht.” Is a great way to establish a memory, but don’t be upset if they do not remember you.

*Don’t use swear words, off-color jokes, or racial slurs–even in the title and even if you’re trying to be witty. There are very few instances this will work, especially on a cold-contact where you don’t know the editor or their style.

Don’ts of submissions:

*Don’t sub something that doesn’t fit the theme or guidelines.

*Don’t just send it with no cover or explanation.

*Don’t leave out a part cause you don’t want to do it. Yes, we need what we ask for. You can’t leave out the synopsis if we need it.

*Don’t burn bridges. If we decline you and you launch into decline abuse, you will be on the bad list.

*Don’t send multiple stories or simultaneous submissions unless the sub call states it’s okay.

HOW CON: Submitting Your Short Story

Submitting Your Short Story

By Naching T. Kassa

Welcome to HOWCON, everyone! My name is Naching T. Kassa, Head of Publishing for HorrorAddicts.net. Today, I’ll be discussing the fundamentals of the submission process and what every writer must know in order to increase their chances of being published. I’ll talk about preparing your story, guidelines for submission, market lists and submission trackers, and throw in a few words of wisdom at the end. There will also be some advice from a pretty awesome horror writer, so be sure to pay attention.

I. PREPARE YOUR STORY—Have you ever prepared for a job interview or a first date? You showered, right? Combed your hair? Brushed your teeth? You know how important a first impression is. And, making the right first impression on an editor or publisher is everything.

A.)  PROOFREAD YOUR STORY—Would you show up to a first date with stinky breath, uncombed hair, and an unshowered bod? Of course, you wouldn’t! (Not unless you’re a werewolf.) So, why would you send your manuscript off in an unkempt state? When you send out a manuscript, it should be your best work. It should be polished, all the “I’s” dotted and “T’s” crossed. Everything should be in the correct tense and point of view. Check, check, and recheck. Have a Beta Reader go through it. Or, use a free online program to improve your manuscript. Here are the ones I use. If you can afford it, you can even pay for premium services.

a. GRAMMARLY —The free version of Grammarly helps with spell checking, grammar, and punctuation. Make sure you use common sense when viewing the suggestions it gives you. Sometimes, Grammarly acts drunk and you must send it home.

b. PROWRITINGAID—The free version of ProWritingAid is terrific when you need to check for Passive Voice, Repeated Sentence Starts, Grammar, Spelling, and all things writing. The only drawback to the free version is it only checks the first 500 words and you must continually delete 500 words to check the entire manuscript. Of course, you can try the free trial version or buy the premium if you like.

B. READ YOUR STORY ALOUD—I recommend reading your story aloud to a recording device before submitting. (Many phones and tablets have apps you can download.) Reading your story aloud will help you catch misspelled words and clunky phrases you may have missed while reading silently. It will also help with rhythm and smooth out the choppy areas.

C. WHAT EDITORS DON’T WANT—When writing a short story, stay away from these areas:

a. HEAD HOPPING—“Head Hopping” means jumping from one character’s head to another, or several changes in Point of View. Many short story editors despise “Head Hopping.” They find it confusing for the reader and the mark of an amateur.

b. PAST AND PRESENT TENSE ISSUES—If you choose a tense, stick with it for the entire story. Again, it’s confusing for the reader if you don’t.

c. A STORY WHICH NEEDS TOO MUCH EDITING—This is the main reason for this entire section. If you submit an unpolished story it could be rejected, no matter how good it is.

II. READ THE GUIDELINES—The guidelines editors and publishers set are the rules you must follow when submitting. Many writers have been rejected, their manuscripts unseen by editor’s eyes because they failed to follow these guidelines.

A. COMMON GUIDELINES—Guidelines consist of the following items, though many vary according to publisher. SHUNN format is the standard used by most.

a. COVER LETTER—Most publishers ask for a cover letter to go with your submission. Usually, this is the first page of your document. A good cover letter should be brief. It should introduce you, your story, word count, and any achievements. Sometimes, a publisher may ask for a brief bio as well. (Always write your bio in the third person.) When submitting by e-mail, I usually copy and paste my cover letter into the body of the e-mail.

b. DOCUMENT FORMAT—The publisher will specify whether the document should be in DOC, DOCX, RTF, etc.

c. FONT—The most requested fonts are Times New Roman and Courier. 12 pt. is preferred.

d. SPACING—Most publishers prefer double-spaced. (It’s easier to edit.)

e. HEADERS—SHUNN formatting recommends using headers and page numbers.

f. E-MAIL—The publisher may ask you to include information in your e-mail. You may be asked to provide a biography as well as links to your website and social media. Make sure you include all information and write the subject line the way the publisher requests. If you fail to do this, your e-mail may become lost, or it may find its way into the spam folder instead of the slush pile.

B. UNUSUAL GUIDELINES—Some publishers will request single spacing, different fonts, or a pint of blood, depending on how they present their publication. (Ok, I made that up about the blood. It’s spinal fluid.) Here are a few examples of unusual submission guidelines.

a. BLIND SUBMISSIONS—No, this is not the Bird Box challenge of the submission world. When you make a blind submission, you are scrubbing the story of all personal information related to yourself. You DO NOT include your name, address, phone number, e-mail address, or affiliation with any writers association on the manuscript. It should contain only the body of the story, the title, and the word count. All other personal information should be included in the e-mail.

b. MAIL-IN SUBMISSIONS—Most publishers have moved on to Digital Submissions, but a select few have elected to stay with the mail-in submission. Here are some quick tips for mailing:

1.) Do not fold the manuscript when mailing.

2.) Place the manuscript in a folder before putting it in a 9×11 envelope.

c. WAYS OF SUBMITTING—Some publishers won’t accept e-mail submissions. Instead, they require the writer to submit to a submission website. These sites allow them to read and organize large volumes of submissions. You’ll need to create an account if you wish to use them.

1. SUBMITTABLE—Submitting through this site is easy. The publisher will provide you with a link to their submission and, if you have an account, you’ll simply go from there. All the guidelines are on the page. You even have a spot for a cover letter which can be used as a template. It will appear each time you use Submittable and you can adapt it to your needs. Submittable also tracks these submissions for you and, if you check in with the site, you’ll see whether your submission has been received, is in-progress, has been rejected, or accepted. The submission will also be archived under these categories. So, you can delight in your acceptances or sob over your rejections.

2. MOKSHA—Moksha (which means “freedom or emancipation from the cycle of reincarnation” in Hindu) is fairly easy to work with. You simply fill in the blanks with your info and are notified by e-mail whether you’ve been accepted or not. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction uses this site.

III. MARKET LISTS AND SUBMISSION TRACKERS

A. THE HORROR TREE—This is the best market site for horror writers. If you subscribe to their newsletter, you’ll receive new listings in your inbox every Friday.

B. SUBMISSION GRINDER—This market list site is also a submission tracker. You can search for horror markets and then log submissions to them. The site keeps track of how long the submission has been out and, if you are rejected, will search for similar markets to resubmit to.

C. LITERARIUM—Another market list and submission tracker site. You do much of the work inputting info here.

D. DUOTROPE—This site tracks and lists markets. It also requires payment. You can pay $5 a month or $50 a year.

IV. AUTHOR ADVICE

A. JG FAHERTY’S TIPS FOR SUBMITTING TO PUBLISHERS—JG Faherty is the author of Carnival of Fear and The Cemetery Club. He’s been gracious enough to provide us with a few words on the submission process.

1. Always make sure your manuscript is in tip-top shape, whether it’s a novel or short story. Proofread, and then do it twice more, and have another writer or professional editor look it over as well.

2. Make sure the story is a good match for the market. Don’t assume that every horror magazine is going to like every type of horror. Some specialize in weird fiction, some in traditional horror. Some don’t want vampires or ghosts; others don’t want excess bloodshed. Do your homework. This goes for book publishers, too.

3. Read the submission guidelines very carefully and follow them to the letter. If the publisher or editor wants stories formatted in a certain way, do it. If they say only send 3 chapters, don’t send more or less. If they want a synopsis, send it. The surest way to end up in the rejection bin is to not follow the guidelines.

4. Always include a cover letter, unless the market specifically says not to. That cover letter should contain all your contact information, the word count of the story or book, and a short paragraph detailing your professional credits. For a book submission, you can include a paragraph or two about the novel and what makes it unique. For short stories, never tell about the plot, just give the title and that’s it.

5. Some editors still prefer hard copies to be snail mailed. In those cases, make sure to use a 9×11 envelope, either padded or place your manuscript in a file folder so it doesn’t get wet or bent. Never fold the document into a small envelope.

6. Always be polite and professional. Don’t make weird jokes in the cover letter, or threaten the editor, or criticize their work. Don’t offer bribes, even as a joke. It is okay to say you’re a fan of their work, but certainly not necessary.

7. Sometimes we finish right before the submission deadline ends, but always do your best to get the story to the editor before then. Submission periods exist for a reason, and most markets strictly adhere to them. If you miss the deadline, you can try to request a 1-day extension, but don’t be upset if it’s not granted.

8. Never publicly criticize a market or editor, or write a scathing response, if you get rejected!

V. WORDS OF WISDOM—You’ve learned how to prepare your manuscript, follow guidelines, and where to submit and track your submissions. Just a few more words of wisdom.

A. DON’T GIVE UP—Whether you’re applying for a job or beginning a relationship, there is always the threat of rejection. Writing is no different and, if you don’t develop a thick skin (or borrow one from your favorite neighborhood cannibal) you won’t make it very far. If you’re rejected, look the story over and try again somewhere else. Remember: J.K. Rowling received many rejections before she found a home for Harry Potter. Can you imagine how those publishers feel now?

B. TAKE CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM—If you receive feedback from an editor and they’ve taken the time to give you some constructive criticism, don’t freak out. Take it and apply it. It could vastly improve your work. Don’t let your ego get in the way.

Thank you for joining me today.  Good luck and keep submitting!

 

 

HOW CON: Play the Imagination Game to Inspire Your Writing.

Imagination Game Instructions

• Collect in a little box or bag of miscellaneous random items. Buttons, mini toys, pictures, doodads, playing cards, game pieces, etc… You can have many or one that you choose from.

• Empty the contents of your imagination-inspiring bag/box.

• Look over the contents and let your imagination go. How do these things go together?

Play by yourself: Write a story involving all or some of the items in the bag.

Play with others: Each person should have a bag. Tell each other your stories one at a time, using the props to describe and act out your story.

Play with others with just one bag: Take turns picking out items out of the bag until they are all gone. Then tell each other a story using your items.

Have fun!
When you are done, you can keep the pouch and use it for later
and mix and match items with your friends.
Did you enjoy your Imagination Game?
Share your stories with us!

HOW CON: Baby Steps for New Authors

I’ve spoken to hundreds of authors over the years… new, old, mid-career, famous, struggling, you name it. One thing we all have in common is that we were all once where you are. We know how it feels to submit your first work and wait with high hopes by the mailbox (or email inbox) for that special editor’s reply. We know about declines and how sometimes they seem so crippling, you don’t even want to continue. The other link that many new writers have is they are timid and shy about their careers and marketing the “way the pros do it”. Well here are some Baby Steps to get you started.

1. Convince yourself you are an important writer and have something valid to say. If you haven’t read my other post “Three Ways New Authors Sabotage Themselves”, do it now. Once you’ve accepted your fate as a writer and know you have no choice but to follow your dreams, it will be easier to chip away at making those dreams a reality.

2. Start a List. Lists are your best friend for brainstorming promotion ideas. Carry a little notebook with you to brainstorm while waiting in lines, at the doctor, sitting in the car wash, or while stuck at stoplights. Use every spare moment of the day to work on your craft. Remember, you are a writer. Think of it as a real job. A job you enjoy and will succeed at if you keep working on it. Plus, since most of us have day jobs to pay the bills, this daily brainstorming will keep you inspired to continue your writing career and less frustrated with day-to-day mundane tasks.

3. Research your genre and other authors that you admire to find places you might list your book or things you may provide on your own website to draw readers to your site. It is fine to review or discuss other writer’s work on your own blog in hopes of drawing a crowd of those sorts of readers to your blog, but make sure you are always respectful to the other writers you are speaking about. Also, chat with visitors to your blog. The longer discussions you have, the more people may pitch in. Make sure these are subjects you like and can geek out on yourself. It’s okay to have fun!

4. Schedule time to work on your craft every day. If for some reason your life is too crazy for everyday, make it every week, but do it. Don’t let other things get in the way. Don’t cancel and don’t let others make you discount the importance of your writing ritual. Think of it as a job. If you were at work, you wouldn’t necessarily call in because your friends wanted to meet for cocktails.

5. Network with other writers. Even simple discussions in a Facebook group could lead you to a contact who knows other contacts who will help you advance your career. Don’t go into the conversation with the goal to use people to get ahead… just go and chat. Let the networking happen naturally. If you act like a spammer, bot, or used car salesman, you will be tuned out automatically. You also need to tend to your social needs. We all need to feel like we have partners in this crazy career. Count on others online to fulfill that need if you can’t or don’t feel comfortable chatting with writers in person. Try to go outside your comfort level and chat about everyday events in your writing career with others who are going through the same thing.

6. Don’t get discouraged. We’ve all heard, “If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Get back on the horse and keep at it till you’ve amassed lots of tries. At least one out of three will be productive. When you aren’t good at putting yourself out there and communicating with people you don’t know, it may seem debilitating, but keep telling yourself it will get easier, and it will.

7. Start a blog to practice writing to your future readers. Who cares if no one reads it right now? If they buy your book and start reading it, they will go back to read your old posts. They will be interested because your book interests them and soon you will have someone to geek out on your book with that loves it just as much as you do. Readers love to see where an author started and how far they’ve come. Don’t deny your fans the experience of traveling with you.

8. Be good to people. Don’t be a jerk. Treat them as your friends, because hopefully, they will be. I’m not saying invite them over to your house for pizza, but you can be personable to them. Some of my favorite writers respond to their fan Facebook messages or Tweets. The more accessible to the readers, the more they will be interested in your work. You don’t have to put on a fake personality (unless that is your shtick) to gain readers. People respond to real. Just like they tell us to write what we know, you should chat about what you know and what you like.

Baby Step Sample Plan

Now you can make your own schedule that works for you, but here I have laid out a sample plan for those of you who don’t know where to start. I have broken it into two groups. Those that have something to pitch and those that are still working on their craft but haven’t published anything yet.

For the new writer who is has nothing to sell yet, but is working on it.

For those of you not done with something to send out, keep writing and finish it. You will never get published without a complete project to pitch when the time is right.

Week 1: This week, scout out 3-5 places where you can link into writers or people who enjoy what your book is about. Example: Writer chat groups on Facebook, forums discussing your book topic, blogs that are writing articles interesting and connected to your book.

Week 2: Start a blog this week. You can get one free at WordPress.com. Start posting at least weekly about your research. You don’t have to share story plots and details, just share what you are researching. Example: “Romantic poetry. A character in my book is a poet. Thankfully I don’t have to be one, but here is what I’ve learned about romantic poetry in the 19th century.”

Week 3: Work on your writing this week. Really push. If you have an hour, make sure it’s a tough, no breaks, no interruptions hour! Get something down on paper.

Week 4: Research this week. Look up your top 5 favorite writer’s websites. Take notes. Write down what you like and don’t like about their websites. Find things that they have done to pitch their work. Make more lists! Brainstorm ideas to push your brand as an author. Example: Are you writing a book series about frogs who fall in love? Ask yourself… what will the website look like? If you were sitting at a fair booth, what would you have on the table as freebies? Toy frogs? Lily pads?

Week 5: Plunge in this week. Pick one story/novel you are going to pitch and research the places you might sell it. Are you going to self publish? Start charting out the steps. Will you get an editor? What will the cover art be like? Do you need a formatter? How much of a budget do you have?

Week 6: Make sure your social media is in check. Do you have a Facebook page? Do you have a Twitter account? Send out messages, make friends, search for people with like interests.

For the new writer who is ready to pitch.

For those of you already published, but are having a hard time drumming up the business you’d like. It is presumed that you have already done all the steps above.

Week 1: Scout out 3-5 places where you can place an ad or message about your book without spamming. There are sites that will list you willingly.

Week 2: Take this week to build your exposure on Facebook and Twitter. Share your life. Not intimate details, but pick something you like to talk about and talk! Example: If your book is about fairies, post links about fairies. Tweet: If I had fairy wings, they would be purple. How about you?

*I suggest that unless you are someone huge like J. K. Rowling, you stick with the normal personal Facebook profile. Making yourself a celebrity before you truly are one by creating a “public figure page”, distances you from fans and makes the readers feel more removed from you. Once you hit the too many friends amount, then you can think about upgrading.

Week 3: Work on your sequel this week.

Week 4: Research to find 3-5 reviewers. Most take digital copies now. Email and make plans to send out your book with the understanding that reviews can take months to post. You are laying the groundwork and hopefully setting up a place where you can return and submit your sequel.

Week 5: Find 2-3 friends or other writers/artists/bloggers/musicians you admire and ask if they would like to swap guest blogs.

Week 6: Research and email 3-5 podcast/radio shows that you can come on and talk about your book.

I believe you can do it. Do you?


Emerian Rich is the author of the Night’s Knights Vampire Series and Sweet Dreams Musical Romance Series. She is the Horror Host for the international podcast HorrorAddicts.net and the Queen of Lists! To find out more about Emerian, go to her website at www.emzbox.com

HOW CON: Writers, Learn What the #NGHW Challengers Learned

Our Next Great Horror Writer challenge was an excellent learning process for our contestants and listening to the audio will give you tips on writing and examples of what can be done better and what really makes editors pause and listen to your work. Each audio below covers a different style/aspect of writing. Hosted by Emerian Rich, Dan Shaurette, and H.E. Roulo

#NGHW Episode 1: The top 15 are chosen. 100 Word Stories and how they got into the top by answering questions well and submitting excellent cover letters.

#NGHW Episode 2: 300 Word Monster Stories, how to write flash fiction. Guest judge horror writer and podcaster, Mark Eller.

#NGHW Episode 3: 500 Word Blog Posts, what makes a good blog post impactful.
Guest judge The Count from Cemetery Confessions.

#NGHW Episode 4: Spoof Commercials. How to write short comedy. Guest Judge author and humorist, Timothy Reynolds.

#NGHW Episode 5: Horror Romance Poems, how to write romance poetry. Guest Judges Julianne Snow and Nina D’Arcangela from Sirens Call Publications

#NGHW Episode 6: Horror Music Story, how to write a short story that will sell. Guest Judge Jeremiah Donaldson

#NGHW Episode 7: Horrific True Tales. How to write a blog post of true life horror story. Guest Judge Stacy Rich, Blog Editor.

#NGHW Episode 8: Character Descriptions. How to write a good character description. Guest Judge Annette Curtis Klause

#NGHW Episode 9: Campfire Tales. How to craft a well-rounded short story. Guest Judge Dario Ciriello

#NGHW Episode 10: Interviews. How to interview and how to be interviewed. Guest Judge Stacy Rich

#NGHW Episode 11: Audiodramas. How to write short scripts. Guest Judge director and writer, Frank H. Woodward.

#NGHW Episode 12: 3000-word short story with a POC woman character. Guest Judge publisher Nicole Givens Kurtz from Mocha Memoirs.

#NGHW Episode 13: Review of the 3 novel pitches, how to pitch a novel, first 3 chapters, and the winners of our contest. Guest Judge Joe Mynhardt from Crystal Lake Publishing.

Do you want to be the Next Great Horror Writer? Subscribe to this blog for information on when we launch our next contest.
nextgreathorrorwriter.wordpress.com/

HOW CON! Coming Monday, February 22nd-24th

ALL TIMES IN PST–> But if you join the #HOWCON Facebook Group,
the events will be displayed in your time zone.


Monday, February 22nd, 2021

Workshop and Study Day. Learn from our pros!

9 am: Three Ways New Authors Sabotage Themselves

10am-11am: LIVE EVENT! Concentrated Writing Block 

11 am: Writers, Learn What the #NGHW Challengers Learned

12 pm: Baby Steps for New Authors

1 pm: Checklist for Self-publishing – for newbies

2:00p -3:00pm LIVE EVENT! Concentrated Writing Block 

4 pm: How to write when you don’t feel up to it

6 pm: Play the Imagination Game to Inspire Your Writing.

8 pm: Submitting Your Short Story

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

Live Video Chat Day

11am: LIVE EVENT! Q&A with Emerian Rich

12 pm: Blog from Emz: Getting out of the slush pile and staying out!

1 pm: LIVE EVENT! Interview with Horror Writer Loren Rhoads

2 pm: Blog from Loren: Goal-Setting for Writers

3 pm: LIVE EVENT! Interview with Horror Writer Michele Roger

4 pm: Blog from Michele: Preventing the End

 

Wednesday, February 24th, 2021

Socialize/Networking Day

10 am LIVE EVENT! Historian of Horror Hour!

11 am Top 10 Things To Remember When Planning a Writer’s Event

1 pm Overlooked Elements of Promotion

3 pm How to Plan a Workshop

5 pm How to Conduct an Interview

6 pm LIVE EVENT! HOW Forum Chat with Kbatz!

Join the #HOWCON Facebook Group,
to be notified of all events as they happen.