Tag: nebulas

My experience with self-publishing “On a Red Station, Drifting”

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So… I thought it might interest people to share my experience with epublishing my novella On a Red Station, Drifting. What follows is a few disjointed thoughts on what I did and how I did it.

-Why: the original edition of On a Red Station, Drifting was a paper, limited edition hardcover with no ebook edition planned; I got lots of requests for an ebook edition, especially from readers not in the UK. I figured that since the market for novellas was so freaking limited, I might as well dip my toes into the world of self-publishing and see what happened.

-Cover art: I decided to get new cover art for the ebook version, to differentiate it from the paper one (which was a limited edition, and whose cover also had the slight problem of being far too busy to display at low resolutions, a definite handicap when dealing with buying ebooks). I browsed a couple things on deviantart (seriously considered using a couple existing pieces, but one was too dark and the other one at a large horizontal format and therefore quite unsuitable for an ebook cover no matter which way I turned the problem). I ended up commissioning Nhan Y Doan , whose work I had long admired, for a watercolour with the two main characters on it.

It’s a bit scary to commission an artist; many thanks to Colin Tate, who gave me pointers for navigating the entire thing. Basically I described what format I wanted; and the “feel” of what I was going for by showing the artist a few covers in genre with a predominantly red/orange background (I wanted red for obvious reasons); can’t remember everything I used, but one of them was Ian M. Banks’ Against a Dark Background. I also put in an excerpt from a scene that showed the interactions between the two main characters, and provided a summary description of both of them and their clothes, again using pictures as references. I was a bit scared of how it would turn out, but the end result was fabulous.
The cost of the commission was a little over 130$, to which I would have added lettering (which the artist didn’t provide)–except that the fabulous Janice Hardy very kindly did it for me, offering me several choices of fonts. I went for the one that most clearly appeared SF-esque, in order to counterbalance the soft watercolour design, itself an unusual choice for an SF novella.

-Conversion to ebook format: after much trying around, I used Scrivener for Mac plus the kindle converter KindleGen, which you can download on the amazon website. I found the instructions here useful, though I did end up having to fight a bit to get my part labelled as “book 1″ and not “chapter 1″). For EPUB, same thing except no need for KindleGen. The files produced are pretty clean; I ran them past people with a Kindle (huge thanks to Stephanie Burgis), and on my own Kobo Glo, just to make sure that it generated OK.

-Pricing: after much dithering, I priced the book at $2.99, and a similar amount in the other Kindle stores. I wanted to take advantage of the royalty rate at 70% on amazon, and also didn’t want to sell the novella too expensive or too cheap–I had a look at similar books on amazon and found that they were all at slightly higher prices than this (or much higher in the case of Nancy Kress’s Before the Fall, After the Fall–except I’m not Nancy Kress!).

-Publishing: I published on Kindle Direct Publishing because, let’s face it, it’s the biggest ebook market. At the same time, I wanted to give people a chance to find the book through other distribution channels, so I went through Smashwords in order to complement publication on amazon (Smashwords takes a percentage of sales, but has the advantage of distributing across the board to Apple, Sony, Kobo, etc.–at the time I signed up for it back in May, it wasn’t possible for me to sell on B&N, for instance, because I wasn’t based in the US).

Gotta hand it to Amazon, it’s pretty simple to open an account and upload your book file once you have everything. I can get paid via bank transfer, which is handy (but I understand this isn’t possible everywhere, and that this can be a pain in the %%% when you don’t sell enough books to reach the minimum amount necessary for them to issue a check). Smashwords is also pretty simple, although what I did was upload the EPUB file direct without trying to format a compatible Word document, which I’m given to understand is more of a headache (I did end up fighting a bit with their uploading system, which flagged non-existent errors and wouldn’t let me publish).

Cheryl Morgan also very kindly offered to publish the book on her Wizard’s Tower Books ebookstore, which puts me in fabulous company as well as giving me a more targeted market.

The split from my sales so far is: 89% sales through amazon (all Kindle stores conflated), 8.5% through Smashwords (about 1/3 of these are direct smashwords sales, and the rest is a conflation of other retailers like Apple, Kobo…), and 2.5% through Wizard’s Tower Books.

-Stuff I wish people had told me before: the tax withholding from Amazon and Smashwords if you’re not a US resident. I didn’t know that 30% withholding was the norm, and that you had to fill forms to get them not to do that anymore (see here for handy guidelines if you’re not a US citizen and not living in the US)–and that it took up to 1-2 months for this to be taken into account.

-Accounting: Smashwords is great, they pay you at the end of a given quarter via Paypal and that’s it. Amazon is… odd. I still haven’t quite worked out their payment logic. They also account separately for every store and every royalty percentage (I get 70% within some countries and 35% within others), so reading the sales files can rapidly become a headache–not to mention the fact that for stores where I don’t sell a lot, I basically am not seeing any money for months. Well, I guess at least I do get paid at some point…

-End results: obviously the experiment is still ongoing, but overall I’m pretty pleased. I published in the leadup to the Nebulas, at the time the novella was announced as a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula and Locus Awards, which considerably helped visibility. I did a couple promo items (on SF Signal and other places), though due to pregnancy fatigue plus the headaches involved in selling our house plus buying a new one I wasn’t really aggressively marketing, and more relying on word of mouth. The first payment from amazon basically went into paying for the cover, but from now on it should be all profit (the kind of fabulous profits that will allow me to book my dream holiday to Mũi Né–hahaha wait, maybe not).

So, that’s my experience with ebook publishing–what about you? Have you done it yet, and how has it worked for you?

Shell shock

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Awake. Hungry. Still in shock that the Nebula Award on my table hasn’t done a vanishing act…

This will be very brief as I need to pack before leaving for the airport, but wow. Apparently I looked grey for about 30 minutes after the awards were done, to the point where N.K. Jemisin very kindly badgered someone into brewing me orange herb tea (and I remembered the half-consumed bar of cereals in my bag). Pregnancy memo: NEVER ever forget your blood sugar levels… (also, that adrenaline rush that I was counting on to keep awake? I think the pregnancy hormones screw up with that…)

If someone had told me I’d win a Nebula when I was younger and marvelling at all those books and short stories that had won the award… I would probably have laughed in their face, to be honest (which just goes to show how wrong you can be). Like I said yesterday, thanks to Neil Clarke, Sean Wallace and the rest of the team at Clarkesworld; to everyone who spread the word, nominated and voted for “Immersion”; to all my fellow nominees (it was a really strong ballot this year full of strong stories, and I wouldn’t have minded losing to anyone in my category!)–to Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, without whom this story wouldn’t have happened; and finally to my family–to Matthieu, my parents and sister, for putting up with me and my crazy ideas; and a particular thanks to my maternal family in Vietnam who made our visit there such a great experience, and planted the seeds of what would later become “Immersion”.

Thanks I didn’t have time the coherence to give in the speech: to everyone who read and critiqued it (Glen Mehn, and the crew of the 10th VD workshop: Ruth Nestvold, Sylvia Spruck Wigley, Floris M Kleijne, Stephen Gaskell, John Olsen, Nancy Fulda); to everyone who kept me awake and coherent and encouraged me yesterday; and everyone with whom I’ve been having conversations on this topic of cultural identity and cultural imperialism over the last few years (you know who you are!). And big big thanks to everyone who helped put the Nebula Awards weekend together and made it such an awesome experience (special mention to Steven H. Silver, who spent a lot of the weekend making sure I was OK and offering me chairs to sit on–which is much, much appreciated when you can’t really stand still for long…).

I have to admit to some intellectual curiosity as to what other non-native Anglophones won a Nebula? (as in, English not their native language, and not currently living in the US/UK/Anglophone West?) I know about Italo Calvino, Johana Sinisalo, etc., but it looks like they were non-winning finalists?

Nebula Awards brief checking-in

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Having a lovely time at the Nebulas–had two interviews (one with Locus, and one with Juliette Wade and Jaym Gates), an autographing session that had a surprising number of people turn up (considering I had no books for sale at the moment), a lovely dinner with Sheila Williams in a grill place (yum salmon), and sort of managed to stay awake during the reception for the Nebula Awards nominees (sort of. I dozed off and they had to wake me up when they were about to make the announcements :p).

If I ever needed confirmation that pregnancy plus jetlag is a bad combination…

Today is the big day; I’m counting on adrenaline to keep me awake until the Awards ceremony (a nice idea in principle, but in reality I’m not really sure how much I have to spare). Off to have a shower, and to hunt down my breakfast.

Announcing… the ebook edition of On a Red Station, Drifting

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Ebook cover

Aka the shiny… Art courtesy of Nhan Y Doanh, and cover layout thanks to Janice Hardy–thanks to both of them for putting up with my (short-term) deadlines and producing such beautiful things. (MC is Linh; the older woman in lower right-hand corner is Quyen. Slightly more detailed view of the original watercolour is here if you’re interested, since Doanh had to cut bits of it off to fit the cover format).

The ebook should be live on amazon within a day or two if I didn’t screw up the Kindle upload…

(and remember you can still get the limited edition hardback with Melissa Gay’s artwork direct from Immersion Press, while stocks last…)

Nebula Awards aka in which I look very silly

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So, some of you might remember that I repeatedly said (on twitter and elsewhere) that my Immersion Press novella On a Red Station, Drifting, published by a small UK press, was not eligible for a Nebula and that it wasn’t worth voting for it?

Fast forward to yesterday evening, when my phone rings in the middle of my chopping potatoes–I pick up, and am somewhat surprised to hear the lovely Kate Baker, who asks me whether I want to accept Nebula nominations for  “Immersion”  and On a Red Station, Drifting.

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My second or third reflex (after the “OMG OMG ” stage) was double-checking to see that the novella was indeed eligible and that this hadn’t been a horrible mistake somewhere (yes, paranoid. Why do you ask?). That was when I realised that what mattered to the Nebulas (as confirmed by the Nebula Awards commissioner Tom Doyle) was territory of sale and not location of publisher. And that, since the book was on sale everywhere including the US, it was indeed eligible for the Nebulas.

At which point I naturally felt very very silly, and very humbled that in spite of my shooting myself in the foot, people had kindly voted for the novella…

So thank you very much to everyone who voted for “Immersion” and for On a Red Station, Drifting; and to my editors Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace at Clarkesworld, and Carmelo Rafala at Immersion Press, as well as to everyone who helped me writing those and who tided me over during the long dark teatimes of the writerly soul.

Meanwhile, I’ll be off recovering from massive shock…

(full list of nominees here–congratulations to all my friends on the ballots, but especially happy to see Ken Liu taking over the world once more, and Helena Bell getting well-deserved recognition for her awesome short fiction)

Awards season, redux

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Ha, that time of the year. I wish I’d had time to read more, but that’s always the case… I nagged the H into doing our Hugo ballot last weekend, when we realised that the nomination deadline was 11th March, and way closer than we both thought. His process went something like this: he filled in the headings that interested him most (best novel, best artist, best graphic story), and then turned to me as he hit the short fiction:

“Do you have anything this year?”
“Er, yeah, my short story Shipbirth that’s up for the Nebula.”
“Then I’m not nominating anything else in the short story category.”
I tried to make him change his mind (plenty of awesome short stories this year), but he wouldn’t budge. So I stuck my own recs in my ballot–do check them out here, plenty of awesome stuff!–and we sent the whole lot off. So, I’ve done my Hugo duty, and we’ve established the (strong) level of spousal support in this household :D

Now I’ve got the BSFA shortlist to read before Eastercon, and the voting for the Nebulas to sort out before, er, end of March? I’ve downloaded the Nebula Voters’ packet: I’ve read everything except the novels and the novellas, so that’s next (and the novel shortlist is very tasty, plenty of stuff in there I wanted to check out. Big advantage of being a SFWA member is, first, that I get those in the voters’ packet, and second, that I get a good to-read list for this part of the year. Last year I didn’t have much time at all for reading the novels, but this time around I’m ready, and I have plenty of time. Should be nice. Except that for some reason, I can’t manage to make the copy of China Miéville’s Embassytown stop crashing on my computer, grr).

Heart Attack of the Day

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The latest issue of Locus contains Gardner Dozois’s review of “Scattered Along the River of Heaven”, which he very kindly calls the story one of the best of the year so far, and compares it to Ursula Le Guin’s “The Day Before the Revolution”. (in case you’re curious and not a Locus subscriber, Sean Wallace posted the full text of the review here)

Given that Le Guin is basically one of my heroines, who got me into feminism, and got me into SF at a time when most (hard) SF left me cold; and that “The Day Before the Revolution” is one of her stories that still stick with me, years after reading it… you’ll understand why I’m pretty much floored at that point.

(bonus links: Adam Callaway’s take on the Nebula Awards finalists, aka I’m floored again; and just for a contrast, VarietySF’s take, which basically lists “Shipbirth” at the bottom of the list as completely incomprehensible and unreadable)

“Shipbirth” nominated for a Nebula for Best Short Story

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Er, so, I would seem to be on the Nebula final ballot (along with a great many fabulous people–special shoutout to Nancy Fulda, Tom Crosshill, and Ken Liu, whose main occupation seems to be taking over awards lists. Also, bonus mention to Dario Ciriello, editor and publisher of Panverse Volume Three, who edited and published Ken Liu’s awesome nominated novella).

Sadly, I won’t be able to attend the Nebula Awards Weekend (I would so totally have gone, especially since I have yet to meet so many of the people on that list; but a close friend of mine is getting married the same weekend). Many many congrats to my fellow nominees, and my most profound thanks to everyone who voted in the nominating process (especially those who voted for me–goes without saying–but it’s the number of voters who make awards, and I’m glad we’ve been having more and more online discussions of worthy stories and novels. Only makes the awards stronger). And many thanks as well to everyone who recommended stuff to me–reading stuff this year has been cumbersome because of RL, but so totally worth it.

Below is the complete listing. Meanwhile, I’ll be over there in the corner, comatose (partly from shock, partly from sheer jetlag, my body being utterly convinced it’s still in Vietnam and therefore that it should be in bed). More later.


Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is proud to announce the nominees for the 2011 Nebula Awards (presented 2012), the nominees for the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, and the nominees for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Book.

Novel

Novella

Novelette

Short Story

Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation

  • Attack the Block, Joe Cornish (writer/director) (Optimum Releasing; Screen Gems)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely (writers), Joe Johnston (director) (Paramount)
  • Doctor Who: “The Doctor’s Wife,” Neil Gaiman (writer), Richard Clark (director) (BBC Wales)
  • Hugo, John Logan (writer), Martin Scorsese (director) (Paramount)
  • Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen (writer/director) (Sony)
  • Source Code, Ben Ripley (writer), Duncan Jones (director) (Summit)
  • The Adjustment Bureau, George Nolfi (writer/director) (Universal)

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Book

The winners will be announced at SFWA’s 47th Annual Nebula Awards Weekend, to be held Thursday through Sunday, May 17 to May 20, 2012 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia, near Reagan National Airport. As announced earlier this year, Connie Willis will be the recipient of the 2011 Damon Knight Grand Master Award for her lifetime contributions and achievements in the field. Walter Jon Williams will preside as toastmaster, with Astronaut Michael Fincke as keynote speaker.

The Nebula Awards are voted on, and presented by, active members of SFWA. Voting will open to SFWA Active members on March 1 and close on March 30. More information on voting is available here.

Founded in 1965 by the late Damon Knight, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America brings together the most successful and daring writers of speculative fiction throughout the world.

Since its inception, SFWA® has grown in numbers and influence until it is now widely recognized as one of the most effective non-profit writers’ organizations in existence, boasting a membership of approximately 2,000 science fiction and fantasy writers as well as artists, editors and allied professionals. Each year the organization presents the prestigious Nebula Awards® for the year’s best literary and dramatic works of speculative fiction.

Brief Nebula Awards weekend report

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So… very briefly, as I’m currently waiting at my gate for my flight to board. I had an awesome time: in the main, because I got to see people I hadn’t talked to (in the sense of “face-to-face”) for years; got to meet people I’d only ever exchanged messages with, and generally hung out with scarily talented writers and artists (among which, a particular shoutout to Chris & Fernanda Kastensmidt, and J.Kathleen & Matthew Cheney, whom I hadn’t seen in too long a while).
DC is a really lovely city; I only wish I’d been able to stay longer, but the tour of the Air & Space Museum was great (all those space artifacts, plus the Wright Brothers’ flyer, plus the Spirit of Saint Louis. Wow. Just wow). I have the obligatory White House picture, and a bunch of pics of the Smithsonian Castle, which is just too weird not to be photographed.
The con suite was also great, with some really good food–and an amazing selection of teas and a kettle, which is really all I’m asking for. I’m grateful to the people who put this all together, as this was a really great weekend altogether.

I didn’t win a Nebula, but honestly? It is an honour to be nominated; it was a really strong slate, and I’m awesomely happy for Eric James Stone, who’s having a very strong year; and for Rachel Swirsky, whose novella was one of the absolute three best things I read last year. I also have two shiny things to stare at: the Nebula Nominee pin, and a nifty sketch Barry Deutsch made of me while I was on a panel, and which he very kindly donated to me).
Plus, as Paolo Bacigalupi said, I get to bask in the glow of being a Hugo nominee for three extra months, and that’s got to count for something :)

And now, for Imaginales…

Nebula Awards Weekend

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So, I was reminded by the inestimable j_cheney that the Nebula Awards Weekend was fast approaching…

I’ll be there from sometime Thursday in the afternoon (though heavily jet-lagged) to Sunday afternoon. Mostly hanging out in the bar/lobby/etc., except for a few events. Obviously, the Nebula Awards Banquets, and also a signing and a panel.

The signing will be from 5:30 to 7:00pm on Friday, May 20, at the Washington Hilton (1919 Connecticut Ave., NW). Other authors participating include: John Joseph Adams, Christopher Barzak, J. Kathleen Cheney, Tom Doyle, Scott Edelman, Timons Esaias, Cynthia Felice, Andrew Fox, Kerry Frey, Laura Anne Gilman, Anne Groell, Joe Haldeman, Peter Heck, Vylar Kaftan, John Kessel, Alethea Kontis, Mary Robinette Kowal, Geoffrey A.Landis, Allen Lewis, Tom Lewis, Lee Martindale, James Morrow, Catherine Petrini, Stanley Schmidt, Lawrence Schoen, Lansing Sexton, Eric James Stone, Bud Sparhawk, Allen Steele, Michael Sullivan, Robin Sullivan, Michael Swanwick, Brandie Tarvin, Mary Turzillo, Michael Whelan, Alexander Whitaker, and Connie Willis.

The panel will be on Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 1:30 p.m., with M.K. Hobson , J. Kathleen Cheney, Eric James Stone, and Rachel Swirsky.

So, if you want to come and wave/get books signed/have drinks… :)