Short Story Collection FAQ


Author’s Note: Another FAQ resulting from a discussion between my critique partners and I on my now-defunct online forum.


One of my Seven Deadly Pens partners was curious about some of the specifics of publishing a collection of short stories. Since I’ve already had two published, I had a fair amount of information to share. Here it is for your own edification, should you be curious as well.

Did you approach a publisher with a completed manuscript & table of contents?


Did they reject any of the stories or how you had them put together?

A couple of stories got rejected for Despairs & Delights because they were a little too extreme for the editor. Those made it into Magick & Misery, though, which was released through a different publisher.

Did you self publish?

Hells no. See here and here.

What about rights? I would assume many of the stories in a collection were previously published, so did you have any issues with what could go into the collection? Are there rights covering this sort of thing? (I assume there are…) Would anthology rights apply here? What rights would apply to a collected work?

It is assumed that a collection will include a lot of reprints, so that shouldn’t be an issue. What you do need to make sure of is that you’re not violating any agreements with other publishers/editors. If you signed a contract giving print rights to a specific story to Dark Recesses for a year, for example, you need to either wait that whole year before publishing it elsewhere or else ask DR for permission to use it sooner. Anthology rights are rights a magazine purchases in order to include work they’ve published in the magazine in a ‘Best Of’ anthology at a later date. The rights that apply to the collection? It’s your work, and you have the right to publish it, unless you’ve signed a contract giving those rights away either temporarily or permanently.

I have enough stuff right now that would come together to make a 60,000-word collection. Would that be long enough?

Absolutely. Neither of mine are that long.

Did you buy a number of your own copies at a discount to resell?

Yes. As a matter of fact, I can sell signed copies direct from my website for cover price or below and still make a buck or two per copy.

You do that through your website and keep the money, or do you have a deal with your publisher to split any of that revenue?

If I buy them, I don’t get royalties on those copies, of course, but I keep any revenue from their sales, which, depending on the circumstances, can amount to more per copy than I’d see if someone bought the book through Amazon, for example.


Blurb and Review FAQ


Author’s Note: Hope ya’ll had a great Christmas, if it’s what you do. Mine rocked. Here’s another FAQ from the past. Enjoy!


A couple of the guys in my Seven Deadly Pens crit group have books coming out this year, which precipitated a round of questions on how to go about requesting blurbs from other authors and querying book reviewers. As always, what works for me might not work for you, and I invite you to share your insight in the comments field.

How exactly did you go about procuring blurbs and reviews before your book was released? Did you only contact authors you knew, or did you send out feelers to dozens asking for reads and blurbs?

I asked a few authors (whom I had previously read, enjoyed and reviewed) for blurbs. I have a spreadsheet template that I used for reviews, and that was more of a shotgun blast.

When soliciting fellow authors and publications for blurbs and reviews, did you try to shoot for any big names that you had no connection to? Just send out a query and see what happens? Or did you stick to people/publications that you felt fairly confident would give you the time of day and respond to you?

When soliciting blurbs, I shot for authors whose books I’ve reviewed. That way, they might have seen my review and remembered my name. If you don’t review books the best thing I can say is just email a few of the writers whose work you admire most, preferably those you’ve actually had dialogue with. I’d try to avoid asking favors like that of writers I didn’t know or at least sometimes exchange a sentence or two with.

Famous Author X’s mother used to work where I do and it was mentioned to me that maybe I should contact X’s mom to see if X would give me a read/blurb/review. My initial reaction is that sounds like a creepy idea since X’s mom likely doesn’t know me from Adam, but surely knows some of the same people I do… But I could also just give X a shot directly, mention the very, very remote connection we have and go from there. Either way, it sounds creepy. Opinions? Anyone?

If someone called my mom to see if I’d blurb their book, I’d kill them to death. Twice. It’s waaaay too invasive of privacy. Writing X directly wouldn’t be bad. Like The worst thing s/he can say is no, and at least you’re asking THEM. I’m sure X is used to that.

What about reviews? Did you wait for the book to be released? Did you send files/copies of your book out before its release (the term is ARC or Advanced Reader Copy, right?)?

Send out an ARC (Advance Review Copy). The whole point of the ARC is for it to go out a couple months in advance, so that reviews are hitting websites/magazines and generating a buzz right when the book goes on sale. For one of my books, I queried first, sent ARCs to those that responded positively, and then sent a followup one month after, to make sure they got the ARC. I highly recommend this; a couple of my reviewers hadn’t received the ARC email. I sent queries and ARCs to individuals who, like myself, review books on their websites, as well as to publications and websites that offer reviews as part of their standard fare.

What kind of response did you get from everyone? How many reviews were you able to line up, and are still actively soliciting reviews from magazines, newspapers etc.?

Some told me politely to piss off, some wouldn’t accept PDF ARCs, some asked for a hard copy and I still haven’t seen a review at all, and several professional souls offered honest reviews in a timely manner. I’m not currently soliciting reviews for either of my books, but if I see a site I like, I’ll drop ‘em a line. One campaign landed me six good reviews and a blurb from a pro author. For the other, I did next to nothing because I was a newb; the two copies I sent out got good reviews, though.

How much advice did your publishers give, or resources did they provide in terms of hooking you up with potential advanced readers or reviewers?

Expect exactly jack and shit from the publisher in the way of support, that way you’re not disappointed. With Publisher A, I did all the legwork (and I’ll admit, I didn’t do much) and I’ll bet my ass they never sent out a single copy (because the only reviews I’ve seen were on copies I sent out). With Publisher B, I did all the legwork, but the publisher not only stayed involved with my process but also sent the print copies to my more demanding reviewers at his expense and included copies of my book with other packages he sent out. The common denominator, though, is that I did all the legwork, both times. Most of your small presses have less money to spend on marketing that I spend on a month’s beer, and even some of the midlist authors we all love aren’t allocated much in the way of PR funding. Your job’s only begun once you’ve completed the manuscript and sold the book and no one, not even the publisher, is going to care as much about your book as you do.


Book Signing FAQ


Author’s Note: Here’s another holiday reprint, a FAQ based on some questions I answered in my old, and now-defunct, online forum. There’ll be a couple more of these FAQs next week.


Once more, one of my critique group partners bounced a few questions off me on our forum, and I’m presenting them here for the edification of the masses. This group of queries pertains to the joys and pitfalls of coordinating and attending book signings. Feel free to share your own experiences in the comments section!

What do you normally do? Just call the bookstore (Barnes & Noble, Borders, etc.) and ask?

Yup. Call and ask! The worst thing they can do is tell you to piss off (and sometimes it happens, though not usually in such plain terms!).

Who do you talk to about it? A manager I assume?

You do talk to the manager. Barnes & Noble stores typically have a CRM (Community Relations Manager) specifically for putting together signings and other activities at the store. A few place these duties on the store’s general manager. FYI, if you go on the B/N site, search for stores and highlight the links, each URL has a four digit store number at the end. The email address for the CRM will always be CRMXXXX@bn.com, where XXXX=store number.

Borders, however, does not empower each store to order their own books, etc. Therefore, you make contact with the manager and they’ll get in touch with the regional ordering rep… it’s an extra step though, and make sure you stay on top of them. The independent stores I’ve worked with typically reserve event planning for their managers, as well.

And you can sell your books at these things?

Yeah. The best arrangement for the author is when the store orders the books. Most stores won’t do business with you if your publisher doesn’t offer a 40% discount and a return policy, so make sure your publisher offers those. If they do, there’s no earthly reason why a store shouldn’t be willing to order your books, though several managers have given me an unearthly answer or two. There’s no risk to them; if you don’t sell out, the return policy means the publisher will take the unsold books back.

The other way is to sell on consignment. You bring the books and the store takes a cut. Your local indie might just give you your share out of the drawer, but the big chains won’t, and you’ll have to wait for a check from corporate. I’ve done this once, and only because the store hadn’t ordered the books as previously agreed upon. I had copies in my truck and wasn’t about to tell my wife we detoured to Mississippi with a two year-old for nothing!

What does the store get out of it? Your promotion bringing in people to hopefully buy other stuff?

They get profit on the books you sell, and yeah, some people might come in to see you and leave with other merchandise. That’s always a plus! Also, like I said before, the store is venturing NOTHING. If you only sell one copy, you both win.

What are some tips or things to look out for when getting this going?

Depending on your publisher, you can sign at three Barnes and Nobles and still have a fourth tell you they can’t order your book because it’s Print on Demand. All this means is that the publishers print the books when ordered, thereby saving themselves warehouse costs, etc. Corporate logic still seems to equate this to self-publishing. Be patient while they finish shooting themselves in the foot, and just call the next store on your list.

Schedule signings at least a month out; most stores put together a calendar of events, print a poster, etc. and also need time to order the books.

Stay on top of the managers even after the signing is scheduled. Sometimes, they forget to order the books. Sometimes, there’s an ordering/delivery snag. Always, they forget to call you about these things until either the day before the signing or not at all. And guess who looks like a moron because they’ve posted on Facebook, blog, etc. about the signing that is no longer happening? Not them. YOU. I hate that shit.

Do a press release for the media in the area surrounding the location of your signing. I’m not going to lie; unless you’re famous, 9 out of ten media outlets you email won’t give a damn, but one is better than zero, right? I’ve done newspaper, radio and Internet interviews in conjunction with various signings and book releases. It’s fun, gives you more material for your website, and increases awareness of your work, even if only by a small fraction.