July 3rd, 2009


The Technical Semi-Official Announcement

July - December 2009

With my grades for the Summer-I Session at WMU turned in at the end of June, I have completed my teaching duties until January 2010. Technically that makes me unemployed. Unofficially, though, since I had arranged for no classes during Summer-II (July-August) anyway, having everyone in the Physics Dept. decide they want to teach during Fall gives me an opportunity. Mrs. Dr. Phil is just finishing a six-month sabbatical and goes back to work on Monday 6 July 2009. It makes sense then, for me to declare this next six months that:

Dr. Phil will be on sabbatical from July to December 2009 -- and will use the time to write and complete a couple of SF novels.

Moving into 2010 then, I can continue submitting shorter works, but also begin sending off manuscripts to book publishers and agents, trying to line up one of each.

A Novel Approach

I've actually been seriously writing SF novels and short stories since October 1990, but only submitting anything to markets since June 2002 and those have all been novellas and shorter. A couple of times I've blocked out part of the summer, usually Summer-II (July-August) to "get a novel done", but things come up. In 2007 we had a lot of projects to do around the house. In 2008 I had to prepare for and then decompress from the WOTF workshop. During the 2008-09 academic year I was teaching full-time, and between that and my sinuses productivity fell and my record keeping files have been in a little disarray. Funny how time gets away from you. Six months? Much more conducive to getting the job done.

So There You Have It

While technically not a sabbatical, and an unpaid one at that, it does seem the perfect time to do it. Just how worth it would it be to try to scare up a couple of months of working in this economy? By calling it my sabbatical, I can concentrate on my writing and hopefully move onto the next stage of my writing career. I've already accomplished a good deal of work in the first couple of days. (grin)

Indeed, I'll be shortly announcing my next big project... in the next post.

Dr. Phil

Here's A Novel Opportunity

Keeping On Top Of Things

Yesterday I posted on my three favorite monthly non-fiction SF/F publications. There's always gold to be mined from these sources. For example, at the end of David Langford's Ansible 264, there was this little tidbit:
Novel Competition. SciFiNow and Tor UK offer publication with 20% royalties (but no advance) to the winning sf/fantasy novel -- whose 80 to 150 thousand words must be available by the closing date of 20 August 2009. Lionel Fanthorpe could probably do it in a couple of weekends, but previously published novelists are barred ...

Well, I'm an unpublished SF novelist, so let's check this out.

More Details (after the cut)
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Be sure to follow the links and read the whole rules.

So... Is This A Good Deal Or Not?

Worst case -- I have a finished manuscript and it gets tied up for a couple of months. But I'd be on the shortlist. If I don't even make that, then I'm in and out in even less time.

Best case -- I win the damn thing. So the contract is non-negotiable. We're talking about real British publishers, Macmillan and Tor U.K., and getting a novel fast tracked. Surely getting a novel published and the publicity of winning the competition is worth something, right?

As for the money. Yes, they get to dictate the terms. That part seems fair. I mean, why go to all the trouble to pick the best SF novel from this competition and then fail to reach an agreement with the author? The rule is, money goes to the author -- there are no entry fees and with electronic submission, no direct costs to submitting an entry. Yes, I know that with no advance and getting paid a piece of the royalties only means that it will be a long time before getting paid. Okay, eyes open, but if I were to do a traditional novel sale, we're a long way from getting a check of any amount by that method, too. And without an advance, there's no problem with ruining my career by not earning out said advance. (grin)

Twenty Percent

Since short fiction pays not a lot and I've never done a novel contract, there's a lot I don't know. Is "20% royalty on net receipts" a good deal or not? Back in April, noted Goblin & Fighting Princesses author Jim C. Hines wrote on How Many Books do you Have to Sell?.
Sticking purely with mass market paperbacks for the moment, let's say you get royalties at 8% (fairly standard but not universal for an original mass market, I believe) and a cover price of $7.99 (also standard U.S. cover price for mass markets). So you're earning $.64 per book. Juggle the numbers, and a $5000 advance means you're going to need to sell roughly 8,000 books (7,812.5) in order to earn out. In my case, I'd guess the publisher probably did a print run between 10,000 and 15,000 books, but that's a total guess, and hopefully more experienced publishing folks can speak to that piece. (ETA: ramblin_phyl points out that there's also a break-even point in the cost-efficiency of first print runs, which might mean the numbers on that run were a little higher.)

Hardcovers and e-books add more variables, as the royalties are different, but I'm trying to keep things as simple as possible for this example.

So I read that and figure 8% of one sort of pie and 20% for another sort of pie -- at least it tells me that the 20% figure isn't a nasty low ball pitch to naive newbie novelists, like moi. (grin)

And I Have A Project

One of my stories is now at 47,000 words -- it has grown too large even for the one or two novella markets and I have started work to take it to a novel anyway. It has a sequel story, which could also be expanded -- that would take care of the mythical second novel clause in the contract. In other words, this is work I was going to do this fall on my sabbatical anyway. And you know I like deadlines.

Yes, I only have five weeks to get this done, but I have the story. We're just rebuilding it. I can do this.

So the next question is -- are you sitting on any finished or nearly finished SF novels? (evil-grin)

OAS Project

Dr. Phil