For those not wanting to purchase the eBook version, good news. Robot and Raygun progressively publish each month’s stories on their website. My story is now freely available. Go and check it out. While you’re there, why not read the other fine fiction Robot and Raygun have been publishing?
Robot and Raygun features all kinds of science fiction, from post apocalyptic worlds to starships travelling through the voids of space and all that lies between. It is our aim to help fire your imagination and to envision the many futures that lay before us.
Each issue is made up of a selection of short stories to help you discover great new writers of science fiction.
R&R put out their first edition in March 2014, and my story appears in Issue 2, April 2014 which has just been released.
It is a great feeling to have someone like your work enough to pay for it. This is also my first short story length piece to be published (previous publications have been flash fiction).
As always, my bibliography page has details on where you can find all my published work.
Several people have given editorial feedback on the story, and to them I’d like to offer my sincerest thanks. The story wouldn’t have made it without you.
You can also read it on the ePub or mobi version of issue 185 available at the e-Reader page of the Antipodean SF website.
I originally wrote this very short story for an online competition, but submitted it to Antipodean SF when I inexplicably failed to win. I hope you enjoy.
It’s been a long time between posts – I’m afraid family life and day job have turned Mark into a very dull boy. Well, dull in terms of my writing. I’m a barrel of laughs when it comes to assessing the potential impact of altering the legislative framework governing the employment of public servants in my great state. But then, it’s hard not to be a wacky funster with material like that to work with.
Despite the temptations that drag me away from my blog, I did want to surface for long enough to say that one of my flash fiction pieces, titled The Regersek Zone, has just been published by the always excellent Ion Newcombe over at Antipodean SF.
Antipodean SF is a fantastic Australian website specialising in flash fiction of around 500 words. The editor, Nuke, has provided opportunities for authors to have their work published for many years, and is unfailingly generous with his time. If you haven’t checked out Antipodean SF, go and have a look immediately. Don’t worry, I’ll wait for you…
Back? Great. Hope you enjoyed yourself.
As for my story, I was watching the US based Falling Skies recently and began wondering why aliens that have mastered intergalactic travel would ever bother with the Earth. We seem like we’re more trouble than we’re worth. Especially when there is a tempting terraforming target not that far away…
(My other flash fiction publications can be found on the Bibliography page of this site).
The Regersek Zone is currently scheduled for issue 184 of Antipodean SF, published in October 2013. I’ll also record a reading for the radio show/podcast, which will be broadcast some time in October/November.
I know Nuke is always looking for new material for the Antipodean SF website, so if you fancy trying your hand at a short piece of speculative flash fiction you should check out the Antipodean SF submissions page.
It’s good advice. It is logical. Across the room I could feel the pluck of my fellow neophyte writers stiffen as we all resolved to send our short stories to Asimov’s as soon as we got home. I suspect the online submission systems of many a professional magazine were swamped with stories from down under. I did it myself, adding some prestigious names to my steadily growing pile of rejections (always boilerplate rejections, never those good personally written ones that everyone talks about :-). And as we’re always told, you’re probably being rejected because your work isn’t quite right for that particular editor at that particular time. Sure, some work is rejected because it isn’t good enough, but not yours. Never yours. Right?
I like my stories. When I leave them for long enough that I can barely remember writing them and re-read them as if I’m reading a strangers work, I enjoy the experience. They aren’t literary, but then I’m not a literary guy. I think they are OK. And considering I’ve only been writing for a short time, that’s good. I’m proud of the work I do.
But OK work that I’m proud of does not necessarily a pro market publication make. And some markets take months to get back to you. By my rough calculations, if you submitted to every pro market that gives you credit towards say joining Science Fiction Writers of America, your story could be tied up for years. And stories sitting in slush piles do not help me learn how to be better.
I’m beginning to think that what I need to be focusing on is mid-tier semi-pro markets where an editor might take some interest in my work, and perhaps provide suggestions on how it could be improved. At this stage, that would be much more valuable to me than large amounts of money. The flash fiction pieces I’ve published on Antipodean SF have been fantastic experiences, working with the editor there (Ion Newcombe) to make them better. Perhaps I need the equivalent for longer works.
I’m undecided. The lure of a pro market sale is strong. But I know I’ve got a lot to learn about the craft of writing, and wasting time sending solid but not dazzlingly brilliant stories to markets that are never going to publish them might not be such a great idea.
So, my friends – what do you think? For the writers out there, what is your approach to short story submissions? Is it all-pro-all-the-time? Free to a good home? Somewhere in between?
Paul was also kind enough to mention my recent publication of my flash pieces from 2012 on Smashwords. Paul has been a great supporter of my work, for which I am very grateful.
Details of all my flash fiction publications can be found on my bibliography page.
Firstly, some background. I write on a Macbook Air using the writing software Scrivener. I have found Scrivener to be an excellent way of keeping my stories together and structured, and the product itself is very workman like. I use Dropbox to backup my working stories (and so I can work across other computers if I need to). I have been using Scrivener to create an ePub version of the Antipodean SF online magazine each month for the last few months, and it always seems to work out OK.
Smashwords doesn’t take ePub submissions directly. You have to create a Microsoft Word document according to their specifications, submit that Word document and they use their own product (the charmingly named Meatgrinder) to churn out versions of your book in lots of different formats.
If that sounds a bit complicated, the first resource I’ll point you to is the Smashwords style guide. Pay particular attention to the suggestions around the licensing statements. When you get to the point of submitting your file, incorrect licensing statements can be one of the things that stops the submission going ahead. It also has excellent discussions on formatting etc, but it is a fairly long document, and if you’re anything like me you’ll probably be too impatient to read the instructions.
Turns out that Scrivener creates a pretty good first cut at a well formatted Word document. This isn’t a tutorial on using Scrivener (frankly, there are so many features in it that I haven’t even come close to mastering that I’d be the wrong person to give a tutorial anyway). But, a few pointers when generating the document:
- Don’t create section breaks between parts of your document, create page breaks. Section breaks do weird things in the Meatgrinder process, including inserting superfluous blank pages. Page breaks seem to work fine.
- Switch your line spacing to single space (mine was set at 1.2 by default). While the line spacing won’t get caught in your initial submission, anything other than single spacing seems to get flagged as a problem that won’t allow your book to achieve “Premium” status (i.e. distributed to places like Apple etc).
- I overrode my font to be Times New Roman (Smashwords prefers the basic fonts)
When creating the Antipodean SF ePub files, I let Scrivener create a table of contents and it was all good. Because of the Smashwords Word document process, this doesn’t work. I achieved a pretty good manual TOC by inserting a TOC page into my Scrivener manuscript and using Scrivener links to connect each line item in the TOC to the appropriate title in the document. When the Word document is generated, this seems to create all the appropriate links and TOC information that Meatgrinder needs.
I had a few of the normal issues you might expect getting the paragraph formatting correct, setting to single space, indenting, no gaps between paragraphs etc. The main issue I faced here was that the layout in the Word document (which all seemed fine) didn’t seem to translate into the right format for the ePub version. In particular, the first line indenting (which was absolutely fine in the Word document) seemed to randomly not work in the ePub version generated by Smashwords.
I noticed in particular that paragraphs that started off with speech seemed to always be effected. The first thing I needed to do was make sure that the autocorrect settings in Word weren’t attempting to switch normal quotes into “smart quotes”. That seemed to have an impact. The other thing I did was go into Word and open the “Normal” paragraph style and modify it so that the underlying style had all the right formatting elements (single space, no gaps between paragraphs etc), then reapply that style to the text. This was a little manual and time consuming but it did the trick. I think sometimes paragraph formatting from Scrivener might be applied to text without changing the underlying Word paragraph style, and Smashwords seems to take some of its cues from the underlying style.
Now, when it comes to covers you upload the cover to Smashwords separately from the Word document, so you don’t have to worry about inserting it into Scrivener. I need to be clear here – I have no artist ability whatsoever. My sense of aesthetics seems to be entirely out of kilter with mainstream society. I have no advice to give you re: an artistic creation that will draw the punters in.
I will say that relatively recently the pixel dimension requirements changed to take into account higher resolution screens. Smashwords wants rectangles with the width at least 1400 pixels and the height greater than the width. I went to the online cover designer site (My eCover Maker) and created my cover for about $5. Yes, I know it shows. I don’t really warrant or recommend that site in particular – I just registered for free for the “pay as you go” option and made sure I paid using PayPal to keep it all at arms length. Also, if you do go that way make sure you are 100% happy with the cover before you “generate” it – if you find you need to make a couple of small adjustments once you’ve seen the final product, that’s another $5.
Once you’ve uploaded the book and it passes the automatic checks, it is available through Smashwords. However, Smashwords has a second level of publishing, the “Premium Catalogue”, which requires a more precise adherence to the Smashwords style guidelines. This was the spot where some of my line spacing and paragraph formatting issues were tagged. It takes several days for them to review a book, so don’t expect instant turn around. Once your book is approved for the Premium Catalogue, it is also shipped to other online distributors such as Apple, Barnes and Noble etc. This isn’t quite as important to me, the point of publishing A Flash in the Pan? was to collect my flash fiction in one place for 2012 and to try out the Smashwords process. If you were self publishing a full novel, getting this status would be much more important.
At the time of writing my book is available on Smashwords and I’ve made the adjustments that Smashwords requires for the Premium Catalogue (although it hasn’t been reassessed as yet).
I used the Smashwords ISBN manager to assign my work an ISBN. Not really much more to say on this, of course if you’re managing your own publishing house you probably will bring your own ISBN number to the party, but for a simple self publishing job the Smashwords process seems fine.
When checking the ePub output from Meatgrinder, I found the Adobe Digital Editions provided the most convenient option (as recommended on the Smashwords site). Short of loading it onto the iPad of course (which is just a bit fiddly – download the ePub, move it over to iTunes, plug in the iPad, sync it and repeat every time you make a change). For the mobi version, it was pretty much check it on the Kindle.
Finally, I thought it might be useful if I attached three documents:
- The Scrivener file for A Flash in the Pan? (A Flash in the Pan.scriv)
- The Word document that Scrivener compiles (A Flash in the Pan – Scrivener)
- The Word document that I finally uploaded to Smashwords after adjustments (A Flash in the Pan – uploaded)
All three documents remain copyright me etc, but hopefully they will help show the process I’ve been through.
So, there are some of my thoughts on the Scrivener to Smashwords process. What about you? I’d love to hear some stories, hints and tricks in the comments section.
- Beware Antipodean Shores (50 words)
- Shipwrecked (500 words)
- The Gloriously Cunning Plan (500 words)
- Make Mine a Macchiato (500 words)
- Striking Twice (500 words)
- In the Service of the Public (500 words)
- The Devil Wears Ugly Shapeless Garments Covered in Dog Hair (500 words)
I’ve also included a brief author’s note under each story just to give you a feel for what I was thinking when I was writing. It’s free, so if you missed any of my stories through the year (or just want to be able to enjoy them again and again!), feel free to go and download a copy in one of the myriad of formats that Smashwords supports.
I might write a separate post on the process of taking a manuscript on Scrivener and getting it published on Smashwords. It took me quite a few goes to get it right.
My thanks to “BluntChisel” who read and reviewed the collection within 12 hours of me publishing it! I’ve never met you BluntChisel, but seeing your review made my day.
Details of all my publications can be found at my bibliography.
My thanks to Paul Cole for his support of my work. He described The Devil Wears as the latest in my interstellar public service series. I better write another one!
A full listing of my flash fiction pieces can be found at my bibliography page.