The Gatekeeper, & the Keymaster: DAY 4

They say that the magic blog article length is about 2000 words, and that it really should never go over 300.0 words.  Additionally, the third question in my interview with Kevin Lucia, ended up sparking additional go betweens and dialog.  As I was typing everything up, there seemed to be a solid divide that could be drawn between the importance of a writing resume and the actual building of one, so that is where I tried to divide the question over two days.

It also bears mentioning, I am the newb of our little trio of writers hanging out in the metaphorical bar of horror writing.  I have been learning from Kevin for ten years, and I am nowhere the expert of anything.  In fact, a huge part of this entire Keep the Greasy Side Down concept is an actual embrace of that lack of personal knowledge and admitting that ones needs a community: both in the arts and in personal spirit.  I certainly believe that I have gems to offer from time to time, but most of my gems are simply from hard knocks and hard work at this point… not from any real measure of greatness.  I am still hoping for that someday.  It is a worthy goal.

So… let’s get back to it shall we?!

DAY 4

To recap, question three was about building audience.

RYAN B. CLARK:  Specifically, let’s discuss, for purposes of offering our how to spin for other artists, our use of GoodReads, Social Media, Personal Websites, and Patreon. How do you propel yourself as a brand in today’s market? The days of building a writing resume, through short stories and pay per word small magazines, as King describes, are they a thing of the past?  How have we evolved, or devolved….. adapted?

KEVIN LUCIA:  As far as submitting fiction to build a resume, again – it may be different than in King’s early years, but I still think it’s vitally important. Yes, far fewer magazines with large circulations and subscription bases publish horror fiction. Even so, there are plenty of horror anthologies – especially now with the advent of the ebook, affordable horror anthologies – and ezines publishing horror fiction. There are several reasons why I feel submitting to these venues – if a writer enjoys short fiction – is important.

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First, I still believe in the gatekeeper as a standard of quality.

Self-publishing has more than proven itself to be a viable and respectable pursuit, but I think that regardless of a writer’s ultimate publishing goals, (or how those goals may evolve), establishing some pedigree is never a bad thing. So, I’ll be terribly vain and use myself as an example (keeping in my mind I am NOT God’s Gift to Horror Fiction). I’ve recently started a Patreon page, with my first posts coming in November.

NOTE: Patreon is a platform that many, many artists are either using, or modeling.  Many independent bands are using Pre-Order formats, that basically guarantee a certain yield that then funds production.  In my recent trip to the Shiprock Kody Dayish Film Festival, Adam Beach was discussing the same kind of thing being used to completely revolutionize pay-per-view movies, and it is a game changer for Independent Film Makers.

The idea that one does not have to be world famous, or accepted by major publication or production firms is changing the way we experience entertainment.  This is proven in everything we see.  Netflix kills the video store.  Now it is completely changing cable.  Netflix is effecting the film market.  Just to name one example.

KEVIN:  I never would’ve dreamed of starting a Patreon page when it first debuted. I don’t think I’d even landed my first professional sale (5 cents a word). But in the past three to four years, I’ve been fortunate enough to place stories in collections alongside Bentley Little, Jack Ketchum, Ray Garton, Ramsey Campbell, David Morrell, Tom Monteleone, Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Peter Straub and most recently, Robert McCammon. My first hardcover from Cemetery Dance Publications is coming soon. I don’t know how much of a difference that has actually made in my pledges, but for me, I at least feel comfortable giving Patreon a try, because there’s been some sort of track record established regarding my short fiction.

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RYAN:  To be honest, when you first mentioned Patreon, I had never heard of it, and when I looked into it, my first reaction was, “why would anyone do what I am doing on Keep the Greasy Side Down then?”  The domain and hosting costs me.  The material is free, and it guarantees zero income.  It seems like a no brainer.

In short – it comes down to building an audience versus reaping the rewards of one.  One must attain a certain degree of street cred before they can legitimately expect to have paying patrons.  Additionally, it is not like modern writers would not be using as many avenues as possible… Goodreads, Facebook, Personal Website, and Patreon.  You have all of those.  So it becomes a matter of once again, returning to that key question, of what it is that the writer wants…. or hopes to gain…. from his or her writing endeavors.

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KEVIN:  Hey – for every Christopher Golden (traditional) there’s a Robert Swartwood (completely self-published, and one of his ebooks was one of the first self-published selected as a USA Today bestseller), and there’s folks who are doing both.folks can pursue traditional routes (like I have) and experimental routes (like I’m going to with Patreon) at the same time, to build a “hybrid” career. That’s the buzzword, lately.

RYAN:  Maybe someday.  As I mentioned I think, earlier on, my particular short story work, in terms of collections, has actually taken a very specific turn.  Many publishers consider it niche, however, it is proving to not be at least in terms of what I am wanting from the experience.  That said, however, there is quite a lot to be said for taking those stories that are awesome as stand alones, but do not necessarily fit into a collection like Spirits of Jerome or the upcoming Echoes of the Ancients and send those out into the world of submissions.

This has already been shown in our discussion, just in terms of keeping a writer on his toes, to be a solid idea.

KEVIN:  Another important reason to submit to various venues (again, if you like writing short fiction), is what horror legend Tom Monteleone calls “the usual suspects” effect.

One thing Tom has always stressed is that if you’ve got the talent (and I’m going to go out on a limb and say while I believe taste can be subjective, what constitutes as a basic writing talent is not), and if you work hard enough, knock on enough doors long enough, you’re eventually going to get in. And, if you get in often enough, editors and readers start recognizing your name. You establish a track record.

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Say an editor is putting together an anthology. They’ve got some established names secured, but they want to find some news names. They remember this one anthology, where they read this one story by someone they’ve never heard of before, and they think: “Hey, I really liked that story. I’m going to hit them up for one.”

Said writer accepts and produces a solid story on time. Said editor is pleased, and happy that said writer has proven to be solid and reliable. They may or may not go back to this writer for more stories in the future. Why? Because this writer has proven their quality, and that they’re reliable.

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So, another editor is putting together an anthology, and maybe looking for new names. Said writer submits a story, and this other editor thinks, “Hey! I’ve read this person in such-and-such anthology, and I really liked their work.” Who knows – maybe this editor will ultimately pass on said writer’s story, but even so: said writer’s name is now lodged in said editor’s memory.

RYAN: Case in point, hearkening back to my use of the word obsolete, I was not even considering the submission of work to anthologies.  I was only referencing the shrinking world of print media, and the rapid increase, of not necessarily note-worthy, digital media.

KEVIN:  That’s how we need to look at On Writing through a different lends, not toss it out entirely.  Additionally, I would argue that with the advent of Kindle, less and less writers are going to be on the shelves.  If that is the case, does that make the $2.99 anthology ebook the new magazine?  It has already somewhat done that with the paperback.

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RYAN:  Sadly, that is true.  I think we are both lovers of actual books and brick and mortar stores, but this is all part of the navigation of the changes that we are seeing rapidly take over the market.  Anthologies have actually been on my mind a lot… as a way of getting my name out there, and as a way to drive audience towards my own Ghost Writer Press projects.  The upcoming Tales from the Lake 5 anthology from Cemetery Dance is very much in my sites for my first outside submission in a long time.

KEVIN:  Well, like I said before, it takes time, but for some folks it works.  Do not forget the “usual suspects” game.  Keep submitting, weather the rejections, keep improving, crack an anthology here, crack one there, get rejected, keep trying…..

Eventually, if you don’t give up and keep submitting, you crack a few more, move a little higher up the chain, editors remember reading your story.

It doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s worked for me.

And you learn every editor has different tastes. Once, I had story rejected in the final round, for only a $25 token payment. I turned right around and sold it to pro-pay market. You just never know.

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RYAN:  I like my niche idea. It is a very neat place to be, and once again, returning to our hopes and aspirations, being able to be the Indie Literary Voice of Arizona… and doing it on my own similar to great inspirations like Roger Clyne and Ed Abbey… That is exactly what I want!  The upcoming projects are really cool, and maybe one day the bigger boys are going to realize that Arizona is a whole lot less niche than they thought… but here and there, in the meantime, trying to pepper a few stories out there certainly would not hurt.  As always my friend… you are an amazing teacher.

KEVIN:  And finally, as the third reason to keep submitting, guess what? You end up meeting a lot of these editors at Cons. And if you’re normal and not insane and don’t freak them out, when they receive a story from you, and if they like it, they now have a face to go with the name, and they think -if you’re normal and not insane and didn’t freak them out – that they’d like to work with you.

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Readers – especially horror fans – start recognizing new names that pop up. I can’t count how many times my reviewers at Cemetery Dance Online (where I’m the Review Editor, now), have mentioned in their reviews, “I’ve seen so-and-so’s name listed in numerous collections, and decided it was time try out their work.” So now, readers have started to recognize said writer’s name. Said writer has now, according to the venerable Tom Monteleone, become one of the “usual suspects.”

RYAN:  Well said!

KEVIN:  A couple caveats, of course. For this to actually happen, said writer must always be looking to not only sharpen their craft, but also to aim higher. I’m not going to “punch down” on 4thluv anthologies and magazines, and those who submit to them. I HATE it when authors do that.

RYAN:  What exactly is a 4thluv Anthology?

KEVIN:  It is the industry term for anthologies and magazines which only pay very low flat rates for stories.  Say $10 or maybe $25 a story.  It comes from the idea that said publication doesn’t have a big enough budget to pay competitive rates, they’re only publishing their magazine “for the love of ___________” (insert genre).  Basically, they are trying to relate to the “Fanzines” of the 70s and 80s, the problem being that those publications actually paid competitive rates.

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RYAN:  So they are a waste of time?

KEVIN:  I published a few of my earliest short stories there.  Were they any good, no.    Do they advance your career?  No.  Do they offer the exposure that they claim?  No, not really.  No one reads them.  But there is this perspective by some who like to criticize young writers, saying that if you submit to a 4thluv Anthology you have ruined your career.  That is also not true.

Keep in mind and it bears noting: this sort of thing only starts happening when writers begin making regular appearances in at least semi-pro pay venues (.2 – .3 a word) and up. It really kicks off when a writer hits the pro payment range. This will take time, patience, a thick skin, willingness to absorb critique, and a diligent study of short fiction in your reading diet.

I sold my first short story in 2007. I didn’t sell a pro-pay short story until 2014. So. It takes time. It can happen, (or might happen, let’s be honest), but it takes time.

CONCLUSION:

My friends, I hope that you are enjoying this ongoing interview as much as I am enjoying putting it together and sharing it with you.  I think the wealth of information and experience that we are sharing, alone, might help some other gifted souls out there who are ready to find that ledge…. and take that leap…..

AND WRITE !

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And that, dear readers is the whole point.

Tune in Tomorrow as we open another Chapter in the Conversation !!!!

THE GHOSTS OF SUCCESS & THE HAUNTINGS OF RELEVANCE:  DAY 5

Keep it Scary !!!

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