Author Interview with Ben Thomas

microphone

Happy Friday!

Thriller and literary author Benjamin Thomas sat down and interviewed me as part of his “Getting to know Authors” series.

We discuss horror & weird fiction, a bit about my writing process and books, and the Toxic Avenger.

You can read the full interview here on Ben’s site. Hope you enjoy it!

So, welcome, thanks for stopping by the virtual hang space. Can you give us a bit of background on you, your work, and the genres you write in?
I’ve been described as a horror, bizarre, and weird fiction author. I like to think my work straddles the line between scary and ridiculous, because while I enjoy traditional horror, I love throwing elements of dark humor and absurdist nonsense into my stories. I’ve been published in a number of anthologies and literary magazines, and my first book DETROIT 2020 that I co-authored, was described in a review as “if Robocop and The Toxic Avenger had a weird baby.”

Thanks to Benjamin Thomas for reaching out to me to do this interview.

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Elements of Style

Following up on last week’s post about “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” I wanted to post up what I still consider the single most valuable craft book in my collection. Elements of Style by Strunk and White. The cheapest, most portable, and infinitely useful little book on “the rules of writing”. It’s also a centerpiece in my kit of writing essentials for under $20 I outlined in an earlier post.

If you don’t own this book (in print), fix that. It will make you better.

“Slay The Beast!” New Microfiction Published

dragon

Hey everyone,

My new piece of microfiction,  “Slay The Beast!”, was published and you can read it here for free on 50-WordStories.com

I’d like to thank Tim from 50-Word Stories for picking it up, and I’d encourage all my readers to check out his site. It’s an awesome project, and if you write micro or flash fiction I’d also encourage you to submit something. It’s a fun craft challenge trying to articulate a story in EXACTLY fifty words.

Writing Tip: Never Pay Submission Fees

image of wallet

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter S. Or more specifically💲.

I’m preparing to submit another round of short fiction, and noticed quite a few “start up” magazines (especially on the gross-but-necessary Facebook) are charging submission fees. This isn’t cool, and I’ll try to explain why without it turning into a rant.

Suffice to say, you should never pay anyone to read your writing.

Submission Fees

Are bull$h*t.

Also known as “reading fees”, many literary magazines and journals claim they need these to cover production costs or to pay their editors/slush readers. You should never submit your work to a magazine that is asking for a reading fee, and here are a couple reasons why.

🎩 ::puts on curmudgeon-y businessman hat:: 🎩

  • It’s not your problem if they operate at a loss.
    • Many of these tiny journals are passion projects. Nonetheless, they probably get way more submissions than they can or will accept. Lit mags have notoriously low acceptance rates, and that means you’re subsidizing someone else’s creative endeavors for them to potentially read one sentence (if any) of a story and chuck it in the trash. If you DO get accepted and published, you likely won’t get any payment.
    • Most writers aren’t rolling in dough. You need to save money for more important things involving your own work
  • You don’t know their readership or margins
    • Often they ask for a fee, but either don’t pay the accepted authors or pay them in token copies
    • Sometimes the journals are “online only” which means their overhead costs could be next-to-nothing
    • If they ARE selling the magazine, you’re paying them to take your product (writing), and then make money off of it, essentially “double-dipping”.
  • The project may never happen
    • Not all ideas come to fruition. I like to believe people are good, but there are plenty of scammers out there who prey on idealistic writers and disappear without ever creating a journal due to “circumstances beyond their control”, but by the way “no refunds”.

I’m not saying all literary journals should be operating at a loss, but the legitimate ones that you see on Duotrope and Submission Grinder are usually stable enough to accept work without charging, even if they don’t have enough of a budget to pay the accepted authors. They understand that writers are providing their hard work for either a token payment, or exposure to a wider audience.

In my opinion, “Pay to Play” is never an acceptable model.

Exception: Contests

Here’s where I contradict myself.

If a writing contest is requesting a submission fee, because it intends to pay a cash prize to the winner, then a SMALL payment is usually OK. You should still do some research and only enter legitimate contests that have been around for a while. You can usually spot sketchy ones:

  • They’re “annual” but this is the first year they exist
  • The fees are much higher than the final collected pay out to the winner
  • There is little-to-no information or backing, other than an address to send money and writing to

I know some authors who have hard & fast rules about never giving their writing away. I don’t feel I’m at that level yet, so I’m open to opportunities that don’t involve direct payment. However, I will never pay money to either submit (or be published), and I’d encourage you to never do that either.

The entire reason publishers and magazines exist is to build a readership by selectively publishing the work of authors they feel deserve merit. It’s not our job to keep them in business.

That’s what readers are for.

 

Thoughts on Amazon Bookstores

image of amazon bookstore

via Amazaon.com

Amazon bookstores are a curiosity to me.

This article about the Amazon Bookstore “experience” from Book Riot doesn’t paint a rosy picture of the brick & mortar operations, although further digging seems to show an inherent bias against Amazon from this particular outlet.

Criticisms aside, I hope I get the opportunity to visit one of these stores. I’m interested to see how they mesh the aforementioned “experience” of shopping on Amazon with a traditional bookstore. Even if the selection is limited, the idea of having traditional print and eBooks presented in the same shop sounds fascinating. Barnes & Noble technically does this already, but they really discourage the purchase of eBooks, while ironically trying to push Nook devices on their customers.

I believe these stores may be a short-lived experiment since Amazon recently purchased Whole Foods and could easily begin selling Kindles and eBooks to captive audiences in the checkout lines. Plus, Whole Foods already has numerous locations in the “upscale” urban areas they targeted with the initial Amazon Books roll out.

Have you visited an Amazon Bookstore? I’d be interested to know what your experience was like. Did you actually buy anything, or just window shop to investigate what it was all about?