November 28, 2016
by Teresa Edgerton

Guest Blog — Stephen Palmer

And what better way to revive my blog than with a guest blog by the incomparable Stephen Palmer. (Next up will be a review of The Girl With Two Souls.)


Though I use the word crafting in the title of this guest blog, opposing factory production lines, it is in jest. The Arts & Crafts leader William Morris was ambivalent on the place of the machine in nineteenth century manufacturing, though at heart he did want a new tradition of crafting, where the qualities of the materials being used were truly appreciated both by the individual and by society.

In a blog post earlier this year introducing the Factory Girl trilogy – The Girl With Two Souls / The Girl With One Friend / The Girl With No Soul – I wrote: ‘In September 2013 I was watching the news one evening when I began thinking about a writing project that had been bubbling up from my subconscious. Unusually for me the title had come first, and I’d had it for quite a while – The Girl With Two Souls. Who was this girl? When and where did she live? Suddenly a few ideas popped into my head. I grabbed an empty notebook and began jotting down the ideas as they arrived. Soon it was a deluge. When I looked up, two hours had passed by – in a subjective twenty minutes. I had outlined the entire structure of the trilogy: all the main characters, what would happen, how, where, when and why.’
This kind of full, sudden inspiration comes rarely enough, even to prolific authors such as me. I can only remember a couple of times when it happened before, one of which was the creation of the book that eventually turned into my 1996 debut Memory Seed. But once I had the characters, the basic ideas and the trilogy structure in my notebook, what then?


Constructing a large scale world is the task of the crafting author – inspiration, creation, complexity, authenticity, truth. Like all authors I love that time preparing a work when the ideas are flowing thick and fast and the milieu becomes ever more sophisticated, ever more real. But the Factory Girl trilogy was a major departure for me: my first serious novel set in a historical period. Admittedly it was an alternate Britain of 1910, but I wanted the world to be as true to history as possible
Yet I didn’t do much by way of research. My ‘research’ tends to be ongoing – I mostly read non-fiction these days, so everything I read goes into a great pot labelled ‘Possibly Useful.’ However I did read one particularly helpful book, Max Arthur’s Lost Voices of the Edwardians: 1901–1910 in Their Own Words, which is a wonderful oral history of the period, delivered from a wide range of social stations. I even lifted a famous comment made by a Suffragette when demeaned by a male speaker, mentioned in the book. The book was also useful for surnames, for instance Honey, a surname I’d never encountered before, which I applied to a mechanic and film pioneer in Manchester.

The other research I did was more of inclination than anything else. The milieu’s theme is the nature of the automata made by Sir Tantalus Blackmore’s Factory, used in parallel with the human themes. I watched a fascinating documentary called ‘Mechanical Marvels: Clockwork Dreams,’ in which Professor Simon Schaffer details the extraordinary automata made in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This was first broadcast by the BBC in summer 2013, and it may well have inspired the Factory Girl automata. Either way, it is a superb documentary, which I’ve re-watched a couple of times since. Another film that inspired me was Martin Scorsese’s ‘Hugo,’ in which a young boy and a young girl have to find the truth behind a broken automaton and a notebook – a wonderful and emotional film, with two terrific central performances from the young actors; also a great performance by Ben Kingsley, and a surprisingly chilling, yet sensitive and witty performance by Sacha Baron Cohen.

There was a small amount of other serious research that I had to do, but I can’t mention it here because of spoilers. Overall, my research load was light. I imagined as much as I could in freedom.

Of course, constructing a fictional world isn’t only research. It’s surprising what details can illuminate a reader’s mind. In creating Sir Tantalus Blackmore’s automata I devised an instruction system based on stenography; the novel has strong themes of religion and science, so I invented an angelic class of automaton; and there was the vast, anvil-headed black cloud which perpetually hangs over the five mile wide Factory…

Then there was the matter of accents and dialect. The Factory Girl trilogy is mostly set in Sheffield (a British city in Yorkshire), where people speak with distinctive accents. One of the earliest lessons I learned as a youthful writer was the importance of conveying character through idiosyncrasies of speech, and accent is an important part of that. But in Britain it is not uncommon to hear the Yorkshire accent spoofed by comedians (Monty Python’s ‘Four Yorkshiremen’ sketch is world famous), so I knew I had to be very careful. Luckily I had a good friend at work who was a Yorkshire lass, so I went to her for advice – which I then partially ignored. But her advice was very useful. The problem with accents is how far to go. An author can never use it at all for the sake of maximum readability, or they can use it thick and full for maximum authenticity, like Richard Adams’ Geordie fox, The Tod, in The Plague Dogs. But The Tod’s speech is almost unintelligible, and, for me, his sections make for uncomfortable reading – and mostly skimmed. So I decided to go for a happy medium, using many of the characteristics of a Yorkshire accent, and using them consistently, but not going too far. Doubtless I’ll get some complaints of inauthenticity though…

So the world of Factory Girl is a mixture of real research from academic books, free-floating imagination enjoyed during day-dreaming episodes, and proper history. Though the work is set in an alternate Britain I did want it to have the oil and grease, the muck and mud, and the noise and din of Edwardian times. I wanted realistic accents in my imaginary scenes, accents which are not least the sign of realistic characters.

William Morris said, “Nothing should be made by man’s labour which is not worth making, or which must be made by labour degrading to the makers.” He also wrote, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” I hope I have crafted something that was worth making, and I do hope it has a certain oil-stained, grease-smudged beauty…

October 26, 2016
by Teresa Edgerton

New book trailer for Goblin Moon and Hobgoblin Night (just finished last night)

After days working on this (and, as with most projects, this one took days longer than we anticipated … many days) John and I just completed the new video book trailer for the Mask & Dagger books.

December 4, 2015
by Teresa Edgerton

Editing: First Acquisition for Venus Ascending

Woman Writing a Letter

And my career as acquiring editor is off to a great start (I’ll still be editing other books for TBP, just not as intimately involved in the rest of the process as with the books for VA):

I am excited to announce our first acquisition for Venus Ascending.

Skin Deep, by Carolyn Hill (some of you reading here already know her well) was submitted on request before we set the submissions window. I had seen this manuscript years ago, long before I started editing (Carolyn has a habit of writing amazing stories and then not sending them out to publishers). When we started VA I immediately thought of this book as perfect for the imprint, and asked Carolyn to send me a copy so that I could find out if it was as good as I remembered it.
It was as good as I remembered and more! It has a wonderful plot — part gritty dystopian SF and part love story — and terrific characters. What I didn’t remember was how beautifully it was written, with unadorned but exquisite prose. We’re aiming to publish this in the spring.
Further information and a cover reveal when we have a publication date.

November 18, 2015
by Teresa Edgerton

On Writing #5 Editing Your Own Work


(so your editor doesn’t have to do it for you)

Many writers, when they reach a stage where they are ready to edit or put a final polish on their work, often don’t know where to begin. There are so many little things to look for: passive voice, too many adverbs, too many info dumps, veil words … and on and on. This post covers some of the larger issues that may arise, which are also useful things to keep in mind at earlier stages when revising.

Style Is the style consistent? Does it start out poetic in the first chapter and become plain and terse for the rest of the book? Does it flip back and forth between one style and another? Is the writing uneven? Do you include sensory details and visceral reactions? Do you get your characters — and through them the readers — into their bodies and into their environments?)

When you use figurative language (similes, metaphors, personification) is it apt, or are you trying too hard to come up with comparisons that are original? That is, when readers come across these do they subconsciously think “Yes, those two things really are similar in that way.” Or do they think, “Huh?” And have to reread to figure out what you are getting at? Are these in language and images that your viewpoint character would actually be using? Are they appropriate to the tone and atmosphere of a scene, or do they work against it? “The sun was a lemon popsicle in a blueberry sky,” when you are trying to build an atmosphere of dread. “The rain was like a drizzle of blood dripping from an open wound” in a scene you intend to be whimsical and happy.

Dialogue. Is the dialogue important in more than one way (drives the plot, reveals character, gives important information)? Is it to the point or does it ramble needlessly? Do all the characters sound too much alike? If the setting is “historical” do you manage to avoid modern slang and modern ideas, and also avoiding the common traps of trying to imitate a style of speech you aren’t really familiar with (torturing the syntax, misusing words)? Do the characters sound interesting? (Even if a character is supposed to sound boring to the other characters, they should not be tedious to your readers. This can be a very difficult balance to achieve.) Is it consistent with the personality of the character speaking? A middle-aged professor of philosophy should not sound like a ditsy teenager just because you think that would result in more “natural” dialogue — if it isn’t natural for the character, then it’s not natural! Dialogue is not meant to precisely imitate what is natural, but is meant to sound convincingly natural. Do your characters come across as disembodied voices during long conversations, or do you include body language and “stage business” so that readers can better visualize the characters as they speak?

Worldbuilding. (This, of course, is of importance to SFF writers, though parts of it apply to anything you may write in an unfamiliar setting.) Is the worldbuilding consistent and plausible? Do the different parts fit together like the pieces of a puzzle? Do you give readers enough details that they can imagine the big picture without the need for extensive infodumps? If you invent plants, animals, jewels, etc. that do not exist in our world do you end up using one or two of them for everything and to the point of tedium for your readers? (Everyone in your world wears clothes and shoes made from the woven fibers of the Garblewood plant, drinks tea made from Garblewood root, heals wounds with Garblewood leaves, eats Garblewood berries in season, furnishes their houses with Garblewood chairs and tables, shelters during a journey beneath the spreading branches of a conveniently located Garblewood tree, etc.)

Characters. Are the motivations of your characters consistent with their personalities and their circumstances (motivations may not be what they appear to be, but until readers learn differently they need to be plausible), or do your characters act like puppets manipulated by the author to create situations you have planned out in advance? Do your characters generally behave in ways that are consistent with their own self-interest, goals, or beliefs, or do they suddenly change direction whenever it suits you?

Plot. Does the plot depend too much on supposedly intelligent people doing patently stupid things? Do you write backwards (things happen early in the book because of what you have decided will happen later, rather than the other way around)? Do things happen because they would be “cool” whether or not they arise out of what has already happened or if they serve to drive the plot?


While this is not a complete list of the things you should be looking at when you are editing or revising, nor is it intended to be, if you get them right you may be surprised by how many other things unexpected fall into place.

November 15, 2015
by Teresa Edgerton

New Fantasy/Science Fiction Romance Imprint


Starting in January, I’ll be at the helm of a new fantasy and science fiction romance imprint, Venus Ascending.

What we are looking for:

Romance stories in well-realized fantasy, science fiction, or science fantasy settings — steampunk, high fantasy, dystopian, post-apocalyptic, gaslight/regency, space opera, time travel, alien worlds, urban fantasy.

Elements of romance and speculative fiction must both be integral to the plot. We are looking for strong characterization and are more interested in stories focussing on the development of a powerful emotional bond between the hero and heroine than in books with long scenes of graphic sex — which doesn’t mean that we are necessarily looking for books with no sex at all, but I have little patience with books where the plot slows to a crawl in order to accommodate additional sexual encounters between the hero and heroine, and we are willing to look at sweet/clean romance if it fits the sub-genre.

For more information and submission guidelines:

September 13, 2015
by Teresa Edgerton

On Writing #4 Revisions: Not so terrifying as you thought



Some writers love doing revisions. Now they’ve taken care of the basics they can have fun filling in the details. Others regard the process as sheer drudgery after the purely creative phase where ideas were flowing freely. Most are intimidated by the amount of work ahead, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

One way to avoid being overwhelmed is to remind yourself that you don’t have to fix everything at once; you can do this over successive drafts. See this as an opportunity to deepen your connection with your world and characters, not just a time for cleaning up the boring technical details like grammar and overuse of the passive voice.

On the first pass, it’s best to concentrate on the most serious problems. Look for places where you went completely off-track in terms of the plot and/or characters. Do your characters act in a manner consistent with their own needs and desires, or do you think that readers will see your hand manipulating them? Do things happen in ways that are all too convenient for the plot you envision but are not really plausible given the characters and the context in which they move? Are there flaws in your worldbuilding?

Make the most drastic revisions first, because they might require more substantial cuts, more sweeping changes than you anticipate. There is no use polishing a scene or chapter to perfection if it going to be cut or largely rewritten, and not least because it will make it that much harder to find the gumption to cut it out later.

But before you make those drastic revisions, consider this:

When a major problem first comes to your attention, the task ahead may seem daunting, as you imagine that the only way to fix it will involve ripping out large sections and rewriting them from scratch. It could mean that, yes, but often small changes can achieve much. A sentence here, a paragraph there, sometimes a rewritten scene or chapter, may throw an entirely new light on what you already have. As all parts of a novel should work together to tell the story, subtle changes in one area may impact others in unexpectedly effective ways. It’s like the ripple effect when you throw a stone into a pool of water.

Surprisingly often, it’s all a matter of managing readers’ perceptions, rather than making substantial changes to your plot and characters.

How does this work? Well, in the first chapters of a book readers are forming impressions that might (probably will) prove indelible — like hating a character you want them to like. At the beginning of a book, in the absence of other information, they will take the only details they’ve seen as representative of what that character is really like. So suppose that your protagonist makes two or three cutting, sarcastic remarks in the first chapter. All through the rest of the book, he is kind, understanding, sympathetic, but readers have already made up their minds that he has a sharp tongue and a malicious sense of humor. They are looking for sarcasm in everything he says, and because they are expecting it, of course they find it. You love the dialogue in the first chapter: it’s clever, snappy, your writing group gets a big kick out of it. But it gives a false impression of your main character. Change those three lines and you alter readers’ perceptions. They can see that character for who he is. Instead of sarcasm, they read sincerity into everything he says. Yes, sometimes it can be just that easy.

So the first thing you should do when faced with a problem is determine whether you can fix it with just such small, subtle changes, or if major surgery is required. The catch, of course, is that even when you know in your heart that surgery is indicated, the sheer amount of work involved may send you scuttling for a box of bandaids instead. You need to be honest with yourself. Never leave things as they are only because it is the easiest way, and don’t keep scenes, subplots, or characters that no longer work simply because you think they are clever or well-written, or because beta readers tell you those are their favorite parts. (If people are liking best the parts that don’t really work with the rest of the story, you are either in big trouble, or you need some new betas.) Learn to be ruthless. You may be pleasantly surprised by the result. I once had to throw out and rewrite an entire third of a book. I’ve never regretted doing so, because in completely rethinking that part of the book I came up with something I liked far better than what I had before.

Try to think of changes that will be organic to the story.

Before you attempt to invent your way out of a problem, look to see if the solution is already there. Frequently it is. Suppose that you are writing a mystery novel. You have devised a fiendishly clever way for the murderer to poison his victim, and he pulls it off. But when revising the novel you are dismayed to realize that he has made a serious mistake, one that will inevitably lead to another character putting the evidence together and accusing him of the crime long before you want any of the other characters to so much as suspect him. To avoid this happening, the murderer must claim another victim, but lacking time for the meticulous planning that went into his previous crime, he uses the first weapon that comes to hand. There is absolutely no reason for you to invent an antique dagger of oriental design (along with an elaborate history to explain why it is there), if you have already placed a loaded revolver on the mantlepiece in an earlier chapter.

Your job, when this kind of problem comes up, is to search through your book for that loaded revolver. If it isn’t there, then, yes, it may be necessary to introduce something new, but look for the revolver first. Sometimes you will find that your subconscious mind anticipated your needs and gave you exactly what you require long before you realized you would need it.

Plot holes

You can’t fix plot holes by patching them; you do so by weaving loose threads back in. A plot hole occurs when there is something you haven’t thought out sufficiently, usually something much earlier in the story. Inventing new characters and elaborate scenarios to cover up the problem rarely works, as the hole in the fabric of the story is still there and discerning readers will detect it despite your best efforts at disguise. It’s better to take a hard look at your story, pinpoint the exact place where things went wrong, fix the problem at its source rather than the point where you first became aware of it, and rewrite everything that comes between. (This can also work when you’ve lost your forward momentum and stalled. When you can’t go forward, go back.) This may seem like a lot of work, but in the long run it usually involves less work because it fixes the problem for good. Otherwise, the loose threads continue to unravel, requiring more and more fixes. As above, whenever possible look for a solution within the story. Very often it’s already there; you just haven’t seen it yet.

The truth About tightening

Tightening, you may be surprised to learn, doesn’t always mean making things shorter. It means taking out all the boring and irrelevant bits and replacing them with material that engages, that adds interest to what you already have. Often this substitution does make the word count shorter, but occasionally it ends up actually being longer though it seems to read much faster. A gripping novel of 120,000 words may whisk right by, while a much shorter but less involving novel seems to inch along. Tightening means that everything in the story should serve a purpose, perhaps two or more purposes at the same time. For instance a line of dialogue that advances the plot while also providing background information and illuminating character. Tightening may mean eliminating a minor character and giving his lines and assigning his actions to another minor character. Or it might mean eliminating that dagger and using the revolver instead—or vice versa.

Information that seems irrelevant in one chapter may become of vital interest to readers in another, when they understand its importance, or when when you’ve brought them to the point where they are dying to know all about it—perhaps because you have paved the way by dropping hints to arouse their curiosity. Under these circumstances, the solution is simply to move it rather than cut it. This is especially true where there are expository lumps or infodumps. Backstory or background that seems too much when readers are expected to swallow it all in one gulp may be just the right amount when fed to them slowly, a bite at a time. But even an infodump or a flashback may work if it is entertaining, relevant, and satisfies (at least in part) readers’ curiosity. However, don’t take this as an excuse to be self-indulgent.

Look for rambling dialogue, and ask yourself if the characters could have said what they have to say in fewer words. In real life, people do ramble before getting to the point—and sometimes never get to the point at all. But you do not have the luxury of writing that kind of dialogue, not if you want to keep readers interested. Make every word count. On the other hand, you aren’t writing a movie script where actors can take meager dialogue and add extra meaning with the way they deliver it. Make it eloquent and specific. In the end, that can save you extra words.

And while we are on the subject of dialogue: if you have characters of a higher class than the others and are meant to be better educated, don’t try to demonstrate this with wordiness, tortured syntax, and vocabulary you barely understand yourself. These characters are the ones who should be the most clear and precise in the way they use words. People who are accustomed to giving orders tend to be concise because they feel no need to explain themselves. (And if you think you know the meaning of a word but it is not one you would use yourself, consult a dictionary. It may not mean what you think it means, and it never hurts to make sure. Sometimes a shorter, more common word better says what you want your character to say.)

Watch out for cheap melodrama

By this I mean arguments, tantrums, and other emotional explosions that do nothing to advance the plot or to reveal anything useful about the characters, but are merely there to spice up the story and provide conflict in scenes where nothing particularly exciting is happening. These tactics get old fast, and can cause readers to lose sympathy for otherwise appealing characters. They can also dilute moments of genuine drama—if your characters are hyperventilating and striking poses on practically every page, how can you expect readers to be impressed by the same behaviors when the real action begins? Save such things for the big moments, when they’ll have more impact. If you need cheap melodramatics to make a scene interesting, consider whether the scene is even necessary.

But the worst thing about this kind of histrionics is that they are so easy and obvious they may distract you from searching for and finding the genuine dramatic possibilities that already exist within the scene.

Say that you have three girls walking down the street in order to get somewhere that things are going to happen. They come from different backgrounds but have been friends since early childhood. Girl A is wealthy. She is always dressed in the latest fashion, wears designer clothes, and always has the best of everything—all the best and most frivolous electronic devices, etc. Girl B’s family is middle class. She dresses well, but her clothes are knock-offs from the local department store. She has most of the same things that Girl A has, but always in cheaper versions. Girl C is poor. She doesn’t have a cell phone or a computer. She shops at the local thrift store or wears hand-me-downs from her older sister. Since she will never be able to dress like other girls, she makes a point of being eccentric in what she wears, and has her own style somewhere between punk and goth.

Now this is a transitional scene, basally meant to get your characters from here to there, and you could skip it entirely except that they are meant to casually notice something of later importance along the way. The scene as it stands is boring, so you think you need some conflict. You invent an argument about a class assignment. It’s rather a silly argument and it does nothing to advance the plot but … well, you need something, don’t you?

And yet, there a plenty of opportunities for genuine conflict between the characters, without the manufactured drama of the argument over report due for history class. which will be forgotten as soon as the characters move on to the next scene. Since I am giving an extreme example here, I am sure that you can see what some of those opportunities are. Girls B and C, no matter how much they like Girl A must at times be envious of her. A chance word could set this off and B and C can verbally gang up on A. Or A and B can tell C that she should dress more like “a normal girl” because sometimes they are ashamed to be seen with her. Or A and C can argue and B get stuck in the middle and her efforts to calm things down may cause both the other girls to turn on her. Or … there are undoubtedly other possibilities. And any of these, unlike that paper for history class that you pulled out of your hat, can feed future tension between the girls later in the story when you need it. Even if the girls have made up by the end of the walk, memories of that argument and the tensions behind it can be simmering beneath the surface until you need them to break out again.

So don’t let conflict you manufacture on the spot blind you to possibilities already built into the story and characters.


If you keep these things in mind, you may find the revision process goes more quickly and easily. You may even find the process becomes enjoyable. If nothing else, I hope these tips help you to move ahead more confidently and effectively, by removing some of the mystery and confusion from what is not really a mysterious process at all.

September 11, 2015
by Teresa Edgerton

The 777 Game

I’ve been tagged in the 777 game on Twitter, by Thaddeus White, author of Bane of Souls, and Sir Edric’s Temple. The rules: go to any one of your works in progress, find a page ending in 7, and post 7 lines. I’ve only one WIP at the moment, The Wind That Moves The Worlds (Book Three of The Rune of Unmaking), so here is my excerpt:

“You horrify me,” she said, whirling around to face him. “The others are so evil there is no disguising it. But you are far more dangerous.”

She had not meant to say it, nor anything half so revealing, but too much had happened and all of it her fault. She had not thought she would hate him so; she had not known that he would draw her like a lodestone draws iron. And there he stood, in all his tarnished nobility, in all the power of his misused and perverted gifts, tempting her to the same arrogance that had betrayed her before.

I tagged:

Denise Tanaka
James Worrad
Julia Spink Miles
Toby Frost
Chris Stevenson
Christopher Bean
E. J. Tett

(And since I don’t visit Twitter regularly, I hope none of you have been tagged before.)

August 29, 2015
by Teresa Edgerton


And this time it’s me, writing about my various experiences in publishing:


I used to sell my books to some of the biggest science fiction/fantasy imprints. After eleven books (all but the first sold from a synopsis or outline, all but that one and one other part of multi-book deals) that is something I have no interest in doing again.

Don’t get me wrong. I have none of the usual complaints about working with the big publishers. Every editor I ever dealt with was someone who cared passionately about books. They liked me, they liked my books, they were incredibly patient about missed deadlines, and they always treated me with kindness and respect. They published books that they believed in by authors they believed in, sometimes continuing to carry authors whose books were profitable but not hugely successful, in the hope that the next book or the book after that would be the big break-out.

Unfortunately, as the big corporations took over more and more publishers, putting pressure on them to bring in larger and larger profits, this kind of “midlist” writer was increasingly squeezed out. It took only one book with poor sales for the sales and marketing departments (which grew more and more powerful) to refuse to even consider the next book. This happened to me, but fortunately, editorial liked the potential of my next book proposal. We talked about it, and decided to change my name, so that the new trilogy would not be carrying all the baggage that went with my real name and the previous book. Sales and marketing agreed to take a look at the proposal under that condition, and within a couple of weeks I (or rather, the elusive Madeline Howard) had a three book contract.

So why wouldn’t I submit my next book to one of the large publishers?

1. I mentioned deadlines. I am terrible at meeting them. Worse than terrible. Not only have I decided that I will be healthier and happier if I never have to face another deadline, but, to be perfectly frank, I am all but certain that I have already burned all my bridges with the major SFF imprints by missing so many of them.

2. At the larger publishers, books have only a short time to make an impact. If they don’t, they are given little chance to show that they have legs. Print versions may quickly go out-of-print. These days this is partly mitigated by e-book editions, but not all readers use electronic devices to buy and read books. A book may still be available, but not to all readers.

3. The backlist. One of the best ways to build a writing career is to build a backlist. It builds name recognition, creates a larger presence in bookstores, and gives readers who have just discovered an author a chance to buy up previously written books while their interest is high. But to do any good, of course, the backlist has to be available. Which in the old days meant that it had to exist in a print version. While a few publishers routinely re-issued all of a writer’s older books when a new book came out, I had never signed with one of those publishers. Book I in a series had usually disappeared from the bookstores by the time that Book II came out, and Book II was history before Book III was published. Many readers don’t like to buy the last book in a trilogy until all three books are available. If the first two books are no longer available, they are not about to buy the third one. Even though my original publisher went on buying new books from me, and I was making money off all the advances and the occasional royalties, most of my older books were no longer available.

4. The length of time between turning in the manuscript and seeing the book published and available for sales. From the time that an author turned in the finished manuscript to the time the book was published could be anything between one year and two. Since this is considered the most advantageous interval between series books anyway, this works well if the writer is turning out books at regular intervals. But if a book is late and the schedule has to be changed, it can be a long, long time between books.

Like many other writers, when my books had been out-of-print for a few years I invoked the reversion clause and was able to get the rights back. But what to do with the books after that? Chances of interesting another publisher in reprinting a book by a midlist author were very poor indeed, and self-publishing was hardly an option.

That last, of course, has changed, and self-publishing is a very real option. As is selling to one of the small presses that have appeared over the last decade or so, because some of the same technological innovations that make self-publishing so much easier are also favorable for small start-up presses.

Some writers have even started their own publishing companies to reprint their own backlist books, or joined together with other writers who wish to do the same. And some writers, successful, award-winning writers, have turned to the small presses, because the small presses can be more audacious than the larger publishers in the books they choose to publish.

When I decided that I wanted to see the books in my backlist back in print, I sold The Green Lion Trilogy to a small press that I thought really had a chance to grow and become a force in the field. They were successful with their first few books, but before they came around to publishing mine they had decided, for personal reasons, to go out of business. Fortunately, my contract was not one of those bad contracts that small presses sometimes offer, where the author gives up all rights forever and there is no reversion clause. (Not that I would have signed such a contract or that my agent would have let me. Still, many new writers are so thrilled that someone wants to publish their books, they are willing to sign anything. My advice if faced with such a contract is to sign nothing, make no deal, have nothing more to do with that press. Even if you could negotiate a decent reversion clause, these are not people to be trusted. Either they don’t understand the publishing business, or they are hoping that you don’t.) So the people who ran the press I had signed with, being honest and knowing the business, had provided a contract with a reversion clause. I recovered the rights to those books, and have now to decide what to do with them next.

My next move, a few years later, was to try self-publishing. I was not interested in making a lot of money—I had, after all, been paid advances and royalties on these books when they first came out. But I wanted the books to have a second chance at life. I wanted them to be available to readers now and in the future.

With self-publishing, a book can stay in print as long as the author chooses. It has forever to find an audience. Meanwhile, with POD and electronic versions, the author is not stuck with a garage full of unsold books. When the next book in a series comes out, the first book is still available. With minimal outlay of money, an author with many out-of-print books can bring out his or her entire backlist within a relatively short amount of time. It is advisable to pay for professional quality artwork and for proofreading, but the books have already been professionally edited, so there is no need to pay for an editor, unless (as is sometimes the case) the writer has taken this opportunity to make some revisions.

As my first foray into self-publishing I chose my novel Goblin Moon, and the plan was that I would publish the sequel a few months later. With the help of some friends I was able to come up with a cover that I liked, format the book, and upload it to Lulu to publish the paperback POD, and to Kindle and Smashwords for the electronic editions. I had never been pleased with the name of the sequel, The Gnome’s Engine, and because it was a short novel (especially by modern standards for fantasy) I decided to publish it in one volume with three short stories and name the resulting omnibus/ collection Hobgoblin Night.

For various reasons, some of them related to coming up with the cover art I had envisioned, I never did get around to self-publishing Hobgoblin Night. But that’s another story for another day. Eventually, I imagine, I would have gotten around to it

Goblin Moon sold about as well as I thought it would, considering the minimal amount of promotion I felt like doing. Since my main motivation was to see the book back in print, I was satisfied with those sales. Anyone who seeks to base a career on self-publishing, and who wants eventually to make a living wage so that they can write full-time, had better be willing to do a great deal of promotion—possibly, in the beginning, spend more time promoting than writing. I had no such ambition.

But about the time those sales started decreasing, Gary Compton at Tickety Boo Press expressed an interest in publishing both Goblin Moon and Hobgoblin Night. I liked the contract and signed. Sarah Swainger was chosen as the cover artist. She took the cover from the self-published edition of Goblin Moon, cleaned it up, changed the colors, and generally improved it, and she created original and excellent artwork to grace the cover of Hobgoblin Night.

At Tickety Boo, sales of Goblin Moon went back up, and have remained fairly steady. Hobgoblin Night has just recently been released. I was able to do some light revisions, and Sam Primeau did the copy editing. It’s a lovely edition.

So will I try self-publishing again, now that I have gone back to traditional publishing, (although with a small press rather than a large one)?

Most definitely. I want to see all my OP books back in print, and I think I can manage that more expeditiously if I publish at least some of them myself.

Also, there is the matter of my short fiction. Most magazines and anthologies buy the first serial rights, which, essentially, means that after a given period of time—usually about a year from publication—the rights automatically revert to the author. A prolific author may eventually gather together a dozen or so of his or her stories as a one-author collection and sell that, but I never wrote enough of short fiction to make up a collection (though three of my stories, “Rogue’s Moon,””The Ghost in the Chimney,” and “TITANIA or The Celestial Bed” did go into Hobgoblin Night). Some stories are resold to anthologies, but for most anthologies either all the stories are reprints (for instance, best of the year anthologies) or none. This makes selling old stories to anthologies difficult, though not impossible. I did sell one story, “A Wreath of Pale Flowers for Vitri,” to Tickety Boo for Malevolence, Tales From Beyond the Veil, edited by J. Scott-Marryat.

But many, many writers—old writers, new writers, writers of every stature—are publishing electronic editions of their short fiction. For 99¢ many readers are willing to pay for a short story or novelette, up to $2.99 for a novella. They may, also, for that price take a chance on an author unfamiliar to them, and if they like the story go on to look for novels by that same author.

And for that reason, I am right now in the process of preparing a pair of short stories for publication: “Dying by Inches” and “Captured in Silver.” They are both set in the same world, so I plan to publish them together as one 99¢ ebook. I could publish them as is, but I am taking this opportunity to revise them. Each was written for a theme anthology, at the invitation of the editor, but in each case there were approximate word limits. Since I no longer have to worry about word limits, I think the stories have some room to grow, and I plan to give it to them. Will I sell many copies? I have no idea, since self-publishing my short fiction will be a brand new venture for me. I know that to a large extent it will depend on how much promotion I am willing to do, and I have neither Jo’s energy nor her motivation. But it will help to rebuild my backlist, and that in itself should be an advantage.

Copyright © Teresa Edgerton | Site design by Garcom Media and SJS Web Design | Artwork by AS Behsam