In the summer of 2021, I began making a dedicated effort to get speculative fiction stories published. As part of this effort, in August I attended Readercon 31. It was entirely virtual this year, due to the pandemic. I had only attended a face-to-face Readercon once in the Before Times. But I remembered it as a very chill and high quality event. Oh, there was the old white guy who kept railing about furries, but that just added to the character of the event. Still, I was quite excited.
It was fantastically well organized. The tech support team had put together an amazing system — slightly byzantine — that combined Discord, Zoom, and Youtube which was extremely effective at providing a seamless conference experience. I enjoyed the panel discussions and other scheduled events. But spent a lot of time just exploring who was there.
There was a “bookshop” section that had a few resellers (book stores), but also several publishers. A few, I’d heard of. But most were new to me. I anticipated meeting them and hearing more about how their publishing businesses worked. But I ended up being bit disappointed. Several of them seemed to have pre-stocked their Discord “channel” with a generic message or two. But most seemed unstaffed much of the time. I stopped by all of them several times, but didn’t have much success in connecting with any of them. Except one: Water Dragon Publishing.
I had never heard of Water Dragon Publishing before, but when I stopped in their channel, it was not only staffed, there were often two or three people there engaging in friendly banter. And they also had a series of scheduled events, with author Q&A sessions and also the possibility to pitch stories to their editorial team. I tried hanging out in several of the other Readercon “hang out” spaces — the “con-suite” or “hallway” or “the bar” and although they were OK, I pretty quickly started spending most of my time just lurking in the Water Dragon channel. By the end of Readercon, I had submitted a piece of short fiction to their “Dragon Gems” program and pitched my novella and was invited to submit it as well.
About a month later, I got a follow up email: my short story was accepted! Yay! Then the real work started. I got a list of comments from the reviewers, helpfully annotated with suggestions for addressing them. Plus a contract; social media policy; a project in a project management system with tasks, and subtasks, and deadlines; invitations to a Discord server and an instance of Slack, etc.
It’s been an adventure! This is my first publication of speculative fiction in English, so all of this is new to me. I’ve been learning a huge amount about the process and publication in general. I had this naive idea that you write a story, it gets accepted, and then you write another story. Instead, I’m approving cover art, identifying potential reviewers, writing biographies, and summaries. It’s been eye-opening to see what goes into publishing.
I have also been doing my due diligence with respect to Water Dragon Publishing. They’re an “imprint” of Paper Angel Press (as of Spring 2021). Paper Angel Press has been around for about 6 years. It’s a “small publisher” overseen by the managing editor, Steven Radecki. With this company, they’ve staked out a position bridging the divide between self-publishing and traditional publishing. If you’re self-publishing (Disclaimer: I have self-published four books.) then you’re doing everything, baby: cover design, page layout, editing, etc. Paper Angel does all of that, but doesn’t have the marketing power of a traditional publisher and so more of the burden of promoting books falls to the author — with lots of support, encouragement, and advice. Of course, traditional publishers have been pushing more and more of the promotion onto authors anyway. So the boundaries are a lot more diffuse than they used to be.
Finally, there is a lively community of folks involved in Water Dragon and Paper Angel. I’ve been invited to attend a virtual writing group with other authors and other events, including book launches, being interviewed for podcasts, virtual writing events, etc. The community has been incredibly supportive. But I must admit that we’re an odd assemblage of people of different ages with different backgrounds and from different walks of life. So I started joking with my family that, when I attend, I’m traveling to the Island of Misfit Toys. But, in this regard, I feel like I fit right in.
My first story, The Third Time’s the Charm, is being released on November 22, 2021 and is now available for pre-order! Just $0.99! It makes a great stocking stuffer, because who doesn’t like pirates and dirigibles and mayhem! Order it today!