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The Editing Process: Invisible

I thought folks might be curious about the process of turning a collection of blog posts into an almost-ready-for-publication e-book. (If I was mistaken about that, and you couldn’t care less, go check out some superhero cats instead.)

Once I decided to do it, the first step was to talk to the guest bloggers. Originally, I had only asked people to write something up for the blog. I wanted to know if they would be on board with an e-book collection (they were). I talked about the token payment I could offer, the title I had in mind (“Invisible”), and the idea for donating any additional profits to Con or Bust.

Everyone seemed excited about the idea, so the next step was to put together a contract. I looked at SFWA’s sample contracts and some of the contracts I’d signed over the years. The final version was loosely modeled on the fiction contract John Joseph Adams uses for Lightspeed. I didn’t want to get too bogged down in legalese, but I wanted to make it clear what people would be paid, what rights I was buying, and things like that.

I also contacted a few people about essays I hadn’t been able to run on the blog, asking if they’d want to be part of the anthology. While I’m keeping the posts on my site available for free, I like the idea of having some bonus content in the e-book. I emailed Alex Dally MacFarlane at this point as well, asking if she’d be interested in writing an introduction. More contracts and payments followed.

I had been playing with cover art ideas, because even though I’m obviously not a professional graphic designer, it’s something I enjoy doing. You can see my early draft in this blog post, where I announced the anthology. Part of the reason I wanted to talk about it was to generate a little early awareness and buzz, as well as to get feedback on the cover and the overall project.

Then it was time to start putting the actual e-book together. I use Sigil to create my e-books. The first step was to copy the essays off the blog and into the software. That was the easy part. The real fun was in going through each file for consistency in things like how em-dashes and ellipses were coded, and removing any junk code that might have gotten picked up in the copy/paste process. Two essays lost all of their quotations marks, and a third ended up with all of its italics stripped away.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, Mark Ferrari and I started chatting. He was kind enough to offer some advice on cover art, and volunteered to put something together if I was interested. (Spoiler: I was interested!) We swapped emails from time to time over the month of March, and he ended up taking my ideas and turning them into something sharper and more eye-grabbing.

Content-wise, I had already worked with some of the authors on edits to their stories before they went up on the blog. I did the same with some of the new content. Once I had everyone’s stuff, I put it all into the ebook file, adjusted the Table of Contents a bit, updated the cover art with the final list of contributors, and ran the file through an .epub validator. I fixed a few more things, and then it was time to send page proofs out to everyone, asking them to get back to me with any changes by April 6. (This is how we discovered that one person’s essay had lost its italics.)

I’ve been keeping a spreadsheet that originally included contributor names (and pen names, if applicable), their email addresses, and the title of their essays. Other columns I’ve added include the dates contracts were sent and received, when payments were sent, the preferred format (if any) for page proofs, and the date page proofs were sent.

I think we’re on track for an April 15 publication date. I want to send a copy of the book to a few reviewers in the next day or so, too. I also need to look into publicity for the launch. There’s a podcast I’ll be doing (more details on that later), and some websites I need to send the announcement to. I’ve also started writing up the content information for places like Amazon, B&N, etc. This is things like the description, keywords, price ($2.99), and so on.

I had forgotten how much work this is. If you’re a writer, please remember to thank your editor for everything they do! As an editor, I want to thank all of my writers on this project. They’ve been a pleasure to work with.

In conclusion, I’m very proud to share the final cover art and lineup for Invisible, coming April 15.

Invisible - Lg

April Fools Day Roundup

This is my list of April Fools Day stuff that made me laugh and/or smile. I’ll be updating throughout the day.

Return of the SFWA Bulletin

The SFWA Bulletin is back after a roughly ten-month hiatus. I’m not interested in reruns of arguments from a year ago, but I wanted to take a look at what SFWA has put together for the relaunch of their professional magazine. (And of course, Jason Sanford beat me to the punch pretty much as soon as I started writing this blog post.)

One of the biggest changes is that the Bulletin will now be available in both print and electronic format. Members can log into the Forums and download the magazine here in .epub, .mobi, or .pdf format. I’m told the electronic edition will also be made available for sale to non-members, though I don’t believe that’s happened yet.

Given the events of last year, I suspect most everyone’s going to immediately check out the cover. The artwork is by Galen Dara. I like it a lot as an image. Dara does nice, evocative work. I’m not entirely sold on it as a cover for the Bulletin, though. The text layout doesn’t really pull together for me, and the overall cover … it just doesn’t scream “professional journal” to me.

That said, this is an interim issue. Moving forward, John Klima is taking over as editor of the Bulletin, and I suspect there will be more changes to come. As a transition/relaunch, I think the cover works well enough, and definitely sends the message that the organization is working to avoid the mistakes of the past.

The contents have a distinctly different feel, with an emphasis on what SFWA is and what the organization does. The very first piece is Susan Forest’s, “SFWA at its Core,” which talks about SFWA’s five core goals (inform, support, promote, defend, advocate), and the different ways it works to achieve those goals.

There are articles about the website, the SFWA Forum, the Ombudsman’s role, the SFWA Reception and other events, the online discussion boards, the YA/MG group, and more. If you wanted to put together an introductory packet for new and prospective members, you could pick up this issue and be halfway there.

And there are HONEY BADGERS! Comic relief honey badgers from Ursula Vernon and MCA Hogarth. I don’t know what Klima is planning for future issues, but please consider this a plea for more honey badger comics!

This is a good relaunch, and worth reading for anyone who wants to know why they should bother joining SFWA, or what the organization really does. Thank you Tansy Rayner Roberts, Jaym Gates, Neil Clarke, Steven Gould, and everyone else who worked to make this issue happen. I’m looking forward to seeing where the new editor takes it from here.

Cool Stuff Friday

This is my Friday. It’s little and broken, but still good. Yeah. Still good.

Update and Release Date for Invisible

I’m aiming for an April 15 release date for Invisible, the collection of essays on representation in SF/F. Everything is put together except for three pieces, one of which is my own afterword. (Oops!)

Contributors should have proofs in their email on or around April 1. I may also try to query a few folks about sending review copies. If you know of a good place that might be willing to review an ebook collection like this, please let me know.

Mark Ferrari was kind enough to lend his expertise to the cover art. This isn’t 100% final, but it’s relatively close, and has a bit more visual punch than what I had originally put together. What do you think?

Invisible - Draft

The order of the contributors may change. I still need to go through and look at the flow of the whole thing.

All in all, I’m really excited about this!

Website Update

I spent the past week or so rebuilding www.jimchines.com. I had two main goals:

  • Set up a theme that would work on mobile devices.
  • Make everything as clean and readable as possible.

I went with the Simfo theme and trimmed a lot out of the sidebar content. I’m pretty happy with the home page. I like the slider, the thumbnails for the different series, and the recent blog posts. But some of the other pages, like the bibliography, look a little too stark now.

I know I need to clean a few things up, like the Press Kit page. But I think I’m at the point where I’d love to have folks poke at it a bit to see what works, and if there’s anything that either breaks your browser or just makes you gag in disgust. So far, it’s worked well on my phone and my internet browsers. It gave my parents trouble on IE8, but I think that might be something weird in their system setup.

Anyway, feedback is very much appreciated for anyone who has time to go exploring…

Website Update, Hugo Deadline, and Con Crud

Some of you have noticed I’ve been messing about with the website this week. My main goals are to set up a theme that’s cleaner, more mobile friendly, and generally just looks better. It’s still a work in progress, but so far I’m pretty happy. I’ll probably ask for feedback once I finish figuring out how all of these new-fangled buttons and features all work.

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Hugo Award nominations close at the end of the day on March 31. If you’re interested in a copy of my short story “Stranger vs. the Malevolent Malignancy” for consideration, just email me at jchines -at- sff.net and I’ll be happy to send it your way.

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In other news, this week continues to kick my butt, courtesy of con crud, work deadlines, and a conspiracy among various appointments and activities that won’t ease up until at least Sunday. Which is why you get a few short updates in lieu of a real blog post.

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But on the bright side, remember the (overdue) story I was working on this past weekend? Well, the editor liked it, and it sounds like “On the Efficacy of Supervillain Battles in Eliciting Therapeutic Breakthroughs” will be appearing in Unidentified Funny Objects 3. This story features the return of Jarhead, therapist to the superpowered set, from my UFO2 story.

Back from Millennicon

Millennicon was great fun. Unfortunately, both the kids and I seem to have come down with post-con crud, but the convention itself was awesome … if a little dangerous for the blood sugar. (There was a birthday cake for my son, and another cake a few hours later at the GoH reception.)

My wife Amy was kind enough to do most of the driving, which gave me time to finish a short story for that blown deadline I mentioned the other day. Story is off to the editor, and I owe Amy many, many hugs.

As always, there was far too much cool stuff going on for any one human being to do. I missed the launch party for Stephen Leigh’s newest book, Immortal Muse. (I did get to see him receive the Hal Award, given each year to “an educator who creates a program utilizing science fiction literature to improve children’s proficiency in science and math.”

I also missed the Detcon1 takeover of the consuite on Saturday.

On the other hand, I got to do a reading that went rather well, a panel about dumb questions (which Laura Resnick TOTALLY SABOTAGED by prohibiting any and all sex-related questions, just because her father was on the panel with her…sheesh), had my son thrown into Klingon jail, heard a new (to me) Tom Smith song, and finally got to wear the T-shirt I got for Christmas in public.

(Photo by Hugh Staples. Cape assistance by Stephen Leigh.)

Huge thanks to Christy Johnson, Cheryl Whitford, and everyone else who put so much time and energy into making the convention happen.

As is often the case, the only downside was having to come back to the real world. Not only was there housework and day job work waiting for me, but apparently at least one mouse moved into the house this weekend and was throwing a little convention of its own. Taz the cat spent the whole night trying to get at it, and actually caught it briefly this morning, but when I tried to get cat and mouse outside to let the little rodent go free, it pulled a Houdini and managed to disappear beneath the couch.

And how was your weekend?

Millennicon Schedule

I’m thrilled to be heading over to Ohio this weekend to be a Guest of Honor at Millennicon. Here’s the schedule, just in case you want to come say hello or make sure you know how to avoid me all weekend.

Friday

  • 6 pm,  MR 1210, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! (In which the convention throws a birthday party for my son, because they are AWESOME!!!)
  • 7 pm, Harrison, Opening Ceremonies
  • 8 pm, Con Suite, GOH reception

Saturday

  • 10 am, Harrison, GOH Reading
  • 2 pm, Hotel Lobby, GOH Autographs
  • 3 pm, McKinley, There are No Dumb Questions (Moderator)

Sunday

  • 10 am, McKinley, Fan Fiction and “Real” Writing
  • Noon, Hotel Lobby, GOH Autographs
  • 2 pm, Harrison, GOH Q&A
  • 3 pm, Harrison, Closing Ceremonies

Tom Smith will be there as Filk Guest of Honor, which should make my wife happy. She tolerates me, but she’d much rather hang out at one of Tom’s concerts ;-)

There are a lot of great people at this one, some of whom I haven’t seen in a while, so I’m expecting this to be a lot of fun.