Saturday, December 13, 2008

It's the end of the year...

...and if you want to know what you should be reading (or should, perhaps, have already read), awards shortlists and year's best round up are a good place to start.

In the past month or so there have been a number of recommended reading lists, and year's end roundups announced, as well as the Aurealis Awards shortlists. As readers and publishers, it is worth checking these out for various reasons including:

  • finding out which stories/authors are being recognised consistently across the lists, and noting them as ones to look out for.
  • keeping track of new and up-and-coming talents.
  • finding markets to read in you may not have discovered.
  • mentally comparing to your own vision of what's hot and what's not.

Some of the many round ups in the last little while are:

The crew of Not If You Were The Last Short Story On Earth (or LSS as they are known) - the four crazy people of LSS blog throughout the year on their favourite stories (they attempt to read almost every market for the year) and then end the year with individual and combined lists, both for Australian work and as part of the international scene. If you work out which of the crew's taste best align with yours, you'll find some great recommendations.

Rich Horton's roundups: Rich analyses a huge number of markets and also posts various Year's Best lists.

Back to the 2007 publishing year - Bill Congreve and Michelle Marquardt publish a print Year's Best Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy collection, accompanied by an online Recommended Reading list. Worth a look, and keep an eye out for the collection.

The Aurealis Awards are Australia's national speculative fiction awards. The shortlists were released last week, with awards to be announced in late January. Recognising both short and long form fiction, children's, young adult, illustrated works and collections, the Aurealis shortlists are an interesting overview of the Australian publishing year.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Reviews, Reprints and Awards - what benefit small press?

In the past few months I've been party to a number of discussions with different people regarding the value of awards, Year's Best reprints and honorable mentions, and reviews. These three areas have differing purposes and processes, but all three can impact upon the perception readers have of a book or story.

My perspective on this is diverse:
  • I'm a reader, and while I never really run out of things to read, because I am, and always have been, a compulsive reader, I'm always looking for new things to read.
  • I'm a reviewer. I have been reviewing for a few years now, both books I've purchased and chosen to review, and books supplied by publishers and authors, for various print and online publications.
  • I'm a judge - for the past two years I've convened the Fantasy Novel panel for the national Aurealis Awards.
  • I'm an editor/publisher. I publish stories that have been considered for awards and mentions in Year's Best compilations and have done so for six years.

By rights, I should know the worth of awards, reviews and Year's Best mentions. But my opinions on this issue may not be the same as others, and I am very interested in hearing what others think.

Let's start with awards: I would not personally purchase a book for pleasure reading simply because it had won an award - even an award I know of, and in Australia alone there are quite a number of well respected and established adjudicated awards. However, when I'm purchasing in my role as teacher librarian at a secondary school, awards may play a part in my decisions. It certainly has when I've been weeding the fiction collection, and books that I don't know myself have managed to keep their place on the shelves because they have won a Premier's Award, or Children's Book Council Award. Is this wrong? I don't believe so. I try to read widely in the young adult arena, but I can't read everything. Many of these books were published in the years between when I left high school and when I started in the role as TL, and there's so much new work to consider, I simply don't have time to read it all. Other than popularity in borrowing, sometimes knowing a book has won an award or two is the only real measure of worth that I can go by.

From a publishing point of view, I have heard small press editors say that even multiple awards for a particular book has not had any impact on their sales. I wonder though, if in some cases, it's a little like building credit. In this case, credibility, the kudos that come with having work that has previously been critically acclaimed, and using it to create a positive image for the NEXT book that is released?

The same thing can be said for Year's Best reprints or honorable mentions. By the time these appear, it's probably a bit late to impact the sales of the collection the story appeared in, as these books can be produced more than 18 months after the work is released in some circumstances. But there is some merit in being able to utilise the acclaim with later works, with clever and consistent marketing of the product and making the most of previous accolades. Hopefully, with every sale of the new product, the buyer is also exposed to older publications, slowly selling through the long tail.

When it comes to reviews, I'm becoming more likely to purchase based on reviews of books. A number of reviewing and book blogs are on my RSS feed and "friends" lists, and this year I've made more personal and school library purchases based on recommendations from these blogs than from simply shelf browsing, demonstrating that for me, reviews are a powerful selling tool.

As an editor, it's always a good feeling to have my publications well reviewed, and I know many authors get a kick out of seeing their story received positively. In the case of short stories though, I'm not certain the same impact on sales is seen. The old adage "All publicity is good publicity" probably holds true though. Perhaps we're talking about two different things though. Possibly it's easier to make the decision to purchase a novel based on a review than a short story collection or magazine, knowing that if a novel is well reviewed, it's likely to be a good read through and through, whereas a story collection may be uneven in quality. Possibly it's the difference between large press and small, where the large publishers can send hundreds of copies of a book to reviewers and have a very good chance of gaining widespread publicity, but small press much count the value of each and every one.

Maybe it's true that the only person impacted by a positive review, an award, or a Year's Best mention is the author of the work. Maybe there are no other benefits to such things. I don't want to believe that, although there are arguments that validate it. Perhaps awards don't always get things right. Popular vote awards rarely do (just look at Australian Idol in years gone by!) but I think in most cases, adjudicated awards have valid reasons for choosing their winners. Year's Best compilations are really just one person's personal taste put together in a collection, but they also have their place in showcasing authors and markets consistently producing quality work. It's likely that reviews have the most impact on sales overall, but even then, for small press there's a barrier - availability. Getting rave reviews is a moot point if the work is not easily available to purchase. And while purchasing may be informed by reviews, awards and other factors, the truth is, often that review doesn't come to mind until the reader is confronted with the book on the shelf. But that is a topic for another post!

Would be very interested to hear some other perspectives on this. What influences your buying the most? Do you see a value for publishers in Year's Best mentions/reprints and/or awards? Is it really only to stroke the egos of our authors, or is there more to it?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Year's Best Science Fiction 25th Annual Collection, Gardner Dozois

Unlike in the Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Australians don't feature nearly as prominently in The Year's Best Science Fiction. Dozois is generally supportive of small press and has said nice things about the Aussie small press scene in the past, but he's not impressed this year. Almost all the Honorable Mentions garnered by Australians have been in international publications, barring two from the Cat Sparks edited AGOG! Ripping Reads (well done Cat, who gained an Honorable Mention for her SF writing as well). Two Greg Egan stories were reprinted in the volume itself, "Glory", from the Strahan/Dozois collection The New Space Opera, and "Steve Fever" from Technology Review.

The Honorable Mentions for Australians or for works published by an Australian editor/publication are below. Apologies if I've missed any and congratulations to all.

Jenny Blackford, "Python", RUINS TERRA
Simon Brown, "Reiteration", MAN VS MACHINE
Jack Dann, "Cafe Culture", ASIMOV'S JANUARY
Stephen Dedman, "Centenary", COSMOS APRIL-MAY
Terry Dowling, "The Magikkers", WIZARDS
Terry Dowling, "The Suits at Auderlene", INFERNO
Grace Dugan, "Somewhere in Central Queensland", STRANGE HORRIZONS, 22 JANUARY.
Greg Egan, "Dark Integers", ASIMOV'S OCT NOV
Greg Egan, "Induction", FOUNDATION 100
Margo Lanagan, "Reflecting Glory", FOUNDATION 100
Margo Lanagan, "She Creatures", ECLIPSE
Chris Lawson, "Screening Test", AGOG! RIPPING READS
Geoffrey Maloney, "When the World was Flat", AGOG! RIPPING READS
Geoffrey Maloney, "Blonde on Blonde: An American Fable", ALBEDO 33
Barry N Malzberg and Jack Dann, "The Art of Memory", JIM BAEN'S UNIVERSE DECEMBER
Garth Nix, "Bad Luck, Trouble, Death, and Vampire Sex", ECLIPSE
Garth Nix, "Holly and Iron", WIZARDS
Garth Nix, "Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz go to war again", JIM BAEN'S UNIVERSE APRIL
Cat Sparks, "Hollywood Roadkill", ON SPEC SUMMER
Anna Tambour, "The Jeweller of Second-Hand Roe", SUBTERRANEAN 7
Sean Williams, "Cenotaxis", MONKEYBRAIN BOOKS

Bruce Carlson, "Dogs of War" (June-July)
Sara Genge, "Family Values" (Aug-Sep)
Mary Robinette Kowal, "For Solo Cello, p. 12" (Feb-Mar)

ECLIPSE 1: New Science Fiction and Fantasy (edited by Jonathan Strahan)
I counted nine honorable mentions other than those by the Australian contingent already mentioned, so well done to editor Jonathan for picking such a fine batch.

THE NEW SPACE OPERA (edited by Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan)
Almost the entire contents is reprinted or Honorably Mentioned, so I'll not reproduce them here.

WIZARDS: Magical Tales from the Masters of Modern Fantasy (edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois)
Again, almost full contents Honorably Mentioned, which is interesting, considering the blurbs for the book (and the title) all indicate it is a collection of fantasy stories...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Working together

The 26th Story have made a very interesting post called 5 Publicity Tips for Authors - I recommend that publishers take a look too, because it really is about working together to get devise the best methods of publicising your work, be it as author or publisher. An excellent example right here in Australia is that of Simon Haynes of the Hal Spacejock success story. Simon works extremely hard to get the message out there, investing his own time and money to work with his publishers and make Hal a household name. Through websites, blogs, social networking, print media, merchandising, e-books and other methods, Simon promotes and supports his work and his publishers, in a partnership that gives Hal Spacejock a far bigger presence than the publishers themselves might otherwise achieve alone.

Kate Eltham over at Electric Alphabet also responded to the 26th Story post, with her thoughts on author and publisher branding - another brainstorming suggestion for publishers. One particular point she made:

Isn’t it possible, however unlikely, that some publishers could create an identity so strong and a community so vibrant that audiences seek out their books because they trust and like the people producing them? It’s hard to imagine of the multinationals, but not so hard to imagine of the quirky independents who have well-known identities associated with them, such as McSweeney’s (Dave Eggars) or Small Beer Press (Kelly Link).

Romance publishers have been branding themselves for years - I remember fastidiously collecting Harlequin Historicals just because they WERE, although I did discover favourite authors among the ranks as time went on. e-Harlequin is using the world wide web not only as a marketing tool, but as a way to create a sense of community and support their authors (or perhaps even prospective authors) as well.

Publishers are doing it. Small press can too.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Aurealis Awards nominations closing soon

Nominations for Australia's premier speculative fiction award, the Aurealis Awards, close on October 31st. Works of short and long science fiction, fantasy and horror for adults, young adults and children must have been published between November 2007 and October 2008 to be eligible for consideration this year.

This is an opportunity for Australian publishers and authors to be recognised as producing the finest work in their field. Nominating for the awards is free, but print copies of the work nominated must be supplied to the judges.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Datlow/Link/Grant 21st Year's Best Fantasy and Horror

This annual collection rounds up and showcases the best horror and fantasy from around the world. This year, Aussie authors, editors, publishers (primarily small press) and even our retailers (!) feature well, with two Australian author reprints, a number of Honorable Mentions, and lots of features in the round ups. I've pulled together what I can below, but please feel free to let me know of omissions or errors - I did my best to catch them all!

Reprinted in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2008:

Garth Nix, "Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz go to war again", from Baen's Universe
Terry Dowling, "Toother", from Eclipse One, edited by Jonathan Strahan
Eileen Gunn, "Up the Fire Road", from Eclipse One, edited by Jonathan Strahan
Jeffrey Ford, "The Drowned Life", from Eclipse One, edited by Jonathan Strahan

Honorable Mentions (I've listed those I know are Australian authors or are from Australian collections):

Hagy Averbuch, "Let's come together", ZOMBIES
RJ Barker, "The Dry Heat, The Dust, The Martinis, and the Insects", IN BAD DREAMS
Lee Battersby, "Father Muerte and the Joy of Warfare", AUREALIS 37
Leigh Blackmore, "The Return of Zoth-Ommog", DAIKAIJU! 3: GIANT MONSTERS VS THE WORLD
Mike Brown, "Zombie Girl", ZOMBIES
Adam Browne, "An account of an experiment conducted by Fra Salimbene...", ORB 7
Sue Bursztynski, "Of loaves, fishes and Mars Bars", Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #29
Stephanie Campisi, "The ringing sounds of death on the water tank", IN BAD DREAMS
Matthew Chrulew, "Between the memories", AUREALIS 38/39
Matthew Chrulew, "How I learned to keep tidy", ANDROMEDA SPACEWAYS INFLIGHT MAGAZINE #31
David Conyers, "From the Sick Trees", CTHULHU AUSTRALIS
David Conyers, "Weapon Grade", THE SPIRALLING WORM
David Conyers and John Sunseri, "The Spiralling Worm"
Aliette de Bodard, "Autumn's Country", ANDROMEDA SPACEWAYS INFLIGHT MAGAZINE #30
Terry Dowling, "Jarkman at the Othergates", EXOTIC GOTHIC
Terry Dowling, "The Suits at Auderlene", INFERNO
Jennifer Fallon, "Demons of Fear", ANDROMEDA SPACEWAYS INFLIGHT MAGAZINE #27
Jeff Harris, "Working stiffs", ZOMBIES
Robert Hood, "Monstrous Bright Tomorrows", IN BAD DREAMS
Richard Harland, "Special Perceptions", AT EASE WITH THE DEAD
Sue Isle, "Stranger and Sojourner", ORB 7
Rick Kennett, "The Dark and What it Said", ANDROMEDA SPACEWAYS INFLIGHT MAGAZINE #28
Gary Kemble, "Dead Air", ZOMBIES
Margo Lanagan, "She-Creatures", ECLIPSE ONE
Sharyn Lilley, "Winter Solstice", IN BAD DREAMS
Martin Livings, "There was darkness", FANTASTIC WONDER STORIES
Maxine MacArthur, "Breaking the ice", DAIKAIJU! 2: REVENGE OF THE GIANT MONSTERS
Ian McHugh, "The Greatest Adventure of All", COYOTE WILD, AUTUMN
Michael Merriam, "And a song in her hair", ANDROMEDA SPACEWAYS INFLIGHT MAGAZINE #26
Jarrah Moore, "The Keepsake Purse", TICONDEROGA ONLINE, AUTUMN
Garth Nix, "Holly and Iron", WIZARDS
Ben Peek, "Black Betty", LONESTAR STORIES 23
Steve Savile, "A madness of ravens", DAIKAIJU! 3: GIANT MONSTERS VS THE WORLD
Cat Sparks, "Champagne and Ice", AUREALIS 38/39
Cat Sparks, "Hollywood Roadkill", ON SPEC, SUMMER
Cat Sparks, "A Lady of Adestan", ORB 7
Cat Sparks, "A million shadesof nightmare", DARK ANIMUS 10/11
AG Slatter (I think!), "Sour Dough", STRANGE TALES VOL II
Martin R Soderstrom, "Spark", ZOMBIES
Tiki Swain, "Birder", BORDERLANDS 9
Kaaron Warren, "Coelescence", AUREALIS 37
Kaaron Warren, "Cooling the crows", IN BAD DREAMS
Kaaron Warren, "His lipstick minx", THE WORKER'S PARADISE
Ysabeau Wilce, "Quartermaster Returns", ECLIPSE ONE
Marty Young, "The Wildflowers", FANTASTIC WONDER STORIES

Quite an impressive list and congratulations to all involved for this recognition. Throughout the two summations of 2007's horror and fantasy, there are great write ups for:
ANDROMEDA SPACEWAYS (particularly that Rick Kennett's "The Dark and What it Said" was wanted for the volume but could just not fit in, p. lxxi);
AUREALIS ("...the premier mixed-genre magazine of Australia", p. lxv);
Altair Books with ZOMBIES ("...which despite the cheesy cover art has fourteen pretty good stories", p. li);
AUSTRALIAN GOTHIC: AN ANTHOLOGY OF AUSTRALIAN SUPER NATURAL FICTION, 1867-1937, edited by James Doig ("...a rich sampling of work", p. lii);
WIZARDS, edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois (" excellent themed anthology" p. lii); and especially;
Jonathan Strahan's ECLIPSE ONE, which had an excellent write up in both summaries. From the Fantasy Summation: "...our hats are off to Strahan and Night Shade." (p. xx)

Interestingly, there was also mention of retailers Infinity Books (possibly meaning Infinitas?) and Pulp Fiction, as "...independent Australian bookstores" that might provide some of the plethora of Australian fantasy novels not yet available in the US.

The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2008: 21st Annual Collection is released today and looks like it will be a great read.

Open Market: "Masques" - CSFG Anthology

Submissions for the next CSFG Publishing anthology, Masques, are welcome between 20 April-31 October 2008.

Masques will be edited by Gillian Polack and Scott Hopkins. Stories may be any length up to 5,000 words. All approaches to the theme are welcome, as long as they are by nature speculative. Payment will be contributors' copies plus $10 for stories under 1,500 words and $25 for all other based on published word count.The editors will be pleased to see poetry and flash fiction as well as short stories. These will be paid at the rate of $5 for items less than two typeset pages. Poems longer than two pages will be paid at the applicable short story rate.

Submissions are encouraged from Australian writers of all levels of experience, with special encouragement given to CSFG members. Submissions should be sent (as plain email with stories as .rtf only) to Please make sure that the following information is in the email proper:

Name of story
Other contact information

If you wish to contribute to the interior artwork, please contact
Contact Information:


I've been thinking about putting something like this together for a while now. I had the opportunity this year to market some Western Australian small press through two distributors here in WA who aim at libraries and schools. It struck me that while Australian small press produce some amazing works, often they receive little wider recognition due to a restricted distribution. This means authors don't receive all the kudos they should, general readership don't get access to many of these productions, and has a negative impact on further projects. I'd like to see that change. This is just my way of seeing if I can help increase the visibility of small press publishers in Australia to libraries, retailers and readers outside the traditional sales sphere of small press. My vision is grander than this little blog, but I'm starting here to see if I can get something going.

Please feel free to email me on australiansmallpress (at) gmail (dot) com with your blog or website details to add to the sidebar. I'll also be listing market calls and reading periods for markets, which I will list and post about when they are current. Future posts may focus on distribution, marketing, advertising, editing and many other relevant areas. Look forward to blogging with you!