by John Palisano
This september, with the re-launch of Fangoria also come the launch of their new line of fiction titles. I had a chance to interview Preston about the story behind Our Lady of the Inferno.
“Fassel is definitely a writer to watch.” – Jack Ketchum, author of The Girl Next Door
Spring, 1983. Sally Ride is about to go into space. Flashdance is a cultural phenomenon. And in Times Square, two very deadly women are on a collision course with destiny– and each other.
At twenty-one, Ginny Kurva is already legendary on 42nd Street. To the pimp for whom she works, she’s the perfect weapon– a martial artist capable of taking down men twice her size. To the girls in her stable, she’s mother, teacher, and protector. To the little sister she cares for, she’s a hero. Yet Ginny’s bravado and icy confidence hides a mind at the breaking point, her sanity slowly slipping away as both her addictions and the sins of her past catch up with her…
At thirty-seven, Nicolette Aster is the most respected woman at the Staten Island landfill. Quiet and competent, she’s admired by the secretaries and trusted by her supervisors. Yet those around her have no idea how Nicolette spends her nights– when the hateful madness she keeps repressed by day finally emerges, and she turns the dump into her own personal hunting ground to engage in a nightmarish bloodsport…
In the spring of 1983, neither knows the other exists. By the time Summer rolls around, one of them will be dead.
Ginny is a strong character on so many levels. She’s not perfect. There’s a lot of grey area there. She also feels genuine. How did she come do be?
Ginny had a pretty complex path to becoming the character she is in the book. I’d originally envisioned it as a short story, and so I hadn’t planned on developing either her or Nicolette that much. It as going to be archetypical New Yawk tough girl versus psycho serial killer. There wasn’t going to be much psychological depth to the story, and the thrust of it was going to be more in the madness of what was happening than in the depth or complexity of the characters. And then, when I was writing Ginny’s very first conversation with her pimp, the Colonel, something interesting happened… You hear some authors talk about their characters writing themselves, or authors “discovering” things about their characters, and it sounds insane, but there’s a great truth to that. And writing Ginny—who I’d always envisioned as this black-bobbed, Siouxsie-Sioux looking woman—I suddenly found her speaking in German to the Colonel. And it felt right, and it was right, and the rest of that scene just flowed organically. And so I had to ask myself now, “Well, why is a 21-year-old streetwalker working in the worst part of New York at the height of its depravity fluent in German? Why is she so loquacious and articulate?” And after that conversation, she’s walking back upstairs to her room, and she’s thinking about a red bed canopy in the motel, and I wanted her to compare it to something and the first thing to come to mind was a nebula. So now she’s also got a working knowledge of celestial phenomenon. And again—why? So I joke that, in the time it took Ginny to walk up a few flights of stairs, she gained about twenty IQ points. And by the time she opened that door to her room—and the little sister I’d never intended as part of the story greets her– I’d figured out this whole background for her, and what had led her to this place.
Even with that background in mind, though, it was important that Ginny not be this “hooker with a heart of gold” that we’ve seen countless times before. A pair of phrases you hear a lot lately in horror are “breaks conventions” and “subverts expectations,” and it seems a lot of the times you hear that in relation to a piece of media, a book or a movie or a TV show, that they’re not really subverting anything or breaking anything, or, if they are, they’re not doing it to any end. They’re just doing something slightly unexpected, not really that exciting, but it’s not to any end. It’s not saying anything or accomplishing anything. And I wanted to legitimately do something different, and say something in the process, to challenge the reader’s preconceptions about certain things and make them ask questions of themselves, why they have certain expectations or hold certain beliefs. And with Ginny, part of that challenge was always, “How fine a line can she walk between being sympathetic and being loathsome? Can I have her do x, y, and z and still have the reader on her side?” Because so often in film and literature, creators are only willing to take their antiheroes so far, they’re only willing to let them be so bad and then they pull back at the last minute to make sure there aren’t too many chinks in the armor. And to me, that’s robbing these characters of their humanity. It’s allowing them to be artificially flawed—only flawed enough to be exciting, but not so flawed that it makes the reader or viewer uncomfortable. I wanted to make the reader a little uncomfortable. People’s mistakes don’t always have tidy justifications behind them; and if there are justifications, a lot of the time, they’re selfish and self-serving and not instantly forgivable. So you’re going to see Ginny do some pretty awful things, and even though you can see from her point of view why she’s doing these things, it doesn’t always justify them.
All that being said, though, I got about ¼ of the way through the book with Ginny being even less sympathetic than she is in the finished text. And there’s a scene where she convinces someone to help her do something untowards, and the way she originally went about that was far darker and less forgivable than what I finally settled on. It became a sort of point of no return for the character where, if she were to do this, you just couldn’t sympathize with her anymore. There was no going back. And by that point I’d kinda been seduced by the character. In spite of my initial conception of her, she’d grown more beautiful and complex and compelling than I’d ever imagined, and in a weird sort of way she seduced me the way that I imagine Walter White seduced Vince Gilligan and the writers of Breaking Bad. So I couldn’t have her do this; not only did I not want the character to be irredeemable, it didn’t seem true to the character. There were limits to how far she was willing to go, after all. And so I went back and I made a few tweaks here and there to that first fourth of the book to make her actions consistent with who I realized she was. And I really hope that readers have that same conflicted reaction to her.
I truly felt transported back to the gritty, anything-is-possible New York City of the early 1980s. Do you have firsthand knowledge of that era? Why was it important?
It’s really cool to hear you say that, because more than one person has complimented me on bringing the New York of 1983 to life. I’ve had people who lived in Manhattan in the 1980s, or who visited 42nd Street during that time, tell me that I really captured what it looked and felt like to be there. And I was never there. I’ve never even been to New York City. I was born in Houston in 1985, two years after the book ends and when the whole grindhouse subculture was crumbling, and I spent my childhood and adolescence between St. Louis and Oklahoma before moving back to Houston at 19. I fell in love with 42nd Street and grindhouse culture in high school, after renting all these cult films from Hollywood Video, which, for a chain store in rural Oklahoma, had an incongruously big selection of really seedy, dark, obscure grindhouse movies. After I saw Poor Pretty Eddy, was left wondering “what the hell did I just watch?” And a Google search told me that a book called Sleazoid Exress by Bill Landis and Michelle Clifford had almost an entire chapter on the film, so I bought it, and Sleazoid was my introduction to grindhouse, what it meant, where it came from, and I jut fell in love with it. The idea of this kingdom of the damned partially built around movie theaters and film watching and filmmaking was endlessly fascinating to me, and I devoured everything about it I could get my hands on.
So what you’re reading in Our Lady is the result of very painstaking research. Throughout it all, Sleazoid was my grindhouse bible, but I also read Anthony Bianco’s Ghosts of 42nd Street, and I used CityData.com and a few other forums to talk to people who’d really lived there during the period and ask them questions. Historical accuracy is very important to me in a piece of historic fiction, even if I’m going to blatantly ignore the truth for artistic purposes. For example, it rains a few times during Our Lady, which was important to me for atmospheric purposes, but as part of researching the book I looked up the weather reports for the week the story takes place and it didn’t really rain during that week. But that was a conscious decision. Then on the other hand, there are parts of Our Lady that are extremely true to life. The Staten Island Land Fill, where Nicolette works, is just the Fresh Kills Landfill—I changed the name because I thought people who didn’t know about the landfill would think the name was ridiculous, especially considering what I have happened there. But all the statistics that Nicolette lists during her tour, and the way I describe the geography of the landfill, and the problem they have with feral dogs and birds is all historically accurate. Similarly, the hotel where Ginny and her sister live is the Times Square Motor Hotel, which at the time was the deteriorating flophouse I depict it as; and the theater where Ginny hangs out is the Roxy Theater, which really did convert itself into a four-screen multiplex showing old films on VHS projectors in the mid-80s.
Can you tell us about how the book came to be published as the inaugural fiction book from the newly reborn Fangoria?
Back in the winter of 2016, I initially sold the manuscript to an independent horror press based out of Georgia called Fear Front. And it went into print in December 2016 and it was in print for a few months and sold like twenty copies and then the company went over in 2017, as upstarts are wont to do. And I figured, OK, that was cool. But, while the book was in print, two cool things happened. The first was a friend of mine, Jessie Hobson, told me that they were filming a new Puppet Master movie in Dallas, where I live, and that they were looking for extras. I’d been writing for Rue Morgue Magazine for a few years at that point, but I’d never had the opportunity to do a set visit, so I figured it’d bee a cool experience. So I applied to be an extra, and I was selected, and I spent about a week at the Ambassador Hotel in Dallas, running around and meeting a lot of cool people. The first day on set, I met like fifty people, and all their names and jobs just ran together for me, but everyone was really cool and so it was a fun experience.
The other thing that happened was I was invited to host a panel about horror writing at Texas Frightmare Weekend, Texas’ premier horror convention. And the day of the panel, as I was preparing to go in and speak, I hear this voice call our, “Hey, Preston, is that you?” And it’s one of the people from the Puppet Master set. And he comes over and asks me how I’m doing and what I’m doing there; and I show him a copy of my book and explain that I’m there to host a writing panel. And he’s like, “Oh shit, you wrote a book? Can I have a copy?” And I’m like, “Sure.” And he asks me to bring it to him the next day at the Puppet Master panel. So the next day I stop by the panel, and that’s when I realize for the first time this guy is Dallas Sonnier, the CEO of Cinestate, the company who produced the movie. So I give him a copy, and he says he read about it online the night before and it sounds really interesting. And I’m thinking to myself, okay, either he’s just being polite, or this is really big.
Flash forward a few months and I get an email from Amanda Presmyk, Cinestate’s VP of production, and she asks me if I’d like to come down to the office and discuss Our Lady of the Inferno. Of course I said yes. And so I show up, and Dallas and Amanda ask me if I’d be interested in selling the film rights; and at that point Fear Front was going under, and, I actually printed out a copy of my publishing contract and brought it to the meeting and I asked, “How’d you like the publication rights, too?” And then, when Dallas seemed receptive to that, I figured why not go for the trifecta, and I said, “As long as you’re going to print the book and make the movie, why not hire me, too?” And I made a case for myself as an employee and sort of horror-guru in residence. And Dallas got this look in his eye and he sort of smiled at Amanda and he said “I think we might just have something for you.”
Flash forward another few weeks, and I’ve signed all these NDAs, which I think have to do with selling the book. And I’m in the lobby of the Texas Theater, about to go in and see Event Horizon in 35mm, and I get a phone call from Dallas. And he says, “I saw you’ve signed all the NDAs, and now I can tell you why I was interested in your book and why you might be a good fit to work with us.” And that’s when he told me that he’d bought Fangoria Magazine, that he’d be resurrecting it, that he wanted to start a Fangoria literary imprint and he wanted to use Our Lady to launch it, and that he wanted me to work for the company.
What’s next for you? Where can folks find you?
You can find me on Twitter as @PrestonFassel, and on Facebook under my name. I’ve never gotten the hang of Instagram. It scares me.
Right now I’m trying to put the finishing touches on a sort of spiritual sequel to Our Lady. It’s also set on 42nd Street, but in the 1960s and 1970s. If Our Lady is about the decline and death of grindhouse culture, then I wanted this to be about the mileu at the height of its decadence and depravity. It’s a much darker story than Our Lady, but I’m interested to see how readers will respond to it versus their reaction to Our Lady. The people who’ve read Our Lady have had a very strong positive response to Nicolette, and this story is focalized entirely through the villain, who’s just as unsympathetic, so, I’m curious to see how people react.
ABOUT PRESTON FASSEL:
Preston Fassel is a three-time Rondo Award nominated journalist and author. His work has appeared in Rue Morgue, Screem, and on Cinedump.com. He is the author of Remembering Vanessa, the first biography of English actress Vanessa Howard, printed in the Spring 2014 issue of Screem. In 2017 he joined Cinestate as story editor and staff writer for Fangoria. This is his first novel. He lives in Dallas.
It’s been a very long time since I’ve had anything to post, but here today we have big news. My next novel, Night of 1,000 Beasts, is now available. This is a very different book for me in that it is super-violent, and also very much with tongue planted in cheek. That’s the hope, at least.
Inspired by extreme, unflinching works by the likes of Jack Ketchum, Sarah Langan, Elizabeth Massie, Tim Waggoner, Brian Keene, J.F. Gonzalez, Wrath James White, Edward Lee, Deborah LeBlanc, and others, Night of 1,000 Beasts tells the story of a group of vacationers who find themselves trapped on the bad side of an avalanche. Deer Springs, Colorado has not had an event similar in almost a century, so help is not easy. Even worse? The gang find they are being hunted, picked off one by one, and are being killed in the same ways people kill animals.
Night of 1,000 Beasts has been long coming. It was originally written a few years back for what I’d hoped would be a third novel with the same publisher that put out Dust of the Dead and Ghost Heart. Today, it’s being brought to you uncensored and for the first time as an exclusive from Amazon and Kindle, in eBook and paperback. Hope it’s enjoyed!
Pre-orders are off and running. Folks from the US, UK and Australia have already got their copies on the way.
For the ones who lurk in shadow, anxious to even the score.
Tonight’s the longest night of the century.
The night of 1,000 Beasts.
The night when they rise up and they get to do to us
What we’ve done to them . . .
KINDLE Link: http://a.co/6CwSUyk
PAPERBACK Link: http://a.co/5BO3GmA
Last year, the terrific Catherine Cavendish visited my blog with a very fascinating read. She returns here with her latest book, and more wonderful reading. Thanks, Catherine!
The White Lady of Porcia Castle
My latest book – Waking the Ancients – centres largely on sinister and ghostly activities within a magnificent haunted house in Vienna, Austria’s elegant and fascinating capital.
Vienna is the sort of city where ghosts walk by your side at night through quaint, winding streets in the old part of the city. Music forms the breath of the city and you can almost hear the haunting strains of The Blue Danubeas you wonder at the grandeur of its many palaces.
But Vienna isn’t Austria and all over this picturesque country, you can find echoes of its imperial past when the Hapsburg Austro-Hungarian Empire ruled over so much of the European continent.
Today, I want to take you to a haunted castle. Situated in the centre of the town of Spittal an der Drau in the Austrian state of Carinthia, stands the magnificent Renaissance edifice of Schloss Porcia.
Built at the instigation of Count Gabriel von Salamanca-Ortenburg, in 1533, the castle’s splendour was designed to reflect the achievements of its owner who was treasurer and confidant to Archduke Ferdinand I of Austria. Sad to say, the Count never lived here as construction continued on until 1598 – some 59 years after his death.
Ghost stories abound today, as they have for most of the castle’s life. In a forgotten banana box in the town’s archive, employees found the bones of fifteen members of the Salamanca family dating from the 17thand 18thcenturies. In 2010, these bones were ceremonially reburied and everyone hoped that would put an end to the ghostly sightings. It didn’t. Both the bead of the castle’s museum and the town’s mayor engaged in ghost hunts, inviting several teams of ghosthunters to mount investigations and get to the bottom or precisely who was haunting the castle.
Almost certainly, one major contender is Katharina von Salamanca. She was the last descendant of the Count and was infamous for her miserliness. She walled all her treasures up in the castle and so that no one would ever discover their hiding place, she had the bricklayer murdered. Not only that, an unfortunate maid felt the full force of her wrath when Katharina discovered her discussing the whereabouts of the fortune. Her mistress killed her with a clog.
Many visitors claim to have heard strange noises in a number of rooms. She appears and disappears apparently at will in one courtyard and floats through the arcaded courtyard.On occasions, her shape has been seen manifesting in the window glass. She has also appeared in photographs as a ghostly figure. She is known as the White Lady and no prizes for guessing why.
The reason she haunts is disputed but she may have been cursed to eternally wander the castle in penance for her remorseless behaviour toward her employees.
Since 1951, the castle has been owned by the municipality of Spittal an der Drau and is open to the public. Maybe, if you visit, the White Lady will accompany you on your tour…
Waking the Ancients
Legacy In Death
University student Lizzie Charters accompanies her mentor, Dr. Emeryk Quintillus, on the archeological dig to uncover Cleopatra’s tomb. Her presence is required for a ceremony conducted by the renowned professor to resurrect Cleopatra’s spirit—inside Lizzie’s body. Quintillus’s success is short-lived, as the Queen of the Nile dies soon after inhabiting her host, leaving Lizzie’s soul adrift . . .
Paula Bancroft’s husband just leased Villa Dürnstein, an estate once owned by Dr. Quintillus. Within the mansion are several paintings and numerous volumes dedicated to Cleopatra. But the archeologist’s interest in the Egyptian empress deviated from scholarly into supernatural, infusing the very foundations of his home with his dark fanaticism. And as inexplicable manifestations rattle Paula’s senses, threatening her very sanity, she uncovers the link between the villa, Quintillus, and a woman named Lizzie Charters.
And a ritual of dark magic that will consume her soul . . .
You can find Waking the Ancients here:
About the Author:
Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Catherine Cavendish is now the full-time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories. Cat’s novels include the Nemesis of the Gods trilogy– Wrath of the Ancients, Waking the Ancients and Damned by the Ancients, plusThe Devil’s Serenade,The Pendle Curseand Saving Grace Devine. She lives with her long-suffering husband, and a black cat who has never forgotten that her species used to be worshipped in ancient Egypt. She sees no reason why that practice should not continue. Cat and her family divide their time between Liverpool and a 260-year-old haunted apartment in North Wales.
You can connect with Cat here:
We were both sworn to secrecy, but J.H. Moncrieff and I first met while we both had books at the same publisher. We belonged to a top secret support group. Yes. We all suffered from PTSD (Publishing Traumatic Stress Disorder) and needed the support of one another. Deep friendships were made, and we all looked out for each other. Except for one person. She vanished, although one of her woolen gloves was found just outside a Books A Million in Detroit with a half-chewed bit of hamburger and a few pennies.
From there, we hooked up this past year’s StokerCon on the Queen Mary, partnering up for a well-attended joint reading. Of course, reading her work was most impressive. This is someone who won Harlequin’s Gillian Flynn award this past year, and her expertise in suspense is terrific. She’s launching a new batch of books The Ghostwriter Series, with the first two having just been released. Please do check them out.
It’s always fun to break out of the usual interview format, and I always love doing these ’13 things…’ posts. Here, J.H. does not disappoint, and there are some truly fun and interesting facts. So here’s . . .
J.H. Moncrieff’s work has been described by reviewers as early Gillian Flynn with a little Ray Bradbury and Stephen King thrown in for good measure.
She won Harlequin’s search for the next Gillian Flynn in 2016. Her first published novella, The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave, was featured in Samhain’s Childhood Fears collection and stayed on its horror bestsellers list for over a year. Monsters in Our Wake, a sea monster tale with a twist, was an Amazon horror bestseller.
When not writing, J.H. loves visiting the world’s most haunted places, advocating for animal rights, and summoning her inner ninja in muay thai class.
To get free ebooks and a new spooky story each week, check out her Hidden Library.
In 2016 Bram Stoker Award® winner John Palisano’s first collection, All That Withers, the stories range from Lovecraftian musings to terrifying explorations of the inhuman condition, with Palisano creating vivid images of desperate people engaged in ordeals which could happen to many of us . . . how they respond is the difference between their survival and oblivion.
Including several Bram Stoker Award®-nominated tales, as well as the 2016 Bram Stoker winner for Excellence in Short Fiction, “Happy Joe’s Rest Stop.”
It’s been an awfully long time since I’ve updated my Bibliography, and with several new releases just out or coming soon, I thought it high time to do so.
Scales and Tales: Finding Forever Homes
I was very honored to have spent the last year editing the charity anthology Scales & Tales: Finding Forever Homes. This book benefits three local animal adoption programs, and was released as a limited edition of 500 print copies at Comic Con in San Diego. There will be a signing at Dark Delicacies in Burbank on August 28th, so please stop by and purchase a copy (or two!) and meet some of the terrific authors.
Los Angeles, CA William Wu Books 2016. First edition, limited to 500 numbered copies. Contains new stories by Tim Powers, Marv Wolfman, Lisa Morton, Jason V Brock, Sunni K Brock, William F. Nolan and more, including Clive Barker and Ray Bradbury. All proceeds benefit 3 adoption programs in Los Angeles: Southwestern Herpetologist Society, Kitt Crusaders, and Star Paws Rescue.
In Cemetery Riots
In my short story, “Eternal Valley” a family relocates away from the city in order to help their sick son have a fighting chance. When he falls ill again, his father must make a journey to summon a doctor. On his way, he meets a mysterious woman who tells him of an entity in a lake that just might be able to help. Here’s the rest of the table of contents.
Imagine yourself in a cemetery. Void of all light at the base of a tree. But it’s no ordinary tree. This tree abounds with the dead. Now envision that each tree limb is a short story with its own vision, its own length of words, and its own insanity.With that said, beware of the widow makers and the strange foreboding dwelling beneath. Remember, nothing’s heavenly in Cemetery Riots. Cemetery Riots is a new collection of dark cautionary tales edited by T. C. Bennett and Tracy L. Carbone. With great pride, we introduce you to our stories and their authors… THE WAITING DEAD by Ray Garton, ABUSED by Richard Christian Matheson, CHILDREN’S HOUR by Hal Bodner, CARMICHAEL MOTEL by Kathryn E. McGee, THAT STILL, BLEEDING OBJECT OF DESIRE by Chet Williamson, LUNCH AT MOM’S by Tracy L. Carbone, FATHER AND SON by Jack Ketchum, THE DEMON OF SPITALFIELDS by Karen and Roxanne E. Dent, ERASURE by Lisa Morton, THE WINDOWS by T. C. Bennett, CERTAIN SIGHTS OF AN AFFLICATED WOMAN by Eric J. Guignard, THE MAN WHO KNEW WHAT TIME IT WAS by Dennis Etchison, THE RE-POSSESSED by James Dorr, CLOWN ON BLACK VELVET by Michael Sebastian, THE CELLAR by Kelly Kurtzhals, ETERNAL VALLEY by John Palisano, BLOOD by Taylor Grant, AMONG THE TIGERS by William F. Nolan, ALL OUR HEARTS ARE GHOSTS by Peter Atkins, THE ITCH by Michael D. Nye, and DRIVING HER HOME by John Everson.
In The Beauty of Death
It’s the turn of the century in old Hollywood. It’s a time when being gay was even more dangerous than it is today. Falling in love has always been dangerous, and transformative, so when the object of your affection invites you up into the hills for a camping trip, and leads you to a mysterious body of water, you drink, and to hell with the consequences!
The Beauty of Death Anthology, edited by Bram Stoker Award® Winning Author Alessandro Manzetti.
Over 40 stories and novellas by both contemporary masters of horror and exciting newcomers. Stories by: Peter Straub, Ramsey Campbell, Edward Lee, John Skipp, Poppy Z. Brite, Nick Mamatas, Shane McKenzie,Tim Waggoner, Lisa Morton, Gene O’Neill, Linda Addison, Maria Alexander, Monica O’Rourke, John Palisano, Bruce Boston, Alessandro Manzetti, Rena Mason, Kevin Lucia, Daniel Braum, Colleen Anderson,Thersa Matsuura, John F.D. Taff, James Dorr, Marge Simon, Stefano Fantelli, John Claude Smith, K. Trap Jones, Del Howison, Paolo Di Orazio, Ron Breznay, Mike Lester, Annie Neugebauer, Nicola Lombardi, JG Faherty, Kevin David Anderson, Erinn Kemper, Adrian Ludens, Luigi Musolino, Alexander Zelenyj, Daniele Bonfanti, Kathryn Ptacek, Simonetta Santamaria.
Cover Art by George Cotronis
“The Space Between”
In My Peculiar Family
Last July, I was one of the featured readers at Los Angeles reading series Shades & Shadows. We had a full house, and it was wonderful to premier the first chapter of VOICES OF THE DEAD, the sequel to DUST OF THE DEAD. Many readers have asked me what happened after the events of DUST OF THE DEAD, and here’s the first taste.
While you’re there, I urge you to check out the other podcasts. The readings are short . . . around seven minutes each . . . so you can get a good taste of a new author without too much time. They’ve all been pretty damn good, if you ask me.
This is an amazing new program, and Greg has always delivered some great books. All it takes is a click to support his book. THE CHANGELING looks great! Check out this story:
Kindle Scout – A New Avenue for Writers?
By Greg Faherty
Being a writer is a tough business. You have to deal with rejection, long hours sitting in front of a computer, more rejection, editing, more rejection. Even after a book is accepted for publication, there’s still more editing to do, and then marketing, getting reviews… it’s no wonder so many of us enjoy the occasional cocktail. Six or eight times a day!
And today’s publishing environment doesn’t make things any easier. Traditional publishing? Self publishing? Small press? Big publishers? Submit to agents?
Hold on, I need a drink.
Ever since I started writing, I’ve been published 90% traditionally. The only exceptions were when I got the rights back to some books, and I placed them on Amazon myself. So when I finished my latest novel, a YA sci-fi thriller titled The Changeling, I was ready to begin that familiar submission process. Pick the top 10 publishers looking for that type of book, and send it out. One at a time. Realistically, if you throw in a few rejections (to which I’m no stranger; nobody in this business is, unless you already have a publisher or your name happens to be King, Rowling, Martin, etc.) you’re looking at 1-3 years before you get that publishing contract.
A rather daunting process.
But before I had a chance to begin, a couple of writer friends suggested I give Kindle Scout a try.
For those of you who don’t know, Kindle Scout is a relatively new program run by Amazon. Basically, the reading public serves as the slush pile team. The writer uploads a completed manuscript, synopsis, cover art, and some other info. Readers read an excerpt, and then they have the option to vote for the book if they think it’s interesting enough to finish. Get enough votes, attract the attention of the Amazon editing staff, and you have a chance to earn a publishing contract with Amazon. The benefit to the reader? Each book you vote for, you win a free copy of the ebook if it gets published. The benefit to the writer is an advance, royalties, and Amazon’s marketing machine.
Not too shabby.
But it’s not as easy as it sounds. Let’s take a look at the process:
The first step is getting the book ready for publication. This process is similar to self-publishing through Kindle. Your manuscript must be polished and ready; professional editing is a must. You need a good synopsis, a 2-line, catchy description, and a short, 1-paragraph summary. You also need a professional book cover; that means either investing some money or doing it yourself, if you have the skills. Amazon is very tough when it comes to covers. Shoddy art almost guarantees you won’t even get accepted to run a campaign.
No one seems to really know what the Scout team bases its acceptance decisions on, but if you make it past this first phase, you’ll get an email in a few days informing you your campaign is a go.
Once you stop celebrating, the second step begins. And this is the hard part.
Each campaign runs for 30 days. Amazon will tell you the launch and end dates. Usually, you have 2-3 days to prepare for the launch. You’ll need it! It’s best to prepare your social media posts, emails, and any other promotional strategies during this time, so you can be ready to go the moment the campaign goes live.
In my case, I lost a few vital hours because my campaign started at midnight. Bad Amazon, bad! So it wasn’t until 6am that I got started sending out the news.
Now, here is a key tip. You need to find a balance between over-promoting and under-promoting. Too little, and no one goes to your page. Too much, and everyone who follows you on social media will get sick of you. Remember, people can remove their votes, so you don’t want to annoy anyone! There are also paid services you can use that will blast your campaign link out all over the place, but beware. Amazon tracks where your page views originate from, and if it’s all paid promotion, they will take that into consideration, because it means people might be voting without actually reading the excerpt.
As I write this, I’m in day 12 of my 30 days, and the statistics on my Scout page show a trend already. When I post in social media (twitter, my own FB page, various reader and writer FB pages), I get 2-3 times the number of views as on days that I don’t. Even so, I’m careful to only post 1x per week on my page, and 1x per week on the various promotional FB pages. I’m saving the daily posts for the final week.
All in all, it’s a rather stressful process, especially if you hate waiting. I liken it to submitting traditionally, but you can see the editor reading your book and you’re trying to gauge their reaction.
There is one advantage, though. Within a week or so after your 30-day campaign ends, you learn if you’ll be offered a contract or not. Unlike traditional publishing, where a book can sit for up to 12 months before the editor even sees it.
The best thing is to practice patience and pour another drink!
For those of you who might be interested in taking a look at my book, here’s a little bit about it.
Struck by lightning, developing new superpowers, and pursued by a power-hungry secret military group that wants to use her as a weapon of mass destruction…it’s so not the 18th birthday that high school senior Chloe Olivetti was hoping for.
This is the summary to THE CHANGELING. If you have a minute, please register for Kindle Scout (it’s free!), read the excerpt, and if you like it, give it a vote. The benefit to you? If it wins, you get a free copy of the book for your Kindle and the book gets published. Plus, you’ll have my ever-lasting gratitude for your support (and maybe another free gift as well!). Here’s the link: