Friday, August 30, 2013

Should You Apply To These 14 Awards?

The current issue of Writer’s Digest identifies the following awards as the major genre ones:

·         Thriller Awards (Thriller/Suspense) –
·         RWA Awards (Romance) –
·         Agatha Awards (Mystery) –
·         The Edgar Awards (Mystery) –
·         Macavity Awards (Mystery) –
·         Bram Stokee Awards (Horror) –
·         Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Awards (Fiction) –
·         Lambda Literary Awards (LGBT Fiction) –
·         The Christy Awards (Christian Fiction) –
·         Newberry Medal (Children/YA) –
·         Caldecott Medal (Children/YA) –
·         Nebula Awards (Science Fiction/Fantasy) –
·         Hugo Awards (Science Fiction/Fantasy) –
·         Mythopoeic Awards (Science Fiction/Mystery) –

I would also suggest you apply to the Indie Excellence Awards

Interview With Author Erik Craddock

What type of books do you write? Primarily humor/satire for teenagers, young adults, children and early readers. During my run on the Stone Rabbit series with Random House, I was focusing on children's humor/adventure that was done in the vein of most Saturday morning cartoons, courtesy of the drawing/writing style I was employing. But now I'm writing for older teens, and am currently exploring science fiction, psychological horror, parody/satire, as well as romantic comedies. So I guess you could say my genre of work is... "varied?"

What is your newest book about? Well, it's funny you should ask which one is my "newest", seeing as how I have two brand-new books coming out all at around the same time.

The first one, as you and many others already know, is Stone Rabbit Volume 8: Robot Frenzy. This is the eighth and final book in the Stone Rabbit book series which (boiled down) is basically about robot teddy bears running amok in Happy Glades (the hometown of SR and his friends) during the town's annual Harbor Day parade. As for the reason why the robot teddy bears went criminally insane, this was the direct result of Henri Tortoise's meddling. Because he didn't want to lose the first place prize for the float design contest, he decided to tinker with Judy's Goose's robot helpers in order to make them build the float, his way. However, doing this ultimately drove the robot teddy bears mad, which later, causes them to literally rip their own furry hides off of their robot bodies and start rampaging through town, wholesale. While there is another major plot twist to the story, I don't want to give too much away before the book is released. However, the underlying moral lessons of this book are that winning isn't everything, and friends will still be your friends, regardless of what you may or may not think about yourself. Again, I really don't want to give too much away, as the book hasn't hit the shelves yet and I don't want to spoil the read for the fans. That said, it should be available for sale on June 25th, in paperback, hardcover, and digital formats by Random House Young Readers Group.

The second (and more "newer" of the two) is The Cartoon Guidebook To Absolute Failure, which I am currently doing alongside of Boston-based artist Logan Faerber, for SLG Publishing. In a nutshell, it's basically a series of anti-help books which educate the reader on the best possible ways to fail in just about every aspect of life, both real and imagined. This ranges from cake baking, to grizzly bear attacks, to hang gliding and vampire slaying, and even being a ninja and making summer movie blockbusters. We'll be releasing this book as a series of digital issues (six in all), followed by three printed volumes of the work starting later this summer. And once the series run is over, we'll be collecting all of the issues/volumes into one massive 200+ page hardcover book in the Spring of 2014.

What inspired you to write it? With regards to SR 8: Robot Frenzy, there were actually a number of hurdles I needed to hop over in order to get that book published. Among them, was what was considered to be "popular" at the time the book was being published. Ultimately, with the help of the sales and marketing team over at Random House, we narrowed that list down to sharks, tornadoes, robots, and parades. So I just kind of worked my magic based on that and out came a book. In terms of what inspired the narrative, there were a number of references to prior works I liked. While not giving too much away, I will say that JawsInvader Zim, and March of the Wooden Soldiers certainly played a large role in the shaping of this book. The rest I'll leave to the readers to figure out...

As for the Cartoon Guidebook to Absolute Failure, that was born from many things, as well. But I think it mainly comes from being bombarded by this kind of synthetic happiness which seems prevalent in the world today, courtesy of what TV and society forces us to expect from our lives and ourselves. My feeling, is that I just wanted to throw marmalade jam at it while laughing as hard and as loud as I possibly could. And I have to say, this book more than afforded me the opportunity to do so.

What is the writing process like for you? It really is a strange and winding road, and is by no means a straight line to the finish like most people think it is. For me, the writing process is a combination of stream of consciousness, years of idea collecting and refining, and the right opportunity/angle by which to strike. Personally, I equate it more to farming than anything else. And just like farming, you can't just plant seeds in the dirt and expect them to be fully grown within half-a-week, or less. It takes time, patience, and plenty of hard work and nurturing in order to harvest your crops properly, and the same goes for developing ideas. Because I've never heard any publisher say to me, "You know what? You seem like a really nice guy! So how about we give you this here book advance and you can just take all the time you want writing whatever book you feel like writing, okay?"

So (in essence) this means I must be continually creating, writing, and developing ideas in order to have them at the ready for when a publisher decidedly walks by. In other words, my books are already written and/or thought out long before a publisher ever pays me to write them.

What did you do before you became an author? Before I became an author, I was a freelance illustrator, cartoonist, and animator. I've worked on TV shows, comic books, corporate slide shows, political cartoons, small-form animations, and even web and logo designs. So I was kind of all over the map, professionally speaking. Although, I don't think you can "become" an author, because being an author is really just a byproduct of a raging need to share the thoughts that run wild within your own brain. So really, it has more to do with an evolution of self than a job title, per se.

How does it feel to be a published author? Believe it or not, being published actually feels pretty good. I get a real buzz when I see something that was once in my mind become something that sits in my hands and is a tangible thing I can touch, feel, see, and smell (and yes, smell, as freshly printed books always carry a very unique aroma that smells like sheer bliss to me.)

But in terms of how I feel about being a published author... well... that's kind of a mixed bag. I do admit that I like having a job where I can basically take any idea that pops into my mind, crank it to eleven, and then turn a profit on it. But at the same time, it's a rather isolated lifestyle in comparison to the average person. I don't "clock in" anywhere, I don't commute to work, I don't sit around the water cooler and "dish" to fellow coworkers, and I don't go to bars/clubs after the workday ends to "chillax" with friends. But at the same time, I have the same pressures as any other job out there. This means I have to handle deadlines, team management, and inter-office business politics, all while maintaining overall quality and workflow. So even though I do work alone, I'm not truly ever "alone" in my work, if that makes any sense.

However, I will say that, despite those drawbacks, there are pluses. These are (1) I can work/live anywhere I want, (2) I can write/work on anything I want, and (3) I can never be fired or laid off from my job, no matter how hard I try. This is both beautiful and horrifying all in the same breath, and really, only favors those who are self-motivated and self-disciplined. Thankfully, I fit into those categories rather nicely, so this really doesn't bother me all that much. But, at the same time, I can see how living this can drive some people up the wall.

Any advice for struggling writers? It depends on how you define the word "struggle." If you're speaking in terms of finances, being a published author will do little to change that (in the short term, at least.) So don't expect that getting a book published (or several books, for that matter) means you automatically become some debonair globe-trotter who's blessed with infinite wisdom and has unlimited access to an endless sum of money. Because it just won't. However, what it will do is give you a platform by which you can voice your ideas and opinions, as well as have the unique opportunity to share your imagination with more people than you can possibly ever hope to meet (which is pretty awesome, if you sit down and think about it.) 

But in terms of defining "struggle" with finding book placement among publishers, this will change very little, no matter where you are on the professional ladder. It's just the way the industry is and always will be. I've been doing this for nearly 10 years, and I still have a rough time placing books with publishers, especially in this economy. But I will say that, as your skills improve, and as your reputation grows, the process does begin to get a little bit easier over time. This stems from the combination of you learning your craft, expanding your professional base, and understanding the process by which books are selected, approved, and determined. Because every publisher has specific needs. For example, some publishers only publish children's books, while others only publish humor. Some even publish sci-fi and horror exclusively to the YA market. So, the "trick" to finding placement for your work is to not look for which publisher can give you the most exposure or money for your work. Instead, you need to look for where your book can blend in the most with the other books around it in a particular publisher's catalogue. Because, otherwise, you're just going to waste everybody's time, especially your own.

Finally, if we define the word "struggle" as being one of creativity, then there is a very simple solution for that. You're only struggling because you're fighting against yourself. This is usually the result of the writer trying to forcibly (and artificially) adjust their idea to suit a business model or IP (Intellectual Property) that they want to emulate, and in doing so, are creatively destroying their work. The solution? Stop doing that. Because you're only going to anger yourself and make the work read like a stilted piece of garbage, anyway. The best thing to do is to always remember the first rule of writing, which is to "have fun." If you don't do that, then everything else is meaningless.

Where do you see book publishing heading? Good question. This is really a measure of many factors and variables. Among them are the impacts of globalization, publisher consolidations, rising overseas manufacturing costs, greater shareholder influence over company decision making, continued inflation in the financial/currency markets, rising demand for digital media, and failing store fronts across the board. All of those factors combined create a meandering road to the book industry eventually going digital. Why? Because doing so means (1) they (the publishers/vendors) can determine (and artificially maintain) their pricing, instead of the market, (2) it offers a far greater profit margin versus traditional models of sale, print/manufacture, and distribution, (3) all sales made digitally are final, and are non-transferable due to DRM (Digital Rights Management) and being tied to a personal account. By going down this route, publishers will be able to effectively maximize sales while efficiently minimizing overall production costs, due to no mass-manufacturing of a physical end product. So this model will only continue to grow in the future, as the old ways slowly diminish due to their perceived inefficiency to compete.

How do I know this will happen? Because it's already happened before. Look at the film and music industry. For example, when was the last time you listened to your music on a record player? Or when was the last time you actually saw a film on film? So, yes, both the delivery and the distribution models of books will change. This is inevitable. But just because the way we access our media will change, it doesn't mean that the media we're accessing will be vastly different from the kind we currently (or have previously) enjoyed. Also, this is not to say that book publishers will do away with the printed form altogether. There are still sales to be made on that side of the market, and if there's a demand, then they will be more than happy to supply that demand, for a fee.

So, until e-books become the new standard of publishing, and books themselves are done away with and thrown into the collective garbage piles and landfills of the world, publishers will most likely use e-books as an effective means of offsetting short term loss/risk. This means that they will make their primary business model be that of digital distribution first, and print second, provided that the previous venture was successful. This way, they can secure sales while minimizing their costs (again, due to no physical manufacturing of product), and then use the funds gained from digital sales in order to fund the printed runs, all without dipping into their own personal funds. However, should the books not sell well, then they know that it's a bad idea to take it to print, and will leave it in the electronic form, only. So they win, either way, seeing as how they'll experience no loss (other than the creative costs, if that), should it not extend beyond the digital format.

We can see this already happening in the comic world, and most of the major book publishers have recently set up digital-only branches of their own publishing imprints. So this is not something that will go away, and will only grow in time. How much time depends on how much public outcry or acceptance there is of this new delivery method. But what I will say is that there is far too much money to be made and opportunity to be had from having this paradigm shift happening. So really, this is not a question of if it happens, but rather, a question of when.

Book Excerpt & Quote
“Life cannot wait until the scientists have explained the universe.  We cannot put off living until we are ready.  The most silent characteristic of life is its coerciveness; it is always urgent, here and now, without any possible postponement.  Life is fired at us point blank.” 
--Jose Ortega y Casset, Writers & Philosophers

“Free will is given to every human being.  If we wish to incline ourselves toward goodness and righteousness, we are free to do so: and if we wish to incline ourselves toward evil, we are also free to do that. From Scripture (Genesis 3.22) we learn that the human species, with its knowledge of good and evil, is unique among all earth’s creatures.  Of our own accord, by our own faculty of intelligence and understanding, we can distinguish between good and evil, doing as we choose.  Nothing holds us back from making this choice between good and evil – the power is in our hands.”
--Maimonides, 12th century

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2013

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