The New Landscape – Platforms, Crowd Funding, and More

Last November, I wrote a post called The New Landscape – Access, Discovery, and Media De-centralization. I’ve decided to call that essay the first in a series (The New Landscape), and today I want to take the topic in a new direction, jumping off of this point:

Here’s what I see as the dominant progression for a creator trying to make money from their work (visual art, music, prose, comics, video, etc.)

Level 1 – Start small, give stuff away for free, sell some stuff. At Level 1, a creator is almost totally reliant on big systems, for both discovery and fulfillment/delivery. Basically no one knows who they are, so they join larger infrastructures and services to get the word out about their material through algorithmic and organic discovery.

Level 2 – Building Audience & Relationships — At this level, it becomes viable to diversify their portfolio, maybe by selling some merch (T-shirts, mugs, stickers, patches, etc). Here, a creator can bring dedicated fans onto a growing mailing list. This level enables direct sales and stronger performance on retail sites, but the creator may still be largely dependent for discovery-enabled growth and a lot of fulfillment/delivery.

Level 3 – Big Creators – Here, creators have a dedicated audience large enough they can get a living wage directly from their base, either totally direct or through Patreon/Kickstarter. Maybe they supplement their income speaking/appearance fees etc., having a large enough platform that they are in demand not just as creators, but as entrepreneurs/thought leaders in their field. They may still use large systems, but if they do, they do so from a far stronger position – they are less dependent on any given system, since their supporter base is strong, a base that is specific and mobilized, not platform-dependent.

This three-tier system is a bit reductive, as I said in the original post, but it provides a framework for what I’d like to talk about today: the differences between services/systems for Platform Building and those for Platform Mobilization.

At the Nebula Conference, I got to meet with a representative from Patreon, who helped answer some questions I had about their company and business model. Their rep confirmed what I’d already seen from being a patron on that platform – that it is more of a Platform Mobilizing system rather than a Platform Building one.

(Note – a number of writers I admire have found some success already using Patreon to support their other writing-based income, including Saladin Ahmed, Kameron Hurley, and most recently, N.K. Jemisin, who hit and easily passed the goal she’d set to allow her to quit her day job.)

Defining Terms

Here’s what I mean:

Platform: a creator’s established body of work, professional networks, and the way that they present as a creator. A creator with a small platform may just have started releasing works, or they may not have reached a very wide audience. A creator with a large platform may be well-known for some other work before they entered a creative field, or they might have built it as their career developed. A large platform tends to come with and from a large supporter base.

Platform Building: A system or process that is Platform Building is one that includes discovery systems – good ways for people that have never heard of the creator to find them and engage with their works. Producing content is Platform Building, as every work creates the opportunity for someone to find and engage with your creative efforts. YouTube, Twitch.tv, and any retail system where a consumer can follow a creator can serve as a Platform Building system. Platform Building enables creator and consumer/reader/fan to engage through the work as well as enabling other forms of communication to strengthen those relationships.

Platform Mobilizing: A system or process that is Platform Mobilizing is one where a creator can send or bring their fans/readers/viewers/etc. in order to make a project happen or to allow more direct financial support for a project/creator. Kickstarter and Patreon are both Platform Mobilizing companies, though in different ways, to different degrees.

Example – Mobilizing for Genrenauts

I’m running a Kickstarter right now, and as of the time of writing this essay, the project is less than 10% from hitting the $5,000 funding goal (yay!) When I launched the project, I was a bit worried that $5,000 might be too high for a first Kickstarter, that maybe I needed to aim lower and then try to build momentum by over-funding.

But in reality, I hit 50% of the goal in two and a half days, largely based on existing fans and strong signal-boosting from friends and colleagues. Based on how things are going, I’m likely to hit the funding goal about halfway through the campaign, and then spend the final two weeks pushing for stretch goals. That seems like a perfectly solid way of going about things in a single-creator project.

What has surprised me is that according to Kickstarter’s dashboard analysis tools, around 27% of the pledges made to the project have come from Kickstarter’s own discovery systems. Those include their search engine, their Projects We Love recommendations, and so on. I had not expected Kickstarter to provide so much discovery. I’d estimate that close to a third of the backers on the project had not heard of me before launch. This, in my opinion, means that I’d substantially under-estimated Kickstarter’s utility as a tool for not only Platform Mobilizing, but also Platform Building. There are going to be notably more people invested in the Genrenauts series when this campaign completes than when it had started.

Given the opportunities involved, any Platform Mobilizing system that uses a crowd-funding approach like Kickstarter will likely be working on building in some discovery systems. The company benefits if people come to trust their system as a way of discovering amazing new content, and the creators benefit from crowd-funding with a system that helps do more than just facilitate a direct mobilization of existing fans/readers/viewers/etc. And it definitely works for me as a consumer, too – I’ve backed a fair # of projects that I only heard about through Kickstarter’s search system. Patreon’s discovery tools, in my experience, are more nascent, and have a ways to go. The company is also much younger thank Kickstarter, so this is to be expected.

The Inevitable So What

Here’s why I think this is a useful framework: I’ve been following Kickstarter and Patreon each since pretty early in their public histories, and trying to study what they can and do offer to creators. In publishing we have this idea of The Discoverability Problem, which is that it is getting harder for individual creators to have their work discovered, which makes it harder for new creators to find a following and build a sustainable career. There are so many books being released (largely due to digital self-publishing) and more releases means that there are more works to choose from. In publishing, the loss of shelf space from the closing of Borders and the lessening number of indie bookstores in the USA (a trend that has thankfully reversed, as we’re seeing new strong indies doing a great job around the country) means that writers are posed with discovery being an ever-greater problem.

One of the best ways to be discovered is to build your platform. The more people know you and have positive associations with you, the more chances you have to sell your work.

With the proliferation of social media, there are ever-more places creators can go to try to build their platform. You can be on Instagram, Tumblr, or Snapchat, as well as older systems like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc. Social media channels are a well-trod way of building platform – incrementally growing your readership/tribe/etc. by consistently entertaining, informing, or whatever you choose to do. This form of Platform-Building tends to take time and a lot of effort. The first few people to any platform will be far more likely to benefit from it, growing their profile as the platform grows.

But any one media company can come or go – the fortunes of a social media company rise and fall. LiveJournal and MySpace are mere shadows of what they once were. Facebook lists on, and Twitter is harried by largely-unchecked abusers and the continual frustration of not being able to edit a typo out of a tweet that’s raking up RTs.

If a creator gets in deep with a single platform, their ability to connect with their fans/readers/etc. is bound up in that company’s fate. This is why people have been harping on and on about email lists/newsletters – if you bring you audience to a system that is much more directly under your control, that ability to connect is much more robust.

And from a mailing list, you can then direct your fans to a new platform, mobilizing them in order to help make a project happen.

This is why I see Platform Building systems as mostly being oriented toward Stage One and Stage Two (see the framework from the earlier post), and that Platform Mobilizing systems are more effective for later Stage Two and Stage Three. It doesn’t seem terribly viable (at least right now) to start a brand-new creative career by going directly to Patreon as your main way of interacting with fans/readers/etc.. For the most part, the people succeeding on crowd-funding/crowd-patronage systems are those with proven success and/or an existing fan-base. But once you have those connections and have earned that support, systems like Patreon and/or Kickstarter can let a creator provide an opportunity for fans, and especially super-fans, to go the extra mile in supporting a creator.

21st Century Creative Economics

Here’s another way we can express this:

Most of my books are available digital-first, from $2.99 to $5.99 per book. I also have paperbacks for $12.99 to $14.99. I don’t have any books out in hardcover, so $15 is the highest price for any of my books. If I have a super-fan who absolutely adores my works and will buy anything I publish, but I only ever ask $2.99 to $15 for my work, then they’ll buy as many of those as I can produce, but maybe I won’t actually provide them with an opportunity for them to support me to their satisfaction.

Then I launch my Kickstarter, with a $100 backer level, and they pick it in a heartbeat. They get a lot out of being able to directly support me and the extra rewards I offer above and beyond the book. And I get a big chunk of $ toward my project, plus a way to engage directly with a major supporter.

This is, I think, the source of one of the big appeals of Kickstarter and Patreon: With those company’s business models, I can offer a wider range of commercial interaction possibilities, and find places where the existing mix of products doesn’t satisfy a fan/supporter’s interest. If I have a fan who makes a really good living and wants to be able to help support me, if I make it easier for them to get more out of supporting me, we might both be able to win – me from greater financial support, them from getting more content from me, more direct interaction, and/or more insight into how I make my art.

This is another way to diversify your portfolio as a creator – offer a lot of different ways for people to support you – ebooks, paperbacks, audio, crowdfunded support, large-ticket experiences (critiques, Google Hangouts, etc.), and so on. And offering that wider mix you may find that you’re not only making more $, you’re giving readers/fans/etc. more chances to connect with you and your work. The perfect overlap of Platform-Building and Platform-Mobilizing.


Speaking of that Kickstarter, please check out the campaign and see if you’d like to join over 180 people helping me realize my creative dreams:

Nebulas Schedule

Nebula Conference

Hello all!

This week, I’ll be traveling to Chicago for the Nebula Conference, put on by SFWA, the SF/F writers professional guild (I’ve been a proud member for basically my entire professional career).

I wasn’t planning on attending the conference this year, but a SFWA faerie convinced me to attend and present on some programming. Therefore, I’m very excited for what I’ve got lined up during the conference.

You can find my schedule here on the official site, but I’m copying it below for ease of use.

Also, if you’re in Chicago this week but don’t have a ticket for the conference, please check out the Mass Signing on Friday evening, which is open to anyone and everyone.

Thursday, May 12th

3pm – The Future of Racism
Jennifer Cross (Moderator), Liz Argall, Tanya DePass, Michael R. Underwood

The past’s virulent racism against the Irish has now faded to linguistic artifacts like “paddy wagon” and “red-headed stepchild.” What traces will present-day racism leave behind, and what new forms of racism will emerge?

4pm – How To Hand-Sell Your Book
Michael R. Underwood

Lessons from 7 years of hand-selling books to readers, booksellers, and sales reps, for writers looking to learn how to hand-sell their books at conventions or related events.

(I’ve been given a full hour to present on this topic, which means we should really be able to dig deep – I’m also hoping to do some workshopping/role-play to talk through the techniques.)

Friday, May 13th

8:00pm – 9:30pm – Mass Signing
In the Red Lacquer Room

I’ll join the many fabulous attending authors (including Nebula Award finalists!) in a mass signing. This event is open to the public – you do not need to be registered for the Nebulas Conference to attend! Come by and say hello! I’ll have copies of Genrenauts on-hand and will be happy to talk about publishing, my Kickstarter, and/or the many feels Captain America: Civil War gave us.

Saturday, May 14th

2:00pm – 3:00pm – The Moral Responsibility of the Storyteller
Alyssa Wong (Moderator), C.S.E. Cooney, E.J. Fischer, Michael R. Underwood

Society is shaped by narrative. What moral responsibility do storytellers have to consider the larger context in which their work appears? And how do we handle that responsibility, especially when writing outside of our own experiences, or presenting ours when they don’t fit dominant Western (esp. American) narratives or ideas of what a certain story ‘should’ be?

3:00pm – 4:00pm – Promotional Bootcamp
Fonda Lee (Moderator), Patty Garcia, Michael R. Underwood, Ellen Wright

Whether a traditionally published or self published author, you’re told that you need to promote your book. This panel of publicity and marketing professionals takes a hard look at what does and doesn’t work for promoting your work.

 

Other than these schedule items, I’ll be hanging out chatting with the other attendees – If you’re attending the conference and would like some help meeting people, please feel free to approach me  when I’m out and about – mention this post, and I’ll do my best to help introduce you around.

Genrenauts update

Hi everyone! I want to take a minute to talk about what’s next for Genrenauts.

Genrenauts Combined

I’ve been very happy to partner with Tor.com Publishing for the first two Genrenauts novellas – The Shootout Solution and The Absconded Ambassador. We’ve also got “There Will Always Be a Max,” a Genrenauts short story, coming April 6th for free on Tor.com.

There Will Always Be a Max cover (by Goñi Montes)

But honestly, I’m champing at the bit to get these stories out to readers. Genrenauts was designed to feel like a weekly TV show or a radio serial, and I want to increase the speed of release to fit that feel. In discussions with Lee Harris, my editor at Tor.com, I realized that they weren’t in a position to publish four more Genrenauts novellas in 2016 in order to get the whole season out this year, so we agreed that I’d go ahead and publish the rest of the season myself. They have been and remain very supportive of the series, which is great.

All six episodes of Season One are written. Episode 3 is already in copy-edits, and Episode 4 is with my developmental editor. I’m looking to have Episode 3 ready to publish by the end of April.

 

Here’s a preview of what’s coming in the rest of the season:

Episode 3 – The Cupid Reconciliation – Mallery returns to active duty and sparks fly as the team tracks down a story breach in the Rom-Com region.

Episode 4 – The Substitute Sleuth – A scouting mission becomes a scramble to solve a pair of nested mysteries in the Police Procedural region of Crime World.

Episode 5 & 6 – The Failed Fellowship – A two-part season finale where the team travels to Traditional Fantasy-land. Instead of overthrowing the dark lord, the prophesied hero dies before his moment of triumph, and now the Genrenauts have to find a new MacGuffin to defeat the Night-Lord before his arcane power brings about an eternal night of terror.

 

So that’s what’s coming for Leah and the team. And here’s how we’re going to get there.

The cost of publishing these novellas on my own, to the same standard as Tor.com Publishing has set, will be high. Therefore, I’ve decided to run a Kickstarter campaign to fund a Complete Season One Collection, including Episodes 1-6 and special extras. I’m shooting to launch the Kickstarter in May. And if it funds, there will be ebook and paperback editions of the complete first season. And with stretch goals, possibly even audiobooks for Episodes 3-6. The very flexible contract terms with Tor.com Publishing explicitly allow me to publish this collected edition, and I’m really excited to bring it to life.

I’ll have more information for you about the Kickstarter before it launches, but what I’d love to hear now is this: what extras would you like to see in the campaign? Character dossiers, Genrenauts patches, side mission short stories, playing cards, T-shirts? Your input will help me decide how to make the Kickstarter as awesome as possible.

And if you want to continue supporting Genrenauts right now, the best things to do include:

  • Buying the books.
  • Talking about the series to your book-reading friends.
  • Reviewing the books on retailers and/or Goodreads.
  • Lending the books to people you think might like them.

I’m very grateful for your support on the series so far. I’m really excited for what Episodes 3 and beyond will bring for the series, and to put years of studying indie/self-publishing into practice for myself.

 

The Genrenauts Life

Life right now is pretty Genrenauts-tastic. I’m working on final edits for Episode 3, Ep. 4 is off for edits soon, etc.

And “There Will Always be a Max,” a Genrenauts short, is coming to Tor.com on April 6th.

There Will Always Be a Max cover (by Goñi Montes)

Which means, with the release of THE ABSCONDED AMBASSADOR very fresh in my mind, I have some things to say and people to thank, which I did largely on Twitter, but will repeat here:

The Absconded Ambassador is dedicated to Dave Robison, an OG (Original Genrenaut), for helping me develop the core premise of the series at a critical juncture, and for his ongoing contributions to the genre in fostering community and helping writers develop their voice and craft.

I lift a Neon Space Drink (TM) to my editor Lee Harris, who took a chance on the series and helped me bring this vision into the world.

I’m also very grateful to Irene Gallo, Christine Foltzer, and Peter Lutjen for creating the cover design and series style for Genrenauts, reflecting the genre love and playfulness of the series.

My Copy-Editor, Amanda Hong, kept the alien species consistent, made sure I kept the timeline clear,  and in general polished the book to look better than it had been before.

Katharine Duckett has done a fantastic job spreading the word about the series and helping me get it into the hands of people far and wide. Thanks also to Mordicai Knode and Carl Engle-Laird for their assistance along the way.

I am so delighted to be a part of the Tor.com Publishing experiment, and the campaign to show that #NovellasAreTheNewNovel.

And speaking of #NovellasAreTheNewNovel, Matt Wallace has been a great supporter of the series, for which I am very grateful. Thanks, brother.

My agent Sara Megibow is the Opener of Doors, the Herald of Awesomeness, always there to help me plow throw when things get rough.

Every book I write is a love letter to the stories that have inspired me, and a suggestion of how we can move forward. As an Ex-Academic, most of my books so far have been my way of taking what I have to say about the genre and the world and putting it into story form. Never has this been more the case than in Genrenauts. I’m really excited about the characters of this series and what they have to say.

Writing Genrenauts has already helped me stretch my skills and learn to write more thoughtfully, more energetically, and more flexibly. (That ONE SECRET FOR WRITING SUCCESS everyone asks about? It’s actually lat stretches. Keep that between you and me.)

And the response so far has been very exciting. Here are some of the reviews for the series:

“This is fun…Readers will be looking forward to Leah and company’s next trip to a story world.”
Library Journal

“It’s an entertaining enough concept, and the diverse cast of characters is a nice change of pace.”
Publishers Weekly

“It’s storytelling as heroism, genre savviness as power. Endless fun.”
Marie Brennan, World Fantasy Award-nominated author of A Natural History of Dragons

“A clever, exciting, and seriously fun twist on portal fantasy that sends a geeky stand-up comedian into the Wild West. Sign me up to be a Genrenaut, too!”
Delilah S. Dawson, author of the Blud series, Hit, and Wake of Vultures, written as Lila Bowen

“My favorite new TV show of 2015 isn’t on TV, it’s in the pages of Mike Underwood’s Genrenauts. Deeply funny and creative, shrewdly insightful, and thrillingly paced, every pop culture diehard will want to keep living vicariously through the characters in this series.”
Matt Wallace, author of the Slingers Saga and Envy of Angels.

“I have this sinking feeling that the Genrenauts series, with its raucous meta-commentary upon the stories of pop culture, is going to say important things that I might not be clever enough to catch the first time around because I’m too busy enjoying the books.”
Howard Tayler, Hugo Award winner and creator of Schlock Mercenary

“…a rollicking exploration of western tropes, with hints of a larger conspiracy afoot. Underwood has plans for a lot more of these, and I can’t wait to read them.”
Joel Cunningham, B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog

and for Episode 2,

“The second episode in Michael R. Underwood’s Genrenauts delivers on the promise of Episode 1, and demonstrates that his special alchemy of Leverage + The Librarians + Quantum Leap + Thursday Next (just my current guess at his secret recipe) has legs — and will hopefully go a long time.”
– Irresponsible Reader

“…it’s a heck of a lot of fun the way Galaxy Quest is: a little goofy, a little serious but not taking itself too seriously, and filled with a fondness for the source material that gives it weight without weighing down the story.”
Samantha Holloway, New York Journal of Books

it offers a wonderfully creative premise: Fictional stories are really alternate universes in which problems bleed over into our would and cause calamities here.
Leah Hansen, RT Reviews

In closing, I hope you’ll join Team Genrenauts and see where the story goes next.


The latest Genrenauts story is The Absconded Ambassador. Weird aliens, diplomatic wrangling, space dogfights, genre ruminations, and more:

The Absconded Ambassador

Genrenauts: The Absconded Ambassador is here!

Today, Genrenauts continues with The Absconded Ambassador!

The Absconded Ambassador

 

The reader response to Genrenauts has been fantastic so far, so I’m really excited to continue the series. If you haven’t read The Shootout Solution, you’ll definitely want to start there – the series is designed like a serial-episodic TV show – readers will have the best experience starting from the beginning and reading in order.

In The Absconded Ambassador, the team heads to SF world to help salvage an interstellar alliance on the verge of collapse. You’ll get diplomacy, dogfights in a spaceship graveyard, weird alien species, shout-outs to some of my favorite sci-fi TV shows, and more about the mysterious Roman de Jager.

You can get The Absconded Ambassador in three formats:

Ebook: iBooks * Kindle * Kobo * Nook

Paperback: Amazon Barnes & Noble * Powell’s

Audio (coming on March 1st): Audible

Buying in the first week (or pre-ordering), is one of the absolute best ways to support a series you love.

Other great things you can do are to write reviews (Amazon, Goodreads, B&N), and, as always, talking about the book to your friends who like books.

But, you don’t have to take my word that Episode 2 will be good! (You can, if you want. That’s fine, too.) Here are some early reviews to give you other perspectives:

 

“The second episode in Michael R. Underwood’s Genrenauts delivers on the promise of Episode 1, and demonstrates that his special alchemy of Leverage + The Librarians + Quantum Leap + Thursday Next (just my current guess at his secret recipe) has legs — and will hopefully go a long time.”
– Irresponsible Reader

“…it’s a heck of a lot of fun the way Galaxy Quest is: a little goofy, a little serious but not taking itself too seriously, and filled with a fondness for the source material that gives it weight without weighing down the story.”
-Samantha Holloway, New York Journal of Books

As with the previous installment, Mike uses his love of genre to spin a story that would feel right at home in a modern day episode of Star Trek, ramping up quickly, doing it’s thing, and then resolving. And just like later season DS9, we get a set of plot threads that we have to tune in next week to see the progression of.
-Alex von der Linden, Blackfish Reviews

“My Genre-loving friends, get ready… we’re out of the saddle and back in the Saddle, but this time we’ve got alien politics, burgeoning alliances, mystery, and enough fast-paced Pew-Pew action to make me think I was in a golden age rocket ship, and indeed, that’s the point.”
Brad K. Horner

 

And coming on April 6th is “There Will Always Be a Max,” a Genrenauts short story. It will be available for free on Tor.com, and the ebook will be available for $.99.

There Will Always Be a Max cover (by Goñi Montes)

until then, happy reading!

The Genrenauts Challenge: Round One!

Dear all,

We’re just two weeks away from the release of The Absconded Ambassador: Genrenauts Episode 2!

The Absconded Ambassador

 

And to help build excitement for the series, I’m kicking off a set of competitions.

Before Genrenauts launched, I recorded a series of videos with the fine folks at Tor.com about the series, including some videos inviting the viewer to step into the role of Genrenauts and create endings for broken stories.

 

First, watch the video:

Then go to the YouTube page for the video and post your proposed story fix. This doesn’t have to be fully written out, it can be a summary of how you would manipulate the existing story to create a new, satisfying ending.

Comment with your story patch by Monday, February 22nd, and you could win a set of signed and personalized Genrenauts paperbacks as well as a letter of welcome to the Genrenauts team, signed by team leader Angstrom King himself.

If you have any questions about the contest, comment below. DO NOT post your story patches here. They need to go on the YouTube page for the Sci-Fi challenge.

There will be other challenges later on, if this scenario doesn’t catch your interest. Stay tuned!

Cover Reveal – There Will Always Be a Max

There was this movie last year, a few of my internet friends and I saw it. Decades-later sequel to an Australian action movie franchise from the guy who went directed Happy Feet. Maybe you heard of it. 😛

Mad Max: Fury Road hit me like a conversion experience. I came out of the film energized, challenged, and inspired. It totally changed how I watch action films, as well as a number of other lessons I’m still processing and trying to apply.

So, naturally, my mind went to “how can I channel this excitement into Genreneauts?” The result was “There Will Always Be a Max,” a short story in the Post-Apocalyptic region of Action world. And Lee Harris, my editor at Tor.com, decided to take it to be published on Tor.com. It’ll appear free on the website and will also be sold as an ebook.

 

And now it has a cover, by the brilliant Goñi Montes.

Here we go.

 

Wait for it…

 

Wait…

 

SEGA!

Ahem.

There Will Always Be a Max cover (by Goñi Montes)

Pardon me while I pick my jaw back off the floor.

“There Will Always Be a Max” is a short piece where Angstrom King, the leader of the team, heads to the Post-Apocalypse region to investigate a breach. He steps into the role of “The Max” to help a group whose story broke when their own hero bit the dust. I promise car chases, Molotov cocktails, and ruminations about post-apocalyptic heroes.

More coming soon. 🙂

Goals and Resolutions for 2016

2016 is here, and looking at my schedule and list of projects on proposal and in development, this year is looking like a big one.

Books

 

For the year, I’m going to divide things into Resolutions, Goals, and Ambitions. Resolutions are personal principles I’m going to try to keep in mind to help make a happier, more productive year. Goals are achievable actions and projects under my control. Ambitions are Cool Things I would like to see happen this year that require other people’s/company’s buy-in.

 

Resolutions

Here are some principles I’m going to try to keep in mind for the year:

  1. Focus on Joy, and share that joy. Spend more of my free time on things that make me happy. Celebrate colleagues and creators that inspire me – from talking up things I’m enjoying, recommending books and movies and shows and music, and so on. Use my platform to spotlight awesomeness.
  2. Elevate marginalized voices. This means signal-boosting people of color, women, LGBTQIA/QUILTBAG persons, and other people marginalized across various social axes. This lets me put my Privilege Yahtzee to good use and helps me continue to learn how to be a better-informed and more empathetic person.
  3. When I read an opinion about media that I deeply disagree with: just walk away (unless it’s actively bigoted, in which case, I can allow myself to throw down for great justice). This will hopefully keep me from wasting as much time arguing about things on the internet.
  4. Do writing work every weekday and one weekend day wherever possible. Optimally, this means drafting, revising, and/or promotion work. Writer admin (website, accounting, etc.) comes after drafting/revising/promotion. I’ve noticed that I get antsy if I spend too long without working on drafting or revising, so I want to be more consistent in working on that part of writing.
  5. Do what I can to reach out to people in more substantive ways. I love Twitter, but it’s become a very large part of my social life, and I want to mix in more Skype and in-person socializing.

 

Goals

These are mostly writer and career things. I’ll note that these are things totally under my control, rather than things which require other people’s buy in (those are ambitions, they’ll follow below).

  1. Revise Genrenauts Episodes 3-6. (Winter-Spring).
  2. Promote Genrenauts: The Absconded Ambassador.
  3. Publish Genrenauts Episodes 3-6 with Tor.com or myself.
  4. Finish, revise, and submit the Cool Space Opera WIP.
  5. Plot and start writing Genrenauts Season 2.
  6. Proceed with Sekret Project #1.
  7. Finish revising Beacons and pitch it.
  8. Write more Business of Publishing Essays and pitch them to major markets.
  9. Pick one new way to earn readers.
  10. Do it.

A lot of these are penciled in due to the fact that I have three different submissions/proposals active right now, and my plans for 2016 will be largely dependent on what happens with those. I really want to get all of Genrenauts Season 1 out this year, so that’s pretty solid. And Beacons is, I think, pretty close to being ready to take the next step. And the Business of Publishing Essays thing can fit well with many of the other things. But if more than one of those submissions/proposals comes back with a buy/offer, I’ll need to make a lot of writing time for them.

 

Ambitions

  1. Sell a novel to a Big Five SF/F house for wide print & ebook distribution.
  2. Sell a TV option for Genrenauts to a reputable production company/creator.
  3. Sell Beacons and/or get a work-for-hire job writing for a major comics company.
  4. Have one of my works/projects nominated for a major SFF award (either a book or one of the podcasts I work on).

 

The New Year is here, now let’s make it a great one.

Year in Review – 2015

So, it’s the last day of 2015. That calls for some reflection.

Personally, 2015 was a big year for me. First and foremost, I got married to the love of my life, and we were so excited that we held two receptions! It was a ton of work to organize both, but getting to share the joy with family and friends that wouldn’t be able to travel was definitely worth it.

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2015 was a busy year in writing as well. I finished Season One of Genrenauts, revised the first three episodes, and developed other projects which are in various stages of secret activity even now.

 

Hexomancy cover

September saw the release of Hexomancy, the fourth Ree Reyes story, wrapping up the first arc of that series. It’s been met very positively by fans, and has me excited to move on to the next part of Ree’s story as soon as possible.

 

The Shootout Solution Final

And then in November, I launched Genrenauts season one, beginning with The Shootout Solution, from Tor.com Publishing. We were able to book Mary Robinette Kowal to perform the audiobook, and I couldn’t be happier. My agent and I partnered with Macmillan Entertainment to manage TV/Film rights for the series, which I think is by far my best shot so far in that field.

I’m very pleased with the series, and excited to continue it in 2016. And I have so many ideas of other things to do with the world – an RPG, comics, a board game, etc.

Work

AR Logo with Lettering

Angry Robot emerged from its Interregnum in March, and has been kicking ass and taking names once more. We had popular, buzz-worthy releases, award nominations, and strong sales. We signed up some incredibly exciting novels by amazing writers, and got the word out about our ongoing, beloved series. And for my own part in the team, I started writing art briefs and working with artists, as well as working on a new Thing that is currently secret but very exciting.

 

 

 

 

Geekdom

This was a big year in Geekdom. Just with Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, we had two huge, impressive new offerings in genre-defining series, each bringing a breath of fresh air in terms of representation. I’ve spoken a lot about those films, so I don’t feel like I need to go on at great length here.

2015 was also the year I got into Steven Universe and Hamilton, it was the year of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Agent Carter, Supergirl, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and more.

 

I also joined Speculate! The Podcast for Writers, Readers, and Fans in 2015, and have been talking with Greg Wilson, my other active co-host, about cool things we can do in 2016, which has me very excited.

Favorite Things

Here are a few more things that rocked my world in 2015, just for fun – there’s a theme here:

Blades in the Dark

Blades in the Dark is a dark fantasy cloak & dagger RPG by John Harper, in the design lineage of Apocalypse World, but distinctly its own. It cites Dishonored, the Vlad Taltos books, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, and the Thief game series as its major touchstones. BitD was Kickstarted to great effect this year, and the core book is due early 2016. It already has a very active Google+ community, so if an RPG about a group of scoundrels building a criminal empire appeals to you, check it out.

RPG Actual Plays

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Another thing that delighted and surprised me this year was the rise in prominence of streaming tabletop RPGs. From Geek & Sundry’s Critical Role to Actual Play Podcasts like Friends at the Table, produced RPG video like Wil Wheaton’s Titansgrave, and Roll20 Presents games like Apocalypse World, consuming RPGs as entertainment has become far more mainstream, and I love it. As a guy who wrote his M.A. thesis on Tabletop RPGs, one of the things I wrote about was how RPGs’ mass appeal was limited because the performers were also the entirety of the audience. With these streamed and recorded games, we’re seeing more attention for the form as performance, as narrative to be enjoyed by more than just the participants. It’s super-cool, and I can’t wait to see more.

 

Looking ahead

2016 is already shaping up to be a big year for me – The Absconded Amabssador releases in February, I’ve got stories in two anthologies that will be Kickstarting over the course of the year, and I’ll be attending a ton of conventions for Angry Robot and my own writing. Add my current Sekret Projects to that and it’s going to be a doozy. More on 2016 tomorrow.

Until then, thanks to everyone who bought my books, wrote reviews, talked my books up to their friends, hung out with me at conventions, whiled away the hours on Twitter or Facebook, and more. Thanks for everything you’ve done to make 2015 a great year in so many ways, and here’s to making 2016 even better.