First of all, I have recently signed a contract for a “Pathfinder Tales” novel with Paizo Publishing. They are a RPG publisher, and have successfully pulled the rug out from under some of the much larger publishers by being very fan oriented, publishing awesome product, selling PDF copies of all of their books when hard-copies come out (no DRM) and being brilliant business people. Last year, Paizo started a novel and short fiction line, and called it “Pathfinder Tales”. First year, they put out ten novels, and I was itching to send them something. Unfortunately, they are not open to submissions. No fault to Paizo for that; if they opened the doors, they would get a thousand manuscripts in the first week, no doubt. So, how did I get a book contract?
I met their fiction editor, James Sutter at GenCon last year at a panel discussion titled “So, you want to write for Paizo?” Right up my alley, right? Well, wrong. The panel diverged quickly into writing gaming stuff, which is really not my bag. They had several of their novel authors there, but most of the fans were game designer wannabes, so that was the way the conversation went. Undaunted, I approached James after the talk. After introducing myself, I told him flat out that I would love to write fiction for Paizo, and would be willing to send him a sample of my work for him to look at. He said sure, gave me his card, and said to send him a couple of samples. I thanked him, shook his hand and walked away. This is key, I think: I didn’t hound him, didn’t beg, didn’t follow him around, didn’t show him pictures of my family, etc. Professional, to the point and brief. Editors at conventions really have their radar up for people they would NOT like to work with on a professional level. If you bug them too much, they’ll remember you, and not in a good way.
I sent him two samples from the Scimitar Seas series, and got a reply (six months later, with a very nice apology for taking so long) that was positive. He asked for some pitches for Paizo’s web fiction line. This is a nicely paying market, and a great opportunity to show my stuff, so I jumped on it. Two days later, I sent him six different pitches for short web serials. This is also key: He was impressed with both the rapidity of my response and the variety of my pitches. He picked one, and gave me the guidelines: Write four 2000 word chapters, each titled and each a cliff hanger.
Six days later I gave him exactly what he asked for, edited and polished. I busted ass to do this, and put another project on hold, but this is also a “first impression” thing. If you’ve got an opportunity to show your stuff to a new market, show it! I got an immediate response of “Wow, that was fast!” and that he was eager to read it. Two days later, I received an e-mail from him, and the subject line was “Paizo Novel?”
Of course, I freaked out, said I’d love to do the project and started on the outline.
Take home message: Be professional, personable, prompt, sharp, fast, give them exactly what they ask for, when they ask for it, follow their guidelines, be enthusiastic, and work like hell!
I now have a SFWA qualifying contract, and an August 1 deadline for a 100,000 word novel. So guess what I’m doing: I’m working like hell… with a huge smile on my face.