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Show HN: I'm looking for science fiction writers (compellingsciencefiction.com)
103 points by mojoe on Feb 22, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 81 comments

I like the idea, but it's a bit disheartening to submit stories to an unknown organization whose website includes zero details about who the publisher will be or how the stories will be published. I get that it's a "self-funded hobby," but it could just as well be a scam by a nameless, faceless group of con men.

Considering the domain is registered anonymously through Amazon, there is absolutely no information available for prospective writers to vet the "we" referenced on the only 2 pages of the site.

I'd love to be wrong, but I've been burned enough in the past that, for this site, I'll be an observer only.

I'm disheartened that my site seems scary to you -- the "we" referenced is myself and some friends who have signed up as slush readers. I'd really appreciate it if you could let me know what information I could publish that would give you confidence in the site. It sounds like I should put up an 'about' page with some information about myself and my readers. For now, here's my linkedin page, to put a face to the facelessness: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joestech

Writers are paranoid. I played around with a self-publishing site last year (http://webfiction.co) and was surprised more than once by how worried writers were about getting ripped off, losing control of their work, etc. I think there are so many shady characters in the space that everyone has been burned.

Basically everyone wants someone else to take a chance on you to provide social proof. Consider tracking down a well-regarded writer and commissioning something?

Getting some social proof is a great idea. I have some author friends in real life, so maybe having endorsements from them on social media will help instill confidence. I think the first few months will be the hardest, but eventually we'll have a track record.

No, don't do that. Writers do not need social media endorsements for publishers. Show yourself and if you are new in the field then what's your roadmap? Have you raised any funds? If yes, how and if no then how you'll pay. Your website has only two pags mentioning nothing about you at all. If your website is hosted on a shared-hosting then it'll be taken down by your "human and bot" visitors collectively after publishing your first issue.

Precisely, tell writers your raodmap so a trust bond can be created between you (as a publisher) and writer. Do you agree?

You're right, I need more roadmap details on the site. I will add detail this evening.

All you really need to do is publish good work and pay 6 cents a word for it as promised.

Writers will beat your door down if you do that much.

Chicken and egg. The majority of good writers are paranoid and would rather publish with established platforms.

Providing proof that this is legitimate is pretty necessary.

Just creating an 'About Us' page with some info on who you guys are would help. Currently the site is pretty much a faceless oblivion.

Don't get me wrong, I like the concept, and would be interested in writing for you to get my name out there, but as others note, losing control of our work is a huge fear - if we as writers willingly submit our work into a black hole, that's it.

Your site looks very nice, are you not running it any more?

As a writer familiar with SF&F short fiction markets, I agree that more information is needed.

Including more biographical information on the website about yourself and any editors making acquisition decisions would help. You don't need to have industry cred already (though that helps), but writers like to know that (a) you're not a publisher/editor known not to pay, has a bad rep, etc. and (b) that you're a real person. It's also very helpful to know how long the magazine is funded for when it's not yet established -- so you have confidence that if you submit and are selected, it won't go under before you get paid.

Also, you should include what the publication format is, what specific rights you'd be buying, whether they're exclusive, etc. You say "first English publication rights" -- I'm assuming you mean exclusive First English Language serial rights? Print or digital? Or would it be nonexclusive? Are audio rights exclusive or nonexclusive? If you have a template contract you plan to use, you could link to it.

You have an expected response time, which is great; consider also including time to payment/publication. If you have formatting guidelines/preferences (i.e. standard manuscript format like Vonda McIntyre's), include those.

You can take a look at the guidelines/sites of established short fiction magazines to see what best practices are -- i.e. Asimov's, Clarkesworld, Analog, Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, Daily Science Fiction, etc.

Hope that helps! Always exciting to see more short fiction markets!

Thank you, this is very helpful. I will be adding much more information to the submissions page based on the great advice I've received on this thread!

I am in fact interested in publishing with you since you pay pro rate, but I'm interested in who you are and what experience you have in editing. What kind of narratives are you looking for? How do you plan to market your work? Do you have a turnaround time I should contact you in case my manuscript doesn't go through?

I have absolutely no experience as an editor. I'm a data scientist who wants to support good science fiction -- my linkedin is in my profile if you're curious. I'm looking for relatively hard SF, no horror, no fantasy. There is a slightly more robust description on the site, but overall I'm open to any well-written story within those bounds. I will contact you within 4 weeks of your submission, and please feel free to contact me at any time with questions at questions@compellingsciencefiction.com!

I somehow missed your post and so wrote a comment covering almost all of this. Went ahead and deleted mine as yours is far clearer, and op has already responded

You want to be a publisher? That sounds great, writers need opportunities and someone willing to put in the effort to make that happen is something to be encouraged.

Yet that's a terribly sad page. No theming, no brand, no idea at all about who's running this thing.

Spend fifty bucks and get yourself a logo at least. Show that you care about your identity.

You should definitely put up an About page.

With a photo. And personal contact details. And some idea of the kinds of fiction you like.

There are plenty of publishing sites, but they all have an angle. There's no point submitting certain kinds of stories to certain sites because they don't fit their niche. (E.g. Strange Horizons doesn't do space opera.)

It would be useful if you worked out what your angle is, so authors understand it. Just having an angle would make you seem more like someone with a genuine interest in fiction.

Don't link to LinkedIn. Most authors won't be interested.

Include payment terms ("on acceptance", "on publication", "30 days after publication", etc.)

Make a few purchases and get yourself on the SFWA approved market list:


When you have all of that, consider soliciting material on writer forums.

You'll get so much keeping up will be a full time job, and at least 90% of it will be - not so great.

Welcome to publishing...

It's a matter of us not knowing who "we" are. We don't know who you are. We don't know who else is involved. Aside from your comment that this is a personal hobby, we have no idea what your intentions are with the site. Nor do we know your experience or qualifications.

I'm not the only writer with an experience being ripped off by a prospective publisher. Again, while I'm sure and hoping everything here is on the up and up, there are zero details on the site itself to help assuage any concerns. Linking to your LinkedIn profile here of all places only helps those who discover the site via Hacker News ... that will be a tiny sliver of your traffic.

Thank you for your advice, you're absolutely right. I will add some more personal information to the site this evening.

A start would be your name, the legal entity's name, an address - that way at least you're putting your personal reputation on the line.

Glad that you're trying something - will try to submit if I have time to write and am happy enough with the result.

I agree a bit more information about yourself and your plans would be interesting. It doesn't have to be much, you can look at what other publishers are doing in this space. For example Mothership Zeta [0] which is positionning a bit differently, has short FAQ and submission guidelines. It's not much more content than on your page, but they hit on all the important points for writers.

[0] http://mothershipzeta.org/

FYI, any website I visit that doesn't tell me the name of a responsible human being on the landing page or at most within one clearly-labelled click is automatically assigned to the B.S. bin.

For example, luna-lang.org came up on HN the other day. Looks amazing. But the only sign of WHO is a line at the bottom that says, "Copyright © New Byte Order 2016" and it's not even a link! Searching quickly takes you to http://www.newbyteorder.com/ which also tells you nothing about WHO is involved. Lame.

The most important part of any message is the name of the messenger.

Give them some way to prove that they sent you their work, and that it remains their property.

I've contemplated sharing some writing before, but I trust Kindle Direct Publishing far more than I trust nameless website with an email address and some nice sounding promises, even if I might make less money. Big publishers who might reject me still have a reputation to uphold, and won't turn around and take me stories, pay me nothing, then start publishing them with their own name on it.

So you're not a publisher, you're a broker? You buy stories and resell them to other outlets?

I will be publishing electronically both on compellingsciencefiction.com and through ereader markets like Kindle. I just opened the submissions page yesterday though, so we don't have any published material yet. I have no plans for physical (paper) publishing. I'll be adding more detail to the site this evening based on feedback I received here.

Even if there is no malicious intent, well-meaning hobbies have ended in heartbreak before. I hope this is legitimate and succeeds but the skeptical side of myself is always there.

I write throwaway stories for my own entertainment. I edited one and tossed it down the rabbit hole, about 1500 words. Assuming they are legit I made $80 on less than an hour total of work if they accept my submission, I retain my rights to my work, and voila.

They could steal my shitty work but I guess I would consider that a win as well.

Compelling Science Fiction is a self-funded hobby -- I want to support the creation of great science fiction. Ultimately I'd like it if the project became self-sustaining, which would allow me to pay more authors more money and promote more stories.

If you REALLY like this idea and would like to be a "slush pile" reader, my email address is in my profile!

I hope you repost this when you've got your first round of stories selected. I'd love to see the quality of writing you receive.

How are submissions going?

I will! We just launched, and have a handful of submissions so far.

reddit has some pretty good sci-fi writers' subs. I've seen people submit and ask others to review their work plenty of times. See what they think.


[check the sidebar for smaller, more relevant related subs]

Email sent. I'm totally on board.

Interesting; I've always had a bit of an issue with the lines between Science Fiction and Fantasy, in that the former is far more interesting to me than the latter. For instance, I enjoyed the movie Lucy as entertainment using a science fiction anchor, and was utterly bored with Guardians of the Galaxy which is a fine and dandy space/fantasy type of thing. I love Hackers as entertainment in spite of its drastic flaws that were obvious then and still are in the 'scientific' context.

Asking for a buddy: Would a computer/technology driven crime and character driven story be applicable in the 'science fiction' wide definition?

Hope you get what you're after and help break some new folks into the scene. Nice that you're up front about the rights too. I know my buddy would love to get paid and then take that money and register his story with WGA West in case of screenplay potential.

I definitely like near-future stories that are character driven -- If computers/tech are crucial to the plot (and especially if the software/technology doesn't quite yet exist in the real world) I'd definitely be interested in reading his story. Thanks for your comments!

Okay cool, just wanted to run that by real quick because there's so much leeway in the perspective. Best of luck to you and the team for sure.

There are many excellent, paying science fiction/fantasy collections out there. You need to set yourself apart in a way that convinces people to trust their stories to you (who we know nothing about) instead of someone else.

Especially since the established collections prefer/require first publication. Why should we risk that you'll publish and fail to pay?

If you're writing a lot, it's not a risk. You've got something sitting in a folder that you haven't touched in five years. Blow the dust off, polish the edges, and maybe you make a couple bucks.

Lining up those SFWA ducks will be important. At that point, even as a new publication, if they're easy to work with, they'll quickly become a great second or third stop for fresh stories. They won't get first submissions for awhile, because you can't compete with Terraform's (and others') 25c/word rate. But that's okay. Gems fall through the cracks. Loads of great fiction out there looking for a home.

A pro-rate story (over 5 cents a word) worth of writing can take weeks or months to polish to an acceptable level. If this person plans to be affiliated with SWFA and get a reputation as having good taste in stories to publish, it's not just a "sure, I can take your trunk story" deal. Trunk stories are trunk stories for a reason.

If you write every day, and you've been published at a pro-rate previously, you most likely have something near-publishable in your trunk.

Obviously, the publisher needs to be discerning in what he actually buys. But if you're a writer trying to build a relationship with a new publication, I don't see any problem recycling work that didn't quite hit with some of the established markets.

If you're unpublished, or you've only been paid lower rates, you probably shouldn't be asking the question "Why should I submit here when I can submit to XYZ?" You should just tack the new publisher onto the end of the list, and when you've worked your story through the others, drop it here before it hits the trunk.

It is a risk to trust stories to someone who doesn't have a public track record. I'm guessing that the majority of my initial submissions will come from authors who know me in person, and know that I'll pay them and publicize their work. Hopefully after the first few issues it will be clear that I'm serious about supporting this genre!

Back in the day I was trying (and failing) to be a published sf and horror author, ralan.com was the go-to resource for the market and going rates[0]. It may still provide a good benchmark of what such publications offer and what their sites generally have in common and what information they offer potential authors. It certainly wouldn't hurt your credibility to be listed there.


I am a coder by day, but I'm nearing completion of a full length novel (100,000 words) and ready to self-publish on Kindle and possibly Smashwords. I'll have to take a look at this for some other works. I have some other short stories I've been kicking around.

I particularly like the bias against dystopian fiction as I feel the same way. I also eschew themes like moral decay in the future, since as humans I believe we'll evolve emotionally and intellectually. To put it into perspective, if you look at recent human history you will find slavery, concentration camps, overt racism, all of which have been mostly wiped out.

Coding (data science applications) is my day job as well! Please send me a note when you self-publish your novel, I'll buy a copy. My email address is in my profile.

Thanks I took a note of it. Once I publish I'll send you a link to a free copy. I've been writing since I was a kid and just recently discovered how enjoyable it is working on this novel.

with respect, i find the contentions that slavery and overt racism have been wiped out to be highly dubious.

I don't entirely disagree hence the word 'mostly'. What I really meant is that attitudes have shifted over a hundred or so years.

Draft2Digital is much less of a pain. They'll even handhold problematic manuscripts through the process.

I checked out D2D. Although an awesome idea on the surface, I'm a bit suspect of their pricing model. 10% of all sales? The problem with that is if you have a bestseller that sells a million copies you're basically subsidizing other books with languishing sales.

I'm not sure if you're affiliated with them or not, but a better model would be to charge 10% up to the cost of proofread and copyedit + a profit. Let's say these services typically cost $3,000 (like on CreateSpace). D2D could charge 10% of sales up to say $5,000 ($2k profit). If you're book doesn't hit its targets the author would still owe a remaining balance up to $3,000.

This would all make sense if D2D were a publisher. It's a distributor like Smashwords. I doubt the hits are doing that much subsidizing. eBooks are tiny files, and storage is cheap. All they did was clean up the .doc file for one book and keep on Apple when they gave me trouble publishing another. That's what I meant by handholding the manuscript.

You may want to check out the HFY subreddit[1]. The skill level varies greatly, but there are some fairly good writers there, and some are 100+ posts into stories. It's often fairly trope-heavy (as is the point), but there are some real gems in there. Looking at some of the curated lists, or the top all-time posts will give you a good idea of the quality.

1: https://www.reddit.com/r/HFY

I smell hollywood. Is this a solicitation for science fiction stories, or is something fishing for movie concepts/treatments?

I would be very hesitant to share anything without some sort of guarantee that your ideas (ideas aren't subject to copyright) will not be taken and turned into a film script. The descriptions of what the website is looking for seem like the outcome of an LA focus group. Be careful. Read the contract before committing anything.

I've never been called hollywood before :) If you look at my HN profile, you can see my submission history and my linkedin. I appreciate your feedback, I clearly need to add detail to the submissions page.

If I submit a series of short stories, would I still retain the right to collect them into a book and have it published elsewhere, like Asimov's Foundation?

If your primary incentive is the per-word fee, I imagine hacker news is not your target market. I mean, don't get me wrong, there are a lot of programmers who enjoy sci-fi, both in creation and consumption, but the differential between market rate for programmer time and writer time is so great that until you are huge, what you get paid as a writer is symbolic if your dayjob is at a bay-area tech-company.

I am a wanna-be writer of fiction who works as a computer nerd. I have written a technical book, so I have some experience, and I really want to write some fiction. (I have a whole series of elaborate fantasies surrounding the idea of rejection letters) - but I write for ego, for self-actualization, whatever you want to call it. I write for emotional, non-financial reasons. Sure, sure, if I do luck into a '50 shades of grey' I want a piece of the action, but in the ordinary case, any payment is symbolic. If you want to compete for my work (and I'm not saying you do; my fiction, so far, is so bad that I'm not willing to admit to any of it,) then you have to compete on something other than money.

Assuming you aren't going to assign me an editor who will ride my ass until I finish the goddamn thing[1], the things I will look at are prestige and distribution. The prestige you give me is largely dependent on how good the other authors you publish are. Distribution is also an incentive; but you have to convince me that more people will see my work if it goes through you than if I just release it for free online.

I mean, I guess the plan is to release an issue #1 with either known-good authors or really good unknowns... but between now and then, I'd suggest talking up your distribution.

[1]If you are willing to do that, I'm sold. Sign me up.

What's the plan for publishing? Number of pieces Weekly/Monthly/Quarterly? Selling them, or posting them free, etc.

Threw your link in the "almost sfwa" submissions bucket for now, but certainly interested in hearing more.

4-5 pieces per month, posting them for free on the site but charging a subscription for kindle and other e-reader versions. Since this is a hobby all proceeds can go back to paying more authors and buying ads to promote. If that model doesn't work I may have to change it down the road. I'd also like to eventually have pieces read for a podcast, but not initially.

is it common to pay authors by wordcount? or is there a minimum number of words for a book to be published? i often have the impression that the books i read are longer than they should be.

Paying by the word is very common for magazine fiction and print journalism. Books aren't paid by the word, although usually the contract has a general length requirement.

You know, 600$ for a 1000 word story actually sounds pretty good. If I was a native English speaker I would submit some stuff.

Edit: Brain fart, it's 60$ for 1000 words. I'd still do it.

It's $60 for a 1000 word story

A 1000 word story would be $60 while a 10000 word story would be $600

Your math is a little off, but you should seriously consider brushing up a bit and writing. SFF (and speculative fiction as a whole) has a diversity problem.

Diversity problem? Nonsense! Just look how many succesful Speculative Fiction authors are female: Andrea Norton, Susan Cooper, Connie Willis, Ursula Le Guin, Julian May, Nancy Kress, Octavia Butler (black, as well as female) and dare I say it, J.K. Rowling - all off the top of my head.

Then there are well known award-winnning gay authors such as David Gerrold.

And I've just finished reading last year's Hugo Award winning novel "The Three Body Problem" written by Cixin Liu, a Chinese SF author.

If anything, SF is the field of fiction which has the least problems with "diversity" - its readers are open-minded almost by definition!

It's "Andre Norton", not "Andrea Norton". Her real name was Alice.

It'd be nice to think we'd advanced far enough that females wouldn't feel it was necessary to use male pseudonyms, but it's "JK Rowling" not "Joanne Rowling" to avoid scaring off the boys.

Yes, Joanne Rowling was asked by her publisher to publish Harry Potter under two initials because they thought boys might not want to read a book written by a woman. Not having a middle name she choose K as a nod to her paternal grandmother, Kathleen.

It's certainly been getting better. I have no argument there.

As soon as you publish your work online -no matter how promising the security of the platform is, you just don't know how and who copied your work then translated somewhere in taiwanese and started making the £££ which should be in your account.

Writers, why you just don't stop writing for Internet? Self-publishing can be more promising than online publishing, ain't?

I have a friend that is a published SF author and he spends a couple of hours each week sending out copyright takedown emails (and managing responses, etc). Usually it's someone who likes his work and just wants to share it, but several times he has caught exact copy/paste editions being put out there under someone else's name.

They have a reason to be paranoid about ownership.

Blatant promotion link: http://www.amazon.com/K.-M.-Tolan/e/B005EXKWGU/

Slightly irrelevant, but why Taiwanese? Since when has Taiwan been considered non-respecting of copyright and patents? I'm sure it's just an off-hand comment, but it still seems oddly specific since there are fewer Taiwanese speakers than the entire population of California.

Not really. Copyright in the US at least permits a base-level of protection, and should domestic or international plagarism occur, then having the original file(s) and correspondence would be excellent evidence. 'Copying ideas' like gets brought up often in lawsuits against movies are essentially non-starter cases. Ideas can't be copyrighted, simply the telling of the story.

In my circle of people, self-publishing is simply still a 'vanity' project and commercially not viable.

Being part of a reviewed, curated, and edited publication benefits the writer and reading public much in the same way that certain record labels (ex: Hospital) release materials that fit within their mold of quality.

The author of The Martian started out publishing it as a serial on his own website. Seemed to work out pretty well.

That might be the better argument. Sure, you might be skipping out on the handful of $'s that that small Taiwanese market might bring you, but would they have bought your published book anyway?

However, when Hollywood needs to film rights, they'll have to come to you and buy the license according to your terms.

and not to forget: "fifty shades of gray started" out as a sexy internet fanfiction.

Easily one of the most lucrative IP infringement cases in recent memory as well, but people walked away happy with pockets full of money so no hard feelings.

I wish there was a service like this for programmers. It would be really convenient for college students, like me.

If I could go some place in my free time, look up a list of problems like "implement X feature into a language" then I'd definitely have some nice spending money.

My best work of science fiction is much shorter than 1000 words, but here, enjoy it anyway: http://gelisam.blogspot.ca/2013/09/the-first-two-years.html

This is very promising.

Don't let the ridiculous paranoia on this thread discourage you. Writers you actually want to publish will look at your terms and submit. 99.99% of the people with "concerns" don't have anything you'd publish anyway.

Looking forward to your launch!

I appreciate the encouragement -- I have received some great feedback from this thread!

Anecdotal at best. Can you link to a study?

Poe's law strikes again with this post...

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