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Nothing Is Everything [Feb. 14th, 2019|04:55 pm]
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Nothing Is EverythingNothing Is Everything by Simon Strantzas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Simon Strantzas’s fifth collection brings together ten prime examples of why he’s considered one of the best authors of “strange stories” working today. He’s a master at building a sense of unease and keeping his readers off-balance. You won’t find explanations for supernatural occurrences in a Simon Strantzas story, but you will find yourself thinking about them long after you’ve read them. Among the strongest pieces in this collection, in my opinion, are the novella “All Reality Blossoms in Flames,” in which a group of anti-establishment artists take up a cause that turns out to be part of something much larger than they can control, and “The Terrific Mr. Toucan,” in which a cheap dinner-theater magic show goes hauntingly awry. But the strongest story in the collection, and my absolute favorite, is “Ghost Dogs,” which is an expert piece of dark science fiction that utilizes pitch-perfect voice and tone. An original story to the collection, “Ghost Dogs” is worth the cover price alone. Strantzas’s fiction continues to leave me in awe, and NOTHING IS EVERYTHING is a welcome addition to his growing body of work.

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Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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Rat Queens, Vol. 5: The Colossal Magic Nothing [Jan. 24th, 2019|08:09 am]
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Rat Queens, Vol. 5: The Colossal Magic Nothing (Rat Queens, #5)Rat Queens, Vol. 5: The Colossal Magic Nothing by Kurtis J. Wiebe

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Huh. That was weird. It definitely explained the time jump that confused and frustrated me in the previous volume, as well as answering my questions about whether the cliffhanger ending of volume 3 would ever be resolved. But I'm not sure I liked it.



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Rat Queens, Vol. 4: High Fantasies [Jan. 22nd, 2019|11:10 pm]
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Rat Queens, Vol. 4: High Fantasies (Rat Queens, #4)Rat Queens, Vol. 4: High Fantasies by Kurtis J. Wiebe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Rat Queens are off on a new adventure, trying to make money by taking jobs from the local “quest board.” Some time has passed since the end of volume 3, and therein lies the main problem I had with this volume. The cliffhanger ending of volume 3, which saw Hannah imprisoned in an interdimensional jail and confronted with a literal demon from her past while the rest of the Rat Queens went their separate ways, remains unresolved. When volume 4 picks up, everyone is back together and all is apparently forgiven, leaving the reader with no idea what happened. Even Hannah’s father, Gerard, is out of prison now and living with them (which, incidentally, leads to one of the funniest sequences in the book). I found myself both confused and frustrated by this time jump. The characters, the D&D-on-crack world, and the snarky, raunchy dialogue remain as enjoyable and engrossing as ever, but my frustration lingered. Another issue I had was that Owen Gieni’s art just didn’t do it for me. His style is way too cartoonish for my taste, and I barely recognized some of the characters. I’m still enjoying the series, but I’m starting to worry that it’s all falling apart.

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Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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Rat Queens, Vol. 3: Demons [Jan. 22nd, 2019|10:04 am]
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Rat Queens, Vol. 3: DemonsRat Queens, Vol. 3: Demons by Kurtis J. Wiebe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The exploits of your favorite fantasy adventuring team continue in this volume, in which Hannah goes back to her alma mater, the succinctly named Mage University, to break her father out of prison. Unfortunately, things go from bad to worse, culminating in long-buried secrets coming to light and a surprisingly emotional confrontation among the Rat Queens. Will anything be the same after this? Kurtis J. Wiebe’s writing is as sharp and raunchy as ever. The only drawback for me is Tess Fowler’s art, which I don’t like as much as the series’ original artist Roc Upchurch’s. I found it too cartoonish for my taste, but it wasn’t enough of a distraction to change my rating to anything less than five stars.

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Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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Boskone 56 Schedule [Jan. 20th, 2019|03:15 pm]
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The final schedule for Boskone 56, February 15-17, 2019 in Boston, is available! Here is where you will find me:

Friday

The Other Others in Urban Fantasy
3 PM, Harbor II

Urban fantasy sections in bookstores are filled with zombies, werewolves, and especially vampires (sparkly and otherwise) almost to the exclusion of other entities. Indeed, too many times those creatures define urban fantasy. But there are a plethora of other fantastical beings from the myths and legends of Europe — and every other continent. Authors like Seanan McGuire and Laura Anne Gilman revel in the variety, using it to populate the back streets of their chosen cities. Let’s join them (and our panelists) to explore the road less traveled.

Elwin Cotman, Nicholas Kaufmann, Clea Simon, John Langan, Leigh Perry (M)

The Life Cycle of a Book
4 PM, Lewis

Most of us just see the finished product on the shelf. However, there are lots of little (and big) steps associated with getting the book to the store. What’s the life cycle of a book, from submission to publication? It’s not as simple as “the author writes it, then the publisher prints it.” What are the direct, indirect, and associated steps involved in the production and publication process — from editing to marketing, selling, reviewing, reprinting, and more?

Gene Doucette, Andrea Corbin (M), Nicholas Kaufmann, LJ Cohen, Joshua Bilmes

Saturday

Reading by Nicholas Kaufmann
3:30 PM, Griffin

Kaffeeklatsch — Horror in the Afternoon!
4 PM, Galleria – Kaffeeklatsch 1

Paul Tremblay, Nicholas Kaufmann

Sunday

The New Doctor — Who?
11:00 AM, Marina 4

Back in 1981, Tom Baker suggested his successor be female. Almost 40 years later, we finally have Jodie Whittaker portraying the Thirteenth Doctor. How does her interpretation of the iconic Time Lord stand out from those of her predecessors’? After all the hype, has the first female Doctor actually changed the dynamics of the show? What are the high and low points of her tenure so far? Has the writing quality kept pace with this significant new development?

Dana Cameron, David McDonald, Jeanne Beckwith (M), Kenneth Schneyer, Nicholas Kaufmann

How to Survive a Horror Story
12:00 PM, Marina 4

Who knows better than a horror writer how to survive a horror story? Join he fun and “lively” conversation as our panelists discuss scenarios from horror novels and films as if they themselves were characters within the scenes. Will their special authorial insights keep them safe? Will they split up to look for the cat? What are they willing to do to survive (relatively) intact? Who dies first? Who lives to tell the tale?

Marshall Ryan Maresca (M), Barry Lee Dejasu, Nicholas Kaufmann, Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert, Clarence Young

Looking forward to seeing you there! If you have books you’d like me to sign, please bring them along. I’m always happy to sign books!

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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Rat Queens, Vol. 2: The Far-Reaching Tentacles of N’rygoth [Jan. 19th, 2019|08:31 pm]
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Rat Queens, Vol. 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N'rygothRat Queens, Vol. 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’rygoth by Kurtis J. Wiebe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read the first volume of RAT QUEENS nearly a year ago, so I was delighted to finally return to these amazing, hilarious characters and their vividly-drawn world! In this volume, Sawyer has been kidnapped by a vengeful wizard and it’s up to the Rat Queens to rescue him, although it’s hard to know which will complicate things more: the mind-warping demons the wizard has summoned to destroy Palisade, or Hannah’s knotty feelings about her on-again-off-again relationship with Sawyer. As always, the diminutive Betty steals all her scenes, and somehow Violet is even more beautiful with a beard. With great characters, humorous, raunchy dialogue, and dynamic art by Roc Upchurch and Stjepan Sejic, RAT QUEENS does not disappoint!

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Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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The Isle [Jan. 14th, 2019|07:04 pm]
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The IsleThe Isle by John C. Foster
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

John C. Foster has written an exceptional gothic mystery, heightened by an atmosphere of ancient New England fishing towns, Puritan folklore, storm-tossed seas, and the secrets that lay buried beneath it all. It’s the attention to detail that brings out THE ISLE’s astounding authenticity, from the eerie lobstermen — childhood rattles made of crucified lobster shells with a baby tooth inside — to the insular community traditions so confusing to outsiders, to modern-day characters still bearing names held over from Puritan days, such as Burden Ipswich, Increase Mather, Hatevil Nutter, and so many others. I won’t give away THE ISLE’s secrets — nor the Isle’s secrets — but the gruesome, compelling mystery at the heart of the novel is matched only by its horrific resolution. THE ISLE is Foster’s best work yet, and I hope it marks the start of an exciting new direction in his writing: New England gothic!

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Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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How to Get a Literary Agent [Jan. 8th, 2019|11:57 am]
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(The following essay was commissioned by Brian Keene exclusively for his Patreon patrons in November, 2018. I am reprinting it here with Brian’s permission, in the hope that it will help you as a writer decide whether you need an agent and, more importantly, help you land a good one.)

Hello, Brian Keene’s Patreon patrons! My name is Nicholas Kaufmann, and Brian has asked me to write an article for you about how to land a literary agent. I’m very grateful to him for the opportunity, because I think this is an important topic for any writer. But first, you may be wondering who I am and what makes me an authority on the subject. Well, despite having worked in a film and literary agent’s office and being represented by one of the best speculative-fiction agents in the business, Richard Curtis, who also reps Dan Simmons, Kim Harrison, Ray Garton, Greg Bear, Paul Di Filippo, and perhaps most notably the late Harlan Ellison, I hardly consider myself an authority. But I do have some tips from my own experiences that I can share, and which will hopefully help you get a good agent.

But first, let’s back up a moment and talk about the basics. What exactly can a literary agent do for you? Their primary job is to get your manuscript in front of acquiring editors at publishing houses. But it’s not just a matter of submitting manuscripts on your behalf. A good agent will have strong contacts at every publishing house and will know exactly which editor to send your manuscript to for best results. Good agents regularly schedule lunches, meetings, or if they’re not in the same city, phone calls or emails with acquiring editors to get an idea of what they’re looking for and to show them their list of available properties.

Let’s say an editor loves your book and makes an offer on it. Congratulations! Here’s where an agent’s expertise really comes in handy, because now your agent will negotiate the deal for you. They’ll do their best to get you the highest advance and the best possible royalty structure, and on top of that they’ll also protect your subsidiary rights wherever possible. For example, let’s say a publisher gives you an advance of $10,000 for your novel and wants worldwide rights in return, meaning they can sell it everywhere across the globe from Cincinnati to Singapore, all for that same $10,000. Your agent may decide that it’ll be more profitable for you to keep those foreign rights for yourself in order to sell the book again to foreign publishers, sales that can turn that initial $10,000 into $20,000, $30,000, or more. Admittedly, it’s a gamble. Sometimes foreign publishers won’t be interested in your book. It happens, but good agents know how to weigh the pros and cons of holding back those rights. The same thing applies audio rights. (But not e-book rights. No publisher will let you keep e-book rights in this day and age!)

Movie rights are another subsidiary right that good agents know to hold onto. Publishers often want to snatch up movie rights because if your book gets optioned and/or filmed, it’s extra cash for them — but it’s extra cash they’ve rarely done anything to earn. Most publishers don’t have Hollywood contacts, they just sit back and hope a book gets noticed. A good agent, on the other hand, will likely have someone on the West Coast whose job is to represent your book to the studios. Why share movie money with the publisher if they’re not the one actively trying to sell your book to Hollywood? They will likely see an uptick in sales in conjunction with the film anyway, so it’s not like they get nothing out of it. But without an agent representing your deal, it will be very hard to hold back those rights from greedy publishers.

But even then an agent’s job isn’t finished. If the book comes out in hardcover, a good agent will negotiate reprint rights for the paperback. They will also work to get you as many free author’s copies of the book as they can (my agent once bumped the number up from 8 to 25!), and maybe even get you input on the cover art. If possible, they will also try to get you a multi-book deal with the publisher rather than a one-off. They will discuss your next book with you, map out their vision for your writing career, and generally act like a partner with your best interests in mind. After all, agents work on commission, which means your success is their success.

So is it worth getting an agent? This question is more valid now than ever before in modern publishing history. After all, there’s so much writers can do now without one. Self-publishing in particular has gotten easier than ever before, and with the proliferation of e-books, distribution of self-published novels is no longer the problem it once was. In fact, many new authors jump right to self-publishing without even attempting to go the traditional route.

Personally, I thought it was worth getting an agent because I had certain goals in mind that I knew only an agent could help me reach. I wanted my books to be available in Barnes & Noble and other bookstores; I wanted them to be reviewed by trade magazines like Publishers Weekly and Booklist, because that’s how most TV and film executives first hear about a book, as well as in respected newspapers and magazines like The Los Angeles Times and Rue Morgue, not just online book blogs that only get a small handful of views; and I wanted my books to have a long shelf life. All of which meant I needed to be published by a major publisher, and the only way that was going to happen was with the help of a literary agent. If you share these goals, having an agent is the best way to achieve them.

Here, then, is how to land an agent, in six not-so-easy steps:

  1. Finish your damn novel. We’ve all heard stories of novels that sold for huge advances based on a partial, or even just a pitch, but those situations are extremely rare. Rarer still are agents who will look at an unfinished novel submission from someone they’ve never heard of. If you want to be a published author, let alone an author with an agent, you can’t half-ass it. Your first priority is to finish the book. Make it the best damn book you can, and then use it to hook an agent. My novel Dying Is My Business is the book I used to land my current agent, and I’ll be damned if it didn’t take me two full years to write and rewrite until it was good enough to start shopping around.
  2. Write a query letter. People treat the writing of query letters like it’s some kind of alchemical formula that relies on esoteric knowledge possessed only by the lucky few. Truth is, it’s not that hard. There are hundreds of websites out there dedicated to showing writers how to write one. The query letter I used to get my agent had three parts to it: 1) the hook, a single sentence that should ostensibly grab the agent’s attention (for example, “A vigilante mob killed vicious child-killer Fred Krueger, but now he’s back from the dead and murdering the surviving children in their nightmares.”); 2) a detailed description of the novel, no different from what you might see on the back of a paperback on your shelf; 3) your platform, i.e. any previous publications under your belt, any literary awards or nominations, any interesting jobs or hobbies in your background, basically anything that sets you apart and has already laid the groundwork for publicity and audience-building. It’s okay if you don’t have any platform at all, but agents and publishers both like to know if there’s anything special about you that they can turn to their advantage when it comes to marketing. Finally, at the end of the query letter, sign off by letting them know that the manuscript is available for their review upon request. Be sure to thank them in advance for their time and consideration!
  3. Make a list of agents to target. This is the part that takes the most time and effort (aside from writing the novel itself, that is). You’ll need to research which agents are looking for a novel like yours. Sometimes it’s as easy as checking the acknowledgements in the novels of your favorite authors to see if they mention their agent by name. Often, though, it will require much more digging than that. Luckily, sites like Poets & Writers have a literary agent database that can be perused for free (https://www.pw.org/literary_agents). There’s also agentquery.com, firstwriter.com, querytracker.net, and many others out there that can help you build your list. And you’re going to want a long list. I think I queried somewhere between 20 and 30 agents before I finally landed mine. Other writers have queried far more than that. Be prepared to be patient, and be prepared to receive a lot of rejections. That’s just the nature of the game. Developing a thick skin now will help you immensely in the long run.
  4. Give them exactly what they ask for. If you get a reply from an agent asking you for the first three chapters and a synopsis (which I’ll talk about next), then that is exactly what you should send them. (If your prologue is longer than one page, consider it the first of the three chapters. Don’t bother the agent by asking whether to include your prologue or not because they used the word “chapters.” They don’t have time for stupid questions.) Also, if they ask for three chapters, don’t send them the whole manuscript instead thinking you’re being clever or sneaky. The only thing you’re doing is showing an agent right away that you don’t listen and will probably be difficult to work with. And finally, be honest. My agent asked for the entire manuscript and if he could have a two-week exclusive in which to read it. I was up front with him about the fact that another agent was currently looking at it also. It didn’t stop him from wanting to read the manuscript or from ultimately offering to take me on as a client. Had I lied to him about it and the other agent offered to rep me while he was still reading it, I would have been forced to reveal my lie and possibly burn a valuable bridge.
  5. Write a short synopsis of the novel. It sucks, but you’re going to have to write one. Boiling down the novel on which you’ve worked so hard to a one- or two-page document ain’t pretty and it ain’t fun. But luckily, like writing a query letter, it’s not as hard as you think. You know when a friend misses an episode of a TV show you both watch and asks you to tell them what happened? What you tell them is a synopsis, plain and simple. It’s a distillation of the plot down to its basics. The reason it’s hard for writers to do it with our own novels is because we want to include everything, all the touching character moments and subplots and cool bits of dialogue, but those things have no place in a synopsis. It is literally just a rundown of the novel’s main plot, so that agents and editors can have an idea of the shape of the book without necessarily having to read it from start to finish.
  6. A secret. I’m going to tell you something now that every agent will no doubt hate me for, but it’s an important tip. You see, good agents always want to find the next big thing. Good agents want to be the one to represent a hot new author, or to shepherd a book that takes the world by storm. That’s why I’m telling you this now: If an agent’s website says they’re currently closed to submissions or only taking on new clients by referral, send a query anyway. That’s how I got my agent. His website said he wasn’t taking on new clients, but I still queried and the book turned out to be something he was interested in. I’m thankful I had the chutzpah to do that.

Yes, it’s true, I got my agent with a cold query. It’s funny, I live in New York City and I go to a lot of publishing events, so I know a good chunk of the people in the industry, and it was still just a cold query that did the trick. Not glad-handing, not name-dropping, and not attending an agent pitch session at a convention, where half the time they’re telling authors to send their manuscripts just as a way to end a terrible, awkward conversation, but by querying agents until one took me on, just like they always said it would happen.

So let’s say an agent wants to sign you. Congratulations, but not so fast. Your work isn’t done yet. You’ve probably noticed over the course of this article that I keep using the phrase “good agents” instead of just “agents.” Unfortunately, that’s because not all the agents out there are good. Some just don’t have the contacts to effectively represent you. Some think being an agent is basically the same as being a submissions service and have no idea how to negotiate a deal if they’re lucky enough to land one. The worst are looking to con writers out of money and intellectual property. It’s up to you to make sure you’re signing with a good agent and not a dud, or worse, a conman. Check out what other authors they represent and which publishers they’ve sold books to. If you recognize some of the author names and see that they’re being published by major, reputable houses, that’s good. If you’ve never heard of their authors and all of them are published by Kindle Direct, that’s not good. You’re also going to want references, which means contacting some of the agent’s clients and asking if they’re happy with the representation they’ve received. A good agent will be happy to provide a few clients’ emails for this purpose. A bad agent will try to stop you from contacting their clients at all.

So there you have it, the ins and outs of how to get yourself a good literary agent. As you can see, there are no shortcuts or secret handshakes. Just hard work and lots of rejections until it hits. But if you’re looking for a successful career as a writer, I strongly believe that all the effort that goes into finding an agent is worth it. Speaking from experience, I know a good agent not only wants you to be successful, but they’ve also got your back when things go awry. An ally in your corner, especially a powerful one, is something every writer needs. And if you follow my advice, you just might get one for yourself.

 

Nicholas Kaufmann is the Bram Stoker Award-nominated, Thriller Award-nominated, and Shirley Jackson Award-nominated author of two collections and six novels, the most recent of which is the bestselling horror novel 100 Fathoms Below, co-written by Steven L. Kent. His short fiction has appeared in Cemetery Dance, Black Static, Nightmare Magazine, Dark Discoveries, and others. In addition to his own original work, he has written for such properties as Zombies vs. Robots and The Rocketeer. He and his wife live in Brooklyn, New York.

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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Boskone Interview [Jan. 7th, 2019|10:12 am]
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There’s a mini interview with me over at the Boskone blog, in preparation for my appearance at Boskone 56.

Click here to read it. (You’ll need to scroll down on the page. My interview is sandwiched between interviews with agent Joshua Blimes and children’s book author Christine Taylor-Butler.)

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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100 FATHOMS BELOW is a Bestseller! [Jan. 5th, 2019|11:32 pm]
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You guys! With your support, as of 10 PM tonight 100 Fathoms Below is ranked at 258 on Amazon Kindle. Not in a particular subcategory — that’s for ALL of Amazon Kindle e-books sold! (And it’s the number two horror novel on Amazon after Bird Box!) On B&N Nook, it’s ranked at 99. Again, that’s for ALL Nook e-books sold! I’m losing my mind!

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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