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THE EDITOR’S WORD by Mike Resnick

Welcome to the thirty-fifth issue of Galaxy’s Edge. We’ve got some fine new stories for you by new and newer writers Brian K. Lowe, Susan Taitel, Eleanor R. Wood, Marc A. Criley, Larry Hodges, Dantzel Cherry, and David L. Hebert, plus old friends Harry Turtledove, Mercedes Lackey, Nancy Kress, and Robert Silverberg. Our science columnist, Gregory Benford, chose to write a short story for this issue, so we prevailed upon his frequent collaborator, superstar Larry Niven, for an article to replace the column for this one issue. And, of course, we’ve got our Recommended Books column by Jody Lynn Nye and Bill Fawcett, our literary column by Robert J. Sawyer, and our Joy Ward Interview (which this month is with Hugo and Nebula winner and Worldcon Guest of Honor Michael Swanwick). And to round off the issue we’re running part two of our serialization of Charles Sheffield’s novel, Tomorrow and Tomorrow.

We hope you enjoy it.

I’ve been hearing a lot of heart-felt complaints from writers lately that the markets are drying up, that they’re being faced with two unhappy alternatives: self-publishing, or not getting into print at all.

It’s true that the field’s been in the doldrums of late, but it’s not quite facing the apocalypse. So let me make some suggestions:

  • Find new sources of science fiction book income. They’re out there, not in quantity, but there—relatively new publishers, small presses that are getting larger, old houses that are willing to experiment with science fiction.
  • While we’re on the subject of small presses, it’s true that a lot of them don’t pay front money. But more and more of them do. Hunt them down and see what you can sell them.
  • Remember that novels aren’t the only thing you can sell. If you’re having problems with mass market publishers, you’re certainly not going to sell them collections either, but the small presses have been the best home for collections for more than half a century, and they’re still buying from established authors.
  • There’s a lot of work-for-hire going on these days: franchises, shared worlds, sharecrops, novelizations, adaptations. You probably won’t get rich on the royalties since in most cases you’ll be getting much less than for a book to which you own the copyright, but the advances are usually better than beginners or even lower midlist writers get.
  • It won’t pay all your bills, but there’s money to be made selling short fiction to professional markets—and as per SFWA, a ‘qualifying market’ pays a minimum of six cents a word (and usually more).  There are new publications—and newly-professional publications—out there that are paying as much as the traditional ones, and there are non-science-fiction magazines that have no problem buying the occasional science fiction story.
  • There are related fields to explore: horror, dark fantasy, and the burgeoning new realm of romantic fantasy.
  • There’s still a market, thanks to Tom Clancy, for well-written, high-tech thrillers.
  • Don’t overlook the audio market, which is getting larger all the time and paying very decent money for what are essentially reprint projects.
  • Be creative. And while I generally hate using personal examples, I’ll use some here. In the past few years, in addition to novels and short story collections, I’ve sold a book composed of fifty-five of my fanzine articles; a book composed of sixty-one of my professional articles dating back to the late 1960s; a book of first and final drafts of stories (a “how-to” book on revising and polishing); and a book of all my travel diaries and a few travel articles I’d sold previously. When you consider the subject matter of each, I’d almost have been willing to bet that none of them (except maybe the last one) could possibly sell, yet they all did. Like I say, be creative.
  • Every science-fiction writer has some subject of expertise other than science fiction. The late Josepha Sherman sold books on folklore. Jack Nimersheim sells computer books. Barbara Hambly sells mystery novels. Ralph Roberts sells collectors’ guides and computer books. Rudy Rucker sells books on math. Karen Taylor sells erotica. Catherine Asaro sells romances. Kristine Kathryn Rusch sells mystery and romance novels. I’ve sold mystery novels, edited books on Africa, and often sell articles on horse racing.

You simply have to make the effort to find new sources of income sometimes in wildly unlikely places—that can replace the temporarily closed spigots of your mass market publishers. The work—and the money—is there for the aggressive writer who goes looking for it. As an established writer, it’s probably a little less than you want or are used to…but if you’re one of the hundred or more disenfranchised souls I spoke to at cons during the past few years, it’s more than you’re getting, and it can help pay your bills until the science-fiction market comes back to healthy and vigorous life.