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PO Box 20648
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Cesar is the author of the standalone novel “The 13 Secret Cities” the book series "How to Kill a Superhero" (under the pen name Pablo Grene). He is also the creator and publisher of Solar Six Books.

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New York Publishers Rejected My Book Featuring a Trans Detective

Editor

I have been an indie author for more than six years. I have seven published books: one short story collection and 6 novels. The life of an indie author is not easy, and I don’t play victim. I like to work hard, and bring stories to my readers that they have never experienced before. This is not a hobby, it’s a job.


Before I was published, I spent most of my late twenties and early thirties pitching my manuscripts to the big dogs: the agents and publishers that are considered the Big Five. Their feedback to those early manuscripts was fairly similar. They liked my writing and characters, but they were not sure they could market the book. I have a stack of more than two hundred rejection letters from that time in my life.


In 2014, I self published my first book, and I treated the project seriously. I hired an editor, a book cover designer. I made a marketing plan. And thanks to the success of that first experiment, I self published the rest of my catalog. Thanks to my efforts in marketing via digital channels and at cons and places where readers gather, I published another one, and another. People bought the books, and I was on my way. I am currently working on two full-fledged series under my name and a pen name. I have a loyal readership for both of my series, and I talk to my readers everyday. They don’t care who published the book, or what the business model runs their financing. They come back to my books because they like the writing and above all, my characters.


9 Lords of Night, my latest novel in my Coil series, is the second volume in a near-future dystopian world where an authoritarian government encroaches, while Aztec gods enter from another dimension. My main characters are queer men, women, trans men. I also wrote How to Kill a Superhero, a series of 4 erotic thrillers that feature a very queer main character who develops superpowers and who is aided in his journey by gay men and a very powerful trans woman.


I am lucky to work full time as an author and to make a living from these books thanks to my own will and resolve to get these books into hands of readers. But I gave up on big publishers years ago.


In late 2016, when 9 Lords was still in one of many drafts, I pitched the concept to a top agent, and also a well known publicist. I did this not because I expected those publishers to pick up my book, but because I wanted to test the market trends of big publishing, to see if their attitude toward new authors and provocative new ideas had changed since the early days when I used to still send query letters.


The responses from the agent and publicist were eye-opening, but not surprising. The agent read my manuscript and asked me to make my trans main character more palatable, less cranky, less embittered by the prejudices set against him. He also acted very confused when he learned the character had dated women all his life but has a sexual encounter with a man in the novel. “I don’t think a trans person would do this,” the agent said. I asked him if he was trans. He said that no, he was cisgender and straight. “Do you have a lot of people who are trans in your life?” I asked, and he couldn’t answer the question. You see, I do have trans people in my life, including close relatives, and none of my trans beta readers bristled over my trans character the way this agent did. He wanted his ideas of what trans people should be to shoehorned into the novel. What I understood then is  And that’s a compromise I would never make in the stories I tell.


The publicist who I queried gave me a different answer. She had no interest at all in the gender identity of my characters, and instead took the time to explain that she could not take on indie authors, because there is pressure from the big 5 to support the efforts of more traditionally published authors. She did caution too, that it would be “easier to publicize the book if you had a few more straight characters in there.”


That’s what they said. You can draw your own conclusions.


Neither of these two anecdotes can be generalized to the whole industry. I am not naive enough to think that all agents and publicists are this risk-averse and cowardly. But I need you to know that if you are an author that wants to see your books reach the market place, traditional publishing is one of the least interesting places to attempt to do so nowadays.


I’m not gonna mince words. Stop querying the big publishers and agents. They don’t want you. And I am not telling you that they are rejecting you based on your sexual or gender identity or race (though that is also possinl). What I mean is that if your books don’t fit their current formula for revenue generation in the next two years, no matter how good your writing is, they are going to pass. You don’t fit into their plan for revenue generation, but that doesn’t mean your books can’t succeed.


There’s a lot of talk nowadays in traditional publishing circles about “diversity” and “inclusivity”, but the fact is that the New York agents and editors are part of these corporate publishers, and they are focused on making money. If these professionals tell you they care about stories featuring gay, queer or trans characters, it’s because those novels map to potential revenue streams. The individual politics and viewpoints of individual agents, editors and publishers will vary, and I don’t dispute that. But the industry is not taking on bold new stories. The evidence is right there in the titles that sell best. There more blandness and literary corrupt fiction up on those best-selled lists than you and I care to think about.


I am telling you this because if you are an upcoming writer, I don’t want you to get your hopes up that the big publishers will take a chance on stories of LGBTQ people, your characters of color, or those that don’t fit a certain mold. When agents and publishers represent and purchase a manuscript, they are betting on the book’s chances of succeeding in market forces. And trust me, your ideas of taking a chance on new ideas is not the same as theirs.


Start looking around, look at the tech and startup world, and start thinking of your own books as your startup. And by all means, start hanging out with other startup owners and entrepreneurs. The answers are going to be there.


In my case, Patreon and crowd-funding helped get my books to market as a supplementary means of financing. I am lucky enough to have experimented with Patreon since a few years ago, and what I found is that there are people who definitely believe in new stories. In my case, they want science fiction that includes people of color, trans cops, queer academics, and a host of other characters who you simply don’t see in the best-seller lists today.


Book publishing is a business. Stop telling yourself it is not. But what I am saying is that you can find a market for your books, even if at the start they feel like micro-niches. If you invest the time in marketing and developing your catalog, readers do come to your online storefront, be it iTunes, Kindle, YouTube and Stitcher (in the case of audiobooks), and your own web site’s e-commerce platform.


And yes, I know I excluded brick-and-mortar stores from the list of storefronts. Those stores are not in the position to help you in the long term, and I’ll write a future blog post about how digital, machine learning and the Internet will continue to make it tough for bookstores to really launch your career as an author.


Look around at all creative industries. Look hard. The music business has been hollowed out by the rise of music downloads and streams, and labels lately are even trying to take profits off merch and touring from artists, because the business model has changed. Hollywood only makes a certain type of movie (as I glance at superhero genre films as a main example), and instead,  Netflix, YouTube, Kickstarter and Patreon are the real places where filmmaking is taking bold steps forward. The studios don’t take chances on new or transgressive filmmakers and screenwriters.


You see the pattern here? If you believe in your work, you must put on an entrepreneur hat and build your artistic vision and book catalog in new ways. If you write cookie-cutter thrillers, then please, by all means go ahead and query New York so you can become the next thriller writer to fill airport bookshelves. But most writers are not those kind of writers. I never want to be that kind of writer.


Get ready to work hard. Get ready to suffer setbacks and disappointments. But when you self publish, crowdfund and collaborate with other indie authors and small businesses, you will find your readers. And based on market data, you will probably out-earn your traditionally published peers. I know I do.


Stop pretending like things are like they were in the “good old days of publishing.” Being a writer today involves discipline, hard work and talent, but getting your book published and thriving takes something more. It takes courage to step away from the way things have always been done.


Start breaking the rules.

We are Hiring a Book Marketing Specialist

Editor

Book Marketing Specialist

Solar Six Books

 

 

Solar Six Books is looking for a part-time marketing specialist to plan and execute a series of promotions for Cesar Torres’ newest novel, 9 Lords of Night. This is a nine-month project that goes beyond the traditional definitions of what it means to market a work of fiction.

 

At Solar Six we don’t believe that there is one perfect candidate. Instead, we see limitless potential in specific individuals. Resumes are great, but hearing your story directly from you is best. Practically speaking, our future Book Marketing Specialist is a person who is incredibly passionate about books and who has solid experience under their belt on engaging with audiences and other creators online. Book lovers who have their own podcasts or YouTube channels are especially welcome. Academic and professional experience in marketing are also appreciated, but keep in mind that we want someone who can think beyond the typical marketing tactics, such as writing press releases and marketing to readers on sites like Goodreads.

 

This project will span across nine months in support of the sci fi-thriller 9 Lords of Night, which pits a trans detective and a queer academic against a supernatural threat in a grim future version of New York City. If you understand queer and trans themes and you are passionate about sci fi and fantasy, we definitely want to hear from you.

 

This position is part time for an average of 4-5 hours a week; pay rate is negotiable based on experience. You will work directly with author and publisher Cesar Torres on planning and execution of the marketing plan via Slack and phone on a weekly basis, but you’ll also be expected to work independently without a lot of handholding. This contract gig can expand to a larger role depending on performance and chemistry.

 

Some of the existing goals for this position include:

  • Booking author Cesar Torres on podcasts, YouTube channels and other online outlets, such as Instagram, Snapchat and Patreon. The focus here is on indie outlets. We are not interested in local TV stations, traditional press or radio.

  • Planning a book-release performance in Chicago scheduled for autumn: creating a budget, finding a venue, booking musical and acts and performers, and creating a marketing campaign. Keep in mind that this is not a book reading (book reading tend to be dreadfully dull). This will be an event that helps reimagine what a book event can be.

  • Writing bi-weekly updates for Cesar Torres’ author newsletter.

  • Creating promotions and contests to engage readers as the book is released on paperback. Typical channels for these promotions will be Cesar Torres’ author newsletter, his Instagram account and YouTube channel.

  • Booking a series of guests onto the Cesar Torres podcast to promote the release of the book.

  • Crafting a new strategy for growing Patreon subscribers. Applicants with experience with Patreon are strongly encouraged to apply.

  • Outreach to LGBTQIA organizations to book speaking engagements for Cesar Torres.

 

 

Solar Six Books is the publisher of Cesar Torres’s published books, including 13 Secret Cities and 9 Lords of Night. For all inquiries, please email editor@solarsixbooks.com.

Pocast #15 Don’t overthink it, use Createspace for paperbacks

Editor

In today’s episode:

  • Big news, I’ll be performing at Homolatte in Chicago on Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 7:30. It’s free, and you will hear selections from 13 Secret Cities and 9 Lords of Night.

  • Updates on audio issues in the last episode

  • A quick primer on Amazon’s book printing service Createspace, and why you should use it for self publishing your book


If you like the show, leave us a review in iTunes here. Thanks. If you want to support this show, visit my Patreon page. Got a comment? Send us an email at our contact page.

Solar Six and 13SC seeking designers and illustrators

Editor

Solar Six, Cesar Torres’ publishing company, and 13SC, its related apparel brand, are  seeking illustrators and designers for Winter of 2016/2017 to actively work on book covers, book illustrations, tee designgs, men’s fitness apparel design, video and web branding. These opportunities are on a freelance basis, with the possibility of more long term options if there is a fit. We prefer to develop a relationship with a business-minded artist, and we select candidates who show promise and interest in working with startups and innovation. We pay a flat fee per project with clear deadlines for deliverables.

We are seeking two kinds of people. If you happen to fit both, even better.

  • Illustrators with strong experience in drawing human figures in movement. Any artists who have comic book experience are welcome, though this is not required.

  • Graphic designers who can develop branding elements for tees, posters and other physical products in photoshop and illustrator. We are looking for folks who have a real visual style but can adapt to the needs of the creative vision.

To apply, please email your resume, cover letter and link to an online portfolio to editor@solarsixbooks.com.

More information about Cesar Torres:

Cesar Torres is a writer and journalist with more than 20 years of experience across various areas of publishing and business including digital news, book publishing (fiction), startups, human-computer interaction and emerging technologies.

Cesar graduated from the undergraduate program from Medill at Northwestern University in 1996, and he earned a masters in science in human-computer interaction from DePaul University. He spent the first ten years of his career at Tribune Company and Tribune Interactive as a producer, developing breaking news content for Tribune’s network of newspaper web sites. During the tech boom of the late 90’s he also served as a syndication producer for Encyclopaedia Britannica’s foray into search technology and web-based encyclopedic content. After spending a few years in the middle aughts as editor and web publisher for healthcare entities such as HIMSS and The Rehabilitation Institute in Chicago, Cesar made a change in his focus by turning his focus to technology and the ways in which tech is impacting human culture and human behaviors. He served as Social Editor for the Conde Nast tech publication Ars Technica. Cesar also served a key role as managing editor in the founding stages of the consumer-product sites The Wirecutter and The Sweethome.

Cesar is also a longtime fiction writer. Even as far back as his undergraduate days at Northwestern, he wrote short stories. Cesar’s first published short story ran in the now-defunct Willows magazine in 2008. In 2012, Cesar created Solar Six, a startup that publishes his books in paperback and as e-books. Cesar’s debut novel 13 Secret Cities, launched in 2013. Since then, Cesar has published three more novels under a pseudonym. His next novel, 9 Lords of Night, a thriller set in Chicago and New York City, is scheduled to publish in 2017.

Cesar is also the designer and creator of 13SC apparel, a brand of gym and fitness wear inspired by mythical figures.

Why Authors Should Be Snapchatting

Editor

The age of Snapchatting has arrived, friends. Snapchat is fun, fast, and offers two of my favorite features: brevity and stickers. I hear a lot of my peers complain about how it makes no sense, and how silly it can seem to use this social platform originally favored by millennials.

I disagree. There’s some really smart ways to engage with my readers on Snapchat, which is currently my favorite social media tool for engagement.

 I post my wordcounts on Snapchat at user killsuperhero

I post my wordcounts on Snapchat at user killsuperhero

Nieman Lab pointed out in a post last year that relevance and visibility is tough for publishers because of so many platforms on which they need to exist. “This is a winning combination; a distinguishable brand across multiple platforms that speaks directly to a desirable, niche audience will create meaningful exposure to new audiences as well as a pathway for more engaged and loyal readers.”

Now, before you begin your complaint about exhaustion, let me put a finger to your lips. Chill. I have stressed to many authors before that their individual brand relevance determines the number of social platforms they will need to maintain. In other words, you don’t have to be on every single platform. If you have taken the time to understand your audience, and quantify that audience using analytics of some kind, you will logically toss away a few social platforms in order to focus on where your readers thrive. Work smarter, not harder.

For example, if you write paranormal romance novels, and your readership is made of female readers between the ages of 25-45, you can already start deciding on some platforms, such as Pinterest and Instagram, over others. Better yet, if you have ever surveyed your readers, asked them questions about what sites they use or investigated some of their habits causally, you can make that list of sites even more specific. In some cases, that data may lead you to Snapchat.

Snapchat matters right now because people (especially users older than the original Millennial first adopters) are starting to adopt it. Statista published projections of Snapchat user penetration for the US from 2012 to 2020, and it’s clear to see that it’s likely to stay very relevant.

So, if you have determined that your readers are using Snapchat, then it’s time to use it. In my case, I have a lot of anecdotal data to show that many of my readers who connect with me on Twitter and Facebook are also on Snapchat. I have also learned that part of my following includes males who are early adopters of technology; during the years I was social editor at Ars Technica, I think a few of those readers came along for the ride with my novels.

A Wonderful Case Study

A great example is wonderbruno. He’s one of my most engaged readers. We met during his trip to NYC in 2014. He lives in Sao Paolo, Brazil, and he’s an avid reader of gay romance, paranormal, sci fi and fantasy. He’s also very funny on camera, and he has an amazing collection of Wonder Woman paraphernalia. Bruno is exactly the kind of reader that I need to engage in Snapchat.

Bruno often sends DMs on my Snaps to interact back with me, and I have learned more about his reading tastes through his Snaps than his Instagram. He has given me valuable feedback about my books in DM, as well, and that kind of interaction is gold for any author. I also get a very honest window into Bruno's life in Sao Paolo. He's one of many readers who really connect in a deeper way with me thanks to this platform.

Putting it all together

Here’s my strategy in using Snapchat with my readers:

  • Leverage the levity and ephemeral nature of the medium: Quick snapshot of city scenes, interesting graffiti and people watching lets my readers know that I don’t sit at home all day and that my gaze catches many odd things in the street.

  • I publish posts about progress in my books, such as word counts. This keeps me accountable, and you would be surprised how many readers love seeing the daily word counts whenever I post them.

  • I Snapchat at live events, particularly book readings and lit events. I use the geofilters and also post to the story for my city to also make contributions to local Snapchats.

  • I post snaps of my sketches for landscapes and creatures from my books. Because the images vanish so quickly, they provide some intrigue for my readers, and it’s precisely these sketches that spark the most interactions for me.

  • Run promotions for free books, discount codes and Snapchat exclusives. This is a great tactic, but please be sure you have enough of a following on Snapchat if you will invest the time in this. And by enough, I don’t mean thousands of followers. Just make sure that the readers who follow you on Snapchat are likely to engage with promotions, sales and coupons. Nothing worse than people feeling like they are being spammed.

Like with any new platform, you should feel free to experiment, and please, please, write down you results and milestones. Don’t just Snapchat without rhyme or reason. Keep your Snaps relevant and also honest, and you’ll have a lot of fun. Be sure to view your analytics for your posts (you can tap your snap history to see who’s viewed your snaps). And if by adopting Snapchat you have to retire another social platform to protect your valuable time, be ready to do so.

Got questions? Leave a comment or send me a tweet at @13Secretcities.

You can follow me on Snapchat at the user name killsuperhero. See you on the other side.