The Great Ass-Moving Experiment

As a writer, like most writers, I have one giant terror point. For some people it’s the writing. For some people it’s showing your work to friends, or to strangers. For some people it’s marketing in general. For me, it’s marketing fiction to editors. I don’t have a problem with nonfiction (as my bibliography demonstrates), but when it comes to the giant black box world of terror there’s very little that can beat marketing fiction to New York.

It’s scared me since I was 12, when I read Writer’s Digest religiously at the library every day (which, in retrospect, was my first mistake). To my twelve year old mind, it described a world full of arcane rituals, secret handshakes, nepotism, and strange protocols – and a game at which nobody made a dime to boot.

Of course, I’ve learned better in the meantime, but the terror never quite went away. For years I’ve coped by doing other things I needed to do anyway in order to go pro – focusing on craft, learning to network at cons, podcasting and learning about how to interact with an audience, building my platform, and romancing the occasional agent, but I’ve hit the point in my career where I’ve got a hell of a backlist piling up (at least, for someone at my point in their career), and a handful of fiction sales that prove that my terror (which is largely born of the sense that I don’t understand a goddamn thing about the fiction publishing culture) is well past the point of being about 75% bullshit.

So, this summer, in addition to bringing you Free Will and working on the other projects I talked about at Balticon, I’m sending everything out that is not currently under contract — and I do mean *everything.* And I’ve got a pile of treatments in front of me to keep the pipeline full once all the existing stuff is in the mail.

I was going to just do this quietly and wear my glory or shame quietly, but after some conversations at Balticon and then reading Mur’s blog post this morning, I’ve realized I’m not the only person in this boat.

I’m getting off my ass. And I’ll put up ten bucks against anyone who wants to race me. Let’s make this a proper horse race. Here’s what I’ve got in mind:

We’ll go from now till the end of the year (or perhaps we should go to next Balticon?). Everyone bets $10. Every story we submit gets 3 points. Every novel proposal we send in gets 4 points. Every nonfiction submission/query gets 1 point. Every sale – of any fiction – gets 8 points. Every sale of nonfiction gets 3 points. Any sale that pays money and has a contract counts. Non-paying and/or clickthru and/or under-the-table markets do not count.

At the end of the year, the person with the most points wins the pool (which will operate on the honor system – those of us that lose will paypal our $10 to the winner).

We can keep a running tally for this and a forum at ANMAP. We prove our submissions and sales by posting photos/scans of the query and acceptance letters.

Thoughts? Should I formalize this, start a forum dedicated to it, and get this rolling? Any ideas for how to make it better/more useful? Chime in in the comments!

—Edit—
We have a few participants, so I’ve officially opened things. You can find the rules and competition forum here.

16 Responses to “The Great Ass-Moving Experiment”


  1. Steve Pritchard

    Dan, I have to admit, like you said via Twitter, I’m halfway between intrigued and terrified. I’ve been a “drowning shark” for years…it’s time to swim. I’m in.

  2. JDSawyer

    Excellent! I’ll set up the forum on ANMAP tonight.

    Who else is in?

  3. Elizabeth Reisine

    I’m in! (gulp) This’ll up the ante production-wise for me, as much as pushing me to submit.

  4. Val Griswold-Ford

    Count me in. I’ve got a ton of unfinished stuff – maybe this will get me off my butt, finishing and submitting.

  5. JDSawyer

    Glad to have you along, Val!

  6. Dan Latham

    What the hell, I’m in, too.

  7. Ben Sawyer

    This is scary as shit… I’m in!

  8. David Sobkowiak

    While I think this is utterly terrifying, I know that I can’t learn anything without making a step in this direction. Win or loose, or whatever. I’m in. Thanks for this!

  9. JDSawyer

    Woo hoo! Head on over to this link to sign up for the forum. I’ll be posting my first qualifying queries tonight or tomorrow.

    Back to the word factory…

  10. Scott Roche

    Just in case I need to do it here too, I’m in.

  11. Scott Roche

    And of course I think we’re all ignoring that old saw, “never bet against the house”. ;-)

  12. Mya Richards

    I’m in:-)

  13. Jane Rutherford

    Just an idea of joining this is giving me performance anxiety. Not to mention panic attacks… Which probably means I’ll watch closely how it goes and maybe join next year, when I don’t have a thesis to write for like yesterday…

    But I’ll keep my fingers crossed for the participants

  14. J. Daniel Sawyer

    Mya – have added you to the list and scoreboard over at ANMAP.

    Jane – Sorry we won’t be seeing you this year. IF this turns out to be useful, it would be fun to do again next year! :-) Two of us aready have pints on the board — I’m sure it won’t be long before we’re running hard as hell to maintain our lead. Thanks for stupping by!
    -Dan

  15. Michell Plested

    I’m in.

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