Some very good ideas on indie publishing, reviews and publicity


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With all the hubbub lately about Distant Early Warning, I thought I’d make a post that’s a little more general, and give everyone a breath of fresh air. Rest assured, the new book is coming along swimmingly, and more updates, interviews and info are in the making.

I was browsing the SF Canada email list yesterday, and I was linked to a very interesting article by an independent editor. Here it is for those of you who would like to read it yourselves.

The thesis statement, in brief, is this: Mainstream reviewers and major news outlets should work toward devoting half of their review space to new and previously unknown works. Finding these works in the immense pile of indies is not difficult for seasoned editors and reviewers, who know within pages whether or not a work is worthwhile, and it would bring a much-needed breath of fresh air to big publishing, and in some ways take over for the new ideas that editors had to drop after the death of the mid-list. The reviews would not have to be long or involved, but even merely flagging a book for curious readers could spark a success for a deserving indie author. This could be something assigned to interns or slush readers.

I like this suggestion for a number of reasons. First of all, it does not devolve into griping about the role of the editor or the state of major publishing houses. At this point, those companies are in the clutches of major corporations, and have about as much chance of returning to the old system as a five year old has of returning to the womb. It’s not the fault of any individual within that system that books have started to take less risks. The corporations are just trying to make safe bets, which is what corporations do.

Instead, the author suggests that reviewers use some of their space to highlight the excellent work that is being done by many indies, in a way that (hopefully) won’t threaten the big guys that purchase advertising space. If this idea were implemented, indies would have a solid avenue of advancement and a place in the establishment, when at the moment our position is shaky and subject to change depending on a million different factors that are difficult to define. I have shared this article, and I hope you do too, if the argument strikes a chord with you.

On a more personal note, this article touches on why I made the difficult decision to change my focus from mainstream commercial success to an indie publishing business. For some, it is not a choice, but the only option to get their work seen, but I had been working professionally as a writer for the gaming industry for quite some time before taking this route. I chose to do this, because all my life, I have been fascinated by artistic daring. I have gravitated towards the discovery of the new, the work that asks more of its readers, and the dramatically different. Wherever the discovery of such works is going on, I want to be there… on the cutting edge. I want to forge a business where we all help to push each other into the light, where talented, unorthodox individuals can work together to make stuff like reviews, and recognition, and discovery happen.

But in order for that to happen, we need more good ideas like the one above.


I’ve Got Something to Show You…


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It’s the Distant Early Warning cover reveal!

Denny and Geoff hanging out with the province of Ontario. That's gonna be a wild party.

Denny and Geoff hanging out with the province of Ontario. That’s gonna be a wild party.

I would like to say a few words, if I may, about the development of this cover.

Art is kind of funny… sometimes you come up with a really vague, sketchy idea in your head, and you barely plan it out and fly by the seat of your pants, and it turns out so brilliantly that you wonder why you ever bother to plan anything.

Other times, you plan everything to the nth degree, with thumbnails, and test paintings, and lots of lengthy dialogues with the illustrator about character and goals and marketing, and you sit back congratulating yourself and waiting for the brilliance to roll in three weeks ahead of schedule. Then the art fairy comes down, and says “Not today, my friends!” and you end up re-designing. And re-designing again. You end up days behind, with a grumpy artist and an antsy publisher.

I think you can probably infer what happened this time. And yet, I find that no matter what route a piece of art takes to get to the good stuff, whether it feels effortless or extracts every drop of that 90% perspiration to get where it needs to be, the results can be just as joyful and welcome as if you’d planned it that way all along. I’ve learned a lot over the three years I’ve been doing this, and I’m very proud of the design we’re putting into this book, both inside and out.

Want to see what we’re putting inside? We’ve got samples and pre-orders for that… coming soon.


How Do *You* Like to Party?


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With just over a month to GenreCon, we’ve been busy over here on the Pop Seagull Playground. We’re perfecting the last details on Distant Early Warning, planning new promo materials and posters (one of my fave projects) and, of course, planning how to make the big launch party an epic blast of pure fun.

While I was thinking about potential party and promo ideas, and trying to tie elements of the party into the book, I remembered that for most of the book, Denny carries a shotgun, and it kind of becomes an iconic weapon for her. Then, unfortunately, because my mind inevitably slips into Simpsons references, I pictured Homer out in front of the bowling alley with a shotgun… Bowling! Get your bowling here!

I have a feeling that this marketing plan would attract record numbers of police and fire officials, but few would stay to purchase books.

So, since that idea is a bit more… jail inducing than is desirable, what are your ideas? What would you like to see in a launch party? Food, activities, prizes… let the ideas fly!

Distant Early Warning is On The Radar for October!


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Distant Early Warning Splash Page Logo by Elizabeth Hirst

Distant Early Warning Splash Page Logo by Elizabeth Hirst

It’s been a hectic summer for a lot of us, including the folks at Pop Seagull. I went through some job upheaval at my 9-to-5 gig, and had a string of family health emergencies. Jenn has also been facing some challenging life circumstances and is taking a break from helping with the business for a while. As for Robin, our main illustrator, he’s doing fine, but he’s kind of been watching all of it happen with his characteristic raised eyebrow.

We’re happy to announce, however, that with fall closing in and the challenges of August a good thirteen hours behind us, my new novel, Distant Early Warning, is in the last phases of editing, and is definitely going to be released on October 17th as part of the festivities at Genrecon in Guelph.

The first thing I want to say about this launch is, of course, that you should go. The launch party is going to be held at the Holiday Inn Guelph hotel and conference centre, from 7-9 pm on Friday, October 17th. We’re kicking off the con in style, with prize packs, contests, and of course, Pop Seagull’s latest novel. If things go especially well between now and then, we may even have a sneak peek at a really special book trailer we’ve got in production right now.

I’m going to do another whole post on Genrecon, the fun I’ve had there in past years, and why you should totally go, but for now I want to focus on the book just a little bit. Since I haven’t posted a ton about this project yet, I thought I would compile a little self-interview/FAQ about the book to let our fans know a little more about it.

Q: What genre is Distant Early Warning? What’s the plot?

A: Distant Early Warning is an Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Adventure set in a future Ontario where global warming has taken over. As a result of the imbalance in nature, the dead have begun rising from the grave at night and screaming, causing people to do strange things, and even kill themselves and others. As a result of the ‘Screamer’ invasion, the people living in Northern Ontario flood down into the more populated regions near the border, taxing the already crumbling infrastructure and resulting in widespread homelessness, refugee camps and resource shortages.

The protagonist, Denny, is an academic loner who relies on sporadic visits from her dad to fill the lonely gaps in her life. The Screamer Crisis doesn’t affect her day-to-day life much, until her dad goes missing, and his dog mysteriously shows up at her house one day after work. Denny spends all of her spare time looking for her dad, until one day, she sees him on a TV newscast from the north, dead and screaming. With the most important relationship in her life severed by a mysterious death, Denny sells her job and her possessions, and makes the dangerous trip up north to find her father and solve the mystery of his death. In the process, she encounters wild-west gunfights, rogue journalists, dangerous animals, and a power and awareness that will change her life forever. For she discovers that the Screamers aren’t screaming at all… they’re singing, and only Denny can decipher the songs and put them to rest.

Q: Cool! What was the inspiration for this story?

Surprisingly enough, the inspiration for the story didn’t come from global warming, or any of the climate change elements in the story. I did a lot of research to get those parts of the story right, as well as the geography and features of Northern Ontario, but they came after the initial spark of inspiration. The thing that got the whole concept going for me was the fact that Northern Ontario has a crazy number of unsolved murders and missing people, because there is just so much vast forest and landscape that it’s easy for people to just… disappear. I started to wonder what would happen if all of the energy accompanying those deaths and disappearances were released by a catastrophic event. Around the same time, I learned about the Grimm’s fairy tale of The Singing Bone, where a wrongfully murdered man’s bone sings to a wandering minstrel to bring his murderers to justice. Those two concepts kind of bound themselves up in my mind, and Distant Early Warning was born. In terms of characters, Denny and Geoff (the dog) came first, and then the male lead, Wayne. Wayne came through to me as a joker, with a serious heart and mission, which is largely what he became in the end.

Q: Who is your favourite character, and why?

The dog, Geoff, is by far my favourite character. He’s based off of my old dog, Poe, who passed away a couple of years ago, and Woolie, who is a doggy legend in our family. Woolie was a border collie born without a tail that my mom adopted early on in her teaching career, to keep him from being drowned by the family he lived with. Woolie was a funny, sweet, loyal dog, who grew up to be incredibly smart and well-behaved. He walked without a leash and taught himself to use the slides at the park, among other things. Woolie was eventually done in by his love for rabbits, when he was hit by a car after chasing one across the road. Before he went, however, his charming personality touched my parents’ hearts and cemented their lifelong love of dogs, which they then passed on to me.

Getting back to Geoff, though, he’s my favourite because he’s sweet, and loyal, and participates in the adventure just as much as his human counterparts, only without the verbiage. I love Denny, too, and I definitely think she holds a part of me, but Geoff warms my heart, and I hope he warms your heart, too.

Q: Is there anything else special about the book?

I think the design of this book is going to be very special. Here at Pop Seagull, design is of the utmost importance to us, and this time, we’ve really gone above and beyond adding extras that will make copies of Distant Early Warning feel unique to book collectors. First of all, we’ve got three illustrations lined up for the book by our house illustrator, Robin McLean, and they are looking absolutely fabulous. Robin was really inspired by the play of light and dark seen in many horror comics. Being a monster fan himself, he was super excited to work on this project, and it shows. There are also going to be beautifully designed chapter headings and a splash page illustration by yours truly. It’s going to be a pretty, pretty book, and we’ve tried really hard to make it a special experience for those who buy physical copies.

Q: Okay, this book sounds like fun. What’s the best way to get my hands on a copy?

There are a number of ways to get a copy of the book, depending on how you like to read.

If you prefer e-books, or don’t mind them and want to get a bargain, I suggest Smashwords. Because there is no overhead cost to us, our e-books are always a little bit cheaper than the physical copy, especially if you prefer to buy online.

If you like physical books more, I would highly suggest coming out to a con to buy a copy in person. We can always afford to give a better price in person, plus we have free perks such as autographs, and pretty bookmarks! However, if you live in a part of the world that makes it impossible or very, very expensive to get to a con where we are, you can buy our books through Amazon. (Or, you could bug your local con to make me a guest, wink wink. I love to travel!)

If you are a bookseller or book club, or want to buy copies in bulk for any reason, please contact us at lizmclean (dot) artist (at) gmail (dot) com.

We are also currently compiling a list of reviewers to send copies out to, so please let us know at the above email if you are interested in doing a review on any platform.

Updates on our upcoming Romance Anthology

I just wanted to pop in and post an update to the guidelines for our upcoming romance anthology. It’s really starting to take shape, so here are some more specifics.

We are looking for SF/F Romance Short Stories between 500 and 10,000 words for an upcoming anthology entitled Love, Time, Space, Magic. (Deadline December 20, 2014) In this anthology, we’re looking for truly romantic stories with a science fiction or fantasy flair, especially where love is a potent force in the lives of the characters. Love can be as long-standing and life-changing a force as time, space, or even magic… so send us your biggest, boldest love stories!

So come on, send us your best SF/F romance. You know you want to!

We are accepting submissions!


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Here are our submission guidelines, posted here, in their entirety. They are also available in the static pages on the sidebar.


Pop Seagull Publishing General Submission Guidelines


Please read this guide in full before submitting. Additional guidelines may apply for individual themed anthologies.


Hi! Welcome to Pop Seagull Publishing’s guidelines page. We want you to submit your Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror work to us! Before we get to the author requirements, though, we want to tell you a little bit about the company, and what we can offer you.


Pop Seagull Publishing is a small publisher of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror fiction founded by author and editor Elizabeth McLean in order to showcase the kind of amazing fiction that thrills writers and readers alike. Our core values are offering readers a unique, fun reading experience that they won’t get anywhere else, working closely with authors to help them develop as artists and make sure more of their original vision ends up in the final product, and offering 90% Canadian authors in all our productions. We count anybody who has ever lived in Canada for a significant period of time and held citizenship as ‘Canadian’. And, if you’re not Canadian by any stretch of the imagination, don’t worry! We do include non-Canadian authors in our anthologies, and will consider work from elsewhere. We just try to keep the proportions at nine to one.


We’re also very proud of our artwork at Pop Seagull. Our designers are Sheridan College trained artists who do this stuff for a living, and we strive for the most eye-catching and professional looking covers and interior illustrations. Everybody knows that, despite the old saying, people often do judge a book by its cover, and if you go with us, your book’s cover will be awesome!


If you’re a new author, we want to hear from you! Don’t be shy… if you’ve got a piece of work that is finished and ready to go, and you think we might enjoy reading it, send it. The worst we’ll say is no, and we try to provide as much useful feedback on submissions as possible.


We are a paying market, for both short fiction and novel sales. For short fiction we are currently paying 1 cent per word, plus three free copies of the book and a discounted rate on future purchases. For novels, we cannot afford to pay advances at this time, but we offer a generous percentage of net profits from all sales, payable quarterly, ten free copies of the book, and discounted rates on future purchases. We buy first North American Print rights, and First Electronic Rights for all published pieces.


So, What Are We Looking For?


General Guidelines


Please read this first batch of requirements carefully. Failure to do so may result in your work not being considered.


#1: We accept Microsoft Word files (.doc and .docx), PDF and Open Office (.odt) files only. If you send us anything other than these formats, we may not be able to open it. Please send all queries and works for consideration to lizmclean(dot)artist(at)gmail(dot)com. Copying and pasting your work into the body of an email is also acceptable if you do not have any of the software we use.


#2: We prefer manuscripts in a standard, easy to read font such as Times New Roman, Helvetica or Courier. Please double space your work, and put your name, address, phone number, email and blog/webpage (optional) in the upper left-hand corner of the top of the manuscript.


#3: Short story submissions should include a cover letter that does not summarize the story, but rather introduces you as a writer and gives us a title and word count. For novels, please query first, then if we like your query, we will ask for a portion of the work and a synopsis.


#4: We do not accept unfinished manuscripts.


#5: Unless and until we send you a contract, nothing guarantees an author acceptance. If the story’s not right for us, it doesn’t matter if it came from my beloved grandmother. We also reserve the right to cancel any publication to which no contracts have been signed, for any reason whatsoever. In the unlikely event of this happening, applicants will be informed of the cancellation.


Things we like to see in Pop Seagull Fiction


Here are some elements that might draw our attention. This isn’t an exhaustive list, nor do successful candidates have to have all of these, but if your story has one or more, it may be for us!


-A sense of fun and adventure that pulls the reader along and excites their sense of wonder. I love classic action movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars and The Matrix. In these kinds of stories, complex protagonists with a strong goal and a lot at stake are the most interesting to me.


-An incredible sense of atmosphere and descriptive, visual storytelling. Blow us away with your unique settings, your outlandish ideas, the beauty and power of your concept. We like ‘atmosphere pieces’, as long as they’re anchored in at least one character and their journey.


-Stories that are rooted in the author’s culture, place in the world, and unique perspective on things. Think you’re boring? Think again! We love to see strange tales that are rooted deeply in local colour and the author’s unique point of view and way of being. This includes stories rooted in the author’s culture of origin, region, or personal lifestyle. We are LGBT friendly and sex-positive, and will gladly publish work from a queer perspective.


-We like unusual twists on classic tales and folklore, but only if it’s truly unique and not relying on the stereotypes established by others in recent years. Beware vampires, werewolves and fey, if the treatment is not unique from recent popular franchises. Zombies have to have something special. For an example of what we mean, see Ira Nayman’s story ‘To Zombie or Not To Zombie’ in Spirits of Suburbia.


-A sense of humor is great, even if the story is largely serious. A little humor almost always helps with pacing.


-We are very interested in reading work from First Nations authors, so if you’re someone from the Native community who enjoys writing SF/F/H, give us a try! We’d love to see what you’ve got.


-To summarize, if there is one thing we must emphasize over all other points, it is that we want to see fiction that entertains the reader, not just the writer. Give them something bold, new, interesting, compelling or fun.


Things we prefer not to see


The items listed below are considered guidelines only. If you still think, after reading them, that there is a chance we might enjoy your piece, send it along anyway. It’s what we would do. Having said that, here is a list of things which will be deleted unread:


-Hate literature against any person or group of people

-Hard Core Pornography (unless solicited for a specific anthology)

-Anything depicting sexual acts with minors or animals

-Anything which is not science fiction, fantasy or horror and has not been directly solicited by the editors


Stuff that might be a dealbreaker for us:


We don’t really like anything that glorifies crime, so that ‘Sopranos in space’ gangster epic you’ve been plotting out probably isn’t a good fit.


Romance is very welcome here, but especially for longer works, we prefer plots that offer readers other elements to enjoy as well. No clingy, co-dependant Bellas, please, unless they achieve a satisfying character change by the end.


We’re not big fans of unlikeable protagonists here. Antiheroes, sure. We love to see the monster made into the hero. But if your protagonist is constantly making decisions that are obviously stupid, hurtful or just plain oblivious and not seeming to learn from their mistakes, it won’t hold our attention for long.


We love to see intelligent fiction, but we have found that sometimes there is a fine line between intelligence and smarminess on the part of the author. Ask yourself: is your premise contributing to the reader’s entertainment or enlightenment, or is it merely designed to go ‘Aha! I got you!’? Is it unique because the freshness of the premise is entertaining, or because you thought bending over backwards that far made you look clever? The answers to these questions make all the difference to us. We’re not big fans of coyness (holding back essential information simply to roll it out later in an Aha! moment) meta-fictive lectures to the reader on how stupid they were to trust you as the author, or endings that are deliberately unsatisfying to make a statement. Taking risks is great. Destroying the entertainment value of the work just to take those risks, in our humble opinions, is not.


What is Pop Seagull actively seeking right now?


We are really interested in:


-Finished novels


- SF/F Romance Short Stories between 500 and 10,000 words for an upcoming anthology (Deadline December 20, 2014)


- SF or Steampunk Short Stories between 500 and 10,000 words for an upcoming anthology titled ‘Robotica’ (Deadline March 2015). Wow us with your take on the intersection between eroticism and robots or other artificial life forms! This could take the form of a look at robotic self-replication, humans in love with robots, robot courtship, or anything your imagination can come up with! Just take ‘Robotica’ and run with it. We’re not necessarily looking for pure erotica, but more solid science fiction that examines the intersection of sexuality and robots in a unique way. Having said that, have fun with it! If a sexy, sexy scene suits the story, go for it.

Find us at the Village Station Bazaar this summer!


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Are you local to Hamilton and looking for something fun to do on a Sunday afternoon? Then come out and join Pop Seagull Publishing, and a whole bunch of other unique local vendors at the Village Station Bazaar! So far, the line-up is sounding really good, with new and used books, vintage clothing, crafts and antiques.

I think this is going to be a cool event, for a lot of reasons. For one thing, it’s conveniently located in the downtown core, off King Street East, so I think it’s going to be accessible to a lot of people who don’t normally get out to more formal events. For another, it’s going to be held in Ferguson Station, which is a beautiful example of the 19th-century reclamations which Hamilton is known for. Once a bustling railway station on the Grand Trunk Railway line running from Toronto to Montreal, it has now been converted into a beautiful, vaulted open air market. Another fun item of note is that Ferguson Station was the home of the Hamilton Mustard Festival from 1998 to 2010.

So, clearly if you’re looking for a quirky, fun, open air venue featuring unique wares (and you know I always am) the Village Station Bazaar is for you! We’ll be there on:

May 4th

June 1st

July 6

August 3

Cute, right? (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Cute, right? (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

See you there!

Cross-posted to my personal blog,

Ad Astra and Interviews, Part One


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This weekend, I got a chance to sell some books with Pop Seagull Publishing, recharge with other like-minded peeps, and even do a couple of interviews. Here’s the first of two, for Looks like they’ve got a really good thing going over there, so check ‘em out!

Overall, we had an amazing weekend at Ad Astra 2014. I just want to give a shout out to all the organizers, volunteers and fans that made it such a great weekend!

I’ve got my con reading all stacked up now, and I can’t wait to read it all! I’m nose deep in Sunset Val’s Final Boarding, and you should be too! Seriously… this guy’s good.


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