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The Dark Side of the Glass
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Q: Your books are for a grown up audience, I was wondering what inspired you to do a children’s picture book?

Is it still a children’s book if it takes place in Hell? :3

While I do generally write for the adult market, with the occasional forays into YA or NA, I have always wanted to write for kids, too. Picture books are so fun, aren’t they? I’ve always wanted to write comics or a graphic novel, as well. Maybe one day I’ll have the chance to do that.

And as hokey as it sounds, I don’t begin a writing process with saying “I’m going to write a story for __________ market.”  I let the story dictate the audience. Usually when I’m done writing a story I step back and evaluate it and say, “Okay, so what market does this fit in? What’s the demographic? Does it need tweaking to fit into that market better?”

And when I wrote the poem that comprises the book, I was working in a primary school library, so there was a lot of kid lit around me, influencing the story. It was also before I actually began to write novels for the adult market, so perhaps I, myself, was youthful, too!

Q: How did you and the artist find each other?

Jennifer and I were introduced in… uuuuhm… 1996? Yeah, Wiki tells me that DBZ aired on YTV in 96.

Anyway, I had become enamored of Sailor Moon in 1995 when it aired on YTV (and lucky me, later I got to work with one of the voice directors and take some voice acting workshops from directors and talent alike), and followed that into DBZ. From DBZ I found fanfiction, and in fanfiction I found author Ruthanne Reid.

(Although, at the time, she had her fanfic pseudonym and so did I.)

Ruthanne introduced me to fanartist Jennifer, and we all chatted. I stayed in touch with Jennifer through university, where she sent me fan art and did a poster for my first play, and did some art based on the novel I was writing at the time.

In 2002, when I wrote the poem that comprises the book, Jennifer and I noodled around with the idea of doing some sort of illustrated version of it, but a webcomic was too involved for both of us (being, as we were, in school and part time jobs), and frankly self-publishing as we know it now hadn’t been invented yet.

We lot touch after Jennifer got married and began a family, but a few years later I had the opportunity to offer up the poem to a morbid little poetry chap book. The publisher and I discussed having all the poems illustrated, and I remembered the doodles Jennifer had already conceived. I got back in touch with Jennifer, and we had some discussions. She mocked up some thumbnails, but then unfortunately the publishing house collapsed and the project was cancelled.

Several more years passed, and I forgot about the poem. Eventually I was interviewed by Arial Burnz of ParaNormalRadio, and she reminded me that the poem existed. I discussed it with my agent, and we agreed that it would be a fun project for me to selfpub the poem as a picture book, and I got back in contact with Jennifer again! I figured there was no point in going elsewhere when Jennifer and I had already done so much work on the book.

And here we are!

Q: How do you choose which images to illustrate for the book?

I mentioned in a previous answer that illustrator Jennifer Vendrig and I had had the opportunity to talk a lot about the poem before we came to project, so that was very helpful. We already had a “look” established, and we already knew what the characters looked like through a few weeks of trial-and-error pencil sketches where she mostly said “Well, what about this, this and this?” and I said, “Yes! I love that, that, but maybe make that like this?” and she said “Yes! And–” (You get the point.)

When I reapproached Jennifer about doing the picture book, one of the first contractual items we discussed was how much drawing she would be doing. We agreed on the number of illustrations – one for every two stanzas – and Jennifer broke the whole thing down into a sort of a story board.

She provided me with three doodles for each stanza to choose from, and when I made my choices we discussed why I thought those were best, and what she wanted to do with it. The nice thing is, I really like Jennifer’s art, and I’ve known her as an artist for so long that in commissioning her to illustrate the book, I knew exactly what to expect. I wasn’t disappointing – I love the work!

Once we had the doodle-thumbnails locked down, Jennifer began doing pencil sketches of each illustration. She sends them to me in batches, and we discuss little changes or additions as needed. Then I sign off on the pictures. Once I’ve signed off on all of them, she’ll begin the inking process and creating the illustration for the cover.

In the meantime, Jennifer is drawing to a size spec, and the interior designer and I are working together to get the draft-layout together so that when Jennifer provides the final inked pictures, we can just drop them into place and go!

Jennifer also illustrated the announcement picture! Isn’t it cute?

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Have a question you want to ask about the book or the process? Ask in the comments below, on my Tumblr, on Goodreads, or via Twitter.

I opened my inbox to questions about The Dark Lord and the Seamstress, and here are the questions I received, and my answers!

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Q: About how many drafts of TDL&TS did you have to go through before you got to the finished product? And what’s your process there, do you write everything and then edit, edit as you go, or shoot the first draft to a beta and go from there?

Strangely enough, there weren’t actually a lot of drafts of The Dark Lord and The Seamstress. How it looks now is essentially how it was when it came out.

At this point, I think it’s on draft three or so.

I’ve had 12 years to tweak it, and I added about three stanzas to make the store run smoother, but beyond swapping out words to make lines scan better, I’ve changed practically nothing.

I think it helps that the story itself is very straight forward and simple, with a happy ending. There’s no editing required to clarify, or rewrite, or to address B plot, or to remove/add/merge characters. It doesn’t require all of the Hard Thinking And Mapping that a novel might.

Usually when I write a story, I write the whole thing all at once. Not usually in order, I jump around and lay, as I call them, paving-stone-scenes all along the narrative path. Eventually I get them all to join up, and then I do a top-to-bottom-read-and-edit. From there the story goes to a group of beta readers, comes back to me with feedback and suggestions and I  edit it. Then it goes to a different group of beta readers (or the same, if some of the readers really wanted it back), and I edit it again. Usually at that point I give it to a professional editor to give it a polish, I get it back and edit it, and then it’s off to my agent. She gives feedback, I edit again, and then it goes on submission. The acquiring editor gives feedback, I edit, and off it goes to be made into a book!

Sometimes this process is only four or five drafts. Sometimes, like the one book I’m working on, it can get to upwards of seventy passes between my hands and someone else’s in order to get it settled and tweaked just right.

Q: Where do you get your inspirations for stories from? Or, more properly, where do you USUALLY get your ideas – I know sometimes they just pop up out of nowhere. Share your brainworkings, please!?

Some ideas I’ve gotten from dreams. I had a recurring nightmare as a teenager that I dwelt on and let expand, and it just filled up my imagination. Eventually I started writing it, and though I’d like to share it one day, it’s just not good enough right now.

Some ideas I’ve gotten based on prompts, writing challenges, or story requests for anthologies. I’ve written a few shorts where I’ve later gone back and asked permission from the editors to expand the story into a novel.

Some ideas I get from conversations or arguments with friends. I had a very frustrating conversation with someone once and I was so angry that I immediately went to my desk and began pounding out a diatribe on my laptop. That eventually became a scene, and when I had the time to calm down and reread what I’d written, that scene eventually became a book.

Most ideas I get from a sentence. Triptych came from the sentence “There was a UFO in my strawberries.” Oh, I thought. That’s an intriguing image. How did the UFO get there? And why?

Some sentences are things I’ve overheard on the street, or are misheard lyrics, or some strange arrangement of words that have rattled themselves into a plausible, grammatically correct arrangement in my brain. Then I usually ask myself, Is there possibly a story here? If so, what format is it? And how can I tell it in a way that’s different from other tellings of similar stories? Whose POV will be refreshing? What would I want to discuss with this story? Is there something viable in this?

If there isn’t, I usually just write the sentence down on a scrap of paper or in a notebook to get it out of my head and away from my imagination.

One of these days I’m going to publish a book of these sentences-that-went-nowhere, I think! My little collection of not-novels.

Q: I was going to ask about how you decided on the artwork, but someone else already did (thanks for answering that, btw!), so I’ll ask my second-choice question: Do you think you’d like to do more stories like The Dark Lord and the Seamstress?

I absolutely would! We’ll see how this one goes, and then I might consider writing another fun, epic poem. It depends on if an idea-sentence rattles into my brain!

Q: What would be your dream novel to write/publish? What genre, what kind of protagonist(s), lots of world-building or minimal?

Oh, that one’s easy!

My dream novel would be the full-length version of The Maddening Science!  It is such an involved manuscript though, that just the research alone is taking me years. I wish I had the time and the freedom to do nothing but work on this book for a year.

It would be a fiction-memoir, but also filled with lots of “found artifacts” that, when slotted in between the pages of the memoir and red between the chapters, tell a secondary story simultaneously that intertwines with the narrator’s memoir. Sort of like The Watchmen, but revealing a whole B-plot of action going on with the memoir’s transcriber character outside of the transcript of the memoir she’s transcribing. If that makes any sense at all!

And there is a metric ton of worldbuilding that has to happen, which is why it is taking me so long and why I wish I had the chance to do nothing BUT this book and just focus for such a long stretch of time.

I will continue to hope that one day I will have the ability to write full time!

Q: What do you think is the most misunderstood thing about writing scenes involving sex?

That they’re about sex.

Unless one is writing pornography simply for pornography’s sake (like some titillating erotic scenes or some lovely PWP slash fanfic), then like every other bit of writing, the scene should only exist to either:

a) further the plot,
b) further understanding of or provide development for a character,
c) or, ideally, all of the above.

If the sex scene is literally only in the book to titillate, then usually it’s a plot-interrupter and frankly, can be skipped. It’s more appreciative to your audience and less boring to just say “they had sex”. (I have literally flipped past sex scenes in books because there’s no reason for them to be there. Like, excuse me, get your sweaty bum out of the way of the story I was reading, thank you.)

Of course, that is to say that the sex scenes can’t be well written and titillating and make you want to go tickle the pope. Like a book that makes you laugh out loud, or sob in public, a well written sex scene should have people who feel sexual attraction squirming in a good way.

Do I think non-erotica books should have sex scenes in them? Well, that depends entirely on the book, the protagonists, the situation, their lives, the culture in which they live, and what putting the sex scene in will do for the plot and people.

And I have all the respect for well written erotica, because it is not easy to make porn the plot and write a damn good novel to support the fun times.

Q: Do you plan on doing more stories like The Dark Lord and The Seamstress, or is this just an experimental step?

This was a bit of an accident, really! I forgot I’d even written the poem, and had sort of discussed illustrating it with Jennifer, until Arial Burnz reminded me it existed after our interview.

If things go well with this picture book, and everything comes out and the process doesn’t make me fall over Teh Deadz, then I think I absolutely would consider writing more poetry-picture-books.

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If you have questions for me, please feel free to ask them below, or via Tumblr!

I opened my inbox to questions about The Dark Lord and the Seamstress, and here are the questions I received, and my answers!

Q: What is your criteria for success for TDLatS? How does self-publishing shift your goals in this endeavour and what, if anything, do you miss about traditional publishing, here?

Criteria for success: That I actually manage to get the book out! I’ve never done anything on this scale before, and I’ve certainly never done a picture book before. I love this little story, and of course I love Jennifer’s art, so what I would really call a success is people enjoying it. Either with their kids or not, if people are talking about how fun and pretty it is, if they’re having a good time with the book, then that’s all I really ask. I just want it to work.

Shifting the goals: This who publication journey has been less a race to the finish as it usually is for me, and it’s really taught me patience with the publishing process. Not that I’m a nag – I hope! – to my editors, but once the book has been bought and edited and turned over, from the author side it feels like a whole heck of a lot of hurry-up-and-wait. There are huge gaps of time when you hear nothing from the publisher because they’re very busy getting on with the process of turning your manuscript into a book with a marketing plan. And that silence can sometimes make me antsy and impatient, especially when all I have to look toward is the moment I hold the book in my hands.

Instead of one big goal at the end – hold the finished book – my life is now filled with lots of little goals, all of which are necessary and have to happen in a certain order to make sure the book comes together properly and on time.

And of course, it’s my first picture book, too, so that makes things doubly nerve wracking and weird. I have to learn so much. It’s wonderful, and fascinating, but it’s certainly changed what I consider a goal and a success to be.

What I miss: I’ve had things published through my agency, with their arm FastForeword, which is not self publishing, but is a lot more hands-on than most traditional publishing. I’ve also been pubbed small press, and I’ve put a few shorts up on Kindle. Nothing I’ve done so far has really been on the large-trad-publisher scale, so I’m used to having to do a lot of marketing on my own, and being far more involved in the process of turning a manuscript into a book than large-scale publishing generally invites the author to be. The only real difference here is that at the very end of the process, someone isn’t going whisk away my MS and magically return a book to me. I will be sitting with a student interior designer and we will be muddling through the process together. Thank god for CreateSpace templates, that’s all I can say!

The nitty gritty things like getting the book registered for an ISBN and getting it up online in all the stores, and contacting the brick-and-mortar stores, and paying for the editing, and interior design, and cover art, and cover design… those are things that are all part of the process that I am very happy to never be a part of, and as the author in trad pub, never gets put into my hands. I fear I’m dropping the ball and forgetting something important every single time I turn away from the computer!  So, in short, I guess I miss not having to worry about the small process items.

On the other hand, I’m learning a lot about books now, and so when I sell my next trad pub book, I’ll have a much greater understanding of what I, the author, can do to make everyone else on the team’s jobs easier.

Q:For the visuals of the book, did you decide what the Dark Lord and the Seamstress were wearing, or the illustrator, or a combination of both of you?

Oooh, good question.

Here’s one of the first concept sketches Jennifer did. I don’t recall the exact conversation, though I’m sure I could dig it up somewhere, where we both agreed that something quintessentially fantasy-medieval would be perfect.

This was Jennifer’s final sort of attempt, after we’d had lots of discussions about their size difference (what would be enough to be silly but not enough to be unrealistic, if the Dark Lord had wings, and what kind, or if the Dark Lord had horns and what kind, etc.)

I really like the look of this style of overdress, so Jennifer found a way to translate that into the look, and after a bit more discussion about what would be period appropriate yet still easy enough for her to draw over and over again for the Seamstress’ hair, Jennifer sent me some character finals and that was that!

It was actually a pretty painless process, because she’s very professional, and listens very actively, but also pushes back when my suggestions are unworkable or unrealistic.

I think we have an excellent dynamic, and I’m lucky. That’s partially because we used to be forum and fanfic buddies back in our DBZ days, and that’s helped because we have a common history and departure point.

Q: Who is your favorite character in TDLatS and why?

I should say the Seamstress, of course, but I really like the Dark Lord and his complete lack of style and inability to dress himself! And his pout is adorable.

Of course, the narrator is a pretty awesome lady, too. *hint hint*

Q: Can you talk a little bit about what inspired TDLatS?? Even if you don’t want to be too spoilery!

I was working in a children’s library, re-cataloging and re-barcoding every. single. book. in the place. This was 2002. I kept stopping to read the picture books because they were so colourful and fun, and I was so BORED.

One afternoon, I was scanning, sticking, scanning, sticking, and thinking, and wondering if I could write a children’s book. At the same time, I had been reading the collected works of Byron on my off time, so I had a lot of epic-length poetry on my mind.

The line “Once upon a time, oh yes, so very long ago, there came to be a lovely girl, who came to learn to sew” jumped into my head and I wrote it down. From there the story really just unfolded and told itself! I think I had the whole thing jotted down in about forty minutes. I don’t know why the poem had to be set in hell, exactly, except that I liked the idea of a Devil who can’t dress himself. He’s always shown all dolled up and dapper in pictures/TV/Film, but what if he just has really terrible fashion sense?

The hardest part was getting all the scansion right. That took me a few weeks of trial and error to figure out. When it was done I shared it with some friends, but I didn’t know what to do with it, so I wrote it in a book and put it on my shelf.

I’d very nearly forgotten about it until recently, and decided now that I was a hybrid author, I should do what I’d always dreamed with the poem, and make it a picture book! Luckily,Jennifer Vendrig, my illustrator, and I knew each other waaaaay back in the day, and she was one of the ones who read the poem in 2002. We had talked about doing the poem illustrated before, so she had some sketches ready, and we made up a contract, shook virtual hands, and here we are!

Have a question you want to ask about the book or the process? Ask in the comments below, on my Tumblr, on Goodreads, or via Twitter.

Hybridity and Shelving

Traditional publishing is great. Authors write books. Publishers publish books. Readers buy and read books. Yay, getting paid to write stories!

But, when you walk into book stores, everything is… well… shelved.

And those shelves are organized, and narrow and divisive. Here is the adult section, and here is the SF/F, and here is the kids section and they’re all just so…

Separate.

So, what do you do when, like me, you’re a bit of a genre-market-blender? Okay, not so much a blender as much as a throw it in the Magic Bullet and see what comes out-er. Man, I am a genre/market smoothier.

That’s great for books, great for readers, and great for me. It’s always fascinating to do something interesting, twisted, a little left of center. And my readers always appreciate knowing that when they pick up a book by J.M. Frey’s going to be clever, and meta, and tongue-in-cheek, and not quite the center of normal for that genre/age range.

But it makes it hard to sell to traditional houses because the books I write are by default difficult to market. I am difficult to shelve.

The work I write simply rarely falls into neat and easy categories. And this is, in part, why I’ve decided to be a hybrid author.

Read the rest over at my agent’s blog.

An original charcter study.

Illustrator Jennifer Vendrig has posted some rejected sketches, character studies, and a brief journal over at her Deviant Art account. Make sure to follow her as well as the hashtag The Dark Lord And The Seamstress for more behind-the-scenes sneak peeks and process blogs of the project!

tDLaTS Announcement Poster


THE DARK LORD AND THE SEAMSTRESS

A picture book that’s mostly for children, and an unconventional love story told in verse.

Written by J.M. Frey Illustrated by Jennifer Vendrig

Visit my site, my Facebook Fanpage or my Tumblr for more announcements as they become available.

Keep an eye on the hashtag #tDLatS for contest announcements, upcoming giveaways, and the launch party!

Also, visit Jennifer Vendrig’s DeviantArt account for some really fun behind-the-scenes and process sketches for the project! She’ll be expanding the gallery up until the book publication.

Well, lookit that! Goodreads now has an option to Ask Authors Anything, and have the answers archived on their dashboards. Go ahead, ask me your questions on Goodreads, and if the answer is particularily interesting, I’ll probably post it on my (Tumblr)blog, too.

J.M. Frey on ParaNormal Radio

Airdate: June 30, 2014 Listen || Download

Host (and fantastic author in her own right) Arial Burnz and I chat about ghosts, real life hauntings, and my books! There is also a a BOOK GIVE AWAY. Make sure to enter before July 6th to get your free eBook copy of Hero Is A Four Letter Word.

Arial is also the one who gave me the idea to pursue my upcoming project. It’s still secret for now, so keep following the #tDLatS hashtag to ensure that you don’t miss the big announcement!

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From the website:

We have two authors on the show today who are highly intellectual and write Science Fiction – Ransom Stephens is a scientist who incorporates his profession into his novels, and JM Frey who is a Fanthropologist who also incorporates her studies into her fiction. Both of them have giveaways, so listen to learn how you can win!
•Episode Number: 23
•Length: 40 minutes
•Host: Arial Burnz

Want to hear me talk about using science fiction and fantasy to make our lived reality a better place?

Sure you do!

My interview with Corbie Mitleid of Fire Through Spirit is airing on Thurs July 3, 8pm EST , and will be available live-streamed at http://www.empoweradio.com.

Afterword, it will be available on the show’s archive as a podcast, on iheartradio.com, on Stitcher, and iTunes!

Topics covered are:

-Why you can and should read YA, no matter your own age.

-Why cosplay is important in terms of community building, skill building, and helping people discover thier own truths.

-How reading SF/F makes you more open to other cultures and worlds

-How I am a big geeky dork, and how hot Wil Wheaton is.

-Also, I may or may not have given a hint about my next project announcement at the end…

If you are a professional actor, writer, or creative of any kind, then you should probably have a media kit, both a hard-copy edition and one that is on your website and available for people to download. It is probably best to keep the digital version in PDF, so it is widely readable on many devices.

I have an entire segment of my website specifically designed to make life for people trying to contact me or my agent, or to write about me, easier. You can see it here. It’s a collection of bare-bones facts and links, and information like bios of various lengths, a list of publications and awards, and professional headshots. Sort of one-stop-shopping for everything-you-need-as-a-person-in-professional-media.

Why do it? It just makes it easier for them, but also for me. I am generally answering requests for interviews , to send along bios, or to send along photos from my smartphone. I have some of that stuff stored on my device, but most of the time it’s easier to say: “All of that is on my website, on the tab marked “media”; it’s all there for you! Please take whatever you want to use.”

It’s also important because it helps build a factual basis of your career for people who are looking for information about you. I have all the dates, award names, and proper titles listed there, too. Because websites like IMDB or Wikipedia can be edited collectively, sometimes the dates and things can get muddied. This is a place where everything is listed, and clear, and I try to make certain to keep it updated with each publication or casting announcement I make.

I also keep a list of most recent announcements on my main website page, so that people/interviewers/researchers can check in and get updated quickly.

So what is a media kit?

A media kit is basically a primer for people who are going to be working with you, and discussing your work with you; kind of a “Me And My Work For Dummies”. It can be a PDF file, or a hard-copy collection of print out pages and promotional items.

It should be updated with each new publication or performance announcement, to reflect a focus on whatever is the most important work for you to push at the time.

How is it (not) used?

Media kits are used to prepare people to be able to speak about you and your work, and discuss it with you, in a short amount of time. They’re generally used by interviews and chat show hosts who may not have time to do a lot of research about you, or as a jumping-off point for people writing profiles, or a host’s research team.

Obviously, in an ideal world, you want anyone who is interviewing you or working with you to have read everything you’ve ever written or seen everything you’ve ever been in. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible, so sometimes you have to help them fake it a bit. That’s the truth of the biz, and they’ll really appreciate the leg up. On top of that, it also lets you control what people focus on when you’re promoting your new work.

Don’t send a media kit in lieu of an actual conversation, or anywhere it’s unsolicited, like to an agent that you’re initially querying or to a producer that you haven’t already been in discussion with. A very simple rule of thumb is to never let the kit speak for you first. Have a conversation, then send the kit when they’ve agreed to have you on/work with you.

Where should I put it?

Media kits should be emailed or hardcopy mailed to any media outlets that are working with, interviewing, or hosting you. This can include: TV hosts/producers, newspaper reporters and interviewers, radio show hosts, chat show hosts, convention organizers, etc.

It should also be available on your website. You may also have a paper copy – I would suggest trying to keep it down to one slim folder. The paper copy has the advantage of being able to tuck bookmarks, short stories, and other promotional materials into it. However, resist the urge to overstuff it and over-saturating your message or confusing the readers. Stick to materials for the most important stuff, like the latest release, or the work that you’ve been invited to particularly discuss.

What goes into a media kit (and it doesn’t have to be ALL of this):

Media release: A press release about your most current project or work, if you have one. If you’re between projects, then you can skip this part or include your most recent release, as long as it’s not terribly out of date. Find out about how to write a press release here.

Sell sheet: No more than one sheet page with the vital information for whatever project you’re pushing. Say, for a book, it should include a include synopsis, cover art, short bio, publisher, ISBN, ordering info. how to get review copies, etc. For a film, this should be the poster, short bios on the filmmaker and leads, production stills, the pitch, how to acquire a screener, and release info.

Bio: A paragraph about you that mentions your most important accomplishments and your basic info. Mine is:

J.M. is an actor SF/F author, fanthropologist and pop culture scholar. She’s appeared in podcasts, documentaries, on radio, and on television to discuss all things geeky through the lens of academia. Her debut novel Triptych was nominated for two Lambda Literary Awards and was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2011. www.jmfrey.net | @scifrey

This is generally what also goes in anthologies and on convention websites.

I also have longer versions on my “For Media” page, in case they’d prefer something more in depth. I also have a link to my Wikipedia entry, which I can’t control but seems to be consistently accurate.

Photos: There should be just one headshot, a really professional photo of the caliber you’d want on the dust-flap of your novel, or on your IMDB profile.

I had professional headshots done. It seems like an unnecessary expense when an author shot just needs to be in focus, flattering, and not too cluttered. But having really high-res, quality photos make you look serious about your craft, successful, and most importantly, gives the media outlets lots of appealing material to work with – they’re more likely to publish your picture if it’s of publishable quality. It’s also important that your readers know what you look like so they can find you at events and appearances, or can recognize you as they pass by your table at a convention or when producers welcome you into a studio.

On top of all that, a professional photographer knows all the little tricks to create a really flattering photo, and we all want one of those! I also got a few different looks in my gallery – something casual, something a bit dressy, and some fun things: one with a toy UFO and some with my steampunk goggles to represent the two genres I am writing in at the moment. If my other books ever see the light of day, I will get photos with props for those genres done as well.

I was lucky enough to already have worked with a professional photographer as a model for one of his shows, so I knew I liked his work style and his products, so I knew who to contact. If you don’t know a photographer, ask a local actor’s agent where he send his clients, or contact a local art school to see if there is a student who works in photography who might want to make some cash.

Be prepared to spend $400 on average (photographer’s time, studio rental [with backgrounds and lights], and some photo editing), and spend about 2-4 hours in the studio. You’ll also probably have to do your own hair and makeup, unless the headshot professional includes it in their fee. Don’t get a new haircut the day of, in case you hate it; only go to makeup counters for the free make over if you trust them and have seen their work before. However, do go to your stylist for a great blow-out, and do make an appointment at a makeup counter if you know it will be awesome. You will also have to provide your own wardrobe, so choose solid colours with no logos, flattering cuts, and clean tailoring. Look at yourself from every angle in the clothing – does it give you saggy arm or can you see your bra through it? Be aware that the light will be much brighter in the studio.

Don’t let your clothes muffle you – your face is the most important element of the photo. If your clothes take away from that, instead of framing it prettily, then choose something else.

If possible, make certain that you have pics that are right-click-able so they can actually copy/paste them onto their own websites, etc. Make sure to name the file something like “J.M. Frey Promo Photo 7 by Jane Camera” so both your name and the photographer’s name are attached to the file.

Media pitch/topics talking points – What are the important themes of the work you or pushing, or what concerns and themes run through your whole body of work? What do you want to talk about with this book? What do you think is important to highlight? Where would you feel the conversation would be most interesting and important. Also, what else are you an expert in?

Yes, I am often asked in to talk about my books, but I also get asked to speak about fanthropology, gender and sex in SF/F works and communities, steampunk, Doctor Who, and cosplay. I state that these are my fields of expertise so people can find me if they need celebrity talking heads on those topics.

Interview questions: I don’t often do this, but I know some people provide a list of short questions and answers for the hosts. I do however try to see the questions list before I got in, so I have a basic idea of where the conversation is heading. This way I don’t waste precious time thinking about my answers or “ummm” and “uhhh”ing. It also helps you to rehearse little sound bites.

Business card, bookmarks, brochure, postcards, and other promo items, including DVD or Book , if it’s a physical kit.Send a digital file of the book or the film if it’s requested and safe.

Reviews: No more than one page, and preferably about the most recent work and by important people in your field. I try to have at least one great short review attached to each book. Short articles you’ve written, other short articles about you, or a link to an archive of said articles.

Notable previous appearances.

Excerpt or sample chapters (if applicable)

Social Media links

Contact information for you and your agent, press manager, etc.

TL;DR: Basically write 4-6 pages on how awesome you are, and the basic facts of your career, with reviews and contact information.

For those who are curious, here’s my most recent digital media kit.

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