Wednesday 26 January 2011

Initial Comments on the Bridge House Short Story Competition

The first round of judging has been completed and we’ll soon be issuing a shortlist. We’ll also then consider whether we have enough suitable material to release another anthology and then whether that anthology will be hard copy, electronic or both.
The brief was rather tricky this time: participants had to write a story that happened at the same time as a world-stopping event.
The judges put the stories into three piles, thinking not just of the winners but also about stories that would be good enough to go into an anthology. There were the yeses, the maybes and the nos. We also put the stories into rank order within each category. Now we have to line them up and establish our winners. Then we have to see whether we have enough stories that are good enough.
Some of the nos became nos because of problems we meet with all sorts of submissions:
- The story wasn’t story enough.
- The characters didn’t work.
- Point of view shifted too often.
- There was too much telling and not enough showing.
-There was a good story but the writing itself might need too much editing.
There were also some very specific problems relating to the content this time:
- The event wasn’t really world-stopping.
- The story was about the event rather than having the event as a background.
-And the really tricky one – you could take the event out and the story would still work, so why have it there at all? In other words, we’d be rejecting some very good stories simply because they don’t match the brief.

Another consideration will be, if we go ahead with the anthology, that we don’t have too many stories about the same event. The book mustn’t be all 9/11, 7/7 or the day that John Kennedy was shot. I have been pleasantly surprised in the sample I’ve read that that has not been the case.
More news soon. Watch this space, follow me and Bridge House on Twitter, keep an eyes on our web site and if you entered, keep checking your email.

Wednesday 12 January 2011

Meeting a New Author

When I was an unpublished writer I used to dream of being invited to meet my editor or agent. I’d be wined and dined and perhaps be invited to eat spaghetti as a character test. I am now published and have worked for a dozen or so publishers and have only met two editors. In retrospect, I’m rather glad I didn’t meet the others. For the most part, I’ve worked with them on-line, in many cases even receiving my contract electronically. Certainly less embarrassing than eating spaghetti.
So, we at Bridge House recognised that we were doing very well when we met our novel competition winner at the Blue Sky café in Bangor North Wales. There is a sort of symmetry here: one partner lives there and had a convenient birthday, the novel is set in a possible future North Wales … and the café belongs to a relation of mine. Plenty of good excuses for a meet.
We didn’t make our new author eat spaghetti. We did shout her a modest lunch, though. And we did discuss a lot of marketing / publicity ideas: national and local press releases, use of social networking, review copies and literary festivals.
We, like all publishers, only have a small marketing budget. A tiny budget. Even with a competition prize. Of course, there is a lot we can do for free – e.g. all the social networking. But it takes time and effort and there’s even only so much of that available per book.
We’re lucky in having a proactive author this time. Even the big presses love proactive authors. From that whole list of marketing ideas we wouldn’t expect any one author to do every single thing. We would ask, though, that they do what they feel comfortable with and do it to extreme.