Peter Archer: Industry Edge: Tips on Getting Your Fiction Published

Featuring Peter Archer, managing books editor, Wizards of the Coast.

Peter Archer

Talinthas: Have you seen the War of Souls book?

Wizards_Peter: Yes. Dragons of a Fallen Sun will be released in early March. You should be seeing on your bookstore shelves around the second or third week of the month.

Jennabean: If it’s released on the 4th, why can’t we get it till 2-3 weeks later?

Wizards_Peter: It depends on how fast your local bookstores are about stocking it. I’m trying to cover all possibilities here.

Talinthas: Isn’t Lizz Baldwin an editor under you?

MLMartin: Is there any possibility of it showing up before March 4th? I remember Dragons of Summer Flame hitting the stands in some places up to a month ahead of schedule . . .

Wizards_Peter: Yes, Lizz is an editor in the Book Publishing department. Right now she’s working mainly on a new series in the FORGOTTEN REALMS called Sembia. In answer to the question about Dragons of a Fallen Sun showing up early, I’m afraid not.

Talinthas: Have Jeff Grubb write another DL novel.

Wizards_Peter: Jeff Grubb is writing mainly in Magic now, as well as some other projects. At the moment I’m afraid we don’t have any plans for another Jeff Grubb DRAGONLANCE novel.

Wizards_Peter: Let me just comment on the general question of publishing with Wizards of the Coast. It’s not very easy; that’s the sad truth. We have a lot of people who want to write for us and relatively few novel slots open. If you’d like to submit fiction you can send it attention Jocelyn Folawn. Please send only a short writing sample and a cover letter. We don’t have the time to read an entire novel.

Bardel: Would we send a sample chapter of the book we want to write as the writing sample?

Wizards_Peter: The writing sample should reflect your best abilities as a writer. Because our novels are written for hire, we don’t generally publish submissions. Instead, the editor works with the author to produce a book that fits into our overall publishing plans.

Wizards_Peter: We have some great stuff coming up this year. In March we’ll publish Dragons of a Fallen Sun, the first Weis/Hickman collaboration since Dragons of Summer Flame. In April we’ll begin a new Elaine Cunningham trilogy. In August we’ll publish a novel co-written by Troy Denning and Ed Greenwood, called Death of the Dragon. In October we’ll bring out a new R.A. Salvatore novel called Servant of the Shard. This is also the year we’re beginning publication of Legend of the Five Rings novels and DARK*MATTER novel.

Jennabean: Peter, what about novels set in new worlds that Wizards of the Coast doesn’t own yet? I have a world that I’ve created and am writing for, with new races and lots of ideas.

Wizards_Peter: Right now, the only worlds we’re planning to publish novels for are ones we own. For your own independent fiction, you might think of submitting to publishers such as Del Rey or Ace, or submit to magazines such as SF Chronicle or Science Fiction Ag.

Wizards_Peter: If you send a short writing sample and we like it, we’ll put you on a proposal list. When we’re putting together anthologies we’ll send out proposals for short story submissions to people on that list. Being on the list doesn’t guarantee you’ll get published, but it’s a foot in the door, so to speak.

Eynowd: Peter, you mentioned that there was a DARK*MATTER coming out later this year. I presume that’s the one that has been advertised on the DARK*MATTER website. Are there plans afoot to publish more in this line, or is it going to be a wait-and-see affair?

Wizards_Peter: Right now, there are two DARK*MATTER novels on the schedule: In Hollow Houses by Gary Braunbeck and If Whispers Call by Don Bassingthwaite. We have authors working on the continuation of the series through 2001.

Wizards_Peter: I’d like to also mention for DRAGONLANCE fans that in November, Margaret Weis and Don Perrin will publish Draconian Measures, a sequel to The Doom Brigade.

Bardel: What about writing fiction for the Wizards of the Coast website and the Legends of the Lance official newsletter? Are those submissions taken note of by the book people, or basically ignored?

Wizards_Peter: Book Publishing is only responsible for fiction in novels, though we try to work with other departments on this as well.

GranitchOfSigil: Do you ever consider outlines for novels—not fully written, but potential series ideas? Also, what is the address we should send submissions to, and what is Jocelyn’s title?

Wizards_Peter: We do consider outlines, but those are normally worked out between author and editor so they fit into our overall plans for a line. Submissions should be sent to Jocelyn Folawn, Editorial Assistant, Wizards of the Coast, 1801 Lind Ave SW, Renton, WA 98055.

guest154: Being a FORGOTTEN REALMS fan, I’ve always desired to write for it. If attempting to have Wizards of the Coast publish them, do you decide based upon it being a good story, or how it works into an overall story line previously set up for the world by Wizards of the Coast, etc.? What are the parameters for having one published or considered?

Wizards_Peter: A little of both. The main thing we want to know about you is, can you write. That’s why the writing sample is so important. Pay attention to spelling, grammar, and presentation. Those are all things we look at.

Bardel: Is DRAGONLANCE a world that writing samples for Ms. Folawn would be considering, or are we just talking FORGOTTEN REALMS and ALTERNITY?

Wizards_Peter: All writing samples should be sent “Attention Jocelyn Folawn.” She’s the department’s central clearing house for all submissions.

Bardel: So.. if we want to write for DRAGONLANCE, that would be the way to go?

Wizards_Peter: Yes. Absolutely. I don’t want to sound too discouraging, but I again want to remind you that there are a very limited number of slots open every year. Don’t get discouraged. We are publishing more new DRAGONLANCE authors, and we’re always looking for new talent.

Jennabean: Does Wizards of the Coast pay attention much to fan fiction and Wizards-related writing contests to find potential authors? For instance, the DRAGONLANCE Mailing list fan fiction contest, for one.

Wizards_Peter: Up to now, we haven’t had too many of these, so I find your question hard to answer. If we hold a writing contest, certainly we’ll pay very careful attention to the results. I haven’t seen the submissions for that contest, so we haven’t considered them. It’s better, as a rule, to submit directly to us.

Wizards_Peter: Let me mention another novel coming up: Descent into the Depths of the Earth (based on the classic adventure module), by Paul Kidd. Paul is quickly becoming our GREYHAWK “classics” author. He’s working on a GREYHAWK title for 2001 as well.

Oneia: Allright, say a person has never been published before, what would you recommend a person do before they submit a story to you for publishing?

Wizards_Peter: Good question. Read over your submission very, very carefully. Check for spelling, grammar, punctuation, and presentation. Have a couple of other people read it and listen to their criticisms. Those are the most important things. It doesn’t do any good to have cool ideas if you can’t express them in a way other people can appreciate.

Wizards_Peter: Let me make two other suggestions: First, be sure to have action. We publish novels that are known for action, and that helps. Second, make the characters interesting and make them talk like real people. Watch the people you meet and look for things you can use in creating characters. Another good rule of thumb is don’t tell, show. In other words, it’s better to have someone’s character revealed through action than through the narrator telling the reader about it.

Thersites: How closely will novelists (and editors) be working with designers to prevent huge breaches of continuity or world-shattering events from impinging on the DM’s home games?

Wizards_Peter: The answer to your question is we are always working to prevent breaches in continuity. There is a lot of collaboration between the novelists and the editors that centers on exactly this issue. At the same time, we want to tell interesting stories, and in those stories, things have to happen. Sometimes that will contradict something you’re doing in your game, but it seems to me the answer is for you, as the DM, to ignore it and continue to run your campaign however you want to.

Eynowd: You said all work for Wizards of the Coast is classed as “work-for-hire”. Given that the company owns the rights to the novels, what sort of payment does the actual author get? Given the amount of work that goes into writing a novel, is it worth it (financially)?

Wizards_Peter: The payment to the author varies according to what is negotiated. It wouldn’t be proper for me to give details, but I’ll say that very, very few people anywhere get rich by writing. There are a small number of people who make a living at it, but not many.

Eynowd: Can we have a ballpark figure?

Wizards_Peter: Sorry. I don’t feel comfortable mentioning specific figures.

GranitchOfSigil: What format are you looking for with submissions (on disc; double-spaced, 12 pt. font, just legible?).

Wizards_Peter: Double-spaced in a twelve-point font is fine. A disc is not necessary. Legible is extremely important.

MLMartin: Does having previous published writing help at all in terms of getting us a chance at receiving an offer?

Wizards_Peter: Possibly. It depends on the circumstances. Certainly it shows you have the fortitude to write and revise an entire novel. If you’ve published previously, mention that in a cover letter with your submission.

Talinthas: Hmm . . . well the questions I had in mind were answered, but are you guys looking for any specific topics to be written about?

Wizards_Peter: Not really. Again, the writing submission should reflect what you feel are your strengths as a writer. You don’t need to bother to set it in one of our worlds. What we’re looking for is an evaluation of your writing skills.

guest154: When sending in a sample, should we add a letter of intent? Such as if we’d like to be considered for short stories, novels, what world, what your plans for a story would be, etc.? What exactly should our cover letter hold? And this should all go to Jocelyn Folawn?

Wizards_Peter: The cover letter should accompany the submission and be addressed to either Jocelyn or to me. It should say what worlds you’re interested in being considered for, what your writing experience has been, any publications, etc. Please proofread it carefully before sending it.

Bardel: Anything specific we should avoid in our writing submissions (subjects, themes, etc.)? Also, about how many words would you consider about right/too many?

Wizards_Peter: Excessive violence or graphic sexual situations are probably going to put you out of the running. About ten pages is right.

WotC_Mel: I don’t know if you can name names, but would we recognize authors that have been published by sending in cold submissions?

Wizards_Peter: R.A. Salvatore and Elaine Cunningham come to mind first from the early TSR days, but also Mary Herbert, Nancy Berberick, Rick Knaak, Paul Thompson and Tonya Cook. The list is endless. In recent days, Monte Cook, Rich Baker, Steven Brown, Dave Gross, Paul Kemp, Kevin Kage, Lisa Smedman, Richard Lee Byers, Chris Pierson, and a host of others. Frankly, more of our authors come to publish with us through cold submissions than not.

GranitchOfSigil: About how long before we should expect a “not interested” or “you are now in consideration” response letter?

Wizards_Peter: Roughly six weeks. It may take a bit longer depending on how high the current pile of submission is and how busy everyone in the office is.

Thersites: Is there any chance that you’ll be announcing upcoming short story anthologies? It seems that would be an excellent way for new writers to ‘break in’ and get some publishing credits.

Wizards_Peter: Right now, all the short story anthologies for are filled up. We may be announcing something soon for 2001. Keep in mind that novels are all contracted anywhere from a year and a half to two years from time of publication. Right now it’s unlikely we’ll do a blanket call for submissions for an anthology. The last anthology we did that for was The Colors of Magic, published last year.

guest154: Can we get a recap of where to send everything please? And do you think you’ll be holding another one of these seminars soon? (I know I’m always in for asking more questions. 🙂 )

Wizards_Peter: Send submissions to Book Publishing, Attn: Jocelyn Folawn, Editorial Assistant, 1801 Lind Ave SW, Renton, WA 98055. I don’t know about another chat session. Mel?

WotC_Mel: Well, I am all for having Peter back—perhaps this summer, Peter?

Wizards_Peter: That would be great. The best advice I can give all of you is don’t get discouraged. Continue writing, but do so with a severely self-critical eye on your work. Good luck!

Wizards_Peter: I’ll be happy to come back any time. Right now, I have to go have a late dinner and get some sleep. Best of luck, everyone!

WotC_Mel: Allrighty–look for another session with someone from books, if not Peter himself, this June or July!

Wizards_Peter: Goodbye, everyone.

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