There’s a stigma that self-published authors aren’t as “good” as traditionally published authors. While that view is changing, it is true that self-published authors don’t always have access to the resources that traditionally published authors have.
F-BOM was founded to help close the gap for self-published authors by providing promotional services independent authors usually have to do themselves. This helps give indie authors more time to do what they do best–write.
Fortunately, more and more readers are seeing the value of independent books, and more writers are seeing self-publishing as a viable path for their writing. Savvy self-publishers know they need good marketing to get their books in front of readers. In order to demystify our process, and hopefully take down another barrier for indie authors, we want to talk about what we look for when authors submit their work to us. Besides the basic requirements (self-identify as a woman, own the rights to the work being submitted, and fall into the genre of speculative fiction) there are several other, less-clear reasons we accept or reject a novel. Here are major pieces of our selection process:
We can tell within five pages whether or not an author has the writing chops we require. How? As Ira Glass says, “All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste.” Translation: if you’re in the writing world long enough, you can see the pitfalls unseasoned writers make, even if you’re not a perfect writer yourself. Writers who are not yet at a professional caliber need to keep practicing before they reach the level we expect for an F-BOM book.
Complete Story is a combination of Strong Plot and Strong Theme. We look for books that place us in a compelling setting, introduce us to characters we want to spend time with, and explore themes that make us question our worldviews. Not only that–these concepts have to carry all the way through to the end of the book. It’s easy for an author to lose her way before the ending, and fail to draw the pieces of a story together.
Even if a book has strong writing and storytelling, if the book ends without any plot resolution we pass on it. It can be tempting for writers to end books with a cliff-hanger to drive up sales for a sequel, but we feel this cheats the reader. We look for books that provide a satisfying reading experience, even if the book is setting up for a longer series. Authors must strike the balance between complete storytelling and future world building.
Strong Feminist Themes
We never ask if our authors identify as feminist. Rather, we request to work with authors whose books, as we see it, adhere to feminist values. This does not just mean having female characters. As I’m sure you know, that is not necessarily an indicator of a feminist text. Instead, we look for the tenets described in the HSA Feminist Scale of Inclusivity: a text that’s not offensive, passes the Bechdel-Wallace test, and is above and beyond the general media. What is Above and Beyond? Call it intersections of diversity, or stories that explore the lives of underrepresented people. This bingo chart gives a few examples of representative stories:
Not exactly a low bar is it? That’s why F-BOM is launching a new service. Now, when you purchase the Writer’s Package, not only will you have access to the private writer forums, you can also submit ten pages of your work-in-progress to be reviewed by Lindsey or me, Cecelia.
Even before Lindsey and I founded F-BOM, we’d read a lot of books by self-published authors. We actually met at a critique group for speculative fiction writers. That means that while we’ve seen some really great indie published work, we’ve also received some pieces that just don’t make the cut. Instead of making F-BOM into another contest with arcane rules, we want to bolster the community of women writers.
In her fabulous 2015 article, Homme de Plume: What I Learned Sending My Novel Out Under a Male Name, Catherine Nichols writes that not only are women authors more frequently denied publication, they are also denied positive critiques that might push their writing to the next level. Nichols calls this being “pruned back until [our work is] compact enough to fit inside a pink cover.”**
This is especially true for women of color, LGBT+, gender nonconforming, disabled, and all other writers whose work has suffered under the bland critique of “I/audiences can’t connect with your story”, or maybe, “There’s no market for your work.” If you’re here, you already know that isn’t true.
We’re hoping that our experience can be put toward furthering women writers’ careers, not closing people out. We want our input to be positive, constructive, and most of all, push writers into bold directions. We can’t speak to your unique experience, but we can say we’ll never tell you not to break boundaries, not to do something different than what you’ve read on traditional bookshelves. And we promise not to beat around the bush either. Our goal is to create conversations that end with actionable goals for you and your writing.
Ready to take your writing to the next level? Get more info on the Writer’s Package here.
**F-BOM loves pink, but we get Nichols’ point: “I was being conditioned against ambition.”