Interview with Linda Nagata

Last week, I mentioned that I was unsure of what my next project would be. After thinking about all my options, I decided to finish Dragonverse Origins. I was nearly 75% complete when I set it aside to work on re-editing and reformatting my already published works. Although I've had several requests to write another Galactic Alliance book, I don't have a complete enough plot laid out to feel comfortable starting another book in that series. So, I started from the beginning of Origins and I've been re-reading, editing, and altering that story. I hope to have it finished in a few months. Once that's done, then I will work on another Peacekeeper.

For anyone out there who has purchased a new computer with a super-high resolution display -- be advised that Scrivener will not display properly unless you make a few changes to your system. If you have this problem, I've included the fix at the end of this post.

I also have a tip for anyone using Createspace for their print books. The files are reviewed by a live person and some of the people doing these reviews have a very strict stance on Createspace's rules. When I first published the Galactic Alliance books, I entered the name of the books in Createspace as "Galactic Alliance book x - Title". This was before I really understood what I was doing. When I uploaded the newly formatted interior for Chroniech, I put the name on the title page as "Chroniech". I received a reply from Createspace telling me the interior cover does not match what I named the book in the dashboard. True, it wasn't exact, but it was clear they were one and the same. My solution was to upload the exact same interior again and resubmit. This time, it was accepted.

Linda Nagata
The topic of this week's post is a short interview with Linda Nagata. Because it was the holiday season and I know Linda is a very busy person, I kept the questions to a minimum and focused on self-publishing.

I first met Linda Nagata in 2012 while attending Launch Pad, an intense one-week course on astronomy and astronomical science held yearly in Laramie at the University of Wyoming. Ever since then, I’ve stayed in touch with her via Twitter and email. I was pleased to spend some time with her earlier this year at the World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) which was held in Spokane, Washington. I had the honor of sharing my first-ever panel with her during that convention.

I decided to interview Linda for my blog because she has managed to gracefully straddle the line between being traditionally published and self-published. She began her writing career as a traditionally published author. After a long break, she decided to publish her back-stories as well as her new ones as a self-published author. Her novel The Red – First Light is the first self-published novel to be nominated for the Nebula award as well as the John W. Campbell Memorial award. Following the nomination, she was contacted by her old agent and successfully negotiated a contract for the entire Red trilogy (The Red, The Trials, and Going Dark) with Saga Press.

She currently lives on the island of Maui. For more information concerning Linda, please visit her website. The following interview was conducted via email.


You were a traditionally published author, what made you decide to self-publish your next major novel when you began writing again?

I had lots of reasons to self-publish The Red. First, I’d already self-published other novels, most recently, two fantasy novels--the Puzzle Land books—and I enjoyed all phases of the process. I loved the control self-publishing gave me. Being responsible for every aspect of a book means you have no one else to blame when things go wrong, but it also means you’re in a position to correct mistakes when they happen. And they do happen, in both self and traditional publishing.

Another great perk of self-publishing was that I didn’t have to wait on anyone else’s schedule—and schedule was important to me. It had been ten years since my last major science fiction novel, and I didn’t want to wait another year, more likely two, to see The Red in print.

So impatience was one factor in my decision, but there were others. I’d been listening to grumblings out of the traditional field and I kept hearing that typical advances were terribly low, and that publishers were supposedly hesitant to publish science fiction by women. The Red is high-tech, military, hard science fiction, by me...a woman, writing under a woman’s name, with no military background. I thought I could probably sell it, but I couldn’t see it snagging a big advance, and I wasn’t willing to take a small one. So I figured, “Why waste time waiting on an offer that I’ll turn down anyway?” And I published it myself.

If “The Red – First Light” had not been nominated for a Nebula award, do you think you would still be totally self-published?

If we’re talking only about novels, then yes. I think most readers don’t pay a lot of attention to award nominations, but agents and editors do. And the Nebula nomination gave The Red enough credibility that editors were interested, and my agent was able to get me a good offer on the trilogy in just a few weeks. If I hadn’t gotten that offer, I would have self-published the other two books in the trilogy. I was literally a week away from releasing the second book when I was asked to hold off, pending the outcome of the auction.

But novels are only part of the market. Then, and now, my short fiction continues to be traditionally published. And looking ahead? I’ll probably be self-publishing a collection of recent short fiction sometime in 2016.

You managed to negotiate what is, in my mind, a unique and rare contract with Saga Press. With the signing of the contract, you are now officially both traditionally published and self-published because you’ve managed to retain the UK rights to the Red series. In your opinion, do you think these types of contracts will become more common or did your past influence the type of contract you were able to negotiate?

Well, first, I didn’t negotiate the contract. That was my agent, Howard Morhaim—and he’s done a terrific job. But historically, it was very common to retain UK rights when selling to an American publisher. Every traditional contract I ever had did just that. These days I think it’s increasingly common to sell world rights, but I don’t think that retaining UK rights is unusual. At any rate, we shopped the trilogy among UK publishers, but the offers were disappointing. So I decided to publish on my own in the UK market. Having the option to do that is simply revolutionary. But will the practice become more common? I don’t know. It’s certainly easier to sell world rights and not to have the worry of putting the book out on your own in a limited market, but for me, it’s been utterly worthwhile to do so.

There are pros and cons to both traditional publication and self-publication. Having experienced both sides of the publishing industry, do you have any advice for an author who is on the fence as to how to publish their first novel?

I try to refrain from giving advice like that. Everyone is going to have to find their own path, and the question itself isn’t really fair, because it assumes you have a choice. A better question might be: Can you sell your first novel to a traditional publisher? The cold hard truth is that, for most of us, the answer is “no.” But even if you believe you can, do you want to? And if you do want to, how much time and effort and angst are you willing to invest in the process of seeking an offer? And if you do get an offer, what is the minimum you will agree to? (Not just the advance, but the other terms as well.)

Some writers will do very, very well going traditional. Others will have their hearts broken by the process, and will never have a good thing to say about the traditional market. So the only advice I will give is to make sure you know your options, seek current evaluations of self versus traditional because the industry changes all the time, understand your contracts, and never sell yourself short.


Here is the email I received from Scrivener support containing the steps necessary to get Scrivener to display properly on my Microsoft Surface Book: 

Unfortunately, Scrivener for Windows is not yet optimised for high-resolution displays, although this is something that we hope to address in a future major upgrade. I'm afraid we can't be more specific about the timescale for this, other than to say that the developers are working on it. I believe that the problem stems from the way in which Microsoft has implemented scaling in Windows for high-resolution displays, which requires applications to be rewritten extensively at a low level in the code to accommodate the mechanism used.

In the meantime, please refer to the following article for advice on a workaround: <https://scrivener.tenderapp.com/help/kb/windows-troubleshooting/scaling-on-hidpi-displays>.