Friday, December 9, 2011

Interview with Dianna Gunn on Community Fridays

I'm thrilled to be bringing Community Fridays back to my blog!

During Community Fridays, I interview authors, editors, publishers, and pretty much anyone else who I can get my hands on from the writing and publishing community. Hope you enjoy, and feel free to suggest new participants. Check out current and past interviews here. Only have a minute? Click here for interviews at a glance.

Today's guest is Dianna Gunn, an intern at the speculative fiction emagazine Penumbra, and also a writer and blogger. Stay tuned for promotion ideas for writers and tips about getting published in e-magazines.

You're working as an intern at Penumbra eMagazine, which publishes speculative fiction. Tell us a little about the magazine's focus, and how it's different than some of the others available.

First off, Penumbra is an eMagazine. Running everything online means we have a pretty low overhead compared to other magazines in the same genre, so we can afford to sell Penumbra for less without sacrificing the authors' pay. Second off, we pay our authors the professional rate of five cents per word. There are only a handful of other magazines that pay the professional rate for stories. So when you buy from us, you know you're not just supporting Penumbra--you're supporting the authors you love.

I would have loved to have an internship at a speculative fiction magazine as a student! For people interested in the same thing, how did you get the internship? What are your duties? What do you suggest to others who want to follow the same path?

Well, I happened upon the Penumbra site while looking for markets. Unfortunately, the story I was trying to market is too long for Penumbra at the moment, but I sent an email to Celina Summers, our editorial director, asking for an internship. I think it was really just about sending the right email at the right time, but I also made a point of including a link to my blog and checking my spelling very thoroughly.

As for my duties, there are lots of them. I started out reading submissions for Musa, our parent house, and then in October, the interns from all the departments of Musa were made into a team and given the job of putting the December issue of Penumbra together. We were given a raw story file and it was up to us to make all the decisions. We decided what our colour scheme was going to be, what order the stories were going to go in and where to put the ads. We were also given a challenge to get 500 subscribers for the eMagazine by January first, and we created the subscription offer--the first two issues free with all one year subscriptions.

Other than putting the eMagazine together, I've been working on marketing Penumbra by looking for blogs willing to write articles about us or who might interview me or Celina, our Editorial Director. I've also taken over the Penumbra blog, and that consists mostly of emailing authors for guest posts.

For anyone who wants to do what I do, just look at the employment page of every publisher you visit. If they don't have one, they don't want you. If they do, they're probably looking for interns. Write up a friendly email, try to find the name of the person your email will end up with, and include a link to your blog. Show your excitement and interest. I think as long as they can tell that you're genuinely interested, you've got a good shot.

Part of your work includes promoting Penumbra online. What have you learned from your experiences in this realm? Do you have a couple of tips that can help writers promote their own work?

I've learned that marketing is exhausting. No, seriously. I've sent out at least thirty emails and gotten responses to four or five, and I feel like that's pretty typical. Marketing a magazine is in some ways harder than marketing a book, too--most places won't review it. But I think the biggest thing I've learned is that it really is important to make the connections before you have the product. Most of the responses I've gotten from people who actually want to promote us are from authors I've interviewed on my blog in the past or otherwise communicated with.

The lesson? Make friends. Spend time online. Interview authors on your blog. The connections will serve you well when you actually have a book or magazine to market.

Speaking of tips, any insider tips on what makes a magazine interested in a writer's stories? Are there any ways in which submitting to a speculative fiction genre magazine is different than submitting for different genres?

Well, I haven't had too much to do with the submissions at Penumbra--as I mentioned earlier, I did some slush reading for Musa, but I've only seen stories that were either finalists or already selected for Penumbra-- but I can tell you that what you really want is something that will tie into people's memories. Stories which face issues that are close to all of our hearts like death and marriage are more likely to be remembered. You don't need to have a really shocking ending to be memorable, it just has to fit and work with the theme.

Any personal projects that you'd like to share?

Well, I blog about writing at Dianna's Writing Den. I've got one short story out on submission right now and I'm working on two different novels in very different stages. None of my fiction is published yet, but I hope you will follow my blog so that you can find out when it is.

Lastly, because this feature is about establishing bonds within the writing and publishing industries, can you name one author, editor, publisher, etc. who's doing great things right now, and why?

Um... we are! No, seriously. Musa is absolutely fantastic because we involve our authors in every part of the publishing process and we're very transparent about everything. We even allow them to access their own royalty statements without any fudging of numbers.

Another great company is MuseItUp, which is a Canadian ebook company--I've got some Canadian pride--and it's run by Lea Schizas, who also runs the Muse Online Writer's Conference. It's by a writer for writers, and I think that's really cool.

Thanks for having me!
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