Pitching for the Black Library

Hello!! Squiggle here. With the recent official announcement of this year’s Black Library pitching window, I thought I’d drag a few thoughts together on this here blog, and save you all trekking over t’interweb. Because I am kind and thoughtful like that.

To start then, what do the official guidelines say? Well you can find them here if you want to read them for yourself.

Essentially you have two options – a short fiction sample, or a longer novel submission.

Now, if you haven’t already started your novel submission, I probably wouldn’t bother. At Black Library Live! this year, Christian Dunn admitted that in all previous years where they have accepted novel submissions from unknown authors, they have only accepted one. Like, one EVER. And that by the entertaining Josh Reynolds and even then, they got him to write a short story first!

Laurie Goulding pretty much said that they know novel submissions take a lot of work, and they didn’t want to stop accepting them this year, knowing that people may have spent a fair amount of time over the winter preparing them. From next year though, no novel submissions.

So that brings us on to the short fiction sample. This is pretty simple if I am honest. You no longer need a fully fledged idea, rather they just want a title and 500 – 1000 of your finest prose! So, no pressure then, right?

This is either a godsend, for those of us who suck at writing synopsis, or not great, as it has removed one of the way you could stand out from the crowd. That is pretty much by the by, as them’s the rules.

Nick Kyme had some pretty interesting and informative things to say about Pitching to the Black Library here and I think we would all do well to remember them.

In previous years, there has been the option to submit numerous entries, working on the assumption that one of your ideas would pique the interest of one of the editors. This year, however, the emphasis appears to be on the quality of your prose, and not just the quality, but if it is what they are looking for. You can still submit numerous entries, but given the guidelines, I am not so sure that is a good idea – I think it’s either going to work, or it isn’t, and given how stupendously competitive this window is going to be, I’d be very tempted to spend the time honing your entry into a thing of beauty rather than getting distracted with numerous ideas.

As for what to write about, well I can’t help you there. I’d echo what Nick Kyme said though – it needs to be something that you are passionate about, but equally it needs to be something that sells. That doesn’t have to mean Space Marines, but it does, in my opinion, need to be something pretty core to the universe you are writing in – be that 40k or warhammer fantasy.

Personally, I think you can do much worse than to have a look at some of the 15th anniversary 1000 word shorts currently on the Black Library website, or if 79p just sticks in your craw, get over here and download 1000 words of FREE Horus Heresy action courtesy of Mr John French. Did I mention it was FREE?

As ever on the Bolthole we will waste countless hours when we should be writing pontificating about what we could/should/would be writing about, if only we had the time etc etc, but you can find the relevant thread over here it does go on a little bit, but I promise there is some good stuff in it.

All is left then is for me to wish you luck in your endeavours. I am pretty psyched to think that the right 1000 words could make all the difference between success and failure. So, no pressure then, right!?


Heresy Cake, Batons and Drinking Games – Black Library Live! 2012

What a superb way to spend a weekend. This was my second year at Black Library Live! and if anything, 2012 was even better than 2011.

Arriving in Nottingham at 3PM on Friday, the sun was out so I took a leisurely stroll along the canal to Warhammer World.

The first person I saw was Sarah Cawkwell. Greetings were exchanged, and she showed me her Silver Skulls dreadnought – nicknamed “The Ramminator”. The weekend had officially begun!

The Ramminator!

I got lazy this year and didn’t bring any figures with me for the Friday gaming session and so after catching up with Jon, Frank, George and Ross (Schafer, Xisor, Maugan_Ra and Narrativium) I headed into the bar to grab a drink. And Mr William King came in and sat down next to me. Turns out he is a truly lovely man.

Packing List...

I lose track somewhat from there, but before too much time had passed we were all – and there were a lot of us – crammed into Bugman’s around the always-too-small tables chatting furiously about everything and everything.

Setting up on Friday

Special note at this point to Simon from the Bolthole – who arrived with his better half and a copy of the Horus Heresy card based boardgame from days of yore. Unfortunately we didn’t get time to finish playing it, mainly due to a collective failure to remember the rules, but it still took me straight back to days long forgotten.

All too soon Bugman’s was shutting up for the night and so it was back to the tatty splendour of the Riverside Travelodge – well actually the bar next door for a swift couple of beers – and bed.

Saturday dawned all too soon, and in a flash of inspiration madness we decided to walk to Warhammer World, via the beautiful Kings Lodge nature reserve. It was… soon forgotten as we queued up in the car park waiting for the doors to open. We got there about 8.25 and well, we weren’t the first people there. Nuff said.

Xisor and Schafer in queuing hilarity

At this point, Schafer owned up to being a lamb, and much fun was had at his expense. Then the doors swung opened on greased hinges and we swept into the Warhammer World in much the manner of an invading army. With less discipline.

The Massive Art that was later given away - it was sooo pretty!

However arriving super early did mean that we got the choice of the seminars to attend and got confronted with an amazing selection of books. I was fairly well disciplined, and only bought twice as many as I had intended to! The Black Library folks had gone looking under the sofa, and dug out some original copies of magazines like the Citadel Journal, and also there were a few copies of Inferno knocking around… I could have spent ALOT of money! They also had a massive selection of gorgeous art prints and posters which I was sorely tempted by.

Once I’d finished drooling and given over the hard cash, we got into Bugman’s for breakfast and tea. Mainly tea. And then it was time for the first seminar of the day “Writing for Black Library”

BIG News – the submissions system is being revamped – after last year saw Laurie Goulding literally drowning beneath 1800 submissions (of which only about 12 got accepted). This year will be the last year they accept novel submissions from “new” authors. Mainly because even authors who do get accepted via this route still are required to write short stories first, so they are simply going to cut to the chase and test people’s ability in that arena first.

The short story submissions are now going to be slimmed down to just a writing sample of between 500 and 1000 words. Again this seems to be based on their recent experiences – Laurie admits to always reading the writing sample first – and if that is of the required standard and style, he then looks at the synopsis. Ultimately, it appears they are looking for talent as they can help out with planning but they can’t teach people to write.

Anyway, if my rambling doesn’t help, all that information is going to be up on the Black Library website very soon. The submissions window opens on April 1st and closes on the 31st July, so you have plenty time to polish those ideas!

It was a really good seminar to start the day, and as ever, I felt a few ideas creeping in to the back of my brain.

Next was the Warhammer seminar – which I went to almost entirely on the basis that the four authors sitting on it – Bill King, Josh Reynolds, Sarah Cawkwell and Gav Thorpe are all entertaining and knowledgeable. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Bill, Josh, Sarah and Gav talk all things fantasy

After that, I got into the main hall, spied Ray Doherty on the art stand and caught up with what she was up to, and then got abit of signing done with Sarah Cawkwell and Rob Sanders – another genuinely lovely chap.

Rob Sanders - Ace!

The seminar on Xenos was next, but before that Schafer and I grabbed lunch. And by lunch I mean a piece of chocolate cake and a pint of Guinness – we know how to live!

The Xenos seminar was very interesting – I didn’t really know what to expect from it but we figured that would probably make it worthwhile. And it was. Andy Chambers and Rob Sanders had some pretty interesting things to say about the pros and cons of writing from the xenos perspective, which reminds me to get around to reading Path of the Renegade which sounds very, very cool.

From there we went back to the big hall to the Heresy Seminar – there was no big reveal like previous years, but as ever it was good to get the chance to fire off some questions at the authors and Christian Dunn, who did a surprisingly good job of not giving the game away. I did a bit of live tweeting during this seminar – mention of the Heresy cake, and the Heresy baton… you can tell it is an Olympic year! It was a good seminar though – I am only just about to start reading Mechanicum so I am a little bit behind, but it is reassuring to know that they are trying just as hard to keep the Heresy series as special as it was when it started.

After that, the new stuff/Q+A session with Christian, Laurie and Nick Kyme where they showed off some pretty cover art, and told us what was coming along – there are now going to be plenty of audio dramas – with one a month for the next few months at least. There is also a cool sounding novel in the works about a group of Imperial snipers trapped behind Tau lines, which I am pretty keen to read.

Christian and Laurie in the big reveal!

And to start a point I’ll get too later, someone asked how the editors enjoyed doing what they do for the Black Library – although it was slightly nauseating [sic] it was pretty cool to see just how much genuine enthusiasm they have for their job and for the products they are selling.

After that it was just time to have a look at the raffle-winners – BL gave away the massive pieces of gorgeous artwork that they had used to decorate the arena during the day. I didn’t enter, after I realised I had nowhere in my house to fit a seven foot poster of a Space Marine, but it was a nice gesture nevertheless.

I then collapsed into the welcoming softness of a Bugman’s bench, armed myself with a pint and spent the evening in arm-waving discourse with anyone who didn’t get out of the way in time, before propping up the bar in the pub next to the hotel, and then sometime later, collapsing into almost immediate sleep.

As with last year, I came away with a nice selection of books and a reignited enthusiasm for writing, and indeed all things Black Library. A lot of people say a lot of things about the Black Library, often on Facebook, but I’d advise anyone who is a fan to get hold of a ticket for next year’s Black Library Live! A nicer group of more enthusiastic people I have seldom met, and it was really nice to see a good percentage of the authors and editors hanging out in Bugman’s after the event, and really taking the time to just sit and have a beer with the fans and talk about whatever they wanted to talk about.

I had a blast, as you can tell, and whilst others may be able to give you a more thorough run down of the release schedule, and exactly what was said, I’m too busy figuring out how to fit Black Library Live! 2013 into my schedule!

Massive thanks at this point to everyone who came along from the Bolthole, and everyone from the Black Library who made the day so entertaining.

In no particular order, extra special thanks to Rob Sanders, Frank (Xisor), Christian Dunn, Sarah Cawkwell, Jeff and Kay Preston, Simon (Bod) and Serenita (sorry, probly spelt your name wrong), Gav Thorpe, Josh Reynolds, Jon Schafer, Ross O’Brien, Bill King, Raye Doherty, Ragnar Karlson, George (Maugan Ra), Ryan (MajorRawne), George Stirling, Marc Collins, Ben Cawkwell, Andy Chambers and loads more people who my tired brain is failing to remember!

Until next year!!

Simon (squiggle)

Black Library Live 2012

The countdown has begun folks. Starting tomorrow, and in some cases this evening itself, the Bolthole crew will begin to make its way towards Nottingham in ones and twos and threes and even fours and fives for the first official Black Library event of the year: Black Library Live, to be held on 3rd March.

Held annually at the Warhammer World GW mega-store in Nottingham, and currently in its fourth year, Black Library Live is a day-long seminar where fans can meet with their favourite authors and interact with them through Q&A sessions, various panels and book signings. This year is going to be a particularly awesome year since William King, author of the Gotrek & Felix novels for Warhammer Fantasy and the Ragnar novels for Warhammer 40,000 will be attending after a long break from all things Black Library. Additionally, this marks Sarah Cawkwell’s first year of attendance “on the other side” as she put it since she is attending as an author and not just as a fan. Several new authors have also joined Black Library since last year and many of its established authors have a great 2011 so the 2012 edition of the event is going to be big, Big, and BIG.

Authors in attendance:

  • William King
  • Graham McNeill
  • Sarah Cawkwell
  • Rob Sanders
  • Andy Chambers
  • John French
  • Andy Smillie
  • Josh Reynolds
  • Gav Thorpe
  • Nick Kyme
  • Aaron Dembski-Bowden *via the magic of the interwebz*

Artists in attendance:

  • Neil Roberts
  • Karl Richardson

Of course, being a Black Library event, it also means that fans will be able to pick up some of the latest releases as well as some upcoming titles.

  • Legion of the Damned by Rob Sanders
  • Knight of the Blazing Sun by Josh Reynolds
  • Path of the Renegade by Andy Chambers
  • Iron Warriors Omnibus by Graham McNeill
  • Know No Fear by Dan Abnett
  • The Primarchs by Various
  • Dead Winter by C. L. Werner
  • Void Stalker by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
  • Eye of Vengeance by Graham McNeill
  • Gotrek & Felix Anthology by Various
  • Architect of Fate by Various
  • Phalanx by Ben Counter

And maybe more, which I’m really hoping for personally. We shall see on the day of. I’m personally hoping that Sarah Cawkwell’s Valkia the Bloody for Warhammer Fantasy and Chris Wraight’s Wrath of Iron for Warhammer 40,000 is also available. That would be just perfect. Bad for the wallet of course, but that goes with the territory.

As I mentioned, the Bolthole crew will be in full force, arriving as we are from all points of the compass: America, Austria, Scotland, all over England, Ireland, Dubai and so many other places. It is going to be quite an excitement weekend and the excitement is already running high on twitter. You can join in on the fun by using the hashtag #BLLive2012 which is what most of us are using. #BLL2012 is also being used although nowhere near as much. I suggest the former myself.

There will be a big Bolthole pre-event meetup on Friday in Bugman’s Bar, adjoining Warhammer World where there will be geekery and nerding out aplenty. Some of us will be engaging in some gaming as well, and even RPing with Fantasy Flight Games’ excellent RPGs so do come say hi and join in if you’d like. Tentative time: throughout the evening.

On the day itself, quite a few of us will be sporting special Bolthole T-shirts, because that’s just how awesome we all are. Don’t be intimidated if you spot one of the Bolthole packs around the seminar areas or in the signing queues or in the panels or what have you. We don’t bite but there are no guarantees of mischief and harmless fun not happening.

I am reliably told there will be a Bolthole BLL drinking game happening at some point. My sources say the timing is most likely to be after the event, but no hard decision has been made I don’t think.

I am also told that our friends over at The Founding Fields who are attending -Bane of Kings, EJ Daviesm Jeff Preston and myself- may be doing live-tweeting during the event. No confirmation there either I’m afraid but all the same, come over and say hi to them, if you can spot them.

That’s really it. Everyone here is excited and hopefully you are too. See you there!

EDIT: To quote dragon-overlord Tyrant “the drinking game is technically happening throughout the day, the actual drinking will probably be afterwards! “

Copies of the game sheet as below.