Reality Skimming
30Jan/13Off

Interview with Doug Smith

Doug Smith

"Doug Smith is, quite simply, the finest short-story writer Canada has ever produced in the science fiction and fantasy genres, and he's also the most prolific. His stories are a treasure trove of riches that will touch your heart while making you think."

Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo Award-winning author of Hominids and FlashForward.

Douglas Smith is an award-winning Canadian author of speculative fiction, with over a hundred short story publications in thirty countries and two dozen languages.

His collections include Chimerascope (2010) and Impossibilia (2008), as well as the translated fantasy collection, La Danse des Esprits (France, 2011). His first novel, The Wolf at the End of the World, will be released in 2013.

Doug has twice won Canada's Aurora Award, and has been a finalist for the international John W. Campbell Award, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Bookies Award, Canada's juried Sunburst Award, and France's juried Prix Masterton and Prix Bob Morane.

A multi-award winning film based on Doug's story "By Her Hand, She Draws You Down" will be released on DVD this year, and other films based on his stories are in the works. Doug's website is smithwriter.com and he tweets at twitter.com/smithwritr.

Interviewed by Tegan Lott

What originally brought forth your idea for your "Foreign Market List"?

I honestly can't remember how long I've had the FML up and running, but it would have started around 2000. I was selling my short fiction regularly by then and was also selling some reprints. Somewhere I came across a reference to a German anthology series that was looking for stories, including stories originally published in English, which would be translated at no cost. I sent them two stories, which they accepted for two separate anthologies, one SF and one fantasy

This got me interested in foreign language markets for my stories, so I started to research how many might be out there. The industry magazine, Locus, ran articles periodically reporting on the current state of science fiction and fantasy in other countries, and these articles often mentioned local short fiction markets in those countries. From there and from Google, I gradually built a list of the various non-English short fiction genre markets around the world.

Since I found it useful, I assumed that other writers might as well. I was also looking for something to add some extra value to my website, so once the list grew to a sizeable number of markets, I added it as a feature to my site. Having it on the website also brings the advantage that writers and editors regularly provide me with updates, additions, corrections to the information on the FML, so everyone gains since the list is kept as current and accurate as possible, thanks to all the various interested parties.

How does this "Foreign Market List" work? What, in your eyes is it achieving?

I'll answer the second question first. When considering potential markets for short fiction, most writers overlook the many non-English language genre magazines and anthologies published around the world. The list helps them find those markets and sell to them.

If you're a writer, perhaps you're wondering why you'd want to submit to a market that publishes in a foreign language, especially if you can’t read that language. Well, foreign short fiction sales bring multiple benefits to a writer.

First, it simply can't hurt your public profile to have your work published in thirty languages and two dozen countries (my personal total). This exposure broadens your audience of readers. If you write novels as well as short fiction (or plan to), a resume of short story sales in non-English markets can assist in foreign rights sales for your longer work, as can the relationships and contacts that you'll build with foreign publishers, editors, translators, and illustrators.

As an example of this, when I began the FML, I sold a number of stories to a dark fantasy magazine, Ténèbres, in France. The editor, Benoit Domis, told me that one day he would like to publish a translated collection of my fantasy stories. This finally came about in 2011 when he formed his own small press, Dreampress, and published my collection, La Danse des Esprits. That collection was a finalist for France's juried Prix Masterton and Prix Bob Morane earlier this year.

One of my Aurora Award wins also came directly from submitting to Ténèbres, as I was able to submit the translation of my story "Spirit Dance" to the fine French-Canadian magazine, Solaris, which only accepts stories in French.

And, of course, anything you make from these sales is found money. Yes, you'll generally get less for foreign reprints than you did for selling first rights to a professional English market, but remember that you can sell your reprints in multiple languages. My foreign language sales have ranged from $30 to $300 per story, averaging about $100 per sale – so with sales to several foreign markets, you can easily pick up an additional few hundred dollars per story.

Also, if you're a beginning writer, there's the fun factor--the chance to see your name alongside of some of the biggest names in fiction. Even when I was starting out writing short fiction, my foreign language sales let my name appear with the likes of Steven King, Neil Gaiman, Larry Niven, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Mike Resnick, Tanith Lee, Neal Stephenson, Orson Scott Card, Frank Herbert, not to mention James Branch Cabell and H.P. Lovecraft. Plus, as an added bonus, many foreign magazines will also include beautiful illustrations for your story that you won't get in even the pro English markets and which make a great visual addition to your website.

As for how the FML works, it's pretty straightforward. The FML lists over seventy active markets in thirty countries, arranged by country, with a country index. Each market contains information such as their website, editor and contact information, pay rates, what types of fiction they publish, preferred word lengths, and submission instructions.

I also include a suggested strategy as part of the FML site, advising writes on how to choose a market and also how to choose what they submit to these markets.

Here are the rules that I follow:

Rule 1: Never submit a story to a foreign language market until you have first sold it to an English-language market.

Many of the top English genre fiction markets have foreign language editions or will ask for an option on foreign language rights. Selling a story to a non-English market first could jeopardize a more prestigious and lucrative English first-rights sale. In addition, it’s a lot easier to sell to a foreign language market if your story has the credentials of a major English market.

So that means you are looking for non-English markets that will accept reprints of stories that have appeared in an English market somewhere in the world. That immediately limits your choices.

Rule 2: You are looking for markets that will accept unsolicited submissions.

Although most foreign language magazines publish reprints from English markets, many select those stories themselves from a review of the top magazines such as Asimovs' or the Magazine of F&SF, after which they will approach the author or editor directly. Alternatively, some foreign markets have an agreement with the top NA magazines to reprint selected stories (which is why some top English pro markets purchase foreign language rights). Regardless, these markets don’t accept direct submissions from an author. You may still end up with your story in these magazines, but you have no control over the decision, beyond writing a great story and selling it to a top English market.

Rule 3: Unless you are multi-lingual, you are looking for markets that accept submissions in English and will translate your story at no cost to you.

In my experience, any market that accepts submissions in English will translate at no cost. Some markets, however, will accept reprints and unsolicited submissions (rules 1 and 2), but only in the language of the magazine.

So the above discussion leads us to my definition of a valid foreign language market:

A market that accepts unsolicited submissions in English of stories that first appeared in English language markets, and translates them at no cost to the author.

The FML makes it easy to identify valid markets, by flagging them as follows:

  • $$$ – Confirmed valid market (paying)
  • YES – Confirmed valid market (no pay or pays in copies)

The FML also includes "non-valid" markets (so you don't waste time submitting to a market that you may have heard of) as follows:

  • NO – Market exists but does NOT accept unsolicited subs in English
  • DEAD – Dead market
  • ??? – Market under investigation or questionable

Most of these markets take submissions by email, but writers should check the market's FML entry for how to attach their story (text in body, type of file attachment, etc.), and they should follow the same rules as when submitting to an English market in a foreign country: proper manuscript format, cover letter or email, and for postal submissions, an SAE with two IRC’s. Some of the markets that only take postal submissions will at least reply via email, so you can save on those expensive IRC’s. Payment is generally in USD or in Euros for most of these markets, and many of the paying markets now provide a PayPal option.

However, selling to foreign markets does come with some problems. Payment logistics can sometimes be challenging. Some markets will pay only in local currency or via bank transfer, both of which involve banking fees. Some of the larger markets require the author to submit an invoice to their payables department before they'll issue a cheque (a cheque usually drawn on a foreign bank, which is not easy to cash even in a large North American city). Some will also deduct a local income tax withholding amount from the payment.

Response times can also be very long. But remember that you can submit simultaneously to several of these markets since the rights that they purchase are specific to their language and don’t conflict with other foreign markets. In addition, most will respond to email queries regarding the status of your submission.

Communication with the editor can also sometimes be challenging. Many of these editors have excellent written English skills, but some do not. However, in most of the latter cases, the magazine will employ a foreign language acquisition editor, so these difficulties tend to be the exception.

Language can also be a barrier to staying current with any of these markets. The FML includes links to the web sites for most of the magazines, but these sites are generally not in English. Fortunately, I receive regular updates from many of the editors or from submitting authors regarding changes in a foreign language market, and then post these to the FML.

Remember also that these markets face the same challenge in staying alive as do English language genre magazines. Many (even the paying ones) are run on a for-the-love basis, so production schedules can vary wildly, as can the time frame for receiving your payment and contributor copies. And some will have short lifetimes. I've had about a dozen foreign languages sales where the story was never published because the market folded. Out of those sales, I've also unfortunately had three situations where I had to involve the SFWA grievance committee to extract payment for a published story. I've only had one situation where I was never paid, but in that case, neither were the editor or the translators.

What sort of interests/ skills do you have outside of Science Fiction and this Market List?

My wife and I live north of Toronto, and we have two grown sons and a beautiful granddaughter, all of whom are close by. I work for a large professional services firm as an IT executive, a job that requires extensive global travel, which gives me a chance to see a lot of places and cultures around the world, which I really enjoy. I'm an avid cyclist, moviegoer, reader, bridge player, and fan of all things in the Whedonverse, especially Buffy.

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