Annabeth Leong: Never forget your commitment to writing. This is why I prefer the word "writer" over "author." It sounds obvious, but there are plenty of times I spend hours tracking down calls for submission, doing promo and maintaining my online presence, or passing proofs back and forth with a publisher. When I finally sit down and write for ten minutes, I think, "Wait a minute! I like doing this!"
There are so many forces pulling a writer away from actually writing. But it's the essence of what we're trying to do — the verb to the noun. Love for the act of writing is why I got into all this in the first place. The act of writing is also the only part of the process that's under my control. I can't make people buy my book, but no one can stop me from getting down another 100 words.
Q: What do you look for in a publisher?
Annabeth Leong: My partner is very data-oriented. We sat down recently and ranked the publishers I work with and know about according to four criteria: how well they pay, the quality of the work they put out, how much I like to read what they publish, and the quality of my relationship with the people there.
I work with plenty of publishers who don't score high in all four criteria. How much I like to read their books will often trump other considerations for me. But organizing my impressions this way helped me get away from some publishers that weren't productive for me to pursue.
Q: What makes an editor great or...not so great?
Annabeth Leong: A great editor can give heavy criticism that still inspires. This person is operating in deep service of the story and the writer's vision, and communicates this clearly. When I am dealing with edits from someone like this, I have the sensation of puzzle pieces coming together, no matter how difficult or arduous the edits actually are.
A not so great editor leaves me feeling flattened and shamed, usually by taking on a punishing tone. Even trivial edits with this tone can kill the joy of a piece for me.
Q: Do you have a preference for short stories or longer works?
Annabeth Leong: I love to read and write short stories. I mostly buy anthologies and they're mostly what I write for also. I like that short pieces are self-contained, and that I can burn through a diverse collection of reading and writing in a manageable period of time. I feel it would be better for my career to break myself of this — novelists seem to have a better chance of achieving self-supporting income levels. But I struggle to leave my love behind, and even the stand-alone work I have published would more properly be called novellas than novels.
Q: Do you find yourself writing for the market and not for YOU, or self-censoring in any way?
Annabeth Leong: I definitely self-censor. I had to dip my toes into erotica bit by bit — I am a deeply kinky person, but it was hard for me to reveal that as a writer. I would be reading extreme blood play lesbian BDSM, and then publish a vanilla story about a straight married couple. I have started to get into more of my true kinks recently, but I have to say that what has been happening with PayPal and censorship on book-selling sites has had a chilling effect on me. I wish I were brave enough to be on the front lines of this issue, but I have struggled a long time being comfortable with my own reading preferences in private — I have been edging into this, but find it difficult to take a stand in an already embattled situation.
That said, one of the things I admire about Donuts and Desires is that you have really taken this on. I hope you sell millions of copies of your lesbian anal fetish erotica.
I admire publishers who publish without fear, and I mourn the loss of those who have decided to back off or shut their doors. Republica Press's closure, for example, is a big loss — they carried Remittance Girl's excellent nonconsensual story, Gaijin, among other things. We've also lost Freaky Fountain Press, and Pink Flamingo has backed off some of the subject areas it used to cover. I'm not privy to all the reasons that publishers on the vanguard of freedom of speech have been dropping lately, but I can't imagine the current climate has been helping things.
There are others still out there — such as Forbidden Fiction, one of my publishers — but I am almost afraid at this point to name them for fear that I will inadvertently invoke the wrath of PayPal.
Q: Any promo tips for fellow authors?
Annabeth Leong: I haven't sold boatloads of copies of anything myself, so take what I say with a grain of salt. But I have observed a frantic attitude about promotion that I don't think is helping anyone. Some of the things writers are being told to do for promotion may not make sense for everyone, depending on the work or the stage of the career. For example, people are told to do giveaways, and it definitely works for some people. But I have also seen authors doing giveaways with no sign that it is widening their audience or causing anyone to buy the book who wouldn't have already. Publishing is changing, and there are no magic formulas. I think writers should stop and think about how their promotion time and money are best spent.
The Snake and the Lyre
an F/F and other short by Annabeth Leong
Published by Forbidden Fiction
Eurydice longs to marry Orpheus, but his self-centered love for his music blinds him to her sensuality. A cruel Naiad seduces and kills Eurydice, unleashing the full hunger of her desire. When Orpheus braves the Underworld to save his lost Eurydice, can he pull his bride away from its depraved pleasures?