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Submission Guidelines for The Backstory

The Backstory is a guest blog open to all independent artists who would like to use the space to share the vision behind their latest project. Think of your ‘backstory’ as a prologue; it can describe the events or the inspiration that guided you, the germ of your idea, or any other salient facts or stories about your journey from initial thought to completed creation. It can be all those things thrown together, but the key is not to sound like a press release or a blurb, or even to reproduce something that can be found elsewhere on your Web site or blog. Have fun with it, find the best angle to explain your project, and keep it between 400 to 1000 words. Links and relevant Web sites for your project can be added at the end of your guest post.

It’s similar to “The Big Idea” on science-fiction writer John Scalzi’s blog, Whatever, but for independent artists of any persuasion. Feel free to check out his guest posts, and the backstory entry that Anne-Marie wrote for guidance and examples. We also have more specific guidelines below.

We will publish The Backstory on Sundays when we have submissions available. You can submit yours to We will review your submission, and confirm the date of publication with you once we accept your post. We look forward to hearing from you, and feel free to email us if you have further questions or concerns.

Anne-Marie Klein
Austin Ziegler

Writing and Submitting Your Backstory

In order to make the process easier for everyone, we’ve come up with some points that will help us handle Backstory submissions easier and faster. Just as we have acknowledged John Scalzi’s influence on the Backstory, so have two of his posts (How to Write a Big Idea and The Big Idea: Open Call to Publicists, Editors, and Authors) helped us form our guidelines below. If you follow his guidelines for the Big Idea, you’ll be doing pretty well for The Backstory.

  1. The Backstory is open to independent artists promoting a work that is currently available for sale, or will be available for sale at the time of publication of the guest post. By independent artist, we mean anyone who is making the work available through non-traditional means. By and large, this means that you’re self-publishing your work—but we’re certainly willing to consider your work if you consider yourself independent and convince us with your submission.

  2. Your Backstory is about the journey you took as an artist—photographer, writer, musician, or any other sort of art—to create the work you’re presenting. What about your experience will make it so that people who read your Backstory will want to buy your work?

  3. Your Backstory isn’t a press release—it’s a chance to connect with your fans and soon-to-be fans. This isn’t what you write for your Amazon listing.

  4. When you’ve written your Backstory, read it. If you find it interesting (and maybe learned something about yourself in the process), then there’s a good chance that other people who read it will find it interesting.

  5. Your Backstory should be about 400–1,000 words, but should be the appropriate “just so” length to tell your journey. Comments on each Backstory entry will be open (but moderated) until the next Backstory is posted (or one week, whichever is shorter).

  6. Please make sure your Backstory is fairly clean. We both have day jobs and Anne-Marie is working on the next installment of Behind Blue Eyes, so we won’t always have time to perform a heavy review on your entry. We will read every submission and make sure that it’s a fit; if we think your entry needs work, we will send it back to you with comments. If we don’t think that it’s a fit, we will let you know.

  7. Send us your Backstory as plain text, HTML, or Markdown—no word processor documents or PDF files, please. We also need:

    • A good-sized image representative of your work to display with the post; a 400x600 JPG or PNG works very nicely. Visual artists may place a tasteful watermark over the image.
    • Links to where your work can be purchased. We will not insert our affiliate information to these links; please do not add your own if you have them.
    • Links to your blog, Twitter account, and/or Facebook page.
    • An electronic copy of your work for us to review.

From a copyright perspective, your submission remains entirely your copyright. You are providing us a non-exclusive licence to publish your submission and the associated image in perpetuity; we promise that it will only be published in this blog under the Backstory category.


The Backstory: Behind Blue Eyes

It all began for me in December of 1978 with the purchase of a record album called ‘Who’s Next’. I had just turned 16, the Who had lost Keith Moon a few months before, and I was continuing my discovery of this band by buying some of its older catalogue. I can’t say now, 34 years later, what it was that drew me to the song ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ except that beyond the stunning melody were powerful lyrcis that stirred the storyteller in me to dare a different dream than wanting to write an even better song. There was a sympathetic quality to the idea of a sad man who thinks of himself as a bad man, and who is fated to telling his lies, and so my young, troubled, and imaginary Ian Harrington was born.

From my love of rock and roll, he became a musician, and from my crush on my hometown and all things English, he would come to Toronto from his native London. Both his transplanted roots as well as his talents with a guitar and a pen would be central to his story. So too would the deep conflicts inside him that I lifted from the anguished lyrics in Pete Townshend’s beautiful song, and the seeds for what would become a 4-part book series were sown.

While I often describe ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ as rock and roll novels, the books are primarily also about enduring love stories. There is the great camaderie of being in a band together, where through thick and thin, members become a family, and the power of young romantic love that endures the many obstacles thrown in its path as the band pursues the roller coaster ride towards fame and fortune.

There is, too, what I call a prolonged love letter to my Toronto of the late 70s and early 80s in the first two books, a special time and place of my own coming of age which I have tried to evoke with its particular sounds, smells and sights as the story of Ian and his band evolves.

Finally, this book is about my neverending love affair with what is now commonly defined as “classic rock”. For those of us who were teenagers and young adults in the late 70s and early 80s, the proliferation of great rock bands to follow like The Who, Queen, Genesis, Supertramp, and Pink Floyd, just to name but a few, were more than just a nostalgic soundtrack to our lives. They were powerful voices of rebellion, of exploration, and of hope, songwriters who had given us pieces whose words and melodies shaped our view of the world, inspired us to greatness, and sometimes saved us. It is with the recollection of that time when the concept album was an art from cover to vinyl that I went back to tell this story of a sad man who, like the rest of us, grew up and made  his way out into the world.

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