Voice Actor. Author. Alien. Human

2016/2017 Awards Eligibility

So here we are again - the end of another year and the beginning of another awards nomination season. 

2016 was a crazy year for so many people, including myself. So that you can sort through the tremendous amount of publications I churned out in 2016, I wanted to make a very clear, concise eligibility notice of my work for awards. Here it goes:

MECHANICAL FAILURE (Novel, Saga Press/Simon and Schuster, June 14, 2016, book-like shape with pages and words)

Yep, that’s it! 

Despite Mechanical Failure being my first novel, I am not qualified for the John W. Campbell award due to my short stories appearing in publications over the last several years. But all other awards that I’m aware of (Hugo, Nebula) are fair game as far as I know.

Okay. Back to working on books 2 and 3 of the series now. Ciao! 


Hi everyone!

I've been a bit out of touch lately gearing up for the launch as well as a billion other things going on in my multiple careers that all seemed to happen at the same time.

Can you believe MECHANICAL FAILURE launches tomorrow? I've heard reports that copies have already made their way onto shelves at Barnes and Nobles and other booksellers, so I may go roving tonight and see if I can't sign some stock.

If you are in the Los Angeles area, you are cordially invited to attend my launch party, tomorrow, June 14th, at Barnes and Noble in Santa Monica. The address is 1201 3rd Street and the event starts at 7 PM. I expect it to last about an hour, perhaps a little longer. 

We will be having a tweeting/instagram contest, so bring your phones to take pictures! You could win a FREE COPY of the audiobook and some other stuff I've got planned.

The event hashtag is #MechanicalFailure. You can of course tweet straight at me on Twitter, too. 

If you still want to get your hands on a copy of the book but won't be at the launch party, you can order it here: http://amzn.to/1PpBOPd

I am SO EXCITED to get some humorous Sci-Fi out there in the world. I hope you can join me tomorrow! Please keep your eyeballs on the events list for a signing near you.

[EXPLETIVE!] (you'll get that joke tomorrow)

MECHANICAL FAILURE Voiceover Mad Libs Contest Extended

Hi everyone!

I've gotten some amazing responses on the Mechanical Failure Voiceover Mad Libs contest. So much so that I'm extending it for one more week!

If you're not familiar, head back to the original blog post for the rules and prizes, as well as links to how to submit your entry! Don't forget that by pre-ordering your book and tweeting with the #MechanicalFailure hashtag (and including my name so I can see it, @JoeZieja) you're eligible to submit in BOTH categories.

The entries I've already produced are up in full here but here are a couple samples embedded in the post below.

CONTEST ENDS MAY 24th. Winners will be announced by Friday that week.

Come join the fun!

MECHANICAL FAILURE Contest: Voiceover Mad Libs!

UPDATE! Everyone is having so much fun that I'm extending the contest. You can see current submissions here.


Hi everyone! I'm still super excited about my role as Fox McCloud, but I'm switching gears here for a minute. We have less than 45 days until the debut of my novel, MECHANICAL FAILURE. To celebrate and promote the release, we're merging the two major career paths of my life - voiceover and writing - to create what I'm calling the "Voiceover Mad Libs" contest. Since I'm a military veteran, we'll go ahead and create the acronym VML for brevity's sake.

Here are the basics of the VML contest. YOU, my readers, get to fill in the blanks of one of two different voiceover scripts that I've created - a romantic comedy trailer or an infomercial. I will actually get in the booth and record and produce them to make them sound like ACTUAL voiceover spots, and then publish them to a page on SoundCloud for everyone to listen, download and laugh. You will get an actual produced copy of your spot if you enter. 

What will they sound like? AWESOME.

Here is a sample of the TRAILER spot. 

Here is a sample of the INFOMERCIAL spot. 

After two weeks, I'll close entries and me and my team of lab rats and minions (it'll pretty much be me and my agent Sam) will decide on the funniest entry, one for the TRAILER category and one for the INFOMERCIAL category. No purchase is required for a single entry.

Prizes will be awarded as follows:

1st Place: Signed hardback copy of MECHANICAL FAILURE and I will professionally narrate your voicemail message in any requested style or character in my repertoire. You write the script!

2nd Place: My literary agent, Sam Morgan, will read and critique a short excerpt of one of your novels. If you don't write, he will critique a picture of your face. If you don't have a face, I will professionally narrate your voicemail message in any requested style or character in my repertoire.

3rd Place: A free e-book of MECHANICAL FAILURE to read or give as a gift, and I will professionally narrate your failure to achieve first or second place.

BUT I AM HILARIOUS AND WANT TO SUBMIT ONE SCRIPT IN EACH CATEGORY you say? Well, you can do that if you pre-order a copy of MECHANICAL FAILURE and tweet a screenshot of your order to @JoeZieja with the #MechanicalFailure hashtag. Once we see that, I'll go ahead and read both of your submissions. A Twitter follow and a Facebook like wouldn't hurt, either. Also cookies (oatmeal raisin gets your entry deleted though so choose wisely).

What are you waiting for? Enter now via the typeforms below!

Click here to submit your TRAILER script.

Click here to submit your INFOMERCIAL script.

Click here for a FREE, EARLY copy of MECHANICAL FAILURE! 

*** A couple of notes before you go. First, if the spot doesn't conform to reasonable language standards or length of phrasing, I reserve the right to edit it. Feel free to include profanity, but it MAY get censored. Honestly, sometimes it's funnier when it gets beeped out. But when writing your entry, try to conform to standards of common decency.***

MECHANICAL FAILURE Gets A Narrator - And Other News

Hello readers! As we near the end of March and the beginning of April, that means we're looking at just a few months until MECHANICAL FAILURE hits the shelves. I thought I'd give a little update as to how the trilogy is coming and what you can expect over the next couple of months.


First, the book itself. ALL EDITS ARE DONE! WOO! This means the book is in its final written form and no other edits will be made. Soon I will have shiny galley copies in my grubby little hands. If you host a reputable review site, and would like an early copy for review, please contact me.

Second - and here's that announcement - we've sold the audio rights of MECHANICAL FAILURE to Tantor books! That means that an audio version of the book will release simultaneously with the version that has actual visible words. And here's the fun part: I've also been hired as the narrator! In an inception-like moment, we sold the audio rights to my own book and then hired myself as a narrator. I'm not even sure what tense to put any of those verbs in. The point is, I've already started some recording and I am having tremendous amounts of fun. Tantor has given me creative license to do some really fun things with the book that just make me giggle with delight. I hope you will too!

Oh, and we've also sold the audio rights to the next TWO books to Tantor as well.

Speaking of next books, book 2, COMMUNICATION FAILURE, is sitting on my editor's desk waiting for consumption. Yep, that's right. I already wrote the second book. I'll be waiting to start the first draft of book 3 until I get some solid feedback from my editor at Saga, just in case he lights it on fire and tells me to start from scratch. These things happen.

In the meantime, I've got to start getting geared up for MECHANICAL FAILURE's release, which is happening in like two months and change. That's ridiculously exciting. Soon I'll be starting to plan my book tour, most of which is going to happen in the greater Los Angeles area. I do plan on making stops all along the west coast, from Portland and Seattle to Buenos Aires. Maybe not Buenos Aires. That'd be cool as hell though.

Stay tuned to my Facebook and Twitter for news on upcoming events, guest blog posts, and more!

The (My) Path To Publishing

Since I've made the announcement about selling MECHANICAL FAILURE, I've had a bunch of people ask me how to get their novel on the shelf at the local Barnes and Noble.

Let's be honest; there are thousands upon thousands of articles out there on the interwebs on how to get your novel published. At the risk of being redundant, I'm going to try to break down my own personal journey into five phases (I hate the word "steps" because it implies a non-iterative, linear process) that got me here. Just remember that this was my journey. I know many authors that came about this in different ways. Take this for what it is: a personal story, and not a prescription.

And because I've been in the military, I'll give all my phases operational code names. I haven't gotten to do that in a while and it's kind of fun.

1. Operation WRITE, DAMN YOU

A lot of people don't give this step enough attention for a couple of reasons. First, it's hard. Second, it's hard. Third, it's also difficult. Writing takes a long time, a lot of trial and error, and, actually, a lot of reading as well. If you're not consuming literature, or at least reading books on writing, you run the risk of writing things that are not very good. But the main point is that you might have to produce an awful lot of words before any of them are worth reading. David Farland, a renowned writing teacher and author, asserts that you must write a million words before you write anything good.  That will take you time. START NOW.

To further bust the myth that publishing just happens, here's what I did. For me, between 2010 and 2015, I wrote 6 novels and about 40 short stories (about 15 of which were sold to semi-pro/pro markets). I sometimes used NaNoWriMo as a jumping-off point, but for the most part I just wrote as much as I physically could, to the tune of - wait for it - 1,005,972 words before I wrote the first word of MECHANICAL FAILURE. Weird, right? According to the aforementioned urban legend, I'm 5,972 words crappier than average. Awesome.


I am of the firm belief that art is pointless if done in a vacuum. I mean, all those tubes and all of that suction really make it hard to see whatever you're doing, never mind concentrate with all of the noise going on.

Do you see why I sold a humor book?

Anyway, I meant what I said. Art is a form of deep communication; in order for it to "work" you need to communicate with someone. This comes in many forms, but at first you need to have people read your work. They need to be people whose tastes you trust and whose opinions you value. Your mom does not count unless she is a literary agent or editor and is also mean. You can join a writing group or pawn off your work to a book club and discuss. Be prepared to reciprocate; nobody wanted to read my crappy 150,000 word novel unless I read their crappy 150,000 word novel in the attempt to make them both less crappy.

How did this go for me? I was in an online writing group for a while, met a couple of people whose opinions I trusted, and broke off from that group, keeping those relationships I had fostered. I found fans of SF/F in the air force unit I was in and asked if they'd mind reading it. It worked; I got lots of great feedback.

Also, get engaged with the community at large. I went to WORLDCON - the world's premier SciFi/Fantasy convention - and started talking to thought leaders, agents, and editors in the industry. Schmoozing, if you will. I weaseled my way onto a couple of panels because I was ostensibly an expert in military affairs, having been in the military, even though I hadn't published a book yet.


One of the greatest pieces of encouragement I ever got from another author when I was starting was from Myke Cole, the first professional I ever became friends with. I asked him to take a look at my novel, and he agreed. Afterwards, he encouraged me to send it to his agent, saying that "this manuscript absolutely demonstrates to anyone who reads it that Joe Zieja isn't  f$#king around."

You need to show the right person that you are not f$#king around.

Once you've got a manuscript that is probably going to win you a Hugo Award, it's time to send it out so that people can tell you it will never win a Hugo Award. The best place to start is with an agent - someone who the industry respects as a taste-leader in fiction, who will be taken seriously by editors when she/he sends them your book.

Back to my story.  The novel Myke was talking about? That was novel #4. Not MECHANICAL FAILURE. Don't get ahead of yourself yet. Publishing is about building your talent, but it's also about building your relationships. Joshua at JABberwocky Literary Agency did read the book, did see that I was serious about this, and then absolutely did not accept it for representation. Why? Because it wasn't ready.

The next book was.

But woah there. It was not so simple. You see, things always happen in ways you never expect. Did Joshua read the next book? No. Why? Because his assistant, Sam, took one look at the title and stole it from him. It was a much better fit, and you'll find that there is a lot based on "fit" in this business. Some people love stories about evil teddy bears. Some people don't. You can't please everyone.


All artistic endeavors are about learning to accept rejection gracefully and not be discouraged from continuing what you are passionate about. Even when you get the 100th rejection letter (you will get 100 rejection letters) you have to keep writing. Because when you get that agent, when they finally accept your book and say "this should be on the shelves," you know what you get to do?

Get rejected. Except this time it's by editors.

The book that JABberwocky originally snagged from me was not MECHANICAL FAILURE. It was a zany, ridiculous fantasy novel called DEATH BEAR AND THE SNUGGLE OF DOOM that I really hope you'll get to read one day. I don't think the world was ready for it. It got rejected by everyone my agent sent it to. Someone even found my house, put the manuscript on my doorstep, lit it on fire, and then rang the doorbell and dashed away.

Okay that's a lie. But that's what it felt like. It was so much worse for me personally than getting rejected by agents - now I felt like I was on the cusp of being published and continually let down (I'm purposefully not using an analogy that involves cerulean spherical objects because I am a decent, good man and I know my mother reads this blog).

While that was happening, though, I was still writing books. And editors were learning my name (see #3). And one editor, who liked my style, asked me if I had anything that, given my background, was military sci-fi with a humorous bent.

"Sure!" I said, typing furiously. "I have like, a thousand of those, but my email is down, and uh, you're breaking up *static noise*"

That was MECHANICAL FAILURE. I wrote it very quickly. He bought it.


Hahaha I'm just kidding. If you want to see some real statistics of real authors publishing real books, check out Jim Hines' blog post about his writing income and Bradley Beaulieu's post about the same.

While I'm waiting for the gold bullion to come pouring in, I'm busy marketing the hell out of my book. Selling a novel isn't the last step in the process - there's edits, copy edits, marketing, events, getting established on social media like Twitter and Facebook , and generating hype about the book. There's still a lot to be done before I can even start thinking about the next book in the series.

That brings us to today. That's my path! I hope you learned something. Feel free to reblog or ask questions in the comments section below.

Interested in seeing the fruit of my labor? Pre-order MECHANICAL FAILURE today and you get to read this blog article again at no additional cost by refreshing the page!

MECHANICAL FAILURE Official Cover Released!

Hi everyone! I'm thrilled to share with you the official book cover for MECHANICAL FAILURE, which comes out next June from Saga Press. Pre orders will open in a couple of days, and I'll be back with more on that, but for right now feast your eyes on this incredible cover by Leonardo Calamati, part of the creative team for Guardians of the Galaxy and one talented artist.

Mechanical Failure (1)I am thrilled with how it turned out and can't wait to share more details about the book with you all. There'll be a focus piece on the book coming out in the next few days at Black Gate, so stay tuned on Facebook and Twitter to find out about that when it happens.


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