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Monthly Archives: October 2013
During the SYTYCW conference, Senior Editor Linda Fildew (Harlequin Historicals), Editor Susan Litman (Special Edition) and Associate Editor Karen Reid (Harlequin Superromance) got together for a Q&A with authors about Conference Pitch Dos and Don’ts. The full transcript can be found on the Harlequin Community Forum, but here are some select points.
Q: What are some of your biggest pet peeves for in-person, conference pitches? I’m attending our chapter’s annual conference this weekend and pitching a couple of agents.
Karen: This might seem simple, but knowing who you’re pitching to, and what they might be looking for, goes a long way.
Linda Fildew: Be prepared and confident and enthusiastic about your storyline. Have some notes with you if this helps. Maybe practice with friends first to hear how the story comes across. Be concise but make sure to put all the story selling hooks in there.
Susan Litman: For me a rather big pet peeve is the author not being able to answer any questions I might ask about the story, i.e. “can you tell me more about the internal conflicts driving the characters” etc. You are the authority of your story, so you ought to be able to answer these questions. That info helps me determine whether your book is a good fit for my publishing program. And per Linda, practicing, and having friends ask you questions is a terrific way to prep. This will help you hone your pitch.
Q: Should there be an equal amount of information in the pitch about the hero as the heroine? What about secondary characters?
Linda Fildew: It’s good to know where the emotional tension will come from between your hero and heroine. I’d suggest not getting too involved with telling the secondary characters’ stories, just where they have good impact on what happens for the H/H.
Susan Litman: Yes, there should definitely be. We need to get a sense of your characters in order to get an overall sense of the story and how it fits into the targeted series or imprint. Secondary characters matter if they impact the main relationship, so use your judgment when prepping your pitch. Again, practice with friends – great tip from Linda Fildew!
Karen: Personally, I like to get a sense of the layers in both the hero and heroine, Fiona–helps me understand where they’re coming from and how they might be coming together. And as LInda pointed out, this is where the tension and conflict will come from.
Linda Fildew: Totally agree with Susan’s comment. Understand what is motivating your hero and heroine – look to give them emotional layers to create depth. Plot twists and turns are good, to keep readers guessing, but it’s the developing relationship between the H/H that will keep readers with the story.
Q: The present story I’m working on will be 3 books. Different h/h for each and a bad guy will be caught at the end of each. So do i pitch all 3 at the same time? or just the current one. Obviously not for the contest, as i only have 100 words, but for an in person pitch?
Linda Fildew: If you had created a Historical trilogy, we’d ask to see the synopsis/3 chapters of the first book and if we wanted to pursue that one then, of course, we’d be eager to see books 2 and 3.
Susan Litman: If you only have 100 words written overall, I’m not sure the project is ready to pitch, because if the editor makes a request they will want to see the project as soon as possible – and you want them to get it ASAP, while it is fresh in their mind. If you mean your pitch is only about 100 words but the project is complete (at least the first book) then you can develop it a bit further, pitch the first book and just mention that you have two connected books that you are working on. We’d probably ask to see the synopsis/first three chapters or complete for the first book, at the very least.
Q: when you write a 100 word pitch what things would grab an editors/ readers attention.
Karen: Working on Superromance, I would say you make sure to communicate in your 100 words the tension that lies between the hero and heroine and maybe the biggest conflict, the one thing that’s standing in the way of getting together! And if you have any hooks (i.e. cowboy, pregnancy, reunion) please include those .
Linda Fildew: you’ll need to focus on what the main conflict is between your hero and heroine. Are there strong story hooks you can draw upon – e.g. battle-scarred loner hero (Beauty and the Beast), wallflower heroine (Cinderella/Ugly Duckling)? These classic themes still work brilliantly for today’s readers if you can give them a fresh spin.
There are a lot more wonderful tips for the SYTYCW conference and pitching in general on our Forums. Please be sure to check them out. You can also follow @Susan_Litman, @LindaFildew, and #HarlequinHistoricals, #HarlequinSuperromance and #HarlequinSpecEdition as well as our other links.
Writing tips fly fast and furious on Twitter these days. Here’s a selection from the past few weeks…
Emily Rodmell @EmilyRodmell
Follow guidelines, but don’t worry so much about “rules” that you commit the worst violation: writing a boring book.
Emily Rodmell @EmilyRodmell
Unless your characters are professional chefs or restaurant reviewers, they shouldn’t spend half the book sitting down to a meal & talking.
Kathleen Scheibling @KScheibling
Do your eyes change color when you feel anger, passion, etc.? Because I bet they don’t. #romancecliche
Emily Rodmell @EmilyRodmell
Romance readers want a satisfying happily ever after, not a hastily ever after. Don’t wrap up the story in a page. Let them savor the moment
Shana Asaro @shana_asaro
I love the story surprises that come with editing a book for another editor. I get to be a fresh reader who doesn’t know the ending.
Emily Rodmell @EmilyRodmell
It’s ok to play with writing in different genres at first. But when you get serious about selling your work, pick one and become an expert.
Stacy Boyd @Stacy_Boyd
Other times revisions mean cutting the whole first chapter, or completely rewriting a character’s motivation
So follow these editors–and our others!–throughout the days and weeks and you’ll find lots of good writing tips.
Malle Vallik, Director for Editorial Digital Initiatives, recently spoke at an RWA conference in Florida about why you should write for Harlequin. She gave a lively presentation with lots of images, asides, stories and information. Malle’s in-person presentation would be a lot more vivid, but here are a few points from her speech…
The Five Key Points about Publishing with Harlequin
#1 – Lots of Publishing Opportunities
Romance is leading the way
- Digital First program
- Print and digital footholds
- Over 75 series books a month
- Over 120 total books a month
#2 – Author/Editor Relationship
Harlequin Editors are everywhereway
- Traditional methods
- Social Media – Twitter, Harlequin Community
- Outreach – Harlequin Blog, SOLD! Blog, SYTYCW
- Chapter Visits
- Working with the “slush” pile
- Developing relations with agented and unagented authors
- 83 new to Harlequin authors acquired in 2012
- Over 50 series editors regularly acquiring
- Build relationships with authors over the years
#3 – Harlequin Brand
- Everyone knows our name – we are a destination in print and digital
- Commited space from print and e-tailers
- Marketing company as a whole
- We are trusted by readers
- Explore new programs
#4 – Publishing Expertise
- Relationships with Cosmo
- First major publisher to have all digital frontlist
- Trying different elements–Harlequin Digital First program
#5 – Harlequin Author Network
- Dedicated Concierge
- Access to Print and Digital Sales
- Communication with all areas of the company
- Latest news
- Marketing info
And another visual!
There are many more reasons, of course, that we think we’re the best publishing company in the world! We hope that you agree as well.
Don’t forget to follow Malle @MalleVallik, @HarlequinBooks and all our editors!
A few weeks ago we featured a Story Starter contest based on the cover below. We had some great entries with lots of variety. It’s always amazing to see how many directions–sweet, sassy, confrontational, modern and spunky are but a few–the authors can create in just a few words! Here is the winning entry and a few favorites below.
And the winner: Nicole P. wrote:
If this was Oz, she certainly wasn’t Dorothy. The glossy, red, expensive shoes she’d stuck into her handbag might say otherwise – but she wasn’t going to bring that up in an interrogation room with the cop who happened to catch her swiping said stilettos. Of course the dark, assessing look he was giving her might make her spill her guts completely – after she stopped drooling over him, that is.
Congratulations, Nicole–this entry will be printed in our next Digital Trend Report, and we’ll send you a copy–along with a certificate for any Harlequin download you’d like!
Other favorites included:
IF THE SHOE FITS – Marcella R.
The blood that stained her white blouse was a few shades darker than the red stilettos on her feet. Her left shoe was partially off, possibly hinting she had been walking backward when she was shot. But Detective Mark Harrison wasn’t sure that was entirely the case. Not with the other girl found dead in the park the Sunday before. She had been missing one of her shoes – also red stilettos – while the rest of her was untouched. Well, except for the bullet hole above her heart. Same as the brunette splayed on the pavement in front of him. Mark looked at the woman again. The flawless make-up, the nails painted a vibrant red like the shoes, the slim black skirt and fishnet stockings. He had to wonder if bullet wounds above the heart and women wearing red stilettos meant he had a serial killer walking his streets.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
IF THE SHOE FITS – Angel C
If the shoe fits, the devil could choke on it with a Blood Mary chaser.
Being a shoe model for a small, but, lucrative shoe company wasn’t exactly the dream job Priscilla Mabry’d had in mind while going to graphic design school on a partial college scholarship. But, it did pay her portion of the rent on the two bedroom apartment she shared with her slacker-starving artist roommate, Ash…
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
IF THE SHOE FITS – Vanessa R
Clutching the wobbling porch railing for dear life, Susannah Black waited for her heartbeat to slow. The doctors said a little rest would do her good, but they probably didn’t think she’d die on her grandmother’s stoop.
Pulse slowing, she stood up straight, smoothed her fitted black skirt, and tugged her spiked heel free from the split in the boards. At least, she hadn’t fallen flat on the broken hobby-horse or the pile of melted GI Joes near Grandma-Ma’s rocker. The place was as welcoming as ever.
Fifteen years ago, Susannah’d snuck out the back bedroom window and kept going. If not for Marcie’s funeral….
Sucking in a sniffle, she wrapped her knuckles against the screen door. The soft call of a blue jay blended with sliding locks.
Grandma-Ma raised her spectacles and blinked wet eyes. “Six-inch heels and fishnets. You ain’t been a church girl in long time.”
Congratulations to all these authors and the others who had some great, innovative openings as well. Thanks for participating in this contest, and stay tuned for other exciting openings.
Happy reading–and writing!
Denise Zaza, Senior Editor for Harlequin Intrigue, originally wrote this post on Patience Bloom’s RomanceIsMyDayJob blog. But they’ve agreed to share it here as well!
The oldest cliché around has to be about writing the great novel that will stand the test of time. But really how many authors have done that? If you can write a book that sells like gangbusters, I think that is pretty neat. Not that I want to seem unsophisticated. Yes, reading literary fiction is instructive and inspiring and essential. Writing with scholarly excellence is a massive achievement that often comes with industry accolades and awards. The creative process more than cold hard profit drives success, which is the highest ideal for art.
In my opinion though writing any manuscript that sells is a triumph. But let’s face it, on the whole popular fiction is considered pulp—homogenized. Generally it has been my experience that romance novels have the worst rap. In fact I was once introduced at a family gathering as someone who is “polluting the earth with romances.” (Nice to meet everyone, I’ll have the sanguine soup.) Whether it all started way back with the inexpensive process of publishing mass market books or the “dime store” label, we all know what people mean when there’s talk about “trashy novels.”
So why the universal hang up about books or ebooks that entertain a mass audience? There are many authors who write a lot of stories for eager romance readers. In my view, category romance novels have value and worth and they’re often a bargain to boot.
For nearly two decades as an editor with Harlequin Books and overseeing the publication of hundreds of romantic suspense books, I’ve seen the wide appeal of commercial fiction. I can personally attest to reading many letters from readers over the years about how uplifting, restoring and enriching the novels are. In many cases the category books are a meaningful part of a busy life. They offer escape and distraction. They’re fun. Readers depend on romance stories as an essential part of their lives. Knowing this makes me take my job very seriously because I know how important the novels are to the readers.
Acquiring books that readers appreciate is consequential if not necessarily monumental. But selling a lot of books is exciting. I can only imagine the thrill for an author to gain popularity through her writing. Not to mention the intimate partnership author and reader develop. For me that’s real, that’s attainable and totally awesome. (Fist pump—“Yes!”)
Come on, you all know it. Everyone likes a good story with a happy ending. It feels good. Just like curling up with an old book. Now that’s a classic that eclipses cliché.
Advice: You don’t have to write the greatest novel of all time. Write a good story and be honest to your work. Result: A lot of people will buy your book. How cool is that?
Thanks, Denise, for sharing your experiences! To find out more about Denise, follow her on Twitter at @DeniseZaza or at #HarlequinIntrigue.
Happy Reading–and Writing!