Archive for the ‘Industry’ Category

Never thought of myself as a butterfly before, but beyond a doubt for the last few months I’ve been inside my own special cocoon, reshaping and reinventing myself. Does that mean I was formally a caterpillar? Hmm…not one of my favorite creatures. Maybe I didn’t think this metaphor through properly. However….

Beyond a doubt, for the past several months, since the release of RECKLESSLY YOURS, I’ve undergone something of a transformation, or maybe an evolution. First I got word that my publisher had decided not to continue with my series, Her Majesty’s Secret Servants, meaning Willow would not be having her own story – which is why Recklessly Yours ended the way it did, rather than with Victoria asking her to embark on a mission. Now, before you feel sorry for me – and Willow – there are two things to remember: 1) this is a common theme in the publishing industry. It’s not the first time this has happened, and it certainly won’t be the last. And 2) there are so many publishing options nowadays that when the mood strikes me, I will write Willow’s story and get it out to readers.

In the meantime, as part of my reinvent I’m trying my hand at writing an American-set historical mystery. Despite always calling myself a “closet mystery writer” (anyone who has read my books will get this), writing a pure mystery has not been easy! I had to learn so many new plotting techniques – in fact I’m still learning. The book isn’t finished yet, but I’ve been enjoying every step of the journey. We’ll see what happens….

But even more profound a change for me has been taking on the position of acquisitions editor for Silver Publishing. Silver is going on two years old now and I joined them after they’d been up and running only a few months. They’ve grown, and continue to grow by leaps and bounds, and I feel fortunate to be part of that. I have to say, I love my job – I love reading submissions, helping authors strengthen their work, and the fact that even when I have to say no (which is always so difficult!), I can still offer insight into what worked and what didn’t, and why.

And if all that weren’t enough, I’ve also taken on the board position of Member-At-Large for my writing chapter, the Florida Romance Writers.

So the temporary end of Her Majesty’s Secret Servants (oh, I doubt those ladies can be held down for long) has meant new beginnings and exciting challenges for me. I’m still very much a part of the publishing industry, still learning, still growing as an author and an editor, still looking forward to whatever surprises the future will bring.

Have you ever had to reinvent? Was it difficult, or did you spread those wings and let the wind carry you where it will? And did you reemerge better than before?


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If you’ve ever wondered about the many reasons why manuscripts get rejected, check out this blog post from editor Angela James, of Harlequin’s Carina Press: Reasons For Rejection.

Most publishers nowadays don’t do personalized rejections – they receive too many submissions and just don’t have the time to point out to each author where they might have gone wrong. Some writers never realize how close they came to being bought, while others don’t understand how much they still have to learn. Angela James has taken the time to outline the ten most common reasons for rejection, and even after publishing seven books so far (well, 7 as of this March), I found this breakdown extremely enlightening and helpful.

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When I sold for the first time in 2003, one of my first questions – after the contract had been signed – was “how could I best promote my books, and what methods did my publishing house recommend as being most effective?” Sounds like a reasonable question, right?  The answer surprised me. I was told, “Don’t worry about it. Promotion is our job. You just write the best books you can.”

Hmm. I thought about that for a little while. And I remembered hearing that a lot of authors who had been in the business before the advent of computers, and who were regularly on the NYT and other bestseller lists, had done little or nothing to promote their books when they started out, other than the usual booksignings.

Then I drew a conclusion: while the last part of the advice I received was crucial, I needed to ignore the rest and do whatever I could to promote my new release. Print ads were and remain expensive, so for me at that time, it meant a lot of internet presence – hitting the various reader sites for reviews, interviews, contests, etc.  I also sent lots of promo materials around to conferences and any kind of readers events I heard of.

Blogging was just coming into being then, and when I first heard the word I had no idea what it meant. I just knew it sounded like something I should probably be doing.  As far as Twitter, Facebook and the rest of those went, I can’t even tell you if they existed yet or not.

I recently asked my new publisher the same question. And this time I got an entirely different answer, but one I’d already anticipated: they want me to blog, not just here but on as many other sites as I can, a practice that has coined the new term: blog touring. They also want me to be active on Facebook, Myspace and Twitter, and to make the rounds of the readers’ sites close to when my books come out.

The publicity department also likes to see authors be creative and come up with new ways to entice readers to their websites. That’s where bonus content comes in, not only the “fun stuff” pages where readers can get a more personal glimpse of their favorite authors, but also background info on your characters, inside information on your plot (especially if you’ve done a lot of worldbuilding), historical factoids, recipes, crafts, etc. Anything you can think of to pull the reader into your fictional world. (As I speak, I am realizing that I have yet to actually do this on my website, but I am promising myself that I will attend to this early in the New Year!)

What’s important to remember is that these aren’t casual suggestions anymore. We are more than encouraged to promote this way, we are EXPECTED to. Publishers have come to see the value of internet promotions – alongside traditional appearances and signings, radio spots if you can swing them, and of course distribution and store placement, but those last two only your publisher can arrange. 

But just as your story/series concept has to excite your editor and the marketing department in order to get you some publisher backing, you also need to be seen as an upbeat, active promoter of your own career if you want your publisher to remain enthusiastic about you.

The good news – wide internet exposure can be very inexpensive. The not so good news – it can be very time-consuming. I could be writing right now. But I’d rather know that I’m writing to a potential audience, because I could write the best book ever written (hey, I can dream, can’t I?) but it won’t do me or anyone else any good if no one knows about it.

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*Cross-posted on the FRWriters blog

There’s no need to rehash what happened in the publishing industry last week – we all know. But it’s the fact that we do all know that I find worthy of comment. News of Harlequin Horizons spread in a matter of hours, and the response was immediate. So immediate, not to mention forceful, that within a day or so the company “chose” to make some “adjustments” to its policies. For instance, due to the uproar over the fact that writers could now pay for the Harlequin name while other writers have worked so hard through traditional means, they’ll no longer be using the name Harlequin Horizons on the books. I heard they’ve also removed the links connecting eHarlequin to their vanity press website.

When you think about it, if this were twenty years ago, before the internet, we would have read about Harlequin’s new venture in our RWRs. We’d then have waited to see the fallout in our chapter newsletters and subsequent RWRs. We’re talking weeks, maybe months before everyone sifted through the ramifications. By the time the writing industry had formed a reply, Harlequin would already have launched their program and been well into production. Would they have made changes then? I really wonder.

When Neil Plakcy spoke at FRW a few months ago, he encouraged us all to expand our internet presence through Facebook, Twitter, etc., siting the power of social networking to spread ideas and mobilize a community to action. We saw a prime example of that last week, and it really did prove that the internet has made us more informed, more connected and more of a united front. If there was ever any question as to whether spending time promoting and networking – and what we’re doing here with our blog – is worth it, I think we have our answer.

I write historicals. I love transporting myself to the charms and challenges of long ago, but I’m really, really glad I live in the age I do. Six hundred years ago, Gutenberg’s printing press revolutionized the spread of ideas and put the power of the written word into the hands of the people, and changed the world. The internet is our Gutenberg, and it’s given us the ability to help shape the business we all love.

So, with Thanksgiving upon us, I’m grateful for that business, and I’m grateful to be part of a dynamic, well-informed community that insists on fair practices and is willing to stand up for what’s right for all it’s members. I’m especially grateful to be part of my particular RWA chapter, the Florida Romance Writers, who are always ready to support each other, help each other reach our goals and cheer each other on.

Wishing everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving!

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Corporate Ugly

Every author’s journey to publication is uniquely his or her own, and ultimately the decisions they make are based on some very personal needs. Very early on in my career, I decided that my goal was to be pubbed by one of the large traditional houses. Why? Several reasons. First of all, I believed and still do in the vetting process involved in how submitted work is reviewed and either accepted or rejected. I truly felt that being rejected meant I hadn’t quite hit the mark yet, and that I still had things to learn. I was willing to learn, or pay my dues as they say, because I believed it would make me a better writer, a writer worthy of space on the bookstore shelves.

But one of the things I learned along the way was that publication wasn’t always simply about good writing and compelling stories, and that some of those major publishers I coveted didn’t play by rules that even approached fairness or decency. That’s because, as this country has learned in brutal terms this past year, the business world operates by guidelines of its own making — because they can.

In the mid 90s, my then agent submitted my second book, a medieval romance, to a publisher that’s been getting a lot of press time this week – need we name names? At that time I would have given my eye teeth to be an author at this house. I’d met a couple of the editors and thought they’d be incredible to work with, and as far as money went, authors there tended to do very well (see, I wasn’t entirely devoid of business sense). But more than a year went by and we received no word, not good or bad.

Finally, I met with the acquiring editor at RWA National, and she looked at me blankly and said she had no memory of ever receiving said manuscript. The following week she miraculously found it, liked it very much but still wrote me a detailed revision letter, and said she looked forward to taking a second look – although there could be no guarantees at that point. At my then agent’s advice I ploughed through those revisions in 2 weeks, record time, and sent that puppy back. 

SIX more months went by, months during which I was sure I’d nailed the rewrites and would soon be offered a contract…and then…the rejection came. “We enjoyed this story very much but…” This after more than a year and a half of waiting, hoping, and STALLING my would-be career because, according to the hard and fast rules of this publisher, it had been an EXCLUSIVE submission, meaning the story could not be submitted anywhere else. Oh, I did move on to writing manuscript # 3 and possibly even #4 during that time, but as far as that book went, it was stuck in oblivion. But why exclusive? Why put an author’s prospects on hold like that while her manuscript gets lost, gets extensively revised, and ultimately gets rejected?

Because they can. Because they’re a huge corporate machine operating according to the bottom line, and no one’s needs but the stockholders’ are taken into consideration.

Need I say that of all the rejections I received, and there were many, this was the one that broke my heart, and the one from which I emerged jaded and cynical beyond recovery about the publishing industry? But whereas previously this house was at the top of my list, it now fell to bottom, the place I submitted when I’d worn out all other options. I’ve heard countless similar stories to mine over the years, I am not sorry that I never sold there.

But, hmm, seems this house has recently found new ways to string authors along and break their hearts, this time with dubious business dealings and false promises. Why? Again, because they can. Because they’re a huge name in this industry and I suppose they’ve come to believe that no action on their part is too over-the-top. Then again, where does this arrogance come from? Maybe from the power we ourselves have granted them in putting up with their antics through the years. Right from the start, every author, agent, and writing organization like the RWA should have said “no” to exclusive submissions and every other less-than-honorable practice that diminished an author’s rights, career prospects and, yes, dignity, and should have called them out in a very public way. VERY public.

This week there has indeed been an outcry against this latest indecency – that of preying upon writers desperate enough to see their work in print that they’d forgo the editorial process and actually pay the publisher, rather than the other way around. What they have found, in effect, is a way to cull profits from the slush pile. Clever, isn’t it? Can you hear the Gods of the Bottom Line laughing? But what they are not telling these desperate authors is that, unless they physically spend their time hawking their books out of the trunk of their car every chance they get (think Christopher Paolini, of Eragon fame, who did manage to succeed at this), their sales will NEVER cover the fees they paid. Not to mention the fact that there are far less expensive self-publishing ventures out there.

Am I surprised by this? I’m dismayed and appalled, but no, not surprised. Given my own and many other author’s experiences with this company through the years, it should have been expected. In fact, it’s so par for the course it’s almost laughable, if it weren’t so shameful.

So why haven’t I named names? I really didn’t think I needed to, because Harlequin, you know who you are.

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