Monday, July 25, 2011

Where is my book?

Take a deep breath. Let it out slowly.

Let’s look at circumstances outside our control, and ways to cope professionally. During many stages of the publishing process, we are at the mercy of someone else’s perception of time passage. Patience is a must; however, at some point a nudge asking “Did it get lost?” is appropriate. Where is that point?

For simplicity I will go with the generality that our author is female (because most of our submitters are) and the editor is also female (since at TWRP at this time, we all are).

Author sends her query to the publisher; she has followed all submission guidelines and expectations. Normal here at TWRP: author will immediately receive an automated response that her submission email was received and she will be contacted by the appropriate line shortly. If a week has gone past and you have zero response to your query—by all means, re-send your query. You’re going to get tired of hearing this, but emails can get lost in cyberspace. Our entire company is online, and our staff communicates mainly by email. We are not in a central location all in one building together. We’re scattered across the U.S. and Canada. For five years this has worked very well for TWRP, but occasionally emails disappear and must be tracked down.

Our editor in chief looks over every query and forwards them to the appropriate line’s senior editor. The senior editor alerts her staff of editors a new query is available, and we all glance over the blurb and synopsis. One of us responds with interest in the project, and is given the go-ahead to contact the author. We are required to respond to queries within 30 days of their arrival at the company. Sometimes this takes mere hours, other times a few weeks could pass before the query is in the correct hands. We like to choose projects that interest us, which is in the author’s best interest as well. Who wants her story evaluated by an editor who dislikes that particular setting or type of character, who finds the plot clichéd or boring? Or an editor who has too many other manuscripts on her desk to evaluate and so does not give proper attention to the new one? We try to be careful not to dismiss any query—to that author, her story is the most important one on our desk.

If the editor contacts the author to request the partial manuscript, or the whole manuscript in the case of shorter works, the author gives her manuscript to the editor, likely a person she has never met. Again, this is a file sent by email. Files can become lost. If you don’t hear back from the editor within a few days that this manuscript was received, send a quick note asking if it was received. I look at multiple emails a day from many authors, other editors, other departments—I don’t always remember to hit “reply” after going out to Word to verify the new file opens and going to the company database to log receipt of the file. I am human—I get distracted.

Now the waiting begins. The editor is reading the author’s baby. Or is she? 30 days go by…60 days…90 days. The date the editor said she would respond (she did give you a date, didn’t she?) is past and no word? The author needs to send an inquiry about the status of the project. In the light of “no news is good news,” the manuscript may be still in the evaluation process. When I receive a partial manuscript, I put it in line behind other projects that came in ahead of it. They’re all date-stamped and evaluated in order. Many times this means I edit a contracted work for two weeks then spend a Sunday reading four new manuscripts in a row. I don’t like having a to-be-read pile hanging over my head longer than 30 days but I often do. When those partials turn into full manuscripts of 80-100K, they loom in a much more scary format. How long does it take you to read a 400-page book? How about six books that size?

We editors have a helper system here at TWRP. Editors need to be the decision-maker on a manuscript, so we do read them ourselves, but our opinion does not need to stand alone. We have an in-house focus group of volunteer readers who help us scour manuscripts. They give us an honest opinion of strengths and weaknesses in a manuscript, which helps us decide if revisions need to be made, whether before or after offering a contract—or whether to reject. BUT this reading group is contacted by email, files sent back and forth to them, time for them to read—more waiting. Author is waiting for the editor, who is waiting for her readers. An organized editor will remember to alert her author that a delay can be expected if the deadline she set is approaching. But even that email can go astray.

After contract, the author has more waiting. Edits. Second edits. Possibly third edits. Committee decision on the best version of the blurb to sell the book with. Cover art. Copy edits. Galleys. All of these stages involve emailing a new version of a file back and forth. How much time does the editor or author allow to pass when the file is out of her hands before she should become worried it is lost?

I am beginning to learn that 10 business days is when questions of “where is the file?” become relevant. Five weeks is the outside time limit of any waiting I have done as an editor, with the exception of waiting to hear when a finished book is scheduled for release, and then waiting for that glorious release date to arrive.

If too much time has passed, you can always send a note to your editor asking for an update. Be polite and non-pushy, but you have a right to know where your story file is in the process, and whether it has become lost. It’s been known to happen.

Kelly Schaub has been an editor on the Faery Rose line since September 2007. She has ushered 25 published titles through the garden gates of TWRP and hopes for the privilege of many more.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Joy of Revision

Books aren't written—they're rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it.
—Michael Crichton

So you received a rejection notice from a Wild Rose Press editor. She was encouraging but firm about certain changes you need to make to your story. You take a few weeks to go over the manuscript, revising it with an eye to her suggestions, and now you’re thinking about sending it back to the editor for another look.

But how do you know when you’ve done enough? It’s easy to underestimate the amount of time and patience it takes to revise a manuscript. Cosmetic changes aren’t enough—revision calls for heavy lifting. So here are some questions to ask yourself as you evaluate your manuscript (questions adapted from Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway) along with links to helpful articles in our Greenhouse:

  1. Is the story about something? Is there conflict? Are your characters interesting people who have defined goals? Do those characters change in some way, from the beginning to the end? GMC: Conflict

  2. Does the story begin with a hook? Did you give the reader a reason to be interested in the story? Is there tension in your story and is that tension apparent on the very first page? Grabbing the Reader on the First Page

  3. Are your characters real or do they seem more like stereotypes? Are their emotions clichéd? Building Believable Characters

  4. Does the story make sense? Do you show the reader enough to make the setting and your story clear? Bringing in the Senses

  5. Have you avoided overwriting? Kept your characters’ emotions from being overwrought? Ways to Make Your Writing Stronger

  6. Have you pared your story down to the essentials? Does every scene function to both move the story forward and show the reader something about the characters? Self-editing for the Flabby Writer

Piece of cake, right? So how do you know when you’ve done enough? Try doing a comparison between the original version and your revised version using MS Word’s Compare feature. You should see significant changes on every page—if not, time to get back to work. Good luck!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Wild Rose Press in NY!

New York was amazing! Fun, full of energy and life--and our fabulous authors. I was lucky enough to meet some of them before the Keynote luncheon on Wednesday.

Diana Bellew

Diana Bellew, Rebecca Clark and Maggie Van Well

Lynne Marshall
We'd planned to get a table together, but couldn't fight the crowd and ended up separated. There were literally thousands of women, all looking for a table.

I was lucky enough to sit next to the fabulous Roni Denholtz and Lynne Marshall

...and take chicken pictures while I enjoyed their company.

I missed seeing Anita Mae Draper, although we connected for a short time on the phone. There were a lot of dead spots in the hotel. I suspect it was because of all the concrete, and the internet barely worked. I tried to upload some pictures but after getting the equivalent of dial-up I gave up. I was so happy to get home.

I'm proud to say everyone I met was thrilled to be part of our Wild Rose family. Until we meet again next year--it was great seeing you in person. We have a truly wonderful garden.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Classic Contemporaries

I inherited my "romance-reader" gene from my mother. On quiet evenings, after the dinner dishes were washed and my younger sister was tucked in bed, she curled up on a comfy chair in the living room. One hand held a paperback; the other, a chocolate bar (I also inherited her chocolate addiction).

She loved the early series romances. Every month, like clockwork, a shopping bag filled with that month's releases appeared at the house. Eventually I began to sift through her bag of goodies, and as a teenager, cut my teeth on masters like Anne Mather, Violet Winspear, and Betty Neels.

Back then, heroines tended to be nurses, nannies, and secretaries. The men they fell in love with were wealthy and aristocratic: doctors, tycoons, owners of islands and kingdoms. Settings included everything from the businessman's London to the rancher's Australian Outback. (No heroine could resist a rugged, suntanned hero on a horse.) And I always looked forward to a new book by Betty Neels. An English nurse herself, Neels transplanted her heroines to Holland, where they met and fell for proper Dutch doctors.

Our new Champagne series, The Millionaire's Club, pays homage to these classics--with a modern, edgier twist. We're looking for submissions between 20k and 60k. Stories must be rated spicy to hot and must contain a fully depicted and fully consummated love scene. For more details, check out our website or feel free to e-mail me at

Keep reading and writing!

Senior Editor, Champagne Rose