Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Rose of the Month


June is just around the corner and will be the month for Yellow Rose and Cactus Rose to shine! That means Cowboys, Cowboys and more Cowboys!!

Starting June 1st, we will be opening the corral to show off the wonderful books we have involving both modern day and historical cowboys. The editors will be on the loops and more than happy to answer any questions you may have. A few of our authors have graced us with some time on their own blogs to talk about the editing process and what we look for when evaluating submissions.

Also, June 11th, our cowgirls have roped up BOTH Coffee Time Romance yahoo loops to chat all day about their cowboys, books, and writing life here in the corral.

Join us for a special Wild Rose chat on June 4th and check out our website at The Wild Rose Press for special events, our catalogue for some great Yellow and Cactus Rose stories, and our authors and their sites for some great info and maybe even a contest or two!!

You will never look at men in boots and Stetsons the same way again.....

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Crafting Your Masterpiece

As a lifelong bibliophile and fan of the written word in general, I have a confession to make. My first love isn't books. It's music.

I realize that's a startling revelation for an editor, reader and writer to make, but not too long ago, I spent some time considering the correlations between my two loves. There are more than you might think.

Even with music, for me, it's all about the story. Plenty of people might say a great song doesn't have to have a strong lyric, that the melody can be enough. Sometimes that's true. Sometimes a catchy beat will disguise the holes in a song, but the composers of the best songs, in my opinion, understand how to integrate words and rhythm to create a masterpiece.

The same goes for books.

As a writer and editor, I understand well that it can be too easy to get caught up in rules. Another shocking statement, I know, but writing a story requires juggling a lot of pencils. While the importance of a professional presentation and carefully crafted sentences can't be overstated, another problem can be created when an author drums the uniqueness out of their work in pursuit of an ideal that doesn't exist.

The same song sung by two different people will have two different arrangements. It's not enough to have the right plot and characters - your "voice" is crucial. Let that voice shine through. If you need to write a sentence that starts with 'and' (my inner editor is screaming right now) to convey what you need to say, then go for it. For example, not using the same descriptive word five times on one page - or doing just that to make a point - will alter the cadence of your work. Reading your writing aloud can be instrumental in showing you where you need to improve.

Another facet of a "song with mileage" or one that can go the distance, is understanding rhythm. Every sentence is made up of beats, whether its part of a lyric, a poem or a novel. This is where delivery makes content shine. One of my favorite authors for close to twenty years, one that regularly appears on bestseller lists, is a master at this. She might not be the best technician of the English language, but she gets rhythm and pacing. She gets how to shorten sentences to increase urgency and lengthen them to draw out suspense.

And she starts a lot of sentences with 'and'.

Before I get lambasted for throwing editorial caution to the wind, I'm not suggesting you add sentence fragments to your work-in-progress willy nilly. I'm suggesting that rules are made to be broken, the only caveat being it has to work. Knowing if it works only comes with time and practice-and the guidance of a knowledgeable editor like those of us at The Wild Rose Press.

Next time you're sweating over one sentence you just can't get right, consider your scene as a whole and leave it alone for a bit to get some perspective. Just like you might listen to your favorite song over and over to hear one particular section, if you've done a good job at layering your notes and building to a crescendo, that one phrase might not make much of an impact on your masterpiece.

And you might just end up a bestseller like my idol.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Submission Tips...

I'm sure most of you have gotten--or heard--the advice at one time or another that says, "treat your submission as if it were a job interview." This is sound advice, but also advice that many seem to overlook. Remember, your query and proposal are the first impression an editor gets of you.

We've seen the "so make sure your partial is as typo-free as possible" and the "make sure your query letter is professional" advice, and we do everything we can to ensure that first impression is impeccable...

But what about that second impression? I'd like to go over a few things that I think authors sometimes forget--some do's and don't's in submitting and dealing with an editor.

Don't: Pester the editor with multiple emails and questions about when you'll get a contract. I'm not saying you should never send an email (sometimes, I'm sure it's necessary and justified), but if you've heard from the editor that they will contact you regarding your submission on X-date, then don't email them prior to that date asking if they've had a chance to read it. (Sounds like a "duh" piece of advice, but trust me, some people need to hear this! :-) )

Do: Resubmit your manuscript if the editor invites you to do so. We don't invite resubs on every manuscript, so if we do offer to take a second look, we mean it.

Don't: Resubmit an unchanged manuscript. Editors are not stupid. Nor are we naive. Nor do we live in a vacuum where we don't speak to each other. If we have rejected your manuscript, but have given you edit suggestions and an offer to resubmit, do not think that we won't notice if you completely disregard everything we suggest, and just resubmit the original (or one so close to it, it's basically the same). We will notice, and what this says to us is: "Beware before contracting this author, he/she doesn't take instruction very well, and the post-contract edit process will be a nightmare." Trust me, we don't like nightmares anymore than you do.

In addition, don't think if you submit the same manuscript to another editor in the same house, that we won't check. We keep records. We know exactly how many times a manuscript has been submitted, and to whom. And, people, we do speak to each other about it. (Remember, your manuscript is yours. You don't have to take our pre-contract edit suggestions. But if you're not going to, then submit your manuscript to another publisher who might like it the way it is. Submitting the same, unchanged, manuscript fifty times, isn't going to make us like it any better.)

Do: Keep trying. If we ask for edits, and you do them well and then resubmit, but the edited version is still rejected--with another offer to resubmit--do it. Make more edits as suggested, and try again. We won't ask to see the manuscript again if we don't think it has potential. We get far too many submissions to toy with people or to want to see the same manuscript if it doesn't have potential. This may seem daunting or discouraging, but don't look at it that way. "On the right track" is infinitely better than being derailed.

Happy writing...and submitting.

Nicola Martinez, Senior Editor
English Tea Rose
White Rose

Monday, May 19, 2008

Words that Move

I have a list of words I check, whether in my own work or in that I edit. A list of words that do not move the action forward. Stalling words. Filler words. "Fluff" words.

When editing, I tell my authors to watch out for these and eliminate as many as they can. My one caution is that they can stay in dialogue, because that is how folks speak. Often authors find they can remove these words from dialogue as well and it speeds the reader along. I compiled this list from many sources, so I do not claim ownership of this list, nor it is comprehensive of all such "trouble" words that bore readers, but here you go.

Kelly's list of "throw-away" words:
in order to
a bit
a little
a lot

An example of how this improves the narrative? "John wanted some more of her kissing and hugging" vs. "John wanted more of her kissing and hugging." How about, "It was really a very cold day" vs. "It was a cold day" OR even better, get rid of "it was" and find a better verb. "Cold snapped across the pavement."

Do a "Find" and "highlight all" for each of these words. I highlight them gray so they are easy to spot but not obnoxious. Any that come up numbering less than say 15 occurances within 200 pages is not really a problem. However, if you find 300 "some" in that many pages, ya have to take a look at that.

Happy weeding!

Kelly Schaub
Yellow Faery

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What I Want In A Romance!

Hi everyone. I just wanted to chime in with what I like in a romance--not just as an editor, mind you, but also as an reader.

I want a plot, characters and emotions that grab my attention and keep it. If you can make me laugh and cry with your work, then I am hooked.

For me paranormals should be riveting, whether it's a werewolf or a vampire. Love those bad boys or girls.

Historicals have to be accurate in facts or I really get turned off. Believe me, I research something that doesn't feel or read right.

Okay, so now you know I'm a precise editor and an avid, pleasure, reading girl and in case you didn't pick up on it, I'm pretty nice most of the

Glad to be here in the garden.


Come on, you know you want to...

Betcha never thought you'd want to write a sweet romance. Betcha thought you'd never want to write a sweet romance set in a flower shop in a college town in California...

The New Flower Basket sweetheart continuity is open for submissions, and like RWA says, have we got a story for you.

Hie thee to our website, and read the fabulous story, Business is Blooming, by Linda Carroll-Bradd. Join Grace, Steffie and Donica in Sweetheart's version of Wayback.

Set in gorgeous Almendra, CA, where more than flowers are blooming--

Each story should involve a visit to the flower shop, either by an order placed over the phone or in person, or a spontaneous visit to pick up a last-minute bouquet. The Flower Basket supplies arrangements for any occasion—big or small, happy or sad. Each woman brings special talents to the operation of the store.

Story lengths range from a minimum of 7,000 words to full-length novels.

All stories must fit into Sweetheart guidelines. The focus should be squarely placed on the growth of an emotional bond between the hero and heroine. They can touch and kiss, but keep it clean, lol--we're looking for how they feel up in their heads,, you get the picture.

Visit the Flower Basket today. Continuity guidelines, Sweetheart guidelines, and Linda's wonderful story are now up.

Join the Garden...

What's In a Name?

Here's a great self-editing exercise to try some time. Take a yellow highlighter (or use the search and replace feature on your computer) and highlight all uses of your characters’ names for one chapter. When you’ve finished, if that lovely white background looks as though someone has bled highlighter all over it, you’re using your characters’ names too much. (If you don’t have time to do that, you can simply glance at the beginning of every paragraph for a page or two. Do they all start with someone’s name? This is another sign of over-use). It’s a subconscious move on the writer’s part to want to make sure our reader knows who is speaking, who is participating in this story and who is walking across the room. By the time they’ve finished the first page, your reader knows your hero and heroine’s names. Don’t hit her over the head with them. Each and every time you use their names you draw the reader out of your characters’ PV– you remind her that she’s reading. Whenever possible substitute “he” “she” “her” “him” and other adjectives for the names. This will help your reader to stay in your character’s PV and can make or break the difference between a reader simply reading a story – and feeling like they’re a part of one.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Is it a Romance?

Most aspiring authors who are truly trying to learn their craft have heard the advice, “write what you know.” And also, “Know your market.” Yet, so often an editor sees submissions that don’t fit the guidelines for his or her particular imprint or publisher.

“How can this be?” you may ask. And I would say in reply, “I don’t know!” :) But, in romance, it’s imperative to be able to see the difference between a “romance” and a “love story.” While many love stories don’t have Happliy-ever-after (HEA) endings (think of the movie Sweet November), for the sake of argument, because I think this is where most authors get confused, we’re going to compare the love story which does have a satisfying, and not tragic ending, to a romance which always must have a HEA ending with the hero and heroine ending up together.

As we look at these, let’s keep in mind two things: Romance focuses on the “honeymoon” stage of the relationship. While there can be sub-plots, the main focus is on the developing love the hero feels for the heroine, and vice versa. The hero and heroine are apart only for brief bursts (Although, it’s OK for them to have been apart for a long time in actuality, as in "he didn’t see her again for six months." In a romance, we don’t focus on those six months and see him away from her for each day of those months) A Love story can have a broader focus—possibly several points of view, and can show the hero and heroine apart for long periods of time.

OK, story idea #1: John was about to propose to his girlfriend when he found out she’d been cheating on him with his best friend. Hurt, angry and disillusioned, he decides never to trust another woman. Then, along comes Sally. She’s cute, funny, and caring—and she makes John want to love again.

Sally’s attracted to John, but she can see he’s been hurt by another woman, and doesn’t want to fall into the I-can-fix-him trap she’s always fallen into in the past. Several times, she’s become romantically involved with someone who was “broken” only to have them leave her once they were “fixed”—and invariable, it’s to go back to the same woman who broke them to begin with. She can’t go through that again.

Regardless of John’s and Sally’s conviction not to become involved, they fall for each other. Then one day, John’s ex-girlfriend shows up. She’s remorseful, asks for forgiveness, and John forgives her. From a distance, Sally witnesses what appears to be a “touching reunion” and becomes upset. She goes to one of John’s friends who assures her that John would never go back to his ex. But, while Sally is having this conversation, John sees her with his friend, and paints her with the same brush as his ex.

They split up, but later all is resolved—and they live HEA.

THIS IS A ROMANCE…because the formula is in place. Let’s take a look. Boy Meets Girl (BMG). John and Sally meet and are attracted to one another. Boy Loses Girl (BLG). John and Sally each believe they have discovered the other to be just what they were afraid of, and they back away. Boy Gets Girl Back (BGGB). Two months later, Sally sees John’s Ex-girlfriend’s wedding announcement in the newspaper. She’s not marrying John, and Sally realizes she was wrong. At the same time, John’s friend has finally been able to convince John that Sally was not cheating, and so they come together, make their apologies and live HEA. A romance MUST use the BMG, BLG, BGGB formula.

OK, story idea #2: John and Sally have been married for twenty-five years. Their youngest child has just graduated from college, and John and Sally have a new lease on life and marriage. Alas, though, they discover they no longer have anything in common. The last twenty-five years has drained any romantic feelings they had for one another as they focused on building assets and raising children. Now, at each other’s throats all the time, they decide they must get a divorce. There’s a lot of arguing, John moves out, and they start divorce negotiations.

John and Sally’s three children are devastated. They plead with John and Sally to reconsider. During this time, Sally—afraid she couldn’t make it on her own after not working outside the home for the last quarter-century—rediscovers herself, finds a career she enjoys, and begins to love life…but her children keep nagging her to reconsider John.

John misses Sally, but he can never go back to her because she doesn’t appreciate all the hard work he put into giving her a nice and comfortable home for all those years. He becomes bitter and won’t have anything to do with her—especially when he sees how she’s flourishing without him…but his children keep nagging him to reconsider Sally.

Eventually, John and Sally do remember the good times they had, and through a series of scenes we see their love as it developed from the beginning. His bitterness melts, and they realize they still love each other, but are now on different paths, and so decide to have just an amiable relationship/friendship. They still divorce, but they become more like a family living in separate houses rather than a broken family that can’t be together.

THIS IS NOT A ROMANCE…because the formula does not exist. One may argue that the BGG is implied. Obviously, if John and Sally are married, then Boy got Girl at some point in the backstory—that’s a perfectly acceptable and logical argument. Obviously, BLG is there—if John is moving out, then boy is losing girl. BUT: in this scenario, even though the ending is satisfying and basically happy (no one dies, they are able to resolve their differences enough to be friends) we don’t have the BGGB part of the formula because John does not get Sally back at the end.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s change the ending and say that John and Sally do get back together at the end. Then, the formula would be there, and this would be a romance, right?

Technically, yes, the formula would be there. But, would the journey have focused on the discovery of one for the other? Not exactly. In this scenario, the scope of the plot isn’t focused enough on John and Sally discovering their love for one another. The scope is too wide and focuses more on the slice of life vignette that gets them from point A to point B. This is a love story, not a romance.

Now, could we turn this plot into a romance? Absolutely! Let’s say that, rather than focusing on Sally finding herself and the children imploring them to get back together, the story focuses more on John and Sally rediscovering their love. Let’s say the story begins the same—John and Sally having problems and contemplating divorce. But, after John moves out, the story focuses on the rediscovery of the love they hold for each other. They spend time together—dating, basically—although it’s all on the pretext of negotiating the divorce, they find they really do still love each other. John “woos” Sally, and this wooing is the focus of the scenes (rather than the focus being on the struggles and strife involved in the divorce, as in the previous scenario). And, of course, at the end of the book, there is no divorce. John moves back in, and they live HEA.

THIS IS A ROMANCE…because the formula is still in tact. BGG (in the backstory, because we begin with them married). BLG—John moves out and we discover the conflict of love lost, bitterness, hopelessness for the future—and then, BGGB. They rediscover their love for each other while on a series of dates and get-togethers, and in the end, they are back together for the HEA. The plot is focused on the discovery of love between a man and a woman, and doesn’t focus on the broader issues.

I realize that these plot examples are very simple, but I hope that they give you a little insight into the difference between romance stories and love stories. Both can be great books, but one is not the other. It's important to know the difference, because romance readers have certain expectations, and as an author, if you don't deliver that, the reader is going to be upset, and possibly never read another one of your books again.

For more on what a romance is and should be, visit the TWRP greenhouse. There are lots of great articles in there. For “So You Want to Write a Romance” visit here.

Happy Writing!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Turning 2

Two years old. It brings to mind an image of toddlers. No longer babies,they aren't children and certainly are far from adulthood. Two year olds are notorious for throwing temper tantrums one minute and clinging to their mom the next. They are high energy, take a lot of patience, have endless curiousity and they surprise you on a daily basis.

The Wild Rose Press turned 2 on May and is very much a toddler. It has taken a lot of energy, patience and curiousity to get us to where we are today. Some days it feels like we've been around forever. The processes we have in place, the stories we have in the bookstore, the wonderful staff, and the friends we've made all make it feel like its always been here. And yet there's times when we learn something new and we are amazed by the discovery. We're a lot like that toddler, feeling our way along, learning, growing and getting bigger. Much like a two year old though, there's times when things don't quite go as we wanted or don't turn out the way we thought they would and we close the garden gate and throw temper tantrums in private. Hey I'm being honest, you know, its not all sunshine and roses here in the garden. There's been "issues", there's been "discussions", but we've learned from everything and its made us what we are today.

Fortunately, in the past two years there's been far more wonderful surprises then there has been bad. We're ready for whatever challenges are to come in our third year (that sounds weird just to write it - third year??). There will be fun and hard work and we'll meet new folks along the way who will become part of this beautiful garden.

I'm rambling, I know it, but I wanted to say that turning 2 is fabulous. We had no clue where we were going two years ago. We took baby steps in the beginning. we wobbled and we fell and we got up. Now we're a toddler and ready to discover all the world of romance publishing has to offer. We're off and running to the next exciting adventure and I hope you're coming with us.

Happy birthday TWRP!

Friday, May 2, 2008

POD: The Ugly Step-Sister

For the umpteenth time, I recently heard someone say (not about TWRP, but another publisher) “but they are a POD publisher.” The words, of course, were offered as a warning—as they usually seem to be. I always find this attitude ironic. POD is a method of publishing, no better or worse than using an AB Dick over a Heidelberg (those are printing press manufacturers, for those of you who might not know). So, why is there so much controversy over the POD method and the publishers who utilize it? Let’s take a look at some of the common objections:
1. Publishers who use POD are not reputable. Because there’s no overhead and no inventory commitment, anyone can set up shop
  • Fact: Anyone can set up shop using any business or method. Money has nothing to do with it. Many disreputable companies actually have overhead money to use in order to look reputable and “scam” more people. Just because “anyone” can start a POD publishing company does not mean they are not reputable. How a company deals with consumers and employees, and the quality of the product they offer in relationship to the product price determines whether they are reputable.
  • Fact: There are overhead costs to POD publishing. LSI, Booksurge, etc—these companies all charge a fee for cataloguing a title. And, that’s an up-front fee in addition to the per-printed fees that come each time a title is ordered. In addition to the individual title fees, publishers also have to create a cover, which also costs money.
  • Fact: Inventory commitment is a business decision. I find this argument especially interesting because when Amazon (we all know Amazon, right?) first opened their doors, they had NO inventory! They were a website and database. That’s all. Nobody balked at that. In fact, it was a fantastic business model: Incur as little expense as possible until after the sale. What a concept. It’s what made investors jump in and give Amazon money to set up “real” warehouses, and is also what helped make them the bookstore-and-more giant they are today.

2. There’s no distribution in POD, so authors’ books won’t be in bookstores
  • Fact: Bookstores decide what books are in their stores. If a POD publisher is using LSI as their printer, all those titles are in Ingram’s (the largest book distributor) database, and any store, library, etc. which uses Ingram can order that book.
  • Fact: POD publishers who use LSI actually have their titles available virtually worldwide—that’s major distribution availability.
3. OK, so the titles are available, but that doesn’t help if bookstores won’t carry them—and they won’t because POD books are not returnable.
  • Fact: Returnability is a publisher choice. Doubleday could make their mass market books non-returnable if they so chose.
  • Fact: The Wild Rose Press books are returnable (I had to throw that in there!)
  • Fact: Availability in bookstores depends on consumer demand. The more customers who walk into a store and order a certain title, the more likely the bookstore is to carry that title—or others from that publisher or author—POD, or not. It’s about revenue, not printing model. That’s how inventory is chosen.
4. Nobody buys POD books because they are too expensive.
  • Fact: POD books cost more than mass market paperbacks. No denying that. That’s because it costs more to produce a POD book than it does a mass market paperback printed in the five-or-six digit numbers. BUT, that doesn’t mean people aren’t buying them. The average Mass Market paperback is $8. The average POD book is $12 (fiction). Yes, there’s a $4 difference, but not so much of a disparity that people who want to read are balking at the price of POD. After all, we live in an age where in many places $4 doesn’t get you a gallon of gasoline or diesel. And that $4 hasn’t gotten anyone in to see a regular-priced movie in years! People will easily forego a Latte for a good read. That’s why POD is on the rise. Even the major publishers like Doubleday and Harper Collins utilize this technology at times.
  • Fact: Price always matters to some, and never matters to others. It's a personal choice that has nothing to do with product. Hardbacks are more expensive than paperbacks, but publishers still produce them because some consumers like a hardback--even if they have to give $20 for the same title they could get for $8 in paperback.

So, what am I trying to say with all this? Just that authors shouldn’t get sucked into the mentality that POD is the ugly step-sister and should be avoided. POD is nothing more than a technology for printing--one that is on the rise and becoming more wide-spread because it makes good business sense for publishers to have as little up-front expense as possible. (not to be confused with no upfront cost :) )

When you are looking for a publisher, check the reputability of that publisher. Are they, in fact a subsidy or vanity publisher (a company that charges an author a fee--or other makes other demands in exchange for publication)? Do they treat their authors with respect? Do they have a good reputation and follow through on their promises? Do they honour their contract properly? These are the important things.

Your story is your baby. All authors want the best distribution—and money—for their stories. That’s a given. But when seeking the better/best deal, don’t confuse a “lesser” deal with a “bad” deal. No one would say that accepting a contract with Tyndale over Thomas Nelson makes TN a “bad” publisher. Tyndale and Thomas Nelson are both reputable publishers—even if one of them perhaps offers a larger print run or advance over the other (using those names as examples only--not claiming to know anything specific about either). Just so, don’t say a reputable POD publisher is “bad” just because it uses a publishing method of printing that is different from mass-production. Always, always look for the best deal for you—and that is going to vary per author based on what he or she wants or can get from his or her particular story or situation.

I feel privileged to be an editor with The Wild Rose Press. We strive to help our authors achieve greatness in their writing. There isn’t an editor here who wouldn’t cheer one of our own authors for striving for, or receiving, a contract from a larger house. (Just as I would hope that a Dorchester editor would cheer an author who received a multi-book contract with Penguin).

TWRP has a fantastic reputation. That reputation is recognized by major organizations, such as RWA, and celebrated by authors who are in our garden, as well as advocacy groups like P&E.

We are a small and fairly new publisher. But we have grown leaps and bounds since our inception just two years ago. And one day, God willing, we’ll be counted among those "arrived" publishers like Doubleday and Avon—even if we always use the POD method for publishing our print titles.