Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Man In The Wilderness

by Kevin Symmons
(note from Rhonda Penders - Kevin is an author with The Wild Rose Press and asked to be a guest blogger on our site in anticipation of the RWA National Conference this year being held in Anaheim, California beginning July 25.)

I ran to catch the elevator at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, D.C. It was a humid July afternoon at the 2009 Nationals. I was returning to the building after having been shuttled outside with thousands of other guests. It was the day after the horrific Mumbai terrorist attacks and something had happened. We spent thirty minutes sweating in the noontime heat and were allowed to return to the hotel never to discover what the threat had been. Many slept with one eye open and our running shoes next to the bed that night. I know I did! Some initiation for a first-time National Conference attendee. But threats and paranoia aside, I was pleased with myself. I’d met Donald Maass, esteemed literary agent, in the coffee line, Nora Roberts in the lobby and been inspired by a talk from Eloisa James, whose latest Duchess novel I had recently finished.I caught the elevator and got in with two charming and lovely attendees whose name tags I sneaked a look at. No household names, but both wore the PAN label I coveted.They looked at me, my name tag and then each other. 
To say they wore curious expressions would be an exercise in understatement. I nodded politely and turned around to press my floor, when one of the women cleared her throat, took my arm, and asked me, “What are you doing here?”Pushy, yes…but nonetheless a good question, I thought as I swallowed deeply? After all, I was a man. One of a tiny handful, hopelessly outnumbered by this feminine army of more than 2,500 romance writers. I was well aware of the sobering statistic that 98-plus percent of all romance novels were written by women. A lesser man might have skulked away and huddled in the corner, but in an earlier life I’d been tested in the scorching fires of what were euphemistically known as America’s “smokestack” industries. I’d suffered a brutal trial by ordeal! These women were way out of their league.I smiled; mustering every ounce of sweetness I possessed and answered, “I write romance novels. How about you?”They stole a glance at each other and nodded politely. We finished our brief encounter with a pleasant thirty seconds of conversation before reaching our respective floors.But their question was on point. Very much so. 
My reading tastes had always included McCullough, Ellis and Nathaniel Philbrick. I enjoyed novels, but denser, more intense offerings like those of Ken Follett or literary things like Cold Mountain, The Kite Runner and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. When I’d contemplated my maiden voyage to the Nationals, part of my soul said, “Save the money and stay home!” I’d been mentored by talented and prolific author (and past RWA President) Jo Ann Ferguson (aka Jocelyn Kelley). Jo Ann helped build my sagging confidence by reassuring me that RWA had once been lead by Harold Lowry, aka Leigh Greenwood… a man! I had also read many offerings of Nicholas Sparks and a talented author named Richard Paul Evans. But their work was women’s fiction not pure romance (too many POVs and too few HEA endings!) I knew the odds were still stacked heavily against me.Perhaps it was my masochistic nature or pure stubbornness, but despite the sobering statistics and veritable mountain of information that should have dissuaded me from this absurd, alien pursuit, for some reason, when I sat down at my laptop what emerged was a novel that quickly morphed into a romance titled When Summer Ends (aka Landfall) with little or no help from its author.
For even novitiate authors this spontaneous development of character and plot is well known. One of my favorite workshop leaders, Kate Flora, told a wonderful story about what Stephen King refers to as this organic approach to writing. Kate explained that she had gone home late one night to take her heroine out for a drive so they could come to an understanding. Non-writers would have tiptoed out the back door and called the shrinks. But after working on my first novel for only a month I knew exactly what she was talking about. The characters and plot did seem to grow organically on their own.As I stood in the Marriott lobby waiting for my friends and surveyed the attendees I did have a moment of self doubt. Did I, a humble squire, belong here with these queens and princesses, the royalty of the romance genre? Damn right, I did!
For the next two days I attended every class and workshop I could, finding a special interest in those that dealt with the paranormal. By the time I got back to my Cape Cod home, an idea had begun to take shape. After seemingly endless hours of analysis and tutorials on vampires, witches (my personal favorite), daemons and zombies, what had been an unassuming YA project would be transformed into a paranormal. Courtney, my beautiful young heroine, would become the embodiment of a thousand year-old Wiccan Goddess.Apparently the paranormal thing was the charm (excuse the pun!). After two novels and many rejections, Rite of Passage sold to The Wild Rose Press in September of 2011.The talented and charming young editor of this specialty romance house who bought the novel actually told me that, “Some of the most insightful authors she’d shared the podium with were actually men!” Now, we have a wonderful working relationship and I mean no disrespect but it does bring home my point. My publisher has over 300 authors. How many men? Though the pseudonym thing is difficult to breakthrough, if you said three you’d win the grand prize.
Why am I writing this? It’s simple. In hopes that the next time an elevator full of you lovely, talented mavens of romance spy a man with a badge (one that relates to a conference and is not accompanied by a gun and a set of handcuffs) you’ll take pity on him… or us and the tiny minority who’ve decided to pursue this difficult path to literary success.If you want to hear more or pursue the discussion in depth, join me and Arlene Kay, my writing partner at this year’s NEC-RWA where we’ll be presenting a unique and fun-filled session titled, “He said… She Said.” That’s right—it’s all about the male/female perspective in romance writing!Hope to see you there!ë 
Writer, college faculty member, and president of one of the Northeast’s most respected writing organizations, Kevin Symmons most recent work, Rite of Passage, is a paranormal tale to keep you turning pages late into the night. His other efforts include Voices, a sweeping women’s fiction work that brings to light the tragic problem of domestic violence in contemporary America. He has also collaborated with award winning screenwriter, playwright, and Professor Barry Brodsky who has adapted one of Kevin’s story ideas to the screen. Kevin is currently at work on his next novel, a romantic thriller set near his Cape Cod home. Visit him at

Monday, July 9, 2012

What makes for a great blurb? Start with a great story.

Ever go back and forth on whether your story is ready for submission or needs to be revised? Or wonder whether your work-in-progress will work? Try writing a blurb. Those 150-word summaries that introduce your characters and your plot are not just great for selling books. They’re terrific tools for analyzing your story.

How? Well, if there’s one thing I’ve learned during my time on TWRP’s blurb committee, it’s this: blurbs shine a megawatt spotlight on plot flaws. Lack of romantic conflict? The blurb falls flat. Lack of motivation? The blurb feels unfocused. Too much plot at the expense of characterization and romance? The blurb is an info dump. In fact, it’s almost impossible to write a great blurb for a story that doesn’t have a good balance between external and romantic conflict, or one that has too much plot and not enough characterization.

So the next time you’re trying to decide if your most recent draft should be your last, or even when you’re outlining a plot before you begin writing, try crafting a blurb to make sure your story works. The easiest way to begin is with the standard blurb formula:
Optional tagline: Phrase that captures essence of the story 
First paragraph: She wants this (Goal) because of this (Motivation) but can’t have it because of that (Conflict).
Second paragraph: He wants this (Goal) because of this (Motivation) but can’t have it because of that (Conflict).
Third paragraph: Give a sense of the hero and heroine's adventure and the outcome of the romance (Hint: it should be happy :)
Need some help getting started? Poke around our website and read some blurbs, or consider this example from our Honky Tonk series, Nothing But Trouble:
Chase Paladin avoids commitment like a patch of stinging nettles. He's seen how love can trample a man, and he doesn't plan to get hitched—ever. But when Honor Jackson walks into his life, hell-bent on keeping her distance, she turns his convictions inside out.
One look at the too-handsome cowboy with laughing green eyes and a killer smile, and Honor knows he's nothing but trouble. She's come to Redemption, Texas to help an old friend, not to let another man charm her into certain heartache.
But every time she turns around, Chase is there, and the closer they get, the more she fears he'll break her heart. So when anonymous threats make it clear that someone in Redemption wants her gone, Honor is ready to oblige. Only now Chase isn’t certain he can live without her.
Will two wary hearts take a chance on love before it's too late?
Nice, right? Notice how it shows the conflict—both romantic and external—and shows what each character has at stake? Here’s another great example from Something to Talk About:
Born-to-be-bland meets born-to-be-wild...
Annabelle Leahey is ready to be bad. Fed up with quilting bees and bridge clubs, Ann has to change or grow old alone. But going from bashful to bold won't be easy—especially since thong underwear is her idea of risqué. So Ann needs a guide, and rancher Mitchell Black is the perfect candidate.
The last thing Mitchell needs is more trouble. He hasn't lived down his bad boy days yet and he has no intention of resurrecting them now. But when Ann asks for his help, he can't refuse. Especially since the preacher's daughter has suddenly become a fireball of temptation.
Mitchell's determined to keep his role in Ann's research hands-off, but Ann has plans of her own. She intends to show Mitchell what he's missing—and that being bad with the right person can be o-o-o-oh so good.
See how the blurb concisely summarizes the characters, shows the reader what is at stake, and sets up the conflict between the hero and heroine? That's a sign of a well-plotted story.

So next time you’re working on a manuscript and wondering if it’s good enough to submit, try writing a blurb for it. If you find that you can’t sum up your characters and their romance in 150 words or less, chances are the story needs some work.

But if you find you can write a dynamite blurb, you’ll not only know that your story has a good plot, but you’ll be ahead of the game when it comes time to write a query letter and submit your manuscript!

Monday, July 2, 2012

You have a release what?

Remember the post from a few weeks ago called After Galley? RJ gave us insight on what happens to your book once both you and your editor have said, "Yes, my baby is ready to go."

Finally you receive the email notification. You have a release date. Now what?

First, read the report carefully. It contains your name as is will appear at etailers and on our website. Be sure it's spelled correctly. Make sure the heat rating is correct. We have a series of checks and balances so hopefully by this point there are no mistakes, but this is that last chance to be sure. Check your title, your genre, etc. Every line of text on that email is important to someone who will be putting your book to market. And finally, open the PDF that comes attached in this email. This is your final file and the PDF that will eventually be available for purchase. Just give it a quick glance. Is your book cover correct in the file, the copyright date?

It's rare that you'll ever find an issue, but it makes a fix far easier if it's found before your book is uploaded to etailers on the web.

So you've checked your PDF and your book metadata is all correct. Now it's time to plan. You'll have anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to plot out your marketing strategy. But I'm sure you have some questions like, when will my book be on the coming soon page?

Our coming soon page shows books that will be releasing within the next 4 to 6 weeks. Your coming soon page will become your buy page. The URL won't change. Once you have your coming soon page, you'll see a Twitter and Facebook share button at the bottom of the page. You can share your book with your Twitter and Facebook friends. Also, you can use this function to share your fellow TWRP author's books. Promote each other. A network of authors is going to reach more readers.

You may be wondering if you should have reviews before the book releases. Actually no, we make your book available to reviewers prior to release, but only a few weeks. We are an electronic publisher and we market to consumers on the internet. If a reader sees your review, we want there to be a cover and a buy link with a book that is live. So we want reviews to post after release date.

So what can you do before release? Add your website and book title - coming soon to your email sigline. Schedule a blog tour, see if other authors would like to join you to host a party on a yahoo loop. TWRP has two reader loops. (erotic content)

My best advice on promoting your book is to do what you enjoy. If you hate blogging, don't start a blog. Perhaps schedule a blog tour where you do a week's worth of stops, but then your blogging is done. Post tidbits from your books on facebook. The first kiss, the physical description, the best line during the black moment. There are many teasers within your books that would make great Facebook posts. Twitter is perfect for "tagline" type of tweets?

But wait, your book is going to print. When will that happen? Your ebook page always comes first on the TWRP main website. (The Wilder Roses website generally shows the print buy page prior to the ebook)
When your book is available for purchase (generally 2 to 2 1/2 weeks before digital release) you will receive an email from RJ similar to the ebook release report. Read this email carefully. It tells you everything you need to know about your print edition, including how to order for yourself. Your print buy page will then be linked to your digital page on the website. Print and ebook each have their own URL.

Here are a couple of links to help with promotion. - this loop generates emails from the Yahoo calendar on what to post and what Yahoo loops. No chat email. - this loop is for authors to help authors.

If you know of a resource for authors, leave a comment and share it with us.

Stop back for more on marketing.

Lisa Dawn
Marketing Director
The Wild Rose Press