Monthly Archives: February 2012
It’s Sunday night at 6:03pm and I’m watching the 84th Annual Academy Awards. The Oscars. Given to the best films of the year. The best of the best. Movies start out with an idea, a story, and travel over many hurdles to become films on the silver screen, or DVD’s watched in the comfort of our own homes. Challenges are met and overcome until we, the avid viewer, are presented with something bigger and better than the original idea.
The winners are using words like inspiration, wow, incredible honor, joy and privilege, thank you, you’re an idiot, this is crazy, an epic thrill, proud, this is a beautiful thing, life is wonderful.
Though it has nothing to do with the Oscars, Thursday will be my last day at the day job. The office is closing.
Like many writers, I’ve long dreamed of quitting the day job to be at my desk full time, coffee or tea at my elbow, something chocolate close to hand, laptop humming, stories pouring from my fingertips. In my imagination, there would be time to prepare, challenges, though of my own making, overcome. I’d already have a steady income from the sale of my books. I would know what the heck I was doing. I would have a plan.
That’s not exactly how the dream came about. The decision to close the office was a sudden one, not totally unexpected, but certainly life altering. A part of me is excited. Another part is…not nervous…but nervous, you know? I’m not sure I know exactly what I’m doing, but I do have a plan…of sorts. Okay, I always have a plan. It’s true. If one door doesn’t open, another will. Life is that way, isn’t it?
The plan: down the hall, and through the second door on the right, I’ll write, revise, make covers, convert manuscripts, upload to Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords, get books ready to print at Lightening Source, teach workshops, write blog posts, interview other authors, tweet, facebook, write and revise some more, and then repeat it over and over until I’ve told the very best story I can. Until my stories have grown to be bigger and better than my original idea.
All that’s left to say is…inspiration, wow, incredible honor, joy and privilege, thank you (for being here for me), idiot, this is crazy, a beautiful thing, an epic thrill, I’m proud to be here. Life is wonderful.
Next week, take this step along the journey with me, and stay tuned.
I grew up in an easier time. A time where we played outside every day until the streetlights came on and our mothers hollered at us from the front porch that dinner was on the table.
There were no computers, no cell phones, and no rules that required us to only ride bikes with helmets. The sound of crickets wasn’t drown out by air conditioners and jars with holes in the top were kept for fireflies on the back porch.
If we wanted pecans, we gathered them off the ground and shelled them ourselves. We drank from water hoses. Our swimming pool was public and running though the sprinkler was the at-home version. We climbed trees, skinned our knees and pumped our legs as hard as we could when swinging because our goal was always to reach the sky.
A quarter allowance in those days meant we’d taken out the trash, mowed the lawn and picked up our room. If you misbehaved at school and were sent to the principal’s office, it wasn’t nearly as scary as when the principal picked up the phone to call your parents.
Just wait til your father gets home was a threat that had most of us quaking in our shoes. Shootings, drugs and gangs were not our fears. We simply didn’t want to make our parents mad. My first job paid minimum wage, $1.25 an hour. I was grateful to have my first spending money.
Mothers on TV cleaned the house in high heels and pearls. And women, according to Foster Freiss, held an aspirin between their knees to keep from getting pregnant which proved to be remarkably ineffective.
But we grew up and so did America. Lots of us remember our past in the pictures I’ve conjured, but if you were a person of color in the fifties, your experience was very different from the one I’ve described. The country donned rose-colored glasses and ignored the problems that simmered under the surface.
With the late sixties, a paradigm shift swept the nation. Females who were always charged with keeping their sexuality under control were told – it’s okay now. You can have sex. And enjoy it. We have the pill (different from the above-mentioned aspirin).
But the pill wasn’t readily available to young and unmarried women. Having a child out-of-wedlock changed your life and rarely for the good. Sure men could go on to college, but a pregnant teenager didn’t. Sometimes the only option she had was a home for unwed mothers. Abortions were available from back-alley butchers with coat hangers or one could fly to California or New York. Travel, see the world, have surgery.
The feminist movement was born in an effort to counteract injustice facing one-half of our population.
This is not a time in our history I would like to re-visit.
But apparently Congress feels we should. Last week Republican Chairman Darrell Issa convened an all-male birth control panel. No women were allowed to speak in support of birth control coverage. And the non-biased men used examples including non-inflammatory words like “soul rape”. One even made an allusion to Joseph Stalin. At the same time the State of Virginia wants to require transvaginal ultrasounds to be given before abortions can be performed.
Folks, we have serious problems in this country. Unemployment. The economy. The national deficit. We are in wars so complex that I’m not sure of how many, where or even why. Banks and mortgage lenders are in trouble yet continue to dig a deeper hole.
On a personal note, I have books that need to be sold.
Why are we wasting our time on legislating morality? We have thousands of years of history to prove it can’t be done. Americans are not stupid. We understand that Congress doesn’t want to solve problems as much as it wants to engage in a bloodbath fight with those from an opposing party.
Please. Our country needs you. Get off your high-moral ground ass and go to work. Play nicely together. Share your toys. Treat others as you would like to be treated. Milk and cookies solves many problems. These are the good lessons the fifties taught us and they are the ones that need to be revisited.
I’m very pleased to bring to you today an interview of a new romance imprint, Crimson Romance, to a long-standing publisher, Adams Media (now a Division of F + W Media, Inc.) who publishes nonfiction. In fact, I checked out some of their offerings in the writing section. There are quite a few of them you’ll recognize.
Please join me in welcoming Jennifer Lawler, Crimson Romance’s Imprint Manager. I hope you enjoy reading the interview as much as I did.
For their submission guidelines, check out http://www.adamsmedia.com/call-for-submissions
What made you decide to become a publisher?
Adams Media, the publisher behind the Crimson Romance imprint, is an established midsize publisher that has been successfully publishing nonfiction for many years. You may have heard of our “Cup of Comfort” series or our “Everything” series. Many of our readers of nonfiction are of the same demographic profile as readers of romance, so when we decided to expand our publishing efforts, publishing romance seemed like a logical step. When the decision was made, I was working as a nonfiction development editor for Adams Media and gave some input as to how to shape the line, and eventually was asked to launch and manage it. As a romance reader and writer, this is like heaven for me!
Tell us about your name/logo. Where did you come up with it? What’s the significance?
We are working on our logo now! We’re preparing for a June launch and have a few agenda items left to accomplish, that being one of them. We’re hoping to come up with a clean visual that says “smart and contemporary.” For the name, the publisher and I just went to all our contacts and said, “Let’s brainstorm!” So we did, coming up with long lists of potential imprint names. In the end, we went with Crimson because, of course, that is the color connected with love and romance but also because it’s a name that can be shaped–it doesn’t conjure up unwanted associations.
Could you please tell us specifically what types of books Crimson Romance publishes?
Right now, we’re acquiring in five subgenres: contemporary, historical, romantic suspense, paranormal, and erotic romance. We’re looking for full-length titles of about 50K words. We love tried-and-true romance themes but would love to see smart new takes on them. We are not interested in old-fashioned stories of domineering men; we’d rather see conflict between likeable characters arise because of conflicting goals (with which a reader can feel some sympathy)–not because one of the characters is a jerk.
If you could get your hands on more stories in a certain genre–or with certain characters – what would it be?
We would love to see more historicals. We’re interested in all historical periods and just don’t get as many historical submissions as we do the other subgenres. If I could get a wish granted, it would be to get more great historicals into our lineup.
What are you absolutely not looking for?
Right now we’re not looking for YA romance, although this is starting to become a bigger trend. And, of course, everything has to be romance–we’re getting some erotic romance submissions that are erotica, but not romances.
Will you be doing both e-books and print books? Where can you find Crimson Romance books?
We are what I would call an eBook-mostly publisher. The bulk of our distribution and promotion will be in selling eBooks. However, all of our titles will also be available as print-on-demand. You’ll be able to find us at all the usual third-party retailers, such as Amazon, iTunes, etc. We’ll also have a dedicated Crimson Romance website for readers–we’ve got some exciting plans for building a community of readers.
Most new writers have visions of agents and New York publishing houses dancing in their heads. Can you tell us some of the advantages of signing with a digital/small press publisher over a New York publisher?
If you can get that agent and New York publishing house, who am I to argue that you shouldn’t? Give it a go! It’s your dream, so you have to pursue it in the way that’s right for you.
As far as our advantages go, a big one is that while we’re not Harlequin or Random House, we are an established publishing company and we’re not going to disappear tomorrow, leaving your rights in limbo and your book in that weird twilight zone of kind-of-published-but-not-really. We’re a start-up in one sense–we’re new at romance publishing–which means opportunity, but at the same time we’re not going to be deciding whether to pay royalties or the electric bill. We are a solid publisher. In the eBook arena, that’s very important.
As far as advantages to going with a smaller publisher: I have the final say on all acquisitions. If I like a book, there’s no nail-biting agony of “Ohmygod, will it get approved by the acquisitions committee???” If I want to publish it, I send out a contract. We also acquire faster, so you’re not spending months languishing, wondering what’s going to happen to your book. I’ve signed some titles two weeks after they’ve been submitted. I also have more latitude in what I acquire. Most of the big publishing houses have very particular ideas about what they want (check out the Harlequin writers’ guidelines to see what I mean!). I don’t. I just want to publish books that readers will enjoy.
By the same token, if I think your work shows promise but isn’t quite there yet, I won’t just reject your work. I’ll send out a revision letter with my editorial suggestions and invite you to resubmit. NY publishing houses are rarely able to devote that kind of time to writers. We’re also eager to work with prolific writers–we have a very aggressive release schedule, so there’s no “one book a year” rule here–unless that’s what you want.
What do you look for in a prospective writer?
For me, the story comes first, so I’m not focused on past publication history, etc. I just have to decide, “Is this a book I want to publish?” If the answer is yes, then the writer is perfect just as she is Of course, like all editors, I prefer to work with writers who treat their work professionally–they respond to requests in a timely fashion, are clear about what’s going on (for example, a ms they submitted has been contracted elsewhere, and they let me know with an email withdrawing the submission), understand how the process works or ask questions about it instead of assuming, etc. In other words, even if they are beginners/unpublished, they treat it like a profession rather than a hobby.
After you receive a query/synopsis–approximately how long does it take you to reply to the author?
We respond to queries within a few days, and to fulls, usually within a month.
Most authors seem to feel it’s the publisher’s responsibility to do the marketing–that all an author should do is write. In your opinion, how important is marketing and what’s the writer’s responsibility in this area?
Marketing/promotion is crucial–if people don’t know your book exists, they won’t buy it. But we’re of the opinion that writers don’t need us if we expect them to do all the work. We are very very good at editorial, production, distribution, and promotion. So we will hold up our end of the deal. On the other hand, the days of a writer simply closeting herself in her office to write and never coming out are over (if they ever actually existed). The writer is the person with whom an audience connects. A reader wants to read a particular author–Jane Doe–not a particular publishing house–Crimson Romance. Of course we’d like to establish Crimson Romance as the place to go to find romances you’ll love, but in the end, it comes down to a connection between the reader and the writer. If the writer can foster that by being part of a community, that’s terrific, and extremely helpful for sales. The main thing is to find *enjoyable* ways to connect with your audience. There is no need to spend thousands of dollars putting together a book signing tour when you’d much rather connect with people on Facebook. There are so many tools available now that you really just need to find the ones that work for you and use them.
Across the Internet, the most common expressed concern is the perceived lack of quality control in eBooks. Would you like to comment on where Crimson Romance is with respect to performance in this area?
Since eBooks are relatively easy to produce, and anyone can do them, there’s no real barrier to entry, so people just put anything out there. Crimson Romance has the same high editorial standards of any traditional publishing company. We are selective in what we acquire–we acquire only a small amount of what we see. All of our titles go through a complete editorial process, including developmental editing. All of our titles are copyedited, proofread, etc. The only difference between our methods and traditional publishing is that we’re focusing on the eBook market.
Educate yourself–and don’t stop! The world of publishing is changing rapidly and what worked even five years ago may not work today. So, be flexible, pay attention to what’s happening in publishing–but never forget that you have to tell great stories. Your focus should always come back to craft. If you don’t work on craft, the rest won’t help.
Please tell us in one sentence– why we should read Crimson Romance books/authors.
We’re publishing heartfelt yet smart romances for sophisticated readers, melding beloved, classic themes with a contemporary sensibility.
Anything else you’d like to say?
I love making connections with writers, so please feel free to send questions my way. By the same token, a rejection from me just means “not the right project for right now.” I encourage writers to keep writing and to submit new projects as they have them. Please don’t ever think “no” means “don’t bother asking again.” Like most editors, I can’t give detailed feedback on a rejection–and really, one person’s opinion is just one person’s opinion!–and I will offer a revision letter if I think the project is close to suiting our needs.
We’re also bringing out-of-print romances back into existence with our new Prologue imprint–writers with an out-of-print backlist can connect with me about this opportunity.
See Jane Readers; please join me in wishing Jennifer and Crimson Romance much success!
I recently read an article by Ashley McConnell (I’m sorry I don’t have a link, but here’s her website), for The NINC Binder: A Comprehensive Guide to the New World of Publishing, titled, Crowdsourcing: In the Crowd, or Leading It?
Crowdsourcing is essentially, according to Wikipedia, an open call for contributions to solve a specific problem, or leveraging mass collaboration to achieve a business goal.
Making use of group intelligence sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it? But how does it apply to novels? According to McConnell, Penguin and Avon Books have both tried crowdsourcing a novel – inviting anyone who’s interested to contribute plot line ideas. You can check that out at Wired.com.
Perhaps more importantly, McConnell also postulates crowdsourcing is about creating a community. Which sounds a little like making street teams. Author Lawrence Watt-Evans’ website, the World of Ethshar is a good example of how he used crowdsourcing tools to develop his community.
By the way, The NINC Binder is a must have for any author on the writer’s path. Thanks to Susan Fox Lyons for bringing it to our attention.
So in the spirit of crowdsourcing, what kind of posts would you like to see on See Jane Publish? What kind of information can we bring you? Do you think it would be interesting, or fun, in fact, to have input into a story plot line? This curious Jane wants to know.