Eleanor Elliott, Director Digital Commerce, and Aideen O’Leary-Chung, Manager Digital Commerce, sat down with me to record a podcast about their digital marketing plans for Carina Press. I may be slightly prejudiced because I like working with smart people, but they are two bright, passionate marketers who have a lot of experience in digital and traditional print publishing!
We discuss launch plans, covers, how authors can participate and how working on Carina is very different from their experiences with Harlequin.
We also ask for questions. Please do ask questions, as questions and answers could be our next podcast. What would you like to know?
(Angela’s note:I will be in the Toronto offices in two weeks and ready to make another podcast, so you can ask questions about the editorial, marketing, promotional side of Carina–or anything at all that you want to know about the press!)
To wrap up my series on submissions here on the Carina blog, here’s a post to let you know what the editors said they’d especially love to see. Not that they’re not acquiring across the board (because they are) but the story theme/idea/genre that makes their hearts race in anticipation and arm wrestle each other in the inbox. They’ve shared both specific (very specific in some cases!) and generic, to give you a sense of their reading pleasure.
Melissa Johnson — I am “still” into vampires, demons and shapeshifters.
I’d love to see some submissions that give me a real feel for a subculture in North America (or elsewhere). It could be economic, geographic, ethnic or all three…yum. I have a longstanding crush on stories about outcast witches, who meet and transform conservative heros…in a rural and/or historical setting.
Kym Hinton — I’m kind of a nerd in this sense, but I’d love to see some medical-focused romances. I’m not saying they need to be like Grey’s Anatomy, but Harlequin has a medical line, and I devoured them while I was in grad school. It was the best combo of work plus fun. If your heroine’s a phlebotomist and your hero’s a vampire or your firefighter falls in love with an EMT, I’d love to see it.
I’m also interested in more same-sex romances that aren’t necessarily erotic (though erotic is great too). Romantic comedies, paranormals, and historicals are personal favorites, but I’d be happy to read these stories in any genre.
Gina Bernal — I second the call for werewolves and more erotic romance (and erotic werewolves!). I’m a sucker for marriage of convenience stories and reimaginings of the Beauty and the Beast tale. In historicals, I love roguish marauders–pirates and vikings? Yes, please! I’m a big fan of fun, sexy contemporaries, and if you’ve written one with a rugby-playing hero you are an author after my own heart. I would also love to see some good non-romance women’s fiction, especially family drama a la Jodi Picoult.
Laura Anne Gilman — I’d love to see steampunk (which is very very hot right now, and we can get new projects out there faster than anyone else) and werewolfy stuff, which I think is also going to be hot. Romantic or not, don’t care. Horror would also be wonderful.
Rhonda Stapleton — Ooh, I second the steampunk thing! Also, I love to read any genre of romance, with heat levels ranging from very sweet to sizzling hot. I particularly love historicals set in unusual time periods or locales, but am drawn to most any era or location as long as the story is compelling. I’m eager for more futuristic and fantasy where the worldbuilding is strong without being overwhelming or needing a bible just to follow along–and if I can pronounce the names of the characters, that’s definitely a plus. :D As a side note, I would kill for great stories that have ninjas or samurai–and if the stories have romance too, all the better!
Alissa Davis — I would love to get some foodie romances. Anything where either the hero or heroine is a chef, food critic, bakery owner or the like is right up my alley. Big fan of Top Chef here!
I’d also like some paranormal m/m, some really epic fantasy romance, and a few pregnant heroines. If you come across any tortured heroes, send them to sit by me!
Deborah Nemeth – I’d love to see some ms with unusual settings, from exotic locations to space opera to historicals. I welcome genre blends, such as Regency suspense, gay epic fantasy, space opera mysteries, romantic comedy heists, paranormal thrillers. And I find books with flawed, passionate heroes and heroines very appealing, including the disgraced and dispossessed who live on the fringe, rustlers, smugglers, forgers, thieves, courtesans, black marketers, rebels and con men…
Michael Banks – I’d like to see a good steampunk mystery.
Jessica Schulte — I would love to see anything where characters have (or a character has) a strong connection to animals. It doesn’t have to be Doctor Doolittle-y but that relationship of mutual respect between a human and a member of another species gets me all the time. And if somehow it’s involved in the plot . . . and yes, werewolves and paranormal species count, all the more the better.
And historicals that take me someplace completely new–This doesn’t rule out Regencies or Victorians–I want to see a new corner of that era.
I also really look for characters who intrigue me. Characters who struggle with their demons, and their own inconsistencies. If the character really grabs me, I’ll go anywhere with her/him.
Angela — I have so little time to edit right now, but there are a few things I’d find time for. First, the same thing I’ve been asking for the past five years– a really great space cowboy book in the vein of Firefly, or other space opera-ish stories. I’ve also been asking for action adventure for years. You know, Lara Croft meets National Treasure and Allan Quatermain? (contemporary, historical or futuristic, I’ll take any setting as long as the action adventure is fast paced and fun). Last, write me a really funny spy romance (a la Chuck) and I’ll be yours forever. It sounds like I have an obsession with TV (I don’t).
Also, I love (love) novellas. Paranormal, erotic, contemporary, futuristic…because my time is limited, novellas are easy for me to jump into and edit.
We’re looking for a few good authors, manuscripts and stories. Even if we didn’t describe yours above, we want to see it. Submission guidelines** are here and our inbox is open 24/7!
**If you have a manuscript you want to direct to a certain editor, please visit our submission guidelines and follow the steps there, submitting your material to the submissions inbox but including what editor you’re targeting in your query salutation.**
Last week I shared several posts about rejection. The first was why we don’t often do personalized rejections and the second was ten common reasons for rejection. In the spirit of giving insight into the submissions process, I’m going to talk about the opposite of rejection. Acquisition. Since I shared clips from the editors’ rejection reports, I thought it only fair to balance the process out and also show you what worked for them. One thing to keep in mind, is with each report there were still editorial concerns, things that would be addressed in edits. But those concerns were overshadowed by the positive things that made the book work for the editor (and eventually the acquisition team members who also read the book).
What made the editor say yes?
1. Original story concept
“…a well-crafted blend of science fiction and romance. SF readers as well as romance fans will enjoy the skillfully plotted tale. Set in a far future, it presents a pair of original concepts—one involving SF and the other romance.”
“…has a unique angle and is well-written…”
2. Characters they can relate to, fall in love with, want to read about
“The story is interesting, there’s a strong romance, but mostly there’s a great heroine at the center of it all. ”
“The characters of both the hero and heroine are well developed and vivid.”
“The characters are interesting, flawed, realistic, and compelling to read.”
3. Pacing that keeps them turning the pages
“The suspense in this story builds… even though I knew nothing too horrible would happen to the heroine, my heart was pounding during the last chapters.”
“The writing is clever and clean, and the story starts quickly and maintains momentum throughout.”
“The story starts quickly, which I love…”
4. Developed world building
“This book has surprising depth to be so short, and I was immediately drawn in to the world the author created…”
“…wonderfully written with a rich, engaging world.”
5. Skillfully told story that intersperses backstory
“It’s well-plotted and well-balanced, succeeding as both romance and mystery…”
“… I love how the backstory is interwoven into the current mystery, both of them [the protagonists] having baggage and backgrounds that play a role in the development of their relationship as well as in revealing the murderers.”
“…world-building and backstories are developed/revealed naturally as events unfold…”
6. Sustainable conflict
“The obstacles to the happily ever after are psychological: complex and believable.”
“The conflict sucks me in and the ending has some nice plot twists. ”
“The tension […] is strong and compelling…”
7. Any and all of the above
“…good conflict, character development, and descriptions, a readable voice and a compelling love story. ”
“The world building is such that I actually felt transported into the world the author has created, and the story is well-paced, action-packed, and has laugh-out-loud funny moments.”
“…a lovely, sweet romance with two fully-developed likable characters that struggle with issues as well as with each other to work out the mysteries life has thrown at them. The story is satisfying, and there is a curve ball thrown in (at least I was surprised) that took the story in a different direction than I expected. ”
“The writing is solid, the pacing tight, and the vivid descriptions […] will appeal… ”
“…dialogue is smooth and funny, and the action is gripping…”
“…what makes this story work for me is the execution. I love this author’s voice, her descriptions, and her ability to draw me in to her world and these characters’ inner lives.”
(Psst, today’s a holiday day for both Canada and the US Harlequin offices. I’m not really here writing this. Okay, I am, but I’ll try to keep it brief).
Last week was the week of submissions here on the blog, and I’m so glad that many of you found the posts, especially the post on reasons for rejection helpful. The response to that was much greater than I anticipated and many of you said you were going to be sharing it and passing it on. I have no problem with that at all, as the post was written with the intent to help, but I hope you’ll credit Carina Press when you share it and provide a link back when appropriate. I’m not quite done with my series on submissions. Still to come this week is a post on what worked in the books we’ve acquired, and I’ll be including snippets from the editors’ acquisition recommendations again. I’ll also be doing a post on what the editors have told me they secretly long for in a submissions as far as theme/topic/genre.
The other exciting thing I did last week was finish putting all of our acquisitions into the contract system. We now have many, many acquisitions you haven’t heard about and I need to come up with a way to remedy that. I know some of you have asked about this website, and how author driven it appears to be. Beginning later this spring, most likely in April, we’ll start focusing more on reader-centric topics. the website itself won’t change over to the commerce site until the day of launch, for a variety of technical reasons. Yes, the website will allow you to see the books, see what’s coming soon, read excerpts and pre-order books. That will all occur in the future, so no worries that it will be just me blathering on forever.
Speaking of the site, I want to direct your attention to our newly updated “About Us” page. It’s on this page that you’ll be able to find information on Carina Press appearances at workshops and conventions, as well as links to media articles and video about Carina. Eleanor and Tara worked to get that page updated and I think it looks fabulous. There are appearances missing from that page that we’ve added just recently to the schedule (I’ll be presenting a workshop at RWA Nationals and will also be doing an online self-editing workshop in March) or are in the process of adding, so check back periodically to see the updates. And if you have a local chapter or online forum, keep in mind I’m available for workshops and appearances.
Last, this week is exciting for us at Carina because we’re going to be revealing our first finalized covers here on the blog. Look for those, as well as the submissions posts I spoke of earlier, and a podcast from Malle, Aideen and Eleanor talking about Carina promotion and marketing.
Yesterday I blogged about why we are unable to do personalized rejections, so I thought it would be helpful to follow up with ten main reasons that manuscripts are rejected. What I’ve done is sorted through the reports editors have sent me over the past few months and grabbed clips from them to highlight various reasons manuscripts are rejected. The names of the editors are withheld to protect the (mostly) innocent. What I’m showing here is the ten themes repeated over and over in the rejection reports I received and I selected only a sampling of quotes to share, to give you insight into the editors’ thought process. Also, I think it should be noted that often rejection is for a combination of these reasons, and indeed, some of these clips came from the same report. The exception to that is probably number four, as unsophisticated writing is often a standalone reason for rejection.
1. The manuscript doesn’t catch the reader’s attention from the start.
“I kept turning pages wondering when the author would stop telling me things and let the action actually start.”
“…major info dumps in the first few chapters that slowed the pacing to a crawl.”
“…There is way too much irrelevant backstory at the beginning that slows down the pacing and does not directly affect the immediate plot.”
“…I’m also not sure where the story is going—it seems like it wanders leisurely through the narrative, rather than having a focused plot.”
“Nothing happens in the prologue or chapter one except the heroine thinking and establishing the backstory…”
2. The story doesn’t stand out as fresh or unique.
“No matter how good a story, starting with a [common urban fantasy theme] starts you at the disadvantage of being utterly derivative. In an overcrowded genre, there needs to be something really unique to the writing or world-building to make that scenario stand out, and nothing here does.”
3. The author has included too many unimportant details and not enough important details
“…the narrative was too focused on the superficial chicklit aspects (her hair, her clothes, her dating) at the expense of pacing and plotting.”
“The story gets bogged down by backstory, dream sequences, repetition…”
4. The writing just isn’t there (I could have divided this up, as it’s so broad)
“This is the author’s first novel and it shows, with many new-writer problems: too much narrative, thought & flashbacks vs. present action, POV problems, cliché situations and characters, and odd switches between past/present tenses.”
“…the writing was clumsy—especially in the overuse of adjectives.”
“…had a bunch of awkward dialogue and lacked characterization. The author has a problem with telling instead of showing.”
“…This manuscript has very confusing changes in POV, character identity, time and place; and I could barely follow it even with the synopsis.”
“…her writing is very tell-ish with constant play by play by play and jarring word choices. Also, the hero and heroine’s internal thoughts are cheesy and unrealistic.”
“…the descriptions and dialogue are full of clichés.”
“The writing here is capable but not engaging. It can also be a bit repetitive…”
“…it’s riddled with grammatical errors, misspellings, and choppy scenes…”
“The writing lacks energy and doesn’t flow smoothly, with overlong sentences interrupted with many appositives…”
“The writing lacks subtlety and there’s too much telling, a lot of redundancies/repetition, with the first-person narrator thinking something before expressing the same thing in dialogue…”
“…some of the language took me right out of the moment and made me laugh…”
“It’s riddled with clichés and repetition, including portions where the same actions are repeated from different characters’ POV with no added depth or insight into their importance. In fact, it could probably be cut in half with the elimination of all the repetition and not lose anything in the way of story.”
“…tendency toward overnaming, wherein several characters who we meet once are named, but the numerous names aren’t unique enough to prevent confusion when some other new, insignificant character appears later. Not every character needs a name, and to have so many takes up space in my brain that should be left for the story’s main conflict.”
5. The voice of the manuscript/characters doesn’t work
“The first person voice in this manuscript feels off—too young and casual—and not particularly likable.”
“My biggest problem with this contemporary romance is that it is meant to by funny, but the humor feels forced. The voice just didn’t win me over…”
“…problematic because the heroine is carrying the story, and I just don’t like her voice. She comes across as snotty and shallow instead of strong, and she assumes a level of friendship with me as the reader that I can’t reciprocate”
6. The reader can’t connect to the characters, they’re not fully realized or believable
“The characters do not inspire caring; they’re rather like cardboard cutouts doing what the plot says to do.”
“I never warmed up to the heroine as a reader (she’s so shrill!).”
“…the flat characterization is the real deal breaker.”
“…the characters almost come off as two-dimensional. And the character development lacks skillful handling…”
“…despite the wittiness, the heroine was unlikable, and she never really grew or learned anything.”
“The characterizations devolve into caricatures: the gay friend, boss’s evil wife and even more evil mother.”
“…secondary characters feel like they act almost cartoonish at times…”
“The lack of emotional engagement in the story, either with page-turning action or relating closely to the characters, makes it hard for me to feel passionately about a ms.”
7. The story requires too much suspension of disbelief
“…the historical accuracy of some major plot points made me question how likely they were to happen…”
“This one was tough for me, and the reason for the rejection comes down to my inability to suspend disbelief to believe in the premise that joins hero/heroine and provides the driving conflict for the story.”
“In addition to these plot issues, the hero often speaks in romance novel narrative e.g. ‘I’ve been wanting to bury myself in your heat since I met you.’ And he thinks gooey thoughts too soon, too often and too gooey”
8. The manuscript starts well but doesn’t follow through
“…one of those books that begins with a really intriguing premise…”
“The set up promised…but, in the end, failed to deliver.”
“The ending lacks oomph.”
“So the whole motivation/stakes that initially propelled the story collapses…”
9. Unnecessary subplots
“The subplot…didn’t really add much to the story. They didn’t make me care any more about the heroine and actually made me like her less. I was left wondering what their purpose in the story was supposed to be, since her actions surrounding them actually weakened her characterization”
“…this is a plot element in the story I feel is completely unnecessary.”
10. The conflict wasn’t sustainable
“I like this author’s voice very much, it’s fresh and has good energy and is written cleanly. I like the h/h and their backstories and I love the snappy dialogue and vivid descriptions. But…the story itself didn’t sustain my interest.”
“There’s no hook, no compelling conflict or plot or page-turning tension…”
“The story bogs down, with scenes that feel too similar to what came before. It lacks set-backs and the sense of escalating conflict.”
“The ending also lacks the emotional punch I’m looking for…”
“While I like the story, I don’t love it, it didn’t build to a big enough climax, and it didn’t wow me.”
“In terms of the internal conflict and characterizations, it’s all out there at the outset, there is nothing much else that the reader discovers about them as events unfold…”
“H/h meet…fall into insta lust… It has no compelling conflict…”
“…conflict don’t grab me, and the story doesn’t feel suspenseful…”
Next week, I’ll follow up with clips from acquisition recommendation reports. What worked for the editors? I’ll give you an idea next week!