In April, the Milwaukee Area will be hosting literary agent Abby Saul from The Lark Group at our meeting. With the May conference in Green Bay (which will be fantastic) right around the corner, Abby’s help with tweaking and practicing our pitches, queries, and openings, is timely.
Here’s a chance for us to get to know Abby a little better before the meeting.
Q: Your website indicates that the Lark Group is an agile and editorially focused agency. What does that mean to authors?
A: We work quickly to help our authors present the best product possible. As a new and small agency, The Lark Group is able to experiment, quickly pivot to new opportunities, and help our authors find new paths (in their writing, in the way they publish, in the way we get their books in front of editors). But the quality of the book remains paramount, and that’s where our editorial focus comes in! I’ve gone through at least two rounds of editorial revisions with all of my clients’ manuscripts, addressing big and small things, to help make their books the best they can be. So what does that mean for our authors? It means they know they have a true partner helping them get a truly excellent book published. (It also means it’s easy to get me on the phone!)
Q: Why is it advantageous to work with an agent rather than directly query a publisher?
<strong:A: Most obviously, many publishers won’t accept unagented submissions – without an agent, you can’t even get your manuscript read! Houses that do accept unagented submissions will often put those submissions at the bottom of the pile, prioritizing projects that come in from agents. So an agent helps you get your project into the house for consideration. But it goes much deeper than that.
It’s my job as an agent to know what editor is looking for what kind of project, and thus create a submission list that’s tailor-made to your project. It’s also my job as an agent to negotiate your contract (and keep the business arrangements as much in your favor as possible), to be your advocate in all things (editorial changes, marketing plans, cover design, etc), and to be a force to be reckoned with in terms of you getting paid and helping manage your author brand. It’s also my job to have foreign, audio, and film/tv contacts to sell subsidiary rights for your books. Going it alone can work for some authors, but those business and industry pitfalls (contract traps, late payments, figuring out who to contact in Germany, the force of a whole publishing company worrying about itself instead of you, and so on) can be tremendously daunting for most authors, and that makes it easy for unrepresented authors to make unnecessary mistakes. An agent is your partner in all aspects of this business, and is there to advocate (always!) for you.
Q: Do you work with self-published authors, or do writers who plan to self-publish still need an agent?
A: I don’t currently have any self-published authors on my client list, but I’ve worked with them in the past. I do strongly believe that the days of a project making it big on the self-publishing side and then being picked up by a Big 5 publisher are over. If you’ve self-published a book, you’ve self-published it. It’s not going to be traditionally published after that. But self-publishing success on the romance side can translate to a traditional publisher being interested in your next work, and that’s where you might want to think about an agent.
Agents are pros at helping authors make career changes, and moving from indie publishing to traditional publishing is a big one. Even if you want to stay on the indie/self-publishing side of the industry, an agent can help you sell subsidiary rights for your work (foreign, audio, film/tv, etc). I’ll also note that a lot of romance authors write fast (it’s impressive!) and more and more authors in traditional deals are publishing on a hybrid schedule: fulfilling their traditional contracts while also pursuing self-publishing (of a different series) on the side. Agents can help navigate having your feet in both pools, and make sure you’re respecting contracts schedules, etc.
Thanks Abby! We’re looking forward to meeting with you in person.
Join the Green Bay area for the March meeting with author and website designer, Elle J. Rossi. Not a WisRWA member, but interested in seeing what we’re about? You’re invited to join us too. See all the details below.
Literary Agent Laura Zats with Red Sofa Literary Agency in the Twin Cities will facilitate a Hot Nights Critique Workshop for Milwaukee Chapter WisRWA on Saturday, February 18th from 9am to 11:30. Bring up to three pages of your love/sex scene—from sweet to scorching—to share with the group. Laura will give some feedback and we’ll chat about what makes for a great romance. Hey, it’s what makes the world go ‘round.
Jennifer Rupp, area contact for the Milwaukee area, interviewed Laura in advance to find out what makes her literary mind tick when it comes to love scenes.
J: What do you think makes a sex scene hot?
L: For me, I love to see a really seamless combination of the mental and the physical–it’s the only way to really understand the passion of the characters as a reader. Having lots of the characters thoughts interjected isn’t quite what I mean–instead, I mean the emotions, awareness of what the sex might change, or awareness of how unexpected it is. Awareness of what the other person might be thinking. It takes the fact that a character might be wrapped up in the physical sensations and amplifies it, makes it more than just physics and mechanics.
J: Is there anything you consider taboo?
L: Not a ton, honestly. I’m 100% supporting of kink as long as it’s accurately and consensually portrayed! In fact, it even makes things more fun in a lot of scenes!
J: Do you make a distinction between a love scene and a sex scene?
L: I’m not sure I’ve ever thought of a difference! Since I represent books with a high heat level, no, I don’t distinguish a difference for my list. It’s kind of all the same thing. But now that I’m chewing on it, I think I view “love scenes” as more emotional expressions–declarations of love, a first, passionate kiss. Sex is, well, sex. It definitely (and often is) an expression of emotion, but there’s chemistry and a level of communication that is added on top of that emotional output that I find really interesting, which is why my books have more of those.
J: What kinds of phrases or euphemisms make you weary?
L: Velvet-wrapped steel! No one wants a fuzzy penis. That’s mostly it for the male side of the spectrum (although I do think “length” is overused), unless a writer gets too flowery or too crude. For women, I HATE when they mewl, purr, or do anything that likens them to a housecat. I’m also not a huge fan of natural imagery for the vagina–flowers, caves, etc.
J: What kinds of settings or devices are over or under used? i.e. shower scenes, candles, etc.
L: I don’t think I’ve read a candle scene in months, so I can’t say I’m sick of them, but they’re definitely cliche–I think a more modern version of this one is a fireplace. I love a good shower scene–there’s something wonderfully utilitarian about it–but I definitely see too many hot tub scenes. You get overheated too easily and water is a terrible lubricant! I don’t see as much oral sex as you would think, especially not to completion, which is a shame, because it has some fun power dynamics an author can play with. I would love to see more clearly-narrated protection (so many condoms just disappear or just never existed at all), and would love to see women bringing their one-night-stands home, rather than always having to make them do the walk of shame. Abs, too, are definitely over-represented, as are blue/green/gray eyes.
by: Jennifer Rupp
Jennifer Rupp is the Area Contact for Milwaukee Chapter of WisRWA. She writes under the name of Jennifer Trethewey. Cassie Hanjian of Waxman Leavell Literary Agency in New York represents her Highland House historical romance series. Jennifer has placed in the SOLA Dixie Kane Memorial Contest, Indiana’s Golden Opportunity Contest, and WisRWA’s Fab Five Contest. She’s a member of Wisconsin RWA, a PRO member of RWA, Red Oak Writing Studio, and Wisconsin Writers Association.
Join the Chippewa Falls Area meeting this month as they tackle Candace Havens’s Revisions From Hell. It will piggy back on what was learned during the January meeting.This program is open to WisRWA members from anywhere in the state. Not a WisRWA member, but interested in seeing what we’re about? You’re invited to join us too. See all the details below.
Author, professional certified coach, and teacher Rochelle Melander has helped thousands of people overcome writer’s block, write more, turn their ideas into books, navigate the publishing world, and use speaking and social media to reach their readers. She’s the author of ten books, including the National Novel Writing Month guide—Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (and Live to Tell About It). She will be the featured speaker at the Milwaukee area meeting on January 21, 2017. Milwaukee Area Contact, Jennifer Rupp, spoke with Rochelle about social media and it’s importance to a writer’s platform.
How important do you think Social Media is to marketing your brand or your novels?
Social media provides unique opportunities for writers and readers to connect. Before social media, authors had to travel to bookstores and libraries to meet readers. Fans who lived in remote areas rarely had an opportunity to connect with authors. Social media transformed all of that. Now, anyone can connect with their favorite authors. And writers can build relationships with their fan base. And that’s crucial in today’s publishing world.
Publishers are spending less time and money marketing their books. Indie publishing has flooded the market with books. Authors need to use multiple tools to connect with readers and sell books. Social media marketing is an essential part of any marketing plan.
That said, authors need to use social media in multiple ways. In addition to research and building connections with other authors and publishing professionals, authors can use social media to develop relationships with readers and market their books.
As a coach, I recommend that writers spend more time building relationships with readers than promoting their books. Authors who focus solely on self-promotion can annoy colleagues and readers. And I’ve heard several agents say that a negative social media reputation is worse than none at all.
Approximately how much time per week or per day would you recommend investing in Social Media marketing or promotion?
This depends on the writer and their current social media goals. When writers are pre-publication or between publications, I recommend they use social media to:
During a book marketing cycle, authors might participate in a blog tour, advertise on various sites, run book giveaways, offer freebies to readers, and more.
I recommend that writers set a social media goal for the week or month, depending on what task they’re working on. Then, they can set aside time each day to work on these goals. For a writer who wants to build their platform, I would recommend spending a couple of hours strategizing. Once they have a social media plan, they can schedule time each day to accomplish their goals.
For a writer who is simply building a platform, I think 15-30 minutes a day is a reasonable amount of time to spend connecting on social media. For writers who are in a marketing cycle—promoting a book or other product—they might spend an hour or more a day working on social media. Of course, tools like Hootsuite and Buffer can increase one’s efficiency and save time.
How do you reach or convince authors who might resist the use of Social Media?
Most authors resist social media because they feel overwhelmed. They might feel comfortable with one tool, like Facebook, but confused by Twitter or Instagram. I encourage authors to begin by building relationships on a single social media site. Once they feel comfortable on that site and see the results it offers, they’re more willing to try other sites.
How has social media helped you?
I’ve been publishing books for a long time, all through traditional publishers. Since social media, my sales have increased and my network has expanded. Readers who were fans before social media have sought me out on Facebook and Twitter and connected with me. I’ve developed new readers around the world through my presence on Twitter and other social media sites. I’ve also been able to connect with some of my favorite authors, building a wonderful network of colleagues.
What other kind of work do you do with authors?
My work with authors falls into three categories: supporting their process, strategizing around their product, and editing their work. Many authors come to me because they feel blocked or frustrated by the writing process. They have ideas but can’t find the time to write or overcome their fears and self-doubt. I’ve discovered that there are no blanket solutions. I work with each author to evaluate their situation, understand their particular blocks, and discover a solution that will help them write more. I also work extensively with nonfiction authors who need help planning books that boost their business. Other authors approach me to strategize their publishing and marketing plans. We work together to craft query letters or book proposals, develop a social media marketing plan, and connect with readers. Finally, I also do developmental editing for both novels and nonfiction books, supporting writers in creating books that sell.
We hope you will join us for Rochelle’s program on Writing and Social Media. She will be speaking at the Milwaukee area WisRWA meeting on January 21, 2017 in the Community Room at Mayfair Mall. To learn more about Rochelle Melander, visit her online at writenowcoach.com and follow her on Twitter (@WriteNowCoach).
Need a cure for the winter doldrums? Come to the Chippewa Falls area meeting in January to discuss Candace Havens’s “High Concept Story Writing,” and strategies for using it in your own projects. This program is open to WisRWA members from anywhere in the state. Not a WisRWA member, but interested in seeing what we’re about? You’re invited to join us too. See all the details below.
We all know what it’s like to feel lonely. You can be in a room full of friends and family, people you love, and still feel lonely. They can all be talking, laughing, having a good time, and you feel like you’re outside looking in through glass. Being lonely is not the same as being alone.
Being alone is taking a much needed break from everything outside ourselves. It’s going for a long walk. It’s reading a really good book without interruption or making a jigsaw puzzle while watching a movie marathon. We all need a day like this now and then, a day where we can shut out all the worries and concerns of our everyday life. Doesn’t matter how you unwind, the point is we all need to unwind…alone.
As writers we cherish our alone time, hoard it hungrily and protect it with the ferocity of a well-trained watch dog. This is the time we can most clearly hear our characters speak to us. This is the time we can let our muse take over our thoughts, the time we can allow our plot to percolate through our brains and out our fast-typing fingertips. Writers are by nature solitary creatures. Oh, we do seek each other out from time to time to compare notes, share tips of the trade, and to reassure ourselves that we aren’t truly alone because all mankind has succumbed to a zombie apocalypse except for us and we somehow missed it while we were being alone. It’s why I belong to a number of writers’ organizations and critique groups. These are the people who help me remember WHY I write. Conferences and workshops are an excellent opportunity to not be alone.
My Chippewa Falls area of WisRWA is sponsoring a one-day Fall Into Fiction Workshop, on Saturday, October 8th, and I’m looking forward to meeting others who feel the creative urge the way I do. I’m hoping to put some faces to the names.
Come join us at The Plaza Hotel & Suites, 1202 W. Clairmont Ave, Eau Claire to hear journalist, author, and editor Candace Havens speak. In the morning it’s about “The Book Map: Plotting Your High Concept Ideas,” and in the afternoon “Fast Draft and Revision Hell.” (We all know what that’s about, right!?) Arrive early and join us for book signings and a pizza party Friday night.
I hope to see you there, but hurry! Seats are limited and I wouldn’t want you to miss out on this wonderful opportunity to not be “alone” on October 8th.
Are you wondering what the Greater Green Bay group is up to? Well, on September 7th at 11:30 a.m., at the 1951 Restaurant, the talented Randi Alexander is coming to town to help us learn to write steamy love scenes. Randi is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author and she’s chosen to spend her valuable time with us! We couldn’t be more thrilled.
Here’s a little interview I did with Randi to get to know her better and to gain a little insight from her.
Q: What or who inspired you to write steamy romances?
A: I’ve always loved reading romance, since I was a teenager, and I soon realized I enjoyed the spicier books more than the ones with the closed bedroom doors. Writing books with a number and variety of love scenes – to me – is telling the whole story of a romantic relationship. What happens between the sheets gives us insight into our characters, sometimes in a way that non-love scenes can’t.
Q: Do you have any unusual writing rituals?
A: I do. I pull my hair up into a bun, put on comfortable clothes (usually a muu muu) then I have a snack before I start writing. Oh, and the room has to be very quiet.
Q: What for you constitutes ‘sexy?’
A: Sexy is not just a running description of what part he has where, what thing she’s doing to him, etc. Its scenes written with emotion that reveal our characters’ deepest feelings, scenes with lovingly detailed description of the physical connection between our characters, and long, sweet afterglow scenes where so much can go right…and wrong!
Q: Who is your favorite character from one of your stories and why?
A: I’m having a lingering girl-crush on the last character I wrote. In Saddle and a Siren (an August 11 release in Sable Hunter’s Hell Yeah! Kindle World) I made Kally Zappa a strong, competent rancher who cusses, handles 2,500 bulls, but is still sweet and funny enough to attract the undivided attention of Paramedic Clint Black. I began the story with this independent, capable woman finding herself vulnerable and in dire need of rescue, and made her first-responder fall crazy-in-love with every contradictory inch of her.
Q: What advice would you like to share with new writers?
More About the Program – Writing Sexy Love Scenes with Randi Alexander
Keep your readers engrossed in your stories by creating love scenes that are romantic, emotional, and sensually descriptive. In this interactive, hands-on workshop, we will focus on: 1) building sexual tension throughout your book, 2) producing physical love scenes and climaxes that are emotional, unique, and unforgettable, and 3) ways to give your readers the impact they crave during the quiet moments of afterglow snuggling. You’ll learn to ask yourself two easy questions as you write, and the answers to these questions will make every scene emotionally gripping, sensually gratifying, or both!
More About Randi
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Randi Alexander knows a modern woman dreams of an alpha cowboy who takes the reins, and guarantees they’re rode hard and put up satisfied. Published with Cleis Press, The Wild Rose Press, and self-published, Randi writes smokin’ hot romance with heroes who’ll have you begging to ride off into the sunset with them. When she’s not dreaming of, or writing about, rugged cowboys, Randi is biking trails along remote rivers, snorkeling the Gulf of Mexico, or practicing her drumming in hopes of someday forming a tropical rock-band.
Forever an adventurous spirit with a naughty imagination, Randi is also family-oriented and married to the best guy in the world, her own cowboy, Kick. Give in to the allure of erotic passion, strong but vulnerable heroines, and irresistibly seductive cowboys, as Randi’s emotional love stories sweep you off your feet and leave you breathless with passion.
Saddle up! And prepare yourself for the sexier side of happily ever after.
We can’t wait for Randi’s workshop!
Wednesday, September 7th, 11:30am
at 1951 Restaurant in Green Bay
For more information, contact Green Bay area coordinator Val Clarizio (valclarizio @ yahoo.com).
by WisRWA member Val Clarizio
WisRWA members are invited to join an exclusive private tour of the Newberry Library in Chicago. Organized by Maureen Welli, area coordinator for the Milwaukee Area, the tour should have something of interest for historical romance writers, and everyone else too. Members who’ve had the chance to visit the Newberry in the past have raved.
The Newberry Research Library is a world-renowned independent research library. It offers an extensive non-circulating collection of rare books, maps, music, manuscripts and other printed materials spanning six centuries.
The tour, scheduled for Saturday September 17th, is open to all WisRWA members, although only the first 25 to sign up may attend. The tour begins at 10:30am. Members will travel by coach bus, which will leave the Milwaukee area by 8:30am.
Those interested in joining the tour must contact Maureen (email@example.com) by August 5th.
WisRWA member Molly Maka, self-proclaimed 1940s girl, writer of historical romance, and a veteran of historical reenactment, will be presenting her secrets to the Milwaukee area on Saturday, June 18.
As a ten-year veteran of historical reenacting of various time periods, Molly brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her presentation on how historical reenacting can enhance your writing. She will demonstrate how, through reenacting, you too can create identifiable and relatable characters based in a historical context, and establish and capture the nuances of the time period of your characters’ worlds. And she’ll explain how getting involved in historical reenacting can help you get in touch with the past.
We caught up with Molly before she started pin curling her hair for the next Stars and Stripes Honor Flight to ask her a few questions leading up to her presentation.
Molly: Believe it or not I always had a penchant for dressing historically. I remember one year I asked my grandmother if she had any of her 1940s clothes because I wanted to be a 40s girl for Halloween. That might have been the first time. Another year I dressed as a colonial girl off to a ball. When I saw the gorgeous Elizabethan court dresses at the Bristol Renaissance Faire the summer after I graduated high school, I knew I had to get involved. In 2006, my dream was realized when I joined the cast of the Guild of St. George. From there I learned of other time periods people could reenact and my involvement in different eras sort of evolved from there.
Molly: I have several that I tend to favor. Let me put it back to you: Which one do you all think is my favorite and why? Go ahead and answer in the comments. I’ll give a prize on Saturday to a randomly selected commenter. And, of course, I’ll reveal the answer.
Molly: That’s tough because, even if I don’t plan to write about something, I still look for opportunities to try new things in a historical context, if only for the experience of trying it out. You never know when you can use something. My biggest bucket list item right now is to learn how to drive a World War II-era Army jeep. And I’ve had plenty of interesting adventures I’m still planning to write about. I’ll be talking about some of the best ones on Saturday.
Molly: Right now I would have to say it’s a toss-up between my post war aluminum and lucite box purse and an adorable vintage navy blue dress with navy and red polka dot accents. It fits like it was made for me. Who knows, I might just have both of them with me on Saturday.
Molly: Absolutely. I’ve got some great stories. Of course, you’ll just have to wait until Saturday to hear them.
Many thanks to Molly for sharing a little bit about herself and her passion. We’re so looking forward to her presentation: The Historical Reenactor Who Writes: How Touching the Past Can Enhance Your Story. Please join us in Mayfair Mall Community Room (Lower Level) on Saturday, June 18th at 9 AM. We hope to see you there!
Photo Credit: Claire Noonan Photography