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 Chippewa Falls area for the April meeting on Strengthening Our Words for Better Story Writing. Not a WisRWA member, but interested in seeing what we’re about? You’re invited to join us too. See all the details below.
Three WisRWA authors, Beth James, Amy Sandas, and Tina Susedik, presented a panel on romance writing recently, at the MacMillan Library’s Fine Arts Center in Wisconsin Rapids. The panel was moderated by Eric Norton, who is both the customer service manager for the library, and an editor for Publisher’s Weekly. Tina Susedik shared her thoughts on the evening.
The evening was cold and windy, and so the attendance was lower than we’d expected. But that turned out to make for a more intimate, comfortable event. Instead of sitting at the table set up for us on the stage in the theater, we sat on the edge of the stage, making us eye level with the attendees. We were able to showcase our books as we talked and after the presentation.
The audience had many questions for us and everyone participated. Rather than a typical Q&A or lecture, the evening was more free-wheeling discussion, with the audience and authors all asking questions of each. Audience members included fans, aspiring romance authors, and even one an avid reader who had never previously read any romance. Lori Oestreich, another WisRWA member, also came to support us. It was great to see her smiling face.
We talked about the publishing world – both self and traditional. Our panel had experience in both worlds, and could offer insights into both. Other topics included creating characters, plotting vs. pantsing, what makes a romance, the part setting plays in stories, why we write romance, and how we edit our stories, and people’s impressions of the romance writing world. We talked and answered questions for an hour and a half.
A question from the reader who had never read a romance cut to the heart of the genre. She asked, “If all romances have to have a happy ending, and you know that, then why read a romance?” Amy Sandas’s response was perfect. She pointed out that it’s not unlike reading suspense or mystery novels. We know that the bad guy is going to caught in the end, yet we still read them. What’s important to the reader is the way the story is written and the journey to the end. That’s what makes the experience of reading the novel so satisfying.
Afterward, the conversation continued. A number of people attending were interested to learn more about WisRWA and RWA. And they were glad to have a chance to talk with experienced authors about their own ventures into romance writing. This is one of the best parts about being an author, and we were glad they braved the weather to come out to talk with us.
by WisRWA Member Tina Susedik
As a child, Tina always had stories floating around in her head, but had no idea those stories could be put down in book form. One day her brother (yes, her brother) introduced her to Kathleen Woodiwiss’ The Flame and the Flower. Tina’s first romance, Riding for Love, was released in the spring of 2013. Visit Tina at www.tinasusedik.wordpress.com
James Michener once said, “I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.”
I think that’s where most of us are, which might be why many writing gurus like Anne Lamott encourage bad first drafts, but we won’t talk about those today. Instead, I’ll focus on revision. I’d like to share my top three tips.
First, put some time between your drafts. At least a few days. A week or a month or two might be better. Most of us fall in love with our stories and we need that infatuation to ebb, so we can read our work without the rosy-everything’s awesome glasses. A little time gives us the emotional distance to view work anew and figure out what’s missing and what might need to change.
Second, have someone else read your work before you upload or send it off to be discovered. Critique partners or first readers can catch story inconsistencies and areas that aren’t understandable in your work. They can tell you which characters they connect to or which one they really don’t understand. Also, they can spot spelling or grammar errors.
At a writer’s conference I attended a copy editor admitted that even she makes mistakes occasionally and when she does, she doesn’t let it bother her because she figures it takes an average of sixteen pairs of eyes to get a manuscript to published flawlessness. Your critique buddies can be one of those first sets of editing eyes. Also, one of the best things about having critique partner or group is that you can become great friends.
My third tip is to try for good or very good instead of perfect. Because being human, and not possessing sixteen sets of eyes yourself, a totally perfect scene or manuscript is unattainable. Too much revision may add hours to your tasks and if you’re like me—it’s a buzz kill. It ruins the fun. So, my advice—do the best you can, look your work over a few times and then stop. Good is good enough.
When I’m not writing, I’m teaching, and I fit the one of the instructor stereotypes. I ask my students to re-think their drafts and to revise more than once. Revision and re-evaluating life decisions are themes that frequently appear in my fiction.
by: Mia Jo Celeste
Mia Jo Celeste comes from a family of writers and English teachers, so it was no surprise that she decided to pursue both careers. She’s an adjunct instructor, who just published her first release, Other Than, your grandma’s Gothic romance gone uber.
Join the Milwaukee area as they welcome literary agent Laura Zats of Red Sofa Literary. Laura will give live critiques of love scenes. Not a WisRWA member, but interested in seeing what we’re about? You’re invited to join us too. See all the details below.
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.
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.
WisRWA’s Fabulous Five Contest will be opening for entries in a few short months. As such, we are pleased to announce our final round judges for the 2017 contest.
Editor: Meghan Ferrell – Tule Publishing
Agent: Rachel Burkot – Holloway Literary Agency
Lexi Smail – Grand Central Publishing
Lisa Rodgers – JABberwocky Literary Agency
Shana Asaro – Harlequin Love Inspired
Jessica Kirkland – Blythe Daniels Agency
Theresa Cole – Entangled Publishing
Tricia Skinner – Fuse Literary Agency
Tara Gavin – Kensington Publishing Corp
Jennifer March Soloway – Andrea Brown Literary Agency
Caitlin Dareff – St. Martin’s Press
Sarah Phair – Trident Media Group
Young Adult/New Adult
Mekisha Telfer – Simon and Schuster
Shannon Powers – McIntosh and Otis
Coming in to its 26th year, this contest is open to unpublished and self-published writers so long as the entry has never been published before. Focusing on the first 2,500 words of a manuscript, first round judges evaluate the entry on the Opening, Characterization, Plot, Dialogue, Setting, and Style. All judges are encouraged to leave comments on both the scoresheet and in the entry itself. Our contest is known for giving good, thorough critiques no matter what level of the writing journey you are at. The top five finalists in each category move onto the final round where their work is ranked by one editor and one agent. Final rankings are averaged and the winner of each category receives a beautiful Silver Quill Award.
The contest opens on January 1, 2017 and will accept entries through March 1, 2017 at 11:59 PM CST. Categories need a minimum of 10 entries to continue and are capped 35 entries.
Information will be on the WisRWA website under the Contests tab by the end of November. If you have any questions, please reach out to the Contest Coordinator, Molly Maka, at email@example.com.
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