Friday, November 30, 2007

A Wealth Of Title Suggestions

STATUS: You might have guessed but the big day was a large auction unfolding which finally concluded today. Lots of players and more than one day so it’s been hectic here. I’ll probably announce next week so I’ll share more then.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? MY HEART WILL GO ON by Celine Dion

I can’t thank you guys enough. Seriously, this is so very cool that many of you took the time to brainstorm and then share a bunch of different ideas with me. There were some good possible titles in that bunch, and we forwarded them to the editor.

And here’s what I’m going to do. If one of the blog commenter suggestions gets chosen and that person is not currently represented but has a project they would like me to look at, I will (and yes, when I can share the rest of the story and the outcome, I will).

If you are already agented, then all I can do is profusely thank you on the blog since I certainly don’t want your current agent to worry that I’m poaching or doing anything like that!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Title Saga

STATUS: Busy, busy. It was a big day as I had imagined. Lots of good news that I’ll eventually be able to share.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? IT’S CHRISTMAS (BABY PLEASE COME HOME) by U2

Run away, run away!

Well, it’s still continuing. We came up with a bunch of verb Titles and the publisher just isn’t loving them. I can understand. Titling is hard and they are pretty wed to the title they originally envisioned.

I’m sending it out to you folks in blog world. I need a title for a very sexy, dark paranormal romance. There has to be verb in the title.

Don’t include the word dark but I’m open to seeing anything else you can give me. We’ve tried lots of variations with the word fire, passion, and desire so hit me with something different if you can.

General premise: a witch is on the run from the man she has always trusted when she discovers what he is really doing. After she escapes, she runs smack dab into the hero who has made it his life goal to kill this man and his witch. Trouble ensues (which is rather an understatement).

No werewolves or vampires in sight.

Only serious suggestions accepted!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Titles (cont.)

STATUS: Preparing for a big day tomorrow. More details later.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? FOOL IN THE RAIN by Led Zeppelin

Agenting is a never-ending learning process. So I’m chatting with an editor about the title change we are attempting and she pointed out something I hadn’t noticed.

In all the suggestions we had given her, only one title contained a verb. All the others were nouns with an adjective (or adjectives).

Kristin slaps hand on forehead. The publisher is looking for a more active title. That means the title needs a verb.

Betcha none of you thought of that right off the top of your head. And if you did, you are one smart cookie because to be honest, I hadn’t noticed that.

Guess what Sara, the author, and I will be doing tomorrow morning? Coming up with titles that contain verbs.

And just in case you need a verb refresher, feel free to click here. Ah. Fond memories from my childhood.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Good Title Is Hard To Find

STATUS: I finally finished the “out of the office for four days” catch up so I can concentrate on the projects on my To Do list. Yea!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BIZARRE LOVE TRIANGLE by New Order

Some days it seems like we don’t get paid enough or maybe we get paid too much. You’ll never believe what Sara and I did this morning.

We brainstormed for possible titles for a client’s delivered novel. I kid you not. We spent a good hour, maybe more, cruising and looking up synonyms for the word “dark” (amongst other words).

Why? Because our client hates the title her publisher wants to name her new paranormal romance novel. And I don’t mean she “generally dislikes” the title they have chosen; she is in passionate disagreement. We were agent-bound to come to the rescue.

Title needs to be in by Friday so we got down to the nitty-gritty. Later today it occurred to me that my blog readers might benefit from the strategies we used. Maybe this will spark some good possibilities when naming your own work of art.

A good title often carries the day when we read queries. Just last week I asked for sample pages for a manuscript because I thought the title was so cool, I didn’t care what the blurb was. I’m not joking either. I saw the title, skimmed the blurb, asked for 30 pages.

So here’s what we did:

1. We begun by reading the back cover copy (which is actually quite good) that the publisher did for the novel. (You can use your own pitch blurb that you created for the work.) We listed on a piece of paper the key words that captured the essence of the story so we could play with them in different word combinations. This actually didn’t yield as much as we had hoped for in creating a new list of possible titles.

2. Then we brainstormed for authors who write similar stuff. In this case, we made a list of folks writing sexy paranormal romances.

3. This got the juices cooking when we looked on Amazon for what titles have already been done in the field. We made a new list of words that caught our attention, sounded cool, or whatever.

4. Then we played with combinations. At several points in this process, Sara and I were practically rolling on the floor in mirth. We came up with many stupid titles, let me tell you. It was really clear what didn’t work the minute we uttered it aloud (so maybe share you title choices with others before settling on one).

5. We also did a couple of out-of-the-box exercises by trying to come up with cool titles that at first glance don’t have anything to do with the main thrust of the story. (For example, I think Bantam was brilliant to come up with the title PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS for Sherry Thomas. In a subtle way, it exactly sums up the novel because the two main characters are having a big conflict over a private arrangement that both have agreed to undergo.)

It’s an out-of-the-box title though so you want to reach for things that might be odd but sound cool. Make a list of those choices and play with them as well. Another way to do that is simply to search through titles on Amazon that also stand out (even if the book is a different genre) just because they sound original or unusual. This helps the mind to focus on something other than the themes in front of you. We got stuck often on stuff like that when title brainstorming so that pushed us out of our thinking rut so we could explore some other possibilities.

Happy titling! Once the title is decided upon and with client permission, I can perhaps share more details.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Spend Time In Company?

STATUS: It’s hard to get back into the swing of things. This long weekend just has me looking forward to next month’s big holiday break!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I FEEL THE SAME by Bonnie Raitt

I had an interesting thought over the weekend. Just one though. Kidding. I had read a sample pages submission right before leaving for vacation and I have to say that the work kind of stayed with me.

That’s usually a good sign. If I find myself thinking about a manuscript, then I know it’s caught my interest. But this time I was thinking about those sample pages for a different reason. You see, I just loved the writing. I thought the author was top-notch but I ended up passing on seeing the full novel.

Sounds crazy until I explain a bit about why. When I’m torn about a request, I’ll often try and articulate aloud why something isn’t a clear “yes” for me.

For this project, I ended up asking myself this one question: I’m going to devote hours to reading this novel and do I really want to spend time in this main character’s company?

The answer ended up being “no” which is why I passed.

So then that got me thinking. There are different reasons to want to spend time in a character’s company and it doesn’t always mean that the main character has to be likable or nice. The character could be darkly fascinating (DARKLY DREAMING DEXTER comes to mind). It can be something I can’t articulate but draws me into the story (like the character is quirky, self-destructing, yet perversely likable). Maybe I adore the character and can’t wait to see what unfolds. I could answer this question in a dozen different ways.

But when I find myself liking the writing but finding that I’m not all that engaged in the main protagonist, there’s no way to “fix” that—and ultimately it’s probably something that shouldn’t be fixed because it might end up being another agent’s perfect cup of tea.

Does that make sense?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Wafer-Thin Mint?

STATUS: I’ll be working late tonight to wrap some things up but come tomorrow morning, I’m officially on vacation until next Monday. No blogging until then. Happy Turkey Day!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? MARGARITAVILLE by Jimmy Buffett

As y’all know, I’m not one to answer questions posted in the comment section as a general rule but for John, I’m willing to make an exception (we did dine together after all). It’s a great question and I haven’t tackled this topic so why not.

Is there such a thing as adding one more client to a roster and that addition tips the balance into the unworkable in terms of a client list being too full?

Boy this is a loaded question because it’s going to depend on the individual agent and extenuating circumstances. Let me see if I can explain.

If an agent works for a larger firm where all he/she has to do is work with the clients and find new ones (and not manage the company, oversee contracts, accounting and all that jazz), I can easily see an agent managing a 100 plus clients successfully without stuff falling through the cracks.

And I imagine the number of clients an agent has would also depend on that individual agent’s time management ability and organizational skills. Not all are created equal in that arena let me tell you.

For me, because I’m the CEO of the company and oversee everything as well as being the principle agent, I imagine my client roster would be full around 40 clients—maybe 50 depending on how many authors were under contract or actively looking to sell new projects. That feels like the tipping point between taking on too much (just a wafer-thin mint) and feeling sane and happy working with the clients I have.

But ultimately, that’s not a static number either. I may take on another agent at my agency. I might hire full-time person to oversee contracts or marketing or whatever and thus freeing me up to focus more on the client roster.

So in this sense, there is no magic number to determine capacity (although I’m sure an algorithm could be created to try and determine it!).

I’m out.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Snooze I Lose

STATUS: Tomorrow is my last day in the office for this week so it’s a scramble to complete things (or as complete as they can be) before heading out of town on Wednesday.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BUBBLY by Colbie Caillat

If a previously published author comes my way because they are looking for new representation, it’s not an automatic yes.

Taking on a new client can be a big deal. Sure it helps to have an already established track record of sales (and it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a sale imminent) but for me, I still have to love the work and be excited about these future books to take on a previously published author.

And sometimes, it just comes down to a matter of timing. This week is a great example of that. I had an author come my way whose stuff I liked and whom I also liked personally. Should have been a no-brainer but seriously, I just ran out of time with everything else going on. I ended up not being able read and get back to the author in a timely fashion. Two other agents offered to take the person on and making me too late to the game.

Snooze I lose.

Now I’m not so happy when that happens but ultimately, I already work crazy hours and there is only so much I can humanly do in a day (or over the weekend) without burning out, which means I might lose a client opportunity here and there.

It is a nice reminder to get moving for the next one that comes along!

Friday, November 16, 2007

More Than Just A Signing

STATUS: TGIF! And what I have in front of me to do so I can head out of town for the Thanksgiving long weekend on next Wednesday is a bit frightening. I’m determined to plow through and finish though.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HARD TO HANDLE by Black Crowes

Agents are book fans too. Bella Stander (book publicity consultant and friend) had mentioned that a fellow Backspace member was going to be at the Tattered Cover this week and did I want to go. I’m always up for supporting fellow members so I said yes. We were off to see John Elder Robison’s reading for his memoir LOOK ME IN THE EYE.

I also had the unexpected pleasure of having dinner with him and his wife Martha before the event—compliments of Bella—but that’s not what this blog is about.

I want to revisit the topic of authors being strong public speakers and if they aren’t, to get savvy at this skill. And I know I’ve blogged about this before (and received a wide array of feedback after the posting) but John’s terrific presentation just reinforced again for me how important it is for an author to be a good presenter—to make the event more than just a book signing.

John didn’t just read from his memoir and open the floor to questions. He engaged us in his passion—which is to make the world more aware and more understanding of those with Asperger’s. I have to say it was very powerful and in doing so, made everyone in that room a lot more interested in buying the book right then and there. I know I got in line and got an autographed copy.

And let me just point out one more thing, John has Asperger’s. If you know anything about this disorder, most folks who have it don’t really like talking and interacting with a lot of people. Hence the title. John named his book that because all his life he heard people say, “look me in the eye when I’m talking to you.” Communication can be tough for an Aspergian.

So just imagine what public speaking might be like. It’s not often an Aspergian strong suit. John didn’t let that stop him and he got savvy at public speaking because he was determined to share his story and his passion—just in case that in doing so, it made a difference.

I can’t stress it enough. If you are an author, master this skill because you never know when you might be presented with many opportunities to share your book, your passion, and your vision with the world.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Hollywood or Bust?

STATUS: Busy. On the phone all day. Almost literally.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL by The Rolling Stones

Or Bust for sure right now. Can you say reruns? It’s not just your TV screens going dark. The current strike in Hollywood will be impacting the book industry. Right now, it’s not clear as to how much—yet.

Book-to-film options are still happening but there may be a slowdown. Too soon to tell. If an option has already been bought and the screenplay delivered, then that project is probably sitting pretty.

If the screenplay needs revisions, then the strike hurts because screenwriters are on strike. I just hope both sides go back to the negotiating table soon. Right now that’s not looking likely.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Holiday Slow Down?

STATUS: It was kind of chilly here in Denver today. I know it’s November but I want to hold on to our lovely and mild fall for as long as possible.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? O HOLY NIGHT by Paul Potts (I know, it’s a bit early for holiday songs but it’s on the CD.)

I imagine writers wonder if agents have a drop-dead date for submissions around the holiday season—as in we won’t submit after a certain day in December.

The answer is that it depends on the agent. Some won’t submit after the first week of the month. Some won’t after the second week. Some agents continue to submit. If the editor doesn’t read before the holiday, chances are good he or she will read soon thereafter. One agent told me that she once got a pre-empt for a project on Dec. 23rd. That means anything can happen!

As for me, all I know is that my agency always closes for 2 weeks in the month of December. We need a break with no queries, no sample pages, no nothing. It really helps to rejuvenate us for the next year.

So in that sense, my drop-dead date is December 19th.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Including But Not Limited To

STATUS: I don’t know about you but I plan to be downloading Paul Potts’ first CD called ONE CHANCE from iTunes this week. If you want to buy the actual CD, here’s a link. I had to watch it again today. It’s like a little moment of sudden inspiration each time I watch it.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? TIME PASSAGES by Al Stewart

Whenever I do a deal, I always send a deal memo to the editor to verify the deal points. In this memo I always include a rights reserved clause with a little phrase that goes like this, “including but not limited to” and then a big list of what’s reserved so everything is clear.

And do you know what I’ve been noticing? There has been an interesting trend lately in publisher contracts. If a right wasn’t specifically discussed during negotiation, it’s showing up in the publishing contract as a right granted to the publisher—even though it was never mention by either me or the editor.

I think my favorite was this one. I had reserved all dramatic rights (motion picture, TV, radio, you get the picture) and the contract came with this: non-dramatic: motion picture, TV, radio and allied rights.

Uh, I’d really like to know what a non-dramatic motion picture is. I honestly didn’t think to reserve it because I’ve never heard of it.

Ended it up that the publisher wanted that to refer to educational documentaries. I’m like, no, that’s a dramatic right. It ended up being no big deal (and it was deleted from the contract) but now I have to add it to my list of rights reserved (which is kind of getting ridiculously long).

I think “including but not limited to” should cover it just fine but no, I'm being forced to spell it all out. Okay then. I can be super anal if that’s what it takes.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Dreams Can Come True

STATUS: I’ve got another submission going out this week. Pretty soon I’ll be done for the holiday season.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I PUT A SPELL ON YOU by Bryan Ferry

Sometimes a video comes along and you just realize that anything is possible—especially in publishing when all you ever seem to hear is NO.

And this video I’m going to share doesn’t actually have anything to do with publishing but it does have to do with dreams so I wanted to share. I actually cried when I watched it so Kleenex alert.

And if you want to know more about the career this moment launched, here’s a link:

Friday, November 09, 2007

Blog Pitch Workshop (Part XI)

STATUS: TGIF! And I have some major client reading that I need to accomplish this weekend.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HEAVEN by Los Lonely Boys

Time for Fantasy. I don’t think I’m going to tackle an epic one today. It’s Friday after all and my brain likes to shut down for the weekend right about now.

But here’s a good example from a novel that I happen to like from fantasy master Lois McMaster Bujold.

The half-mad Prince Boleso has been slain by a noblewoman he had intended to defile -- and Lord Ingrey kin Wilfcliff must transport the body to its burial place and the accused killer, the Lady Ijada, to judgment. With the death of the old Hallow King imminent and the crown in play, the road they must travel together is a dangerous one. And though he is duty-bound to deliver his prisoner to an almost certain death, Ijada may be the only one Ingrey dares trust. For a monstrous malevolence holds the haunted lord in its sway -- and a great and terrible destiny has been bestowed upon him by the gods, the damned, and the dead.

Now let’s analyze:

1. The back cover copy is five sentences.

2. The first sentence is exactly what sets the story in motion. A bad dude was killed by a Lady and now she must be transported to face her jugdment.

3. The next sentence gives us the slightly broader picture. A King is about to die and who will inherit is in question. Why that makes the road a dangerous one isn’t that clear but heck, not everything needs to be spelled out. I wouldn’t have minded a bit more info though.

4. With the next sentence, we learn that our hero has got a problem. He has to take the prisoner to her death but she is also the only person he can trust. What comes next pretty much hints at why. Lord Ingrey is possessed by something evil (got have that in fantasy) and that of course has to tie in to some greater destiny.

The last bit taps into the more generic elements of fantasy (I must admit) but the first part is what made me buy this book when I was at Archon in St. Louis and just browsing the bookseller stall.

One thing I do want to point out is that this book is the third in a connected series (The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of souls) by McMaster Bujold so the publisher doesn’t have to work as hard on the cover copy because there are already fans for this author.

If you are writing a debut fantasy, you don’t have that luxury. You have to work harder on your pitch than what the back cover copy does for an established writer.

I do hope that makes sense because I’m done for the day. Have a good weekend.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Blog Pitch Workshop (Part X)

STATUS: I’m having a good week. Working hard. Getting stuff done. No fires that need to be doused. This is so not normal that I’m just enjoying it.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? MY GIRL BACK HOME by John Kerr (South Pacific soundtrack)

Okay. We got a request for a romantic suspense blurb analysis. Piece o’ cake. Let’s take a look at Allison Brennan’s THE PREY—her debut romantic suspense that landed her pretty quickly on the New York Times Bestseller list.

THE PREY by Allison Brennan
Rowan Smith is living in a borrowed Malibu beach house while her bestselling novel is made into a Hollywood movie. A former FBI agent with a haunted past, Rowan thinks she has outrun her demons. But fiction and reality collide when a dismembered body is found in Colorado: the real-life victim had the same name, occupation, and looks as a character in Rowan's novel. By the time the FBI, the LAPD, and her own private bodyguard gather around her, another person is killed—again, the murder ripped from the pages of Rowan's book.

In the company of a former Delta Force officer with secrets of his own, Rowan faces an excruciating dilemma: the only way to chase down the tormenting killer is by revisiting the darkness of her past—and by praying for some way out again.

Now let’s analyze:

1. This back cover copy is 5 sentences. This is the shortest I think we’ve seen in all my workshops. Another powerful example that a writer can be concise and still write good pitch.

2. The first sentence sets the scene. Simple. Useful. Gives us a framework.

3. In the second sentence, we are introduced to the main heroine. Interesting background since she is a former FBI agent and obviously has a few skeletons in her closet. No need to reveal what as that will become clear as we read.

4. The next sentence is her hook—it’s what makes this romantic suspense different from the myriad of RS novels already out there, and it’s quite original to boot. I get chills just reading it.

5. The final sentence of this paragraph ups the ante. The killer has a pattern and Rowan is definitely linked to it.

6. The next paragraph is the final sentence of the cover copy. It introduces the hero (however briefly) and that’s fine because the focus needs to be on the suspense. We also get a little teaser for what is at stake for the heroine. She has to face something dark (probably ugly) in her past to stop the killer.

Romantic suspense is pretty straight forward. All of them will have similar elements but what makes this one stand out is #4 in this analysis—her high concept element. It’s original.

Most of the time I receive queries where the heroine is being stalked or her life is in danger (of course!) and then the hero character has to save her. Seriously, most of what we receive is that generic in the pitch. There’s no spotlight on the original vehicle for the shaping of the story. In this example, the original concept is the former FBI writer who is being stalked by a killer who reads and models his crimes after her novels.


We want that original hook so we’ll ask for sample pages for your romantic suspense. Tomorrow I’ll take a stab at fantasy.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

My Blog Connection

STATUS: Excited. Putting something out on submission always makes me giddy. I love the novel, and I want everyone else to love it too!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HARVEST MOON by Neil Young

Hilarious story that I had to share. As I mentioned yesterday, today I’m putting a project out on submission. There was an editor on my list to whom I wanted to send the novel but I didn’t happen to know her. So, I did what I normally do and that’s to ring her up and introduce myself.

So I call and start with my usual “My name is Kristin Nelson and I wanted to call and introduce myself because I have a project that I’d like to send you way.”

The editor stops me and says, “Wait, are you the Kristin Nelson who blogs?

Me: “Uh, yes.”

Editor: “I read your blog!”

I just started laughing and I have to admit, that’s the first time I’ve rang an editor whom I didn’t know but who in turn kind of knew me through my blog.

And then it got even stranger. We are both from Missouri (how often does that happen?) and we both had attended the Denver Publishing Institute (but not in the same year). And I’ve read her blog before and didn’t make the connection.

Twins separated at birth! Okay, not really that close but you get the picture. This editor definitely needs to be on my radar, and I’m so glad I called.

I just LOVE it when a new submission allows me to meet a new editor. Even better when I sell that project to the new editor as I did with DEMON’S LEXICON. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Blog Pitch Workshop (IX)

STATUS: Working. Pretty much a normal day. I’m doing a submission tomorrow so I’m pretty excited about that.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HEY JEALOUSY by Gin Blossoms

I promised you a contemporary romance today before moving on. I might have to take a little break from all this analyzing as well. We’ll see. Part of me thinks the point should be pretty clear regardless of the genre you are writing but maybe I’m wrong. Let me know in the comments section if you’re dying for me to tackle a certain type of fiction that I haven’t yet.

As you can see so far, there are many different strategies for writing good pitch copy. You just have to choose what will work best for your story but for the most part, simply focusing on the catalyst event in the first 30 pages or so will get the job done.

In fact, I just put that into practice for tomorrow’s submission. Sure enough, I focused on a situation and event that starts the novel. After the sale, I’ll share that one but I can’t at the moment. So on to contemporary romance. One of my favorite writers is one of my own authors, Jana DeLeon. I think the back cove copy for RUMBLE ON THE BAYOU is just about perfect.

In fact, the copy editor “borrowed” a lot of the verbiage that was in my editor pitch letter, which is great. The copy editor also made it better which reminded me that I could use some work on my own pitches. We can always improve—even agents.

Deputy Dorie Berenger knew it was going to be a rough day when the alligator she found in the town drunk’s swimming pool turned out to be stoned. On heroin. Now she has some big-shot city slicker from the DEA trying to take over her turf. And Agent Richard Starke is everything she’d feared—brash, demanding and way too handsome for his own good. Or hers.

The folks of Gator Bait, Louisiana, may know everything about each other, but they’re sure not going to share it with an outsider. Richard wouldn’t be able to catch a catfish, much less a drug smuggler, without Dorie’s help. But some secrets—and some desires—are buried so deep that bringing them to the surface will take a major

Now let’s analyze:
1. This back cover copy is 8 sentences. Hopefully I’ve driven home the point that pitches needn’t be lengthy to get the job done. Writers who can’t get their query letter to one page aren’t working hard enough.

2. It’s a terrific opening sentence. If this line doesn’t capture your interest, I’m not sure what will. The image of a stoned alligator in the town drunk’s swimming pool sets a vivid scene. This is a Louisiana-set novel and they do things different down there—but not this different. Love it. Any pitch that started with that opening line is going to get a request for sample pages from me. Now, before everyone starts adding that to their opening pitch, it has to be true in the actual story you are writing and honestly, how many stoned alligators can we have. Jana’s already done it. It’s not original anymore.

3. The opening sentence also tells us why a DEA agent is coming to town—which is going to be a source of conflict for our deputy heroine. We know this because the story is a romance but also because of the word choices used. “Her turf” for example. We know he’s “brash and demanding.” We also know what hasn’t been said which is that Agent Richard Starke probably thinks this is a Podunk town with residents who are lacking in IQ.

4. The start of the next paragraph gives us the low-down on how small towns operate. They are close-knit and closed mouth because they understand what Richard is thinking about them. Dorie, however, is the insider. He needs her to catch the drug smuggler.

5. The last line ties into the title (which is clever) and gives a hint of some of the things that will unfold. All small towns have secrets. Most aren’t worth knowing but this one will cause a rumble. Nice tie-in!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Blog Pitch Workshop (VIII)

STATUS: They’re painting my office lobby today. The smell of paint is really getting overwhelming—even with the windows open. You might get enough of me with the blog but just in case, Women On Writing have posted a recent interview with me.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? (I’VE GOT A GAL IN) KALAMAZOO by Glen Miller Orchestra

Romance. More Romance. Romance all the time. Seriously, it’s worth spending at least another day with this genre mainly because so many romance queries are generic and consequently get quick passes. You don’t want that to happen to you.

So let’s look at another historical romance—this time by one of my authors. Sherry Thomas’s PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS comes out this spring, and Bantam has done a great job with the back cover copy.

To all of London society, Lord and Lady Tremaine had the ideal arrangement: a marriage based on civility, courteousness and freedom—by all accounts, a perfect marriage. The reason? For the last ten years, husband and wife have resided on separate continents.

But once upon a time, things were quite different for the Tremaines…When Gigi Rowland first laid eyes on Camden Saybrook, Lord Tremaine, the attraction was immediate and overwhelming: she simply had to have him. But what began in a spark of passion ended in betrayal the morning after their wedding—and Gigi wants to be free to marry again. Now Camden has returned from America with an outrageous demand in exchange for Gigi’s freedom—a proposal that defies propriety and stuns his wife. For Gigi’s decision will have consequences she never imagined, as secrets are exposed, desire is rekindled—and one of London’s most admired couples must either fall in love all over again…or let each other go forever.

Now let’s analyze:

1. This back cover copy is 8 sentences.

2. The first paragraph does a great job of outlining the irony behind the definition of a “perfect marriage.” There’s a bit of subtle humor in there as well because why is the marriage perfect? The husband and wife reside on separate continents. It really sets the tone of this work and gives us an interesting back story at the same time. First question that pops to mind is why do they live in separate countries?

3. The next paragraph begins by giving the reader a little glimpse into the answer to that question the first paragraph inspired. They used to love each other. They used to be wildly and passionately in love but a betrayal ends that. Now, the betrayal isn’t revealed and that’s part of what we assume will unfold as we read the story.

4. By the fourth sentence, we are introduced to the crux of the current conflict. Lord Tremaine has made a demand in return for granting a divorce. The demand isn’t revealed (of course) because the hope is that the reader of this copy will be enticed to read on and buy the book (or if you were querying, the agent would be enticed to request the sample pages or the full because the pitch is so intriguing).

5. The second paragraph ends with what is at stake. I personally love the last line because of what is not said. London’s most admired couple (for their perfect marriage) must decide whether they can be admired as a great couple for embracing love instead.

We’ll try some contemporary romances tomorrow before moving on.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Blog Pitch Workshop (VII)

STATUS: TGIF! I’m close to wrapping up three different contracts today. That’s some good work.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CRUSH WITH EYELINER by R.E.M

Today will be a huge departure from Wednesday’s workshop. Writing romance couldn’t be more opposite to horror if you tried. Seemed like a perfect place to go next!

Romance, for me, is another really tough genre to pitch because basically there are no new stories under the sun nor is the ending in question.

So when writing romance pitch copy, the real focus needs to be on the elements that make this romance original. Hard to do since all romances have a hero, a heroine, a conflict that impedes the romance and of course, a happy ending.

There might not be any new stories under the sun but there are certainly new ways to tell them! Your pitch blurb becomes your tool to show an agent that you have an original new way of telling a romance.

One of my favorite writers for her originality is Julia Quinn and Romancing Mister Bridgerton might be one of my all-time favorite historicals.

From the back cover copy:
Penelope Featherington has secretly adored her best friend's brother for . . . well, it feels like forever. After half a lifetime of watching Colin Bridgerton from afar, she thinks she knows everything about him, until she stumbles across his deepest secret . . . and fears she doesn't know him at all.

Colin Bridgerton is tired of being thought nothing but an empty-headed charmer, tired of everyone's preoccupation with the notorious gossip columnist Lady Whistledown, who can't seem to publish an edition without mentioning him in the first paragraph. But when Colin returns to London from a trip abroad, he discovers nothing in his life is quite the same—especially Penelope Featherington! The girl haunting his dreams. But when he discovers that Penelope has secrets of her own, this elusive bachelor must decide . . . is she his biggest threat—or his promise of a happy ending?

Now Let’s analyze:

1. This copy is six sentences.

2. This blurb is also unique in that it’s the first cover copy we’ve examined where the focus is on the characters rather than the plot and for this to work, we really need to see something original in the character outlines given. What catches my eye for this novel is the fact that Penelope has had a long-time crush on the hero. (I’ve seen this many times since reading this novel but several years ago, it wasn’t as common a construct.) I also like the focus on Colin and his wanting to be viewed as something more than your average charmer. It hints at some interesting character exploration (which actually does occur in the novel).

3. The only plot elements even hinted at are the secrets and his exasperation with lady Whistledown. If you’ve read this novel, the importance of that is going to take center stage but not much is actually revealed in the copy.

4. Why is that? Well, part of the reason might be that this is book four in the Bridgerton family series and there might be an assumption that the reader might already know the family and the basic romance constructs Ms. Quinn utilizes. I point this out so you can keep it in mind when writing romance copy for your first novel. You need to do more rather than less to make your romance pitch stand out.

To often I see historical romance pitch copy that reads something like this: she’s desperate but the belle of the ball and he’s a rake. It’s too generic. I need some original element (character, plot device, etc.) to grab my interest or I’ll pass.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

We Interrupt This Blog Pitch Workshop To Bring You…

STATUS: Excited. CROSS MY HEART AND HOPE TO SPY is still on the NYT top 10 bestseller list for the fourth week. It can’t last forever but I’m going to be happy while Ally is still there!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I COULD WRITE A BOOK by Harry Connick, Jr.

An awesome cover! Shanna and I got this late in the day yesterday. I have to say I love all the Enchanted Inc. Series covers but this one, this one is just perfect. I couldn’t resist posting.

And sorry to get you all excited because it won’t release until April 2008. Don’t worry. I’ll remind you then.

I also wanted to give a big shout out to a conference that is going to be happening in Denver at the Convention Center the week after next (Nov. 8-9, 2007). It’s an Executive Leadership Development Conference sponsored by the National Hispanic Leadership Institute.

Although most of the topics are about achieving successful corporate careers, there are quite a few workshops regarding publishing. One of them is being given by a good friend whom I met when she was working at Simon & Schuster several years ago. If you live in the area and this applies, you might want to check it out.

From Inspiration to Publication: What Latinas Need to Know About Getting Published
By Marcela Landres

WHAT: Finding the right publisher is difficult for any writer, but Latinas face unique challenges--and opportunities. Topics discussed include: the significance of Latinas to mainstream publishers; writing in Spanish vs. English; dealing with the label of “Latina Writer”; how to find a good agent and editor in a non-Latino industry; overcoming cultural and social barriers; and the most important thing you can do to ensure the future success of Latino publishing.

WHEN: Friday, November 9, 3:30 - 4:30 PM

WHERE: Colorado Convention Center, 650 15th Street, Denver, Colorado 80202

Click here to find out more and if you'd like to register, here's the link.