Tuesday, January 14, 2014

"Read What We Publish" - Learn before you submit

A common statement you will hear editors say over and over again on those agent/editor panels or in the Publisher spotlight sessions is to "read what we publish to know what we are looking for." A lot of negative writers out there believe this is only a strategy to increase sales. It is a shame they believe this, because those editors are right. In fact, you should not only be doing this with editors, but also with agents.

I don't know how many submissions I pass on simply because this is a project I would never like in the first place, and, with agents, this is crucial. We have to totally fall for a project to want to promote it. Even though your story might be good, that subjective factor is going to come into play.

As a writer, it is your responsibility and obligation to do your research on the person you are submitting the story to. Remember that every editor and every agent have completely different tastes. They might all acquire historical romances, but some want them sexy, some want them full of history, some want quirky. Submit to the wrong person and you are "dead meat."

Let me give you specifics when it comes to my view several of the sub-genres:

  • INSPIRATIONAL ROMANCE - I personally believe these are powerful stories. I love a great inspirational romance. But, with that said, I am not someone who wants to be preached to. Along the same lines, I am not someone who believes that people stop and pray over everything and think of scripture for every situation. I have literally seen stories where almost every scene is the author throwing out another Bible passage for the occasion. In my opinion, Inspirational romances are stories that simply use faith to guide a character or both of the characters to a better life and certainly that happily ever after.
  • ROMANTIC SUSPENSE - I have two things that I simply HATE about these genres. A) unrealistic plots and scenarios; and B) those stereotypical and cliche characters. Too often these stories come across as very forced and lacking in a lot of depth. It seems that authors just want to get to the "sex" scenes they have inserted when the characters are not being chased by the bad guys. Look, if you want to do this writing, make it realistic. 
  • WOMEN'S FICTION - As most of you know, I am a big proponent of this genre. But, please understand I am looking for women's fiction that people will want to sit around and talk about. I want a story that views the world through a female lens. I want a story without excessive baggage. Make this characters that could easily be our neighbors or acquaintances. 
  • CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE - I love contemporary romances that, like women's fiction, are amazingly realistic. I want to see these characters go through the normal "growing pains" of a relationship. I don't need psycho backstories. I don't need cliche or stereotypes. 
  • HISTORICAL ROMANCE - I love this genre. In fact, I am actively looking for it right now. But with that said, I want stories that are believable, not cliche and containing authentic research. If you are someone writing in this genre, but you use a source book only for your material, then you probably don't know the era well enough.
This is just a sampling of the genres. We can take it a step further and look at the pet peeves of an editor or agent. As I said earlier, some people like those really sexy stories. Some like stories with depth. Again, for me...

  • No cliche storylines.
  • No stereotypical names and characters. Come on now. Do all the romantic suspense heroes have to be Ex Navy Seals or Special Ops and named Cade, Travis, Stone... you get the idea.
  • No adultery. If you have a character who is involved with this, say the hero's wife has an affair, get a divorce BEFORE he starts dating again. 
  • No sex just because you want to put it into the story. Put it there for a reason. I don't mind those hot steamy sex scenes. Let it rip! But don't just have them have sex just because you think we want it there.
So, how do you find out all of this stuff? Do your research. As we started with... Read what we publish! Follow those blogs. Read what the editors and agents are writing about.

And guess what, you can ask the editors and agents directly. There are a ton of us out there actively looking and certainly acquiring. Get them to your meetings. I am also pushing again that I can do SKYPE sessions with your group so you don't have to worry about the cost of hotels, transportation and food. Email me and I can show you it is VERY easy!

No comments:

Post a Comment