Saturday, January 28, 2023

#MSWL Time

OK, so my New Year's Resolution was to get more of these blog posts out, and like so many of us, that kind of got lost. Well, there is still time, and there is always the ability to wrap up the year doing what I wanted to do in January.

I do want to put out to all of you my big #MSWL list to get the year going. It is going to involve a lot of different things so be ready to go. With that said, I want to stress that if you really do not have a story in that area now, there is nothing wrong with starting it, but I will say, by the time you get it finished and ready to submit, the odds are my list will have changed.

Let me first remind you that Greyhaus Literary Agency only represents traditional romance and women's fiction. Please make sure that you read the material to know what I am talking about. All of the details are on my website.

Now, on with the list.

HARLEQUIN:

I love this company, so I am looking for people in ALL of their lines. You an already be with Harlequin or someone who is not there yet. Understand that you will be expected to write. 3 books a year should be no issue. Make sure to know the lines well. Harlequin Submission Manager (submittable.com)

Here are some specifics:

  • Harlequin Historicals - Definitely looking for Regency, Victorian and feel free to move into WWI and WWII. If you don't know the era, this might not be the place for you. 
  • Love Inspired Lines - I personally am not a big fan of "preachy" stories but those that give us that motivation without the sermon.
  • Diverse voices - I am certainly looking for stories that are looking at diversity issues. With that said, if you are writing something that is multi-cultural, the culture needs to be an integral part of the story and not just names of people, or throwing in cultural words. 
  • Some of the lines are really full right now so understand that you have to bring your A Game.
  • If you are someone writing for Harlequin now, let me know what your future plans are. I want to work with you.
WOMEN'S FICTION

As you know from my prior blogs, I am a big fan of this writing. The stories need to be focused so please do not write a story where the main character is all over the place with a ton of issues. Pick one and run with it. Too many issues will lose the focus.

Remember that women's fiction is looking at the world through a female lens. In other words, we should learn something about the world and our own issues by reading your book. 

I would recommend you avoid the common tropes I see thrown at me such as: she found her husband cheating on her and is now divorced, she wants a change so it is road trip time... make sense?

Stories do not have to be rom-con voices and can be serious. 

Romance can be part of it, but it does not have to be there. The key is to see that world

SINGLE TITLE CONTEMPORARY

I am really looking for these stories. Stories need to be in the range of 75K - 100K when it comes to word count. The story must be about a building relationship. There has to be a Happily Ever After by the end of the book.

Heat levels can range from sweet to steamy. NOTE: Stories can be hot but I am not looking for Erotica levels and I am not interested in stories with gratuitous sex and gratuitous language just because you feel it makes the story. 

Finally, NO ADULTERY. 

ROMANTIC SUSPENSE

I want to see Single Title romantic suspense. The key for me is the stories need to be a romance first with the suspense being the guiding plot. Stories need to be realistic. In other words, since we are dealing with the criminal justice system, the characters need to be acting in a way that would not ruin the case in the end. 

PARANORMAL
This is a tough one for me. I am not interested in in shape shifters. I am not interested in stories with psychics. Stories need to be set in the real world so alternate realities are not something I want to see. Bring the paranormal into the modern world so we can relate to it. No time travels now.

HISTORICAL SINGLE TITLES
These again need to be romance first. All of the time periods I noted in the Harlequin section are what I would love to see. I am not looking for historical information dumps. It does need to be accessible and truly a part of the story. 

MULTICULTURAL VOICES
I would love to see both single title romances and women's fiction projects written by multicultural authors with multicultural settings. I want stories that give us an insight that those on the outside might not understand.


Hope that helps. Please share with others. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

A Nasty Reply To A Rejection Will Not Help

Rejections suck! I get it! I hate writing these as much as you hate reading them when they arrive. But understand, it is part of the business. Your story, while you might think it is the best thing in the world is not going to be right for everyone. 

Thus, the rejection letter.

While that letter may sting, I want to remind you of something. Writing back with a "nasty-gram" is not going to help. It will not get us to change our mind. It will not make us stop all we are doing and reflect on our decision or our career choice. In fact, it has now cut off any potential opportunity you might have for the future in case a project is right for us. 

Over the weekend, I received just such a letter. Now, let me put this in context for you. This person had already sent the project to me during the summer,and I passed on the project then. At that time, I noted that the project wasn't right for me because it really did not fit into the romance and women's fiction category. I would also note that the author had sent this as a form letter to not just me, but other people so this was just a mass mailing. It was clear the author had not read submission guidelines. Over the weekend, I received the exact same letter, so I replied with a simple, "I passed on this project already" and provided the exact date. 

Less than 12 hours later I received the nasty gram telling me it was the stupidest decision of all time, and I clearly did not have a clue. Of course, the author did ignore the fact that I stated I had already passed on the project.

Yes, it might make you feel better, but remember, that person may be someone you need in the future. Just chill!

Monday, January 9, 2023

What Editors and Agents Want In Stories

First of all, welcome to the New Year! 2022 was a long haul so I am sorry for the delay in getting this latest post out to all of you! I want to wish you all the best in the coming year.

I was thinking about a lot of blog topics over the recent weeks and I kept coming back to this particular issue as I have been hearing it in a lot of different areas both inside and outside of publishing. A lot of this circles around the issue of diversity and equity. 

Now let me first say that I do believe there are areas out there where there truly is systemic diversity and equity issues. These are indeed important and need to be addressed immediately. It is certainly not right for people to be treated differently because of their diversity! So, with that mindset, I looked to myself in this industry, and started thinking about the editors and agents I work with. Specifically, I reflected on what I look for in a good story and what I expect to see on the bookshelves when I go and purchase a book.

For those of you who remember going to those face-to-face conferences and sitting in the editor and agent panels, it was always a certainty that someone in the audience would ask us what we are looking for in a story. Now, granted, these people were looking for a trend so they could jump on it, but it was still a fair question. Every time the question was asked, I always heard the same comment: "I am looking for a well written story, with characters I want to talk about, with a conflict that is meaningful and an author who can really pull me into the story." 

That has not changed for me.

I read submissions and look first at the story idea. Is this a story that draws me in? Is this a story that is believable, with a premise that is unique? I look at the quality of the writing. Does the author have a command of the writing process and their use of words? Does the phrasing move me along in a vibrant and wonderful flow that makes me want to keep reading? 

As you can see, it is about the writing.

What you look at our submission guidelines (for both editors and agents), you will see a commitment to writing from all types of authors and about a diverse group of topics. But, please also note that we are not using this as a submission guideline. The guidelines focus on the quality of the writing. 

When I hear authors and organizations out there pushing diversity and equity in publishing but somehow putting this over the quality of the writing, I fear they may be missing the point. All writers have equal access to editors (those that are open to unagented submissions) and agents. We all have our websites; we are all open to attending conferences. We tell you exactly what type of stories we acquire (which is based on our knowledge of the field, or likes and dislikes, and what is currently marketable). We are still looking for quality writing. If your heroine is Latin-X in a male dominated industry AND the story is good, we will be interested. It always comes back to the writing. 

I know I mentioned this before, but when the RWA really started pushing this, I did put out a #MSWL for authors from diverse backgrounds bringing forward projects that reflect that background. I only received projects from one background - authors from India and that ethnic background. This was not an issue that I was intentionally not acquiring authors of color or books with diverse backgrounds. There was simply nobody submitting. 

There is also another element that we have to remember when it comes to publishing. Is the story marketable. Is there really a large enough readership out there who wants to read this type of story and would spend a lot of money buying a similar type of book.

As I look at submissions, I always have to ask if the readers are out there. Sure, it is easy to say that you would read that book, but we need a large population. Stories can be good, but it might not be the right time for that book. It might be that the market is currently flooded with that type of story and I would not be able to sell it. It might be that the editors don't have bookbuyers that are looking for that type of story. Remember, this is a business of selling a product. If we don't have a market for it, we will not invest in it. 

As we start 2023, I want everyone to realize that I, like all of the publishing industry is open and committed to diversity and equity. But, as I have said several times in this post, it will still come down to the quality of the writing and if the book is marketable. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Something New and Something Familiar

One common thing you hear from editors and agents when talking to authors is to give us something unique. We want those unique stories with unique characters and voices. Unfortunately, many authors are missing the mark when they hear this writing tip. They come up with stories that are so different and so out there that the project simply becomes marketable. 

And then there are the other authors who swing the pendulum the other way. They hear editors and agents put out their #MSWL and immediately think that they have to write exactly that story. For these authors, they have now simply copied a story from someone else. No, not plagiarism, but really a carbon copy. 

So, what do we really want?

We want your foot in both of the ideas. When we tell authors the types of stories we are looking for, we are saying this because we know those stories sell. We know readers like this "TYPE" of story and since the goal of all editors, agents and writers is to sell their stories, this is where we head. But we also want you to bring in your unique spin on this idea. We want your voice.

As I am writing this, I have the Christmas music playing on my Alexa. I think this is the best analogy I can give you. How many versions of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" are there out there? A LOT!!!! But each musician provides their own spin. Same song, different voice. 

Now go chew on that with your favorite holiday cookie and Starbucks coffee.