Friday, November 21, 2014

Keep Those Romances Focused And To The Point

Let's start with the basics of romance writing. We'll call it Romance 101!

In a romance, the central focus of the story line is the development of the relationship and the romance from the beginning to the Happily Ever After. The focus is on the couple. Pretty basic, right?

Unfortunately, far too many authors tend to complicate the story with an excess of sub-plots, back story and so many characters we forget the central story arc. When you are writing a romance, it is crucial that you keep that relationship in your sights at all time. Think of it as your thesis statement that guides any academic writing you might do. This is the goal, the purpose, the driving force. It is everything!

What I have seen lately is a tendency for authors to fill their stories with a lot of extra "stuff". In an attempt to justify everything that happens in the story, the author fills the story subplots and external conflicts that completely detract from the story. It is as if the person thought, "Hey, my hero is angry today. I wonder what caused him to be that way." At which point they launch into this huge back story about how, when he was in the 3rd grade someone pushed him off the monkey bars...

But they don't stop there. The add this amount of "stuff" the the heroine, to the villain, and to every nook and cranny of the conflict in the story.

Now don't get me wrong. We need to have those reasons why our characters do things, but it doesn't have to be over-the-top and excessive. We can have sub-plots. We can have extra characters. But  when the story has too much to deal with and we completely forget that there was a relationship to work on, then we have a problem.

The solution for this is pretty basic.

Plot out the relationship. Just think about how those characters get from point A to point B. They meet, and somehow, during the course of 75,000-100,000 words, they have hit the happily ever after. That is the story arc.

Now, you can build in the NECESSARY (and yes I am stressing that word) elements that will be the glue to hold that story line together. Find ways to take the "one-stop-shopping" approach as well. If one best friend can do the work of the parents, the boss, the best friend and the siblings, then use that one person and keep it simple.

This is one of the biggest reasons I find I am rejecting stories time and time again. My database of submissions is full of  "too much" for why I passed on a story.

I promise you, it isn't that hard to fix.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ask And Ye Shall Receive

When I opened Greyhaus, one of my three goals was to increase communication between the writers and the publishing professionals (editors and agents). For too long, it seemed that the writers were doing everything they could to "do what the editors and agents wanted." And yet, on the reverse side, the editors and agents would often read submissions and questions, "what on Earth are these writers doing and why?" There seemed to be (and yes, I do think it is still there) a huge communication gap.

As an agent, I know I try my best to get information out there to writers about the publishing process. I want people to know, not just what I am looking for, but also how I look at projects and so forth. But I also know that is not enough. This is about communication BETWEEN the authors and the editors/agents.

A definition I have always turned to when it comes to communications is the "getting and the giving of information". In other words, this is a two-way dialogue and there is only so much I can do on my end. There is the other 50% of the equation which would be the authors to ask and inquire on their end.

I know there are writers out there struggling in this business. They want to know how to approach things such as submissions, contracts, and working with editors and agents. They want to know how to craft great characters and develop plot lines that can be marketable. But what I find is interesting is that, too often, they only ask of each other. It becomes an issue of the blind leading the blind. Eventually, working in that closed system leads to a lot of frustration and confusing. In many cases, it also leads to writers who might have really had the talent to just give up.

But I do want to say there are editors and agents out there who want to help. To get it, however, you simply have to ASK! Editors and agents are out there on social media. We blog, we tweet, we Facebook. Editorial groups such as Avon, Harper Collins Impulse and Mills and Boon are always opening their lines of communication to allow authors to pretty much ask anything they need or want.

Agents and editors are VERY available to attend conferences. Here at Greyhaus, I have opened the door to setting up live chats with your writing groups using SKYPE. We can simply chat and answer questions. But again, to make all of this happen, it requires someone on the other side to do one simple thing.

ASK!

Understand the resources are out there. You don't have to struggle alone.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Greyhaus Is Still Here For The Romance Genre

In 2003, Greyhaus Literary Agency opened its doors to represent romance and women's fiction. It is now 2014 and Greyhaus is still committed to providing that same service to authors interested in traditional print as well as the romance and women's fiction genres. I was especially excited with the last edition of the RWR and the statistics from the 2013 Romstat Report. When there is still a market of 86.7% of the books out there are in print and 47.5 are in e-book (many of which are released in
both formats) things look good. When we see there were 9,513 new ISBN's published in 2013 in the romance genre and this small niche in the grand scheme of things is producing $1.079 Billion Dollars in publishing revenues, then I would say things look good.

When I opened the agency, I had a lot of people questioning my choice of limiting my work to just these two genres. I still get that today. I have to say, I have never regretted that decision. Sure, along the way I have contemplated trying other things, but in the end, I always return to the original plan. I guess there is also the added benefit of not having to sort through the added submissions from the genres other than romance.

As we get ready to dive into 2015, I am continuing my quest to find some great romance authors out there willing to try new things and keep this genre alive and well. We know people love a great story with a great happy and fulfilling ending and that is what Greyhaus will continue to look for.

I do want to remind people that I am looking for BOTH single title and series authors. There has been a misconception that I am only looking for Harlequin authors. This is far from the case. I am a HUGE advocate for Harlequin and will continue to work with this great company, but again, this does not mean I am not looking for other things.

I want to also remind people to please take the time to always review my submission guidelines and what I am looking for. The genres do change from time to time (like everything else in this business) so check before you hit SEND.

As far as conferences go, I am also always available to help out writing chapters by not only listening to pitches, but to run workshops. Make sure to check in with me. At this point, I am probably not going to the New York conference, but of course, that can always change.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Your Amazing Book Didn't Sell: What Happened?

Sales of a book can be amazingly unpredictable. Writers, editors and agents work their butts off to produce a high quality project. We are all working together to insure when that book hits the book shelves, either in those brick and mortar stores, online or digitally, the readers are climbing over each other to buy the darn thing. And yet, more often than not, books just tank in sales. So what happened?

I know Jessica Faust was blogging sort of about this a couple of days ago when she talked about agents getting overly excited about a project. Remember, that was why we signed you in the first place. We fell head over heels in love with your story, those characters and that fantastic plot line. The editors do the exact same thing. But something happened along the way.

The problem here is that there is likely no one real good reason for the book not selling. It can be any number of variables, or even a combination of variables.

I know I mentioned this author before, but I worked with one person here at Greyhaus who had her book come out right in the middle of the collapse of Borders. Well crap! There went 50% of the sales and there was nothing more that could be done.

In other cases, it might be something as simple as the book cover design. That guy on the front cover of the romance novel just wasn't enough eye candy for the readers.

It might simply be the timing of the book. In this case, think about movie releases. You have this great movie ready to come out at Christmas time and then, darn it, the other company moves their release time earlier and now you are going head to head against The Hobbit.

I can go on and on here, but I want to get to the real point here. We cannot predict the future. We cannot insure sales will be there. What we can promise is that everyone is indeed working hard to get those sales to work for you. But like everything else in this business, we won't know until it happens.