Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Last Day for Voice of Africa Entries!

Take note that today is the last day you can submit your entry for the Voice of Africa writing competition run by Essentials Magazine in conjunction with Mills and Boon!

If this is the first you've heard about it ... get all the info here! But hurry - you only have a few hours left before the deadline!

So how many of you have entered? I know I have! Let us know if you've entered - so we can all celebrate our courage together!

Fingers crossed for everyone!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Snagging an Agent

Unfortunately I don't have a 10 point flop proof guide - if there's one out there, I'll take two, thank you!

There is a plethora of excellent information out there with any number of excellent agent blogs. So many, in fact, that I've had to limit the blogs I frequent otherwise it all starts to get a bit mind boggling. My personal favourites are:
Pub Rants
Nathan Bransford

USA agents are fantastic: they blog, they're accessible, they're fast on the turnaround and they mostly accept email submissions which makes it that much easier (and cheaper) for us to query widely.
UK agents are slower on the mark. Many of the agents still want snail mail submissions, they're quick to close their doors (with regards to my previous post, maybe this is a good thing rather than letting authors query with no chance because they're not currently looking) and their turnaround time is a lot slower - I've currently got a YA under consideration, and although it's gone from query to full request to full request via hard copy, it's been 6 months and counting - that's a long time in the land of agents.

Most agents accept submissions from anywhere in the world, that gives us two continents across which to query, query, query. There seems to be a quirky exception to this, and doesn't apply to all agents, but from my experience it seems like US agents are a a bit antsy about stories set in the UK, and vice versa.  But any other country setting and you're fine across the borders.

And now (finally, you might say) we come to the reason that triggered this post...

Firstly, it was a post of the wonderful Kristin Nelson's blog, Pub Rants.

In answering some questions, she had this to say about a question on how long to wait before re-quering an agent with a new project after a rejection:
Of course we all differ on what the answer would be. That’s why publishing is so maddening to writers. For me, I’d say wait 4 weeks, then query with new project. But here’s the kicker. DO NOT mention that you have queried the agency before. Act like this is the first query ever that you are sending us. We get 150 queries a day. Chances are very good we won’t remember your name (unless you have a really unique name that is!) Writers for some reason feel obligated to tell us their whole prior history of our rejecting their queries. Don’t be seduced!

And she had this to say about re-subbing a previously rejected but revised story:
My suggestion? Change the title to something new. Sometimes titles stand out and it will sound familiar. In terms of time span, if you submitted queries and have received mainly rejection responses, I’d revise significantly, wait about 3 weeks, then resend. What can an agent do? Track you down and chastise you for resubmitting? Grin. Be bold. Now if you are rejected numerous times by same agent. Move on. Lots of other agent fishes in the sea.

She is so honest and candid, and this advice can be applied when subbing to publishers as well. Our baby might be precious to us and chiselled into our brains, but to the agent/editor it's one of thousands and there's a good chance they won't remember. Good idea to change the title and maybe even character names - and hopefully it would have been revised to an extent where you have something more/different to offer in the query/partial - basically after revision you do have a new story, so why not re-submit? This is a particularly sensitive topic when it comes to M&B because, let's face it, if they reject your story, you don't have many other options left to place it. But M&B is brilliant about giving decent feedback, enough to show you what is wrong and how you could improve. I've never really understood why they then suggest you send in something new rather than the revised ms (and I'm talking about rejection letter feedback, not revision letter feedback).

And secondly, I'd like to point you to a brilliant site, Miss Snark's First Victim. Every month she hosts a Secret Agent contest, where you post the first page of your ms and the secret agent reviews all the posts, gives feedback on whether she'd request more or why she'd stop reading, etc and the secret agent also selects winners and runner ups and the prizes vary from a critique to requests. The secret agent is revealed and she's had some great agents there, like Ginger Clark and Nathan Bransford from Curtis Brown, Kirstin Nelson, to name a few. Each contest is usually limited to a selection of genres, and throughout the contests most genres are frequently covered.

For me, the benefit here is more for the agent feedback than actually winning (although that would be great too). If you've got a couple of hundred hours to spare, you can also read through the archive of previous contests, and see which agents had what to say about which submissions. It's a great way to get inside an agent's head and understand what they're looking for - and, once again, I think this applies to editors as well.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Do I need an agent

In the romance market, there are still a few options for the unagented author (and for the purpose of this post, I'm ignoring e-publishing, which for the most do not require agented submissions). Most noticeably, M&B, and from what I've heard, having an agent doesn't improve your chances or waiting times. 
If you want to submit to Harlequin or Avon without an agent you have to take your chances with a query letter and synopsis, and if you suck at that, well, no way to get your first couple of pages before an editor's eye. Dorchester and Source Books are an option, but you're going to go straight into the slush pile and unless you catch an editor on a really boring day, your submission will get processed by a sush pile reader first and not an editor. Tor accepts an unagented partial for science fiction submissions.

The good news is, authors can, and do, get picked out of the slush pile. The bad news is, I've seen a steady decrease in publishers who accept unagented submissions and as the rate of submissions increase alarmingly (this has been reported in the last two years) I fear more and more publishers will want to flush out their slush. (Ooh, that rhymes)

An interesting aside: Even publishers like Harlequin and Sourcebooks are now requiring agented submissions for their young adult lines.

Well, I've done the submission rounds plenty, to both agents and publishers, and at times it feels like it's definitely more difficult to get an agent than to get published.

And here's my personal thoughts on why:

An editor just needs to like the book.
An agent needs to like the book, plus she needs to think of a number of editors she has a connection with who'd also like the book. She has to consider the time and money she'll spend and the possibility that she won't be able to place the book.

An editor doesn't really care about your publishing career - unless you become a bestselling author and then you've got her interest. But they have a large number of debut authors that get lost in the woodwork and disappear.
An agent is not investing in a single book - the good agents are investing in your career and committing to stick with you (for at least a couple more books)

An editor doesn't need to know much about you as a person or even like you.
A good agent wants to feel a connection with authors she takes on. No need to be best friends, but you and your agent have to like each other, be able to communicate well and have similar goals. Some agents want to meet before they'll consider signing you.

A publishing house never has a closed list (unless they're going out of business)
Agents do. And the most frustrating thing is, most of them don't let you know. They keep the query door open, just in case the next JK Rowling knocks, but in general they're not really looking and thanks to form rejections, you'll never know if they really didn't like your book or if their list is just full right now.

On the upside, there are only a couple of publishers out there while there are hundreds upon hundreds of agents, so it might take a little longer, you might need to grow a couple more inches of thick skin for all those hundreds of rejections, but the odds hopefully balance out somewhere down the line.

What are you writing and to whom are you submitting? Do you know of other publishing houses accepting unagented submissions and do you have any advice, feedback? Any and all thoughts welcome.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

SA Launches Romance eBook Store!

We've had a few posts here in the past couple of weeks about the pro's and con's of self-publishing as well as general discussions on ebooks. These all seem to have lead quite deliciously to the launch of a new romance ebook shop on our local shores.

eBook Diva - a romantic fiction readers' community have just launched their site. It's a gorgeous pink collaboration between New Holland Publishing and Booksite Digital (Afrika) where they offer the romance reading community ebooks at South African Rand rates! So if you'd like to start reading some of those Harlequin Romance books you've seen advertised online and never got around to buying them in US Dollars - delay no more you have your very own site!

The other aspect to the site is the free writer's community where you are able to build and share your own work. Your readers can also provide comments on your work which in turn will help you develop as an author. (Whether it's a thick skin or something more insightful will remain to be seen!) There are plenty of success stories out there of authors who have offered their initial work for free, in order to build up a following, and have subsequently gone on to sell their other books!

Click here to go check it out for yourself and then come back and let us know what you think!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What are you really saying?

Check out the new On Writing article by Judy Croome on our web site, where she shows us how our choice of words affect the reader experience. You'll notice the article doesn't have a purely romance angle so please feel free to tell your friends about it even if they're not romance junkies like us! Quick link to the article here.

Also, for other great writing tips you can check out Judy's own blog. This month her topic is conflict! Quick link to the article here.

I'm sure, like me, you'll find Judy's pieces insightful and will be happy to have them as a gentle reminder of what it is we need to pay attention to when we write.

Happy reading and don't forget to tell us if there are any topics you'd like us to cover for you!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Franschhoek Literary Festival and The Writers Workshop

Heard on Jenny Crwys-Williams' book show on Radio 702 last week:

The 2010 Franschhoek Literary Festival will be held from 14th to 16th May. It looks like it's going to be great fun and very interesting. You can check it out here. If you live in the Cape and decide to go along, please drop us a line and tell us all about it, as most of us here at South African Romance Writers are a little too far away. Guest bloggers welcome ...

On the back of this, festival organiser Christopher Hope will be holding a residential writing workshop in the little town of Greyton. The workshop seems very reasonably priced considering the fee also includes accommodation, but again it's sadly too far away for me to attend, so if anyone out there goes along we'd love to hear about it. More information can be found here

Finally, if you love books and want to keep up with what's happening in South African publishing, podcasts of Jenny's shows can be found here.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Geeks Need Love Too

Liquid Silver Books has an open call for submission on the theme of 'Geeks need love too'. Anything from 20-80k in length, any genre and any heat level. The deadline is 15th June 2010. For more information, click here.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Essentials Voice of Africa

For those (like me) who are a little slow on the uptake, please note that Essentials magazine has extended the deadline for the Voice of Africa competition to the end of March. So if you haven't yet entered, you still have a chance! They are looking for romantic short stories of 2,000 words. The competition is co-judged by editors from Mills & Boon, and this year's prizes are awesome, so give it a go.
More information here.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Jewels of the Night

eBook publisher The Wild Rose Press has an open call for themed submissions that closes on 31st March. The contest is open to aspiring writers as well as all TWRP authors, and the prize is publication - plus a great chance to get your name out there. The details can be found here.