Saturday, June 3, 2017

RNA CONFERENCE: Meet the Publishers

With the RNA Conference fast approaching the RNA blog today welcomes Industry Professionals who are offering 121s to delegates. We have asked all IPs a series of questions so that members can get to know them prior to interviews.

A warm welcome to Rosie de Courcy (RdeC) Head of Zeus; Julia Williams (JW) Mills & Boon; Pia Fenton (PF) ChocLit; Natasha Harding (NH) Bookouture; Emily Yau (EY) Ebury and Laurie Johnson (LJ) Mills & Boon.

What would you not like to see in a submission?

RdeC   Anything paranoral

JW      We are looking for fresh original voices in the line, who can bring a new twist and dimension to a classic love story.  We don’t want stories where there is no emotional depth or where the characters don’t grow. And we do want to see stories that target our series effectively and give our readers the HEA they’re looking for.
Pia Fenton
PF      I don’t want to see stories with unhappy endings (it should at least be a positive one), or stories with weak heroes, TSTL heroines and too much ‘telling’ instead of ‘showing’.  And no YA, children’s books, non-fiction or poetry please.

NH      I’m looking for complete novels to discuss not partially written books.

EY      One of my most frequent complaints is that a story is passive – when a novel is made up of a series of unfortunate events (pardon the pun), which our protagonist must overcome. I like to know the main concept of a novel from the first few chapters, with the primary dramatic tension being introduced in one (or a few) events early on. A character driving their own narrative is much more interesting to me and helps to make them more engaging and likable.

LJ       Clich├ęd and untargeted storylines with two-dimensional characters and unfounded set-ups. The common misconception is that it’s easy to write a Mills & Boon book, that it’s romance-by-numbers—let me assure you, it’s not! Our authors work hard to create their stories, build their characters and develop their plotlines.

What is it you hope to achieve on your own behalf?

RdeC   To find a new star for Head of Zeus

JW      As an editor I am always looking for fresh original voices that can tell an old story in a new way. I am always keen to nurture new talent and look forward to meeting writers at the start of their career.

PF       I’m not there to achieve anything for myself personally – in my role as commissioning editor for Choc Lit I’m looking for great stories that will suit their style/brand and authors who will be an asset to the Choc Lit team.
Natasha Harding

NH    I’m actively acquiring in my role at Bookouture so I'd love to find new commercial fiction authors to work with. I’m particularly looking for a world war two saga, a laugh out loud romantic comedy and a novel that perfect for mums.

EY    I’m always on the lookout for new talent so am really looking forward to meeting lots of authors from the RNA community. I always welcome the opportunity to talk to writers – after all, I love talking about books! – and even if it doesn’t come to anything I find that it really helps to spark ideas on both sides.

LJ       I would like to acquire fresh, new authors! It’s exhilarating to read raw voices brimming with potential and be the one to help take their book from concept to published manuscript.

What is your company looking for at the present time?

RdeC   Classy storytellers

JW      Mills & Boon is looking for strong themes and key selling hooks told from fresh new angles. We want strong, targeted, marketable editorial that fits the romance promise for the series we acquire in the UK—Mills & Boon Modern, Medical, Historical and Cherish. 

PF     Quality adult fiction with romance at the heart (unless the author is aiming for the Death by Choc Lit imprint ie crime), preferably featuring the hero’s point of view and with a male hero. 60-100,000 word completed manuscripts previously unpublished and not currently accepted by an agent or other publisher.  Sub-genres:  contemporary, historical, thrillers, mystery, romantic suspense, fantasy, time slip.

NH     Commercial fiction, primarily women’s fiction and crime, from authors who are able to write two or more books a year.
Emily Yau
EY      Ebury fiction is interested in new and exciting voices in women’s fiction, whether that’s big-idea issue-led novels that will have readers reaching for the box of tissues, or lovely, charming reads that you want to curl up with and that have a slightly different angle to those that have already been published.

LJ       Mills & Boon is looking for strong themes and key selling hooks told from fresh new angles. We want strong, targeted, marketable editorial that fits the romance promise for the series we acquire in the UK—Mills & Boon Modern, Medical, Historical and Cherish.

Will you be joining any of our panels or workshops over the 
conference weekend?

Rosie de Courcy

RdeC   Yes, both

JW    We will be running a workshop called Make a Date with Mills & Boon. Where we will be discussing the secrets to writing successfully for series romance and looking at what makes a perfect hero and heroine. We can also give you some insights into what Mills& Boon can do for you as an author.
PF       Yes, but not on Choc Lit’s behalf – I’ll be my ‘author self’.  As Christina Courtenay I will be doing a workshop together with Anna Belfrage on time slip vs time travel in romantic fiction, and as Pia Fenton I’ll take part in a panel/workshop with the Paisley Piranha author collective about romance, relationships and realism in YA.

NH      No

EY      Yes – The State of the Industry, chaired by Nicola Cornick at 4.30-5.30pm, Friday 14th July 2017.
Laurie Johnson
LJ       Yes, we will be running a workshop called Make a Date with Mills & Boon. Drop by and discover the secrets to writing series romance, looking at the perfect hero and heroines; learn what Harlequin Mills & Boon can do for you as an author; and meet the editors you’ll be submitting to.

If you had one piece of advice to give to a writer, what would it

RdeC   Study and analyse the structure of suspenseful storytelling.   
            It’s a craft to be learned

JW      Develop a thick skin and listen to advice and learn from it, and if it’s your dream, never ever give up.

PF       Find yourself a writing/critique buddy, they are invaluable!
NH     Find two authors who have a similar style and/or subject to you writing and use these as comparisons for your work. This will be really useful information when submitting to agents and publishers as well as for beta readers.

EY     Do your research – it really helps when an author knows their genre and their audience: which books and authors write in a similar market to you and – more importantly – why is yours different, or *gasp* even better? And of course, research is hugely important for other areas, such as plotting out a novel, constructing a striking cover letter and deciding which agents to send your submission to. These things take time to perfect, so don’t rush it.

LJ       Think about who your audience is, who you are writing this story for, what readers you want to reach. Target your story for them and then choose a publishing imprint that fits the story you’re selling.

Thank you all for answering our questions today and we hope you will enjoy the 2017
RNA Conference.

Compiled by Natalie Kleinman

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