Pub Rants

Category: genres

Defining Literary

STATUS: I accomplished a ton of stuff today. I powered through a lot of client reading, which was great. I usually don’t get to read during the day.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? THE MUSIC OF THE NIGHT by Michael Crawford (from Phantom of the Opera)

Nothing dooms a query faster than mislabeling the genre of your work. If a writer has a serious tone for his/her query with a lot of darkness only to wrap it up with “and this would be a perfect fit for the chick lit market,” I’m understandably going to be confused.

Or better yet, the queries that highlight that the work is every genre under the sun, including the kitchen sink, because then all bases are covered. (i.e. My work is a mystery, women’s fiction thriller that will also appeal to young adults—or what have you.) That’s problematic as well because it’s clear that the writer doesn’t have a clear vision of the market.

But nothing is tougher than trying to figure out whether your work is literary or not.

I wish there were a quick and dirty definition I could give you but there’s not. It’s often like porn. I know it when I see it. It’s pretty clear.

I can at least make a stab at defining it though. The term literary refers to the level and quality of the writing. The language itself is art. It also refers to the level of complexity in the story. So works like THE CLOUD ATLAS or GILEAD are definitely literary.

The writing itself has a beauty that’s palpable. Now, these works can also tell a good story (which both do by the way) but when you sit back in awe at the tightness of the writing and the sheer scope encompassed, then you know it’s literary.

Commercial fiction can certainly have literary leaning. Works such as COLD MOUNTAIN and SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS come to mind. Jane Smiley (THOUSAND ACRES) and Jodi Picoult (MY SISTER’S KEEPER) also strike me as walking that fine line between the two but ultimately I would call their stuff commercial. (Okay, I might really say commercial fiction with a literary bent to show that the writing is above the ordinary.)

And yes, folks might disagree with me—hence the dilemma between what is literary and what is commercial.

Editors Get Serious About Historical Romance

STATUS: Feeling pretty good. Our new submission database is up and running—and smoothly to boot. No glitches have been discovered as of yet. I took my last two bins overflowing with paper down to recycling. It should be the last bunch—although there are a few paper sample pages request still out and about. Of course we’ll honor our request and read those submissions when they arrive. We do keep a log of requested material and cross-check with what arrives.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BE OUR GUEST from Disney’s Beauty and The Beast Soundtrack.

Now this is a sign that cannot be ignored.

First, an editor emailed me today and said she would be willing to cut off her left foot to get her hands on a good historical romance.

That’s serious folks.

Then not an hour later, I was having a phone chat with another editor at a completely different house who said, “I’m dying to see some historicals—but none of that drawing room chatty stuff. I like adventure with my romance.”

You heard it here folks. I’ve been telling you the tide is turning for this arena and editors are now getting serious about wanting to acquire historicals.

So hop to it.

Don’t Box Me In

STATUS: I’m playing huge catch up this evening. My tech person was in to tweak the network earlier today. Now that is all good and done. Yea! It put be a little behind for my goals of the day though.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? POEMS, PRAYERS, AND PROMISES by John Denver

One look at my website and it will be pretty obvious to any casual observer that I’ve been pretty darn successful at books for women.

Romance. Women’s Fiction, YA that appeals to young gals. Even my SF & F has a decidedly female readership bent. Heck, the majority of my clients are women too!

I want you all to know that this wasn’t planned. It just happened that way.

But I read a lot and a good portion of my favorite books off all time are not necessarily written by women or even remotely in the field of women’s fiction. (In fact, last night I picked up ENDER’S GAME by Card because I saw it in the YA section of a bookstore. I hadn’t read it in years and I wanted to give it that YA look—as in, wow, they didn’t originally market this as YA so let’s see how that would work. In one page, I just about swooned. What a writer. What a story! I’d sign that one up in a heartbeat and there’s nary a women main character in sight!)

So I just wanted to remind y’all to not box me in. I know it LOOKS like women’s stuff is all I’m interested in but honestly, it’s not. I’m so open that I’m actually more likely to take a risk on something that’s not in that realm because I’m actively looking to diversify my list.

And no, that doesn’t mean I’m suddenly going to start looking at men-men techno thrillers. It just means don’t be afraid to query me for books in the genres I do rep just because the website is currently estrogen stacked.

Reverse Harbinger Of Doom?

STATUS: I’m doing great. Still working on a deal in process but hey, no one is going to be in the office tomorrow so it will just have to wait. The new network seems to be doing okay. I’ve caught a few minor glitches but minor they are so nothing to stress over.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU TOOK THE WORDS RIGHT OUT OF MY MOUTH by Meatloaf

I have to admit that when it came to the genre of paranormal romance, I’ve been a little bit of a harbinger of doom.

I’ve been stressing how tight this market has become. Paranormal has been popular now for several years. Basic trends in publishing will tell us that the market will eventually get glutted and reader demand will fall off, publisher interest will decline, and those authors who are strong in the field will only get stronger but the newcomer will have a hard time breaking in.

Then I held an auction for a paranormal romance last week. The deal is up on deal lunch if you get it.

If not, I’m happy to share. Here it is:

FICTION:WOMEN’S/ ROMANCE
Author of A Darker Crimson Carolyn Jewel’s next paranormal romance MAGELLAN’S WITCH, set in a world where human magic users and demons are on the brink of disastrous conflict, moving to Melanie Murray at Warner Forever, in a two-book deal at auction, by Kristin Nelson of the Nelson Literary Agency (World).

Does it change my mind? Yes and no. Maybe I’m not quite the harbinger of doom I’ve been lately but I do think the market is still tight.

Why did this project sell and at auction to boot? Well, I’m not sure if there is an absolute answer to that but here are some thoughts.

1. Carolyn was previously published in historical romance and for one other paranormal romance. Her numbers were solid. Editors like that.

2. The story line was fresh, fresh, fresh. Of course demons have been done before but her approach had a lot of original elements.

3. World building, world building, world building. When Carolyn and I were preparing for this submission, I really drove this home. To the point where she was probably sick of me but I really emphasized the need to layer her world with small details that make a powerful whole. Small things count in a tight market.

4. Her heroine had such an interesting dynamic to her paranormal ability. In fact, in the opening pages, we aren’t quite sure what exactly is unfolding because the heroine doesn’t know either. She also suffers from crippling “migraines” which ends up being something else entirely. The emotion and the tension in the opening scenes put the reader immediately on the edge. It’s also a great hook. The heroine simply thinks she is suffering from a debilitating condition that has shaped her life. Now a whole new world opens up—literally.

5. Sometimes what causes editor excitement just is. It’s the voice, the world, an original approach, they fall in love.

So the good news is there still is room in the paranormal world—even for a newcomer—so don’t put away those elements quite yet.