Writing for Worldwide Distribution

“Brainstorming on the Beach” Conference with Novelists, Inc.

 Here are my notes, keeping in mind this is what I heard and my interpretation.  This panel was geared toward Harlequin Enterprises.

Writing for Worldwide Distribution with Marsha Zinberg, Executive Editor, Harlequin Enterprises and Author Vicki Lewis Thompson

 Marsha:  A breakdown on what’s popular with readers shows that cowboys, weddings, babies, and Texas remain favorite themes. The Presents line features the power dynamics between a hero and heroine.  A new line is coming, HQ Heartwarming with wholesome stories.

 Mini-series and connected series are always hits.

Direct to Consumer: No paranormals. Heroines should be focused on home not career.

Overseas: Fantasy and romance are welcome but not paranormal. Ugly Duckling, Cinderella, forbidden love, millionaires, and secret babies are themes that work.  The romance should be the focus of the story.

When you, the author, are doing your fact sheet, keep in mind that overseas editors read them so make your universal theme evident right away.  The synopsis shouldn’t be overly long or complicated since English may not be their first language.

Topics to avoid: Casinos and gambling, ballroom dancing, post-war traumatic stress disorder.

Medical sells well overseas but not in North America.

Be prolific to create your author franchise.

Time sensitive issues and brand names may date a book so be wary of using these.  Ditto for technology and politically correct terms.

Vicki:  Know what is selling but don’t always follow trends.  Focus what you do well and write often.  Be a pro regarding deadlines.  Challenge yourself as a writer and take a chance on special projects.

Refilling the creative well implies that you drain your energy when you write. Instead, think of writing as recharging your batteries.  The more you write, the more you want to write. 

Coming Next: Sharing Concerns with Carolyn Pittis, Senior VP, Global Author Services, HarperCollins

TROUBLE IN PARADISE

Writers loops are abuzz with discussion over the bomb dropped by Harlequin, the renowned romance publisher, that they are starting a vanity press originally called Harlequin Horizons. Due to protests in the professional writing community, they’ve issued a notice saying they will change the name to one that does not mention Harlequin at all.

Vanity presses are unscrupulous publishing houses that make profits from aspiring writers instead of profits from book sales. Why is this wrong? Because writers have to pay vanity presses to publish their work, not the other way around as with a traditional publisher who pays an advance against royalties. Writers who pay to have their work published are denied recognition in professional writing organizations.

Both RWA and MWA have already taken measures to challenge Harlequin’s status on their approved publisher list. This would make their legitimately published authors ineligible for the RITA or EDGAR Awards. Now SFWA has stepped up to the plate and issued a statement as well: http://tinyurl.com/yj4x8eu

Adding fuel to the fire is the paid editorial service Harlequin offers. Publishers who make referrals to editing services also prey on unpublished writers, who may become so frustrated with the submission process that they hire book editors to improve their work and make it more saleable. They believe they’ll become rich and famous once a book editor fixes their work and it sells. But having someone else edit your work doesn’t teach you the principles of writing. It doesn’t train you for a long term career. It’s the easy way out. Nor does it guarantee a sale.

Either venture is a way to take advantage of naive writers. Newbies may feel that acceptance into Harlequin’s vanity press program gives them a chance to have their book picked up for the traditional route. It’s unlikely, seeing how the slush pile for the regular Harlequin lines are huge enough. Are those editors really going to be looking for more manuscripts?

Harlequin has been a highly respected name in publishing forever. We’ll have to see how this plays out. Publishing is in a flux and change is inevitable, but this one doesn’t help writers. It helps the big corporation that will make money off inexperienced writers desperate to see their books in print.

More discussion online:

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

Writer Beware

Ashley Grayson Blog

Jackie Kessler Blog

Pub Rants