This month, for something different, we’re going to answer a trio of short questions on the topic of submissions. Be sure to read below to find out how you can win a download of Partners by Cricket Starr, a special treat from Red Sage Presents.
Okay, so you’ve written the next New York Time’s Best Seller! Great…right? How in the devil do you break down a mammoth 102,000 word count of complicated characters and complex plot lines into a teeny-tiny, member of the Lollipop Guild sized 150 word blurb that is guaranteed to make your book so enticing that the reader uses her Victoria’s Secret emergency panty fund to purchase your book instead of that water bra thing? Thanks for your wisdom.
Great question! Truly, you don’t have to write this particular blurb. Most publishers have in-house marketing people to do that for you. Remember, your first sale — the first one you hope to make with your submission — is to the editor, not to the bra-buying public. So your 150 words should be geared toward the needs of that first editorial reader.
How do you hook this editorial reader? You start by showing her that the book suits her editorial line, and then you show the one or two ways that your book will stand out from the pack. It’s the old “same but different” mindset. We need to see both the sameness (the suitability for the line and the breadth of the book’s appeal) and the differences (why your book is special). Save the complexity for the synopsis, but even there, please keep in mind that you don’t get to the bra-buyers unless you win over the overworked, eyestrained editor.
I’ve been pitching my book to agents as science fiction, but after reading some of your posts I’m thinking that perhaps paranormal romance would be a better fit. Can you suggest a resource where I could find agents that are interested in that particular sub-genre? I’m familiar with QueryTracker and AgentQuery, but their searches don’t include sub-genres.
I’m not an agent, but in my experience, if an agent represents one kind of romance, she will probably represent the other kinds, too. This isn’t iron-clad, but more like a general tendency. If an agent intends to build relationships at romance houses, there’s little sense in doing that and then excluding entire groups of stories from consideration.
But there will always be personal tastes involved, such as an agent who gets squeamish over blood (vampires!) or one who loves historicals to the exclusion of all other romance types. The best way to suss out these kinds of personal preferences is to follow the authors an agent represents. Does she rep 40 romance authors, and not a single bloodsucker among them? That might be a clue. Do all of her authors write dialogue-heavy, super-pacey stories? That might be another clue.
By the way, you can mention this sort of thing in your query. “I noticed you represent Annie Author and Brenda Bestseller. Although my story is a different subgenre, its fast pace and tight focus are similar to books written by them.”
What are the prospects for someone who’s not an established writer and is trying to sell a futuristic romance? And if you have the time, please tell us what you think separates a futuristic romance from a science fiction story that has a significant amount of romance in it. Or is there a difference?
Mary Anne Landers
I’ve been keeping a close eye on this corner of the market for the past year or two. There is a core group of loyal science fiction romance readers, and there is the potential that these books will break through to a broader romance readership. (Also, just as a personal thing, I really enjoy these books, especially the world-building and the philosophical questions.) Will it happen? Eh. Maybe. Time will tell. I hope it will, though, because scifi romance submissions have been looking fresh and interesting lately. They deserve a broader readership.
How hard is it for a new writer to break in? This might sound like a non-answer, but the difficulty will be relative to how good the book is and how many slots are available. At my house, for example, we publish a few erotic scifi romance stories every year. For every one we publish, we probably get 30 or 40 submitted. (There are relatively few writers submitting these, which increases your odds.) You have no way of controlling the competition, but you can control the quality of your submission. Make the story as dynamic and engaging and thought-provoking as you can, and then make each sentence as well-written as you can.
When is it scifi romance, and when is it scifi with romantic elements? This question is probably harder to answer for scifi/romance than for other hybrids, if only because scifi frequently examines social organization, and the formation of romantic units and families is one way we organize societies. That said, if the core story is about the formation of a romantic attachment, then it’s romance. If the story ends when the lovers unite in some form of HEA-bond, then it’s romance. But if that bond is never achieved, or if it’s achievement is but one step in the middle of the plot, then you’re probably dealing with scifi with romantic elements.
On the topic of science fiction romance, I have a question for RU’s readers. The conventional wisdom is that science fiction is mainly appealing to teens and young adults who are awakening to the kinds of big questions raised in these stories. After about the age of 25, readership (it is claimed) drops off to a core, loyal audience, and the youthful scifi reader moves on to other story types. Has this been your experience? Did you read more science fiction in high school or college than you do at present? Why do you think that’s so?
Answer the question in the comments, and you’ll be entered to win a download of Partners by Cricket Starr, an erotic science fiction novella from Red Sage Presents. I happen to think this story is a great representative of the genre. Read it and see if you agree with me!
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A huge thanks to Theresa, Pauline, S. King and Mary Anne!!
Join us on Monday for our Romantic Suspense sub-genre segment with multi-published author Roxanne St. Claire and literary agent Jill Marsal. Find out what’s hot and what’s not!
After earning degrees in creative writing and law, Theresa Stevens worked as a literary attorney agent for a boutique firm based in Indianapolis where she represented a range of fiction and nonfiction authors. The lure of the courtroom led to a nine-year hiatus from the publishing industry, but now Theresa is back as Managing Editor for Red Sage Publishing, a highly acclaimed small press. Her articles on writing and editing have appeared in numerous publications for writers. Visit her blog at http://edittorrent.blogspot.com/ where she and her co-blogger share their knowledge and hardly ever argue about punctuation.
- Ask an Editor: Opening Guideposts
- Ask An Editor: Synopsis vs. Outline
- Ask an Editor: Delivering Bad News to a Writer
- Ask An Editor: Understanding Submission Guidelines
- Ask an Editor: Is it a romance?