Welcome to Theresa Stevens’s monthly Ask an Editor blog! Theresa has some more great tips this month on how to work with submission guidelines. Welcome, Theresa!
This month, we’re taking a question from the mailbag. This one was sent in by Pauline Allen.
Regarding POV, do publishers prefer two person POV or is singular deep POV acceptable?
Pauline, although most romance publishers want scenes in the hero’s viewpoint, the proportions of hero POV to heroine POV vary somewhat depending on your target market. So let’s use this question as an opportunity to take a closer look at submission guidelines.
When a publisher is concerned about the number of scenes from the hero’s viewpoint, the guidelines will reflect that. For example, let’s take a look at the guidelines for the Silhouette Desire line, found at:
Buried in the paragraph about the ideal Desire hero, we see a clue about POV proportions. “The Desire hero often has fewer scenes from his point of view, but in many ways, he owns the story.” How do we interpret this? Let’s break it down.
- The hero has scenes from his POV.
- But the heroine has more POV scenes.
- This means we need more than 50% from the heroine’s POV, and fewer than 50% from the hero’s POV.
- This is important enough to rate mention in the guidelines.
- Scenes from the hero’s POV should be strong and purposeful. (He “owns the story.”) Don’t just switch because it might be time to switch.
So now you know, if you’re targeting Silhouette Desire, one possible interpretation of those guidelines. For contrast, let’s take a look at the submissions guidelines at Avon, found at:
You can search this page a long time and never find any tips about point of view. Does this mean they don’t care about the hero’s POV and you can safely skip it? Not necessarily. It just means they don’t feel so strongly about it that they’ll make it a formal guideline. But keep in mind that there are real people with preferences and opinions going through the submissions inbox. They’re highly trained and sensitive to market preferences. They know what they want, and they know what works for their readers, even if it’s not carved into the guidelines.
So how do you determine what their preferences might be? Check the line. If you’re targeting their historical line, scan some of the titles and look at the range of POVs. For example, Stephanie Laurens, a bestselling Avon author, sometimes has more than half the scenes in the hero’s POV. So we know that Avon historicals will at least consider a hero-heavy book. Will they consider a book with a single POV? Look through their current titles and recent backlist, and you’ll get some idea of that.
I think that your study of guidelines and current titles will show you that most romance publishers release books with scenes in both hero and heroine POVs, and few release books in single POVs. Why is that? Because it takes two (or more) to make a match. These stories aren’t about the adventures of one person, but about the formation of a bond between two people (or more – I keep adding that “or more” because of the popularity of polyamorous erotic romances). Readers don’t want to worry that a character is alone in the relationship. They want to see the bond develop from all sides.
But if the story has more to do with one character’s personal mission – some women’s romance or chick lit would fit this pattern – then a single POV is more appropriate. In that case, though, the story is probably not a romance even if it has romantic themes or threads.
All of which is to say: know your book. Know what you’re writing, your target market, your potential audience, and your potential publishers. And then you’ll know if you need to slant your story in any particular way, whether with POV choices or with changes to some other element.
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RU Crew, have you ever scratched your head over submission guidelines? Feel free to pick Theresa’s brain today!
Be sure to stop by Monday when the one-of-a-kind Anne Stuart will join us!
Theresa Stevens is the Publisher of STAR Guides Publishing, a nonfiction publishing company with the mission to help writers write better books. After earning degrees in creative writing and law, she worked as a literary attorney agent for a boutique firm in Indianapolis where she represented a range of fiction and nonfiction authors. After a nine-year hiatus from the publishing industry to practice law, Theresa worked as chief executive editor for a highly acclaimed small romance press, and 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.
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