"What takes a manuscript from submission to sale?"
Every other month I ask a question of the published authors at RWAOnline, and every month many of them are kind enough to answer. :) This month's question was: “WHAT WAS IT ABOUT THAT ‘WINNING’ MANUSCRIPT THAT TOOK YOU FROM SUBMISSION TO SALE?”
Cathy Clamp credits both her agent and good timing for her first sale to Tor. “The manuscript had already been rejected by Tor, but that was before my editor was hired, before the romance line was conceived, and before we had an agent. The manuscript itself didn’t change, but was resubmitted at a time when Tor was searching for paranormal romance with unique characters and an unusual POV.” In Cathy’s case, there’s no question that persistence paid off. Her third book, Captive Moon, is currently a finalist for the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Best Werewolf Romance.
Harlequin Blaze author Tawny Weber believes that learning from her mistakes was key. “Because I’d spent quite a while targeting a specific editor and sending submissions to her, when I submitted this particular manuscript I made sure to use every bit of feedback I’d received from her. That’s one of the things she commented on later, that I never made the same mistake twice. Apparently, I learn well.” Tawny’s first novel, Double Dare, will be a March 2007 release.
Claire Delacroix feels she owes her long-term career to the ability to take constructive criticism. “The difference for me was a good rejection letter. The manuscript was rejected but the editor took the time not only to tell me what she thought was a problem, but to say that she’d love to read it again if I figured out a way to address that issue. It was a huge change and required that I essentially toss the second half of the book, but I saw her point, did what she suggested, and it worked.” Claire has since written and published twenty-three historical novels and several contemporaries under the name Claire Cross. “Many authors seem to believe that editors are just being nice when they say good things about a work that they don’t ultimately buy, but that’s not been my experience. It’s easy for an editor to write “This isn’t suitable for us at this time.” It’s much harder for an editor to pinpoint the reason she/he doesn’t think the work is marketable as it stands, and it shows an interest in the work when the editor takes the time to explain as much to the author. Instead of trying to figure out “the secret language of rejection letters”, I sometimes think that authors should just read the rejection letters that aren’t form letters and take them at face value.”
Author Holly LaPat, writing as Sierra Donovan believes it was a matter of finding the right publisher. “Silhouette Romance turned down my first book, Love On The Air, but added that another publisher might feel differently. I took that advice rather than trying to change what I had. I submitted to Avalon, and they said yes.”
Kate Duggan, writing as Kate Pearce gave herself permission to write naughty. “It began as an experiment to see how far I could push the envelope of my steamy sex scenes. After I finished it, I hid it at the bottom of my desk drawer for two years because I found it difficult to believe I’d actually written something so erotic. It took a lot of coaxing from my mentor, Julia Templeton, to get me to let her read it and ultimately send it out to Ellora’s Cave – who bought it!”
Silhouette author Gail Barrett feels that characterization was key. “What I think I did right with that first book was that I really nailed the hero. He was so real to me that I actually got depressed when I finished writing it – I didn’t want to leave his world! And I think that’s what made the difference. My characters took over instead of me pushing them around.”
As for me, Terri Garey, I would have to agree that characterization played a huge role in my first sale. The heroine in both my upcoming novels, Dead Girls Are Easy and Where The Ghouls Are, is a former Goth girl named Nicki Styx. Nicki just wants to run her business, live her life and immerse herself in fun and fashion, but her life is changed forever when she wakes from a near death experience with the ability to see and hear the dead. A cool chick like Nicki doesn’t like to take “no” for an answer, and when she sprang full-blown into my head, demanding to tell her story, I had no choice but to let her!
Timing, persistence, great characters. “Pushing the envelope”, taking constructive criticism and learning from our mistakes—more golden gems of advice from the published authors of RWAOnline. Thanks so much to all the authors who participated in this month’s topic, and I hope everyone enjoyed the first-hand insight. The next Asked and Answered question will be: “WHAT DO YOU FEEL IS THE BEST METHOD OF PROMOTION?” Websites? Reviews? Word of mouth? Look for the answers in the next edition of ASKED AND ANSWERED.
Terri Garey is the author of two upcoming paranormal tales, Dead Girls Are Easy and Where The Ghouls Are. Both novels are about ghosts, voodoo and an extremely unlikely psychic - a former Goth girl who becomes an unwilling ‘ghoulfriend’ to the dearly departed. Dead Girls Are Easy will be an Avon September 2007 release, followed by the sequel, Where The Ghouls Are, in May 2008. Visit Terri on the web, or stop by her favorite haunt.
Copyright © 2007 Terri Garey, All Rights Reserved