Getting the most from your publishing team

This week I started blogging monthly for RWA. My column is called Tips from an Industry Insider and you can read the full blog post here. I’ll be adding more reflections and insights every month on the 13th.

Amongst other things, I point out that as an author you most likely focus on one book at a time. No one in publishing works on one book at a time. Everyone is multi-tasking, from publishers and editors to cover designers, product and sales personnel, marketers and publicists. The production line never stops (as any indie authors reading this column know only too well). Even if the company only publishers one book a month, the relentless churn of the production schedule means that while they are editing book A, they are designing the cover for book B, typesetting book C and preparing book D for print. When sales reps sell in month 1, they are researching month 2 and reading ahead for month 3. While a publicist is on the road with you, she is contacting journalists to firm up interviews for Author F and preparing long lead pitches for Author G. … What does this mean for you? Understand the deadlines and timelines your team is working to, from editor to publicist. Stick to them. Be available. Plan. Communicate clearly.

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Laughs and home truths abound in the Jewel Sister series

Monique McDonell writes delightful romantic comedies that poke and prod at her Jewels 1 and 2characters’ weaknesses until they ‘fess up and earn the right to their happily ever after. Book 2 in her new series came out on Boxing Day, providing me with perfect holiday reading. I started with Book 1 (not necessarily ‘of course’ in my case) and devoured the two books.

Monique McDonell’s new series is set in the small coastal town of Caudal Bay, Australia and centres around  the Jewel sisters, so named because their loving but OTT mother named them Amethyst, Emerald, Sapphire and Ruby. Yes, really. Just imagine!  And aside from their names they have to deal with each other. Sisters! Sometimes you love ‘em, sometimes you fight with them, but you always want them to get their HEA.

Something of a Spark is book one. I really loved this first story about Saffy (Sapphire) and Cam. Cam is super sexy and just all round nice, while Saffy is complicated and overthinks everything in a totally relatable way. She likes to hide all her talents under the proverbial bushel. Cam, on the other hand, is open about his life, his talents and his not so nice family. Their blooming love story is threatened by Saffy’s determination to hold on to her secrets, as is her family’s unity.  The tension creates a page-turning romance written with Monique McDonell’s trademark humor. This is rom-com at its best.

Book two, Something to Sing About is Ruby’s story. She’s the youngest sister and currently AWW-2018-badge-rosein turmoil. I mean, what would you do if you had a crush on your sister’s best friend  – a crush that has lasted 10 years despite the fact that said sister has strictly forbidden either flings or relationships between her sisters and best friend. Ruby has accepted that country music star Ryan Swan will never break his word to her sister Sapphy, but she’s promised herself one night with the man to treasure. Only now there’s a baby on the way. And said crush (aka lifelong love) lives in Nashville, a looong way from Caudal Bay and her comfortable life. Ruby has to overcome her desire to stay in the shadows to win Ryan, who has to overcome his fear of his past to win Ruby. It’s messy and funny, heartbreaking and heartwarming.

I am loving this series and can’t wait for the next sister’s story, which I am hoping will be Emme’s.

If you like romantic comedy, Monique has another series, The Upper Crust, set in New York. You can find out more about her and her books on her website.

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Tasty twist on marriage of convenience trope

A romance set in New YorkAny Way You Slice It is my first novel by Monique McDonell, but it certainly won’t be my last. This funny and uplifting story set in New York pairs Piper, an Australian in need of a green card so that she can keep running the business she has established, with Aaron, an American lawyer in need of a wife so that he can get promotion within the law firm he works for. Throw in a friend with a warm and fiery Italian family and some combustible (if occasionally unwanted) chemistry and you have a classic New York romance that works its way from ‘I must’ to ‘I do’.

I’m a fan of witty writing and clever packaging. Monique McDonell provides both. I adore the series title ‘An Upper Crust Romance’ with its promise to keep the wolf from the door. I am also delighted to report that there is more than just delicious pie on offer to keep you drooling – and I’m not even talking about the delicious Aaron. There are seven more books in the series. Yes, SEVEN! I do love a nice, long series.

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About the author

Monique McDonell writes fun, flirty women’s fiction. Her books include Mr Right and Other Mongrels, Hearts Afire, A Fair Exchange and the Upper Crust series. Monique lives on Sydney’s Northern beaches where she writes, drinks coffee and runs a small PR firm (not necessarily in that order). You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Diversity in Romance: US report finds only 7.8% of romance titles by people of colour

Diversity in romance is a hot topic at the moment. It’s fuelled by questions around cultural identity and sales.

Who has the right to create characters from different backgrounds? On the one hand, no one is better positioned to write a character with, say, an African American background than an African American. On the other hand, taken to extremes, that argument would mean no Othello, no Ophelia and no romance heroes with their own POV, at least not when written by female writers. And does this mean that a writer from an Asian background can’t write Regency Romance, even if she wants to? And what does it mean about aliens and shape-shifters? The world would be a much duller place if writers only wrote what they knew.

There is also, of course, the issue of unrepresented minorities in history. We think of medieval Britain as an island predominantly populated by white people, but what of the descendants of the African Roman soldiers stationed along Hadrian’s Wall before the collapse of the Roman Empire?

Then there is the thorny issue of sales. Which comes first, the demand or the story? I’m inclined to favour the perspective that the way forward is to ensure diversity within publishing houses. If editors and publishers have diverse interests and backgrounds, they will find those great books which have universal appeal regardless of the cultural identity, nationality or race of the characters.

The publishing industry certainly isn’t there yet. Bookseller and Publisher covered an 2rippedbodicereport2016Entertainment Weekly story on The Ripped Bodice’s report on the racial diversity of romance publishing in the US during 2016. The Ripped Bodice is a romance specialist bookstore. They found that only 7.8% of romance titles published were written by people of colour. ‘People of colour’ is a broadly descriptive term that not all writers of non-Anglo Saxon heritage will identify with. However, given that US census figures indicate that up to 28% of the American population identifies as either black or Hispanic, the diversity book is clearly not balanced.

Half of the 20 publishers surveyed had fewer than five percent of their books authored by people of colour, and only three publishers had at least 10% of their books authored by people of colour.

The report co-authors and owners of The Ripped Bodice, Leah and Bea Koch, said they were motivated to conduct the study ‘because they often found themselves short of options when customers come in looking for traditionally published books by authors of color’.

‘We have found it difficult to continue the conversation about diversity in romance without hard data,’ said the Kochs. ‘For many years the common refrain from publishers has been “we’re working on it.” Every year we will track industry growth and see if that promise rings true.’

The report notes that all of the publishers mentioned were invited to contribute statistics to the study. More than half engaged directly, with the missing data gathered from publisher and distributor websites.

I think this is an excellent initiative by The Ripped Bodice. I’m also giving a shout-out to all those publishers who participated willingly and all the indie authors who publish diverse romance but weren’t covered by this study. The more we talk, the more answers and solutions we’ll create and the more great romances we will have to read.

Australia has a very diverse, multicultural society. It would be interesting to see a similar study done here. I suspect the numbers would not look much better although I do know many publishers who actively hunt for and publish magnificent stories by individuals from marginalised or misunderstood groups, whether because of their cultural background, sexual preferences or other factors.

If you’re looking for a reading list of diverse authors and characters, try one of these four books, or have a browse on GoodReads, where there are many recommended book lists complete with comments.

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REVIEW: The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club by Sophie Green

Excellent review of The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club.

Sam Still Reading

In brief: In the late 1970s, the Northern Territory is a rugged place, where the people are at the whim of the weather. Despite this, Sybil starts a book club to build friendships for her and her daughter-in-law.

The good: The friendships between the women and the look at life not that long ago in the Aussie outback.

The not-so-good: Some of the things that happen to the characters are very, very sad.

Why I chose it: Thanks to Hachette, who know I enjoy a good Aussie story.

Year: 2017

Pages: 425

Publisher: Hachette

Setting: Northern Territory, Australia

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Books set in Australia’s Northern Territory are few and far between, so I was really entranced by the premise of Sophie Green’s The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club. Not only is it set in the NT, but it’s set in the late…

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Book Review: The Crossroads by Pamela Cook

Insightful review of The Crossroads by Pamela Cook, rural romance with a difference

Lauren Keegan Writer

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The Crossroads by Pamela Cook

Hachette Australia, November 2016

(Review copy provided by publisher)

Pamela Cook writes rural women’s fiction with romantic sub-plots. The Crossroads is her fourth published novel, and the third book that I’ve read. I’m an avid reader of the rural romance genre and every time I pick up a Pamela Cook novel I expect her stories to fall into that genre- but they don’t. I actually really like that the romance elements of the story aren’t at the forefront of the story. What Cook does so well is create strong, engaging women protagonists that face emotional challenges when their ordinary lives are uplifted by a catalyst that sets the premise for the story.

In The Crossroads, the narrative is told from the POV (point of view) of three women who are connected by their shared history. Rosie O’Shea struggles to maintain the rundown outback pub she inherited from her…

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Thief of Hearts, a Christmas novella

December. It’s time to feel the warmth and love of the Christmas Spirit. If she (or he) has not yet visited your home, I suggest you download Thief of Hearts, read it and be inspired to decorate, wrap and spread good cheer.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00016]Elizabeth Ellen Carter is one of my favourite Australian historical novelists. I am constantly amazed at her ability to switch time periods and write with the same level of authenticity, accuracy and passion regardless of whether she is writing about Ancient Rome, medieval England or, as in this case, Victorian England. Her last novella was the delightful Nocturne, a Valentine’s Day release, set in Regency England. I thoroughly enjoyed it, as I thoroughly enjoyed Thief of Hearts, a historical suspense caper involving a Duke as a magician and a young lady as a sleuth. Elizabeth does always like to turn convention on it’s head!

I asked Elizabeth why this particular story. She said, ‘Australians suffer a little bit of cognitive dissonance when it comes to celebrating Christmas. First of all, being in the southern hemisphere, we celebrating in the middle of our summer but happily sing about ‘dashing through the snow’, Frosty the Snowman and that the ‘snow lay all about, deep and crisp and even’.

‘Another thing we missed in our local customs was being outside of the TV ratings periods. Conventional wisdom had it that in the depths of bitter winters, people would gather around the electronic hearth and watch television. And since Christmas fell right in the middle of the northern hemisphere’s TV ratings period, all the best TV shows had a Christmas episode.

‘They were fun and whimsical, often suspending current storylines for something a little bit light-hearted and fun.

‘So, in that Christmas spirit, I wrote The Thief of Hearts, a veritable Christmas punch of few Hercule Poirots, Girl’s Own Adventures stories, a dash of While You Were Sleeping and other Christmas-themed rom-coms.’

Book DescriptionAWWC16

December 1890
London, England

Some seriously clever sleight of hand is needed if aspiring lawyer Caro Addison is ever going to enjoy this Christmas.

To avoid an unwanted marriage proposal, she needs a distraction as neat as the tricks used by The Phantom, the audacious diamond thief who has left Scotland Yard clueless.

While her detective inspector uncle methodically hunts the villain, Caro decides to investigate a suspect of her own – the handsome Tobias Black, a magician extraordinaire, known as The Dark Duke.

He’s the only one with the means, motive and opportunity but the art of illusion means not everything is as it seems, in both crime and affairs of the heart.

As Christmas Day draws near, Caro must decide whether it is worth risking reputations and friendships in order to follow her desires.

Extract

He turned the card over and with a thumbnail flicked a tab made of the same backing as the playing card. Even up close the addition was difficult to see. Tobias placed the card on his lap and pulled out a deck of cards. He flicked the edge of the deck of cards towards them. Each time the Queen of Hearts stood out.

“I want you to think I can read your mind, but in reality…”

Tobias split the deck and showed them the Queen of Hearts and then the other half of the deck. The card that had been just before the Queen of Hearts was fully a third shorter than the rest of the cards. He put the pack together and flicked through the deck once more.

“I make you see what you want to see. I suspect The Phantom does the same.”

“You mean his crime scenes are illusions?” Margaret asked. Tobias gave her a smile and Caro wished oddly that its brightness shone on her too.

“I think so. From what I read in the newspapers… no sign of entry or departure?” he asked. Caro confirmed it with a nod. “That tells me he’s creating an illusion of invulnerability. But it is an illusion. A trick. He wants to force the attention of the police away from something else – in the same way a magician will use a gesture or an action to distract you.

“Find out what that is then you will find his sleight of hand and that will be his vulnerability.”

Tobias stood.

“Now, if I’ve sated your curiosity, I’ll take my leave of you. My crew and I have our last show this evening.”

Caro rose and Margaret did also. Tobias took Margaret’s hand and bowed over it then released it. Then he took Caro’s and held it. Then his eyes held hers for a moment and he dropped a kiss on the back of her hand.

“I’m so glad it was you who paid me a visit… instead of a representative of Scotland Yard.”

“Not at all, Mr Black,” she replied, her voice a little huskier than usual, “you have been more than gracious with your time.

“Call me Tobias.”

He was flirting with her! Caro kept the smile to herself as he escorted them both to the entrance of the theatre.

“Just one more question, Mr Black,” Caro asked. “You wouldn’t happen to know how someone might dispose of a suite of diamonds would you?”

Want to read more? Go to

Author Bio

eecarter400h-203x300Elizabeth Ellen Carter is an award-winning historical romance writer who pens richly detailed historical romantic adventures. A former newspaper journalist, Carter ran an award-winning PR agency for 12 years. The author lives in Australia with her husband and two cats. Elizabeth loves to interact with her readers and you can find her at:

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