I finally have time to share a few snippets from my visit to Bedford last weekend for The Festival of Romance.
I had to write a piece about my trip to the festival for the Nottingham Writers' Club magazine, with the deadline of yesterday (Thursday).
I also ended up writing a couple of other items for inclusion in the forthcoming issue, in between appointments.
Next time I go, I will keep the week following, clear...
So what did I learn?
So much. From being able to talk to other writers, listen to them reading their work aloud, and on the Sunday from the editors of the various romance publishers talking about what they're doing currently, to what they're looking for in submissions - and encouragement to submit.
There were one to ones available, but I wasn't ready for that this year, so didn't put in a request when the opportunity was offered a few weeks prior to the festival.
After an evening of readings, from authors in historical dress, set against a background of drawings and paintings by the pre-Raphaelite artists in the art gallery on the Friday night, I was glad of a good night's sleep before Saturday's events.
There was the Romance Fair where you could buy a wide selection of books by various authors attending the festival. I moved onto the Coffee and Cake to listen to more authors reading excerpts from their novels.
I did the 3 hour workshop in the library run by Sue Moorcroft and Christina Courtney on 'Irresistible Heroes'. I learnt a bit more about one of my heroes in waiting, Hugo, during the practical sessions.
And following that the talk, How to Stand Out, Get Published and Stay Published,
given by author Miranda Dickinson
and her HarperCollins editor, Sammia Rafique. Miranda described her journey to
publication, while Sammia explained her role in the author’s books.
There was a
very useful question and answer session. I wanted to know the current length
they required, and for their books it’s at least 90,000 up to 120,000. (Other
publishers have their own specifications.)
I can actually be seen at the Ball (on Table 4 in purple and glasses) in the video of the after dinner entertainment- I'm in the background for a while; amazing I was still wide awake as that was at 11pm and I'd been up since 7am that morning...
Sunday was conference day, with an early start of 9.30am.
Spread throughout the day there were author led panels, including one on building an author platform.
The presence of editors from the main romance publishers was keenly anticipated.
Mills and Boon covered the 5 UK acquired series they deal with: Modern/Presents, Cherish, Historical, and Medical. Guidelines can be found on their website.
I've read their historical novels on and off over the years, and they have changed a lot in that time- length has increased too, they're now at 70,000.
Piatkus Entice is a digital first imprint at Piatkus Fiction.
The important message that came over was that stories needed to be a commercial proposition. And like all the other publishers they wanted 'voices' - fresh, engaging and consistent.
Carina UK - this is an imprint of Harlequin UK. They are a digital first publisher, with their first print title due out early 2014. They talked about their interest in trans-media projects, a different method of reaching readers...
And the good news is that they don't just publish romance. They're seeking, women's fiction, new adult, contemporary young adult, and erotica. And if you happen to have a WW1 romance ( considering next year's anniversary of 100 years since the outbreak of war) it could find a home.
Mira publish Women's Fiction and Crime, aimed at the older reader. Heroines 40+, well written, a hook, and commercial were important words, and they will accept unagented submissions.
Harper Impulse, another digital first publisher. Again like other digital first publishers length is not an issue. You could send a 1,000 word short story that could be read on a phone. They like to get a full manuscript, covering letter and short synopsis.
Generally: They all had a presence on Twitter. Many of the editors can be followed on Twitter; and writers having a social media presence was very useful.
Just as with any publisher, they want good stories, and fresh voices, stories that will sell.
But again and again the editors kept saying submit it! Don't worry if it's not perfect, or you're not sure it's quite right for them, just submit it.
There was so much useful information, that it was hard to take it all in. That's why I made good use of my notebook.
I learnt a lot, and have started putting into action the elements that I was missing- in social media.
But most reassuring was that my writing seems to be going in the right direction...