What Do You Mean I Have to Write a Synopsis? (Penny Rader)

While we're waiting for Elizabeth Sinclair to share her expertise on writing the dreaded synopsis and since writing a synopsis is not my greatest strength, I did what I do best and found some online resources for you to check out. (grin) I hope you find them helpful.

Just a note: If you find any of these articles particularly useful, you might want to save them as a word doc or print a copy. While pulling these together I discovered that several of the links I had saved no longer work. All of the links below worked at the time I posted this article.

Behind the Scenes: Synopsis 101 (Dale Ketcham)

Composing an In-Depth Synopsis {in a Two-Page-Maximum World} (Karen Wiesner)

Conquering the Dreaded Synopsis (Lisa Gardner’s synopsis series)
For the Synopically Challenged (Rosalyn Alsobrook) http://home.earthlink.net/~ralsobrook/wrtrtips.htm#Anchor1099

How I Write a Fiction Synopsis (Diana Peterfreund)

How to Avoid the Top 10 Mistakes in Writing Synopses (Pam McCutcheon)
How to Write a Synopsis (Rebecca Sinclair)

How to Write a Good Synopsis (Suzanne James)

How to Write a Synopsis for Fiction: What to Include in a Synopsis and How to Impress Editors and Agents (Carrie Lewis)

Index Card Method of Writing Synopses (Karen Harbaugh)

Mastering the Dreaded Synopsis - Condensing Your Novel (Lee Masterson)

No Synopsis? No Problem! (Paula Roe)

Overcoming the Fear of Writing a Synopsis (Vicki M. Taylor)

Plot and Synopsis (Nancy Richards Akers)

Synopsis Creation - Plot Revision (Alicia Rasley) http://www.sff.net/people/alicia/artsynrevision.htm

Synopsis Writing, part 1 and part 2 (Elizabeth Grayson) http://www.elizabethgrayson.com/on_writing_synopsis.html

Synopsis Writing 101 (Serena Tatti)
Synopsis Writing – What Worked for Trish (3 blog posts)

Ten Tips on Writing the Synopsis (Nancy Cohen)

The Basics of Writing a Synopsis (Janice Lynn)

The Synopsis – An Editor’s View

The Synopsis Project

That Dreaded Synopsis (Anne Gracie)

Tips on How to Stop Dreading the Dreaded Synopsis

Top 10 Questions for a Successful Synopsis (Gina Ardito)
Two Page Synopsis Example (Dale Ketcham)

Writing a Novel Synopsis

Writing a Selling Synopsis (Mia Crews)
Writing a Short Synopsis (Roxanne Rustand)

Writing a Short Synopsis/Outline (Sherry-Anne Jacobs)

Writing a Superb Synopsis – The Long Synopsis

Writing a Synopsis (lots of sites to check out)

Writing a Synopsis from the Ground Up (Dee-Ann Latona Leblanc)

Writing the Fiction Synopsis (Kathy Carmichael)

Writing the Tight Synopsis (Beth Anderson)

Basic Types of Publishing

*Special Note: If you post an unpublished story on the web and it isn’t password-protected, most publishers consider that work to have been freely available to the public and having been previously published.

Traditional Publisher
• Also referred to as “large press” or “major publishing house.”
• They take on all the risk for publishing a book, acquire the exclusive rights to sell the book, usually pay an advance, and pay the author royalties on sales of the contracted work.
• In order to make a profit, they must print a large quantity of books to get the per unit price down to a reasonable level. To be profitable to the publisher, the author’s book must sell most of what is printed.
• Major publishing houses include: AOL Time Warner, Baen Books, Hachette Filipacchi Media, Harlequin Mills & Boon, Harper Collins, Hearst Corporation, McGraw-Hill, Penguin Group USA, Random House, and Simon & Schuster.

Small Press Publisher
• Also referred to as “indie publisher” or “independent press.”
• They make up half of the market share of the book publishing industry, with their numbers growing every year. They tend to fill niches in the publishing world and can focus on regional titles, narrow specializations and niche genres. In the United States, a small press publisher commonly has annual sales below $50 million, after returns and discounts.
• Originally small press books were designed to not look like mainstream books from the traditional publishing houses. Today they are almost identical, from the design, execution, and to the content.
• Like the larger publishers, they enter into a contract with the author, pay royalties, and are involved in the book publishing process from editing to marketing to distribution. They usually do not pay advances. Also, like the larger publishers, they make their profits by selling books to consumers rather than to the authors, in opposition to vanity publishers.
• They own the copies they have printed, but usually do not own the copyright to the book itself.

Vanity Publisher
• Also referred to as “vanity press” or “subsidy press.”
• Unlike with the traditional publishers (larger or small), the author takes the risk for publication. The author pays for the production of the book, which may include paying for editing, copyediting, cover design, and printing.
• The publisher licenses the rights for sales and distribution and pays the author royalties on sales of the book. They do very little to market and promote the book. Usually the author gets a fixed number of copies and can’t verify inventory numbers with the publisher.
• The publisher makes their money during the book’s production and then by selling copies of the book to the author at a good rate. Also, the publisher sets the price for the book

• Like with vanity publishing, the author takes all aspects of the book, from layout and cover design to marketing and sales. Additionally, the author chooses the printer.
• Unlike with small presses or vanity publishers, the author controls all the unsold printed copies of their books. They are not limited as to how many gift and review copies they can distribute.
• Unlike with vanity or traditional publishers (large or small), the author acquires his own block of ISBNs from a registered agency. And the author sets the retail price for the book.

Author Service Companies
• These don’t really fall into any of the above types of publishing, but are closest to self-publishing.
• As with vanity and self-publishing, these companies charge for the services they provide like editing, copyediting, printing, etc.
• Like self-publishing, the author retains all rights to the work, the printed books belong to the author, and the author gets all of the profits from the sales.
• With Print-on-Demand now available, the author has a good chance of making back his initial investment because the copies can be printed when needed.

• By definition an eBook is an online version of a book. Also referred to as an “electronic book.”
• They can contain bookmarks to jump to specific sections in the work and can contain active links to websites. Most eBooks are published in PDF format.
• Because they can be published for a fraction of the cost of publishing a traditional book, they are far less expensive to buy.

• Most are very similar to small press publishers, but publish many more books and works of various sizes.
• Like the large and small publishers, they enter into a contract with the author and pay royalties. Most are involved in the book publishing process from editing to marketing to distribution. They usually do not pay advances. Also, like the larger publishers, they make their profits by selling books to consumers rather than to the authors, in opposition to vanity publishers.
• Many of these publishers do both eBooks and print books, depending on the word length of the work, and paying different levels of royalties for eBooks and print books.
• As with the small press publishers, they fill more niches in the writing world than the large presses.

Finding Your Voice

What’s your voice? And is it the same voice that reminds you to pick up a gallon of milk at the store or the other one that insists wearing white after Labor Day will have Stacy London beating down your front door?

From the very beginning all new writers are experimenting with style. And usually the style you like to read is the style you will probably end up writing. But will you recognize which one best fits your voice or will you tromp around in the puddle of indecision for longer than you should?

When I first tried to pen a novel in the late 90’s, I was convinced it would be a Desire. And in my quest to formulate a story I tried to keep myself within those boundaries. I wrote how I thought it should be, creating stories with little or no conflict because I wasn’t being true to my voice.

Now, we all know that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But what will separate your story from a similar theme in the slush pile or as a contest entry is capturing the reader’s attention. It’s confusing to draw a line between what everybody else is doing and how you will take that same idea and capture it in a fresh way. Your voice will make that happen.

Think of your favorite author. The one who pushes all your buttons and sends you to ebay in search of those hard-to-find early releases. Can you identify the main reason this author’s voice resonates with you? Is every story brimming with mystery or is the characterization so spot-on that you’d like to be related to the hero and heroine? Have you been to a conference or book signing with this author and found a personality trait that stood out in your mind? Something you can relate to in real life or a connection that makes you feel as though that author has written the story with you in mind?

That’s their voice speaking to you. They’ve found the style of writing that plays to their strengths and they are headed to the end zone with the ball. And as much as we hear that there is no set formula for a saleable story, you can’t argue with what works. That voice has captured you and (hopefully) thousands of other readers and if you see that author’s name it’s like hearing from an old friend.

So, have you figured out what your voice is saying yet? Can you name one element of your writing that is present in everything you’ve enjoyed creating? Do you have a knack for description or witty dialogue? Do you enjoy weaving clues into the fabric of your story or can you effortlessly shift scenes and point-of-view? Try focusing on what you do well and the rest will take care of itself.


WAKE UP! No sleeping, no down time, no snoozing away the idle hours while you wait. Whether you are waiting for a trusted friend to critique your work, an agent to fall madly in love with you or a publisher to send that all important letter, you keep working my friend.

One of the biggest mistakes a writer can make is to sit idle while they wait. Dig out one of those old ideas and get it ready to submit. Write a few flash fiction stories to make a quick buck. Have a brainstorming session and come up with some new plots. Think up some truly black, black moments for future stories. (Those involving an editor, publisher or agent might be fun!) Brush up on your grammar and punctuation. (Say aacckk!) Check out other agents and publishers in case these don’t love you and your work. Submit multiple submissions if allowed. Try your hand at a new genre just for fun. Go to a writer’s workshop to get refreshed. In other words: keep the juices flowing while you wait.

If you absolutely have to take a writing break then set a time limit. Give yourself no more than one week of down time and stay productive in other ways. Clean your house from stem to stern. Catch up on your honey-do list and if they’ve been feeling a little neglected, your honey too. Read and watch some three hankie books and movies. Get your hair and nails done. Go lie in the grass and watch the bugs crawl around.

Do whatever turns your crank except sit and worry about what is happening to your “baby.” Worrying won’t change a thing and won’t make the powers that be move one iota faster. So relax, enjoy, get refreshed and keep writing. Your best selling novel is only a keystroke away.

Visit from Elizabeth Sinclair

Due to technical problems, Elizabeth Sinclair won't be able to join us as our guest blogger today. We'll reschedule her blog about The Dreaded Synopsis at a future date. We don't want to miss it!

We've been discussing The Submission Process this month, and although there are still a few things we'll blog about for the next week and half, we know we haven't covered everything and there are probably questions that haven't been answered or topics someone would like to discuss. This is a great time to do that! Don't hesitate to be specific!

Feel free to post questions or comments or even links of interest for the next two days. Someone is sure to be able to help, either by answering a question, sharing a bit of experience, or knowing where information can be found.

We'll be back to our regulary scheduled blogging on Wednesday! Thanks for visiting!

Should I finish the Book? If ya gotta ask, then, NO!

The real question is, why write? Why do YOU write? If you want to entertain yourself, then writing is like cooking. Cook until you like it, then lick the knife and eat. It is your kitchen, your creation, for you alone. However, if you seek recognition and acclaim, or, if you merely want to entertain a few, then you have to finish the book as a very least effort.

Let us get to specifics. When is the book or story you are writing the one you wish to finish? When it entertains you. If you can’t work up enthusiasm for a story, as the creator, then how do you expect anyone else to get excited? This doesn’t mean there aren’t times when the words refuse to come that you wish to use. Too bad for you. However, just because the sauce is a little stubborn about thickening doesn’t mean it is ready to toss out. Nope, there are a variety of methods an experienced cook learns to make that sauce thicken and vary the flavor. It doesn’t really matter if the flavor isn’t quite what the cook or writer intended when she started the meal or the book, because the readers or guests will never know what the cook’s tongue had in mind. What will matter is their own experiences of the work.

I had an (as in ONE) idea for a story since I was about fifteen years old and fascinated with science fiction, history, and abandonment adventure stories. An abandonment adventure story is like Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Contrary to what most people think, there were many books of Tarzan adventures. Edgar Rice Burroughs also wrote a Mars series, John Carter of Mars and Venus, I don’t remember the character isolated there. Robinson Crusoe and others fascinated me. Then I discovered Georgette Heyer and read all of her regencies. So, imagine what my ONE story idea must have included! Anyway, I thought if I ever met an author I would tell them about my idea and they would write it and then I’d know how the story ended. Then about ten years ago, I read a romance story about an author and found out that authors have so many ideas of their own, they wouldn’t ever need or want one of mine. I tossed that book down in disappointment, just when my beloved walked it. He said, “Bad book?” and I explained the problem. He gave me one of those dumb sh#t looks and said, “If you’d written a page a week since you were fifteen, you’d know how it ended by now.” I decided to start writing that book the next day. But during the day, as I thought about that story beginning, nothing came. I was blank. But, as I lay my head to the pillow that night, an idea jumped into my head of the main character’s younger sister who was so inspired by the older sister, that she took matters into her own hands. I got out of bed and wrote the first lines of the new story so that I wouldn’t forget them the next morning.

I wrote that story. As it commenced and finally finished, I knew how the older sister’s story went. Someday, I’ll write it. It took me eight months to finish the first novel. I had no idea how long a novel was. It came to a natural closing for me. During the time of writing it, I wondered at first if I had enough story in me to have it longer than a short story, then as it unfolded I worried there would never be an end. But it did, end, I mean. And at a natural point.

Since that first story, my imagination has gone wild and for a time I was extremely concerned about my mental health. A good friend found a taped interview of an author and made me listen to it. Thankfully, I’m not mentally ill, I’m just a writer who didn’t know it. Since writing that first story, my other abilities and talents have improved dramatically. That is a weirdness of its own. As my abilities expanded and the ideas gushed forth, I branched out into other writing and discovered some other little issues.

Genres. Which ones to write since I read them all? I began to write down beginnings to stories. I have contemporary ones, fantasy ones, historical ones, and even tiny vignettes, complete as they are.

One, a favorite of others, The Ship’s Bastard, about an infant raised by sailors, is a struggle to write. I will finish it because so many want to read it. But, that sixty-three pages has cost me four years. That is how hard that one is to write. If it were only me, I’d toss it in a corner and never finish. But I promised. I will never write the western, The Children of Easy Virtue Texas, where it is easier to live than explain where you came from. I am chafing at the bit to begin another Zone story. I have two Proving Zone novels written, both about the same length as well as time of writing, and ideas for more of them. I have over twenty-two ideas for Zone stories. The Proving Zone novels flow like water from my fingers. Those, somehow, I am meant to write. Other story ideas—maybe. So, should you finish the book? It depends on why you are writing it. Perhaps you should be working on a different one.

One last thought. Whenever you finally get a contract to publish, if that is your goal, make sure that the story you have is the type you wish to write for a very long time. Popular writers end up writing themselves into a corner because their fan base wants the kind, type, and flavor of book that they bought the first time they bought and read one.

One really last thought. Writing is never wasted. It is a precious skill and unique to our specie. Your family, your progeny, your neighbor, or some stranger will think your writing a very precious thing. Some stories aren’t published because their time hasn’t come yet. Many classics and bestsellers were found after the author was dead. I think Gone With The Wind is one. Some colleges are beginning to study the writing phenomena and how is accomplished. Your written words, phrases, finished, and unfinished stories as well as notes and scribbles are just as precious to someone, who may or may not be related to you, as Aunt Thelma’s chipped powder box that she inherited from her step-mother, June Ann is to the Smithsonian. Never think your writing has no value and no purpose.

When to submit your novel.

Oh, the jitters we get just thinking about putting our baby in the mail. So when is our pride and joy ready to submit?

Here’s a short list of thing to be done before you take that giant step for romance kind.

1.Finished the book
Most publishers and agents want to know that the book is completed. You don’t get to sell on an idea or proposal until they are sure you’ve got one book done.

2. Have you done your homework?
Do you know what type of book you’ve written? If you aren’t sure, go back to some of the earlier post on this blog that discuss genre.

Do you know which publishers publish the type of book you write?
No point sending an inspirational novel to Harlequin Blaze unless you really like collecting rejections. The easy way to do this is to go to a bookstore and look for the similar books to see who published them. Write down a list and take it home. Check the publisher’s guidelines on-line to see how they want submission.

If your target is an e-print or on-line publisher, finding their guidelines is simple, as well. Just go to their websites. Most have a link to How to Submit.

3. Have you had your book proofread by someone else to catch those pesky typos like
from and form that spellchecker won’t pick up on? You want thousands of people to
buy your book, so why won’t you let someone proof it? Fear that they won’t like it?
Okay, I understand that, but you’ve just got to suck it up and plunge in.

4. Make sure you have the correct name for the editor or agent you are submitting to.
Nothing makes a bad impression like seeing your name misspelled on a query letter.
If you aren’t sure who to send it to, pick up the phone and call the agency or publisher
and double check. They will tell you which editors are acquiring.

Okay. Are we there yet? I think so. Send that baby out into the world. Success is out there waiting.

Let's here some of your submission stories. What was it like that first time? What mistakes did you make, if any? What would you do differently?

Embrace Your Query Letter

Take a moment. Look around your office? How many piles are there at different stages, with hopes of getting to them at some point in time? With that in mind, just think what an editor’s desk might look like on any given day. He or she receives each day large quantities of manuscripts. They go into a series of many piles. Such as a short story, novel, freelance article, etc. Then there is a pile; no one likes to think about, the Rejection pile. Heaven forbid you ever get a Rejection letter; however, you won’t be the only person that has ever received one.

Now that I have your attention, think about the manuscript you’ve finished. You’re smiling, right? It’s your baby. You love it. You want the editor to love it as well. Make the best presentation you can. The editor’s time is valuable. They’re looking for a story, which will capture their attention. Your Query Letter is like an interview. Present in a positive way, the editor will want to read more.

Read everything you can about the publishing house and the editor you are submitting to. If you’ve met this editor before, give a short description of the time and place. Be sure the editor is still at this publishing house. Read their guidelines. Follow them to the letter. Don’t send a manuscript about children to an editor, if she doesn’t want a story about children. Be sure your story fits the guidelines for their publishing house. Don’t waste your valuable time and theirs. Editor’s may blog. This is an excellent way for you to get to know their likes and dislikes, as well as the style of writing they are interested in.

Convey enthusiasm for your story. Set the tone of your writing, using a strong element describing your story as a romance, comedy, suspense, etc. Know your story; tell it briefly. Introduce your hero and heroine. Describing the conflict and the black moment. Explaining the over all plot, in such a way, the editor will want to read more. A short summary is all that is required.

Keep your Query letter short, professional, single-spaced. Let the editor know the manuscript is completed, with a word count and the title of the manuscript. Be enthusiastic about your accomplishments. Let the editor know if you are already published. Contests you have placed in. Chapters you belong to, including the writer’s positions you’ve held. List if you belong to a critique group.

Tell the editor you appreciate their time and look forward to hearing from them soon.

End with the proper signature.SASE encl.

I’m listing a few websites that might help you.

Preditors and Editors is one site.



There are several more. Just Google “Query Letter/Writers”. I hope I’ve answered some of the questions you might have about writing a query letter. The best advice I can give you. Write what you know. Be true to yourself and continue to practice writing a Query Letter.


How to Wisely Choose a Romance Publisher

The book of your heart (or at least the current book) is finished, revisions and everything. You stressed over each and every word, but now the writing is flawless. You won the battle with that character who wanted to go his/her own way or maybe you finally gave in and realized the character was right. The middle-of-the-book blues nearly did you in, but you made it beyond that point. Life kept getting in your way and trying to bog you down. But you wanted, needed, to finish the book to prove to yourself (and maybe other doubters in your life) that you could do it. Finally, finally your diligence paid off. You’ve put “The End” after the final word of the manuscript, or at least mentally put the words there. It all works, hopefully, and now you have something that will be an enjoyable read by someone other than your mom or best friend. (Okay, this may be a tad out there, but, hey, I’m a fiction writer. Go with it.)

Party time! The hard part of the writing process is over with. Now you can just get the book published and move on to the next book. Just get it published!? How? Where? This is not such a simple thing to do. Choosing, submitting to, and actually deciding to go with a publisher are a huge deal. Step wisely


1. You should already know your intended audience at this point, but fine tune the specific audience a bit now. Your book is a romance, that’s a given. What is the sub-genre? Contemporary, historical, inspirational, erotic, romantic suspense, paranormal, futuristic, fantasy, G/L, or one of the many other new sub-genres?
2. What is your desired achievement for this book? Do you only want to get published in a way that will put your book on the shelves of bookstores everywhere? Do you only want to be published with a recognizable imprint of one of the New York publishing houses? Can you settle for being published with a smaller or eBook press and have the main distribution of your book be online, as a download, or as a Print-on-Demand book? Do you not want to deal with either the big houses or the smaller presses and just want to publish the book yourself?
3. Money. What are your “I can only live with” goals as far as making a profit on your book’s publication? Will you only sell your book if you can get an advance (small for first time sales), praying you don’t have to pay the advance back or actually make enough in sales to earn royalties? Can you settle for contracting with a smaller or eBook press to receive only royalty payments of usually 35-50% for ebooks, 10-15% for print books? If you are self-publishing, can you pay the small amount to get the book published and be okay with receiving all of the sale money after that?
4. Okay maybe your book is as good as you can make it at this point, but it might be better with more editing. Would you feel most comfortable with having both an agent and a couple of editors at a big publisher cleaning up your manuscript? Could you be comfortable with working with one, maybe two, editors at a smaller publisher on editing your book? Are you completely confident in your own abilities to edit your book and work with a small publisher that doesn’t do any in-house editing? Or can you rely on your editing skills alone and publish your book yourself?
5. What about promoting your published book? You really should think about this aspect as well when you start thinking about finding a publisher. Unless you’re perfectly satisfied with selling only to your family and friends, promotion of your book is another big deal. Unless you’re a big name author like Nora Roberts, you are going to do a lot of the promotional work yourself. By publishing with a big New York house you might get more help in the promotional process, certainly with bigger distribution networks. Many of the smaller and eBook presses also have fairly good distribution networks set up, particularly with online distributors such as All Romance, BookStrand, Fictionwise, Mobipocket, Alibris, Abebooks, Baker & Taylor, BookSurgeDirect, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. If you self-publish, well, all promotional work is up to you.

FINAL STEPS TO CHOOSING A PUBLISHER: Research, research, research

1. Review the specifics of your book. Know your genre, your sub-genre, and your intended audience.
2. Go to a bookstore and spend time searching the shelves for books with similar focuses to your book. Make a note of publishers that you might be interested in learning more about.
3. If you are only thinking of publishing with a smaller press or eBook only press, go to the various online bookstores and peruse their “bookshelves” for books with similar focuses to your book.
4. Go online and lookup the websites of the big publishers or for the smaller presses and eBook publishers. Read everything you can about the publisher: publishing background, how long in business, their principals, how they distribute books, advances, royalties, payment schedule, cover art and how it’s handled, publishing schedule, how they communicate with their authors, and study their FAQs. Look at their available books, the number of authors they handle, how the website looks (Professional and helpful? Hard to get around?), and any helpful links for their authors and readers.
5. Pick a few of the publishers that most appeal to you and what needs you have for publishing. Focus on learning more about them. Read or at least skim some of the books that have similar focuses to your work. Would your book be a good fit for that publisher? Could you revise your manuscript for a better fit?
6. Use the writer’s grapevine. Talk to writers you know to see if anyone is familiar with a one of the publishers you are interested in submitting to. Browse the many available online forums that discuss the good points and bad points of various publishers. Check out The Writer’s Market for more possible information on the publisher.
7. Go online and get the guidelines for the publishers of interest to you. Read them over carefully and do exactly as they say when you format your manuscript for submission.

NOW SUBMIT YOUR BOOK. Then sit back for a day or two and just relax. Yes, you can party now if you feel like it. You’ve earned it. You’ve worked hard writing the manuscript and determining where to submit it for possible publication. There are more hard steps ahead in your writing career. But, for these precious few minutes after the work is submitted, life is good.

What’s in a name? Art Thou Still a Rose?

Yeah, but…you might not give the impression you wish.

There are several reasons for pen names or nom de plumes. And they exist for the same reason they always have. A level of anonymity. Here is a list of examples.

Number one, suppose your name is perceived as ugly or inappropriate for the genre:

Charles Manson IV writes children’s books. However some cretin with an almost carbon copy of his name has made a name for himself as the leader of a murderous cult. Although his family and friends know The Fourth as a sweet man, his name on a book would not bring in killer sales.

Eulah Wojaoklalichky writes self-help household organizing books. However, due to a desire to make life easier on her readership to assist in finding her books or writing to her publisher with questions, she simply decided on a more friendly sounding name, Lolly Lalich.

Petunia Ann Wadsworth writes hot steamy erotica, not the poems that her mother’s tea friends think. Since Ms. Wadsworth would like to keep her Country Club Membership, she uses the pen name, Thira Tart. It is not as if her readers do not think that Thira Tart is a blatant and amusing pen name, they do, but the name more clearly defines her style of erotica than her personal style of living. And she gets to stay out of arguments about where her pin money comes from.

Another reason for pen names is that there exist names that only a family member could love, Harold Lee Crouch. Imagine being Harry Crouch the third, it only takes a slip of the tongue to be something altogether different. A reader might be hesitant to ask for a book by Harry Crouch because of a fear of an unpleasant public moment of mis-speaking.

Still another strange, but nevertheless true, reason for a pen name is that Publishing houses used to own writer’s names. Yes, such a notable author as Jayne Ann Krentz lost the use of her name through contract. As of a tape I listened to from 2004 RWA conference, she has the rights to her name restored to her. Losing your name is not so common anymore, but it is worth protecting so keep an eye on those contracts. There is a reason the names were important and still are to publishing companies. They invest money to support and grow recognition and value in an author’s name. How much do you think Ms. Krentz’s name is worth right now on the cover of a book?

If that were not enough, here’s an interesting reason. There are crazy people out there. Protecting yourself from them by putting up one more barrier for them to jump over to find your front door isn’t the worst idea you’ll ever have. If you have never had the pleasure of having someone on substantial medication back you into a corner to explain to you thoroughly why you have to write their life story, then you have not let enough people know you write. By the way, usefull answer to a situation like that is to encourage them to write their own story. No one will be able to do it justice that has not lived it.

The last several reasons I’m going to roll into one since they all relate together. Sales, marketing, and brand recognition are affected by the ability to grow a readership to support a name. Suppose your writing goes stale and sales go flat because you are set on writing vacuum-cleaner ghost romances. The first few sales weren’t too bad, but the initial interest is gone. Now, whenever someone sees a new story with Sucks Tobe Ewe on the title page, it goes immediately in the rejection pile. The story isn’t a vacuum-cleaner ghost romance, you gave them up months ago. No, this one is about a virile space pilot, Rod, and his side-kiss Nancy.

Because your name, Gladys Goink, is associated as part of the brand that was supposed to build for those ghost books, it is also unpleasantly associated with failure. A new name is needed for those snappy, sassy, space pilot, Rod, adventures with his lovelorn side-kiss Nancy. Maybe something like Stern Thompson.

I am currently up the creek for what I’ve done to myself. I never knew I would write a book, finish one, or that anyone would read it. Then I wrote one, finished it, and knew that no one would ever know that I had done that, just in case it was really bad. However, I also wanted a pen name that started with an ‘a’. So, one night while my husband and I were getting silly, we settled on Blatant Appeal as a pen name. I also, thinking ahead, thought that if I saw a book with Blatant Appeal on the spine, I would probably laugh and pull it off the shelf to open it. I pictured consumers doing that. And that is as far as our thinking went. It wouldn’t matter if I were Blatant Appeal because no one was ever going to know that was me. That rosy state of denial lasted less than two months.

My beloved told everyone at town. The library called to have me give a talk. Imagine being introduced as Blatant Appeal when your image is more like Dolly Dumpling. Oh, and I stutter under pressure as well as break out in splotches of red like a Holstein cow has black ones. The flower shop crew gave ME flowers to give me moral support for the event.

Then worse happened. I had the book print-on-demand published through Barnes and Noble to see if strangers would like the story. They did. So, here I am, having written a genre book, adventure survival romance with a very inappropriate pen name for the genre as well as public appearances. I need a new one. Especially since, I’ve attempted other sub-genre’s and I can write the adventure survival ones much easier than any others. I need to keep writing them, so switching to another sub genres isn’t going to help. To compound the problem, I’ve written self-help books under my own name and children’s stories under Skippy Rydell. I thought children could remember the name Skippy Rydell. However, I’ve currently decided I’m not Super Woman or even Super ½ Woman, so I’m abandoning at this time everything but the adventure writing.

Pen names are serious, fun, and necessary. Take the time to pick the right one each time—it really does matter. In the meantime, if you’ve a hankerin’ to see what kind of mess can happen when you put Blatant Appeal on the web-go to www.blatantappeal.com

Submitting Category Romance

You decided to try your hand at writing category (series) romance. You did your homework and read the kind of books you want to write. You wrote something you feel is good enough to submit, and now you're ready to send it off.

Before you put that baby you've slaved over for months and maybe even years into the mail, go over a few things before you take that trip to the local post office.

Harlequin Enterprises is currently the only category romance print publisher. If you're still unsure about guidelines for category and this is your first submission, check out the Writing Guidelines at eHarlequin. There's a wealth of information there for the new and the seasoned writer. Among the information there is the following:

  1. Harlequin is not accepting unsolicited complete or partial manuscripts. You'll need to query!
  2. Make certain you have the right story for the right line. It can't hurt to reread those guidelines one more time, especially manuscript word length. Also keep in mind that Harlequin now uses computer count to determine length, not the old average of 250 lines per page.
  3. Contact information for editors you'll be submitting to is there at your fingertips. Remember to correctly spell the editor's name in your query!
  4. There are editor podcasts available to watch that can give more details about what the editors are looking for.

There are 11 Harlequin lines, 4 Kimani lines, 5 Silhouette lines, 3 Steeple Hill lines, 2 shorts lines, and 3 "bigger book" imprints. Yes, there is a difference between each and every one of them, but if you've done your homework (you've read, read, read and checked out those guidelines), then you're ready to submit.

When it comes to query letters, you want to be brief and stick to giving the information editors are looking for. Be sure to include the line you're targeting, the word count (approximate) of your manuscript and if it's finished, a brief blurb about the story, and end with your writing credentials. When you're satisfied that everything is in tip top shape, it's time to send off the query.

How long will it take to hear a reply? That's probably the question of the century. ::grin:: Editors do try to get back to you with a reply as quickly as possible, but editors these days are overloaded with work. In the past, six weeks was an average time. If you've been waiting six months, it's time to send a note or to call the editor and ask.

Don't just sit and think about what the reply will be. Keep busy! Finish the manuscript, polish it, or get busy writing something new. The old saying is as true with submissions as it is with all else in life. A watched pot never boils.

Good luck!

(My apologies for what probably is a very confusing blog post. My grandson gave me whatever it is he has--cold, flu, something--and the brain just isn't functioning. I hope, at least, you all get the drift!)

The "CALL"

You sent in your query. The editor requests a full manuscript which you sent and then you wait. Then at the most unexpected time you get “the Call.” When I got my first “call” I was in complete disbelief, hyperventilating, without a coherent thought it my head. Most of those getting that first call will have similar reactions. No one can or wants to dispel the disbelief or the hyperventilating but information can provide you with some articulate questions instead of incoherent rambling. Keep these points or those you think relevant close at hand for when your “call” comes.

A disclaimer--I have used points from a handout by a published author I got in Denver at the 2002 RWA Convention as a starting point. Unfortunately it does not have the name of the presenter. I have googled but have had no luck finding out whom to credit it to. I have heard or seen several of these points in other documents over the years and so have paraphrased, edited, and embellished several as well as adding my own. The original handout noted that you needn’t cover all the points during the first phone call but should get the information as soon as possible.

1. The most repeated piece of advice I’ve heard and read is to NEVER say yes to a contract offer during “the call,” even if you mean to say yes later. Instead get all the details you can in your “call induced inebriated” state and say something like, “I am so excited I can’t think. Let me consider everything after I calm down.” Do thank the editor for the call and make arrangements for further contact.

2. Have you acquired an agent since you submitted the work? Do you want to get one to handle negotiations? Tell the editor now whatever the case. If you have the agent will carry it from here and give you another “call.”

3. If you want to use your “real” name bring it up now. If you don’t, discuss your preference for writing name (pseudonym). When I first sold, my pseudonym had to be approved. The editor completely rejected the use of my real name but under the weight Wesolowsky I wasn’t inclined to argue. A few years later they wanted all rights to my pseudonym which is when I got an agent who was successful in blocking that. Be clear if you do not want restrictions of the use of your pseudonym.

4. Is there and advance? How much is it? Brenda Hiatt’s Show Me the Money web site can give you some idea of reported advances. http://www.brendahiatt.com/id2.html

5. How many author’s copies is the editor offering? This is usually the most easily negotiated but don’t get hung up on it or press for an exaggerated number of copies.

6. In what line or imprint will the book be published?

7. When will the book be published?

8. What is the print run? You may not get this information in category romance but ask anyway. It will determine whether or not you have a chance at royalties above and beyond the advance. A 10% royalty on any sales beyond say 5,000 copies won’t do you any good if they only print 3,000.

9. What is the average amount new authors in my line/imprint can expect to earn with a first book?

10. Will you be my editor or will I be assigned to someone else?

11. Are any revision necessary? This is very important. You need to know if the editor’s vision of your story is the same as yours with minor revisions or if it is so different that if will require massive revisions so altering the book that it makes the original story unrecognizable. You may or may not want to do this but you do need to know what the editor expects.

12. What are the terms of the option clause? Will I have to submit the next book I write whether it is suited to this line or not?

13. Which subsidiary rights are part of the contract and at what percentages? This may be e-book, audio, foreign, movie etc. Make sure you know which are in the contract and what the payment for them will be. This may or may not be negotiable but its best to be aware of what they are.

14. How many times a year would you like to see me published? Category romances are published each month, usually four a month in most lines. You could be published three or four times a year if your editor likes your work and you can write at that pace.

15. Ask the editor, “What appealed to you about my book? Where do you see me fitting in with your publishing list?”

16. When would you like to see my next project, or a proposal for another book?

I’m sure I missed some points or details. I’d appreciate those of you who have received “first calls” to post your experiences and advise. May each of you who want once some day receive the “call


This line is from Toy Story 2 and has nothing to do with my blog but since I usually include a fair bit of humor and my post is not funny today, I couldn't resist. So, if you need a laugh, reread the title. If you want to know what keeps me in the game then read on.


I have this quote hanging over my computer. It came whizzing through the email from one of my WARA friends, Sharon North, a long time ago and it’s still one of my favorites. To me, it means that the success of my career rests on my shoulders and mine alone. Now, I know that luck plays a big role in this business, landing on the right editor’s desk on the right day, yadda, yadda. But guess what? I’m the one who has to complete the manuscript. I’m the one who has to polish the manuscript. I’m the one who has to submit the manuscript. I’m the one who has to write another book while waiting on the previous book to either be bought or rejected. I’m the one who has to keep on because if I don’t, then who will?


All writers need short and long term goals. Short term goals are what you want to accomplish in a day or a week. Long term goals help you set up a plan for an entire year. Buy a cheap calendar and hang it where ever you spend your writing time. (Separate calendar than the one you use for family stuff) Figure out how many pages/words you'll need for the particular line you are targeting. Now divide that by 365. If you’re writing a short category then that means all you have to write is 137 words a day. That’s it. Just a half a page and you’ll have a completed novel in a year. A 100,000 word manuscript requires you to write 274 words a day or just over one page. That’s it. Keep track on your calendar what needs to be done and what you actually did. By committing to write a page a day will there be any doubt that you’re a serious writer?


Writer’s block. This is something you must not allow to happen or use as an excuse to not write. The trick is to write something. Anything. Just get words on the paper. They may not be the most stellar sentences you’ve ever written, but remember the old saying? You can't fix a blank page but you can fix garbage. We all live busy lives and have a million things going on. Each and every one of us can come up with a wide variety of reasons why we can’t or won’t finish a manuscript this year. WE MAKE TIME FOR WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO US. So, before you lose control and all confidence in your ability or if you're just stuck for an idea, take a walk. Take a bath. Read a book. Watch a movie. Play a game or two on the computer. Call someone. Call your critique partners. Call your writing group. Romance writers are more than generous with their time, so if you’ve written yourself into a corner or the words just aren’t there for the taking then all you have to do is ask for help. The longer you are away from writing the harder it is to find your way back. I know this for a fact.

Do you have a favorite quote that motivates you to write?

How to Handle Rejection by Patricia Davids

Those dreaded rejection letters. The ones that tell you your baby is ugly, needs work or just won’t fit their line. How do we deal with having our hopes dashed, our dreams shredded?

This is how I did it. I yelled, I cried, I stomped through the house and screamed in frustration, then I went straight to the store, bought a half-gallon of black walnut ice-cream and eat the whole thing. Later, when I was sick to my stomach and was done repeating “That stupid editor is going to be sorry some day because I’m going to be famous!” When that was all out of my system, I was ready to reread that letter see if there was anything I could use to make my story better.

At first, the letters said I didn’t have enough conflict in my stories. I didn’t really understand what conflict was, so I added more problems for the characters to solve. That didn’t solve my problem. Conflict in a romance novel is about the internal reason why one person can’t fall in love with another.

Sometimes the rejection letters weren’t any help. Here are a few examples.

“At this time our publishing program has no place for this manuscript.” OUCH

“Regretfully, I have to pass on this. In the end, we are just not having any luck with this time period. (Western), as fun as it may be, and until it revives through a major upswing, I simply can’t take any on.” THAT SUCKS, TWO YEARS WORK DOWN THE DRAIN

“I loved the very witty and very strong writing, but ultimately I just felt this wasn’t quite emotionally intense enough.” I CAN FIX IT!

“While I thought the characters and the story were interesting, I just didn’t love it the way I wanted to.” TELL ME WHY. I’LL FIX IT.

Staring at these rejection letters, your first instinct is to pull your hair out. But what they really mean is that you simply have to keep trying, keep sending your story out until your work lands on the desk of someone who does love it the way they want to. The best revenge for rejection is success.
I know Cathy Stang set her rejection letters on fire in the kitchen sink. What are some ways you have handled a rejection?

The Submission Process

Back to school, cooler weather, Fall is on the way! These are just a few of the things that come to mind when September rolls around. September is also a great month for setting goals and also for reaching them.

Have you spent those lazy summer days writing? It might be time to bite the bullet and submit some of that work you've been doing to a publisher. But what publisher? And how and what do you submit?

This month we'll be trying to answer those questions and more. With lots of time before editors and publishers start shutting down for the holidays, making September a great time to start sending your work to editors. It's No Excuse Time!

Author Elizabeth Sinclair will be joining us on September 21 as our first guest blogger! Elizabeth is the author of the highly acclaimed book on how to write a synopsis. The Dreaded Synopsis is a how-to book that should be on every writer's bookshelf. Elizabeth has also written books for Harlequin American Romance, Kensington Precious Gems, Silhouette Intimate Moments/Silhouette Romantic Suspense, and Medallion Books. Her upcoming novel, Garden of the Moon, will be available in December.

Let's get ready to submit!