I had the opportunity to attend the Las Vegas RWA (Romance Writers of America) workshop where Laura Bradford spoke candidly about what agents and editors are looking for. I was really impressed with Laura's easy-going style and her willingness to answer all questions. Here are some of my notes:
Editors are looking for stuff that will sell (I'll get to what's hot and what's not later):
- They want a fresh voice that leaps off the page--The same enough, but different enough...but not too different (this is a very fine line).
- They want authors with long, robust careers.
- Due to the economy, editors are presently risk averse.
- Editors must comply with publisher mandates.
For a Pitch, she recommends:
- Give the agent/editor what they want - work to BE what they're looking for.
- Be aware of how you're pitching (what you sound like)...Though it is OK to be nervous.
- Do some general research about the market, the editor and/or the agent. You can google their names and find their websites and interviews. Follow them on twitter. Sometimes editors will make a comment about something they'd like to see on Twitter.
- Another good place to get information is writer blogs and Publisher's Marketplace (you can get the free Publisher's Lunch to avoid the $20 per month membership). Take note of deal postings--these will show you what agents are selling and what editors are buying.
Avoid themes/settings that "seem" like they would do well, but are too much of a risk in this economy. Note, editors may like something they can't buy:
- Beta heroes
- Italian set historical romances (she recommends sticking with the United Kingdom).
- Romantic comedy
What's hot and what's not in Romance?
- Contemporary romance is coming back.
- Historical romance is doing well
- Erotic romance is having a resurgence thanks to 50 Shades, and readers are finding skilled writing.
- Romantic suspense is out
- Women's fiction is saturated
- Paranormal Romance is in glut
- New Adult is coming back.
One thing that she noted with romance is that romance readers read a lot, and they are looking for books in the $5-$9.00 range. Romance readers are not going to buy a book for $15 to $18 because it eats up too much of their book budget.
What did Laura say about queries?
- Firstly, she receives 800-1000 queries per month, so she needs you to get to the meat of the story as quickly as possible.
- It needs to be about the material.
- Be brief about yourself, and DO NOT talk about your husband and kids or family.
- Brevity and pithiness & "sound bite quality" are important.
- Red flags are "it took me 3 years to write this MS," or an outlying word count (either + or -)
- She asks for the first chapter to accompany queries, and the most important part is your writing.
- If you want to know what she represents, look at the AGENCY BOOKSHELF tab on her web site: http://www.bradfordlit.com/
- One good piece of advice she had: "Go with the idea that someone else has sent the agent a query for the same thing. You have to make yours stand out."
- Always check out the submission guidelines on an agent's website because they change. Query Tracker or any other agent listing could be out of date.
There were a lot of questions about royalties. She said that romance is not the highest paying in royalties ($6-$8000 is good), but it's not unusual for a book to make $40,000 +. She mentioned that Brenda Hiatt's web site has a section called SHOW ME THE MONEY where Brenda has collated statistics from anonymous authors: http://brendahiatt.com/show-me-the-money/ - An interesting fact for me is that New York publishers have migrated to a 25% of net for e-books. She said that's pretty standard.
All in all, I give an A+ to Laura Bradford for taking a Saturday and flying to Las Vegas to speak to a relatively small group. She just climbed up the ladder of awesomeness!
Write on friends!