Congrats to Leigh, yesterday’s winner! Please email me with your snail mail address, and to choose your extra book.

I had the great pleasure of having lunch at Saks with Avon editors Tessa Woodward and Esi Sogah. Tessa and Esi are good people to know. Not just because they’re fun, smart, sassy women, but because they read ALL the queries that come to Avon. That’s right – ALL the queries. They take turns – one week, Tessa will read them, and the next week, it will be Esi’s turn. Most of the questions people gave me beforehand had to do with queries and submissions, and Tessa and Esi were happy to dish. Here’s a primer on how NOT to query Avon:

Don’t describe your book in vague terms. (“It’s a thrilling story of love and adventure!”) Be specific about what sets your plot apart and makes your characters unique.

Don’t spend five paragraphs talking about yourself and one paragraph describing your book.

If you get a form letter rejection, don’t write back and accuse them of not reading your query. They read every query. Every. Query.

If you get rejected, don’t write back and tell them they clearly have no taste in books.

Don’t resubmit the same query the next week. They do talk amongst themselves, and they do remember.

Don’t resend the same query addressed to a different editor. As I said, in any given week, they all go to one person.

If you’re asked to submit a partial, … Read More »

Thanks to everyone who stopped by yesterday! I hope you guys are enjoying this as much as I am. Congrats to Kelly Rardon, winner of the Caskie ARC, tote, and book of her choice! (Email me, Kelly, and I’ll let you know your choices.)

So after that fascinating introduction to cover art, I visited the Publicity department. Pam Spengler-Jaffee and Shari Newman invited me in, loaded me up with goodies, and gave me great tips about how an author should promote herself and her books. These bright (and yes, nice!) ladies might publicize 20-30 books a month, sending out press releases and review copies. So authors need to be on the ball to promote themselves and their releases, too.

A few highlights:

*A major theme was that authors need to nurture their own readership by reaching out to readers and keeping open lines of communication with them. Networking with other authors, reviewers, editors, and other people in publishing is also important.

*To that end, websites, blogs, and email lists are essential. And Pam says authors should keep them interesting and current. Run contests, review books, host forums or chat, send out e-newsletters, etc. Pam talked about how this helps keep readers interested in the gap between book release dates.

*Authors should cultivate close relationships with their local booksellers, especially any romance specialists, and offer to do events and booksignings.

*Authors should also be aware of their local media, especially human-interest columnists and book reviewers for the local paper. … Read More »

My first stop on my Grand Tour de Avon was the art department where all the HarperCollins mass-market paperback covers are created. My guide, Will, was awfully nice (get used to me saying everyone was nice, because everyone just was) and terribly cute. (I’m quite certain he would blush if he read that, which is why I wrote it.)

So Will began by showing me some of the original paintings used for Avon covers. From what I gather, the editorial team comes up with the initial ideas for the covers – they tell the art people roughly how the characters should look (hair and eye color) and be dressed, and if there are any key scenes that would make for a compelling cover. Although a lot of publishers are moving to computer-generated art, Avon still commissions actual paintings for most of their romance covers. They often start with a photo shoot, with models in period costume, and then they send the photos to the artist. I got to see some of the paintings up close (alas, not the models!), and they are beautiful. Some of the authors choose to buy the paintings after the covers are done – I can understand why!

I saw the original painting for the cover of Jenna Petersen’s Desire Never Dies. Interestingly, that painting featured quite a bit of heroic posterior that didn’t quite make it onto the cover! This led to an interesting conversation about the impact of Wal-Mart on cover art. … Read More »

This message is just a little placeholder. I have so much to tell you about my day at Avon, I’ll have to break it up throughout the week. So come back every day, Monday through Friday, for a new post – I’ll be giving away a different prize everyday!

In other news, my good friend and CP “Amy” from Fanlit has a new website and blog under her pen name, India Carolina. Check it out!

And yes, for those asking – Tessa Woodward said I could send her my manuscript. Yay!… Read More »

Okay, my day with Avon was fabulous! I wish I had time to tell you all about it, but I’ll just give you a brief update now and spread the details out over the week, I think.

I started out the day having tea with Ms. Eloisa, which was delightful. She was extremely gracious and gave me some great tips for pitching my book, and we talked about kids and life and her books, and it was just great. Plus, I’ve got a signed ARC of Desperate Duchesses now!

Tessa Woodward squired me around for the rest of the day, and she is just about the nicest person ever. I met people in publicity and marketing and cover art and the publisher (all of which I’ll detail in future posts), and we went to lunch with another of the editors, Esi Sogah, who is extremely fun and witty. Tessa and Esi are the first filter for all queries and manuscripts submitted to Avon, and they had a lot of entertaining ‘cautionary tales’ about bad author etiquette – things none of you would do anyway, but I’ll give you the details in a future post.

I left the building with three bags full of books – and now my challenge is to pack them up before I need to check out of the hotel. So I have to sign off for now! More later.

Oh, I will tell you this – contrary to what many supposed, the Avon editors DID read … Read More »

Just wanted to say thanks for all the great questions, and for all the kind wishes. I’m frantically getting ready to leave tomorrow – haven’t even started packing, but at least I got my nails done last night!

Watch this space – I may not have time to post Friday night, but I’ll try to give you an update sometime Saturday. I’ve also been asked to guestblog over on the official FanLit site (did you know that blog is still going? I didn’t!) next Tuesday.

Have a great weekend, everyone!… Read More »

This has been an awesome few days. A professional personage who is NOT a friend/CP/relative was kind enough to read GOTH, and she gave me wonderfully positive feedback. I got my final travel itinerary from Avon (this will be the first time in my life – possibly the last – that one of those guys holding signs in the luggage area will be waiting for me!). And I got my first reply to a few queries I sent out Monday – an agent requested pages!

So I’ve done a bit of happy dancing.

But before I go completely distracted, I invite anyone and everyone who might have a question for Avon to post away. I may not be able to work them all into conversation, but I’ll do my best. Anything you’re dying to ask about industry trends, cover art, the publishing process, etc…. If you’re wondering about it, I probably should be wondering, too!

Happy Easter or Passover to those who celebrate!… Read More »

So one of the themes in Goddess of the Hunt is, heaven preserve us from ending up with our first “love.” I mean, I love a good “destined to be together” tale as much as the next girl, but in most cases, I think we’re pretty lucky we don’t pick our spouses at the age of ten. In the case of GOTH, Lucy’s had a crush on Sir Toby for 8 years – ever since she was eleven – and it takes a few near calamities and several tasty kisses before she can stop clinging to that dream and realize Toby’s the wrong man for her entirely.

I’ve been thinking – if I could have married my dream man at age ten or eleven, who would I be with today? Probably one of these guys:

So who did it for you, back when you barely knew what “it” was? (And yes, this question will date you.) David Cassidy? Elvis? A New Kid on the Block?… Read More »

I’ve seen a lot of people discussing/posting whether they used celebrities as models for their characters, so I thought I’d share my visions of Jeremy and Lucy in Goddess of the Hunt – a youngish Clive Owen and a brunette Reese Witherspoon.

I’m curious to hear if those of you who’ve read some or all of GOTH will say, huh?? They don’t look like that!!  Actually, they look rather different in
my mind now, too – but it was useful to start from something visual.

But now – I need models for my new hero and heroine, and since I never watch movies or TV anymore, I’m coming up blank.  Give me suggestions, please!

Hero – After spending six months with a bottled-up, brooding guy (whom I love, but…), I’m happy to report that the hero of Goddess of Beauty is a cheerful, talkative rogue.  Think Rhett Butler.  I need a guy who’s ruggedly handsome, but not pretty.  Brown hair, tanned, rough-cut and muscular, but with boyish charm and a killer smile.  Oozing self-confidence and swagger.

Heroine – She’s fair, blonde, blue-eyed. A delicate, almost doll-like beauty – but with inner fire.  Graceful bearing.  On the outside, she’s the picture of a perfect society belle, but inside she’s longing to break all the rules.  She’s an artist and appreciates beauty, and she enjoys being beautiful – but she needs someone to see beyond the pretty face.

Any and all ideas welcome!!… Read More »

By low-tech random method involving alphabet magnets and my 3-year-old daughter –

Maggie Robinson!

No April foolin’. So Maggie – you said you have TLP already, right? Just email me another title on your wish list and your snail mail address, and your goodies will be on the way!

Thanks to everyone who shared their own openings or ones from favorite books – they are all wonderful!

And I did promise to post what I’ve got so far as the opening of Goddess of Beauty, so here goes. (I made that promise because I thought it would motivate me to write more this weekend – hah.) I’m sure it’s going to change, eventually, but it’s what I’m working from now. I’m not sure I should (or can) tell you the heroine’s name just yet. Forgive the redaction.

If she was going to become a fallen woman, [the heroine] reasoned, she might as well fall all the way. And the longer she stood in this cramped dockside office, inhaling the fetid chill that would be her last breath of England, the more certain she felt of one thing. The sun-bronzed, wind-ruffled, and – her wicked imagination insisted – salt and rum-flavored man before her would make an excellent place to land.

Read More »