Wednesday, February 25, 2009

WHY I LOVE TAKING PITCHES

By: Deb Werksman, Casablanca Acquiring Editor

Hello, everyone. The pitch contest was FANTASTIC, I loved it! Thank you to all who participated and all who didn't.

An extended list of winners was posted, so if you didn't see your name on the short list, please go back and check again (I believe the extended list was posted on 2/17).

Of course, I have an open submissions policy, so if you're not on any winner's list, you can still submit to me (and some of you already have!)

However, the value of the contest is to see:
*which pitches caught my eye
*which ones didn't

For the most part, the ones that did had something unusual that grabbed me (think "HOOK!!!!!!!") and the ones that didn't either weren't clear, sharp and fresh in the writing, or seemed like something I've read before.

Here's a quick update on the state of the category, subgenre by subgenre, very subjective in some ways, but hopefully informative.

PARANORMAL: still the hottest subgenre in the category, but it's harder and harder to debut in this subgenre, especially with vampires. They've been done so many ways that unless you've got something new/fresh/different/hot, it's probably been done before. I'm still digging werewolves, got a mermaid trilogy that's incredibly hot (and unusual--look for fantastic world-building) and a light para series that's funny and growing (think vicious bunny slippers). Psychics, ghosts, etc. are tough to sell, but give me something new and different, and I'll be all over it!

HISTORICAL: strong, strong, strong. Best periods are English Georgian, Regency, Victorian or Scottish any time. Other periods really tough to sell, alas, but don't hesitate to try me--something truly new/fresh could be a break out winner. We've got two trilogies coming (one with a suspense element, one magnificent Regencies with the most appealing nobleman rogues for heroes...) also a Scottish that's got one of the most flawed, amazing heroes I've ever read..we sigh his name around the office from time to time when we need a pick-me-up.

CONTEMPORARY: straight contemporary tough in the marketplace right now; without a great hook, there's simply too much competition. Cowboys work (yeehaw!), Navy SEALs work (yes sir!), other military types can work, and we have an author who does love triangles like nobody's business, which I think is going to work as her readership builds. I say romantic comedy is going to rise soon and rise fast (I may be the lonely voice in the wilderness, but our series with the nurturing heroes is getting great kudos and as this recession deepens/widens, I think people are going to want to laugh). See also below, for the contemporary Jane Austen sequels, which are really working as well.

ROMANTIC SUSPENSE: I wish I had more of this on my list (I've got some Irish suspense with paranormal elements that's unbelievable!), but it's tough to find. Two big issues that come up over and over are:
*world-building--I'm not getting the world of the story--I'm seeing lots of FBI agent/cop heroes/heroines, but without a sense that the author really knows what that life is like--it's kind of second-hand experience
*plausibility--there's a lot of murder/mayhem, but it's plot devices that aren't at all fresh (the murdered/kidnapped twin sister she didn't know she had, the murdered parents, etc.). These things just don't happen that often in real life, so it's hard to relate. The characters need motivations that the reader can relate to.

Romantic Suspense was the #2 subgenre before the economic crash, but since then all escape fiction is up EXCEPT mystery/thriller, so I don't know what's going to happen to this subgenre. People are hurting, they may not want to be scared for fun.

EROTIC ROMANCE: I haven't gotten into this subgenre yet, and I expect to, but I'm not seeing stories that are (once again) fresh and interesting. I'm seeing a lot that I feel like I've read already.

YA ROMANCE: Bring it on! We're bringing out our first YA fiction this fall, and this is a subgenre we're eager to build into, so this is my first official call for submissions.

WOMEN'S FICTION: Must have a really unusual premise to work on my list--not seeing much that's new/fresh here.

HISTORICAL FICTION: PW recently named Sourcebooks the leader in Jane Austen sequels--keep 'em coming (including YA)--readers can't get enough! We just launched a new series that's the sweetest, most romantic sequels ever done and they're flying out of Target--other series include hilarious takes, American cousins, minor characters developing in amazing directions, unexpected variations, and altogether something fresh and new in the genre. We've also got contemporary JA sequels that re-tell the Pride and Prejudice story with modern characters--these are really hot and fun. It's a formula created over 200 years ago, and you know what! It works!

Check out my specific romance fiction guidelines at www.sourcebooks.com

Remember my criteria:
*Single title only (90K words) also series and trilogies in this length
*Heroine the reader can relate to
*Hero she can fall in love with
*A world gets created
*I can sell it in 2 sentences (or 50 words!)

11 comments:

  1. Hi Deb,
    Welcome back. I'll forward any replies you receive.
    Marie

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  2. It's interesting that you say romanctic comedy sales will surge in the current climate. I'm hoping everything will surge!:-)

    Seven bucks for a romance novel is still one of the best entertainment deals out there.

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  3. I've read where fiction sales were up over the last few months as the economy took a nose dive and I remember Lisa Kleypas' keynote speech at a conference I was at. (Paraphrasing) After her/her mom's home was destroyed by a hurricane, they went out to buy essential supplies, splitting up in the store to get the shopping done quicker. When they met up at the register counter, each one had bought a romance. THOSE were essential supplies. :)

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  4. First of all, congratulations on being named the leader in Jane Austen sequels! That's terrific! And thank you for a great article on what works for you, and why. I also believe that in these tough times, folks are going to be looking for a respite and an escape. Comedy is definately going to be winner, but I think anything (such as your Scots hero!) that can allow a reader to just get away for a bit is going to do well. A book is inexpensive entertainment!

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  5. Nice to read something positive. Thanks.

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  6. Hey, Deb...

    What a great run-down on pitching! Even those of us in the business a loooong time can benefit from some reminders.

    Love historicals, BTW, and thank heavens they're still popular!

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  7. It WAS great to read positive news at this time. And I also would love to see rom com surge. It makes perfect sense if it did. Look at all those wonderful comedy films of the Depression. Many had love stories at their core!

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  8. Hey Deb!

    Understandable with romantic comedy since it's definitely a time we need to laugh.

    I know when I feel down I'm more prone to pick up a book.

    And Fluff and Puff thank you for mentioning them. :}

    Linda

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  9. Hi Deb~

    I'm keeping my fingers crossed that rom com surges too...in May when Too Hot To Handle is released.

    Thanks for the great post.

    Robin :)

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  10. Cheryl, ABSOLUTELY sexy aliens!!! I confess I haven't seen any as imaginative as yours...that might be too much to hope for...but yes, I'm also interested in Fantasy/Sci-fi paranormal romance--the world-building in these is absolutely essential!

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