What do you think?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Sorry for the absence. Life. Yanno?

But in the interest of not turning this into a Joke Blog (and trust me, with the amount of crap that gets dumped into my inbox daily, I could). I decided to post something somewhat interesting.

I get an industry newsletter from author Cynthia Sterling on a weekly basis, and todays issue had a bit about the spotlight on NAL at Nationals. I've copied and posted below. The editors asked some really good questions. I guess I'm just surprised at the answers.

The Spotlight on New American Library was presented in the form of a dialogue, with the presenters asking questions and getting feedback from the audience. Participants were Claire Zion, Editorial Director, Executive Editors Kara Cesare and Ellen Edwards, and Senior Editors Laura Cifelli and Anne Bohner.

They began by polling the audience about what they were reading and writing. A couple of things stood out — a number of people indicated they wanted to read more historical romance without paranormal elements — but few people in the workshop indicated that’s what they were writing.

Erm. I don't read Paranormal Historicals. Are there really that many out there? ::scratching head:: I think I've hear some talk about some Highland vampires/Templars, but it was low-level buzz at best.

Maybe they're talking about contemporary paranormals where a certain amount of pages is dedicated to the back-story (which inevitable is In The Past, aka another era). Or does this include Fantasy? Or is this more of an erotic/romance e-book thing (I think this type of story might be more prevalent there)?

Any thoughts on this? Anyone else sick of Historical paranormals? From my admittedly disinterested point of view, I'd say this 'so called glut' is pretty thin on the ground.

Moving along...

The editors asked if people were tired of vampires. Some indicated they felt the market was ‘saturated’ while others said “it depended on the author,” and that some books aren’t as good. The editors said they’ve seen a trend in writers moving away from vampires into other fantasy elements such as werewolves and dragons.

Hmmm. I think "it depends on the author," = JR Ward. lol. for the most part. Are there other vamp books series out there getting serious buzz/interest?

"The editors said they’ve seen a trend in writers moving away from vampires" Well. Maybe because many editors are officially on record as to not wanting to see another vampire submission. Word has gotten out, you see....

I'm not sure if the vampire books have lessened, or if the other paranormal creature features have broadened and become more varied as folks see out the next big/best thing. Again, I can't give a real opinion here, because I kinda stepped aside for this trend with a couple of exceptions.

What do you think?

The editors asked if the workshop participants like old-fashioned gothics, particularly gothic historical romance. They asked if having a lot of sex in the book made a difference and it didn’t seem to with this audience. Comments from the audience indicated that “old-fashioned gothics” to them were stories with weak heroines, told in only the heroine’s POV. Maybe stories with stronger heroines that included the hero’s POV with a dark gothic feel would be better.

Finally. I'm full on board with the audience here. But it would be incredibly difficult to pull off that menacing 'is he a bad guy?' hero if the author incorporates his pov. Plus here would be an element of the author playing a bit fast and loose in his pov to hide certain information. But it could be done.

Oh, one more concern on my part. Too many authors use this equation:

Strong/kick-ass heroine=gold-plated full-flush Bitch.

A heroine can be strong, resourceful, etc, without being an unsympathetic, chip on her shoulders, hardass. If this is the heroine what would start showing up in the modern gothics, I'd rather the spaghetti spine chica of yore.


The editors said they’ve heard that people miss light, contemporary romance — not necessarily comedy, but straight-forward contemporary romance, but not many people in the room seemed to feel this way.

Maybe because of the overload of paranormal and/or deh super Hawtness books?

I've been reading/seeking out straight contemporary romances lately--far more than I have in the past years--and for the most part really enjoying them. I've run into some clunkers, too. But we won't be discussing those. :-P So, yeah, bring on some fun/sexy feel good contemporary romances. I've been 'hearing' that contemps are making a come back and editors at various houses are looking for them. (Yay!)

The conversation turned to historical romance. One person commented she wanted more medievals, while someone else said she’d like more “meaty, angsty historicals.” Several people wanted historicals set after 1900, but the editors when asked directly admitted they weren’t actively seeking these. Others in the audience indicated they wanted more western-set historical romances. The editors said in the past these had not sold well, so publishers had gotten away from them. If the editors found a strong voice with a good story that was a western historical, they would consider making an offer.

Okay, now why (why,why) aren't editors seeking historicals written after 1900? Every single decade of the last century is rife with change and upheaval and progress. Really no discipline, no area of study, no society was left untouched by the end of the 1900s. I just finished The Wedding Officer (1940's Italy) and earlier this year The Shoe Queen (1920's Paris). Loved them both. I think they could at least do stories that took place between 1900 and 1950, with varied settings.

The editors asked if what people watched on TV effected what they were reading. With this audience, that didn’t seem to be the case.

Part of me wants to say this is a lie. But that's not correct. I "think" perhaps, folks might not realize how much popular culture has affected (effected? crap) their tastes. But I'm thinking about the popularity of paranormals on TV, movies and the rise popularity for comic book characters in the mainstream.

On the other hand, I suspect many who enjoy YA books, aren't watching The Hills (damn the addictiveness of that show!) and The OC on the regular. And why isn't there a demand for medical romances given the phenomena of HOUSE and GREY'S ANATOMY? And private romances? Years after the Johnny Depp first portrayed Cap'n Jack, there's been nary a petard has been hoisted on the romance poop decks.

Your opinion?

They asked if anyone had purchased a book because they saw a book trailer — a few people had, and were enthusiastic about book trailers. More participants indicated the book trailers don’t influence their buying habits. Several people said there are too many trailers out there, while others felt it was difficult to translate a written story into the visual medium of a trailer. The novelty of book trailers has worn off. Also, a poorly done book trailer can hurt their opinion of the books. There was also debate that book trailers might appeal more to younger readers who are more visual.

Meh. I have yet to watch a book-trailer that made me interested in the book. Or, more to the point, made me buy a book. The book-trailer was simply an added feature. I was already interested in the book and someone said, 'Hey watch the trailer', and I said, 'Meh. why not?' Having said that, I reserve the right to have my own bit of mehness in future.

Next the discussion moved to online reviewers. The editors asked if there were any particular online reviewers people paid attention to. The people in this group indicated they weren’t influenced by reviewers.

Interesting. You'd think the opposite given the popularity of various blogs and review sites. But, I know that I only look to reviews for information, and that could be as basic as getting a heads up on a book I didn't even know existed, to additional insights re something I'm on the fence about, to a general take on character, plot, writing style/skill. Whether the reviewer liked the book or not is irrelevant. Maybe this is what the audience meant?

Oh, and I read reviews for the possible entertainment value. heh.

The editors report they feel the market is strong for both dark paranormal and light and sexy paranormal.

Again, interesting. I keep hearing that fun/light paranormals aren't popular. go figure.

This post is hella long, isn’t it? I’m almost afraid to hit ‘publish’.
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Lynn Viehl said...

Upfront Disclaimer: I work for NAL and one of the editors mentioned.

Aside from Emma Holly and Sue Krinard, I haven't read any of the current crop of historical paranormals. I tried a couple different rookies, but they didn't grab me (I intend to go back and try them again around book three or four.)

I'm also not seeing alot of these books out there on the shelf. Everything seems to be that urban fantasy-paranormal hybrid or pun-title chick-lit paranormal. Since I was once a huge fan of historicals, I wouldn't mind read more of the paranormal persuasion.

Since J.R., I've not seen that any other vamp book series getting that level of serious buzz/interest. I see some borderliners, but no one has yet popped. Over the last ten years I've also seen the long-term benefits of slowly building a series readership -- the readers tend to be more loyal, for one thing -- but series authors aren't being given a lot of time to build that way anymore. Naturally we'd all love to be the next Hot New Thang, but there's nothing wrong with becoming a Really Reliable Read, either.

As for the vamp bandwagon, it's pretty much following the romantic suspense trend. We're in the glut-phase, but eventually the numbers will determine who stays and who goes, and then the next trend will hit the market and everyone will go there. We'll simply have to suffer through a few more brotherhood knock-offs before we get there.

One question -- historicals set after 1900 have never been really decent sellers, to my knowledge. I think they remind older readers too much of their mothers' and grandmothers' lives, maybe (although I love stories set in the Depression and the forties, so I don't get that.) Do you think they should be more popular, or could be, if we got more out there?

Shesawriter said...

Thanks a bunch for this. VERY interesting and encouraging. My book is one of those Gothic/paranormals with a dark and brooding hero. The heroine doesn't know whether he's bad or not, and the book, while not primarily in her POV, starts out that way for the first three or four chapters. She's in first person, while he--when he finally gives his POV--is in third. She's not necessarily kick-ass, but she is a contemporary woman with a definite edge, BUT she has to **act** like one of those spineless heroines of old.

Um, it's complicated....

raine said...

Hmmm...can't hit on everything, so lessee...

I don't watch much tv, so that doesn't affect my reading habits.

I'd LOVE to see more post-1900 historicals, but I keep hearing that the word from editors is "no interest". Same for vampires. I've heard more than one editor/agent gag at the idea of receiving 'yet another' vampire submission--but I honestly believe that, if the writer could come up with something fairly novel in a unique voice, it would be snatched right up...

Dark erotica is of big interest to me, since I seem to have fallen into writing one, lol. The problem (for me) lies in how much 'darkness', while still making the protagonists acceptable, and the HEA stuff we seem to want, even for our monsters. :-/

Bernita said...

That "dark paranormal" hasn't died is encouraging - since I'm in the middle of writing one.
Not a vampire in sight though, but there is an inconvenient zombie.

Amie Stuart said...

Way too much food for thought...I haven't seen tons of paranormal historicals so this one surprised me.

Funny as a reader, I'm just now catching the vamp wagon and other than Lynn's series, it's mostly YA . LOL@vamp wagon. I'm still pretty picky about my parnaormals

Um, it's complicated....

It is but it's also fantastic--You definitely capture that gothic feel going with the tortured hero!

Amie Stuart said...

Um you could SHARE some of those contemporaries. *cough* cuz I ain't seen one in a dog's year. Seriously, I'm not seeing htem. BTW I have the Shoe Queen in my TBR pile and like you wish there were more historicals set in the early 20th century becuase I haven't read on....in a dog's year.

vanessa jaye said...

Oops. Sorry guys. I posted and disappeared (that life thing I mentioned earlier). Okay, I'll just do individual responses to each post, cause I think I'm gonna ramble again. :-P

vanessa jaye said...

Lynn- You know, I just realized I have read several Paranormal Historicals. It’s just that because I don’t specifically seek them out, so the ones I really enjoyed, like Shanna Abbe’s The Smoke Thief, I just thought of as really great reads, and with the ones I didn’t enjoy there were general problems/weaknesses with the books (for me) that I didn’t necessarily associate to the book being a paranormal historical. Either I finished them because they were okay, or they were DNFs. In either case I forgot about them.

Maybe the ‘backlash’ is from readers who were looking a skillful blending of the two subgenres, and they got ‘meh’ or uneven reads or reads that didn’t hit the right ratio of paranormal world building vs historical romance elements? Or disgruntled historical readers who want any woo-woo additives to their reading matter.

J.R. hit the ground running, didn’t she? *g* The combination of the ‘fresh’ twist on the vampire lore + the big ALPHA studs heroes pretty much hit the bulls-eye and blew up. Plus, the books really aren’t about the romance, they’re about the brothers. I know some folks have grumbled about that, but it makes perfect sense to move in a more mainstream direction if she doesn’t want he books to become repetitive parodies of themselves.

Not many writers bust out of the gates like that. A steadily growing audience might be preferable, for a variety of reasons, that might make for another interesting post eventually. 

Ironically, I totally missed the R/S bandwagon, until just recently with the dust all but settled. Conversely, I was definitely into erotic romance and paranormals *before* they became so popular, now I’m extremely picky when it comes to those subgenres and to leave more than take’em.

Re books with 1900 settings. I guess you can’t argue with sales data, but you have to wonder if those books were marketed right? Or marketed at all? Judith Ivory’s DANCE, and BLISS still get a lot of recommends, and they’re OOP. And recently The BRONZEHORSEMAN also got a lot of online buzz too. Another of my favorite romances was a one-off by Lucia Grahame ‘The Painted Lady’ which takes place in 1920s Paris/England. I guess I can see that older readers might not see that time as romantic, though. Yes, I do think they could/would be more popular if more were released and marketed properly. I definitely think the romance reading audience is ready for something a little different from the status quo.

vanessa jaye said...

Tanya - Your book sounds intriguing. Complicated is good. A contemporary woman with an edge is fine with me. Unsympathetic bitch with a chip on her shoulder, not so much. :-P I love gothics, I just think the ‘formula’ needs some shaking up a bit. For instance I think there’s a lot of ‘gothic’ flavour to what Anne Stuart writes, which is part of her appeal.

vanessa jaye said...

Raine – I really think it’s just a matter of time before someone writes a kick ass series based in the 1900s. That person will blow the doors wide open for everyone else. Didn’t Brenda Joyce had a series of romance/mysteries (heroine’s surname was Cahill?) that took place during the Gilded Age? Can’t remember. I did read and enjoy the first 2 or 3 of them.

It’s surprising that there isn’t more dark erotica out there, it would seem to be a perfect fit. I say got as dark as you want. You’ll end up with something unique/authentic. If it’s too dark, it’s easy to rein things in with either word choice or toning down certain elements.

vanessa jaye said...

Bernita – since I’m not particularly interested in vamps, more power to you on your wip. Judging by the samples of your writing on your blog, I’d say your voice is perfectly suited to dark paranormal.

vanessa jaye said...

Amie – see my comment above re jumping off the para/rom bandwagon before it got rolling. *g* But just as you’ve turned more to YA paranormals, I started reading more horror,

I’m sooo bad in keeping my sidebar up to date with my reading, the 3 of my most recent reads, that I enjoyed are listed there: CATCH OF THE DAY (really, more woman’s fic than romance) THE BLUE BISTRO (again, woman’s fic) and DARK ROOTS AND COWBOY BOOTS – this one was a straight contemporary woman. I thought of you as I was reading it. It would appeal to you (takes place in the south, real honky-tonk vibe, heroine is a hairdresser and it’s written in first person)

Lynn Viehl said...

Vanessa wrote: Maybe the ‘backlash’ is from readers who were looking a skillful blending of the two subgenres, and they got ‘meh’ or uneven reads or reads that didn’t hit the right ratio of paranormal world building vs historical romance elements?

Historical romance readers are a lot like SF purists in that they are quite demanding when it comes to accuracy; one Regency fan I know can spot factual mistakes in such little stumbles as the author using the wrong word in dialogue (and I'm not saying this a bad thing; it's just a fact.) So if anyone is going to be picky about the logic of the worldbuilding and balance of the elements, it's them. :)

Not many writers bust out of the gates like that. A steadily growing audience might be preferable, for a variety of reasons, that might make for another interesting post eventually.

Patty Briggs is one example -- she's been touted as an overnight success since her urban fantasy series popped onto the Times, but she's been writing quality fantasy novels for years and has slowly built up a devoted readership. Ace is bringing out her entire backlist, including the OOPs, to meet the demands of her new fans, also a bonus of building slowly versus popping to the top with the first novel.

Re books with 1900 settings. I guess you can’t argue with sales data, but you have to wonder if those books were marketed right? Or marketed at all? Judith Ivory’s DANCE, and BLISS still get a lot of recommends, and they’re OOP.

Not sure. I've rarely seen effective marketing for more modern-era romances unless they're contemporary. For some reason readers don't view the twentieth century as very romantic outside of the movies. Maybe we're too close to the events and wars that happened during the century, or what they taught us in school about them makes it difficult to see it as vicariously thrilling as more distant eras. Maybe our granddaughters will pick up the slack. :)

vanessa jaye said...

Lynn- I hear ya on the Historical hystericals. *g* 'K, that was TOTALLY disrepectful, I just couldn't resist. :-P But, I have seen the online conversations where some folks take a lot to heart. I can see their point on one hand, yet on the other.... there's got be be a little bend in order to enjoy the fantasy.

I didn't know that about Patricia Briggs. But what an enviable position to be in. She's developed her skills and readership without undue pressure and now she has a great backlist (& OOPs that are going back to print!) for her new fans to discover. I take it back, this type of success would be preferable to me, rather than the incredible pressures that instant stardom must bring.

I still love to read books taking place 1900-1950 (any setting/class/culture) But I can how it can be a hard sell in terms of the romance fantasy. Even the most careless student of history understands that between the Great Wars and The Great Depression, prettymuch none of the H/hs will have a conventional HEA (at least not for more than 10-20yrs) before hard times hit.

And yet... can't the fantasy be love in the face of adversity?

Lynn Viehl said...

Vanessa wrote: I take it back, this type of success would be preferable to me, rather than the incredible pressures that instant stardom must bring.

I think that's what derailed Lisa Valdez. Too much fame and attention too fast. No one wants to be under that kind of microscope, but someone new to the biz is more likely to make bad choices, and/or cave under the pressure.

Even the most careless student of history understands that between the Great Wars and The Great Depression, prettymuch none of the H/hs will have a conventional HEA (at least not for more than 10-20yrs) before hard times hit.

There you go. I think the historic reality may be too ingrained to perpetuate the illusion of HEA. Which is an illusion even in ideal times, but I won't go there. :)

And yet... can't the fantasy be love in the face of adversity?

Easily resolved adversity, adversity of short duration, adversity that briefly flirts with the H/H before exiting hastily, stage left, yes. Women are still brainwashed by the fairytale propaganda of Prince Charming/Glass Slipper/Life of a Princess, and once the shoe fits, it's all supposed to be sunshine and happiness from that point on. There's some powerful mind control in that message, and it isn't coming from other women, but that too is a topic for debate at another time.

I will stop hijacking your comments now. :)

vanessa jaye said...

Hey, hijack away. I'm not doing a very good job of posting on a regular basis as it is, nevermind posting something that merits some discussion, rather that my never ending supply of jokes.

I agree about what happened to Lisa Valdez. Although, I think combined with the instant demands of stardom, she was also dealing with some issues in her personal life. She only 'hinted' at this, by the way. She was never online from what I could see, not on the messageboards, no blog or website, she just didn't have a clue as to how ugly things can get and just how fast. It also surprises me how many people have just written her off because the next book hasn't come out on schedule. Sure it may never come out, but if/when it does I'll definitely be checking it out. Speedy does not necessarily equal good.

erm... so where was I? *g*

I still like the idea of romances that take place during the early 1900s, but I guess they might be more appropriate for woman's fiction. And speaking of that... check out my recent post on 'This Ain't Your Grandma's Romance'

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