Like you, I'm a reader of romance; it is my nighttime guilty pleasure--well, the one I'll talk about in polite society, anyhow. I devour on an average of two books a week on my Kindle. So before I make my purchase on Amazon, I tend to read over the reviews, reading the top three and the lowest three, as far as star rankings go. I learn a lot about the story and the author--and the reviewer too--by reading the reviews. Because each of us brings something different to the reading of a book. Some of us love one type of romance, while many love another. Most of us enjoy the alpha hero, while many also enjoy the gentle, sweet hero. If a book doesn't match the "likes" we bring to the reading experience, we often get vocal in our dislike of the book. Simply put, the book wasn't a good fit...kind of like the last pair of jeans I bought.
But I also look at reviews with the eyes of a writer. I need to keep a finger-pulse on what most readers like and dislike in their romances. Trends keep changing, and not always for the better. But that's the grandma in me talking. Some reviews go on and on about the sex, about how steaming "hawt" it was. And I wonder, what about the romance? Those delightful, sighable moments of falling in love? Ah...did I mention I was a grandma? Some reviewers complained that the characters fell into lust and bed before they knew anything about each other. Other reviewers complained the books were nothing more than one sex scene after the other, the prose and dialogue sprinkled liberally with profane street lingo. Grandma nodded at their wisdom.
I began my publishing career at a small, but well-respected eBook publisher and was treated quite well. But my eyes were always on the Big Six, or the Big Five now that Penguin and Random House merged. I always wondered if I'd be good enough to contract with them. To that end, I studied my craft and worked hard at improving my writing...and boy-oh-boy was there a lot to improve. Ladies, I kid you NOT!!! Lucky for me I had a teaching agent, who took me under her wing and literally beat my writing into submission. Oy!
Last year, I contracted with the eBook imprints of both HarperCollins and Random House. It's been a fast and furious ride. In fact, I now have 2 series contracted with HarperCollins, none of which are written, and Random House wants more bear shifters. I am writing furiously, keeping an eye on my submissions' calendar. I am once again in learning mode.
What am I learning? That the big guys are more vocal in how they want things. My one editor emailed me to think about where I wanted to put my "new" first sex scene in the contracted book, because NO one waited until chapter twenty any more to have the characters do the "wild thang". Well, pardon me! I was trying to create a relationship, give them time to fall in love. Grandma here was giving her readers all those sighable moments. *cough* I confess the first sex scene now takes place in chapter eight.
She also changed the series and book title, but I was too shell-shocked to do much more than grumble about it. Why? Because I'd also been told all my euphemisms for body parts were no longer allowed. I now had to type explicit words on my computer screen. Words that made my eyeballs twitch. So the next time you grumble about the way an author wrote a story. Please remember my plight. I'm telling you, it's not always the writer's fault.
I'm sure it's a great story even if you had to bend it around a bit. For the record, I'm highly in favor of euphemisms.ReplyDelete
The editor keeps telling me it's a great story. She adores my contemporary Scottish hero. My agent and her are finishing negotiations on two more books in the series. Time issues have been a big problem. I already have 4 contracted books to deliver this year, adding a 5th might teeter me over the edge. As for euphemisms, they kept me away from those dreaded "C" words in reference to parts of a woman's anatomy I could barely type. I'm still grumbling about it. LOLDelete
Wow! I knew editors were in control, but not that much! Makes me appreciate that much more what authors go through for my reading pleasure!ReplyDelete
Oh, Karren, once an author signs the contract, the book essentially belongs to the publisher. They can change the title, the names of the characters, the name of the author even (if they feel it's a name that won't sell or take up too much room on their covers...one man I know was told he had to write his cozy mysteries under a woman's name because they sold better that way). They can make you drop chapters or move chapter twelve so it's chapter four, or generally have you rewrite the whole story, in which case the author wonders why the publisher even contracted it. A writer friend of mine fought with her agent on changes, was reminded she was under contract and in the end barely recognizes her book. Sad, isn't it? Yet we keep writing because we love it. Our creative souls crave being able to tell stories. I have 5 stories bouncing around in my mind that I want to start on so badly, Karren, but I have to fulfill these contract obligations first. Meanwhile, the characters are grumbling because I'm making them wait. And, yes, writers hear voices in their heads--all the time. LOLDelete
For what it's worth, I join Jacquie in support of euphemisms. Also in not having sex until you actually know each other. There speaks a grandma of seven, but I didn't know it showed :-)ReplyDelete
Oh, Liz, you're always a dear. While I don't consider myself a prude, there were just certain "C" words I never used because I felt them rather insulting to women, especially the one used by the younger generation as an insult. The editor and I went round and round on my using it. I'm a feminist, I told her. I cannot use that word. I think I heard her laughing all the way from New York... Well, guess who DIDN'T use it? I caved on the others, but would not on that one. I simply rewrote the whole darn paragraph so it wasn't needed. They don't call me old and crafty for nothin'. LOLDelete
Sorry about the wake up call from the "big guys," Vonnie, as to your sex scenes. You know, today is almost always about the "big guys" making the decisions about things. Politicians, doctors, lawyers (OMGosh I used to work for these guys!), corporate farmers, insurance companies, you name it...they call the shots...it's all about money and power. Sad but true. Regarding language, I always figured that not only do smart girls read romance, they also know how to use and appreciate "good" language. Any crude person can easily use crude words...but a smart girl uses smart language. At least, that's my take on things. I appreciate your writing. And if I have a negative response to any book, I figure my opinion is subjective and I don't inject it onto other readers...I might leave a low-star review, but I won't go on and on about something that is subjective and personal. I fully realize it "takes all kinds to make a world." email@example.comReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Janice. I've always told my kids that the overuse of swear words was a sign of a weak vocabulary. Now I tell my grandkids the same thing. That's not to say a colorful word doesn't tumble from my lips during moments of frustration or anger, but all in all one presents themselves in a more positive light making broad use of the English language. And, yes, sadly the world operates on the bottom line. How much money will this book make the publisher? Not how well is it written. Boggles my mind sometimes. Truly.Delete
Great post, Vonnie. I learned the lesson about what's carved in stone in a manuscript sold to a publishing house with my first book. The answer is -- nothing. I'm with you on the C word. Sometimes I wonder why all of us old in-the-trenches feminists worked so hard. Glad you prevailed.Delete
I know that once you're finished, Vonnie, it'll be a great book!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Angela. I do really like the story. It's humorous, tense at moments and whimsical with paranormal elements.Delete
Great post, Vonnie. And what works for one set of characters won't work for another set. We have the best job in the world, but that doesn't mean it's easy, does it?ReplyDelete
No, it isn't always easy, but it is fun and interesting. My hero in this story presented himself to me one night. His language, at times, is colorful, but it's part of his character. And his temper makes him kind of comical, in my opinion. But my favorite person is the heroine's grandmother. She's a real pip.Delete
Great post, Vonnie, and congrats on the book contracts. I'm still considered young (early 30's) and I happen to agree with your "grandma" point of view. Give them time before they fall into bed, and there's nothing wrong with euphemisms. As a reader, I prefer them. Best of luck, and I look forward to seeing your new books. I do enjoy a good Scottish hero.ReplyDelete
Thanks, MK. Even though it hasn't gotten a cover yet, A HIGHLANDER'S OBSESSION is up for pre-orders even though it won't release until August 18th. Creighton is a delight. He was great fun to write, especially after he spoke to me in his Scottish burr. Ohhh myyyy.Delete
Vonnie, I've heard that before about wanting love scenes at certain spots of so many per book. I don't think I'd be able to write a large publisher. My books are each individual to the characters. Good luck working with the publishers. I know you'll have great books, even if they aren't to your standard.ReplyDelete
Thanks Paty. I prefer my characters lead the story, not the editors. I've always listened to what my characters tell me, writing as fast as I can to keep up. We'll see how things go.Delete