Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Confession of a Secret Romantic by Sandy Lu



For the longest time, I have specifically stated that I am not interested in representing romance. As an agent, I feel that I can only properly represent a certain genre if I also read it for pleasure, and I have not read a romance novel since my early teen years.

My first encounter with romance novels was when I was about thirteen, when a Harlequin salesman came knocking on our door in Taiwan and somehow convinced my father that getting a subscription was a good way for me to be exposed to American literature. Not knowing any better, since the covers of these novels usually featured classically looking, fully dressed couples in perfectly respectable poses, I had no idea what I was getting into.  Imagine my shock and thrills when I discovered what really happened behind closed doors between the lady and the duke! Growing up in a traditional Chinese family, our parents never gave us the birds and the bees talk. In fact, whenever there was kissing on screen, my mom would tell us to cover our eyes, and I, obediently, never peeked.

Needless to say, these Harlequin novels became my sex-ed primers. With no one else to turn to, I shared my new revelations with my best friend, and they became our obsession. We would read them under the cover with a flashlight way past our bedtime and sneak peek at passages under the textbook in class. Soon the subscription was not enough, and we started finding more in the neighborhood book rental store (that was actually a thing in Taiwan— for a nickel each, you can binge on all the manga and “trashy” novels the library wouldn’t carry), each one more scandalous than the last, and the lovers’ passions were appropriately reflected on the cover.

One night I didn’t turn off the flashlight fast enough when my mom came into my room and she snatched the book out of my hand, took one look at the cover, and almost had a heart attack. I was in serious trouble—the kind that required my father to deal with when he came home. It took all my wits to get out of that one: After she left, I buried the books with half-dressed heroines on the covers under a pile of fully clothed ones, hid the ones with the most debauched covers in bed and lay on top of them (my mom might come back to search under the mattress, but not under my sleeping body), then proceeded to wait. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do—lying there as the hours went by, heart pounding, pretending to be sound asleep when my dad finally got in and my mom showed him the evidence of the crime. He picked up the books from the top of the pile and laughed. These are nothing! They’re the Harlequin books from the subscription I got her. Whew!

But my mom was not so easily fooled. After that night she started looking at me like she knew what I was up to, like she knew I was no longer her innocent little girl. I suspect that was another reason why she sent me to an all-girls boarding school the next semester, as the school had a strict policy against any extra-curriculum reading materials. That was the end of my love affair with romance novels.

Perhaps it was the suppressed trauma caused by that sudden breakup, or I simply grew out of the puberty curiosity, or maybe because sex is so prevalent everywhere in America (we moved to New York when I was sixteen and it was quite a culture shock), I never renewed my passion for romance novels. On the contrary, as a lover of crime novels and male-center books like American Psycho and Lolita, I adopted the same prejudice many such readers have for romance novels and thought them too formulaic to be satisfying reads. I especially despised the love-at-first-sight convention, since I never believed in it. Therefore, after I became an agent, I proudly stated on my submission guidelines: no romance, please.

That is, until my recent conversation with Louise Fury, a big romance lover who never stopped trying to entice me to take on romance (and trust me, she can be very persuasive.) I don’t know how it started, but at some point she made me realize that despite my claims, many of my favorite YA authors—Robin LaFevers, Sherry Thomas, Laini Taylor, Morgan Rhodes, are all romance writers. And even though their YA novels are not necessarily romance in genre, they are romance in essence. This gave me pause.

I started to ponder why I love these authors so much. They write in very different styles, but what they have in common is that they are all experts at building mounting tensions between their characters with clever, twisty plotlines and misdirection that have me biting my knuckles, breathlessly turning the pages until the misunderstandings are elegantly resolved in the final act and the impossible conflicts give way to a happy ending I in principle don’t believe in but root for in secret anyway. Essentially, I love them for the same reason I love my favorite suspense writers. In that sense, I realize, romance is really not that different from mysteries and thrillers. In fact, given the restrictive story arc, romance writers have to be just as smart and innovative as suspense writers in order to come up with new and original stories.

And who was I to look down on romance as a lesser genre? After all, aren’t Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice classic literature just like Crime and Punishment and Dracula? Didn’t I adore them just as much, if not more? It’s about time I put aside my bias and open myself up to romance. So, romance writers, send me your submissions! I am ready to be seduced.

Please contact me at sandy@lperkinsagency.com



Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Guest Post by Cecilia Tan on her New Three-Book Series at Tor

Whew! At last I can tell you all the news! We've been working on a project for quite a while now and I can finally officially announce that my upcoming new paranormal series, THE VANISHED CHRONICLES, will published by Tor Books!

I've long admired Tor as a publishing house. When I founded Circlet Press back in 1992, Tor founder Tom Doherty gave me some of my first and best advice about book publishing. Over the years I've only remained impressed with the quality of Tor's list and if you look on my shelves you'll see many of my favorite books bear the Tor logo, like Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Dart and Steven Brust's The Phoenix Guards. To be joining them is beyond exciting.

THE VANISHED CHRONICLES will be a paranormal/urban fantasy series where I play with two of my favorite things: 1) BDSM, and 2) the idea that magical world co-exists with our own but non-magical folks have gotten the details wrong. In THE VANISHED CHRONICLES I'll explain where all those myths about vampires come from. "Vampires" may not be real, but an ancient cult of blood magic? Yes, please!

If you read my Magic University books you know I like to mix ancient prophecy with modern sexuality. So there will be passion, power, eroticism, magic, love, et cetera. The first book is tentatively scheduled to come out in Spring 2017, so you've got a while to anticipate it.

If you'd like to keep up to date on my progress, and maybe even get sneak peeks of some sexy scenes, there's always my monthly email newsletter. Sign up here:

http://eepurl.com/TEWfv
 People are often surprised that I always close my office for Good Friday and that I go to church on Easter Sunday.  Just because I am a sex positive feminist doesn't mean that I have has no spirituality.

But I am a P.K. (preacher's kid).  The preacher is my mom, who was a feminist minster in the United Church of Christ who was part of that group of feminists that rewrote the Bible without pronouns.  She used to play Yoko Ono's Woman is the Nigger of the World while writing her Biblical term papers (and I will always love Yoko for that song and my mom for making it part of the soundtrack of my life).

So this year, I was excited that we at Riverdale Avenue Books were finally goging to pubish Blessed Assurance, a collecito of prayers of rthe LGBT commjnity, which as a child of changing religious mores, I knew was sorely needed.  I was proud to be a part of it.

But the book was late again, and we would miss the Lenten season.  The book had been late a number f times, and i was growing disheartened.

I finally talked to the author (as the book had been acquired by another editor) and told her in no uncertain terms that I wanted this book and I wanted it NOW.  She explained that the reason she was so late on the book was that she actually thought it was two books - a prayer book and a workbook - and I said, "OK, then.  Let's do them both."

And she said, "Are you kidding me?"

And we are now pubishing two books - one for the Thanksgiving season and one for Lent next year.

And she said to me, "You are my Easter. This book project was dead to me and you have resurrected it."

I was almost moved to tears.

I don't get the chance to save a book very often.   Sure, I can sign up a book that means a lot to someone, or I can save a poorly written book from bad reviews with my super-powered editing, but breathing new life into a dead project - this was a first.

And during Holy Week!

She was my Easter too!








Friday, March 27, 2015

The Importance of Knowing Typical Word Count Ranges by Rachel Brooks


You may have heard other agents discuss the importance of knowing the word count range for your genre before. But after going through another batch of queries, I think it could stand to be said again.

You need to know the typical word count range for your book’s genre and age group, or you’re hurting your chances of success by not knowing it.

This includes looking at books in your genre, for the age group you’re writing for. For example, simply reading and comparing science fiction word counts because you wrote a MG sci-fi manuscript is not enough. It needs to be MG sci-fi—not adult, not YA—that you look at.

When I see queries for a 180k young adult fantasy novel, I wonder if the writer realizes this is way over the typical word count for a YA fantasy, even more so for a debut author.

On the other hand, when I see a query for a 30k young adult contemporary novel, I wonder if the writer realizes this is far under the typical word count for a novel and is actually novella length.

An issue like word count is something these writers could have taken note of, and trimmed or added accordingly, before sending out queries.

So is a word count above or below the typical range an automatic rejection? Maybe for some agents, maybe not for others. I can’t speak for all.

But what it does do for most of us…signal that a LOT of revising is ahead for this project before it would be submission ready. This makes an agent seriously evaluate whether, at this point for this novel, it’s ready to be taken on with representation.

So in a nutshell, doing your research will help. Check out reputable resources and articles online. Look at the date of these articles, as the information could be outdated. Compare books in your own genre and age group to the one you’re writing.

It’s homework, but well worth it in the end!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year & New Dreams by Rachel Brooks

2015 is officially upon us. It's a perfectly blank canvas full of exciting possibilities and unknown adventures!

I hope we all have a better year in 2015, no matter how amazing (or not) your 2014 was. Because it can always be better, we can always have more goals and dreams.

Part of what makes the publishing industry so exciting is that it's filled with optimists and creative minds. We're either hoping tomorrow will be a day filled with great news, that a brilliant idea will strike, or a long awaited accomplishment will be achieved.

Writers, agents, editors, book sellers, readers, illustrators—we're a bunch of life-lovers. We love to read about, or create, or help share other people's stories and journeys, becoming sometimes as invested in them as if they were our own. If anyone can hope that every year is better than the previous one, it's us!

We can dream it, so it CAN happen.

Here's to a great 2015 for all!