Lisa Hendrix

Myth. Magic. And the power of love.

Category: Publishing Industry (page 1 of 2)

Romancing Arianna

Over at the Huffington Post, writer Joanne Rendell provided a terrific report/critique on the recent Princeton Symposium, Love as the Practice of Freedom? Romance Fiction and American Culture. In the article, she points out that even the pro-romance pros present didn’t quite go far enough in their analysis of why romance is proving so recession-proof.

Here’s a snippet:


“Although Crusie wasn’t talking specifically about the appeal of romance in this recession, it struck me that these “emotionally just landscapes” are perfect antidotes for our current times. When shady Madoffs are making off with billions of dollars and banking executives are awarding themselves huge bonuses from bailout monies (while the rest of us watch our 401ks disappear like puddles in the midday sun), the appeal of a world where integrity and honesty are rewarded seems obvious.

But as the Princeton conference continued,…I realized that it was too hasty to rush to this conclusion. Romances are not one kind of thing. Neither are their readers. And to draw fast conclusions about the genre and its audience is to perpetuate the kind of stereotyping which has always made romance the “most maligned of literary texts.”


Click over to HuffPo for the complete article, “Heaving Bosoms: A Tonic for the Recession?

The heaving bosoms in the title, btw, refer to the wonderfully outrageous book by Candy Tan and Sarah Wendell: Beyond Heaving Bosoms, The SmartBitches Guide to Romance Novels (CLICK HERE to buy at B& This story came by way of their blog, SmartBitchesTrashyBooks.

Policy, er, glitch, er…it's the French!

Amazon still hasn’t come up with an acceptable explanation for what happened over the weekend.  Or rather, they’ve come up with so many that it’s clear they’re vamping in the hope we’ll forget.  We won’t.

I could go through the whole thing, but others have done it and given better analyses than I could manage, so I’ll send you off to them (please do remember to come back…):

Amazonfail: Post Mortem by Kassia Krozser at Booksquare.

Amazon = Fail by “the angry black woman” at Alas, a Blog

The Amazon Fail by Hugh at The Book Oven.  He also offers a suggestion to publishers that would diffuse some of the big A’s power and  keep a similar decision/error/”glitch” from causing such a significant hit to a particular segment of books. Publishers, are you paying attention?

Go forth, become educated, and understand why monopolies are bad and what you can do to help. While you’re gone, I’ll be working on my links to offer readers choices beyond Bezos.

Can we say prejudiced?

Amazon has shown its true colors by de-ranking certain types of books. They call them “adult,” but the designation involves a preponderance of gay/lesbian/transexual books amid the erotica. Don’t think that’s so bad?  How about if I tell you that they’re also de-ranking romance novels left and right? How about if I tell you they’ve de-ranked the children’s book Heather has Two Mommies as well as Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain? How about if I tell you that they still happily rank dogfighting books and videos and everything in the Playboy repertoire?  How about if I tell you that Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military was de-ranked and American Psycho was not?

Amazon Rankings don’t really mean anything to customers…but they mean everything to Amazon itself, which uses them to generate things like front page searches, bestseller lists, “If you like x then you’ll like y” recommendations, and everything else that effects the visibility and sales potential of books.  In other words, if your book is de-ranked, it WILL NOT appear on a front page search, even if the reader searches by your name or title. Heaven help you if they search by topic. Here are a couple of more thorough explanations

Dear Author 

Smart Bitches,Trashy Books  (My particular favorite, but as always, be warned if you’re reading at work or have a tendency to swoon at explicit language).

LA Times Book Blog

And for good measure, a here’s a definition of the term  Amazon Rank. (Add this link on your own site and help Google Bomb the term so it comes up #1 on searches. More about this in the Smart Bitches post.)

Nuts & Bolts: Part 2 – A Writer's Education

(As you read this, remember it was written for and presented at a Romance Writers of America conference.  It’s absolutely valid for any writer, but you may have to translate to your own genre).

A writer’s education consists of more than going to monthly chapter meetings or attending the annual local conference.  It means reading EVERY book in the 808 section of the library.  Twice.  It means buying a ton of other books and attending critique groups.  It means regularly reading RWR, Writer’s Digest, Romantic Times, any sub-genre rags like Beau Monde.  And industry, craft, and genre blogs.

It means attending the national conference or buying the session CDs from National if you can’t attend.  (The RWR–[that’s the Romance Writers Report for you non-romance types] will list the CDs for sale just afterward.  Your local chapter may also buy a complete set.)

It means getting on-line with your chapter members or some other writer’s link or list where you can learn more about the business of writing from others.

It means getting your hands on whatever publisher guidelines are available and reading them.  It means reading romances, to keep up with what’s being published and by whom.

 More than anything, it means listening, listening, listening, not just with your ears, but with your brain, and absorbing every scrap of hard information that you can get.


Conferences:  Attending vs Volunteering

As part of self-education, I’d like to recommend conferences. Attending a conference is wonderful.  You get to hear fascinating speakers, meet your peers–and an occasional superstar writer–and chat with an editor or two.  You come away inspired, feeling recharged and ready to scream through the next chapter of your book. (I’m presenting at a great small all-genre conference at the end of February, the Whidbey Island Writers Conference. Come join us.)

Even better is volunteering for a conference committee.  When you volunteer, you often have the opportunity to WORK with the visiting editors, agents, and writers.  You find yourself in more situations where you can actually schmooze with these folks, and schmoozing is how you really learn about publishing as a business.  In the right position, you get to know people who may be able to affect your career down the road–for better or worse, so do a good job and present yourself well to them.  I met my first editor, Judy Stern Palais,  and Malle Vallick, who is now the Digital Queen of Harlequin (or some title like that) over the phone when I was doing materials coordination–i.e., begging books to give away at a a chapter conference.  The contact with Judy led almost directly to my first sale–although I obviously had to pony up with a good book along the way.  (I’ve told the story so many times…does anyone want or need to hear it again? If so, let me know in comments.)

As another example, NYT Bestseller Kristin Hannah told me that before she was published, she volunteered at an RWA National conference to babysit editor appointments–you know, stand outside and time the appointments, then knock on the door when the time’s up.  The advantages aren’t obvious, but what do you suppose editors do on their short breaks between appointments?  Go to the john, of course, but many of them also stand in the hallways and talk with anyone around them who doesn’t look like they’re going to throw a manuscript at them.  Like Kristin, at the time.  She spoke with several editors.  One of them–sorry, I don’t remember who–finished a little late and came out of her final appointment harried, hungry, and looking for someone to have dinner with.  Who do you suppose was standing there, smiling and handy?  Who got to spend an hour with an editor in private conversation?

Lucky Kristin, right?  In the right place at the right time.  Get real.  She made her own luck.  She put herself in the right place.

And that’s part of selling a book.

Inner workings revealed

My wonderful in-house publicist, Kathryn Turmen, was interviewed on the Novelists, Inc. blog.  Her list of the steps any author can take to help promote his or her book is something every writer will be interested in, of course, but readers should also take a gander, just to get a perspective on why their favorite authors may not finish books as quickly as you think they should. 

And why I’m not writing longer blog posts during the next couple of months as we approach publication day. 🙂


Conference Alzheimer's

So, Wednesday, I had a dinner meeting with a local group of writers, and they asked those of us who had gone to RWA to give a brief rundown of what we’d seen & heard. Easy, right?

BrainscanUh, no.  Apparently, my brain fell out somewhere along Highway 1—probably slid out the window on one of the hairpin curves and tumbled over the cliff into the Pacific—because I literally could NOT remember more than two of the workshops I’d attended.  In fact, if hard pressed, I would have sworn I didn’t attend more than three. I think it was the usual conference exhaustion followed by the immediate application of serious lazy vacation that did me in. Somewhere between Jenner and that beach horseback ride I mentioned last time, I stopped caring.

Now, fortunately, I’m a champion note taker—modified Cornell style, multiple colors of pens, fast and efficient summarizer—because I was able to learn that I’d actually taken six full workshops and popped in on several more between appointments. I applied those summarizing skills I just mentioned and let the other writers know what they’d missed.  Now, in the interest of memory preservation, I’m going to give you the most important/striking points from each of the full sessions (after the jump). Continue reading

Pre-Conference Roundup

So many bloggers are doing posts about preparing for the RWA National Conference that it’d be stupid and redundant for me to try to add anything. So here’s a roundup of the best. 

The Wet Noodle Posse at the Rita/GH Ceremony, 2005Wet Noodle Posse—(shown, right, at the 2005 Rita/GH Awards Ceremony, courtesy Ila Campbell)  They’ve been doing a terrific series of conference prep posts all through July, but unfortunately, they haven’t been very consistent with their tagging, so I can’t give you a single link that will get you to just those posts.  Just scroll back through their July 2008 posts to find info on various aspects of getting ready, from shoes to conference etiquette to business cards.  (Btw, you still have time to get cards via your local Office Depot. Even nice, thick, full gloss cards, printed both sides, are under $100 for 1000, but if you’re really on a budget, they have 100 basic cards for just $19.99.)

Plot Monkeys on Getting Ready

The Writing Playground offers a roundup of tips and advice from experienced authors.

And of course, I’d be remiss to leave out the ultimate conference prep resource, RWA’s own Conference FAQ.


If you can’t attend, never fear.  You’re covered, too.

Left Behind — A group of bloggers doing workshops during conference week. Links and Info will be on Karen Duvall’s site.

Plot Monkeys (again!) want some non-attending readers and writers to fill in for them while they’re gone.

Romance Divas are having their  Not Going to Conference Conference on their forums.


Do you know any great links to help someone prepare for conference?  How about turning your stay-at-home experience into a learning experience? Share them in Comments!




Cover Mania

Is something in the air?  Discussions of romance book covers are suddenly all over the web.

First I popped into DearAuthor and found Cover Identification, Susan Holloway Scott’s well-illustrated overview of romance covers from the various publishers. (Lovely cover, btw, Susan.)

Then I ran into a post at Word Wenches titled Cover Conspiracy, which responds to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about how romance covers “say women are dumb” (the PI’s words, not mine or the Wenches!). 

And then I opened a Barnes and Noble email expecting an e-coupon and discovered instead an announcement of a new feature series at B& called “Cover Story” which features the artists/art directors who are responsible for book covers (coming soon — a romance cover designer by the name of Judy York).  

All of which demonstrates how ideas propagate through by some mysterious means—which is why an editor will suddenly get five stories about singing swords and pregnant window-washers in one month (no, no one ‘stole’ your idea).

And which also reminds me of the wonderful World of Longmire romance cover spoofs, which I didn’t discover today, but which still make me snort most unattractively.




Immortal Warrior cover is here…

Immortal Warrior cover, med

…and I cannnot tell you how pleased I am with it.  The initial idea came from my editor, and then the terrific Art Department at Berkley put it all together. Between them, they’ve captured the feel of the story perfectly.


This is always the most exciting part of the process for me, next to the day the finished book lands in my hand.  It used to be that we never saw the art until we got the cover flat. Now we get preliminary artwork, then the finished covers, via email.  We still get the actual cover flats, which are front, back, and spine printed all on one sheet, with a fold-over that includes information for the sales reps to use (quotes, reviews, previous sales info, etc.). But although it’s fun—and useful—to have them, the thrill comes when you first get to see the art with the title font and how they’ve put it all together.


And honestly, is this young man a hunk, or what? To get a better look at that six-pack,  check out a larger version here.





Bikini Season is…

a) the Universe’s way of mocking us.

b) here, baby, and don’t pretend it isn’t.

c) a fun new book by Sheila Roberts.

d) motivation to finally lose a few pounds.

e) all of the above.


Answer:  e, all of the above.


I spent a pleasant Sunday morning reading answer c), Bikini Season, the latest from Sheila Roberts, author of last Christmas’s delightful On Strike for Christmas.

What a treat!  By the time I closed the book, I felt like I’d made five new friends, plus had regained motivation to get back onto the South Beach Diet that helped me take off ten pounds last winter.

Bikini Season cover

Roberts takes us back to Heart Lake, WA, where the members of a local cooking club have realized they’re all starting to pile up health and emotional issues related to weight. They decide to keep the club together as a support group and learn to cook healthy. Unfortunately, the various men in their lives have, shall we say, less than helpful reactions.

Every word of this book rang true, from the candy gifts one loving husband insists on giving his dieting wife, to the emotional eating another woman has to learn to overcome.  If there’s a woman who hasn’t been there, done that, bought the t-shirt…well, I want to send her a pencil. (You’ll have to read the book to get the reference, ’cause I ain’t gonna tell.)

But this book isn’t just about weight.  It’s about goals, being honest with yourself, asking for what you need and want, and knowing you’re important.  Sheila Roberts has another romantic women’s fiction winner here, full of humor, truth, and wonderful women’s friendships.  Buy this book for yourself, and share it with the women you love.



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