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Earn Money for Stories of Uncanny Passion
by Beth Fowler
"When I fell in love," Anna Geneose told Central
Pennsylvania Romance Writers (www.geocities.com/paris/gallery/3731), "it wasn't the only thing going on in my life." Nor is
falling in love the only element the 20-something acquiring editor desires in
manuscripts submitted to Tor's (www.tor.com) paranormal romance program.
Tor is an imprint of Tom Doherty Associates, a
New York-based mass-market publisher founded in 1980. Among numerous other
awards, Tor received nine Hugos, eight Nebulas, and fifteen Locus Best Publisher
The paranormal part of paranormal romance
comprises plausible science fiction, fantasy, horror, non-humans (vampires,
ghosts, goblins, etc.), futuristics, non-standard time travel and alternate
history. Browse through fiction genre definitions at www.manuslit.com/old/Definitions.htm.
Romance Writer's of America (www.rwanational.org) defines its genre as "a story where love is the main
focus, and the end is emotionally satisfying." Traditionally, romances feature
female protagonists overcoming complications to engage in consensual intimacy
with males. From there, Tor hopes to "push the imagination," Anna
Unlike Harlequin (www.eharlequin.com) and other publishers' category romances where virtually
100% of the conflict hinges on falling in love, Tor paranormal romances follow
at least two plot lines. Roughly 35-50% of the story focuses on romance and
65-50% on an outside conflict. While erotic episodes sizzle the pages, Tor
paranormal romances don't emphasize sex only.
Readers crawl into bed with science fiction and
fantasy books (of which paranormal romance is a sub-genre) to temporarily shut
out real world concerns. Authors writing in this genre build alternate worlds.
Even so, skillful pacing, plotting and character are important. Readers want to
become emotionally involved with a character that undergoes change by story's
Anna said Tor "modeled a portion of their ideas
for the line on the popularity of books by J. D. Robb, Laurell K. Hamilton,
Linda Howard, Maggie Shayne, Jude Deveraux" and others. Reading these authors'
books can inspire writers who're aiming for the paranormal romance
Read sample chapters on-line for more insight
into what Tor buys. Generally speaking, Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's
Dart contains invented proper nouns, adjectives aplenty, and characters'
physical descriptions (especially hair and eyes). Love declared unequivocally
begets inherent complications. Words like beget and wont are used, while
contractions are not used in order to evoke a location and era different from
ours. Carey's heroine ain't no Mary Sue. "Mary Sues," Anna explained, "have
blond hair, violet eyes, they're sweet, kind, flawless in body and character."
Perfect humans and non-humans don't engender reader empathy.
"The heroine and secondary women must be strong,
intelligent, quick-witted adults who don't wait for others to save them," Anna
said. "The heroine can make mistakes, she can be vulnerable." Characters can be
of any ethnicity "as long as they're believable and plausible." If you have a
Latino character, you must know what that entails in daily life
care, celebrations, religion. Don't make a character a different race or
religion just for the sake of it. If the heroine is Jewish, mention the
synagogue the way you'd casually mention a Christian attending
Usually, romance stories depict the female
protagonist taming or civilizing a male love interest. Efforts to adhere to this
convention pose problems for some romancers. Anna is "vehemently" not looking
for manuscripts depicting women falling in love with their rapists. "Why would a
strong, intelligent woman fall in love with a man who can't control his temper,
with a misogynist?" Moreover, women can fall in love with women. "We have a
history of taking risks," Anna said.
Manuscripts from agents known to charge writers
fees aren't considered, nor are faxed, phoned and e-mailed queries. Avoid fluffy
angels, ghosts falling in love with humans, inspirational religious stories, and
warmed-over Ann Rices. Remove anachronisms-electricity during the medieval
period. Time-traveling heroines who don't complain about the lack of 21st
century conveniences won't pass Tor's suspend disbelief test either.
First-time Tor novelists can expect "small
advances in three installments: at contract signing, upon acceptance and upon
publication." Authors are reportedly happy with modest advances, which improve
their chances of earning a steady seven to eight percent royalty on the cover
price over time after sales exceed the advance. This arrangement seems
preferable to risking sales that are inadequate to cover a one-time large
advance. (Bestsellers can earn higher advances.) Anna said, "With your first
book, you won't be able to quit your job and stay at home writing all
The rights that Tor buys include soft/hardcover,
world, e-text, audio, first serial (excerpts before a book is published)
selection (to sell segments to magazines), and second (excerpts after a book is
Books by renowned and little-known authors fill
out Tor's 2002-'03 publication schedule. Anna plans to pull a profit during the
next year or two by releasing a handful of paranormal romances by authors' with
proven sales histories. By year three she'll be able to afford to release a book
a month, including books by first timers.
"We have a history of taking on new authors,"
Anna said of a practice that's garnered several Locus Best First Novel awards
for Tor. This is encouraging news for writers who'd be proud to submit
manuscripts to a company that publishes Robert A. Heinlein. Unpublished writers
(self published, vanity and print-on-demand don't count as published) must
submit three chapters, a detailed outline and have the completed manuscript
"If I love your book," Anna declared, "I'll
fight for you (with the marketing department)." On the other hand, she stressed
that Tor publishes commercial fiction. "If your manuscript is your 'baby,' if
you won't be willing to change it, then this type of writing isn't for you."
Anna attends writers' conferences to meet new
authors. Perhaps she'll have a close encounter with you there passionately
pitching Tor's next award-winning paranormal romance.
© Copyright 2003, Beth Fowler
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