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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 awards.

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 said.

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 end.

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 market.

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… food, hair 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 church.

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 day."

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 published).

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 ready.

"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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