An interview with Sam Eades – Senior Commissioning editor at Orion

I’m very happy to welcome Sam Eades, senior commissioning editor and associate publicist at Orion, to the blog today, answering some questions and offering some great advice!

Hi Sam, and welcome. Can I start by asking you to give us an insight into your day to day role?
I am a senior commissioning editor and associate publicist at Orion. I’ve been here seven months now, following stints at Transworld, Headline and Macmillan in the publicity department. I have an unusual role in that I both commission fiction AND publicise it! And no, I don’t publicise my own books, I think I’d annoy myself too much. No day is the same but some of the day to day tasks I might do include on the pr side: circulating coverage to agent, author and sales team; pitching for media; accompanying an author to interviews and events; pitching a book at an internal meeting; organising an author tour and on a really good day lunch with a journalist.

And on the editorial side: taking new business to the acquisition meeting; following up on submissions from agents; preparing an offer and a pitch letter for someone I want to take on; checking over a contract; briefing covers; checking metadata to make sure books feature in the right categories on Amazon; responding to an agent query about an existing author; looking at trends and anticipating trends in the fiction market for future commissions and on a really good day lunch with an agent!

As a child, was there a book or a series you returned to over and over? What was it that drew you in?
I’m embarrassed to say I owned every Goosebumps novel ever published. Ahem. I was a big Agatha Christie fan, I read lots of classics, Enid Blyton, Judy Blume, Roald Dahl, Anne Fine before moving on to all the books on my parent’s shelf, Virginia Andrews, Jilly Cooper, James Herbert!

At what point did you know books were, or had to, feature heavily in your life?
My mum took me to the library once a week, and a voracious love of reading began. The first Brownie badge I got was a Book Lover badge which may have been a clue as to where I would end up.  I didn’t realise publishing was an actual industry where people had jobs until a work experience placement at Little Brown.

What advice do you give to those wishing to pursue a career in publishing?
Apply to internships at big publishing houses, small publishing houses, literary agents, scouts and freelance pr agencies. The more placements you apply for, the more experience you will get and the more likely you are to be in the right place at the right time when a vacancy comes up. Don’t limit yourself to editorial; there are a number of creative and exciting departments and individuals, who are responsible for bringing a book to market. Read Make Your Mark by Aliza Licht, it will teach you how to make the most of an internship and be remembered without being pushy. Once you land a placement, have a look at the publisher’s catalogue and familiarise yourself with their list. A heads up that entry level jobs involve admin and support work.

What book have you read most recently that you just can’t get out of your head?
Most recently, I really enjoyed Amy Cuddy’s PRESENCE *power poses at desk*. Over Christmas I read a ton of classics I’ve always wanted to read including Shirley Jackson’s WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE and COLD COMFORT FARM. I also was very lucky to get a proof of Curtis Sittenfeld’s ELIGIBLE and I loved every single word of it. I’m remembering that book now with a huge smile on my face.

What submissions would you love to see arrive in your in-box? / What’s your current wish list?
Where to begin! I would love to find a British suburban Ripley, a bit like Phil Hogan’s A PLEASURE AND A CALLING. Having read so many psychological thrillers, I’m leaning towards something warmer, a vintage set or vintage feel cosy crime series would really hit the spot. I think JoJo Moyes is a genius, and would love to find women’s fiction that packs an emotional punch like ME BEFORE YOU. I really enjoyed books like THE SHINING GIRLS and FIRST FIFTEEN LIVES OF HARRY AUGUST, so a high concept crime/sf thriller. Basically I like twisty, high concept novels, a good weepy or to channel my inner Poirot. And despite reading psychological thriller after psychological thriller I still can’t get enough of them! Finding the new Ruth Rendell would be nice. I like multiple voices, deftly balanced past and present narratives, mysterious prologues where we don’t discover who is narrating until the end… etc etc!

Did you ever want to be on the other side and write a book?
NO!

What is your favourite / least favourite part of your job?
Hanging out with your favourite authors and reading is the best bit. Eating sausage rolls at train stations in the middle of nowhere is the worst bit.

Is your taste in books the same as your taste in films or do you find they differ?
I love twisty American thrillers like INCEPTION and SHUTTER ISLAND, so there is some crossover there. I’m a real Netflix addict and enjoy PRETTY LITTLE LIARS, REIGN, THE GOOD WIFE etc. I’d love it if fiction could be as addictive!

Do you have any advice / top tips for writers?
These four books have been helpful to me on the editorial side. 1. INTO THE WOODS by John Yorke. It will help with plotting and examines the plot structures of famous books, films and tv series. 2. WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL by Donald Maass. There are some great sections on landscape, character development, coming up with a theme and creating tension. 3. ON WRITING by Stephen King. Will fill you with pride at being a writer. 4. SAVE THE CAT. A book on scriptwriter than can be applicable to books (and recommended by @Mushenska no less). It will help you come up with your pitch, which will be invaluable when contacting agents.

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For anyone dreaming of being published by Orion, do you have any advice?
Do you
accept unagented submissions? 
Have a look in the acknowledgements for your favourite books and books you feel are similar to your WIP and see who the author’s agent is. Get a copy of the WRITERS AND ARTISTS YEARBOOK, find those agents and check out their guidelines and look at their websites too. Here are some great articles on how to submit and land an agent:
https://www.writersandartists.co.uk/writers/preparing-for-submission/how-to-find-a-literary-agent
http://www.torbooks.co.uk/blog/2014/05/27/juliet-mushens-on-how-to-approach-an-agent-dos-and-donts
If you can’t get an agent, don’t think all is lost. We have periods of open submissions at Orion with Gollancz and have a creative writing competition with Good Housekeeping. Authors we have published include Eva Holland and Diana Bretherick.

Thanks Sam for taking the time to come and chat with us!

Motivation Monday

Welcome to our second Motivation Monday! This week, it’s Vanessa and Catherine sharing their ‘to do’ list for the week. We would love it if you could join in too, it doesn’t have to be anything huge, just something you want to get done that week. All you have to do is leave a comment below.

Motivation Monday

Vanessa

  1. Edit first 100 pages of the work-in-progress – I’ve just finished a fairly major re-write, so now need to embark on a major edit!
  2. Work out exactly how the ending of the same wip is going to be structured… because I have several characters to get to a certain point, I keep re-writing the ending over and over, changing it each time. This week will be the week I pick an ending and stick to it!!
  3. Find five new writing competitions to enter in January/February – I’m looking for new flash fiction competitions.
  4. Come up with some ideas for new flash fiction to enter in those competitions!

Catherine

  1. Try to survive my first ever zumba class.
  2. Get to the half way point of Novel Two.
  3. Do more organising for book tour/promotional day/launch day for Waiting for You.
  4. Sit still for one hour and read.
  5. Try a new recipe.

I’ll let you know how I got on on Friday!

Dear Auntie Romaniac – Flashbacks, yes or no?

Dear Auntie Romaniac

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I don’t know whether to use flashbacks in my novel or not. My main character has a lot of back story which is relevant to the story I’m telling now.

Do you think I should tell this in flashbacks or should I use a different technique, such as, diary entries or dual time line?  Or is there a better way to deal with a heavy back story?

Sue

Catherine: I think flashbacks are okay to use as long as they don’t jar the storyline, serve a purpose, and keep the reader interested. I’ve just finished Julie Cohen’s Where Love Lies and there is some flashback in there, but it’s serves the plot well and is done smoothly. It’s important to the story as it explores memory and perception amongst other things. I think the rules that I’d have would be not too much, not too soon and not if it doesn’t have a purpose.

 Laura: I agree with Catherine. Not too much and not too soon, unless the character is experiencing physical flashbacks. The past can be revealed through dialogue, which is a form of showing, or through the characters internal voice. I do recall being taught to make the lead into and out of the flashbacks clear to the reader. Having said all that, I like both your ideas, Sue, and can see them working.

Lucie: I will echo what the girls are saying, especially not overusing it. I use a flashback in Fractured Love, but only the once. I think if you use it too much, it will most definitely jar the flow of the story and not achieve the intended purpose. I think there are some stories that need it and some that don’t. You need to look at the story both with it and without and explore whether it is the best means of communication for that part. I do love a good flashback, though, it can add depth and mystery to a story if done properly. Good luck, Sue! :-)

Dear Auntie Romaniac… Plotting panic

Dear Auntie Romaniac …

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I’m just beginning to think about a new book idea. I’ve bought a new notebook and a new pen and I have some vague thoughts in my head. Now, what I usually do is have a beginning and an end in mind, a setting and an idea of my main characters and armed with that, I begin writing and the story forms as I write and as I really get to know the characters. The problem is, I then end up with lots of scenes and chapters that are really just character studies, or nice descriptive bits, which don’t advance the story and my second/third drafts involve major re-writing. I have tried advance planning and plotting and character questionnaires but I struggle until I get into the minds of my characters by writing them. How can I plot and structure my book when I don’t really know the characters yet?

Vanessa
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Sue: I always plot heavily before I write, but I have found if I can get to know my character really well beforehand, this makes life easier. You could ask your character a number of questions, or give them some moral dilemmas – these don’t necessarily have to be part of the story, but they will help you know your character thoroughly before you start writing. Maybe, write the first draft focussing on the plot and then go back and weave character traits, thoughts, feelings and reactions in afterwards. 

Catherine: I think I’m still learning on this, like you, Vanessa. I use a bullet point story line method. I start out by planning what is going to happen in the novel and I scribbled it all out in a notebook. Each bullet point is about a paragraph of information and that eventually becomes a chapter. I haven’t stuck to it rigidly, but it has given me a framework to go by, so each chapter I know what the purpose of those events are and where it will eventually lead. In my second draft I will add more detail and check the timeline, something I could have done prior if I’d been more organised, and that’s something I will try to do with the next one.

Laura: It’s a great question, Vanessa. I tried detailed planning for the first time for book I’ve recently finished, using the three act structure, brilliantly explained by author, Fiona Harper, at a Romantic Novelists’ Association conference. Here is a great series Fiona wrote for the Pink Heart Society in 2012 about that. I usually start with an idea, then bring in the characters, and sketch out a rough picture in my head of what I’d like to happen. Often parts of the plot don’t come to me until I’m inside the story. Even having planned book 3, I struggled with refining the end. How was it resolved? I talked through it with Catherine – she was my captive audience in my car for five hours – Some might say that’s extreme advice, but I’m only suggesting talking it out as the method, not the kidnapping. It really helps me to talk through the story with trusted friends. However, I do like to get to know my characters well before I start writing. I use enneagrams to determine their personality traits. This was one of the many tips I picked up from the fab Julie Cohen a few years ago. This gives me an instant insight into what motivates my characters, and a foundation on which to build.

Jan: I’m a serious plotter. To touch on what Sue has suggested above, I create and then interview each main character, posing various questions and scenarios. This gives me a great sense of who they really are, how they think, their gut feelings, motivations, private versus public reactions. I then roughly draft out what will happen in each chapter, as in ‘harmony versus tension’ scenes, points of conflict, timelines, etc, making sure I have a good idea of balance and story pace. It probably sounds a bit regimental, Vanessa, but even though I’m methodical in my approach, I do keep an open mind when I’m writing, to allow for any unexpected diversions. That’s the fun and beauty of telling the actual story – you’re never 100% certain where it may lead you. I wish I could come up with a magic solution, but I suppose it really is a case of trying every option, every which way, until it gels for you.

The Life Cycle Of A Writer – Introductions

  • Whether you’re an aspiring writer, looking for an agent, have found an agent and have every finger crossed for a publishing deal, or if you’re a published writer coping with everything that entails, we have a Romaniac who can empathise with you. When we started out, we all dreamed of the day we’d get published. Some of us are still chasing the dream, whilst others have their paperback in hand ready to hurl at anyone who dares to post a 1-star review. This year, we thought we’d share the highs and lows of what it is to be a writer.
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Catherine, Celia, Laura, Debbie, Sue, Vanessa, Jan, & Lucie

Catherine: I’m part of the ASPIRING gang. I’m juggling being a full-time mum to twins with trying to find time to write. I’m currently 50K into my work-in-progress, which recently gained highly commended in the Accent Press and Woman magazine writing competition. I’m hoping this is the year I find myself an agent, or a publishing deal, or a quiet ten minutes. 

Jan: Well, I’ve started submitting my first women’s fiction novel to agents (gulp!) in the hope of acquiring representation this year. I’m also penning book number two, which involves lots of interesting and, at times, eye-opening research. Aside from writing my second novel, I am thoroughly enjoying my other literary love – freelance proofreading.  

Debbie: I’m finally finding my way through the ether and re-gaining confidence and mojo after losing over three years to personal and health problems. My first novel, which came second in the inaugural Festival of Romantic Fiction New Talent Award in 2011, has now been re-written and critiqued by the RNA New Writer Scheme so there are only a couple of chapters and some finishing touches to do and it will be ready to go to agent. The second novel was short-listed in last year’s Festival of Romantic Fiction competition and so my other focus for this year, as I’ve been accepted onto the New Writers’ Scheme again, is to get this finished and critiqued so I can progress it. If there are any spare hours in my writing day after that little lot, I also have in mind a whole series of non-fiction books and in addition have set myself a challenge to write at least two short stories.

Lucie: I am part of the AGENTED gang. In early 2014, shortly after winning the Festival of Romantic Fiction’s New Talent Award, I was offered representation by Sarah Taylor of the Kate Nash Literary Agency. I currently have a book out on submission and I am working on another two. I write ‘contemporary romance with a real life bite’. I like to write about real issues, such as bereavement and domestic violence, and give them a happy ending. Alongside writing, I also work in Childcare, run the house, look after my family and the dog and try to pick up a book once in a while!

Vanessa: Although unpublished at the moment, I’m represented by an agent – Juliet Mushens of The Agency Group – and I’m working on edits of a psychological thriller which will hopefully be going out on submission to publishers in 2015 (echoing Jan’s gulp!!). I also write short stories and flash fiction and have had stories published in anthologies and magazines. I was shortlisted for the Harry Bowling novel prize and Highly Commended in the Yeovil novel prize in 2014 and I was also thrilled to win the Flash500 novel opening competition in December 2014.

Sue: I’m published by Harper Impulse, two of my books have already been released and my third is due to be released in the Spring of this year. I am a member of both the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Crime Writers’ Association – I write romance and romantic suspense. I have also previously self-published, something which I’m looking to do again this year. So, I guess, that puts me in the hybrid author category.

Laura: I write for Choc Lit, and my debut, in eBook form, Truth or Dare?, was nominated for a Festival of Romance award. My second Follow Me, Follow You is available in all formats including paperback. I have short stories published in the Choc Lit anthologies, and one in the RNA’s Truly, Madly, Deeply anthology. I’m hoping to have book 3 out later this year, (have to complete it first and have it accepted …) which would be the third in the Chesil Series – the novels are all based around Dorset, and in particular, the stunning Chesil Beach. I recently experienced The Fear, which can be read about here. My writer’s tag is  ‘Romance without the soft edges’, a brilliant phrase coined by Sue, which is a perfect description of my style.

Celia: I’ve got two ebooks out  – Sweet Proposal and, more recently, Little Boxes. I was working part time when I wrote these but my day job has taken over my writing life for a while. I’m working on book three in my spare moments and hoping that one day it will be finished. In July I’m off for a second visit to Sue Moorcroft’s brilliant course at Arte Umbria in Italy so if it’s not finished by then, the week away will do the job (it did last time!).

Join us for our weekly Tuesday blog with tips, experiences, highs and lows. And the occasional iced bun.

Multi Genre Writing with Debbie Johnson

Hi Debbie and welcome to the Romaniac blog, it’s great to have you here. It’s been a busy few weeks for you, normally I would congratulate someone on the publication of their book, but, with you, I have to say books – emphasis on the ‘s’. Not one but two books published within a few weeks of each other with two different publishers. That’s quite an achievement.

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How does it feel to have two books published so close together?

I think the best word would be ‘insane’! I didn’t plan it like this, honest – one was planned well ahead, and the other just kind of leapfrogged ahead of it…I think it’s a dastardly plan by my publishers to shut me up!

Cold_Feet_at_christmas_(2)Your books, Cold Feet At Christmas (Harper Impulse) and Fear No Evil (Maze) are very different to each other, one being a romance and the other a suspense and, as if that wasn’t enough, you have also written an urban fantasy, Dark Vision (Del Rey UK, part of Random House) with a follow up, Dark Touch, due out in 2015.

How do you juggle writing in these very different genres?

In all honesty, I don’t find the writing of them that hard. I mean, I read all kinds of different genres; I love crime fiction and fantasy and romance. I think all kinds of different things, my life is varied and rich. My brain is – to put it politely – an eclectic mix! I like different aspects of all of them – and possibly I have quite a short attention span! But on a semi-serious note, I do think too much pigeon-holing goes on – not just in writing, but in life in general. I think readers are smart people – they’re capable of liking more than one type of book!

Some authors use different pen names for the different genres they write in – is this something you considered and what influenced your decision on this?

I did consider it, and in all honesty it may have made life easier. But in this day and age with all the social media, and the importance of that, it would be very difficult. That does leave me in the strange position of having a cute Christmassy chick-lit cover and a scary crime cover on my twitter page! I think it may have been easier if you’re already successful in one – like Nora Roberts creating JD Robb.

Do you think it is easier these days to write in different genres? Is it more acceptable in the publishing world or have you come up against any barriers?Fear_No_Evil_final_(2)

I think it’s harder. My agent, Laura Longrigg, told me about her father, who was a well-known author called Roger Longrigg. He wrote more than 50 books, in all kinds of genres, using a handful of pen-names. These days, as I said earlier, people want you to be one thing or another. Publishers are, understandably, looking for books they can easily package and market – things that straddle different genres are harder to sell. Fear No Evil, for example, took ages to find a publisher – because it mixes crime with the supernatural, which is more accepted now, but caused problems when it was first being submitted. It’s nice to have found an editor at Maze willing to take a chance on it. Then, as well, there’s the social media – you want your potential readers to identify with you, but that’s not so easy when you write fantasy, and romance, and crime! I just need to figure out how to clone myself and it will all be fine.

Have you got any tips for anyone else thinking about writing in different genres?

Apart from stock up on the vodka, you mean?? In all honesty, I am just starting out on this adventure. It may or may not pay off. One genre might be much more successful than another, I don’t know. I suppose that from my own perspective, I’ve written in genres I truly love and read myself – I’m not doing it to be contrary, it’s because my interests have taken me in different imaginary directions! So if you are going to span different genres, make sure you are passionate about all of them. And be prepared to get slagged off in all of them as well – you need a thick skin to be an author, no matter what genre!

Thank you so much for chatting to us, Debbie. Wishing your books much success.

Thank you very much for having me!

 

Letter to an Aspiring Author

We are delighted to welcome Samantha Tonge back to Romaniac HQ. With her latest novel, Mistletoe Mansion, looking like another fab read, here’s a letter Sam, the published author, penned to her unpublished self.

Mistletoe_Mansion

Dear Samantha Tonge (as she was, a few years ago!),

So… you want to be a published author? I applaud you for following your dreams – but not too loudly because, my lovely, you seem to think that you’ll soon be admiring your books in the local bookstore. Brace yourself… It could take around ten years  – during which time you will learn your craft. The publishing business is no X Factor game show, where the most unexpected contestants may shine. Without connections or celebrity to help you, there is only one way you reach the point of selling books and gaining a loyal readership, and that’s by writing, writing, writing, until you discover your voice and know which supposed literary “rules” to break or follow.

I think it was Hemingway who said you needed to put one million words to paper (or computer screen) before landing a deal – so that’s around ten novels away for you. Don’t set your goals so high – make your first resolution just to finish a book, not to land a top agent or contract with Penguin or Harper Collins or to become an overnight, self-published success. Don’t make the mistake of cloaking yourself with a sense of entitlement – yes, finishing a manuscript is a huge achievement, but one accomplished by thousands of other aspiring authors. You need to work hard enough, and persist, to make yourself stand out – take courses attend writing conferences, join online literary forums, read how-to books and read, read, read of course.

Plus set yourself up on Social Media NOW. Start networking and finding your way around Facebook and Twitter. That way it won’t be such a shedload of work when you do sign on the dotted line, because if your first deal is digital-first, or you decide to self-publish, you will have a huge amount of promotional work to plough through.

Plus listen to your writing friends, who will tell you to start writing short stories as well. This will make you focus more than ever on each word you write, and improve your chapter structure and ability to write in different voices.

Most importantly, try not to forget why you first went into this business – the reason you write is because you love to tell a story and craft words together. This is hard to remember when yet another rejection pops up in your email box. Just hold onto this: the main difference between an unpublished and published author is that the latter didn’t give up.

Easy to say, isn’t it? But rejections aren’t personal – publishers and agents aren’t waging a vendetta against you! Try to see each unpublished novel that gets slipped under the bed as one giant step closer to success. No writing is ever wasted.
Now, get to it! Oh, and a word of warning – all those writing snacks really won’t do you any good in the long run :-)

Mistletoe Mansion

Kimmy Jones has three loves: cupcakes, gossip magazines and dreaming of getting fit just by owning celeb workouts.

When Kimmy’s Sensible Boyfriend told her he didn’t approve of her longing for the high life or her dream of starting a cupcake company Kimmy thought she could compromise – after all, she did return those five-inch Paris Hilton heels! But asking her to trade in cake-making for a job sorting potatoes is a step too far.

So, newly single – and newly homeless – Kimmy needs a dusting of Christmas luck. And, masquerading as a professional house sitter, her new temporary home is the stunning Mistletoe Mansion. Soon she’s best buds with glamorous next door golf WAG Melissa, and orders are pouring in for her fabulous Merry Berry cupcakes! The only thorn in her side is handsome handyman Luke, a distraction she definitely doesn’t need. And talking of distractions, something very odd is going on at night…

Kimmy is finally living the life she’s always wanted. But will her glimpse into the glittering lifestyle of the rich and famous be as glamorous as she’s always imagined…?

About the Author

Picture_014Samantha Tonge lives in Cheshire with her lovely family, and two cats who think they are dogs. When not writing, she spends her days cycling and willing cakes to rise. She has sold over 80 short stories to women’s magazines. Her bestselling debut novel, Doubting Abbey, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction best Ebook award in 2014. Its fun standalone sequel is From Paris with Love. Mistletoe Mansion stars a new set of characters and is for fans of cupcakes and Christmas!

Links

Links

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SamTongeWriter

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SamanthaTongeAuthor

Website: http://samanthatonge.co.uk/

Doubting abbey Blog: http://doubtingabbey.blogspot.co.uk/

AmazonUK :  Here 

 AmazonUS : Here