April Meeting Roundup + Good News

We had another educational and inspiring meeting last Saturday, with two phenomenal guest speakers: literary agent Kevan Lyon, of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, and writing coach Marni Freedman, the author of the recently released 7 Essential Writing Tools.

In the morning, Kevan untangled the twisted web of subsidiary rights, helping to demystify some of the more complicated elements of a publishing contract. Subsidiary rights are the rights pertaining to the production or publication of your work in different formats, such as audio, film, or foreign translations. Kevan explained the ins and outs of navigating this convoluted section of your contract, including how to determine the split on the payout, what a standard payout is considered (for example, 75/25 for translation rights vs 50/50 for audio), and when to expect to see your earnings (hint: it’ll take a really, really long time to see money from foreign markets).

She also discussed the advantages and disadvantages of signing your subsidiary rights away to a publisher as opposed to keeping them and trying to sell them elsewhere. The biggest advantage of selling them separately is that the author sees a higher cut; on the other hand, it can be hard to sell these rights, particularly if you’re a debut author. However, she mentioned that translation rights can be a negotiating point in your contract. For example, if your publisher wants to keep them, you might be able to obtain a higher advance.

Translation rights, according to Kevan, are the most valuable of all your subsidiary rights, followed by audio, and finally film. She encouraged us all to be realistic about our hopes of our books being made into a film or television show; the number of projects that are actually produced into finished films or television series are one in a million. Far more common, she said, is the sale of an option – where a producer, screenwriter, or other filmmaker reserves the rights to create an adaption of your novel for a specified period of time. The odds of those options progressing to a full-blown production, though, are slim.

The biggest takeaway from this discussion was that we should all keep a close eye on our contracts to make sure we’re protecting ourselves and our work.

While Kevan took pitches from our members in the afternoon (good luck to everyone who is sending in requested material!), we were treated to a speech from Marni Goldman, who inspired us to take our writing career into our own hands. We live in one of the best times for writers ever, she said; agents are accessible, self-publishing is possible, and hybrid careers are taking off. In many ways, though, our self-limiting beliefs can block us from achieving our true potential.

Marni said that there are several ways we can bust down those blocks we’ve placed in our way.

  • Find your unique voice. Realize that they’re just words, and words can be moved around. Think of your book as a sandbox; before you can build a castle, you need a little sand to play with. So allow yourself to fail, to write those crappy first drafts. The important thing is to make progress, to let go and trust yourself.
  • Make a bold plan. Push yourself beyond your comfort level when setting your career goals. When you feel like you’re in a place of discomfort with your ideas and your aspirations, you’re doing the right thing.
  • Submit like a maniac. If you don’t send your work in, you’ll never win that contest or get that contract. Success comes from being tenacious and never giving up, even when you’re at the end of your rope.

She encouraged us all to embrace the “Feisty Writer” within us and shift our internal attitudes from one of self-defeat to one of self-surrender and “authentic courage.”

Member of the Month Lisa Kessler (l.) with President-Elect Tami Vahalik

Member of the Month Lisa Kessler (l.) with President-Elect Tami Vahalik

Speaking of “authentic courage,” our Member of the Month was Lisa Kessler. While Lisa routinely goes above and beyond her duties for our chapter, she was nominated by Megan Just for her extraordinary support and mentorship in helping her fellow chapter mates succeed in their quests for publication.

Additionally, our chapter members celebrated all of the following Good News:

  • Carmen Paul applied and was accepted to the Writers Guild of America (WGA) Veterans’ Writing Retreat.
  • Tessa McFionn signed a contract for her third book.
  • Tameri Etherton’s Developing Cassandra won the silver medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards.
  • Bob Richard had a full request of his manuscript from Harlequin.
  • Donnamaie White released seven books, with three more in the pipe.
  • Sarah Richmond sold her book, Do Be Sensible, Miss Wynchcomb. Also, her workshop, A 19th Century Fashion Show, was accepted for presentation at RWA 2016.
  • JQ Anderson’s debut novel, Intercepted, hit #2 on the Kindle Best Sellers lists for Romance: New Adult and College, as well as Kindle Free Books.
  • C.J. Corbin made PAN.

Join us next month for an extremely special event: we’ll be hosting NYC Medical Examiner Jonathan Hayes and Detective Tenaya Webb to discuss how to get our murder scenes right, and uncover how police solve crimes. Don’t miss it!


Pitch Perfect

You’ve spent the past six months (or twelve months, or three years) pouring your heart into the pages of a novel. You’ve written, revised, sent to critique partners and beta-readers, crossed every t and dotted every i… and now you’re finally ready to send your creation out into the world.

But if you’re seeking traditional publication, first you’ve got to get the attention of a literary agent or editor. Often, this means months (or years) of sending out query letters, hoping to be plucked from the depths of the slush pile. And while the slush pile is not to be discounted (my agent found me in her slush pile!), there’s something to be said for the ability to talk one-on-one with a publishing professional about your work, to have their undivided attention and be able to sell your story in person.

At this week’s RWASD meeting, you’ll have the chance to do just that. Experienced literary agent and San Diego local, Kevan Lyon, will be talking all about audio, foreign, and film rights in the morning, and taking pitches in the afternoon. If you’re one of the lucky ones who scored a spot on her pitch list, here are some tips to help you make the most of your minutes with her:

  1. Get to the point. Your pitch should get to the heart of your story. Don’t waste any of your precious minutes describing extraneous details or secondary characters. Instead, focus on your main characters, what’s keeping them apart, and why they need to be together. Concentrate on conflict and emotion. And make sure you come up with a strong hook. (For tips on how to devise a hook for your story, see this article written by Angie Fox, our June guest speaker!)
  2. Be natural. Think of this less as an interview and more like a conversation. The first time I ever pitched to an agent, I sat down with a stack of index cards trembling in my hands, and started reading from them, tripping over my words. When the agent saw how nervous I was, she told me to put the cards away and just tell her about my story. She started asking questions, and so did I; after that our discussion just flowed, and I walked away from the pitch with her business card and a partial request. Agents and editors don’t want to sit through a presentation; they want to engage with an author. Don’t just sit down and launch into your spiel – ask them how they’re doing, and what they’d like to know about your book.
  3. Practice, practice, practice. Even though you’re not aiming to repeat a memorized speech verbatim, you still need to know the gist of what you’re going to say, inside and out. This is particularly helpful if you’re a bit of a nervous public speaker – like me! Rehearsing what you’re going to say dozens of times can help it become second nature, resulting in a more natural delivery, and alleviating any performance anxiety you might have. If you’re looking to perfect your pitches, you’re welcome to come to our PRO breakfast this Saturday morning to practice with some of your fellow RWA members. (I’ll be there to help provide feedback!)

If you have any tips on pitching, please share them in the comments!

Even if you haven’t signed up for pitches with Kevan this weekend, don’t forget that you’ll have another chance in July, when RWA Nationals is hosted right here in our hometown. So come on by this weekend to practice your pitches in the morning, and stay to hear all about what Kevan has to say.

See you on Saturday!

Share Your Story: What Brought You to Romance?

I’m going to guess that most of us who read this blog are writers and readers of the romance genre. I know I am. The adventure, the emotion, and the connections found in romance novels are magnifying. And while the relationships are its draw, it’s not the only reason the genre has so much to offer.

I got snagged into the genre when I first started college. I was (and still am) an avid fantasy and horror reader but my well was running dry. I wanted something different. Not only different but a story where a woman was more than just an after thought. After some late night binge studying, I surfed through Amazon, trying to find my next book fix. Since I had never once read romance, I clicked on that link and found my first ever romance read, a medieval historical.

I was addicted ever since.

What drew me in was the female characters. Almost every time I pick up a romance novel, I’m treated to a heroine who is more than just arm candy or a prize to be won. In romance, a woman is allowed to choose their own destiny and relationships. They were more than just a pretty face, they were important, free thinking, and just as vital to the story as the hero was. That empowered me, made me realize that yes, I was more than just a supporting role. I could be so much more. For me, that was so strange, so exciting that I had to read more.

And more.

And More!

Eventually I wrote my own stories, wanting to share those same feelings with others through my heroines. I hope to make that same connection with readers and inspire  that same empowerment.


So please, share you story in the comments section. Who brought you into romance? What do you love about the genre? Why do you write and/or read it?

We would love to hear your story!

Romance at the LA Times Festival of Books

This weekend, April 9-10, RWA San Diego will be making an appearance at the LA Times Festival of Books! Co-hosting a booth with our other Southern California RWA chapters, we’ll be there offering books, info, and – most exciting of all – signings! Over the course of two days, we’ll be featuring 28 of our local authors, including many New York Times and USA Today bestsellers. Members of RWASD who’ll be attending the signing include Tessa McFionn, Marie Andreas, Tameri Etherton, C.J. Corbin, Linda Rice, Cynthia Diamond, Carlene Love, and RITA finalist HelenKay Dimon.

LATIMESFOB2016DThe romance fun doesn’t stop with our booth, though. On Sunday morning, you can attend a conversation with several local celebrated romance authors, including Tessa Dare and Susan Mallery, entitled “Romance Between the Covers.” Then, that afternoon, catch an interview with Sylvia Day by SoCal’s own Beth Yarnall. There will also be quite a number of YA discussions, including those about romance.

Activities and attractions outside the romance genre abound: musical performances, cooking demonstrations, and readings for children. Bring the whole family for a day of fun!

For more information on the festival, including how to get there and buy tickets, visit the LA Times Festival of Books website. We hope to see you there!