Archive for July, 2009


Novella Cover (totally different!)

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

So even though it has been all over my website for months now, I have never actually Officially posted the cover for my anthology.  That is because any images I’ve put up here have been completely and utterly Unofficial. Not, of course, that I would ever post unofficial, bootlegged images that I got from someone other than my publisher. Ahem.

Apparently, there are niceties involved with final versions of bookcovers, most of which involve book buyers saying, “Oh, we like that cover, yes we do, and we will put it on our shelves!” or buyers saying, “No, ma’am, not that cover. It is not the cover we want.”  (I’ve been told buyers do not speak in Dr. Seuss like rhythm though–who knew?)

In any event, this unveiling is totally anticlimactic, but I finally have the official cover, and it is different than the unofficial one that a very bad author (not me, of course) would have posted earlier.  Let me show you.

This is the old cover, which none of you saw:

Old Cover!

Old Cover!

Okay, and if you’re ready for it, this is the new cover!

Final Cover

Final Cover

As you can see, the new cover is completely different. They’ve, like, tweaked the color balance and stuff.  They remembered that Mary Balogh is, in fact, a NY Times Bestseller. Also, they added this line of itty bitty white text at the bottom, and it says “Three timeless romances to treasure this holiday season.  If you look at a slightly larger version (click here), you can see that there is red in the lace on the back of her dress.

So there you go.  My massively changed cover. It’s a good thing I never put up a bootleg version, or you’d all be confused by the changes!

Buy a Book Written by Tessa Dare

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009
Goddess of the Hunt

Goddess of the Hunt

Today is a very, very special holiday.

It is “Buy a Book Written by Tessa Dare” day, and today is the first day that you can go into stores all around the country and purchase a book written by Tessa Dare.

Now, Goddess of the Hunt has been getting awesome buzz. Starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Library Journal, Top Picks! from Romantic Times, and “Gerbil of the Year” from the Association of Near-Sighted Folk, who oddly enough, mistook it for a truly excellent gerbil.  (They got the excellent part right.)

This is a book about Lucy, a woman who decides what she wants–her brother’s friend, Toby–and goes after him with everything she has, even though he so clearly is about to marry another girl.  The other girl is everything awful: blond, rich, and accomplished.  And now, if this were any other romance novel, you know what would happen.  Miss stuck-up Blonde would show her true colors, and Toby would discover that Lucy was his One! True! Love!

This is not any other romance novel, and as you’ll find out, Lucy grows up, from the girl who hates that perfect blonde and vows to take her place into someone . . . well, someone entirely better.  And watching her grow is a heart-stopping, breath-taking endeavor.

This is also a romance about Jeremy, a man who stopped living years ago. He can’t stand being around Lucy because she is so full of life, she reminds him of all the things he’s missing.  Watching him grow is also a heart-stopping, breath-taking endeavor.

I’ve watched this book grow from just a little nugget of an idea into a full-fledged masterpiece.  And it gives me enormous satisfaction to announce to all of you that today, you can buy a copy of Tessa Dare’s magnificent, powerful, hilarious, touching, and beautiful Goddess of the Hunt.

Well.  That is a little tepid.  What am I saying?  A mere statement that you can buy a copy.  Generally, just because one can do a thing doesn’t mean one necessarily should do a thing.  In fact, most of the things that one is capable of doing are just plain bad ideas.  But when it comes to buying Tessa Dare’s Goddess of the Hunt, you not only can do it, and should do it . . . but, well, you must do it.

Why?

Here’s the thing.  If you–yes, I mean you, Buster, the one sitting right there staring at this screen in befuddlement–don’t buy Goddess of the Hunt, it would be an act of such stupendous foolishness that science and rationality as we know it will come to a screeching halt.  Gravity will cease to operate.  Angular momentum will not be conserved.  The apocalypse would come slumping forward like some great beast, all because you couldn’t be bothered to spend $6.99 on what is the best Regency-set romance debut this side of Sense and Sensibility (and let’s face it, Tessa’s sex scenes are better than Jane’s).

So go forth and purchase!

————

Fine Print. Books not available everywhere. Any locations not carrying this book should be subjected to breathless queries such as, “When are you going to get Tessa Dare’s novels?” even if the location in question is, e.g., a bait shop, a hardware store, or a fire station. Side effects of reading may include laughter, gasps of surprise, and little exhalations of satisfaction. Offer of free apocalypse upon lack of purchase not valid in Northern Hemisphere.

Goddess of the Hunt: twitter talk contest!

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Do you want some cool stuff?  A copy of Tessa Dare’s Goddess of the Hunt?  Some wicked artisanal chocolates?  How about some other copies of awesome romance releases today?

Here’s how it works.  You have until midnight, PST, August 31, 2009.  Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to talk up Goddess of the Hunt on twitter.  Now, I’m not just talking about the regular sort of buzz–you know, blah blah blah, starred review in Publisher’s Weekly saying it fit “fit all the best of romance into one novel”, or blah blah blah, 4 and 1/2 stars from Romantic Times, or even blah blah blah I loved GOTH it was so awesome!

No.  Here are some examples of appropriate twittering:

I hear Barack Obama invited Jeremy over to the White House. #tessadare

or:

@TessaDare’s acclaimed GODDESS OF THE HUNT released 14 minutes ago; already solving global warming. Go Tessa and GOTH! #tessadare

or:

@tessadare ‘s GODDESS OF THE HUNT was released in NY 30 minutes ago. Does LUCY rule the world? #tessadare

The more egregious (and positive) your tweet, the better! Goddess of the Hunt solves all your problems, and gives you a bag of chips.

You must tweet to win this contest (but twitter is free).  I will give away:

  • 4 copies of GOTH (to different people of course)
  • 1 copy each of other awesome historical romances that release today, July 28, 2009: Eloisa James’s A Duke of Her Own, Julie Anne Long’s Since the Surrender (Pennyroyal Green Series), and Meredith Duran’s Written on Your Skin.
  • A box of artisanal chocolates and a fine Nerf pistol, which has been used by historical romance greats Tessa Dare and Sherry Thomas (among others) (edited to add: it is the Nerf pistol that has been fired by Tessa Dare and Sherry Thomas; the chocolates are unused, thank you!), will be awarded to the person with the most over-the-top tweet.

Each tweet is an entry.  To enter, you must mark your tweet with the #tessadare hashtag; entries marked with the #tessadare hashtag that are not appropriate talk-up tweets are not valid entries.  Enter as much as you like.  Your chances of winning depend on how many people enter.

Go forth and talk up Tessa Dare!

All things bookmark!

Monday, July 27th, 2009

I’ve fielded a few e-mails about the bookmarks I was giving away at Nationals.  Here they are:

bookmarks1

And just because that doesn’t quite give you an idea of the shimmery goodness that is the bookmark, try this:

bookmarks2

As you can see, the bookmark has a few distinctive features.  It’s die cut.  And it’s not just a die cut with rounded corners or a leaf shape; it’s a die cut with a pattern.  (The pattern is drawn from one of the random dividers that shows up on my website.  This one, to be exact: )

It has my name in gold foil.  Shiny!

And it has accents picked out in spot UV.

There were two parts to getting this bookmark made: the design, and the printing.

The printing was the easy part.  I used 4colorprint.com.  I have had excellent luck with them.  I’ve used them to print both business cards and bookmarks now, and both have turned out beautifully.  There are some places you can go to get bookmarks printed more cheaply, but I haven’t found anywhere else that has the quality that 4colorprint has (in terms of the stock they use to print on, the quality of the printing, and the breadth of finishing options).  All I had to do was mail them a file, and lo and behold, after a short space of time, I had gorgeous bookmarks.  I highly recommend 4colorprint for printing interesting and difficult files.

(Incidentally, I was also moving right around the time when I ordered my bookmarks.  I asked them to get in touch with me to make sure everything went to the right address, and the staff was fantastic about touching base with me about my order to make sure everything was squared away.  So many things could have gone wrong with that.  Not one did.)

The design part was harder.  Much harder.  I started with the idea that I wasn’t going to be scared of spending a little bit more than your every day average bookmark, but I didn’t want to spend insane amounts more.  I also think it helped to start with a goal in mind: I wanted a bookmark that (a) made people want to pick it up; (b) made them want to hold it to look at it; and (c) hesitate for at least a split second before tossing it in the trash.

With that in mind, one great resource I used in trying to figure out what sorts of things appealed to me was this Flickr photoset of business cards.  Some of them didn’t appeal to me.  Some seemed a little too gimmicky for me (and also too hard to store–so they would probably get tossed fairly quickly). Others made me want to reach right into my screen to pick them up and examine them in minute detail.  I also walked through bookstores and looked at book covers that caught my eye.

And then I played around.  For a long time.  You can hire someone to do this for you, but it helps substantially if you have an idea what you’re shooting for, and so don’t necessarily bypass the “looking for things you like” phase.

My critique partner, Tessa Dare, also had gorgeous bookmarks–and you can see them on her site, here.  In fact, she’ll even send you some for free!

Read Between the Lines

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

There’s been a lot of discussion about Justine Larbalestier’s Liar. For those of you who don’t know, the cover of her book depicts a big-eyed white (some think Asian) girl with long hair, when the main character of her book is black with short hair. Naturally, she was upset. But I’ve seen several people say that if Larbalestier was so upset about the cover of Liar, she shouldn’t have said she liked it first.

I’m a teacher, so I’ve written letters of recommendation.  For some students, I have no difficulty writing good things.  But 66% of the people who have asked me for letters of recommendation have been in the bottom half of the class I’ve taught.  Some never came to office hours or asked a question in class.  “I’ll write you a letter,” I would say dubiously, “but is there anyone who could write you a more enthusiastic letter?” (sidenote: Every single one of those people said, “No, there isn’t. I need you to do it.” That sound you hear is my heart breaking.)

I have also read literally hundreds, if not thousands, of letters of recommendations. I have read only one letter that ever contained bad things about a student.  (“John,” this extremely famous person wrote, “is a whiny baby. He makes appointments and never shows up to them. I told him I wouldn’t recommend him, but he listed me on a form and now career services keeps badgering me. I wish him ill.”)

The rest of them, though, are not necessarily helpful to the student. I know this, because I have written those letters. I am entirely positive.  I am also entirely truthful. I tell people in advance that if they have other options, they should use them, and I will do my best… The letter may say good things, but when the good things it highlights are trivial (“I love Lisa’s hair ribbons! They brighten my class!”), it doesn’t do much to recommend the person’s intellectual capacity.

Authors, talking publicly about their covers, are the same way.  An author cannot honestly say, “I hate my cover” in part because she doesn’t want to hurt sales and marketing’s feelings, and also in part because even if she hates her cover, she doesn’t want to point out the flaws in it to anyone who might otherwise buy the book. Saying “hate my cover” is akin to saying “Don’t buy my book.”  So what an author does instead of voicing her discontent, if she is honest, is praise the hair ribbons. And that’s a significant tell.

Here is an enthusiastic recommendation of a cover: Justine Larbalestier talking about her Australian cover. Here is what Justine says about her Australian cover for Liar:

I love it more than I can say. It captures the book so perfectly. I asked for something spare, iconic, cool and dark. Possibly a typographical treatment. Bruno exceeded my expectations by miles. I keep staring at it cause it makes me so very happy.

Notice how three of those six sentences start with “I.”  “I love it more than I can say.”  “I keep staring at it cause it makes me so very happy.”  The rest all talk about her feelings about the cover as well: “It captures the book so perfectly.”  “Bruno exceeded my expectations.”  This is a real, positive recommendation from an author.  She loves it.  She keeps staring at it.

Now let’s take Justine’s post on the U.S. cover. It’s a little longer, and needs a little more decoding, but notice what Justine never mentions:

This cover was so well received by sales and marketing at Bloomsbury that for the first time in my career a cover for one of my books became the image used for the front of the catalogue. Front of the catalogue! One of my books! Pretty cool, huh?

Translation: Sales likes it.

Apparently all the big booksellers went crazy for it. My agent says it was a huge hit in Bologna. And at TLA many librarians and teenagers told me they adore this cover. In fact one girl said she thinks the US cover of Liar is the best cover she’s ever seen! Wasn’t that sweet of her?

Translation: Other people besides sales like it.

It was designed by Danielle Delaney the genius responsible for the paperback cover of How To Ditch Your Fairy. Have I mentioned that’s my fave cover I’ve ever had?

Translation: I’ve liked other covers that this artist has done.

Here’s hoping this cover helps Liar fly off the shelves in North America!

Translation: I at least hope we get hair ribbons, because if this cover doesn’t sell books, it’s doing nothing for me.

Nowhere in this post does Justine say she likes the cover.  What she says is very careful weasel-wording, disguised as an endorsement, when in fact she very carefully doesn’t say a word in support of the cover.  Not one sentence begins with “I.” Instead, she mentions a lot of other people who like it.  Next time an author talks about her cover, pay attention to what she doesn’t say.  If she doesn’t say “I love it!” she probably doesn’t love it.

For the record: I love the covers for both my novella and my debut novel. This is not intended as self-referential in the slightest. I love my covers. When my publisher sent my cover for Proof, I printed it off and wrapped it around another book just to see what it would look like (Elizabeth Hoyt’s To Beguile A Beast, by the way, for good luck.) And it looked fabulous. I wanted to buy it right then and there.

Dangerous Excerpts!

Friday, July 24th, 2009

Those of you who were at RWA Nationals know that we had the Dangerous Book of Excerpts–a book that had first chapter excerpts from both me and Tessa Dare–in full force there.  We printed 400 copies, and walked away with maybe 30 between us, total, left over. And that’s only because we didn’t put those 30 out in the Goody Room.

So for those of you who missed out, we made a PDF version of the Dangerous Book. Warning: it’s 1MB in size (and I tried to get it as small as I could–this is down from the initial size of 10MB.  Sorry, but that’s just how it turned out!) Second warning: The original Dangerous Book of Excerpts had the full first chapter of both my novella, “This Wicked Gift,” and my debut novel, Proof by Seduction. But I got special permission from Harlequin to reprint those, as they’re longer than the average 2,500 word excerpt.  Since I only have permission to post up to 2,500 words on my website, this copy contains not quite the full first chapter.  Those of you who got one of those print versions should count yourselves very, very lucky.

Enjoy! Celebrate! And buy Tessa Dare’s July 28th, 2009 release this Tuesday!

Two Last Thoughts on our Panel

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

I was on a panel at Nationals. I called it the “Hate me Now” panel, as I literally could not make myself say the title aloud.  But I will type it out now, even though it’s very difficult to do so: “It’s not the Hottest Genre, so How are Debut Historical Authors Getting Six-Figure Deals?”

*cringe* please don’t hate me!

I don’t think we answered that question at the panel.  I’m not even sure we could answer it; as Tessa points out, the panel was essentially about “How to be an Anomaly” and face it, if there were a six-step process, you wouldn’t be an anomaly.  As always, luck and timing play huge parts.  There are people out there who I think should be getting six figure deals (if they aren’t already).  Those may come in time to those authors, or they may never get a six figure deal.  Heck, their career could be ruined by a bad cover on their next book.  Luck.  Timing.  These things play a huge role.  But all the luck and all the timing in the world won’t help you, if you don’t have two other things.  They’re necessary, but not sufficient.

Are you ready?

1. Have a damn good agent. No, really. You’re looking for someone who is the complete package–someone who not only is savvy about editors, but who knows how to sell and who to sell to. You’re also looking for someone who is good at shepherding authors through publication, who will make sure the author is on target for promoting herself, and will make sure that the publishing house knows about the author’s efforts, who will stand up against bad covers or talk the author down off her ledge if the cover isn’t bad–and in fact will sell a ton of books. A good agent makes the publishing process easier for everyone–author and publisher alike. Who wouldn’t want to work with her?

Do not ever sign with an agent you are not excited about, who you don’t think is going to aggressively champion you and your career, on the theory that at least it will get you past the unagented barrier.  If your book is good enough to sell, it’s good enough to get an agent who will do you right.

2. Act like you’re going to get a six-figure deal, even if you don’t think there is any way in hell you can. I wasn’t sure my book would sell. In fact, I basically thought it was unmarketable until I talked to my agent. But in the beginning of 2008, I made a resolution–one of those resolutions you are told never to make, because you have no control over the outcome.  I resolved I was going to sell my book at auction. It was a completely brazen, foolhardy thing to set my sights on, especially since I couldn’t final in half the contests I entered, let alone get an editor to request the manuscript.

I ignored all that boring reality stuff and acted like this was the kind of book I could sell at auction, if I just worked at it enough.  When I didn’t think my sex scenes were working, I picked up an author who wrote damned good sex scenes (that would be Elizabeth Hoyt) and I read hers over and over, with multi-colored highlighter in hand. I deconstructed them until I figured out what worked for me from her scenes.

The whole time I was writing, part of me was screaming, “Just go to sleep! What does it matter if you don’t get this black moment right? Nobody’s going to even get past the first chapter when they find the heroine is a con artist.”

If you find, as you write, that you tell yourself, “It doesn’t matter if I don’t get this right,” you’re selling yourself short.

Huh. Turns out I don’t have two necessary conditions.  I just have one: You can’t sell yourself big if you’re too busy selling yourself short.

RITA rules: A Work in Progress

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

By now, everyone who cares about e-publishing and the RITA rules has seen the Hotsheet that describes the changes to the RITA contest.  E-published entries are allowed–if printed by the publisher and submitted in perfect-bound format.  The catch is that print published authors will be able to enter the RITA three weeks before e-published authors.

I don’t want to get into a discussion of whether this glass is half-full (yay, e-published authors can not enter!) or half-empty (boo, they’re being treated like second-class citizens).  Let’s just be pragmatic: These are the rules for the RITA for books with a 2009 copyright.  These were not the rules for the RITA for 2008, and they are not going to be the rules for the RITA for 2010.  The board is experimenting with contest rules that are both fair and workable.  Some will undoubtedly think the 2009 rules are unfair; others will suspect that they will be unworkable.  2009 is an experiment, and I doubt that the precise rules in place in 2009 will be adopted for 2010.  The Board wants to see how many entries will show up, and how many judges there will be.  It goes to show that if you want the rules for 2010 to be changed in your favor, it should be your goal to make the 2009 contest as successful as possible for e-published authors.

Without a doubt, some of the people voicing fears that the contest will be unworkable if the e-published are allowed to enter are operating from a point of prejudice.  They don’t think judges will want to judge e-published entries in part because they believe e-published entries are lower quality than print-published entries (false.)  But some of the fears are not prejudiced:  They don’t think they have enough judges to judge all the entries they would get if print published and e-published entries were allowed to submit simultaneously, and in the quantities desired, and the choice to favor print published over e-published results because most PAN members–the ones who judge the contest–are print published, and they want to make sure that the judges also have a chance to enter.

I can’t do anything about the unfairness, which does make me a little sad.  But I can do something about the workability.  As I see it, there are two ways to move on from here.

  1. I can decry the unfairness.
  2. I can help show the rest of the membership that accepting e-published entries is possible.

Personally, I think RWA has taken a step in the right direction by opening up the contest.  They did so despite fears and prejudice, and I’m glad that they’ve taken that step.  I want to prove that they did not make a mistake, and that they can rely on me–and hopefully other members–to take up the slack.  RWA is worried that they won’t have enough judges.  And let’s be frank–I know people who judged the RITAs last year (I was not PAN-eligible when the deadline to sign up had passed).  Some of them were given as many as 9 books to judge over a course of a few months.  I’m sure some of those people are thinking, oh man, what now?  Will I get 10?  11?  12?  It’s that fear of workability that we need to combat.  We can’t do anything about the prejudice.  We can do something about the workability.

That is why I urge all PAN-eligible members of RWA, especially the e-published ones, to apply for PAN (if you have not done so already), and to volunteer to judge the RITA–even if you don’t like the way the board has set up the contest.  Especially if you don’t like the way the board has set up the contest.  The fewer people judge, the less workable the contest seems–and the more likely that e-published entries will be scrapped in the future.  The more people that judge, the more positive a response that is given, the more likely it is that 2010 will see greater inclusion.

Personally, I plan to contact the Board of Directors and the RWA staff in charge of the contest, thank them for this step, tell them that I will judge the RITAs and that I will also offer to judge any extra materials that may crop up in the course of the contest.  If you choose NOT to judge the RITA, you send a clear message to those who worry about workability: You’re not willing to help out to make this work.

Could the contest rules have been more inclusive?  Yes, without a doubt.  But can we make sure that we allay the fears that prevented a complete victory, and demonstrate that we’re willing to help to make sure that next year, when the Board of Directors meets, they say, “We had more than enough judges to allow e-published authors to be treated on par with print published authors.”

That’s the goal.  Think positive!

Literacy Signing RWA!

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Tomorrow, Wednesday, July 15th, is RWA’s annual literacy signing.  500 authors get together and sign books; all proceeds are to be donated to literacy.  I love the literacy signing; even though the rest of the conference offers free books, I love the idea of paying money to both show my love and support for my favorite authors, meet authors I might never have found on the shelves browsing on my own, and support a great cause while we’re at it.  This will be my third literacy signing.  If you’ve never gone, here are a few helpful hints.

1. Buy Tessa Dare’s debut novel.  You’ll get it two weeks before it releases–and visit early, because she’s sure to sell out.

2. Find books by authors you don’t know.  Look particularly for debut authors, or authors whose books are not shelved in romance–you may find a new favorite author!

3. Look for me and Tessa; you can get your free copy of the Dangerous Book of Excerpts.  Which is exactly what it sounds like.


Courtney Milan writes historical romance novels like the ones you see to the right. She still remembers bits and pieces from her old lives, where she was (variously) a scientist and a lawyer.

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