First Impressions – Publishers

For years I’ve said my ultimate dream is to publish with Avon books.  I always thought it would be the pinnacle of success to say I write for Avon/Harper Collins.  But, as time goes on and I learn more and more about this business of publishing it’s not as scary or intimidating as I originally thought.  I am looking at publishers now that I have finished manuscripts I am seeing things differently.  No longer are my dreams pinned on Avon, instead I am looking at publishers as a whole and asking myself, based off my first impression, who is going to treat me the best? Who is going to help me grow?

Not easy questions but something writers really need to ask themselves before they sign on the dotted line.  At RWA nationals this year, I was able to participate in the publishers book signings and ended up with a ton of free books.  One of the things that was an obvious stand out for me was how the book signings were organized and how the authors were presented.  For example some publishers had prepared ahead of time and had name signs for the authors.  A small thing, but far from trivial. As I rounded each table I had to look around a horde of people to see who was signing, and if I had to look off their book it was sometimes impossible (bad eyes and reading a name on a cover from a distance is hard) and I know I missed a few of my favorites!  (However – gotta say – I meet Julia London again – and went all fan girl crazy – again!) By presenting their authors, showing some sort of continuity, and community, I was more impressed with them.

Also it was clear which publishers were investing in an event, I might go to a book signing and there were no more books available, that doesn’t speak volumes for me.  For example, I attended one publishers signing and they were full of books and the authors had things to sign and enjoy the interaction with readers/writers.  I spent more time at those signings and I met more unknown authors, and have found new favorites.  I went to another at the same time and most of the authors had run out of books didn’t have anything to sign, and some authors were already gone – disappointing for a reader but also disappointing for the image of that publishing house.

With small presses advancing in the market and the popularity of self-publishing, we as authors, have more power than we think.  We may not sell to our dream press, but maybe a smaller press is going to give us the opportunity to shine much brighter. A smaller press, (and by this I am not talking about indy presses or exceptionally small e-book or print on demand publishers)  has just as much to gain from your books success as you do.  Wouldn’t that make them more invested in you and your future with them?  Even if it is one of the big presses, if they are not going to show you respect then why sign? Why be with a house who isn’t going to give you the 100% you give them?

Although these are just observations, my first impressions with these publishers has given me insight on what they will be like to work with should I ever have the opportunity to see my work in print.  Those that presented their authors well, invested time and money into the signings,  really made me want to work with them because I could see how they would respect me as an author and promote my work.  I kinda have my crown jewels of which houses I’d like to work with now that I’ve seen them in action.  Luckily Avon is still leading my list, but I’m impressed with NAL/Penguin, and my new favorite is Sourcebooks.   Granted these are bigger houses but they have really impressed me with how they treat their authors – They have given me good first impressions!

What about you?  What first impressions do you have of publishers?  What is your dream press?






I’m trying to go PRO with RWA before going to nationals.  My problem is I can’t get a rejection.  I know boo-hoo, who really wants to be rejected?

Here are my issues.

One – So many agents and publishers want a synopsis and that is not something I have completed.  Not because I don’t want to, it just takes time to complete, and that I don’t have.  I also struggle with the idea of an agent reading my synopsis and query but not even seeing a sample of my writing.  Therefore, my synopsis has to be extra damn good.

Two, since I don’t have a synopsis complete, I am forced to try only those agents who will accept query letters.  I have some strong query letters and some that are not so good.  I’m okay, I know it’s dumb, but I’m okay sending one that is iffy if they would only reject me. It would at least me some sort of feedback.

Three, No one sends correspondence anymore.  On many a website agents and publishers promote emailing queries, for which I am in favor of 100%.  They also stipulate, if you do not hear from us consider us not interested in your project at this time. Okay then send the form rejection but let me know something.

Four, Some agents, and publishers are sending out correspondence and email rejections.  Those are the ones I want to actually put my best work in front of, and I want it to be so damn irresistible that they can’t reject me.  I’m hoping to get feedback or some kind of rejection before sending it to someone I really want to like it.  Nothing.

So how do I get rejected?  Am I going to have to take the risk and let my work just be itself and possibly blow the chance with my A rated agent just to get the rejection?   What are your thoughts?

Share with me your rejection stories!



HSC Contest Reviews – The Suzannah Contest



The Suzannah Contest

Presented by:

North Louisiana Storytellers & Authors of Romance (NOLA)

Opens for entries: August 15th for NOLA members, September 1st for everyone else

Fees: $30 NOLA members, $35 non-NOLA members

Entry: 7200 words, synopsis included in word count. Synopsis is judged.

Closed for entries: October 1st

Winners announced at Written in the Stars conference in March

Published and unpublished compete against each other, as long as the work is uncontracted.



Judged by three judges, only two highest scores used

Grand Prize is $300 cash and a trophy


Each genre competes against the other, for example a Viking Romance competes against an Inspirational. It’s hard to compare the two

Only accepts 120 entries and since it opens two weeks earlier for members, it gives them an unfair advantage for the cutoff of 120 entries

Manuscript does not have to be finished, but be prepared for a request!


The Good –

The response from Lauralee Lehr with the Suzannah was amazingly quick and all communication with her was friendly.  If you have a question, your questions should be answered in a timely and helpful manner.

The judges for the Suzannah are impressive and include Megan Records, Editor at Kensington Books, Leah Hultenschmidt, Senior Editor at Sourcebooks, Johanna Raisanen, Editor at Harlequin American, Helen Breitwieser, Literary Agent at Cornerstone Literary Agency, Weronika Janczuk, Literary Agent at D4EO Literary Agency and Laura Bradford, Literary Agent at The Bradford Literary Agency.  If you’re one of the lucky finalists, you get to have your work read by six professionals in the publishing industry.

And to top it off, the cash prize is $300 and a trophy!  Who couldn’t use that kind of money?

The Bad –

The Suzannah pits each manuscript against the other, regardless of genre, in an attempt to simulate an editor’s desk.  However in the print world, this isn’t always the case.  Editors accept specific genres and you must do research to send it to the right one.  It is incredibly difficult to judge and compare genres.

There are only six finalists.  This limits your chance of being a finalist. 

The Suzannah opens two weeks early for members of the NOLA Stars.  Since the contest is limited to the first 120 entries, this gives an unfair advantage to its members.  But that’s part of being a member, right?

The manuscript does not have to be finished, but if you are one of the lucky finalist who receive a request from one or more of the judges, your work had better be close to being finished!

As far as the Suzannah contest is concerned, it’s pretty average.  With a $35 entry fee, you get a pretty standard score sheet and feedback with limited chances of finaling.  I received no negative feedback for the Suzannah.

Laurel O’Donnell