Interview Transcripts

Selling Your Romance with Janet Wellington, Romance Writer 1/8/04



Legend:
Questions from the Audience are presented in red.
Answers by the Speaker are in black.
The Moderator's comments are in blue.

Mary Rosenblum

Tonight we'll be chatting with Janet Wellington, Romance writer.

 

Hello, all, and welcome to our Professional Connection live chat interview!

 

Considering the weather conditions outside my window, I am SO glad to be here right now!

 

Our guest tonight is Janet Wellington, Romance writer.

 

Janet's latest two novels are paranormal romances. FOREVER ROSE was a 2000 Prism finalist in the time travel category and her new novel, DREAMQUEST, is an "alternate reality" love story that features a Kumeyaay Indian hero and a contemporary ethno-botanist heroine. DREAMQUEST will be available in May 2004.

 

I've been posting a number of genre Romance markets in Writing Craft: New Market Listings on the site,

 

so if Romance or genre Romance appeals to you, this is the place to be tonight!

 

Janet, I am so glad that you could make it tonight! Welcome!

Janet Wellington

Hello! I think this is going to be fun--bring on the questions!

Mary Rosenblum

Well, let’s begin at the beginning! How did you get started writing Romance?

Janet Wellington

I've always loved to write and managed to do some kind of writing within my jobs

 

but I never believed I could actually write a whole book. Then around my 40th birthday

 

I decided if I was going to try, I'd better get started!

 

I researched for a couple years and discovered romance publishers were always looking for new writers

 

and since over 50% of all paperbacks are romances, generating over 1.63 billion in sales

 

I figured there was room for one more writer!

Mary Rosenblum

So you came to Romance as a calculated move to sell your fiction rather than because you were a dyed in the wool Romance reader?

Janet Wellington

Yup. I hadn't read more than a few romances when I started

 

but then I fell in love with them! I firmly believe you have to like romances

 

in order to write them.

Mary Rosenblum

I agree, and I also think this is good news for those who look at Romance's popularity and want to try writing them

 

even though they're not readers!

 

Or romance readers, I should say!

sweet_muse

Have you written any books for Harlequin or Silhouette? I love those books.

Janet Wellington

Hi, sweet_muse! I'm currently working on a full ms. for an editor at Silhouette

 

so cross your fingers for me!

Mary Rosenblum

Cool! Is it sold or are you doing it on spec?

Janet Wellington

I just got the request for the completed ms. based on a proposal I sent

 

right before the holidays, so I'm REALLY pleased with how quickly

 

this editor responded. I would love to write Special Editions!

Mary Rosenblum

That's a strong line, too! Wow! Congratulations on a very fast response!

sailor

I'm not sure I could write a hot love scene, but I have the feeling that the steamier books sell better. Do you think that is true?

Janet Wellington

Hi, sailor. Good question! The good news is that romances run the full spectrum

 

from "sweet" (meaning no sex at all) to very sexy and erotic.

 

You really need to be comfortable with what you're writing

 

so if you're not, then target maybe Silhouette "Romance" line, which is sweet!

 

But, friends who do write the sexier books do seem to do very well.

shoutjoy

Do romances sell best when there is sex or just hints of it?

Janet Wellington

Hi, shoutjoy -- all the lines in Harlequin/Silhouette sell well, but there is a big

 

readership for "hot" books, I know. But, you can also write with a lot of

 

sexual tension and create great conflict!

chatty lady

How explicit can one be when describing sexual encounters between characters.

Janet Wellington

Hi, chatty lady! Again, you really need to read a lot of books first

 

and analyze what kind of scenes that particular line offers its readers

 

because that's the real secret: hitting the reader's expectation. But to answer

 

your question honestly, love scenes are not about body parts and what goes where,

 

they are about the emotion between the hero and the heroine, what's at stake...

 

and how the relationship changes after they make love. Does that help?

Mary Rosenblum

I would suggest this is that blurry boundary between erotica and Romance. Does that sound right, Janet?

Janet Wellington

Thanks, Mary -- yes, erotica handles --boy, I'm thinking the word kinky here…

 

but maybe what I mean is more adventuresome sex....so there is a market,

 

but it's not what I write. There are definitely publishers in erotica looking for writers, though.

sweet_muse

Harlequin Blaze and Harlequin Temptation are the steamiest I've read..Where do you draw the line between romance and erotica?

Janet Wellington

Sweet_muse: hmmmm....because I haven't studied Blaze and Temptations, I don't feel

 

qualified to answer, really. Again, analysis is the key, I think -- I do think that

 

some of the steamier category books are pushing the envelope.

senicynt

I think special editions are one of the more interesting lines that Harlequin has. Can we get a peek at the process that you went through?

Janet Wellington

Hi, senicynt. Sure. I'm going to take some space here and pass along one of the secrets

 

to success, so stay with me, okay? What I did was read the different kinds of books

 

and quickly discovered I liked the family-issues stories in the Special Edition line.

 

Then I bought about 10 recent books. And analyzed them like this....

 

Take different colored highlighters--make yourself a cheat sheet with the colors

 

using, say, pink to highlight her dialogue, blue for his, maybe purple for descriptions,

 

green for emotional sentences--it all depends on what you're analyzing, of course.

 

You might want to analyze point of view, scene breaks, action, etc. Now, highlight as you read

 

and there will be some overlapping! I also recommend using little stickies to mark things like

 

first touch, first kiss, love scene, his realization he's in love, etc. You'll soon see a pattern

 

for the line. This is the reader's expectation and you'll need to follow it pretty closely

 

in order to hook the editor who is reading your submission. Whew...I know that was a lot,

 

but if you can get an idea of how much dialogue, is there a lot of introspection or hardly any --

 

it's those kinds of things that will be invaluable as you put together YOUR romance!

Mary Rosenblum

Janet, this is absolutely invaluable for anyone who wants to write for any of the Romance lines!

 

Thank you so much for this detailed advice!

 

And I'd like to remind our audience that I do post the transcripts...

 

of these interviews in Surviving and Thriving on the site, so you can go back and copy her suggestions for yourself, later.

sweet_muse

I think that's a great way to research!

Mary Rosenblum

Me, too!

 

What is your average timeframe for writing a romance ms?

Janet Wellington

Hi, jessied! It varies a huge amount...so I can only speak for how it works for me.

 

I spend a lot of time in the preparation process and work on characterizations and plotting

 

so that when I'm ready to write, I have a pretty complete road map to follow, so it goes

 

pretty quickly for me -- my first novel took a year, but a short contemporary takes me

 

about a month or so, but I'm home writing full time now, so I can work every day.

paja

What is paranormal and how does it compare to slipstream? Also how does Romance differ from genre romance or are they the same?

Janet Wellington

Hi, paja. Okay, I'm confused about the word slipstream....but paranormal can be

 

psychics, sometimes ghosts, shapeshifters--lots of strange stuff, of course

 

and it's what I love to write! My new book coming out in May 2004 is with Dorchester and

 

deals with the concept of going into your dream world. So it's paranormal and has all sorts

 

of fun stuff going on....your other question about romance vs. genre,

 

Romance is genre just as mystery and detective novels and westerns are genres.

 

All have reader expectations--you'd better solve that mystery before the book ends if

 

you're calling your novel a mystery, right? In romance, the reader expects a love story

 

and a satisfying ending. There is some confusion about women's fiction vs. romance

 

and in women's fiction--your story can certainly be romantic, but it may not have that happy ending.

 

In romance, the love story is the most important part, too, and everything else is secondary

 

and that's the other secret to selling -- the editor is looking for a well supported love story.

senicynt

Unfortunately, for a time paranormal romance was full of that vampire/goth stuff. Has that trend gone away finally? Has the market moved to more interesting and happier content?

Janet Wellington

Senicynt: sorry for my awful delays, you guys -- yeesh. Okay, vampire stories--I don't personally

 

like them, but there is a strong following for them so I think they're here to stay...but there

 

also seems to be lots of room for other stuff...there's a new line in Harlequin/Silhouette

 

called Bombshell -- featuring "kick butt" heroines, for example, and some have super powers

 

and there's also the new LUNA books division of Har/Sil too -- it's fantasy (another love of mine),

 

so I think the paranormal romances are really offering a much bigger world to write in.

racemup

So, paranormal takes longer than contemporary? Does it pay better?

Janet Wellington

Hi, racemup...hmmm....I guess I would agree it takes longer to sell a paranormal because

 

the industry can be picky. Fewer paranormals are printed because the readership is so much less than readers of

 

contemporaries, for example. So it's gotta be good! Do they pay better? I don't think so,

 

though I'm guessing the LUNA books is paying better, but it's just a guess at this point

 

as I haven't heard any news. If you come up with the next big blockbuster, though

 

you could start a new trend, right?

senicynt

Dorchester? What is the title of your book? Dreamworlds,. Your story has gained my attention... :-) short synopsis? back cover blurb? :-)

Janet Wellington

Senicynt: thanks for asking! This book is coming out in May 2004 (Dorchester is the house, and

 

Love Spell is the imprint...it's so confusing--remember to ask me for a link with RWA recognized pub lists)

 

anyway, I'll tell you about it by asking you a question. Have you ever had a strange feeling

 

when you're not quite awake, but not really asleep, and you weren't quite sure what was real?

 

And, what if your dream was one of those perfect dreams where everything is more the way

 

things should be, would you stay if you could? If, one night, you were given the chance to choose,

 

would you leave what you think of as reality behind, and choose your dreamworld to be your reality?

 

That's the question I started with -- then I chose an ethnobotany professor as my heroine

 

and a Kumeyaay Indian as my hero -- and brought them together through a portal that opens during an earthquake.

babbles

Yep for sure Janet from babbles I'm in limbo a lot when sleeping lol

chatty lady

wow, that is a dynamite idea.....I'll buy that one.

shoutjoy

I’m always in that realm lol

senicynt

LOL... Choosing a dream over 'reality' is also a sign of mental instability... :-)

Mary Rosenblum

I'd say you have a few new readers, Janet! :-)

Janet Wellington

yay!

shoutjoy

So you make enough to support yourself? With fiction only?

Janet Wellington

Dear, optimistic shoutjoy...I'm doing okay...but I do supplement my income

 

by teaching, speaking, individual writing coaching, and I line edit other writers' work too.

Mary Rosenblum

Sounds awfully familiar! :-)

hemi

Is it difficult to earn a living as a romance novelist?

Janet Wellington

Hemi: it's like just about anything else...the top 10% make all the big bucks, but I believe

 

that I'll be able to make a decent living if my plan of working for two publishers comes true

 

do you want to talk about money?

Mary Rosenblum

I would like to touch on that subject if you're willing

 

because I think many new writers vastly overestimate their earnings!

Janet Wellington

Okay...lots of info to come, so hang in there with me...most larger pubs offer an advance

 

against royalties. Some electronic and print on demand pubs might only offer a royalty

 

or maybe a small advance (say around 500$ dollars ) against future royalties. Advance amounts

 

for a first sale range from about one thousand to seventy five hundred dollars.  For a category book (like the lines with Har/Sil)

 

the typical advance is three thousand to five thousand dollars. A single title first sale could run from to one thousand to seventy five hundred dollars.  So

 

the range is pretty wide--it really depends on the book and also might depend on whether or not

 

you have an agent who is pushing for more money. Royalties run around 6% or 8%

 

but may run as low as 2.5% and as high as 10%. Electronic and print on demand pubs

 

may offer as much as 50% royalty if there is little or no advance. If your books sells well, you'll

 

get a royalty check a year later, then more checks twice a year. Now we're talking about

 

earn outs. Earn outs range from six thousand to sixty thousand dollars above and beyond that original advance.

Mary Rosenblum

Earn out means that you have paid back your advance and the book has usually

 

gone into multiple printings.

 

I appreciate the numbers, Janet. As you all can see, trying to pay mortgage, health insurance

 

and feed yourself on this kind of payment means you need to sell multiple books every year.

shoutjoy

Do you ever write nonfiction and is it more profitable?

Janet Wellington

Shoutjoy, I don't know about money in nonfiction...hmmm...Mary?

Mary Rosenblum

Actually, the money in nonfiction is just about 10 times what you make in fiction

Mary Rosenblum

unless you are a blockbuster best seller...we're talking magazine markets and book markets for the most part are similar.,

paja

What is line edit?

Janet Wellington

Paja, I check a manuscript for proper grammar, word choice, look for awkward sentences

 

and continuity errors -- I have some dyslexic writer friends and line editing is something

 

I enjoy doing and I'm one of those people who always finds the typos!

Mary Rosenblum

oooo...lucky you! I can't see a typo unless it leaps off the page and BITES me! :-)

babbles

How much of a word count do you try to reach with each novel or do they vary?

Janet Wellington

Excellent question, babbles....word count is critical, even for a new writer.

 

All the lines have a suggested word count. Special Editions run about 75,000 words

 

and here's another secret (it took me three years to figure this one out because no one told me!)

 

When you type your ms., it's double spaced, using Times New Roman or Courier

 

and Courier is preferred, by the way. So you've got 1 inch margins and usually a header

 

with your name and the book title, right? Each page has around 23-25 lines on it,

 

but here's the thing...you don't use that handy dandy word count tool on your computer

 

for word count -- you count pages...250 words to a page whether there are  10 words or 300 words.

 

So you have to find out what the word count is for the line you're targeting

 

or if you are writing single title, mainstream stuff--you still want to keep your word count

 

around 100,000 or 125,000. Words counts are available within the pubs guidelines.

Mary Rosenblum

That 250 words per page is quite accurate, too, but that's for 12 point font.

Janet Wellington

yup

elisabetam

how do you keep track of your preparations? do you use any writing software or are you a notecard kind of person?

Janet Wellington

Elisabetam--I am in the process of perfecting a system...it's a blend of brainstorming about the plot...

 

and working up character pages. It's kind of hard to explain in this format...

 

I come up with a basic story idea, sometimes I have a setting in mind and/or characters

Janet Wellington

and I start a notebook to put everything in.

sailor

I've read that once you find an editor who likes your work, continue to submit to that person to develop a relationship with that editor. My friend did that but the editor told her she needed to send work to a second editor, that it was risky to be tied to just one because of possible personnel changes. My friend still works with the original editor, but also has a second publisher for her work. Do you agree? If so, at what point do you look for a second publisher or editor?

Janet Wellington

Sailor...my goal is to find an editor who likes my style of writing, but also to be the

 

ever cheerful and easy to get along with writer so that the publishing house likes me too,

 

but I'd say this business is a bit of matchmaking, so it's important to connect...and editors

 

do get pregnant, leave the house, move on to something else, etc. etc. etc. so I think you do

 

need to always be aware of what's happening in the industry. I want to write contemporaries

 

for Silhouette (how's that for an affirmation) and I want to continue to write paranormals

 

for Dorchester Love Spell. Having two publishers is fine -- I know writers who have up to five,

 

so it's okay to work with more than one publisher.

Mary Rosenblum

I'll put my two cents worth in here and say it's more than okay, it's a good idea.

 

I lost a flourishing mystery series when my editor left to have kids. That is typical.

Janet Wellington

I agree

senicynt

I've noticed that often Harlequin books published 'this month' have sold out quickly. Does that limit your advance? how does the publisher determine which books should be published again if they don't get a count because of all the people who would have bought, don't do so because the books were sold out?

Janet Wellington

Senicynt, I'm told that 90% of the books are bought in the month they come out,

 

which is amazing to me. Then more are sold later through the book clubs and through

 

foreign sales. They are meant to sell out each month (then you have to find them through

 

used book sources, etc.) Your advance is based on sales, so as your name gets known

 

or if you land in a popular line (like Blaze or Special Edition), there are readers that

 

buy every book, every month. Romance readers are voracious readers, with many reading

 

a book a day or more! It's an amazing thing -- and that's why the pubs are always looking

 

for new talent!

sweet_muse

Do they ever reprint Harlequin or Silhouette books?

Janet Wellington

Sweet_muse: I've sure been noticing a lot of "reissues" -- with new covers on them just to confuse me

 

You can check the copyright page, always, to make sure you're getting a new book or to confirm

 

you actually have a reissue. You'll see Nora Roberts reissues, for example.

mystery2me

I noticed on the harlequin website that you can send in a query for selling your book. Did you have to get a lawyer or agent to do that, or can you do it on your own?

Janet Wellington

With Harlequin and Silhouette especially, you don't need to work through an agent,

 

in fact, I think they like unagented writers. You might get a faster read if you submit through

 

an agent though. You can query any publisher on your own--let me back up.

 

When you're looking for a publisher, you need to see what their process is...do they want

 

a query letter only at first? Or will they take a proposal right away (which is the synopsis and

 

first three chapters)? Follow the guidelines -- many are listed on the pubs sites,

 

and you can connect to many of the RWA recognized publishers through the Romance Writers of America

 

site... here is an address for you;  www.rwanational.org/pub_links.cfm

 

So, a lawyer or agent really comes in later, perhaps, when you are faced with a contract.

Mary Rosenblum

According to my agent, Harlequin's and Silhouette’s contracts are pretty non negotiable and airtight, so you aren't going to suffer by going it alone.

sailor

With Har/Sil, are royalties usually based on list price or on the discounted price?

Janet Wellington

sailor: hmmm....I don't think I know the whole answer...I'm guessing that regular royalties

 

are based on the retail price, with lesser royalties on book clubs and things. I haven't seen

 

a contract, and haven't asked anyone this question.

Mary Rosenblum

Janet, I can answer that one.

 

Royalties on mass market sales are based on cover price only.

 

Book club royalties are negotiated separately.

 

Discounted prices...such as Amazon and some bookstores...

 

don't affect your royalties.

shoutjoy

Can you describe your preparation process a little?

Janet Wellington

Shoutjoy, okay...here's the short version--what I would tell you to do if you want to get

 

started. Figure out what line or publisher you're targeting. Decide on your setting.

 

Figure out who your heroine is...my heroine is an Ethnobotany college professor.

 

And your hero...my hero is a Kumeyaay Indian. Then state the internal conflict (or guess, if you're

 

not sure at this point!). And state the resolution. You have to get a handle on your story, and this

 

forces you to do that!

speckledorf

What is the difference in a plain romance and a genre romance?

Janet Wellington

Speckledorf, if your book is labeled a romance by the publisher, it will fit the criteria

 

for a genre romance, which is that the story is primarily a love story and the relationship

 

is the most important part of the story...and there is a happy or satisfying ending. If your book

 

is an historical saga with lots of romantic parts in it, for example, maybe it really is a

 

single title, mainstream novel that is romantic but it has more to do with family members

 

solving conflict or whatever. Genre romance fits that basic romance criteria, just like a detective novel fits

 

a certain criteria. Does that help?

babbles

Where would you suggest sending a sweet, family value, faith filled yet desirable romance manuscript?

Janet Wellington

babbles, sounds perfect for one of the inspirational romance pubs! Let's see

 

Harlequin/Silhouette has SteepleHill, there's Multnomah, and a couple more--refer to

 

the guidelines within the pub list in the previous web address or email me if you get

 

confused at mail@janetwellington.com okay? There is lots of room for new writers

 

in the inspiration subgenre!!!

sweet_muse

They have information on all the lines on eHarlequin.com -- you can contact editors and they have information on the kind of stuff they accept including word count and elements of style.

Mary Rosenblum

That does seem to be an informative website!

Janet Wellington

yes!

babbles

I just sent the first 3 chapters of my ms to Limitless Dare 2 Dream. They're a new publisher,  ever heard of them?

Janet Wellington

Nope -- where did you find them?

Mary Rosenblum

I actually just ran a search on them on Google...no negative comments...they seem to be legit.

sweet_muse

Sillouette Dreamscapes are Paranormal Romances -- they are a themed collection that were brought back by popular demand..Would you consider writing one of those?

Janet Wellington

sweet_muse, sure! But I think they are all reissues at this time.

babbles

I found Dare 2 Dream in my new Writer's Market 2004 started by writers Samantha Ruskin and Anne Clarkson

Janet Wellington

Are they e-pub or print on demand?

Mary Rosenblum

I'll go look...report in a second here!

paja

Does a line edit deal with story flow, etc?

Janet Wellington

Paja, usually a line edit doesn't really deal with story flow-- that's a story edit. But, sometimes

 

when I'm reading the story I'll make comments about the flow or suggest moving a paragraph

 

or something like that. There are book "doctors" out there who offer to check the plot.

 

and charge quite a bit of course, so you have to be a little careful in this arena.

Mary Rosenblum

VERY careful, actually!!!

Janet Wellington

Yes--I would get a personal referral before doing something with a book doctor.

babbles

Limitless Dare 2 Dream publish trade paperback originals and reprints.

Mary Rosenblum

It seems to be a Print on Demand house, Janet.

Janet Wellington

Oh, so it also sounds like I could sell them my first two books once I get my rights back---yay!

Mary Rosenblum

It does indeed!

sweet_muse

What is print on demand?

Janet Wellington

sweet_muse, print on demand usually means the publisher is small, and doesn't keep a bunch of...

 

printed books in a warehouse somewhere--instead, he will print the book on this cool

 

machine that creates a trade paperback size book! Two great women I know run

 

SANDS publishing and that's what they offer--they are a small pub, offer a small advance

 

and also help people do self-publishing stuff. Again, you have to be very careful and

 

do your research. There are some great small publishers out there!

Mary Rosenblum

I know Sands. That’s a very nice house with a good reputation for small press!

paja

What is your take on using pen names?

Janet Wellington

Paja, good question. It's a personal choice...I wanted to use my real name, but I know others

 

who don't. If a person is writing steamy romances, for example, and they teach elementary

 

school, do they want their real name out there? Probably not. And sometimes a person's

 

given name is difficult to pronounce or whatever...and, you may want to take a pen name

 

for different subgenres...one for contemporaries, one for those bloody vampire books!

babbles

I hired a personal editor for myself is this a good thing or will it hurt me in the end?

Janet Wellington

babbles, I don't think I can answer this...if this personal editor is reputable and talented...

 

and understands the market you're trying to break into, it could be great! Or not.

Mary Rosenblum

Janet, you have really given us a LOT of great tips tonight! And I...

 

really thank you for coming! By the way, all, Janet will be back here for another visit in June...If we didn't wear her out tonight!

 

Want to tell us about what may be coming out? You certainly...

 

won some new readers for your Dorchester book!

Janet Wellington

DREAMQUEST will be available May 4th, 2004 -- the book of my heart! I'll be updating my website

 

www.janetwellington.com  so you can keep in touch with me there, of course.

Mary Rosenblum

I'll insert the link in the transcript, Janet, so that people can go right there.

babbles

thanks Janet it was great! I'll be e-mailing you

Janet Wellington

good

Mary Rosenblum

Thank you so much for coming tonight, Janet!

 

You were great! And I love your how to tips for analyzing books.

Janet Wellington

I had way too much fun and hate it to end.

sweet_muse

thank you

Janet Wellington

my pleasure sweet_muse

00Mary Rosenblum

We all thank you! I'm looking forward to having you back in June!

 

You have been a wonderful and VERY helpful guest!

senicynt

Thanks for your great responses janet! :-)

Mary Rosenblum

I agree!

Janet Wellington

senicynt: you guys were awesome--keep the faith!

Mary Rosenblum

Thanks, Janet!

 

We'll see you in June!

Janet Wellington

Bye!

Mary Rosenblum

Good night, all!

 

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