Transcripts

 

The Editor's Side of the Desk: with Melissa Wohl, Editor in Chief of 'Arabella Magazine'

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

Melissa Wohl is the Editor in Chief of the new Arabella Magazine, a magazine featuring short Romance stories, and a welcome new publication in a genre that seems to provide mostly novel length stories! This new magazine is unusual, too, in that Ms. Wohl includes not only complete short stories, but serialized segments of longer work, and excerpts from upcoming novels. It also features romantic food and recipes, articles about romantic travel and getaways, interviews with Romance authors, and reader reviews of their favorite romantic fiction. Wow, what a lovely selection! I wish more magazines offered such a rich smorgasbord!

 

I really appreciate your joining us tonight, Melissa! I know you HAVE to be busy with your fist issue just out!

 

I know that our website writers have a lot of questions about

 

the mechanics of putting a magazine on the shelves. But before we begin

 

Why don't you tell us about Arabella and where we can find it.

 

I think that is what impresses me the most about your magazine is

 

that you are including the food and travel features with it.

Melissa Wohl

ok! The magazine is 60% romantic short story fiction with about 40 percent features, columns, travel and food all relating to romance.

 

We are also not looking at travel as something conventional but to present in an original and engaging light. Our major selling point is that the magazine is not a book reviews magazine

Mary Rosenblum

There are virtually no short Romance markets. Romantic Times is mostly reviews.

 

Where can we find it?

Melissa Wohl

You can find the magazine at all the major bookchains, like Barnes and Nobles, Borders, Booksamillion, Waldenbooks, and

 

you can also order it on the website. We are also in some independent bookstores.

Mary Rosenblum

And people can of course subscribe, right???

Melissa Wohl

of course! It is much easier then going to the store!

wendyhaber

What kind of investment capital do you need these days to turn out a quality magazine? What do you need to do to make sure it is a success?

Melissa Wohl

Well wendyhaber, that is a loaded question. first to do a magazine right you first must do research,

 

because you want to present something well researched to investors. Assuming you did all the research and wrote up a business plan, you then go for capital. Since the finance is not my realm of the magazine I can tell you magazines are the trickiest!

 

I would first start out small and for this issue that is coming out we raised about 115000 dollars.

Mary Rosenblum

Wow! Thatís for one issue, right? How many copies have you printed?

Melissa Wohl

We printed about 12000 copies. That is for this one issue that will be out on the stands. It was a test to test the market. I would recommend that you really involve someone who knows numbers and can project expenses. There are a lot of expenses to print a magazine.

owlybear

Is your magazine also distributed in Canada?

Melissa Wohl

Owly- yes I believe we are but you can also subscribe. as a side point we have had subscribers from literally all over the world.

jameso

Do you see any men writing short romance stories?

Melissa Wohl

We have gotten a lot of submissions from men. I think that there are more men writing romance then we think and write under different names.

Mary Rosenblum

Actually, Jim Lavene, who was one of our guests last time, writes Romance with his wife. :-)

Melissa Wohl

Mary is right. There are a lot of husband and wife teams.

dellexis

I have heard that you are willing to publish short stories as a series. How would that work?

Melissa Wohl

Well we are looking into that. We actually have one that will be in the Jan issue and will carry on for the next few issues.

Mary Rosenblum

Great! As far as I know, only Analog Magazine (SF) does that.

Melissa Wohl

but for something like that we have to be very selective because we want to grab the readers.

senicynt

Hi Melissa! I live out in the middle of the sagebrush. Do you have an on-line order address for Arabella? I'd like to take a look at it.

Melissa Wohl

Senicynt- you can order the magazine at http://www.arabellamagazine.com/

bud

When will the magazine be available?

Melissa Wohl

Bud, the magazine will be available in the bookstores this coming week

 

but everyone who subscribed will be getting it very shortly.

elisabetam

Do you anticipate working with a largely new writer base or will Arabella be focusing on established authors?

Melissa Wohl

elisabetam, we are looking for both.

 

We would love to be an incubator for new writers as well more established writers

Mary Rosenblum

Here here! I'm applauding!

Melissa Wohl

Thanks.

paja

Do you notice any style differences in stories written by men vs. written by women?

Melissa Wohl

paja- I think in the beginning we were getting stories from men that were pushing the envelope

 

in terms submitting things that were not relevant to the guidelines.

red2

Since you are a new publication, you may not be listed in the market guides yet. How might we get guidelines for submitting?

Mary Rosenblum

Aha! They are posted on the Long Ridge website, in New Market Listings!

Melissa Wohl

red2- We also have the guidelines on our website.

wendyhaber

What did you look for when you hired your editors?

Mary Rosenblum

Or are YOU doing all the editing?

Melissa Wohl

wendy-- We began our search on creative emoonlighter because at the beginning we were looking for a freelancer who had experience in magazines.

 

Sharon Lloyd, the managing editor, had experience in the Romance industry and also edited the company magazine for Enron.

 

She had the combo of both Romance and magazine experience. We were also looking for people that believed in the idea and were willing to give 100 percent plus.

 

I think everyone looks for something specific but I think it also is a connection. I felt very connected to Sharon as I do with my art director.

Mary Rosenblum

Editorial experience in the field DOES help! and Melissa,

 

while we're on the subject...do you want to tell us a bit about what goes in your head to influence your choice of stories from the 'slush' pile? I had no clue as a new writer.

Melissa Wohl

Well I think the slush that I reject is first all the submissions that are not relevant to Romance industry.

 

Then we have the stories that may not be well written and can't be salvaged.

 

Then there are those stories that are just too long and we can't read short novellas. We donít have the time.

 

We also have a policy of having at least two people read the submissions.

 

Anything that seems cliched is passed on. We have been getting a lot of submissions that take place in a sports setting, or people meeting over pets or kids,

 

then there is also the gut feeling that if I don't understand this, how will the readers?

 

And just as a side point since we are publishing short stories, if it takes the writer too long to get into the story then that can be a problem.

Mary Rosenblum

Aha! Hear that, folks! Nice strong hook, please!

Melissa Wohl

Also I had a professor that always said show don't tell.

Mary Rosenblum

I suspect the Long Ridge students out there hear that a lot...and EVERYBODY hears it from me! :-) That's critical to good fiction!

Melissa Wohl

Well, Mary, it is true. No one wants to read pages and pages of narrative that has nothing to do with anything.

 

Sometimes shorter is better. I remember reading George Elliot's the Mill on the Floss in college and my professor said the story should have stopped at x page yet it went on for another 200 pages or something like that!

Mary Rosenblum

I'm laughing, Melissa! I had

 

exactly the same thought when I read that story!

 

Sassy asked if unsolicited ms are read when you receive them?

Melissa Wohl

sassy, most of the manuscripts are sent without a solicitation.

 

Some writers will ask if they can send something or propose an idea but for the most part, writers just send in their work

wendyhaber

Do you feel that writers of feature stories may have the opportunity of offers from romance book publishers, if they feel the story has potential?

Melissa Wohl

wendy, I am not sure if I understand the question.

Mary Rosenblum

I think she's asking if publishing short Romance with you will help her sell a book length work later...do the editors at Harlequin read short fiction?

Melissa Wohl

To be honest I can not give an answer to that.

 

At one point Harlequin published a magazine that had four novellas that was digest size. they stopped it because their bread and butter is series and single titles.

Mary Rosenblum

I suspect that the Romance book editors DO pay attention to the short fiction writers. The mystery and SF/fantasy editors certainly do.

Melissa Wohl

It is totally possible that someone from Harlequin or Dorchester will read the magazine and like what they see. Also you need to understand that there are thousands of women that send manuscripts to Harlequin and they publish such a small percentage of those submissions that

 

I think anything that you do that is relevant to romance is a plus. You never know. You are building a portfolio and if you have an agent then they can peddle that.

elisabetam

Is Arabella trying to cover to the spectrum in subgenre (chick-lit, classic, mystery) or will there be a specialty?

Melissa Wohl

elisa, great question. Our aim is to have a mix --

 

meaning that there would be romance mystery, the classic romance, paranormal, regency etc.

 

We of course can have theme issues but for the most part we want a mix of romantic fiction.

Mary Rosenblum

I'm curious, Melissa. New as you are as a market, not even in the Writers Market type lists yet, how many submissions are you getting?

Melissa Wohl

To be honest a ton.

 

We have been very lucky that we have generated great buzz. I went to the RWA convention in NYC in July so it helped, and it just snowballed.

 

We have gotten hundreds and counting.

 

It is really a blessing.

Mary Rosenblum

Great attitude! :-)

 

You'll get plenty more, after tonight! Bet you! :-)

Melissa Wohl

Great. it makes us feel good!

red2

What do you think it is that has made romance stories so popular?

Melissa Wohl

red2- If you look at literature from the beginning of time there has been a strong element of romance from Greek tragedies to Shakespeare, and books such as Emma or Jane Eyre.

Mary Rosenblum

Romeo and Juliet!

Melissa Wohl

But I think the romance genre that is popular now and has been since Harlequin began is that there is the element that no matter what happens in the world, in your own life there is that guarantee that things will end happily ever after,

 

that the man that she wants will be hers. Even though the genre portrays women as more modern, the heroines still want to be with the one they love.

 

It is really an escape and like I said before a guarantee that it will all be happy. As Jane Eyre said at the end of her story was "and reader I married him". She was referring to Rochester the man she worked for. In the end despite all her plainness and innocence she got the man that she wanted.

Mary Rosenblum

No kidding. And the reports Iíve heard are that since 911, that type of happy ending fiction has increased in popularity.

senicynt

HI Melissa, Iím here rather than reading the guidelines right now. :-) Do you take recent historical fiction shorts? Say the roaring 20's?

Melissa Wohl

Actually senicynt that would be great. We are looking for more period pieces and would love to see something set during that time.

 

We are going to work on the guidelines to make things more clear because I think at times we are too general. I think there are certain time periods that are under written and definitely the 20's is one of them

bud

Should the manuscript cover letter be addressed to Ms Wohl?

Melissa Wohl

Or to the editors.

 

It doesn't matter as long as the letter is clean and succinct.

info

If someone was to submit a SF story, it might be rejected?

Melissa Wohl

info- There is no guarantees that it will be rejected. Just remember there needs to be romance. If there is no romance then it will be rejected.

wendyhaber

I would love to write travel features. What are you going to look for in your writers?

Melissa Wohl

wendy- we look for someone who can write obviously but someone who looks beyond the box. In the issue that will be out in the next week there is a travel article to Italy.

 

The article begins like this "when she decided to go to Italy they told her two things....

 

The story does not read like a typical travel article but it touches upon all the places, but then again a travel article should be engaging enough that the reader either says wow I want to visit or this is not my cup of tea. Either way you presented the destination in a light that allowed the reader to make the decision.

Mary Rosenblum

Cool! That's a fresh approach, Melissa! I like it a lot. Very personal.

Melissa Wohl

Thanks. Well I am not saying that everyone who wants to write travel should write that way but we like uniqueness

chatty lady

Can there be erotic sex scenes that slide right in to the story and are done tastefully? Not porn, but more than mere kissing?

Melissa Wohl

Chatty lady- that is a great question because this is something we are struggling with. if stories are erotic I would say they would have to be no raunchier then Harlequin Blaze lets say, or their Temptation line

 

The funny part is that either we got chaste stories with just a kiss or overly graphic submissions. We believe in a nice balance.

 

And of course taste is very important!

Mary Rosenblum

So a good answer to any of you wondering about your story, is to take a look at a few novels from the Blaze or Temptation line in Harlequin!

senicynt

Hi Melissa, What is the general turn around time from when you receive a manuscript to the acceptance or rejection of it?

Melissa Wohl

Senicynt- to be honest that is hard to say

 

since we are swamped with submissions. Writers should understand that there is a time or rather grace period. We do get to everyone. I would say if you don't hear something in 2 months to send an email.

 

No news is not necessarily bad news.

chatty lady

Do you send those cold, printed rejections, or if something could be good, do you write a note?

Mary Rosenblum

Aha. I knew this question would pop up! :-)

Melissa Wohl

We answer mostly by email.

 

We do say if the story has potential we would give comments. If it is something rejected we do send it out via email and we do compose the letter on the spot.

 

I mean rejection is never nice and trust me I had my share!!

Mary Rosenblum

Melissa, the fact that you compose the letter puts you ahead of most editors!

Melissa Wohl

Hehe.

Mary Rosenblum

I hope you don't wear out, doing that!

Melissa Wohl

Also remember that this industry is full of rejections. It is full of people who love to write and are eager. it is hard and competitive. Rejection does not always mean bad. it could be not suitable.

Mary Rosenblum

I don't think we can repeat that often enough, folks. Rejection slips do NOT mean you are a bad writer. Really!!! They mean this story did not work for this magazine right now!

Melissa Wohl

Exactly. I think we all take rejection personally

 

and when you think about it we are both faceless to each other.

Mary Rosenblum

Yep! Even us well established pros smart when we get rejected! We're just more realistic...but it still feels personal. Always. And it's not.

Melissa Wohl

Exactly and I think that is normal. we feel like they are rejecting their child

Mary Rosenblum

Exactly!

kayo

Would you be interested in a personal narrative from 60's Africa?

Melissa Wohl

Kayo- is it romance based?

 

Because that is the first thing you need to ask yourself

Mary Rosenblum

Everything that you publish needs to tie in to romance somehow, correct?

Melissa Wohl

Well it is a romance magazine. A romance has a man and woman who go through something and end up together. For the short fiction that is critical.

 

I think that there needs to be the element of romance because we are not a literary magazine

Mary Rosenblum

And for the nonfiction? A romance sensibility?

Melissa Wohl

Well I will give you what we have in the issue to give you an idea.

 

There is an interview with Alan Ayers who is a romance cover artist. There is a story about closet romance readers.

 

If you are unsure you can always pitch the idea.

senicynt

Let's say a writer had a good contribution to your magazine and it was of suitable length overall for serialization. About how many words would you want each segment to be?

Melissa Wohl

Senicynt- to be honest, with serials we are going to be very picky because that is something that will be a draw for months at a time.

 

Maybe 2000 words each but I think that serials are much harder to get then just getting a short story published.

 

Itís because of all the investment we put into it. And sometimes we get something really long and we would want to just cut it instead of serializing.

navarrejudy

What age group do you think will read your magazine?

Melissa Wohl

I think from 30's on,

 

but then again romance readers run the gamut from age 13 on-- there are romance readers all over the country.

elisabetam

I've been working on a sports related romance. You say you've been inundated with them. Are we seeing a new sub-genre or trend?

Melissa Wohl

elisa- I wish I knew the answer to that. I don't think it is a new subgenre because the stories we have are set in a field. I think it could be a trend. Actually in the first issue there is a story about two people that play softball together.

 

I guess it is something that is being done in writing groups, I don't know.

Mary Rosenblum

Here's a general publishing question for you, Melissa.

Melissa Wohl

ok

chatty lady

If you have a series of stories, is it better to try and publish them separately in magazines or in a collection of my stories in book form? A publisher is interested in some that Iíve written and suggested a collection. Thanks.

Mary Rosenblum

What do you think? Exposure wise?

 

She's writing erotic romance, by the way.

Melissa Wohl

chatty lady-- I am not a publishing expert but I definitely think that it is a positive thing to have the publisher interested in putting the stories in a collection. He knows the market best and thinks that there is a sell.

Mary Rosenblum

I agree. Hopefully the publisher will promote the collection, too!

Melissa Wohl

Donít spread yourself too thin. If you have stories in one place it gives readers a blitz and a one stop place to get a taste for your writing.

 

Erotic romance is a big market now and I think it is something that could sell if marketed right. it is easier to have it all in one place.

Mary Rosenblum

There you go, Chatty! :-) Melissa, most of my students intend to publish

 

and most of them send their work out...with a little nudging at times! So what do YOU as an editor

 

see that makes a specific story stand out in that pile of ms on your desk?

Melissa Wohl

Well, Mary it would be what stands out in the email!

Mary Rosenblum

Or there, yes! :-)

Melissa Wohl

I think sometimes the cover letter that describes what the story is about can be a clincher.

 

I think a lot of things are random because we get so much. If I begin reading the story and it is something that makes me think wow that could be a big thing I might buy it.

 

Remember a lot of this is so subjective that there is no rhythm or rhyme but I think if you are a good writer then that makes it stand out by itself.

senicynt

I'm thinking of the typical limitation of a one page resume type cover letter..... About how many characters is a good cover letter for your magazine?

Melissa Wohl

Senicynt-- a normal double spaced times new romance piece of paper is 250 words. So then I would say no more than 250. Remember that the cover letter introduces who you are, what you have done and what you are submitting or proposing,

 

no more no less. Also I have always learned that the cover letter is a make or break thing.

 

You need to think about those who are reading the cover letters that this is the intro, first impression and that the editor may not read the letter but the assistant or managing editor might.

 

So you need to sell yourself and work .... the cover letter is always hard. This is what I learned when I was looking for my first job.

 

Who are you and what are you sending is an easy enough formula.

Mary Rosenblum

So work on that great hook for your cover letter, in other words!

senicynt

Would you suggest we use different pen names when submitting different stories to your magazine, like travel, food or historical romance or just use the same name at your magazine?

Melissa Wohl

Seni-- I would be just use the same name. we are not going to publish a magazine with the bulk of the articles from one person and I think it would be a little "dishonest" to submit so much with under different names.

Mary Rosenblum

Besides, sen, if a reader really liked your travel piece, she'll jump right into that short story when she realizes you wrote it, too!

senicynt

:-) If we have no publishing credits, would we give a 'grab em' blurb of the type you'd see on the back of a published novel?

Melissa Wohl

seni I don't really understand. Could you explain what you mean?

Mary Rosenblum

I think she's asking if the writer should open the cover letter with a hook-type blurb from the story

 

instead of something in the author's voice.

Melissa Wohl

I can't give an answer because I don't know. I would recommend to look at some cover letters in a book that deals with cover letters.

rachel

How much do you change a story when you edit it?

Melissa Wohl

Rachel, we always keep the voice. We do edits in terms of grammar, syntax, spelling, clarity. We don't alter the voice.

Mary Rosenblum

Excellent. That's the type of editing that has really improved my writing!

Melissa Wohl

if we have to sit and do major edits then we are not going to publish it because certain things should be proofed by the writer.

 

I think that writers should always revise, revise before they submit. they should never submit a messy story.

Mary Rosenblum

That is a profound truth no matter WHERE you submit!

chatty lady

What kind of experience do you need to be an Editor?

Melissa Wohl

chatty- do you mean editor in chief?? :)

Mary Rosenblum

How about both, Melissa?

Melissa Wohl

ok....

 

I think that first and foremost you need to love to read and write. I donít think you need a specific college degree.

 

I think you need to have experience in the publishing industry but then again it is hard to say because I am not an experienced editor.

 

Knowledge of the subject,

 

adhering to deadlines, being amenable, love to drink coffee!

Mary Rosenblum

I'm chuckling at that last, Melissa!

Melissa Wohl

Just trying to be funny.

 

I love my lattes

Mary Rosenblum

Many novels are fueled by coffee!

chatty lady

Whatís the difference between Editor and Editor in Chief?

Melissa Wohl

Chatty- there is the editor in chief, the managing editor, then if there are departments editors of those departments.

wendyhaber

Would an Editor hired by your magazine need to live in Philadelphia or in the area?

Melissa Wohl

The managing editor is basically the one that carries it all out, while the editor in chief is the one that comes up with ideas and directs everyone. I know that at Arabella, I really look up to Sharon who is the managing editor. I am always conferring with her.

 

The art director deals with the art and layout of the magazine.

 

Wendy- actually we are a very national team. of course it is preferred to be in the same city. for example Heather Chappell the art director lives in Mississippi and works at another magazine and she will be relocating because we need to be in the same area plus she loves Philly.

 

Sharon Lloyd lives in Houston and even though she does not need to relocate it looks like she is going to move here. it is preferable.

 

Robin who is the intern lives in Delaware

 

which is close to Philly.

Mary Rosenblum

The editors I know all live near the magazine's main office...at least within easy commuting distance.

Melissa Wohl

But there are magazines that work all virtually and that is what we have been doing for the past six months.

 

We are lucky to have great people that want to come north. Just as a side, our circulation manager lives in Florida and the one that is in charge of single copy sales lives in San Diego.

Mary Rosenblum

Melissa, this has been great! It's hard to see the other side of the editorial desk when you're starting out! I know I couldn't do it, back then.

Melissa Wohl

Youíre welcome Mary. It really is not that glamorous!

Mary Rosenblum

So you willingness to come talk to us has been a GREAT benefit! I really appreciate it...especially since you must be REALLY busy with that issue launching!

 

I want to remind everyone that if you like a magazine SUBSCRIBE to it!

Melissa Wohl

Well it is great to take time out and talk to people. I know that I would have loved to have a place to get advice.

Mary Rosenblum

And thank you so much for sharing all this incredibly valuable information with us!

Melissa Wohl

I promise you that it is a lovely a magazine.

Mary Rosenblum

It's lovely from what I've seen online!

 

I plan to go hunt for it at Barnes and Noble and elsewhere!

 

And I'll keep the links and guidelines up on the site!

chatty lady

Such a fast moving, instructive and fun forum. Thanks Mary and Melissa.

Melissa Wohl

Please do and we are working on the guidelines. And thanks, Chatty!

Mary Rosenblum

Thank YOU, Melissa for being a great guest!

Melissa Wohl

And please we are looking for stories with some steam!

Mary Rosenblum

I hope you'll let me invite you back, when you have the magazine up and running!

Melissa Wohl

definitely I would love it.

Mary Rosenblum

There you go! More for next time!

 

And thank you all for coming and for asking great questions.

 

Makes my job easier!

 

Melissa, we'll let you go!

 

Have a great weekend, and good luck with Arabella!

 

I've been telling everyone I know about it.

Melissa Wohl

Ok, it is hard but I will say good bye and thank you for all the enthusiasm!

wendyhaber

Thanks so much for coming. How exciting to be here tonight!

Mary Rosenblum

Good night, Melissa!

Melissa Wohl

Good night!

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