“We can’t get enough writers” is a direct quote from Mills & Boon’s Sales & Marketing Director, Claire Sommerville. This great news for the pre-published is bought to you from your intrepid reporter who traversed London and braved the scary world of publishing to find the holy grail that the Women in Publishing talk promised to deliver – “the secrets of the world of romance writing”.
Okay, enough of the silly writing style. J Actually it was a little daunting to turn up and find that there were twelve editors, Claire Sommerville, Sharon Kendrick and um, me (gulp). Two SETs (Scary Editor Types) swooped and asked me who I worked for (meaning which publishing house). I ran through the various replies about my employment status in my head – ‘myself’ (sounds suspicious), ‘my husband’ (sounds like no one else would employ me) and opted for ‘I’mnotinpublishing I’mhereforthetalk.’ When it transpired that I was interested in the writing angle I was then asked “So what have you had published?” Eek.
Once the SETs had established that I was a nobody and unworthy of their networking time they left me alone and I managed to find a couple of FETs (Friendly Editor Types) instead. The FETs were not romance editors but had ‘always fancied having a bash at writing a M&B’.
Claire Sommerville had lots of positive M&B facts – M&B’s sales were 25% up on the general fiction market in the last quarter; M&B is to be stocked in Waterstones soon, due to popular demand; M&B are expanding into more foreign markets. The ‘can’t get enough writers’ was a direct response to the question “Why on earth do you accept unsolicited manuscripts?” Basically they need more authors to keep up with demand, are desperate to find them and as a result have been running competitions (an in house one in the BBC as well as the ones we know about).
Sharon Kendrick was extremely entertaining as a speaker. She basically ran through the various elements your M&B story should have – a great hero, the fantasy element, be character driven, emotional/internal conflict driven, preferably incorporate a popular theme (Cinderella, marriage of convenience, secret baby etc). She also included some interesting snippets about how certain nationalities and professions are NoNos for your hero and heroine (e.g. French heroes are apparently unpopular, even though the biggest market for translated M&Bs is actually France).
Her tip for how to write a successful M&B? “Write with integrity and convey the emotion the characters feel to give the reader a satisfying read.”
I asked how they would define the difference between the Presents and Modern Heat line (I’ve listened to the editors' podcast but was interested in the marketing perspective) - Answer – Modern Heat is aimed at a younger audience and is more of a sexy chick lit read.
Claire S summed up the appeal of M&B – “it creates and maintains hope”. Well the confirmation they are actively seeking new authors certainly gave me a little hope.
(BTW - During the talk a mobile phone rang from my corner of the room, a SET glared at me for a minute before realising that the noise was actually coming from her handbag. Don’t you love it when that happens? ;-)