Friday, October 1, 2010

Six Questions for Nicola Martinez, Editor-in-Chief, White Rose Publishing

White Rose Publishing publishes romance stories in which faith is the cornerstone of love. A variety of lengths are accepted, including short stories (10,000-20,000 words), novelettes (20,001-35,000), novellas (35,001-60,000), and novels (60,001-80,000). Stories can have contemporary, historical, or futuristic settings and most sub-genre are accepted. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: According to a report by Foner Books (, “[g]rowth stagnated for booksellers in 2008, and overall book sales barely moved according to the government.” In addition, I’ve read a number of articles concerning the difficulty authors are having securing book deals. In your opinion, what is the current state of the print book market?

NM: With the growing popularity of eBooks, the market for print books is definitely shrinking, but I don’t think print will completely disappear any time soon. What we are seeing in print books, even among larger publishers, is a shift towards utilizing POD (print on demand) technology to produce new titles or to keep backlists alive. In my opinion, this is a good thing. It means sustained life to older titles and an increased opportunity for publication to new authors whose salability is yet unproven.

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a manuscript?

NM: Great hook. If it doesn’t make me want to read the book from sentence one, then I’m not going to read it.

Polished writing. The storytelling skill has to be such that I truly become so engrossed in the story that I don’t want to stop reading. But in addition to the storytelling, the mechanics—spelling, structure, grammar, etc.—all has to be top-notch.

Intriguing plot. In a romance, the established formula of Boy-Meets-Girl, Boy-Loses-Girl, Boy-Gets-Girl-Back, has to be present—I mean, has to be present—but the plot needs to be fresh and interesting.

SQF: What major mistakes do authors make when pitching their books?

NM: The foremost mistake I see is not following the submission guidelines. We receive a lot of submissions that fall outside our word count or content guidelines. Whether you’re pitching in person, via virtual meeting, or email, pitching a book that doesn’t meet the publisher’s guidelines is, well, to be frank, a waste of time. I want to spend some time elaborating on this because, even though it may seem trivial to some, I believe it’s very important.

Think of your submission as a job interview. Would you apply for a job that clearly stated qualified applicants should possess fifteen years’ experience when you had no experience at all? No. You’d be wasting your time and the company’s. Just so, don’t submit a 100,000-word manuscript when the top word count is clearly 80,000, or a book of poetry to a mystery publisher. Remember, publishers have guidelines for several reasons—and one of them isn’t to offer a suggestion. They may be called “guidelines,” but think of them more as “rules.” They are set in place so that neither the author’s time, nor the company’s time is wasted. At White Rose, we publish only romance. If you submit a western, we’re not going to publish it—doesn’t matter how wonderful the writing is or how interesting the story.

Along the same “job interview” principle, beyond looking for a great and marketable story, editors want to know that when we send you edit instructions, for the most part, you’ll be able to follow them without too much issue. If an author cannot even read the submission guidelines and follow them during the “interview” process, how well is he/she going to follow edit instructions once he/she acquires the “job?” As odd as it may sound, we look at how well you follow the submission guidelines as a direct representation of how well you will follow edit instructions later. Not following submission guidelines is like going into an inning of baseball with one strike against you, (Why would you want that?) Plus, you run the risk of your submission not even being considered. Case in point, if I see a manuscript come in at 100,000 words, I rarely read the synopsis. I know that in order for me to contract this work, 20,000 words are going to have to be cut. That’s a huge edit, and chances are there’s another submission sitting on my desk that does fall within the guidelines. I’ll consider that one first. The only exception may be if the author addresses the issue, somehow shows me that they know the word count is over, and that they are willing to cut it should we like the story. At least then, I know the author hasn’t disregarded the guidelines.

I know all this may sound harsh; I don’t mean it to be. I just want authors to realize what they are up against even in those areas that may seem trivial—even with a small publisher.

SQF: Of the books your company publishes each year, how many are by previously unpublished authors?

NM: I don’t have an exact percentage, but we are as open to unpublished writers as we are to published authors. Quality of story is the main criterion by which we judge.

SQF: What is your advice to new, unpublished authors looking for a publisher or agent?

NM: Hone your craft. Be open to constructive criticism and ignore hurtful criticism that doesn’t help you to improve your ability. Study the market in which you wish to publish, and then write something you love. If you write a story merely because it is the latest “thing” editors are looking for, you will usually come up short. Love what you write first, and then conform it to specs.

When you approach a publisher or agent, know what they’re looking for and be respectful. (This may sound like a given, but you'd be surprised. :))

SQF: What question do you wish I’d asked that I didn’t? And how would you answer it?

NM: —how about, “What’s new?” :)

On 27 July 2010, Pelican Ventures (the parent company of White Rose Publishing) announced the launch of a sister publishing company. Harbourlight Books will publish Christian fiction in all sub-genres except romance (also excluding children’s and YA). We’re excited to expand into being able to offer the reading community a wider variety of books.

Thanks so much for allowing me to participate in your blog. I appreciate it and hope that my answers help. Happy writing, everyone, and God bless.
Thank you, Nicola. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

NEXT POST: 10/4--Six Questions for M. Lynam Fitzpatrick, Managing Editor, The Linnet's Wings

1 comment:

  1. I'm pleased to participate. Thanks for hosting me.