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Monday, May 9, 2011

Deborah Nemeth Is In The House

I have a serious girl-crush on Deborah Nemeth. Deb is my editor at Carina Press and she's generously agreed to answer a few questions. She's an editor in high demand so I really appreciate her taking the time to visit.

Deb recently edited Apocalypse Rising (out TODAY) and I've learned so much from her over the course of editing this book. She's an intuitive editor, grasping what the story needs as it develops. How she can read the same story over and over again and come up with new suggestions leaves me in awe. Editing is hard work! Yet she makes it look effortless. I hit the jackpot when I got her.

Please welcome my extra-special guest. Feel free to ask questions. I'm sure she'll pop in sometime today to answer them.


Q:  What subgenres do you actively seek?

A:  Thanks for starting out with an easy question, and one I can talk about at length. Short answer: I like variety, so pretty much any genre fiction except horror and inspirational. As most editors tell authors, voice is the most important attribute, followed by compelling characters and a gripping story. Carina doesn’t just publish romance, and I’m always looking for mysteries of all sorts, from gritty police procedurals to English village cozies.

One of my favorite genres is steampunk, a clever blend of SF/fantasy and historical fiction. Another is historicals—Regency (of course!), but any period from ancient civilizations to WW2, as well as unusual and exotic settings from Spain to Persia to Siam.

I also enjoy action-packed thrillers and suspense; lighthearted capers, chick lit and rom com; and dark, angsty contemporaries, women’s fiction and paranormals. For SFF, I’m seeking solid, unique world-building, and I especially enjoy epic fantasy, Arthurian, space opera, space westerns, futuristic. I’m open to genre blends and less popular niches such as family sagas. I acquire all heat levels from sweet to erotic and am always seeking more m/m authors and multicultural stories.

Q:  What advice would you give new authors when pitching their novels to Carina?

A:  It’s always a good idea to read a publisher’s guidelines and follow the instructions. Beyond that, here are a few tips:

• Write the best story you can and take the time to polish it thoroughly.

• It’s not necessary but it’s always nice when an author takes the time to research the editors and addresses a personalized query, which can be sent to the general email address. Dear Deborah Nemeth, I read on Maria Zannini’s blog that you enjoy steampunk/unusual historical settings/capers/cozy mysteries…

• Our submissions review process is more thorough than at many epublishers, so please allow us sufficient time. At least two Carina Press editors/staff members must recommend a manuscript for acquisition, so it often takes longer.

• If you get a revise and resubmit letter, treat it as an opportunity, not as a rejection.

• If you’re new to epublishing, educate yourself about social media and building a web presence so you’re prepared for when you receive an offer of publication.

Q: Can you give us a checklist that tells an author when a manuscript is ready to make the rounds?

A: Here’s a checklist that less experienced authors might find useful:

1. Have you begun the story in the right place, to hook the reader with an intriguing situation, goal and motivation?

2. Is the setup/backstory cleverly interwoven and presented in steady drips, only giving the reader what we need to know to follow the action, instead of fed to the readers in big chunks of exposition?

3. Are your characters fleshed out? Do the protagonists have some flaws? Do the villains have any positive attributes? Have you given your protagonists a goal they feel passionate about, one that grabs the readers’ attention and makes them want to keep reading to find out the outcome?

4. If your story is a romance, do the hero and heroine have clashing goals? Have you provided both internal and external conflict?

5. Does tension steadily mount until the grand climax? Do you make it more and more difficult for the protagonists to achieve their goals? 

6. Does every scene contain conflict? Does every scene begin and end on a hook?

7. Do you make your protagonists suffer? Do they learn, grow, change throughout the course of the story?

8. Do you bring the readers to a point in the story where they can’t see how the hero/heroine can possibly overcome their obstacle to achieve their goal?

9. Have you done multiple self-editing rounds, ruthlessly weeding out banal dialogue, stock gestures, clich├ęd language and situations? Is your prose as tight as you can make it, with repetition and unnecessary explanations pruned away, with no instances of telling what you show? No unnecessary dialogue tags or filler words that can come out?

10. Is your point of view as deep as you can make it? Have you eliminated unneeded filter words to bring us deeper into the viewpoint characters’ minds?

11. Has your manuscript been checked by crit partners who can give you competent and candid assessments of any weaknesses?

12. Have you read the dialogue out loud? Have you read the entire manuscript out loud, paying attention to meter and syntax, the rhythm of the prose?

These are terrific suggestions! Thank you, Deb for being my guest. You're the best!

Now dear readers, do you have any questions or comments?


Mike Keyton said...

Advice that should be printed and placed next to the keyboard. Thanks, Maria and Deborah both

Lauracea (Sue R) said...

Excellent interview, Maria, full of interesting tidbits. Thanks to you and Deborah for sharing this.

Shirley Wells said...

Deb's my editor too and, yup, I share that girl-crush. She is awesome.

Happy Release Day!

Rula Sinara said...

What a great advice list to keep at hand. Thanks for the great interview, Maria and Deb. Congrats on your release day, Maria!

Angelina Rain said...

Maria, thanks for arranging this interview and happy release day!

Deb, I’ve heard such great things about you from a few Carina authors. Thanks for providing all this information.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Wow, great advice--and interview!!

Joanne said...

Thanks Deb and Maria. We can't hear it enough, to really clean up those words and make each one matter.

Question for Deb: I'm curious as to the percentage of submissions that actually make it through from query to publication. Thanks again ...

Liz Fichera said...

Great list of reminders for any manuscript--whether published or unpublished. I heart Deb!

Deborah Nemeth said...

Mike, Sue, Rula, Angelina, Shirley, Joanne, Jennifer, Liz,
You're very welcome, and thank you for the kind words. I hope some of you may find some of this information useful.


Diana Quincy said...

When it comes to historical romance, which openings do you see much too often? Are there any plot devices you are tired of seeing?

Thanks for a very informative posting!

Deborah Nemeth said...

The percentage question is tricky for me to answer since I see only part of Carina's subs, and each editor's experience will differ. I can tell you that out of the first 50 submissions I read back in 2009, I acquired 2, which is about 4%, but one of those was after a revise/resubmit. And I also passed one of those submissions to another editor, who requested acquisition. Out of the second 50 I reviewed, I acquired one straight away, from an author I knew at my previous publishing house, and another one after two revise and resubmits, a rare instance when I did more than one RR.

Since then the percentage of slush I've acquired in any quarter has generally been in the 3-5% range. However, my acquisition percentage overall is much higher since most are coming from current Carina Press authors, or authors I've worked with at other houses, and I tend to really like their writing.

Deborah Nemeth said...

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk about the types of mss I'm seeking and to interact with your blog readers.

Congrats on the release of Apocalypse Rising! I had a great time editing your awesome story.


Deborah Nemeth said...

Great question. A few common openings in historical submissions spring to mind: the Regency hero giving his mistress her conge, the heroine causing the hero to fall off his horse, and most especially the you-must-get-married-now-to-save-the-family opening, generally due to financial difficulties arising from Papa's gambling debts.

Keep in mind that any opening can work with a fresh twist, crisp writing, and compelling characters, and the must-get-married goal can be a useful one, especially in Regencies.

I blogged more about tired openings on the Carina Press website a few months ago:


Krista D. Ball said...

We're allowed to admit girl crushes on the internet? Sweet!

Enjoyed the guest post, Maria! Thanks for arranging it.

Well done, Deborah. Thanks for sharing.

Raelyn Barclay said...

Great interview ladies!

Awesome list to have while working on revisions, I'll be printing this out. Thanks Deborah.

Happy release day Maria!

Linda Leszczuk said...

Maria - Congratulations on the release today of Apocolypse Rising. I devoured it - it was wonderful.

Deborah - I've saved this post to my "edits and rewrites" folder so I can use your checklist when the time comes. Thanks.

Cathy in AK said...

Great interview!

Congrats on the release! Off to buy my copy ;)

Eleri Stone said...

Congratulations on the release, Maria!!!
Thanks for the checklist, Deb :) Have to print that one out.

Shelley Munro said...

Congrats on the new release, Maria. I think I've been hiding in my cave for too long. I didn't realize you had a release coming. I'm another Deb fan, since she's my editor.

Maria Zannini said...

Hi everyone!

Thank you all for stopping by to say hello to Deb. Didn't I tell you she was great?

Sorry I disappeared for a while. (Bad day at physical therapy.) He didn't kill me though, so I'm finally back. :)

Deb: Thank you so much for visiting. I loved your checklist. Excellent advice for any writer.

Charlie said...

Great interview! Thanks for sharing these tips and info about Carina.

Jenny Schwartz said...

Happy Release Day, Maria!

I'm off to re-read Deb's advice :)

Cate Masters said...

Wonderful interview. Thanks to Maria for hosting Deb, and thanks Deb for the excellent advice. :)
Congrats on your release Maria! Can't wait to read it.

Kim said...

Congratulations on the release, Maria! Something else to be added to the TBR pile. :)

And thanks Deb, for the great advice!

Victoria Dixon said...

Thanks so much for the great interview, Maria and Deb! Maria, I saw your FB post and hope you're feeling better. :) Congratulations on Apocalypse Rising's debut!

Madeleine said...

Fabulous pointers. Great interview. Well expressed :O)

Stacy Gail said...

This was a fantastic interview! I got so much from this I just have to follow your blog. Really well done. :)

Happy release day!

Joanne said...

Thanks Deb, for taking the time to answer. Very interesting statistics!

Maria Zannini said...

Stacy: Glad to meet you! I've put myself on your follower list too, then added your blog to my Google Reader so I can keep up with your updates.