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Reasons to celebrate

Appeared in April HT, by Sara Hartland, Hearts Talk editor

The program is out and tickets are on sale! What are you looking forward to the most at RWA’s 30th Anniversary Conference at the Gold Coast? 

For many it’s the chance to be there in person from 13 – 15 August 2021, but if you can’t, your ticket includes three months of access to the virtual presentations so you can watch any or all of them at your leisure.

Full details are on the conference website,, but 

but the truth is conference is about people connecting with people. And the best kinds of people are book people, right? Especially romance writers.

Whether you’re a multi-published New York Times bestseller or an aspiring newbie, the magic of being together is what everyone is talking about. Here’s what some RWA members had to say:

Mary-lou Stephens: “At this year’s conference I’ll be eligible for my First Sale Ribbon and it’s all because of the RWA. I pitched my debut novel, The Last of the Apple Blossom, to Harlequin at last year’s virtual conference and it will be released this year just in time for the 30th anniversary conference. I’m overwhelmed by the support and enthusiasm of the entire RWA community and it will be wonderful to say thank you in person, and to show off my beautiful book, at the Gold Coast conference.

“I am genuinely thrilled to be receiving my First Sales Ribbon at this conference and as such it will be a conference I will always remember. 

“I pitched to Nicola Robinson from Harlequin. Yes I was nervous, but more than that I was mortified. Why? Because, even though I was proficient with Zoom by August of last year (weren’t we all!) for some reason I couldn’t get the video to work during my pitch. I could see and hear Nicola but she could only hear me. She tried to help me get the video aspect happening but nothing I did worked. I was aware of time slipping away and I hadn’t even started my pitch. 

“I could have shut down Zoom, rebooted my computer and then logged back in, but by then my pitch slot would have been over. So we forged ahead. Thankfully Nicola didn’t think I was a complete idiot and asked to me to send her the manuscript. I pitched on 13 August 2020. On 21 September 2020 The Last of the Apple Blossom made it through acquisitions and I was offered a publishing deal. Release date is 28 July, just in time for the 30th anniversary RWA Convention.”

(Here’s a link to find out more

Jan VanEngen from Hobart is looking forward to her eighth RWA conference and is super excited about “the buzz of being surrounded by my tribe” and “nine days of bliss”. 

“Thirty years is a huge achievement. Well done. I foresee a huge celebration! The programs are always amazing. I’ll be doing Friday and the core conference.”

Jan is craving seeing everyone in person and keen to revisit the Gold Coast for the first time since 1971.

“I still have a street artist drawing of me at the age of 10. I can’t wait to see everyone again, learn, have fun, and see the sights. “

As well as being thrilled the ARRA book signing is back, Jan loves the Awards Dinner.

“I look forward to it every year. I love the dinner, and being a part of it. The RuBY’s are the Oscars of romance writing. I love seeing the achievements of my fellow writers and seeing be rewarded for their excellence.

“Bring on August and #RWAus2021.” 

You can find Jan’s writing on wattpad at 

Contest co-ordinator, regular contest winner and indie and trad author Fiona Marsden is also Aprils’ RWA Volunteer of the Month. Fiona is a huge fan of conference: 

“I think my favourite part of the conference is the Awards Dinner, even when I’m not getting awards 😁. It’s so much fun celebrating the achievements of our peers. Being in a rural area, I’ve found the craft seminars particularly helpful over the years and usually do the Friday sessions when they have a topic I need to work on. 

“I’m also excited to see the return of the ARRA Book Signing which was a wonderful excuse to do the circuit and say hello to all the signing authors without feeling intrusive. I’ve missed it in recent years. And of course the face to face catchups with people I only usually see at conference.

Gold Coast local and RWA President Tracey Rosen is keen for her hometown to shine: 

“I am so excited about the 30th Anniversary Conference being held here on the Gold Coast. 

“I remember when we moved here 17 years ago now, we would often just jump in the car, get some fish and chips and head down to the beach. If it was raining it was almost better, as we’d sit in the car and watch the storm over the ocean. Such beautiful sightseeing and things to do here. 

“I actually wish the conference could be longer because there is so much that we have here that I want all of you to be able to experience too. But then I look at the program and wish I could go to literally every session there too. 

“Mostly, I can’t wait to catch up with everyone. Have a drink, have a laugh, and talk to so many of you that I’ll have to take a week off work afterwards to recover.”

Sue Price is part of the conference team but part of her focus will be on a special occasion: 

I’m so excited to meet my Write Connections zoomie group in person for the first time.

“I’ve been zoom meeting for one year since Covid-19 lockdown with a bunch of lovelies from interstate. We will finally meet in person at conference! I’m soooo excited to see them in the flesh. I wonder who’s shorter or taller than me haha.

“The group formed when Marg Key (aka Chelsea Locke) put a call out on RWA’s facebook group. Seven of us met for the first time, total strangers from NSW, Qld, SA and Vic. Members include Stephanie Mayne writing as Stephanie Ashton, Debbie Deasey, Sharyn Swanepoel and me, writing as Susannah Kade.”

Conference has played a role in the group’s life already.

“Conference will be a chance to celebrate a big year during which we supported, motivated and encouraged each other to grow as writers. We shared skills and knowledge, entered new contests and took part in Twitter-pitches. Some hadn’t used Twitter. 

“Most pitched at Conference 2020 for the first time. Marg pitched to Liz Pelletier and Lydia Sharp from Entangled Publishing and her manuscript Tackling Trouble is under consideration.

“Sharyn won places in several anthologies and long-listed for QWC Adaptable. I won Ripping Start and a third place in Publishable. Stephanie Mayne won a place in Sweet Treats. Debbie and Sharyn are publishing short stories. Our group are producing our first small town anthology with plans for volume two and three this year.”

Each year, the workshops, pitching and celebrations kick off with a very special event that has Hearts Talk deputy editor Tanya Nellestein plotting and planning with glee again in 2021. 

“As a former winner of the coveted Best Dressed at the Annual Cocktail Party – no, I will never stop milking that –  I cannot wait for this year’s cocktail party! The costumes, the excitement, the mingling, the free-flowing alcohol. 

“Yes, this is where an extravert like me shines. But don’t worry, I’m an all inclusive shiner and will need a selfie with every single one of you! You’ll also find me at the bar at every available opportunity. I cannot wait to catch up with friends, old and new, and the bar is the perfect place. 

“Again –  I’m a talker, so please come and chat. I will also be first in line for the scones and the chocolate cake. You may even find me in a workshop or two, and you can always come sit with me! Basically, I can’t wait for the whole shebang to get underway. GC 2021, Bring it on!”

You can see what elseTanya’s has planned for the year at her  website.

For the final word,let’s hear from USA Today bestselling author Sasha Cottman:

“I can’t wait to see my author friends again and also refill the creative well. 2020 for those of us in Melbourne was a hard and at times a lonely slog. See you at the sessions and also in the bar!”’

You can see what Sasha’s been up to at  or find her at the Gold Coast this August.

Pitching at RWAus2021 – what you need to know

Appeared in April HT by Sue Price and Sharyn Swanepoel, Pitch Coordinators

We’re excited to announce our pitch takers for Gold Coast 2021. This year will be a little different as many publishing houses have travel restrictions. We are thrilled to announce the guests who are able to join us on the Gold Coast. These are the editors, agents, publishers, business and industry professionals who can help you achieve your dreams, and show you new ones to pursue. They are:

Alex Adsett – Literary Agent

Rebecca Saunders –  Hachette (Friday appointments)

Annette Barlow – Allen and Unwin 

Debbie Lee –  Ingram Spark (Business appointments)

Jodie Spiteri-James m Aust Society of Authors (Business appointments)

Through the magic of technology we have a wonderful group of publishing and business professionals offering online or phone appointments – we’re currently working out civilised timeslots and confirming meeting platform/method. 

To allow you to be in your own home with your familiar communication device/internet, online pitches/business appointments will be held after conference on Weds 25th, Thursday 26th and Friday 27th August (international time zone considerations mean some appointments might occur on Saturday 28th local time). 

Carly Byrne – HarperCollins – Harlequin UK – (Historicals and acquires across all UK Harlequin series (Harlequin Romance, Presents, Medical Romance, and Historicals).

Nicola Robinson – HarperCollins – Harlequin Australia

Rachael Donovan – HarperCollins – Harlequin Australia

Cat Clyne, Editor, and Lynn Raposo, Editorial Assistant – HarperCollins – Harlequin HQN and Graydon House, (pitch appointments for Cat and Lynn will be scheduled equally i.e. you won’t choose)

Deb Werksman – Sourcebooks 

Jessica Alvarez – BookEnds Literary Agency – New York

Beverley Cousins – Penguin Random House – Australia

Kelly Hunter – Tule – (Kelly is based in Australia)

Editor TBA – Avon Books – an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers – New York

Now that we have your attention, read on to find out a bit about our guests and what they’re looking for. Give your manuscript its best chance to shine by pitching to someone who’s itching to publish your magnificent story. We suggest reading them all before you narrow your choice.


Nicola Robinson – HarperCollins – Harlequin Australia (Online/Phone)

Nicola is commissioning editor at Harlequin Australia, where she works with authors including Fiona McCallum, Alison Stuart, Sarah Barrie and Mary-Lou Stephens. Previously she was senior editor at HarperCollins Australia, where she edited fiction and non-fiction, including books by Dervla McTiernan, Holly Ringland, Jimmy Barnes and Stan Grant. Nicola is based in Sydney.

● What is the minimum word-count your agency takes, or your publishing house requires?

Single title only (80k and upwards) YES – for both our print and digital lists.

Category length (45k-55k) YES – for digital only.

Novella or less (40k down to short story) YES – for digital only.

● What sub-genres or genres are you not looking for? 

Sci-fi, fantasy.

● Is there a genre or sub-genre you’re particularly keen to see? 

Crime, thriller, contemporary women’s fiction, historical.

● What genre is your personal favourite? 

Toss up between crime and historical!

● What is your major turn-off in a book?

Unconvincing dialogue.

● What is likely to really knock your socks off besides an engaging voice and well written book?

Great ideas.

● Any advice to your potential pitchers?

Don’t be nervous. (I am very nice.)

Rachael Donovan – HarperCollins – Harlequin Australia (Online/Phone)

Rachael Donovan

Rachael is a publisher for Harlequin Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers Australia. She has been in the Australian publishing industry for fifteen years and has worked in a variety of roles from administration and sales to editorial. She joined Hachette Australia as a division coordinator before branching out into product management and marketing in the heady days of YA vampire romances. She crossed over into editorial with the local publishing division before moving to Allen & Unwin. There she worked with a creative and fun children’s publishing team as a children’s editor. Over the years she has helped create books of fantasy, moving memoirs, kids’ picture books and war stories; but fiction is her one true love. Now she is dedicated to hunting down those compelling stories filled with the kinds of unforgettable characters that you can’t forget. 

● What is the minimum word-count your agency takes, or your publishing house requires?

Single title only (80k and upwards).

Category length (45k-55k) – for Escape only.

● What sub-genres or genres are you not looking for?

For Mira: Erotica, fantasy, paranormal, young adult, horror, contemporary romance set overseas, regency historical romance.

For Escape: Erotica, horror, gritty crime.

● Is there a genre or sub-genre you’re particularly keen to see?

Strong sparkly romance, women’s life fiction, historical romance, cracking adventures, historical epics and family saga.

● What genre is your personal favourite?

Like most people who work in publishing, I’m first and foremost a reader – and a wide-ranging reader. Any genre is good, as long as it has great voice, a sense of freshness and makes for compulsive reading.

● What is your major turn-off in a book?

Characters withholding information from the reader, while referring to the fact they’re keeping a secret.

● What is likely to really knock your socks off besides an engaging voice and well-written book?

Immersive world-building. Relatable characterisation and a cracking pace.

● Any advice to your potential pitchers?

We’re keen to hear from you!

Carly Byrne – HarperCollins – Harlequin UK (Online)

Carly Byrne

Carly Byrne is Editor for Harlequin Historical, as well as working with a number of authors across all four UK-acquired series lines. Carly joined the editorial team at Harlequin’s London office after completing an M.A. in popular literature, and what could be more popular than Harlequin romances! A diehard fan of everything romantic, with a particular penchant for a rugged hero, whether he’s wearing a Stetson, wielding a sword or wildly roaming the Highlands! Carly can’t believe she actually gets to read romances for a living! Find her on Twitter at @CarlyMByrne.

Cat Clyne – HarperCollins – Harlequin/Graydon House (Online)

Cat Clyne

Cat worked in academia and magazine publishing before moving to book publishing. Prior to joining Harlequin, Cat was an editor at Sourcebooks, where she built a diverse list of bestselling, midlist, and debut authors. For Graydon House, Cat acquires commercial and book club fiction, hooky women’s fiction, historical fiction, and thrillers. 

She is currently looking for strong, evocative stories that stay with the reader long after the last page. At the top of her wish list are diverse contemporaries and historicals by own-voiced authors. Found families and inter-generational immigrant sagas are of particular interest, as are international settings. I’m looking for: Stories I haven’t heard before with a slam-dunk hook, punchy banter or a surprising take on evergreen tropes; smart rom-coms, fresh historicals with a modern feel and twisty psychological thrillers. Particularly interested in diverse or marginalized voices, swoon-worthy heroes who upset toxic masculinity and unforgettable characters.

Lynn Raposo – Harper Collins – Harlequin – Graydon House – HQN (Online)

Lynn Raposo started her publishing career in 2017 as an intern at Penguin Random House Canada and went on to roles at HarperCollins Canada and Harlequin, where she now works as an Editorial Assistant for Graydon House and HQN Books. She studied English, French, and Professional Writing at the University of Toronto before completing her publishing certificate at Humber College. She is a former bookseller and an avid piano player.

● What are you acquiring?

Women’s fiction, contemporary romance, historical fiction, domestic suspense, romantic suspense. Bookclub-worthy fiction with strong commercial appeal for Graydon House, and fresh stories with a strong central romance for HQN. I’m keen on #OwnVoices stories as well!

● What is the minimum word-count your agency takes, or your publishing house requires?

Single title only (80k and upwards).

● What sub-genres or genres are you not looking for?

Non-fiction, Literary fiction, Young Adult fiction, Poetry/novels in verse, Short story collections, Political thrillers/crime thrillers, Police procedurals (romantic suspense is okay though), Sci-fi (fantasy is okay, as long as there is a focus on romance in the story), Erotica.

● Is there a genre or sub-genre you’re particularly keen to see?

I’d love to see some smart romcoms.

● What genre is your personal favourite?

Contemporary romance and women’s fiction. I love friendship stories, family stories (with bonds between siblings especially), and friends-to-lovers or enemies-to-lovers romance.

● What is your major turn-off in a book?

Overly-villainized characters — I love a good antagonist, but they still have to be realistic! Same goes for any character with over-exaggerated qualities; balance and believability are key.

● What is likely to really knock your socks off besides an engaging voice and well-written book?

A fresh hook or unique twist on a classic trope, and an atmospheric setting that really transports the reader.

● Any advice to your potential pitchers?

A solid elevator pitch is very helpful, along with some comparative works to help me understand your vision for your work (that can include films/TV shows as well as books). If you love what you’re writing, your passion for it will come through naturally. I’m as excited to hear about your book as you are to pitch it!

Deb Werksman – Sourcebooks – (Online)

Deb has been at Sourcebooks for the past twenty-three years, before which she had her own publishing company. She is the editorial director of romance fiction and acquires single title romance in all subgenres as well as romantic women’s fiction. Sourcebooks is the largest woman-owned independent publishing house in the US. We’re known for our sales and marketing, as well as our focus on building authors’ careers.

● What is the minimum word-count your agency takes, or your publishing house requires?

Single title only 80k upwards.

Also seeking Audible Originals of any length that don’t have a book planned yet.

● What sub-genres or genres are you not looking for?

Prefer not to answer this question as people don’t remember it’s what I DON’T want.

● Is there a genre or sub-genre you’re particularly keen to see?

Sexy Regency romance, Romcom, historical and/or paranormal Romcom, romantic women’s fiction, Momcom, small town contemporary romance, action/adventure romance, paranormal romance (especially shapeshifters or truly original vampires).

● What genre is your personal favourite? I LOVE ALL MY GENRES.

● What is your major turn-off in a book? Is it ok not to answer this? Again, I prefer to point toward what I want vs. what I don’t want.

● What is likely to really knock your socks off besides an engaging voice and well-written book?

The most important thing is the hook – I have to be able to talk about the book in 2-3 sentences in a way that communicates to the reader that it’s a MUST READ.

● Any advice to your potential pitchers? 

It would be great to structure your pitch like this:

This [word-count] [subgenre] is a must read because [HOOK – 2-3 sentences]

  1. I am a [debut, self-pubbed, hybrid, digi-first, traditionally pubbed] author with [#] books sold to readers. 
  2. One paragraph about the main characters and the conflict.

Please remember that a pitch IS NOT a plot summary – if you’re telling me all about what’s happening in the story, that’s not a pitch. Try to think about the READER and speak to that, because that’s what I’m listening for – how can I sell this to a very broad readership?

Alex Adsett – Alex Adsett Agency (Attending Conference)

Alex Adsett

Alex is a literary agent and publishing consultant with almost 25 years’ experience working in the publishing and bookselling industry. She has managed Alex Adsett Literary since 2008, and has helped hundreds of authors review and negotiate their publishing deals. As an agent she represents more than 45 authors of all ages and genres, including Melissa Lucashenko, Pamela Hart, Sasha Wasley, Jodi McAlister, Hugh Breakey and Leisl Leighton. She regularly speaks on copyright and contracts around Australia, is an alumni of the Australia Council Arts Leaders Program 2019, and serves on the board of the Small Publishers Network.

Alex is looking for:

Single title 65K and upward.

● What sub-genres or genres are you not looking for?

I am not looking for traditional urban fantasy or paranormal romances. I am also not looking for parody, satire, category romance, Australian historicals (1788 – 1945s), Mind Body Spirit, or memoir.

● Is there a genre or sub-genre you’re particularly keen to see?

Murder mystery romances, rom coms, science fiction romance, historical romances with a difference (eg. 1920s Egypt, Norse mythology), any kind of romance (even urban fantasy) from Asia Pacific region, especially Pacifika authors.

● What genre is your personal favourite?

Science fiction and fantasies are my first love, but at present I’m also loving rom coms (Red, White & Royal Blue, anything by Lucy Parker), 1920-30s murder mysteries (Miss Fisher, Sulari Gentill’s Rowly Sinclair series, Dorothy Sayers’ Peter Wimsey).

● What is your major turn-off in a book?

Dubcon, silly heroines without any agency, humour at the expense of plot, romance plot lines that revolve entirely around weddings, engagements, pregnancy or babies.

● What is likely to really knock your socks off besides an engaging voice and well-written book?

Empowered intelligent heroines and vulnerable heroes. Stakes that matter. Stories by underrepresented authors (eg BIPOC, LGBTIQA+, neuroatypical), And always, an amazing plot.

● Any advice to your potential pitchers?

Come along and tell me about what you are writing. Be yourself, and try not to stress too much. Please do not sign up to pitch unless you fit some of the criteria I’m looking for, and have a finished manuscript or are at least close to finishing.

Annette Barlow – Allen and Unwin (Attending Conference)

Annette has worked in the publishing industry for over 30 years, in bookshops, in sales, in editorial and for over 20 years as a publisher. Her list comprises fiction titles including many successful writers of commercial fiction such as Kate Morton, Fleur McDonald and Minette Walters. Her nonfiction titles are mostly memoir and include Jessica Rowe and Mary-Rose MacColl. Annette teaches at the Faber Writing at Allen & Unwin and is the publisher responsible for the annually awarded The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award.

● What is the minimum word-count your agency takes, or your publishing house requires?

Single title only (80k and upwards).

● What sub-genres or genres are you not looking for?

I’m not on the lookout for category romance, sci-fi or novels with fantasy elements.

● Is there a genre or sub-genre you’re particularly keen to see?

I’d love to find an author to join my list of talented rural romance writers, eg Karly Lane, Maya Linnell and Léonie Kelsall; rural crime would be great, eg Jane Harper, Chris Hammer and Lee Christine; cosier crime is also on my list, eg Kerry Greenwood and Sujata Massey. For the more literary authors among the RWA members, I’m looking for fascinating commercial women’s fiction, eg Kate Morton, Kirsty Manning, Monica McInerney and Natasha Lester; as well as gripping commercial suspense, eg Sally Hepworth, Petronella McGovern.

● What genre is your personal favourite?

Too hard! I enjoy so many and certainly all of the authors listed in the question above.

● What is your major turn-off in a book?

I am likely to put down a book that begins with a long set-up including lots of information dumps and lengthy explanations.

● What is likely to really knock your socks off besides an engaging voice and well-written book?

My favourite thing is a sense as I read that the writer is most definitely a storyteller. It’s impossible to define and the pitch coordinators have begged us to be specific so I’ll move on quickly to the next question.

● Any advice to your potential pitchers?

Try not to be nervous when you pitch. Remember publishers need you. We need to publish wonderful authors and why shouldn’t it be you this time?

Beverley Cousins – Penguin Random House Australia (Online)

Beverley, Fiction Publisher at Penguin Random House Australia, had twenty years’ experience of London publishing before moving Down Under in 2007. During her career, she has worked with a number of international brand-name crime authors, including Minette Walters, Colin Dexter, Nicci French, Sue Grafton, James Patterson and Janet Evanovich, and is currently the publisher for bestselling authors Judy Nunn, M. L. Stedman, Candice Fox, Nicole Alexander, Minnie Darke and Deborah Rodriguez, among others.

● What is the minimum word-count your agency takes, or your publishing house requires?

Single title only 80K words and upwards

● What sub-genres or genres are you not looking for?

No science fiction, fantasy, horror. We do consider some dystopian novels, however.

No straight category romance. 

● Is there a genre or sub-genre you’re particularly keen to see?

Historical women’s fiction – World War I or World War II in particular (though not exclusively!). Cold War and 1960s also.

Psychological suspense with strong female lead.

Action thrillers.

● What genre is your personal favourite?

My personal favourite is psychological suspense and crime fiction. 

● What is your major turn-off in a book?

Anything that is too over-stylised. To me, it comes across as trying too hard. Fresh, engaging, readable prose is all I’m really after!

● What is likely to really knock your socks off besides an engaging voice and well-written book?

A clever plot that can tease the reader in a few lines. Perhaps a question, or a moral dilemma, for example. In other words, a strong hook that our marketing team can get their teeth into. Do think about what words (shoutline and/or blurb on the back) that would appear on the cover to entice a reader.

● Any advice to your potential pitchers?

Please don’t spend the full pitch telling me the plot. A short summary of the plot is great – if I want to know how it ends (more usual for crime fiction) I will have the time to ask for that. Also talk about the readership you believe it will appeal to, perhaps suggest other authors it’s like, just so I can get a sense of how we would position it in the market. Also give a short bio and publishing history (if any).

Jessica Alvarez – BookEnds Literary Agency – New York (Online)

After ten years as an editor, Jessica joined BookEnds in April 2011. She began her publishing career in 2001 as an editorial assistant at Harlequin Books. There, she had the opportunity to acquire and edit a wide array of fiction, specializing in historical romance, romantic suspense, and inspirational romance. Jessica left Harlequin in 2008 to pursue a freelance editing career, and completed projects for Harlequin, Scholastic Books, Thomas Nelson, and independent writers. She is a member of AALA and uses her editorial background to help writers hone their skills and develop strong, marketable books.

Jessica read her first romance at the age of nine when she pilfered from a friend’s mother’s Harlequin Presents collection and was instantly hooked. Though her pilfering has passed, her weakness for alpha heroes and exotic settings remains.

A New Jersey native, Jessica still resides in the Garden State. She is perpetually over-caffeinated in an attempt to keep up with her son and three energetic dogs. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, swimming, watching bad (but oh so good!) television, and volunteering with Rescue Dogs Rock NYC.

Jessica is actively building her client list. Her areas of interest include most areas of romance, women’s fiction, and cozy mysteries. She’s also looking for select nonfiction.

What sub-genres or genres are you not looking for?

No paranormals, fantasy, or sci-fi, please. I also tend not to be a fit for time-travel stories.

● Is there a genre or sub-genre you’re particularly keen to see? Story length?

I’m especially keen to see more romantic comedies and historical romance. I’m strictly looking for full-length projects, so 80,000-100,000 words, unless it’s category romance. In those cases, the word count guidelines for the target series should be followed.

● What genre is your personal favourite?

I have to say, historical romance is my first love within the romance genre. I grew up reading Mary Jo Putney, Amanda Quick, Judith McNaught, Kathleen Woodiwiss, and I still look forward to getting swept away to different times and places.

● What is your major turn-off in a book?

Oh, there are many. One thing that particularly bothers me is when the characters have a lack of agency. I need the characters to be active participants in what’s happening to them, and not just be passively reacting to events.

● What is likely to really knock your socks off besides an engaging voice and well-written book?

A clever, fresh take on classic tropes is always appealing.

● Any advice to your potential pitchers? 

Try to relax and introduce your book as if you were telling a friend about it, but keep it concise to maintain the pitchees’ attention. Use any extra time to ask those burning publishing questions you might have.

Kelly Hunter – Tule Publishing Group (Online)

Kelly Hunter

Editorial Director of the Holiday imprint for Tule Publishing Group. Multi award-winning USA Today Bestselling author of short contemporary romance. 

Kelly is based in Australia, published internationally and has plenty of excellent industry reviews, awards and sales to boast of. She juggles editorial and writing duties to the best of her ability and tends to put social media last on her list of things to do. In recent years her scales have leaned towards editing, anticipating story market directions, and celebrating Tule’s talented author cohort. Kelly’s dream awards evening? When stories she’s had a hand in editing take out all the awards. Yes, all.

What sub-genres or genres are you not looking for? At the moment, I’m NOT looking for one-off single title romance or women’s fiction stories.

● Is there a genre or sub-genre you’re particularly keen to see? Short contemporary romance (50-60K wordcount) featuring compelling characters (particularly heroines), tense emotional situations and a strong sense of place. Australian and international settings welcome. A story world that can be built out to contain additional stories welcome.

● What genre is your personal favourite? Short contemporary romance with humour and heart. Not exactly rom-com but close. Also a fan of Australian Rural Romance.

● What is your major turn-off in a book? When the author sets up a beautifully strong and compelling conflict and then chips away at the edges without ever digging in. Get the shovel out. Better still, bring the bobcat.

● What is likely to really knock your socks off besides an engaging voice and well-written book? A wholly unique premise and laughs on page one.

● Any advice to your potential pitchers? Relax. You’ve got this! I often sit on the author side of the pitching process. I often stuff up my story details completely because I lose my words and then get nervous and it’s all downhill from there. It’s really not all downhill from there–the person you’re pitching to wants you to succeed. Also, be passionate about your story, not diffident. This is not the time for typical Aussie downplaying of your skills, successes and the unique strengths you bring to your project.

Rebecca Saunders – Hachette (Attending Conference– Friday only)

Head of Fiction at Hachette based in Sydney. Previously Deputy publisher, Sphere, at Little, Brown Book Group and editor with Macmillan Publishers.

● What is the minimum word-count your agency takes, or your publishing house requires?

Single title but open to receiving word lengths from about 65k as I can work with the right author to develop the story.

● What sub-genres or genres are you not looking for?

Genre romance, category romance, historical romance.

● Is there a genre or sub-genre you’re particularly keen to see?

Domestic psychological suspense, book-club or reading-group fiction.

● What genre is your personal favourite?

Psychological suspense, multi-generational family drama, general fiction. 

● What is likely to really knock your socks off besides an engaging voice and well-written book?

A concept that can be communicated to readers within a couple of sentences.

If I asked you why you would recommend your book to a reader you could answer that question.

● Any advice to your potential pitchers?

No need to be nervous! We’re in this together. I also want to hear about you, not just your novel.

Avon Books

An editor from Avon Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, New York, will be taking pitches at this year’s conference.

Avon is one of America’s most acclaimed romance imprints. Known for having pioneered the historical romance category, Avon continues to publish a wide variety of genres, including contemporary, rom-com, paranormal, and regency romance.

Avon advises: Each month our goal is to build an exciting list of fresh, exciting voices, which means we’re always looking for new talent! Avon means quality, which means you’ll be working with some of the best in the business: editors who spot trends, and develop talent while overseeing your manuscript and working with you to manage your career; marketers with proven relationships with all online retailers, whose knowledge of strategic pricing and online advertising is top–notch; publicists with their expertise in social media and promotional campaigns, who can get the word out about your book.

The Biz Buzz

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