Tag: Publishers

Interview with Anna Boatman from Piatkus

In ConferenceInterview by RWA Blog CoordinatorDecember 3, 2019Leave a Comment

We are so looking forward to welcoming you to Fremantle in 2020, Anna. We’d love our members to get to know a bit about you before conference.

Anna Boatman

I see that you started your career at Mills & Boon, and now work with international romance bestsellers at Piatkus, including Mary Balogh, Julia Quinn and Charlaine Harris. What do you love about romance fiction?

Escapism! The world is a tough place to be at the best of times, and I think we can probably all agree that currently we’re not in the best of times – it’s wonderful to be able to step into another world knowing that the ending will be happy!

Great characterisation (I always think you have to be a psychologist to write successful romance).

Witty, intelligent dialogue.

What women want being the focus of a whole genre!

You are also the publisher for PCR Fiction, which encompasses the Piatkus Fiction and Constable Crime imprints. What’s a normal day in the office for you?

It honestly varies so much from day to day that this is a tricky question to answer! There is less reading during the day than teenage-me believed when planning to become a publisher – and definitely more meetings and spreadsheets, but overall, it’s a very interesting and challenging job. The core of my role as a publisher is to identify the titles across the division that we think would most benefit from extra focus and make sure they get it, while also doing everything possible to make sure we buy the very best books across both crime and romance.

Can you tell us the process of what would happen after you read a submission you like?

If I like it and want to publish it myself, I would take it to Editorial first. Editorial is a lovely meeting, as it’s the wider editorial team, who will all read the book too and help me decide on the best pitch and strategy. After that, I take it to Acquisitions, where we (hopefully) show Sales, Rights, Marketing, Publicity and Digital why we think it’s a great book, and get their thoughts on how to make it work, and how much we think we can pay. This can be trickier to navigate, as it being a good book is of course not always the same thing as it being a clearly sellable book. Some of the most interesting books out there may struggle as it won’t be as clear where they might fit in the market – our job as publishers and editors is to work out not just whether the book is good, but the best way to get everyone excited about selling it from the first moment it’s presented to the publishing team. Once we’re all on board, I will make an offer to the agent (if there is one) or directly to the author if there isn’t. Once the offer is accepted, we then begin to make any editorial changes with the author, working towards a final manuscript ideally about nine months before publication, while beginning to create a plan across all departments for how we get the book out to as many people as possible!

You have a mix of genres in your portfolio. Can you tell us a little about them?

I’m lucky enough to work across a big range of commercial fiction, and have published everything from erotica to science fiction to book club fiction. In one memorable case I have published an erotic science fiction thriller (though it didn’t make it into a book club). For me, one of the greatest strengths of Piatkus and Constable is that as we are lucky enough to have a core of long-running authors with big fanbases, we are able to sometimes take a risk and take on books that don’t immediately fit into the established genres – I tend to love books that are a mix of genres (eg Amanda Bouchet’s wonderful fantasy/romance trilogies) and it’s a real privilege to be able to publish books that are taking risks.

What do you love about writing conferences? Any advice for conference goers?

For me it’s really wonderful to meet both aspiring authors and readers – as I spend a lot of time negotiating with agents and then working with authors who are already published, you can feel sometimes a little disconnected from the readers and from authors at the beginning of the process. I always find it hugely invigorating and interesting to hear their enthusiasm and passion for the books in person.

What books that you’ve worked on that are coming out soon are you excited about?

Love Letters From Montmartre comes out in Australia in November – this is the very first translated fiction I’ve ever bought for Piatkus. It’s about a writer of romantic comedies whose wife dies, leaving him with his young son. After her death, he is struggling to believe in happy endings and is suffering from severe writer’s block, but before she died she made him promise to write her one letter for each year of her life. This beautiful book is the story of how, over thirty-two letters, he begins to believe in love again. It made me cry SO much.

Where Winter Finds You by JR Ward – JR Ward is an institution – I love her Black Dagger Brotherhood series and this is her first ever Christmas vampire!

Christina Lauren’s Twice In a Blue Moon – gorgeous, swoony romance by two of my very favourite authors.

Maria Lewis The Wailing Woman – a feminist fantasy about a banshee and an absolute joy from start to finish.

What do you do in your ‘down time’? Are you going to able to have some down time on your visit to Australia?

I’d definitely love to! I’m planning on a two-week holiday if I can manage it. At home to relax I cook longwinded and impractical dishes for my long-suffering housemates, have an unhealthily developed Netflix habit, go cycling and do yoga. Also I read, but am aware that’s a particularly boring answer!

Do you find much time for reading as a pastime and if so, what’s on your TBR pile right now?

Red, White and Blue – amazing gay romance with a prince!

Holly Black’s Queen of Nothing – can’t WAIT for this as I love the trilogy.

Orchestra of Minorities – fantastic book published by a very talented colleague of mine that made the Booker shortlist this year.

I also tend to listen to audio books for my non-work reading – it’s a nice separation. Recently I LOVED Daisy Jones and the Six, and am currently mid-way through a quirky, mysterious book called The Hoarder.

Any advice to unpublished writers?

  • Keep going! I’d suggest writing because you want to, not in expectation that it’s going to be an easy way to make a living – it’s tough out there.
  • Don’t be afraid to try self-publishing – any way to get your books noticed is good, and the average editor will be intrigued by an author who has successfully self-published, not put off by it.
  • Don’t listen to anyone who tells you there’s only one ‘right’ way to write – the process is different for everyone.
  • Find authors who you admire, work out who their agents are and approach those agents specifically.
  • Read as much as you can in the area you are writing in.

Any advice to published authors?

  • Keep going! It’s tough out there. Do everything you can to keep your focus on your characters and your books, and keep remembering why you enjoy writing in the first place.
  • Chase your publishing team (nicely)– they will be doing the best they can for you, but they likely have a lot of competing books taking up their time and it’s always worth checking in.
  • Do everything you can to connect directly with your readers, online and off. It’s really important, particularly in romance. When you’re starting out, no signing is too small, no request too slight to make something of – you are your own biggest advocate and the more you give to your readers, the more they are likely to respond.
  • Make connections with as many other authors as you can, and be generous with quotes and reading – it will definitely be worthwhile later down the line!

Finally, we are so delighted you’re visiting us in Western Australia. Is there anything in particular you’re looking forward to seeing or doing?

I’m delighted too – thank you so much for the opportunity! I’m hoping to find a beach at some point and do some snorkelling. Also, I hear the seafood is spectacular, so am keenly looking forward to both eating and drinking what sounds like really wonderful wine!


Conference News | Secrets of a Successful Pitch

Registration for Fremantle 2020 is coming up, and choosing a pitch appointment will be part of the registration process. Things will be a little different now we’ve gone virtual due to Covid-19.

Pitching is obviously going to look different at this year’s conference, because we won’t be able to have the traditional face to face meetings.

However, as pitch coordinator, I’ve been in touch with the wonderful pitch takers we had lined up for Fremantle, and most of them are happy to go ahead with pitching in a different form.

I don’t have full details from everyone yet –  as you can imagine things are not business as usual at the moment – but most of the editors and agents are willing to either set up Zoom meetings with members or offer advice on a blurb and first chapter in a phone call.

The process of registering your interest and allocating pitches will stay much the same from previous conferences and the conference team will give further details about the process closer to the date.

Pitch takers are working with the team and have indicated that allocated pitch sessions will  be conducted in the work week and during office hours, depending on the time zones the editors and agents are in.

Pitch appointments may be scheduled before or after the actual online conference, depending on the availability of the parties involved. Also, most editors and agents will create and manage the Zoom meetings and phone calls themselves, and will invite the pitchee to join, with a volunteer from the conference team available in case of technical failure.

We are still busy gathering all the pitch takers preferred means of taking pitches, and will let you know what the situation is as soon as possible. Please be aware that where editors and agents have indicated they want a blurb and first chapter (of around 2500 words in total) before the pitch appointment, they would need to receive them a month in advance.

This means those members who are interested in a pitch session and who are successful in getting a slot will most likely need to have their blurb and chapter ready to send in to the conference team around 1 July.

As per the original conference rules, only those registered for conference will be eligible to apply for a pitch session.

Pitching

For those who want to pitch, remember that a short, simple, but most of all interesting description of the essence of your book isn’t enough. You need to be able to follow through, with a book ready to send out if the editor or agent requests the full.

In creating your pitch, think about the premise of your story, the themes and the hook. Write them down, and play with them until you feel you have a handle on them. Also, if you have critique partners or beta readers, ask them what they think the premise and hook of your story is. Quite often you may be too close to easily see it, and someone else with more distance can help narrow things down.

A good way to approach things when you start to work with the rough notes you’ve got on premise, hook and theme is to look at the back page blurb of books that are similar to yours, or books whose blurb really jumped out at you. Study how they are put together, what you like, what you don’t like, and start to put something unique together for your story.

Be able to succinctly describe who your characters are and have a short punchy explanation of their goals, motivations and conflicts (internal and external).Try to include the emotional highs, lows and major plot points. It might look like this:

“When (hero/heroine), a (role) who (empathy/setup) is (opportunity), she/he decides to (new situation/preliminary goal). But when (change of plans)she/he now must (outer motivation/primary goal) by (hero’s plan/deadline) as well as (secondary goal) in spite of the fact that (outer conflict).”

Don’t forget: You are the expert on your story. If you love it, go in confident that you will get your goal, a request for submission of part of your story.

The Pitch Process

RWA’s mission is to promote excellence in romantic fiction, to help aspiring writers become published and published authors to maintain and establish their careers, and to provide continuing support for romance writers – whatever their genre – within the romance publishing industry.

One of the ways it achieves this mission is through the annual conference and the opportunity for its delegates to pitch to an editor or agent.

Before the Conference

You need to be registered for the core conference to be eligible for the opportunity to pitch your story, face to face with one of the business representatives, editors, and agents attending.

Make sure you understand the language of publishers/editors/agents before you begin. Knowing where your story belongs is crucial when you start looking at who to target. Is it a romance or is it a story with romantic elements? Stories suitable for one of Harlequin Mills & Boon’s category lines is unlikely to be of interest to someone looking for commercial women’s fiction. Don’t waste your time or theirs pitching to the wrong publishing house representative.

You will be asked to nominate your preferred option when pitching opens. To help you make this decision, read all the information on the agents / editors / publishers attending the conference included in this month’s Heart’s Talk.

Before you Register to Pitch

Read all of the information about pitch takers very carefully. You may want to supplement this with further research. We are giving you the opportunity to do your research by releasing the information on agents / editors / publishers taking pitches.

After the Conference

Make good on your promises. Get that submission in as soon as you go home. RWA is ready to encourage you, waiting to hear your call story, for your dream to come true.

Good Luck!

Michelle Diener

Pitch Coordinator

RWA Conference Team Fremantle 2020