I was offered a contract for my Victorian Novel by a small press with a growing reputation who have been enthusiastic about the story. I was happy to cut 10k of the manuscript to suit their wordcount requirements. However, there is usually a catch isn't there, and today I received this:
.... the hero and heroine must meet much sooner and the romance between them needs to be increased.......and, it must be written only in the hero and heroine’s POV's.
I know it’s my own fault – the story is really a Mainstream Historical Novel, but as an unagented writer, the vehicles for querying manuscripts is restricted and to be fair, this particular company is a romance publisher.
I realise I may be too close to the story as it’s my ‘baby’, but after careful consideration and compiling a synopsis to conform to all the changes I was asked to make, what remained left me cold, and certainly not something I would want to read - A run of the mill boy-meets-girl story with the two of them wandering round a country house throwing each other longing looks –yeuck!
And as a dear friend and critique partner who knows the book intimately said to me: - I hate that dumbed down romance formula that says "they have to meet here, their first spark of attraction is on this page and they have to kiss here" and now we can add to that, "and let's make it so it's all about their angst because no other persons colour their world or have a viewpoint on the lovers". [She has strong views on this one - bless her]
Who decided readers want ‘clone’ stories that are identical but for the time and setting? I don’t understand it at all. Has anyone written a review of a romance novel which said: ‘It completely threw me that the hero and heroine met in Chapter Four instead of Chapter Two and I had to plough through three scenes that dealt with a subject other than the lover's feelings, so it confused me!’
I doubt it! So on this one, I’m going to say, ‘Thanks but no thanks’.
However, on a positive note, I have heard this publisher is excellent to work with. Several of their authors are friends who speak, and blog, glowingly of their relationship with them. I realise they are a commercial concern and their focus is on the bottom line and the need to make sales in a competitive and difficult market.
Perhaps I should plan a story around their guidelines rather than make a finished manuscript fits neatly into their jelly mould, because I would still be thrilled to published by them and see my name on their author list.
By a staggering coincidence, or not, as this subject seems to be at the forefront of the writing world recently, Jane at Dear Author blogged today about a similar subject – do go over and read it, it’s a good article. I paraphrase her here: Publishers rely on hegemony to drive their industry – If a subject sells, replicate it and keep on replicating it until the public screams ’No More’. How many 'Holy Grail' stories were churned out after the success of 'Da Vinci Code'?
And another thing - as the proud owner of a Sony E-Reader, why am I expected to pay as much for an electronic copy of a new release as a paperback? Can anyone come up with an acceptable explanation for this piece of flagrant profiteering?