Ask the Acquisitions Editor: What's She Looking For? #amediting

Hey, hey, here we are at the last installment of Ask the Acquisitions Editor with CK Wagner, acquisitions editor with Omnific Publishing. I'm so glad you've all been enjoying it as much as I have. If you missed any of the earlier posts, you can find them here:

We'll finish up this series with questions from Nick & Donna regarding the type of stories she's looking for: 

Nick: Are you looking for fresh ideas? Is another vampire story a turn off or turn on?

CK: We are definitely looking for fresh ideas that embrace our “Romance without Rules” tagline. This is bearing in mind, however, that there is nothing new under the sun. Every story will have elements that have been done before, but the way those elements are mixed and matched (and told through an engaging sense of voice) can create a special X-factor that does set a story apart and make us want to give it a platform. I do initially groan when I see a vampire/werewolf query, only because as a consumer I’m quite done with that for now. But as an editor, I would never reject it on that basis alone. Even if the current market for it seems exhausted, those stories continue to be told because people continue wanting to read and write them. So basically the same expectations apply: If the story is told in a fresh and non-formulaic way, we will consider it. We actually have a vampire novel in our current publication queue that’s pretty cool.

Donna: Do you accept women's fiction? Its hard to tell on the submissions list.

CK: I generally say yes, but it depends. Our “Romance without Rules” tagline reflects that we are not interested in formulaic, old-school romance, and I would argue that much of what we end up publishing as a result of that is women’s fiction. We look for strong, smart, and independent heroines who can save themselves. And a story doesn’t have to be sexy to be romantic (some of our best books fade to black), but we do require that a romantic relationship be at the core of the story. Our hero doesn’t need to be an alpha male who rescues the fair damsel in distress, but we should see growth in his relationship with the heroine and believe in the substance of their emotional connection. The emphasis can still be on the woman’s personal journey, but her love interest should somehow be central to that and ideally result in a happily ever after (or at least happy for now) ending.

Thanks a million gazillion, CK!


Sidelined with @KLennonWrites

Kyra Lennon is wrapping up her blog tour to celebrate the release of her latest addition to the Game On series, Sidelined, and I get to be a stop today. The question I typically ask authors goes a little something like this:

If you could choose one song that best captures the essence of Sidelined, what would it be and why?

She's already answered this question in her tour post over at Alex J. Cavannaugh's place last week, so I shall send you to there for the full answer. But I'll give you the video here. Kyra says "How Long will I Love You" actually makes a good fit for the entire Game On series. Go on, stop over at Alex's to find out why.


At the age of twenty-one, Bree Collinson has more than she ever dreamed of. A handsome husband, a fancy house, and more shoes than Carrie Bradshaw and Imelda Marcos combined. But having everything handed to her isn’t the way Bree wants to live the rest of her life. When an idea to better herself pops into her head, she doesn’t expect her husband to question her, and keep her tied by her apron strings to the kitchen.

Isolated and unsure who to turn to, Bree finds herself falling back into a dangerous friendship, and developing feelings for the only person who really listens to her. Torn between her loyalty to her husband and her attraction to a man who has the perfect family she always wanted, she has some tough choices to make.

While Bree tries to figure out what she wants, a tragedy rocks the Westberg Warriors, triggering some dark memories, and pushing her to take a look at what’s really important.

About the Author: Kyra is a self-confessed book-a-holic, and has been since she first learned to read. When she's not reading, you'll usually find her hanging out in coffee shops with her trusty laptop and/or her friends, or girling it up at the nearest shopping mall.

Kyra grew up on the South Coast of England and refuses to move away from the seaside which provides massive inspiration for her novels. Her debut novel, Game On (New Adult Contemporary Romance), was released in July 2012, and she scored her first Amazon Top 20 listing with her New Adult novella, If I Let You Go.

Find Kyra online: Website/Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest/Goodreads/Join My Mailing List

Congrats, Kyra!


Ask the Acquisitions Editor: Manuscript Turn-ons & Turn-offs #amediting

CK Wagner is back to answer more of your acquisitions questions. CK is an acquisitions editor at Omnific Publishing (yes, the Omnific Publising that just signed a sweet deat with Simon & Schuster). For previous Ask the Acquisitions Editor posts, see:

And now we get down to today's nitty gritty regarding manuscripts.

Jackie: You've read the first chapter of a manuscript... what makes you want to keep reading and what would make you pass?

CK: We’re always looking for something fresh and non-formulaic. If we feel like a story’s premise or voice doesn’t offer anything new or intriguing, it’s risky to take a chance on; so much goes into bringing a book into being that it has to be worth everyone’s time and effort. We’re even less inclined if we can’t authentically connect to the protagonist and situation straight away due to shallow character and conflict development. One-dimensional characterization is unrealistic and unsympathetic—even more so without clear signs of growth and rising tension. The most difficult stories to finish are those with flat character/story arcs.

Crystal: What turns you off fastest about a submission? What are the big red flags you watch for?

CK: To start with the basics, frequent spelling and grammar mistakes truly hinder the comprehension and enjoyment of a story. It could be a great concept and well-written otherwise (stylistically and developmentally), but an unpolished manuscript tells us that someone was too eager to dash the story out and send it off to earnestly value the integrity of his/her work. The same goes for awkwardly phrased or superfluous content—that trips up the flow or drags down the pacing, and the reading becomes tedious. I’m not saying submissions should already be professionally edited—we expect to tackle this stuff in our editing process—but a good first impression is easily achieved through diligent proofreading, by you and at least one other set of eyes.

LD: What is your number one turn off, something that would make you stop wanting to read on?

CK: I think my biggest turn-off is immaturity in style and perspective. Too much telling-vs-showing, unnatural-sounding dialogue, or lack of variety in sentence structure, for instance, can contribute to a juvenile, See-Spot-Run sound. And nothing screams “juvenile” to me more than a story rife with inaccuracy, implausibility, or stereotype. Thoroughly think through the logistics of what you’re expecting your readers to believe or you risk pulling them out of the story. There’s a lot of creative freedom in writing fiction, but even fictional settings/situations/people need grounding in reality.

Thanks, CK!

And in another bout of shameless self promotion, I'll be tremendously grateful to anyone willing to share this graphic and/or text in any way you like:

It's a different kind of love story: #DivineTemptation by @NickiElson3 http://goo.gl/AGjBLI


The Most Awesome Summer Playlist Ever #SongsofSummer

Welcome to my stop on the Songs of Summer Bloghop, hosted by The Armchair Squid, Suze at Subliminal Coffee, and Cygnus at Servitor Ludi. Their fabulous idea is for each of us to name 5 songs that scream summer to us for one reason or another. By the end of this hop, we shall have the most awesome summer playlist ever. Please feel free to add your name to the linky below and play along. Here are my contributions (song links open in a new window in case you want to listen while you read):

Never Tear Us Apart; INXS  This one played many a time on my boom box with twenty-year-old me slathered in baby oil, catching maximum rays on my parents' back deck...despite all of my wise father's warnings against the practice. I was in a major angsty, melodramatic phase (dark mood to go with my dark skin coloring, I guess) so this song was my absolute fave.

Lava; B-52s  'Tis hot and not to be taken too seriously, just like summer. I saw the B-52s one summer at the World Theater in Tinley Park, IL. The memory is a melancholy one because the concert was supposed to be a birthday gift for my baby sister, but the little tyke was sick and couldn't come with. :(

Dani California; Red Hot Chili Peppers  This one brings to mind family road trips. RHCP is one of the few of my husband's musical preferences that I don't whine about, so when we're stuck together in a hurtling tin vessel, we listen to them a lot.

Soma; The Strokes  Reminds me of summer simply because Julian Casablancas's voice makes my temperature rise. Grrrrr

In Summer: Olaf  C'mon, I can't be the only one to have this on my list. I know the movie's become highly overdone, but this li'l snowman's naive charm and spunky 'tude are as fresh as a...wait for it...summer's breeze.


Ask the Acquisitions Editor: Query Letter Do's & Don'ts #amediting

As promised, I'm back with more answers to your questions for CK Wagner, Acquisitions Editor at Omnific Publishing (who just announced a super exciting deal with Simon & Schuster). You can read her answers to questions about cold querying, crazy queries, and the importance of online presence & past sales in last week's Ask the Acquisitions Editor post. Today's questions are all about queries and synopses.

Liz: What do you love to see in a query?

Donna: What three things do you look for in a query that piques your interest every time?

CK: I personally like to see a query letter that gets right to the point. The fundamentals I care about most are:

1. Summary. Keep it clear and concise (two to three short paragraphs usually suffice. A cover letter shouldn’t exceed one page when printed; the synopsis is your chance to elaborate). Set up your main character and conflicts so we understand what drives the story and can already establish a connection. An effectively condensed blurb also shows how much grasp you have on the plot—a good indicator of how tightly controlled it is in the actual manuscript.

2. Stats. Specify word count, genre, subgenre, and intended audience. I automatically reject anything that doesn’t meet a minimum of 60,000 words or doesn’t fall within the romance genre. It’s also good to know whether your story is paranormal, contemporary, historical, dystopian, sci-fi, etc. (we consider any number of subgenres) and if it’s intended as young adult, new adult, adult, or erotica.

3. Bio. A concise paragraph about who you are and what you do is helpful for simply getting to know you as well as seeing if perhaps your professional background lends itself to your writing and/or content (a plus if so, but still okay if not. We’re just curious).

L. Diane: When is a query letter too long?

CK: Anything beyond what's listed above is icing on the cake—which is too sweet for my taste, if I’m honest. :) Beyond being unnecessary, flowery explanations of your passion for writing and aspirations as an author are my number one turn-off. Your love of writing and dreams of being a published author are implicit in the act of querying. And, really, I don’t regard one writer’s passion as more distinctive and special than another’s.

Margo: Does personalizing the letter at the beginning really make any difference, or do agents/acquisitions editors prefer you just get to the story description?

CK: Oddly enough, I’m also not swayed by specific praise for Omnific because, really, how do we know you’ve read our books and enjoyed them? People can say anything to butter us up. I’m more interested in knowing that you’ve done your research on us, which is at least reading the submission guidelines on our website. This doesn’t have to be stated explicitly in the query—show your awareness of our genre specialization by querying a romance. Show your awareness of our process by not submitting anything more than what we request of you. For our first stage, we only accept cover letters and a synopsis; unsolicited chapters or full manuscripts aren’t considered unless we ask for them as the next step.

CK: Every publisher/literary agency is different, of course. If a business’s website clearly specifies certain content and the order/length of such, you need to follow those instructions to a T. Inboxes get flooded with queries every day, so being a stickler for submission guidelines is another means of filtering. Seeing whether someone has read and followed the rules is a pretty black-and-white way for editors/agents to gauge how much thought and diligence was put into querying their company specifically—the logic being, if you can’t be bothered to read their website and honor their requests, why should they bother reading your submission when there are so many others to consider who have put forth the effort? Are you serious about being represented/published by this particular company, or are you just playing a numbers game and blasting a one-size-fits-all query to everyone regardless of what they’ve asked for?

Feather: All agents have specific submission criteria. Some even state the required information must be in a specific order. I have also been advised that all query letters should have specific information in each of the four paragraphs. There is such a wide range of formats. Why? Is it possible to create one well written query letter that will be accepted by all agents?

CK: I’m just playing devil’s advocate here. As a fellow writer, I completely understand the frustration of having to tailor every query to every publisher or agency. I wish the industry would adopt a universal standard. But unfortunately, it’s just not the case, and so we adapt. I think there’s generally more difference in expectation for synopses than cover letters, though, so there’s at least that. If you draft a letter that contains the three pieces of information listed above, you should be good to go for many places. It probably wouldn’t hurt to tack on the bit about the company itself, too, just to be safe. While I don’t personally prioritize it as an acquisitions editor, others out there do want to hear what you know about their company and why you think your story would be a good fit.

Bonus commentary on Synopses:

CK: And where the synopsis goes, I quite like that Omnific doesn’t dictate a maximum length. That allows some freedom, though I do prefer within five pages. Anything in excess of that alerts me that your story might not be tightened either. (As a rule of thumb, I’d say a 60,000–80,000-word story can be effectively summed up in two to three pages. 90,000+ can understandably stretch to four or five if the plot is rather complex.)

CK: Also, don’t paste actual story excerpts into the synopsis. I think some people do that for filler or to sneak in a writing sample. But if you’re writing the synopsis correctly, the story’s tone and your style should show through without that. Also, like I said about the query letter summary, the synopsis demonstrates your command over your own story. If your synopsis is a long, rambling hot mess, we have every reason to believe your manuscript will be, too—and it’s one thing to read a few pages of that, quite another to entertain a few hundred.

Isn't she great? Thank you so much, CK for your forthright and honest answers. I'm taking away a lot from this series and I hope everyone else is too! 

On a different note, I want to do something with the schnazzy new graphics I just made for my books,so if you're of a mind to Tweet, Tumbl or Facebook the text & image below, please have at it. Thank you!

"A laugh out loud romance that will keep you smiling" #ThreeDaves http://goo.gl/nPGZEF

CK Wagner will be back to answer more questions as follows:


Ask the Acquisitions Editor #IWSG

Holy stromboli, it's already time for the July meeting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group, founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. During the May meeting I took questions from a bunch of you that I passed along to CK Wagner, an acquisitions editor at Omnific Publishing. Sometimes the not knowing fuels insecurity more than anything else, and CK's marvelous answers will definitely shed some light on the querying process and hopefully help alleviate a bit of anxiety.

I'm going to post her answers on Wednesdays throughout the month of July, starting with a few choice questions as part of IWSG:

Mary: Are you more likely to accept from an author you've met or a cold query?

CK: For me, story and style are king, so I’m indifferent to whether I’ve met the author or not. Existing Omnific authors, of course, have the advantage of being a known quantity—we’re familiar with them, their work ethic and cooperativeness—but even they can (and have) been rejected if the story is not what we’re looking for at the time.

Elizabeth: Do past books and online presence matter very much when submitting or does just the book you're selling at that minute matter? (Answered along with Jennifer's question)

Jennifer: How much attention do you pay to the writer's prior publication record/sales?

CK: It’s nice to see if someone already has an online presence and publication history, but truthfully, that doesn’t make or break our decision. I’ve rejected writers with massive followings simply because their queries were all over the place or their writing left something to be desired. Social media and sales numbers don’t necessarily equate to a high quality of work. We also love to launch the writing careers of debut authors, so not having previously published work is not an automatic strike against anyone. And in the case of those first-time authors, it’s understandable that they might not have a robust online presence yet—but they’ll be expected to develop it on being contracted.

Stephanie: What is the craziest query you've ever received?

CK: It’s probably a toss-up between the 20+ page synopsis (that had story excerpts and dialogue and everything) and one that read like five different stories/genres in one—it went from contemporary rom-com to something almost Jane Austen, and then a ghost showed up in the middle of it (but only for the one scene, it seemed), and then the whole thing kind of shifted to international action/adventure. I’m pretty sure there was some other random twist in there, too, but I can’t remember it now.

No offense to either of those authors; in both cases, I think they just lost sight of what they wanted for the story and tried to cram in too many ideas that weren’t ultimately in its best interest. One thing to remember is that you can always save an idea for another story! Killing your darlings in one manuscript doesn’t mean they can’t find new life in another.

Jennifer: What's the weirdest place you've read a manuscript? 

CK: A cemetery!

Please come back for more of CK's wisdom throughout the month.
Here's the schedule:

Thank you so much, CK, for taking the time to answer all these questions!