Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Beyond the Book

Beyond the Book Post and Giveway: MIDNIGHT RESCUE: The Editorial Process

Beyond the Book Post and Giveway: MIDNIGHT RESCUE: The Editorial Process

At the beginning of the year, we featured a few posts by publishing “insiders”.  Elle Kennedy and her editor, Jesse Feldman, contacted me to see if I would be interested in posting about how Elle’s new Killer Instincts romantic suspense series was acquired.  I thought readers would like to follow a book from acquisition to publication based on why Jesse Feldman bought the book in the first place, why Elle Kennedy, a successful digitally published author and author of series romances, would go the route of traditional publishing when so many authors appear to be moving the opposite direction.  The following is the path of publication for Midnight Rescue, the first in the Killer Instinct series.  Jesse and Elle also indicated that they would pop in if you had a question.

****

Midnight-Rescue elle kennedyJF: To celebrate this month’s release of the first book, MIDNIGHT RESCUE, Elle and I are thrilled to be here answering questions about the book’s journey to publication. It’s been almost exactly a year since I acquired three books in a new romantic suspense series by Elle Kennedy for Signet Eclipse (part of Penguin).

Editors say this all the time, but I devoured this submission in one sitting. The heroine’s strength, emotionally and physically, hooked me within ten pages (in revisions, we dropped the prologue to emphasize her strength even more). This was not a romantic suspense where an alpha male swoops in to rescue the heroine; this was a book where the hero and heroine rescue each other.

Although I was excited about the potential of this series and author, the practical side of my brain knew this could be an uphill fight to acquisition. We were seeing very little romantic suspense published at the time—the popularity of sweet, small town contemporaries was really on the rise. MIDNIGHT RESCUE was actually almost the complete opposite of what I thought I was looking to acquire. But I fell in love with the manuscript’s darkness – and also how the romance and banter and friendships balance it out beautifully.

EK: For me, I knew the series would be a tough sell, but my agent and I thought it was worth it to put MIDNIGHT RESCUE in front of some editors to see what the response would be.  We received a several passes on the submission, most editors admitting they loved the book, but it was too dark for their list.  Either that, or the market for romantic suspense wasn’t as “in demand” as paranormal or sweet contemporaries. 

 So I was absolutely thrilled when Jesse acquired the book because of that darkness, and took a chance on a RS manuscript.

JF: Elle’s agent set up a phone call between us. I was hoping to get a sense of how well we could work together on revisions (whether my suggestions resonated with her), how eager Elle was to promote herself, and how active she was online (I’d also investigated this before the call – prepare to be googled, authors. Have a presence online already).

EK: I loved that initial call with Jesse.  Her enthusiasm about the story got me even more enthusiastic about it.  And her thoughts about promotion were eye opening.  At that point, I had somewhat of an online presence, but I realized I needed to do a lot more in terms of putting myself out there.

JF: Elle and I had a great talk, I loved the submission, and everyone who second read in my department agreed. Then we ran numbers and I made an offer for three books in the series.

EK: Best day ever? My agent calling with the news that Signet Eclipse made an offer.  I’m pretty sure I let out a girlish shriek—and people who know me well know that I’m super subdued and rarely girlishly shriek.

I’ve been asked why I chose to go the traditional route rather than self publish digitally or go with a strictly digital publisher, which a lot of authors are doing these days.  It all boils down to that childhood dream of wanting to see my name on the cover of a book, hold that book in my hands, flip through the pages, see it on actual shelves in an actual bookstore.  Bookstores are my favourite places on earth.  I read a lot of ebooks, of course, but for me, I just love having that hard copy of a story in my hands.  So I was so thrilled when Jesse called saying she wanted to publish MIDNIGHT RESCUE.

JF: Now the real fun began: edits! I read the manuscript several times before shooting an editorial letter and line edited manuscript off to Elle. We had a phone call a few days later. Elle jumped right into revisions with enthusiasm. I remember getting emails throughout the month like, “What if I add a dog?” (Authors: there’s ALWAYS room for a dog.)

I sent Elle four pages of notes, as well as a marked up manuscript file, for the first round of broad revisions. This is pretty average length of notes for me, plus or minus a few pages. As I mentioned above, we reworked the structure of the book a little bit, incorporating the prologue more into the story and streamlining character POVs. I also discussed with Elle how the hero and heroine weren’t as active in the climactic suspense plot as I’d hoped they would be. Both characters are strong and capable, but originally they were kept out of planning the rescue mission that is the focus of the book. During a brainstorming session on the phone, Elle came up with a twist that really pulls everything together at the end.

Elle and I had a lot of conversations about how to really be sure that Abby is completely empowered and active throughout the story, even as she learns that she needs to trust her teammates and the hero. This carries over to her sex scenes with the hero, where Elle really amped up Abby taking control of her sexuality, which I love and is an important part of her character’s growth. We also talked through different scenarios for ending the book that allowed Abby to not sacrifice any of her values (or skill set) in order to be with the hero romantically.

EK: I have a love/hate relationship with revisions.  It’s so incredibly difficult cutting or changing parts of a book that you worked on for so long and which has become a part of you.  But I’m lucky to have some wonderful editors who are able to look at that book objectively and tell me what it’ll take to make it even better.  Jesse is no exception.  Every single one of her suggestions made perfect sense to me, so making certain changes was no hardship.

Oh, and fun fact: I added my dog into the book.  Bear, the German shepherd mutt who belongs to one of my mercenaries, is actually my super awesome mutt.

JF: We also started brainstorming series names and cover concepts around this time. We look at what’s popular right now, and think about how to make the book stand out on shelves. This is Abby’s story, so we decided to take a little departure from traditional romantic suspense covers by depicting her alone on the cover. The difficulty was not making her seem like an urban fantasy heroine. As you can see, the designer did an amazing job.

EK:  I love, love, love this cover! When it showed up in my inbox, I was actually speechless (again, not characteristic—sadly, I am a babbler).  I couldn’t believe how fierce the heroine looked, and the colors were absolutely stunning.  After seeing the cover for MIDNIGHT RESCUE, I had no idea how the art department could possibly top it for Book 2.

JF: The art department actually is working on the cover for book #2, MIDNIGHT ALIAS, now. Sometimes photos of potential male cover models appear in my inbox. Designing covers is fun.

EK: Once the book had a cover, it felt even more “real” to me.  And around this time, Jesse had read the revisions and approved them, so the book was moving along on its journey to publication.

JF: We had done two rounds of revisions before turning it over to managing editorial for copyediting. When you’ve read something five or six times and it still resonates with you emotionally, you know it’s a gem!

EK: For me, once the book has been copy-edited, I start to freak out.  Because at this point, I can’t really make any more changes—and what if I suddenly decide that something needs to change?!  Standing by and letting the book get immortalized in print/digital form is like waving goodbye to your kids when they go to college.  You’ve got to let them stand on their own now, no matter how scary that is.

JF: Elle turned in revisions for book #2 in the series (out next Feb) and the outline for book #3 this month. And this whole cycle begins again!

We’re giving away 5 copies of MIDNIGHT RESCUE: A Killer Instincts Novel to randomly selected comments below. Leave a question or comment for Elle or myself—do you have a question about the editorial process we didn’t cover? We’ll try to reply and maybe you’ll win a book!

Visit Elle’s website for more information on MIDNIGHT RESCUE.

 

Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James Primer (and Books Like 50 Shades)

Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James Primer (and Books...

Introduction

Fifty Shades of Grey is a self published work by a British author using the pseudonym, E. L. James.  It was originally published along with the two sequels, Fifty Shades of Darker and Fifty Shades of Freed, in its entirety, as Master of the Universe on ff.net, a site that hosts what is known as fan fiction.  Master of the Universe reimagined the Bella and Edward love affair set in contemporary Seattle, Washington with Bella as the young college graduate virgin and Edward as the masterful billionaire with secret sexual predilections.  This collection of submissions has since been deleted.

Where to Buy:

The ebooks can be purchased at Amazon and Barnes & Noble:

AmazonBN

The print books can be ordered directly from the publisher. These books are print on demand and may take a few weeks to reach you.

Publisher

Comparison of Text:

Master of the Universe begins with this:

I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror. Damn my hair, it just won’t behave, and damn Rose for being ill and subjecting me to this ordeal. I have tried to brush my hair into submission but it’s not toeing the line. I must learn not to sleep with it wet. I recite this five times as a mantra whilst I try, once more, with the brush. I give up. The only thing I can do is restrain it, tightly, in a pony tail and hope that I look reasonably presentable.

Rose is my roommate and she has chosen, okay, that’s a bit unfair, because choice has had nothing to do with it, but she has the flu and as such cannot do the interview she’s arranged with some mega industrialist for the student newspaper. So I have been volunteered. I have final exams to cram for, one essay to finish and I am supposed to be working this afternoon, but no – today – I have to head into downtown Seattle and meet the enigmatic CEO of Cullen Enterprise Holdings, Inc. Allegedly he’s some exceptional tycoon who is a major benefactor of our University and his time is extraordinarily precious… much more precious than mine – and he’s granted Rose an interview… a real coup she tells me… Damn her extra-curricular activities.

50 Shades of Grey begins thusly:

I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror. Damn my hair – it just won’t behave, and damn Katherine Kavanagh for being ill and subjecting me to this ordeal. I should be studying for my final exams, which are next week, yet here I am trying to brush my hair into submission. I must not sleep with it wet. I must not sleep with it wet. Reciting this mantra several times, I attempt, once more, to bring it under control with the brush. I roll my eyes in exasperation and gaze at the pale, brown-haired girl with blue eyes too big for her face staring back at me, and give up. My only option is to restrain my wayward hair in a ponytail and hope that I look semi-presentable.

Kate is my roommate, and she has chosen today of all days to succumb to the flu. Therefore, she cannot attend the interview she’d arranged to do, with some mega-industrialist tycoon I’ve never heard of, for the student newspaper. So I have been volunteered. I have final exams to cram for, one essay to finish, and I’m supposed to be working this afternoon, but no – today I have to drive a hundred and sixty-five miles to downtown Seattle in order to meet the enigmatic CEO of Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc. As an exceptional entrepreneur and major benefactor of our university, his time is extraordinarily precious – much more precious than mine – but he has granted Kate an interview. A real coup, she tells me. Damn her extracurricular activities.

Throughout the MoTU series, the names of the most important characters in the Twilight series appear including Esme as Edward’s “Mom” and Irina as the predatory Mrs. Robinson.  These names are changed in the published version of the books.

Background of fan fiction

Fan fiction are works of fiction written by individuals that take inspiration from another work. Bridget Jone’s Diary, for example, is fan fiction of Pride and Prejudice.  Famous authors such as Naomi Novik began writing fan fiction.  You can learn more about Fan Fiction at the Organization of Transformative Works.  MoTU was one of the most popular series on ff.net, a repository for free fan fiction.  During the height of its popularity, an auction for the series raised $30,000.  The author appeared on a fan fiction panel at the 2010 ComicCon and attended a three day conference in DC thrown by her fans.

Publishing Path

E.L. James then contracted with The Writer’s Coffee Shop to produce a commercial product for sale.  These ebooks were sold and in print on demand.  On February 21, the publisher announced that over 100,000 copies of the book has been sold with over 90% of those in ebook format.

The book has become a sensation in New York City where Upper East Side women are  reading it in droves.  While some are comparing this to the Story of O, romance readers know this series falls within the erotic romance category, a category of books where the sexual relationship is the vehicle for the relationship arc.

On March 10, 2011, Vintage announced it had won a bidding war for the books, paying seven figures for the three Fifty books (and possibly others) for North American rights.  Vintage, a division of Knopf|Random House, released new ebook editions on March 12, 2011, and a 750,000 print run of trade paperbacks will follow.

Romance definition

A romance is defined as a story whose primary focus is on the relationship and the emotional arc between the individuals in the relationship.  A romance book is marked by having an uplifting and satisfactory conclusion.  Some readers call this the “Happy Ever After” or the “Happy For Now” ending.

Tropes within Fifty:

  • Strong erotic component driving the relationship arc
  • Internal personal angst
  • Clashing personalities
  • Caretaker Alpha Male

BDSM

BDSM is a popular trope within the erotic romance genre.  One of our reviewers is a scholar has this to say about BDSM:

BDSM is a combination of the acronyms of the main elements of a variety of non-standard sexual practices: Bondage/Discipline (BD), Domination/Submission (DS), and Sadism/Masochism (SM). Bondage can include any sexual restraint, from the most vanilla of sex play with scarves and blindfolds, all the way to elaborate rope bondage, rope suspension, and the Japanese erotic rope art, Shibari. Discipline ranges from the practice of “punishing” naughty submissives during encounters that often include role play, to specific fetishes like over the knee (OTK) spanking, and caning. Domination and submission refer to sexual identities and practices in which one partner is submissive to a dominant partner, doing what they are ordered to do, usually, but not always, in sexual situations. Sadism and masochism are much more specific sexual paraphilia: sadists receive pleasure and sexual arousal from inflicting pain on their partners, while masochists receive pleasure and sexual arousal from having pain inflicted on them.[i] A BDSM romance, therefore, must explore Regis’s elements particularly through, by, and with one or more of the “kinky” sexual practices encompassed by the acronym. Rather than using a kinky activity merely as spice to sex, as a standard erotic romance might, in BDSM romance the kinky activity must be integral to the characters’ emotional trajectory and to the relationship they build together. However, although the BDSM label encompasses a wide range of activities, in general, most BDSM erotic romances construct the relationship between the characters using the mutually-constitutive pairing of Domination/Submission (D/s). That is, two (or more) protagonists establish an emotional and physical relationship, overcome the emotional barriers between them, and achieve their happy ending, through exploration of the D/s dynamic in which one protagonist sexually dominates the other.[ii]

 

[i]. In real life practice, although rarely in the BDSM romance genre, the term BDSM as a whole also encompasses a wide variety of sexual fetishes like foot or rubber fetishes.

[ii]. Very few BDSM erotic romances explore the romance between the characters through Sadism/Masochism instead of Domination/Submission. Some exceptions include Anah Crow’s gay male romance, Uneven (Round Rock, TX: Torquere Press Publishers, 2007) ( A | BN | K S ); A.M. Riley’s gay male romantic suspense, The Elegant Corpse (San Francisco, CA: Loose Id, LLC, 2008) ( A | BN | K S ); Victoria Dahl’s heterosexual, male-dominant novella, The Wicked West (Don Mills, Ontario: HQN, 2009) ( A | BN | K S ); and Heidi Cullinan’s Nowhere Ranch (San Francisco, CA: Loose Id, LLC, 2011) ( A | BN | K S ).

Recommendations

The author has not written any other books.  We would like to make the following recommendations:

  • Recently I read Sylvia Day’s Bared to You and it has a lot of notes that resonate for the 50 Shades crowd complete with a young recent college grad and a young, commanding and magnetic billionaire hero. Both come from traumatized backgrounds and feature a push/pull relationship.  If you like 50 Shades, I think you would like this book.
  • For dominant males like Christian who take care of everything you may like Blue Eyed Devil ( A | BN | K S ) and Smooth Talking Stranger ( A | BN | K S ) by Lisa Kleypas. These books feature wealthy men in a contemporary setting who want to take care of the heroine.  Reader Ridley recommends the Lorelei James series beginning with Long Hard Ride ( A | BN | K S )
  • For deep intense emotional angst you may like Passion ( A | BN | K S ) and Patience ( A | BN | K S ) by Lisa Valdez.  The latter book contains BDSM themes as well.  Sweet as Sin by Inez Kelly is another story featuring a lot of emotional tumult and a tortured upbringing like Christian. You can find a Review at Kati D’s site.
  • If you have an interest in exploring BDSM further, other than the above recommended titles, you may be interested in Natural Law ( A | BN | K S ) by Joey Hill; Sweet Persuasion ( A | BN | K S ) and Sweet Temptation ( A | BN | K S ) by Maya Banks; Lean on Me ( A | BN | K S ) by Cherise Sinclair; Slave to Love ( A | BN | K S ) by Nikita Black

If you are interested in learning more about romance in general, you may be interested in the following. Again, I urge you not to be deterred by the covers of these books.  There are some amazing books inside.

  • Welcome to Temptation ( A | BN | K S ) or Bet Me ( A | BN | K S ) by Jennifer Crusie; Just One of the Guys ( A | BN | K S ) by Kristan Higgin; Here Comes the Groom ( A | BN | K S ) by Karina Bliss (don’t let the cover deter you); Yours to Keep ( A | BN | K S ) by Shannon Stacey
  • Naked in Death ( A | BN | K S ) by J.D. Robb; Snapped ( A | BN | K S ) by Laura Griffin; The Darkest Hour ( A | BN | K S ) by Maya Banks
  • The Iron Duke ( A | BN | K S ) by Meljean Brook; Alpha and Omega ( A | BN | K S ) by Patricia Briggs; Slave to Sensation ( A | BN | K S ) by Nalini Singh; A Hunger Like No Other ( A | BN | K S ) by Kresley Cole; Dark Prince ( A | BN | K S ) by Christine Feehan
  • Spymaster’s Lady ( A | BN | K S ) by Joanna Bourne; Written On Your Skin ( A | BN | K S ) by Meredith Duran; Delicious ( A | BN | K S ) by Sherry Thomas; A Lady Awakened ( A | BN | K S ) by Cecilia Grant
  • Liberating Lacey ( A | BN | K S ) by Anne Calhoun (very spicy); Willing Victim ( A | BN | K S ) by Cara McKenna