I got a wake-up call the other day from a major editor. The first three pages of my new novel made it into the Romance Writers Report, a magazine with international distribution to the Romance Writers of America’s 10,000 plus members.
And my pages were given a pass by Alex Logan, editor at Grand Central Publishing. No partial requested. The manuscript had major problems… in the first three pages!
Rejection in front of 10,000 of yours peers? That sucks even more.
After a short stint of railing against the universe, I read the comments again. Ms. Logan had compliments (“There was some very nice, clever description and fine writing”) as well as criticism (“…hard concept to sell”). The compliment was affirming – it’s a long way from last year’s rejection from another well-known editor who dismissed my work with a simple and brutal, “Your execution and characterizations don’t work.”
That one still smarts, though that first book in my matchmaker series, Prince Charming, Inc. ,was picked up and has garnered splendid reviews from readers and romance review sites.
But back to the rejection at hand. My heroine, it seems, is not all that likeable. It’s an interesting comment and one I need to take to heart. There is some confusion as to whether my heroine, Larissa, is a madam or a matchmaker. I see her as the latter. The marriages she brokers come with a price: $1,000,000.
Which plays into the greater issue of concept.
This made me think long and hard about what I’ve written. All along, I’ve considered myself a contemporary romance author first and foremost. Reading Ms. Logan’s critique of my pages came with somewhat of an epiphany.
Maybe I’m not writing in that genre after all.
Sure, there are elements of contemporary romance. The love story that unfolds between my matchmaker and her billionaire client nails the touchstones of a contemporary romance. But the core of the novel is not the romance. It seesaws between past and present, weaving the heroine’s distrust of men and a paternal legacy of heartbreak with her quest for self-preservation at all costs. Plus there’s a subplot about illegal immigration and migrant workers whose families are torn apart by circumstances beyond their control.
Wait! I can’t think of a single contemporary romance I’ve read that tackled illegal immigration.
And I pause again. WTF have I written?
So while this latest rejection sucks, it is also a wake up call. I’m grateful for Alex Logan’s in-depth feedback. But more than that, I’m grateful for her advice:
“If this book is about a madam who finds love with one of her johns – no matter how charming both of them are it may be a hard concept to sell. But if it’s about a different love match, why are you giving this impression and turning readers off?”
Ms. Logan is one sharp cookie.