Meet Eleanor…Remember when people used typewriters?

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Eleanor Elliott is the Director of Digital Commerce and has worked in the digital space for 14 years – 10 of those at Harlequin. For Carina Press, Eleanor is responsible for Marketing & Sales. She’s currently working on the development of the Carina Press eBook Store. In addition to books, she loves television – sci-fi, reality, drama, comedy – you name it. She is very happy that her TV boyfriend (Chuck Bartowski) has returned from hiatus, but will not be in complete television heaven until the next season of LOST begins. She lives with her husband, her toddler son, and two cats. She also plays a mean drum solo in Rock Band 2.

When I was 6 years old, I received my most memorable Christmas present from my childhood. A typewriter. It was a plastic children’s typewriter, but a typewriter nonetheless. It was red and white, and I adored it.

I remember sitting on the floor with the typewriter between my legs, a children’s book on the other side of my knees open to a story about the Princess and the Pea. I was determined to retype that story perfectly. What I intended to do what that typewritten sheet, I have no idea – but even as a child I wanted to do more than just read the story, I wanted to transform it.

I guess it’s no surprise that I ended up in publishing. But even now, after ten years of working for Harlequin on the Internet business, I still have moments where I need to pinch myself.

I had such a moment recently after a Carina Press acquisition team meeting – where I was able to share with the team my excitement over a truly delightful manuscript I had just read, and then I got back to my desk and saw a first draft of one of the mock covers the team is working on (featuring some very sexy cowboys). Reading great books and contemplating the sexiness of cowboy A vs. cowboy B. Is this really part of my job now? On second thought, please don’t pinch me! I’m not sure I want to wake up!

In my ‘other life’, I’m the Director of Digital Commerce – I’m normally consumed with strategic planning, and budgets, and sales figures, and inventory, and customer service, and promotions, and eNewsletters, and ad creative, oh and meetings, meetings, meetings. Reading the books we sell has always been a bonus. Now, as a member of the Carina Press team, I am involved in a side of publishing I’ve never seen before. I have the privilege of seeing a book at the most tender stage, and helping to bring the author’s vision to life as a published novel.  It’s a stage in the publishing process that is ripe with possibility and it’s extraordinarily exciting.

I’m not sure it’s quite as exciting as seeing that typewriter for the first time on Christmas morning – but it’s pretty darn close.

Help us title Carrie Lofty’s book!

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Carrie Lofty’s historical romance needs a title. We’ve been brainstorming for weeks, but the acquisitions team can’t come to an agreement because some of us like one title, some like the other. So we’re turning to our blog readers for help in choosing a title for Carrie’s book. We’ve narrowed our choices down to the four you see below. These four are all favorites of Carrie and the Carina Press acquisitions team. Please choose and vote for the one you like best. The poll closes Sunday night and I’ll announce the new title of Carrie’s book the week of January 25th!

Here’s a short description:

Untitled Historical Romance by Carrie Lofty

Salzburg, Austria 1804

After claiming his late mentor’s symphony for himself, Dutch composer Arie De Voss became wildly famous across Europe. But the undue praise twists his conscience. Arie’s fear of discovery poisons any attempt to write a redemptive masterpiece, until the adoration of his newest student inspires him.

Hoping a quiet life will diminish the scandal of her birth, widowed violin prodigy Mathilda Heidel hides her musical gifts. But a chance introduction to Arie De Voss, the composer she’s idolized for years, dares her to heed the lure of the stage. In the face of public scrutiny and Arie’s fraud, can she sustain her new identity and salvage their love? And how will Arie choose between Mathilda, his career, and the truth?

You can also read chapter one at Carrie’s website to get a further sense of the book before you make your decision.

Week Nine…That grinding noise is my brain

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Har har. I’ve had this window open on my computer since roughly 9:30am this morning. I got as far as “Week Nine” and I hit some major brain sludge trying to get going this morning. I have a rather serious looking to-do list this week that has things on it that can’t be put off. Things like getting the style guide to editors, going through tests and hiring copy editors (I hired one last week, though!), putting together my self-editing workshop (it’s an online workshop, you can still sign up!), writing a call for submissions,  updating submissions/sending rejection letters and setting up tomorrow’s blog post, which will be something new. These are all things that need to be done and can’t wait. And I really felt as though I just couldn’t get going today. I answered a lot of email, made some travel arrangements, answered a lot more email and had to remind myself frequently why I was looking at my calendar, a particular website or why I had started to search through sent mails. Yep, it was one of THOSE days.

Last week I spent what felt like a lot of time on the phone. Thursday, I had three scheduled calls, and from 2p-5pm was spent on the phone on two of those calls. The good news is that I’m that much closer to learning the computer system we use to input manuscripts and get contracts initiated thanks to one of those calsl. Oh dang, that’s another thing I have to do this week that I left off my list. Inputting manuscripts! (Imagine me groaning here. How did I forget that?) It’s also the system that’s used to track submissions. We also use an excel spreadsheet that I color code, write notes on and rearrange at will, but all submissions will also now be in the Harlequin system for very easy tracking. It’s quite an impressive (and complex) system, though!

These upcoming next three weeks are going to be crazy, because of my massive to-do list this week, my trip to Toronto next week (which, I just remembered, is another thing added to this week’s to-do list because I have to prepare for a presentation there. I need to write this stuff down…) followed immediately by Lasik surgery on the 21st! and then a trip to NYC and Digital Book World the Monday after that, where I’ll be on a panel. I’ll be in NYC for four days, but I haven’t even had time to think about my schedule and arranging meet-ups with people.

Speaking of travel, I’ve been putting together my conference/travel schedule for 2010 so if you’re interested in having Carina Press (in the form of me) at your conference, or want someone to travel to give a weekend workshop at your chapter, now’s a great time to email me! I’m really excited about the conferences on our list, and what I’ve been invited to so far. I’d love to add your chapter/conference to my list!

Hmm. Other than that, we’ve got a lot of content planned for the blog for the upcoming weeks. Next week, we’re going to give sneak peeks into some cover art. Still this week, we have a poll where you’ll help us decide a book title, some more posts from the acquisitions team, and I’ll introduce you to some more new Carina Press authors and their books!

Submissions update

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Winding up this week, sorry I missed posting yesterday (and I even have content to use!) but I spent a good 4 hours on the phone and when I wasn’t on the phone, I was trying to get some urgent items on my to-do list taken care of. But submissions are always at the forefront of my mind, so I thought I’d share some statistics to cap off the week.

Manuscripts offered contracts to date: 19

Rejections sent to date: 198

Revise/resubmit letters sent: 10 (0 returned so far, but I’ll remain hopeful since it’s still early days)

I have another batch of probably forty rejection letters to send and 2 new contract offers to deliver with more coming next week! Yay!  That puts us at about 8% acceptance, which is actually pretty high, so I’m impressed with that number, especially considering the stringent approval process these books are being put through.

All November submissions should get a response by next week, with two exceptions: any that were reissue submissions, and those manuscripts the acquisitions editors are still taking a closer look at. So we’re still within the 8 week time frame, and definitely within 10, despite the holidays. That time frame will actually be shorter now that I’ve added another editor and the holidays are past so we all have more time.

I know authors often wonder about the timing of sending in manuscripts so I’ll give you a little inside tip: right now, the editors and acquisitions team are flying through submissions and they are hungry for quality books. Since we’re still concentrating on submissions, and a lot of the editors haven’t entered into the editing phase yet, now is a really good time to submit and see a quick turnaround time from submission to response. We’re currently, as I said, finishing out November and many December books have gotten responses as well. The reason it doesn’t go in exact chronological response order is because I send books to editors based on not just date of submission, but also their reading preference. Since some editors read faster than others, and some genre categories had more submissions than others, or some genres have a larger number of team members reading them (like historicals, we had a lot of historical submissions but probably twice as many people who love that genre, apparently) we moved more quickly through those than through others.

I know authors also like to know what in particular a publisher is looking for, but I’d have to list most every genre because the reading tastes of the acquisitions team and editorial crew is amazingly diverse. And since we’re a new publisher, we’re looking to fill slots in all genres. I will say that historical submissions fairly get snatched up because nearly every member of the acquisitions team is a fan of historicals, as are at least half of the editors. On the other hand, several editors and acquisitions team members love erotic romance, science fiction romance, fantasy and steampunk and we’ve had some minor skirmishes over things coming in for those genres. And we’d love more contemporary romance. And paranormal romance. And futuristic…well, see? You get the point. A little bit of everything!

So that’s where we’re at with submissions. If you’ve got any questions about the process or turnaround time (please don’t ask about your specific submission, however) I’m happy to answer in the comments!

Meet Jenny…Submissions can be sanity savers!

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As the Manager of Digital Content for the Internet & Digital Team, Jenny Bullough helps to bring new projects and business ventures to fruition while maintaining production workflows for the current digital businesses. She is a passionate fan of TV, movies, and reading both digitally and print, and indulges in each whenever she can – though raising two girls under 5 takes up most of her spare time!

So, how was your holiday season? Good, I hope. Mine was pretty much the worst Christmas ever. You see, at midnight on Christmas Eve our 11-month-old baby girl became suddenly and violently ill with a nasty viral infection that immediately settled in her lungs and GI tract. By Christmas morning she was in such bad shape I took her to the ER and she was admitted immediately and hooked up to an IV. So, my Christmas Day and Boxing Day were spent at her bedside in hospital. Definitely not the way I envisioned spending her first Christmas!!

Thankfully, she was discharged after 36 hours and as I write this now, 10 days later, she is almost completely recovered. As you can probably imagine, I am counting my blessings these days, and living with a renewed perspective on what the holidays really mean!  Once the initial panic over our baby’s health subsided, I was awash in overwhelming feelings of gratitude for so many things: that we live near a major hospital; that we have family nearby who took care of our 5-year-old girl so we could be at the hospital with the baby; that we are rich in friends who offered support spiritually, emotionally, and practically; that we live in a day and age and place where these kinds of illnesses can be fought and conquered with the best medical care.

I’m also very grateful that just before Christmas, “Santa” delivered to me an early present: a Kindle. Before I left the office for the holidays I loaded it up with Carina manuscript submissions and a few choice PDFs of Harlequin, MIRA, and HQN titles from our company archives. When I left the house to take the baby to the hospital, I grabbed just two things: the diaper bag with all her necessities, and my Kindle. During the long hours at her bedside, when all I could do was sit and hold her tiny hand and pray (I think any parent can understand that sleep was, for me, out of the question during this time), reading kept me sane.

As I have so often in life, I turned to the greatest escape – fiction – to lift me out of the stress and anxiety I was feeling at the time. Through the words of writers published and not-yet-published, I entered other worlds far away from the concerns of the present. By following the journeys of fictional characters, I was prevented from dwelling on unpleasant thoughts and fears, and each time I set down my Kindle I felt refreshed and renewed and more able to deal calmly with the situation I was in. Best of all, the Kindle is so light I could hold it in one hand while I rocked my feverish baby to sleep in my arms.

I can’t tell you how many books and manuscript submissions I burned through, but I can tell you this: if your submission was one that I read, THANK YOU. No matter what happens with your submission, whether it ends up acquired by Carina Press or another publishing house or winds up being reworked into something else, please know that your words, your story, saved this mother’s sanity during a very scary time! A story doesn’t have to be published to touch a reader’s heart, and to make a meaningful difference, even if it’s just to one person in this big world.