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Jun 07

The Business of Books: A Taste for Romance | Jane Cable visits a Choc Lit roadshow

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Jane Cable visits a Choc Lit roadshow

As regular readers of this column will know, I’ve been keeping my eye on Choc Lit for a while. As a writer of romance, you simply can’t ignore them; they’re up there, they’re out there – and they have a definite brand.

It’s this clear branding which draws me to them as a publisher. They have prettily and cleverly set out their stall as purveyors of delicious (in their words) women’s fiction from historical romance through to contemporary romantic thrillers. The books they publish are accessible and good quality; their readers know exactly what they are going to get.

When I saw that one of Choc Lit’s roadshows was coming to Southampton I knew I had to sign up. I was fascinated to see how they balanced an event aimed at readers and writers – not always the easiest of tasks. And the promise of chocolate was pretty enticing too.

Initially I hadn’t intended to pitch to one of their editors but when the email came through confirming my place I wondered if I should. Careful of their brand, Choc Lit have very precise submission criteria and I wasn’t sure I had a manuscript which would meet them. Or to be honest, one of them in particular: the requirement (for all but their Choc Lit Lite imprint) to show the hero’s point of view.

The book I am just starting could certainly be written that way, but Choc Lit only want completed – and professionally assessed – manuscripts. This is a really sensible move as it must make their slush pile less, well, slushy as a certain level of quality is assured. But reading their requirements again it became clear that self-published novels are acceptable and one of mine, The Faerie Tree, fits the bill.

The basic premise of The Faerie Tree is that when a couple meet again twenty years after their brief affair they discover that their memories of it are completely different, and this meant that the best way to tell the story was to alternate the hero’s and heroine’s points of view. It is the right length and certainly has romance at its heart, so I decided to give it a go.

If nothing else, it could be a foot in the door. Choc Lit are looking for authors with whom they can build a long term relationship, and as a writer, that’s what I am looking for too. I would love to be able to work with an editor to plan books ahead, knowing that they had a home when the writing was done. I would love a publisher where I could build my author brand alongside their own.

After listening to the Choc Lit authors’ stories (one of them, Laura E James, will feature in Business of Books later this summer) I was even more excited about setting out my stall to editor Lusana Taylor. In the main she was interested in my social media profile and how I marketed myself as a writer. I wanted to know about the importance of the hero’s point of view and what they looked for in an author. When we finally got around to talking about The Faerie Tree, she delighted me by asking to see the full manuscript.

Except it isn’t Lusana who will be assessing it. Choc Lit have a unique and rather wonderful way of choosing manuscripts for publication – their Tasting Panel of real readers. How refreshing is that? Once Choc Lit consider an author has potential it is up to this panel to decide whether the actual book is good enough. It seems a fairer process and a recipe for commercial success. I’m just hoping that The Faerie Tree delivers on flavour.

The final Choc Lit roadshow of the summer is at Stockton on Tees on 17th June. Find more details here: http://www.choc-lit.com/choc-lit-on-tour/