~ Interview by Laura Kaye
The Contemporary Romance Writers Chapter is thrilled to have Avon/William Morrow editor Amanda Bergeron here today to share her expertise on contemporary romance and consider YOUR pitches as part of our second pitch contest of the year! Instructions on the pitch contest are down below, but first please pull up a chair and get a pen and paper, because you’re going to want to take notes on the awesome and useful advice Amanda has laid out here for writers at all levels.
Contemporary Romance: Welcome! Can you share what lines, imprints, or genres you edit at your publishing house?
Amanda Bergeron: Absolutely! I oversee Avon Impulse, our digital-first imprint, and I edit a broad range of titles on the Avon, Avon Impulse, and William Morrow lists. It’s funny because on the romance side I gravitate heavily toward everything contemporary (including some romantic suspense and new adult romance), but for more general fiction my tastes often skew on the historical side. I like to think I am getting the best of both worlds.
CR: In general, what’s the difference for you between a good submission and one makes you say I must acquire this?
AB: Hands down, voice and chemistry. Voice is the first thing to grab me in, and character chemistry is what keeps me breathless as it pulls me through the pages. It doesn’t matter so much if the plot needs a lot of work or if the pacing is off, all of that can be fixed. Voice and strong chemistry are the things that reach into a reader’s chest and grab hold of her heart. They are also much harder to teach.
CR: What do you think a great adult, new adult, or young adult contemporary romance must have?
AB: A strong emotional core. Readers want to laugh, cry, and fall in love alongside their characters. They want to be fully invested. When you nail down that intangible part, you have a fantastic read.
CR: What do you think a writer needs to do in terms of story, writing, premise, etc., to make a contemporary story stand out?
AB: A fresh idea never hurts, but it’s ultimately an author’s voice and her understanding of the characters she’s bringing to the page that make a contemporary stand out. I’ve found, more and more, that in contemporary romance secondary characters are also absolutely key. Readers want places or characters they can return to again and again, and if you can create a memorable world (be that a small town, a sports team, a special ops unit, a large family etc.) you will find an eager audience.
CR: Is there anything about a story itself likely to turn you off on a manuscript, even if the mechanics are quite good?
AB: Hmmm. Good question. I don’t love stories with cheating or plots with conflicts that hinge entirely on misunderstanding. And a hero displaying anything that could border on abusive behavior is just not for me.
CR: What’s the best and worst part of your editing job?
AB: More than anything I love working closely with authors to help them bring out the very best version of their work. I love that no two days in the office look alike. I could be up in a designer’s office going over images one moment, on the phone for an editorial call the next, and then sitting in a meeting with sales and marketing after that. It’s continuously amazing to me that my job allows me to be part of the entire process of bringing a book to life: from the creative storytelling side to the market-driven business side.
The worst part? Passing on projects. A necessary evil, but truthfully the least fun part of what I do.
CR: Before acquisition, how important is a writer’s platform to you? To your publishing house?
AB: Honestly, for fiction, platform is way down the list of considerations for me. It’s wonderful when an author arrives with blogger relationships, a strong social media presence or at least an understanding of how to use those tools, etc. but ultimately the team and I are looking at the book itself. Once an author is on board, it’s important that they are open to working on their presence, but it’s not crucial at the outset.
CR: Can you offer some encouraging words of advice to aspiring authors who haven’t received their first contract yet?
AB: Write what you love and write what you want to read. No matter what, the sheer act of devoting time to writing and completing a book is an enormous accomplishment. Even if you don’t sell the manuscript you have in hand, you are a better, more experienced writer for having completed it. So keep working, understand your strengths, and learn where your work might best fit in the market. At the end of the day, writing should be something you do because it brings you joy. That passion will be evident in your voice and your work and will only improve your craft.
CR: What is on your wish list of story types to acquire?
AB: I’d love to find a really great contemporary or NA based around a big family (like Bella Andre’s Sullivans or a modern day version of Julia Quinn’s Bridgertons.) The best friend’s brother/brother’s best friend stories, second chance at first love, and military heroes come home are also up there on my favorites list.
CR: Thanks for agreeing to do a pitch contest today! What genres, subgenres, and/or word counts are you open to considering?
AB: Contemporary romance, NA, romantic suspense, and erotic romance please! In general, 40-100K words (though if it is part of a serialized concept, I am happy to look consider shorter!)
Editor Amanda Bergeron joined HarperCollins in 2008. She works with New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors such as Laura Kaye, Jennifer Ryan, Cora Carmack, and Jay Crownover.
PITCH CONTEST INSTRUCTIONS
Authors are invited to submit their query blurb and first 100 words for Amanda’s consideration. Also feel free to post questions to Amanda, but please do so in a separate post from your pitch submission. The contest will run until midnight PST today, 3/21 – pitches submitted after this time will not be entered. Authors who Amanda requests materials from will be announced within a week, so check back! And good luck!
Today’s pitch contest is open to everyone – members or non-members. But we invite non-members to consider joining our chapter so you don’t miss out on other exciting events and opportunities!
Please submit your pitch for Amanda’s consideration in the following format. Please conform your blurb and story submissions to the below word counts.
Finished Word Count:
Maximum 200-word blurb:
First 100 words of your story: