Q&A and Pitch Contest With Editor Rhonda Penders

The Contemporary Romance Writers Chapter is thrilled to have Rhonda Penders, President and Editor -in-Chief of The Wild Rose Press, here today to share her expertise on contemporary romance and consider YOUR pitches as part of our series of pitch contests! 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 Rhonda has laid out here for writers at all levels.


~ Interview by Abigail Owen

CR: Can you share what lines, imprints, or genres you publish at Wild Rose Press?

RP: We publish mainstream fiction and romance. We publish historical fiction, science fiction, erotica, thrillers, cozy mysteries, suspense, sweet romance, contemporary romance, erotic romance, paranormal, etc.

CR: In general, what’s the difference for you between a good submission and one makes you say I must acquire this?

RP: If I can’t put it down. Its that simple. If a manuscript is so good that I’m immediately drawn in and need to know what happens. If I engage with the characters right way and want to know their story. All of these things are the same things that make you as a reader buy a book on the shelf or on the internet. If you start to read and you can’t stop – that’s a great story.

CR: What do you think a great adult, new adult, or young adult contemporary romance must have?

RP: The old saying that the reader has to fall in love with your hero and want to be the heroine still hold true. The reader has to relate to your characters as romance is such a character driven story. But let’s not neglect well-constructed sex scenes. More adult writers have been taking inspiration from websites like https://www.sexm.xxx/. They have been taking the sexual intensity from their videos and injecting it into their passionate narratives. It is a difficult balance to achieve but some are doing this to great effect.

CR: What do you think a writer needs to do in terms of story, writing, premise, etc., to make a contemporary story stand out?

RP: It’s always great when you can take an old tried and true plot and make it fresh. Do something different even if its using a theme that’s been used before put a unique twist on it. Some people have found success injecting influences from porn videos from websites like hdpornmovies.xxx to make their sex scenes graphic and attention-grabbing in tales they are retelling. You wouldn’t want to overdo this though because that can detract from the story as a whole. Which will make the story feel flat.

CR: What are the most common mistakes you see in submissions?

RP: Submiting a manuscript that isn’t ready. For small publishers, we get a lot of manuscripts that writers didn’t work hard enough on for a large NY house but they think are good enough for small presses. Make sure your manuscript is a good as you can possibly get it. Watch for typos, watch for dialogue punctuation, make sure you submit something you are proud of.

CR: Is there anything about a story itself likely to turn you off on a manuscript, even if the mechanics are quite good?

RP: Nasty characters will turn me off. You can’t have a heroine who isn’t someone I want to know or a hero I want to get to know. There’s nothing wrong with writing a strong female character but sometimes I see heroines who are written quite bitchy and authors think that’s fun to read. Its not.

CR: What’s the best and worst part of your editing job?

RP: Always the worst part is having to write that rejection letter. We hate having to reject a writer. Its even worse when the writer is really not at all ready – way too inexperienced. Its hard to tell a writer who has worked hard on a manuscript that you really have a long way to go to publication. Its not so bad when I can send a “you’re almost there” rejection – usually this is a revise and resubmit invitation. The best part of my personal job is when I get to meet writers face to face. I love being at a conference and getting to spend time with writers and talk to them about their writing.

CR: Before acquisition, how important is a writer’s platform to you? To publishing houses?

RP: To me personally, not at all. This whole “platform” “branding” all these new buzz words weren’t around when I started and don’t mean a lot to me now. The bottom line is your manuscript has to be ready for publication and contract. If it isn’t, all the branding in the world isn’t going to sell it.

CR: Can you offer some encouraging words of advice to aspiring authors who haven’t received their first contract yet?

RP: The quote that always comes to mind is this: “the only guarantee that you won’t get published is if you stop writing”. Keep at it, keep reading, keep studying. LISTEN to what an editor says when she rejects you. If you get rejected because of your lack of good dialogue, then study dialogue. If you are really bad at punctuation, get a couple books and study. Use the rejections and the time before publication to hone your craft.

CR: What is on your wish list of story types to acquire?

RP: I don’t really have anything in particular on my personal wish list.

CR: Thanks for agreeing to do a pitch contest today! What genres, subgenres, and/or word counts are you open to considering at this time?

RP: We are open to everything at this time except for memoirs, poetry, biographies,


The Wild Rose Press opened in May 2006 as a romance only small press and epublishing company. Today the company is home to over 2700 active titles and has expanded beyond romance. Currently, TWRP accepts mainstream fiction including women’s fiction, historical fiction, murder/mystery/thrillers and erotica. The company publishes in both electronic and print. They accept short stories and full length novels.

TWRP believes that publishing is a team effort between editor, author, and publisher. Penders holds tight to that mission statement. She spends part of every day making sure her authors or “roses” as they are called are happy and well cared for.

Penders writing background includes everything from small town newspaper reporting to writing confessionals. She has several full length novels and short stories published under the pen name Roni Adams. She is also one of the authors in “Chicken Soup for the Soul; Alzheimer’s Edition”. Penders lives in Upstate New York with her husband of 30 years. They are the parents to three grown sons and are trying to adjust to the dreaded empty nest.

The Wild Rose Press | Facebook | Twitter


Authors are invited to submit the below for consideration. Also feel free to post general questions, but please do so in a separate post from your pitch submission. The contest will 3/27 6:00am EST to 3/30 11:59pm EST) – pitches submitted after this time will not be entered. Works being pitched must be completed and ready for submission.

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 Rhonda’s consideration in the following format.

  • Author’s Name:
  • Book Title:
  • Genre:
  • Finished Word Count:
  • Maximum 200-word blurb:
  • First 100 words of your story:

Submissions won’t be considered if they don’t meet the guidelines. Authors who Rhonda requests materials from will be announced within two weeks, so check back! And good luck!

33 thoughts on “Q&A and Pitch Contest With Editor Rhonda Penders”

  1. Author’s Name: Greg Howard
    Book Title: Blood Divine
    Genre: Adult Paranormal with M/M Romantic Elements
    Finished Word Count: 94,000

    Maximum 200-word blurb:

    God tried to kill them once. Remember the Great Flood? It didn’t work. They survived.

    Cooper Causey has spent a lifetime eluding the demons of his youth and quelling the unstable energy flowing through his veins. The last time he lost control people got hurt…some even died. He can’t let that happen again.

    But a disconcerting voicemail from his ailing grandmother lures Cooper back home to the coast of South Carolina and to Warfield—the deserted rice plantation where the dark power inside him first awakened.

    While being stalked by a mysterious immortal, Cooper uncovers the truth about his anomalous ancestry and becomes an unwilling pawn in an ancient conflict between two supernatural races with biblical origins. The bloodthirsty Anakim believe his unique blood contains the antigen for the sterility virus that has decimated their numbers. The magical Divinum will stop at nothing to keep them from getting it.

    In order to protect those he loves, including the only man to ever possess his heart, Cooper must embrace the destructive power threatening to consume him and choose sides in a deadly war between the righteous and the fallen.

    First 100 words of your story:

    20 Years Ago

    They stood side by side, straddling their bicycles between two vine-choked, stone columns guarding the entrance to Warfield. The manor house teased them in the distance, the front door a mere speck of a target framed by a cathedral of live oaks dripping with Spanish moss. The deserted plantation was still and quiet, daring them to continue. It was a standoff. Whoever made the first move would lose.

    Cooper drew in the thick scent of jasmine and held it in his throat with an anxious quiver. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead and trickled down his neck.

  2. The first person romance is not usually an easy sell, but if its written properly it can work. Why don’t you send me the complete short story and I’ll have an interview give it a review for you.

    Thank you for stopping by!

    Rhonda Penders

      1. Please send directly to Rhonda (rpenders@thewildrosepress.com). Be sure to put “CRW Pitch Contest Request” in the subject line and include your above pitch in the body to remind her which submission was yours. Best of luck!

        ~Abigail Owen
        CRW VP of Communications

  3. Author Name: Addison James
    Book Title: The Two Taylor Grants
    Genre: Contemporary Romance, short
    Finished Word Count: 7500

    Maximum 200 Word Blurb:

    Having relocated to Seattle from Boston, Taylor Grant is excited to learn about her new city: the best place for coffee, the best bookstores. Yet on several occasions when she mentions her name, smirks start. After she starts getting mail for sexy lingerie, a web search reveals that there is another Taylor Grant in Seattle, and she’s a high priced escort.

    Phil’s the perfect guy: smart, funny, handsome. They meet grabbing the same copy of a Thomas Hardy novel at an independent bookstore. They seem perfect together, until he starts asking some odd questions about her work. Things escalate at Phil’s company soiree when Taylor meets someone with the same name, same dress but very different profession. Then the lights go out and the two Taylor Grants have to find their way back to their men without being mistaken for the other.

    First 100 Words:

    I had never been confused with a prostitute until I moved to Seattle. Strike that, she’s not a prostitute; she’s a high priced escort. But I certainly never considered myself the type to be confused with an escort – high priced or not. I’m boring. I’m bookish. I’m shy. I define introvert. I’m a future cat lady. I’m not an escort, paid or otherwise, and I’m certainly not a call girl.

    So why was I confused with one?

    Blame my name.

    My parents wanted a boy. Well, they never said that, but they gave me an androgynous name: Taylor Grant.

  4. Hi Rhonda – If the work is near completion but not yet polished, would you still be interested in receiving a pitch? Thanks for supporting us in this group with your participation! Yvonne

    1. Yvonne,

      You can certainly pitch to an editor before something is finished, but you never want to send it in until its the best you can make it. If you want to send me a query and a synopsis at some point down the road, simply remind me that you “met” me through this conference and I’d b e happy to have it reviewed for you. But the best thing to do is honestly finish it up and get it in good shape first.

      Thanks for the question and for stopping by!

      Rhonda Penders

      1. Thanks Rhonda! I’ll take you up on that. Two other acquisitions editors have looked at it. Both are interested, but provided different (conflicting) advice about how they believe it would be best to reorganize it. (Two converging action timelines – two years ago moving forward, set against conflict in the present day.) I put it aside to work on other upcoming releases because I hadn’t yet decided what I believe would be best to tell the story. As soon as I finish the edit due in 2 weeks, I’ll work on my rewrites and polishing. Thanks for being willing to take a query in the future! Happy reviewing! Yvonne

  5. Author name: Claudia Shelton
    Book Title: Peaceful Lake
    Genre: Contemporary Romance – Suspense
    Finished Word Count: 87,500

    200-word blurb:

    CEO TAYLOR RANDOLPH’s firing of an out-of-line employee only makes the four year anniversary of his wife’s death that much worse, plus there’s been another phone call insinuating someone in his company is asking for kickbacks. But he looks forward to his next appointment with an old college friend about a contract at Taylor’s new development in Peaceful Lake, Missouri.

    BRIDGETTE RYLIE CRAWFORD needs the contract with Taylor Randolph Environmental Development (TRED) in order to hold onto the financially-troubled company she and her deceased husband had started. Afraid her proposal won’t be good enough for the TRED, she uses the fact Taylor and her husband were college friends as a way to get her a foot in the door while at the same time neglecting to mention her husband’s death.

    Once Taylor discovers Rylie’s ruse, he concocts a living-arrangement ploy to make her break the agreement. After realizing the hold her husband’s memory has over her through the company, Taylor decides to help her bridge the past’s hold. Instead he discovers he never made peace with his own wife’s loss or the guilt of survival from his time in the military, and his PTSD only complicates the situation further.

    First 100 words:

    A few of the things Taylor Randolph had learned in the military were how to hear the lies. See the trepidation. Smell the fear. At the moment, the man seated across from him was dinging every one of those tells.
    Long since out of Special Forces, those same instincts still held Taylor in power. Power of being more than just the owner of T-Randolph Environmental Development (TRED). Power that he was the unchallenged thirty-five year old leader of the world renowned company. New York office and all.
    “Is there something I need to know?” Taylor steeled himself for one more lie.
    “No. Nothing.” Another ding. Chase Andrews had answered too fast.
    Thank you for the pitch opportunity.

        1. Please send your requested submission directly to Rhonda (rpenders@thewildrosepress.com). Be sure to put “CRW Pitch Contest Request” in the subject line and include your above pitch in the body to remind her which submission was yours. Best of luck!

          ~Abigail Owen
          CRW VP of Communications

    1. Melanie, thank you for enjoying my interview. I was so happy to do this online conference for all of you. If anyone has further questions, feel free to email me directly, no problem.

      Rhonda Penders

  6. Author’s Name: Tabitha Carter
    Book Title: Second Chances
    Genre: Sweet Romance
    Finished Word Count: 65,000

    Maximum 200 word blurb:

    Trying to rebuild her life after her fiancé and father of her child is killed in Iraq, Jessica MacLeod isn’t looking for a relationship. She has everyone she needs, her son Conner and her best friend, Casey. It’s Casey’s crazy notion that Jessica needs a man in her life that leads them to an evening at the beach and a chance encounter with Jared, a man that has her second guessing herself.

    Jared Ward hasn’t felt anything towards a woman in a long time. Not since “her,” the woman that nearly cost him his life and his career as a Marine. He hasn’t felt anything and hasn’t wanted to. All that changes when he meets Jessica on the beach. Even though his haunting past has left him incapable of trusting anyone, he finds himself wanting to get to know her.

    Jessica and Jared begin to build a relationship. A relationship that might not be strong enough to withstand secrets from the past or the unpredictable events that follow.

    First 100 words:

    A steady rain fell over Arlington National Cemetery. The weather was unusually cold for this time of year and the rain made the day even more miserable. She sat quietly under the tent, wondering how this had happened; how her life had changed so drastically over the last two weeks. In a matter of days her entire world was turned upside down. Everything she knew was gone. He was gone.

    Thanks for the opportunity to pitch!

        1. Please send your requested submission directly to Rhonda (rpenders@thewildrosepress.com). Be sure to put “CRW Pitch Contest Request” in the subject line and include your above pitch in the body to remind her which submission was yours. Best of luck!

          ~Abigail Owen
          CRW VP of Communications

  7. •Author’s Name:Kat Drennan
    •Book Title:Mint Condition
    •Genre:Contemporary Romance – Suspense
    •Finished Word Count:85,000

    •Maximum 200-word blurb:
    Maddie Kerrigan, known at Midwest auto auctions as the hot babe in the skin tight mechanic suit and red stilettos, must sell her beloved ‘54 Cadillac to preserve her family home. But no sooner than handsome hunk, Nick Berlin appears with a blank check in his hand and an irresistible gleam in his eye, does a letter from Maddie’s estranged father cast doubt on Nick’s motive and put the brakes on the sale. Will Nick and Maddie let their parents’ shady past destroy their future or are they ready to gamble everything on Love?

    •First 100 words of your story:
    A black car entered the cemetery parking lot and stopped. Maddie’s heart stopped with it. A limousine. Not even the dead rode in limos in this town. Tinted windows hid the face of the person in the rear seat, but it had to be him. The coward. Sneaking a peek without having to actually make an appearance.
    “Ashes to ashes,” the pastor droned, as emotions banged around in her heart like trapped ghosts. Anger. Grief. Dread. Twenty years since her father had dumped her on Grandpa’s Kentucky farm. She hadn’t seen him since. Did she want to? Hell no.

      1. Thank you very much!
        I’m assuming send according to Wild Rose Submission guidelines, include a synopsis in body and then okay, because of your request, to send attachment?

        1. Please send your requested submission directly to Rhonda (rpenders@thewildrosepress.com). Be sure to put “CRW Pitch Contest Request” in the subject line and include your above pitch in the body to remind her which submission was yours. Best of luck!

          ~Abigail Owen
          CRW VP of Communications

  8. Author’s Name: Terry Newman
    Book Title: Breaking Character
    Genre:Contemporary Romantic Comedy
    Finished Word Count:85,000 words
    Maximum 200-word blurb:

    Historian-turned-romance-writer JJ Sprightly and history professor Kennedy King Cooper have been in a loving relationship for more than a year. Kenn’s ready to pop the question. He’s bought the ring.

    What should be a simple proposal turns into a comedy of errors when JJ’s two main characters from her latest book pop out off the pages and into JJ’s world to help Kenn. Between the fictional characters and just plain bad luck (like when Sven’s Chinese Palace place JJ’s proposal disguised as a message in a fortune cookie on the wrong table), this proposal may never occur.

    Add to the mix a new historian in the department, adorned in a kilt who’s interested more in JJ’s attention and a man who claims to be a freelance writer but has the legendary name of “Merlin.”

    Kenn and the new history professor finally fight over JJ’s attention on Pi day at the local coffee shop, the Physics Café, using (what else?) pies. JJ’s appalled because they never asked her where her affections lie.

    Kenn believes it’s now or never. He goes to her house – taking a gaggle of clowns who provide mood music on their bicycle horns. JJ say yes to his proposal and her fictional characters also take the moment to get engaged along with the historians.

    First 100 words of your story:

    Merlin opened the heavy oversized metal door. He admitted to himself he was a bit nervous. But then who wouldn’t be under these circumstances? It was officially his first day on the job, and even though he knew he was born for this job — it was literally threaded throughout his DNA — he had a thousand-year reputation to live up to.

    The blue fog-like haze of the cavernous warehouse struck him like a thunderbolt. He wasn’t really sure what he had expected, but it was nothing like this. He allowed the door to close with a thud

  9. Hi Rhonda,

    General question for you…Do you have any special calls that you’re particularly excited about right now?


    1. We are very excited about our ongoing series Lobster Cove. This series is set in the fictional town of Lobster Cove, Maine and features stories across all our lines – romance as well as mainstream fiction. The stories can be historical or contemporary, paranormal or mystery, and many others.

      Lobster Cove…come for the lobster, stay for the love.

      Our guidelines and more information can be found on our site at http://www.thewildrosepress.com.


      1. Please send your requested submission directly to Rhonda (rpenders@thewildrosepress.com). Be sure to put “CRW Pitch Contest Request” in the subject line and include your above pitch in the body to remind her which submission was yours. Best of luck!

        ~Abigail Owen
        CRW VP of Communications

  10. Name: Melissa Fragiadaki (w/a Melina Kantor)

    Title: Once Upon a Playlist

    Genre: Contemporary Romance

    Finished Word Count: 90 K

    Maximum 200-word blurb:

    Evi, former host of the hit travel show Urban Nomad, understands the appeal of the whitewashed houses and blue shutters of the tiny Cretan seaside village where she grew up. The place is so authentic it’s got a resident village idiot.

    But one person’s paradise is another’s dusty, bug-infested recurring nightmare, which is why Evi hasn’t visited Myrtos in six years. When her beloved grandparents ask her to bring their granddaughter for a visit, Evi can’t say no. Especially since her grandparents announced they’re selling their café, a place Evi has always considered more of a home than her parents’ house.

    Returning to the traditional village with a daughter born out of wedlock isn’t easy. Before she leaves Brooklyn, Evi decides to give herself six weeks to find a way to buy the café, and then go back home.

    Everything changes once Evi finds out her grandparents have already sold the café to Mathaios, the village’s mysterious, geeky science teacher. She wants to hate him until she comes across a playlist on his computer, which leads to the discovery that there’s more to him than meets the eye.

    As Evi and Mathaios get to know each other, she finds out that their pasts are intertwined in ways she never could have imagined.

    First 100 words / first paragraph of your story:

    The driver turned up the volume on the radio, lit a cigarette, and slammed on the brakes just in time to prevent a flock of sheep from suddenly turning into street souvlaki. I spotted a crooked sign that read, “Irapetra, 2 kilometers. Myrtos, 8 kilometers,” and felt my stomach lurch.
    Okay, look. I get that sparkling blue seas, mountain views and sunsets appeal to some, but I’ve got to let you in on a little secret, which is this: one traveler’s paradise is another traveler’s dusty, hot, bug infested recurring nightmare.
    “Will you look at that?” the driver commented, the pride dripping from his voice, and pointed to a sparkling white church overlooking the water.
    Screw the spoon, I thought. If he says one more word about how beautiful the view is, I’ll need to be gagged with a shovel.

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