The ‘Why’ behind the Africa Online Book Fair: Romance Authors & Books

Africa Online Book Fair Facebook Cover 2 (2)(1)

It’s an understatement to say I am excited! The online book fair is a first for me and I am are ready to start.

But before I get into giving you the details of the where and the when, I’d like to explain the point behind #AfricaOnBookFair.

I grew up in Apartheid South Africa, mostly at the end tail of the Struggle. In 1994 when we had our first democratic election I was still in primary school. Buying books, much less writing books weren’t something that was encouraged for any person of color. Yet authors of color prevailed.

They wrote books about the history of the country, books about their daily struggle. Wonderful Drum Magazine writers wrote some of the most memorable short stories that opened up worlds for me when I studied them in high school and university. Poetry like To Whom It May Concern by Sipho Sepamla still touches many around the world. But…yes there’s a but, I didn’t come across prolific romance stories set in my country and the rest of Africa, that didn’t have tinges of colonialism or was written for a specific audience that didn’t include readers outside of it.

The stories weren’t inherently diverse. Stereotypical roles for people of color littered these romantic texts and even till this day when I go to my local library and bookstores I have to hunt for romances written that’s multicultural or even interracial, romance that showcases the beauty and scope of the landscape as well as the people of this continent, and also the authors that come from it.

Romance authors in Africa don’t just write contemporary/historical novels in bush settings or urban settings, they write steamy reads about fairies and werewolves too. Local heroes and heroines making a life abroad. Nail biting suspense and mystery romance novels. Science fiction and fantasy. Young adult and new adult stories. They even interpret characters from different genders, races, cultural backgrounds and religions.

And I asked myself, where can you find these books and authors with so much diversity among them? Where is a place you can walk into and have a good fun old time getting book deals and meeting your next favorite author? You guess right. A book fair.

But because Africa is a really…really big continent, how do you get all of these terrific romance authors and their stories together in one spot for readers to discover them?

Thank God for the invention of the military programme that became the internet! Online is the easiest way to find things you’re searching for. Whether it’s the definition of a word (so guilty of that) or buying a pair of shoes, online shopping, buying and selling, and researching are things we consider common. Even in Africa.

Everyone owns a device they can use to access the internet.

And that’s how the #AfricaOnBookFair was created. It stemmed from this need to say, “If you’re looking for romance stories set in Africa or want to find out who your next favorite African author in every romance genre out there is, here they are. Online. Easy to access. You don’t have to pay to get in. You don’t have to stand in a queue. You don’t have to feel hot and sweaty. Or cold and tired. You sit in your home or wherever you might find yourself and check out what’s on offer.” Money you would’ve spent on gas, food and tickets to get in can go into buying extra books! As a bookworm, that makes me extremely happy.

And I know every little bookworm heart is giving a fist pump *laughs*

The Africa Online Book Fair aims to bring African romance authors and readers together. In a nutshell it is as simple as that. And I really hope you’ll come meet every single one of them.

Event date: Friday 2nd to Sunday 4th June 2017.

Starts: 10:00 am ( Cape Town time)

Ends: 22:00 pm (Cape Town time)

 

So without further adieu, here they are:

Aziza Eden Walker

Bailey Quinn

Elaine Dodge

Inge Saunders

Jayne Bauling

Joanne Macgregor

Kathy Bosman

Leenna Naidoo

Marie Dry

Nana Prah

Sherita Singh

Theresa Beharrie

TM Clark

Link to the Event Page:  https://www.facebook.com/events/372063406523550/

Twitter: @AfricaOnBookFr

Instagram: @africaonlinebookfair

The Dreaded Synopsis

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For the last two years or so, I’ve come to embrace the synopsis. And though embrace is a strong word, since you won’t find me just jumping into one, I have realized the importance of one if I ever want to be considered by a big publishing house.

So instead of listing all my struggles with writing them, I decided to write how I became comfortable with writing synopses.

I’ve read a lot of articles on the topic and watched a few online teachings. I’m not good with textbooks because it makes me feel like I’m back at varsity and my “Am I going to get graded on this?” mentality isn’t so easy to shake off, even years later.

But the light-bulb didn’t come on until I realized that 1) there’s a specific publisher I like to write for and they require a synopsis. Without one I’m toast at the door. They won’t even consider me no matter how intriguing the pitch, hook or first three chapters. My submission won’t make it past the threshold. So to not put myself at a disadvantage, I knew I had to master the synopsis.

2) I came across a Harlequin editor who gave advice on synopsis writing. A side note: whenever an editor from a respected publisher give advice on writing, take note.

She hit all the points I’ve read so far. But what stood out for me from her advice was how simple she made synopsis writing seem. At the end of her advice she said, synopsis writing is you drawing a map. The map contains all the high points, the beginning and ending. You have a good idea of where the highs and lows are going to be. And writing the story are filled with all the meaty parts in-between, like the ditch the car falls into after a deer crossed the road. You write about all the angst and fear that came along with the experience. A minor setback, but the end destination still needs to be reached.

I started writing my synopsis like this. A road map. And that’s how I still view a synopsis, especially one that’s aimed at an editor.

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So besides these things, here are a few points I focus on when I sit down to write a short synopsis:

  1. First thing check the length the publisher wants. This can range from 1-2 pages to 5 pages. Reading the guidelines will save you a lot of time.
  2. Format: Double-spaced, 1 inch margins, Times New Roman font and Header over every page (check with the publisher if they require a specific style of Headers).
  3. Start bold. The same attention you spend on the opening line of your book put the same effort into the opening line of you synopsis. Grab the editor’s attention first before you summarize the book.
  4. Stay focused. In a short synopsis for 1-2 pages there aren’t space for extraneous details. Don’t include secondary plots or characters, unless they play a part in understanding the resolution. Don’t use multiple points of view (POVs) even if they are present in the novel.
  5. Determine your romance’s focus ahead of time. You should determine your target publisher’s preferences ahead of time and use it to guide your effort. A publisher like Harlequin wants romance, so get to that quickly and end on the romantic resolution.
  6. Write in present tense. This is something I didn’t know at the beginning. It is so simple and makes so much sense. Because the present tense creates a sense of urgency. This makes it effective.
  7. Show, don’t tell. Yes, even in a synopsis. Show the story through a good plot. Don’t describe it.
  8. Don’t resort to empty questions. “Will they fall in love?” This is an editorial pet peeve. You’re going to have to answer the question, so you’re wasting space. These types of sentences also yank the editor out of the story. They are views as “author intrusive”. You are not letting the story speak for itself, you are speaking for it.
  9. Many editors make it a rule not to read after the third typo. So be thorough!

 

Sweat the opening three paragraphs. Most editors conduct a “three paragraph” test.  If you don’t grab their attention by then, they simply won’t read on. A strong opening line and a quick tight overview of the hero/heroine and conflict.

These tips I learned from romantic suspense author Lisa Gardner. I look at them every time I sit down to write a short synopsis as a refresher. And even as I type this post, I learned something new.

Learning this skill isn’t a once off thing. You’ll have to practice it and practice some more. It’s not for the fainthearted and it’s not for the lazy writers. It’s not for the ones who are ‘stuck in their writing ways’, the ones who skip publishers because they want to avoid a synopsis. Because it’s a hurdle they can’t exercise enough to jump over.

Hard work do pay off. And I do believe getting the synopsis is one step closer to publication.

#happywriting

Author Spotlight Wk 1 – Inge Saunders

Last week I was featured on Tracee Garner’ s blog sharing my writing process as a Hybrid author 🙂

Tracee Lydia Garner

1Hi Everyone, 

This week starts an 11 Week Blog Spotlight on the Writing Process. Each week, I’ll feature a fellow writer of varying genres to talk about HOW they write.

Join the discussion by leaving a comment and enjoy each veteran author or new, emerging voice!

First up, Multicultural, New-Adult, Romance Author –

Inge Saunders 

Since I embarked on the romance writing road in 2012 I’ve read so many different takes on authors writing process. From James Scott Bell who starts from the middle of his novel, he believes in writing from the ‘midpoint’ or ‘the point of commitment’ or as others calls it, ‘raising the stakes’. To begin there he states brings illumination over the whole writing project. Then there’s Harlequin author Tawny Weber who, though loves plotting, is not a detailed plotter. She needs three things to start a story: A premise, a good grasp on the characters…

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My Writing Stride

 

Nelson-Mandela-LargeMid February I found my writing stride. How, do you ask? (Okay let’s pretend you did *wink*)

 
I’ve been frustrated since January because I wasn’t keeping my 1K word count per day. It bugged me that the holidays could throw me so off my ‘game’. But here’s the thing, I realized that both the stories I’ve outlined for the first half of the year needed to marinate. I had to become more than acquainted with my characters.

 
This is where many writers drop the ball (forgive the sports terms. I don’t know why I’m doing that. I don’t even play any sports).

 
You constantly hear from industry folk to put out the next book, to not allow the readers to ‘forget’ about you and you watch indie authors churn out novels at a rate that give you whiplash. But how many of those books are quality? And now I’m not just referring to self-published and e-publishers. I’m also referring to traditional romance publishers.

 
Recently I’ve read books that took the author less than two months to write…and it showed. Some people can do this and still produce great plots and well developed characters, others can’t. And I’m one of those who can’t. I’ve accepted this about myself. I’ve realized that for me to produce a piece of work that I feel proud of is going to take time. I can’t rush a story because my last book was published in June 2015 and oh-my-word what will happen if I don’t publish a book by June 2016?

 
I’ll tell you what will happen‒nothing. The world won’t stop. I’ll still be around because I’ve got my social network platforms, I’ll keep my readers informed of what’s happening writing wise (like I’m doing now *smile*), do author interviews, write guest post, etc. I’ll complete the two manuscripts I’m currently working on and then submit.

 
So while write the next book is great advice for a writer, it should be tempered with, and make sure it’s better than the last one!

 
#HappyWriting

Writing the 1st Three Chapters

This has become a problem for me. The more books I write the more complicated it gets. Not that I was so brilliant at it to begin with *wink* But you’d think that by now I would have a bit of a grasp on this monster. Alas I don’t and that’s usually when I dust off the (inter-web’s) trusty romance writing advice.

 

Here are some that’s kept me grounded:
1. The opening chapters have to give the readers/editor/literary agent an idea of your voice as a writer. It gives an idea of what the rest of the story’s going to be like, action packed, funny, quirky, witty etc.
2. Include sparkly dialogue, something exciting and attention grabbing.
3. Start with the moment things changes for your character (s).
4. Introduce you main character (s). Give the reader an idea of who they are, something that will keep the reader turning the pages and feel sympathy for your character(s).
5. Remember the perfect opening chapters doesn’t happen overnight, you’ll probably chop and change a couple of times. That’s okay *smile*

 

And here are some of the don’ts especially if you’re a newbie:
1. Driving scenes, alarm clocks (or any type of variant of this), generic weather descriptions. These are hard to make fresh for new writers. Rather start somewhere else.
2. New writers love to info dump *guilty look*, whether through dialogue or the characters explaining their lives etc. Don’t do this. Not in those crucial first chapters. No backstory at this point. If it’s necessary you can add it later.

 

 

But most of all remember this!

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Three things I`ve learned as a ‘New’ Author…

Okay so let me address the ‘new’ in my title. I`ve been a writer/author since age thirteen, therefore the writing isn`t new to me but the Writing World (and yes it deserves capital letters) is.
When I decided to take my writing seriously, to place it out there in the world and work towards publication, I became a new author in that sense. I had no idea what I was taking on. If I had known then what I know now, I don`t think I`d be so eager to throw down the proverbial gauntlet and say, ‘this is it! I`m taking a chance on my ability and damn the consequences!’ I would probably have been more careful, and probably ended up STILL on the outside looking in *bug eyed*. There`s something about blind faith *lopsided grin*
Anyway, this is a post about what I`ve learned so far since entering this world. And I have to add not all of it is good.
1) Research publishing houses/agents/groups/reviewers/etc…basically all areas where you have to entrust your work into someone else`s hands.

Newbie that I was, I hadn`t done this in the beginning. I went in thinking publishing weren`t ‘shark’ infested waters, unlike the regular ones you get in traditional jobs. Naively I didn`t reckon someone might try to use my work to make a quick buck, rather than actually caring about brand power and the quality of stories they put out there. Yes you guessed right, I`d signed onto a sprung-over-night e-publisher, on the good faith that because they were still small my manuscript would get excellent attention…uh no. It got one Line Edit and absolutely NO Content Edit. I was aghast. Because even as a newbie I realized something was seriously wrong. Which leads me to my second lesson.
2) Go with your Gut!

When you feel like something isn`t right, bail out. Grab your manuscript, your rights or whatever you gave, and with hooker heels in hand, make a run for it! I realized too late that I should`ve gone with my so-called ‘crazy female paranoid’ emotions and just bailed when I noticed the company wasn`t operating the way it should. This doesn`t just count for new e-pubs but for any publishers e.g. ‘the curious case of Ellora`s Cave’. New authors when you smell something fishy then Trust. Your. Nose.

Yes, it might mean making yourself unpopular for asking questions of the publisher, but let me tell you what happens when you don’t. I got a release date a month earlier than the publisher had promised, a cover a week before said published date (on which I hadn`t even agreed on btw) and guess when did I, the signed author, find out all about this? Yes, a week before the release. A WEEK. One Line Edit. No Content Edits. A cover so far removed from the story it made bile rise in my throat. And a release date that hadn`t given me enough time to promote my book. To say I was pissed is an understatement. Lucky for me, the company gave me my rights back after they realized I didn`t respond well to threats. Yes, I might be a newbie author but that didn`t make me a clueless human being *raised eyebrow* Trust your gut!

3) And lastly this…something most authors won`t tell you and I feel like I should mention here…I`ve learned to NOT compare my work/book(s) with other authors work/book(s).

It`s tempting to, especially when you`re a first time published author. You want to check how your book`s doing in comparison to everyone else`s so you`d know whether your thousands Amazon ranking is good or bad. That, you can check when you research how Amazon came to their ranking system, for example, How many books you should sell per day to get a #1 ranking in your category. You don`t need other authors rankings to know how you`re doing, plus you`re so busy checking them out that you forget to write the next book!

And here`s another nugget. As much as the romance community would like to act (for lack of a better word) that it`s not a competition *laughs* believe me, to some romance authors it is. Some grade publishing houses to see just where they are in the ‘publishing world hierarchy’. Are they with the ‘in-crowd’ of publishing houses? Are they rubbing shoulders with the ‘big’ name-making authors? Did they win a romance literary award? Did they win a writing competition? How many? Are their books in real actual honest to God *closes eyes-raises hand* bookstores? Because that`s like the new defining status currency. Do you only have an eBook or has it gone to print? Don`t get sucked into this. Oprah said something profound, something I realized at the age of twenty-one, she can`t be Barbara Walters because there`s already a Barbara Walters. She could only be herself. And the world needed an Oprah, was ready in fact for one.

The same with you and me. I don`t run with the ‘crowd’ who have to place labels and categories on things and people. I decided a long time ago to not compare myself to others in whatever area, because there`ll always be someone who`s doing what you`re doing better than you. Yeah I said it. Especially when you`re trying hard to be like everyone else, attain what everyone else has. Don`t. It`s exhausting. And don`t ‘run’ with those who do. They are exhausting. Celebrate people`s successes with them, be inspired by their stories, but never envy them because you don`t know their journey. What they had to go through to get there.

Someone asked me in January to share thoughts on the publishing world now that my first book`s released (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00R4UACZW/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_vP1bvb1B0D2W4). At the time I honestly didn`t feel much like it. For months I`ve been working on edits and completed two novels back-to-back. All I wanted to do was rest. And then when I did start to think about what I`d say about the publishing world so many topics came to mind, I couldn`t settle on any specific one. I finally (impulsively) sat down today and wrote what I learned rather than what I ‘thought’ because I believe the lessons would serve someone. Of course they`re not the only lessons I`ve learned, but they were the ones that stuck with me the most.
Being a new author doesn`t end for me. I`m still learning, I`m still growing. I`ve made some strides but I don`t think I`ll shed my new author status so easily. I`ll be wearing the ‘new author’ hat for a while *wink*
#HappyWriting #HappyLearning #HappyGrowing