Monday, December 15, 2014


This is my second year writing a holiday romance. The two stories could not be further apart in content or heat level. Ely’s Epiphany (Secret Cravings Publishing, 2013) is a sizzling hot M/M Christmas romance about two ex-Green Beret partners who reexamine their relationship after two decades. It’s a holiday sequel to Search & Rescue. On the other hand, this year’s Christmas story (The Twelfth Night Queen, Secret Cravings Publishing, 2014) is a sweet Regency M/F historical featuring a noble damsel in distress, a dashing Earl who would love to come to her rescue, and a villain with a secret who fights to keep the couple apart to possess the damsel himself.

Whatever the holiday, there are several factors to consider when writing a holiday story.  First of all, start your planning and writing well ahead of the holiday. Some publishers plan their publication schedules a year or so ahead. Others have deadlines much closer to the holiday (as late as October 1st for Christmas). This year I was rushed with edits and a release with another publisher and ended up submitting my story a couple of days before the October 1st deadline. BIG mistake. Even if you’re offered a contract (my story was, thank heavens), you’re at the back of the edit line and doomed to a later release.

Why can later releases spell disaster? The sooner a “seasonal” book is released, the more opportunity the author has to market it during that window before the holiday which is critical to sales. For example, readers get into the Christmas spirit in November. I admit to being a Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas movie addict. When not doing NaNo, I’m baking, humming carols, and hitting that BUY button on my Christmas reads. The earlier the release, the better.

How do you get a jump on writing/submitting holiday stories? Identify a publisher who accepts holiday stories. If you’re already published, that should be easy enough to do - JUST ASK. Of my four publishers, one doesn’t do holiday stories. Another does an in-house call for holiday submissions among its authors. Another put out a call late in the year. The last one – SCP - loves holiday stories and posts a call for submissions almost a year ahead.

The call for submissions is critical. The call for submissions includes what the publisher is looking for (subject matter and length) and when it’s due. If you can’t deliver on all of those, don’t bother submitting. The publisher knows what they’re looking for. If the call allows flexibility in the subject matter or length , then go for it.

HOWEVER, before starting to outline/write the story, it’s smart to read a few of their Christmas bestsellers from the previous year to determine what they accepted in the past. My story last year was an M/M that was a bit dark with an unexpected HEA ending. Fortunately, it did fine. This year, I was more traditional and went with a warm and fuzzy Regency Christmas story. Make sure the story you write is marketable.

Submit your story early. Publishing houses tentatively plan to publish a limited number of books each year. If you watch author announcements of contracts, it’s evident that publishers don’t wait until after the deadline to offer contracts. Why should they? If they see a book they really like, why not snap it up while it's still available? The author may have submitted elsewhere and might accept a contract before the deadline. On the author’s side, an early submission can also allow the author to recover from a rejection, edit the story as needed, and/or submit elsewhere.

Have time set aside for edits and marketing. I personally like to do a less than 48-hour turnaround with edits. I set everything else aside to complete the first edit and do a read-through. Everyone is busy around holidays, so get that book back to the editor to get it published. Have your marketing plan set in place early because you don’t know when something could interfere with your plans.
UPDATE. I wrote this post in early October. I should have followed my own advice about submitting early. The book didn't need a lot of edits, but my personal life got in the way in a big way and while my edits were turned around in 24 hours, I was still stressed. Lesson: SUBMIT EARLY!


Finally, as the year draws to a close, I want to thank the authors at The Writers’ Vineyard for sharing all their expertise over the years. I’ve learned from everyone and look forward to doing so in the future. Happy Holidays to all!



Julie Eberhart Painter said...

All good advice, Rita. And thanks to you, too, for your expertise over the years.

Rita Bay said...

Thank you, Julie. It always amazes how willing authors are to share their experiences. I must mention how much I miss Allison Knight who died in July. She was my self-appointed mentor who offered encouragement and valuable advice for almost a decade. Happy Holidays! Rita

January Bain said...

I agree with Julie. You've had a very good writing year as well! And happy holidays to you, Rita! Best, January