My good friend Alicia Spark just returned from the NOLA Stars Conference held on March 2, 2013. Below she shares with us what she saw and learned while there.

The biannual NOLA Stars conference was held in Shreveport, Louisiana on March 2, 2013. It focused mostly on Love Inspired and Christian romance, but several of the workshops were very informative across the board. Editors from Entangled Publishing, Harlequin Love Inspired, Harlequin Superromance and Avon Publishing were present to take editor appointments and to present workshops. In addition, the fabulous Barbara Vey (Twitter @barbaravey) from Publisher’s Weekly was there to discuss social media and building a fan base.

What I learned: Harlequin’s Superromance is seeking to expand beyond what they currently offer with adding a new level of sensuality. If the editors like a story but the level of sensuality is not quite what they are looking for, they will offer suggestions without rejecting outright. They are very open to authors who will write across the lines, doing both Blaze and Superromance, Intrigue and Superromance or any other combination. Superromance is approximately 85,000 words and should contain a subplot and supporting characters who are essential to the story. Also, Superromance can take place in small towns or big cities. They are not confined to just the Americana setting. Karen Reid was extremely helpful and gave me several pointers about my writing during our editor session. One thing I learned from her is that Harlequin wants authors who will produce books. They want to buy books in the same world that are not necessarily series. My hockey books would work perfectly here because they all surround the same team but use different characters, mentioning former characters as a way of “keeping in touch” with them. Also, Harlequin is offering multi-book contracts. One author (Laura-Marie Altom) recently signed an eight book contract. They are interested in publishing several books per author per year. Six books a year from one author is not unheard of. Harlequin has teamed up with Cosmopolitan magazine for a hot ebook line to be launched later this year. They signed Sylvia Day to a seven figure 2 book deal to launch it.

Entangled Publishing ( is a new kid on the e-publishing block, but they have a very strong advantage. St. Martin’s Press reads each blurb for every book that Entangled publishes. They then buy the subsidiary rights to those books and publish them under their imprint. Kerri-Leigh Grady is looking for a formula romance using several “tropes.” These tropes are different from stereotypes, however to the novice, they seem very similar. Tropes are Situational, Character or Sexual. Situational tropes are things like secret baby, accidental wedding and amnesia. Character tropes are outlaw, pirate, orphan and billionaire. Sexual tropes are wrong bed, fling, one night stand and friends with benefits. They really want to see a story between one man and one woman with a happily ever after. They are very tied to the concept of Tropes. They have several different levels of sensuality and word length. Each story must be a complete story and end with a happily ever after or happy for right now even if the story is part of a series. Right now, they want the story to have minimal internal dialog. They want to see what is happening rather than you telling them what is happening. The book that I pitched to Entangled is not quite right for them. However, instead of turning it down, I was given suggestions and time to revise the story to better fit their guidelines.

Barbara Vey from Publisher’s Weekly gave some really good information concerning social media and how to connect with fans. She’s funny and interesting and told a great story about what a bitch Jackie Collins really is. She has met most of the famous authors and is very personable. She has a huge Facebook and Twitter following and will promote any free giveaways through her blogs. If you have a free giveaway you want to send to her, mention NOLA Stars in Shreveport and send the information to Also, she gave some good information on promoting your work through

One of the new trends in publishing in creating a High Concept Impact Statement. This is shorter than a blurb and is designed to grab the attention of those who are seeking your work. Many authors mentioned that they had sold based on these statements alone. Also, they said that if you work for a New York publisher, you will be expected to write one of these. Lori Wilde has written a guide called Got High Concept? that is available through Kindle. It is a workbook for creating these statements. The Kindle format is a little wonky, but you will get the general idea of what is going on.

The High Concept Impact Statement is part of any New York publishing contract, and authors are paid a part of their advance when this is turned in. Most advances are staggered so authors receive a certain payment when the statement is turned in, when the final copy is turned in and at other points in the process. The advance is not a lump sum paid at signing of contract. A Synopsis Package is expected as well. This is a High Concept Impact Statement, a one page character sketch and a plot outline which includes the black moments and resolution. This package will go through the entire publishing process with your book, so it is important that it is good. It will be used to help the cover artists, back cover copy writers, editors and marketing team. Some authors have sold books based on these statements and packages through the Publisher’s Marketplace online. Hollywood producers often peruse the information that is posted on Publisher’s Marketplace in order to buy screenplays and the movie rights to novels. One author sold the movie rights to her book within two weeks of posting her High Concept Impact Statement on Publisher’s Marketplace.

Books to read: Pamela Regis Natural History of the Romance Novel discusses the tropes used in romance and was strongly suggested by Kerri-Leigh Grady. She also suggested reading Katie Robert, Christine Bell and Natalie Damshroder to get an idea of what Entangled is looking for. One author recommended reading Desmond Morris’s The Naked Ape and other books on intimate behavior to see how intimacy naturally develops among humans. Everyone who writes suspense or any book that has a villain recommended rewatching Silence of the Lambs and studying Hannibal Lecter. Gone with the Wind was also much quoted.

Memorable Statements: Your book is only as good as your villain. To understand your villain is to write a better book. A villain must have a personal connection to the hero or heroine. A villain must have a reason for doing what he/she is doing. A villain will only give up information if he/she receives information from the hero or heroine. The stronger the intimacy between your protagonist and antagonist, the stronger your story.

Men are concerned with not looking bad while women are concerned with looking good. There is a difference there. Also, almost every issue your hero has can be traced back to his mother, whether it is good or bad. Heroes have a strong sense of Mastery, Fair play, Honor, Power and Purpose. Play on these aspects of their character.

Wow, Alicia, a lot of great news and information. Thanks so much!!


Alicia Sparks is an erotic romance novelist who writes both contemporary and paranormal romance. Her novels Better than Ice Cream and Dragon’s Law: Damon are available from Ellora’s Cave. Her novella “One Hot Summer” is available from and is a mild bdsm novel. She is currently working on hockey romance for Harlequin Blaze and a Zombie romance for Entangled. “Like” her Facebook page for updates, pictures of hot hockey players and insight into the life of a frazzled writer.!/pages/Alicia-Sparks/315378021848049?fref=ts