Choc Lit is a UK Romance Publisher recently launched in Australia and they are, in their own words:
looking to add some Aussie heat and glamour to our tasty selection of fiction and we’d like to find the next Australian star author. Dream of being published internationally? Write romance with irresistible heroes? Then this could be for you.
[Links to submission criteria and more info below. Ed.]
Since this sounded like an opportunity that might be of interest to our members, we thought we should find out a bit more about Choc Lit. Imelda Evans (Blog-girl and RWA member about town) put Luke Roberts, from Choc Lit into her
interrogation chamber interview chair and here are the results:
Choc Lit is an interesting name. Is there a story that goes with it?
Glad you like it! (Well you said, it’s “interesting” anyway…) Yes, there is a story. The MD of Choc Lit, Lyn Vernham, was discussing the name Choc Lit with a colleague, when they were thinking of starting the company. Lyn was sure it would be taken already, but a quick check revealed the name had not been trademarked. The idea, beyond the play on Chick Lit, was to match chocolate to particular heroes from the romance novels the company publishes. This led to the company strapline, “where heroes are chocolate- irresistible.” As most women like romance and chocolate, the name seemed, and still seems to be a winner. We have worked with a number of chocolatiers in the UK to match their cocoa treats with our tasty heroes. No Choc Lit book launch is complete without some chocolate for people to sample.
How would you describe Choc Lit? What can people expect of your books?
Choc Lit books are innovative and fun. They are prepared to try new ideas, both in the material they publish and in finding alternative or unusual routes to market. Choc Lit books always incorporate a male as well as a female point of view. You get to hear from the heroes in Choc Lit books and gain an insight into what they’re thinking. In terms of genre, we’ve made an effort to cut loose from the somewhat formulaic plots and horizons to which romances have traditionally adhered. Choc Lit books incorporate comedy, historical settings, paranormal and timeslip elements into the stories, but there’s always romance at the core. We try to do the unexpected to some degree, and some reviewers have picked up on this. The Daily Mail newspaper in the UK, for example, was surprised by the graphic scenes of conflict in Margaret James’ trilogy about a British family living and fighting through World War I and II.
Where did Choc Lit start and where are you operating to date?
Choc Lit published their first book in Dec 2008. By the end of 2011 we had published 15 books. We now publish a book a month, and most of our titles are available in our chief markets of the UK, America and of course Australia, which we are very excited about! The goal is to produce two books a month by the end of 2013. In terms of where we operate physically, (because more and more of the book world is going online), Choc Lit HQ is in the lovely countryside of Surrey, in south-east England. Our novels are now distributed worldwide and we are seeing an increasing number of foreign language and translation rights requests.
How long has Choc Lit been publishing?
Oops. Already answered that! Our first book was The Importance of Being Emma by Juliet Archer, released in December 2008, followed by Starting Over, by Sue Moorcroft. The Importance of Being Emma is a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s classic novel Emma. Juliet does a great job of getting inside the hearts and minds of Jane Austen’s heroes. Sue has helped establish our contemporary fiction titles, and Starting Over features one of our most sought after heroes! Since these first two books, we haven’t looked back.
What formats do you publish in? Trade, mass-market, e-books…?
All of them. Publishers have to take all these formats seriously at the moment, although ebooks are proving to be the growth sector.
Who is your target audience?
We are aware that it’s mostly women who read our books. And that includes adult women of almost any age. Some of our books, like The Untied Kingdom by Kate Johnson, a satirical tale of the United Kingdom as a third-world nation in a parallel universe, are more popular with young women aged under 35. But a lot of our historical fiction, like Christina Courtenay’s award-winning adventures in diverse lands, have a more mature readership. And we mustn’t forget to exclude the men. We know that some men are reading our books, and good on them, we say.
Can you give us some representative examples of Choc Lit authors?
Choc Lit publish new or developing authors and we believe in all of them absolutely. No one Choc Lit author represents the brand, or some would say publisher, better than any other. You’d have to look at www.choc-it.co.uk to see them all. We work very much as a team. It may sound strange, but we even call it the Choc Lit family. All the authors are excellent at supporting one another and getting more savvy with social media, marketing and creating sales opportunities by the day. Some of the authors have been winning prizes. We’ve won 7 in the last 18 months. That’s a great endorsement for some of them, and we’re only sad that there aren’t enough prizes for everyone to add at least one to their trophy cabinet. They all deserve some silverware!
I see you have launched in Australia. What does that mean to your sales here? Will your books be in bookshops, available online and/or elsewhere?
Yes. We’re delighted about this. It’s a real opportunity and folks in Australia have been so welcoming. We’re being distributed in Australia by Alpa Books. Our books should be available via the full gamut of bookshops, online retailers and also at certain conferences. If they’re not, speak to Alpa or the bookshop manager! As we’ve only just launched in Australia, we think it will take a while for books to be available through some channels, as this always takes longer than we hope. But everyone that asks for a copy of Please Don’t Stop the Music, the UK’s Romantic Novel of the Year 2012, or any of our books in their local store, helps get the distribution chain moving. Our latest title to become available in Australia is Evonne Wareham’s book, Never Coming Home, which has just won The Joan Hessayon Award fort promising new writing. Look out for that one.
Obviously, you publish romance. Do you publish other genres? Do you publish all the sub-genres of romance, or do you have a preference?
We will not exclude any subgenre of romance. If the book is well written and it gains favourable reviews from our Tasting Panel of independent readers, there’s a good chance we’ll publish it. They are quite picky and have eclectic tastes. It so happens that we have published contemporary, historical, comic, paranormal and timeslip romances to date. We do have something of a preference for books which have a clear love of and characterisation of place, as well as powerful chemistry between the hero and heroine. This is especially evident in Chris Stovell’s books, and you’ll find this loving rendering of all the things which make a place what it is, in the books of forthcoming authors like Liz Harris, Linda Mitchelmore and Henriette Gyland.
You’re running a search for an Australian romance writer. With regard to that, who is eligible? Published or unpublished? Any other criteria?
Well, the full details are available at http://www.choc-lit.co.uk/html/search_for_an_australian_star.html but to answer your questions succinctly, both published and unpublished authors are eligible, although the manuscript must not be under consideration by other publishers, nor be a repeat of any previously published material.
All submissions must meet our submission criteria and be received before 31st August 2012. The winner will be announced December 2012. To be eligible to enter our Search for an Australian Star competition, you must live in Australia.
What do you want to see from entrants?
In terms of length we are looking for 70,000 to 100,000 words. Subgenre is not important, a fabulous story and great romance is what we are looking for.
Is there anything you don’t want to see?
Badly written manuscripts, heroes and heroines who get it on by the third page, characters who seem to be carbon copies of well-known characters we’ve seen/read elsewhere…
How should people submit?
We’re looking for a synopsis and a little information about the novelist. This needs to be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org by 31 August, 2012, but we’d advise looking at the full submission guidelines first.
How is the competition judged?
The strongest submissions will be read by our Tasting Panel of independent readers. They will draw up a shortlist of 3 candidates. This is quite a democratic process, as there are 50 members of the Tasting Panel and they all have different tastes and opinions. We are exploring putting the 3 candidates forward for a public vote, to be hosted by the Australian Romance Readers Association website.
What does the writer ‘win’ if they are chosen?
The winner will be offered a contract with Choc Lit, who will market and sell their book worldwide.
Are you open to choosing more than one writer, if you like what you see?
We will choose a winner, however difficult that may be. But if there are other very strong submissions that narrowly miss out, we will definitely be interested in speaking to the relevant authors, about whether we can publish their work a little further down the line.
And that’s the end of the
interrogation, interview! Thanks to Luke for his time and comprehensive answers. For more information on the search, click the links above, or here.
As with any competition, RWA advises that you read all the fine print carefully and only proceed if you are happy. Please note that entries need to be submitted by 31st August 2012. If you decide to enter, Good Luck!