Ramona Richards

Ramona Richards started making stuff up at three, writing it down at seven, and selling it at eighteen. She’s been annoying editors ever since, which is probably why she became one. Twenty-five years later, she’s edited more than 350 publications, including novels, CD-ROMs, magazines, non-fiction, children’s books, Bibles, and study guides. Ramona has worked with such publishers as Thomas Nelson, Barbour, Howard, Harlequin, Ideals, and many others. The author of eight books, she’s now the fiction editor for Abingdon Press. An avid live music fan, Ramona loves living in the ongoing street party that is Nashville.

Track Changes

Rumors...and Wars of Rumors

Trying to squash a rumor is like trying to unring a bell.
                                               Shana Alexander

As I type this, I’m sitting in a comfy chair looking out at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Even though I’ve been up in the Arch and peered through the tiny windows at the surrounding city and countryside (you can see a long way from up there), I forget how big it is. Looking up at the scudding clouds beyond it will make you slip-footed dizzy if you watch too long.

That’s sorta how I felt at this week’s ACFW conference after I heard for the umpteenth time about an unexpected change in Abingdon’s fiction program. And each time I heard it, the mentioned change became broader and more untrue.

I felt I was living a real-life version of the telephone game: one person whispers a statement to the person next to him, that one repeats it to the next person, and so on around the circle. Then the last person says the statement aloud, amazing people with how different the final version is from the original. One of my favorites of these involved only fifteen people, and the first whispered statement—“Donna eats spaghetti and meatballs with red sauce”—became “Donna is spitting mad at Alice and seeing red” by the time it made it around the circle.

Over the past few months, Abingdon has been evaluating the sales of the previous two years. We’re a young line; our first releases were in fall 2009. So it’s a normal part of the process for us to track the trends of what’s selling and what isn’t, and of those that are selling, which genres are moving best. All publishers do this; it’s the way we stay up-to-date with the constantly evolving trends in the industry. It helps us refine and consolidate the vision for the program.

Also, because we plan so far out, making adjustments in what we acquire now will mean changes for the line over the next two to five years. So here’s a list of those adjustments:

• We’re expanding our line from twenty-two to twenty-five books a year. We will be putting more emphasis on traditional genres, including historical romance, Amish, and suspense. We will be looking to add one or two speculative fiction titles per year, strictly on a trial basis. This is not a mandate; it’s an opportunity.
• We will be adding one to two YA titles per year, one of which will be speculative fiction.
• We will be acquiring fewer women’s fiction titles, in part because we have WF titles booked through 2015.
• We will be adding the Quilts of Love series, which will be a shorter, monthly series. This series will primarily include books of contemporary or historical romance and women’s fiction.

Until now, these adjustments have not been disclosed for public consideration. They’ve been listed in in-house documents, and I’ve discussed the points with a few agents and authors.

I arrived at the ACFW conference Wednesday night and had not yet left the airport before I heard for the first time, “Is Abingdon doing less women’s fiction?” I blinked, wondering if I’d heard it right. The baggage claim at STL is pretty noisy.

But I nodded. “Looking for less at this conference, yep.”

I heard it again once I got to the hotel, pretty much in the same form. This time I tried to clarify. “We’re still doing it; just fewer titles, and I’m just looking for more of the other genres.” This contrasted with the questions about Abingdon doing speculative fiction. “We’re going to try it,” I explained. “I think it’s going to be a trend that expands over the next few years.”

Parallel, warring rumors. Less women’s fiction; more speculative. I tried to clarify when I was asked.

Then, last night at the awards banquet came the question that both horrified and amused me. “I hear that Abingdon is discontinuing all women’s fiction and doing mostly speculative.”

After I shooed the flies out of my mouth and stopped gasping like a fish splashed up on a bank, I managed to grin. “Uh, that’s not true. We will still be doing plenty of women’s fiction.”

And we will. We recently launched River’s Song, the first in a women’s fiction series by Melody Carlson. In spring 2012, we’ll be releasing women’s fiction titles from Melody, Jennifer AlLee, Yvonne Lehman, Judy Christie, and Jim Kraus. In 2013, we’ll be experimenting with back-to-back releases (April, May and July) of a women’s fiction series by Debby Mayne. There will be women’s fiction titles in the Quilts of Love series.

Women’s fiction is still a strong part of our publishing program. However, we will be doing fewer WF titles than we have in the past, and I have WF titles booked for the next few years. I’m looking for less of it at this time. In a few months, that may change.

So will the rumors. This isn’t the first time I’ve been caught off guard by some rumor about the AP fiction program. Other editors deal with the same problem. And I truly appreciate the folks who came to me to ask.

Please, any time you hear a suggestion about what one publisher or the other will do or not do, ask the people involved. Or your agent, if you have one.

A long time ago, an extremely wise woman explained to me the futility of trying to combat rumors. “You can’t stop them. They move faster than wildfires. The only thing you can do is to keep doing what you’re doing, live it the best you can, and demonstrate the truth for the world. Only then will the rumors eventually fade.”

So I hope you will buy, read, and enjoy the powerful women’s fiction titles on our current and future lists. In the meantime, please welcome Kathy Harris to our list. She signed the contract for her fall 2012 women’s fiction title just last week . . .

I look at it this way. I’m not an eavesdropper;
I have an attention surplus disorder.

Robert Brault