THURSDAY, APRIL 24, 2014
language of love
by Robin Hartill | News Editor
ROMANCING ROYALTIES Sue-Ellen Welfonder sticks to sensual Scottish romances even as e-books and ‘50 Shades of Grey’ add kinks to the romance-novel publishing industry.
Sue-Ellen Welfonder’s newest novel, “To Love a Highlander,” will be released April 29, by Time Warner’s Grand Central Publishing. love,” she said. “If you’re not passionate about what you’re writing, it’s just ink on the page.” Welfonder was passionate about writing long before she considered becoming a published author. As a flight attendant for 23 years who first worked for the now-defunct Braniff International Airways and later for Lufthansa German Airlines, she kept extensive travel journals and wrote letters to friends describing her adventures abroad. She also loved researching her Scottish heritage and medieval history. Her friend, the late author Becky Lee Weyrich, who was the queen of timetravel romance novels in the 1980s, told Welfonder that she always felt like she was in the exotic locales with her when she read the letters. She encouraged
Welfonder to try getting published. Welfonder admits she got lucky when she landed an agent within a couple of weeks and a deal with Time Warner’s Grand Central Publishing. But today, Welfonder considers herself a hybrid author, rather than a traditional one. She has a contract for a new five-book series but is also pursuing self-publishing and indie publishing projects. Some authors — who Welfonder describes as “smarter than me” — saw the potential for e-books back when large publishers were skeptical that they could be successful. Those authors persuaded publishers to give them rights to their backlist, or out-of-print titles, so they could self-publish them online and reap profits. Welfonder only sought rights to her
I firmly believe in writing only what I love. If you’re not passionate about what you’re writing, it’s just ink on the page. — Author Sue-Ellen Welfonder
Time Warner’s Grand Central Publishing will release Sue-Ellen Welfonder’s latest Scottish medieval romance novel, “To Love a Highlander,” April 29. The title is her 25th published title and the first in her new five-book series, “Scandalous Scots,” that will continue with the release of “To Desire a Highlander” later this year. backlist titles after e-books became a success. She finally persuaded Penguin to give her rights to the first novel she wrote under the pen name Allie Mackay, “Highlander in Her Dreams” and released it on Amazon for $3.99 in December. She has also published novellas that were published in previous anthologies for 99 cents. Although self-publishing requires authors to handle formatting and cover art, it can be profitable. Welfonder receives an 8% royalty from traditional publishers on a novel that sells for $7.99 each in paperback or as an e-book — or 64 cents per novel. With her novels averaging approximately 60,000 in sales, that amounts to just more than $35,000 per title that she receives over the course of the year or two in which a book is in circulation. Amazon, by contrast, allows the author to set a price and keep 70% of sales revenue, with the behemoth bookseller keeping the remaining 30%. She currently sells approximately 1,000 selfpublished e-books monthly. She has also self-published a series of novellas through Amazon. Another Amazon advantage: It pays royalties monthly, instead of twice a year, which is what traditional publishers offer. Welfonder never takes her success for granted. She lost a contract with Penguin two years ago for her Allie Mackay series after missing several deadlines while she struggled to write in the middle of nonstop construction in her community. Her long-time publisher, Time Warner’s Grand Central Publishing, was more forgiving and did not drop her. “Writing is not a stable living,” she said. “You never know if a book is going to resonate with readers, and you never know how reviewers will respond.” One thing she never worries about, however, is running out of story ideas. “I have more story ideas in my head than I could ever write in my lifetime,” Welfonder said.
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Expect hot Highland heroes, strong heroines and a vivid sense of place in a Sue-Ellen Welfonder novel. The Highland heroes have beards, a Scottish burr and kilts. The leading ladies are strong because Welfonder can’t stand a crybaby heroine. And the sense of place is key because for her readers, her Scottish medieval romance novels are a way to escape from everyday life. “When they read my books, they feel like they’re there,” Welfonder said. “They feel transported into medieval Scotland.” Welfonder, a Longboat Key resident, has sold more than 1 million copies of 24 books that have been released since her first novel, “Devil in a Kilt,” hit shelves in 2001. (Her 25th novel, “To Love a Highlander,” will be released April 29; see sidebar). She remains faithful to hot Highland heroes and strong heroines and a style of writing that she describes as “sensual but not kinky” — despite two factors that she says have transformed the traditional romance-novel industry in the past few years: e-books and the blockbuster success of E.L. James’ 2012 erotic “50 Shades of Grey” trilogy. The e-book factor penetrates all book genres. Traditionally, writers had to find an agent to be published, but e-publishers, particularly Amazon, opened the floodgates to aspiring authors. “Everyone who ever thought of writing a book did,” Welfonder said. “It was no longer necessary to have an agent. You could do it yourself.” Readers have more choices available at lower prices than ever, which presents a challenge to traditional writers. The “50 Shades” factor made the romance-novel industry turn its wandering eyes from the sensuous to the pornographic. Many authors, including some of Welfonder’s friends, followed suit. “A lot of these women are themselves grandmothers,” Welfonder said. “They adopt some hot-sounding name, get a flashy website and start writing bondage and BDSM and threesomes because that’s what selling right now.” Sex — particularly the hardcore kind — may sell, but Welfonder does not plan to change her style. She believes her readers would be disappointed if she dropped the kilts in favor of kink. “I firmly believe in writing only what I