Q and A

Several people in the blog audience had questions that I haven’t yet answered. I’m taking care of those today.
Judith F asks: “How much time do you usually spend to edit a new author’s work? If you like an author’s work and no one else does, is it usually a no for that book?”

The time needed for a new author really depends on that author and that book. I’ve bought new people who needed very little feedback from me and I have bought those who needed quite a bit. (The longer edits are usually lengthened by input from other editors. Even the senior and executive editors get a chance to ask for changes.) If I’m the only one who likes an author’s work then I can’t put the project under contract. A book on the shelf has to appeal to a wide audience, which means it must first appeal to many editors in-house.

Ann M asks: “How many authors do you deal with? Do you encourage authors to move into another genre?”

I deal with about 30 authors on a regular basis. (I manage two 12-book series and my personal author base is on the small side right now.) I have never encouraged my writers to move away from romance—they wouldn’t be writing for us if they weren’t good at the genre. But I have guided them to different lines, imprints or subgenres, depending on their career goals and Harlequin’s needs.
Berta Platas asks: “What’s it like on the editorial side of editing a series [like Caridad’s]?”

I’ve had a great time editing Caridad’s series. It’s fun to see character arcs run through several books. It can be difficult to make sure each book also stands alone, with a strong romance of its own, but I think we’ve done a good job so far. 🙂

Maria Duncan asks: “What is your favorite genre of romance and who are your favorite authors?” And Yolanda asks: “What do you enjoy reading while you’re not working?”

I have read romance since I was very young, and I love just about everything in the genre. I started with historicals and I still crave those. (I’m a sucker for details about historic fashion and daily habits.) I also enjoy suspense, thrillers, paranormal/fantasy and traditional romance. My absolute favorite romance author is Laura Kinsale. Flowers from the Storm is the only romance I’ve read multiple times (for fun, not work) and it moved me each time. I also enjoy Tess Gerritsen, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jessica Bird (who also writes as J.R. Ward), and Jackie Braun.

Outside of work and romance, I read a ton of magazines. The New Yorker, Harper’s, Atlantic Monthly, and Oxford American all come to my apartment. I also read online publications like Salon and Slate, and multiple blogs. I try to get in as many books as I can, and I pretty much pick up anything that strikes me, from literary fiction to self-help to non-fiction. The last full book I read was The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach. I’m currently reading The Society of S (a vampire novel by Susan Hubbard) and Barak Obama’s latest is next on my list.

Yolanda asks: “Is it really OK to submit without an agent?”

At Harlequin, yes, definitely.

Melissa_G asks: “Is it really the kiss of death to have a manuscript in first person?”

First person is very difficult to do well, but it is not the kiss of death. Harlequin has published many books in first person, even in category romance. If you have a good story that’s well written it can be in first person.

PamK asks: “Do most editors try their hand at writing? What kind of education do you have to have to have to be an editor?”

I’d say about half of the editors I know have tried their hand at writing, and all of them know that the hardest part of creating a novel is filling up those blank pages with a story someone else wants to read. Editing and writing are two very different skills, although they use the same part of the brain. While I had at one time thought of myself as a writer, I now prefer editing. It’s fun to see the whole of a story and then find where it could be stronger, more moving or sexier. And, a side note, editing works best with authors who are skilled at rewriting (yet another talent that is different from the initial creative drive).

As for education, a lot of editors are English majors. You definitely have to know your way around grammar, syntax, and story structure. But editing is an apprenticeship skill, learned at the feet of older and wiser editors. Like wine, editors only get better with age. 🙂

All mixed up asks: “A purely – ahem – hypothetical question for Stacy. If an author were to pitch to you at a conference (and you asked to see the work) and realized after pitching to you that she had submitted the book to the Nocturne line (at the advice of another editor at HQ), but said author also learned after the fact that her book did not fit Nocturne at all (length/tone) and tried to withdraw the submission from Nocturne, but was alas, too late…If that book were then rejected by Nocturne for the very reasons noted above, would Stacy still wish to see the book. Word on the street is that once rejected by HQ, always rejected by HQ. Any advice? From a purely hypothetical standpoint, of course.”

Hypothetically speaking, if I asked to see the book for Nocturne then a previous rejection from that line means I won’t be able to pitch it for that program. However, once rejected is not always rejected. If you think I might really love it, then yes, send it to me, but mention your Nocturne rejection in the cover letter so I know the history of the submission at Harlequin.

Caridad asks: “Besides Publishers Lunch, Publishers Weekly and RT BookClub, what kinds of media would you recommend to others to keep abreast of what’s happening in publishing and/or romance?”

I love Mediabistro. They have a media newsletter and links to media blogs. (And in this publishing climate, it’s important to know how you can leverage your editorial into different formats, like audio, ebooks, films, internet, etc.)

Tessa Bamberg asks: “How did you end up as an editor? Was it by accident or was it something that you’ve wanted to do?”

I ended up an editor by accident. My first job out of school was at a small regional publisher. I wrote marketing copy, edited their website, did customer service and billing, and even pulled orders from the warehouse. I added freelance writing to my resume and later got a job at a college PR office where I ran their alumni magazine. When I decided to come to New York, the skills I had collected in the workforce were writing and editing. So I hired on with an online magazine doing medical journalism. (I studied medical anthropology in school, and I still think about going back to medicine some day.) When that website burst with the Internet bubble, I looked at my skills (still editing) and I looked at what I loved to read (romance) and I hired on with Harlequin. That was more than five years ago and I’m still enjoying what I do.

13 thoughts on “Q and A”

  1. Hi, Stacy,

    I’m seeing your name appear as a final judge for RWA sponsored contests. I’ve been a preliminary judge, but always for a tightly limited category, like historical.

    What happens if you’re the final judge for a category as broad as series, which could include entries targeted to radically different lines?

    For example, how would you choose a winner when faced with an excellent Luna or Silhouette Romantic Suspense entry and an equally excellent entry for a line that doesn’t even seem to fit the same scale, like SuperRomance?

    Do you simply choose the best writing and the best story, no matter what the targeted line?

    Thanks for being here! And thanks, Caridad, for making this Q&A possible.

  2. I’m enjoying reading all the wonderful information. Stacy, thanks so much for doing this – and Caridad – you are awesome for arranging it. I’ve been interested in the LUNA line for awhile now and eyeing Stacy (in a non-stalker way, I promise) to submit to. I feel like I’m much better prepared now to do so. 🙂

  3. I really don’t get that ‘hard to finish thing’. My stories demand that I write them. I try to only work on three or four at a time so I don’t get burned out. The words often flow faster than I can type. Sometimes, I have to write unpunctuated run on sentences and go back later when the flow slows to fill out the narrative. I’m writing a story about a love triangle involving a young male programmer (27), a young mentally challenged female (23) and a 74 year old ghost. The action includes my personal take on possession, both voluntary and otherwise. All three learn a lesson about true love. My question is about publication. Is Harlequin interested in romantic suspense written my a male author? If so, what sort of edit/rewrite hurdles am I looking at?

  4. Thank you again for your patience and (more importantly) answers 🙂

    Though I have to admit not a little jealousy (rather rabid interest would be more honest) regarding your original profession. Do you still read periodicals on developments in the field of anthropology? I have to admit loving the books I have by Timothy Taylor.

    Professionally, do you ever get grief from your family about the change in career? You know, for shifting from “serious” fields of medicine and anthropology to something that, let’s face it, most don’t treat respectfully, romance.

    Again, thank you for your candor 🙂

  5. Stacy, thanks for being here. I’ve enjoyed your postings and answers.

    Specifically, how do Harlequin Intrigue and Silhouette Suspense differ? I bought several of each last week and have begun reading one of the HI’s.


  6. Actually, I wanted to ask Stacey’s question. I dont undertand the difference between say the Blazes and the Desires. Could you clear that up?

  7. First of all, thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to do this. I know there are a lot of writers haunting the internet greedy for information from editors.

    I’ve been lurking these past few days and reading your posts, I hope you have time to answer a few more.

    It was my understanding that there is a head editor for each line and all inquires for that line must be directed to this is that person, (specifically Tara Gavin for Nocturne.) Some of your posts made me think that you edit and acquire for a lot of different lines. Are these simply your personal authors?

    My second question… and possibly the dumbest one ever, is, how/why are the lines divided up the way they are between main Harlequin and Silhouette?

    My second question… and possibly the dumbest one ever, is, how/why are the lines divided up the way they are between main Harlequin and Silhouette?

  8. Thanks Stacy for your answers! It’s great to hear an editors point of view. That’s seldom you get it and it’s nice to see also to the other side of things.

  9. Medical anthropology! That sounds so cool. Does having that kind of background help you with thrillers and suspense novels?

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