May 2013 SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW
Associate Editor, Harlequin Superromance
WG: Welcome, and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month.
To start off, please tell us a bit about yourself.
KR: I am an Associate Editor with Harlequin Superromance at Harlequin’s Toronto office. I am actually filling in for a maternity leave for Megan Long and loving every minute of it. I’ve also worked on Harlequin’s action adventure line (Gold Eagle), and our Feature and Custom Publishing program (i.e. anthologies, special projects, reissues).
WG: Can you tell us why you decided to pursue a career as an editor and what steps you took to get you where you are today?
KR: I love, love, love a good story. It can change your mood, and even impact how you look at the world. They say you should do what you love, so I thought if I could have a career in which I get to work with stories that would be fantastic. After getting my Honors Bachelor of Arts Degree at university, I attended a one-year Book and Magazine Publishing post-graduate program at college. A few months after completing the publishing program I got a job at Harlequin as a proofreader, which was great preparation for entering the Editorial Department a little while later as an Editorial Assistant. Once in Editorial I basically tried to soak up all the knowledge that the Editors I worked with had to offer.
WG: What genres/lines do you currently acquire?
KR: Right now I’m acquiring for Harlequin Superromance. We are looking for bigger romances. These are romances first and foremost, but what is so great is that the longer length of Superromance books allows authors to delve deeper into their characters and tell very emotional and rewarding stories.
WG: When was the last time you acquired the work of an author from the slush pile?
KR: Well, last week I actually acquired a new author who came to our attention through Harlequin’s annual So You Think You Can Write Contest. Very exciting!
WG: Are you actively seeking out new authors, and if so, what would it take to catch your eye?
KR: In a word—yes! We are very much looking for new authors. I think what would catch my eye is someone who has a unique, fresh voice. And well thought out, multi-layered characters are also very important.
WG: Do you think contest credits help an author further their career? Have you ever acquired a manuscript that you discovered via a writing contest?
KR: Yes, I think contests are definitely helpful for authors looking to further their career, and as I mentioned above, I’ve recently acquired a manuscript from a writing contest.
WG: When asked what they look for in a new author, most editors and agents will mention a fresh and/or strong voice. How do you personally define voice?
KR: Voice is the tone that an author brings to their stories, their point of view. Very important for every author to develop their own, unique voice.
WG: Have you ever considered penning a novel yourself?
KR: As a teenager I loved writing, and I still do, but I quickly realized the difficulty in translating the great ideas inside my head onto paper. So I just stick to penning personal journal entries.
WG: How would you describe your editorial style?
KR: That’s a hard one. In my opinion, the revision process is very much a team effort—the team consisting of myself and the author. We both want the same result (to produce a great story!) and we work hard together to get that. So I guess my editorial style is best described as cooperative.
WG: What is your involvement with the author's creative process? With his/her career planning?
KR: In addition to hopefully helping authors put out their best story each time, I like to think that I’m an open ear, ready to hear any ideas or concerns that they may have--whether it be about their current book, future story ideas, or how best to promote themselves. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but any words of advice or guidance that I can offer, I’m happy to do so.
WG: What do you see as the main strength you personally bring to the table as an editor?
KR: As simple as this may sound, I think my passion for good books is my main strength. Obviously my editorial skill and experience allow me to do my job well, but I think it’s my love of reading and desire for the best book every time that keeps me striving harder every day.
WG: Are some/all of your submissions read by someone else in house before they reach you? If so, what sort of feedback and/or screening do you expect that reader to provide?
KR: At the moment, I’m reading my submissions myself, but the odd time when someone else does read them, aside from a summary of the plot, I like to know whether or not a manuscript would fit within Superromance. If the reader doesn’t think a book is right for our line, they give us detailed points as to why it is not, as well as a list of what the author did a good job with in their submission. This way whatever our decision is on a manuscript, we can give the author valuable feedback. However, even if I give a submission to someone else to read first, I always look at it myself before making a final decision.
WG: Realistically, what is the normal timeframe for your response to queries? Partials? Fulls?
KR: Realistically, we aim for three months. But at any point during the process I welcome an author to contact me and inquire on the status of their work— I always appreciate a friendly reminder.
WG: Given that you feel an individual author's manuscript is marketable, how important is it that you personally like the work in order for you to pursue acquiring it?
KR: It definitely couldn’t hurt if I personally like a book, but I also look at things objectively with the knowledge of what our readers want and what’s hot right now. But the good news is that I love the kind of editorial that Superromance puts out there, so if it will work for us, I will probably really like it, too.
WG: What input do you personally have on the cover art selected for the manuscripts you acquire? What level of involvement do you feel the author should have in this process?
KR: For every cover that is put out there, the entire Superromance team meets to discuss art options. The team includes Editorial, Marketing and Art. As editor it’s my job to communicate to Art and Marketing the tone of the book, and what part of the story we’d like to focus on for the cover. After that one meeting Art goes away, does their magic and produces an awesome cover. As far as author involvement, in Superromance our authors give us suggestions for what scenes could appear on the cover before we have our team meeting, so that really helps us figure out the best route to take with the art.
WG: Do you feel that writers' conferences provide significant value to you in the way of personal contact with your authors, other authors (either published or unpublished), and/or other industry professionals? Do you receive any value from other offerings such as the presentations, pitch appointments, and/or networking opportunities?
KR: Conferences are invaluable. We do so much communication through email these days (phone calls are even rare!) that it is nice to just get out there and meet the authors—both published and aspiring. The pitch appointments are very important since we’re always looking for fresh voices, but it’s also just a lot of fun to hear all the great ideas out there. And, yes, the face-to-face networking aspect—with authors and industry professionals—is also a vital part of the conference experience.
WG: Do you visit the websites and blogs of authors you work with or of authors you are considering acquiring? If so, is there something in particular you look for that potentially impacts your view of the author and their work?
KR: Yes, I do sometimes. I think it’s just a good way to get a quick impression of who an author is, and what they’re looking to do in their careers. I don’t think I look for anything in particular, but I would definitely say keep it professional and make sure it reflects who you are as a writer, and that it showcases your personality, too. Websites are an important marketing tool and a great way to start building a fanbase for your books—even before you’re published, I would say.
WG: Do you approach submissions by agented authors differently from those without agents? Does your familiarity with/opinion of the agent impact this?
KR: No, definitely not. I give all submissions equal consideration. What we are looking for are great stories, and those can come via many different channels.
WG: What piece of advice or 'pearl of wisdom' would you like to offer authors who are considering submitting a work to you--or to any editor for that matter?
KR: I guess I would say know your story and your story’s audience well. Be clear in your submission on what your story is about and which line your book would fit best with and submit it directly to that line. This will make the entire process smoother, and hopefully help an author find a home for their book sooner.
WG: What sort of misconceptions/ unrealistic expectations have you encountered from authors about what an editor's role is that you would like to correct?
KR: I honestly can’t think of anything right now. My experiences with authors have been really positive.
WG: How important do you think self-promotion is to a writer's career? If so, is there a particular area of promotion that you feel is most effective?
KR: Self-promotion is very important, especially these days with the power of social media. It can be a great tool in spreading the word about your books, promotional activities and could also play an important role in creating and growing your fan base. I would say that a web site or blog is a great thing for an author to have, and if you enjoy Twitter, that’s a good route to take, as well.
WG: I love to collect quotes, all kinds of quotes - inspirational, quirky, motivational, profound, etc. Do you have a personal favorite you'd like to share?
KR: Carpe Diem! Ever since I heard it used in the movie Dead Poets Society I’ve kept it at the back of my head for whenever I need that extra push to just do something.
WG: What do you do to relax and have fun?
KR: These days I mostly hang out with my two boys when I have some free time—they’re a lot of fun! But I also like to read, watch TV and movies, exercise, bake and read celebrity gossip (guilty pleasure!).
WG: Other than your client's work, what do you enjoy reading?
KR: George Elliot, Jane Urquhart, and Margaret Atwood are a few of my all-time favorite authors. I also enjoy flipping through fashion magazines (though I suppose that’s more for the pictures!), and perusing cookbooks for new and interesting recipes.
WG: What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?
KR: Oh, dear, I love movies and am addicted to TV. Right now I’m into The Walking Dead, Justified, Boardwalk Empire, Southland and (to balance the heaviness of everything else I’m watching!) New Girl. As for movies, I enjoy all different kinds, but 50/50 and Crazy, Stupid, Love. are two that I could watch over and over again, and I’m looking forward to seeing Man of Steel this summer.
WG: Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on your life? In what way?
KR: W.O. Mitchell’s Who Has Seen the Wind. I read it in grade 7 or 8, and I knew after reading that last page that when I grew up I wanted to be a writer…of course, that was before I realized how hard writing is! It is such a beautiful, powerful read. It struck a chord with me at the time and has stayed with me since. That’s the power of the written word and a great story.
WG: Before we close, is there anything else you'd like to mention about yourself or the publisher?
KR: We want you! If you have a romance burning inside you that needs to be told, we would love to read it.
WG: Is there a website you can point us to where folks can go to learn more about you and/or your publishing house?
KR: Yes, be sure to check out www.Harlequin.com . At the bottom of the home page there is a section called Write for Us. Here you will find writing guidelines for all of Harlequin’s series, as well as detailed instructions on how to submit your manuscripts—very valuable information. Also, I would suggest visiting www.soyouthinkyoucanwrite.com to keep updated on the 2013 So You Think You Can Write Contest later this year, and to read the posts that our editors have put up there on various topics.
WG: And finally, thanks again for taking some time to 'stop by' this month!
KR: My pleasure!