Executive Editor, Samhain Publishing
WG: Welcome Laurie, and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month.
WG: To start off, please tell us a bit about yourself.
LR: I am the Executive Editor for Samhain Publishing. I've been with the company since 2006, and I took on the Executive Editor role earlier this year. I've worked as an editor for over a decade, in all sorts of industries, including finance, marketing, telecommunications, legal, and insurance, but I find editing romance the most fun. Education-wise, I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre and a post-graduate diploma in Book and Magazine Publishing.
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?
LR: I've been a bookworm since I learned how to read when I was four, so it seemed rather logical for me to progress into publishing. What's funny is that growing up, it never occurred to me, and I never realized there was a job that would not only let me read for a living, but also get to help choose and shape the books that get published. Once I realized it was an option, I made achieving it my only goal. At this point, I was in my last year of my Bachelor's degree, and while I was sure there had to be some kind of schooling I'd need to get into publishing, I was having difficulty finding exactly what it was or where to go. (This was before the Internet was the answer to finding everything.) It wasn't until after graduation that I stumbled on a local college's catalogue (the stumbling involved watching cartoons in my pajamas and a book left on the living room sofa), and found the exact program I was looking for. I called the school the next day and the program was already full for the next term, but I made the waiting list. Then I spent the rest of the summer calling every day until they let me in. Once I graduated, I took my first editorial job - a content editor for a legal publisher - and I've been editing ever since.
WG: What genres/lines do you currently acquire?
LR: We publish all genres of romance and erotica, as well as fantasy, urban fantasy and science fiction with strong romantic elements. I also have a call currently open for an anthology of red-hot fairy tales. And we have a few exciting new projects coming down the line that we'll be announcing in the next few months, so keep an eye out for those.
WG: When was the last time you acquired the work of an author from the slush pile?
LR: Quite recently, actually. The contract was signed yesterday. I read every manuscript that hits my inbox, and at some point, almost all of my authors either came through the slush pile or were found during an anthology call.
WG: Are you actively seeking out new authors, and if so, what would it take to catch your eye?
LR: Yes, I'm always seeking new authors. To catch my eye, really, it's all about the story. I'm looking for an intriguing voice, great fall-in-lovable characters and a solid plot. If you can make me sigh at the end of your happily ever after, I'm interested.
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?
LR: I think contests can be both helpful and not so helpful, depending on what an author makes of them. If an author gets so caught up in polishing and repolishing the first three chapters with en eye only to a contest win, and not paying attention to the rest of the story, then the story can suffer and it defeats the whole purpose. But, I do see that contests can help inspire authors to polish their stories until they shine and they do help authors get their stories in front of their dream editor or agent, so there is definitely a bonus to them. Fortunately, we accept unsolicited manuscripts, so authors don't need a contest to get read by a Samhain editor.
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?
LR: I'm going to give the dreaded editor answer to that one - I can't describe it, but I know it when I see it. Every author's voice is unique and it's what sets them apart from every other book on the shelf, so I don't believe there is a definition for what it is, just how it translates from the written word to the reader.
WG: Have you ever considered penning a novel yourself?
LR: Thought about it... yes. In theory, it's on my bucket list, but in the grand scheme of things, my priorities lie more on the editorial side of things.
WG: How would you describe your editorial style?
LR: I'm kind of like a drill sergeant who wears a clown nose and juggles. I believe there should be an element of fun in everything you do, but at the same time, I'm very stringent about good grammar, proper sentence structure, plot consistencies, that kind of thing. I also have a touch of a three-year-old in that I ask the question 'Why' a lot.
WG: What is your involvement with the author's creative process? With his/her career planning?
LR: I think these are two very different things. As a rule, the editor wouldn't get involved with an author's creative process, and while an author is in creating mode, an editor would stifle the creativity. After the work has been created, however, I think the author needs to consider the rules of writing, and incorporate them without destroying the uniqueness that is their creation.
Career planning, however, is a different story. When I buy an author's story, I'm not looking for a one-hit wonder. I want an author who is going to grow and build a career with my company, and so, I will do what I can to help this happen.
WG: What do you see as the main strength you personally bring to the table as an editor?
LR: I'm a total grammar geek. :D But, I also strive to really focus on flow and consistency in the stories. For me, my ultimate goal is for the author to look at the finished product, after I've red-penned it to death, and say "wow, I'm so happy how this turned out."
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?
LR: Our submissions go to our submissions coordinator, who ensures that the manuscript fits our guidelines, and then forwards each one to the next editor in the rotation, depending on their genre preferences. But, we don't use readers at Samhain.
WG: Realistically, what is the normal timeframe for your response to submissions?
LR: Our current time frame is about 10 - 16 weeks. Right now, my inbox is running at about two months.
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?
LR: All of our editors have a fair bit of involvement with the cover art process. The editor works with the author and the cover artist to ensure that the cover accurately reflects the story inside, and also is going to attract readers. While we all have a fair level of input, I think ultimately credit for our great covers goes to our awesome cover artists.
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?
LR: Absolutely! I love getting the chance to meet with other publishing professionals and authors, whether they're published by Samhain or not. I think there is significant value in attending a writers' conference, for authors and for editors. I find most of us love a chance to talk about our passions, and we're all passionate about good writing, and about romance, so when you put us together, we can all make the most of it.
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?
LR: I usually do, yes. With digital publishing, I find an online presence is usually very important, and I want to see what kind of digital imprint the author has made, and that the author is making an effort to have that online presence. I don't necessarily think authors need to take advantage of every possible social media opportunity, but at the very least an updated website is important.
WG: Do you approach submissions by agented authors differently from those without agents? Does your familiarity with/opinion of the agent impact this?
LR: No. I look at all of my submissions equally. It's all about the story, so that's what is going to stand out for me. I am, however, suspicious of agents who are quite obviously the author in disguise, and I strongly recommend not doing this. Dishonesty is not the best way to start off a good working relationship.
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?
LR: Read. Read a lot. Read books by the publisher you're looking to submit to. Read the publisher's submissions guidelines (and follow them). If you can find out other books edited by that editor, read those to get a feel for the editor's style. Submitting a manuscript that follows the guidelines and fits into the publisher's catalogue will put an author above many of the manuscripts we receive.
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?
LR: I think self-promotion is very important for any author. There's a lot of competition out there - both in epublishing and print - and if people don't know who you are, or haven't heard of your book, what's going to make them pick up your book over one they have heard of? I do think a web presence can be very helpful because, as a society, we've become more likely to turn to the Internet for information over any other media.
I think which area of promotion will be the most successful vastly depends on the author, the book and the genre. The online romance community is vast, and so readers have come to expect their authors to have a website. But, if an author doesn't have the time or inclination to keep up with blogging, tweeting, and other social media-ing, having a completely out of date presence could end up being a hindrance rather than a strong marketing tool.
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?
LR: My favourite inspirational quote is "Don't dream it, be it". Yes, I was a bit obsessed with the Rocky Horror Picture Show in University, but I think the message is such a great one...
WG: What do you do to relax and have fun?
LR: I'm having a bit of trouble controlling the laughter... Relax... the word sounds familiar, but it's lost all meaning in my world lately.
WG: Other than your client's work, what do you enjoy reading?
LR: I've been on a serious YA vampire kick lately, and usually romance is my go-to reading choice, even if it is what I read in my worklife.
WG: Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on your life? In what way?
LR: It was a book - Careers for Bookworms - that helped me realize that I could, and should, be an editor. I'd say that's a pretty significant impact.
WG: Before we close, is there anything else you'd like to mention about yourself or the publisher?
LR: As a fast-growing digital publisher, Samhain publishes all genres and all heat levels of romance, as well as erotica, and science fiction, futuristics, fantasy and urban fantasy with romantic elements. Samhain also publishes print versions for books that are 50,000+ words long. We are ranked #8 in the top 10 publishers selling on Amazon and consistently rank in the top 10 on BGI (Borders Group, Inc.). Our printed books are available at Borders, Barnes and Noble, Chapters, as well as other chains and independent bookstores.
We focus on the story, not the latest fad, and we are selective. The book has to have a plot, storyline and characterization.
WG: Is there a website you can point us to where folks can go to learn more about you and/or your publishing house?
LR: All of our information can be found on our website: http://www.samhainpublishing.com
WG: And finally, thanks again for taking some time to 'stop by' this month!
LR: Thank you for having me! It's been a pleasure.