August 2014 SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW
Associate Editor, Harlequin Love Inspired
WG: Welcome, and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month.
To start off, please tell us a bit about yourself.
SA: Thanks for having me! I'm an Associate Editor at Harlequin's Love Inspired imprint and have been with the company for six and a half years. I grew up in Pennsylvania and majored in Journalism at Kent State University before moving to NYC.
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?
SA: Although I majored in journalism in college, I was never crazy about interviewing people and came to the realization that it's not what I wanted to do with my life. I've always loved reading, so when the idea of working in book publishing came to me, I wondered why I hadn't thought of it before! (Bonus: a degree in journalism is perfectly acceptable to get a job in the book publishing industry.) I moved to New York after college and eventually got my first job in publishing at a literary agency. It was a great introduction to publishing, and I learned a lot about contracts, royalty statements, foreign postal codes and other business aspects I was also convinced I did not want to make a career out of. My heart has always been in working with authors on their manuscripts. So after a short pit-stop at another publisher that no longer exists, I was thrilled to end up at Harlequin.
WG: What genres/lines do you currently acquire works for?
SA: I acquire for all three of the Love Inspired series romance lines-Love Inspired (contemporary romance), Love Inspired Suspense (romantic suspense) and Love Inspired Historical (historical romance).
WG: Are you actively seeking out new authors, and if so, what would it take to catch your eye?
SA: Yes! I've actually bought 5 new authors so far this year and still looking for more. We're most actively seeking new authors for Love Inspired Suspense, where an equal balance of romance and high-tension suspense is what I'm looking for. These are stories of danger and suspense-NOT mysteries. I like smart villains, unique twists and tough heroines (even though they still need the hero's help).
I'm also actively acquiring contemporary romance for Love Inspired. I enjoy juicy conflicts and sweet, emotional stories. Quirky heroines are a soft spot for me (though not too quirky-just a touch). Think of the TV show Gilmore Girls-small town charm, interesting characters.
For Love Inspired Historical, I'm interested in Westerns.
For any of the lines, I want to see compelling openings-get right into the story, make sure the characters meet and don't waste time on backstory or lead-up. I should know by the end of your first chapter what your story will be about.
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?
SA: The first author I ever acquired (not for Love Inspired) drew me in with her strong, unique voice. It was a little sarcastic, a little funny and lots of fun. Her voice is very much like her personality, which is why it comes so naturally to her-it's (a form of) who she is. Voice is a tone, an overall feeling to the writing. A suspense writer likely has a very different voice from someone who writes sweet contemporary stories. And sometimes it takes a while to find where your voice fits, but that's okay. Once you do you'll realize that's where you were meant to be.
WG: Have you ever considered penning a novel yourself?
SA: Growing up I actually wanted to be an author and wrote stories all the time. I still made attempts at it even through my first few years in New York, but I never got past the first few chapters. Writing is hard! :)
WG: What is your involvement with the author's creative process? With his/her career planning?
SA: This varies from author to author but is largely based on how involved each author wants me to be.
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?
SA: Nope. I read all submissions sent to/addressed to me.
WG: Realistically, what is the normal timeframe for your response to queries? Partials? Fulls?
SA: I aim for three months, but that's not always possible based on the volume of submissions. If I haven't responded within that time, I have no problem with an author checking in after three months.
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?
SA: It's very important that I personally like the manuscript. I have to be passionate about the books I acquire because I have to make a case to the Senior Editor that we should acquire the project and then I have to spend a lot of time reading (and often re-reading when I request revisions) and editing the manuscript.
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?
SA: Editors and authors at Harlequin have a lot of input into the cover art. Authors fill out Art Fact Sheets and suggest cover scenes, which I review. Then I attend an art briefing with the Senior Editor and the art and marketing team to determine what cover image best represents the book and will be the most saleable and attractive to readers.
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?
SA: I love getting to meet authors that I've worked with face to face and spend some time with them outside of email. I haven't been to too many conferences yet, but when I have taken pitch appointments, I've found that authors don't always do enough research on who they're pitching to. Don't just pitch to any editor-make sure she acquires what you've written.
WG: Do you approach submissions by agented authors differently from those without agents? Does your familiarity with/opinion of the agent impact this?
SA: Authors don't need an agent to submit to the Harlequin series lines, and a submission from an agent doesn't necessarily sway me more. However, if it's an agent I already have a few authors with and she/he tells me they have another author that is similar or does something I've specifically mentioned I'm looking for, I may give it a slight priority.
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?
SA: Do your research. I'm investing a lot of time (often my personal time) in reading your manuscript, so make sure that it's targeted to one of the lines I acquire for and that it meets the guidelines of that line. It's of no benefit to you to send me something that I can't acquire.
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?
SA: I think authors need to be involved in promoting their books, but do what works for you and what you're comfortable with. Getting your name and your book out there will create more awareness than if you do nothing and just hope that readers see and choose your book on their own.
WG: Other than your client's work, what do you enjoy reading?
SA: I like women's fiction and literary fiction mostly. Emily Giffin, Alice Hoffman, Jennifer Weiner and J. Courtney Sullivan are some authors I enjoy.
WG: What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?
SA: It's so hard to narrow this down! A few of my favorite movies are When Harry Met Sally...; Crazy, Stupid, Love; The Wedding Singer; Notting Hill; Moulin Rouge. Some of my favorite TV shows are Gilmore Girls, Friends, Lost, The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family. Oh, and I love all the house hunting/home renovation shows on HGTV-Property Brothers, Love It or List It, House Hunters.
WG: Before we close, is there anything else you'd like to mention about yourself or the publisher?
SA: Just to reiterate that I'm actively acquiring and that the best opportunity right now within the Love Inspired lines is with Love Inspired Suspense (romantic suspense stories 55,000-60,000 words in length). We expanded from four books a month to six in May of this year, so there's more openings available. We've bought 10 new authors for the line so far this year and counting, so send in your manuscripts!
WG: Is there a website you can point us to where folks can go to learn more about you and/or your publishing house?
SA: www.harlequin.com has information about all the Harlequin lines, and you can find writing guidelines here:harlequin.com/articlepage.html?articleId=538&chapter=0 . You can also follow me on Twitter at @shana_asaro.
WG: And finally, thanks again for taking some time to 'stop by' this month!