Editorial Director, Covet
WG: Welcome, and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month. To start off, please tell us a bit about yourself.
CH: Thank you so much for having me here. I came into this from a different angle than most editors. I'm an author. I still am. I wrote paranormal single titles for Berkley, and continue to write for Harlequin and Entangled. I've been Editorial Director of Covet since last April or so. I took over the single title and print lines Edge and Select about a month ago. I have a degree in journalism and have spent the last 25 years or so as a TV and Film critic for print and radio. And I have a Masters in Humanities.
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?
CH: Like most things in my life, someone made an offer and I took a risk. It just happened. I was talking to Liz Pelletier, our amazeballs publisher at Entangled, about the Covet line. I had some ideas. She listened, and then next thing I knew I was the editorial director. (Lesson: Be careful about what you say). I'm going to be honest. I thought she was crazy at the time. But it turns out she'd been grooming me for this. Every once in a while she'd throw me a book and tell me to line or content edit.. I'd been editing behind the scenes for almost a year. I love that we are creating books readers can wait to get their hands on. And I love authors. We're a crazy bunch, but I love making story work. As the Editorial Director, I usually get to see that last pass of the editorial process, so I get the fun job.
WG: What genres/lines do you currently acquire?
CH: Edge, is our single title digital line, and we are open to all types of genres there. The same for our print line Select. There is one caveat. At the heart of the story, there must be a romance. Every book must have a HEA (Happily Ever After) or HFN (Happy for Now). I'm on a serious hunt for strong contemporary romances along the lines of Susan Elizabeth Phillips or Nora Roberts' five thousand trilogies she does. I love those books set on an island in Ireland with three friends who find the hottest guys on the island.
And then we have Covet. We are doing things a little different with our paranormals. These are shorter stories, a little less world-building and lot more romance. I'm on the hunt for anything that is a little different than the normal werewolf or vamp story. Though, I love those stories. I write them. But I'd love to see other cultural myths represented.
WG: When was the last time you acquired the work of an author from the slush pile?
CH: We just picked up four authors from the slush pile this last week.
WG: Are you actively seeking out new authors, and if so, what would it take to catch your eye?
CH: We are always seeking new authors. A strong voice, characters I can't forget, and dialogue that sings. That's what I need to see. Plot holes can be fixed (most of the time), but it's hard to teach the other things. Oh, and I'm finding logic very important. I need the story to make sense.
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?
CH: I think contests that are judged by qualified people can be helpful. As an author there were times when those contests crushed my soul. And then that same book was nominated for two RITAs. So there you go. We say writing is subjective, and we mean it.
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?
CH: That's a tough one. I see voice as how an author mixes the elements of the story. How they choose to use language, emotions, dialogue and the way they develop characters, is what creates a voice.
WG: Have you ever considered penning a novel yourself?
CH: Before I started editing, I was a writer.
WG: I know you're published yourself - any lessons learned there?
CH: I think I'm up to 16 published books, and several anthologies. I really like being on both sides. Though, I'm much kinder to my editors now. Not that I was every mean, but when I get revisions, I'm much more receptive.
WG: How would you describe your editorial style?
CH: I think some of my authors might call it the "mean bitch style." I'm too busy to candy coat things. I'm kind of known for telling it like it is. But so far, most of the authors I work with respect that. They don't need to be coddled. Though, I have been known to add a few smiley faces here and there when I love something.
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?
CH: I do a bit of both. As crazy as it sounds, I read a part of every submission. But I also have a load of assistants and interns. They are very tuned into what I want to see in a story. They read the whole book, and make detailed reports. And I always have more than one person look at every book. Plus me. So there are three of us who are making a decision. I also have other editors who bring books to me. Or I might assign a book to specific editor.
WG: Realistically, what is the normal timeframe for your response to queries? Partials? Fulls?
CH: At Entangled, we are required to respond in 30 days. But while that may sound like a long time to an author, it goes by in a flash for someone who is looking at a hundred manuscripts and wants to take her time with each one. When I came into the job, there was a backlog on all three lines. I'm catching up, but I need at least another month before we are working 30 days out.
WG: What is your involvement with the author's creative process? With his/her career planning?
CH: I frequently brainstorm with authors. As for career planning, I can really only help them with an Entangled career, but we definitely discuss how best to build a backlist.
WG: What do you see as the main strength you personally bring to the table as an editor?
CH: My authors often say I'm good with the big picture and at keeping them on task, but for all I know, they could mean I'm an evil overlord with a whip and no conscience. In, fact, I'm pretty sure that's exactly what they mean.
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?
CH: For myself, I won't acquire anything if I don't absolutely love it. It would be a chore to work on something that I didn't believe in. I think most editors feel that way.
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?
CH: We use forms where the author can tell us what they would like to see, and what they don't want to see. And of course we want them to like it, but I can't tell you that most authors don't have a clue the kind of cover their book needs. I've been in this business for 11 years and sometimes I've loved my covers, other times not so much. Many times it was the ones that I hated, that sold the best.
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?
CH: Yes, I believe conferences are invaluable. But use your money wisely. And use those conferences as networking events, not just with editors and agents. You need writer pals, and that's a good place to find them. Look for craft and businesses classes that fit what you need, and then choose the conferences that have those.
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?
CH: Absolutely. Always. I look for engagement with the reading community and professionalism. I don't recommend an author's book for acquisition until I've evaluated her/his online presence.
WG: Do you approach submissions by agented authors differently from those without agents? Does your familiarity with/opinion of the agent impact this?
CH: No. If an agent I knew sent me something she really believed in, I might look at it faster. But it wouldn't sway my decision one way or another. It would be the same for an author I know and love his or her work.
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?
CH: Just tell a good story. Author Candy used to hate it when editors said that, but I get it now. The truth is, you have to get my attention quick with your story. As much as we talk about leaving the backstory out of those initial pages, most books don't begin until chapter two or three. Think about that.
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?
CH: I could get into a lot of trouble with this one. So I'm just going to say… However hard you think an editor works, quadruple it. And new authors, be very aware that you are not the only author in the world. Editors juggle multiple balls at all times.
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?
CH: I've been on both sides of this. I do not understand authors who refuse to promote themselves. Our company, Entangled, does more for authors than any of the other New York publishers I've worked with in the past. Take advantage of that. You should have an online presence, and social media platform. The first thing I do when I find a submission I like, is to see what kind of platform that author had. How many follow her on Twitter and Facebook? Does she have a website? How does she present herself? I take all of that into consideration.
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?
CH: A fave from the poem An Old Astronomer to His Pupil by Sarah Williams:
"Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night."
WG: What do you do to relax and have fun?
CH: I don't have any free time right now. I sleep and work. I do read, but that's about it.
WG: Other than your client's work, what do you enjoy reading?
CH: Everything. I'm a schizophrenic reader. Last week I read Neil Gaiman's "The Ocean At the End of the Lane" and "Beautiful Bastard" by Christina Lauren. I loved them both. I just ordered the Linda Ronstadt biography, and pre-ordered the new Stephen King. Oh, and I'm reading "The Catcher in the Rye" again. I saw "Salinger" about a month ago, and wanted to revisit that.
WG: What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?
CH: I'm still a movie and film critic for print and radio, so it's sort of my job to watch television and movies. Of the new fall shows, I love Sleepy Hollow, The Blacklist and I'm on the ride to see where "Hostages" goes. Some day soon I plan to spend an entire day vegging on my couch catching up on the DVR. As for movies, I've previewed several and it's going to be an Oscar buzzing fall and winter. Some great movies on the way.
WG: Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on your life? In what way?
CH: To Kill A Mockingbird. I read it when I was in the fifth grade. Up until then, I read Nancy Drew and all kinds of kids books. But when I discovered Atticus Finch, well, it was life changing.
WG: Before we close, is there anything else you'd like to mention about yourself or the publisher?
CH: In addition to our category lines, we have two single title lines. Edge is our digital first single title line. Select is our print line. I can say this honestly, because I didn't acquire these stories, we have some crazy good books on these lines. All genres are represented and the quality of writing is fantastic. We have big things planned for these lines, as well as Covet, and I'm excited about the future.
WG: Is there a website you can point us to where folks can go to learn more about you and/or your publishing house?
WG: And finally, thanks again for taking some time to 'stop by' this month!
CH: Thank you!