Associate Editor, Love Inspired Books
WG: Welcome, and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month. To start off, please tell us a bit about yourself.
ER: I'm the associate editor for Harlequin's Love Inspired, Love Inspired Suspense and Love Inspired Historical lines. I've been with the company for going on 7 years now. I have a degree in journalism and started my career life as a newspaper editor in my home state of Florida before moving to NY to pursue a career in book 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?
ER: I've always loved the written word, whether it be in books or magazines or newspapers. I did an internship at a publisher in New Orleans during the summer between my junior and senior year of college and knew that was what I wanted to do, but there aren't many book publishers in Florida where I grew up. I worked as a newspaper editor for a few years but grew tired of working nights, weekends and holidays. So I moved to NY to attend the New York University Summer Publishing Institute for a summer and then never left. I worked at Scholastic for a bit before settling in at Harlequin.
WG: What genres/lines do you currently acquire works for?
ER: I acquire contemporary romance for Love Inspired, contemporary romantic suspense for Love Inspired Suspense and historical romance for Love Inspired Historical.
WG: When was the last time you acquired the work of an author from the slush pile?
ER: That happens all the time. I acquired two authors from the slush pile this year, and their books will both be published early next year.
WG: Are you actively seeking out new authors, and if so, what would it take to catch your eye?
ER: We are definitely actively seeking new authors for all three Love Inspired lines, but especially for Love Inspired Historical. It takes a great story with a unique plot to catch my eye. I like to see stories that grab my attention from the very first line and not give me a reason to stop reading. I especially like stories that are unpredictable or unique. Keep me guessing about the direction it's going to take, but make sure that it still fits within the parameters of the line.
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?
ER: I've acquired a number of manuscripts from contests including: Jenness Walker's Double Take (LIS, 2009), Christine Johnson's Soaring Home (LIH, Nov. 2010) and Lacy Williams's Marrying Miss Marshal (LIH Aug. 2011)
WG: Have you ever considered penning a novel yourself?
ER: Sure, but I've never actually sat down to do it. I fulfill my writing desires by crafting and plotting continuity series for the Love Inspired lines. I get to come up with the concepts, plotlines and characters for three series a year. And then I have our fabulous authors bring the stories to life. It's one of my favorite parts of the job.
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?
ER: No. All my submissions come directly to me.
WG: Realistically, what is the normal timeframe for your response to queries? Partials? Fulls?
ER: We aim to respond within three months, but it's not always possible.
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?
ER: It's very important that I like the work that I acquire because I will have to spend a lot of time reading and editing it. Every editor has different likes and dislikes and we try to acquire books we're passionate about.
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?
ER: Harlequin authors fill out what we call an "art fact sheet" offering suggestions for cover images and giving information about the characters and plot. I then take that to an art meeting with the senior editor, the marketing person and the art director and we discuss what we think is the best cover for the book. Sometimes we use the authors' suggestions and sometimes we come up with new ideas.
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?
ER: I love going to writer's conferences because it's a great chance to meet the authors I work with face to face. After spending so much time on the phone and email, face time is invaluable. I've found pitch appointments to be a mixed bag. I've bought a couple authors from pitch appointments, but most authors don't come prepared enough. It's important to research the line or house of the person you're pitching to.
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?
ER: Sometimes, but it doesn't really impact the process unless there's something negative on there.
WG: Do you approach submissions by agented authors differently from those without agents? Does your familiarity with/opinion of the agent impact this?
ER: We buy from both agented and unagented authors. You don't need an agent to submit to Harlequin. A great agent can be a great asset, but having no agent is better than having a bad agent.
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?
ER: Make sure your story has a good external and internal conflict. That is the number one thing that is missing from most manuscripts I see. There needs to be something keeping the characters apart. Some obstacle they have to overcome in order to be together. If there isn't anything keeping them apart, the book will be episodic, and readers will be bored.
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?
ER: Self promotion is very important. Online stuff is great, and I hope that all authors would try to do something. At very minimum, it is vital for authors to have a professional looking website that they update regularly. Also, every author has different contacts or potential readers around them. It's important to reach out to those in your community because they are potentially some of the most loyal fans you can get. If you personally go to a high school English class or a military spouses meeting or a local library, you are making a personal connection can prove to be very valuable.
WG: What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?
ER: My favorite show of all time was LOST, but I currently love Bones, Castle, Drop Dead Diva, The Mentalist and all the good reality tv shows (i.e. of The Amazing Race and Project Runway variety, not The Bachelor types). I love any show that has a good story and makes me care about the characters.
WG: Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on your life? In what way?
ER: My favorite book is Gone With the Wind.
WG: Before we close, is there anything else you'd like to mention about yourself or the publisher?
ER: There is great opportunity for writers both published and unpublished to write for the Love Inspired lines � especially Love Inspired Historical. I'd love to see LIH submissions. We're looking for historical romance of 70-75K, in any setting or time period up to World War II. We've bought almost 20 new authors for LIH in the last two years, and we're open to more. Whether you're an unpublished author or a published author who is looking for an additional outlet for your work, we'd love for you to submit to us.
WG: Is there a website you can point us to where folks can go to learn more about you and/or your publishing house?
ER: www.harlequin.com. I'm also on Twitter at @Emilyrodmell or on the Harlequin message boards at community.eharlequin.com/forums/love-inspired/editors-corner-chat-emily-rodmell
WG: And finally, thanks again for taking some time to 'stop by' this month!