Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Guest Blogger - Harlequin Assistant Editor Shana Smith

Ok guys - SP here interrupting your normally scheduled Wednesday for a special guest. I've invited my editor Shana Smith with Harlequin Desire to the Playground to visit with everyone. She's got some great insider info, so everyone be on your best behavior (yes, you), don't embarass me and be sure to comment because there's two great books up for grabs!

Secrets Editors Want You to Know
7 tips for finding your “in” and making the most of it

by Shana Smith, Assistant Editor for Harlequin Desire & Romantic Suspense

1. Submit to the assistants. Editorial Assistants, and even Assistant Editors, are hungry. We’re looking to build an author list and raise our own profile within the company. We also have more time to devote to working with an author who may need some help to get a manuscript in selling condition. So instead of automatically sending your project to—or making a pitch appointment with—the Senior Editor, consider the assistant.

2. If an editor or publisher says they’re “actively seeking” a certain type of submission, you have a better chance of getting published with that line or imprint. Maybe it’s a new line, maybe the program just expanded, but they need books. If you have one, or can write to the guidelines, submit! Two Harlequin series that are actively acquiring right now are Love Inspired Historical (Christian historical romance) and Nocturne Cravings (paranormal erotica digital short stories). All writing guidelines for Harlequin (including Love Inspired and Kimani lines) can be found here: http://bit.ly/l6XSYX

3. Contests sponsored by a publisher can also be a good way to get your foot in the door. Harlequin contests/online writing events such as Mills & Boon’s New Voices and So You Think You Can Write have both resulted in manuscripts bought from new authors.

4. Read editors’ blogs, follow them on Twitter and attend their panels or workshops at conferences. These are all ways you can learn more about them and what they’re looking for and find someone you might connect with.

5. Send editors manuscripts that fit what they’re looking for. If they say they want historical manuscripts, don’t send them contemporary. If they say they don’t like paranormals, don’t send a story with a werewolf.

6. However, if you find an editor you really connect with, stick with her/him and keep submitting to that same editor. At Harlequin, editors can acquire across lines and imprints. So if you’ve sent manuscripts to, say, a Desire editor who liked your writing but for whatever reason the project didn’t work out, and you find your writing changing to better fit Love Inspired, ask the editor if she’d be willing to read the manuscript. It may be that her particular interests don’t extend to that line, and she may recommend another editor. But she also may be happy to read it. Give her the chance.

7. If an editor sends you a revision letter with suggestions for changes to your manuscript, it’s not a criticism of your work. We want to help you make your story stronger. And if we say we want to see the manuscript again or ask you to send us something else—we mean it! We have tons of manuscripts just waiting to be read, so if we’ve read something of yours and specifically ask you to send us more; you’re definitely on the right track.

Thanks for visiting the Playground, Shana!


Those are some great tips! I know I have personally benefitted from following a couple of these suggestions. Knowledge is power, people.


Shana will be popping in throughout the day to answer any questions. Comment today and you could win a copy of The Billionaire's Beside Manner by Robin Grady and Meddling with a Millionaire by Cat Schield.

48 comments:

Cheryl said...

Great Advice for us beginners, Shana! Thanks for coming to the Playground and sharing your insights. We all love SP around here and are so happy you are working with her on her new book!

Edie said...

I've heard Desire called "Presents American-style" because of the type of heroes in the books. Does Desire still require heavy external conflict and billionaire heroes?

Thanks for the tips. It's great info.

Laurie G said...

Great tips for wanna be authors.

I'm amazed at the number of manuscripts you must read to find a "winner". How many hours of your day is spent on reading manuscripts?

I like a lot of the debut authors. So I hope people keep submitting new ideas. I never get tired of happy ever afters!

Playground Monitor said...

Welcome Shana! Thanks for joining us today. We're very proud of our Smarty Pants and so excited she's joined the Desire family. There's been much "squeeee-ing" on the Playground lately.

Ditto what Cheryl said -- great advice.

Instigator said...

Welcome to the Playground, Shana! I loved your tips. I actually got my foot in the door by placing 2nd in the last Blaze contest so am proof that it does work. :-)

Instigator

Smarty Pants said...

Welcome, Shana!

Great tips. I can only imagine what kind of stuff comes across editors' desks. It boggles my mind that people just throw their stuff out there without doing the research on the proper line, who is acquiring and what they're wanting.

I did learn early on, though, that editors don't say things like "I'd like to see something else" or provide revision notes unless they really want you to do it. They don't have time to waste on that kind of stuff. Makes the rejection hurt a little less when you know they like you enough to try again.

For fun, what's the weirdest submission you've ever gotten? Maybe a weird premise, weird packaging or slipped to you under the bathroom door at conference? :)

Cheryl St.John said...

Hi Shana! Love your pic.

Cher :-)

Cat Schield said...

Hi Shana, loved your tips. They're exactly right. I was targeting Desire for years and read everything I could get my hands on to know exactly what you guys were looking for. I entered chapter contests where Diana V was judging and when I finaled and she gave me feedback, that was golden.

Knowing what the editors want is very important. Meddling With A Millionaire had been requested off a contest win in 2007. I finished the book before Nationals and was ready to give it one last polish and submit it when I got home. But after listening to the Harlequin spotlight, I knew the book wasn't exactly what they wanted quite yet.

Three years later, it was a different book and became my first sale.

Problem Child said...

Hi Shana! Welcome to the Playground -- and thanks for buying SP's book!

And SP has tossed down a gauntlet, practically daring me to misbehave today... hmm. What to do...

Shana said...

Thanks for the welcome, everyone! I'll try to answer as many questions as I can.

Edie--While Desire and Presents are similar, and Desire heroes do need to be wealthy, alpha men, there's definitely a difference between the lines. We want both external and internal conflicts in Desire, and I think a key difference is that Desire stories rely heavily on these internal conflicts and emotional elements. Our heroes have been described as less "harsh" than Presents heroes, and we like strong heroines as well.

Shana said...

Hi Laurie G. Editors do read many manuscripts, and unfortunately only a small percentage of these end up being bought. Most of my reading is actually done outside the office, during my commute on the subway, which works out to about an hour to an hour and a half a day. Too many other things (like emails) require my attention at the office.

Glad you enjoyed the tips and that you like reading our debut authors!

Rachel Brimble said...

Hi Shana,

Thank you for such great tips!

Do you think Harlequin will ever accept queries via email for international writers? I would love to submit to the Romantic Suspense line but every time I ask for International Reply Coupons at my post office in the UK, they look at me as if I'm talking a foreign language!

Rachel
www.rachelbrimble.com

Shana said...

Hi Smarty Pants! Thanks for inviting me to blog today. You were great about researching Desire when I asked you to revise for the line. I was actually very impressed with the initiative you showed.

As for the weirdest submission I've ever received...there have been quite a few, both here at Harlequin and when I used to work for a literary agency. But I do have one in particular that I've saved and pull out to share with people from time to time. I'll avoid too many specifics, but I will say it was very confusing and involved "demon sperm".

Shana said...

Hi Cheryl, Playground Monitor, Instigator and Problem Child. Thanks for the welcome, and I'm glad you liked the tips!

And thanks for the compliment, Cheryl St.John!

Sir John said...

Great Advice Shana. I've heard editors can acquire across lines, but is this just the series lines or can you also acquire/edit for mainstream like Mira? And if so, would the writer have to have an agent at that time?

Sir John

Shana said...

Hi Cat. Great to have you here as well. You and Smarty Pants both did your homework and did some of the things I've mentioned here today, and now you're both Desire authors! We'd love to have more great new writers like both of you, so thanks for sharing your success stories.

Shana said...

Hi Rachel. I know it can be difficult for overseas writers to submit through the mail. Our UK office already takes electronic submissions, and while it's something we're examining for the New York and Toronto offices, we're not entirely there yet. Some individual editors already accept electronic submissions (such as Stacy Boyd, Desire's Senior Editor), but that's still on a case-by-case basis. My suggestion to you would be to mail your submission to the editor and just request in your cover letter that they reply to you by email because you're unable to get an IRC. You won't get your submission back, but the editor will still send you a response.

Also, you may just want to try going to a different post office for the coupons--I just talked to our mailroom and was told the UK definitely has IRCs.

Rachel Brimble said...

Great, thanks, Shana!

I'll do that. I know they have them as I've managed to get them before but It took getting to senior management before any success, lol!

Have a good day,

Rachel

Writer Girl said...

Hi Shana, thanks for all the great advice! I was curious to know your general turnaround time for a full manuscript. Once you receive it, how long does it take you to read it and do you immediately accept it or is there an additional process once you decide you like it?

CrystalGB said...

Great advise for aspiring writers. I love the Desire line. :)

Sherri Shackelford said...

Thank you so much for sharing your tips, Shana! I have definitely been guilty of targeting contests with Harlequin editors :)

Cynthia said...

Shana--
Stacy Boyd, your fellow editor there at Desire, is going to be visiting our chapter in July and everyone is super-excited. I am writing a book for Desire that I hope to pitch to her and all the information you gave us here on the Playground is very useful to me as I finish my novel. I'm psyched! Thanks so much!

Robyn Grady said...

Hey Shana, Smarty Pants and big wave to Kimberly too =)

Such excellent tips, Shana! Particularly about following up with an editor who sees real promise in your voice and ability to tell a great story. Revision letters are like gold, and the more indepth (to my mind) the better. An editor's time is precious. They wouldn't go to that trouble unless they were serious and want your story back.

Thanks for dropping in here, Shana! And thanks Playground =*)

Tina said...

Hi, Shana. Thanks so much for the great advice -- and thanks to The Writing Playground for providing the venue. Desire is my favorite line. I've been reading Desires for years and years -- ever since my mom told me I could read the "purple" ones but not the "red" ones. :) I just subbed my firt Desire manuscript (the result of placing in a contest) and am eagerly awaiting any and all news. My sub went to a Toronto editor. I ordered IPCs online since my local post office here in Virginia didn't know what I was talking about, either.
I just want to add that the editor podcasts and chats at eharlequin.com are great resources for editorial advice, as well.
P.S. You don't have to consider me for the Desire giveaways. I already bought the June Desires and am reading Cat's "Meddling with a Millionaire" at this very moment. : )

Sarah M. Anderson said...

Great advice, Shana! Thanks for the peek inside how Harlequin works.

Jamie Holland said...

"So if you’ve sent manuscripts to, say, a Desire editor who liked your writing but for whatever reason the project didn’t work out, and you find your writing changing to better fit Love Inspired, ask the editor if she’d be willing to read the manuscript."

I did not know that! Wow. Just when I think I know what I'm doing!

Thanks, Shana!

Elle said...

If you already have a MS with an editor at HQ and are waiting to hear back, can you pitch a different MS to a different HQ editor at nationals?

Thanks for the great tips!

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hey, y'all! I have to say I'm a HUGE proponent of contests. Mills & Boon bought me from the Instant Seduction contest in 2008. And I've learned since then that revisions are pretty standard, so when an editor sends you a revision letter, treat it like the gold it is. :)

I totally love writing Harlequin Presents. But I'm a Desire fan too. :) They feel very close to us, but I admit I'm not sure I understand the difference between Presents and Desire. All I know is I like reading them both. :)

Shana said...

Hi Sir John. Yes, a series editor can acquire projects for MIRA, or any of our single title imprints (HQN, Harlequin Teen or even Nonfiction). However, these are highly competitive, and having an agent is typical. I won't say that it can't happen, but it isn't likely. And if you are going to submit a single title manuscript to an editor who works on series books, you should have a specific reason to be sending it--they requested it at a conference or in a contest, or maybe they said or wrote somewhere that they like that particular type of book in their own reading. Submitting your dystopian fiction novel to an editor who edits contemporary series novels without telling her why you chose her will only make her think you haven't done your homework.

Shana said...

Hi Writer Girl. While we aim for a turnaround time of 90 days, I will admit that I'm (shamefully) behind on submissions at the moment. Turnaround time for any given manuscript does depend on how many other manuscripts I have to read at that point in time, so during busier times of the year it will take longer. As for what happens once I read it, if I think it's something that could work for the line, I might still send the author a revision letter first. When the manuscript is in good shape, it then goes to the Senior Editor for the line, who reads it and decides whether or not we'll make an offer to buy it.

Shana said...

I'm going to respond to a few posts at once here.

CrystalGB—Glad to hear you liked the tips and that you enjoy reading Desire!

Sherri—There’s nothing wrong with submitting to contests judged by Harlequin editors. If you want to publish with us, that’s a good way to catch an editor’s eye!

Cynthia—So glad you found the information useful as you prepare your Desire pitch for Stacy. I hope you enjoy her visit next month!

Quick “hi” to Robyn (one of the lovely authors I edit)!

Thanks for stopping by, Sarah! (She’s one of Desire’s brand-new authors, everyone!)

Shana said...

Hi Tina. Glad to hear you like reading Desire, and congratulations on submitting your first Desire manuscript (and placing in a contest). That’s a great tip about ordering IPCs online, but they do need to be stamped with the actual return postage to be used (a lot of people forget that part and send the coupons without any postage). Editor podcasts and Harlequin.com chats are great resources, and I’m glad you found those, too. It sounds like you’ve been doing your homework, which is the first step to publishing success!

Shana said...

Hi Jamie. Yes, you absolutely can send an editor a project for a different line. If an editor says she wants to see something else from you, even if it’s for another line, she’ll probably still be open to reading it. I know I am! Like I said, a good rule of thumb would still be to ask the editor if she wants to read this other project, but there’s no reason to start the process over with a different editor in the same company if you’ve already found one who likes your work.

Angel said...

Welcome to the Playground, Shana! I apologize for my lateness, as I've been at work today. We are enjoying having you here and all this information is awesome!!

Thanks so much!

Angel

Shana said...

Hi Elle. I’d say it’s okay to pitch a different manuscript to a different editor at nationals, but you should be upfront with the editor you pitch to and let her or him know that you already have one on submission with another editor at Harlequin.

Sir John said...

Shana, thank you very much. This is as I hoped. Finding the right editor to bond with begins with finding common interest. Being able to grow as a team, which might include full length projects is perfect, not only for me, but I think for any aspiring author.

Sir John

Shana said...

Hi Lynn. Thanks for stopping by—and providing the proof that Harlequin does buy new authors through contests. :) And I think you’d be hard-pressed to find an author who’s never received a revision letter from their editor.

Presents and Desire do have their similarities, but they have their differences, too. But readers who like one will often enjoy the other as well.

Andrée Lachapelle said...

Great tips, thank you so much for the wonderful advice!

Smarty Pants said...

Look at all these new people. Awesome! If you're not a daily WP lurker, be sure to check back over the next couple days to see if you've won and claim your prize.

mell61 said...

I'm often surprised how few would be writer appreciate that this is a business, and one that wants to make money.
The publishing companies want the next Nora Roberts / stephenie Meyer...
It must be disheartening opening a ms and its completely misses the mark for a line, or misses a key component (conflict, voice, POV likeable characters).

Shana said...

Hi Angel! Thanks for having me!

Sir John, glad I was able to answer your question.

Andree, glad you found the tips helpful.

erica and christy said...

Linked here from Twitter and glad I did. Thanks for the great tips!
erica

Kym said...

as an aspiring author, this was very helpful ! Thanks so much

kym
krykym(at)fullchannel.net

Maven Linda said...

Woot! "Demon sperm!" We now have a new catch-phrase. Or insult. Or something.

Virginia said...

Great advice. Thanks for sharing with us today.

Anne Marsh said...

Fabulous tips! Understanding the distinctions between the lines is extremely helpful for me... Sometimes, it's too easy to get caught up in the stories (which is a good thing, right?) and stop looking for the "tells" of the line. I cut my teeth on Presents and Desires, although I've been reading Nocturne and Blaze more heavily lately.

Robyn said...

It's so exciting (and a relief!) to know that it's okay to send an editor the "next project" they've requested even if it's for another line. I've recently done just that, after a revise and resubmit, but it did feel pretty presumptuous. Thanks for clarifying :-)

Becky Black said...

Point 7 about revision letters cheered me up when I first read this post, since I was working on some revisions to resubmit after a rejection. It made me feel like I still had a good chance with that publisher. I resubmitted in November and I've just had the novel accepted, so you were proved right there. Thanks!