Saturday, September 10, 2005

Q&A with Silhouette Editor Susan Litman

Who loves Bonus Saturdays? I do! This Saturday's special bonus is a Q&A with Silhouette editor, Susan Litman. See below for her insight on the new Spice and Epic lines, what makes a submission special and on the new Harry Potter book.

1) The word on the street is that H/S is moving toward a more mainstream feel for their category romance. Can you explain what that means, maybe with some specific examples for the lines you edit?

I think it’s less an issue of going mainstream than it is one of “growing” the series, ensuring that all of our category books are relevant to today’s woman with respect to engaging stories and characters. Readers should be able to identify with our heroines and the stories should be more realistic, though real within the context of a romance (WHEN HARRY MET SALLY or ABOUT A BOY are great examples of this kind of story.)

2) After an author submits a requested partial to you, at what point should the author follow up, and what format of follow up do you prefer?

If the author is unpublished and this is an unsolicited submission, I would recommend waiting at least three months before touching base. If the project is a complete, I would wait at least six months. We do make an effort to get to all projects within a three-to-six month time frame, but deadlines can get in the way.

3) How should an unpublished unagented author submit to you?

It’s best to start with a query letter and brief synopsis, not more than two to four pages, double-spaced (for my poor eyes! J) The letter should introduce the writer and project, specify the title, targeted series and word count and include a brief (two or three sentence) pitch. It should also include any relevant information about the author – writing experience, awards, affiliations, etc. And I strongly urge people to proofread for mistakes – NEVER depend on spell check! – and make sure the synopsis contains all relevant plot details.

4) Can you talk a little bit about some of the new lines, like the Epic line and the erotica line? Will those be series or single title? Do you have any tidbits above and beyond the official guidelines?

Sure. Epic Romance is a brand-new, contemporary category series. Each book will follow the life and relationships of one couple, with no time frame. The story can span years, even a lifetime. The focus is on how the relationships – and the people – evolve in the chosen time frame. Ultimately, the stories should be emotionally complex and intense, with a strong emphasis on credible characters and how they influence each other’s lives over time. The series will be open to a wide range of plots and situations; each story will require a significant conflict that creates urgency, excitement and momentum. (THE NOTEBOOK and THE LAST TIME THEY MET are examples of the kind of stories we’re looking for.)

Spice is an erotic fiction, single-title imprint that we will be publishing in trade paperback format. At the core of each story we want to provide a really good, really smart story that will entertain women as well as arouse them. We’re looking for a broad spectrum of erotic editorial—from very modern, sexy love stories (but not traditional romances) to more humorous tales, to gritty, slice-of-life experiences of sex and the modern woman. We’re also open to a number of genres: ethnic, mystery-suspense, literary (humorous, edgy, urban) and paranormal genres. Spice books do not require a romance, or even what we would classify as a “hero” at all, and certainly do not need to have a happily-ever-after ending.

5) What kind of promo can a category author do that will make a difference?

I think anything an author does to promote their name and book is beneficial. Take-aways such as bookmarks or pins (or my personal favorite, pens J) are always good, since it leaves the reader (or potential reader) with your name in their hands. However, successful promotion starts with a great book, so always put a thousand percent into everything you write!

6) Can you tell us about a few new authors you've bought lately, and what it was about their stories that made them stand out?

In the last year I’ve bought several new authors – two of them Golden Heart nominees – and in each case, their work stood out because of excellent storytelling and engaging characters. When a book holds my attention – when I cannot put it down because I MUST know the outcome of the story – it’s usually a keeper. This is the case for every book we buy, whether the author is new to publishing or has an established career. I’m always on the lookout for a great story, engaging characters and overall compelling writing, because these are the things that will sell me on the book – and enable me to “sell” it to the senior editor.

7) *Harry Potter Spoiler Alert* Do you think Snape is bad or good?

No spoilers here, I must have read book 6 ten times already! I do think there is good in that nasty man, because otherwise J.K Rowling made it way too obvious that he’s a villain from the first book – and I really don’t think she’s wanted to make things that simple. Everything else is so complex and layered, it doesn’t seem right for Snape to be so black-and-white. Sigh – but I suppose we’ll have to wait for book seven to find out. How frustrating is that?? J

8) What do you enjoy most about being an editor? Conversely, what's the toughest part of your job?

Not to be corny, but I really do love everything about this job, particularly getting paid to read. J Seriously, though, one of my favorite things is finding the right project to buy, new author or not. Nothing compares to starting a book and realizing that I’ve been reading for an hour - and I cannot put it down because I must know how it ends. Often when that happens, I end up buying the book. I love discovering authors who are so capable of captivating my attention. Of course, the toughest thing to do is keep up with all the reading!


At 4:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a wonderful invention it is, this thing we call the Internet!


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