Please tell our readers about the publisher you represent.
Sourcebooks is the largest woman-owned publisher in North America and releases a wide array of fiction and nonfiction in print and ebook with distribution around the world. Our Casablanca romance imprint is home to the works of classic favorites such as Georgette Heyer, Laura Kinsale and Victoria Holt, as well as rising bestseller stars such as Grace Burrowes, Terry Spear and Julie Ann Walker.
Names we have all heard of! Do you have any rejection stories to share? Like a manuscript you passed on that turned into a best seller?
I remember when I was a relatively new assistant, a manuscript came in the mail with no cover letter or note of any kind with it—just the author’s name and address at the top of the first page. I skimmed through the first couple of chapters, but couldn’t discern that it was a genre we published. So I filled out a rejection note and sent it off. A day or so later, I’m looking through trade magazines and see a familiar-looking name—the author of the mystery manuscript I had rejected. Who was apparently the head of a major writers organization. I immediately came clean to the editor, and fortunately everyone was a really good sport about it.
But lesson to authors: no matter whom you address to (even in email), you never know who’s going to open your work. And with so many editors forwarding submissions to ereaders these days, I also highly encourage a file name that has the full title of the project and the first page with all author and agent info.
What is your weekly routine like?
Every day is different, which is one thing I love about my job. Here’s a sample of my to-do list from yesterday: review author revisions and turn over ms to Production for a September 2013 romance, compile revision notes and send to author for a November 2013 release, consult with author on a title change, make offer for YA project, follow up on outstanding offer for a romance project, check through a copyedit, review a contract that just came back from an agent, prepare launch material (description, comparison titles, key selling points) for recently acquired YA project. YA marketing and publicity meeting at 12:30. Romance strategy meeting at 3:30.
Other days may also include writing cover copy, writing/reviewing catalog copy, returning agent phone calls, prepping research information, reviewing sales numbers, prepping projects for our acquisitions meetings (and reading my colleagues’ projects) and a host of other things. Most of my editing is done on weekends, though I try to make time for it in the office when possible. And most of my submission reading is done on the subway to and from the office.
Whew! I thought choosing the next book was all there was to it! Who first introduced you to the love of reading?
My mom read to my brother and me every night. I remember The Wind in the Willows was a particular read-aloud favorite. But it was L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables that sealed the deal.
For authors or prospective authors: what influences your decision to read a submission: the query letter; synopsis; an agent’s submission; etc.
The query is what gets me most excited to read a project. Does it sound interesting? Is it a story I don’t think I’ve read before? Does it immediately make me want to dive in? Then I go to the first chapters and hope the writing lives up to the story. I want to be teased in—make me want to keep reading.
What is the biggest no no you see in submissions that makes you reject them?
A story that I feel like I’ve already heard is kiss of death. Really work on defining the hook that sets your work apart. And then make sure that open is fascinating and intriguing.
Will you share some encouraging words for authors still struggling for that first contract?
All it takes is one yes. And every editor’s taste is different.
How can our readers find your submission guidelines?
Our guidelines are online at http://www.sourcebooks.com/resources/submissions-guidelines.html. I’ll also be at a number of conferences this year, including Windy City, the Washington DC writers retreat, Romantic Times, BEA, and RWA to name a few.
Leah Hultenschmidt is a senior editor at Sourcebooks, acquiring romance and YA. In her twelve years in the industry, she has worked with a number of bestselling authors across a variety of genres. Her favorite mottos: “When in doubt, cut it out.” and “Live. Love. Read.” Follow her on Twitter @LeahHulten.