Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Deb Werksman, Casablanca Acquiring Editor

We are pleased today to welcome our acquiring editor, Deb Werksman, to the blog. Deb has agreed to answer your questions throughout the day, so fire away! She will answer as time permits.

I LOVE MY AUTHORS! As an acquiring editor, I never have to face a blank piece of paper, so I have enormous admiration for what authors do. You create whole worlds in your imagination and then hone your craft to bring those worlds to fruition. And THEN! After all that writing, taking critiques, rewriting, editing, polishing, and against all odds we get together to get you published, THEN you have to do everything our PR and marketing departments ask for and everything you can think of to promote and sell your books. A more dedicated, devoted and committed group of people can't be found and it is my privilege to be your editor.

The rest of this blog is going to be directed to authors who aren't "my" authors yet--how do you find me or how do I find you so that Sourcebooks Casablanca can become your publishing house? Let me tell you what I'm looking for:

First of all, I'm acquiring all the time, in all subgenres. So don't try to "time" the market. As we all know, the subgenres in the romance category cycle, and as a subgenre gets overpublished, that subgenre starts to decline. But I believe that doesn't mean the readership has gone away; it means there's too much competition and now you have to stand out in the category even more. So the "hook" is really, really important. (So is knowing/understanding your reader really well.)

The "hook" is a 2-3 sentence (basically 30 seconds or less) articulation of what the book is, that will make someone want to read it. The "hook" should distinguish the book from all the other books that are out there. It's essential at every point in the selling process. I use it at the editorial meeting where I pitch your book and recommend that we publish it, our salespeople use it when they present the book to the buyers, the booksellers use it to sell it to the reader.

Next, I have very clearly defined criteria, but keep in mind that book publishing is an art, not a science, so there's a subjective element to all of this. If I turn down a book, it may very well meet another editor's criteria, and/or your next book might be a better fit. Here are my criteria: 1) a heroine my readers can relate to (smart, whole, interesting, real) 2) a hero who's desirable (this eliminates ex-cons, murderers, thieves) 3) a world gets created (we're in the entertainment business!) 4) a strong "hook" (see above!)

Single title or single title series (not category/genre romance) of 90,000-100,000 (actual, digital) words.

Please submit synopsis and full manuscript via email to deb.werksman@sourcebooks.com in Word files (.doc)--queries are ok, but can take more time overall. I know someone will ask me how long it takes to get a response--at the moment it's as much as 16-20 weeks. I'm trying to beat that as much as possible, and hope it will be faster in the future.

For more detail, check out our submission guidelines at www.sourcebooks.com or email me with specific questions deb.werksman@sourcebooks.com

Finally, I want you all to know that I consider it my life's work to be a "midwife" for books (gestational periods vary!), so bring me your babies--I can't wait to fall in love with them and with you!

71 comments:

  1. Thanks for being with us today, Deb!!
    Marie

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  2. Hi Deb~

    Thanks for being here! I read your post and just wanted you to know, your authors love you too.

    Robin :)

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  3. Thanks, Deb! And I agree with Robin. We couldn't ask for a better editor. Thanks for everything you do for us! You're the greatest! :) Terry

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  4. Excellent and a most informing blog.

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  5. Thanks for posting today Deb! It was very informative for us authors that want to be "yours" :)

    Do you prefer single title or would you consider a trilogy?

    Thanks!
    Eliza

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  6. Hi, Deb! I'm popping over from the Romance Bandits where I'm a founding member with my critique partner, Cindy (Loucinda McGary) to give you an additional welcome.

    Great post! We unpublished writers always want to know what editors are looking for and your pithy four-point details are really helpful.

    I know, from the postitive comments Cindy has to say about you and your Casablanca authors that they, too, are delighted with you as their editor.

    One question (well, maybe more later). I see that most of your authors have an option for one or several more books other than the initial one you acquire. Are you automatically looking for that kind of expansion? IOW, do you prefer looking at a m/s that has a sequel built into it?

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  7. Welcome Deb!

    Another Romance Bandit popping over to say hello. All of the Casablanca books look fabulous! I've been reading excerpts and have added them to my TBR list. Especially, Loucinda's... :-)

    I echo the question regarding your openness to trilogies and/or connected series.

    Also, does a mss.'s success in contests influence you in any way?

    Thanks!

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  8. Greetings, Deb!

    I love your eneregy and enthusiasm!

    Your post is clear, and above all, it truly invites writers to submit. Nicely done!

    Light,
    Nancy Haddock
    La Vida Vampire

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  9. Hi Deb! Just dropping by since you now have Reel and Erica's story. Happy reading! And see you in Long Island.

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  10. Hi Deb!

    The best part is that you treat our babies so very well!

    Linda

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  11. Hi, Deb--

    I second my fellow Bandita Jo's comments about the clear, concise guidelines. I suspect everyone appreciates your candor about response times, too. I'm also curious about linked books.

    What drew you to the book industry? What do you like about it the most?

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  12. Hi Deb,

    Stopping in to say hello. Trying not to obsess about my submission too much. :) Oh, a question just popped to mind. I know you don't want category-length romance, however, would you be willing to look at a novella anthology from an author who's already sold you a single title or two? I'm thinking along the lines of the sexy/erotic single-author novella anthologies such as those offered by Brava, Aphrodisia, NAL Heat, etc. Is that ever something you could see Sourcebooks doing?

    On the other end, do you envision ever doing multi-author anthologies? Or are the plans to stick strictly to single title?

    Thanks, Deb.

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  13. Another question, Deb. I believe you're the only acquiring editor at Sourcebooks? Do you have an assistant -- PLEASE tell me you do, else I'll have to light candles for you tonight LOL.

    Also, I'm intrigued about the new Casablanca line. Are you looking for anything specific (duh, other than romance). I've read Kendra's Call of the HM, Laurie's Hundred Years, Terry's Heart of, and Michele's No Regrets.

    Oh, and of course, Cindy's Wild Sight (in draft form).

    I've noticed each has a unique and somewhat remarkable premise and/or new-world creation. Is this the kind of hook you're looking for?

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  14. Hi Deb,

    What an informative blog. I love your enthusiasm! My question is whether you're interested in women's fiction, with the romance not as important as the character's journey.

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  15. Hi, Deb. I'm continuing the invasion of Romance Bandits authors. We're a rowdy bunch. :)

    Just wanted to say that I've really liked the covers I've seen for your authors. When Cindy showed us hers, we all oohed and ahhed at how pretty it is.

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  16. Deb,

    From an author you are currently considering...

    I am grateful for your mid-wifery. The comments by phone this morning were spot on.

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  17. Hello Deb!

    Another Romance Bandit riding in on Aunty Cindy's wake. We've been looking forward to your visit here.

    I met you at Silken Sands this year and it was such a pleasure talking with you there.

    I love it that you can break down what you're looking for into such a concise statement. That's very helpful in a world where we often feel we're aiming at an invisible target.

    I admire your covers too, and I'd like to know how your art department is set up. Do you work closely with them for cover design? Is there a particular individual who does that or do you work with several people? The results are impressive--and I think--unique to Sourcebooks. They have a unified feel to them although each one is completely different. I think that's terrific!

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  18. Hi Eliza:

    When I say "single title" I'm referring to the length (90,000ish words) and the quality--in other words, it's not a "series" or "genre" title of 65-70,000 words, somewhat formulaic. Within "single title" can be series of any number of books, including a trilogy. In fact, trilogies are quite hot right now, and I'm very much interested in seeing them.

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  19. Hi Eliza:

    When I say "single title" I'm referring to the length (90,000ish words) and the quality--in other words, it's not a "series" or "genre" title of 65-70,000 words, somewhat formulaic. Within "single title" can be series of any number of books, including a trilogy. In fact, trilogies are quite hot right now, and I'm very much interested in seeing them.

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  20. Hi Jo:
    It is really important in this category to be able to build an author--it may take a couple of books before the author can develop her readership and really figure out how to reach them effectively. While I love to do a multi-book deal, where I already know what subsequent book or books will be, the option allows me to buy just one book, without having to know exactly what the next one or ones will be. I am looking for a sense, though, that this author can write more than one book, since that's how a list develops. Thanks!

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  21. Sourcebooks have published several Jane Austen sequels. Are you interested in acquiring more?

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  22. Hi Joan: great question about contests! I do pay attention if I know that a manuscript has finaled in or won a contest because that tells me that other readers have enjoyed what they read.
    However, when I'm judging a contest, I'm judging a small number of manuscripts against each other's relative strengths, and I'm not necessarily applying my acquisitions criteria. When I'm acquiring, the criteria are absolute, not relative--can I sell this? does it fit on my list? can I build this author? etc.

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  23. Morning everyone, and Welcome Deb!

    Ah, I see the Banditas have begun to arrive... 5 thus far, one more and we get eggroll! :-)

    Deb, I thanked you in my book's acknowledgment for picking my baby out of the slush and loving it, but I wanted to say one more time, how much I LURVE having you as my editor! And your love of what you do is very obvious (like working on Sunday afternoons). Like the rest of my Sourcebooks Sisters here on the blog, I'm thrilled to be a part of the Casablanca line.

    Cindy

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  24. Hi Nancy:
    I've always been a bookworm and had a passion for reading, so in many ways, the book industry didn't just attract me, it sort of IS me. I love how books can change your life, and I love the passion that everyone in the book industry brings to their work. In the office, out of the office, what could be better than spending the day talking to smart people about books?!!! And the romance category is so collegial and supportive that it's a really special part of the industry.

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  25. Deb said:

    However, when I'm judging a contest, I'm judging a small number of manuscripts against each other's relative strengths, and I'm not necessarily applying my acquisitions criteria. When I'm acquiring, the criteria are absolute, not relative--can I sell this? does it fit on my list? can I build this author? etc

    Deb, that's really interesting! And it would explain why a lot of us have been placed first in contests, but might not have gotten requests from those editors judging the contests. As long as I've been writing and entering contests, I've never had an editor or agent explain how her contest judging is different from her acquisitions "judging."

    You seem to have a knack for being able to explain what you do and why,(as opposed to going on gut and not being able to say exactly why you made a given choice) and that's great for us writers. Thank you for making that effort!

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  26. Hi Cindy! Great to hear from you! I'm not sure yet about multi-author anthologies--it looks to me as though anthologies are a way for editors to promote their newer authors by tying them together with a top-selling author, and I'm not sure when I'll be ready to do that. Possibly 2010. Single author anthologies are different, and could work on my list as soon as Fall 2009, so yes, let's take a look!

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  27. Jo, Joanie & Trish,
    You're checks are in the mail! ;-)

    Though seriously, I admit to everyone that I get NO CREDIT for my beautiful cover. The designers in the Sourcebooks Art Dept. have my undying gratitude! However, I'm thinking SOME little birdie somewhere in editorial must have told them something about each book (like that all important "hook") to get such wonderful and relevant covers.

    Cindy

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  28. Hi, Deb--

    It sounds as if you really enjoy your job. I was interested in your comment about books changing people's lives. The book that hit me upside the head and has yet to be supplanted after many years is To Kill A Mockingbird. Is there a book that fills such a slot for you? (Sometimes it's hard to pick just one--kind of like those potato chips in the commercial.)

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  29. I have to add as someone who has worked with Deb from the beginning of the Casablanca launch, you can't find a stronger editor and one so committed!

    Great work Deb!

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  30. Hi Deb,
    Thank you for taking the time to stop by. I really liked your blog - full of excellent, straightforward information and your "voice" is appealing. Makes me less terrified of actually interacting.
    My question is this: is there a subject area within any sub-genre that you prefer to see or not see? and how do you feel about total world building? Do you prefer more grounded settings filled with fantastic characters as opposed to the setting being one of those characters?

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  31. Deb, popping over from the Romance Bandits to say hi! What a great blog. I really enjoyed your take on what you look for in a story. By the way, I can't wait to read THE WILD SIGHT!

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  32. Hello Deb,
    Great, informative blog. Thanks for the info.

    It was fascinating to read that when you judge contests, you apply a different standard than when you're looking at a submission, w/ an eye toward acquiring. Then, the only standard is "Can I sell this?'/"Can I build this author?'

    Can you elaborate on what you mean when you say, "Can I build this author?"

    Is there anything definable you're looking for? What kinds of things appear 'buildable' when you've got a submission on your desk?

    Thanks so much for taking the time to chat!

    (I'm also really interested in hearing your thoughts on Nancy's question, about any books that have 'hit you upside the head,' (metaphorically speaking. :-) )

    Thanks again!
    Kris

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  33. Hi Jo:
    I'm the only acquiring editor for romance fiction at Sourcebooks, but I do have assistance with reading, so no need to light a candle for me yet (but I'll let you know!).

    Thanks for reading so many of our books! Yes, I do look for a world to be created, but what I'd say all the books have in common is a strong "hook"--it's very easy for me to talk about the books and differentiate them from the competition.

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  34. Hi Edie, thanks for asking about women's fiction. I'm concentrating on romance fiction, but other editors acquire women's fiction so if yours has a really strong hook, send it to me and I'll likely forward it on.

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  35. Hi, Deb. Thank you for taking the time to chat with us. I have a question. Does Sourcebooks or yourself advise authors on ways to promoted their work? Will SB be doing blanket ads for thier authors in RT or other publications?

    Dianne

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  36. Hi Cossandra:

    Our art department is set up with a core team in-house and a number of outside freelance designers. I give a certain amount of design direction and we've recently started asking our authors to give some too (mainly physical characteristics of the characters and suggestions for scenes that might make a good cover image). Sometimes covers take a few rounds to get something that I, the publisher, the author and the buyers are all happy about.

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  37. Hi Cossandra:

    Our art department is set up with a core team in-house and a number of outside freelance designers. I give a certain amount of design direction and we've recently started asking our authors to give some too (mainly physical characteristics of the characters and suggestions for scenes that might make a good cover image). Sometimes covers take a few rounds to get something that I, the publisher, the author and the buyers are all happy about.

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  38. Hi Carolyn:
    I am still acquiring Jane Austen sequels, but as the market is getting crowded, new ones have to have a really distinguishing feature. If in doubt, send it my way--I definitely want to know about it and consider it.

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  39. Hi Deb! Just popping in to say YOU ROCK, and to tell everyone that you couldn't find an editor with a better eye for what works and what doesn't in a story. My heroes and heroines are eternally indebted:-)

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  40. Dear Nancy:
    When I was in high school I read The Drifters by James Michener, which was all about American young adults during the Vietnam War, living in Europe and questioning authority and trying to find/build lives that authentically expressed their values, etc. (I probably have this completely romanticized--it's been A LOT of years) and that's when I decided I wanted to go to Berkeley, that hotbed of protest (smile). Happily, by the time I got there, it was the late '70s already, so I was able to just get a really good liberal arts education and live in a bellwether state where people were socially conscious and ahead of the curve. But yes, that book absolutely shaped my life. And then there's Pride and Prejudice, which I also read in high school. Is it possible to be a lady of the Regency period and a hippie at the same time?

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  41. Hi Jen:
    I don't have a ban on any particular subject matter and I don't have a preference for whether the world itself is a character or whether the world is more reality-based and inhabited by fantastic creatures. Either can be successful--it's in the execution. Bottom line, it has to be believable.

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  42. Hi, Deb--

    I do think you can be a Regency lady and a hippie at the same time, just not in the same clothes. :-)

    The Michener sounds interesting. Since it's Michener, I assume it was also massive. That was a very dynamic period.

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  43. Hi Deb and Casablanca Authors! Another Romance Bandit popping over to check out your wonderful blog *g*

    Thanks for the very informative post, Deb, and for the great answers you've given so far :-)

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  44. Hello Deb, yet another of the Romance Bandits swinging over to say hello. We are all very excited about Loucinda's book coming out this fall and think the cover God's were very kind to her.

    As another As Yet Unpublished author, I'm thrilled an established publisher is opening their line to include the Romance genre.

    A question for a friend of mine. Are you doing many historical fiction works in the future? Is this another direction Sourcebooks might be going?

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  45. Hi Deb!
    Just wanted to say hello and thank you for visiting the blog.
    Regarding covers, I was recently contacted for my input, which I appreciated very much.
    So tell us (because we're all dying to know--though I may be the only one who doesn't!)Who is Scott and what does he do? I mean, a MAN posting a comment here? Isn't there a testosterone blocker? :-) He's even Cute! :-)
    Cheryl

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  46. Thanks for your take on novella anthologies, Deb. I agree with you on the reasons behind multi-author anthologies. Tying a new author to a big name is an excellent way to get exposure for the new author.

    That said, while I'm published under my pen name in multiple-author anthologies, as a reader I tend to prefer the single-author anthologies, because I have more assurance that I'll enjoy all three novellas in the collection. :) I know other readers prefer getting a taste of the different authors. It's nice to know there's something for everyone. That's the great thing about the romance genre these days. It's incredibly varied.

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  47. Hi Deb
    Great blog I am an avid reader and I would like to thank you for giving us so many wonderful books to read that take me to places and times I probably will never visit.
    Have Fun
    Helen

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  48. Hi Kris:
    What a great question! For an author to be "buildable":
    *she's thinking about her career, not just her one book
    *it's obvious in the submission either that there are future books to build off the first one, there are future books already written, or there are ideas for future books
    *the submission is done professionally, and follows our submission guidelines (at least for the most part)
    *if I call/email with feedback or questions, I get a sense that the author is coachable
    *I have a sense that the author can talk about her book/s and herself and even if she doesn't have experience promoting herself, she's eager to learn how to do that
    *I have the sense that the author is a team player

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  49. Hi Dig:
    Sourcebooks is known for our marketing and sales-orientation, and we have a FABULOUS publicist named Danielle who is dedicated to romance fiction and two incredible people in our marketing department who work with me and Danielle to promote our romance fiction. We do ads in RT for all of our romance fiction, and we do pre-publication PR to the trade press (Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, etc.). We send hundreds of ARCs to booksellers, librarians and book group leaders, as well as media and online reviewers/bloggers. And then, we promote at the store level when the buyers agree to (such as the New Release table).

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  50. Deb,

    Thanks for your thoughts on contests.

    I consider contests another tool. Initially for feedback but also for general reader respones. The first two mss. in my Roman historical trilogy have been fortunate enough to final and place in several contests (THE PATRICIAN'S DESIRE was my '06 GH finalist and I was thrilled when Jared placed well in PASIC's BOYH last year. Wonderful feedback from booksellers and librarins. And Damon in THE PATRICIAN'S FORTUNE was a historical competing against other subgenres in the revamped Suzannah...and succeeded.)

    It's validation to get postive judge comments, to place consistently and keep on learning.

    Have you ever judged a mss. in a contest and then bought it?

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  51. Dear Suzanne Welsh:
    We publish quite a bit of historical fiction, including Georgette Heyer's historicals, Michael Dobbs (Churchill's Triumph), Margaret Campbell Barnes (Brief Gaudy Hour) and all the Jane Austen sequels. Yes, historical fiction is strong on our list and I expect it to continue to be.

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  52. Hi Cheryl,
    Scott Eagan is Michele Ann Young's agent!

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  53. I just had to chime in, after the Scott Eagan comment! He is my agent.

    I also wanted to say that No Regrets was a finalist in the Romantic Times American Title and had done well in some other contests too.

    However, Deb, who is a great editor, did a lot of work with me on that book before publication, and especially on strengthening the hook, my plus size young woman who wears glasses, who is not your typical heroine.

    Thank you, Deb.

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  54. Deb,
    So Scott is Michele's agent? Isn't that cool! Nice of him to brave the blog! I'd like to have an agent like that--but, as you know, I don't have one at all!
    Cheryl

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  55. WOO HOO! That's 8 or 9 Banditas now, not counting yours truly. We are close to a full-blown raid!

    Plus my friends Jen and Kris (waves madly), so glad you and everyone else dropped by the blog! And again, a HUGE THANX to Deb for being with us today and providing such insightful answers.

    Nancy, I loved your question about books that changed you somehow. I can definitely say that reading Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" made me decide to give writing romance a try. The depth and detail of that story, not to mention the unforgettable hero and heroine really blew me away!

    Cindy

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  56. Hi Deb! I second my Romance Bandit sisters in thanking you for the concise way you've outlined both your needs and your working style and an editor. As Cassondra says, that's sometimes an invisible target to us writers! :> Congrats on all the fabulous authors you've acquired so far. The Wild Sight is riveting! Grins - I got a preview!

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  57. Hi Deb, Christine from the Romance Bandits here! It's so refreshing to read about an editor who's enthusiastic and positive, and who is prepared to say more than she wants a good story well told. Looks like you have a stellar lineup, judging from the sidebar of this blog, not least our Loucinda McGary!

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  58. Hi, Deb,

    Enjoyed reading your blog about publishing and editing.
    Within the Historical Romance line, are you open to western historical romance?
    Thanks!
    Jeanmarie

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  59. It's great that you stopped by to tell us about you! Thanks so much, Deb!

    Christina

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  60. Hi Jeanmarie:
    Yes, I'm open to Western historical, but please keep in mind that what works best in Western is cowboys.bxjp

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  61. Hi Joan,
    Yes, I have judged a manuscript in a contest and then bought it. It's very exciting when that happens!

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  62. Hi, Deb! I am the perenially tardy Romance Bandit (thanks to Big Brother at work). You are a hero of mine. Not only did you have the exquisite taste to buy Loucinda's book, but also my chapter mate Mary Margret's! I concluded before I read your blog post you were a woman of great discernment and wisdom. Your post simply proved it!

    As Cassondra said, it's rare to find an editor who is able to clearly define what makes a book sellable and an author growable. You have done it!

    I am off to spiff up my hooks so I can add to your groaning pile of reading material. I hope to work with you one day!

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  63. What a great conversation you Casa authors have got going today. Kudos! I add my thanks and praises to your editor, Deb, for timely and clear responses.

    Hey, AC, maybe you can lure Deb into the Lair some day.

    Thanks for taking time out of your hectic schedule, Deb!

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  64. Hi Eliza, yes, absolutely trilogies--when I say "single title" I mean it's not genre/category length, which are the shorter, more formulaic ones--about 90,000 words makes it single-title.

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  65. Hi Jo:
    Great question! We're looking for authors whose careers we can build. So yes, I prefer a multi-book deal, or at least to option future projects. The first one doesn't have to have a sequel built in, but I do want to know what the author envisions as her career arc, and if the first one has secondary characters that allow for expansion into a trilogy, or a series, so much the better!

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  66. Hi Joan:
    When I see that a project has finalled or won in contests, I do pay attention to that, but it's not decisive, because in acquisitions its all about the marketplace while in a contest, it's about relative merit vis a vis the other entries. Different set of criteria, in other words...

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  67. Hi Nancy, I would have to say I think the book industry drew me in! I was an English major, and a book worm since childhood. Reading is kind of like breathing to me...so this is a natural

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  68. Hi Cindy--no anthologies planned at the moment, but not ruled out for the future. Not probably before 2nd half of 2010...

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  69. Hi Jo:
    I'm not the only acquiring editor at Sourcebooks--but I'm the only one acquiring romance. Other editors do acquire fiction, too. I do have some assistance, so no need to light candles for me (although I certainly appreciate the thought!).

    Yes, I'm looking for a "hook" in every book--I have to be able to distinguish the book from all the competition/noise in the marketplace.

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  70. Hi Edie, yes, I'm considering women's fiction too, but it must have a REALLY UNUSUAL PREMISE! Remember, it's selling into the fiction category, which is much broader and more difficult than the romance category. So the hook here is even more essential. And, there's an awful lot of the same thing been done and done and done...come up with something fresh, and you've got my attention!

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  71. To all of my fabulous authors who took the time to greet me on this blog today--thank you! I LOVE YOU!!!

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