Ink and paper are sometimes passionate lovers, oftentimes brother and sister, and occasionally mortal enemies.”  ~Terri Guillemets

This week I’m looking at the Spotlight on Kensington Books from the Romance Writers of America National Convention in Orlando.

The Spotlight on Kensington Books was presented by:

Laurie Parkin – Vice President and Publisher

Alicia Condon – Editorial Director of Brava. Also acquires for Zebra

Audrey Lifer – Editorial Director at Kensington Trade.

Leslie Irish Underwood – Director of Marketing

Karen Acerbic – Publicity Director

Kensington is the largest independent, privately owned publisher. They publish heavily in fiction, particularly romance and women’s fiction. They publish more than 400 books a year in mass market, trade paper and hardcover. They’ve experienced double-digit growth in the past five years.  They do 32-35 hardcover’s each year. The rest of the titles are split 50/50 between trade paperback and mass market.

Laurie stressed that editorial at Kensington has a lot of autonomy to make decisions.  They enjoy buying new authors and building their careers, and have a number of New York Times bestsellers on their list.

Alicia then talked about how to submit to Kensington. She presented 5 questions authors should ask themselves before they submit their work to Kensington:

1.       Why submit to Kensington? They’re small enough to give you individualized attention, yet large enough to have wide distribution to get authors onto bestseller lists.  They have a commitment to romance.  They’re willing to go out on a limb when they find something they love.

2.       Who do I submit to? They have several imprints

Most mass market romance comes out under the Zebra imprint.  In Zebra they’re looking for paranormal romance, small-town contemporary romance (softer feel, quirky characters, the town is almost a character), historical romance (pre-twentieth century), romantic suspense (gritty, hard-edged and books with law enforcement characters) and cozy mysteries (any setting, amateur sleuth, quirky secondary characters, often have a theme such as quilting or antiquing, etc.).  

Kensington Trade has grown and publishes women’s fiction, which Audrey defined as a novel that focuses on a woman and her life and her journey. There may be romance in the book, but the focus of the book is not the romance. Kensington Trade also publishes historical fiction which features real historical personalities with fictional characters.  In young adult, also published by Kensington Trade, Alicia is looking for paranormal romance that is not all vampires. The characters are dealing with real-life issues that are relevant to teens. 80,000 to 100,000 words.

 Aphrodisia publishes erotic romance and erotica in all sub-genres – contemporary, historical, paranormal and BEDS.

Dafina Books publishes African American fiction in trade size. Salina James edits that line and is looking for all kinds of African American fiction, including romance.  Dafina also publishes multi-cultural young-adult books.

Brava is a line of sensual romance. Audrey is looking for historical, contemporary and paranormal romance.

Find more information about the different editors and what they want to acquire at the Kensington website. You can also find information at Kensington Publisher Steve Zaccharius’s blog, The Publishing Insider.

3.       How do I submit? They accept queries by snail mail or email. If your manuscript is requested, you can submit via regular mail, but they prefer email submissions.

Red Flags in a query letter: The word count is wrong for the line – too short or too long. The wrong kind of book  — science fiction for a trade paper line, for instance. Something that’s too similar to something the editor is already working on.  The author is unable to define the novel as a particular genre. If the author says “It’s a little bit of romance and a little bit mystery, with some paranormal elements, it’s almost an automatic rejection,” Alicia said. Leslie pointed out that if you can’t define your book, the marketing department can’t define it and you can’t reach readers.

4.       When is the right time to submit? If you’re unpublished, have a complete manuscript before you query. Make sure the manuscript is polished to the best of your ability. You only have one chance to impress the editor. Previously published authors may also need a complete manuscript if their previous sales were not good.

5.       Have you thought about how you’re going to position your manuscript? They want to acquire writers for more than one book. If you have ideas for promoting your book or differentiating it from other books out there, this is a plus. If you have quotes from other authors or can list some contest wins, Alicia said this would impress an editor. Audrey gave the example of an author who’d written a quilting series of books who talked about the number of quilters out there, who are also readers hungry for books, and had ideas for marketing the books through quilting stores and quilting shows. Also, if you have an idea for a series, say so and tell a little about it.

Karen then talked a bit about publicity. Authors complete a questionnaire about their background and possible media contacts or marketing ideas. They want to know about the author’s website, Face book page, if they use Twitter, etc.  They use the questionnaire to generate ideas for marketing your book.

Once your book is purchased, it takes about a year to get it on the shelves.

You do not have to have an agent to query Kensington.


Guideposts Books announced today that they have acquired Summerside Press. Summerside is a fast-growing publisher of inspirational fiction and nonfiction. No word on what, if any, changes are in store for the Summerside romance program.


As always, feel free to pass along the information from this blog to others. All I ask is that you give me credit and include the link to the blog. Thank you!