If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.” Woody Allen


This week I’m looking at the Spotlight on Kensington Books from the Romance Writers of America Conference in New York City.

The Spotlight on Kensington was presented by publisher Laurie Parkin, Director of Marketing Leslie Irish Underwood, Director of Publicity and Public Relations Karen Auerbach, Editor in Chief John Scognamilio, Editorial Director Audrey LaFehr, Executive Editor Selena James and Editorial Director Alicia Condon. Kensington is the single largest full-line book pub left in the U.S. They’re family-owned. They publish about 500 books a year in all genres and formats. They have a staff of only 90 people. “Once you sign a contract with Kensington, you become part of the family.” They like to build careers.

The editors took turns talking about the company and some of their personal responsibilities:

John Scognamilio – 1 % of his list is nonfiction, 99% fiction. He has been at Kensington 20 years. Kensington publishes a lot of romance – historical, paranormal, contemporary, romantic suspense, women’s fiction, African-American. They also publish mystery, historical fiction, urban fantasy. They’re started to do some YA.

Alicia Condon – She’s the newest editor at Kensington, though she’s worked at other houses. She edits romance and is heading up the new YA program at Kensington. What she’s looking for in romance – great opening hook, every scene moves the story forward and builds the tension, and the book has intense emotion and an unforgettable ending. She doesn’t care what subgenre is in if you can give her a great story. She’s interested in “any kind of romance – from inspirational to erotica.” She heads up the Brava line of erotic romance – she’d especially like to see a “hot, contemporary western romance” for Brava.

 Audrey LaFehr – She’s been with Kensington for eight years and in publishing for 24 years. She edits a lot of different genres. She edits Fern Michaels, traditional historical romance, Brava, women’s fiction, historical fiction and erotic romance. She likes series.

Selena James – She heads up Dafina Books, Kensington’s African-American imprint. She’s been at Kensington for five years and was with Pocket prior to that. She works on a variety of books, from women’s fiction to romance to YA to literary commercial fiction. She’s looking for stories that will touch the reader.

The presenters next talked about the publishing process. They work a year to a year and a half ahead. Authors are asked for their input on the cover. The editor fills out an art sheet with his input and information about the author. Cover mock-ups are made, may be shown to buyers and the author, and a cover is chosen. Next comes marketing and publicity. Authors write an author bio and fills out an author questionnaire that helps the marketing department. Kensington sends out galleys to sales reps, reviewers, buyers and media. They participate in conferences, do giveaways and other creative marketing approaches. They do a lot of digital marketing. They are experimenting with publishing prequals and short stories digitally to promote author’s upcoming books. They’re also looking into establishing a digital-first line of books, though nothing is firm on that yet.

KensingtonBooks.com has a page for submissions that lists what all the editors are looking for and tells you how to submit. Kensington accepts both agented and unagented submissions. They’re very open to submissions and new authors.


Last week I shared news about Take Part.org’s children’s story contest, in conjunction with the release of the movie, The Help. This week they have a new contest for short nonfiction. First prize winner gets a trip to New York to see a live performance of The MOTH Storytellers.  Submit your 400-word interview with an inspiring person you know. Get all the details here. Deadline for entries is September 5.


As always, feel free to share information from this blog with others. Pass it along, reprint it in your newsletters…all I ask is that you give me credit and include a link to the blog. Thanks!  Cindi