“People on the outside think there’s something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn’t like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that’s all there is to it.” – Harlan Ellison

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This week I begin my review of publisher spotlights from the Romance Writers of America annual conference in New York City. This year’s spotlights included a good mix of large and small publishers who publish a wide variety of romance and other fiction. Up this week: Kensington Books.

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Editor Alicia Condon started off the spotlight. The focus of the Spotlight on Kensington Books was on letting attendees know what makes Kensington different from everyone else. Ms. Condon noted that lLast year the company celebrated its 40th anniversary. It is the largest New York-based independent publisher in the U.S. Steve and Adam Zacharias run the family-owned company. Being small allows them to respond more quickly to changing market trends. They give personal attention to each author but are large enough to have books on the New York Times list almost every week. Kensington editors and departments work at a team. As a smaller company, everyone knows everyone else.

Senior Editor Esi Sogah presented an overview of the kinds of books Kensington publishes. They publish over 500 books annually, in all genres and all formats. Zebra is the main mass-market romance imprint, publishing historical, contemporary, erotica, sweet romances, romantic suspense, paranormal – everything romance. Lyrical is Kensington’s digital first publishing program. In 2016 Zebra will debut Zebra Shout, which will focus on debut authors. The books will be priced at $4.99. Lyrical authors will also have the opportunity to move from ebook only to print in the Zebra Shout program. Dafina, Kensington’s African-American and multi-cultural program publishes over 80 books a year in all formats and all genres. Dafina is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Pinnacle publishes thrillers, westerns and true crime. Sogah emphasized that Kensington is willing to take risks on authors.

Associate Editor Martin Biro talked about Lyrical Press, Kensington’s digital-first imprint. They publish 20+ books a month and are growing fast. They also release a trade-paper POD version of every Lyrical book that is 60,000 words and up. Lyrical publishes a wide variety of fiction. It is very romance focused, but they also publish mystery and suspense with Lyrical Underground and contemporary romance with Lyrical Shine. They publish mainstream commercial fiction and young adult in Lyrical also. Lyrical is actively acquiring and they are open to experimenting with a wide variety of fiction.

Tara Gavin is the newest editor with Kensington. She comes to Kensington after a long career with Harlequin. She spoke about how to submit to Kensington. Kensington accepts queries from both agented and unagented authors. She advised authors to study the market and think about where they fit in best. Read a lot and become familiar with what each publisher publishes. Send your query electronically and in your query let the editor know you have a complete manuscript. Compare your work to books that are already in the marketplace. This helps the editor understand the type of book you are writing and where it fits in the market. Summarize the story in a few paragraphs. Include a synopsis of a couple of pages with your query letter. Submit to only one editor at Kensington, but if the manuscript is not right for that editor and he or she believes another editor would like it, he or she will pass the submission on to them. Tara is actively acquiring and building an author base.

Alex Nicolajsen is the associate director of digital at Kensington. She works with Lyrical. She talked about marketing and Kensington. Vida Engstrom is director of marketing at Kensington. They develop a marketing plan for each book and have a dedicated communications person for each genre and imprint. They brainstorm ways to promote books.

The next section of the Spotlight was devoted to each editor revealing what is on their wish list.

Alicia Condon is looking for a “fantastic Amish romance” with a fresh theme or a fresh setting. She noted they have an Amish series that is set in Appalachia, which is the type of unusual setting they are looking for. She is looking for a mystery romance with a humorous, off-beat voice. She would love some “feel-good fiction” exploring the themes of friendship and family, on the sweeter side, verging on inspirational but not inspirational.

Tara Gavin loves historical mysteries. She would love to find some new cozy mystery series. She loves series and readers do too. She wants women’s fiction that focuses on community.

Alex would love to see a sexy cozy mystery for Lyrical, as well as contemporary romance with different settings, such as the French countryside.

Martin Biro said he’s looking for more mysteries for Lyrical. Personally, he loves historical romance from different settings and cultures. He also said if anyone wants to write “Dexter meets Murder She Wrote” he would probably buy it.

Esi Sogah is also very interested in sexy cozy mysteries. She would love to see more historicals with unique settings. She would also like an American romance set in the earlier part of the 20th century – roaring 20s or turn-of-the-century.

Alica Condon announced that Wendy McCurdy is joining Kensington as of August 3rd. McCurdy is a former senior editor at Bantam Dell and the former executive editor at Berkley. She is acquiring women’s fiction and romance.

You can find out more about what specific Kensington editors are looking for at their website 

The editors present briefly talked about their pet peeves. Do your research and confirm the editor you are submitting to actually works on the kind of book you are writing – don’t send your YA to an editor who doesn’t work on YA. Spell the editor’s name correctly, and verify their gender (Alex doesn’t want to be addressed as ‘Mr.’).

You can reach any editor at Kensington via email by addressing your email to them using the address of their first initial last name @kensingtonbooks.com

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Starting this week you can read a free story by me online at Harlequin.com. Black Canyon Betrayal is part of my Ranger Brigade miniseries from Harlequin Intrigue, and for the next ten weeks you can read a new chapter each week here. And check out all the books in the series. bookbanner

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The Dark City is seeking crime and mystery short stories, 1,000 to 7,500 words. Editor and Publisher Steven Oliver is interested in stories that explore the dark underworld of crime and the immoral side of human nature. Currently he is particularly interested in stories set in the western U.S. with a basis in reality. Payment is $25 per story. See the guidelines here. 

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CBAY Books (Children’s Brains Are Yummy” is seeking stories about giants and ogres for an upcoming anthology aimed at readers 13 to 18 years old. Editor Madeline Smoot is looking for science fiction or fantasy stories of up to 5,000 words which feature a giant or ogre from a classic fairy tale, re-imagined in either a re-told fairy tale or a new story. Payment is $30 per story and the deadline for submissions is September 18. Learn more here.

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As always, feel free to share the information in this blog with others. Repost, reprint, retweet, etc. Please give me credit as the source of the information and include a link to this blog. For more about me, visit my websites here and here, or check me out on Facebook. 

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