Thursday, November 13, 2008
Melissa Endlich, Senior Editor, Steeple Hill Books, Welcome to Seekerville!
Born and bred in New York, Melissa Endlich has worked in the publishing industry for over fifteen years, the past nine at Harlequin/Silhouette. In February 2008, she helped to launch Love Inspired Historical, the brand new line of inspirational historical romances. Currently she is the Senior Editor for Love Inspired. After so many years in the publishing world, Melissa still considers herself very blessed that she is paid to read books that she would gladly read for free, and considers it a mission to help spread love and faith through inspirational romance fiction.
And there you have it, Seekerville.
Good morning, all! Ruthy here.
Yes, it’s here at last, the day you’ve been waiting for. Melissa Endlich, Senior Editor of Steeple Hill Books, is here with us in Seekerville. Huzzah! Huzzah!
You guys sent me a bunch of great questions for Melissa. Totally awesome. I cut and pasted my way into a semblance of a good interview, sometimes combining similar thoughts. Great minds think alike and all that stuff.
Thanks to all of you who visit, chat and eat calorie-laden pretend food. I know you’ll give a resounding and warm welcome to Melissa, the senior editor whose publishing house contracts four distinctly voiced Seeker authors: Cheryl Wyatt, Deb Giusti, Janet Dean and Missy Tippens. In our midst we have a strong example of the scope Steeple Hill encompasses and the varied story lines they welcome aboard.
Having said that, Melissa, you know that Seekerville is built around the contest concept. The Seekers met by continually bumping heads in contests, vying for that spot on an editor’s desk, sharing wins and finals. We coalesced and formed our own unit, vowing to pray one another into publication. Just over a year ago we formulated our blog, using the combined talents and competitive natures of fifteen delightful women to reach helping hands to other newbies and wannabes.
Steeple Hill goes above and beyond in contest judging. How often do you find bright, new voices through the contest circuit, even if you don’t necessarily buy that initial manuscript?
I think some of the best (and bravest) authors are out there on the contest circuit, getting feedback from writers and editors. We love judging contests at Steeple Hill Books because we’ve had a really good track record finding authors from various contests, including the RWA Golden Hearts, the ACFW Genesis, and many regional ones, both big and small. Over the past few years we’ve found amazing writers, including Janet Dean, Missy Tippins, Shirlee McCoy, Leigh Bale, Ruth Axtell Morren, Debra Clopton, Carla Capshaw. The list could go on and on!
I think entering contests is a great way to get your name and projects out there, to get feedback from editors, to know if you’re on the right track. Sometimes we’ve seen entries from authors and they weren’t quite right, but we loved the writing so much that we asked to see another project. You just never know what could happen if you enter a contest!
Melissa, Steeple Hill is noted for the strong faith ribbon entwined throughout their stories. Does Steeple Hill have any plans to look at or consider books with a softer faith thread, written through more of a Christian world-view, i.e. Lisa Wingate (NAL, Bethany House) style?
Seems to me that the Love Inspired lines of books have varying levels of faith, depending on the author. Some of our stories have softer faith threads, some feature stronger faith journeys. Readers come to Steeple Hill for a safe, reliable Christian read, but each author offers something slightly different.
Both new and established authors have asked about your timeline at Steeple Hill, from signing to publication. Does it vary from line to line? What time-frame would you consider ‘usual’?
Wow, great question! Actually, the timeline from signing to publication does vary quite a bit from line to line. It all depends on how booked up the schedule for the line is, meaning does the line have room in their schedule? Since Love Inspired Historical publishes 2 books a month, and we are lucky enough to have many wonderful and prolific authors, the time frame from signing a contract to publication might be 12-24 months. For LI and LI Suspense, the timeline could be considerably shorter. For instance, I just contracted a suspense title this week, and we scheduled it for August 2009. That’s only 10 months to publication.
It’s rumored that sports heroes are taboo in contemporary romances in general. What’s your take on that? As a mother of four boys, who doesn’t love Brett Favre? Those Wrangler commercials??? Donovan McNabb? The Manning boys? Derek Jeter????? (Be still my heart on that last name, God love him.)
I hear you, Ruth. I’m a hockey fan myself, and those guys are super yummy! Not sure how these rumors get started. I don’t think sports heroes are necessarily taboo. They’ve certainly popped up in secular contemporary romances (see Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Rachel Gibson, Deirdre Martin). For the Love Inspired lines, I think our readers aren’t interested in the glitzy and glamorous aspects of these people’s lives, but how they’re really just like you and me: dealing with life and faith and love. Just recently I bought a project where a former pro football player discovers he’s the owner of a run-down camp for kids, and when he comes to town to fix up the place, he finds his faith in God again, while falling in love with the woman who lives across the way. Of course doesn’t hurt that this guy is tall, dark and handsome.
Melissa and Tina Colombo, new Senior Editor for Steeple Hill Historicals
Melissa, the editorial staff at Steeple Hill has just undergone some major changes. Krista Stroever has moved to Silhouette Desire and Tina Colombo has come on board to work with you, Joan Marlow Golan and Emily Rodmell. What kind of effect might this have on the three lines you offer, Love Inspired, Love Inspired Suspense and Love Inspired Historical?
Any time there are changes in staff, there are bound to be some changes on the lines. My reading tastes are certainly different from Krista’s, and Tina’s are bound to be different from mine. But that being said, both Tina and I know what we are looking for—wonderful stories, amazing characters, and a sense of the faith of those characters. Basically, a good story well told.
For the contemporary author aiming at Love Inspired, what kinds of manuscripts and/or settings are you seeing too much of? And what would the editorial staff like to see more of?
What works best for Love Inspired are stories that are focused on home, family, children and small town life. Our readers just can’t get enough! Think warm stories of people falling in love and finding home (whether it be a true place, a family of their own, and/or a place in God’s heart.). What hasn’t done so well for us in the past are show business professions, married but separated hero and heroines reuniting and urban settings.
Lately, I’ve been totally obsessed with that tv show “Jon and Kate Plus 8” on TLC, about a couple and their twins and sextuplets. I’m fascinated by how they make their lives seem so normal, even with all those kids running around. Is there a way to somehow weave multiple births in an inspirational romance? You tell me!
Also, with all the focus on Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin in the last few months, people’s attention have been drawn to the great state of Alaska. Talk about the last frontier! I think contemporary romances (or historicals, for that matter!) set in Alaska could be really interesting, as how many of us have ever been there?
Melissa, I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, but since the word is out there, tell us about the rumored “list” of what you don’t want in a Steeple Hill book. Does it exist? Is it fairly normal, listing things a Christian author wouldn’t use in general? Is it an author’s guideline, to reduce edits? Is ‘the list’ one of those cyber-rumors, like the ‘rumor weed’ in Veggie-tales, growing exponentially each time someone spreads the word farther?
I’m sure unpublished authors out there have built up “the list” in their minds as this big scary thing, but fear not! It is a fairly normal list of things no Christian publisher would use in their books, like curses, bodily functions, and so on. It also details situations that we do not accept in our books, like drinking alcohol, gambling, sexual relations, etc.
This helps authors, as well as editors and copyeditors to know what is acceptable and what is not, so that when we work on manuscripts, if a line pops up like, “John took a swig of Jack Daniels as he laid his cards on the poker table.”, we know this is unacceptable behavior and it must be changed.
Melissa, a very naughty LI author asked about pics of your office, but then I looked around my office, shuddered and refused to put you on the spot like that because no one who is as busy as you should have an immaculate office.
So there, Cheryl!
But we’d love to hear about the average day in the life of an editor. What’s it like? Can you take us behind the scenes, give us a glimpse? If you have pics you’d like to post, I’ll post them for you. I think everyone who hasn’t been to the offices wonders what the inner workings of Harlequin look like.
The secret is revealed, here on Seekerville! I get to work around 9am, turn on my computer, and fill up my water bottle (I try to drink a lot of water. Our building is really dry.). I answer emails for a half hour first thing in the morning. Anything that needs an immediate response, I try to answer right away. I always have a to-do list on my desk that alerts me to things that are due into Production, like line edits, copyedits, back cover copy, art fact sheets, etc. Also, what projects on my desk need my attention (e.g. what needs to be read, etc.)
Depending on what’s due to production, my day might be filled with trying to finalize titles for the month for Love Inspired, and making sure that the art fact sheets have enough information for the marketing and art people to get a good sense of what the selling points are for the books. Or I might be approving back cover copy, or reading contracted proposals from authors, and giving them the go ahead to write the complete manuscript.
I don’t do a lot of reading manuscripts or editing in the office, because there are just too many distractions, with email and phone calls and visits from co-workers.
And when I’m taking a quick break, I’ll walk down the hall and chat with some of my fellow editors/co-workers. I see it as a chance to catch up on what’s happening in the office. (Full disclosure: we talk about tv or movies too! ).
And for those of you who are dying to see inside a NY editor’s office here you go!
Melissa, I love these pictures of Sarah, Elizabeth and the all-encompassing SLUSH pile. And here's a pic of a certain knight in shining armor, all decked out for a great occasion in NYC. Recognize him, Cheryl?????
All right, dear girl, we’ve put you on the spot enough for one day. We are grateful that you nabbed time out of your crazy schedule to stop by and chat it up with us. Thank you so much for being here, talking with us, sharing your wisdom.
Melissa, the buffet is loaded with cyber food. In honor of your New York heritage, we’ve ordered up a breakfast buffet from Murray’s Bagels. Everyone who IS anyone knows New York bagels are the best, no questions asked. Murray’s crew has brought over a delightful spread of bagels and toppings from assorted cream cheeses to lox, onions, olives, etc. You name it, we’ve got it. We also had them bring us a ginormous fruit platter. Nothing like fresh fruit to balance the layered flavors of a well-topped bagel. Coffee bar is to your left, girls, and the cappuccino line starts just beyond. Cozy in, grab a cuppa, have a seat and let’s chat.