Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Interview with Avalon's Lia Brown

Lia Brown on the left, Sandra, Carolyn Brown (author of 44 Avalon books)

Today is a special treat for me as I have the pleasure of introducing my editor, Lia Brown, Editor for Avalon Books, New York. I met her in person at the RWA National Conference in Orlando. Lia was the hostess of a wonderful gathering of Avalon authors. This woman not only is a terrific editor but she knows how to put on a delightful party.

Lia Brown, editor at Avalon Books, started her career in publishing at Starlog magazine as a high school intern, fell in love with editing and the creative process, and hasn’t wanted to do anything else since. During the last twenty years she has worked on a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction topics and genres at several publishing houses including, Marvel Comics, HarperCollins, St. Martin’s Press, Oxford University Press, and Random House Children’s Books.

Her hubby shared the story of how they met.
So Lia, you might recognize it in a future submission.
So romantic-sigh

Ms. Brown is currently an editor at Avalon Books which is an imprint of Thomas Bouregy & Co., Inc. in New York. It was established in 1950 by Thomas Bouregy. The aim of the Avalon publishing program is to provide readers with quality books in a variety of fiction genres. Avalon publishes Romance, Historical Romance, Westerns, Mysteries, and Series.

She had special gifts for each of us authors.

Let me introduce you to Lia Brown. She has generously offered to answer our questions.
1. Could you tell us what kinds of books you are looking for at Avalon?
The best advice I can give on this is: First, it’s really important that authors read our writers guidelines on the website. The guidelines are very clear as to what we accept as far as genre, length, and content. While I certainly understand that everyone hopes that their work will be an exception, we have a very strict publishing plan and it just doesn’t vary; no matter how terrific the manuscript may be. I think people would be surprised at how often this occurs. From a purely an editorial perspective, I'm looking for books with terrific dialogue and characters. And I enjoy all of that even more when an author can inject a little humor into it all.
2. I notice on your website and writing guidelines that you have several genres. How many books do you publish a year from each genre?
We publish 60 books a year, 10 books every two months in what is called a "cycle." Each cycle consists of 4 contemporary romances; 2 historical romances; 2 mysteries; and 2 Westerns.
3. Do you prefer paper submissions or electronic?
For first time authors we ask for hard copy unless they are overseas as it would be cost prohibitive. For veteran authors, I usually leave it up to their preference, but I'm finding that I am asking for electronic submissions more often. Submission guidelines
4. The Seekers formed this group because we were always bumping heads in writing contests. Do you judge contests and if so do you find authors from those entries? Do you recommend aspiring authors enter contests?
Unfortunately, I have too many submissions to get through to judge contests very often, but I do on occasion. I found one author that way, though it didn't work out in the end. I don't know that I recommend entering contests, but I wouldn't say not to. In the end, I'm not sure how beneficial it is, though I don’t think it hurts, certainly. It’s always a good thing to get your work out there and have another set of eyes reading it and offering advice and critiques. I am not swayed one way or another when I read an author's cover letter and they list their contest wins. It's a subjective business.
5. What historical eras are you interested in for your historical genre? Are they historical romance or historical fiction or a combination of both?
It's purely historical romance, though the Westerns also take place in historical settings. I would love to start reading some more "modern" historicals. Stories that take place at the turn of the century or 1920s-1940s. I think that would be something interesting and different. I love England and the Regency stories we publish, but I’m a big history buff and I’d like to read stories in other times and places, too.
6. Your romances are specified as sweet romances. What exactly does this mean? What guidelines do you have for sexual tension in the romance?
There aren’t really guidelines for sexual tension. Making it work is up to the author to achieve, and it's certainly not easy. In fact, I’d say our authors work the hardest at making romance work since they are so limited in what they are able to show. Sweet means no pre-marital sex and no "on screen" sex if a couple is married; kisses, hugs, and that kind of thing is acceptable.
7. In my revisions, you asked me to take out the gory scene where she crashed and blood spilled on the road. What is taboo in your lines?
That was probably a borderline call, if we feel that a scene will be just as effective without certain excesses, we take it out. For our romances, there is no pre-marital sex, no cursing, no excessive drinking (a celebratory glass here and there), and very little blood. The Westerns and mysteries are a little less strict on the blood and cursing (though the cursing is still very mild).
8. Who is your main audience? What readership should we be targeting if we are writing for Avalon?
Our readers run the spectrum, especially for the romances. Anywhere from young women in their late teens on up. Our Westerns have a stronger male readership, and the mysteries, particularly when they are "cozy" ones, tend to be more female.
9. What is the average response time for a submission?
Right now we have a response time averaging 10-12 months, but it's actually trending a little longer. There were a lot of changes at Avalon last year and I have a lot of making up for that. I hope to get things back to normal by the end of the year and our usual response time is 6-8 months.

Stop by to chat. There will be two chances to win the Avalon release of the winners choice. That's right. There will be two winners today of a book from Avalon's wonderful selection. Winners will be announced in the Weekend Edition.

And If you are interested in pitching your completed manuscript to editor, Lia Brown, please send a pitch no longer than one sentence to the Seekerville email address starting on Tuesday. Deadline is Thursday at midnight EST. Five winning pitches will be chosen and sent to Ms. Brown. Put Avalon pitch in the subject line.Those winning pitches will also be posted in theWeekend edition. One pitch per person. Please do not put your pitch in blog comments this time. Ms. Brown has been very generous with her busy schedule.

Since Ms. Brown is from New York we have an assortment of bagels, flavored cream cheeses and plain cream cheese with lox.

Strong. coffee to go with that, assorted teas and hot chocolate with whipped cream.

Later in the day, one of the street vendors offered to stop by and sell warm pretzels with mustard for a pick-me-up snack. Yum.

And of course, for all you chocolate lovers there's a table with assorted chocolates to choose from.

Let's give a warm Seekerville welcome to Avalon editor, Lia Brown.

Avalon books will publish Sandra Leesmith's PRICE OF VICTORY late spring 2011.


Tina Pinson said...

Thanks Lia,

I guess I can be certain my serial killer thriller is out for submission to Avalon.


Appreciate the insight. Of course it is important to read the guidelines for each house. I think we forget that detail sometimes. I know I could better research who I'm hoping to submit to at times. and have been trying.

BTW... Oh great Seekerville Hostess who brought bagels you're the bestest... I love bagels...

Helen Gray said...

I came to bring the coffee, but Sandra has already taken care of it. So here's a pot of tea.

It's a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Brown. Thank you for the information you provided. I'm printing it for future reference.


Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Seekerville you have done it again! Great informaton! And to show my appreciation I have baked the biggest chocolate cake with extra chocolate icing for everyone. There are also vanilla cupcakes if anyone is so inclined. :)

Sherrinda said...

Interesting post, Camy! Looking around on their site, Avalon is a Rated G type publisher. It isn't inspirational, right? Do they publish any? Or do they just do clean, sweet romances?

Is it too early for gummy bears? I have a hankering for gummy bears today.

Tina Russo Radcliffe said...

Sandra how lovely of you (and brave) to bring your editor to Seekerville.

Welcome Ms. Brown!! Thanks for sharing with us.

Rose said...

Ms Brown,

Thanks for sharing Avalon's information with us today.


Looking forward to reading your release in 2011 from Avalon.

RRossZediker at yahoo dot com.

Digging for Pearls said...

Great interview. Wish my WIP was complete so I could try for the one sentence pitch. Sigh! Guess I need to get writing! :)

Jodie Wolfe

Sandra Leesmith said...

Morning Seekerville Early Birds, Or is it late night owls?

Good question Tina, Avalon does publish mysteries.

Could a serial killer be part of the story as long as we don't see the blood and gore?

Sherrinda, I know Avalon doesn't do Inspirational category now, but good question. Would they consider them in the future since they are so popular now?

Thanks for all the extra goodies everyone is sharing.

Keep writing Jodie. You're taking the right steps by researching and learning.

KC Frantzen said...

Hi Sandra, thanks for asking Lia.

Lia, good morning! We appreciate your time and willingness to answer our questions.

You've had a varied background. Why did you move to this genre from children's?

Which secular children's publishers or imprints might have similar guidelines (no premarital sex, very little blood/gore, drugs, etc.)?

There seems to be a chasm between picture books and MG/YA.

Perhaps I've not done enough research but I'm lamenting the substitution of salacity for story in much of secular children's publishing today.

*I recently attended my third regional S C B W I conference. There was quite a discussion amongst about a dozen of us on this topic. Some were unpubbed, some were pubbed illustrators and authors. Some were also parents whose children are searching for books without those "gutteral" elements.

Thanks so much. :)

GREAT breakfast today!

may at maythek9spy dot com

Sarah Richmond said...

I'm an Avalon author. My book, 'Dulcie Crowder Gets Her Man' will be out in 2011.

I have a question for Ms. Brown. Does Avalon have plans to go eletronic with their list?

Sarah Richmond

Julie Hilton Steele said...

Glad to hear about the interest in the 1920-1940s historicals. I have been really surprised and pleased that my twenty-something daughter is interested in this time span in her reading. And she loves WWII.

Good luck to all those pitching.


karenk said...

a wonderful article...i always learn so much from all of you...would love to read one of 'avalon's' books. thanks for the chance ;)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Jane Myers Perrine said...

I really enjoyed this! Thank you, Sandra. I learn so much from editors.

And I loved the cheesecake.

Jane Myers Perrine

Sandra Leesmith said...

Great questions KC and Sarah

I'm looking forward to the answers myself.

Thanks Julie for reminding everyone to send in a pitch. Its good practice. And a good skill to develop.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Hi, Lia! I wanted to stop by and say hi and to ask you to save a bagel with lox for me. LOL

Sandra Leesmith said...

Jennifer, Jane and Karen, Thanks for joining us.

Lia will be here soon to answer questions.

christicorbett said...

Thanks for taking the time from your busy schedule to give such an informative interview

I'm happy to see my historical fiction fits within the guidelines of Avalon (especially the no sex before marriage and no unnecessary violence).

I'm off to hone my pitch!

Christi Corbett

Debby Giusti said...

Sandra and Lia,
Thanks for all the great info about Avalon. I had no idea you publish 60 titles a year. That's fantastic!

Okay, everyone in Seekerville, sit up and take note! Avalon may be the home for your work in progress!

Fun pics, Sandra. I saw Sandy Elzie in the background of the party shot!

Congrats on your sale, Sandra. Congrats on Avalon's success, Lia!

Mary Connealy said...

Thanks for being on Seekerville, Lia.
Great information.

Pat Jeanne Davis said...

Enjoyed the interview, Lia. I've read several Avalon books from the library and enjoyed them. I'm happy to know that you'd love to read more "modern" historicals. Thank you, Sandra, and congratulations on your sale to Avalon.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Well its noon in New York. I'm guessing something came up with Lia. Hopefully a meeting at Avalon and not something personal.

Keep checking in because maybe she'll be able to drop by later.

Hi Christi, Mary, Debby and Pat, Thanks for joining us and for sharing.

Remember we will have drawings for your choice of an Avalon book.

Myra Johnson said...

Nice interview, Sandra & Lia! I've always wanted to learn more about Avalon, and I'm really looking forward to Sandra's first Avalon title!

Helen, I'll take a cup of that tea, thank you! So glad we had a chance to get better acquainted at ACFW!

Joselyn Vaughn said...

What a nice interview! Thanks Lia. I'm also interested to know if Avalon has any ebook or Kindle plans.

Have a great day!

Shirley Kiger Connolly said...

I'm sweet with a hint of edgy, and so are my scones which I thought I'd drop and leave off with all of you. It's great to read about the lives of editors out there in the big world. Thanks so much.
Although it doesn't appear Avalon would go for my edgy but sweet backslidden heroine whose lost her way, it sure is nice to see how well you fit in for so many of today's authors.
Thanks for the great post.
And it's a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Brown.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Myra, thanks for stopping by.

Great question Joselyn. There are many changes for publishers to consider these days.

Shirley, the scones are delicious. One of my favorite snacks.

If Lia doesn't make it in today, I'll line up all these questions and see if she can answer them in an email and we'll post them in the weekend edition.

Debby Giusti said...

How did you happen to submit to Avalon? Had you read their books and knew you had a story that might fit?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the information.

I'll second how glad I am to hear a publisher w/a no sex before marriage guidline.
...I may need to change one little "gory" scene though.


bcountryqueen6 at msn dot com

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I'm ridiculously late.

And needing coffee....

Really needing coffee. And chocolate.

But I'll settle for a nice pumpkin spice latte. With whipped cream.

Oh, so happy!

Lia, what a lovely treat to have you here in Seekerville! We baked this afternoon, just for you, it's a cookie extravaganza, all kinds, shapes, flavors, styles, but DO TRY the Italian cookie carousel to your left, it's a wonder of buttery richness if I do say so myself.

And huge thank yous for your words of wisdom. And for taking our Sandra off the island. You know I roomed with her, right?

The stories I could tell!!!

Hugs to both of you and I'm so glad you were grabbed by Sandra's work!

Smiling in upstate NY...


Sandy Elzie said...

Hi Lia,
It was great meeting you at Nationals. I'm finishing up one now, so who knows, you just might be hearing from me someday soon and maybe we can make it 3 books published by Avalon.

Thanks for taking time from your busy schedule.

Sandy Elzie

Cara Lynn James said...

Hi! Thanks for the great interview. I went to the Avalon party at RWA 2009 with my friend Fran McNabb who is one of their authors. I had a wonderful time!

It's so good to see publishers (besides Christian publishers) who are accepting G rated stories.

KC Frantzen said...

AMEN Cara Lynn James!!!

and YAYYYY Sandra - I didn't make a big party WHOOP WHOOP for you and your new book coming out!!! So, WHOOOOOOOP WWHHHHHOOOOOPPPPPP and YEE hah! *ahem *

Hope all is ok with Lia. :) Maybe she's busy calling others who have submitted, letting them know there's a contract in the works! FUN!

Missy Tippens said...

Lia, thanks so much for allowing Sandra to interview you and to share it with us. I'm really looking forward to Sandra's book!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Ruthy, Wow that cookie carousel looks yummy. Just what we need for an afternoon pick-me-up. smile I brought a tub of ice cold Arizona teas, diet sodas of all kinds, and lemonade?

Help yourselves.

And yes, Ruthy and I did room together for a long while on unpubbed island. We know tooooooo much about each other. smiling again.

But she is the best cook. Guaranteed.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Connie, yep--no gore. But great books.

Avalon Books are wonderful.

The nice thing about them is because they do go to libraries, they are out there for a long time. They are more expensive to buy, but they last.

Sandy, Best wishes on that proposal you are planning to send.

KC, We both know how much we need G-rated books. The fun thing about Avalon is you can find G-rated in other genres. They publish westerns, mysteries, adventure and historicals.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Waving to Missy and Cara,

Stay tuned folks. Lia may yet visit with us.

If not, I will forward our questions and post the answers in the weekend edition.

So if you have any burning questions, ask away.

PatriciaW said...

Thanks Lia. It's nice when editors are very specific about what they want.

KC Frantzen said...

How about an imaginative young Schnauzer who escapes abuse and becomes a K9 spy? ;D

It's children's and I'm thinking that's not Avalon's deal. Heaven knows we need some G-rated children's stuff.

Now that I'm on this quest to see how bad things REALLY are, I took a look at the book (can you tell I'm in an alliterative mood today?) section in one of our local national grocery stores - OMGosh. If you've not seen lately... Stand by.

The children I know would be quite uncomfortable reading most of this stuff. (Heck I'M uncomfortable with it.)

May our Schnauzer is way way more modest than characters in these books. Sheesh.

Sorry I'm on a tear about this. You cannot imagine some of the filth that passed for MG/YA at this conference.

So any parents - READ what your kids are reading before they do if at all possible. At least then you can talk about it.

End of diatribe, pass the chocolate.

Ann Lee Miller said...

Thanks so much, Lia, for taking time to chat with us. I loved hearing an editor's perspective.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Waving at Ann

So thrilled with the news from CWOW.

Sandra Leesmith said...

We have some great one line pitches in the Seekerville email.

Don't be shy. These pitches are only read by me and I will select five to send to the editor. Those five will be the only ones seen on the Weekend Edition unless you ask me not to publish it.

To submit a online pitch go to our email

Tina Russo Radcliffe said...

This is an amazing opportunity. Thanks again to Sandra and Lia. Can't wait to find out who the winning pitches are.

Dianna Shuford said...

Excellent info, Lia. Thanks for taking the time to share Avalon here on Seekerville. More advice I needed to hear and another possibility for both Avalon and authors looking for a possible home for their stories.

And, congrats to Sandra one more time. I know you're excited!

BK said...

A question: What do you consider "western"? I ask because I've had a couple people in the biz tell me to identify my book under historical, not western, since it's not about cowboys/ranches/cattle but about the frontier army and Indians.

I don't think there's another genre out there with such a muddle of definitions.

Julie Lessman said...

Soooo sorry I'm late, Sandra!! But, Lia, welcome to Seekerville -- what a pleasure to have you here, and doling out such great info, no less!!

Avalon was one of the very first publishers I pitched to WAY back when, but regrettably, my self-addressed stamped envelope came back to me! I particularly wanted to query Avalon because I knew they tended toward sweet romance rather than the heavy-duty stuff, which was right up my alley. I've always admired Avalon for sticking to their guns and keeping the emphasis on sweet romance.

Thanks, Sandra, for inviting Lia to share her invaluable experience with us, and thanks, Lia, for being gracious enough to come!!


Renee (SteelerGirl83) said...

I don't like bagels but I will take that chocolate! :-P

XOXO~ Renee

Sandra Leesmith said...

Renee, Dianna and BK, Thanks for stopping by. We did get some great info.

I'll try and get question answers later on. Watch Weekend Edition for them.

Waving to Tina and Julie.

I have friends who publish with Avalon and I've always admired their books. They are so nice.

Thanks again to Lia for the interview and photos.

Thanks to all of you for making this blog so much fun.

HollyJacobs said...

Hi, Lia! Loved the interview!


BK said...

Thanks, Sandra. And thanks, Lia. It was a very informative interview!

Pam Hillman said...

Great interview, Lia and Sandra!

I have always loved Avalon. I remember finding them in my local library as a teen and devouring them.

Great books, great concept, and a great way to become a keeper!

Just think, San, The Price of Victory will be on library shelves in the Spring!!!!

That makes me smile!

Jennifer Faye said...

Great interview!!! Loved the insight and the fact that some publishers still go for the sweet romances.

And thank you for offering the pitch contest. What a great opportunity.

Project Journal said...

Hi Lia!
I'm so sorry that I'm so late coming : / College life means we have to stop by when we stop by!! LOL! But I'm still sorry : /

This was a very cool post. Even though I'm not a writer, I still like hearing about this process!!

Okay I'll come back later prolly but I'm going to go grab some dinner finally : )

jeff7salter said...

I'm preparing my one-sentence pitch (to be submitted via e-mail this evening) but have a question:
are we allowed to include the TITLE of our manuscript in the same message with the one-sentence pitch?

Sandra Leesmith said...

Jeff. I think it would be a great idea to have the title in the pitch or included somewhere.

jeff7salter said...

Thanks, Sandra.
I sent my entry (before midnight)to the seekers@seekerville.net e-mail address as instructed.
I appreciate the opportunity to be considered for the final five.

Lia Brown said...

Hi everyone,
I am SO sorry not to have been around last week to answer all of your questions as they came in. I was home sick all week and was unable to access my work e-mail that would have allowed me to at least check in.

Thank you all for your wonderful welcome and I will be getting to questions this week as soon as possible. As well as the one line pitches, which I'm looking forward to, I've never done something like that before and I bet it will be pretty interesting.


Lia Brown said...

Hi again everyone, Sandra was kind enough to put all your questions in one place for me.

Sherrinda asked, "Do you publish any inspirational genre?

No, we do not publish any inspirational fiction, and I’m afraid we do not have any plans to do so.

KC Frantzen asked, "Why did you move to this genre from children's? Do you know of any secular children's publishers who have similar guidelines as you? (no premarital sex, very little blood/gore, drugs, etc.)

I left children’s because my husband’s job moved us out of NY. When we returned, my old position was no longer available and I was interviewing at places that seemed interesting that were open. The YA novels that I worked on did not have strict family-friendly guidelines, and I was often surprised at what was allowed for such a young age group. I don’t know offhand any YA imprint that has anything like Avalon’s, either.

Sarah Richmond asked, "Does Avalon have plans to go electronic with their list?"

We are actively working on getting our e-books out there. We hope to have them soon!

Joselyn Vaughn asked, " Does Avalon have e-book or Kindle plans?"

Yes, see above, details and formats are still in process, but Avalon e-books will be happening.

BK asked, "A question: What do you consider "western?" I ask because I've had a couple people in t biz tell me to identify my book under historical, not western, since it is not about cowboys/ranches/cattle, but about the frontier army and Indians."

It is a pretty fine line navigating the difference between a Western and a historical romance that has a plot and setting that might traditionally be considered a Western. Generally, a Western does not have to have any romantic elements, and there is a definite good vs. bad plot line that must occur. There also may be more action and some violence that you wouldn’t necessarily include in a historical romance. That would be true for a historical as well. The pacing of a traditional Western is a little faster and the story isn’t generally still in that there is often travel across parts of the country and some exploration of the great outdoors.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Thanks Lia, We are so glad you are feeling better.

Thanks for answering the quetions.

Best wishes to the one pitch winners.