Seekerville is delighted to have Harlequin Love Inspired, Editorial Assistant, Rachel Burkot with us today. I sent Rachel some of my burning questions (there were a few myths I admit to being anxious to debunk) which she was kind enough to answer. Rachel will be popping in today to answer your questions as well. ~~ Tina Radcliffe
Rachel, tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a Pittsburgh gal who followed the beckoning of the books to New York City almost two years ago to forge my way in publishing. No one who knows me is the least bit surprised I ended up working with books—I remember taking a book out to recess every day in grade school, walking the perimeter of the playground, totally absorbed in the world of whatever I was reading and completely oblivious to my classmates running around. The hopeless romantic in me has found the perfect home at Harlequin. (Nicholas Sparks has yet to write a book that doesn’t have tears running down my face by the last page.)
Besides my obvious book obsession, I’m also a diehard football fan (and will always be loyal to my Pittsburgh Steelers, no matter how long I live in New York!), shopaholic with a shoe problem (particularly proud of my ability to walk around New York in crazy-high heels), eternal optimist (because life’s just way more fun that way), country music lover (definitely went through withdrawal upon moving to New York and realizing that country music is the one thing you cannot get in this city) and family girl (so blessed to have the extremely close relationship that I do with my parents and two younger sisters, despite the 400 miles between us). That’s me in a nutshell.
How do you like living in New York City? Was there a bit of culture shock at first?
Culture shock you could certainly call it! The biggest transition was adjusting from suburban city to city life. Things like relying on public transportation daily and expecting to wait a minimum of thirty minutes in line at the grocery store make for a very different lifestyle from what I knew growing up in north-of-Pittsburgh suburbia—not to mention the tiny Amish town where I went to college, which featured two stoplights, a coffee shop that closed at 8 p.m. and a Pizza Joe’s, the hot spot of Main Street.
Day-to-day adjustments were hard, but the most difficult part was leaving all my family and friends behind at barely age 22 to make my way alone in such a huge, terrifying place. Early on, I definitely had a few panic attacks, along with crippling bouts of loneliness and homesickness, but coming to work at Harlequin every day is what held my sanity in place. My job quickly became a life preserver as I struggled to find my identity as a newbie New Yorker, as well as a constant reinforcement that I had made the right decision—that the initial struggles were so worth it. And the longer I’m here, the more I’m realizing that the opportunities this city provides are truly endless, incredible and absolutely worth taking advantage of!
What is a typical day/week for an editorial assistant like?
The awesome thing about my job is that every day is different. The variety of fun tasks I get to tackle is perfect for my high-energy personality. In one day, I might get to help an author with their art fact sheet, fiddle with back cover copy for a book, leaf through a manuscript for that perfect, attention-grabbing front sales passage, and work on a line edit. Plus there are copyedited manuscripts to go through, author changes to input, dedications to collect, covers and front matter to look over, revised proposals/manuscripts to check out, art briefings to attend, emails to answer or field appropriately, revision letters to write, contracts to input...and then reading to get to, when all of that is taken care of! I usually get a lot of reading done on Wednesdays because it’s quiet in the office. I also find that I can often devote a big chunk of Fridays, as long as I’ve accomplished the big tasks for the week, to the slush pile.
Is there a busy season for the editorial department?
Because LI/LIH/LIS combined produce 14 books per month, without fail, the monthly workload stays more or less the same. There are times that are busier than others, right before due dates that hit us every month fairly consistently, but this “normalcy” in the schedule helps with prioritizing tasks and making sure nothing falls through the cracks!
Is it true editors clear their desks every December 31st?
How big is your slush pile over at the Harlequin, NYC offices?
Nothing short of scary. I currently have about 10 complete manuscripts to evaluate, another 10 partials and 20 or so queries and synopses. Yikes!
What lines do you work with/acquire for?
I’m technically the EA (editorial assistant) for just the Love Inspired line, but I do some work with LIH and LIS too. Actually, 3 of my authors write for LIH. I also work a bit on the single title side, with MIRA author Sherryl Woods and HQN author Linda Lael Miller. Additionally, one of the many, many awesome things about working at Harlequin is that I can acquire not just for the Love Inspired lines, but for any of Harlequin’s imprints!
What would your advice be to aspiring Love Inspired authors?
Concentrate on telling a strong story well. Start with a bang. Grab readers’ (but first, editors) attention right away, from the first line. Be sure the plot has a unique, interesting hook. Create relatable, sympathetic characters, especially heroines whom romance readers can identify with. Give them sufficient goals, motivations and conflicts, both internal and external. A particular pet peeve of mine is contrived or convenient plot devices—for example, having an accident scene that has no greater impact on the plot than making the characters finally realize their love for each other. If it takes a life-threatening incident for them to admit their feelings (when they’re not thinking straight anyway), how are they going to maintain their relationship through the less dramatic, day-to-day ups and downs of life? These contrived scenes feel cheap and like cop-outs. Be creative. Be original. Stay true to the characters you have created.
Is true that you can really tell by the first paragraph, first page that you have a story you want to see more of?
No. There’s just no hard-and-fast rule for how long it takes to tell if a story has potential. But it always takes more than a paragraph to sell me.
Is it true editors do most of their manuscript reading at home or on the subway?
Yes. As an assistant, I have more time at the office for reading than senior editors who have all the various day-to-day tasks involved in running a line, but I often read at home or on the subway too. Nothing passes a long train ride faster than getting absorbed in a great manuscript! And quite frankly, even if my reading load were manageable enough to get it all done in the office, I’d still be bringing manuscripts home. Because I’m still counting my blessings that I’ve found a job where the line between work and fun is often blurred—in fact, usually invisible.
What sort of settings and plots are overused?
Recently we’ve seen a lot of “renovating a house together” stories, as well as horse therapy ranches. We’d love to see some creative hero/heroine occupations (except for show business). And we’re always looking for more Amish stories!
Is there anything particular? Any buzz word or theme that Love Inspired is looking for in submissions?
We’re always looking for compelling, can’t-put-it-down stories, no matter what the theme is. Unpredictability and fresh elements. Unique hooks and twists. (Great example: The Aristocrat’s Lady by new LIH author Mary Moore, debuting in September! I don’t want to give anything away, but the heroine has a secret that will keep readers turning pages—and keep the hero intrigued by her!) Relatable characters. Strong heroines. (Check out Hearts in Flight, a July LIH by another new author, Patty Smith Hall, featuring a heroine who flies planes for the Women’s Army Special Pilots—no one can deter this headstrong lady from her mission!) High-stakes conflict for those suspense stories. (Stephanie Newton has a perfect example of this with her LIS out this month, The Baby’s Bodyguard, which starts out with the hero saving an abandoned baby on a boat—and the stakes only get higher from there!)
Also, there are books on the craft that make great resources for honing in on strong conflict, character development and plot building. Two that I feel are especially valuable for writers, brand new and seasoned alike, are Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us by Jessica Page Morrell (a detailed analysis of why your writing may have received rejections from publishers, with tips for strengthening everything from dialogue to well-rounded scenes and characters) and Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon (a thin volume that’s jam-packed with clear guidance for how to give your characters believable goals, motivation and conflict for everything they do).
Can you tell us a little about the Love Inspired (15 years!) anniversary that is coming up in 2012?
Yes! We’re very excited to be celebrating fifteen years of Love Inspired books and the tremendous growth that the line has seen—from 3 books a month back in 1997 to 14 today, from only contemporary to quite the range of historical settings from all eras and exciting, action-packed suspense plots. In 2012 we’ll be celebrating with books by bestselling authors who have been writing for us since the beginning, as well as brand-new authors who we’re very excited to have on board! There will also be top author reissues and special miniseries in all three lines. In particular, September 2012 will be a big month for LI. We’ll have lots of top authors, and a few surprises ;-) Stay tuned. And get excited—we certainly are!
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions, Rachel!
We're celebrating Rachel's visit today with Love Inspired giveaways by Seeker authors to random blog visitors. Do let us know if there is a book you especially want.
Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.
Glynna Kaye-Love Inspired-At Home In His Heart, Print
Ruth Logan Herne-Love Inspired- 2 three-book sets of Reunited Hearts, Small-Town Hearts and Mended Hearts,Kindle, Nook or Print.
Cheryl Wyatt-Love Inspired-Steadfast Soldier, Print
Tina Radcliffe-Love Inspired- 2 sets The Rancher's Reunion, and/or IOU for Oklahoma Reunion, Kindle or Print
Audra Harders-Love Inspired-Rocky Mountain Hero- Kindle or Print
Debby Giusti-Love Inspired Suspense- (2 prizes-one each)The Officer's Secret & Killer Headline, Kindle or Print
Janet Dean-Love Inspired Historical-Wanted: A Family, Kindle or Print
Missy Tippens-Love Inspired-A Family For Faith, Kindle or Print
Camy Tang-Love Inspired Suspense-Winner's choice of Deadly Intent or Formula for Danger, Kindle
TWELVE BIG WINNERS!!
That's not quite all. Today Seekerville is holding a 24 hour Love Inspired Read Me! Contest for Unpublished Authors.
Contest opens at 12 Midnight on Wednesday, August 3, 2011 (RIGHT NOW!) and ends at 12 Midnight on Thursday, August 4, 2011, Eastern Standard Time.
Submit your first and last page of an unpublished, completed manuscript targeted at Love Inspired, Love Inspired Suspense or Love Inspired Historical.
Five finalists will be announced on Sunday, August 28th, 2011 in the Weekend Edition. Those finalists will then be judged by today's guest, Editorial Assistant Rachel Burkot.
The winner will be announced on Sunday, October 2 at the launch of our Seekerville Fourth Birthday Party Celebration Weekend Edition. The winner will have an opportunity to avoid the slush pile and submit their first three chapters and synopsis of the completed winning manuscript to Rachel Burkot. The four remaining finalists will have an opportunity to submit their first three chapters and synopsis to Seekerville for an anonymous critique.
We request you do not pitch Rachel today in Seekerville nor ask contest questions on the blog. We do however ask that if you enter the contest you do leave a hi for our esteemed guest. No drive-by contesting.
Detailed rules for this contest are available on a special Read Me Contest tab at the top of this post.
Happy Wednesday, and again, thank you to Rachel Burkot for visiting, answering our questions and generously volunteering to judge our contest.