ABOUT ERIN: After graduating with honors and a B.A. in English, Erin George, now a Senior Associate Editor, found a home at Henery Press. Her interest in publishing stemmed from a lifelong dream of reading fabulous books all day, every day, and editing was a perfect fit. She currently lives in Dallas, TX with her spoiled-rotten Maltese named Wesley. Erin is looking for all types of mysteries (with a particular love for cozies) and chick lit. She’s also a sucker for a sassy protagonist, quick wit, plot twists, and a happy ending.
ABOUT HENERY PRESS: We publish mostly mysteries with a splash of chick lit. We’re fortunate to have several books hit the USA TODAY bestseller list, and multiple books win industry awards and garner nominations. For more about Henery Press, our authors, subs, and wholesale orders, visit www.henerypress.com.
Thank you, Erin, for joining us here at WomenWritersWomen[‘s]Books and taking the time to answer our readers’ questions. We’re very grateful and thrilled to have you.
ON SUBMISSIONS –
What genres does Henery publish?
We publish all types of mystery/suspense (from cozy and PI to crime capers and light paranormal) and chick lit.
What are your personal interests? What are you looking for now?
I’d love to see a roaring twenties madcap mystery. I’m also always looking for light paranormal (think Practical Magic or Sarah Addison Allen’s The Sugar Queen). And more than anything I’m dying to read something centered around sorority life (with or without a dead body).
Henery accepts both agented and unagented submissions (from our readers, THANK YOU!). The format of the submission cover letter is on your website. Is that letter commensurate to a query letter? Meaning, are the manuscripts always looked at or are some submissions rejected at the letter level?
We read the vast majority of submissions we receive. The only time we pass on something at the letter level is if it’s completely out of our genre or word count requirements. As much as we’d love to read every single manuscript submitted, there’s just not enough time.
However, we never judge a book by its cover letter. If it fits, we read the manuscript.
What do your eyes skip to personally in the letter? What elements make you want to read more? What elements put you off?
I like a concise query letter. I look at the basic details (title, word count, genre) first, then I’ll read the first line or two of the blurb. If I love the voice in the blurb, I’m automatically excited to read the manuscript. Conversely, if the letter lacks personality, I worry that will carry over into the story. I also look at any notable author details (writers’ groups, social media presence, connection to our current authors).
Is Henery equally interested in manuscripts that have previously been self (or small independent)-published and that that have never been published? What would you like to see from manuscripts that have been previously self- or small-published in terms of sales or something else?
We’re absolutely interested in previously published titles, including mid-series pickups and backlists. We’re also open to rebranding an old series to give it a new spin. We’ll look at everything from current sales to reviews to online presence (followers, engagement, how much activity) to connections within the writer community.
Should a writer mention that they read this interview?
Absolutely! We love to know where writers find us.
ON CLIENTS & MANUSCRIPTS –
What are some common problems you see in the work of beginning writers?
Common problems (i.e. submission red flags) include too much internal thought, backstory, and description. Overused exclamation points (only when someone is actually screaming, please). Too many overall characters. Not trusting the reader (explaining dialogue, spelling things out where the reader could infer on their own). Just a few of the big ones.
What makes a debut novel break out?
Only having one book out is really tough, which is why it’s so important to build your brand, your audience, and your series as you work on the next book. The biggest boost to help a book break out: word of mouth. Recommendations, contests, book clubs, reviews, blogs.
What makes a mid-career novel break out?
Again, various aspects play into the success of a novel. Now that you have three, four, seven novels out, you have a larger platform. You’ve hopefully been building up your audience and brand such that you have a base of followers who love your series, keeping in mind some series readers won’t even start something new until a few books are available. Take the momentum you have and run with it – be active on Facebook and Twitter, engage with your followers, do in-person events, connect with libraries, book clubs, festivals, conferences, anything you can do to get in front of people and make personal connections. Be sure to keep a well-rounded promotion plan, and not just during the month before and after your next book release.
Say you are in love with a manuscript. How would you prioritize the relative importance of each of these attributes for their career:
- Social media platform – website/Twitter/Facebook
- Professional/personal platform – ie, Lisa Genova with Alzheimer’s or a cancer survivor with a character who has cancer, etc.
- Detailed outline for Book 2 (or ideas for future stories)
- Small publishing credits in magazines and journals
I would prioritize them as such:
- Detailed outline for the series. (Submitting is a waiting game, and one of our first questions is, “Where are you on Book 2?”)
- Social media platform. (Be active! Start making connections even before a book is out, both online and in person.)
- Professional/personal platform, promotional plan. (We like to know you have enthusiasm, ideas, and a drive to make your series successful.)
- Other small publishing credits.
That being said, each of these would play a role in our decision.
How do you feel about profanity in your clients’ manuscripts?
We’re okay with some profanity, but we prefer it be at a minimum.
Maria Semple’s Are You There Bernadette? is an epistolary novel which was a rare/original format and made it a hard sell for a lot of people in the publishing industry. Yet when the right person believed in it, it became an international bestseller. All editors want books that will break out. How do you decide if a daring or alternative structure or subject (The Lovely Bones, for example) is one you will take on and fight for or is too outside of the current market to take a chance?
We focus less on the current market and more on what’s right for our catalog. For us, everything comes down to the voice. If we love a book enough, we’re always willing to fight for it.
How many drafts do you usually do with your clients?
We offer full-service editorial, and we’re not afraid to be hands on and really work with an author. Your average manuscript will have four rounds of editorial, including a developmental (big picture items), a line edit (the nitty-gritty redline), and at least two proofreads.
What happens when an author and publisher enter into a multi-book deal and sales aren’t what everyone hoped for the first book?
We understand that a debut book can be successful, but generally won’t perform to the potential of the series as a whole. We’ll work with the author on growing their brand and audience so that, when books two and three come out, they can push for bigger sales.
What advice do you give an author to prepare them for their launch?
A couple tips: Plan an in-person event, but not earlier than the weekend before your release. Once you have preorder links, use them everywhere you can (FB/TW posts, blog posts, your website, email signature line). Work those promotions, but leave time to celebrate – this is a huge accomplishment!
ON THE INDUSTRY –
Authors aren’t supposed to write to trends because whatever readers are buying now will be done by the time our books hit the shelves. However, is writing to trends different from writing to market? For example, we hear all the time – epics aren’t selling, such-and-such is dead, etc.
Write what you’re passionate about, not what you think might sell. Like I mentioned before, we look for books we love, not trending genres. If you love what you write about, chances are that will come across in your writing.
One of this interviewer’s favorite things about Henery Press is the camaraderie between its authors. They call themselves Hens in the Hen House and help each other in innumerable ways. What do you think are the most effective ways authors can promote their work and expand their readership?
First, an author should go in expecting to be responsible for a lot of promotion. Writing is a very creative endeavor, but the moment you decide you want to publish a book, you put your business hat on. In terms of promotion, we’ve found live, in-person events are as important as online efforts. Working with libraries, book clubs, festivals, conferences, ladies’ lunches, anything you can do to get in front of readers. You can’t pick social media marketing alone and expect to make the same connections and sales, but you also can’t ignore social media altogether. You should try everything and figure out what works best for you, but always stay well-rounded. And be sure to support your fellow authors. Share the love, and when it’s time for your book release they’re more likely to pay it forward.
What do you think is happening in the industry right now in terms of e-reading versus paper books?
In the industry, digital is only growing and evolving. Print won’t ever go away completely, but even libraries and schools are adapting. From phones to tablets and everything in between, there’s only becoming more ways to read digital.
Hardcover versus trade paperback?
Just as digital is less expensive than paperback, the same applies here. Think about your own personal buying habits or those of your friends – how often do you buy a book in hardcover? What about paperback? Digital?
The Big Five versus other avenues to publication – self, small, independent?
Every author needs to find the path that fits them. We’re lucky enough to be in a day and age where there are many wonderful choices for traditional publishing, from Big Five to small presses, but those aren’t the only options. Self-publishing is a very legitimate avenue for some authors, so is going with a small press, a midsize press, and so on. The industry has branched out, and that’s only benefited authors. It’s all about finding the right fit.
Tea or Coffee?
Tea, particularly iced. I actually hate the taste of coffee. Though we do have a Kahlua flavor in the office right now, and I would happily smell that all day long.
Beach or Pool?
I can’t have both? Then I’d have to say the beach. Few things make me happier than beach-bumming, though I’d probably counter your offer with a compromising cruise vacation.
Cosmetics or Clothing?
Clothing. My cosmetics are essentially grocery-store quality, but I will splurge on my wardrobe any day.
On the Field or In the Stands?
In the stands, no question. I’m not coordinated or athletically inclined, but I could spend the entire summer at the ballpark watching the Rangers.
Ice Cream or Cake?
Now that’s just cruel. Sweets are my kryptonite. If I had to choose just one for the rest of my life, I think I’d go with ice cream. I love frozen custard way too much to give it up.
We can’t thank you enough, Erin, for your insights and advice. People like you are bright lights in this industry. Welcome to the WWWB family!
SUBMISSION GUIDELINES are delineated here.
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Interviewed by –
MM Finck is a writer, essayist, and book reviewer. Her women’s fiction is represented by Katie Shea Boutillier of the Donald Maass Literary Agency. She is a regular contributor WWWB as well as overseeing the Author and Literary Agent Interview segments. She is a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and the 2016 contest chair for WFWA’s Rising Star writing contest for unpublished authors. Her work has appeared in national and regional publications.
When she isn’t editing her novel-in-progress, #LOVEIN140, she can be found cheering herself hoarse over a soccer match (USWNT! – Three-time world champions!!!), belting out Broadway tunes (badly and with the wrong words), learning to play piano (truly pitifully), and trying to squeeze more than twenty-four hours out of every day. She is active on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. Say hi. http://www.mmfinck.com