Editor Advice: Romance Expert Leah Hultenschmidt of Dorchester Publishing (Part II)

Publish date:

This is Part Two of

a two-part interview
with Leah. See
Part I here

Leah Hultenschmidt
is an editor of Romance and Westerns at Dorchester Publishing, where she has worked for nine years. After several years in heading Public Relations and Promotions, she’s now back to doing what she loves most—editing books. Some of her most recent projects include the USA Today best-selling Immortals series and Angie Fox’s New York Times best-seller The Accidental Demon Slayer. Leah has been named among the Who’s Who of Professional Management, and in 2006 was a finalist for PASIC’s Editor of the Year Award.
Leah also founded and edits the (awesome) Romantic Reads blog.

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Leah Hultenschmidt

GLA: What are a few recent books you’ve (Dorchester) published?

LH: My romance titles this summer: Siren’s Secret by Trish Albright, The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley, The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers by Angie Fox, Where the Wind Blows by Caroline Fyffe (debut), McAlistair’s Fortune by Alissa Johnson, Enchanting the Beast by Kathryne Kennedy, I Shot You Babe by Leslie Langtry, Stolen Heat by Elisabeth Naughton, and Ice by Stephanie Rowe. They really run the gamut from all kinds of historicals to fantasy to dark romantic suspense to light paranormal comedy.
Other romance authors we publish include Nina Bangs, Christie Craig, Leigh Greenwood, Gemma Halliday, Jade Lee, Marjorie Liu, Connie Mason, Gerri Russell, Bobbi Smith, C.L. Wilson, and loads of others.
In horror, we’re incredibly excited to present a brand new novel called The Creatures of the Pool from the living legend (literally—he won the award) Ramsey Campbell.
I also work on Westerns, and I’m particularly proud of the Classic Film Collection we put out this spring, which are novels based on famous Western movies. The lineup includes The Searchers by Alan LeMay, The Man From Laramie by T.T. Flynn and Destry Rides Again by Max Brand. In many cases, the books hadn’t been available for decades.

GLA: What percentage of submissions do you get that are agented vs. unagented? Do you or an assistant read all unagented submissions?

LH: I personally read anything that’s specifically addressed to me. I’d say my submissions are probably just about evenly split between agented and unagented. Maybe a few more on the agented side.

GLA: Romance books, to some degree or another, follow a formula. But yet hundreds of romances are still getting published every year? In your opinion, how are writers still producing good work with a formula that readers know inside and out?

LH: I think writers are bending the rules and blending genres all the time to keep readers hooked. And really, that “formula” only consists of a happy ending.

GLA: How did your blog, Romantic Reads, get started?

LH: I started the blog shortly after last year’s RWA as a way to get information about upcoming releases to booksellers and librarians, and to give the writing community an editor’s perspective on the industry. There are a lot of agent blogs out there, and while much of the basic writing and submitting stuff is the same, I do think I have a different point of view on a number of other topics.
The Coming Soon page lists titles by month from now through Feb. 2010 and I’ll soon be posting March. It indicates which books are debuts, whether they’re part of a series, and gives a link to an excerpt when available. At the end of each month’s listing, you can click to get to see the full back-cover description, ISBN, subgenre listing, and cover image.
And the Inside Publishing category covers things like how we schedule books, what reps do on a sales call, production and marketing timelines, and what goes through an editor’s head (or at least mine) when reading submissions.

GLA: Let’s briefly transition to Westerns! You also recently went to Western Writers of America conference in Oklahoma. What did you learn there that writers should know?

LH: Westerns are small but steadily profitable market for us. A lot of publishers have cut back their lines, but we still do four a month, mixing classic authors such as Louis L’Amour, Zane Grey, Max Brand and Luke Short with contemporary writers such as Johnny D. Boggs, Mike Kearby, Robert Conley, Andrew J. Fenady, John Nesbitt, Robert Randisi, Cotton Smith, David Thompson and more.
Historical accuracy has to be dead on. The readers will know if you’re not using the right type of gun or if the saddle equipment is off or if your river is running the wrong way. Western writers also need to be just as proactive as the other genres when it comes to marketing and online presence.

GLA: What attracts you to your specialties of romance and Western? Why these categories?

LH: I acquire in romance and Westerns, but I enjoy a broad range of other genres as well—thrillers, fantasy, mystery, historical fiction and pretty much anything with a great pace and writing that really sucks me into the story. I think that’s why I especially like the books that mix things up, like Western mysteries or fantasy historical romance.

GLA: Will you be at any upcoming writers’ conferences where writers can meet/pitch you?

LH: After having been to Boston, Oklahoma City, Orlando and BEA, I’m pretty much done with conferences for this year.
We’ve recently developed a Writer’s Corner on our website so folks who can’t make to conference can still get the same advice we often cover in any presentations or panel. And Dorchester is now accepting submissions via e-mail, so writers can always send something to my attention there.
Authors might also want to consider entering one of the two contests we’re currently running. Romance writers should check out our America’s Next Best ‘Celler’ Contest, which we’ve created in partnership with TextNovel, a company that distributes original fiction via email and cell phone subscription service. And horror writers can take a look at the Fresh Blood contest, co-sponsored by Rue Morgue magazine and Chiaroscuro. One contestant in each is guaranteed a publishing contract.

GLA: Best piece(s) of advice that we haven’t covered?

LH: Oh, I save that for the blog.

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