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Interview with an Editor Series: Jennifer Enderlin, St. Martin’s Press

Jennifer Enderlin is one of the most recognizable editors in publishing today. St. Martin’s Press is not synonymous with romance but it does publish authors who are synonymous with romance. One of the staunchest and most erudte defenders of romance, Jennifer Crusie, has been with Enderlin and SMP since 1995. In 2000, Enderlin, then an associate publisher, signed the first Dark-Hunter book, Fantasy Lover, by Sherrilyn Kenyon. Late in 2005, Jennifer Enderlin shocked the romance reading community by luring long time Avon author, Lisa Kleypas, to join the SMP house.

Can you briefly describe what an editor does. I think that readers assume that you get to do what we all dream of doing and that is get paid to read for a living. I suspect that the truth is less romantic.

In addition to reading submissions in order to find books to publish, we also shepherd the manuscript through the publication process, deal with production, copyeditors, the art department, sales department, marketing and publicity. We attend lots of meetings. This is all in addition to actual editing, in which we help the author make the book better by suggestion things, big and small. Reading and editing is done on our own time, at nights and on weekends. It's generally not done in the office.

How many romance books do you release each month? (ie. is there a set amount released in month and under what imprints?)

We publish anywhere from 1-3 per month. We don't have a set number.

Are there any trends you see growing, expanding or contracting? What do you think is driving these trends?

I don't really believe in trends. I think people are looking for what they've looked for since the written word came into being: good stories about interesting characters, told in a way that feels unique and compelling.

What is the most interesting story of how you came to buy a manuscript?

I'm not sure I have an interesting story–"it usually just begins when I take home a submission, start reading it, and get that “I have to have it” feeling. That feeling usually comes when the manuscript is so compelling that it takes priority over other things in my life: kids, food, sleep– .

How much time do you spend actually reading as part of your job?

A huge amount of time. Mostly done at night and on the weekends. I would say 20 hours per week, on top of a full-time job.

Do you get to read for pleasure? If so, do you have favorite authors?

I try to read for pleasure as much as I can. My favorite authors are ones I publish, but aside from them, I love Elizabeth Berg, Anita Shreve, Nora Roberts, James Patterson, and Sandra Brown. Of favorite books I've read: GONE WITH THE WIND, REBECCA, EYE OF THE NEEDLE, THE LORDS OF DISCIPLINE and THE SECRET HISTORY by Donna Tartt.

What are you looking for in terms of a romance these days? Any particular themes? periods? subgenres?

I want drama, conflict, intrigue, smart funny heroines; sexy dangerous heroes and really good villains.

Do you think readers today are more accepting of rule breaking romances (pushing the envelope) or are we still very traditional in our buying habits?

I don't think readers think in terms of “rules.” I think they want to be entertained.

We’ve heard some about the loss of young readership or the inability to gain that young readership. Is that changing? What are you doing to try to attract the younger readers?

We are heavily into Young Adult publishing. I think as long as parents read, kids will follow suit. If they see that reading is something that means a lot to their parents, they will want to get on board. Parents should lead by example.

We’ve heard some about the loss of older readers because of lack of content which is reflective of their lives, specifically baby boomers? Is that still the case?

What are you doing to attract older readers? We're not doing anything to attract older readers. I don't see this as a problem.

Do you have a favorite way of spending time away from books?

Since I have two young children under the age of two, I don't have much time!

What is the worst part of an editor’s job?

Slogging through a difficult manuscript, revision after revision.

What is the best part of an editor’s job?

Seeing a book you love actually become a bestseller.

Have you considered writing a book yourself?

Yes, a memoir about being a first-time parent to a son with special needs. But I don't have time now and I think it would be even better years from now when I have even more perspective.

It seems there are two very diametrically opposed growths: erotic romance and inspirational romance. Are those fringe trends or will they become more mainstream?

They will each always have their readership. I can't say beyond that what will happen.

Which books are you proudest of having worked on in your career?

Really, too many to name. And I'd hate to pick a few and have someone read this (one of my authors) and have them assume I wasn't proud of their book. Because that wouldn't be true.

While you are probably excited about all of the books that you have in your catalog can you share with the readers a few that we should be anticipating? Any new authors or existing ones that have exciting projects for 2007?

Oh gosh, ditto to the above! Too many to name. Thanks so much!

Sugar DaddyI did press Ms. Enderlin for something to watch in 2007 and she graciously answered with the following:

Lisa Kleypas’s first contemporary with SUGAR DADDY, followed by her new historical romance MINE TILL MIDNIGHT in September 07.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

12 Comments

  1. Dr. Bill Emener
    Jan 08, 2007 @ 12:14:37

    Very interesting — thanks! And as both a reader and an an author, I couldn’t agree more — people basically look for “good stories about interesting characters, told in a way that feels unique and compelling.”
    Write on…
    Bill

    ReplyReply

  2. Robin
    Jan 08, 2007 @ 13:12:41

    First a question: Is Sugar Daddy or Mine Till Midnight coming out in September?

    Then a comment: That Enderlin works with Crusie tells me she’s serious about thinking beyond the “rules of Romance,” and now I’m even more excited that Kleypas has signed on with her, as well.

    And one more question: If she’s not thinking in terms of trends, what does Ms. Enderlin think of what we readers may perceive as a glut in certain areas (i.e. paranormal Romance). Are her strategies different from those of other editors and is she more focused on the manuscript she buys (its value as a good read) than on how readers might take to it? In other words, does she have to love the books she acquires, and is it her own interest that motivates the acquisition, rather than a sense of marketability? [okay, so maybe that was more than one question] As a reader, I think I’d rather an editor acquired a manuscript she loves, rather than one she simply thinks will sell.

    ReplyReply

  3. Jane
    Jan 08, 2007 @ 14:00:13

    Sugar Daddy is coming out in March – which looks to be a banner book buying month. New Nalini Singh, Visions of Heat. Finale to the Elizabeth Vaughan “War” trilogy. JR Ward’s next installment of the Black Dagger Brotherhood.

    ReplyReply

  4. Janine
    Jan 08, 2007 @ 14:04:59

    Don’t forget Carla Kelly’s long-awaited Beau Crusoe.

    ReplyReply

  5. Shelly
    Jan 08, 2007 @ 14:26:26

    It’s nice to hear an editor say she doesn’t believe in trends. Let’s hope the publishers agree with her.

    Thanks for these ‘behind the scenes interviews’. It’s a side we don’t see much of in romance communities and they’re quite interesting.

    ReplyReply

  6. wyeroygoeo
    Jun 20, 2007 @ 17:34:20

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    ReplyReply

  7. Kayla Perrin
    Dec 24, 2007 @ 11:50:55

    As to the question of whether or not Jennifer Enderlin buys books she loves, rather than what she feels will sell, I can speak to that since I’ve worked with her since 1999. She definitely buys the books she loves! She doesn’t follow trends and really is after a good story. That’s why I enjoy working with her so much.

    On sale now: WE’LL NEVER TELL, published by St. Martin’s Press

    ReplyReply

  8. Von
    Apr 08, 2010 @ 12:49:26

    i just read an interview with Chevy Stevens in the Toronto Globe and Mail and her whole process of publishing ‘her’ novel was nauseating. In the end I asked Who actually wrote the thing–Chevy or the Editing Service and how did Ms Enderlin fit in. The Chevy interview turned me off completely on St. Martin’s Press.

    ReplyReply

  9. Maureen McGowan
    Apr 09, 2010 @ 09:55:55

    No editor buys books they don’t love and no writer’s book goes to press with a major publisher without it being edited. Just because Ms. Stevens talked about the process, doesn’t make her process any different from that of most authors. Most authors (vast majority) get input from critique partners, writing groups, and certainly their agents. I don’t see how Ms. Stevens’ experience is any different.

    ReplyReply

  10. Von
    Apr 10, 2010 @ 13:04:33

    If you need all that editing, maybe you should just find another profession. Writing a novel is not a high-school group assignment. Dickens and Tolstoy didn’t have editors or writing groups or meddling agents. If this is going on, no wonder novels have deteriorated and publishers are in trouble.

    ReplyReply

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