Liate Stehlik was named the Senior Vice President and Publisher of Avon in October of 2005. Prior to her move to Avon, Ms. Stehlik was a Vice President, Associate Publisher at Pocket. Avon has been a mainstay in the romantic fiction genre for decades. I have treasured keepers from the 80s that were published by Avon. In more recent years, Avon has become synonymous with regency historicals and funny contemporaries made popular by authors such as Julia Quinn and Rachel Gibson. I remember once speaking with an author at an RWA Convention several years ago. She yearned to be an Avon author because Avon authors made it on the New York Times bestseller lists. In February, Avon had three books on the Times Bestseller Paperback fiction list: What Price Love? (Cynster Novels) by Stephanie Laurens, Bite Me If You Can by Lynsay Sands, What A Lady Wants by Victoria Alexander.
Q. What is the role of a “publisher” at HarperCollins?
A: As I see it, the role of publisher is to be sure that every book on our list has the best possible chance of succeeding in the marketplace. That means everything from acquisition to on-sale, and being sure everything comes together in between.
Q. How many editors do you have? How many books do they acquire, on average, in a year?
A: We have seven on our editorial staff that acquire titles for our romance/women's fiction line. Other editors at HarperCollins also acquire books for our mass market and trade paperback lists.
Q. There appear to be four different Avon imprints at HarperCollins that encompass everything from historicals to chick-lit to erotica. How would you define these imprints? (i.e., how many books are released from each imprint each year?)
A: While we are fortunate at Avon to have many of the top authors in historical romance on our list, we publish the full range of women's fiction on our mass market list, including romantic suspense, paranormal, and contemporary women's fiction
In our trade paperback group we are just relaunching our Avon trade paperback line as Avon A. In this line we are seeking to broaden the imprint by including general commercial women's fiction as well as quality nonfiction.
Avon Inspire is launching in May 2007. This is our new inspirational fiction line that includes both historical and contemporary books.
Avon Red is devoted to erotica titles.
Q. I read an online article that quoted Jane Friedman saying that she wanted to brand books by imprints, instead of by authors. I see Avon as being successful in this, as readers see Avon as synonymous with a certain type of historical romance. With reports of historicals on the decline, is this imprint branding still a strong marketing concept? Or are the reports of historicals on the decline much ado about nothing?
A: We believe that Avon is synonymous with quality women's fiction, whether that be stories that are historical, contemporary, paranormal, suspense or any hybrid of these. With the Avon brand, readers should feel they are getting the best of whatever category they are choosing from.
Q. How many romance books do you release each month? (ie. is there a set amount released in month and under what imprints?)
A: We offer at least five mass market romance/womens' fiction titles each month.
Q. Are there any trends you see growing, expanding or contracting? What do you think is driving these trends?
A: Paranormal romance is still very hot. But as with any trend, it always comes down to the author's voice and unique perspective on a common theme. If an author is doing something amazing in a nontraditional setting, we are always willing to give it a try and let readers be the judge of where the next trend may go.
Q. Do you get to read for pleasure? If so, do you have favorite authors?
A: I still read for pleasure, and luckily what I read for “work” is often very pleasurable so the two blur for me.
Q. In regards to the contemporary paranormal romances that are filling the shelves these days, do you think this is a particular type of fiction that will grow, or fail?
A: As with any trend, the writers who do it well will continue to find an audience.
Q. We’ve heard some about the loss of young readership, as romance is plagued as an “older” genre. Is this stigma true? What are you as a publisher doing to try to attract the younger readers? 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?.
A: I think the demographic concern is purely one of perception. If you attend any of the romance conferences or frequent any of the romance websites, you see the full range of ages that are interested and passionate about romance. What we are doing at HarperCollins to address an aging readership is launching HarperLuxe, a format aimed to provide a more comfortable reading experience. HarperLuxe editions feature a more readable 14-point size font with 20-pt. leading and wider margins. We are expanding the number of titles we are doing in the program, including romance authors such as Stephanie Laurens, Rachel Gibson, Kinley MacGregor, and Teresa Medeiros.
Q. Erotica vs. Inspirational – It seems as though these are two very diametrically opposed growths. Are those fringe trends or will they become more mainstream?
A: I certainly don't see either category as fringe or “here today, gone tomorrow” trends. I think the longevity of both has already been proven and as traditional retailers become more accepting of them, the sales will only continue to grow.
Q. 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?
A: We have a lot of exciting things coming up, but a few highlights coming out in the next few months are: Wrong Place, Wrong Time/Andrea Kane (on sale 2/27), The Scent of Shadows: The First Sign of the Zodiac / Vicki Pettersson (2/27/07), And Then He Kissed Her/Laura Lee Guhrke (2/27/07), Bedding the Heiress /Cathy Maxwell (3/27/07), Be Still My Vampire Heart (Love at Stake Series, Book 3)/Kerrelyn Sparks (3/27/07), and Not Quite A Lady/ Loretta Chase (3/27/07).
Thanks so much!
As a Post Script, my own stupidity led to this interview with Liate Stehlik from Harper Collins. I was working on the interviews for the ebook industry and a very kind publicist from Avon was setting that up for me. She had sent me two names who were going to help me out. I got confused and sent Ms. Walsh, Ms. Stehlik’s assistant, my ebook questions. She sent those back and said, Hmm, are you sure these are what you want to send? And so, I said, “of course not”, not really knowing what I intended. I sent her the editor questionnaire. She replied, “well, these are questions more for an editor.” and then I realized, with not a little humiliation, that I had no idea who Liate Stehlik was. Quick Google. My humiliation went from a little to alot.
I called Ms. Walsh and explained how ignorant I was. She and Ms. Stehlik took pity on me. So, there you go, the story of how Jane messes up but it actually works out for all of us.