Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Interview with an Editor Series: Melanie Murray, Warner

Hachette

Melanie Murray is an editor with Hachette Book Group (formerly Warner Books). Under the Warner imprint, readers have been treated to such gems from authors Julie Ann Long and Elizabeth Hoyt. Historicals that remind us readers why we love historicals in the first place.

Medium ImageThere is an interesting story behind the Raven Prince sales. This book originally came out in late October/November 2006. I didn’t buy it when it first came out but my bookseller friend offered up a copy of her ARC. I read it and loved it but apparently sales of the book were sluggish. In late December, Raven Prince appeared on the Bookscan list for romances (which is pretty remarkable) and has remained there through January and into February. It’s truly a story of how word of mouth can effect a book’s sales. Okay, I am done pimping the Raven Prince. Back to your regularly scheduled Editor Interview.

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.

When I started out as an editor, I, too, thought that I'd be getting paid to read all day. I suppose in a sense I am, but there's more to the job than that: as an editor, you have to be prepared to network (with agents and authors), to be a salesperson (both to your in-house colleagues, and to people out of house), to be able to recognize market trends, to be able to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of a book and to be able to figure out how to make anything you read an even better book than it is now.

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

Under the Forever imprint, we release two titles a month, though three times this year we'll be publishing a third title. We also publish a handful of romance authors on the main Warner list, so in the months when those authors have books out, there can be up to five or six.

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

Paranormal is still the trend of the day, to my mind. But also, I'm finding that the sexier the book, the better. I think what's driving these trends is the same factor: people want escape.

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

I don't know the answer to that! I can tell you that I'll go weeks without acquiring and then acquire about three different things in the same day. That happens over and over.

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

This is a tough one. Does editing count as reading? And do you mean, how much time do I read while I'm at the office? Probably 0%! All told, if you combine the editing and reading, and count the work done at home, it's probably about 60% of the job.

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

No! Whenever I read for pleasure I feel like I'm playing hooky. Honestly, I try to read at least one non-Warner title a month, to keep current with what everybody in the industry is doing.

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

We're looking for romances with big stories, and characters that are three-dimensional and complicated. I'd love to work on some paranormal historicals, personally.

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

My sense is that readers can be adventurous, and accepting of boundary-pushing if the writing is excellent, and the story being told is captivating. But then there are those who love the very traditional romance, and I think there's always a place for those kinds of books.

Medium ImageWe’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?

Young adult books have become so popular in recent years, and I think those readers want to read up, to adult books, too. I don't think that we at Warner find attracting younger readers to be a problem.

Medium ImageWe’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?

I think readers, no matter how old they are, want to read stories that resonate in their own lives, and so, yes, I think that the boomers do want books with stories that speak to them. And Warner, I think, has answered that call very well, not only with romances geared toward more mature readers (like Dorothy Garlock's books and our series of Red Hat Society romances like Acting their Age and Queens of Woodlawn Avenue) but also with mainstream novels that target this same demographic.

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

I'll confess I love to watch that television. But of course, I'm drawn to romantic shows!

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

Oh, now, I'm not answering that one!

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

Definitely working with authors.

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

If they're not mainstream now, they're both influencing romances of all genres. Definitely, romances are much sexier than they've ever been, and that is a direct result of the popularity of erotic romance.

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

I don't know that I can name one book that I'm proud of above the others. This is an analogy used often, but you do love each book you work on differently, and there are different challenges with each. Whenever I get a finished copy of a book I've edited, I'm convinced that that is the best book I've ever worked on!

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?

Absolutely! We're very excited about Elizabeth Hoyt, whose debut romance, THE RAVEN PRINCE, came out in November 2006. We're publishing the next two books in this Prince series in April and September of 2007 (THE LEOPARD PRINCE and THE SERPENT PRINCE, respectively.)

Medium ImageWe've got terrific debuts coming up: NO REGRETS by Shannon K. Butcher and SIGHT UNSEEN by Samantha Graves. Stephanie Rowe's hysterical paranormal Immortally Sexy series continues with HE LOVES ME, HE LOVES ME HOT in May 2007, and Michelle Rowen's Sarah Dearly returns in FANGED & FABULOUS in July. Those are just a few highlights, but really the whole list is exciting for 2007.

Medium Image
Annie Solomon is back with a new book called DEAD SHOT in March that is truly bone-chilling, and later in the year we've got new books by Lani Diane Rich, Wendy Markham, and Marliss Melton, among others.

Thanks so much!

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

3 Comments

  1. Kat
    Feb 05, 2007 @ 07:01:49

    Great interview!

    (Geeky Aside: The feed for this post looked awry on Bloglines/Firefox. It was slightly better on Bloglines/IE, but halfway through, the font size reduced to being unreadable. Do with this info as you will…)

    ReplyReply

  2. Janine
    Feb 05, 2007 @ 10:49:30

    I’m glad Ms. Murray is seeking books with three-dimensional, complicated characters. Those are my favorite kind. :)

    ReplyReply

  3. seton
    Feb 05, 2007 @ 14:09:08

    Damn, this chick wasnt very effusive with her answers. :-/

    I noticed the word-of-mouth phenomen with RAVEN PRINCE around Christmas time at my local B&N on East 86th St in NYC. TRP had a huge amount of shelf space in the front. . . more than any other romance novel. I thought this was surprising since i knew that the book had been out for a whole (I had already read it by that point)

    ReplyReply

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