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

Meeting with Alicia Condon, Editorial Director of Kensington

Alicia Condon, is the editorial director of Kensington, but has been in publishing and romance publishing specifically for almost 30 years.

One of the first authors Alicia bought was Jayne Ann Krentz for a tiny magazine called Romantique. They bought possibly JAK’s very first book and Diana Palmer’s first book. In those days, there was only Harlequin and Candlelight. There was no robust American market for American romance authors. Around that time, Silhouette started up and she joined Silhouette a year or so later.

In terms of marketing, Kensington is experimenting with QR Codes that will appear on the book itself or a shelf talker. The QR Code could lead to backlist, interviews with the author, extra content.

We discussed the kTeen line. Alicia is really excited about both the Jennifer Estep and the Erica Roarke books and believes that adult readers will find them interesting. Jennifer Estep’s heroine just lost her mother in a tragic accident and so while the voice is light, the characterizations are darker. The heroine is bitter, confused, angry.

We also talked about the Erin Kellison books. Alicia bought Kellison when Alicia was an editor at Dorchester. She also bought C.L. Wilson’s fantasy romance series. Erin sought out Alicia because Alicia had bought the CL Wilson series.

The Kellison books deal with the fae but a different imagining of the fae world. The whole afterlife and the fae inhabit this Twilight, an in-between land of our world and the afterlife. Alicia described the world as “beautiful”, a world of imagination and emotions. The fae can’t cross over. Only Shadowman comes to ferry people from this life to the afterlife. The writing is beautiful and simple, but dealling with complex ideas.

You can read it as just a great adventure story and love story, but you can also see the more philosophical ideals in the story which explore death, afterlife and how one’s beliefs can shape both.

The first book starts out with the Shadownman coming for a young woman with a heart condition who always lived closely to the edge of death. She has seen his face all her life and loved him. Their love breaks all the rules. In fact, their coupling and their offspring create a rift in the barriers between our world and the afterlife and now evil beings can manifest themselves in our world and like a plague are spreading throughout the world.

Each book has its own hero and heroine. But the books start out with their daughter, a creation whom should have never happened. The third book, Shadowman, is the parents’ romance.

It’s got intense emotion, loads of action, interesting world building, great sex.

*******

G.A. Aiken, The Dragon Who Loved Me

The dragon stories are longer than her contemporary books and a bit more complex. More involved world. She’s doing a fantasy version of the Roman attack on the Britains. It’s almost an alternate history series. This book takes you to a new level in the struggle. The heroine is a warrior and she takes pride in her warrior status. Everyone wants her to join an elite society of warriors, but she resists, wanting to continue to fight on the front lines.

She has all these different society of dragons and how they interact with each other.

The G. A. Aiken is more of a dedicated series that builds upon each other. You get more out of the story if you start from the beginning. The first book is Dragon Actually. These stories speak to the importance of family and how the family ties can strengthen you.

*******

Seven Years to Sin by Sylvia Day

Alicia is a big fan of Sylvia Day. She’s smart and witty with a lot of emotional depth. Hot sensuality. Feels that SD is under appreciated.

The hero and heroine have a really scandalous backstory. On her wedding night, came across the hero having sex with another woman. She can’t ever forget this. Her husband has died a tragic early death. He is the Captain of the ship that takes her to her deceased husband’s plantation. Quite a bit of psychological development that gives the story depth and intensity.

********

January 2012 release sees a new series by Donna Kaufmann. First two books are to be releasesd back to back. Sugar Rush and Sweet Stuff. The books are set in a fictional island off the coast of Georgia called Sugar Berry Island. She captures of the modern woman and the real life thought processes of how we think about romance and relationships in our own lives and where we are in our lives.

Everyone is going to want to move there. Seems like the place where every one realizes their dreams, low key although these people have a lot of cares. The heroine is opening up a cupcake shop. Donna has taken a whole course with a professional chef about baking. She started up this cupcake blog wherein every week, she tries out a new recipe and is blogging about it.

I thought Jayne would enjoy this one.

*******

Alicia is looking for fairly hot romances as she is primarily acquiring for Brava but does acquire for Zebra as well.

She is eager to find a contemporary western romance. Think that there is a huge readership that is interested in that setting and the characters. There is something about the west that has a huge appeal because the characters in that wide open setting allow them to be larger than life. With a cowboy flavor, but doesn’t have to be on a ranch.

Likes fantasy romance like CL Wilson and Erin Kellison, doesn’t want corny or cheesy world building.

Books don’t have to be connected. If you are doing a series, you have to have a world that is that compelling that people want to keep visiting it.

kTeen – looking for PNR and would like fantasy as well. Really focusing on the series that they have already acquired. So the story really has to stand out in order for them to acquire.

Marketing is focused on social media and digital marketing.

They do accept unagented submission.

I asked her about voice. She says that voice make you want to keep reading the book. The story doesn’t have to be that interesting. It just is the way that the story is told that keeps you moving.

Kensington doesn’t feel like they have to sell themselves. The authors are still submitting way more than they can have space to publish. It is too soon to know how Amazon is going to affect the romance market.

Also looking for contemporaries as they are on the upswing. Looking for contemporaries that don’t feel category. The stories feel bigger. There is more development to the plot and characters. There is some kind of hook.

No particular trope. Wants to be surprised with something different. Thinks readers want something different. Writers are the catalysts for the next new thing. You are able to transform what is in the popular culture into the story, the written expression of our thoughts and emotions and viewpoints.

Will be getting on NetGalley.

Brava books – 3 books a months
Aphrodisia – 2 books a month
Zebra – around 10

Digital royalty is 25% off the net. No disproportionate increase in digital sales from one format to another.

Authors who have a higher online presence often have higher digital sales.

Views digital first lines as a way to publish the books that really need to be published. It allows you to break out of artificial categories. Where does the book have to be shelved in the bookstore.

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

4 Comments

  1. Kerry Allen
    Jun 28, 2011 @ 04:23:06

    Okay, I have to say it. “The story doesn’t have to be that interesting” will make me look for Kensington imprints so I can avoid them. That offends me as a reader.

  2. Bronwyn
    Jun 28, 2011 @ 06:27:23

    Alicia, have you recently requested any full MS’s from contest finalists? I’ve noticed lately that the requests are on the decline and wondered if you noticed the same thing?

    Thanks in advance =)
    Bron.

  3. Bronwyn
    Jun 28, 2011 @ 06:28:14

    @Kerry Allen: It’s a lot harder to find a great voice than it is to find a good story. You can work on an average story with potential but a bad voice is a lot harder to improve. I think that’s what she means… JMO

  4. Jane
    Jun 28, 2011 @ 11:51:18

    @Kerry Allen: Alicia Condon was saying that in regards to defining voice meaning that the voice can make the mundane seem interesting.

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