Welcome Shauna Summers, a Senior Editor at the Random House Publishing Group, where she edits and acquires all kind of commercial fiction, particularly romance and women's fiction.
Tell us a little about you and your publishing house.
The Random House Publishing Group is a division of Random House Inc. and includes the following imprints: Bantam Books, Ballantine Books, Del Rey, Delacorte/Dell, Random House, Modern Library, Dial Press, Villard, One World, and ESPN books. We publish in all formats--hardcover, mass market and trade paperback--and publish pretty much every kind of book there is, all kinds of fiction and non-fiction.
What made you decide to edit fiction?
I've always been an avid reader and book lover. And fiction, particularly commercial fiction, has always been my favorite kind of book.
Are your favorite pleasure reads markedly different from the fiction you edit?
Not my favorite pleasure reads, but I do also read a lot of books that aren't at all what I edit, particularly YA fiction and some non-fiction (I'm currently reading The Healing of America, for example, and loving it). I read less literary fiction these days than I ever have, but if it's compelling and a great story with great characters, I'm willing...
What kinds of manuscripts do you acquire? Who are some of the writers with whom you work?
I work on commercial fiction, primarily romance and women's fiction. Some of my authors include Karen Marie Moning, Suzanne Brockmann, Mary Balogh, Kay Hooper, Shana Abe, and Lara Adrian. Some of my newer authors include Stephanie Tyler, Jennifer Lyon and Stacia Kane.
What about a manuscript grabs your attention and makes you consider making an offer?
It's that magic combination of great voice, great storytelling, and great characters that keeps me reading and reading.
What do you look for in a synopsis?
A sense of the story and the characters. As with a manuscript, the best synopses have that little bit of magic that give me a sense of the author's voice and what the reading experience will be like.
How do you balance the commercial with the literary value of a book, either in your buying decisions or your editorial approach?
Since I work primarily on commercial fiction, I don't really consider "literary" value, but I do prefer working with authors who are really good writers.
What makes for a great editorial relationship with an author?
Open communication is important, along with honesty, respect, and trust.
How do you handle it with an author if there's been a slump in sales?
This is always a hard situation. I always try to be open and honest, but delivering bad news is perhaps the worst part of my job. Then the focus has to be on what we can all do to turn things around.
How do feel about authors working with other publishers or in other genres?
I feel fine about it so long as the author is able to meet her deadlines with us and deliver the best book she can.
What do you wish that authors understood about your job?
I think most of my authors do have a pretty good handle on my job. They're very understanding and respectful of how busy I am and the various pressures an editor faces. For authors in general, I wish there was more understanding that publishers want to do the best job they can in helping authors succeed in finding the largest readership they can.
What current trends do you find the most interestuing?
I'm not much of a trends person. I look to authors to create and deliver the next big thing. As an all-purpose romance reader, I do love that there's so much energy in all sb-genres right now--historical, contemporary and paranormal.
What advice do you have for seasoned authors in the current publishing climate?
I know it sounds trite, but write the best book you can. There's little that you can control beyond that...
How do the numbers like sell-through and Bookscan sales influence the offers you make?
Those numbers can have a big impact on the offers we make, but it's not the only thing we take into consideration.
Do you buy series from proposals? If so, what are you looking for?
I have bought series from proposals from previously published authors. With a brand-new, never been published author, I'd mostly likely only consider a complete manuscript. In a series proposal, I look for the usual--a sense of story, character, writing, and an overall sense of what the series will be like.
How do you decide if a ms. (either from a current or from a new author) calls for mass market, trade paperback or hard cover?
This is a bigger publishing question that is never made just by me. The publisher, marketing, sales, and publicity will most likely be involved. For genre fiction, the choice for mass market original is pretty clear and easy. Beyond that, it's a case by case situation based on what the book is (writing, scope of story, etc.) and how we think we'll be able to reach the widest readership for the book. Once an author is published in hardcover, we've even sometimes gone back to mass market originals when it seemed like a way to capture more/new readers. Mary Balogh and Suzanne Brockmann are two examples of that.