SFCATTY: I had the awesome assignment on this blog of seven women to interview Patience Smith. I was so glad that this particular guest was assigned to me. She was one of the editors taking pitches at the Silken Sands Conference at Pensacola Beach in March of this year. I had the privilege of meeting her then and I also pitched a romantic suspense to her. She was utterly charming and I liked her a lot. She ultimately rejected my manuscipt but her rejection letter made my heart soar. I know that sounds weird but she was so kind and gave me advice in that letter that I have implemented. That she took the time to encourage me was special. I still hope to work with her someday but even if that never happens, I like her as a person and I really respect her work. She has some great news to share with us at the end of her interview here. Welcome, Patience.
SFCatty: How did you get started as an editor?
PATIENCE SMITH: I taught high school French for six years, loved the kids and my colleagues, but realized that it wasn’t my “calling.” I admire teachers so much and knew I couldn’t stay the course for another thirty years. Because I have always been a bookworm and critic, I thought publishing would be perfect. I was right!
SFCatty: I can totally see you as a French teacher, but did you ever have another career in mind?
PATIENCE SMITH: Several. Up until college, I’d wanted to be an actress. Then I aspired to be the next Virginia Woolf, then a junior copywriter at an advertising firm, a short period where I loved being a secretary, then a teacher and now an editor. The editing has stuck for thirteen years.
SFCatty: I bet you like Broadway shows since you live in New York and wanted to be an actress, but much as I would want to chat with you about that, our readers would probably want me to ask this instead: What’s it like to be an editor at such a large, diverse company?
PATIENCE SMITH: This may sound corny but it doesn’t feel like a large company. There is a lot of camaraderie between the offices. We do a fair amount of video-conferencing and visiting to enhance communication. In New York, we are all living on top of each other so I may talk to a nonfiction editor as easily as I would someone in my department. It’s a cozy place, actually.
SFCatty: Describle for us a typical day in the life of Patience Smith.
PATIENCE SMITH: I get to work at 8:30, read until about 9:30 and do my first walk around the office to drop off proposals/forms/mail. My editorial assistant Shana usually stops by around 10:30 to chat and go over what’s due. After that, I’ll check email, go to meetings and then the gym during my lunch hour. In the afternoon, I will edit, return phone calls, and try not to run downstairs to Starbucks for a snack. At 4:30, I pack up, taking a proposal or two home.
SFCatty: How many people at Harlequin are involved in the manuscripts you choose to buy?
PATIENCE SMITH: It really depends on each project or author. Usually, when more books are involved per contract, my manager and possibly her manager will get involved. Sometimes, I make the decision myself but discuss it with my manager.
SFCatty: Do you have committee meetings to determine offers to purchase?
PATIENCE SMITH: Not for the series books, or at least, not with SRS. It’s more a decision between—at most—four people: the editor, me, two other managers.
SFCatty: Describe the process of what happens when a manuscipt comes in to your office. Where does it go, how long does it take to wend through the process of selection or rejection?
PATIENCE SMITH: When I get a manuscript, it goes on my shelf or to Shana. I tend to read projects very quickly so I will reach a decision within two months.
SFCatty: How involved are you in the editing process once you have bought a manuscript?
PATIENCE SMITH: Very involved. If it’s one of my authors, I will usually edit the book or, if I’m socked with too many projects, Shana will wrest one from my hands. There are few people I’d trust with my authors, but she is definitely one of them and is looking to build her own author base. If the author belongs to another editor, I don’t see it beyond the contract phase until it’s published.
SFCatty: Tell us three fun, unique facts about you.
PATIENCE SMITH: I did calligraphy professionally for 15 years.
I love anything Julia Roberts.
I am getting married next January!
SFCatty: That’s awesome news on your wedding, Patience. Congratulations on that. I’m sure it’ll be a beautiful ceremony. We all wish you the best for the future. Thanks for being with us today. Great interview- lots of great information. We appreciate it and hope you’ll come back and visit again.