Welcome The Incredible Esi Sogah!!!

When I first started reading romance, the name to know was Avon. They introduced the Sweet/Savage romance genre back in the seventies – and yes, I will admit my age and say I grabbed those as soon as they came out, hid them from my very straitlaced mother, and became a lifelong devotee of pirates, runaway heiresses, and ripped bodices. And the Avon tradition of fabulous romances has only grown stronger as I have grown older.

Today we are particularly honored to welcome Avon’s Esi Sogah, Associate Editor. I am a major fangirl –Ms. Sogah’s authors are consistently on my must-read list, and their books always seem to end up on the keeper shelf. So listen up, because this woman is the authority on the romance genre!

SS: Thank you for joining us! First of all, what’s going on at Avon? Are there any upcoming releases you are particularly excited about?

First, thank you so much for inviting me to participate today. There are almost too many exciting things for me to choose. Personally, I’m really looking forward to The Dangerous Viscount by Miranda Neville, coming out in October. Sebastian gets his story and it’s everything (and more) that you could hope for. In November, the second book in Juliana Stone’s Jaguar Warrior series, His Darkest Embrace, is released. As is obvious from the hot cover, this book has all the sexy passion and danger of Juliana’s first book, His Darkest Hunger.
We have quite a few debut authors, like Katharine Ashe and Jenny Brown, plus new books from some of the amazing authors you’ve come to love at Avon–the fourth book in Stephanie Laurens’s Black Cobra Quartet, Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and so very much more. I could go on for days. The Avon Blog is a great place to see everything we have coming up. And in our latest re-vamp, we’ve added commenting capabilities on book and author pages, so you can start your own conversations about what you’re looking forward to!

SS: And tell us about yourself – how did you get here, where do you see yourself in the coming years, and what do you read for personal enjoyment?

Well, there’s a loaded question! 🙂 I came to publishing from academia–while getting my Masters at The Pennsylvania State University, I worked at the Penn State Press and realized that I really enjoyed the publishing industry. So I went from there to the Columbia Publishing Course, and started at Avon soon after the course was complete. I’m hoping to continue to discover great new authors–I’m especially excited and proud of two of my new 2011 authors, Karina Cooper and Katy Madison. And, as you know, I’m all over our blog and Twitter, and the newsletter, so I’m sure there’s more coming in the digital part of my job as well. When I’m not reading for work, I tend to read thrillers–Kathy Reichs, James Rollins, Patricia Cornwell, Stieg Larsson. I’ve also been reading classics that I missed–I read The Age of Innocence earlier this year, and I’m currently reading Jane Eyre.

SS: Avon has always been on the cutting edge of publishing – I remember how exciting it was when Avon introduced the Woodiwiss/Rogers books in the early seventies. (Obviously, I was very precocious – reading before I could walk!) What do you expect to be the next big news to be in the romance world?

I think you’re going to start seeing a lot more original and enhanced ebooks. Of course, we’ll continue to put all of our print books in digital form, so readers can access them in whatever they choose. But I think the publishing industry as a whole is very curious about the many possibilities of digital books, and the romance industry is a perfect innovative books. About five years ago, we published Lady Amelia’s Secret Lover by Victoria Alexander, an ebook original with video commentary from the author herself. I expect to see more projects like this, as well as ebook versions of books with extra material, much like you often see trade paperback reprints of hardcovers with additional essays and information in the back.

SS: Conversely, what do you think is reaching the end of its run? (Say, maybe, glittery vampires?)

Well, I have to say I’m with Charlaine Harris–I don’t think vampires sparkle. But I certainly don’t see paranormals going anywhere. After all, if you look at the films and tv shows being made these days, many have supernatural elements, whether it’s vampires or superheroes or witches. I think what’s happening is that those of us who grew up on the great comics, and on Buffy and Firefly and Teen Witch are now running the show and the things you liked in childhood are the things you do as an adult.

SS: Avon is also known for discovering new talent. What is it that makes you grab something out of the slush pile and say, “This is it”?

Oh, that elusive It Factor. There are two things that let me know that a book is right for me. One is the voice. I love a great story, and a fresh new concept. But it’s the author’s voice that really grabs me, because that can’t be taught. Over the years, I’ve read things that haven’t worked for me, story-wise, at all, but were difficult to put down because the voice was so great. Those are the authors who will find their place. The other thing is if a book sticks. If it’s been a few days, a week, since I’ve read something and it keeps popping into my head? Then I know I’m onto something.
For example, when I read Katy Madison’s Tainted by Temptation, I read about 200 pages of it one weekend. That Sunday night, I was headed to bed and trying to pick something fun to read. I spent five minutes trying to figure out what that great book I had been reading earlier was before I remembered that it was a submission. Then I went into work the next day and said I wanted it.

SS: A couple of the Sizzlers have gotten published, a few haven’t, but we are all fairly new to the industry. What’s your best advice for people waiting for their big break?

Always keep writing. You can spend years polishing that one book, but chances are, a publisher is going to want to do more than a one-book deal. Or, at the very least, they’re going to want to know that you’ve got something in your back pocket. If you show us that you are a hard worker with the ability to complete more than one project, that’s a good sign. Also: talk to people. Not just authors, but all kinds of people. If you let yourself get isolated, or your surround yourself with people who talk about “the craft” and nothing else, it’s going to be hard for you to create vibrant, realistic characters. Make sure you don’t get so focused on getting that big break that you start to live in a bubble. Be in the world–I think you’ll find that you’re a better writer for it.

SS: And the reverse – is there any conventional wisdom out there that you disagree with – the worst advice new authors are given?

I think some of the worst–and by worst, I mean most difficult to sift through–advice is for new authors to do everything at once. It’s easy to burn yourself out, so make sure you know your limits. Some people can write books, have a blog, chat on Facebook, and twitter like Teresa Medeiros. Some can’t. Try things out, see what works for you, and don’t think that you have to be on every social media site, and popping into every bookstore within a 50 mile radius, and cold-calling fellow authors for blurbs. Find your comfort zone–that’s where you’ll do your best, and get the most out of it.

SS: Sometimes I think I don’t even know enough to ask the right questions! Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

Ha! You’ve done a great job with the questions. I’ve learned quite a few things about myself. The only thing I’ll say—and not to shamelessly plug too much—but I really would encourage everyone to check out our blog, at http://www.avonromance.com. Besides many great giveaways, it’s pretty much the only single place you can interact with our authors and the entire editorial team. With cameos from our marketing, art, and publicity departments, it’s a really comprehensive look at everything that’s going on at Avon. And you–our blog readers and your comments–are what make that the great community it’s become.

Ok, everyone. Now that is the straight skinny from the one who knows. So stop spreading yourself too thin, keep writing, and maybe one day you will be the one getting the longed-for message: “Hey mom! Some lady named Esi Sogah is on the phone!!!!”

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9 Responses

  1. Great advice and post, y’all! It helps to know the “bad” advice as well as the good.

  2. I like the idea of enhanced books for e-readers. What a neat idea to have author commentary. AND as to having other work to show an editor, that is a grand idea. I’ve read a lot lately about 2-3 book deals for an author so I’m ready. LOL!

    Enjoyed meeting you at the Avon Spotlight at RWA 10.

  3. What a warm and informative session. I can see why people enthuse about Ms. Sogah! Thank you for all the information—and Avon’s blog! It’s interesting to learn every aspect of bringing a book to life and into the public’s eye.

  4. Hi everyone! Thanks for having me, these were great questions. Hope I was informative.

  5. Great interview and wonderful questions. As you can see Esi a great editor and a special lady! I’m biased of course, but my words are true!

  6. I was not fortunate enough to meet Ms. Sogah at Nationals but I did get to met one of her authors Juliana Stone who made me feel better about being “rodeo girl” and I’m so glad to get great advice from her editor! What amazing women. I’m inspired to send Ms. Sogah some cowboys now! Thanks for blogging with us and thank you to Arabella for asking perfect questions!

  7. Esi is an amazing editor, and a fabulous individual besides. Her enthusiasm is part of what makes this career so much fun! I loved this interview (not that I’m biased or anything…ahem!).

    Dear Sayde—Please be so kind as to reserve a cowboy for me? 😉

  8. Loved the interview! Thanks!

  9. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Elisabeth Naughton, Cherry Adair. Cherry Adair said: Nice interview with Avon’s Esi Sogah. Esp. liked that she mentioned new (awesome!) author Karina Cooper. http://tiny.cc/uki8d […]

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