Patience Smith, Editor, Harlequin Romantic Suspense

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.

Countdown to the Conference Interview Five

Hello everyone and welcome to the fifth installment of Countdown to the Conference. Today we have senior editor Patience Smith with Harlequin Silhouette Romantic Suspense. I got to be greedy on this interview as I’ve had it for a few days and read over it a few times as I’m pitching to Ms. Smith at conference 🙂 I’m looking forward to it and without further hogging of it I present you all with Ms. Smith’s interview.

 

Sayde:     Tell us what you think is hot and what’s not?

Ms. Smith:

Vampires still seem to be hot, along with zombies and knitting stories, but I’m feeling some other trend is dying to take over or return.  Maybe romances set on the Jersey Shore?  In the office, we religiously follow trends and discuss them.  A great story will override any trend or, possibly, inspire a new one.

Sayde:      What types of work are you most interested in seeing at the 2010 Silken Sands Conference?

Ms. Smith:

I’m most interested in projects suitable for Harlequin/Silhouette with a focus on series romance.  I can acquire for all the lines so just about anything goes!  (except Fantasy, but only because I haven’t read one)

Sayde:      This question goes back to the “writer rumors”, but so many times I’ve heard that agents/editors will throw out a manuscript if they see grammatical errors. Personally, this is a huge one for me as I am grammatically challenged.  Many times authors will edit and edit then send to a contest and have their manuscript ripped to shreds because they used “ing”, “ly” or “was” to much for the judges liking. Do you look for these issues when reading requested material or is it more about the story?

Ms. Smith:

If a project is riddled with errors, I can’t take it seriously.  It means that the writer didn’t take the time to edit her work.  Even if the writer is grammatically challenged (J), she should work that much harder to turn in a polished product.  If I see a typo or two, I’m unfazed since every book has a mistake. That said, it’s important that the writer go over her work a few times and have someone else search for typos.  It’s the professional thing to do, and writers need to turn in their best work.  Oh, and editors are notorious for their own errors.

Sayde:       What is your opinion on emarket vs. traditional print? I know this is a hot topic and we all appreciate whatever comments you can give us.

 Ms. Smith:

I’m fairly old school, but can claim I haven’t researched this topic enough.  Writers should seek whatever means to get published because that’s the goal (other than total enjoyment of writing process).  Ebooks give writers broader opportunities.  As for me, I will read just about anything as long as it’s printed on paper, so go for it.  No matter how it’s done, good stories get noticed.

Sayde:       I know that when I am researching an agent or editor, I Google them,  check their Facebook page, and tweet them. I read their posts and blogs.  I try to see if their tastes would lean toward my writing style or not. And I try to get a feel for their personality to see if we might “mesh well” if the opportunity ever arose. If you have a manuscript on your desk, do you ever check the same accounts for that author?  Do you ever check to see what he/she is posting? If so, have you been influenced by what you’ve learned?

Ms. Smith:

I never check those accounts for an author.  There’s no time, unless I’ve already bought her work. After this, it’s a nice way to network.  Otherwise, though, I just want to read the proposal and then I’ll be curious about profiles.

Sayde:       If an author has queried you and you’ve rejected that query/partial and the author emails you asking for details on why you’ve rejected their ms, what is your process here? Do you give specific reasons on why the manuscript may not have been for you?

 

Ms. Smith:

Sometimes I’ll give a reason for rejection in the letter itself.  If I send out a standard rejection, it’s because the proposal was way off.  The writer needs to go back, rethink and rewrite.  Because we get so many submissions, it’s difficult to respond in detail to every project.

Sayde:       As a final wrap up could you tell us some of your pet peeves in the industry? Or is there anything happening in the industry you’d care to comment on or discuss?  We’d love to hear some of your views and opinions on the state of the craft and the market.

 

Ms. Smith:

I have a few pet peeves, but they mostly have to do with reading a bad story.  I will say that it humbles me at every conference to see the overwhelming support between writers.  I’ve had a few careers and am amazed at how so many of you stick up for each other, with your work and your lives.  This seems unique to romance writers.  Of course, there are battles and grievances, but working with romance writers is an editor’s dream come true. It’s inspiring to me and makes me remember why I love my job.

Sayde:

Thank you Ms. Smith! What a wonderful interview and I look forward to meeting you at the Silken Sands Conference. Just a quick note concerning Ms. Smith’s final answer. Everyday I am humbled as well by the support offered not only by my fellow Sizzlers, but by my critique partner Rebecca Zanetti and my good friend and supporter, author Brandi Hall. A little over a year ago I walked into my first Gulf Coast Chapter of RWA meeting and was met by some amazingly talented writers and even friendlier people. At times the writing industry can seem so cold and harsh but I encourage every author, whether you are well established or just starting out to make friends with other authors because the friendships you forge are those of support, wisdom, and encouragement. I’m an advocate for joining RWA and supporting your local chapters as well as special interest chapters so please take a moment today to research those chapters a little and may you all be blessed with a wonderful support system as I am.  Thank you everyone and remember to check out Thursdays conference countdown interview.

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