Friday, August 14, 2009

Dorchester Editor Leah Hultenschmidt

And the completely randomly picked winner of a mini spa set is… Deborah Blake! Deborah, email me at gemmahalliday (at) gmail (dot) com with your snail mail address, and I’ll get your price out to you ASAP. Congrats!


I hope everyone’s enjoying our week of guests, prizes and anniversary fun. And if you think it’s winding down just because it’s Friday… it’s not! Today I’m giving away a mini spa set to one lucky random poster, so fill up that comments section. And, even better, I have one of my very favorite people in the whole world here to chat with you guys, my editor Leah Hultenschmidt. Not only is she a fabulous editor that always finds a way to make my manuscripts *that* much better, but she's also a wealth of information about what’s hot, new, and happening in publishing

Leah edits both Romance and Westerns at Dorchester Publishing, where she has worked for nine years. After several years in heading Public Relations and Promotions, she’s now back to doing what she loves most—editing books. Some of her most recent projects include the USA Today best-selling Immortals series and Angie Fox’s New York Times best-seller The Accidental Demon Slayer, and, of course, Jana, Leslie, and I keep her busy editing our books as well. ;) Leah has been named among the Who’s Who of Professional Management, and in 2006 was a finalist for PASIC’s Editor of the Year Award. You can follow Leah on her fantastic industry blog Romantic Reads.

Leah has graciously agreed to take all your burning questions about publishing today in an open Q&A. (See why I love her?) Feel free to ask anything about Dorchester, publishing or submitting in general, or upcoming trends and titles that are all the buzz. (Just please no individual manuscript pitches. If you’re interested in submitting to Dorchester, you can check out their submission guidelines here.)

Just a note: Leah has to leave the office early today, so if she doesn’t get to your question this afternoon, she’ll pop back in on Monday to answer.

So... post away!

~Trigger Happy Halliday


D.D. Scott said...

Happy Anniversary, Killer Fiction!

And hello, Leah!

Just a quick post to tell you I love the books you gals and Dorchester get on the shelves.

Gemma, after taking your New Authors Survival Guide class, I dove into Maddie and Ramirez's worlds in your High Crime High Fashion books and am beyond hooked! Who doesn't have a Purple People Eater dress-from-their-past somewhere in their closet or in some remote box in the basement?
Thank God we're not all Maddie's and have to wear the beast!

After taking Chris Keeslar and Angie Fox's class in D.C., I'm also LOL at Angie's Accidental Demon Slayer...ohhh yeahhh...I'm tellin' and the geriatic biker witches are bonding and having a ball!!!

As an agented, RomCom writer, I can't get enough of the kinds of stories you shepherd to the shelves.

Your team truly rocks it in all that is fun and fabulous in our romance-filled, if-you're-not-laughing-you-should-try-it-sometime world.

Sexy, Sassy, Smart Wishes --- D. D. Scott

Paty Jager said...

Leah, What do you see as a trend in historical western romance?

Leah Hultenschmidt said...

Hi Paty,

I think western historicals have a bit of an uphill battle in a marketplace so dominated by paranormals and Regencies. That said, though, we've had a great response to our new Home in the Heartland series launched this month with Caroline Fyffe's WHERE THE WIND BLOWS, which focuses on sweeter style and a real tug-at-the-heartstrings kind of storyline.

terrio said...

Happy Anniversary again, Killer Ladies! Err-Lady Killers? Either way...

Hello, Leah and thanks for taking our questions. It seems RomCom only works these days if there's a para element or a murder/mystery involved. Can a straight RomCom love story find shelf space today?

Also, is the lack of high concept a deal breaker for you? I'm afraid I'm not one of those "McGyver meets Casablanca" kind of writers so I worry about this.

Christie Craig said...

Hi Leah!!!

Thank you so much for guest blogging today.

Here's a question for you that I always like to hear from editors.

Where do you find most of your writers? Agent submissions. Contests submissions, the slush pile, from pitch sessions at conferences, or hiding in your closet?


Keri Ford said...

It's been a fun week ladies! Congrats on making it 2yrs!

And hey, Leah!! Hm...a question...oh, can a regency that's not all about the nobility being spies, saving the crown and so forth still sell?

Leah Hultenschmidt said...

Terrio - I really enjoy romantic comedies, but they do have to have some kind of hook paired with a fantastic voice. Basically (and I think this is good advice for any genre), think about the editor who has to write the cover copy. What would she say? A veternarian and a lawyer falling in love won't cut it. But if they fall in love while the lawyer is defending the vet because her pet monkey pulled down the pants of a prominent town politician right in the middle of a speech, you've got your hook. And you've made me laugh - which always scores points. As long as you can sustain that with conflict and characterization (no minor feat), you've got a good shot.

terrio said...

So throw in some monkey business, makes perfect sense. I do think my first book will be the one that lives under the bed for eternity, but that's okay. The next one has more hook, I'm good with that.


Christie - You have to stop encouraging the closet lurking.

Leah Hultenschmidt said...

Hi, Christie. There is no room for writers in my closet - too many shoes! Basically the answer about where I find writers is all of the above - agents, slush pile, contest entries, elevator pitches (Gemma!). The majority of what I work on now is agented, but it doesn't mean there was an agent on board when I first called to make the offer.

Leah Hultenschmidt said...


The short answer: absolutely!

A project I'm immensely excited about is a debut we have coming up in the spring called IN FOR A PENNY Rose Lerner. On the surface, it's a very straightforward marriage-of-convenience story. But as it progresses, the depth of the characters is just amazing and a lot of traditional expectations are completely turned on their head. There's a little bit of poaching, but absolutely no spying. It's a couple that's faced with problems to many people at the time went through: how do I run this estate? when do we throw tradition out the window. Ok, so that was the long answer.

And the middle ground: as long as you have some form of conflict and a way to distinguish your story from others on the market, one type of plot element over another wouldn't rule it out.

Jenn Nixon said...

Hi Leah,

You may remember me from a recent query, the romantic suspense with the female assassin. You gave me wonderful feedback, THANK YOU! Anyway, I do have a question in two parts.

I've noticed many agent/editors tend to look for "newer idea" manuscripts like steampunk for example at the same time. When this happens, doesn't it begin to saturate the market...kinda like we're seeing with the ubiquitous vampires?

And along with that question, do romantic suspense novels stand any chance these days? Everyone seems to want happy, funny, formula romances.


D.D. Scott said...

Here's a question, Leah...

What do we call chick lit now?

I turned one of my manuscripts into a romantic comedy, giving more oomph to the heart of the story (the romance) and removing a bunch of the all-about-me of the chick lit element.

Is that the way to do it?

I heard so many different genre names in D.C. for what was fka chick lit it - like humorous women's fiction. I'm a bit confused what to use.

Thanks Bunches for Your Advise --- D. D. Scott

Leah Hultenschmidt said...

Hi, Jenn--

The whole reasoning behind trending is that one book does really well and suddenly readers can't get enough of it and so publishers start buying up tons. And then you're right - the market gets glutted and it's hard to separate the gold from the dross. We've seen it with YA vamps a la Twilight, YA fantasy a la Harry Potter, historical thrillers a la Dan Brown and so on. The trick is to be the one who sets the trends. ;-)

Ah, romantic suspense - talk about a glutted market. We've found that it's very difficult for new romance authors to break in with romantic suspense. I think readers still want the dark and suspenseful, but it feels to me as though many already have their reading lists set. Karen Rose is the only author I can think of recently who's really taken off in the genre quickly, and her publisher had to spend a lot of marketing money to raise her visibility. At the same time, it is one the genres that seems to be perennially popular.

Leah Hultenschmidt said...

Hi D.D.,

The chick lit question is a toughie. Some people have been calling it romantic comedy or women's fiction, though personally WF usually implies a more serious story. I don't think chick lit magically morphed into a different genre with a new one-label-fits-all sensibility.

What you want to be wary of within the book itself is discussion of fashion, makeup, lattes, big city girls goes country or vice versa, lots of super trendy dialogue and that kind of thing. Chick lit got a bad name because it became cliche. Avoid the cliches and describe your work in a way that will make it stand out.

catslady said...

Again, happy 2nd annivesary!

I'm not thrilled with all the trends but that said, what is the newest one in your opinion lol.

Lisa Kessler said...

Happy Bloggiversary!!! :)

Hi Leah -

I know Dorchester is known for genre-blending... Which genres are you hoping to see cross-over in the future?


Lisa :)

Edie Ramer said...

Hi, Leah! Thanks for taking questions. One of the reasons I enjoy Dorchester's books is because of the variety, including books on the lighter side as well as the dark. As an editor, are you drawn to one over the other, or does the variety keep it fresh for you?

Melinda said...

Just wanted to say to Leah that I love the books she gets published and my question would be

How do you get a publishing company like Dorchester to accept your work?



Refhater said...

Welcome to K.F. Leah!

Deborah Blake said...

Hi Leah,

I read lots of Dorchester books, in part because they often contain humor (even the paranormals). I need humor, more than ever these days! (And I write with it, as well.)

But the handout at the DC Dorchester talk said paranormals, "the darker the better."

Is Dorchester giving up on humor too? Please say it isn't so.

Jeannie Lin said...

Hello Leah. These questions are fascinating!

For a little change of pace, I ADORE Dorchester book covers. I've heard authors from all around say they get very little say in what goes on their covers, leading to the usual disconnects with the story. But from what I've seen, the covers at Dorchester seem to match and augment the tone of the story really well.

Do editors get involved in the cover process? Is the Dorchester art department just particularly engaged in the books?

Keri Ford said...

Thanks, Leah! I like the spies in the regency period, but I've been wanting a good dashing rake and a belle in the ballroom story and they seem to be harder to find now a days.

Jane said...

Happy Anniversary.

Hi Leah,
I love romantic suspense. Are we going to see less new authors writing romantic suspense? I'm a big fan of Karen Rose and Allison Brennan, but it would be nice to see a new author break into this genre.

Melinda said...


This is Melinda again. I want to say that your blog, Romantic Reads, is wonderful.

I write Native American Romance and mysteries

Have a good day,


Gemma Halliday said...

Leah, you are the bestest. Thanks so much for coming to play with us today!


Aimee St. Claire said...

Hello Ms. Hultenschmidt, :)

Thank you for answering our questions! :) I am new to romance writing with a LOT to learn...and I've heard romance writers talk about paying attention to "hot" trends in publishing. But that the books on the shelves may not always be the trends editors are looking for because it takes time for a book to come out. What are your thoughts about romance writers paying attention to trends and what would be the best way to do so if today's books don't have the "hot" topics editors may want submitted currently?

Thank you Gemma so much for inviting these wonderful guests! It has been a great experience visiting your blog this week. Wishing you a very Happy Anniversary. :)

:) Aimee

Leah Hultenschmidt said...

Let's see if I can do all the trend questions in one fell swoop here.

In paranormal, what I'm see a lot of right now is demons, demons everywhere. I also think there's a big thing for dragons out there. And with books we have on our list and other titles coming out soon, it looks as though we'll be getting a number of fallen angels in the next year or so.

That said, as far as cross-over genres go, fantasy romance seems to be what we're seeing most of--in C.L. Wilson's Tairen Soul series, Jade Lee's Dragonbound, Tammy Kane's Breath of Fire and a number of others. Then you have folks like Leanna Renee Heiber and Kathryne Kennedy who take it one step further and throw historical into the mix too.

And so what do these trends mean for writers? I think it something you should be aware of but not necessarily adhere to. If you're writing demons right now, know that it might be an uphill road because there are a lot. But if you write historicals or romantic suspense, does that mean you should start injecting fantasy into them? Absolutely not. The interesting thing about trends for me is trying to figure out what makes them popular. What is it about shifters that are so appealing - the primal, animalistic qualities? the fear of not knowing when one might turn against you? the brute strength? the alpha mentality? You can take those qualities and put them in a hero that's not a shifter to get some measure of the same appeal. Jennifer Ashley and Katie MacAlister are two authors who are masterminds at shaping trends to fit their own vision. You want the familiar so the work is accessible and yet you have to completely give it your own twist as well.

Leah Hultenschmidt said...

Edie & Deborah - Ah, light vs. dark, very good question. I find that personally I'm a bit more attracted to humor - especially in historicals. But it's been a while since I've had a really great dark paranormal cross my desk, so that would certainly be welcome too. No matter what, though, there has to be a balance. Even an LOL romp has to have moments of poignancy and a dark book should have some humor to give contrast.