Thursday, January 12, 2012

Interview with Ballantine, Bantam, Dell's Editor, Sue Grimshaw

Sue was the romance book buyer for Borders and Waldenbooks stores for more than a decade. As of April this year, Sue is Ballantine Bantam Dell’s Category Specialist & Editor At Large. A highly sought after expert in her field, Sue has consulted with publishers for many years. At BBD, Sue is working primarily with the digital end of the business and Loveswept, thus learning how to ride the waves of the changes that are ongoing of late in the romance industry.

Sue is the final judge of The Sandy writing contest and will be attending the Crested Butte Writers Conference June 22-24, 2012.

  1. Which categories do you currently acquire? Which category has a special/constant place in your heart?

Answer: Loveswept any subgenre within the Romance genre. Probably historical romances, although I seem to be reading more contemporary than anything as of late

  1. What length synopsis do you prefer to see with a partial? Single spaced or double?

Answer: 1-2 pages, double spaced.

  1. In terms of submissions, what are you sick to death of and what would you like to see more of?

Answer: Nothing – it is all so new I like to see it all.

  1. What are the most compelling elements you feel are necessary for a good read? What particularly grabs your attention?
    Answer: Characterization has to be key; a hook and a voice that shows the story.

  1. For you, which elements in a fiction submission are terminal problems garnering automatic rejections and which are tempting and fixable meriting a look at a revision if a talented author is willing to accept your advice?
    1. Voice – terminal – if the voice is absent the book is dull.
    2. Weak Grammar -fixable
    3. Common plot-fixable
    4. Poor character development – this could also make a submission terminal – characters are so very important to the story that if they are flat readers will not want to follow them.
    5. Story is too controversial (ie rape, politics, religion—what else?)-this could also evoke a rejection.
    6. Mediocre / uninspired writing – part of the voice so yes.
    7. Excessive use of violence or cursing- fixable
    8. Lacking genre –specific requirements like, suspense/sexual tension/ world-building- fixable
    9. Pacing is off—plot is too slow- easy to fix
    10. Story starts in wrong spot-easy to fix – most of them do.
    11. Ending is unsatisfactory- easy fix
    12. Other – 1st person can be a rejection for me – no hook –or characters that no one will like.

  1. Does meeting an author face-to-face at a conference make a difference in your response time, the submission process, or the rejection process (ie. Form letter vs a few sentences of advice)?

Answer: No – type of story is what draws me and is what moves up a submission on my reading list.

  1. Besides the writing, the story and the talent, what are the most important elements you look for in an author, ie. contest wins, cooperativeness, affiliations to writers organizations, knowledge of publishing industry, promotability, etc?

Answer: None of the above – the only other factor to their having a book I want to buy is that they

are willing to edit & alter the story as needed. Believe it or not, there are some authors that are not willing to do that.

  1. Do you have any pet peeves?

Answer: Not yet – too new to have developed any.

  1. What are you addicted to?

Answer: Just a good story.

  1. What have you always wanted to do?

Answer: My job is my passion – what propels me is finding that special book for our readers – that’s about it.

  1. Do you have a favorite quote?

Answer: Feel what you are writing so when the reader reads it they’ll feel it too. By Sue Grimshaw


Liz Lipperman said...

Great interview, ladies. Sue, I love your list of terminal and fixable problem areas with a manuscript. I find it interesting that voice seems to be the number one criteria, with mostly everything else fixable. Although I don't write romance, per se, it sounds like you would be perfect to work with.

Thanks for the insight into an editor's head.

Kaki Warner said...

Interesting post. That "voice" thing is so elusive and hard to pin down, yet seems the most important. I'm still not sure exactly what it is. Can you define it for us?

Thanks for the fixable vs terminal pointers. Wonderful stuff.

I'm looking forward to seeing you at the CB conference this summer. You'll have a great time.

Sue said...

Thanks Liz -- problem is I want to fix everything & don't have the time to do it!!

Sue said...

A voice is hard to define as everyone has one that is unique . . .it is a writing style, a continuous flow of words that emanate visions and evoke feelings - a voice can be fun or serious and will fluctuate. Best Selling authors obviously have this -- there is something in their writing that readers clamp onto.

Now as I read those 'pointers' I'm thinking, Sue, couldn't you elaborate a little???

Kaki Warner said...

LOL, Sue. No, you don't have to elaborate--save that for the conference. And thanks trying to clarify voice. Sort of like describing fog. See you in June!

Theresa said...

Liz, glad you enjoyed the interview!

Kaki, I remember a dozen years ago when I started hearing about "voice" at conferences and remember the confusion of wondering if I had a voice and if not, how could I get one!

Sue, thanks so much for stopping by! I know doing interviews aren't Editor/agents favorite thing to do and wouldn't dream of imposing on your time further by letting you know when the interview posted, but thank you so much for stopping by! It's great to get your take on "voice".

And I have to admit to being a little in awe and . . . scared that you found this post. Throws me back to the days when my mother knew everything and had eyes in the back of her head!

Sue said...

LOL Theresa - since part of my job is to be on top of social media, well let's just say, I have my sources --see you all soon!

Helen Hardt said...

Wonderful information -- thank you for the post, Sue and Scribes!

Theresa said...

Glad you enjoyed Sue's interview, Helen.
Thanks for stopping by!

ML Guida said...

Great interview. Sue, you confirm what other editors and agents have said: A good story is what sells and readers, editors and agents have to bond with characters. I also liked the fixable vs not fixable advice.

Mary Marvella said...

Thanks for giving us insight into your editor's mind. Excellent interview.

Cajunflair said...

One of the most helpful interviews I've seen in a while, with wonderful tips and insight from the mad, mad world of publishing. I cry when I write my stuff and the readers tell me I write intense and emotional scenes, so I must be doing something right! :)
I'm wondering how you feel about looking at manuscripts from self-published authors.

Theresa said...

Mary and Mary, thanks for stopping by. Glad you found Sue's pearls useful.

Welcome Lori!
I'm not sure how Sue feels about self-published authors, but if you're offering fresh material, The Sandy now accepts entries from self-published and published authors--as long as the submission is new and unedited by a pro or contracted by anybody. Being a finalist in the Romance category puts your entry right on Sue's desk and she reads it in a timely manner. Just a thought.

Sue said...

Thanks Helen & ML - it's been fun to be on Five Scribes - nice site you all have ;) Thanks Lori - always interested in a well written book - emotion & characters are key

And thank you Mary -- so glad this was helpful.

Stop on by and see what we're up to -- & join our Reader Rally - begins 1/17