Friday, May 28, 2010

FRIDAY FREESTYLE Presents Acquiring Editor Heather Howland

She's a wife, a mom, a student and an ACQUIRING EDITOR for Crescent Moon Press. The Oasis is super excited to present, Heather Howland. (*roar*)

Wow, it’s so exciting to have our very first editor here with us at the Oasis. We want to know all about what you do. But first, please tell us a little about yourself.

Hi girls, and thanks for having me here at the Oasis. What a great resource for up-and-coming YA authors!

First and foremost, I'm an aspiring YA author just like the rest of you. I write contemporary romance and dark contemporary under the pseudonym Katie Ellyson. Several years ago, to appease my overactive internal editor and obsessive need to immerse myself in as many new stories as possible (my critique partners and I all belong to WIPaholics Anonymous), I started freelancing as a developmental editor. I took that job to the next level a few months ago when I signed on as the acquisitions editor for Crescent Moon Press, a boutique publisher of all things paranormal, fantastical, and futuristic in romantic fiction. We're in the process of revamping and rebuilding and I've gotta say, some of my recent acquisitions are quite exciting.

Paranormal is my favorite! Loved vampires, faeries and angels. What do you see around the corner in paranormal?

I honestly don't know what the next big thing will be. When it crosses my desk and my jaw drops, that's when I know I've found it!

I *can* tell you what I'd like to see more of. Though my press specializes strictly in adult fiction (and I'm looking for all subgenres!), YA is my passion. There have been some incredible paranormals that I've read recently that I wish I'd find more of in the slush. THE DARK DIVINE has to be my fav. BEAUTIFUL CREATURES and THE VAMPIRE ACADEMY are also unique. What do these books have in common? They offer very different takes on the tired and overused myths we see so much in paranormals these days--especially in YA--or offer us new mythologies altogether. Also, well-developed futuristic/dystopian worlds like in HUNGER GAMES and THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH fascinate me and quite a few other industry-types I've talked to. It's an exciting time for YA authors !

*image borrowed from*

What should newbie authors know about the acquisitions process?

Getting from query to submission to decision can take a long time, which is an awful thing to digest for writers. Let's face it--most of us refresh our email inboxes every 2.5 seconds when our books are on submission! Even when I'm uber excited about a book someone has pitched/queried, I may not have the chance to look at it, let alone read the whole thing and write a response, for a week. Sometimes longer.

All of us wanna be writers have “dream agents” in mind. What’s your idea of a “dream author”?

Because I've been on the writing side of the business longer than the editing side, I've got to say the whole "dream agent" thing is a bit of a myth. Your dream agent is whichever one adores you and your writing, and eagerly champions your book while it makes its rounds in the publishing industry. Those are dream agents. Look for them!

As an editor, my dream author is one who understands that every book has room for improvement and is open to suggestions and ideas that could make their book stronger. I personally love authors who like to brainstorm with me. It's so much easier to hop on the phone during the revision process to see where they're at and come up with a plan that satisfies both what they want and what I need. Saves time and builds a relationship between editor and author. We're here to make your book as awesome as it can be. Use us!

What are the top things an author can do to get your attention when submitting?

First and foremost, a killer pitch/hook/query. I want to be shown (<-- key word) what makes your story special and get a taste of the book's voice and tone in your query letter/pitch. Clinical dissertations explaining what themes your book explores need not apply.

Second, equally killer sample pages. An agent/editor looking to acquire your novel can make up their mind by the end of your first page. Less, if your manuscript isn't as clean as it should be. I cannot stress enough how important it is that you have an excellent first line and that your opening scene is enthralling--whether that be a voice I can't stop reading or intense action or a mood that sucks me right into the story. Lay it all out there in the first pages and I'll keep right on reading until the end.

What are the biggest things you see authors doing to shoot themselves in the foot?

Querying a book that isn't finished, not understanding that a query letter's sole purpose is to SELL your book and should therefore be riveting, submitting manuscripts that aren't clean enough to be making the rounds yet, and writing to a trend. I can always tell who's read what when I go through slush. Don't write what you just read.

Also, giving up before they've put in the time. Not many authors are lucky enough to sell their first novel within their first 20 queries. I've heard of countless big name authors who first sold the eighth + book they'd written. That's not time wasted--it's an opportunity to really get to know the market and to hone your craft. Keep in mind that your debut novel will be much more attractive if the publisher knows exactly where it will be shelved, who the target audience is, and how they'll market it. All with a killer hook.

We know you’re an aspiring author yourself. Can you give us a hint about what you’re working on?

Thank you for asking! Contemporary YA is my favorite thing to write, both sweet romances and darker stories. I have one of each out in the world.

IMPURE is a contemporary YA romance about a 17 yo girl whose entire life--hobbies, faith, future career, and even her future husband--has been decided by her powerful, ultra-conservative father. Everything changes when she meets a nobody boy whose unconditional love sparks an insatiable need to break free.

FLAWED is a dark contemporary YA about an abused 17 yo who is only alive because of a pact she and her older brother made--he'll protect her from their violent father if she swears never to leave him behind. When she tries to escape, she realizes he's far more unstable than their father ever was.

Both are with agents who are extremely interested, which is awesome!

From your perspective as both an editor and aspiring author, where do you think the market is going with regards to e-books?

As e-readers and cell phone apps get better (and cheaper), I think the e-book market is going to explode. Just wait until teens have immediate, kid-friendly access to books online and can take store them easily on their phones! The generation reading our books right now is so incredibly tech savvy. If they're our future, e-books are definitely the next big thing.

E-books have their benefits--immediate access, easy to acquire often with a single click that sure doesn't feel like you're spending money ("Honey, what's this $120 charge to Amazon? And this $80 one a week later?"), go everywhere I go (I have a netbook that's always with me for work, plus my nifty HD2 cell phone with its ginormous screen), and take up zero space in my tiny house. Can't beat that!

BONUS QUESTION: If you were stranded on a desert OASIS, which supernatural creature would you want with you?

Any supernatural guy with cool eyes and a great personality who can poof us both to and from said deserted oasis at our leisure! I'd take Cupid from Jessie's book in a pinch, though :-)

Aww. She's clever and sweet! Heather, THANK YOU SO MUCH for sharing your insights and advice with us. This information is truly invaluable. We can't wait to see what wonderful new fiction you're responsible for getting into our hands

And hey, Oasis Seekers, have you entered our contest to win a copy of Beth Fantaskey's Jekel Loves Hyde? The winner will be selected next week. We know you want to read this book.


  1. Wonderful interviews, Jessie! It was nice seeing the other side of the fence. Thank to both our interviewees for joining us!

    Heather: I really adore some of the book covers I saw on your site! :D

  2. Great, informative interview! Very proud of my amazing critiue partner, Heather, and glad to have found a supportive new YA site!

  3. @dahlias - Heather is great!

  4. Great interview and thanks for all the insight Heather!! Great book choices as well - I love all the ones you chose, and for the same reasons.

  5. Heather, what a great interview! Thank you for being so open and approachable about your creative process. You are a fantastic editor to work with!!! =D

  6. Thanks everyone, and thanks again to Jessie and the Oasis team for inviting me to visit!

    And Renee, you make my job easy :-)


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