Monday, April 30, 2012

Special Blog Guest Chelsey Emmelhainz

When my acquiring editor left my publisher, I worried that whoever I got would be freaked out by my (**cough**) steamy writing and crazy sense of humor. I was told many nice things about Chelsey, but the most important one that stuck out was how she had a great sense of humor. Whew! That helped calm me more than anything. And they were so right. So please welcome Chelsey Emmelhainz, Editorial Assistant, Avon, HarperCollins Publishers.

Let's start off with the usual question. So tell us a little about your background? 
I initially went to school to become a journalist, but I always knew I loved fiction too much to pursue it seriously. Eventually I relented and accepted my fate: I was an English major, through and through. Several years, hundreds of books, and 2000 miles later, I found myself in New York working for HarperCollins. Though romance was not an area I saw myself in, I quickly realized that it was a natural fit and am proud to claim it as my genre today.


English major. Sounds like a perfect fit to me.  Is there any type of story you're hoping to find but not seeing in your submissions?Here are a couple: A sweet, upbeat sports romance; a nerdy-girl-gets-hot-(and secretly adorable nerdy) guy story; and a regency twins tale. Keep an eye on where we’ll be updating our submission “wish list” with our latest wants!

Oh, I'm so glad you mentioned the website. Certainly everyone needs to visit. You can submit your completed manuscript on the website. Easy-peasy. Well, sorta. Speaking of website, how often do you select manuscripts from the "slush pile"?
The best part of working for Avon Impulse is the ever-present possibility of finding an undiscovered gem. We’re reading submissions every day, so there’s always a chance that we’ll find one that we can’t live without!

Hey, she dodged that one like a pro. :-) I will remind everyone that I was fortunate in being Avon Impulses's first slush pile find. The angels were looking down on me that day. Next question is, while reading a manuscript, how long does it usually take before you know whether or not you want to request the full? Why?
For me, I can usually tell within the first ten pages. While we may not want to judge a book by its cover, I can generally tell fairly quickly whether or not the writing is clicking. My advice to authors? Grab ‘em early and really showcase your writing!

Such great advice. And what do you consider the most important qualities of an author?
A good attitude and a great sense of humor. Believe it or not, I find that those two qualities come through strongly in your writing. Plus, they’re essential to handling the stresses that come with being a published author.

OMG! You have that right. So true. Plus friends, lots of sweet long-suffering friends who put up with whining for only so long. Of course, that's a whole other post. So if you had to give an aspiring author one piece of advice, what would it be?
Even if writing is your second, third, or fourth job, make it a priority. Set goals for yourself and do your best to achieve them. Get a cheerleader (a friend, spouse, coworker, etc.) who knows you write and can help hold you accountable. Make them ask you if you’ve written yet today! Oops. That was more than one…

That's okay because we need all the advice we can get. See a good friend(s) is an important key to success.  I'm so blessed to have so many. Now what question do you wish someone would ask? And what's the answer?
Question: What can I do to make my book truly marketable?
The answer: Make sure your book is high-concept, witty, and memorable. This goes for everything from the plot to the title and synopsis. Then, carry those attributes throughout the first book and into a second and third. Truly marketable books, series, and authors are those that readers remember when they’re browsing in-store or online.

Here are a couple fun questions…

What book or books do you like to reread every year?
I rarely read books more than once for fun—there are just too many to choose from! However, I read all kinds of books and some of my perennial favorites include: Blindness by Jose Saramago, Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, and young adult books by Christopher Pike and Francesca Lia Block.

Have you ever become star-struck when meeting an author? If so, who?
We get a lot of authors in the offices here, but I remember awkwardly tip-toeing in to meet Gregory Maguire, who wrote the Wicked series. He was so kind when I handed him my torn, dog-eared copy of Wicked—even though I was dopey and awe-struck. He even drew a picture of a witch in my book along with signing it!

I love it! That would tickle me to no end. I know that I've been privileged to meet and become friends and/or friendly acquaintances with a few of my all time favorite authors such as Sherrilyn Kenyon, Linda Howard and Anne Stuart. And plus I got to meet the divine Susan Elizabeth Phillips at RWA's conference in Orlando. Gracious and so kind. Can't wait to corner ... uh ... meet her again in Anaheim (this year's RWA conference).

Thank you so much for visiting Southern Magic's blog and answering our questions.

Everyone, here's your chance to ask an editor from AVON what you've always wanted to know.  Don't forget to check out the website,, and at the bottom of that website is the FAQ.


Suzanne Johnson said...

Great interview, Chelsey (and Carla)! I'm curious if she thinks the paranormal romance craze is over, or if there will always be a core audience for it? There seems to be a swing back toward contemporaries and romantic suspense the last year or so.

Lisa Dunick said...

Thanks so much for stopping by Chelsey! My question is less writing but still related. You say that you kind of ended up in publishing, but I was wondering how someone who might be interested in editing or being on that side of the business can get experience if they don't live in NYC and/or can't make the leap to move there right away. Thanks!

JoAnn said...

Thank you so much, Chelsey and Carla! Lots of helpful information.
P.S. Mists of Avalon! Love it! :)

Rashda Khan said...

What a fun interview! Enjoyed it :)

Thanks for addressing the marketing aspect, but here's question: if you've written a witty, memorable high-concept does a newbie author get on readers' radars & let them know it exists?

Christine said...

Hi Chelsey: Thank you for your valuable insight and advice about the writing needs for Avon Impulse. I'm going to check my current manuscripts for the nerdy girl meets secretly nerdy hot guy story you're interested in acquiring. Are you particularly fond of nerdy girl stories? Will you be looking for other manuscripts with that concept in mind?


Neecy said...

Some really great info here, Chelsey and Carla!
Enjoyed the read,

Lexi said...

Welcome, Chelsey, and thanks for being here! What great advice for all of us. I write paranormal and would like to second Suzanne's question about the market!

Heather said...

Wonderful interview! I have two questions for Chelsey:

1. Do you think Urban Fantasy will remain a viable market, or has it become too saturated?

2. With the explosion of ebooks, it seems it is harder and harder to get eyballs to new releases. What have you seen to be the most effective/best marketing strategies an author can use to drive people to their book?

Chelsey Emmelhainz said...

Thanks for having me, everyone! Let me see if I can answer your questions.

Suzanne, while we don't think the paranormal romance market is dead, we are finding that the bar has been raised. Within the genre, we're looking for the best of the best and something with a really unusual hook that makes us rethink what we know about paranormal romance. There's certainly still a desire for it, but we think readers are clamoring for something with a different concept, clean writing, a well-developed world, and of course a steamy romance!

Chelsey Emmelhainz said...


I should have been a little clearer: I knew I wanted to be an editor, but being in Colorado, I knew there were limited opportunities. Luckily, there was a great post-grad publishing course I took while gave me the info, contacts, and confidence I needed to make the move. If you don't want to move to NYC, you can certainly look for small publishers and agents in your area. When I looked later, I was surprised how many were located in Denver!

Chelsey Emmelhainz said...

Rashda: If you've self-published, I've heard that most of your time will be used promoting your book. But if you're still looking for a publisher, check out Avon Impulse. We handle ALL aspects of the publishing process, including marketing and publicity and we can certainly get a debut author out there :)

Chelsey Emmelhainz said...

Christine: I'll be looking until I find one that I can't live without! :)

Carla Swafford said...

Thanks, Suzanne and Neecy! I'm so happy Chelsey can visit with us today.

Chelsey Emmelhainz said...

1) I think the urban fantasy genre has similar struggles as paranormal romances. Your book really has to have EVERYTHING going for it, plus an even-MORE well-developed world and enough of a love story to truly make it a romance. It's tough, no doubt, but when one works, it stands out heads above the others.

2) I can't speak for self-published authors, but for our authors, it helps for them to develop an online presence, make friends with other authors and be active in social media. See my response to Rashda for more. :)

Naima Simone said...

Awesome interview, Chelsey and Carla! Thanks so much for sharing your time and knowledge with us!

My question:

When you're reviewing a submission, how important is the synopsis? *asks she who hates to write them....

Thanks again!

Chelsey Emmelhainz said...

Naima, I can't speak for other editors, but for me, it's a really quick and easy way to tell the mastery of your writing. If you can "sell" me the story in a paragraph or two, I'm much more likely to request a full manuscript. Oh, and personally, I don't need EVERY detail in the synopsis. Think of it like an extended version of the descriptive copy you read on the back of a book. To get really good at it, try reading those descriptions often and see if you can narrow down what really sells it to YOU!

Julie Johnstone said...

Chelsea, great interview. I have two questions. What do you think about using the first person pov and the third person pov in the same book? And are there some genres you think are a better fit for that sort of thing?

Chelsey Emmelhainz said...

Julie: I think in general, as long as the style supports the story and doesn't overshadow it, it doesn't necessarily matter whether it's first or third POV. I don't think there are specific genres where it will necessarily work better, though in some cases, like historical romance, it may not be as readily acceptable to the audience. However, when used well, it can certainly be interesting!

Carla Swafford said...

Great questions, everyone! We have a little more time.

Chris Bailey said...

Thanks, Carla and Chelsey, and to everyone else for the excellent Q&A. I'm too late to join the party, but y'all took good care of me.

Louisa Cornell said...

Fabulous interview, ladies! Thanks so much Chelsey for taking the time to stop by!

And I was thrilled to see a fellow Joe Hill lover! The Heart-Shaped Box is in a place of honor on my keeper shelf, next to my dog-eared copies of The Shining (by JH's Dad - Stephen King) and Candles Burning (a book Joe's Mom (Tabitha King) finished for the late Alabama Southern Gothic author, Edward MacDowell.)

Some great questions here and insightful and informative answers, Chelsey. Thank you!

Katherine Bone said...

Once again, Southern Magic is rocking the house!

Thanks for the great interview Carla. And special thanks to Chelsey for stopping by today and sharing about Avon Impulse! ;)

If I'd been able to ask a question, I would have wanted to know what Chelsey thought of the historical market right now. What's selling and what does she see gaining popularity in the near future? Thanks!!