We want to give a huge welcome to the awesome person that is Anne Sowards, editor extraordinaire at Penguin. Anne kindly agreed to answer our pesky questions we had for her. Anne’s interview will be part of a series of interviews with people working within the publishing industry, behind the scenes. We hope you enjoy :D.
Anne Sowards is an executive editor at Penguin Group (USA) Inc., where she primarily acquires and edits fantasy and science fiction for the Ace and Roc imprints. Some of the great authors she works with include Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, Rachel Caine, Anne Bishop, Ilona Andrews, Jack Campbell, Karen Chance, and Rob Thurman. When she’s not reading, she listens to Chinese rap and spends way too much time playing video games. Follow her at http://twitter.com/AnneSowards.
Book Pushers: Anne, welcome to the blog, and thank you so much for agreeing to this interview.
Anne: Thanks so much for asking me! It is always a thrill to talk with people who love books as much as I do.
Book Pushers: As an editor for Ace, can you tell us what you love most about your job?
Anne: There are a lot of fabulous things about my job, including getting to read the books before everyone else. But I think the best thing is finding a book I absolutely love and then being a part of publishing it and bringing it to readers. (The power, it is heady.)
There was a book I adored when I was a teenager (ARIEL by Steven Boyett) that had been out of print for years. I was able to bring it back into print (and publish its sequel), and I have to tell you, my thirteen-year-old self could never in her wildest dreams have imagined she’d be Steven Boyett’s editor one day.
More recently, I fell crazy in love with Gwen Hayes’s debut YA contemporary paranormal, FALLING UNDER. On the surface it’s a familiar story, about a girl who feels like she doesn’t fit in and the mysterious boy who shows up at her high school. But Theia Alderson is British living in California, which gives this first person POV story a very distinct voice and a slight old-fashioned / Jane Eyre feel. She and Haden Black meet in these fabulous Tim Burton-esque dream sequences as well as in high school—and Theia doesn’t know if they’re sharing this dream or if it’s all on her end. It is full of angst and torment and emotion, and I’m so excited to see what people think when it comes out next March.
Book Pushers: How many books do you work on at a time, and how long can the process be?
Anne: A lot? (Yes, I got into publishing because I’m terrible at math.) But seriously, right at this very moment I have eight manuscripts to be edited, and three that need to be read for acceptance (i.e., when the author has already revised and I need to read their changes to make sure it’s all copacetic—and request the advance payment they’re due at that point).
To give you a more global perspective, I have over 60 books coming out this year. Some of them are reprints (i.e. different formats of books we already published, like the paperback edition of a 2009 hardcover) so there’s no actual editing of the text involved, but I still present the book in meetings, write marketing materials about the book, review the cover copy and the art, etc. The distribution of my titles from month to month can vary wildly, depending on when my books are scheduled. For any given month, I could have zero books being published—or nine (my all time high, which I would prefer to never replicate again, because it made me crazy).
As far as how long the road to publication can be, our usual amount of production time is 9-12 months. So if I bought a book today, assuming it wasn’t a movie tie-in or some other project that needed to be rushed, the earliest it would be published is nine months from now—if it didn’t need any editing and we had a slot open in the schedule. 12-18 months from the time of acquisition to the time of publication is more likely.
Book Pushers: How many people within the publisher do you work and interact with to get a book ready for the final draft?
Anne: Penguin is a huge company and we all have our own roles. I primarily know my piece of it. If you’re talking about just getting the text ready for publication, there’s me, my assistant, the managing editor, the assistant production editor, the interior text designer, the copywriter, the freelance copyeditor and freelance proofreader, production (who coordinate with the printer), and our digital team (who handle conversion and distribution of the various ebook formats). Apologies to anyone I left out!
There’s a whole different group of people if you throw the cover into the mix (art director, cover designer, freelance artist, etc.), and then contracts gets involved when we’re actually acquiring books. Subsidiary rights handles the licensing of whatever additional rights we hold (it varies for each book—examples include book club, audio, large print, UK, translation, etc.).
Our sales department sells the book to buyers and gets it into stores, and publicity and advertising / promotion work so that people know the book has been published.
Book Pushers: How many times can a book go through the editing process? Can it be a long and frustrating time for both authors and editors?
Anne: I normally just do one round of edits but I’ve gone back and forth with the author more than that when the book needed that extra push to make it even better. Of course, I primarily do global editing (character / plot / pacing). Once the author and I are done, the book goes to a copyeditor who edits for spelling, grammar, consistency, etc. The author reviews the copyedited manuscript, and then the book will be typeset. After that, the author and a proofreader go over it again, looking for typos and errors.
I don’t think of the editing process as being frustrating, though I can’t speak for my authors—they might say something different! Really it’s about making the book as strong as possible.
Book Pushers: What do you think of the trends in Fantasy and Urban Fantasy today? Are they any upcoming trends that you’re seeing that has got you super excited about?
Anne: As the market gets crowded, I think it’s getting tougher to break out new urban fantasy authors (and also, more challenging to find the ones that stand out as fresh and different). But there are still new writers out there doing amazing books.
For example, one of the things I love about Ilona Andrews’s books is how they definitely speak to the core urban fantasy market, but they’ve got their own spin on things (like the vampires in Kate Daniels’s world, which are not sexy at all—they’re mindless, ravening beasts whose minds are controlled by the necromancers). Devon Monk is another writer doing some very interesting things with urban fantasy. In her Allie Beckstrom series there are no vampires or werewolves at all. Instead, magic has developed as an alternate energy source, and it’s used as commonly as electricity—except the price you pay to use magic doesn’t come from your bank account, but your body and soul.
I’ve been hearing a lot about steampunk lately, though I’m still not sure whether it’s going to develop into a full-blown trend. Certainly Cherie Priest and Gail Carriger have found a lot of success writing in this area, so I’ve acquired some I’m really excited about: DEAD IRON by Devon Monk, about a cursed bounty hunter in steampunk America, and THE DOOMSDAY VAULT by Steven Harper, which has a British steampunk setting–both launch in 2011.
I’ve definitely been having fun with the thief / assassin fantasy subgenre. I don’t know if there’s a specific name for this yet, but basically it’s traditional fantasy with a thief / criminal / assassin as the hero. It’s edgier and more morally ambiguous than the standard epic fantasy about the battle between Good and Evil, and Brent Weeks’s Night Angel trilogy is one of the foremost examples. The one I acquired is called AMONG THIEVES by Douglas Hulick, and it’s definitely morally ambiguous (the opening scene is our hero supervising the torture of somebody else) but for all that, Drothe is someone I came to care deeply about over the course of the book and, as it turns out, he has his own kind of honor. There’s adventure, swordplay, betrayal, and absolutely fantastic fight scenes.
Book Pushers: We know that you edit a lot of Urban Fantasy, and Fantasy books, but would you ever consider or be interested in editing other genres?
Anne: Fantasy and science fiction are my first love, but I do occasionally dabble. I edit Elizabeth Vaughan’s paranormal romances for BerkleySensation, and I also edit Ann Purser’s Lois Meade and Ivy Beasley mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime. I’ve been doing more YA recently as well, which has been great. After I began editing Rachel Caine’s Morganville Vampires series, I acquired Tate Hallaway’s Vampire Princess series (first book ALMOST TO DIE FOR just came out this summer!) and Gwen Hayes’s aforementioned FALLING UNDER and its sequel.
I’m kept pretty busy with my fantasy and science fiction, though, so I don’t have as much time to roam further afield.
Book Pushers: Are you always actively looking for new or unusual settings for Ace books? And is there a setting that you’ll automatically say no to?
Anne: When I’m acquiring a book, setting is just one of many factors, and in fact is not that high on my priority list (i.e. setting a book in New York City is not going to automatically make me buy it, no matter how much I love my home). I am much more focused on storytelling, character, and voice. Is the story something fresh and different? Or if the story itself is familiar, has the author made me care about the characters?
Book Pushers: And finally, do you have a dream author of yours that you would love to work with?
Anne: She sadly passed away not too long ago, but Octavia Butler was brilliant. Her Xenogenesis trilogy (published in an omnibus as LILITH’S BROOD) blew my mind.
Big thanks again to Anne!
And not only has Anne given an awesome interview, she has also offered to give away the following books for you lucky readers :D.
Up for grabs are:
2 ARCs FALLING UNDER by Gwen Hayes
In her dreams he’s irresistible—seductive, charming, and undoubtedly dangerous. But when he appears to her when she’s awake—and captivates her just the same—she’s not sure which way is up and which is down.
Theia Alderson has always led a sheltered life, not allowed the same freedoms as the rest of the teenagers in the small California town of Serendipity Falls. But when a devastatingly handsome boy appears in the halls of her school, she feels every urge she’s ever denied burning through her at the slightest glance from Haden Black. Theia knows she’s seen Haden before—not around town, but in her dreams.
Theia doesn’t understand how she dreamed of Haden before they ever met, but every night has them joined in a haunting world of eerie fantasy. And as the Haden of both the night and the day beckons her forward one moment and pushes her away the next, the only thing Theia knows for sure is that the incredible pull she feels towards him is stronger than her fear. And as she slowly discovers what Haden truly is, Theia’s not sure if she wants to resist him, even if the cost is her soul.
1 finished copy MAGIC TO THE BONE by Devon Monk (first in the series)
Everything has a cost. And every act of magic exacts a price from its user–maybe a two-day migraine, or losing the memory of your first kiss. But some people want to use magic without paying, and they offload the cost onto an innocent. When that happens, it falls to a Hound to identify the spell’s caster–and Allison Beckstrom’s the best there is.
Daughter of a prominent Portland businessman, Allie would rather moonlight as a Hound than accept the family fortune–and the many strings that come with it. But when she discovers a little boy dying from a magical offload that has her father’s signature all over it, Allie is thrown back into the high-stakes world of corporate espionage and black magic.
Now, Allie’s out for the truth–and the forces she finds herself calling on will overturn everything she knows, change her in ways she could never imagine…and make her capable of things that powerful people will do anything to control.
1 finished copy ALMOST TO DIE FOR by Tate Hallaway (first in series)
On her sixteenth birthday, Anastasija Parker learns that her so-called deadbeat dad is actually a vampire king. And he wants Ana to assume her rightful position at his side, in spite of the fact that she has witch’s blood running through her veins-from her mother’s side.
Too bad witches and vampires are mortal enemies. And now Ana’s parents are at each other’s throats over her future. It’s up to Ana to make a choice, but deciding your eternal destiny is a pretty big deal for a girl who just wants to get through high school.
1 finished copy of GHOSTS and ECHOES by Lyn Benedict
Sylvie is back from vacation, and all she wants out of life right now is for the Magicus Mundi to leave her alone for a bit. No dead things, no mayhem, no life-and-death struggles. Just because Sylvie managed to take some time off doesn’t mean that the Magicus Mundi has to follow her example, though, and it’s been piling things up on her doorstep while she was away.
Still, she can pick and choose her cases, right? Solving a string of burglaries sounds perfect–mind-numbingly boring and mundane. Until you throw in Sylvie’s missing sister, a generous helping of necromancy, and a Chicago cop possessed by a disturbingly familiar spirit.
As the Rolling Stones sang, “You can’t always get what you want.”
Click on the galley below to view the covers of the books.
Giveaway is open internationally. And there will be one winner for each book.
To enter the giveaway, tell us what new tropes or storylines you would love to see in future Urban Fantasy books?
Also, in your comments, please state what books you would like to win.
Big thanks again to Anne, and we hope you all enjoy the interview. Good luck! 😀