Today, I’m honored to be hosting my editor, Kate Duffy of Kensington. Kate has been a romance editor for many years, and is something of a legend among authors. I first worked with Kate on an anthology project some years ago, and even though she’d inherited the project when another editor left, her consideration and support for the authors and the book were exemplary.
When I told my writer friends that Kate was going to be my editor, they said things like “Ooooooh, Kate Duffy!” So, onward to the questions!
MJP: Kate, you’ve edited many kinds of books, including, I think, all varieties of romance. Could you give us a brief overview of your professional background?
KD: I started in publishing via a temp position in 1974. The publishing world was quite different then but the house I was with published gothic romances and I read and loved gothic romances and historical fiction and so I was able to find my niche early. From Popular Library, I spent a year in London at Paddington Press, came back, went to Dell, revamped (along with Vivian Stephens) Candlelight Romances, then was hired to start Silhouette. From there I went to Pocket. I have also worked at Harlequin, Meteor and have been at Kensington for the past 13 years
MJP: As an editor, you need to buy what will work in the ever-changing romance market. What are you looking for now? And what are your own particular preferences?
KD: I want to buy the best that is available to me and the books that I feel passionate about. I also have to buy what I think I can package and sell. Some books that I love, I might pass on because I don’t have a clear sense before I buy them as to cover, title and marketing direction. I may be wrong for those books.
I like just about everything that is well written but I am first and foremost an historical reader. Currently I am enjoying a personal binge on historical mysteries.
MJP: For several years, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth and claims that historical romance was dying. Luckily that’s past, but you’ve said that Kensington consistently did well with historicals during the doom and gloom period. Why do you think that is? Kensington’s marketing? Packaging? A particularly good understanding of what makes historical romance work?
KD: It is all down to our superlative authors and our enthusiasm for their books. Every time we go to discuss a new cover, we look at the past covers, look at what we think did or didn’t work and see if we can’t get more from the art. And yes, I think we are clear as a company about the fact that whether it is contemporary, paranormal or historical, it is all about the romance.
KD: I think it is a very healthy market for historicals in that any part of this market can be described as healthy. But romance across the board is holding its own as a genre. Paranormal is hot, followed right behind by historical and then contemporary, at least in my office and in some parts of our publishing program. In Brava, historical is leading the way.
I think it is not so much about period and setting as it is about the author’s voice. I remember once someone asking me if I thought Scotland was “safe”. I said, “Probably, if you’re Scottish and have a good map.” Write what you love and don’t try for “safe”.
MJP: I asked several friends what questions they’d like to see answered, so here are a few: First, how important accuracy is to the popularity of a historical romance?
KD: Well, it is very important but we are applying a 21st century eye to our books, so certain behaviors and attitudes may be reflected. But if you have glaring historical inaccuracies, it will anger the reader and me. If we know more than you about the time period you are exploring, we lose confidence in you right away.
MJP: COVERS are always a great source of interest in historical romance! One friend mentioned that it doesn’t look like clinch covers are going away, and there are some gorgeous ones being done. She hoped you’d “share some of your cover wisdom.” What works, what doesn’t? (Note: The covers you see in this blog are all upcoming Kensington titles.)
KD: Remember, it is a combination of the cover and the title for ultimate impact. And that this is an author driven marketplace. I want gorgeous, lush, provocative, sophisticated and dramatic in our covers. I want them to brand the author when possible and I want something different but the same. Yes indeed, working in the art department is not for sissies. Bottom line is that we, art and editorial, want the author to love the cover.
MJP: Another friend suggested I ask about Kensington’s cover experiments in the early ‘90s (before you went there.) For a while, the publisher deliberately moved away from clinches. Some gorgeous covers were done, but sales went down. (I suspect this might tie in with the previous question.) Any thoughts?
MJP: Any final thoughts on romance and future of the genre?
MJP: Thanks so much for visiting, Kate!
So–do you have any questions for the legendary Kate? What are your thoughts on covers? Clinches work because they are the marketing symbol of romance–two people looking happy to be together. The marketing images are more diverse now and can include romantic looking symbols–flowers, a handsome dagger, whatever–and a man or a woman instead of a couple. What works for you? What doesn't? And any idea why?
Let us know! Mary Jo