Monday, February 22, 2010

Six Questions for Kimberlee Williams, Managing Editor, Vanilla Heart Publishing

Vanilla Heart Publishing is an independent house "looking for special novels that tell age-old stories with a splash of flavor that makes them as unique as our readers and authors themselves." Learn more here.

SQF: There’s been quite a bit written about the demise of the paper book and the decline in the number of books published. What is your view of the current state of the book and the book market?

KW: It is rough out there—for everyone, and the book industry is no different. Publishers have to adapt, adding markets wherever they can, marketing and promoting their titles and authors even more; and they must tighten their fiscal belts to survive. Just recently, BordersUK has suspended their online book sales and the company is in financial turmoil all around. We’ve seen such moves as small publishers closing their doors, and big brand name companies setting up collaboration with vanity press…Lots of changes.

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a manuscript?

KW: Adherence to our submission guidelines. Don’t skimp on following guidelines. If an author can’t do that simple requirement, it is unlikely we’ll even bother reading the manuscript, since it is a factor in how well the author works with editors and publishers.

We want to see a smashing first 3 paragraphs, something that will catch a reader’s eye quickly and cleanly. If the beginning bores us to tears, the rest won’t be read at all.

Absolute scrupulous self-editing. And not just running spell check. If we’re reading it and see glaring usage, grammar, and yes, even spelling errors, that is a no-brainer; and the use of the phrase ‘I don’t edit my work, I am an author’—well, let’s just say not a good plan.

SQF: What major mistakes do authors make when pitching their books?

KW: Telling us ALL my friends LOVE it and it will be a Best Seller! We don’t care if your friends, your mom, or your dog loves your book. We need to see the potential and feasibility of our investing time, effort and money into it—basically, we’ll decide if it has potential to be profitable to our business, which, after all, the bottom line is we ARE a business.

Demanding $10,000 advances before we’ve even read through your query letter, lol. It has happened just that way.

We believe that each author needs to really practice their short and longer pitches—know your book, understand the conflicts, the motivations, etc.; and then stand in front of a mirror and chat it up until you are entirely comfortable that you know everything about the book and can easily and interestingly share that information.

SQF: Of the books your company publishes each year, how many are by previously unpublished authors?

KW: Less than one quarter of our titles each year are from authors previously unpublished in novel length fiction. As our wonderful group of authors grows, from twenty five awesome authors now, and with the tightening of financial constraints due to the state of the industry and the economy worldwide, we fully expect that percentage will dwindle, as our experienced authors write more exceptional novels.

SQF: What is your advice to new, unpublished authors looking for a publisher or agent?

KW: Get your writing to the highest quality you can manage and don’t give up. It may take longer than you wish, it may be harder than you thought, but don’t give up—and don’t stop improving and writing!

SQF: What question do you wish I’d asked that I didn’t? And how would you answer it?

KW: What do you read for pleasure?

I’ve been a rather eclectic reader since I was four years old, and I enjoy everything from history and historical fiction, to romantic suspense, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and all of the Pippi Longstocking books by Astrid Lundgren. Pippi  is my hero—strong and caring, protective of those around her…and she can lift a horse over her head!

Thank you, Kimberlee. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

NEXT POST: 2/24—Six Questions for E.S. Wynn, Editor, Weirdyear


  1. As one of the VHP authors I would like to say how incredibly supportive Kimberlee is of our work.

    Kimberlee expects high-quality from her authors, but she expects even higher quality from herself and is constantly upgrading her own skills and stays on top of the market. She is a fantastic guiding light and I feel very fortunate to be a part of the Vanilla Heart Publishing house.

  2. I have ver much enjoyed working with Kimberlee on two books published by Vanilla Heart. It's been a wonderful experience.


  3. The last comments got me. Pipi is one of my childhood heros. She and Nancy Drew.

    The only answer is to never give up.
    Thanks for a good interview.