Thursday, January 9, 2014

From Submission to Offer with Meredith Rich

I'm thrilled to start the new year with my interview with Meredith Rich, digital editor at Bloomsbury Spark. I haven't done many interviews in this series, but when Jenny Kaczorowski, who was on my team for "The Writer's Voice" last year, sold THE ART OF FALLING to Bloomsbury's new digital line, I knew I had to get her editor to answer a few questions.

KV: First off, tell us a bit about THE ART OF FALLING. What’s it about, and what did you love about it?

MR: I think I fell in love with FALLING from the moment I read the #pitmad tweet, and then I just crossed my fingers that it lived up to my expectations. I might as well let that tweet speak for itself:

YA - Bria knows exactly who she is - the militant vegan, purple-haired Queen of the Art Room - until she kisses the HS quarterback #PitchMAS

What I love about this book is that it feels so warm, so wistful, and it really breaks out of the typical YA contemporary tropes when it comes to character building. On the surface Bria might look like a stereotype but we quickly get to know that she is anything but. Also the fact that I actually have my own pair of purple Doc Martens didn't hurt.

KV: Jumping in to say I fell in love with FALLING, too, as soon as I read the query, so I know exactly how that feels:) All right, back to the interview!

How quickly did you read Ms. Kaczorowski’s manuscript? Is that pretty typical of your response times on submissions, or do those vary?

MR: I am pretty sure I flew through THE ART OF FALLING after finding it in #pitmad but then I waited for a bit before bringing it to acquisitions, just to make sure that it really stuck in my mind. Response times can really vary for me based on everything else that is going on here at Spark, and the schedules of our team for acquisitions. In preparations for the launch I was juggling a lot and my response time slowed as I was in full on edit mode. Due to the volume of submissions we receive I can only respond if interested in a project, but I try to keep that to a two month window.

KV: After you finished THE ART OF FALLING, did you pass it on to a colleague for a second read? Do you usually do that?

MR: With Spark I have the honor and sometimes terrifying privilege of really being able to fight for a book based on my own judgement. But thankfully, before I move forward with anything I have a great team that reads an excerpt and gives great feedback and perspective, made up of colleagues from editorial, marketing and sales. Incidentally, these folks in my acquisitions meeting are the same masterminds who work on all of our print books as well, so they are absolutely brilliant to work with.

KV: How did you prepare to bring THE ART OF FALLING to your acquisitions meeting?

MR: For all potential Spark titles, I give the manuscript a full read and usually let it sit for a few days. If I can't stop thinking about it, I begin prepping the acquisition proposal, which looks at a variety of factors. I include my pitch for the book, information about the author, a writing sample from the manuscript, competitive titles and their sales. Given that Spark is an eBook line, we also look at an author's digital presence. You don't have to be a twitter maven, but knowing what twitter is certainly helps!

KV: What happened at that meeting? And what might have happened? What are all the possible outcomes?

MR: I would say that FALLING was a pretty easy sell for the whole group. Jenny is fantastic and the book is so easy to love that I think it was one of those, "great, let's do it, what's next?" moments.

It's not always that simple, and sometimes I really fight for books that I love, and sometimes I realize that my team is absolutely right about the flaws in a project and you have to let them go. Sometimes you push for a book and they wind up going in another direction.

One of the best things that I have learned in these meetings and building a line is that not every book that I love is a fit for Spark. You can swoon for something and know that it won't sell, or that a trend is over, or that it just doesn't have enough of a hook, or that there is something similar that has already been published by Bloomsbury. In the end it has to be the perfect combination of a book I love, and something that we feel is timed well with the market.

KV: How did you present your offer to Ms. Kaczorowski, and what was that conversation like?

MR: I made our offer in writing via e-mail, and the only sad part about doing it via e-mail is you don't get to hear the jumping up and down when people accept! Jenny had a few others who were still looking at her manuscript, so I had to wait for a few weeks until I found out that I would be the lucky editor! (See, we worry about rejection too!)

KV: Of course, making the offer wasn’t the end of the road. What sorts of things did you and Ms. Kaczorowski discuss before everyone signed the contract?

MR: We went over the terms of the contract, I clarified a few items, and that was it! I really wanted to make sure she felt comfortable with the terms, especially since she was submitting to me directly rather than through an agent. We also have a great contracts team that is happy to translate any legal-ese, and I completely understand that it is sometimes necessary!

KV: I know Bloomsbury Spark is open to unagented submissions, so what other kinds of stories are you looking for?

MR: I would say right now I am looking for more genre fiction (high-concept science fiction and fantasy in particular) and contemporary romance as long as it has a great hook and feels fresh. We are looking for more male main characters, and also for stories that would do well with an international audience. Right now I am also on the hunt for fun YA/NA romance novellas for various times of the year (think prom, spring break, snowy winter, etc.).

As for my personal taste, I am always drawn to a really strong voice, I love humor, and I am looking to expand our New Adult offerings. I love stories that take you on an adventure and spark your imagination, but also let you get a good sigh-worthy moment in now and then.

KV: What's the best way to submit to you?

MR: You can find all of our submission guidelines here:

Please do include a query and information about yourself including links to your online presence. If I like your submission it makes it that much easier to find out more about you! I am always accepting submissions from agents as well, so if you are interested in Spark and have an agent, please ask them to submit to me directly. 

Thanks again, Ms. Rich, for this helpful information. I've been one of Jenny's fans for a long time, so it was nice to get this glimpse behind the scenes. And for those of you who plan to submit to Bloomsbury Spark in their near future, definitely check out their Facebook page.

I'm also happy to report that THE ART OF FALLING is now for sale! You can purchase it through any of these platforms:

Barnes & Noble
Amazon Kindle
Google Play

Happy reading, and Happy New Year!


Tara Dairman said...

Great interview, Krista--as usual--and boy does this book sound good! I already want to know what happens to these two characters just from the pitch. :) Congrats to Jenny and Meredith!

Ninja Girl said...

I love this! I really enjoyed Jenny's book, THE ART OF FALLING; Bria and Ben were such a sweet couple, and there were definitely those swoonworthy moments :). Great interview, really interesting to hear from the POV of the editor.
Thanks Krista,
Ninja Girl

Krista Van Dolzer said...

I thought so, too, Tara! And you KNOW I have great taste in books:)

You're so welcome, Ninja Girl! I'm happy to hear you've read it! (I'm in the middle of a big revision, so I've only had time to read the first few chapters.)

t_mcclinton85 said...

I just accepted my first contract with Bloomsbury Spark. This was an interesting--and sometimes nerve wracking--interview to read. So glad I got to know some of the process better. :) I look forward to working with you!

Thanks for the awesome post, Krista.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

You're welcome, T. Good luck with your new book!