Meet Senior Editor Selina McLemore

- by BlogMistress

Selina McLemore is a Senior Editor at Grand Central Publishing, acquiring women’s fiction and narrative non-fiction, Latino fiction, and romance. Prior to GCP, Selina worked at HarperCollins Publishers and Harlequin Books. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she earned degrees in English and Spanish Literature.

Tell us a little about you and your publishing house.

I’m a Senior Editor at Grand Central Publishing, part of the Hachette Book Group, which publishes a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction. When I came to GCP it was to launch a Latino fiction program, so books that explore the beauty and diversity of Latino culture. It’s a program I’m very proud of, and one that’s close to my heart. And speaking of hearts…I also acquire for Forever, our romance imprint. In Forever we publish it all: historical and contemporary romance, paranormal romance, romantic suspense. And we’re growing! After successfully growing authors like Elizabeth Hoyt and Larissa Ione into New York Times bestseller, we’re looking for new authors to expand the list and bring our fans even more fantastic fiction.

What made you decide to edit fiction?

Like most people in our profession, I’ve always loved reading. When I was in college I had a couple summer internships, one with a magazine and one with a publishing house. After getting a taste of both, I felt the book side was the place for me. Over the years I’ve edited both fiction and nonfiction, and I continue to publish some narrative nonfiction, but novels just tend to be what I’m drawn to.

Are your favorite pleasure reads markedly different from the fiction you edit?

Not entirely. The only real difference is that in addition to romance and women’s fiction, which I’ve always read, I also like to read scientific nonfiction and some young adult novels. How’s that for variety?

What kinds of manuscripts do you acquire? Who are some of the writers with whom you work?

I acquire in a few different areas: Latino fiction, which, as I said, are books that explore Latino culture; women’s fiction and romance. Some of my current authors are “Crafty Chica” Kathy Cano-Murillo whose debut novel Waking Up in the Land of Glitter is about to hit shelves; Margaret Mascarenhas, whose novel The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos was a B&N Discover pick last year; Jennifer Haymore, one of Forever’s rising stars; and New York Times bestselling author Caridad Piñeiro, who writes an exciting paranormal series for Forever.

What about a manuscript grabs your attention and makes you consider making an offer?

People are always looking for some kind of magic answer to this question—that one element they can put into their story to guarantee a sale. But it isn’t about any one thing. It’s about the whole package: strong, vivid writing; a high-concept hook; original, memorable characters. Those are the elements of good storytelling and I’m looking for all of them.

What do you look for in a synopsis?

I look for it to be concise and complete–your synopsis, especially if you’re sending it to an editor who has never worked with you, is no place for a cliffhanger. I want to see that you can define your hook and the important turning points of your plot, and that you’ve thought the story through to a final outcome. When an author loads her synopsis with a lot of backstory or tiny, extraneous details instead of telling me about the conflict and how she intends to resolve it, it’s a red flag.

What makes for a great editorial relationship with an author? What doesn’t?

I think the most important thing to remember is that we’re both on the same team. As an editor, I want all my authors to succeed, and I do all I can to make that happen. Sometimes it seems like authors think of their publisher as an adversary rather than an ally. Who knows why—maybe a bad publishing experience in the past, maybe a different set of expectations at the start of the relationship. But I think that if everyone, authors, editors and agents, went into every conversation remembering that we’re partners working towards a common goal, we’d all benefit.

How do you handle it with an author if there’s been a slump in sales?

The first step is to try and identify what caused it. Is it a sagging economy? Did the author make a shift in style or genre? Is it time for the author to make a shift? The second step, I believe, is to have an open and honest conversation about what happened and how we plan to get past it. Most authors will go through this at some point in their careers. The key is to not take it personally, and to keep an open mind about your next steps.

How do feel about authors working with other publishers or in other genres?

There are a lot of factors to consider here. Ultimately my feelings come down to whether or not I think an author will be cannibalizing her own audience by working with the second publisher.

What do you wish that authors understood about your job?

You know how you sent me your manuscript on Friday, and then emailed me on Monday to see how I liked it? Five other people did that too.

I know it’s hard, after you’ve sent off your work, to sit and wait on your editor, and so I try to read everything as quickly as I can. But sometimes, I just can’t respond immediately. When that’s the case, please remember it’s not personal, and it’s not a sign that something is wrong. It’s a sign that your editor is human.

What current trends do you find the most interesting?

I’m fascinated by everything that’s happening with ebooks. There are so many new possibilities for what can be offered. I think it’s a very exciting time to be in publishing.

What advice do you have for seasoned authors in the current publishing climate?

Don’t panic. It’s not as bleak as you might think. We’re still seeing growth in our authors and, as I mentioned above, we’re expanding our entire Forever list due to our strong romance sales. Stay focused on writing the best book you can, and you’ll be fine.

Do you buy series from proposals? If so, what are you looking for?

If it’s strong enough, then yes I’ll but a series based on a proposal. Right now I’m looking for great new romance projects, especially paranormal romance. The darker the better for me, and hero-centric is always great.

How do you decide if a ms. (either from a current or from a new author) calls for mass market, trade paperback or hard cover?

There’s really no set rule to this. Generally speaking, we know that certain genres tend to do better in certain formats. Ultimately it’s a book by book decision.

Is there anything else you’d like to address?

Did I mention that Forever, our romance imprint, is growing and looking for authors? Okay, just checking.

9 comments

  1. Hi Selina,

    Thanks for the upbeat post. Hearing that there’s no doom and gloom at Grand Central is the perfect pick-me-up for this foggy day.

    As a writer who has reinvented herself several times, I’m glad you have an open mind about someone working for more than one publisher. In my case, its a matter of economics and being able to produce more than one publisher can put out.

    Do you consider submissions directly from published writers or is an agent necessary? (Can’t think of a politically correct way to ask)
    Vella

  2. I was lucky enough to have Selina edit my first manuscript, and all I can say is that she’s one of the best in the business and a darn nice person too.

  3. Hi Vella, thanks for your comment. I don’t think your question is politically incorrect, and besides, it’s very commonly asked. GCP only accepts agented submissions, even from published writers.

    Michelle, awwww, you remember how much I love flattery!

  4. Hi Selina:
    Like a lot of unpublished writers, one of the strategies I use to get my work in front of editors is to choose contests based on the editors/agents who judge the finals. Since GCP only accepts agented submissions, am I wasting my time if I choose contests where someone from GCP is a final judge?
    Thanks,
    Debbie

  5. Hi Debbie,

    No, you’re not wasting your time. Contests and conferences can be exceptions to the agent rule. I have requested manuscripts I’ve judged in contests before, and from authors who have pitched to me at conferences. And while I can’t say I’ve bought one of these projects recently, I have bought them in the past. But, even if a contest doesn’t lead you directly to a sale, remember that you can get valuable feedback that will help your writing. And down the road when you do sign with an agent, it’s likely I’ll remember your work.

  6. Welcome and thank you, Selina, from a fellow NU grad . . . though perhaps just a year or two before you (g)

  7. Hi Selina, You mention you’re looking for dark paranormals, the darker the better. Are you looking for hybrid urban fantasy romances?

    Thanks,

    Jordan

  8. Hi, Selina! In a world where the norm seems to be romantic comedy these days, it’s refreshing to see someone who actually likes manuscripts that take a walk on the dark side, I love writing dark, old-fashioned gothic romances–the kind with the single light blooming from the forbidden tower and the crazy pyromaniac stalking the hallways late at night. Brooding heroes, intrepid heroines–sigh. LOL! I do love dark romances, and am hoping to find more on the bookshelves soon! I’ll be sure to check for the authors you’re publishing!

  9. Hi Selina, I’m a Latina writer with two novels. My topic is immigrant stories (immigrants who are succesful professionals, not the traditional Tex Mix, Spanglish, boohoo, barrio story that is not of interest to Latin Americans who have a culture of reading) and I write in Spanish. I can’t tell by the interview if Grand Central publishes in Spanish. If so, would you be the editor to contact? Thanks!