Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers is pleased to welcome Erika Imranyi to our Gold Conference September 7th through the 9th. Erika is Senior Editor at Mira Books, a division of Harlequin, where she is actively building a list of breakout debut and upmarket commercial women’s fiction. Prior to working for Harlequin, she spent almost a decade at Dutton, an imprint of the Penguin Group, acquiring and editing a wide range of commercial fiction and nonfiction.
CIR: Thanks so much for joining us Erika! We’ve learned that an author needs to take marketing seriously. I believe I can safely say that everyone in RMFW is on that bandwagon. However, I think more of our pre-published writers would like to know more about what the giants like Harlequin do to market titles. Is there a certain amount of funds budgeted per novel? Does an author’s book get put in a queue to be plugged on Goodreads…etc?
EI: Boy, you don’t waste any time getting to the tough questions! Marketing and publicity campaigns are determined on a book by book basis, and we try to tailor those campaigns depending on the type of book and who the audience is. For instance, an ad in the New Yorker might make sense for a big literary novel, but probably not for a romance or cozy mystery. And marketing strategies change as the market changes. Flashy print ads and multi-city book tours are no longer as effective as they once were; five years ago, authors barely had Facebook pages, let alone blog tours and Twitter handles. In the changing industry, we’re always looking for new and creative ways to promote books. And it’s very much a team effort between the publisher and author. An author’s work is only just beginning when he finishes writing the book.
CIR: Publishers Weekly stated that you bought the book The Returned at auction from Folio Literary Management. Besides the book premise—I’ll get to that—I found the auction to be fascinating. Is this a common way of negotiating book acquisitions?
EI: Publishers Weekly reported it incorrectly; I bought the book in a preempt, which is when an editor tries to take the book off the table outside of an auction situation. It’s a somewhat aggressive play. But yes, auctions are common in book acquisitions. If there are multiple houses interested in a project, that’s typically how it’s done.
CIR: The Returned opens with a couple waking one morning to find their son, who drowned 50 years ago at the age of eight, on their doorstep, still a child. The bizarre return winds up being part of a worldwide event in which people everywhere are coming back from the dead. I have to admit, the premise grabs my attention. What genre is this and would you tell us more?
EI: It sounds like it’d be a zombie or sci-fi novel, but it’s not. I guess you could call it a high-concept literary debut. It’s about a family navigating this strange phenomenon and a conflict that essentially rocks the foundation of humanity, calling into question everything we understand about life and death. I suppose it’s a sci-fi premise, but the author doesn’t get into the how or why, and the Returned (as they’re called in the book) look and act like normal people—there’s a real humanity about them. I think this makes the story all the more profound. Jason is a published poet, and his voice reads like silk: spare, poetic, and compulsively readable. The characters come alive, and you feel deeply for them; you can imagine yourself in their shoes, wondering what you would do if you were given a second chance with someone you loved and lost. Would you be frightened? Grateful? Ultimately, it’s a novel about faith and morality, about family and responsibility…. Can you tell I’m in love with this book?
CIR: One of the things I’ve been dying to ask an executive such as yourself with the mighty Harlequin is with all the imprints the company has launched, have they looked at publishing paperback horror along the lines of Tor or Dorchester? (If I’ve missed an obvious imprint, my apologies and I’ll strike this question.)
EI: We have an imprint called Luna, which would publish books in this category. Horror isn’t a big part of the list, but there’s certainly room for it.
CIR: Have you met any celebrities and if you did, who did you think was the coolest?
EI: I worked with Jenny McCarthy on her book Mother Warriors, and she was delightful. Chuck Liddell, former Ultimate Fighting champion, was a fun experience. Not too many exciting celebrity stories, I’m afraid…
CIR: I understand that you’re a runner. Do you compete in Marathons?
EI: Ha! I just ran my first 10k. I’d love one day to run a half marathon. My husband and I were married on marathon Sunday a few years ago and dream of running the marathon on our anniversary one day, but that’s highly unlikely.
CIR: If you could go back in time and meet any iconic author, who would it be?
EI: Shakespeare – if someone could figure out who he really was! I’d also love to meet James Joyce.
CIR: Thanks Erika!
EI: My pleasure!
Interview conducted by Gusto Dave Jackson, an urban fantasy and a YA western steampunk author represented by the Belcastro Agency.