My guest today is Kensington editor, Hilary Sares.

December 12, 2006 | Karin's Blog | 66 comments

Please welcome the incomparable, the witty, the urbane, the one and only, Hilary Sares, Kensington editor extraordinaire. (envision the sound of maniacal clapping, whistling and cries of ‘pick me, pick me!’)

Room calms.

Hilary was my very first editor. I received ‘The Call’ on a Friday morning under heavy sedation. Hubby had to hold the phone to my ear. I told him several days later about this weird dream I had of a lady from New York calling and wanting to by a book. Luckily she still wanted the book when I was lucid.

Hilary is giving a peek inside her office during the holidays. Feel free to ask her questions, she will be popping in through out the day.
Hilary thank you for stopping by.

Now without further adieu here’s Hilary.

A publishing house during the holidays… Well, we never dream of a white Christmas. The predominant color in our offices is white. We sit amidst toppling white mountains of paper. Manuscripts under consideration. Manuscripts going through the long process to publication. White FedEx envelopes bulging with more manuscripts. Stacks of white napkins waiting to sop up the black coffee we spill from our white coffee cups. Johnny Mathis, make a song outa that. And I didn’t even mention the giant white scheduling boards and calendars with lunches scrawled in and hairdressing appointments crossed out. We eat too much and we rarely have time to beautify our shabby selves. Besides, who would see us?

Our colleagues, who don’t care. The people who water the plants and peer into our offices just in case they missed one, but all they see is white paper and move on. Our kids, sometimes, who believe that we must be doing something because there is just so much stuff on our desks. My daughter sits opposite me in a red armchair. She, a poor broke hungry college student, is investigating the varied contents of a beautiful gift basket and has found out that gift basket salami is not what it seems. But she bravely takes a bite. The cheese is more to her taste. The snacky crackers hit the spot. I am left with a jar of mustard. Yet she has a 24-inch waist. I do not. I could live on mustard slathered on slabs of please-recycle-this-if-it-does-not-meet-your-needs manuscript and I would still gain weight. (I never eat manuscripts if an author includes a self-addressed stamped envelope for their return.)

What writers probably dream of: The Call. How often we make The Call around the holidays: very rarely. We would love to brighten everyone’s Christmas but deadlines are deadlines, and there’s nothing we can do about it. So the interminable wait to hear stretches into the next year.

And yes, we make New Year’s resolutions to send back what we aren’t going to buy as kindly and gently and expediently as we can. We sometimes keep them (the resolutions and the manuscripts). We brood about good writers we can’t buy because their work doesn’t fit the program or the schedule or whatever we’re calling it this week, and we rack our brains for something polite to say to the ones who aren’t so good. They sure as hell are trying.

If the mother of Jesus had written WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING, that would make nine billion copies in print. Right now there are only nine million. And she would probably get a semi-coherent rejection letter that started like this.

Thanks so much for the opportunity to consider your non-fiction work on pregnancy, but the focus on gestation seemed a little overdone.

Okay, writers and friends of writers. What would you like for Christmas?

Hilary Sares


  1. raine

    Hi, Hilary! I must admit–your description of an editor’s office is exactly what I’d imagined it would be.

    One small question? Do you respond to every query one way or another?
    Thanks for joining us! 🙂

  2. Bonnie Edwards

    My ideal reader? Someone who laughs when they get to the part in the story that made *me* laugh.

    Or cries when I cried. (yes, I do)

    And especially sighs when they get to the end b/c I always agonize over endings. It’s fierce, this agony.

    My endings are always happy…but still, they have to be the *right* ending.

    And I miss those big city windows, Hilary. Will have to go pull out my video of “A Christmas Story” b/c they filmed the stores and outdoor scenes in my hometown and yes, it really looked like that at Christmas.


  3. Me *big grin* (okay so you know it's me, Kim)

    oooh, cool questions and answers! I go scrapbooking and come back and almost missed all the fun. WOOHOO. My ideal reader? Damn, that’s a hard question! I was posed to write something snappy and fun, sexy and short. hmmm. I guess a reader who loves to romances that are not only sexy, but that speak to the heart? Yanno what I mean? I love to read it hot and sexy, myself as a reader. Although I enjoy erotica, nothing is as satisfying to me as a reader as a hot and sexy, give-it-to-me-now boy, don’t make me hurt you, luving’ scene…but I GOTTA have the romance. While he’s pulling my hair, uh… I mean the HEROINE’s hair…talkin’ all kinds of ways nasty to me, again to the heroine, ahem, I need to know that this man will walk to the ends of the earth barefoot, with bunions tracking prints in 15 inches of snow…all for his woman.

    As a reader, that’s what I enjoy, Alpha men, who know how to take care of his woman, in ALL ways. *BIG GRIN*

  4. Percy A Ashe

    Question for Hilary. Are you a fan of erotic/erotica books yourself? Do you enjoy all the various subs that come in or are there days when it seems all sex, sex, sex and no substance and/or plotting?

  5. Hilary

    I don’t know if it’s possible for a woman to write a book with no plot whatsoever. Women LOVE plots, narrative, motivation, dialogue, scene-setting–all the little things that make a story tick (and there are men who write like that too, of course). Sex on paper is just not sexy without that because there are no visuals.

  6. Vivi Anna

    My ideal reader is someone that enjoys what I write, appreciates that I write, and tells others about my books. I also love getting emails from readers.

  7. Susan Lyons

    Ooh, I popped in just in time for the “ideal reader” question! She’s the one who tells me she just read my book and it really spoke to her. It’s also very cool when the women tell me that their significant other guys say to pass on their thanks to me . And when a woman in an interracial relationship tells me I got it right!

    (Just love being right .)

    But I think Hilary is mean, mean, mean for saying that thing about New York all dressed up for Christmas. Damn, I wanna see that. Guess it won’t still be there when the PASIC conference rolls around… Sigh. (Not that NYC isn’t fabulous, however she’s dressed up. Just that grubby old snow isn’t my favorite look.)

  8. Hilary

    Susan, I’ll take pictures of the Bergdorf’s windows and send a few to you. Thought they couldn’t top last year’s but they did. Amateur historians (Kaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalen, this means you), when the practice of dressing shop windows begin? I just bought a reference book called SHOPPING IN THE RENAISSANCE–it was going strong then (before big shop windows were common) so it must have been earlier than that. Imagine a window or open space filled with written descriptions of the goods to be had inside–or the first copywriters scratching desperately on the walls of the caves. Were towels “thirsty” and was storage space “ample” then? OK, jump in with your favorite stupid catalog-type words. Tis the season to be shopping unless you are as brave as Karin.

  9. Hilary

    It’s quarter to five! I’m not witty anymore. Back to Lump Mode. Great fun hanging out with you all. Best fishes and hummy hallidays from Hilary.

  10. Devyn Quinn

    Hilary, I’d like to see the pictures too.

  11. Kalen Hughes

    Ooooooooo, I’ve been called out by my editor. LOL! I have no idea when holiday decorating started. No idea! It would make sense though that as soon as shops had windows, they’d gussy them up to attract shoppers. But we’d also have to look at things like when gifts for certain holidays became common, etc.

  12. Karin

    Thank you for stopping by Hilary!!!

  13. raine

    Thanks for the info, Hilary!

    (ok, who told her about the small, tight fonts?)

  14. Shalanna Collins

    Oh, I think I got here after it was all over. *sob* Thank you for comin’ by, anyhow!

    Did I understand correctly–that a query letter is not needed, that we can just send the manuscript unsolicited? I don’t have a hot steamy romance, but a romantic comedy that’s got a suspense thread running through it. Don’t know if that would fit any lines. Should I send a partial instead of a query, then? Maybe I read that wrong.

  15. Lee

    I feel as Shalanna, I got here to late. I was babysitting grandkids yesterday and well, they run me ragged and I don’t have time to get on-line. The little one I don’t dare take my eyes off of. Anyways, Hilary it was very insightful and fun…I enjoyed the comments and your vision of not such a glamorous life as a editor.

  16. Loretta Wheeler

    Well, I suppose my FIRST wish for Christmas just flew out the window after reading Hilary’s description of the office!:) I’ll probably go ahead and wish for it anyway just out of blind optimism;)
    Right up next to the first one though is that I get the “all clear” to make it home (the U.S.) next year, we’re going through immigration procedures for my husband who’s an Aussie, waiting on all that “paperwork” to clear.:)Our own personal mound of “white:)”
    Since the manuscript that I do have with an agent is set in New Orleans, it’s amazing that if all things clear for launch, we wind up there at first…
    Thanks for the inside look around the office Hilary:) I had a suspicion that’s what it would look like:) Can you even see your heads above the white mountain line?!:)
    I agree with the suggestion earlier, for God’s sake, send ya’ll chocolate instead of salami! I’d say it’s a requirement and part of the basic food group!:)

    Flinging a virtual box of Godiva’s through the door (to heck with any plant watering!;)I say…nourish the editor!


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