What are some upcoming trends?
I wish predicting upcoming trends could be my superpower. I think trends only happen after something becomes a surprise success—just imagine what my inbox looked like after Fifty Shade of Grey came out. I got BDSM fiction and nonfiction submissions for months.
What I can say in the world of romance is that sex and danger continue to sell, small-town romances continue to sell, historical romances continue to sell. So I foresee more of the same in 2015! But I’m open to surprises—and frankly WANT to be surprised. I’m excited to see what I can acquire next, and that hopefully will kick off a new trend.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
I grew up reading romances in the early ’90s. There was some crazy awesome stuff being written then—I would never say never to anything! Well, OK, I think Viking romances may have had their heyday.
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
Romance authors are incredibly savvy and are really on top of the changes occurring in our industry. As a result, publishers need to move and adapt quickly with the market as well, particularly when it comes to the digital side of things. Not that I’m biased or anything, but this is something that Avon does really well: we were one of the first publishers to have a team dedicated to the strategizing of dynamic e-book pricing and sales and also one of the first to create a digital-first imprint, Avon Impulse. Since it began, it’s been a great tool in capturing that digital fan base and discovering new authors, some of whom have made the transition to print.
In addition to all the innovation, there’s also a lot of camaraderie between our authors. I think a part of that may come from the fact that even though the romance genre is a billion-dollar industry (a BILLION DOLLARS), authors can feel they don’t get a lot of respect when compared to more “literary” novelists. I think genre authors in general—whether in romance, mystery, sci-fi, fantasy—really seek each other out and look to support each other.
Any interactions with indie authors lately?
Yes, quite a few of our authors are “hybrid” authors: they self-publish as well as publish through Avon. There can be a lot of upside for both the author and publisher when the author comes with a strong digital platform and is looking to grow her print numbers. We’re really open to partnering with indie authors and have found they bring some unique stories to the romance market.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Some days I feel guilty that I’ve spent 40 minutes with my colleagues discussing who our favorite heroes are. Of course, as with any career, I have plenty of hectic, intense days, but considering the fact that I get to work with amazing authors and a team of people who love reading as much as I do, I have a pretty cool job.
May Chen is an editor at Morrow/Avon, imprints of HarperCollins Publishers. She has a diverse list that includes several New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors across all romance genres as well as an eclectic commercial, pop-culture–focused nonfiction list. She sometimes tweets about publishing and French bulldogs under @amayzingchen.