Interview with Editor Tera Cuskaden from Samhain
Please welcome Tera Cuskaden to our blog. She is here to give our readers a new perspective from the other side. Please tell our readers a little bit about you, such as why did you become an editor?
I’ve always had a great love of the genre. I started reading romance when I was eleven or twelve, sneaking copies of my mother’s and grandmother’s books from their shelves to read after I was supposed to be in bed, carefully rearranging the remaining books so it wasn’t readily apparent anything was amiss. I’d wanted to write, and a friend introduced me to freelance proofreading and reviewing as a way to learn the industry as I worked on my craft. However, after I began dipping my toes into editing, I quickly changed my focus and decided I wanted to be on the other side of the pen. I started working at Samhain in 2007, eventually moving from freelance to full-time employee as Editor and Art Department Coordinator. Now romance books are my day job!
Please tell our readers about the publisher you represent.
Samhain Publishing launched in 2005 with a vision of bringing extraordinary fiction to compulsive readers, and is a publisher of romance and horror fiction. We are the proud partner of over 600 authors and have over 2200 titles available. We publish all genres of romance, and science fiction, fantasy and urban fantasy with strong romantic elements. I’m proud to work for a publisher who works so closely with their authors and who works to foster open, productive, successful relationships.
Describe the genre of the most recent release, and is it the only genre you represent?
My most recent release was a femme domme story, The Billionaire’s Ink Mistress, by Joely Sue Burkhart. Joely writes wonderful BDSM stories, and I love her femme domme books. There’s a fine line you have to walk with having a female dominant and not making your hero too weak, and she handles it beautifully. This particular story features a rich Chicago lawyer and a tattoo-covered, tattoo-artist female dominant. I loved working on this one. However, my next release, releasing tomorrow, is about as opposite of that as you can get! Fallen Embers by P.G. Forte is a vampire saga much in the vein of Anne Rice, and this one is the fifth installment in the series. I like to say that this is what The Vampire Chronicles might have been like if we’d actually gotten to see Louis and Lestat get it on! My tastes are all over the board, and the books I edit definitely show a wide range of genres and heat levels.
Do you have any rejection stories to share? Like a manuscript you passed on that turned into a best seller?
When I first starting working at Samhain, I received a submission that I thought had a lot of potential. I was still being trained at the time, and I put forth a revise and resubmit letter to the person who was training me, and she guided me that it was actually a rejection, that I was going to be asking this author to basically rewrite the manuscript and change the focus of their story and it then wouldn’t be the story they intended to tell. That I was asking them to revise to fit our needs and our audience. It was a lesson that sometimes some stories aren’t a fit for a publisher and their audience, even if you really love the story. A few weeks later I was watching something on a popular TV channel about vampires, and I thought I recognized the name of one of the people featured on the show. I went back and looked and then wanted to kick myself, since that was the author of my rejection that I struggled over. Now I see that person everywhere, it seems!
What is your weekly routine like?
I do my best to keep normal business hours and work in my office, since I work from home. I think if I didn’t delineate work from home in some way, I’d go crazy! I have an office set up in my basement, complete with my own basement cat that slinks around all day trying to stay hidden. At the beginning of the week I’ll look at what I need to complete, which includes a plethora of routine administrative work as well as edits, author paperwork and submissions, and I’ll create a to-do list for each day on a weekly planner. Lists and Post-It’s keep me sane! And I love the feeling of crossing something off my list. It’s the little things. 🙂
Who first introduced you to the love of reading?
My mom does her best to take credit for it. She had read somewhere or heard from someone that reading to your baby from the moment you find out that you’re pregnant does something magical and makes your baby smarter and instills a love of reading. (She did it will all three of us kids, and I have to say, I’m not holding faith in it. I’m the only one who loves to read. Reading a book is punishment for my brothers!) From as far back as I can remember, I’ve been a voracious reader. I was always reading ahead in school, reading at a higher level, and once I got to high school, my English teacher would have me read ahead and make a judgment on whether or not I thought that class should read or would like certain books. It’s also always been a long-running joke in the family that my mom could never ground me to punish me—I didn’t care! I had tons of library books and a hand-me-down recliner from my grandparents in my room, not to mention a secret stash of junk food. Too long; didn’t read? Reading has pretty much always defined me.
For authors or prospective authors: what influences your decision to read a submission: the query letter; synopsis; an agent’s submission; etc.
I read every submission that I receive. Unless a query letter lets me know 100% that a manuscript isn’t the right fit for Samhain due to genre or questionable content, I always have a look at the actual manuscript. However, you can affect how I view your manuscript by the content of your query letter. 1) Keep the personal info to a minimum unless it directly pertains to the manuscript you’ve submitted. I.e., if you’re a military pilot and your story is about a military pilot, I’ll know that I can expect accuracy in those descriptions. 2) Please don’t insult yourself or be passive aggressive. That’s definitely something that will alter my view of your work as I start reading. 3) If the agent representing you is someone I know to be a solid agent who represents a lot of great authors, even if I’ve never heard of a particular author’s name, I will be excited to read the submission because I know I can trust that agent; I can trust that they only represent solid work.
Will you share some encouraging words for authors still struggling for that first contract? Also, how can our readers find your submission guidelines?
Don’t give up! If you have honed your craft and you have a great story to tell, something will come along for you. It may not be right away, but eventually something will click with someone. And don’t stop writing when you are looking. Keep the writing momentum going. The more you write, the better you’ll get, and the more you’ll have to shop to publishers and agents. Samhain’s submission guidelines can be found at: https://www.samhainpublishing.com/static/write
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