Ever wonder about the behind-the-scenes stories of the book publishing industry? Well, wonder no more, because each month we’re featuring an interview with a well-known book blogger, editor, or agent. Today, we are excited to welcome Kendel Lynn, Editorial Director and co-founder of Henery Press. She is also the author of the popular Elliott Lisbon Mysteries and other publications. And she served as president of Sisters in Crime. Talk about a juggling act–wow!–but Kendel makes it look easy. She was kind enough to answer our burning questions, so read on for a glimpse of the editorial life…
What does an Editorial Director do?
In my Editorial Director role, I manage the editorial department from submissions and acquisitions to staff editors and interns to internal and external production schedules. Publishing a book is like planning a wedding. There are 197 things that need to get done and all on deadline. No matter what happens, that date is coming! My job is to determine which tasks get priority, who will take point, and keep it all on schedule.
Do you have a fun or interesting story about a past client (no names, of course!) or manuscript you’ve worked on that you’d be willing to share?
One of my favorite stories has to do with The Deep End by Julie Mulhern (named names in the first sentence). It’s a wonderfully funny, tightly written whodunit set in the 70s. I whipped through those delightful pages, growing giddier with each flip. It was perfect for us! Those pages flew by, and soon I was immersed in a daringly detailed dominatrix scene. Wait, what?! Holy moly, what is happening? It lasted about 4 pages and then resumed its normal programming. Happily, Julie is a dream to work with and agreed to pull back on those daring dominatrix details, and we’ve been publishing her work ever since.
What is the most challenging part of being an editor?
Deadlines. Nearly every author underestimates the amount of time they need to write, edit, and polish a thoughtful full-length murder mystery. Because the first book generally takes years to finish, and with the attention of their writer groups, critique partners, mentors, family, and friends, they don’t understand what it’s like to do all of that to finish the next book while also editing and marketing the first. It’s an enormous amount to juggle, and the writing almost always suffers. Authors will take short cuts (on the editing! Not the editing, people! Or the polishing, don’t skip that either!). They skip it.
What is your favorite part of being an editor?
Finding that gem in the slush pile. Reading a manuscript and forgetting I’m supposed to be editing it. The pages whir by and I can’t wait to find out who did it! I love it. I want to put those manuscripts under my pillow and have sweet dreams (of murder, obviously).
Also, I love love love when we get to publish authors I know and admire. For example, we recently acquired Melissa Bourbon’s Lola Cruz mystery series. How I loved reading those books! I’m a huge fan and being able to read the new books as they roll off her laptop (after being polished, naturally) is a dream.
What advice do you have for hopeful writers?
Writing is a creative undertaking, publishing is a business. Be prepared to put in the hard work on both fronts because they will take equal attention. On the writerly side, understand the genre. Take the workshops, read the books, and join the tribe (writer groups, Sisters in Crime, critique partners, etc.). When you read tips, use them. A mystery has to have a mystery. Suspects, clues, surprises, danger, tension. Push your characters and your story. Don’t ever hold back, put it all on the page.
On the business side, no one will promote your books like you will, because they are yours. Not your editor, publisher, social media concierge, assistant, family, anyone. Read the contracts, learn all of the expectations, stay involved, and communicate.
How has your work on the publishing side affected your work as author of the Elliott Lisbon Mysteries?
I’d say it’s probably the other way around. Writing has made me a better editor (I do love the editing stages way more than the initial writing stage). Experiencing a book from the first word on the page to clinking the champagne glass on the day of its release gives me incredible insight into our authors. I understand what they are going through, and I understand what it takes. I also understand that it’s possible to work a 60-hour work week and also write a book on deadline. Just saying.
What are the most important things you’ve learned about the publishing business?
Publishing is fluid, and the advent of digital publishing has turned fluidity into raging waters. If you’re serious about publishing, then take both sides (writing and business) seriously. And as an author recently said to me, if you’ve chosen the cozy mystery lane, recognize the monetary limitations of the genre. We are in this for the love of it, and yes, to make a living. But there’s a difference between a decent living and living like Jennifer Lawrence will play your sleuth in the multi-million-dollar movie franchise.
Also, publishing is an interesting industry in that there are no barriers to entry. Anyone can publish anything at any time. But that doesn’t mean they should. The ones who take the time to learn the industry, understand the options, and make the choices right for them will get the most out of it.
Last words of advice: There are no publishing emergencies. Keep your cool, be respectful, use your indoor voice, and try to put your best foot forward.
Thank you so much! Dear readers, here’s your chance. Do you have any questions for Kendel? Leave them in the comments below.
Kendel Lynn is the Editorial Director and co-founder of Henery Press. She leads and develops the editorial ecosystem, creative team, and branding efforts, ensuring the Henery Press voice pops from packaging to posts. As an active member of the mystery community, Kendel has penned five novels, plus novellas, screenplays, and countless articles.
She has served as president of the board of directors for both Sisters in Crime (national) and Sisters in Crime North Dallas. She attends multiple conferences, conventions, and workshops where she helps the writerly navigate the publishing landscape.
She loves cupcakes, crime tv, and all things pug.