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An Interview with Deb Werksman


It’s my pleasure to introduce my guest, Deb Werksman, the Editorial Director for Sourcebooks Casablanca.


MJC: What books have you read when you were younger that made an impact on you?
DZ:Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf were my favorites in high school and college. For about 10 years I re-read Pride and Prejudice every year, and A Room of One’s Own still resonates as a powerful feminist manifesto (manifesta?).

MJC: What are you currently reading?
DW: I’ve just finished The Radium Girls by Kate Moore, which is absolutely thrilling—it’s non-fiction, but reads like a thriller, and tells the story of the amazing women who painted the illuminated watch dials during WWI and got radium poisoning as a result. They had to fight very hard to get worker’s compensation for their suffering, and were the pioneers of OSHA. I’m also re-reading The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer, and I’ve pre-ordered Donna Leon’s new book—I love her mysteries set in Venice, Italy, with the redoubtable Commissario Guido Brunetti.

MJC: What do you like best about being an editor?
DW: I love to take an author from an unknown debut to a bestseller with hundreds of thousands of copies sold.

MJC: What percentage of new clients you sign in are debut authors?
DW: A healthy percentage—difficult to give you an exact number because of course after their first book, they’re not a debut any more. I have numerous authors who debuted with us sometime during the past 10 years and are still writing for us.

MJC: What are the qualities of your ideal client?
DW: My ideal client is deadline and data driven, and is a great team player.

MJC: How many submissions do you typically receive in a week?
DW: About 50-100 per month.

MJC: What questions do you wish authors would ask before considering a match with a publishing house or editor?
DW: I think an author needs to assess how much support she wants vs. how much control. If an author is a team player and understands that publishing is a team sport, she will be much happier.

MJC: What is most common plotting error you see in submissions?
DW: Most common is using tropes instead of original thinking, and the lack of a strong hook—it’s such a competitive marketplace that the hook is absolutely essential. Plotting errors can be fixed—lack of a hook is much more difficult.

MJC: What is on your manuscript wish list?
DW: I’m looking for a really original paranormal, a contemporary that’s emotional and heart-gripping and reminds me of Fern Michaels or Robyn Carr, and romantic suspense that’s believable and compelling.

MJC: If you could keep company with one magical creature for the rest of your life what would you choose and why?
DW: I’d like my own personal fairy to wave her magic wand and make every day a good hair day, or feed the cats instantly, or transform the laundry into a neatly folded wardrobe. Also if she could pack suitcases, that would be a plus.

MJC: What has been the highlight of your career?
DW: The highlight of my career was starting Sourcebooks Casablanca and growing it over 10 years to where we are now. We’ve launched and built many careers, have been a top 10 romance publisher since our 3rd year in business, and the future is bright.

MJC: What’s your advice to an aspiring author?
DW: 1. Hone your craft. When you figure out what category (romance? Mystery?) and subgenre (romantic suspense? Paranormal romance? Cozy mystery?) you want to write forever, then you know you’re ready to begin talking to agents and authors. Before that, just enjoy the process.
2. Publishing is a team sport. It’s important to realize that the people you’re working with are professionals and are in this for their careers. They want to help you build a career too. You’re going to have to think about your writing as a job at some point.
3. Learn your category. The time you spend in a bookstore is very valuable, because that’s where readers discover new authors.

Favorites:
Martial arts move: breaking a board with my bare foot (not that I’ve ever done it…)
Weapon: knitting needle
Superhero power: getting shit done
Beverage: venti iced green tea, unsweetened
Book boyfriend: Mr. Darcy
Animal: feline, any size, also the snow monkeys of Japan who spend their time in the hot springs looking blissed out
Comedy: SNL, especially lately
Comeback line: Tomorrow is another day…
Ice cream: lavender and fig or chocolate of course
Movie:  Ever After
TV show: Grace and Frankie
Drink: mimosa
Shoes: Arche
Artist: Jiri Anderle
Sports team: CT Huskies
Guilty pleasure: Vanity Fair magazine