Interview with Anne Bensson, Assistant Editor St. Martinís Press

By Theresa Rizzo

Date:12/4/09

 

Bio: Anne Bensson loves novels of all kinds, but her true passion is crime fiction, from classic mysteries to suspense and thrillers, which she acquires and edits for St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books.

 

  1. Which categories do you currently acquire?Which category is your favorite?

    Answer: I primarily acquire crime fiction for St. Martinís Press and Minotaur Books Ė including every subgenre from thrillers to cozies to police procedurals and detective fiction.I also have a strong background in YA and womenís fiction (having worked under Jennifer Weis with P.C. and Kristin Cast, Tatiana de Rosnay, Kim Gruenenfelder, and others), but am acquiring very selectively in these areas.Crime fiction is definitely my favorite!

 

  1. In terms of submissions, what are you sick to death of and what would you like to see more of?

Answer: Iím sick of vampires!Because thereís such a market for them right now, with the Twilight books and movies, the Vampire Diaries books and TV show, and the general success of the paranormal genre in general, I see tons of vampire submissions every week.But what authors sometimes forget is that editors are acquiring books for next year (literally, a book project signed up today will be published about 12 months from now), so weíre already looking for the next big trend, not necessarily whatís working now.I love to see stories that come from an authorís heart, not projects that are trying to squeeze into a genre or market that might not be right for them.

 

  1. Do you accept unagented and/or email queries?

Answer: No.

 

  1. What length synopsis do you prefer to see with a partial?

Answer: I prefer a full synopsis Ė itís important to see that the author has thought out where her novel is going and how itís going to end (a hard thing to do!).It also makes it easier to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses.

 

 

  1. What are the compelling elements that you think are necessary for a good
    read?†† What particularly grabs your attention?

    Answer:First and foremost, itís essential to have a well-paced plotline.I know that if I get bored and lose sight of the central mystery in a crime novel, readers will too.When reading submissions, I also look for a strong, original narrative voice and believable characters with intriguing quirks and nuances.Iím particularly drawn to gritty, realistically drawn urban settings, but am enthusiastic about any manuscript with a palpable atmosphere, whether itís set in the Deep South, the Pacific Northwest, New York City, or anywhere in-between.

 

 

  1. Does meeting an author face-to-face at a conference make a difference in your response time, the submission process, or the rejection process (ie. Form letter vs a few sentences of advice)?

Answer: Yes Ė itís always nice to put a face to a submission, and if Iíve met a writer before and had a positive impression of her, Iím more likely to move her manuscript up in my pile and write a longer rejection letter (with more advice) if I decide the project isnít right for me.However, Iím not more likely to acquire a manuscript because Iíve met the writer Ė so much goes into that decision, from the quality of the manuscript to the promotability of the author to the shape of our imprintís list at the time Iím reading, that having met the person isnít really a factor.

 

 

  1. Besides the writing, the story and the talent, what are the most important elements you look for in an author, ie. contest wins, cooperativeness, affiliations to writers organizations, knowledge of publishing industry, promotability, etc?

Answer:Promotability is very important.In a crowded market, any little extra thing that makes a novel and/or author stand out Ė from an author with real-life experience in the milieu in which theyíre writing, to an author with lots of media contacts Ė can make a big difference.Itís also important to me that an author be willing to put in the time to market themselves.At a time when readers are increasingly looking for bonus material and access to authors online, it can really boost market awareness and sales to have an author who is an active blogger, who is available on Facebook, Twitter, etc., and who reaches out to both general reading blogs and social networking sites like GoodReads and LibraryThing and to online areas specific to her audience.

 

  1. What do you love most about your job?

Answer: I love that I get to read novels at my desk, for work.I love working with authors and seeing their novels develop from something great into something really excellent.I love finding myself in quirky conversations with my colleagues, such as ďWhatís the best way to kill off a victim, you know, in a fresh, creative way?ĒI love the moment when the first copy of a finished book lands on my desk, and then seeing that book on a shelf in a real bookstore.

 

  1. Do you have any pet peeves?

Answer:It drives me crazy when I give notes to an author, and then, inexplicably, they do not turn up in the next draft of the manuscript.Itís one thing to disagree with an editor about something and explain why, but quite another to just not implement notes.We work hard on them, too!

 

  1. Whatís your favorite genre/type of:
    1. Book: crime fiction: thrillers, suspense, police procedurals, classic mysteries, etc., I love it all!
    2. Food: burgers
    3. Music: rock, pop
    4. Movie: suspense, action and comedy
    5. Hobbie: reading, spending time with friends

 

  1. What are you addicted to?

Answer: chocolate, shopping, Mad Men, autumn in New York

 

  1. What have you always wanted to do?

Answer: Travel around Europe.

 

  1. Do you have a favorite quote?

Answer: ďIt is wrong, then, to chide the novel for being fascinated by mysterious coincidences...but it is right to chide man for being blind to such coincidences in his daily life. For he thereby deprives his life of a dimension of beauty.Ē--Milan Kundera