Sunday, November 9, 2008

RichWriters Interview with Harlequin Editorial Assistant, Alex Colon


RichWriters had the privilege of speaking with editorial assistant at Harlequin's imprint Kumani. Originaly from Brooklyn, Alex Colon is a Latino Hero in Publishing who is breaking headway in the industry and opening up doors for other talented people, especially those of color who are looking for an open door.

Jeff Rivera: So Alex, what is your position exactly and how does it compare to other positions in the company?

Alex Colon: As an editorial assistant, my job is to prepare manuscripts for publication. This starts at the very beginning of the process, reading proposals and writing reports, all the way through the acquisition of manuscripts and their eventual publication. Of course, there's also lots of photocopying and scrambling to make due dates along the way.

Jeff Rivera: How is your imprint different than the others out there?

Alex Colon: I actually work for two different lines at Harlequin. One of the lines I am working for is nonfiction, which is brand new. Our first title will be coming out later this year. I also work for the Kimani Press line, which is African-American fiction. I'm working on the Kimani Romance imprint, which are romantic fiction novels.

Jeff Rivera: How did you get started and how did you get where you are today?

Alex Colon: I recently graduated as an English major and knew that I wanted to work in the publishing industry. Aside from internships, which I had already done, becoming an editorial assistant seemed to be the best point of entry into the industry. Harlequin was one of the first houses I applied to. The people I interviewed with were wonderful, and the opportunity to work on two very different lines seemed interesting, so when they offered me the job I took it.

Jeff Rivera: Where do you see yourself for the next five to ten years, at what direction?

Alex Colon: Well, I would like to start becoming more heavily involved with the editorial process. I think eventually I would like to become an editor.

Jeff Rivera: But right now, you really are the first line of defense, the first mechanism or gatekeeper for the manuscripts, right?

Alex Colon: Yes, I guess you could say that.

Jeff Rivera: So if they cannot get passed to you, they cannot get passed to anyone?

Alex Colon: Well, in a way, yes.

Jeff Rivera: So, what do you find that you are getting a lot of, in terms of submissions, that you really would not like to see any more of?

Alex Colon: For Kimani Romance, sometimes people seem to miss the whole romantic mark.

Jeff Rivera: How so?

Alex Colon: Romantic fiction tends follow a fairly familiar formula, so it can really sink or soar depending on how the author handles it. I pay my closest attention to the first chapter. That's the place where I'm really looking for something that's going to pop. It can be great dialogue or likeable characters, or just something that feels fresh and exciting, but the first chapter must be able to command a significant amount of attention so that the reader wants to continue on.

Jeff Rivera: When you receive query letters, what would you say really grabs you and what does not?

Alex Colon: I find that simple query letters, with concise yet thorough information, tend to be most effective. And, of course, it needs to be geared to the correct line. If you are submitting something to Kimani Romance, the proposal should focus on romance.

Jeff Rivera: Now, as far as nonfiction, is there anything that the company is leaning toward or not leaning toward?

Alex Colon: So far we have really been open to everything. We have looked at many different books, from memoirs to puzzle books, to how-to guides. There is nothing that we have not looked at because nonfiction is such a diverse market.

Jeff Rivera: Alex, thank you so much for your time. Let me ask you one more question, how does it feel to be known as a hero in the Latino book industry?

Alex Colon: Well, I don't know about that but I think it is great exposure for Latinos.