Fall Blog Series: Meet The Editors-Dina Davis of Mira (Harlequin/HarperCollins)

Welcome, Readers! I am so happy you’re here. Today I am continuing with my Fall blog series: Meet The Editors, and today I’m sharing my interview with editor Dina Davis, of Mira books.

Mira Books is an imprint of Harlequin (HarperCollins). Dina will be chatting about her background, her editorial process in acquiring authors, and what she is specifically seeking at this time. Please note: Dina accepts AGENTED SUBMISSIONS ONLY.

Without further ado, let’s learn about editor Dina Davis and Mira!

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Susan Thank you for joining me on my blog today, Dina! If you don’t mind, tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into the publishing world?

Dina I went to NYU, wanting to get into writing and be a journalist. I really liked it. But I did some internships, and felt that journalism, like newspaper journalism, wasn’t my style. I always loved fiction more. And so when I graduated, the internship that I was currently at was at a magazine. They had a book department and they had an editorial assistant job opening. I applied for that and ended up getting it. That was more nonfiction, Christian books. With a little bit of fiction and stuff. It was guidepost books, and it wasn’t quite what I wanted to do. Like, those weren’t the types of books that I like to read. I always was into romance, so I was always looking at Harlequin. And when the Love Inspired imprint opened up, it’s like, well, that’s it! I’m into romance, science fiction. And I also had some connections in the inspiration world already. So I went over there. What I always really wanted to do was get into the big books on the trade side. And that’s how I moved over here in April. I’m in Mira now, and I’m carrying a bunch of different things across genres. I’ve moved outside of the inspirational Christian space. I’m doing mainstream fiction and it’s really fun to get into the very dark stuff as well as still the light hearted RomCom-y things now.

Susan Yes, that’s great. What a journey, right?

Dina Yes! I’ve been kind of all over the place. I feel like most people in publishing have that windy road.

Susan So, you’re talking about how now you acquire more of an eclectic mix of things. Tell us a little bit more about that. What kind of books do you love the most?

Dina Well, personally, I read a little bit of everything, but romance has always been like my, “if I need something that I can just forget about stuff and get into”, that is my go to, or the complete opposite; Dark Horror kind of stuff. Escapism is my big thing. But when it comes to what I’m acquiring we don’t do a ton of romance at Mira. Our focus is more about commercial fiction. We do some RomComs. But we’re not really looking specifically for romance focused stories. I love a book that has a good love story, but has more to it than just a romance plot. Also, I wouldn’t say to send me a historical romance or a contemporary romance or something that’s not in that RomCom realm. I am looking for psychological thrillers, for some horror. I like character driven, issue driven stories. The Big Book Club fiction in the upmarket realm. I do a little bit of light Sci Fi Fantasy, and Speculative Fiction. So really, like across general fiction categories, mostly leaning commercial, but also some more upmarket and book club stuff, too.

Susan Wonderful. And so, part of what I wanted to talk with the editors in this series about is, the different roles that you might have, or the hats that you wear as an editor. When we’re on the agent side, or the author side, unless we work directly with that press or that editor, we don’t really know, you know, what goes on on the other side. So, I wondered if you could kind of walk us through what it’s like to work with an editor at Mira, like yourself.

Dina Okay, I am pretty new and still kind of learning the MIRA team and stuff, but I’d say editors, we do a lot more than just editing. We are your liaison. We are the person that is in contact with all the marketing and publicity and contracts and sales teams. When we fall in love with a book and acquire it, we really want it to do as well as possible. So our job in addition to making sure the project is as strong as possible, w are going to all the different teams and fighting for the right covers for it and pushing for the right distribution and talking about what we can do on the marketing/publicity side. And we have a great team that works really well together in all of those departments. I think that we’re pretty cohesive, and if an offer comes to us with questions or issues and stuff, we are pretty responsive and able to get feedback from the different departments pretty quickly. Are there specific questions that you have?

Susan A lot of times my authors and other agents wonder about what the behind-the-scenes process is. What does it look like? Is it a team approach? Obviously, it sounds like it’s a team approach at Mira. And another aspect of it that always comes up, at least with some of my authors is, what about the final product, like the cover? Does the author have any input? Is it a collaborative process with the author? 

Dina We do run covers past authors, and take feedback from the authors. Like, back-cover copy; I see it, and I send it to the author before I send it to my boss to get approval, because the author is going to have the closest relationship with the material and will be able to say, “Oh, well, that thing isn’t quite accurate,” or “I don’t want to give that much away,” and stuff like that. We try to loop in the authors early on in the design process, asking if there certain poses you want to see if there are characters in the cover? Or what kind of settings and scenes and stuff would you like here? So we try to work very, very much with the authors to get to their sense of it. But it also comes down to, when we’re all debating on different little pieces of it, what’s going to sell. You have to ask if this cover is going to be eye catching, versus a different one and stuff. So we know that a lot of people on our team, the sales people, the marketing people, the publicity people, really know what’s going to stand out on both social media and on that shelf, and what we’re going to push. So yeah, we try to work as a team with everybody and try to make  everybody as happy as possible when it comes to those things.

Susan That’s really neat. It’s such a process, right? So many different steps and different avenues that have to be followed before it’s done. So, from the time a book is acquired to the time that it gets onto the bookshelves, what kind of a timeframe is that? I know that in some cases, it’s years. Right? You’re looking at years down the road.

Dina Yeah, I think that that’s going to really depend on the book and what our schedule looks like at the time. And if they’re like spots that we have to fill right away, like, did we just buy a psychological thriller, and next summer, we don’t have a psychological thriller in a specific month, we can fill that hole with it. It is so it’s hard to give a general sense of that. I can say, I’ve acquired two new authors for the line since April, and one of them isn’t going to be published until 2024. And the other one is going to be published next June. It also depends on if we are buying a full manuscript or proposal? We rarely buy on proposal, but it depends on how well the author is established, and if there’s somebody who has worked on different imprints internally or something like that. And if it’s on a proposal, we have to wait for a book to be written. That pushes things out further too. I think we tend to try to publish everything within 18 months. But it all comes down to schedules.

Susan  So, I guess it all depends. That’s the side of publishing that agents and authors aren’t always privy to. That’s really good info. So from an agent perspective, when we send things to editors for consideration, do you prefer that the agent send a proposal and sample chapters or a proposal and the manuscript? How do you like to receive materials?

Dina I know that this varies for every editor to but I definitely prefer to just have the full manuscript because if I start reading, and I really liked it, I don’t have to get back to you and be like, is this full? Is there more to this manuscript? Can you send it to me? And then I have to wait for it. What if you’re on vacation, and I really want to keep reading or something like that. I do like to have a synopsis, if it’s available. If it’s not, that’s fine too. It also depends on what the genre is. If it is like, a psychological suspense, I don’t think that I would want to know all those twists and turns that happen at the end. So I’d rather read the book and be drawn in and keep going. But it can be helpful. There have been a couple of books lately that I’ve been like, I’m interested in this, but I’m not sure if the ending is gonna hold up. If I could take a peek at the synopsis, that could save me time. It helps. But I’m definitely someone who prefers to have a full manuscript. I know, there are a lot of people who are like, just send me three chapters. It saves us an email, because I can read the first three chapters and make a decision based on that, but I can also just keep going. 

Susan Okay, excellent. What do you feel is the best part of your job? What do you like the most about what you do? 

Dina Well, I love the editing, and working with the authors. If I can get on a brainstorming phone call, and hash out all the little details. I did that with an author recently. We were on the phone for two hours, figuring out plot points, and, and it was really fun. It can be really engaging to get into the nitty gritty of that. And that’s one of the things that I also had loved about the journalism route that I was on, because it was kind of like the interview process of trying to pull information out of people. You can do that even more creatively in a fiction brainstorming session. So I like doing that. And then just also getting into the stories and really reading them and figuring out how to make them as strong as possible. I think that’s the most fun part of the job.

Susan I know that from the agent side, I’m more of an editorial agent, because I love digging in, too. Ironing out as much as we can together with the author. I love that aspect of it as well. So that’s really cool. Let’s see…What are some things that you’re most excited about seeing currently? Where would you see the most interest in your inbox?

Dina I’ve been trying to really find a great horror, but it has to be something that is an “at the moment” issue kind of book. I feel like it has to be something that has wider appeal, because we don’t get very deep into the horror or fantasy or science fiction genre at Mira. So it needs to have that emotional human element that drives it. And then, I am always going to be looking for character driven psychological thrillers slow burn kind of books, I am looking for rom coms, but they have to be a really fresh spin on tropes. And they really have to make me laugh;  that’s the main thing that I’m looking for in that realm. That can be really tough to pull off sometimes, because it still has to have all that conflict and heavy parts to it, too. Yeah, I am interested in some historicals that are more in the commercial space. Recent historicals, but I’m not interested in World War Two. But I’d love to see things like like a story that’s own voices that takes place in New Orleans and is based around the Voodoo queen, something like that would be really fun. Something that is different from what we see every day. And then, in general, I’m just looking for things by marginalized creators who are writing in those spaces too, and books that are just outside of the bounds of what publishing has been kind of narrowly focused on for so long. So I’d really like to expand that especially within the Mira line and get more voices in.

Susan Thank you. And so just for the very end, I just wanted to find out some fun things: So what is your favorite color? 

Dina Anything on the blue spectrum really kind of? 

Susan Nice. And do you have a favorite musician, band type of music? What do you listen to?

Dina I’m a little all over the place and that like, I think that a lot of it kind of got stuck when I was in high school. So if you look at like the hip-hop, rap, emo stuff, punk stuff, that came out in like 2008. But I also like the stuff that my parents listened to. I grew up with my parents listening to Tom Petty, Alannis Morrisette, Metallica. I’m kind of all over the place. 

Susan It’s a nice eclectic collection! Do you have a favorite place that you visited?

Dina I studied abroad for eight months in Florence, Italy, and it’s my absolute favorite place in the world. I’d love to have a vacation home there one day.

Susan That’s great. I think for myself, when I was finished with college, a friend of mine and I did a tour through Europe, and it’s just so amazing. You know, we spent a month there and it was just so inspiring. I’d love to go back.

Dina Yeah, it’s so great.

Susan Do you have a favorite food?

Dina Anything potatoes? Like, I’m an Irish girl. We make something called potato candies?

Susan Well, what’s that?

Dina It’s literally a pound of powdered sugar mixed with a mashed boiled potato and then you roll it out and put peanut butter on it and roll it up like a dessert roll, and then put it in the fridge until it hardens. It’s very, very sweet.

Susan Oh my gosh, I guess so! Lastly, just do you have a favorite book of your lifetime? 

Dina Oh, man. It’s so hard to choose. Well, I guess the book that really got me into, well, okay, there are two that  really got me into reading when I was a kid. So, the first book I ever read on my own was called Purple, Green and Yellow, and it was literally about a girl who would color herself with markers until she got “super indelible, never come off until you die or maybe even later markers.” Like, that’s literally a line in the book! And that’s always stuck with me because it was the first book I was able to read by myself. And then, The Giver was something that I read in  middle school that has always stuck with me. It was when I was first getting into audiobooks, and wasn’t sure if I could handle listening to a book. I was like, “Oh, well, I’ve read that enough, and it’s something that would be an easy way to introduce myself to it.” That’s what I would go back to, and stuff. So that was kind of a big book for me throughout my life.

Susan That’s cool. Well, I really appreciate your time. Thank you so much for participating in my blog series! 

Dina Thank you for including me, and it was great to talk to you. 

Dina can be found on Social Media!

Twitter @dinajdavis and @_mira_books_

Check out her #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List) here: https://www.manuscriptwishlist.com/mswl-post/dina-davis/

Thank you for stopping by today. I’d love to connect! Do you have an editing or other writerly question? Drop it below in the comments and I will be happy to get back to you!

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