Book's Senior Editor
on genre fiction
an excerpt from WSQJ
than nine years, Warner Book's senior editor developed a clear
understanding of the structure that makes romance fiction one
of the strongest categories in bookselling, and she comments,
"this is a genre of books where the product is written
by women for women."
Romantic events occasionally begin with an ad in the classifieds,
but seldom result in pairings that produce an enduring alliance.
For Karen Kosztolnyik, however, it was an employer's ad that
developed into a position as senior editor at Warner Books'
popular romance imprint, Warner Forever. For more than nine
years, she's been working in publishing's wildly best-selling
genre. It's an abiding passion.
After graduating from Smith College with a B. A. in English
Literature and a year of foreign study in Florence, Italy, the
Texas native of Hungarian descent decided to move to New York
City to begin her career in a not-so-glamorous division of book
publishing - college textbooks and science. She answered a 1995
ad in the New York Times, which landed her an associate
editor position at Harlequin Historicals. From there she went
on to Harlequin's imprint, Silhouette Desire, where she was
promoted to editor in 1998.
At Warner Forever, an imprint launched in 2003, she works with
authors Carly Phillips, Wendy Corsi Staub (aka Wendy Markham),
Deanna Kizis ("How to Meet Cute Boys"), Karen Rose,
and Claire Delacroix. Karen Kosztolnyik acquires fiction and
nonfiction for all divisions of Warner Books including mass
market, trade paperback, and hardcover.
In this interview, she comments on her entrée into genre
fiction, the prejudices that still exist regarding historical
and contemporary romance fiction, the evolution of the genre,
its themes and its audience, as well as the importance of marketing
and creative self-promotion for aspiring writers.
from Jane Austen and Judy Blume to bodice rippers?
"My first job in romance publishing was at Harlequin,
where I started as an associate editor in 1995. Before that,
I had worked in college textbooks and science publishing, but
I wanted to try a different path. I think the appeal for me
was that I would finally work on fiction -- no more math books!
"Also, being a Smith College graduate, I was intrigued
by a book product that was marketed towards women, though I
had never been a reader of romances before. I was an English
Literature major in college and grew up on Jane Austen, but
also on Judy Blume."
"I do feel that the romance genre in general, not just
historical romance, is sometimes judged unfairly as opposed
to other popular genres. I often think that those who judge
romance novels unfairly are people who've never read one.
"I'll be at a dinner party and will tell someone that
I edit romance novels as part of my job, and that person may
describe the books as 'trash.' I'll usually ask if that person
has ever read one, and the answer is generally 'no.' I'll tell
them to go read one and then get back to me with any judgment
they want to make.
"Perhaps it's because this is a genre of books where the
product is written by women for women, or that they're books
that are written for love and happy endings. That doesn't seem
highbrow for some or garner enough respect.
"What I think can be so powerful about these books is
that the woman is the central character and she always wins
in the end. She gets what she wants -- what can be a more positive
message than that? Do books need to be filled with angst to
get respect? There shouldn't be anything wrong with reading
for escape, for fantasy."
You'll read the entire interview by Julie Farin in our June
(Spring) issue of WordSmitten Quarterly Journal. Discover what
Karen Kosztolnyik, senior editor at Warner Books searches for
in new writers. Read her comments about "the virgin and
the experienced man, the hero as cowboy, Cinderella, and brides"
in our latest issue, available at your favorite independent
bookstore and by subscription.
is a true Manhattanite, bringing her extensive knowledge of
The City to her writing, her reading, and her busy
life. Her career in broadcast news and feature writing spans
more than fifteen years and she brings that talent to the pages
of WordSmitten (online and print) editions.
feature article on the famed Sewanee Writer's Conference appears
in our June 2004 issue of the WordSmitten Quarterly Journal.
When not listening to Shania Twain CDs, she appears in exactly
the same places where Dorothy Parker's imagination stood.