Harlequin Heartwarming

- by JoAnn Grote

Marsha Zinberg celebrates her 28th year with Harlequin in 2011. She joined Harlequin Books as an Assistant Editor in 1983 and moved up the ranks to Senior Editor of the Superromance line, a position she held from 1986 to 1993. Currently, as Executive Editor of Feature and Custom Publishing, she is responsible for limited continuity projects, the anthology program, all series backlist programs and more. She also handles all Direct-to-Consumer-only projects, and has recently added the Gold Eagle and Mystery programs to her portfolio.

HARLEQUIN HEARTWARMING

By Marsha Zinberg

O.K. I have to admit that that even I, long-standing (I did NOT say “jaded”!) editor here at Harlequin, am somewhat blown away by the excitement being generated around our new Heartwarming Program, which launched for our Direct-to-Consumer readers in January of 2011, and will be available for our Retail readers in April. This is a program conceived to satisfy many readers’ longing for romance novels with “wholesome” content; that is, free of violence, possibly offensive language, and on-stage depictions of physical intimacy.

For romance fiction devotees who are used to all of the above, you may wonder, what are those folks thinking?  But in fact, the great success of our inspirational romances, research,  and the many reader letters we’ve received over the past several years have led us to believe that there is a substantial readership who very much enjoy stories based on positive values, an unambiguous moral code and a strong, family-oriented foundation to the plotline.

So, we set about figuring out how to check that out, and in the process, have managed to spark some electricity both internally, and outside our walls, about the kinds of stories that will be on offer. These are not original stories:  they are romances culled from our vast backlist treasure trove, where we went hunting for the right tone, the appropriate setting, the perfect kind of story to produce that heartwarming feeling we wanted our readers to experience as they finished turning the last page. And I was so delighted by the wonderful stories we discovered. I found myself really immersed in these books, impressed by the ingenuity and complexity of the plots, sympathetic with the fully-realized characters and emotionally engaged.  Frankly, these stories grabbed me more than I expected!

With the enthusiastic collaboration of the authors—many favorite series authors and Novelists Inc. members, such as Jillian Hart, Ginger Chambers, Sherry Lewis, Lynn Patrick, Roxanne Rustand, Carolyn McSparren  and Roz Denny Fox among them– we’ve freshened the stories and re-titled them, and gorgeous new covers have been designed so that readers will immediately understand the kind of read they’re in for.

Since this program began for our Direct to Consumer subscribers in January, interested readers have begun asking me all kinds of questions.   This is a great opportunity to answer them!

First, when will the books be available? That depends on where readers want to buy them.   As mentioned above, the program has already started for those who subscribe through the mail, and those readers will be receiving three books per month, but four books per month will be available at retail starting in April.

Will they be offered in e-book format, (including for Kindle)? I’m delighted to say the answer is yes! Those digital publication dates will match the retail on-sale dates, so look for them in April.  They will, however, be available on the eHarlequin ebookstore site one month earlier than other ebook retailers, as part of our advance series release schedule, so the first batch became available from Harlequin in digital format March 1. The April print releases and the ebooks currently available through the eHarlequin ebookstore may be viewed at http://www.eharlequin.com/store.html?cid=2878

Would Harlequin consider opening this line up to new manuscripts? We’re taking the opportunity to measure readers’ responses to the idea of “heartwarming” content.  If we find that these books are well received,  which they seem to be so far, we’d certainly entertain the notion of acquiring original editorial down the line.

How long are these books? They’re on the long side for series romance:  60-80,000 words, so a good solid, engaging read.

It appears this is a series of contemporaries. If the Heartwarming series is a success, any thought yet to adding historicals? Not at the moment, but of course, we’re very interested in gathering reader responses.

I’d love to hear what you think of this idea. Initial feedback and Direct to Consumer readers’ responses seem to indicate that readers’ hearts are being “warmed”, just as the editors’ were when we selected these novels for our program. Please do comment and let me know your thoughts on our Heartwarming series!

11 comments

  1. It’s certainly heartwarming to hear that Harlequin is testing acceptance of a new line by finding titles in its own back list and that’s good news for some well-loved authors.

  2. The covers are beautiful and fit the line perfectly. These are exactly the kind of books I like to read. Appreciation of the simpler things, and a place I’m anxious to escape to when the going gets tough, is my kind of read.

    Best wishes~
    Nancy Naigle
    Drewryville, VA

  3. I’m happy to see the blog by Marsha and see some of our covers. They’re awesome. I hadn’t seen my cover yet, so am excited. I liked working in this project. I hope there will be a market for what we used to call the old, traditional romances. I still hear from a lot of readers who live in small rural towns and they profess to love wholesome romance books.

  4. I love Roz’s books. If the other authors are comparable, I’ll be buying them as well. In any romance, inspirational or not, it’s the story!

  5. Hi, Marsha. I love the new covers. The samples above are simple, clean and gorgeous. Love the colourful banners that showcase the authors’ names. I believe there is a readership for these types of novels that are not quite inspirational, but are wholesome. Best wishes for a successful launch. Such a great idea.

  6. I really like a wholesome read that has a great plot and characters. These covers look fab!
    Abby

  7. I can hardly wait to get my hands on these books, more for my 92 year old mother than myself. She inhales Harlequins, many I get from Good Will. (The price point is good but she also appreciates spines that aren’t stiff) I do the buying, aware of her need for clean and heartwarming stories. She’s most comfortable with uplifting tales, no weapons let alone murder in her preferred reading. She’s certainly not the only romance reader who has had enough of LIFE and has watched Sound Of Music more times than I can count.
    Great idea.

  8. I am also a big fan of Roz Denny Fox’s books. I have Island Child sitting right next to me. I’m ecstatic that I’ll get to pick up more of her work (and discover new authors, too!)

  9. I’m delighted to hear about the Heartwarming Romances and shall definitely look out for them. I split my year between England and Australia. Will they be coming out there? Or shall I have to hunt on line.

    I ‘put up with’ overt sex from some authors, whose tales are indeed heartwarming. LOL, it’s about 5 pages per sex scene to skip. If others enjoy them, that’s fine by me, but I don’t. I don’t want inspirational books. Also not to my taste.

    The trouble is there is too high a proportion of sexy books, so I actually have more money available to spend on books than I can find books to my liking. (Does that make you twitch? ) Harlequin’s Mira line, by the way, has some wonderful books by Sherryl Woods, Robyn Carr and Susan Wiggs, but that’s not nearly enough to feed my three book a week reading habit. The other Mira books are mostly violent. (Shudders delicately.)

    So good for you, Marsha and Harlequin! Let’s have more of these heartwarming tales.

  10. I regularly search for older books by my favorites at the second hand stores and have been collecting Roz Denny Fox’s books, so this is lovely news.

  11. Anna: I’m so glad you like the idea of the Heartwarming program. At this time, the program is North American only, so I doubt you will find them in Australia and England, but they are definitely available on-line, so please search them out there and I do hope you enjoy them.