- 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.
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!