Romance Gets Real

Harlequin woos nonfiction authors with Deborah Brody’s new imprint. by Kara Gebhart Uhl
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When romance publisher Harlequin decided to launch a nonfiction branch, the company brought Deborah Brody on board as executive editor. Having spent years at McGraw-Hill, Penguin’s Dutton/Plume, HarperCollins and Henry Holt, she officially jump-started the new program in September with Love Matters, a collection of stories by radio personality Delilah. Now, Brody is in the market for new titles appealing to women.

What types of nonfiction do you plan to publish?
The overarching mission is nonfiction geared to women, and because women traditionally buy many more books than men, this gives us lots of subject areas in which we can publish. Some of the categories we’re acquiring in are self-help, relationships, health, sex, diet, fitness, beauty, parenting, memoir and inspirational.

Platform is paramount when selling nonfiction, and there are varying degrees of fame. In today’s market, how well known must a writer be to succeed?
It depends on the project. There are certain categories where the concept is what sells the book, not the author and her platform. But that’s increasingly the exception, and I try to seek out authors who really bring something to the table and can work with us to get the word out about their books.
This doesn’t mean they have to be a household name, but rather that they’re already actively reaching their intended reader, even before they have a book. This might be achieved by a popular blog, a magazine column or an extensive speaking schedule.

How do you choose which titles you’ll publish?
Almost everything we acquire comes through agents or ideas that are generated by editors here. I read all the nonfiction submissions, and if I think something is worth pursuing, I take it to our acquisitions committee, which is comprised of editors as well as people from sales, marketing, publicity and finance. We then discuss it as a group and decide if we think it’s right for the list, and what our plan for publishing it would be.

What’s your biggest pet peeve when sifting through queries?
When someone hasn’t done their homework. In the age of the Internet, it doesn’t take more than a few seconds to do a search for “Harlequin nonfiction” and find articles and press releases about the program and what we’re doing. It makes me crazy to get a query for a project that’s so clearly not appropriate for our list.

Are you looking for more titles and, if so, do you accept unsolicited queries?
Yes, we’re definitely looking for more titles, as we’re growing the program quickly. I prefer not to accept unsolicited queries, though, for a few reasons. First, the volume is just so great that I don’t have the time to go through everything, and I hate being that person who never gets back to someone. But [most] importantly, I feel having an agent is so important for an author. Your chance of getting published increases exponentially if you have an agent, so my advice is always to spend your time seeking representation, rather than sending unsolicited queries directly to editors. 

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