ICRS Part Two: Publisher News

I thought you might be interested in a few specifics from my publisher meetings:Abdingdon Press (a Methodist house) is starting a new fiction line, headed by Barbara Scott (formerly of Zondervan). Their line will NOT be denominationally focused and they’ll be open to Catholic and Jewish themes/authors. They’ll be publishing mostly new authors to begin with and are looking for romance, historical, suspense and contemporary women’s with word counts in the 75-85k range. They’ll mostly take agented submissions but Barbara will also be at some writers’ conferences. (Brandilyn Collins did an in-depth post about Abingdon here.)Monarch Books, a division of Lion Hudson in the U.K., is aggressively pursuing American authors. They have terrific worldwide distribution, nice sales figures, and they’re looking for at least six first-time authors each year. They publish fiction (especially romance) and a lot of nonfiction including biography, self-help and social justice. They’re distributed in the U.S. by Kregel.Angela Scheff at Zondervan told me that calling your book a memoir is the kiss of death right now. Call it narrative nonfiction or spiritual growth, or something else that’s more specific than memoir. The word “memoir” doesn’t convey what the reader will get out of the book, and it can also imply that this book is “all about you” even though you are probably using your own experience as a framework to lead readers to a bigger truth. The problem is that so many writers write their own story narcissistically, call it memoir, and submit it… so the word “memoir” has developed a somewhat negative connotation in the eyes of some editors. Your goal is to get the editor to be excited about reading your proposal, so be careful how you categorize it.Bethany House, who publishes more fiction than anyone in CBA, is looking for books in all their regular categories but right now they’re especially seeking some great “historical romantic suspense” titles. (If you’ve got one, send it to me!) However, out of about 40-42 novels they publish each year, only 2-5 are newbies.Howard Books (Simon & Schuster) is filling their fiction lists with previously published authors, but in the fall will begin to consider adding a few first-timers.Barbour is publishing romance in the 80,000-word range, and looks at first-time authors. The guideline for Barbour is, if you can remove the romance plotline and still have a book, it’s not for them.Tyndale is not looking at fantasy/sci-fi, western, Biblical, chick lit, or end times. They are looking for contemporary women’s fiction, romance, suspense/mystery/thrillers, and a limited number of late 19th- to early 20th-century historicals. They generally do not accept unagented or unsolicited submissions.Guideposts isn’t a house you often think of when pitching your books, but they’re a terrific publisher with great distribution and they’re increasing their focus on their book line which targets primarily women in their 40’s. Lighter fare inspirational romance and cozy mysteries work well with this crowd.

Rachelle Gardner is a Christian literary agent affiliated with WordServe Literary Group in Colorado.

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  1. Courtney Walsh says:

    >thank you Rachelle! That’s what I thought given your description of Barbour but I wanted to be sure! Thank you!! 🙂

  2. Timothy Fish says:

    >Suspense is like waiting for the other shoe to drop. The reader has clear expectations about what will happen (such as a bad guy jumping from the bushes), but the writer makes her wait to find out if it happens or not. We build suspense by providing the reader with more information than what the protagonist has.

    Thrillers are about action. Both the reader and the protagonist are on equal footing in knowing what the protagonist must do next. Villains are optional in thrillers, but a sense of urgency is required.

    Mysteries are often detective novels, but there is no reason that they must be (see And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie). The most important question is always why? They are a role reversal from suspense in that the characters have more information than the reader does. The reader is trying to get that information, while the characters try to hide it. When the time is right, we reveal all and the reader closes the book.

  3. Amy Deardon says:

    >Rachelle, thanks for such cutting-edge info! I just found your blog but will visit again soon.

  4. Rachelle says:

    >Rob, these are the descriptions from the ACFW website:
    In suspense, “often the reader learns very early in the story who did what, and how, and even why, so that the tension results from the manner in which an expected conclusion is achieved” (Jessica Mann).

    In thrillers, “tough, resourceful . . . heroes are pitted against villains determined to destroy them, their country, or the stability of the free world” (Steve Bennett).

    “The detective novel, or mystery, is generally driven by a single protagonist and follows the process of detection, functioning like a puzzle” (Ginny Wiehardt).

  5. Rob Roush says:

    Thanks for the information and your blog in general. It has been beneficial as I begin exploring the publishing side of writing. I must say it’s encouraging to see publishers seeking new writers, even if the numbers aren’t huge.

    One question, I sometimes see Suspense and Thriller listed together. Other times they are separated. Is there a quick way to distinguish one from the other?

  6. Timothy Fish says:

    >Here’s a bit of irony for you. I was trying to think whether I knew of an example of historical romantic suspense. I didn’t figure I had one, since I don’t read many romances, but as I was glancing over my books I spied The Best Man by Grace Livingston Hill. Based in the early twentieth century with a story about two people who fall in love by they are being chased by bad guys, it fits the bill. There is only one problem. When it was written, it was contemporary. Only age has made it historical.

    I think the romance genre is more strict than just being such that the story would be drastically changed if the romantic element were removed. In a romance, the romance is the primary plot. Other plots (such as the suspense) may equal, but never eclipse the romance. Barbour’s guideline insures this. Also, in a true romance, the girl always gets her man and they live happily ever after.

  7. Eric Dabbs says:

    >It’s great to hear some of the publishers you listed will look at new authors.
    In light of the take the romance out of the plotline and you still have a book, your not for us:
    I’d like to hear a publisher say:
    “We’re looking for action thrillers (Tyndale did I guess) and then say:
    “If you can take the bullets, car chases and hand to hand combat out of your plotline and you still have a book that works, then your not for us.”
    Just a little comic relief. It really is good to hear some of the behind the scenes. Good info.

  8. Catherine Downen says:

    Thanks for your generosity in sharing this information with us. To the aspiring writer it’s pure gold!

  9. Rachelle says:

    >Courtney, it’s easy. If you can take out the romance plot and still have a book, it’s not a romance. Your book is either a contemporary romance, or contemporary women’s fiction with romantic elements.

  10. Courtney Walsh says:

    >I feel like this is a really basic (and somewhat green) question, but I’m wondering how you can know for sure you’ve got your manuscript in the ‘right’ genre.

    For instance, I’m struggling to differentiate between Contemporary Romance and Women’s Fiction. Is the main question whether or not the story would change drastically without the romantic element in it?

    I know how important it is to classify your work correctly, so I’m wondering if there’s a rule of thumb.

    Thank you in advance – this info is so helpful!

  11. Rachelle says:

    >Inspire, I can’t think of an example although there are probably some out there. (Readers?) But it’s really self-explanatory. A historical novel (taking place in the past) whose plot involves both suspense and romance. Pretty simple.

  12. Inspire says:

    >I love your blog, Rachelle. Question. Could you clarify ‘historical romantic suspense’? Perhaps give us an example of a CBA novel that falls into this category?

  13. Timothy Fish says:

    >Rachelle–I look at this list and three words stand out, romantic historical suspense. Given that publishers want to support their customer base, it is good business. The reason I don’t enjoy seeing this is because I have a hard time getting enthused about romance novels and historical fiction. There are exceptions. I enjoyed My Heart Remembers which is a historical, but in general the very mention of romantic and historical…ZZZzzz… Sorry, where was I? I can’t help but notice the irony between yesterday’s post and today’s. Yesterday was about diversity. Today is about business as usual. If we combine them, the publishers seem to be saying, “We want more black and Latino authors, but we want them to write like white women.”

  14. Rachelle says:

    >Anne, yesterday’s post mistakenly identified Tyndale as looking at Biblical fiction. I confirmed that they’re not right now.


    >I’m jumping on the “thank you” bandwagon, rose-colored glasses perched atop my nose.


  16. Marcie Gribbin says:


    Helpful info, as usual! I appreciate the specifics. Oh! Oh! Did I just see “late 19th- to early 20th-century historicals?”


    Okay, I have the rose-colored glasses on too, this morning. Fog’s a-comin’, I’m sure.

    Anyway, great info!

  17. Anne L.B. says:

    >Rachelle, can you clarify re: Tyndale and Biblical fiction:

    Tyndale is not looking at … Biblical (today’s post)

    Biblical fiction may see a resurgence. Several publishers said they’re looking at it, including … Tyndale (yesterday’s post)

    Thanks for being so helpful so consistently!

  18. Camille Cannon (Eide) says:

    >It’s great to see some new publishers, and I’m particularly encouraged (sorry Timothy) to see so many interestsed in romance, and to see some regulars expanding a little, like Barbour. I didn’t think they did full length romance. And those willing to look at first time authors. I’m excited!


  19. sheriboeyink says:

    >Thanks Rachelle. The information you give is so very helpful.

  20. Karen Witemeyer says:

    >What wonderful insider information! Thank you so much for sharing.

  21. Katy McKenna says:

    >I love seeing very specific wants and needs from pubs. Sometimes, I read things like “So-and-so is looking for wonderful stories, well-written.” This is a lot more helpful! 🙂

    Always a bit discouraging, though, to see how few slots most publishers allocate to newbies. And then to see how many of us show up at say, ACFW, to pitch our books!

    But since math has never been my strong suit, I guess I’ll try not to worry about numbers. I should just concentrate on submitting a “wonderful story, well-written…”

  22. Gwen Stewart says:

    >Thanks for the great update Rachelle. The word counts you mention confirm what you stated a few weeks ago, that generally novels may be getting shorter. I looked through some of my older novels, pre-1995 (when I was a lass of ten and very precocious in my reading habits, mind you) and most of them were around 400 pages of small print. My woeful math approximated those word counts at around 135-140K.

    Also, regarding both of your ICRS posts, I think it’s encouraging that there are houses willing to look at diverse subjects and writers. Perhaps I should view it as limited slots with more competition, but instead I see allowing for diversity as growing readership and prominence. Maybe in the short term it means more competition, but long-term it means more folks are reading CBA books.

    Love me some rose-colored glasses, especially when they’re not fogged up with writer’s block and discouragement. The day is young though. Still time for fog. Heh.

    Thanks again!

  23. Wendy Melchior says:

    >I am seeing “creative nonfiction” instead of memoir as well. So, why no memoir? Industry overloaded with people who think their stories are interesting? OR not selling well in general for CBA? I read an article on CNN.com (http://www.cnn.com/2008/SHOWBIZ/books/04/15/memoirs/index.html?iref=newssearch) about the popularity of memoirs these days (best sellers, but of course, the authors have mucho brand equity). What do you think is behind Zondervan’s “kiss of death” comment?

  24. Rachelle says:

    >Timothy–I’m interested in knowing why you don’t “enjoy seeing” this information.

  25. Mark H. says:

    >Thank you, Rachelle.

  26. Timothy Fish says:

    >This is meaningful information. I can’t say that it is information that I enjoy seeing, but it is meaningful.

  27. Richard Mabry says:

    Your blog is the first one I read when I turn on my computer each day, and posts like this are one of the main reasons. Keep up the good work, and thanks for your efforts.

  28. Chatty Kelly says:

    >Thanks for the info. I hope you had a great trip and made lots of contacts for your clients.

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