The first (adult) romance novel I read way back when was a Harlequin. It was the early 1990s and I knew others would frown on a kid reading romance, so I didn’t tell anyone. My mom knew because she was the one buying the books and taking me to the library, but other than her, it was just my thing I kept to myself.
Because of this, I didn’t know that some romance readers consider Harlequins to be “less than” than single-title romances. I only found this out once I joined the online romance community a few years ago. Apparently, some believe authors write for Harlequin because they can’t hack it at a “real” publisher. They are entitled to their opinion, of course, but I’ve never felt that way. Still don’t. Yes, I started reading single titles after I cut my teeth on Harlequins, but that was because I wanted a longer story and more time spent with the heroine and hero, not because they were/are “better,” whatever that word means.
How could I feel that way when I followed Nora Roberts from Silhouette (before it was bought by Harlequin – I think) to her single titles? I picked up one of her longer books because I recognized her name. Falling for Rachel and Luring a Lady are still two of my all-time favorite romances, category or single title.
I say all this because in 2009 when I decided to get serious about being published, my first thought was “I want to write for Harlequin.” And I pursued that dream. For two years, I chased one of the many Harlequin lines. That experience was unbelievably frustrating, not because I kept getting rejected, but because I couldn’t get an answer. Any answer.
In 2012, I was at the end of my rope. I didn’t know if my stories fit in at any other lines, but I was more than willing to find out. One day, I happened to be on the Harlequin community site and saw they were doing a contest for their Romance and Modern Tempted lines in which you submit a chapter and hear back within one month. At that time, Modern Tempted, based out of the UK, was published as Presents Extra in the USA. I’ve been reading those books forever, but I’d never thought about writing one because of that Presents moniker. Presents have a very specific tone that I couldn’t authentically write if my life depended on it. (Okay, maybe if my life depended on it, I could crank one out).
Anyway, reading the description of the Modern Tempted books in the contest announcement, I was like “Duh. That’s exactly the type of story I write.” Fun, flirty, modern. So I submitted a chapter. I got a request for a partial, and I was off. Over the course of two years, I waited a lot and did two rewrites of the story. Modern Tempted/Presents Extra spun off into its own line, KISS. Cool. Except the new line struggled.
Probably because launching a new print line in these publishing times, when shelf space is shrinking and digital is taking a bigger and bigger part of the pie, is hard. Maybe Harlequin had a hard time reaching their intended target audience. Maybe their current readers were set in their ways and weren’t interested in taking on a new line. Who knows?
What I do know is that a few weeks ago, I got the news that the KISS line was no more. And I was crushed. I know what I write, and I know it doesn’t fit other Harlequin lines.
Please understand my goal wasn’t only to be published by Harlequin. I am a firm believer in diversification. But being a Harlequin author was part of the puzzle of how I envisioned my career shaping up.
More importantly, it’s not the end of this story. I freaking love this story. It’s so good. And no, I’m not just saying that because I wrote it. Trust me, I am currently tearing my hair writing another manuscript and am under no illusions that it’s the best thing ever.
Anyway, I digress. The publishing landscape is a lot different than it was 10 years ago. Hell, 5 years ago. So this story will be published. I have options. One of those options is no longer Harlequin. And that makes me sad.