Barbour Sells Heartsong to Harlequin

by Steve Laube

Today Barbour Publishing announced they have sold their Heartsong Presents line of inspirational romances to Harlequin.

For those of us who have been wondering about the eventual buyer, this comes as no surprise. We have known they were being sold since last Fall. In December I spoke with Barbour’s president, Tim Martins, and he confirmed that the sale was in its last stages of negotiation but he could not say who the buyer would be. With their Love Inspired lines of Christian romance, suspense, and historical titles and a strong member subscription base Harlequin is well suited to sustain(?) or absorb(?) the Heartsong line for years to come.

Our agency has nearly thirty authors who are writing or have written for Heartsong in the past. We also have over twenty authors who are writing or have written for Harlequin’s Love Inspired. So, for our clients this is a pretty big deal.

There are some questions raised that have answers, and some that don’t.

1) Barbour filled the pipeline for 2012 with 52 new titles. Their Editorial staff has been contracted to manage, edit, and typeset  those properties during the transition to Harlequin. So for the first half of the year, nothing will change. By then we should know what the new acquisition strategy looks like.

2) We have no answers about the future and how these two lines will merge or evolve. And it is useless to speculate. Joan Marlow Golan who is the head of the Love Inspired team is a very sharp and excellent about communicating changes to us agents. Do not write or ask your Barbour editor on Twitter or Facebook or email to ask questions. They are now a contractor for Harlequin and it wouldn’t be fair to them to ask for “insider information” that they cannot or should not share. Instead this is where you rely on your agent for information.

3) Harlequin’s three Love Inspired lines currently releases 14 new titles per month. (Six romance, four suspense, and four historical.) Heartsong, as noted above does four to five per month (52 per year), or one third the output of Harlequin. Adding the two together, with no changes would mean an increase from 168 titles to 220 per year. We would hope that will be the case, but it may not.

4) Existing contracts will be honored as written. I’ve seen numerous publisher sales before and the past contracts remain in force in every case.

(Update 1/27/2012 at 6:30pm EST)

5) Since Heartsong books were not in the retail market the general public will not see anything different. However, recently the backlist Heartsong titles were targeted to be converted to e-b00ks (about 980 of them). Those will roll out in 2012 and would make a ready addition to the strong ebook sales that Harlequin already enjoys. And those e-books will probably be priced at $4.99 each.

6) As for the 3-in-1 or 4-in-1 collections that combined Heartsong books into one volume, we do not know exactly what will happen with that program. These are not the same as the novella collections already in place. I am talking about books like Kansas Home that combined three Heartsong books into one trade paper which was sold into the retail market.

14 Responses to Barbour Sells Heartsong to Harlequin

  1. Carrie Turansky January 27, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this important news. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out over the next few months. Love Inspired has great distribution and dedicated editors. It seems like all this would be a boost for Heartsong Presents authors and readers. I hope they will hire more editors to handle the work in the future. The Love Inspired editorial team already has a huge job on their hands with all the books they are doing now.

  2. Lena Nelson Dooley January 27, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    Wow! I recently signed addendums to contracts for 8 of my out-of-print Heartsongs to go to ebooks this year. So this will affect me, too. Interesting.

  3. Laurie Alice Eakes January 27, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

    As an author with a 2012 release from Heartsong, this is all quite fascinating to me. And I’m thrilled my HSP books will be in e-book form.

    Now if I may tell a little story: When I started hanging out with writers and finding out maybe I had some skill at it, I wanted to write for Harlequin. I’d been reading them all my life and it just seemed–right. The door always closed though.

    Is this God opening up a back door and fulfilling a desire for which I’ve never really prayed in a strong and serious way? Just remembering this old wish and pondering how fascinating life goes.

    • Katy Lee January 28, 2012 at 8:29 am #

      It just might be Laurie Alice.

  4. Renee Andrews January 27, 2012 at 5:51 pm #

    Thanks for keeping us up-to-date! I’m sure all LI and HSP authors are watching this with interest, and you’ve provided great info here.

  5. Cecelia Dowdy January 27, 2012 at 7:05 pm #

    Thanks so much for sharing this news with us! I sensed that HP would be purchased, but, I didn’t imagine it’d be Harlequin doing the buying!!

  6. Wayne Jordan January 28, 2012 at 11:15 am #

    This is great news. To the HP authors…Welcome to the family! family.

    @Laurie ,I know exactly how some the HP authors feel. I’ve always wanted to write for Harlequin. In November 2005, the month my first book from BET Books/Arabesque was to be released, I discovered BET Books had been purchased by Harlequin.

    12 books (Just signed a new contract) and 6 years later, I’m still writing for the Harlequin Kimani line and loving it. I’m a great fan of the Love Inspired Historical line and know some of the authors like, Linda Ford, also write for HP. It’s going to be great to add new authors and additional stories from some of to my favorite LI authors to my reading list.

  7. Abigail Richmond January 28, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

    I read them all the time.

  8. jude urbanski January 29, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    This is more news in the brave new world of publishing isn’t it? I haven’t been a Heartsong Writer, but there seems a lot of good things about this! Both great houses.

  9. Peter DeHaan January 30, 2012 at 4:20 pm #

    It’s great to have the perspective of a seasoned agent to distill this down to practical and useful information. That cuts out a lot of needless speculation and worry!

  10. Ramona Cecil January 30, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

    Thanks for all the information on this, Steve. You’ve answered many of the questions I had as an author of one of the 52 2012 Heartsongs.

  11. Paula Moldenhauer February 1, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

    Thanks for keeping us informed!

  12. stan April 16, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

    so then will you still get them mthly. my mother in law has been getting them up here in Canada, and while holidaying for the winter in Florida, she only got January’s and a letter explaining the sale. It looks like they might not be mailing to Canada anymore. Anyone know, and we can get them at our ever seem to be closing christian bookstores and grocerystores up here. thanks, stan. my wife wants to know too.

    • Steve Laube April 16, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

      I forwarded your note to the right people at Harlequin. I’ll let you know if I hear anything in return.

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