Farewell to Heartsong

Earlier this week I received a call from Kathy Davis, acquisitions editor for Harlequin Heartsong Presents. She told me I was the first agent she called. Unfortunately, she had bad news. Heartsong Presents as a line will cease publication next year. I was sorry to learn that Kathy will also be looking for another position. A caring and competent editor, Kathy will surely find a soft place to land. The closing of Heartsong Presents takes a piece of my heart along with it. I have been in Christian publishing for some time, as illustrated by the photo that shows what I looked like when I first started writing books.

image Tamela John's deskWhen my daughter Jill was an infant, I started typing manuscripts on the manual typewriter I took to college and submitting them to Heartsong Presents. It took a few tries for my work to be accepted for many reasons, I’m sure, but largely because I needed to learn how to write specifically for the Christian market.

Back then, the act of seeking publication was different. Reputable agents listed in The Writers Market said they charged clients for phone calls, photocopies, and postage. They also said you had to send SASE (self addressed, stamped envelope), and not to send them carbon copies of your work. I kept a stock of paper and envelopes on hand, and made trips to a store whose sole business was making copies of various documents for customers.

The process of having my first book published was a long one — at least to me. But it was definitely worth the wait! Being a published author has been invaluable to me as an agent. I understand firsthand the author’s journey, the process, and the love and work involved in the career of a writer.

I am very proud that I was a Heartsong Presents author. Rebecca Germany, Tracie Peterson, JoAnne Simmons, and Kathy Davis were and are all wonderful editors who care about readers and I am privileged that I was able to work with them as a writer, and later, as an agent. Heartsong Presents introduced many talented writers to the reading public. I know their readers will be saddened to see the line close.

Farewell, Heartsong Presents. I already miss you.

 

32 Responses to Farewell to Heartsong

  1. Avatar
    Jackie Layton November 13, 2014 at 5:17 am #

    What a sad announcement. The very first time I met with a group of Christian writers, I heard the name Kathy Davis. Since then it seems like her name has been mentioned at least once in our meetings.

    I’m sorry for all the authors and readers, as well as the editors, for the loss of Heartsong Presents.

    Thanks for letting us know.

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    Pamela Meyers November 13, 2014 at 5:55 am #

    Oh no….. I’m so sorry to hear that. I never published with them but I have a lot of friends who have and are. The landscape of publishing these days seems to change by the day sometimes. I’ll pray for Kathy that God leads her to a great new job.

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    Pamela Tracy November 13, 2014 at 6:27 am #

    My very first book was a Heartsong Presents. Becky Germany purchased it after meeting with me at an RWA conference. (I met Francine Rivers at that conference.) It was the early days of the Internet and loops and such. I remember joining the authors’ loop and meeting so many authors who were at the beginning of their careers. The books only got better as time went by and they were great to begin with. Sad to see them go 🙁

  4. Avatar
    Lynette Sowell November 13, 2014 at 6:57 am #

    I was sad to hear this also. Reading Heartsong books in the late 90’s is what encouraged me to start writing for publication. My first rejection letter came from Tracie Peterson, and I was thrilled to work with both Joanne Simmons at Kathy Davis for five books. I was looking forward to another series, but now we’ll have to see where that will find a home.

  5. Avatar
    Jill Kemerer November 13, 2014 at 7:15 am #

    Oh, this breaks my heart. I hoped the HQN home would be a good fit. Thanks for sharing this with us.

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    Janet Lee Barton November 13, 2014 at 7:27 am #

    This news saddens me so much, Tamela. Like you, Heartsong Presents is where I, and many other Christian romance writers started out, too. I never met Kathy but have heard good things about her. I feel so sad for her and those who have edited these stories, and for the readers who loved reading them. I’m praying that the writers and Kathy find new homes. It is a sad day to say goodbye to Heartsong Presents.

  7. Avatar
    Davalynn Spencer November 13, 2014 at 7:28 am #

    Kathy Davis was the editor for my four Heartsong books and she was fabulous to work with. I will miss her as much as Heartsong, but I hope to see her name elsewhere.

  8. Avatar
    Jan Cline November 13, 2014 at 7:55 am #

    This is indeed sad news. I am hearing from authors and professionals in the industry that the Christian fiction trends are dropping drastically. New authors like me are concerned we won’t have a window of opportunity to be traditionally published. And as a conference director, I’m wondering how to provide more information about what’s going on with publishing these days without sounding like it’s hopeless. I’m also wondering if this will bring Indie publishing to the forefront for those writers looking for a home for their books. Do you have any thoughts on that, Tamela? Thanks for keeping us informed.

    • Avatar
      Lorna November 13, 2014 at 8:16 am #

      Love Inspired is another series that is good. If Heartsong is going start reading or writing for Love Inspired. They have romance, suspense and Historicals. Some authors are writing about Amish people.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray November 13, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

      Jan, thanks for asking. I don’t believe the situation is hopeless. While it is always a loss when 48 annual slots are no longer available to readers and writers, sales for Heartsong Presents rarely led authors to trade books because direct to consumer marketing is entirely different from how trade books are marketed. Authors who want to publish with traditional publishers will need to retool and revamp to approach trade book publishers. Signing with one of the many reputable CBA agents is a good place for authors to start. I’m sure many agents would be honored to share knowledge at your conference. Hope this helps!

      • Avatar
        Jan Cline November 13, 2014 at 6:00 pm #

        Thanks Tamela, That does help. I think I need to speak with my publishing professionals before the conference and ask them to give feedback to my attendees on what’s going on and what their options are. I so appreciate your input. I will apply it to my own publishing decisions as well. Thanks again.

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    Linda Goodnight November 13, 2014 at 8:09 am #

    Very sad indeed. Anytime a Christian line is lost is a sad day, though this isn’t a surprise. So many changes happening in publishing in general and Harlequin/Harper Collins in particular.

    I’m sorry for the editors, writers, and the readers who will never know the pleasure of those gentle stories.

  10. Avatar
    Lorna Rushton November 13, 2014 at 8:12 am #

    Amazon.ca still has the Heartsong Presents books on their website Will they stop after the last book is listed? Hopefully the Love Inspired folks can buy them out.

  11. Avatar
    Cecelia Dowdy November 13, 2014 at 8:13 am #

    So sad to hear this! I recall joining the Heartsong Presents book club back in the nineties! I loved receiving those four little books in the mail, reading them, enjoying them. One of the first rejections I’ve ever received was from Tracie Peterson, who was editing for Heartsong back then. She kindly gave me feedback, helped me to grow as a writer.

    Praying that Kathy gets a job. From my limited interaction with her, I’ve seen that she’s a kind and thorough editor and I’m sure she’ll find another job quickly.

  12. Avatar
    Patti Jo Moore November 13, 2014 at 8:31 am #

    🙁 This is such sad news….I’ve been receiving the monthly shipment of books from Heartsong for quite a few years now, and always look forward to these delightful stories. Heartsong books were also among the first I read when I “discovered” Christian fiction and it opened up a whole new world for me.
    I’m thankful I had the pleasure of meeting with Kathy Davis at last year’s ACFW in Indy. I liked her SO much, and felt like she’s the kind of person I’d enjoy having coffee with and just talking! 🙂
    Thank you for this update, Tamela – – and that’s a beautiful picture of you (of course, you are still beautiful). 🙂

  13. Avatar
    Ann Shorey November 13, 2014 at 8:31 am #

    Sad news indeed. Both for those directly involved, and for the Christian publishing industry at large. Thanks for the update.

  14. Avatar
    Debra Ullrick November 13, 2014 at 9:07 am #

    Wow, this is sooooo sad. My first book was contracted with HP. I pitched A Bride Wore Coveralls to Jim Peterson at the ACRW (ACFW now) conference back in 2004. I’ve always enjoyed those books. I’m heartbroken to hear this sad news. They will be missed. Will be praying for Kathy to get another position. One worthy of her talents.

  15. Avatar
    Cara Putman November 13, 2014 at 9:37 am #

    This makes me super sad, too. I wouldn’t be published without Tracie & Jim Peterson liking Canteen Dreams. And working with JoAnne on six books was a GREAT experience. I’m so proud of those stories.

  16. Avatar
    Jean Brunson November 13, 2014 at 10:53 am #

    I don’t know enough about Heartsong to be sad. Your blog about your sadness made me want to cry. I hope to learn how to express that kind of emotions in my writing.

  17. Avatar
    Chip MacGregor November 13, 2014 at 11:08 am #

    That’s a lovely tribute, Tamela. We’ll all miss Heartsong, and the unique place it had in Christian publishing.

  18. Avatar
    Sandra November 13, 2014 at 11:30 am #

    I’ve been reading Heartsong for a little over a year now, and I adore them. This change makes me sad, but I know readers like me will look for similar stories in other lines.

  19. Avatar
    Debby Lee November 13, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

    It breaks my heart to see this series come to an end. I, too, discovered Christian fiction through Heartsong Presents, and it really opened my eyes, my heart, and helped me grow as a Christian and as a writer. I had hoped and dreamed of writing for them some day. I will miss them so much.

  20. Avatar
    Narelle Atkins November 13, 2014 at 1:56 pm #

    This is very sad news. Kathy Davis was my editor and I’ll really miss working with her. Heartsong have given me my start and my sixth Heartsong title will be released in May 2015 before the line closes. I’m thankful I’ve had the privilege of being part of the wonderful Heartsong family.

  21. Avatar
    Laura V. Hilton November 13, 2014 at 2:13 pm #

    I figured they would close when Harlequin bought them out. Heartsong and Love Inspired are very similar. My mom used to subscribe to Heartsong… and I dreamed of someday writing good enough for them. Never have. Never will.

  22. Avatar
    Lena Nelson Dooley November 13, 2014 at 2:44 pm #

    Tamela, I was privileged to be a Heartsong author right along with you. My first book was bought in the first year of Heartsong’s existence. I’ve thanked the Lord for the grounding they gave me in the years I wrote for them. It is sad to see them go. Their introduction of so many debut authors has been good for Christian publishing.

  23. Avatar
    Tiffany Amber Stockton November 13, 2014 at 3:33 pm #

    Although I’m saddened by this new, I can’t say it comes as a surprise, considering the Love Inspired line and the significant drop in subscriptions for the Heartsong line before Barbour sold to HQN. Hearing Kathy Davis will be looking for a new position, though, is a surprise. But she’s a phenomenal editor, and I’m sure she’ll find a place to land quickly.

    I’m one of many who cut their teeth on the Heartsong books, and I know I wouldn’t be where I am in publishing and writing were it not for Jim and Tracie Peterson and Becky Germany taking a chance on me and my first novel in 2005. Transitioning to working with JoAnne Simmons and then Kathy Davis has just been a bonus! Amazing to think 9 of my 15 books so far are because of Heartsong.

    I began reading the series and became a member right as Barbour launched the line, following on the heels of Bethany House’s Serenade Saga / Serenade Serenada line (historical and contemporary romances). Does anyone remember those? I still own some of those first Heartsong titles by the likes of Colleen Reece and Tracie Peterson (then writing as Janelle Jamison). Though the writing bug wouldn’t bite me until 10 years later, I owe my interest in writing Christian fiction solely to Heartsong.

    At least 25-30 names of well-established Christian fiction authors come to mind when I think back to the illustrious list of Heartsong authors who got their start with that line. Quite a bit of nostalgia is attached to Heartsong Presents. While I’m sad to see it close its doors, I’m happy to see the Love Inspired line continuing. At least readers can find the sweet romances young girls discover and grandmothers still enjoy…and everyone in between. 🙂

    Thanks, Tamela, for such a beautiful tribute to a fantastic line, one which will certainly go down in the history of Christian fiction romance as one of the best for new authors.

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube November 13, 2014 at 6:03 pm #

      Tiffany,
      On Monday’s blog I will be talking about the Heartsong legacy. You are correct that it is quite remarkable.

      By the way the Serenade Sonata and Serenada Saga line were published by Zondervan, not Bethany House. They were actually the first ones to do the mass market sized romance novels in 1983 (for Sonata) and 1984 (for Saga). A couple years later Thomas Nelson did a number of these books in the same format. The Zondervan titles were published until around 1987 when the experiment ended.

      The “Saga” books were historical. The “Sonata” books were contemporary.

      The problem was that the publisher, in those days, had to print close to 50,000 copies of a title. (may have been less, but it was a huge number) They were not able to sell that many so for years you could buy bargain copies for a dime.

      Here is a link to all 47 of the Saga titles:
      http://www.fictiondb.com/series/serenade-saga~14141.htm

      Here is a link to all 49 of the Sonata titles:
      http://www.fictiondb.com/series/serenade-sonata~14140.htm

  24. Avatar
    Jen Cvelbar November 13, 2014 at 4:59 pm #

    So sad to learn about Heartsong. I am so grateful that I was able to have my books published through them. I had the pleasure of working with JoAnne, Rebecca and Kathy. What a lovely tribute, Tamela. Well said.

  25. Avatar
    Natalie Monk November 15, 2014 at 8:55 pm #

    Sad news, indeed. The publishing industry seems to me like a wounded giant right now. Lots of nail-biting moments here waiting to see if/when/where/how it will fall and build again.

  26. Avatar
    bb June 12, 2015 at 5:25 pm #

    I picked up my first Heartsong book 20 years ago at Cedarville Christian College (now University) at age 11 and have read them ever since. I just got my last shipment and am very sad. Someone needs to start a Twitter handle to keep us informed of the future in regards to the books and the authors. I hope I can pick them up again soon!

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  1. Heartsong's Publishing Legacy - The Steve Laube Agency - November 17, 2014

    […] week, as mentioned in Tamela’s wonderful tribute, Harlequin announced that the Heartsong Presents imprint is going to be shuttered. Heartsong […]

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