Heartsong’s Publishing Legacy

Last week, as mentioned in Tamela’s wonderful tribute, Harlequin announced that the Heartsong Presents imprint is going to be shuttered. Heartsong Presents has been primarily a “direct-to-consumer” book club which published romance titles with a specifically Christian message.

{And last week I joked about how things can change on Tuesday… This announcement came on Tuesday…}

They will continue publishing the books currently in the pipeline through June of next year but then it will be finished. Kathy Davis the editor in charge of Heartsong will have to find a new job at the end of January when her work is completed.

This affects a number of our clients who have been writing for them on a regular basis. It also means that 48 annual fiction slots go away. They were publishing four new titles per month!

The Economic Reality

Some have misunderstood or forgotten the recent history of this line. This decision by Harlequin needs some context.

Back in July 2011, when still owned by Barbour Publishing, the line was temporarily shut down. (See Tamela’s blog about that. And also this post by Tiffany Amber Stockton.) A few months later (January 2012) Harlequin bought the line from Barbour (details found here.)

For the last two and a half years Harlequin tried to reboot the Heartsong franchise. They used the incredibly successful network of the Love Inspired lines as their resource. Unfortunately the efforts did not produce the necessary growth.

I had wondered, once HarperCollins completed their purchase of Harlequin, if there would be increased scrutiny of certain imprints under the Harlequin umbrella. That is apparently the case here.

The Heartsong Presents imprint, from an economic or fiscal perspective, was vulnerable. The editor, Kathy Davis, was not based in New York. The entire operation; cover designs, typesetting, editorial, printing, distribution, etc could be easily evaluated against its revenue. And the revenue was simply not there. When a book retails for only $4.99 you have to sell a lot of copies to cover production costs. And without a bookstore component the publisher must rely on the very expensive method of direct mail or the vague method of email marketing to build subscribers. A subscriber had to commit to buying all four books each month which is a bargain and quite convenient. But growing those numbers into the tens of thousands is not an easy task.

The Legacy

Heartsong began in 1993 by Barbour Publishing. They published short (50,000 words) mass market sized romances for the Christian market. It filled a niche that was crying out for this type of book.  What few know is that many of today’s bestselling Christian novelists either got their start at Heartsong or published with them on a regular basis while also writing for other publishers.

I would like to try to list some of the more recognizable authors who wrote for Heartsong at some point in their career. I know I will miss a number of you. Please add names in the comments below and I’ll update this list when I can (I’m not trying to list every author who ever wrote for them, only the most recognizable names). This legacy is truly amazing and is a tribute to the editors and the publisher who were willing to give new voices a chance. This willingness is harder to find nowadays because the financial stakes are higher in publishing and testing authors is not a normal thing to do. The advantage of the “direct-to-consumer” model is that the consumer was captive, having already purchased the book as part of their subscription so the reader wasn’t picking one author over another. They were reading whatever showed up each month. This still works for the Love Inspired lines, but is not something the general trade publisher can replicate. We are glad that Harlequin continues to aggressively support their 16 monthly Love Inspired titles which cover the romance, suspense, and historical genres.

Well Known Authors Who Published with Heartsong:

4b45faf7d6f878600ae4c1726d1f097dTracie Peterson
Wanda Brunstetter
Laurainne Snelling
Colleen Coble
DiAnn Mills
Kim Vogel Sawyer
Susan May Warren
Cathy Marie Hake
Cara Putman
Gail Sattler
Gail Gaymer Martin
471854135cf6562f6fa0a436837505b4Denise Hunter
Kristen Billerbeck
Elizabeth Goddard
Laurie Alice Eakes
Tracey Bateman
Lisa Harris
Leona Worth
Pamela Tracy
Lynn Coleman
Kelly Eileen Hake
Loree Lough
Kathleen Y’Barbo
Lynette Sowell

That is quite a list! And as I said above, it is incomplete. Over 1,000 books were published over the last 21 years. And the industry owes Heartsong Presents a debt of gratitude. (Goodreads has a list of the Heartsong Presents titles, but I do not know if it is complete or accurate.)

Of course the industry is constantly changing. Some books work today that won’t work tomorrow…and vice versa. Thus is the rabbit chase of the publishing experience. We will continue to find solid publishers for our clients and support their efforts either traditionally or Indie in the pursuit of telling great stories with a great message.

__________

Some Romance History

By the way, in case you are curious, there were other mass market Christian romance lines published in the mid-80s that ultimately disappeared, only to have Heartsong (and later Love Inspired) fill that void.

The Serenade Sonata and Serenada Saga line were published by Zondervan. They were the first ones to do the mass market sized Christian romance novels. First published in 1983 (for Sonata) and 1984 (for Saga). The Zondervan titles were published until around 1987 when the experiment ended.

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

Here is a link to all 47 of the Saga titles:
Serenade Saga series list

Here is a link to all 49 of the Sonata titles:
Serendae Sonata series list

There was also a line called Promise Romances (?) published by Thomas Nelson during those same years 1984-1987 (also mass market in trim size).
I believe bestselling author Irene Hannon got her start here.
Promise Romance series list

in the general market there was a “clean” line of inspirational fiction published by Harlequin called Silhouette Inspirations.
You may notice a rather famous name who got her start with this line….
Sillouette Inspirations series list

I wonder if Sillouette Inspirations was a precursor to what became the Love Inspired (originally called Steeple Hill) line from Harlequin in 1997?
Here is a link to all 900+ novels from Love Inspired:
Love Inspired series list

 

 

20 Responses to Heartsong’s Publishing Legacy

  1. Avatar
    Linda Yezak November 17, 2014 at 6:10 am #

    I saw a question on another site about whether Jerry will continue publishing The Christian Writer’s Market Guide. The book is a separate enterprise for him, right? Have you heard whether he will continue with it?

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube November 17, 2014 at 8:48 am #

      He will continue with the Market Guide as far as we know.

  2. Avatar
    Linda Yezak November 17, 2014 at 6:12 am #

    Oops. I think I commented on the wrong blog post. Hope you know the answer anyway.

  3. Avatar
    Pamela Meyers November 17, 2014 at 6:39 am #

    Andrea Boeshaar isn’t on the list and I think should be.

  4. Avatar
    Davalynn Spencer November 17, 2014 at 7:57 am #

    I loved working with Kathy Davis on my four Heartsong titles, and I hope to see her pop up elsewhere in the publishing world.

  5. Avatar
    Lisa Harris November 17, 2014 at 8:42 am #

    A great tribute! It is so true that Barbour and its great editors gave a chance to new voices and taught us so much in the process! I’m so grateful to Rebecca Germany and Jim and Tracy Peterson especially for this!

  6. Avatar
    Jeanne Takenaka November 17, 2014 at 9:21 am #

    Okay, after reading your post last Monday, I had to chuckle when you mentioned that the news about Heartsong came on a Tuesday. 🙂

    On the flip side of that, I am sorry for the authors who had books slated for later on who are now going to be reeling. It’s fun to see how many names I know or have read who got their start with Heartsong.

    I appreciate the background, Steve! Thanks for sharing it!

  7. Avatar
    Elizabeth Goddard November 17, 2014 at 10:09 am #

    Tracie Peterson bought my first book, SEASONS OF LOVE, when she transitioned out and Joanne Simmons took over. Learned so much from them. Those of us who wrote for Heartsong know how to write that long chapter synopsis and follow it closely! We have a good solid system for writing, thanks to the editors at Heartsong Presents.

  8. Avatar
    Susan Mary Malone November 17, 2014 at 10:12 am #

    Sometimes it’s just difficult to keep up. And how common this is becoming these days. My editor friends in NYC now always look over their shoulders. And as Jeanne said, such a tough place to be for their authors . . .

    Thanks for the news, Steve!

  9. Avatar
    Cecelia Dowdy November 17, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

    Wow, that’s an awesome post! Thanks for the Christian romance novel history, too. I hope and pray that Kathy Davis will be able to find a job quickly, and that the authors who are affected can find new homes for their books.

  10. Avatar
    Narelle Atkins November 17, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

    Steve, thanks for sharing the Heartsong Presents legacy. I loved working with Kathy and I’m glad I had the opportunity to write for Heartsong.

  11. Avatar
    Aaron McCarver November 17, 2014 at 6:36 pm #

    This is sad news. I am so thankful I had the privilege of co-authoring six of the historical titles with Diane. And I also had the privilege of working with many of the authors in the time I edited for the line. Some other authors I thought of:

    Lawana Blackwell writing as Kate Blackwell
    Judith Miller
    Carol Cox
    Rachel Hauck

    And I believe Donita K. Paul wrote some as Kathleen Paul. A truly great legacy for all of Christian fiction.

  12. Avatar
    Aaron McCarver November 17, 2014 at 6:40 pm #

    Oh, and Janice Thompson. By the way, there is a complete list at fictiondb, but the numbering gets off a little at one point.

    • Avatar
      Ellie Whyte November 21, 2014 at 6:12 pm #

      Yes, Aaron is right, there is a complete list at fictiondb. Some time ago I took what is found on there with Heartsong Presents and the Love Inspired lines and created a spreadsheet listing them all, and have it available to view at http://www.christianfictionsite.com/category-fiction.html (Scroll down a ways to see it). I’m thinking I should add the earlier Zondervan and Thomas Nelson mass market lists to it as well, as it is all relevant to the history of Christian fiction.

      If anything needs to be corrected on it, please let me know. I did my best to research the missing volume numbers and fill them in, which Aaron pointed out, but I may still have some wrong.

      • Avatar
        Steve Laube November 22, 2014 at 10:14 am #

        Ellie,

        Thank you for this incredible site! You have provided a wonderful service.

        Steve

        • Avatar
          Ellie Whyte November 22, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

          Thank you Steve! Readers and authors seem to love it so that makes it all worthwhile 🙂

  13. Avatar
    Jennifer June 26, 2015 at 3:43 pm #

    I was wondering if/where I can find a complete list of all the books that have been published under Heartsong Presents and Love Inspired? I have read a great many of them but I know I haven’t even come close to reading them all. I like to find them at thrift stores and yard sales and have unfortunately bought them more than once. I am trying to start keeping track of the ones I’ve read. I can’t seem to find complete lists though.

    • Avatar
      Ellie Whyte June 26, 2015 at 7:16 pm #

      Hi Jennifer! You can find a list on the table at the bottom of this page: http://www.christianfictionsite.com/category-fiction.html

      There is a tab for each romance line, so when you click on the link for “Heartsong Presents” it will show a list of all the Heartsong releases. There are also lists for Love Inspired, Love Inspired Suspense, and Love Inspired Historical. There may be a few gaps or numbering inaccuracies here and there as I have compiled the list from online sources which may not be 100% accurate, but as I am made aware of anything that needs fixing I have them corrected.

      I hope the list is helpful to you in your search for your Heartsong and Love Inspired reads 🙂

  14. Avatar
    LauraP December 8, 2015 at 11:07 am #

    I have subscribed to Heartsong Presents from 2009 and was disappointed when Barbour Publishing did not contact me that that the series was sold to Harlequin. I find Heartsong Presents more Christian that the Love Inspired books. Harlequin can have silly names for their serial books, but I have purchased them and read them for years.

    I am interested in subscribing to Heartsong Presents for the duration until the line is stopped. Thanks for the info!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Heartsong Presents June New Releases | Narelle Atkins - May 25, 2015

    […] My sixth contemporary Christian romance book with Harlequin’s Love Inspired Heartsong Presents line, Seaside Proposal, was released last month. Today I’m posting information on the new Heartsong Presents releases for June. The June books are also the final books being published under the Heartsong Presents imprint. I’ve appreciated the opportunity to start my publishing career with Harlequin and the Heartsong line. My agent, Steve Laube, wrote a lovely tribute last year on Heartsong’s Publishing Legacy. […]

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