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Launch of Tell Harlequin.com – Online Reader Panel

November 24, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as , , , , ,

Here’s information from a recent press release on a program Harlequin is launching to open the door to reader’s comments and suggestions:

http://www.TellHarlequin.com/ gives readers the opportunity
to contribute to the future of romance reading.

Toronto, ON (August 18, 2008) – Harlequin Enterprises Limited, the global leader in series romance and one of the world’s leading publishers of women’s fiction, announced today the launch of Tell Harlequin (www.TellHarlequin.com)—an online advisory panel that allows readers input into the direction of future novels by voicing their opinions and sharing their book experiences directly with the publisher.

Tell Harlequin is an online advisory panel designed to enhance Harlequin’s relationship with its readers through an ongoing dialogue whose insights will help guide the evolution of the publisher’s business and allow Harlequin to publish the best in women’s fiction. Participants on the Tell Harlequin panel can make their voices heard on topics such as cover designs, new
miniseries ideas, new series concepts, new promotional ideas and more. The staff at Harlequin will then consider Tell Harlequin suggestions along with the publisher’s own plans as it develops editorial for the future. Contributors to Tell Harlequin receive free Harlequin novels and sneak peeks at upcoming books, participate in entertaining online surveys and exchange opinions and ideas with other readers.

For more information please go to http://www.TellHarlequin.com/.

Hope you enjoy the telling!


Isabel Swift

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Are you my friend?

August 24, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as ,

By Isabel Smith, Harlequin Editor

OK, I am somewhat anti-social as well as being older than 20something, but that hasn’t protected me from getting sucked into a social network!

Here’s my etiquette dilemma:

What do you do when you get a “friend” request from someone who you’re not sure you know. Yes, you check out their lists of friends & hopefully find people in common that may jog your memory. But what do you do when, in the ‘family’ of the romance, there are a lot of people who might know of me, just as I might know of them, but we don’t actually know each other, have never spoken or met.

Are they my…friend?

When I launched into the uncharted waters of virtual reality, I ran around & made all my friend’s children ‘friend’ me (the 20somethings were everywhere). Then I discovered authors, and found good friends there. But for me there was a delicacy—I felt I had to actually know someone to friend them. I wasn’t using the site to do business, reaching out to strangers to expand my circle. I was just trying to find my friends—people I knew, had worked with, had met—virtually or actually.

I tried to always write a message with my friend requests saying Hi, often reintroducing myself and reminding them how we knew each other. That seemed, well, friendly. Like when you see someone at an actual event, you say ‘Hello, I’m … and we know each other from….’ Even if you know them well, you still say Hello! And if you don’t know them, of course you introduce yourself.

I realize that there are those for which ‘size counts’ and like counting piles of money, they delight in piling up a virtual world of people who are willing to be a notch in their friend-post. But I’m just not that kind of girl.

So I have actually ignored friend requests when I didn’t know for certain that I knew the person personally (sorry), and it makes me feel so ungracious! But all these requests are impersonal—no note, no greeting, just click here so I can add you to my list—I don’t even need to say Hello. And there’s also no place on the sites to share your philosophy or to alert people of your feelings on friending.

I worry that I might actually know them, that I ought to have remembered them—I’ve met them at a conference, they’re a Harlequin author, I took them out to dinner, they were kind enough to host me at an event, or may have read my blog (thank you!).

But just like at an event, if someone came up to you and said, ‘You don’t know me, but I’m a fan of your writing/met you briefly @ a conference/heard you speak…& would like to connect’ you’d be happy to get to know them. They’ve reached out, shared something of themselves, we’d found common ground and become new friends, or a friendly acquaintance. Or just a business colleague who chats and hands you their card.

Seems to me the same framework could—should—apply in this virtual world. Friend is a word that means something, and that matters to me.

Many years when I was a 20something my older brother’s buddies would complain bitterly that often the girls they were checking out & were interested in wouldn’t “put out.” My girlfriends noted that that was likely because they weren’t “putting in”—actually reaching out & putting themselves on the line.

I’m not comfortable ignoring people, but I do think I am going to maintain the standard. I’m not putting out unless the requester ‘puts in.’

Isabel Swift

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Editor Interview: Leena Hyatt

July 24, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as , ,

By Isabel Swift
I met Lee in one of those virtual encounters that are commonplace now, but remain conceptually amazing to me: the links we forge from shared interests and common passions without ever actually meeting – or needing to!

The internet also allows us to virtually check each other out – so I visited one of Lee’s blogs, Tote Bags ‘n’ Blogs (Join us for the latest news, views, and reviews from authors on authors…) and found a boatload of posts from authors I know & love. She has her finger in a lot of pies, with websites, reviews and a business but took the time to share her thoughts – though she noted she was more used to being on the publishing rather than the writing side of a post!

One of the best jobs in the world…

When I was young, I wanted to be a writer and an artist. I wanted to create. I wanted to fill the world with color and beautiful words that touched the soul: words that inspired strong emotion and also made you smile; colors that evoked passion and shouted ‘Look at me! Here I am!’

My favorite places to hang out included the art room at school and the library. I could get lost in both. I didn’t have to worry about not being good at fractions or formulas… or conversation.

But my roots belong in a conservative family where art and writing didn’t sound like promising careers and professions like medicine, law and business administration did. I held out for art college but then life happened and here I am today with a business administration background, a whole lot of color and lots of wonderful words to get lost in.

I’ve got one of the best jobs in the world. I work with some of the best, award-winning authors in the romance industry on administration, publicity, and promotion. My clients range from the newly published to the fully established, New York Times bestselling authors, and every day I’m surrounded by a lot of words… and a lot of gorgeous colors, too. I’m doing everything I love to do most. It’s perfect and totally suits me.

I fell into this job quite by accident – it’s funny how life often leads us in a roundabout way to the path we were always intended to take. I’ve been an avid reader since forever, and several years ago, just after my husband and I moved to Washington state, I was looking for a fun hobby as a way of making some new friends. I happened across a website looking for reviewers.

I still remember the first book they sent me to review. It was a 600 page eBook… Yikes! I didn’t think I’d get through it – 600 pages of reading at my computer?? Gah! But I did get through it. And I enjoyed it too.

I guess I had a knack for reviewing because pretty soon I was reading and reviewing over 14 books a month and loving every minute. It was fun and it got me really interested in learning about writing and publishing industry.

It also made me start getting ideas about putting pen to paper for my own stories. But again, life happened. I reconnected with a then-category romance author at a book signing and like a typical aspiring writer, I got into an email correspondence with her over the next several months.

She just happened to need some help with the business side of writing due to her packed schedule and time constraints and asked if I could help. It was only supposed to be for a short while because I wanted to get back to my own writing… but I fell in love with the job and word of mouth from my clients sealed the deal.

I still work on my own writing when I have time, but I’m not in any rush for now. I’m having way too much fun with my day job! I’ve got a small website and I deal with authors and readers every day. I get to do all the fun stuff like watch an idea for a story grow step by step and bloom in full color. I’m lucky enough to help with research, read chapters or brainstorm through difficult scenes, design bookmarks and flyers, set up contests and plan fun ways to publicize the book.

As a team, the author and I get to work on different ways to keep her/their name in front of readers, even during months when there is no new book on the shelves. We come up with smart ideas to get the most bang for her buck and still make an impact on the reader in a strong way. It’s interesting and unpredictable in so many ways, it keeps me on my toes and keeps me smiling – in color!

So tell me, when you think back to your childhood hopes and dreams, did you ever think then that you’d end up in the profession you’re in today?


Thanks for giving us the chance to get to know you!

Isabel Swifthttp://isabelswift.blogspot.com

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Guest Post: What’s love got to do with it?

May 24, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as

Isabel Swift, Editor Emeritus, Harlequin

When I was an acquiring editor for series romances at Silhouette , I was always surprised at encounters with writers when they’d announce they’d sold a project I’d turned down with a tone of glee at having proved me wrong. I think I startled them by my enthusiastic congratulations!

So if an editor’s role isn’t delighting in crushing dreams and chagrin at having let a good one get away, what is it?

My goal as a series editor was to find content —stories that I believed would appeal to the audience I was acquiring for. Not what I personally liked or disliked, but work I thought would deliver a satisfying experience to the readership.

It is also helpful to like the work, because tapping into your emotional response can be part of your assessment tools as an editor. If you don’t personally enjoy the work, you have to rely more on the intellectual aspect of your editorial judgment.

But the elements you need to remember in your assessment are:

1. What is the story trying to achieve/deliver?
2. Does it work—and do I, as a reader, care?
3. Who is your reader?
4. Do you think this story will deliver satisfaction to them?

Not necessarily in that order. And while series is a unique and remarkable animal in the publishing menagerie, I think most of these points are relevant for editors in general.
My job meant I needed to pay attention to my readers—to hear when she said, but especially observe what she did (often two very different things). Our reader—the marketplace—is a constantly moving target. Just as most series authors started as or became readers, the same goes for editors. It’s easier if you have an understanding of trends and can respond with a gut feel. But as an editor, you have to respond with your head as well as your heart.

Some situations—a new direction or line launch, the strength and skill of an author, a marketplace or demographic trend, single titles to a varying degree—can offer more scope for experimentation. Especially in series, though elsewhere as well, a reader can be surprised, amazed, intrigued…but must not be disappointed. Not in terms of delivering on the promise—overtly made or subtly implied—in the distribution, choice of format, packaging, promotion, past experience with the author.

While series is often seen as more limited in scope than a stand-alone single title, authors have experimented with remarkable things—aliens, paranormal, magic, the list could go on—and remained commercially viable. Incorporating elements that a single title author might find hard to include without being established—and willing to risk a drop in sales if the experiment doesn’t work.

As readers, we all bring expectations to opening a book. My goal as an editor was to ensure the story I acquired would deliver on those expectations.

And just getting to that final reader means being able to clear a number of gates and gatekeepers. An acquiring editor usually needs to convince other editors of the strength of the story and have them share the positive assessment. If it’s a significant acquisition, she may need to get other departments on board—sales, marketing, art, publicity—as they will need to be committed to developing the convincing selling package and story to take the material to market. Now the book advocate team will need to collectively convince the sales force that they have the “weapons” they need to convince the booksellers and distributors in turn that they should take the title.

The editor is only the first of a long series of people that must be convinced to take a chance on the title, spending time and money and rack space to make it available to a reader.

Harlequin and Silhouette series romances are amazing because they are not sold in individually but as a series, thus allowing a remarkable opportunity for writers to find their voice—within series parameters—to experiment, to understand what is working/not working with the readership without the pressure to succeed and grow on every title that faces every stand-alone single title. Series can allow writers to perfect their craft—and one of the key and universal elements of storytelling: to create characters we care about.

And in response to that cranky turned-down-now-acquired author, sometimes an editor is wrong in her assessment. Their assumptions about an audience’s interest can be off, and the market turns out to be much broader than past experience would indicate. But also the project may just not be right for the readership that editor is acquiring for, like a strong, but mis-cast actor.

True, you can occasionally edit a square peg into a round hole. But it’s better for that peg to find a square hole. An editor’s role is juggling all this and more.

But there is always the love of storytelling that drives us—of finding a great story and working to make sure it will reach an appreciative audience. I’m delighted when a story finds the right home—with any of the many Harlequin imprints , or somewhere else.

I love when that happens!

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