Friday, January 5, 2007

Clearing Things Up (I Hope)

Déjà vu. It’s a new year, but there’s an old scene outside my window today. It was drearily raining the last time I posted and here it is again. But I can’t complain too much. It’s 60 degrees outside! I’ll take that over our normal subfreezing January temperatures any day!

Something else that gives me déjà vu is answering questions about our state-based theme for Heartsongs and our collections. Not that I mind the questions, but maybe posting some information here will help clear things up for a lot of writers and save me repeating myself a few times.

Here’s a question Becky was asked on her blog post a couple weeks ago:
“Many of us are very confused about the State books vs. the Heartsongs. If we submit a sweet romance set in Texas, Florida, or Michigan will it be rejected because those states are taken, even though we didn't submit it for a ‘state’ book? How many books per state do you contract each year? Looking at your ‘available states’ list right now, I see 19 states left but none of our books are set in those states. Could you explain this entire state books vs. regular Heartsongs to us? Are ALL books considered for state books? See how confused we are? Thanks so much for clarifying.”

Here’s the scoop: Barbour’s plan is to publish 16 state collections per year (8 historical and 8 contemporary) in our Romancing America series. These collections are made by putting three previously published Heartsongs into one new book and calling it by its State Name plus Weddings if contemporary or Brides if historical. For example, New Hampshire Weddings contains three contemporary New Hampshire stories that were previously published as Heartsongs.

Since the collections are generated from Heartsongs, that means Heartsongs must be setting-driven. And since we want one historical and one contemporary collection for each of the 50 states, that means I have a fixed number of “state slots” to fill as I contract new Heartsongs (three contemporary and three historical for each state, to be exact). Hence our States List is available to keep anyone who requests it up-to-date on what states are “taken” and which ones I’m still open to proposals for.

To make sure I have the right stories to make 16 state collections per year, 48 Heartsongs per year have to fit into a state slot. But we publish 52 Heartsongs per year. So technically I have 4 “wildcard slots” that could be stories in any setting. However, because we like to plan for collections, I don’t necessarily use those wildcard slots for non-state books. I’ll only use a wildcard slot if there’s a story that I think would be a perfect Heartsong, no matter if it wouldn’t fit into a collection someday.

Unfortunately, if you submit a proposal for a state that is already taken, odds are it will be rejected. Occasionally, if I really like a story that is set in a taken state, I’ll ask the author if it would be possible to re-set it in another state that is available. If they can, I’ll take another look at it.

Some authors and agents ask if I’ll keep and consider proposals for the future in case we do a second round of the state theme. Honestly, I prefer not to because it’s so far down the road and it gets to be burdensome to have those stacked up in my files. It would be better to simply resubmit in the future if you hear that we are doing another round.

Another note on the States List: Something that I’m sure is frustrating to authors is to get a list, pick an available state, and start writing for it, only to find that by the time you actually submit, that state is taken. That happens, and I’m sorry for it. There is no good, efficient way for me to know who all is planning to submit for what state and when. And I don’t schedule an exact date for when I will contract for each state. The best I can do is to update the states list every time I contract a new set of books and get the word out that way. In fact, I’ll post the available states list at the end of this and plan to post it here on the blog regularly.

One more thing to keep in mind: Sales numbers tell us that single-author collections perform better than those written by three different authors. So, three proposals for a state by one author stand a better chance at being chosen than those by three different authors.

I hope all this information helps, and if you have more questions you can email me at

Available Contemporary States:
New Jersey
North Dakota
South Dakota
West Virginia

Available Historical States:
New Hampshire
New Jersey
North Dakota
Rhode Island
South Carolina


Mary Connealy said...

Thanks, JoAnne, This did answer some questions I have. Better yet, now I can come back if I've got questions later and see if the answer is in this post.

Sandra Robbins said...

Thanks for posting this information, JoAnne. It's made the process clearer to me.

Sandra Robbins

Dana Mentink said...

Ahhhh! The light has dawned! Thank you for this post. How do you folks keep this info straight? Must be your keen editorial minds. Dana Mentink

Dana Mentink said...

Actually, I did think of another question. How many years into the state project are you? Have you already published several seasons? I'm obviously not caught up with my reading! Thanks. Dana Mentink

Ramblin Regina said...

So this is what I got from the information above -- Barbour will be publishing 16 State collections per year, and they can't promise to "hold" a book until the next year. So our best bet would be to go ahead and write the book we want to write on the state we want to write on and submit it. Trying to pick an available state won't necessarily do any good.
Thats my plan and I'm sticking to it!

Tiff/Amber Miller said...

Thank you, thank you, thank, JoAnne. Now it all clicks. And the list helps a lot too! Hopefully, this will reduce your workload and the time spent sifting through proposals you can't use.

And now that I've sold my first, time to get cracking on the next set. :)

Katie Hart said...

Coming to this information late because I've been busy - I just got a job at a local Christian bookstore! :D I appreciate the list. My novel was one of the ones that got rejected (back in February) because my state was already contracted.