I’m Adding Some New Genres

Today I’m making a couple of changes in the kinds of books I’m looking for. Those of you who are writing romance, cozy mystery, or female-driven suspense, listen up.

Right now I’m specifically seeking previously published authors who are unrepresented but would like to expand and grow their career beyond what they’ve been able to do on their own.

Important: As always, I’m also interested in unpublished authors, but I don’t want to see any first drafts and it’s unlikely that your very first book will be right for me. I’m looking for writers who have been working on the craft, have shown their manuscripts to objective readers and received positive feedback, and are familiar with the workings of publishing through reading blogs and attending conferences.

So what’s new?

First, in the past I wasn’t accepting cozy mysteries but I’d like to start looking at them. If you query me, please be sure to put “Query – Cozy Mystery” in the subject line of your email.

Second, I’ll be focusing more on fiction that appeals to women. This could be almost any genre, but the book needs to have at least one strong female main character, and a plot that doesn’t have “primarily of interest to men” written all over it. Of course, this is going to be subjective but use your best judgment to determine where your manuscript fits. To those of you who will inevitably ask why: 1) Because I am, after all, female, and would like to represent books I can enjoy reading multiple times since that’s usually what I end up doing; and 2) the CBA fiction market is driven by female consumers, so there are solid business reasons for narrowing my focus. (My colleagues Greg Johnson and Caleb Seeling enjoy male-oriented fiction so feel free to query them.)

Third, I’ve decided to start looking at manuscripts specifically for four romance lines: Barbour’s Heartsongs Presents, Harlequin’s Love Inspired, Summerside’s Love Finds You, and HarperCollins’ Avon Inspire. If you’re going query me for these lines, you MUST be familiar with them, their word counts, and their specific requirements, and you must indicate as much in your query letter. Read their websites and go to the bookstore to look at their books. Following are some details:

Heartsong Presents:

→ 45,000 to 50,000 words.

→ Primarily romance with traditional settings or cozy mysteries with romance and inspirational subplots. Historicals must be prior to WWII, contemporaries are modern-day. (Nothing between WWII and modern day.)

→ No chick lit, mom lit, or romantic suspense.

Click here to find complete submission guidelines for Heartsong Presents.

Steeple Hill Love Inspired:

→ Love Inspired is looking for character-driven romance with a Christian worldview (55-60,000 words)

→ Love Inspired Suspense is looking for riveting romantic suspense with a Christian worldview (55-60,000 words)

→ Love Inspired Historical is looking for Westerns, Americana (e.g., non-western settings.), European historical eras (e.g., Regency, and Victorian England, 18th century Scotland, etc.), 20th century (turn of the century through World War II) and biblical fiction. Also interested in stories featuring missionaries abroad in exotic locations during various historical periods. Historicals should be 70-75,000 words long.

Click here to find Love Inspired submission guidelines.

Summerside Press:

→ The “Love Finds You®” series features inspirational romance novels set in actual cities and towns across the United States.

→ Full-length novels, word count of around 80,000.

→ The stories may be historical or contemporary.

Click here for Summerside’s submission guidelines.

Avon Inspire:

→ Historical and contemporary romance, chick lit, romantic suspense, African American Christian fiction, historical women’s fiction with romantic elements.

→ Only considering published authors.

→ 60,000-90,000 words

From their website: “These stories and their characters are primarily Christian, and promote traditional values and beliefs. They also are first and foremost stories of the heart, romantic novels about learning to trust; to open ourselves to love, not only to the men in our lives, but ultimately to God. Set in America, both contemporary and historical settings will be considered, as will romantic suspense and romantic comedy. There should be no alcohol, drug use, or premarital sex for the main characters. For non-Christian characters, these subjects can be explored but primarily to show their destructive nature and how a virtuous life is the better path. Foul language should be avoided at all costs.”

Click here for Avon submission guidelines.

For the complete list of what I’m looking for, click here.

For our complete Submission Guidelines, click here.

→ Any questions?


Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Books & Such Literary Agency. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


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  3. Kristen on March 4, 2010 at 8:22 PM


    I have a chick lit I believe would be a nice fit for Avon Inspire. Your post says they are only looking for previously published authors. But when I click on the Avon link you've provided, they provide a query e-mail address, with no mention that I can see of "previously published" being a requirement.

    Can you please provide some insight? I would love to be able to send you a query for my manuscript, but I don't want to waste your time by cluttering your inbox with my query if it's just a dead-end. (I am previously published, just not in book-length fiction, which is obviously what counts here.)


  4. Cathy Shouse on October 28, 2009 at 8:57 AM

    >The fact that you're looking at cozies caught my attention. The latest information I've heard is that Barbour has dropped their cozy mystery book club and I didn't think they were taking cozy submissions.

    Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense isn't doing cozies any more.

    I thought there wasn't a market for cozies. unless someone goes outside CBA

  5. Wendy on October 27, 2009 at 7:06 PM

    >Very exciting news. Not only does my book qualify, but I do too. You can look forward to receiving my submission in the near future. It is a female-driven suspense with a little romance for spice.

  6. David A. Todd on October 26, 2009 at 11:15 PM


    That "previously published authors" speaks much louder than "interested in unpublished authors". Plus, an unpublished author can't sell a fiction concept, only a completed novel. I have what I consider to be a great concept for a series of cozy mysteries, but I've got to get one written first. Unfortunately, it's not in my nature to drop the projects currently underway to allow a project queued up in the gray cells to find its way to paper or pixels. I have to finish what I started before I can start on something else.

    So, I suppose it's really me that leaves me out.

  7. Dara on October 26, 2009 at 7:06 PM

    >Thanks for the answer! Hopefully that movement grows larger 🙂 I love Americana but I like other stuff too!

  8. Rachelle on October 26, 2009 at 6:40 PM

    >Dara, although there is a movement growing to try and get more foreign settings in fiction, publishers have found that Americana sells best. It's all about sales.

    Katrina, you're free to query. But you'll also want to make sure you're querying agents with proven success with the genre you're writing.

  9. Katrina on October 26, 2009 at 6:36 PM

    I have an African American women's fiction that I've been trying to sell. I've written two books, (one published, one to be published next year). My novel is not for the Christian market. You mentioned that you are slowly broadening to other areas, and that you are looking for women's fiction. Should I query?

  10. Dara on October 26, 2009 at 6:07 PM

    >Rachelle, maybe you can help shed some light on this, but is there a reason why many publishers shy away from settings outside of the U.S. and Europe? Is it because they think there isn't a market for it?

    I wonder about it because it seems like there could be more readers out there interested in books set in other cultures than led to believe. But I've got really no clue on that; it's just something I've been wondering about especially since much of what I write is set in exotic locales.

  11. Anonymous on October 26, 2009 at 5:34 PM

    >Would you consider looking at an MS from someone overseas, like the UK?

  12. Steph Damore on October 26, 2009 at 4:39 PM

    >Awesome. I've looked at querying you before, but you didn't represent my genre (cozy mystery). I'm so happy that now you do!

  13. Anita Mae Draper on October 26, 2009 at 3:47 PM

    >No questions.

    Just a…


  14. Anita Mae Draper on October 26, 2009 at 3:47 PM

    >No questions.

    Just a…


  15. Jill Kemerer on October 26, 2009 at 3:31 PM

    >This post made my day! It's fantastic to see you're interested in inspirational category romance, because that's what I write.

    Steeple Hill romances always deliver.

    Thanks for sharing this opportunity with us!

  16. Rachelle on October 26, 2009 at 1:40 PM

    >Laura–Exactly what I said. Your very first novel. Or to put in words that are perhaps more clear: The very first novel you've written.

  17. Laura on October 26, 2009 at 1:37 PM

    >I wondered what you meant when you said, "it's unlikely your very first novel will be right for me." Do you mean the very first novel I've ever, in my entire life, written? Or do you mean the first one I'm attempting to publish? (Meaning, that the author has worked on his/her craft for a long time, gotten detailed feedback from objective reviewers, etc., but just hasn't tried to publish a novel before.)

  18. Rachelle on October 26, 2009 at 1:32 PM

    >Anon 12:26–For example, Tom Clancy books are primarily read by men. Nora Roberts is primarily read by women. You get the idea.

  19. Need More Words on October 26, 2009 at 1:26 PM

    >I imagine there are a lot of writers who are very excited about your announcement. I hope that you find it satisfying too.
    I am nowhere near needing an agent. I am focusing on learning the craft of writing, reading a whole bunch and developing relationships with other writers through a writer's guild, Words for the Journey.

  20. Anonymous on October 26, 2009 at 1:26 PM

    >what do you mean by a plot that doesn't have "primarily of interest to men" ? does that mean that men wouldn't want to read it? Or does it mean that you don't want a story focused on a girl getting the guy?

  21. Rachelle on October 26, 2009 at 1:03 PM

    >David–What leaves you out? Not sure I understand.

  22. David A. Todd on October 26, 2009 at 12:53 PM

    >P.P.O. leaves me out. Too bad; I'm working up a cozy mystery series.

  23. Dara on October 26, 2009 at 10:40 AM

    >Ok perhaps I should clarify what I meant, LOL 😛 I see that Love Inspired says exotic locales are accepted with missionary characters. Still not exactly what my books are, but it's nice to see there's some variance on setting 🙂

  24. Dara on October 26, 2009 at 10:34 AM

    >Thanks for the info! Unfortunately all of my historicals are set in parts of the world that aren't mentioned in these guidelines 😛

    I do wonder if there will be a market for Asian settings. I sure hope so!

  25. Julie Dao on October 26, 2009 at 10:31 AM

    >I didn't even know what a cozy mystery was and had to look it up, but those are my favorite 🙂 Good luck to everyone who is submitting! This was a really helpful and interesting post. Hopefully someday when I have enough experience under my belt, I'll be able to find a similar opportunity.

  26. Ava Walker Jenkins on October 26, 2009 at 10:25 AM

    >Thanks for the exciting updates and links. I am in the "learn as much as I can" phase and have not run across the term "cozy mystery" before. Sounds fun, though, and I will be researching more about it. Always appreciate what you teach us, Rachelle. Thanks.

  27. Regina Quentin on October 26, 2009 at 10:16 AM

    >Thank you for all the information and the links … that must have taken some time. This was very helpful and I certainly appreciate the updates.

  28. Eileen Astels Watson on October 26, 2009 at 9:52 AM

    >This is wonderful news, Rachelle! I love reading the Love Inspired line. The conciseness and consistent focus on the hero and heroine are what attracts me the most. No wandering into subplots of low interest in these stories. They are pure sweet, faith-driven romances.

    the best of luck in

  29. Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought on October 26, 2009 at 9:31 AM

    >Good to know. Thanks for keeping us in the loop.
    ~ Wendy

  30. T. Anne on October 26, 2009 at 8:40 AM

    >Thanks for the update. It gives me something to mull while deciding on my NaNo WIP.

  31. Marla Taviano on October 26, 2009 at 7:43 AM

    >I've never heard of a cozy mystery. Is it something you can read before bed and not have nightmares?

  32. Sharon A. Lavy on October 26, 2009 at 7:27 AM

    >I like to read cozy mysteries so it's good to read that you will represent them.

    It's not what I write, but I love to read. I wish the Gothic romance would come back. Or do they just have a different name now?

    No, I don't write that either. =(

  33. Rachelle on October 26, 2009 at 7:19 AM

    >CKHB, it's a business decision. Good question!

    K.A. Dawn and others, the day for YA will come. It's just not here yet. I prefer to specialize and completely learn each area and all the players.

  34. CKHB on October 26, 2009 at 6:59 AM

    >I'm just curious to hear more about how an agent decides to expand his or her categories of submissions — do you make the changes simply based on your own changing preferences of what you want to be reading, or did you get a new group of contacts in these areas that you can now use more effectively from a business perspective… ?

  35. Krista Phillips on October 26, 2009 at 6:54 AM

    >Thanks for the info!! I'm working on a "Love Finds You" book and am THANK GOD on the final stretch of finishing it. And I have to say, I had a blast writing my LOL:Mission Jack book, but this one was just too much fun:-)

    I've not written a shorter length book yet… but have thought about it. Great that you're looking to represent them though!

  36. Anonymous on October 26, 2009 at 6:45 AM

    >I can't express how far outside my genre this is, but what a lovely blog post. So specific!

    (And informative, too. I'm surprised that there's an imprint of anything adult that wants 45-50k words.)

  37. Lisa Jordan on October 26, 2009 at 6:08 AM

    >So glad to hear you're accepting short contemporary novels now! 🙂

  38. Katie Ganshert on October 26, 2009 at 5:54 AM

    >How fun! I know a few people who write for the Heartsong and LI line who are probably jumping up and down, eager to submit to you.

    I have about a million questions swirling in my head, but most of them I can probably figure out on my own if I sit and let them stew for a bit. 🙂

    Eager to come back when I get home from work and catch up on the discussion.

  39. K.A. Dawn on October 26, 2009 at 5:15 AM

    >I was hoping you were going to say you are now accepting YA fiction, since that's about all I write.

  40. Jessica on October 26, 2009 at 4:56 AM

    >This is great!

  41. Igor on October 26, 2009 at 4:15 AM

    >Really interesting post and great site. I'll come back, sure.

  42. Anonymous on October 26, 2009 at 2:26 AM

    >Interesting! Are you only submitting to Harlequin and Christian markets or other major pubs? My novel is close to 100,000 words so too long for these markets, and has more mystery/suspense with minor romantic elements. Also while the characters struggle with moral dilemmas, it's not overtly Christian or preachy–in fact, they never go to church. Guess sinners are more fun to write about…lol