Q. What should I include with my submission?
A. Your proposal should include two separate Word files: one for your manuscript and another for your synopsis. You’ll also need to include a cover letter. And be sure to fill out the complete Submittable form—if you’re having trouble submitting, check that you’ve completed all the required fields.
Q. What is a cover letter?
A. A cover letter (sometimes called a query letter) tells us who you are. It shows the editors how you see your project and helps them determine if their series is the right home for your story. Think of a cover letter as a first impression—if you’re professional and enthusiastic, we’ll love the idea of working with you!
Use the cover letter to showcase your book. What is it about your story that will make a reader pick it up? You should hook editors on the key elements and convey tone and character. Make it clear you’ve read the submission guidelines and tell us why your book is a good fit for the series. You should also showcase yourself as an author. Your bio should be brief, but it should tell us who you are, what your platform is and why you want to write for Harlequin. Do you have a great online presence? Do you have previous publishing credits or contest wins? If not, that’s okay! We love discovering new talent, too.
For more tips on writing an eye-catching query letter, read Get in the Door: How to Submit to Harlequin.
Q. What is a synopsis?
A. The synopsis should describe your book in detail. It’s essentially an outline or summary of your story. This is your chance to show us your plot outline, character development and story/conflict resolution.
Each Harlequin Submittable page includes an expected synopsis length for that series. A good basic guideline is 3-5 pages but see Submittable for exact specifications.
For more information on how to write a great synopsis, see The Short and Sweet on Writing a Synopsis.
Q. If I’m writing a trilogy or series of novels, should I submit them individually or together?
A. You should submit one manuscript at a time. We love to hear that writers are planning ahead, though, so please do mention your trilogy or series in your cover letter.
Q: How should I format my submission?
A. When it comes to formatting, we look primarily for readability. Follow your instincts and keep it simple. If you’re still not sure, go with 12-point Times New Roman, double spaced. But don’t worry about getting it “right”—as long as we can read it, we won’t reject your story for using a different font!
Q. Does my manuscript need to be a specific number of words? Should my chapters be a certain length?
A. Each of our series has a required word count for manuscripts—you can find these specifications at Harlequin.Submittable.com. The closer you can get to our required length, the better. But if you’re over or under by less than 1000 words, no worries! If your manuscript is over or under our requirement by more than 1000 words, it’s best to do some polishing before you submit.
For chapter length, do what feels right. Read books in your chosen series and see what those authors have done. And try to be somewhat consistent—if your first chapter is 50 pages and your second is 7, we’re going to question it. But we’re not counting the number of pages in your chapters—at the submission stage, if you’ve structured things well and your story hooks us, we probably won’t even notice how long your chapters are!
Q. Do I have to submit the full manuscript? Or can I submit just the first three chapters?
A. Requirements vary by series. Click the “Submit” button for the category of your choice to view their requirements.
Q. Does Harlequin accept previously published work?
A. Submissions to Harlequin should be unpublished work unless otherwise stated for a specific acquisition need or submission campaign.
Harlequin is actively working to acquire more stories by authors who are Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) and is currently accepting submissions that have been previously self-published from authors who identify as BIPOC. This submission window ends March 31, 2021.
Q. Do I need to have my manuscript professionally edited before submitting to Harlequin?
A. No. You can submit a manuscript to Harlequin even if nobody else in the world has seen it. Once we’ve acquired a book, the Harlequin team works with the author through the editing process.
That said, it’s always a good idea to get fresh eyes on a manuscript before you submit. Maybe you have a very supportive partner or friend who loves to read and can give you feedback. Or you could try working with a critique partner—for more on that, read our blog post, Critique Partners: Working a Two-Way Street.
If you do decide to hire a professional editor to work on your project before submission, make sure they know where you’re submitting and that they’re familiar with the expectations for your chosen series.
Q: Do I need to target a specific editor?
A. You don’t have to, but you certainly can. If there’s an editor you’ve worked with in the past, or who you think would be particularly receptive to your story, please do mention that in your submission. Our editors all have certain things they can’t get enough of, and if you’ve done your research into their wish lists and the kinds of books they acquire, you might find a perfect match!
While you don’t need to target an editor, you will need to target a specific line. Harlequin has separate Submittable pages for each series, so be sure to submit to the line that’s the best fit for your manuscript.
Q. Can I submit my manuscript to multiple Harlequin lines at the same time?
A. Our best advice is to find the line you’re passionate about and stick to it. At first glance, it might seem like your book fits into multiple lines, but that’s unlikely to be true. Submitting a manuscript to multiple lines won’t increase your likelihood of being published—it’ll make us wonder if you’ve done your research.
Q. Can I submit outside of Submittable?
A. All series submissions should be sent through Submittable. Our submissions email isn’t set up to receive manuscripts, and we prefer not to receive hard copy manuscripts through the mail.
If you’re not sure which series form to submit through, read our books and visit Harlequin.com and Harlequin.Submittable.com to see where your story might fit. If you don’t see your story fitting into any of our series, be sure to check the guidelines for Carina or, if you have an agent, Harlequin’s trade imprints.
Q. Do I need to be represented by an agent before I send my story proposal?
A. No. You can send your submission to us directly through Harlequin.Submittable.com without having an agent. Some romance writers do have agents representing them and we accept agented submissions too. It’s up to you!
Q. What is a blitz, and how does that submission process compare to submitting to the general submission process?
A. For a blitz, one of Harlequin’s series will ask for something specific—maybe it’s a call from Harlequin Historical for Viking stories, or maybe Heartwarming is looking for sweet and wholesome Westerns. A blitz is your chance to showcase your stories to our editors and get helpful feedback fast. And if your chapters really hook us, we’ll ask you for more! For a blitz, we usually ask for the first chapter and a synopsis. Check our Writing Opportunities page for the latest submission blitz.
Q. What happens after I submit? Should I follow up after a few weeks?
A. Response times depend on so many things. If you haven’t heard back from us about your submission after 12 weeks, feel free to send us a message through Submittable to check on the status. We know waiting is tough, and we respond to submissions as soon as possible.
In the meantime, keep writing! If we do want to acquire your project, we’ll be anxious to see what else you’ve got in the works!
Q. What does it mean if my submission status changes to “In-Progress”?
A. This is a Submittable status that means your submission has been handled in some way (assigned, commented on, etc.) If you submitted weeks ago and the status hasn’t changed, it doesn’t mean your story isn’t already in the hands of an editor, and if your status changes the first day, it doesn’t mean you’ll receive a response within a week. All this to say, don’t worry about it!
Q. After submitting, I noticed an error in my manuscript. Can I update or resubmit?
A. While Submittable does allow authors to withdraw or request to edit their submissions, the vast majority of errors aren’t worth taking your story out of the queue to resubmit. There’s always going to be that pesky typo you notice immediately after clicking Submit—don’t stress! Everyone makes mistakes! When you submit your manuscript, we’re looking at the big picture. We certainly appreciate correct spelling and grammar, but typos are not our main focus at the submission stage. If you accidentally submitted the wrong manuscript, however, it’s perfectly fine to withdraw and resubmit!
Q. If I receive a rejection from one line, can I submit to another?
A. If an editor thinks your story is better suited to another line, they might mention that in their feedback. If you received feedback that your story isn’t suited to a specific Harlequin line, step back and do some research before you submit to another. All of Harlequin’s series have varying hooks, wish lists, styles, word counts and heat levels. This is why it’s so important to do the research before you submit. If you’ve chosen your series well, all of these aspects will suit the series.
Q. I received a form response or limited feedback. Why didn’t I get a more detailed response?
A. If your response didn’t include much feedback, it’s probably because the book was clearly not suited for our series. Perhaps the manuscript was nowhere close to the required word count, or maybe a Historical submission was set in 2010.
Once we get past the obvious, we look at things like plot, conflict, character and tone. And we ask lots of questions! Does the submission focus on the romantic conflict between two main characters? Does the sensuality level match the series? If the answers are no, then the book clearly isn’t a good fit for the series.
Q. My submission was rejected. What do I do now?
A. Above everything else, please keep writing! We receive so many submissions, and while we wish we could work with every author to bring their stories to publication, it’s just not possible. But a rejection doesn’t mean your story couldn’t be great.
If you don’t receive feedback with your response, look at our guidelines and see which boxes your story might not have checked. If you do receive feedback, try making changes and see if the suggestions improve your story.
Sometimes, editors will respond to submissions asking the author to revise and resubmit. If you’ve received one of these letters, congratulations! To find out more about what your next steps should be in this case, see our blog post, The Revision Letter: Why and How to Follow it to a T.
Q. What’s the difference between series or category romance and other romance novels?
A. Harlequin’s series books are usually shorter than trade (or single-title) romance novels, which can run up to 100,000 words or more. They’re trope-driven, and each series delivers a specific reader promise, which includes a happily-ever-after. The romance, rather than just one character’s journey, is the focus in these stories. Each series has its own required story elements, sensuality level, and page count.
Single-title books are published outside of a specific series or category. They often have a larger scope, allowing for more complex stories with more secondary characters and subplots. Harlequin publishes single-title novels through its trade imprints, including MIRA, HQN, Graydon House, Park Row Books, Hanover Square Press, and Inkyard Press, our Young Adult imprint. You must have an agent to submit to one of these lines.
Q. Does Harlequin acquire books from unpublished and debut authors?
A. Yes! We’ve signed book deals with over 160 new Harlequin authors in the past five years. We are always looking for new talent and we encourage aspiring romance writers to submit to the line best suited to your stories.
Q. Does Harlequin publish romance stories with diverse characters?
A. Yes, and we’d love to publish more! We especially welcome own voices stories with multicultural or interracial main characters. We are open to M/M and F/F storylines as well, and Carina Press publishes a wide range of inclusive romance.
Q. What is Harlequin doing to increase diversity in the books they publish?
A. We want readers to see themselves reflected in the books we publish. We are doing a number of things to increase diversity and representation – we are expanding our outreach to authors through writers’ conferences that promote diversity in publishing and more submission calls; we participate in #DVpit and organize Twitter pitch events to connect with writers in underrepresented communities; and we have created mentorship and scholarship programs. Read more about our diversity initiatives.