Behind the Curtain at Harlequin Blaze: Your Manuscript’s Publishing Path

So you’re ready to submit your manuscript! Maybe you’re considering #blazeblitz, the open call for manuscripts Harlequin Blaze will be running from March 2 to 16. They want your query letter, first chapter and synopsis of your 55,000-word, sexy contemporary romance. You’ll hear back in 45 days, and every submission gets editorial feedback. (For more details, go here.) This open submission got us thinking, what exactly happens after you send your manuscript off into the ether? So we asked Kathleen Scheibling, senior editor at Harlequin Blaze to walk us through the process. Take it away, Kathleen! 

Letting go of your manuscript can be a scary thing. This means you’ve unleashed it into the world and someone is going to actually read it. Will it sit in the “slush” pile for months? Will an eager editor open it up immediately? Here’s what happens at Blaze:

Whether you’ve submitted to us via harlequin.submittable.com, directly to an editor at her invitation or through our #BlazeBlitz, our editors are happy you’ve chosen us to read your sexy contemporary book. The first person to see your project is our assistant editor, whose job it is to sort what comes in. She logs the project in our database, noting if you have submitted to us, or to another series at Harlequin, before. It’s her job to give a first vetting to these manuscripts. If you have met an editor at a conference or through an online pitch, yes, that project will go directly to that editor and will be a priority for her to read. Some projects are obviously not right for us and the submitter is sent a form letter. (Standard advice for any writer submitting anywhere: do your research on what a publisher is looking for first!) Some submissions receive RRs — Revise Resubmit — and we always have high hopes that we’ll see more projects from these writers. The manuscripts with Blaze potential are passed along to me, the senior editor. I make the final call on acquisitions, but I depend completely on the opinions of the editors I work with.

Each of our editors knows what’s right for the line, and it’s up to her to bring forward any manuscripts that suit our program. She may do one of many things, based on level of enthusiasm for the project: send an email with the manuscript attached and notes on why she is recommending it; bring it up in our weekly meeting if she feels she needs another opinion; or, if she’s really excited, she’ll run down the hall and burst into my office yelling, “I’ve found a great story!” (This happened recently — these days are my favorite.) Then I read it, which happens pretty fast. Publishing is more competitive than it used to be, so we have to stay on top of new submissions.

At Blaze, we don’t use external readers. And we don’t vet manuscripts through the marketing department. It’s all up to the editors and what they find exciting about a project right now. Then there are questions: does the story need revisions before it’s published? Will the writer be open to changes? Is she/he interested in working with an editor, understanding that the road to publication is a collaborative effort? These questions are answered when we’ve made “the call.” We’re hoping to make a lot of them after the #BlazeBlitz.

With our promise of a quick response, we’re hoping to find stories that excite us, that have energetic tones and sexy, original plots and enthralling characters who will absorb us.

It’s not so scary. Go on, press “send.”

Kathleen Scheibling

There you have it! Are you going to submit! Let us know, and be sure to remember us when you’re rich and famous! For more publishers open to submissions, visit here

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