By Eunice Shin
Hallmark Publishing Editorial Assistant
July 15, 2020
NOTES FROM Q&A WITH STACEY DONOVAN,
DIRECTOR OF HALLMARK PUBLISHING
DIRECTOR OF HALLMARK PUBLISHING
Hallmark Publishing Run-Down
o The business started in Fall 2017
o We went from companion novels in only ebook format to original fiction in trade paperback, ebook, audiobook, and sometimes a second run in mass market size.
o Each book has the potential to be considered for a movie
§ The Secret Ingredient by Nancy Naigle was our first book that was turned into a movie! Others are in discussions.
o Most books deals start out as proposals
o If we do go forward with your book/proposal, there is a typical advance + royalty contract with an additional lump sum if your book gets made into a movie!
o Marketing Insights
§ We’re good at getting advance reviews
§ We use BookBub a lot, to great success
§ Each book gets a 15 second TV commercial on Hallmark Channel
§ Authors sometimes go on Hallmark’s national talk show, Home & Family
· Usually making the recipe and talking about the book
· What We’re Looking For/Soft Spots
o Right now, we’re closed to unagented submissions but if you’re here, you’re welcome to send in proposals for G-rated romance and cozy mysteries to Stacey and copy Eunice
o We’re interested in a range of stories, from romcoms to more heartfelt and poignant stories, but nothing too tragic or dire
o Diversity is a huge priority for us!
§ We’re excited about the diverse stories in our 2021 lineup
§ LGBTQ+, Asian, Black, Interracial romance/cozy mysteries are all welcome
· We’d love to show a supportive community for LGBTQ+ characters because we want to model supportive families and communities
§ We are open to have immigrant romances/cozy mysteries
o Plus-sized heroines welcome
§ ONLY if her character arc and conflict are not about losing weight
o We get a lot of Christmas proposals (which are our best sellers) but there are more slots for non-Christmas stories
o We want more fun beach reads J
o We love seasonal tie-ins (not necessarily Christmas)
o We love to see family, friendship and community subplots
§ Especially brothers and family reconciliation
o We love widowed/single parents
o Secondary Senior romance
§ We love having shelter dogs/rescue mutts
· Animals CANNOT be in any kind of distressing situations
o Urban Setting is okay!
§ We prefer big cities to be real, small towns are usually fictional, medium sized cities can be real or fictional
o Aspirational Locations
§ If it’s a foreign country, we like to have one character be American so that they’re an audience surrogate
o Word Count: 75,000 words is our sweet spot
· If we acquire your book, you get trade paperback, audiobook, ebook, and then maybe mass market paperback and the movie.
· Things We Don’t Like
o Wills with weird conditions for inheritance
o Secret babies
o Evil ex as main conflict
o Too much kissing :D
o We love series! For cozy mystery, we only want series
§ In your proposal, address the other books in a paragraph
o Like a synopsis
o Clear idea of who the main characters are, goals, and character arcs
o 2-4 pages
o Half of proposals fail because the hero’s obstacle to romance isn’t there
§ Both characters must overcome personal obstacles to love
o There has to be a reason for the characters to interact and connect in the story
§ This could be a shared goal (holiday toy drive), next-door neighbors, etc.
§ Think of reasons for close proximity
§ Think about why these characters are perfect for each other on a soul level…and what’s keeping them apart?
o Our submission guidelines are posted on our website!
o Stacey will send over an example of a successful proposal
· How many books are we doing?
o Around 14-15 lined up per year
· A Few Possible Conflicts
o Opposing career goals (like in South Beach Love by Caridad Pineiro)
o Opposites attract…they get on each other’s nerves at first
o Family goals get in the way of romance
o Boss too ethical to date employee (Stacey added this after the call)
o Playful enemies to lovers is okay!
§ Argumentative banter is okay but nothing too mean or extreme
· Successful Tropes
o Friendship/Family/Community reconciliation themes
o Second Chance Romance
o Friends to Lovers
o We love matchmaking kids!
· Pandemic Romance
o No—we’re hoping that by the time it came out, it would be dated
o We also avoid stories where the action happens only in one place
o We don’t do them right now
o Also, we don’t do paranormal per se, but we have done stories with small touches of magic though
· Production Time
o We’re lengthening our lead times
o If we do acquire your work, it will depend on when it fits into the production schedule
o We’ll come to an agreement with you on delivery dates, knowing you may have other projects in progress
o As for movies, what you’ve heard about Hollywood is true—things can stay in up in the air a long time and then become a reality fast, so we really can’t say when books will become movies
· Cozy Mysteries
o Emphasis on cozy, nothing too gory
o No infidelity as a reason for murder
· How Long Until You Hear Back?
o Ranges because we are a very small team
o If it takes more than 8 weeks, bump it back to the top of our inboxes J
· Since our backlist is so small still, stay away from these for a while because we’ve done them
o Reality TV setting
o Authors as main characters
o The name Aidan/Aiden
· What About Snarky Dialogue?
o Nothing mean; our characters don’t even think mean things
o Main characters can judge people for being mean, unethical, etc.
o Hard pass on fat shaming, making fun of appearances, snobbery
o Historically, authors don’t have much say in the covers because our lead times were so short and we have to get several people’s approval
o We have a house look: we don’t show faces, and for romance, we often focus on a beautiful setting
o Now, we reach out and ask/try to involve the authors into the cover conversation more and more
Printed with permission. Copyright Eunice Shin.
For more information on Hallmark Publishing, visit www.hallmarkchannel.com/hallmark-publishing.
To submit your proposal directly to Stacey Donovan, Director of Hallmark Publishing, email her at email@example.com, and make sure to copy Eunice Shin. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Good luck!