Cindy Kirk
Cindy Kirk


Jaunty Post

(A note from Cindy:  Even if you’re not a writer, I thought you’d find this post interesting….and if you are an aspiring writer, this may be a great opportunity for you.  And if you comment, you may just win a book!  Check back on Sunday to see if you’re a winner.)

Shana Smith says:

For aspiring authors, submitting a manuscript to an editor can be a little like going on a blind date.  You put your best foot forward with a polished manuscript, send it off and hope there’s a connection with this person you’ve never met before and don’t know much about.  Will she like your idea?  Will you get a “second date” (revise and resubmit) or a handshake and an “I had a nice time, but let’s see other people” (rejection)?  All you knew going in was that this person was interested in going on a date, but you had no idea what they were looking for in a relationship.  Wouldn’t it be great if you did, though?


I have great news for authors seeking publication in one of the three Love Inspired lines (Love Inspired, Love Inspired Suspense or Love Inspired Historical).  Elizabeth Mazer, Emily Rodmell and I are looking to “date” your manuscript.  And because we’re all hoping to fall in love with just the right manuscripts for us, we’ve created “dating profiles,” where we reveal our manuscript turn-ons and turn-offs, the kinds of stories we’d really love to see, some of the authors we currently work with and more!  This way, you can research each of us and find out who may be the best editor “match” for you and your manuscript.  For example, anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I enjoy stories with weather disasters, so an author might want to pitch her blizzard story to me.  Emily might be the best choice if your hero or heroine is a spy or your story is set at the winter Olympics, and Elizabeth may be the editor for you if you’ve written a Lone Ranger-type story set in the Old West.  I’ve added the direct links to each of our bios below so you can easily find out what we’re looking for:


Associate Editor Elizabeth Mazer:

Editor Emily Rodmell:

Associate Editor Shana Smith:


This is all part of Love Inspired’s latest pitch opportunity, Happily Editor After.  Details, guidelines, our full bios and instructions on how to sign up are all available at  Spots have been filling up quickly—as of Monday morning, there were 16 left—but don’t be disappointed if you miss the chance to pitch to one of us.  We’re always looking for great new submissions, so go ahead and polish that manuscript, use our bios to help find the editor who’s the best match for you and query one of us with your great idea.  While we’re particularly interested in Love Inspired Suspense submissions right now, there’s opportunity in all three lines.  Just make sure you do your homework (You wouldn’t pick a sushi restaurant for a date with someone allergic to seafood, would you?) and read the writing guidelines before you submit.  They’re always available on, but here’s the direct link to the list of all our series guidelines:


Knowing exactly what an editor likes and is looking for is sometimes half the battle, and when you and your manuscript can provide that—a perfect match!


Do you have questions about Happily Editor After or want to know more about any of the Love Inspired lines and what we’re looking for in new submissions?  I’ll be popping in throughout the day to respond to comments and questions, so ask away!  And as an added bonus, Cindy Kirk has agreed to randomly select one commenter to win a copy of Final Resort by Dana Mentink, a February 2013 Love Inspired Suspense.  What better way to research the line than by reading one of our books?  Plus, there’s a blizzard in this one—score!

Thanks for having me today, Cindy, and I hope to see lots of great new submissions that I just can’t wait to make offers on!

28 thoughts on “Pitching to an editor… by Shana Smith, Harlequin Associate Editor

  1. Hi Shana! Great to see you here. I hope you get flooded with lots of great stories. 🙂

  2. Kathryn in Montreal says:

    What a great idea! So much fun… I remember reading Emily Rodmell’s post here over a year ago and that got the creative juices flowing…but it’s so easy to lose confidence. Sometimes we need a tangible goal and a push and this opportunity is exactly that!

  3. Shana Shana says:

    Wow! What a great opportunity! Thanks for hosting Shana Smith today!

  4. Welcome, Shana! So glad you’re blogging with us today. Have lots of fun. It’s a great community. 🙂

  5. Jodie says:

    Thanks for the interview. My question concerns the LIH line. Are there any particular things this line is looking for in the future?

    Is it all right to have a 50/50 balance with scenes between hero and heroine?

    And finally, what does an editor look for in the section of the book known as the black moment?

    Thank you,
    Jodie Wolfe

  6. cindy kirk cindy kirk says:


    I was wondering if you could address how much sensuality can be in a Love Inspired novel. And if the author has too much, will you just ask them to tone it down or take it out without rejecting the manuscript?

    Also, what about the faith element. How much is too much or too little?

    It’s great having you here with us today!

  7. Shana Smith says:

    Hi all! Thanks for checking out my blog today, and thanks to Cindy for hosting me. An update on the Happily Editor After pitch slots–Mine are full, but Elizabeth and Emily both still have some openings. At last count I believe we had 10 spots left, so if you’re debating whether or not to sign up, go do it now and don’t wait.

    Jodie–Westerns remain very popular in LIH, so we’re always looking for those, but we publish stories set in a variety of time periods and are always looking for unique settings. If by a 50/50 balance between hero and heroine you mean scenes from their point of view, we do like to have a pretty even mix. So 50/50 or 60 (heroine)/40 (hero) is what you should aim for. As for the black moment, this should be the emotional climax of your story. The characters’ conflicts and fears come to a head, and they face a situation that has them and the reader wondering how they’ll ever get past it to have a happily ever after. Which, of course, they do, but the best black moments always leave the reader thinking there’s no way they’ll be able to get past this. Because then their happy ending is so much sweeter when they do.

    I’ll stop by throughout the day to answer any more questions, so feel free to post them for me!

  8. Jodie says:

    Thanks Shana for answering my questions.

    Jodie Wolfe

  9. Shana Smith says:

    Cindy, you snuck your comment in while I was composing mine! 🙂 Great questions, though. The Love Inspired lines have extremely low to no sensuality. There can be kissing, and the characters can be attracted to one another, but our focus is on the development of the emotional relationship, not a physical one. If someone submits a manuscript where there’s just a little too much sensuality or some minor instances of inappropriate things for the line, we’re not likely to reject on that alone. We’ll give direction for how to change or remove those parts.

    As for the faith element, we actually try not to be too overt with the religious aspects. We like to see characters living Christian lives, sometimes struggling with elements of faith but not always. We’d prefer not to see books that preach to the reader or that rely on long passages of prayer.

    I hope this helps to clarify some of these points!

  10. Susan Mason says:

    Hi Shana,

    Thanks for the informative post! I laughed when I read you like weather disasters because I have a 3-chapter proposal in to Elizabeth right now for a book which contains a tornado scene (one of my favorites!). I love these type of action packed scenarios, especially when the hero rescues the heroine!

    Question: How long should I expect to wait for an answer or a request for the full ms from a partial?

    Thanks again for your time today!


    1. Shana Smith says:

      Hi Susan. I love action-packed scenes as well. You asked about response time on a proposal–we typically aim to respond to all submissions within three months, though depending on the volume of submissions a particular editor has at any given time, it does sometimes take longer. But we do respond to everything.

  11. Scott says:

    Thanks for being approachable, Shana

    I am looking a some titles published by the LIS line, but have not looked at enough to say if this observation is not just a fluke – but –

    Regarding the religious element in LIS, has that been relaxed over the years. I haven’t read enough of the titles to know, but I have a work from 2006 (Identity: Undercover) where the husband is very religious, the wife isn’t, and he is a bit preachy. In this month’s Key Witness, the heroine prays sometimes, but those lines could easily be dropped without affecting the story much. Of course, two books do not indicate a trend, but I was wondering what you have noticed?

    What I’m working on kind of splits these two. Take the heroine’s faith away and the story would fall apart, but she doesn’t preach about it. She lives it. Hope it works!


    1. Shana Smith says:

      Hi Scott. You asked about the religious elements in LIS. I actually asked Elizabeth Mazer to help me out with this since she has the perspective of having worked on the line for six years and I’ve only just come on board. She says, “It’s kind of apples and oranges–it’s up to the author how deeply incorporated the faith element is in our stories. Of course, it’s essential that faith be part of the characters’ lives and that both hero and heroine be committed Christians by the end of the book, but beyond that, it’s mostly up to the author and editor to find the best balance of faith to suit the story–and to keep the romance and suspense plot as the focus!” I hope this answer helps with your work in progress.

  12. Christy Newton says:

    Hi Shana!
    I am super excited to be one on your list! How much of the manuscript would you like to see finished by May? Do you have a couple of favorite Love Inspired Books I could check out?
    Looking forward to our “date”

    1. Shana Smith says:

      Hi Christy. I’m glad to hear you’ve signed up and look forward to learning about your manuscript come May. Our hope is that authors spend the next few months working on their manuscripts for the pitch so that they’re complete or nearly complete by then. This way, if we really love what we read, we can ask for a complete and you can provide it right away. As in any submitting scenario, it’s always best to have a complete manuscript ready. But it’s not a prerequisite of the pitch.

      As for some Love Inspired books to check out, a couple somewhat recent ones that I’ve enjoyed are A Home for Hannah by Pat Davids and The Rancher’s Secret Wife by Brenda Minton. Reading a variety of books from the line you’re submitting to is the best way to get a good feel for the editorial, and it can be especially helpful to read new authors. In stores right now you can find two Love Inspired debuts–Saving Gracie by Kristen Ethridge and Home for Good by Jessica Keller. And if you’re in the mood for a Christmas story, Virginia Carmichael’s debut, Season of Joy, came out just a few months ago.

      Happy reading and happy writing!

  13. bn100 says:

    Thanks for sharing.

  14. Sally Shupe says:

    Very interesting post! I liked finding out that different editors have different types of stories that they love to see. A question from the editing perspective: I am almost finished with my English degree and have editing experience. I edit for a couple of small publishing companies, individual authors, and a monthly magazine. How difficult is it to get an editing job with Love Inspired? Thanks again for a very informative post! tscmshupe [at] pemtel [dot] net.

    1. Shana Smith says:

      Hi Sally. While we’re not currently hiring for any in-house editors, our managing editorial department does sometimes have availability for new freelance editors. In general, if you’re interested in an editorial job, I’d suggest checking out job postings on Mediabistro, Publisher’s Marketplace and

      1. Sally Shupe says:

        Thank you so much! I’ll check them out.

  15. Christy Newton says:

    Great, thanks! I’ll be sure to check those books out and I hope to have a complete ms for you. One other question, since I am writing this book for your taste, is there a particular name you would like to appear somewhere in the story? I thought it might be fun to use one you really like 😉

    1. Shana Smith says:

      Hi Christy. No, no favorite names, so just use whatever ones you feel fit your characters best.

  16. Lisa Adams says:

    Hello Shana! Thanks for being here today. I have a small question for you. My current WIP is for the LI pitch, but my characters are a junior and senior in college. Is this okay, or do they need to be older? I’m really not sure if my story would work if they were older.

    Thanks for the heads up,

    1. Shana Smith says:

      Hi Lisa. Our characters are typically older than that–usually mid-twenties to mid-thirties–but it all depends on the story. It would be hard to say without knowing more, though the kinds of issues college students deal with may not resonate as well with readers who are not in college. Stop by the chat we’ll be hosting on Friday in the Harlequin Community chat room and see what the other editors have to say about character age.

      1. Lisa Adams says:

        Thanks for the response and I’ll definitely be there. Rae e-mailed me the link this Tuesday. Looking forward to talking to you and the other editors more. Thanks again, Lisa

  17. Kathryn in Montreal says:

    I am excited to say I got one of Emily’s spots…. squee! This whole post has been quite informative, thank you so much for visiting Shana and for being open and available to answer our questions.

    1. Shana Smith says:

      So glad you got a spot, Kathryn, and hopefully Emily was your first pick. Now go get to work writing your amazing story so you can wow her with your pitch! 🙂

      1. Kathryn in Montreal says:

        Yes, Emily was my first pick… my interest was piqued by her post here over a year ago and when she was one of the editors mentioned in the Happily Editor After I felt it was an opportunity not to be missed.

  18. Lorelei says:

    Hi Shana! I shared this blog with a friend who might find your article very useful. Thanks for sharing!

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