Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thursday Talk-Time - What Are You Reading with Susan Litman

We're absolutely thrilled here at the PHS to have a special guest with us today - Silhouette editor Susan Litman! We all know editors read, read, read, and so Susan is going to tell us a bit about what's crossing her desk these days...and what she'd like to see come her way! There are some fabulous opportunities for those interested in writing for Silhouette Special Edition.

We'll let Susan tell you about what's happening in this mini-interview....

Welcome to the Pink Heart Society Susan! Please tell us a bit about yourself and the Special Edition program! What are you looking for in Special Edition stories? What sets them apart and makes them so very special?

I’ve been at Harlequin/Silhouette for six years now – time flies! I’ve been with Silhouette Special Edition for about four years – most of my author base writes for this line, though a few people also write for Silhouette Romantic Suspense, Nocturne and Blaze, too. But SSE is my baby.

Special Edition is a bit different from other lines in that our books are not driven by suspense or paranormal elements – you won’t find any vampires or drug cartels in these stories (not that there’s anything wrong with that, to quote Jerry Seinfeld.) Nor are we over-the-top sexy, though our books can and do feature a range of sensuality, from very mild to more intense. This line features contemporary stories about women looking for love and a balance between romance and their personal lives – work, family, children - things I’m sure we can all relate to. The tone of our stories can range from light-hearted and sweet to more intensely emotional – whatever is most appropriate to the author’s voice and the story they are trying to tell. There’s room for a range of voices in the line, and we are always eager to see authors offer a fresh take on a classic theme. As far as what we are acquiring, we are always looking for stories driven by character and emotion, and a wide variety of themes. Westerns, cowboys, brides, billionaire bachelors, babies (especially secret babies) – bring them on!

What are some of the pitfalls aspiring authors fall into when submitting to SSE?

The biggest mistake I see people making is trying to shoehorn themselves into a line when their natural style seems to lend itself better to another series. The best advice I can give an aspiring writer is what I say to myself when I try on jeans – don’t force the fit! Reading across series is especially helpful because it can expose the reader to the many different venues that Harlequin has to offer. It’s not uncommon for an author to try to sell to a specific series – and get bought by a different one! (Case in point – I bought a wonderful book several years ago for SSE, but since then I’ve been buying the author for Silhouette Romantic Suspense. Her voice, her plotting and storytelling just made her a better fit for that series, though that first book was unquestionably a Special Edition in every way.)

I also think people have a hard time defining the series because of the lack of suspense or super-sexy tone. But as I mentioned, SE has a wide array of tones, styles, stories, characters. We do push the envelope at times, but in a way that is true to the nature of the series – that is, the concept of a heroine finding a way to bring romance into her often complicated life. It is a very inclusionary line, for the authors as well as the readers, and we hope to be including you in our author base very soon!

Could you give a few examples of recent releases that really exemplify the line?

Sure, though it’s sort of like asking a mom to pick her favorite child! :-) In January we published THE STRANGER AND TESSA JONES by Christine Rimmer (January 2009), part of our Famous Families program for 2009. (This is an editorial program we will be running all year, showcasing new installments of popular family-based miniseries to celebrate Harlequin’s 60th anniversary.) In December 2008, we published A STONE CREEK CHRISTMAS by Linda Lael Miller and ALL SHE WANTS FOR CHRISTMAS, a lovely debut from Stacy Connelly. As some you might have heard, also in honor of our 60th Harlequin is giving a free book to every woman in America – a download of DANCING IN THE MOONLIGHT by RaeAnne Thayne, which is a book that not only exemplifies the line, but does so with beautifully innovative editorial. We’ve also got various miniseries that highlight some popular themes for SSE, including KATE’S BOYS by Marie Ferrarella, THE MEN OF MERCY MEDICAL by Theresa Southwick and WIVES FOR HIRE by Susan Crosby. So it’s a good bet that any book you pick up will be a solid example of Special Edition.

Where can aspiring authors go to find more information?

Of course our website is a great place to start. Series guidelines can be found at I will actually be doing an online pitch session on March 12th, and early in February I did a week-long Q&A about Special Edition that might be helpful. Some of the questions concerned issues such as setting, level of sensuality, and editorial content. Senior Editor Gail Chasan and I also have a podcast available on iTunes (and on eharlequin) in which we talk about the series, guidelines, how to submit – basically a crash course in everything you need to know. We’ve also recorded an update that should be posted fairly soon. We’re always looking for new authors, so if you think you have a Special Edition inside you, please feel free to query myself, Gail Chasan or Assistant Editor Charles Griemsman.

Huge thanks to Susan for taking time out of her busy schedule to chat with us today! And now, here are links to the resources mentioned:

And for readers, here are the links for the Special Edition current releases and the SSE Author blog!


  1. I love the Special Edition books they are so good.

  2. Susan's comment about trying to shoehorn yourself into a line that doesn't fit your voice made me smile.

    With thoughts of being the next Christine Rimmer or Lindsay McKenna, I submitted my first completed ms to SSE and after eight months got a two line rejection! I was gutted of course, but they were absolutely right, my voice was totally wrong for the line. Although I still love reading it.

  3. I agree Heidi - I read that and thought what great advice! I know when I finally clued in that Romance was where I fit, it moved fairly quickly after that.

  4. Thanks, Susan. What great insight.

    I'm currently working on a manuscript that I could see fitting in SSE or American Romance. Can I ask, what would you say are the biggest differences (besides word count) between the two lines?


  5. Susan's in and out of meetings but asked if I'd post this answer to Marcy's question:

    Hi Marcy,

    Donna alerted me to your query, and I'm happy to clarify as best I can. The biggest difference in the lines is more setting, I think, than anything else. HAR books are most often set in smaller towns, and the stories - while clearly focused on the h/h and the romance - can also involve some small-town characters. SSE's can be set anywhere - small town, big city, London, Paris, etc. - there really aren't any restrictions on that for us. I don't know if you've taken a look at the series guidelines on eHarlequin, but if not the descriptions of the two series are quite good and should be helpful.

  6. Hi Susan,

    Thank you for all the lovely infornation, heading over to e-Harlequin to read the Q&A

    If aspiring authors from the UK try a story for this line and use an English setting, is it okay to have English characters and English spelling?


  7. Oh hooray more books to look out for!
    One of the reasons I love podcasts and editorial blogs is that I can find more books to add to my tbr pile.
    Thank you so much for coming Susan.

  8. Susan has responded to Jen's question about English characters and spelling:

    We don’t do that very often, but that could simply be because most authors are just choosing to set their stories in the US. If the story/romance/characters are compelling, I don’t see why we wouldn’t do this. There’s certainly no hard and fast rule against it that I am aware of.

    Hope this helps,


    As an aside, I'd like to say I've never had anyone mention yea or nay to my spelling. When my copy edits come, the spelling is changed to US. When I send it in, I use Canadian which is the same as English.

  9. Thank you Susan for taking the time to be with us today! :-)