I had the opportunity to talk with Natashya Wilson, Senior Editor for Harlequin TEEN about how they got into the YA market. Harlequin TEEN really caught my eye because they seemed to grown pretty quickly and they have always had a very innovative approach to YA.
When did you start Harlequin TEEN?
Harlequin TEEN launched in 2009 with three titles—Rachel Vincent’s My Soul to Take, Gena Showalter’s Intertwined, and P. C. Cast’s Elphame’s Choice, a reissue from her popular Partholon series. We also released an ebook prequel to Rachel’s Soul Screamers novels, My Soul to Lose. Since then, we’ve grown to 19 titles scheduled for 2011.
Who were the first few authors that signed with Harlequin TEEN? Was it difficult getting the first few YA authors to sign with you knowing that your main focus was romance?
The first author contracted was Maria V. Snyder, and that was before we even had an official program. Her story Inside Out was just so terrific that we couldn’t let it go to another publisher. That title came out in April 2010. We also looked for in-house authors who had young, hip story telling styles and voices, and Rachel Vincent and Gena Showalter came up with incredible proposals for us for the Soul Screamers series and the Intertwined Novels. Then we put the word out and got a flood of amazing submissions, including Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey series…the rest is history! The program was created as a commercial single title program, and while we believe romance is an intrinsic part of most teens’ experience, we did not specifically give a call out for romances, but rather for projects that would be competitive with the most popular YA books on the shelves, most of which include romantic elements. In a nutshell—no, it was not difficult!
Are there in-house romance authors crossing over to YA?
Yes! We love that. From our own Harlequin author base, along with Rachel, Gena, P. C. and Maria, we have Michelle Rowen and Liz Fichera, and we have opportunities to reprint backlist titles for TEEN, such as Caren Lissner’s Carrie Pilby. I have no doubt there will be others. We are very lucky to have a talented and diverse group of authors writing for Harlequin.
What was the turning point where Harlequin knew that the Teen/YA division would take off?
Before I even came on board, the team here did a tremendous amount of research into the YA market and found myriad reasons that we should go ahead with a program. Having Maria V. Snyder’s Inside Out come to us before we even had a name for Harlequin TEEN was a sign that the time was perfect. The explosion of Twilight just made it all the more clear that YA had tremendous opportunities for growth and that it is one of the most exciting divisions to be in, so, I’m not sure there was a time when we weren’t certain it would take off!
How do you break the stereotype of being a publisher of purely adult romance novels?
We take advantage of every opportunity we have--such as this feature on your blog, thank you!—to reach out to readers and educate them on the diversity of what Harlequin publishes. We use social media to connect with readers and reviewers. We attend conferences and meet with writers, agents, book buyers and fans. And the Harlequin TEEN authors are terrific ambassadors for us; they are one of our strongest resources for getting the word out and showing off what we’re publishing. Most important, we put terrific books on the YA shelves!
Harlequin TEEN was the first notable YA house to use Netgalley. What made you go that route vs traditional ARCS?
We do still print traditional ARCs, but creating hard copies is expensive, and NetGalley offers a tremendous opportunity to get the word out to a large number of reviewers we might not otherwise reach in a highly economical way. With the exponential growth of ebook sales and more people buying ereaders and looking for ebooks, we believe it is crucial to offer this format for both ARCs and final copies and stay sensitive to the digital curve.
Harlequin TEEN works with bloggers. Do you feel this has helped sales and how did that come about?
I have tremendous respect for and gratitude to YA bloggers. Your community is one of the most vibrant, welcoming, fun and effective ways to watch YA trends, connect with dedicated readers and create buzz for our books. I couldn’t give you any numbers, but I know in my gut that connecting with bloggers has absolutely helped our sales, and we’ll continue to reach out to bloggers for as long as you’ll have us. If memory serves, back in 2009 I found the YA Book Blog Directory and started looking at blogs. I began connecting with bloggers in person at BEA last year and then became the TEEN Twitter person, and the connections exploded from there. Meanwhile our PR and Marketing teams were making their own moves to seek out strong blogs and work with this community as well.
How high is the priority to keep in touch with readers via social media?
Very, very high. As I mentioned, we have the Harlequin TEEN Twitter account (@HarlequinTeen me!) and Facebook pages for Harlequin TEEN, The Iron Fey, and Soul Screamers. Many of our authors have Facebook fan pages, and we encourage them to promote their fabulous books across whichever social media formats work for them.
How fast is Harlequin TEEN growing?
We’ll be up to about 22 books in 2012. We’ll probably keep our numbers around there as we continue to evolve and see what works best for us in the market.
Will we see more authors tour or a possibly group tour?
We’re always open to this and I’m sure there will be events in the future. Any tour news will be posted on our social media pages. Many of our authors have been part of big YA tours and done mini-tours in their area, sometimes getting together with others who are nearby. They’re fabulous that way.
If people want to write for Harlequin TEEN what is the best way to go about it?
Right now, I’m looking at agented submissions only. We have such a large number that that is the best way to keep things manageable at this time. However, Harlequin has a long history of accepting unsolicited stories and in the future I hope to find ways to do that for TEEN. Meeting with a Harlequin editor at a conference can get your foot in the door; many editors refer projects to me. I will be doing appointments at RWA at the end of June, for anyone attending and interested in talking to me.
Is Harlequin TEEN looking for ways to lure the male teen reader?
At this time, our target audience is officially girls 13-18. However, I know a lot of wonderful male YA bloggers who enjoy our books and I’ve heard from librarians who recommend them to their male readers as well, with great results, so, I think we’re luring them somehow! A lot of the themes in our books are universal to guys and girls.
What genre do you feel will be the next best seller?
Right now it is dystopian. I think contemporary romance is due for the spotlight. Paranormal is always going to be popular, with its many subgenres, and I have an inkling that steampunk may take off. But no one ever really knows—that’s part of what’s so compelling and exciting about working with books!
What is does HARLEQUIN have planned for 2011?
This year we’re offering everything from paranormal, fantasy, dystopian, mythology, and contemporary to historical fantasy and steampunk! To mention some recent titles, we’ve got adult romantic suspense author Jordan Dane’s YA debut In the Arms of Stone Angels, adult historical romance author Kady Cross’s YA steampunk debut The Girl in the Steel Corset, debut author Aimée Carter’s The Goddess Test and many, many more. I could do an entire post on our books alone!
What authors do you currently have under Harlequin TEEN?
Let’s look at 2011… Rachel Vincent, Julie Kagawa, Paige Harbison, Maria V. Snyder, Mara Purnhagen, Jordan Dane, Aimée Carter, Kady Cross, Cayla Kluver, Cara Lynn Shultz, Gena Showalter, Douglas Rees, Melissa Darnell, Hannah Harrington, and Carol M. Tanzman. And we have many, many talented authors debuting in 2012, too!
Thank you so much for featuring Harlequin TEEN! We would love to hear comments and see reviews from anyone who has read our books. My very best wishes.
For more on Harlequin TEEN visit:
I want to thank Natashya for taking time to talk to me and for all they do for YA and Bloggers!