What It Means to Win An Editor for a Year!

by Tessa Shapcott, Executive Editor Harlequin Presents

Loads of people have been asking about our fabulous first prize in our Instant Seduction First Chapter and Synopsis competition – win yourself an editor for a year.  What would happen if you did?

At Harlequin Mills & Boon, we’ve always taken aspiring writers very seriously.  We’re one of the last publishing houses around that still accepts unsolicited submissions and reads them (all of them!).   If aspiring writers show promise, then we do our best to help them develop their work to publication standard by offering them support and advice.

It’s our belief that the editor-author relationship is paramount in delivering the very best books to our readers.  Writing can be the best job in the world, but also the loneliest.  Sometimes, another eye is just what you need when you can’t quite think of a way to resolve the conflict between your hero and heroine, another perspective can give you the push that you need to really mine your story’s potential.  And, of course, your editor has her finger on the pulse when it comes to market trends and what’s selling and what’s not.

Winning yourself an editor for a year gives you the chance to progress your writing.  The editor will work with you on your winning first chapter, encourage you to either complete the rest of the book, or maybe start on something fresh.  At pre-arranged and mutually convenient times, she will call you for a chat to see how you’re getting on and maybe offer some constructive comments about what you’ve been working on.  You will get the chance to ask all those burning questions that you may have and get to know more about the romance business.

Just one word of advice about expectations: if you are the lucky winner, the editor will not be able to wave a magic wand and make you and your manuscript instantly publishable.  Nor will winning guarantee a book deal, though we hope that will be the eventual outcome. The year ahead for the taker of the first prize will be challenging and hard work.  But the editor will offer her help and experience to you and guide you through the process of listening, learning and implementing to make your work the best it can be.

We can’t wait to see your entries for the chance to win this wonderful opportunity.

Good luck!


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Comments ( 21 )
  1. priley65
    January 9, 2008 at 3:59 pm


    I’ve submitted my entry of my completed manuscript. If a contest winner, will the editor work on the contest entry plus the remainder of the manuscript? This entry is my 5th completed manuscript. Will the chat be by phone or by email & phone? Thank you for this wonderful opportunity.


  2. wanton woman
    January 9, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    Hi Tessa,

    Hi to all who might read this post. I’m a newbie to HP and although I’ve been reading Mills & Boons since I turned 12, this series is possibly the cream of the crop. I’ve have so many questions, I don’t know where to begin. Please stick with me as I try my best to navigate and get to know how you all tick. I would appreciate too if someone could direct me in the right direction if I’m doing this wrong!

    I’m living in the south of Ireland and since discovering HP my children (4 boys) have officially been dumped on the neglected pile and my house is about ready to fall down under the strain of gathering dust. Anyway, I would love if ye all might recommend your favourite books in this series so I might have some more to read when I finish the dozen or so I bought recently. Thanks so much.

    About the competition, what an amazing prize!!! Questions:
    Can the alpha hero be American?
    Is it a bad idea to have more than one “core” theme running throughout the story?
    Why does the heroine never commit the deadly sin of smoking? (not necessarily competition related, but I’m curious).

    I look forward to being a part of this wonderful site,


  3. abby green
    January 10, 2008 at 5:50 am

    Hi Tessa and Patricia and Aideen! Happy new year. Patricia well done for submitting your entry – you must be so excited and what a brilliant prize to aim for. It’s a real short cut opportunity for aspiring authors. Aideen it’s lovely to hear from a fellow Irish woman! I’m a new presents author and I live in Dublin. If you wanted to contact me you’re more than welcome, my email is: abbygreen3@yahoo.co.uk.
    For your reading I would recommend Lynne Graham (a fellow Irish author from the North); Kate Walker; Penny Jordan just for a start. Also a few of the newer authors like myself are Annie West; India Grey; Natalie Rivers; Christina Hollis…
    As far as the core theme goes, I think it’s a good idea if you concentrate on creating one main conflict that’s strong enough to carry the story – there’s not really a lot of room for many strands…but you’ll get a good idea the more books you read.
    As for the heroine not smoking, I personally don’t smoke and don’t like it so I wouldn’t necessarily have my heroine smoke – or the hero! But I think it all depends on the execution.
    Best of luck, and do get in touch if you like!
    x Abby Green

  4. Tessa
    January 10, 2008 at 7:03 am

    Hi there, Patricia and Aideen, and greeting, Abby,

    Abby has given you terrific answers to some of your questions, so I can only add that the competition winner’s relationship with the editor will be throughout 2008, so there will be contact by phone and email on a regular basis.

    The editor may work with you on the rest of the story, or she may recommend that you try something new and she takes a look at some sample chapters. Certainly, the emphasis will be on helping develop the writer towards publication standard.

    Aideen, you can have an American hero – check out Sandra Marton, Lucy Monroe, Jane Porter and Jennie Lucas for fabulous US men. Also, did you know that Presents is available as Mills & Boon Modern Romance in Ireland?

    We’re getting entries for the competition pouring in and look forward to receiving many more.

  5. priley65
    January 10, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    Hi everyone,

    Thanks for the answers.

    As I read all of these blogs I’m thankful everyday for this excellent source for writers. It’s made our opportunities limitless. I’m glad to hear that the entries are pouring in. As an aspiring writer it is so HARD to put yourself out there. Everyone hates rejection!

    I to was having a difficult time submitting my entry until I received some wonderful advice from my son. Shane has muscular dystrophy. He’s now 20 and facing more and more challenges everyday but talk about positive. He’s going to college and majoring in Secondary Ed/History. He told me, “Mom, I to am afraid to put myself out there. It’s really hard but if you don’t take a risk and challenge yourself all the time you won’t accomplish anything. So go for it and if you don’t succeed this time try again.”

    So I did. Writing and reading may never be more than a hobby for me but what a hobby it is!


  6. Claudia Cole
    January 10, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    Great advice from your son Patricia. Good luck with your entry.


  7. Annie West
    January 10, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    Hi everyone. Good luck to those entering the contest. It really is a fabulous prize to win!

    Patricia, I’m so glad you raised that point about taking the risk to submit your work. Good on your son! I’ve known several very promising writers who as far as I know, never managed to submit their work. It’s such a shame, as writing was their dream. I know that fear of rejection but you never know until you try. This is such an exciting opportunity to get constructive feedback on your work from people who know.

    All the best,

  8. abby green
    January 10, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    Patricia, what a wise man you have for a son, he sounds amazing. Annie is right, it’s such an achievement even just to send something off and hope for the best. We’ve all been there! Best of luck for your entry and everyone else entering…
    x Abby

  9. wanton woman
    January 10, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    Hi Patricia,

    Your a very lucky woman to have such a wonderful and wise young man as your son. I understand the fear of rejection you mentioned but I also understand what it is that motivates us as mothers to children with medical conditions.

    My third son, (who turns 5 this year pg) has a long term ilness and though I wish and pray every day for a cure, his diagnosis has somehow enriched all of our lives. I’m braver than I’ve ever been as I watch him cope with his little battles.

    I would never before have considered entering such a high profile commpetition but I realise that unless you try something you can’t succeed….or fail. But as your man said, if you fail then try again.

    I think that children, regardless of age are perhaps the bravest of us all.

    The best of luck to you.


  10. priley65
    January 11, 2008 at 12:08 am

    Once again thanks to all of you.

    Aideen I know how you feel as a mother and I wish the very best for you and your son.

    I hope that my son’s inspirational advice touches all of those aspiring writers out there and gives them the confidence to zap up this opportunity given to us by M&B. Just think-an editor for a year-oh the possibilities;-)


  11. Evanne
    January 11, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    What a wonderful opportunity to work with a Harlequin Editor for a year! There’s something very special about those who write romance and edit it and publish it. It’s hard work, certainly–but it’s also about making dreams come true. Powerful stuff.


  12. Suz
    January 13, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    Hi Tessa,
    I think commitment would be my top priority in winning an editor for a year.

    As I haven’t sent my enty in as yet, and I know this has been answered somewhere. I have spent the last hour trying to find it. The synopsis-Is it double spaced?

    Tar, 🙂

  13. Tessa
    January 14, 2008 at 11:45 am

    Hi Suz

    Double-spaced for first chapter and synopsis, please

  14. Suz
    January 14, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Thank you Tessa,

    Suz 🙂

  15. MARIAN
    January 14, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    Hi Tessa!

    There’s a huge buzz about this contest! How very exciting!

    You and your staff are lovely! We appreciate your guidance and comments!

    Thanks for the opportunity!

    All best!


  16. wanton woman
    January 18, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    Hi Tessa,

    On submission of our entries, just how important is the title?
    It feels like an awful silly question to be asked but I wondered if the title was something ye might work on after analysis of the book or if indeed the proposed title is kept and work is published (if puplished), under it?

    Thanks so much,

  17. Anita S
    January 21, 2008 at 8:54 am

    Whilst I was submitting unsuccessfully to Mills and Boon in the past, my young son developed M.E. and was confined to a wheelchair as he was seriously ill. I found it very hard to motivate myself to write anything more than short stories for children, although the dream has always remained to write romances for Mills and Boon. I have great admiration for writers who can keep writing, whatever life throws at them, and realise this is the professional attitude, as difficult as it may be.

    This is such a wonderful opportunity, and the discovery of this website is a blessing. Contact with editors and other aspiring writers is so helpful and encouraging, so very many thanks to you all. My dream is once more alive and kicking…


  18. Tessa
    January 22, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    First of all, thank you for sharing your real-life experiences. I take my hat off to you ladies for the love and devotion that you show your families.

    Then on to Contest Questions, and Aideen’s about titles. If a title feels good to you, then go for it, because it may well set the story in your head as you write it and we respect that.

    However, all writers who get published should be prepared to have editors come in and suggest alternative titles. We do this as we want to sell your book for you and have a lot of experience in grabbing our customers’ attention. You will view your book from the inside looking out, while we have the capacity to look at your book from the outside in – just as the reader who is standing at the book rack does. When it comes to Presents, she wanting to buy certain elements and hopes to see them presented clearly on the cover so that she will feel confident in making her purchase.

  19. wanton woman
    January 22, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    Hi Tessa,

    Cheers for that. Its quite understandable that editors possibly have the final say in the title, and who could complain?

    Its been said repeatedly but the assistance, guidance, confidence building you guys show on site is fantastic.

    And very, very much appreciated.

    Kind Regards,

  20. Marie
    January 25, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    I just have small question. Does Harlequin consider authors who are with small electronic publishing as being published authors? I’m with an electronic company, and I consider myself a published author, but I know most agents and publishing companies do not. This contest is calling for unpublished authors, right? So to Harlequin – can I enter or not?


  21. Lori
    January 26, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    I have a couple questions. First, do you ever use American heroines in your presents line? Second, I’d already sent in my entry before seeing the double spaced synopsis post. Will you still accept my entry if the synopsis is single spaced? Thanks for the help and the opportunity!