Friday, February 18, 2011

Five Steps to Getting Published by Steeple Hill

by Christy Barrett
Good Morning Seekervillians!

It’s great to be here with you today. Since I’ve contracted and/or published four books with Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense in the past 12 months, I thought a good topic today might be “Writing for Steeple Hill.”

When I started writing eleven years ago, the first market I targeted was Steeple Hill Love Inspired. I wrote book after book, hoping to finally write something to catch their attention. Ten years later, I finally did. My first novel with them, Keeping Guard, released this month. I also have another one coming out in September, and two in 2012.

In the time since I’ve started writing for the company, I’ve realized several things about writing for the line, things that might have saved me a lot of time, effort and heartache if I’d known them earlier.

So, for anyone’s who’s trying to write for Steeple Hill, here’s the best advice I can give you.

1. Read ‘em! I know you’ve heard this one a million times, but it’s so true. If you want to write for Steeple Hill (or whatever publisher, for that matter) make sure you read, read, read the books they’re publishing. This will give you a really good feel for what they want. In fact, I still make an effort to read as many Steeple Hill books as I can, especially when I’m writing my first draft. Doing this keeps their style in my head.

2. Pay attention to ‘em! As you study Steeple Hill books, take note of what you’re reading. The hero and heroine almost always meet on the first couple of pages. Steeple Hill wants them to be together as much as possible during the book. They want rising conflict. They want the character’s goal, motivation and conflict to be apparent within the first chapter. We have to understand the market we’re trying to write for. Steeple Hill isn’t the publisher you want if you’re a rule breaker who wants to do your own thing. This isn’t to say your novel won’t be good—it probably just won’t be a good fit for this publisher.

3. Listen to ‘em! The first proposals I wrote for Steeple Hill I received a form rejection letter. Eventually, however, I began receiving personalized rejections. Eventually still, they offered to let me revise and resubmit. I hate to admit this, but there were times I didn’t want to listen to their feedback. I thought my story was great just the way it was. The first proposal I sold to them was one that I revised twice before receiving a contract. So, when the editors offers to let you resubmit, don’t take that lightly. Listen to their advice and you just might land a contract.

4. Submit ‘em! Don’t discount writing contests. Editors do pay attention. I was already published with another publisher when I won the 2009 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Suspense and Mystery. I decided to drive up to the award’s ceremony since it was only a few hours away from where I live. I met my (now) editor after receiving the Daphne. Editors do pay attention to contest wins. I know of several people who’ve gotten contracts after winning or placing.

5. Persevere ‘em! Sometimes, even when you read the books, listen to revision suggestions, pay attention to the formula and submit to contests, you still get rejected. Do not despair. Instead, keep trying. Sometimes, you may have to try for a couple of years. Sometimes, you may try for a decade. But every time you try, you learn something. And there’s a great chance that you’ll eventually get a contract. So don’t give up!

Thanks for letting me be here! For more information on my books, visit my website at:!


KC Frantzen said...

Wow Christy!
Congratulations on your success, perseverance, wisdom and AWARDS!
Way to go!!

KC Frantzen said...

(Mary - I agree - this is a different form, though it's much easier than it was previously. YAY)

Vince said...

Hi Christy:

I’ve been reading Steeple Hill for many years now and if there is one thing I've noticed, it's that the spiritual or inspirational component can vary from very high and important to the story line (Cheryl Wyatt) to almost nonexistent and an after-thought at best.

Are there any guidelines as to how much of the story should be devoted to the inspirational component? Did the amount of spiritual content change over the years that you were trying to write for Steeple Hill?

BTW: I think you have a great cover. I hope your book is available for Kindle.


Helen Gray said...

Coffee pot's ready.

Way to go, Christy.

Thanks for the tips.


Lynette Sowell said...

Wonderful tips! I hope to sell something to them eventually. I've been in the 'almost but not quite position,' so your post lets me know I'm headed in the right direction. :)

Anonymous said...

Wow, I REALLy appreciate this post! I'm not really trying to write for them, but I lvoe it when someone puts out their hardest learned lessons for the rest of us to benefits. That's very generous! So many people want to make their success a mystery and give some line about it being natural talent. Talent is part of it, but knowing the inside scoop is super important, too! So, thanks for the generous spirit. And I think I may just have to pick up your books! Virginia

Camy Tang said...

Great tips, Christy! I totally agree with all of them! In fact, I just downloaded your ebook Keeping Guard onto my Nook today!

Cecelia said...

Thanks, Christy! I've been trying to sell to Steeple Hill for a gazillion years now! I'm going to follow your tips before I submit to them again.

Lee McClain said...

Thanks for an inspiring post. It's great to know that perseverance--and hard work--really do pay off with Love Inspired.

Ruth Logan Herne said...



Helen, thanks for the coffee. I brought a Friday breakfast to go with it, fresh, hot sausage, ham or bacon McMuffin style sandwiches, loaded with folded egg(I can't face that yolk eye-to-eye) and cheese! Breakfast on the run because I know y'all are busy!

Christy, such good sage words of wisdom! I love your perseverance, your follow-through and your admission of 'not always listening' early on.

Why do we do that to ourselves???? Stubborn dorks.

Anyway, I love writing for Love Inspired and Melissa Endlich. I love what they encourage me to do and that Melissa has an uncanny eye for pulling more out of the story for me.

Thanks for stating all this so well and for you "wonderers" out there, I say YES! Even though it might land me out of a job...

Target Love Inspired. Follow Christy's steps. Go for the gold.

Kirsten Arnold said...

Thanks, Christy, for the great words of wisdom!

You're so right about reading books published by the line you're submitting to. I've been working an ms to submit to Harlequin Historical and I've been reading tons of those already published in this line. It's amazing how much it's helped me formulate my work.

Keeping Guard looks like a great read! I just got it on Kindle.


Glynna Kaye said...

Christy -- I totally agree with your 'steps'! Before I ever attempted to write a Love Inspired, I read a TON of them. Not only did I read them, I dissected them, scene by scene, chapter by chapter. Totally analyzed them for both similarities and differences. Made a chart for each book that outlined where the overall conflict was first evidenced, first turning points, black moments, resolutions. The length of scenes and chapters, POV switches between hero & heroine. All sorts of other things. THEN and only then did I start to write one. Unbelieveably, my first effort won the first contest it was entered in and the finalist judge, LI editor Melissa Endlich, asked for a full and bought it! So it REALLY does pay to do your homework if you want to write for Love Inspired--or ANY publisher, for that matter!

Lisa Jordan said...

Great tips, Christy!! I'm excited to see your books being published by Love Inspired! And so thankful I'm now a part of that family.

I've been reading Love Inspired novels since the line debuted. I wanted them to be the ones to publish my first novel. That dream is now a reality.

Rose said...


Great tips! I always think it's important to read what the publisher that you're targeting is currently publishing.

I'm going to print out your post as a quick reminder.

Rose said...

Lisa Jordan CONGRATULATIONS on your contract with LI! Way to go!

CatMom said...

Good morning Christy, Thanks SO much for this post with excellent suggestions. Your last tip contained my "Word for the Year": Persevere!!! Congratulations on your books and awards! ~ Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo :)
p.s. Lisa Jordan, even though I sent you a personal e-mail I wanted to say CONGRATULATIONS again--Such EXCITING news!! :) Everyone please enjoy the Pecan Divinity candy I brought to Seekerville today (made with Georgia pecans of course *grin*). ~ PJ

Kav said...

Thanks for the insights, Christy! I'm an avid Steeple Hill reader and enjoy the suspense line a lot. I'm placing an order this weekend and will add 'Keeping Guard' to the list.

Lorna Faith said...

Thanks for the great tips Christy! I love Steeple Hill books...I'll have to read yours:) Congrats on all your books...way to go!


Julie Lessman said...

Hey Christy, WELCOME to Seekerville, and SUPER CONGRATS on all the books/contracts in 12 months -- you're a better woman than me, I can tell you that!! :)

Although I do not write for LI, your advice is really helpful because I am getting ready to write a new series that will be shorter (instead of 500-page books, 300-400 pages instead) and your perspective on several points is very insightful. Also, I have toyed with writing an LI, so all of your advice gives me lots of food for thought. And I ALWAYS like LOTS of food, for thought or otherwise, come weekends! :)

Happy weekend, all!


Alison said...

Congratulations! Thank you for sharing your insight. Your story is inspiring.
~Alison Stone

Leigh Duncan said...

Great tips, Christy. And applicable to every house and every line.

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Christy. Congratulations on your sales! Love the eerie cover of Keeping Guard.

Thanks for your "right on" post for getting published with Love Inspired Books. I've seen that editors pay attention to contest wins before and after publication. One of the reasons I enter pubbed contests.

Vince, I've never seen guidelines for how strong the spiritual thread should be in our stories. Nor has my editor mentioned the amount of faith in mine. Perhaps others have a different experience.

Thanks for breakfast, Ruthy!


Jan Drexler said...

Thanks so much for the timely advice, Christy! Such great tips for newbies like me :)

And Glynna - I do the same thing when I read an LI book that resonates with me. Sorry Tina, but my copy of Rancher's Reunion is looking pretty beat up right now....

I brought cinnamon rolls to go with our breakfast - homemade with cream cheese icing. I love these no calorie treats!

Mary Connealy said...



This is such rock-solid common sense advice. It oughta be taped to the wall beside your computer.

When someone reaches for an LI off the shelf, they have expectations.
They are reaching for a particular type of book that they love.
LI is trying to meet those expectations.
If you want to write for them, you'd better figure out what they expect and fulfill the unspoken promise made by LI/LIH/LIS (etc. all through the HQ lines) to their readers.

Andrea Chermak said...

Christy, thanks so much for posting this. It's encouraging to all of us hoping to follow in your footsteps. I'm headed to eHarlequin right now to add your debut to my Nook. Can't wait to read it!

Mary Connealy said...

I mean Christy taught me how to WRITE.

She also taught me how to edit.


CarolM said...

JULIE!!! Say it ain't so! 400 pages is SO SHORT!!!! ;)

And Christy! Thank you for the wonderful advice! I've thought about LI etc. but the stuff I've actually written so far doesn't fit the guidelines for one reason or another. Maybe someday...

The advice, I think, is good regardless of the target publisher though :).

Thank you!

Myra Johnson said...

Hi, Christy! So glad to have you in Seekerville today--and what great insight into writing for Love Inspired! I'm one of those who has tried and failed more than once to "get it right" with a submission to a Love Inspired editor. As many LIs as I've read, I just don't seem to write like that.

And BTW, we are all grateful you taught Mary how to write. The poor girl has struggled so.


Or, in Ruthy's words . . .

Oy vey!

Casey said...

Great post, loved the info. :) Thanks for sharing!!

BTW, lovely author photo and cover! :)

Regina Merrick said...

Thanks for the great tips! I'm working on it . . .
One of the things I love about Love Inspired is that even though it may seem like the books would be "formula" when written by guidelines, they're not. Each one is as unique as the writer, and they are VERY well done. I'll be looking for your book!

Mary Connealy said...

Christy and I were in a critique group together. I got shoved into her group when I first joined ACFW. Along with Susan Smykla Osborne and Nicole Young.

It was such a great team. We were all unpublished and Christy was the leader and most experienced of the group (though a mere CHILD)

We would submit our two chapters every two weeks, then critique each other. One of the things I really learned was, Christy/Susan/Nicole could see the errors in my books I couldn't see. And I could see errors in their books that they couldn't see. It was a really interesting and useful collaboration.
Christy would say, "This stops the action."

I just couldn't see that when I was typing. I'd throw in descriptions and asides and backstory that would grind an action scene to a halt. I can still hear Christy particularly, in my head when I'm writing an action scene.

CarolM said...

So I went to Walmart and while my [sort of] sick 9yo was digging through the $5 movie bin... Guess what cover caught my eye?

It's now sitting here 'Keeping Guard' next to me!

[everyone can groan now; it's okay]


Ruth Logan Herne said...

The fact that Christy has joined the CAST OF THOUSANDS in Connealy's head is just downright scary.

And drums up sympathy for poor Christy!! CHRISTY!!! DUCK!!! INCOMING!!!!

I think Love Inspired has done a great job of diversifying their offerings. First, new voices, but that doesn't mean I don't love, love, love many of the established authors! I'm just glad they increased the line to include us newbies here and there to supplement their successful, strong stable of authors.

And the quality of writing is wicked strong.

Vince, faith threads (in my now seven-book experience) are whatever the author does as long as the editor thinks it reflects the characters and the story line and 'feels' like a Love Inspired. So no guidelines per se, but familiarity with the line is a strong beginning.

And giving editors chocolate and Starbucks.


Did I say that out loud????

Renee Ann said...

Thanks for the great tips, Christy! And I enjoyed checking out your website. Blessings!

Faye Rhys said...

Good advice!
Thanks! sounds great. I hope to be published in the near or distant future.

Mary Connealy said...

Having Christy in my head is a huge improvement over the usual shooting, screaming, cliff hanging characters that dwell in there.

And it doesn't bother Christy one speck. She doesn't know she's there.

As I type, I begin to fear for myself.
And all of you who may be forced to read my rambling.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Connealy, I've survived this long. I suppose you're mostly safe.

Note the qualifier. ;)

Hey, while the kids made MUD pies this afternoon, I entertained myself with fresh apple pie laced with caramel.

I brought it to share because good apples are about to become scarce. Gotta have one last go-round!

Crumb topping.

Caramel drizzle.

As if apple pie needed to get better.


Walt Mussell said...

I'm reading. I'm writing. I'm submitting. I'm listening. (OK. Not exactly. Still just form rejection.) I'm reading. I'm writing. I'm submitting. I'm listening. I'm reading. I'm writing. I'm submitting. I'm listening.

And I think this is persevering.

Sherrinda said...

These tips were so helpful. I've been told my historical would probably be a good fit for LI, but to be honest, I haven't read many of them. I will have to change that! Thanks for a great post!

Cara Lynn James said...

Hi, Christy! Congratulations on your Loved Inspired contracts! I agree- it's really so important to read a lot of books in the line you'd like to write for.

Anonymous said...

Andrea Strong here! posting from a different computer than normal.

This is a great post. I'm a huge fan of LI and LIH. The "coming next month" page is a great resource for me. My budget can fit only so many books in each month, and that page helps me plan.

Also, someday I'd like to sell to LIH. (Tina, I forgot to put that info in the email with my First Five Pages submission. Sorry.) So this post will definitely get a Google Star.

Thanks for sharing, Christy

Tina Radcliffe said...

Sorry I'm late.

Welcome, Christy!! And multiple congratulations.

I have been listing to the wrong people (guess who!!!!)they assured me if I killed off several characters each chapter and sucked up a little bit more I was practically SOLD.

Seriously, thanks for the very spot on advice.

Pepper said...

Great tips, Christy!!
And congrats on all those wonderful books to come.
I saw your book at Wal-Mart today. It's so cool to see it 'in person' - I'm sure, even more so for you!

Dianna Shuford said...

Thanks for the great advice, Christy. Kudos to you for the FOUR upcoming releases with SH.

Jillian said...

Thank you for the great tips, Christy! Congratulations on your contract. I'll be looking for Keeping Guard when I head to Walmart tomorrow for grocery shopping.

Linnette R Mullin said...

Congrats, Christy!!! Sorry I'm just now stopping in. My folks are visiting and I just got on this evening. Thanks for the great tips!


Ausjenny said...

Congrats on the new release.
I am a reader and I would say I have noticed a difference in the style of some of the different publishers. I can see by reading the line you want to write for it would be a great help.

(hopefully this time blogger will let me post. it keeps losing my comments)

Patty said...

Congratulations, Christy! And such great advice! I've targeted Love Inspired for years--read Harlequins way back when they first came out then swtiched to Steeple Hill in the early 90's. I followed all of your tips and will even add one--if anyone gets the chance to be a first reader, do it! Great learning experience that helped my writing so much!

I feel blessed to be a new Love Inspired author whose debut novel is now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble for pre-order(isn't it exciting to actually SAY that!)

Patty Smith Hall

Sandra Leesmith said...

Sorry to be so late but so delighted to get here in time. Your post is full of terrific advice. Thanks for joining us here in Seekerville.

Patty Wysong said...

Great post!
Thanks for the tips! =] Reading LI books is one of those things I LOVE doing! =]

JennaVictoria said...

Hi Christy, wonderful advice that I am printing out. Thank you! I am targeting Steeple Hill for my series (romantic suspense) and your tips are things I need to know. I was thrilled when some of my work was chosen to be posted online for the SYTYCW challenge (still smiling over that one). A Seekerville "first five pages" critique would really help, too, so I am mentioning it here, too. Blessings!

Jessica Nelson said...

Wonderful advice, thank you so much! Right now I'm salivating at the idea of a revise and resubmit request! I'd totally take that at this point. LOL
Congrats on your hard work and sale!

Susan Anne Mason said...

Thanks for sharing such great advice, Christy!

Love your cover, btw. It would definitely hook me to buy the book - even if I'd never heard of you!

Continued success!!


Martha Ramirez said...

Congrats, Christy! Thanks so much for posting your tips. Very much appreciated:)