Editors and Agents Pitches

Know what to pitch—and to whom

Your RWNZ 2017 Conference Pitching Opportunities

Weekend conference attendees who’ve registered, paid and indicated on their booking form they’d like a pitch appointment will be contacted by our Pitch Co-Ordinator (via the email address supplied with your booking).  Appointments are on a first come, first served basis and whilst we will strive to meet your pitching choices, due to the demand and timing we cannot guarantee you will see all your choices. So get in quickly with your conference booking!

I’ve never pitched before, what do I do?

After the details of the pitching line-up (below) there is a guide with links to help you with your preparation. The key thing to remember is these great people are wanting to love your book as much as you do. Read more about pitching here….

How do I book pitches?

You book your pitch at time of registration. Harlequin have confirmed two editors (global and Australian) therefore select them in your cart, you can always change your mind later when we have the names of who are coming, but it’s better to be in than out. You can update your registration at any time by logging into the website and visiting the My Account in the top right of the homepage. If you do change your pitching options please email the pitch coordinator to let her know.

The Pitching Line-Up

Sue Grimshaw – Category Specialist and Editor at Large for Penguin Random House NY

Sue Grimshaw actively acquires for the Penguin-Random House Publishing Group, Ballantine Bantam Dell, Loveswept and Flirt lines in New York. Previously, Sue was employed as Romance Buyer for Borders and Waldenbooks stores for almost sixteen years.

Sue works with New York Times bestselling authors Virna DePaul, Tracy Wolff, and Ruthie Knox, to name a few, and USA Today bestselling authors Stacey Kennedy, Tina Wainscott, Mira Lyn Kelly, Tina Leonard, Bronwen Evans, Maggie McGinnis and many more talented writers. And she’s still acquiring!

Sue is a recipient of the prestigious Vivian Stephens Industry Award from the Romance Writers of America. Other honours include the Melinda Helfer Award from the Romantic Times organization, and the Romcon Champion Award as well as many other RWA chapter group recognitions and corporate awards for excellence. Sue is one of the most knowledgeable people in the industry and truly enjoys sharing her knowledge of the Romance genre.

Which areas/imprints are you actively acquiring for? Bantam Ballantine Dell Loveswept Flirt

What kind of works/subgenres are you currently seeking? Romance; Women’s Fiction (with heavy romance elements) and all subgenres within – from suspense to PNR, historical, contemp, erotic, etc.  The only things I’m not much interested in are the extremely niche types of stories: Steampunk, Futuristic and so on.

What kind of writing will especially pique your interest?  Character driven storylines with first person POV but I’m interested in all.

What are you not looking for?  Steampunk, Futuristic and niche types of stories that are slow selling in the market today.

What would you love/hate to see pitched to you? I’d love to have the next New York Times bestseller pitched to me – exclusively 🙂

Jessica Watterson – Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency

Jessica has been an agent at the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency since 2014.

A graduate of the University of California at Irvine, Jessica has immersed herself in books and literature from the time she could first read. While in college, she started an indie review blog that has featured author interviews and reviewed several self-published books that eventually ended up on the New York Times Best Seller list.

Jessica is always on the hunt for new and diverse voices, and is most interested in all genres of romance. For historical romance, she favors settings in America, Scotland, or somewhere outside of the traditional Regency setting.

In the contemporary sphere, she loves novels with strong characters that jump off of the page and stay with you long after you have finished the book.

In paranormal romance, she is looking for anything unusual and unique, vampires need not apply.

In regards to romantic suspense, it takes something different and edgy to capture her attention, and she greatly enjoys anything Kristen Ashely has written in this genre.

She also loves Women’s Fiction that concerns itself with elements of life that can greatly change one’s perspective and outlook on cultures and experiences.

On the YA side, Jessica is looking for just about anything that aligns itself with fantasy, sci-fi, contemporary, lgbtq reads, #ownvoices, and of course a bit of romance thrown in is never a bad thing in her opinion.

She is also interested in author illustrated picture books that capture the fun and joy of reading between adults and children.

Jessica’s sales include: Amber Lynn Natusch’s Dare to Tell a Lie (Tor Teen), Katie Ruggle’s Christmas Search and Rescue/K9 novel (Sourcebooks), Jade Chandler’s Brotherhood Investigations (Carina Press), Dawn Luedecke’s Montana Mountain Series (Lyrical/Kensington), Debbie Burns Rescue Me Series(Sourcebooks), Emily Alibright’s Everyday Magic (Merit Press).

Please note that Jessica is specifically not interested in: middle grade, non-fiction, memoir, cookbooks, poetry, short stories, screenplays, self-help, or religious/spiritual books.

Allison Carroll, Associate Editor

HQN Books and Graydon House Books


Bio: Allison Carroll is a Montana transplant who once upon a time packed all her belongings in a U-Haul and drove cross-country to NYC. Her introduction to publishing began at Dorchester Publishing in 2009 and continued at Macmillan’s Heroes and Heartbreakers. Allison joined the Harlequin family in 2012 as part of the Desire and Romantic Suspense Series teams, before transitioning to HQN and Graydon House, where she’s worked with such authors as NYT bestseller Jeaniene Frost, NYT bestseller Brenda Jackson, NYT bestseller Gena Showalter, Golden Heart nominee Brynn Kelly, USA TODA bestseller Christie Ridgeway, NYT bestseller Kasey Michaels, and more. Allison is actively acquiring for HQN and Graydon House. Feel free to follow her @AllisonPCarroll.

Wish List

I’m looking for contemporary romance with an urban setting featuring working-class heroes instead of billionaires, sports romances with heart and humor, stories with strong secondary romances and 40+ heroes and heroines (gasp!).

I’m particularly interested in women’s fiction that addresses the realities of dating in a very digital, very global society. Modern day relationship fiction that explores everything from long-distance relationships and cultural/racial barriers and expectations to online dating and the hookup app culture to the darker issues facing women today, such as online trolling and bullying and the disturbing emergence of doxing and revenge porn.

I’m also searching for format-driven fiction—a relationship told through letters, diary entries, email; a story told out of order, a story with an unexplained plot device à la the film Sliding Doors or the phone in Rainbow Rowell’s Landline.

Whether it’s a fun, breezy, grin-inducing read or a story that makes me weepy (in a good way!), a modern retelling of a classic story or an unpredictable speculative love story, strong hooks and a commercial voice are a must.


Jo MacKay – Publisher Editor Harlequin Australia

Jo heads the local lists for Mira and HQ at Harlequin Australia, commissioning fiction and nonfiction. A passionate advocate for her authors, Jo firmly believes good writing can change lives. She loves true stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, historical novels, suspense, psychological thrillers, romance set in close-knit communities and stories she can’t put down after the first page. Jo has worked in publishing for more than 20 years. Originally from the UK, she began her career as a journalist in London before training as a book editor. Since then she has worked in Australia for several trade publishing houses in senior editorial roles, including six years as a Commissioning Editor at ABC Books and three years as an Associate Publisher at HarperCollins Publisher.

Check below for two different pitching options.

1.Which areas/imprints are you actively acquiring for?

Mira and HQ imprints

Mira, core romance category

HQ, diverse fiction for smart curious women

Also listening to pitches for our digital first imprint, Escape.

  1. What subgenres are you currently seeking?

Rural (or small community) romance, layered and compelling women’s ‘life lit’, family sagas, Australian or NZ historical (especially 19th and early 20th Century), domestic noir, romantic suspense

  1. What kind of writing will especially pique your interest?

Recognisable genres with an original spin, unforgettable characters, strong flawed feisty female leads, distinctive narrative voice, pace and form in perfect harmony, clever (and clear) plotting, rich settings, Australian and NZ hooks. Upwards of 90k words preferred.

  1. What are you not looking for, so we don’t waste your time and ours?

Anything under 80,000 words  (except those pitching to the Escape line) or previously published. Category (see Allison Carroll), young adult, fantasy, horror, erotica, paranormal, regency, contemporary romance set overseas, anything without an Australian or New Zealand hook

  1. What would you love/hate to see pitched to you?

Love: any manuscripts that takes the genres above and makes them fresh and original again, with an Australian or New Zealand hook. Love family sagas, Australian and new Historical, suspense and psychological thrillers.

Hate: manuscript that is obviously first draft and feeble heroines

  1. Which areas/imprints are you actively acquiring for?

Escape Publishing

  1. What sub-genres are you currently seeking?

Contemporary romances (billionaires, single dads, royals, clean and wholesome), LGBTQI, Interracial and diverse characters, historical, paranormal, suspense, rural

  1. What kind of writing will especially pique your interest?

Pacy, great character development, and fantastic dialogue.

  1. What are you not looking for, so we don’t waste your time and ours?

Escape is currently NOT looking for fantasy, YA, or submissions of less than 45000 words. Escape does consider previously published manuscripts, but does not accept mid-series submissions.

  1. What would you love/hate to see pitched to you?

Love: hot, sweet, strong stories with an emotional punch and memorable character

Elaine Spencer – Agent at The Knight Agency

Elaine Spencer joined the Knight Agency in 2005 after graduating from the University of Georgia with a degree in economics and comparative literature. Over the last decade Elaine has placed over 200 titles in a wide variety of subgenres to every major publisher in the marketplace. Elaine keeps a focused client list as it is most important to her to be able to work closely with her clients through each step of the publishing process, from a manuscript’s inception all the way through publication, promotion, subrights management, and beyond. She enjoys seeing her clients grow as authors, and one of her favorite parts of the job is working side by side with her clients to educate them about not only about the process but also the business at large. Elaine is a member of RWA and the WFWA and is also an AAR recognized agent. She is interested in a wide-variety of subgenres including but not limited to romance, women’s fiction, young adult and middle grade material. You can follow Elaine on Twitter at @Elainespencer although she’s more often found on IG @ElaineSpencer_IG

Elaine’s Wish List:

I’m currently accepting a wide range of commercial fiction projects. I’m always on the lookout for strong women’s fiction and romance manuscripts as well as commercial book-club fiction, historical fiction, young adult and middle grade works. 

In women’s fiction I’m most drawn to emotionally-riveting tales that explore cultural taboos or current event “hot topics”. I also enjoy stories that center on family dynamics and the mysteries and secrets that exist within their confines. Friendship stories, suburban dramadies, and those stories that make the reader question “what would I do in this situation” are high on my wish-list. I am also open to books that may have once been considered chicklit but with a reimagined, slightly matured evaluation of the twenty-something current-life crisis. Stories focused on what happens in life when suddenly getting an education isn’t the sole focus of each day. First jobs, first apartments, financial independence, adult friendships and romances, family obligations, and career establishment.

In historical fiction I enjoy projects from the early 1900s forward but do not typically like those stories set in the American West. For me it is important that historical characters have voice that crosses over to the contemporary readership. I also very much enjoy stories centered on little known events in American history or retellings from a secondary character in a well-known historical story such as Ariel Lawhon.

For Romance its all about the hook. In this tight market high concept is crucial. I am looking for smart contemporaries, particularly those with humor such as The Hating Game or Dating You Hating You. I would love to see stories with strong heroines that are smart and funny and not ashamed or beat down by their own individuality. I am a little burnt-out on the traditional New England small town setting and would love to find some exotic locales or city-set stories, or plots set in underrepresented geographies ie the Midwest. In romance I’m also looking for romantic suspense and category projects. I would consider paranormal or urban fantasy projects but the voice really would need to blow me away in this tighter space and I’m going to be a bear on high concept. I always love witches and fairytale retellings as well.

In young adult and middle grade I’m looking for strong voices that accurately depict today’s reader. These genres are driven by voice and an author’s ability to succinctly capture the emotional capacity and headspace of that demographic. I’m looking for contemporary voices that have an accurate depiction of the teen-experience. Stories that explore social and family expectations against the backdrop of moving towards adult hood. Teens think they are adults while not thinking LIKE an adult. I want to see stories that make me remember how this thought process made sense. I also want to see the humor and heart, heartbreak and cruelty that is often unique ot this demographic. There’s something about the time in your life before life fully gets you that makes you look at the world through different glasses. I’m also looking for historical projects that make us think about world-events through the lens of what it means for the rest of their lives. 

I also am on the lookout for cozy mysteries although I don’t specifically know *what* it is I’m looking for. When I see it I’ll know it, so, if you’ve got it, pitch it. 

* Books that have at their core a deep ethical dilemma; topics that stem from controversial to more time-and-again social issues. I like stories that make me look at these trials (literally and figuratively) from a new perspective. Stories that make me walk around and look at things from the other side. 

* I love books that show a bond between two people that defies circumstance, or perhaps prevails because of it. ALL THE UGLY AND WONDERFUL THINGS is a great example of this as is FORBIDDEN. Both of these titles explore relationships that are taboo on all accords. When you pitch the book people are likely to form an immediate sight-unseen judgement. Sometimes relationships don’t make sense and I love exploring these. 

* Narratives and characters with true southern heart. Once I had someone tell me during a pitch that their story featured a hilly-billy and so it was a sure fit for my list. This isn’t what I mean. In the south there is a pride and a commitment to where one came from, a slower way of life that leaves room for exploring the world around us, a kinder regard for one’s community and neighbors built upon generations of establishment. I want books that make me think of warm summer breezes and rocking on a grand colonial porch. Karen White is an author that embraces this tradition of story-telling in a way that I always embrace. 

* Stories with a focus on families, regardless of how they’re dictated by family DNA. DID YOU EVER HAVE A FAMILY is a great example of a book that shows the wide-spread ramifications individual choices can have. I’m looking for books that showcase the real emotional obligations and commitments that come with considering oneselves family. 

* I’m always on the lookout for stories that explore a less-known event or cultural element in our world’s landscape. SALT TO SEA is a great example of a true-life story that many had never heard of despite the never-ending library of WW2 fiction. Stories such as MOLOKAI that took me away to a far-away place and tragic cultural epidemic. 

* Humor is something that is really hard but I like to laugh in my books as much as I like to cry. I want to feel all the feels when reading, and in our current social climate, the more laughs the better. DOMESTIC VIOLETS is a great example of well-executed humor that kept me laughing page after page. 

* Books that are set against some sort of “item” hook – a club, a hobby, a passion. This may not be central to the primary story/conflict, but it’s the thing that is always supporting the main action/character, the glue that makes an impact at the end of the last page. Think LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS or THE FRIDAY NIGHT KNITTING CLUB. 

* While I enjoy books about things I know little about I think we all relish in the familiar as well, especially if its done accurately. Therefore I love books that have honest-reflections on things I love – travel, cooking/dining out, fitness/running, photography, hiking, collegiate football, home-interiors, and much to my husband’s dismay, shopping.