What the Editors Want

Updated July 2019

Carina Press is committed to inclusion and representation in our publishing program, and we want to emphasize how interested we are in seeing not just manuscripts that feature characters from a range of backgrounds and experiences, but most especially books by authors from traditionally marginalized or underrepresented groups, including (but not limited to) Black authors, authors of color, disabled authors, and LGBTQIA+ authors. Our editors strive to continue to make our list inclusive and are working hard to build a catalog that is more representative of the romance reading public.

We’ve pulled together a general imprint-wide wishlist for our 2020-2021 publishing schedule, below, and also asked our editors what they’d most like to see. There’s truly an editor for every manuscript—read through to find your potential match below!   

Please remember that with the exception of mysteries, all submissions to Carina Press must fall into the larger category of ROMANCE, regardless of subgenre. This means you need an HFN (happy for now) or HEA (happily ever after) in every romance manuscript.

General Wishlist

In Romance

  • Lighthearted contemporary romance and romcoms. No massively dark backstories, no heavy angst, and lots of laughs and banter. Think Lucy Parker’s London Celebrities series, The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren, and Ruby Lang’s Playing House.
  • Ugly Cries. We want lots of emotional investment, but not necessarily issue-driven books. Touch our hearts with loss, emotional pain, or a particularly gut-wrenching confrontation scene. BUT! You have to deliver us a great HEA because this is romance, after all. We’re still bawling over Melanie Hansen’s Point of Contact. Other good examples are Riley Mackenzie’s Abruption and Brittainy C. Cherry’s Disgrace.
  • Special Note: We would love to see a standalone or series that weaves these first two romance asks together. An example of a series we love that manages to combine laugh-out-loud humor in a fun, contemporary romance with rip-out-your-heart emotion is Bear, Otter, and the Kid by TJ Klune.
  • Romantic Suspense: With the suspense acting in support of the romance, rather than the suspense being the main attraction. While we welcome overarching storylines, ideally each book in a series will stand alone, with light touches on any complicated plotlines that take multiple books to resolve. We’re wanting strong, protective characters, dramatic rescues, and off the charts chemistry. Bring on that band-of-brothers feel.
  • Paranormals (and urban fantasy romance): We’re open to concepts way beyond shifters, including witches, vampires, ghosts, and other paranormal elements and beings. Clan politics, fated mates, kickass characters doing kickass things and landing their HEA, despite the odds. RomSusp elements invited.

In Mystery

  • Paranormal mysteries, with or without romantic elements. Protagonists with paranormal powers, who get help from the undead, live in enchanted towns, build supernatural friendships and liaise with creatures who go bump in the night. We’re interested in a little something weird structured around a solid mystery arc, anywhere within the genre. Please think Practical Magic and Hocus PocusA Grave Calling by Wendy Roberts, Charlaine Harris’s Harper Connolly books, The Dowser Series by Meghan Ciana Diodge, and Jana DeLeon’s Happily Everlasting series.
  • Historical mysteries with romantic elements. All time periods are fair game. Mystery focused, with rich detail and at least a light romantic thread running throughout. We love Ashley Gardner, Rhys Bowen’s Molly Murphy books, Lady Sherlock by Sherry Thomas, and C.S. Harris’s Sebastian St. Cyr series.
  • Cozy mysteries, procedurals and detective series. Especially interested in books in this category featuring protagonists from traditionally marginalized or underrepresented backgrounds, written by #ownvoices authors.

Editor Wishlists

Kerri Buckley, Senior Editor and Stephanie Doig, Associate Editor updated the above imprint-wide list, and welcome all queries related to it. They’ve each also contributed to the editor-by-editor wishlists below.

Kerri Buckley

Pronouns: She/Her
Address queries to Ms. Buckley

I’m feeling a lot of feelings for caretaker characters right now, and I would like to see more of them in my inbox. In general and across subgenres, my ask right now is for people treating each other gently vs. antagonistically. I still heart enemies-to-lovers…I’m just interested in moving out of the “enemies” phase pretty quickly.

More specific asks:

  • Reunion romances where both parties have just been pining away in the sweetest, most deliciously gut-wrenching way forever and ever.
  • STILL WANT: Single dad romances Grumpy gray-hairs in particular.
  • STILL WANT: Heroine-centric stories/women’s fiction crossover. No high concepts required; lots of focus on character growth, the emotional side of relationship dynamics, and possibly the larger biological family or chosen family. Non-traditional POV choices welcome here although we do require an HEA/HFN, even if the romance isn’t completely front and center all the way through. Think Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine with a more romantic ending between Eleanor and Raymond, or Mariana Zapata’s Wait for It.
  • A riveting female-led procedural mystery series. Think Happy Valley on TV, where the cases are interwoven with the protagonist’s personal/family/romantic drama.

Stephanie Doig

Pronouns: She/Her
Address queries to Ms. Doig

I am looking for delicious romantic tension when I read a romance—whether it comes from charming banter, intense emotions, or earnest, no-holds-barred declarations, I want to eagerly anticipate every word. I love a grumpy/soft character pairing, and I have a particular weakness for heroes who are standoffish as a defense mechanism, and eventually show their softer side to the right person. Bonus points if that hero type is paired with a total goofball.

  • I would be very interested in seeing more romcoms that are truly pee-your-pants funny. Show me your comedic chops!
  • I love seeing an only child/introvert paired with someone who comes from a big, sprawling, welcoming family—think Sarah Jessica Parker in The Family Stone, or Sandra Bullock in While You Were Sleeping. I’m still super interested in siblings as well; close family bonds are very interesting to me. Note: this dynamic applies across genres, so don’t limit yourself to contemporary romance!
  • Foodie romances always make me hungry but I love them anyway, and would be more than happy to work on a book where food brought people together. I’m especially looking for a food-related connection that goes outside the usual chef/kitchen settings—show me someone who doesn’t necessarily cook for their career, but for whom food is an important part of showing their love.
  • Romantic suspense with a very intimate, local feeling. P.I.s working on small cases that make a difference in their community, for example. If you can work in a band-of-brothers dynamic, all the better!
  • Contemporary romance with heart—I love Kate Clayborn’s Chance of a Lifetime series, and would love to see submissions that hit a similar emotional note.

Read on to find out what our fantastic freelance editors most want to see right now:

Alissa Davis

Pronouns: She/Her
Address queries to Ms. Davis

  • Soft, cinnamon roll heroes in all subgenres, but especially RomCom and paranormal. Send me your awkward but endearing Captain America-inspired characters, please!
  • Forced proximity romance. This is my favorite trope, so if you have it, I’d love to read it. Whether we’re talking chefs in a restaurant kitchen, a wide receiver and the rival team’s quarterback, partners in a law firm, dragonriders defending the realm, two people stranded in a cabin, or a duke and his aloof personal secretary, I want to see them navigating inconvenient sexual tension and high stakes conflict. 
  • Paranormal romance, especially those with more diversity within the packs of shifters and vampires. I love the TV show Lost Girl and would be thrilled to find a paranormal romance series set in a world like that one, where we see lots of different types of shifters, fae, witches and magic, with complex group dynamics and shifting allegiances.
  • Historical romance where the heroine saves the hero, along the lines of Sarah MacLean’s Wicked and the Wallflower.
  • Romance featuring characters who are neurodivergent.
  • Sports romance. I tend to trip over my own feet, but I’m so inspired by the dedication I see in athletes like the US Women’s National Soccer Team players, and I’d like to add more sports romance to my list.

Deborah Nemeth

Pronouns: She/Her
Address queries to Ms. Nemeth

I’m eager to acquire mystery and romance from fresh voices. Here’s what will catch my eye:

  • I’m drawn to active protagonists whose desires, mistakes and actions drive the story—characters who make things happen and eventually figure out how to fix their problems.
  • More than anything, I love snappy dialogue. Well-written banter is more important to me than subgenre or tropes. Send me stories with tightly written dialogue that sings!
  • I’m a sucker for intelligent characters. I love seeing bright protagonists figure out whodunit, outwit a rival, defeat the enemy, or pull off a heist.
  • I love characters who have a keen sense of humor, and I’m particularly interested in acquiring lighthearted reads, including humorous cozy mysteries, romcoms, witty Regency romps, and capers.
  • I enjoy twists on tropes and subverted expectations, especially in retellings.
  • I’m seeking brain-teasing whodunit mysteries (cozies, procedurals and PIs) set in unusual locations and featuring quirky sleuths. I’m very fond of UK-set mysteries too.
  • I’m also looking for mysteries featuring sleuths whose investigative skills are enhanced—and complicated—by their unusual paranormal abilities.
  • I’m interested in feel-good romances about relationships that complicate the protagonists’ lives and force them to change or make tough choices.  
  • I’d like to acquire a historical mystery series with a crime-fighting duo who develop a romantic relationship over the course of the series.
  • I love stories about scientists & inventors, mercenaries, creatives, spies, historians, hackers, librarians/researchers/scholars, smugglers, and daredevil adrenaline junkies. Certain story elements will catch my eye, too, such as the theater, fashion history, wine, European settings, Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, Jane Austen, and the legends of King Arthur.

Mackenzie Walton

Pronouns: She/Her
Address queries to Ms. Walton

I’m always looking for well-rounded casts, smitten couples, intricate world-building, and strong, authentic dialogue with distinct character voices. And even more specifically:

  • Contemporaries with low conflict and lots of romance—books that are perfect brain candy when you’re stressed out. Think romcom light.
  • LGBTQIA+ historical. Dukes, duchesses and ballrooms are fantastic—frankly, I don’t get tired of them—but I’d also be interested in seeing more unusual settings and scenarios.
  • Thoughtful paranormals with complex world-building. I’m very into shifters, but also vampires, magic users, demons (you saw Good Omens, right?), and more. I really want fresh, fun takes on paranormal romance.
  • First-person narration from a protagonist with a strong, witty/snarky voice. I love being fully immersed in a delightful character. For a great example of what I mean, check out Charlie Adhara’s Big Bad Wolf series.
  • Some tropes I can’t get enough of, in any genre: marriage of convenience, forced proximity, enemies to lovers. Basically, if the couple is annoyed by how much they’re attracted to each other, I’m a big fan.
  • Ugly duckling/Cinderella-type protagonists? Yes, please! I love seeing an under-appreciated wallflower get an HEA, in any genre.
  • Historical and paranormal mysteries, especially if they have a cozy vibe.
  • Non-office workplace romances. Think retail, baristas, schools/universities, even astronauts—I want to see more books with characters falling in love on the job, but not in the boardroom. Bonus points if you give me the Hot Dude Librarian hero of my dreams.
  • Virgin heroes, across the board. Can’t get enough of them.

John Jacobson

Pronouns: They/Them
Address queries to Mr. or Mx. Jacobson

I’m looking for a romance that sends me into a strong emotional space and keeps me there in one sitting.  Whether it’s laughing at an over-the-top romantic comedy or crying from a character finding love amidst trauma, I’m looking for romances that hit me right in the feelings. I especially want romances like this that represent marginalized groups – POC characters, LGBTQ+ characters, disabled characters, and others. If you really want to hit my catnip radar, you’ll include some quirky secondary characters that alleviate tension – I’m talking match-making aunties, community members that can’t help but meddle, and future protagonists that make me want to stay in the world over the course of many books.

  • Contemporary romantic comedies with strong voices that make me LOL. Think Sophie Kinsella ala I’ve Got Your Number, or the recent books of authors like Lucy Score and R.S. Grey.
  • Mystery series that feature paranormal elements and follow a single couple over multiple books. Bonus points if they deal with ghosts, witches, or more non-traditional paranormal creatures.
  • LGBTQ+ contemporary romances that fit the category romance model and have delicious tropes + sexual tension, characters with strong personalities, and conflict that’s both fiery and clear from the first chapter.
  • Enemies-to-lovers romances of all subgenres. I want a romance with a couple that has so many reasons to banter and exchange barbs, only to irrevocably fall in love.
  • Contemporary romances that challenge genre norms – play with the traditional genre beats, address deep social issues, and explore the lives and emotions of the main characters in new ways. Books like Kennedy Ryan’s Long Shot or Grip come to mind.
  • Paranormal romances featuring diverse characters and twists on beloved tropes like fated mates.
  • A romantic suspense series that has a progressive edge, but still retains classic themes of protagonists in peril, secret organizations, and bands of characters in (sexy) uniform.

Carrie Lofty

Pronouns: She/Her
Address queries to Ms. Lofty

I love snappy dialogue, cheeky humor and a dry, sarcastic wit. On the flipside, I can never resist beautifully rendered angst. No matter the tone, wrap me in the world you create. I need to be invested in characters’ dreams and desires, and why they can’t (initially) be happy together. What is important to them? “High stakes” doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the world. I’m still skewing heavily paranormal. On my wishlist:

  • Realistic polyamory: romances that explore the complexities of love between more than two people. Angst is not a must.
  • Lesbian romances: bonus points for rom coms and subgenres other than contemporary.
  • Foreplay: slow burn romances of any genre that build to a hot, sexy payoff.
  • Vampires with grit: I want to crush on Lestat all over again. How about a new take on old favorites? LGTBQ, #ownvoices, multicultural…
  • Reconciliation romance: save a once-loving couple from disaster! Marriages in trouble are a favorite.
  • Historical LGBTQ: any time period, and I’d be very intrigued if they include paranormal or fantasy elements.
  • Dark homecomings: protagonist left in disgrace, went to war, sent to jail.
  • Halloween themes: resourceful human, ghoulish adversaries, outbreaks and epidemics, maniacal stalkers—and pressure-cooker attractions that emerge in the face of fear. Bring on October 2020!
  • Space pirates: soft sci-fi with lots of wit, action and great world-building, like Guardians of the Galaxy or Firefly, but with a snappy, sexy romance at its heart.

Kate Marope

Pronouns: She/Her
Address queries to Ms. Marope

I’m looking for pragmatic and competent characters who will do what needs doing. Characters who know what they want, and how to get it. I’m especially interested in LGBTQIA+ and multicultural protagonists from diverse and neurodivergent backgrounds in both mystery and romance.

  • Fish-out-of-water protagonists with semi-trustworthy (but fundamentally good) guides to the new world or culture they find themselves in.
  • Growly but low key romantic heroes. The type who complains for the sake of complaining, but is secretly amused and will later surprise their to-be lover with their unique gestures of love or caring. Bonus points if you can work a morality chain dynamic in their relationship (e.g. Ann Aguirre’s The Shadow Warrior, Kresley Cole’s Lothaire, and Stephani Hecht’s An Assassin’s Touch)
  • Urban fantasy featuring non-western cultures and myths. Diverse cast, intense clan politics, and exquisite world building are a must!
  • Shift in dynamic tropes like friends-to-lovers, enemies to lovers, partners to lovers (esp. in workplace settings), and relationships/marriages of convenience romances are perennial favorites. Slow burns are a plus!
  • Low conflict romances that are really sweet and focused on the romantic arc (e.g. Aidan Wayne’s Play it Again).
  • Military romance: I’m a long-time addict of Hawaii Five-0, so give me military personnel who still have their edge.
  • Mysteries: Who- or whydunit police procedurals, thrillers, and psychological suspense, featuring former-criminal investigators who use their past life in crime to solve the mystery. (Suppressed or rather-be-forgotten pasts are a definite plus.)

Ronan Sadler

Pronouns: They/Them
Address queries to Mx. Sadler

I love deeply character-driven stories that explore the interplay between boundaries and vulnerability, history and future, social context and personal desire. I’m drawn to immersive narrative voices and emotionally detailed settings. Romance is for everyone, and I would love to see #OwnVoices submissions across subgenres.

  • Diverse rom-coms with tropey setups and swoony romantic execution, especially with LGBTQIA characters. I want all the classic romance tropes with the protagonists who have been historically excluded from the genre. Banter and hijinks are a huge plus, but mostly I just want that heart-melty feeling that comes from characters overcoming their personal obstacles to be together.
  • Enemies to lovers/rivalry romance—whether they’re rivals for the same promotion or the same crown or just seething in mutual dislike, I love characters who can’t stand each other but can’t get over their attraction, especially if they’re forced to work together.
  • Best friends to lovers. I love the process of two good friends coming to something more, especially if they’ve been apart for a while and have only just reunited. Who have they been to each other and what are they becoming? I love characters with a lot of history between them.
  • Atmospheric paranormal with a strong sense of time and place. I especially want to see characters of color, disabled characters, fat characters, and trans characters starring in the genre. Particularly interested in paranormals with witches/magic users, fae, vampires, and shifter romance that examines what it means to have an unstable or changing bodily identity. Voice and immersiveness is really important to me in paranormal, I want to feel the immediacy of the world and the characters.
  • A caper with crackling sexual/romantic tension, especially if it’s F/F (think Ocean’s 8). High stakes, high tension, preferably high snark.

Here’s a handy quick-view chart that gives you a look at which editors are acquiring in specific genres (all editors are acquiring #OwnVoices and inclusive manuscripts across their listed genres):

GenreEditors actively acquiring in genreNot acquiring in genre
Erotic romanceKerri, Alissa, Deb, Mackenzie, John, Ronan, Carrie, KateStephanie
Contemporary romanceKerri, Stephanie, Alissa, Deb, Mackenzie, John, Ronan, Carrie, Kate
Paranormal romanceAlissa, Stephanie, Deb, Mackenzie, John, Ronan, Carrie, Kate
Urban fantasyDeb, Stephanie, Alissa, John, Ronan, KateCarrie, Mackenzie
Fantasy romanceAlissa, Deb, John, Ronan, Carrie, Mackenzie, Kate
Science fiction romanceAlissa, Deb, Ronan, Carrie, MackenzieStephanie, Kerri, John, Kate
Romantic suspenseKerri, Stephanie, Alissa, Deb, John, Ronan, Carrie, Kate, Mackenzie
Historical romanceKerri, Alissa, Deb, Mackenzie, John, Ronan, Carrie,Stephanie, Kate
MysteryKerri, Deb, Mackenzie, John, KateStephanie, Alissa, Ronan, Carrie

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