Seizing on the BookTok-fueled growth of the adult romance genre, Zando will launch a new romance imprint, Slowburn, this summer.

The imprint borrows its name from the "slow burn" romance trope, the likes of which are increasingly used in the romance space—by readers, authors, booksellers, and publishers alike—to categorize and market books.

At the helm of Slowburn are co-directors Hayley Wagreich and Sierra Stovall, who will both acquire. At Zando, Wagreich is director of original development and Stovall director of rights. Rounding out the Slowburn team is Nicole Otto, who joined Zando last week as senior editor and was previously a senior creative executive at podcast studio Realm, and TJ Ohler, assistant editor at Zando. Both Otto and Ohler will acquire books for the imprint.

Slowburn plans to publish two to three titles annually through 2026, and will then aim to publish four to six titles each year. The imprint's inaugural title will be Leather & Lark, the second installment of Brynne Weaver's Ruinous Love romance trilogy, and is slated to publish on June 4.

In December 2023, Zando published the first installment of the Ruinous Love series, Butcher & Blackbird, which Weaver had initially self-published on Amazon that August. The novel subsequently blew up on BookTok—as of this writing, #butcherandblackbird boasts 24 million views—and has since sold nearly 100,000 copies. Future printings of Butcher & Blackbird will be published under Slowburn and will feature the imprint's colophon.

“From the minute Butcher & Blackbird landed in our inboxes, we knew it was unlike anything we’d read before," said Wagreich, who acquired the book with Stovall. "Brynne Weaver has an incredibly original talent for blending genre—and BookTok readers were already ravenous for her delicious dark rom-com mash-up. Our amazing Zando team pulled out all the stops to get the first book of the Ruinous Love trilogy into stores in under three months, building on Brynne’s viral indie success.”

Slowburn plans to publish the third book in the Ruinous Love trilogy, Scythe & Sparrow, in early 2025. Wagreich and Stovall have also acquired another trilogy by Weaver, set to publish over the course of 2025 and 2026.

    In addition, Wagreich and Stovall have acquired the Reckless Hearts series by Amanda Weaver (no relation to Brynne), described as a "spicy new adult romance set in the fast-paced world of Formula One racing." The first book in the series, Fast & Reckless, is slated to publish in fall 2024, and the second, Kiss & Collide, is set for spring 2025.

    “Hayley and I are both true fans of romance, and we’re looking to curate a very bespoke list that feels fresh and of the moment," Stovall said. "Of course, that includes being tapped into BookTok and what our fellow romance readers are loving—they’re savvy and know what they want. Our primary goal is to find stories that are exciting and compulsively readable.”