Harlequin’s plans to enter the nonfiction market have begun to take shape in recent weeks. Last month the company signed radio talk-show host Delilah to a three-book contract (Deals, Oct. 8), with her first book likely to be the lead nonfiction title when it is released next October. Last week, the company announced that McGraw-Hill editor Deb Brody has been hired as executive editor for nonfiction. Brody, who will be based in New York and will report to Loriana Sacilotto, executive v-p, global editorial for Harlequin, will acquire and edit titles in all the areas Harlequin plans to publish in: self-help, health/diet/fitness, relationships/love/sex, narrative and inspirational nonfiction. Most titles will be targeted to women.

Donna Hayes, president of Harlequin, said the publisher finally decided to take the plunge into nonfiction because “it’s a huge market, and something we’d like to get a piece of.” Harlequin believes its knowledge of what women want, gained through its fiction programs, will give it an edge in the competitive nonfiction segments. To that end, Harlequin plans to publish some of its best known fiction brands—such as NASCAR and Debbie Macomber—in nonfiction. And because imprints such as Harlequin, Mira and Steeple Hill are so well-known to readers, the company will publish its nonfiction works under the appropriate imprint rather than establishing a separate nonfiction umbrella.

Hayes said Harlequin will publish 12 titles between fall 2008 and 2009 and will increase the number to 18 the next year, and then to 24. The untitled Delilah book will be first out, unless another project the company is working on comes together in time for release next September. Titles already signed include essays examining mother-daughter relationships by such authors as Karen Joy Fowler and Jacquelyn Mitchard, and a memoir by a romance author who helped transport Jews out of Germany between 1937 and the start of WWII: Ida Cook wrote 129 romances for the Harlequin subsidiary Mills & Boon under the name Mary Birchell, and used some of that money to finance the smuggling operation. Her memoir was published in the U.K. several years ago, and although Cook has died, Hayes believes her story will resonate with the Harlequin audience.

Although its first new nonfiction title is still a year away, Harlequin has been encouraged by the reception Friends: A Love Story by Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance received when it was released in February. Harlequin acquired the title, which has 130,000 copies in print, when it bought BET’s publishing assets in 2005.