by Lynn Blackburn @LynnHBlackburn
When the idea of trying to sell my book started floating around in my brain, I always pictured it in Barnes & Noble. It would be on an upper shelf on the inspirational aisle.
It would fit right in with books from my favorite romantic suspense authors—Eason, Mills, Hannon, Pettrey, Henderson—and, of course, it would sell a million copies in the first week. I’m kidding. Kinda.
Here’s what I did not picture.
I did not picture my first book not being much bigger than an iPhone 6. (I recently handed it to a friend who turned it over a few times and exclaimed, “It’s so dainty!”)
I did not picture it under the Harlequin banner at Wal-mart. (I wrote a post about this on my blog yesterday. Spoiler: Harlequin does not equal smut.)
The truth is that category romance wasn’t even on my radar. Then I learned a thing or two about publishing and a whole lot about category romance.
Turns out a lot of publishers are hesitant to take chances on debut authors. All the advice says you need a killer story, a slick proposal, a top-tier agent, and then…well, then you get to pray hard for a few years while you wait to see if an editor will champion your story and a pub-board will pick it up. There are only so many slots on publishers’ lists for each genre, and if they have a choice between “Unknown” Author and “Hits It Out of the Park Every Time” Author, who do you think they are going to choose?
Does it ever happen? Of course it does.
But I’m a numbers girl (I was an engineer in my former life) and it didn’t require much market analysis to determine that the odds were not in my favor.
So what’s an aspiring romance author to do?
If you haven’t already, it’s time to consider category romance.
- They publish a LOT of books a year. Love Inspired and Love Inspired Suspense both publish 6 books a month. That’s 72 books a year. Love Inspired Historical publishes 48 a year. Even their most prolific authors can’t keep up with that level of demand.
- They are eager to find debut authors. They frequently have contests to bring new authors in and they are always open to submissions through regular channels. (Those submissions do not require an agent).
- Editors are willing to provide feedback on stories that aren’t quite there. It’s called a “revise and resubmit” letter and I’ve never heard of anyone else doing it.
- The editors are gracious to new authors. I was TERRIFIED of my editor, for no reason other than that she is an editor and she had my precious baby in her hands. She turned out to be awesome. She also likes Firefly, which was an unexpected perk.
- The Love Inspired lines offer a book club. No one has ever heard of you? No problem. Your book arrives in their mailbox, they read it, they love it. NOW they’ve heard of you!
- Category romance sells. Have you looked at the numbers for how many books a debut author sells? I don’t recommend it unless you have a stash of chocolate nearby. But category romance sells well and even debut authors can expect their books to find their way to thousands of readers.
- Writing category romance requires real skill. Don’t believe me? If you think writing a shorter novel is “easy” because of the word count, think again. You have 55,000 words to develop your characters, tell a compelling story, and weave together the romance, suspense, and spiritual threads. It brings whole new meaning to the idea of “writing tight.”
- It’s a great place to make a career. If you want to write category forever, you’ll find yourself in a wonderful community of supportive authors, encouraging editors, and devoted readers.
- It’s a great place to jump off from. If you decide to pitch a trade length novel, you’ll have proof that you can finish stories, meet your deadlines, and please your readers. Many romance authors who frequent the CBA bestseller list started their career with category romance.
- The books are good! Strong characters, edge of your seat plots, happily-ever-afters. What’s not to love? If you haven’t read one lately, I’ve got one I’d be happy to recommend!
So how about it? Are you a romance writer? Ever thought about writing for one of the category lines? Why or why not? Be sure to share your thoughts below.
Don’t forget to join the conversation!
(Special thanks to Love Inspired Suspense authors Dana R. Lynn and Michelle Karl for their input to this post!)