Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Category Romance

Programming Note: All you Midwestern folks, don't forget to come to the Quincy Writers Guild's Annual Conference, Wordstock, this Saturday, March 20, from 9 to 1, at Great Debates Bookstore in Downtown Quincy, Illinois. I'll be making my presentation, "Marketing Yourself to an Agent," at the 10:45 session, so come on down!

Okay! Back to Category Romance!

Which is what, now? Yeah, I heard you there, in the back.

What is a Category Romance? It goes by many names: Category romance, a.k.a. Series romance, a.k.a. churn and burns. These are the short romances, just over half what I usually write. They are usually published by Harlequin or Silhouette, usually with a label like 'Special Edition' or a part of a series. They come out once a month, every month. Libraries buy in bulk, as do book club members. They sell well, but they are only on the shelves for one month. Then they are gone. Sometimes, they reappear in a collective reissue, but their shelf life--literally--is short.

I hate to say it, but when a lot of people think of trashy romances with bodice-ripper covers, they are really thinking of category. In other words, category don't get no respect.

And some of that is well earned. I've been reading a lot category recently, and the greatness is occasionally . . . lacking. Because they are so short, some times character development is a tad too underdone for my tastes. The plots are simpler, with far fewer supporting characters. I've read a few really good ones, but it's hard to cram everything I value about a story into 50,000 words.

And now I'm going to write one.

My agent thinks I should. Because the publishing schedule for category is so much faster, and they publish so many more of them, it's easier to get one published than going straight for single title (which is the regular romance).

Why am I doing this? Because of the lousy economy these days, publishers aren't risking any money on someone who they aren't positive isn't going to make that money back--i.e. someone without a proven sales record. I am not published. I have no sales record. It's like applying for an entry-level job and being told you have no job experience so you can't have the job. You need the job to get experience. You need experience to get the job.

So I'm going to write me some experience.

The working title for this is going to be The Indian Princess, mostly because I totally suck at titles, but also because that's what the hero thinks when he first sees the heroine. Here's the back-cover blurb:

Dan Armstrong can’t tell if the figure in the trees is a ghost, an Indian princess, or a hallucination—until she takes a shot at him and disappears without a trace. With only the bullet hole in his hat as proof, he starts looking around for a beautiful woman with a grudge. Rosebud Donnelly fits the bill. She’s beautiful, she’s an Indian, and she’s the tribal lawyer suing his family over water rights. But does she really want him dead? There’s only one way to find out. As he gets closer to Rosebud, Dan can’t tell which is in more danger—his head or his heart.

What do you think? I have no idea if it's going to work or not. I usually consider 50,000 words to be around about 'halfway done.'  But, on the bright side, if I fail, I'll have another single title book, which isn't all bad. I'm going to write the best book I can, regardless of length. If it works, I hope it'll pry open a few more doors for me. Either way, I win!

So stay tuned for Category Updates!

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