Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Melissa Jeglinski Encourages Budding Authors to Consider Category Romance

Category romance can sometimes get a bad rep. Why? Because it’s not usually on the shelf for longer than one month, and is priced lower than a single title. But writing category romance is an art form in itself; it takes a very savvy writer to be able to create a compelling romance with enticing characters and a fully developed conflict in 65,000 words or less. It’s a great training ground for writers to hone their craft, to dispose of the flowery prose, to make Every Single Word count.
There are a great many legendary authors who got their start in category: Nora Roberts, Linda Howard, Elizabeth Lowell, Lisa Gardner. And many other bestselling authors who continue to write category romances as well as single titles: Jessica Andersen, Linda Lael Miller, Diana Palmer, among others. Why? Because their fans discovered them in series and want more. Plus, they can be published more frequently in series due to the large volume of books the publisher puts out each month. That’s not the case in mainstream where there is a smaller amount of monthly releases.
So, as an unpublished writer looking for a way to break into publishing, I offer you this suggestion. Why not set aside any bias you may have about series, category, ‘those little books’ and go out and try to write one. Pick up a series that interests you--be it sexy, inspirational, paranormal, suspenseful--and see if you could put together a plot for that line. It’s not as easy as you may think, but it will certainly be a lesson in making the most of your words. And, you may even discover a love for a tightly connected romance. Or, if you’ve been working on a mainstream romance and it’s just not getting any interest, see if you could revise it to work for series. It might just finally find a home where it will really be appreciated.
And, if you do have something that’s just perfect for series, feel free to query me c/o You never know where it might lead.



Blogger Maureen McGowan said...

One thing I continue to find curious (and disturbing) is that romance authors and readers continually battle bias against the whole genre from the publishing industry, the media, and the public, and yet some of these same authors, aspiring authors and readers are guilty of that same bias within the genre--often without ever reading any or enough of the books to form an opinion.

As someone who's tried writing category romances, and has critique partners who write them, I completely agree that they are an art onto themselves and one possible way to launch a great career.

Thanks for this post, Melissa.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 11:52:00 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love writing category, but the trouble with targeting a specific line is you get only one shot at submitting the manuscript. If it doesn't sell, there's nothing to do but bin it. That's not the most efficient use of one's writing time.

(I do it anyway, but only because it's fun.)


Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 2:36:00 PM EST  
Blogger Melissa Jeglinski said...

Maureen, yes, I agree there is bias. I wish everyone would try a category romance before making a judgment. Not every book may be to everyone's taste--but that's true of single titles as well. There is some really quality writing out there.

And anonymous--I know what you are saying. But, hopefully, each book is a learning experience. And, elements can be used in other stories: characters, some conflicts, locations, etc. So, even if a book doesn't sell, there should be something salvagable from the story.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 4:07:00 PM EST  
Blogger Avily Jerome said...

Thanks for the article Melissa!
I'm a little confused by exactly what is meant by "category romance" and the series you're talking about. Would you be kind enough to explain? Thanks!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 6:15:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous, I agree with Melissa about each category book being a learning experience. I've written three and a half so far and was completely amazed at the start of each one with how much specific parts of my writing and/or my process improved with the previous manuscript. It is a bit of a bummer to only be able to submit once, but you can also look at this as a positive... now you don't have to sit around stressing about who else to send it to, how long it'll take to hear back, cost of sending, etc. Instead, you can focus all your attention on perfecting that next one. And when you do sell a category, maybe you can take a look back at all those other books and with a little tweaking be able to sell those too. Suddenly you're an overnight success!

Too Pollyanna?? Yeah maybe, but it's true for me. I feel I save myself from a lot of wasted time, money and stress and can concentrate more on my writing. Can you tell I love to write categories? They are my favorite reads and have been for years. There's something to be said for tightly written, fast-paced books!

Kim Grooms (w/a Kim Law)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 6:24:00 PM EST  
Blogger Karin said...

I absolutely love category romance. Because of their shorter length, they're ideal for a quick read when there's not much time to spare for pleasure reading. I've always thought that when I eventually try writing a novel, it will be a category.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 10:10:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Melissa and Kim -- thanks for your thoughts!

I think if you're a beginner, each novel can be a learning experience. Once you've written ten or twelve, there isn't much that carries over. (At least not in my experience.)

As for salvaging -- I once reworked an old manuscript, and it was like trying to reanimate a corpse. Sad, horrible, and a reeking mess. I don't think I'll do it again.

I don't find submissions stressful. Dull, sure, and a waste of good writing time, but necessary if one has any interest in publication.

Of course, this is just me. It doesn't necessarily apply to anyone else.


Thursday, January 22, 2009 at 2:41:00 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...and since I'm checking in anyway...

Avily Jerome, we're talking about things like Harlequin Mills & Boon: short novels that are packaged in batches by line (this month's four historical romances, or six sweet contemporary romances, or whatever).

I'm sure Melissa has a better definition!


Thursday, January 22, 2009 at 6:24:00 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Category romances are those published monthly within a specific series: Silhouette Desire, Harlequin Intrigue, Harlequin Presents. The publisher puts out a certain number per month in each series and replaces them with new titles the following month. The books follow a set of parameters for each series allowing readers to pick the types of reads they prefer: sexy, family-oriented, suspenseful, etc.

Thursday, January 22, 2009 at 2:12:00 PM EST  
Blogger Amanda said...

What do you want in a submission? Just a query letter or a query letter, synopsis and a few pages? Also, if you have an idea for a series of category romances, should you mention that or just stick to the book you are querying?

I also critique with a Sil Desire writer and I think it took her about 3 or 4 books before she had one accepted. Now she writes for them all the time.

Thank you,

Thursday, January 22, 2009 at 2:46:00 PM EST  
Blogger Mikaela said...

I would love to write category, but I write to short. sigh. I could probably turn daughter of the dark in to a category, though, but it isn't... romancy enough. Oh, there is romance, but it starts in the second half... First I have revise it, though... and type in the last part *grin*

Oh, Anonymus- e-book publishers accept novels of categories too.

Saturday, January 24, 2009 at 12:12:00 PM EST  

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