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Old 07-03-2010, 05:56 AM   #1
taylormillgirl
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Category romance vs. single title...I'm confused.

Hello everyone. I checked the last several pages and didn't see this topic posted. Since this is my maiden thread, I'm sure you'll forgive me if this question has been asked before.

My only completed MS is YA science fiction, but now I'm hearing the siren call of an adult contemporary romance. I'm beginning to outline my thoughts and research the genre to minimize first-timer mistakes.

During my reading, I've discovered that many romance writers "get their start" selling category and then go on to write single title. I'm not sure why. Is it because category is shorter? Easier to sell?

The book I'm outlining would just happen to fit perfectly into Harlequin's American Romance line, (though I can't figure out how steamy they want the love scenes...I had planned them quite hot), but 60k would really limit the story. And one concern is if Harlequin rejected the MS, wouldn't such a short specific book be useless to anyone else? Would plotting this book as a single title give me more options when it comes to submissions?

Thanks in advance for your help!
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Old 07-03-2010, 07:23 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by taylormillgirl View Post
The book I'm outlining would just happen to fit perfectly into Harlequin's American Romance line, (though I can't figure out how steamy they want the love scenes...I had planned them quite hot)
First of all, welcome to the forum! I don't have any advice for the rest of your questions, but I'll try to address this one. Can you read books from the American Romance line to get an idea?
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Old 07-03-2010, 07:36 AM   #3
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Category usually follows a strict formula and word count specific to each line.

HQ is very specific, especially on word count.

Single title indicates just about everything else.

Yes, some writers make their first sales in HQ category and may or may not move on to other publishers or genres. Others start with single titles. There's no rules. You do what's right for you.

If you're a fast writer--and I've heard of some HQ writers kicking out a book every six weeks or less--you can make a pretty good living with category. I know at least one writer who does them to support herself since her horror novels don't snag much cash.

From keeping my ears open at a dinner with my agent, I came to understand that the money can be better in single title romance. One of the other writers assured her she'd be doing single title proposals in future.

But write what you want to write. If you try to force something you're not interested in, the readers will see it.

Here's an *old* list of the kinds of advances you can expect. My agent says to only ever look at the lowest numbers there, as that's more reflective of what a first sale might get you.

http://www.brendahiatt.com/id2.html
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Old 07-03-2010, 08:04 AM   #4
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On topic:
The category lengths are set in stone, yes, and I have read on many editor and agent blogs that single title books can't be as short as categories - readers don't feel like they've gotten their money's worth.

But may I wave the flag for epub? If your manuscript doesn't sell as a category and can't be made single-title length, sell it to an epublisher - because there's no "heft" to a digital book, readers don't feel ripped off. Lots of places charge according to the book's length. And you get paid in real royalties with a real ISBN, so it counts as a professional credit.

As for steam - I can never parse that either. But one category writing friend said she figured it out by hitting the used bookstore and buying twenty titles in her target line. The ten bucks it cost her was tax deductible since it was professional research

Navel gazing:
I tried desperately to write category because they are shorter in length and they do follow a formula. But I failed HARD. I came away from the experience shaken and with a lot of respect for the category peeps.

I said it elsewhere in another thread, but basically I came to realize that category fiction is like sonnet writing - a very strict form, one where deviating from the form makes the result not a sonnet/not a category. But you have complete freedom to say anything you want within that form.

That form includes a plot, a subplot, secondary characters, internal motivation for everyone, external motivation ditto, a dark moment, and a Happily Ever After. I don't have the chops to get all that done in 50-60K words... yet.
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Old 07-03-2010, 04:45 PM   #5
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Thanks, everyone. I appreciate the responses. One more question I forgot to ask: What about word count for single title romances? The industry info I'm reading now has them at 100k and up, but I've always thought anything more than 80-90k unless it's fantasy/sci-fi (especially from an unpubbed author) was the kiss of death...or at least the kiss of rejection. What's a good WC to shoot for if this is my first single-title?
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Old 07-03-2010, 09:50 PM   #6
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Word count is whatever the publisher guidelines say it is.

It varies from publisher to publisher.

And with very, VERY few exceptions, an e-book doesn't count as a professional credit.

The lack of an advance is the big clue. If you checked that list on the "Show Me the Money" link you'll see the pay is THE major difference.

If you're serious about being a professional writer, always go for advance-paying publishers FIRST and learn to write to spec.

Sometimes the advance money is all you'll ever get.

In publishing you always start at the TOP with the biggest house on the block and work your way down.

It's a newbie mistake to start at the bottom. By the time you get to the point where the "pays in royalties" venues are all that's left, you should have two more books finished and ready to make the rounds.
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Old 07-04-2010, 03:07 AM   #7
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Quote:
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And with very, VERY few exceptions, an e-book doesn't count as a professional credit.
Where do you hear this? I ask because I've heard quite the opposite, especially with the number of NY authors who also choose to go the ebook route because of the increased exposure and immediacy of royalties. At last year's RT, NY publishers were specifically asked this question and their reply was that yes, ebook counts as a professional credit. Additionally, I know that I have an invitation to attend the Harlequin party at RWA this year; others don't. I'm going to be published through Carina Press, Harlequin's digital imprint.

I wonder if outside of romance ebooks may not be looked as highly upon, but with publishers such as Ellora's Cave, Samhain, Carina and a handful of others, your statement isn't quite accurate? Or when you spoke of exceptions, you were talking about romance publishers?...

I'm genuinely asking.
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Old 07-04-2010, 04:16 AM   #8
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Where do you hear this? I ask because I've heard quite the opposite,
My own impression is that e-press can be a strong credential. Writing erotica for Ellora's Cave and demonstrably selling well is a good credential.

But some e-press publications are essentially dismissed by industry professionals. What agents and editors look at is -- Do the writers make money? Is the submission process rigorous?
For many e-presses the answer is 'No.'

The jury is still out on Carina Press. We're all watching with great attention.

If you are submitting a manuscript to an agent or publisher you can certainly mention your Carina Press book. There is no downside.
But I think Carina Press would not be seen as the credential you'd hold if your book were published by one of the print Harliquin lines.

Let us hope Carina Press is so successful I am proved wrong.
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Old 07-04-2010, 04:57 AM   #9
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The jury is still out on Carina Press. We're all watching with great attention.
Thanks Job. I've never had plans for NY or agents. *shrug* I like the digital world. However, should that all change, I like to keep up with what I should know.

I agree about the jury still being out Carina. Even if I wasn't an author there, I hope they manage to cross the five-year mark well intact.
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Old 07-04-2010, 06:11 AM   #10
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I've been told, by agents and editors, that anything with the big epubs is in fact a professional credit - EC, Loose Id, Samhain, etc.

I was also told that my Carina Press title absolutely counts as a credit, because the contract is with Harlequin. Carina is an imprint of Harlequin. It could be shut down by its parent company if it doesn't perform as expected, but that would not affect the credit any more than any other closed imprint takes away anything from the orphaned authors.

Epubs mostly don't pay advances, but the royalty is 30-40%.

Respectfully, submitting to an epub, if your manuscript is shorter than the norm, or in a niche, or erotic romance, is not starting at the bottom.

If I had a single title length book that met publisher guidelines, I'd start with New York and move down. But with an erotic novella, starting with the big epubs is only good sense.
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Old 07-04-2010, 06:33 PM   #11
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But some e-press publications are essentially dismissed by industry professionals. What agents and editors look at is -- Do the writers make money? Is the submission process rigorous?
For many e-presses the answer is 'No.'
I've never had an "industry professional" dismiss my small press/e-press experience when speaking with them at conferences or submitting work. Oh, I'm sure there are some agents and others out there who do. But perhaps because they don't actually know the answers to the two questions you asked.

Do writers make money -- yes. There was a bit of a surprise at the Romantic Times conference when authors with some of the well established epublishers revealed their royalty checks and were making more than many of the print press authors. I do very well with shorts and novellas that would never be issued in print but yes, they are making me money.

Is the submission process vigorous -- yes. Many writers believe it isn't and are surprised to be rejected. But for many of the epublishers, you're looking at a 2% to 5% acceptance rate, which includes submissions by their existing authors. Some only open for a month or two a year for submissions.

Of course, this doesn't make an epublisher the right choice for every author or every book. Keep in mind, the above means getting published with top epublishers is as hard as getting published with a big press. You'll need to do your research and find out which publisher best fits your book and your needs. Currently, most gay romance titles are still going through the epublishers because the big presses haven't opened up to them. This has stopped authors or readers.
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Old 07-06-2010, 03:06 AM   #12
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I agree with everyone here that it depends upon the publisher.

HQ just brought some ebook lines that are short 12-15K. Other pubs are looking at longer lengths. Most of my pubs are looking between 65-100K for a full length manuscript.

Check your guidelines for the line you're wanting to submit to. My understanding, sadly, is that HQ wants sensual scenes but you maybe better going with Kensington or Avon if you'd like to be a bit spicier.

If you'd like a list of pubs that I've accumulated in the past two years, just PM and I'd be delighted to share. I have no problem answer questions since I work for an e-press company as well.
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