Pick A Genre!
Romance, you say? Excellent! You shouldn’t have any trouble opening up that fresh, blank document page on your computer and writing the next great romance.
If only it were that easy! If you want to set out with a chosen target in mind for your finished story, it isn’t enough just to plan to pen a romance. The term is too broad. Imagine what an editor or agent would say if you simply put, “here is my romance” in a query letter?
With all the competition in today’s tough publishing atmosphere, it is important to brand yourself and be specific. Don’t wait until you’ve hit 100k and the happily ever after to figure out what you’ve written and where exactly you should query it. Know the romance sub-genres. There are a lot of them, and to make matters even more confusing, cross-genre romance seems to be getting more popular every day.
We’ll leave that one alone for now and focus on the most common sub-genres.
Contemporary Category/Series-if you’re looking at the various Harlequin/Silhouette imprints, we’re talking strict guidelines and firm word count (usually 50-65K). I know a lot of the e-publishers, such as The Wild Rose Press, have a bit more flexibility in word count. (Rosebud 40-65K Rose 65-100k)
Contemporary Single Title-more room to maneuver your story, but generally still a target word count (80-100k) I’m not saying longer single titles aren’t published, but if you pick up the sort of fat juicy paperback that makes your hand go to sleep when you read in bed it will probably have the name Susan Wiggs, Debbie McComber or Diana Gabaldon on the cover. :-)
Chick-Lit-this sub-genre has taken rather a beating in the last few years, I think mainly because it got very stereotyped. A lot of fresh new voices have emerged and written fun, upbeat stories that don’t necessarily revolve around a shopaholic’s search for shoes. Because it is written in the first person and has that ‘cheeky’ tone, my Absolute XPress release Cozumel Karma could be classified as chick-lit. I chose to query it as->
Romantic Comedy-a romance, usually contemporary, that makes you laugh out loud. My personal favorite is Jennifer Crusie. If you have a fav, please share. I love to laugh!
Historical-as with contemporary, there is category and single title historical.
Romantic Suspense-again, available in category or single title
Inspirational-sweet romance where the faith of the characters strengthens the bond
With strong romantic elements-usually more focused on the growth of a woman than on the romance aspect. I’d personally be inclined to call this women’s fiction. The book I’m getting ready to agent shop right now, Willow Landing, is a love story, but includes so many elements I plan to query it as women’s fic.
Multicultural – exactly what you’d expect. An H/h of different races, dealing with new love, and often culture clash.
Paranormal – Now this spawns a whole ‘nother batch of sub-genres! Fantasy.
Futuristic. Science Fiction. Time Travel. Vamps. Werewolves. Shape shifters. Light paranormal. Dark paranormal. Yikes. I don’t read it or write it, but it is hugely popular.
Erotic romance- A sub-genre that grows every day and encompasses more and more. From what I’ve seen in erotic, it is no longer enough to just have two people engaging in wildly innovative, down and dirty sex. BDSM is often an element, and manage and more is cropping up everywhere.
So do you set out with a firm sub-genre in mind when you begin to write a story? How about when you’re in the market for a great new read? Do you hit the romance section and grab whatever cover catches your eye, or do you head in there specifically for a comedy, a historical, a tale of burning passion or a vamp?