Book Proposals

Should I Write Genre Fiction for an Established Line?

Sadly, Heartsong Presents is no more (shut down in 2014). It was a very popular line of Christian romance novels published by Barbour Publishing. However, when I was a young mother with school-aged children, I appreciated the fact that I didn’t have to market my books when I wrote for Heartsong. Instead, Barbour mailed books to subscribed readers every month. The books sold themselves. They did not rely on bookstore shelves or the Internet to sell the books.

Authors who wish to limit their marketing efforts would do well to investigate writing genre fiction for established lines. An established line is an imprint of books, usually defined by genre, published and sold to subscribers, rather than relying solely on traditional commerce for sales. There are a number of them which are viable and acquiring new books all the time. Rather than offering a list here, I recommend authors consult their agents to learn which editors are seeking this type of book.

Advantages to Writing Genre Fiction for an Established Line

  • Genre fiction is extremely focused. Focus includes word count, type of plots, and other factors. If you enjoy writing books made to order, are amenable to substantial guidance, follow instructions well, and enjoy the challenge of creating new and fresh stories within a recognized framework, this could be a great career path for you.
  • Most authors don’t break out with genre fiction. While everyone seeks meaning, not everyone craves the spotlight. This path rarely, if ever, offers a situation where one author sells far and above other authors writing for the same line. To use an example, if you would prefer to order flowers every week for the church altar rather than read the Bible from the pulpit (both being significant to the life of the church), you could be a good fit for writing genre fiction for an established line.
  • Marketing here is generally line-focused, not author-focused. While some authors are more popular than others, I haven’t seen consistent, aggressive campaigns emphasizing one author over another. Granted, ads for lines often highlight books by their most popular authors; but I’ve noticed that some show the month’s offerings. This approach takes pressure off the author who doesn’t enjoy self-promotion. Also consider that as an author’s popularity grows, so does the opportunity to write additional books for the line.

Drawbacks to Writing Genre Fiction for an Established Line

  • Genre fiction is extremely focused. If you chafe under being confined to a specific set of expectations and can write a marketable book outside of a set format, genre fiction writing may not be a good path for you.
  • Most authors don’t break out with genre fiction. The books cater to a particular audience; and the line reaches them, so the author has an idea of how many books will sell. Income from this type of writing can be lucrative. However, most authors won’t find the reach with a line needing to sell books in the seven-figure range.
  • Marketing here is generally line-focused, not author-focused. The primary marketing goal is to convince readers to purchase books in the line based on the line’s reputation. The author seeking to be sought out individually for much publicity may find this way of marketing frustrating.

When considering writing for any publisher, think about your goals, income needs, and personality. Have an honest talk with your agent. She’s there to help you realize your dreams.

Your turn:

Do you read genre fiction? Why? If not, why not?

Have you ever been a subscriber to a line of books? If not, would you consider this option?

Leave a Comment

Picture-Perfect Personality

Today’s guest writer is Emilie Haney, a freelance writer, photographer, and graphic designer living in Northern California. She’s a member of ACFW and writes young-adult fiction. She’s got a soft spot in her heart for animals and a love for the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. In her spare time, …

Read More

The Biggest Waste of Your Time

Recently, my assistant has been besieged with submissions that wasted everyone’s time. We’re not sure what triggered this barrage; but if these words save anyone a few moments, they’re worth posting. Don’t submit works that agents aren’t seeking. Please. I realize that perhaps you think it’s worth taking a chance. …

Read More

How Long Does It Take to Get Published?

How much time does it take to get published?

I came to the publishing business from the retail side of the equation. The biggest adjustment was understanding how long the process takes. In retail there is instantaneous gratification. But book publishing is a process business.

There is no question the timeline varies from person to person and project to project. In the world of major publishers the diversity can be quite extreme.

Read More

Would You Buy Your Own Book?

When I ask a room of writers if they would buy their own book if they saw it on the shelf at a major bookstore I am met with a variety of reactions. Laughter. Pensiveness. Surprise. And even a few scowls. How would you answer that question?

But the question is meant to ask if your book idea is unique. Whether it will stand out among the noise of the competition.

It is not a question of whether your book is important or valuable or even well written. It is ultimately a question of commercial viability.

Read More

Recent Questions I’ve Been Asked

Since becoming a literary agent, I’ve been fairly impressed with myself. It became obvious, almost immediately, that (judging from people’s respect for and faith in me) my IQ climbed 20-30 points and my expertise tripled once I began accepting clients. So, as you might imagine, I field quite a few …

Read More

That Conference Appointment

You snagged one of those valuable 15 minute appointments with an agent or an editor at the writers conference. Now what? What do you say? How do you say it? And what does that scowling person on the other side of the table want? What if you blow it?

Many excellent posts have been written on this topic (see Rachelle Gardner and Kate Schafer Testerman for example) but thought I would add my perspective as well.

What advice would you give to a beginning writer about attending a writers conference and meeting with an editor or an agent?

Go in with realistic expectations.

Read More