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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?

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What Are Average Book Sales?

by Steve Laube


We recently received the following question:

“What does the average book sell today? An industry veteran at a writers conference recently said 5,000. What??? I know it all depends….but … nowhere near 5K, right?”

My simple answer?

It’s complicated.
It depends.

HAH!

Average is a difficult thing to define. And each house defines success differently. If a novel sells 5,000 copies at one publisher they celebrate and have steak dinners. If a novel sells 5,000 copies at another publisher you find staff members fearing for their jobs and in total despair.

Let me give you some real numbers but not revealing the author name (and there is a wide variety of publishers represented):

Author 1: novelist – 3 books – avg. sale = 8,300

Author 2: novelist – 12 books – avg. sale = 19,756

Author 3: novelist – 3 books – avg. sale = 7,000

Author 4: novelist – 7 books – avg. sale = 5,300 (Two different publishers)

Author 5: non-fiction devotional – 5 books – avg. sale 10,900

Author 6: non-fiction – 2 books – avg. sale = 5,300

Author 7: novelist – 4 books – avg. sale = 29,400

Author 8: non-fiction – 3 books – avg. sale = 18,900

Author 9: fiction – 7 books – avg. sale = 12,900

Author 10: non-fiction – 5 books – avg. sale = 6,800 (three different publishers)

So you can see it DOES depend. Depends on the author and publisher and topic or genre.

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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.

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Tips on Writing a Novella

Today’s guest post is written by one of our clients, Lynn A. Coleman (www.lynncoleman.com). She is the founder of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), as well as the author of more than 50 novels and novellas. She lives with her husband of 45 years, who is the lead pastor of a …

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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.

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Criticism Is an Unhappy Part of the Business

I would like to tell you about a most enjoyable day. Our agency’s guidelines request that unsolicited manuscripts come via the post (I know it’s old-school but it works for us), but we still receive e-mail submissions. I spent an entire morning going through that particular in-box, having an assistant send standard e-mail rejection letters, since none were anything our agency could/would handle.

Very soon I received three separate responses:

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Even the Best Get Rejected

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I’ve written about rejection before and yet it is a topic that continues to fascinate.

Recently Adrienne Crezo did an article on famous authors and their worst rejection letters. I thought you might enjoy reading a couple highlights of that article and some additional stories I have collected over the years.

George Orwell’s Animal Farm was rejected by Alfred Knopf saying it was “impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.”
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Write for Narcissists

Every reader is a narcissist. Hold on, there. Don’t get all mad and sassy yet. Let me explain I often tell developing writers, “No one reads about other people; we read only about ourselves.” Go ahead and quote me, just be sure to give me credit and send me the …

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