Monday, October 05, 2009

Shoot for the Stars

I am an unpublished writer of erotic romance, finally ready to stick it out there to see if anyone grabs hold (pardon the bad pun). Now on to the question. There are several publishers of erotic romance, both paper & e-pub, whose websites state they welcome un-agented submissions. Is this a good route to follow in this genre, or would you recommend attempting to land an agent instead?

This is one of those answers, whether you’re writing erotic romance or any other type of book, that’s going to depend on what you want from your career as a writer and what your thoughts are about starting that career. Since I don’t know any more details, here are my thoughts in general.

There are a lot of smaller presses and epubs out there who have really done well in launching and promoting new authors in genres that might not be or previously weren’t widely accepted in New York. Many authors initially went there hoping to launch a career, but mostly just hoping to get work published that they knew wouldn’t be picked up anywhere else. It worked of course and worked well because we now have New York houses that have created entire imprints based on what these epubs were doing. We also have deals between the epubs and New York houses to reprint some of their most successful material.

I’m not sure, however, if it makes sense to target these smaller houses first if what you’re doing also fits what New York might be looking for (and by New York, by the way, I tend to mean the major houses). So here’s what I would do. I would look for an agent. Since you seem happy to be published by a smaller house or an epub, give yourself a reasonable amount of time to find that agent, let’s say 9 months to a year. If in that time you’ve had little success or have not received any offers, you should at least have your second (next) book finished. Send your first one off to the smaller houses you have in mind for possible publication and start querying agents with your second book. Make this your pattern until you have an agent and are ready to take those next steps to a career in New York.

Launching a career in epubs or smaller houses has definitely been successful for a number of authors (a number of mine included), but primarily because there was nowhere else to go with those books. I’m not sure I would say that’s the route to take if you know New York is looking for just the kind of work you’re writing. As for finding an agent, it’s the rare agent who will pick up your book with the sole intent of selling it to a small press or epub. Most of us are thinking New York. It’s where the money is and hopefully (at least for now) where the bigger careers seem to grow. That doesn’t mean we won’t sell to a smaller press, it just means that we are aiming higher than that.

Jessica

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

A somewhat related question: as an unagented writer, I sold a category romance, then sold a few more. While I'm happy with the writing and the house, and I'm likely to continue writing category, my career goals include writing women's fiction -- think books which might draw the audience of Picoult, Shreve, etc.

I don't need an agent for category, but I do for my women's fiction projects. I see so many agents who say "no" to category authors, but they say they're looking for my kind of women's fiction.

Will they take one look at my category past and curl their noses? Should I strike off my list any agent who says no thanks to category authors?

Anonymous said...

Anon:

My partially-informed answer is: no. As long as you're pitching them your women's fiction, they'll love to see that you wrote X number of category romances. That means you're serious, you're a career writer, you know how to finish books.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, they don't say no to 'category authors.' They say no to 'category manuscripts.'

Anon Too

Vivi Anna said...

Anon 1

If you want to go single title I'd totally start looking for an agent.

One of my close friends is a category writer, with 6 books under her belt, and she just recently signed with an agent with her single title book.

As Anon Too said, query them with your women's fiction book, but certainly let them know that you are multi-published with your category books.

Good luck!

BookEnds, LLC said...

Anon 9:34:

That would be crazy. A category past is a huge plus to anyone writing anything. It means you've been published and presumably published well. The reason many agents say no to category authors is because of the limitations we have. For example, my policy is to say no to unpublished authors pursuing category only. I think you can do better on your own. That being said, I represent a number of category authors who came on board later looking to broaden their careers and that's what we're working on.

--jhf

Anonymous said...

I'm showing my ignorance here, but aren't cozy mysteries a "category"? Do agents, Bookends included, accept authors who are writing cozies and want to continue doing so, or do we need to express a desire and intention to write something else in the future? If I've totally misunderstood this post and the related discussion, I apologize.

Kate Douglas said...

Regarding Jessica's post and small press/epubs--they're a great training ground and an excellent way for an author to explore different writing and find her voice. I started out with epublishing in 1998 when I couldn't find a home for my early romances, discovered I enjoyed writing erotic romance and moved on in that genre. However, it wasn't until Jessica took my erotic romances to NY that my career took off. I would not be doing what I'm doing now w/o an agent. There's no doubt in my mind.

BookEnds, LLC said...

"Category" refers specifically to category romance which, in turn, really refers specifically to specific lines, but not imprints, of Harlequin/Silhouette

--jhf

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:34 here ...

Thanks, all! I especially appreciate the encouragement that Jessica gave me. I'm glad to know that my category past isn't a dirty little secret! :-)

Sheila Deeth said...

Thanks for the advice and encouragement. Makes me feel like maybe I'm not going about it entirely the wrong way.

Kate Douglas said...

Regarding Jessica's post and small press/epubs--they're a great training ground and an excellent way for an author to explore different writing and find her voice. I started out with epublishing in 1998 when I couldn't find a home for my early romances, discovered I enjoyed writing erotic romance and moved on in that genre. However, it wasn't until Jessica took my erotic romances to NY that my career took off. I would not be doing what I'm doing now w/o an agent. There's no doubt in my mind.

Kate Douglas said...

Sorry for the double post...not sure how that happened four hours apart!

Mira said...

Both your post, Jessica, and the comments here are really interesting. I didn't know about some of this stuff.

Thanks!