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Week Six - Writing in Two Subgenres

November 9, 2009 | Deborah Cooke | Comments (0)

It’s a good thing that romance readers are voracious readers - there’s a lot of ground to cover for the avid fan of the genre. The enthusiasm of readers is part of what drives the raw size of the market, and the high number of titles being published, but it also means that it can be hard for a new author to establish herself.

And that brings us to the question of writing in multiple subgenres.

Every author has to build the brand. The house hopes for sales to grow over time for each author as that author becomes established. And one of the ways that authors become established in the marketplace is with frequent publication. This is often associated with linked books - so, for example, an author sells a romance novel to a publishing house. The editor loves the book, loves the author’s voice, and wants to give the author’s work a promotional push. The editor might suggest that the book be the first of a trilogy, and may offer some ideas of how to structure such a linked series. The books then would be contracted all together, they would be packaged similarly and they would be scheduled aggressively. When a single title house shows enthusiasm, it’s common to have publication slots at 6 - 9 month intervals.

If the author, however, is more prolific than that, she might try to sell a second series - perhaps with another house, perhaps in another subgenre - in order to make more money and try to establish her brand more quickly in the marketplace. It’s also increasingly common for authors to explore other media - for example, the author might place one subgenre of work with a print publishing house and one with an electronic publishing house. A benefit of this is that the houses may have different rhythms - the production cycle may be faster with an e-publishing house, or the work might be of shorter length. Authors may write in two different subgenres of the romance market, or they might write for two different genres entirely.

This brings us to the question of pseudonyms. Pseudonyms have been around as long as fiction has been published - even longer than that. There are many reasons to use a pseudonym - some authors do it to protect their privacy, while some do it because their names are difficult to pronounce or remember. Still others do it to affect the position of their titles on the shelves (assuming that authors are racked alphabetically.) Some authors choose to brand their work by using different author names, or some houses might suggest that the author do as much. Houses sometimes suggest that an author with sales numbers that are not very compelling use a different name to break free of the past. A pseudonym may also be used to circumvent the terms of an author’s option clause.

Like so much in publishing, the popularity of pseudonyms is cyclical - it will be very fashionable to do this kind of branding for a few years, and then it will be frowned upon and called “splitting the brand”. I think it’s a good idea to shape reader expectations with the branding, but have noticed that my readers follow me across the genre, no matter where I go. Maybe I’m just lucky like that!

On Wednesday, have a peek at the links to my previous blog posts on writing for two houses.

On Friday, our guest authors will be Eve Silver and Michelle Rowan, both of whom write in two different subgenres for two different houses.


Toronto Public Library's Romance Writer-In-Residence Deborah Cooke discusses writing and getting published in the romance genre.

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