Do you have a strategy for your writing career? I thought I did, finally. Here it is:
1. Write a sequel to my Contemporary Western Romance, Give the Lady a Ride (which I’ve started and named Riding Herd), and self-publish it to keep Ride alive.
2. Write another Women’s Fiction novel and submit it to select agents for representation.
3. While the WF novel is awaiting a response, and to keep me from yanking out my hair in frustration with the slow process, I’ll write the first novel my next western romance series and self-publish it when it’s done.
4. While I’m working on Book 2 of the Western Romance series, I’ll also continue the research for the Biblical Historical series I have in mind–and while I research this, I can also sketch out my ideas for a devotional/study I’d love to do.
5. And I’ll also work on the sequel to The Simulacrum so Brad and I can keep our conspiracy thriller series going.
6. When I land an agent (the perfect one, of course), and while that agent is shopping my WF novel around, I’ll start on another WF novel.
7. While the first WF is in edits (because, of course, the perfect publisher will snatch it up in an instant), I’ll start developing my marketing plan for it.
8. And after I’ve done all this and released several Book Ones to several different series and promoted the daylights out of each of them–including the WF, I’ll start on that Cozy Mystery Series I’ve always wanted to do.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Self-publishing allows me to explore the different genres while devoting WF novels exclusively to traditional publication. It’s called “being a hybrid.” (Notice they’ve kidnapped my word. “Hybrid” no longer means being part Panster and part Planner. It means being both an indy and a traditionally published author. I’ll have to come up with something else for the fact that I’m a Planster.)
Can you imagine how excited I was when I came up with my plan? I finally found a loophole around the rule of restricting myself to one genre!
At the ACFW Conference, I sat through three discussion panels–two agent panels and one panel of hybrid authors who were already successful in the traditional houses. Here’s what I learned:
1. Don’t execute my plan. It’s not a loophole. It’s a noose.
2. If you are going to write in different genres, make sure they’re compatible. If they’re too different (like the conspiracy thriller series), use a pseudonym.
3. Be careful not to compete with your publisher. That one threw me for a loop at first. I took this to mean that I couldn’t self-publish in the same genre I’m traditionally published in, but I’m not supposed to self-publish in any other genre either. But what they meant was to space your indy books so they’re not being released at the same time as your traditionally published book. Easy enough.
4. The publisher can sue you if you do compete with them.
5. And that’s why you need an agent if you’re a hybrid. Of course, you need one anyway if you’re going traditional, just so you can get in the big houses–
6. –but agents also help you keep your career on track. They also negotiate contracts and, in general, champion you as one of the greatest authors ever known. Which is one of the reasons why they won’t accept your work if they don’t believe in it.
7. (and important to me), I’m not restricted to the Contemporary Western Romance I started in as I first believed, but I can write Contemporary Romance in general or even continue as a Women’s Fiction author. The novel that lands me a new agent and publisher will have to be the genre I write in for them for a long, long time, but I still have a chance to choose.
Finally, also vitally important to me, since what I’ve been calling “Women’s Fiction” all this time is actually “Chick Lit,” a term rejected long ago because it’s supposedly offensive (seriously?!)–
8. My kind of “Women’s Fiction” falls under the category of “Contemporary Fiction.”
It’s nice to have that cleared up.
So, do I have a strategy now? Well, kinda. It’s basically the same. I’ll just run a heavy romantic thread through absolutely everything I write and hold off on the genres that romance doesn’t fit into easily. (Well, except for the Conspiracy Thrillers. That one’s a fly in the ointment for me. But since Brad gets the marquis billing in the by-line, maybe it’ll be okay.) Cozy Mysteries can have romance. Biblical Historicals can, too–I just have to figure it out for the particular series I have in mind.
Of course, all my novels will fall in the category of Christian Fiction. I’ve tried to write mainstream, but I just keep bringing it around to CF. Which suits me fine. That’s the one genre I’m certain of.
By the way: if you follow the old maxim “writers write” and believe it to be as simple as that, brace yourself. You’re in for a surprise.
Thank you, Linda, for sharing your journey and allowing us to learn through your experiences. Also, thank you for sharing the gems you picked up from the conference with those of us who can’t attend, gives us a lot to think about and digest.
Thanks, Ceci. I think I’m on a mission to make mistakes so others can learn from them. 😀
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And we do appreciate your sacrifice, Linda. We do. 🙂
Loved how much you learned regarding your plan and your willingness to modify it.
Well, I can’t *always* go around bucking conventional wisdom, can I? Pretty soon, I’ll have to start taking the advice of those who have succeeded in this crazy business. 😀
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