Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Why This Agent Reads Romance

One common question agents and editors are asked is what we like to read outside of our genre we represent or editor. Many times, authors are shocked when I tell them I read romance as well. "Wouldn't you want to take a break from reading it?" they continue. Sure, there are times when we need that little break, but in reality, there are more benefits to reading what I represent than there would be reading other things.

Now first of all, let me say that I do read romance and women's fiction because I like the messages and I like the happily ever after. But there really is a bigger side of things and one that far too many authors miss out on by reading things outside of their genre.

I learn.

When I read romance, my mind is always researching and dissecting those novels. I want to figure out the patterns and nuances, not just of the genre, but more importantly, of the editors and their publishing houses. This allows me the chance to better place authors with publishers where their work really fits, and, at the same time, avoiding all of those darn rejection letters we hate to receive.

Last night, I was reading a historical romance from a publisher and an editor that I have admired for some time. In the past, I have had projects that I thought might fit with that editor, but we just haven't been able to connect. Last night, however, the light came on. Here is what I saw:

  • My authors have matched the voice and the style of the publisher and editor. 
  • My authors have had plots that fit the line of the publisher and the editor.
  • The level of sensuality of my authors and the publisher also matched perfectly.
but here is where I found the mismatch...

  • This publisher likes the heroines to "be saved" by the hero
  • This publisher likes the heroines to be the true underdog.
  • This publisher likes the hero to be in a situation where he is "forced" into the relationship and then to fall in love.
What this publisher was looking for are books where the reader is falling for this hunky guy who is going to save the common, plain Jane, social misfit and underdog.

and my authors?

  • The heroines are often strong matches for the hero
  • The heroes have nothing external to lose
  • The heroines have nothing external to lose
  • The conflict comes from their willingness to fall in love
What my authors focus on are strong heroes and heroines who really work together and don't need to be saved by each other, but want to be saved by each other. These really tend to be team efforts.

When I discovered this, I immediately went to my bookshelf and pulled down the other books I have from the publisher. If this was truly the case with this one book, would it be the case for the other books. One after another proved the pattern was right.

The deal is, my authors have a lot of the right characteristics and styles that would match this particular publisher. But, in the end, it is the small little things that would separate my authors from this publisher.

I wrote about this same idea after a previous RWA conference where I sat in on a spotlight session. The editors here read passages from their latest book they published and identified what they liked about it. Although they talked about the characters or the plot, the pattern of the publisher became very clear. These people wanted a literary fiction feel for the voice. The plots and themes weren't at that level, but the voice and pacing was.

The point of all of this is simple. If you as an author want to succeed in this business, you need to spend a lot of time reading the same genre you write. You need to take the time to learn the voice and the patterns. Sure, you can read books from different publishers. In fact, I would really push for that. The key though is to not just read for pleasure, but read to dissect. You might soon discover why your book might never fit with that publisher at the top of your "dream list".

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