Monday, August 3, 2009

Crossing Over

Camy here, talking about crossover.

I started off writing chick lit, or humorous contemporary romance novels, for Zondervan (owned by Harper Collins). However, my latest novel, my fourth published book, is a genre jump for me—it's a romantic suspense published by Steeple Hill in their Love Inspired Suspense line. My fifth novel will again be a humorous contemporary romance by Zondervan in May 2010. I hope to publish with both houses—funny romances for Zondervan, romantic suspenses for Love Inspired Suspense.

A few people have asked me about when I first switched genres. I learned a few things along the way, and there's also something very important I realized—whether you're a Christian fiction writer who wants to cross over to mainstream or a contemporary romance writer wanting to cross over into romantic suspense, there are a few things a writer should do to give you a better chance of success.


Before submitting to Steeple Hill, I read every Love Inspired Suspense novel that had been published in the last six months. I also read some older Love Inspired Suspense novels. I literally spent weeks doing mostly reading, and very little writing.

I wanted to understand the feel of the line, the characters that had already been done, the character careers that had already been used, the types of villains and crimes that had been published recently. I wanted to see the types of red herrings used, the kinds of twists involved in the endings, and the balance of romance and suspense in the stories.

I couldn't do that unless I'd read all those books, and I'm really glad I did. With the help of a few critique partners, I finally put together a proposal that was contracted.

So if you're going to genre jump yourself, or if you're trying to break into a different market (such as ABA or CBA), do your homework. Research the publishing house(s) and line(s) you're targeting so your proposal can be more focused and specialized.

Get feedback

I had some fantastic critique partners who were extremely familiar with the Love Inspired line who helped me revise my proposal. If not for them, I don't think I would have been contracted, because they had an excellent eye for where I deviated from the requirements of the line, for where I could tweak words and phrasing to better fit with the kind of atmosphere that Steeple Hill editors were looking for in the Love Inspired Suspense line.

Writing is such a solitary thing that it's easy to forget about needing feedback, but if you're going to cross over into a different genre or market, make sure you send your proposal to critique partners who will:

(1) tell you the truth
(2) really know the line/market you're targeting

Both of those requirements are absolutely necessary for useful feedback. You'll be glad you did, because they'll be able to help you refine your manuscript specifically for that editor who will buy it.

Come up with several ideas

Sometimes, editors will love your writing but not like the particular story premise or characters in your proposal. And if that's the case, they'll send a nice rejection with the coveted phrase, "I encourage you to submit any other manuscripts you might have."

Especially when you're trying to cross over, you want a full arsenal to entice the editor. Don't just work on one series idea or one story. Come up with at least two, three if possible.

If you've done your research and have good critique partners to brainstorm with, it shouldn't be too hard. You don't want to find yourself in a place where the editor asks, "What else do you have?" and you don't have anything else. Gaaah!

All my Seeker sisters will tell you—they wrote several story ideas. Actually, I don't think any of them sold their first and only manuscript—most of them sold their second or third or tenth completed manuscript.

Anyway, are you hoping to cross over to a different genre or market? Or do you feel called to just one place to write? I'd like to hear your thoughts and any questions you might have. I don't promise to have all the answers, but between the fifteen of us, I'm sure we can misdirect you with a smile.

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Her novels Single Sashimi and Deadly Intent are out now. She runs the Story Sensei critique service, is a staff worker for her church youth group, and leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels every week and ponders frivolous things. Sign up for her newsletter YahooGroup for monthly giveaways!


  1. I forgot to put the coffee pot on! There's some nice hazelnut coffee brewing. And in honor of Ruthy, I've got carrot cake cupcakes on the sideboard.

  2. Good Morning, Good New Week.

    Camy I hope you put that coffee pot on a timer to start on East Coast time.

    I just finished Deadly Intent last night. There was no middle. It was just bang bang bang till the end!

    Another point I'd add is about critique partners. Their input is invaluable and their support and encouragement more so! But if you're critiquing and you're not familiar with the targeted line or the setting or time period,encourage your critique partner to add another CP to her 'circle'. (I have wonderful CPs AND belong to a larger Crit loop).

  3. My coffee goes off on a timer at 4:30 a.m. My wife says it my alarm clock.

    Nice post, Camy. I submitted my first manuscript to the Love Inspired Historical line a few weeks ago. I did my reading in the line and got it critiqued to death. Now I'm working on the sequel, and praying, as I await an answer.

  4. Hi Camy,

    Great advice on reading, reading, reading, then evaluating the line you want to write for. I really don't think that process can be stressed enough.


    PS. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you, Walt!

  5. Thanks for the post, Camy. I've thought about getting a load of Love Inspired books to read to learn what Steeple Hill is publishing and your words were confirmation. Thanks.

    Plus, I get to sit down with books by you guys, eh? :-)

    Oh God's blessings on your submission, Walt! How exciting.

  6. Hi Camy! Thanks for this post. I predominately write in one genre but I'm dipping my toes into another. I feel pulled in the two different directions equally. I appreciate your perspective on this! Have a wonderful day!


  7. Good points about research. I hope to do more after the kids go back to school.

    I don't believe I will ever think I've done enough research.

    Right now I am writing historical romance, single-title length.

    I have some ideas for contemporary romance, maybe category, but have not read enough to know if there's any interest in farming in the Midwest for a setting.

    My WV is "pupless" today. Ironic because we are getting a kitten later this afternoon.

    I added up and I am up to 16 interruptions this morning. So the hazelnut coffee hits the spot!

  8. Really informative post, Camy! If you're writing in two sub-genres, you certainly won't get stale. Good luck with keeping your deadlines straight. For authors who write fast and love more than one type of book, this sounds wonderful.

  9. Camy, Wonderful, informative post for those thinking about crossing over. I'm very impressed with how throughly you planned for success.

    The carrot cupcakes and coffee hit the spot. Thanks!

    Walt, I write for the LIH line. They're going to four books in
    2011. It's a perfect time to submit. Pulling for your sale!


  10. I loved Deadly Intent, and wow, Camy, six months worth of LIS reading research? That's dedication.

    And I'm all over the carrot cake cupcakes.

  11. Hey Camy -- CROSSOVER -- what a great topic for a blog!! I cannot tell you HOW many times I think of crossover ... uh, to the secular market, that is, after every scathing review ... :)

    You said: "Sometimes, editors will love your writing but not like the particular story premise or characters in your proposal. And if that's the case, they'll send a nice rejection with the coveted phrase, 'I encourage you to submit any other manuscripts you might have.'"

    I can honestly say I have NEVER gotten a rejection that encouraged me to submit anything else nor have I ever gotten even a nice rejection letter ... and we're talking a ton of rejections on A Passion Most Pure -- a total of 45!

    You also said that you didn't think any of the Seekers "sold their first and only manuscript," but that "most of them sold their second or third or tenth completed manuscript. Well, I guess perserverence is the key then, because A Passion Most Pure was my first manuscript, so it pays to be a pest, I suppose, and the moral of the story is "never say die." :)


  12. Your advice is good, Camy, even for aspiring authors looking to break into publishing. Do your homework. Get feedback. Have multiple ideas at the ready. Thanks.

  13. Oh, my carrot cake cupcakes!

    Streaking over to grab one before they're gone!

    I've written contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and historical romance, and have submitted all of them. I finally decided to target one genre for now (historical romance is my fav) as an unpubbed author.

  14. Thanks for a great post, Camy! This site is such a wealth of information...and camaraderie...and food (love those cupcakes!)

    I'd love some input on fiction vs. non-fiction crossover if anyone can provide it. I've got some ideas for both and wondered if it's easier to start one direction, then switch to the other.

  15. I'm reading Deadly Intent now! I love the spa setting.

    I have a manuscript that I'm submitting to the Love Inspired contemporary romance line. Eventually I would like to write a romantic suspense based on some events in my area, but I need to learn more about adding clues, red herrings, etc.

    My family is addicted to NCIS. About 12 minutes past the hour, they introduce the character and I declare him or her as the villain. 99% of the time I'm right. I can spot their bad guys because they're usually the least likely to be accused. It's become a game at our house.

  16. Camy, thanks for a great post. As a not-yet-published writer, I hear how important it is to find our niche and stay with it. I write inspirational historicals, which best suits me and my voice. However, I can foresee a day when I might change time periods, settings or shift my focus from single title to series.

    Julie, I didn't realize A Passion Most Pure was your first book or that you received 45 rejections on it before selling. Kudos on your perseverance.

    Walt, my prayers are with you. I hope good news will soon be yours.

  17. Camy--I knew there was a great reason to do tons of reading!!! Now I can call it 'research'. :)

    Debra--I want to pick up Deadly Intent! Thanks for the great promo!

    Julie--SO glad you persevered. I hope I'll be getting to 'research' more edgy Christian novels soon! :)

    Go for the gold, Seekerville friends! If encouragement gets us the rest of the way, all of us will be published soon! :)

  18. Hi Camy, Yum, I love carrot cake and the coffee is yummy too.

    Thanks for the great advice. You always hear--read the line that you want to submit to. It is sooooooo important and a good reminder for me.

    I like writing different lines as it keeps you out of a rut and you don't get bored. Love your Zondervan line so hope you keep that up too. If you haven't read her Sushi series , be sure and do so. Camy's writing is terrific

  19. Hi Camy,
    Sometimes publication comes with just a slight change of direction. I was targeting HQ Intrigue when Krista Stroever, SH senior editor at the time, came to speak to my GA Romance Writers group. I pitched my story and asked if she'd be interested in seeing a partial if I added a faith element. Krista said yes and the rest is history. Nowhere To Hide sold to the Love Inspired Suspense line.

    What's the takeaway? If you're close but no sale, which I call being stuck on a plateau, consider making a slight shift in direction. Add a faith element to your secular story or add humor or change from first person to third or do something fresh to add a new dynamic to your old tale. Sometimes that change can lead to a sale.

  20. Debra, good point about the CPs. If you're targeting a certain line or market, make sure you have at least one CP if not more who are very familiar with what you're targeting. Otherwise, your CPs may not be able to guide you specifically toward your new target.

    Walt--Good for you! Another good thing you can do is listen to the Steeple Hill spotlight MP3 from the RWA conference this year. That always has up to date information about what Steeple Hill is looking for.

    Rose--thanks! Altho I admit, I enjoy reading the line so it didn't really seem like "work" while I was doing it! LOL

    Pepper--If you're thinking of targeting Steeple Hill, definitely do that! The best part of Steeple Hill is that their books are quick reads, too.

    Jen--if you're feeling pulled, why not try it out? The best thing you can do is read extensively in the genre you're thinking of trying out.

    Ann--it's true, it's hard to know when to stop researching and just write, but my rule of thumb for researching a particular market or line of books is at least 25 books, to get a really good feel for the line. I read about 40 Love Inspired Suspense novels when I was researching the line.

    Cara--I guess I'm lucky in that I can write quickly, but I definitely love the two genres because they're both so fun!

    Janet--Ha, I fooled you! I didn't really plan that well. The research came about because I wrote the proposal and was told how badly it fit the Love Inspired line. Doh! That's when I dove into reading more LIS books.

    Erica--thanks! I'm glad you're liking it! Yeah, it was a LOT of books to read. My husband would give me funny looks, though--"Are you sure that's 'research'?" LOL

    Julie--I didn't know that! That's very cool that you sold your first manuscript. Of course, it was the size and scope of GWTW so I can see how you wouldn't be churning out two or three of those puppies... ;)

    Patricia--thanks! I have to admit, the advice is most helpful for writers who kind of know which publishing house they're aiming for. If you're not sure, it might be worth it to research different publishing houses and lines to figure out which would be your "dream" publisher.

    Pam--I don't think I've ever read anything besides your historical romance. That's great you know the genre you like, though--it's usually best to be focused. When I was writing the proposal for my romantic suspense, I couldn't work on any other genre at the same time.

    Sarah--nonfiction is a completely different beast. In that case, I'd suggest reading articles and books about publishing non fiction, because some of the pathways to publication are a bit different. A good book is Terry Whalin's Proposal book (can't remember the name right now, but it's on his website). It's specific for nonfiction proposals.

    Lisa--thanks! I'm glad you're enjoying it! LOL I do the same thing at our house with NCIS and CSI!!!


    Keli--definitely do your homework in terms of what publishing house(s) you want to target! It'll help you craft proposals that are very specific to the editor you submit to, and that only increases your chances of success!

    A.A.--LOL! It's not really a hardship to do research as writers, because whether we're fact finding or reading books to research a publishing house, it's all fun!

    Sandra--thanks for the plug! (The check is in the mail... ;) You've also delved into different genres--children and adult romance!

    Debby--that's FANTASTIC advice!!!! I hope everyone reads it and takes it to heart! Sometimes perseverance can use a little help from a slight change in direction.


  21. Camy, I'm branding you with the title "just plain good".

    That's your 'brand', darling.

    And I agree, writing diversified manuscripts (IF that's what you want to do) helps you to stay fresh. I compare it to teachers being forced into new lessons, new subject areas, new grade levels. It keeps us more astute. More aware.

    And if a little of one bleeds into the other, that's probably not a bad thing, right?

    UNLESS you're mixing Japanese Sumo Wrestlers with Heartsongs. That could prove to be anti-dynamic.

    I have another theory about writers who seek various outlets for their work. It's related to mental illnesses, schizophrenia primarily, because there are just too many folks livin' and breathin' in our heads to fit one genre, but that's another blog.

    LOVE the carrot cake cupcakes. You rock, girl!

    If you're up, that is, but it IS 1:00 PM your time. Come visit, sleepyhead.

    Camy and I usually pass in the night in Seekerville. I get up when she's heading to bed. Kind of like that whole wolf/swan myth?

    Sweet story.

    Mmmm.... More coffee, everyone. And fresh lemonade with lemon rounds floating on top. Oh, yum.


  22. I've written christian fiction and have recently been writing a theological book, although I wouldn't really say I've 'crossed over' because I think it probable that I will return to christian fiction.

    God Bless,

  23. Thanks, everyone, for all the kind words. It was in a blog post here last November where Melissa Endlich asked for a full from me. I submitted my full three weeks ago.

  24. YAY, WALT! Praying you'll have some good news to share with us SOON!

  25. Hi. Great post Camy.

    Very wise advice. You've got to be reading in the line you're pitching to. It's not just to help you get published it's to learn, too. Learn how to write the books a certain line is seeking.

    Slow stopping in today.
    Much to late in an insomniac's day to put on more coffee.

  26. Tina,
    I'm currently typing from my make-shift treadmill desk...which is a miracle in itself since my dad says (with a smirk) that 'the only grace I have is the grace of God'.

    This is a wonderful idea and I already feel healthier ;-)

  27. Way to go Pepper. I'm getting up way too early (4:30) to do an hour and watch Drop Dead Diva before work.

  28. I just pulled chocolate chip oatmeal cookies out of the oven. How many cookies equal 45 minutes on the treadmill? Hmmm....

  29. Ruthy--I completely agree with you, if a manuscript's genre "bleeds" into another, that's only good!

    David, when I mentioned "crossing over" I meant when I was moving from contemporary romance to romantic suspense--crossing from one genre to the other. I moved back to romance for my 5th book and hope to continue jumping back and forth, but the post was mainly about that first big step.

    Mary--good point! I know Cheryl always talks about how her reading so many Love Inspired romances helped her learn good story structure for the line.

    Pepper and Tina--good for you guys! I'm currently standing at my desk--not as many calories burned, but better than sitting on my fat bum, right?