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.
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!