Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What I Learned from Reading

Camy here! I’m in the middle of finishing a proposal for Love Inspired Suspense, and I’ve been doing a lot of reading of the most recent Love Inspired Suspense novels (all downloaded onto my Nook!)

Why do I do this? To keep up with the line. I need to know what storylines have been used recently, what character occupations have been written, what types of spiritual arcs have been described.

It’s true that there is nothing new under the sun, but I also don’t want to turn in a proposal with a storyline almost exactly like what was just published, or with character occupations that were just on the shelves last month.

Reading for market research seems a bit like cheating because it’s FUN! And yet you need to do it for your career. Your family rolls their eyes when you say that, right? (At least, mine does.) But it’s totally true. You need to read extensively in the line you’re targeting to make your proposal/manuscript fit in with that publishing house as best as you can make it fit, while at the same time being different enough to wow an editor.

So here are my tips for Reading For Market Research:

Ignore your family if they don’t believe you or understand. Don’t give in to the guilt. You really do need to do this.

Read in the line you’re targeting or read in your genre, or read your genre of the publishing house you’re targeting. If you’re targeting Historical Romance and Revell, then read all Revell’s Historical Romance novels, but you don’t have to read their Contemporary Fiction or Contemporary Romance novels.

Read the most recent books. The ones published 10 years ago are going to have different publishing standards than the ones published this year.

Look for trends. What types of storylines have been done? What character occupations? What story elements? Are any of those too similar to what you’re writing? Then either change up your manuscript or target a different house.

Don’t compare yourself to the writing. That will only lead to poor self-esteem and that shows in your writing. You’re only reading for story and character elements. Don’t compare yourself!!!

Keep up with the line/publishing house. Since houses can change what they want so quickly, don’t fall behind. Keep up with things so you’ll see when there are any changes.

If you’re targeting Love Inspired or Heartsong Presents, aim for the atmosphere of the line, but keep your unique writer’s voice. Since category romance has massive sales through their book clubs, they try to target the books toward that reader demographic, which is very specific compared to the reader demographics of some of the other larger houses. That means that Love Inspired and Heartsong need each book to have a specific reading atmosphere that will be what their readers are expecting. Don’t muffle your writer’s voice, but don’t write in a style that doesn’t fit with the line in general. If you read all the Seekers’ books for Love Inspired, each one has their own writer’s voice, but you’ll notice a certain “atmosphere” that carries through each of the books, too.

So let us know--what line or house are you targeting? If you don’t know, some of us might be able to offer suggestions so you can read for market research!

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is her romantic suspense, Formula for Danger. She is a staff worker for her church youth group, and leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she ponders frivolous things like knitting, running, dogs, and Asiana. Visit her website to sign up for her quarterly newsletter.


  1. I would put coffee on, but it's 9 pm here in California, so I'll brew some tea. I'm drinking English Caramel. :)

  2. Okay, line up. Coffee pot's to the left, tea to the right. Bring your own mug and show up any time for 4 a.nm. on.

    Okay, I've targeted manuscripts at Barbour, Love Inspired, and Bell Bridge Books. Can anyone give me any insight on response times you've experienced from those lines?


  3. I just ate more dark chocolate with almonds then I should have, so I'm offering up the rest--take it away from me!!!

    I'm targeting Bethany and Revell--historical romance. I write what I like, and I'd say 90% of my keeper shelf is from these two publishers, so that's what I'm aiming for. And now I'm going to go on a spending splurge and if my hubby goes "where's my blow money?" I'll send him here for my excuse!

    Actually, he knows it's business expense, but it's such a fun one, I can't blame him for being jealous. His business expenses are gloves and cleaner and tools and garbage sacks. My business expenses ROCK! :)

  4. Hi Camy, it's 9:30pm here in Northern Nevada. I've never heard of English Caramel tea. Sounds good. What's the brand?

    Good post. Some points I hadn't considered. I tell my family I'm doing my "homework". In fact, I was able to spend a few hours lying on the couch yesterday doing homework! (It was too cold to do yard work as I'd planned.) I read Klondike Medicine Woman by Linda Ford LIH. Highly recommended. Tho it's not the line I'm targeting, I am working on a short involving a Native American healer.

  5. Camy, I usually have a book going in my genre, which is historical romance. Reading serves me in many ways. I get enjoyment, I keep abreast of the market, I learn so much from other writers, I can help them out by posting reviews of their titles, and when it came time to list comparables for my proposal, I knew which books were similar to mine. Reading is a win on all counts!

  6. SUPER post Camy.

    I'm reading the Spencer Quinn "Chet & Bernie" books. Way fun. Different than my May on the Way: How I Become a K9 Spy but... It's written in first dog, past tense and it's a private investigator and his human sidekick. So - kinda.

    Definitely guilty pleasure, though I wish some of the salty language was omitted here and there. Just no need for it.

    Luvin' this Melissa: My business expenses ROCK! This is just too cute!

    and yes ma'am Keli: Reading is a win on all counts!

    Thanks for the coffee, tea and chocolate ladies! Enjoy the evening. Mine is going to be another all-nighter...

  7. Excellent advice Camy!

    Helen, LIH got back to me in less than two months I think, hope that helps :)

    Have a great day everyone!

  8. Cool advice and I could see how it would be a great advantage reading whats been released. Its good for readers cos sometimes I will read a book in a line and think I have read it before or its similar to another book. read a few books where the heroine has a child but the hero doesn't know hes the father and they meet up admittedly the stories were totally different one being LI one LIS but it felt the same in a way.
    Oh can you claim your reading as a tax deduction after all its research and maybe the family will appreciate thinking its a tax deduction.

    (Im now off to read in the sun while we have some as I am feeling a little lethargic today, realising some oils used to cook food dont agree with me.)

  9. Hi Camy:

    I can understand the importance of what you say – especially staying current with the market. Yet there are dangers.

    When Cindy Woodsmall was here she said that she has never read an Amish romance other than her own and she has written a lot of them.

    There is also the danger of group think, a pervasive sameness, a lack of daring and the tranquility (lack of edginess) that comes from being in one’s comfort zone. I know: there is a paradox here. It is said that romance fans want the ‘same thing’ only different.

    Here is my suggestion for an alternate plan of attack:

    1. read a few of the books in your line.
    2. write a book in a way that only you could have written it.
    3. write with quirky creativity so that it would be virtually impossible for anyone else to have had the same mix of idea, plot, location, and cast of characters.

    Tina and Ruth will probably say I’m the Devil’s Advocate but I just wonder how many Seekers also read heavily in their own line and how many limit such reading. (Other than reading other Seekers, of course)


  10. Helen, I don't know about the others, but Love Inspired can be anywhere from a few weeks to 6 months, depending on how busy the editors are. I think the editors said they try to get an answer by 3 months, but they don't always make it. If you haven't heard anything within 3-4 months, it's fine to send a polite email to ask them what the status of your manuscript is.

    Melissa, that's awesome that your'e targeting your keeper shelf! Smart move, in my opinion. :)

    Christy, it's from Lupicia (http://www.lupiciausa.com/) my favorite tea store. :)

    Keli, I do that too! Reading is really helpful when I need to list titles for a Comparative Market Analysis on my proposal.

    KC I think that's close enough. ;) I have in my TBR pile a biography of a CIA spy couple since I write romantic suspenses, and while it's a biography, the info is good research.

    Eva—that's so fast! Cool!

    Jenny, I totally deduct my book shopping as a tax deduction. :)

    Vince, you have a point that you don't want your unique writer's voice to be impacted by what you read, but also realize that Cindy broke out in Amish fiction when it was just starting and there was not as much Amish fiction to read at the time. Cindy's books were totally unique because she was breaking out into an entirely new GENRE, so she could get away with not reading much Amish—not that she could have found much to read anyway, at the time. There are some writers who deliberately don't read their genre because they don't want to be negatively impacted by what's already out there. At the same time, there are lots of writers who submit manuscripts to publishing houses whose books they haven't studied and they don't realize they're sending something inappropriate to the editor. That forms a negative impression on the editor, and that's not a good thing. Also, you don't want to shoot yourself in the foot by submitting a manuscript with plot elements too similar to what's just been published. This actually did happen to a friend of mine, she had a great plot idea but then the very next LI she read had three of the same plot elements, and it was just too similar. If she had submitted her manuscript to LI as she had planned, she would have formed a negative impression with the editor, who would have known she hadn't read the line closely. I think that if a writer is dedicated enough, you can retain your unique writer's voice even if you do read heavily in your genre or the books of the publishing house you're targeting.


  11. Morning, all!

    Camy, interesting! I'm grabbing Helen's coffee, and apologizing that my laptop is still in the shop so I can't pop in during the day like before! Dagnabbit!

    I do not read a lot in my genre. I do read some... but I keep my reading diverse. I'm with Cindy Woodsmall and Vince, it can taint your approach to a story, a line, a voice, and I prefer to keep mine a little bit outside the norm. That works for me.

    BUT... I watch what my line is doing. And the other lines I'm interested in. I pay attention to book length, emotion, lay-outs, trends, that kind of thing and I can do that by checking out author's websites and publishers' pages to keep myself up-to-date because it's HUGELY important to know the competition.

    I think both ways work and each author finds his/her own way of establishing themselves in a given genre.

    But I also take my editor's advice about who or what to read. And when I'm creating book proposals, I keep Melissa firmly in the loop. By the time my proposal is done, she already knows exactly what I'm sending her through Wendy because she doesn't need to waste time on surprises that won't work for LI and I can target what she thinks would work best.

    That's a huge thing for me, to be able to bounce ideas off on an editor who is an expert in her field. She knows what the readers want and that saves a boatload of time. Time is money and for us full-time workers, expedient use of that time is key.

    Hey, I'm leaving an amazing Panera spread this morning since I can't be around to tend the buffet! BUT...

    Their Danish...

    Those bagels...

    And those stuffed croissants? Oh my stars, DEEEELICIOUS! They're doing the soup for lunch, too, try the cheddar broccoli.

    To Die For.

    Love you guys! Great post, Camster!

  12. Good point, Ruthy, it's great to keep your editor in the loop! For those Seeker readers who don't have an editor, though, I think that keeping up with the line helps craft the best proposal possible so they can NAB that editor. :)

  13. There is so much to learn about the writing business! I'm not really sure where my story belongs. It is a mystery/suspense with romantic overtones. It easily lends itself to a series (I'm already in chpt 10 of the sequel) but it could stand alone too. I think it could be compared to maybe Dee Henderson's O'Malley series or maybe Mindy Starns Clark's mysteries.

    Any ideas what publishers I would target? I've been so focused on what agents to query, I haven't given a nanosecond of thought to the publisher.

  14. I am targeting LI historicals and Revell/Bethany. I am new to this game. I have only recently started writing Inspirational romance, so I am still learning and part of that learnign is reading- a lot.

  15. Interesting post, Camy. I'm targeting Harlequin Historical line. I've been keeping my eye on the story lines for their Western historicals for the reasons you gave in the blog; to make sure my story is original and something that will catch their eye not just a retelling of something they published last month.

    I tend to read a lot in my genre just because it's what I love reading as well as writing. But I also read quite a few contemporary westerns and romantic/suspense as I'd like to write more of those in the future.


  16. Hi Camy,

    It is so important to read the line that you are targeting. Not only to get a feel for their style but to make sure your story line hasn't been published recently...because sadly that happens.

    Right now, I'm targeting Barbour Heartsong but I'm working on a prosposal aim at the Love Finds You series by Summerside. My problem is finding an agent. Sigh...

  17. Thanks for the thoughtful advice, Camy, and what great ideas in the comments as well. My current work-in-edit is targeting LI -- one of the many reasons I love visiting Seekerville!

    Now back to my Jamaica-me-crazy coffee.... can't believe how cold and rainy it is for May!


  18. hi camy, i always enjoy reading your postings...and your novels, too :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  19. Hi Camy and all,

    Thanks (again!) for the great advice. I read in the genre and publisher I'm targeting (LIH) because I love reading those books - but I'm going to have to ramp up my reading to get more than just entertainment out of them! And a business expense? My dear husband will love that!

    At the same time, as I'm working on my story, I can see where it could easily be changed to contemporary instead of historical. Do I leave it up to an editor to suggest a change like that, or would I mention it in a proposal? What do you think?

    Thanks for the breakfast - big day ahead!

  20. Great post, Camy! And great advice. I haven't read nearly enough over the last few years. Although I think it's because Seeker books have kept me busy! :)

    I do buy the contest finalists and award winning books in my genre. I like to find out what it is that made it so popular. The common thread I've usually found is emotion.

  21. Another thing I do is go to e-Harlequin and read all the blurbs/back covers for each new book. That's a good way to keep up on what's been done lately.

  22. Hey, Camster, I'm with you -- ya GOTTA read what you write to know the market. Of course, it helps that I LOVE historical romance, so it is SUCH a pleasure to read. I carry a book with me at ALL times ... in the powder room, in the car, at appts., on the bed stand and ALWAYS in my purse along with a little reader light so I can read in the dark when my husband is driving. I read about 4-5 books a month that way.

    Vince, I DO read heavily in my own line, but only because I want to -- it's what I enjoy, so why not? It keeps me abreast of what is out there in the market and I can write it off, too! And fortunately for me, most of the Historical romance I read isn't as long as mine ... :)


  23. Regarding the two trains of thought (read in your genre or not)...

    I think it may be more important to do so (at least when you're starting out) when you're writing category books. There's a certain expectation for those stories. you need to know what the publisher is looking for.

  24. Interesting post Camy, thank you.
    I'm targeting Harbourlight Books, a new imprint, so there are literally no books out in their line yet.

    Some should be releasing this fall though. What made me choose them specifically is this, quoted directly from their website. It's my writing EXACTLY!

    "We may publish what some would call edgy, i.e. stories that fall outside current CBA guidelines, however, please note that edgy doesn't mean profane. It means gently colouring outside the lines because the story demands it."

  25. First off I can't imagine a writer who isn't a reader. Not only for all the reasons you suggest, Camy, but also to support other writers and the industry in general.

    I just started out writing period. No target publisher in mind and now I'm in a bit of a bind. I have very strong Love Inspiredish bits and prosier bits that would fit into a longer book and oy -- it's a mishmash and a conundrum that I am trying to unravel.

    Meanwhile I read, read, read all kinds of inspirational fiction. It's a lovely distraction. :-)

  26. Great post Camy! My family just rolls their eyes and passes over the packages, but I think they understand. :)

    I am not targeting a specific house per se YET, because I am still neck deep in learning. But my dream house would be Bethany, though they don't take as much women's fiction. A more realistic view would probably be Tyndale. :)

  27. Hello, Camy! Thanks for the great advice and a new, genuine reason to read! This will eventually leak out about me so I might as well say it now… I’m story a startopper. That means I have all these great ideas floating around and I begin all of them. I even write the endings (or know how they will end) for most of them. But somewhere around 20,000 words I drop them, open a new document, and start something else. Is there a technical name for this?! Lack of discipline, probably. Anyway, my first goal is to finish something worth reading. I love all my stories (who doesn’t?) and think they can be written successfully. I have a few that are historical mystery/suspense romances, but without a spiritual thread in them. They’re nothing bad; they just don’t have that line weaved in. Should I weave that line in? These are rhetorical questions, so don’t feel you must answer. Lol. I usually don’t write with a certain publisher in mind, and so many publishers only take agented work, how does a newbie break in when they do have something ready?

    Anyway, I am working on a project right now that DOES have a targeted line: Love Inspired Contemporary Romance. I have even laid out a schedule of how many words I need to write every day to finish the first draft in three months. The premise is well-known and involves horses, but I put a spin on it and added a unique occupation for my heroine, a quirk for my hero, and a family business that is distinctly individual. I still get these awful doubts that it will still be TOO MUCH like another story and that I’m not smart and clever enough to write a story—those would be my contributes to the “What’s Holding You Back?” Seekerville series.

    Bless you all for bearing with me as I have developed lungs and become rather longwinded lately.



  28. NANCY: that is a great summary for what that publishing house is looking for. Best of luck to you!


  29. YES!!!!!!!!!!!!


    I CAN NOT ONLY SAY, "HONEY, IT'S FOR WORK!" (I've been using that for YEARS!)

    But now I can also say, "But Camy told me too!!!"


    This is actually dead on right advice. Especially for the LI lines. READ WHAT THEY'RE PUBLISHING.

  30. I'm currently reading Susan May Warren's Mission of Mercy series. She's a noted writing teacher and has her own critiquing business so her books are good for me to read.

    I also read single title suspense. Right now, I'm reading Linda Castillo's PRAY FOR SILENCE, the second book in her once-Amish-now-hometown-cop series. The first book was riveting and filled with the heroine's internal conflict. The second story provides a great example of multi-faceted red herrings. My writer's eye is tuned in to how she develops her suspense, her word choice, the mood of her stories.

    Do I read every LIS? No. But, like Missy, I do check the blurbs and read the reviews in RT so I have an idea of the type of stories being published. Then I pick certain writers to focus on.

    Lynette Eason was with us yesterday. I'm reading her Revell books. Also Irene Hannon's work.

    And then there's always the women's fiction reads for my book club and, most important, Seeker books!

    I could read fulltime! But then, I wouldn't be able to write.

    Great topic, Camy!

  31. This comment has been removed by the author.

  32. You Don’t Have to Eat the Whole Meal

    While it is good for a chef to sample the food, does she have to eat the whole meal?

    I took a TV script writing class in college and many of the shows had a ‘Bible' with all the facts of the past shows the writer would need to know. Back then they took many freelance scripts.

    Wouldn’t it be desirable to have the publisher provide a précis of each book in the line to their authors and prospective authors? (Location, plot, one sentence pitch line, character occupations, names, etc. About four to eight lines of copy.)

    I’m with Mary’s husband: first the précis and then the pancakes.

    While I like Mary’s advice: "Especially for the LI lines. READ WHAT THEY'RE PUBLISHING".

    I don’t know how I’m going to read the books LI refused to publish. I’m still working on that one.

    BTW: Camy, your two LI books are very original and I don’t think anyone else could have written them. You probably need to read in your genre less than anyone else. (But I won’t tell you husband.)


    It’s the little things that show up in the ‘group think’ soup: like all the smiles that turn up slightly at the corners of the mouth. Beware: the devil is in the details. Really, he told me that this morning.

  33. LOL Vince!!

    Whitney, i'm glad you've developed lungs! I like what you have to say. :) It sound like your 20k word stoppage is totally normal. You just need to learn to push through it. I always hit a wall about chapter 5 (last time it was chapter 4!). It's when you hit that dreaded middle that's so hard to fill! Just sit down and brainstorm more ideas and plow through. Then you'll have that book done in 3 months to sub to LI!!

  34. I had to laugh at Whitney's 20,000 word stoppage, and then Missy's response! I seemed to have hit that wall in chapter 10...until I realized that chapter 11 was the end of the story. I had left out the middle! Now I can go back and finish the thing...:)

  35. Thanks, MISSY! I'm going type up your comment and post it to the wall next to me! : )


  36. LOL, Jan! Yes, I know what you mean. We've got to be like giant snow-trucks and plow through story middles like they were a Montana winter! Before we know it, we'll be turning out a new, EXCELLENT manuscript every month! Of 200,000 words. That will give Julie a run for her money! ; )


  37. Vince - I'm going to seek and destroy all the "smiles that turn up slightly at the corners of the mouth" except one or two because of that comment. I'm thinking there's at least one or two in each chapter of the WIP. In fairness though, I can't say if that came from reading. I do a lot of it, but from many, many genres.

    Whitney - I can attest to what Missy says. I made it through that middle sag wall this time by writing the ending just because I could. I had the plot structure in my head that got me there, and the ending was just so much fun to write that looking at the halves, the middle was easier then. That's what worked for me.

    I write very non-linear, so it makes for a lot of rewriting to be sure everything (goals, conflicts, motivations) lines up, which at times was a pain, but by golly, I'm about to finish a book finally LOL.

    Starting at the beginning and writing through to the end just never worked for me. Can any of the Seekers or Seeker friends tell me if that's unusual?

  38. Hi Whitney:

    I’ve often said that writers don’t lack ideas; they have too many of them. And a lot of them are very good. Having so many good ideas makes finishing a project very hard. It’s the ‘grass is greener’ bugaboo.

    I have the same problem with a twist: I finish the books but I would rather start another book than do all the editing and layering that I know is needed. (Writing is riding the rollercoaster. Editing is painting the rollercoaster.)

    This ‘grass is greener’ temptation plays an important role in my very popular post “Why the Devil Wants you to be a Pantser” which is on my site. (Use search feature) If you are a pantser, this post might help you.

    Keep on keeping on and I’ll be rooting for you.


  39. NANCY: Great! I’m very excited for you. Seeing that finish line in sight must give you that needed burst of energy to run towards it. There are a lot of people cheering on the other side. : )

    Most of the time I start with the beginning, but I do have this one story where I have bounced all over the place and written many scenes, but can’t decide on a proper beginning! Yes, it is shelved with the dozen others, waiting to be finished. How do you write? Scene by scene according to inspiration?

    VINCE: you’ve still got one up on me. You’ve got the hardest part done when you have something finished. Now you get to really darken the colors in your painting. Make it vivid. I have seen your post and probably read it. I’ll have to go back again. I’m a pantser in a way… it really depends on the story and how it comes to me. Some come with fully formed characters and a pretty solid plot, and some don’t.

    Thanks for all the feedback, Seekerville!


  40. LOL, Jan!! That's a good way to think about it. Just go add the middle. :)

    Nancy, people do it all different ways! I'm actually very linear. I couldn't write out of order if I had to. But I know people who write scenes from all over the place.

    Correction! I had an idea for a scene to end chapter 3 recently (the proposal hook), so I went and quickly wrote it down. Then when I got to that point, I filled it in and finished the proposal chapters. So I guess I do skip around a little! However, I was in chapter 2 at the time, so it wasn't jumping too far ahead. :)

  41. I guess I'm targeting one of the main line CBA. My novel ended up too big for LI. It's Christian Women's Romance with a hint of suspense and edginess. Anybody have recommendations?

  42. Great post Camy! You really can learn so much from reading! It's like homework but you can enjoy it too!

  43. "Don’t compare yourself to the writing. That will only lead to poor self-esteem and that shows in your writing."


    Always such good advice, Camy. I recently reinstated my LI subscription to make it easier for me to do exactly what you describe.

  44. "Don’t compare yourself to the writing. That will only lead to poor self-esteem and that shows in your writing."


    Always such good advice, Camy. I recently reinstated my LI subscription to make it easier for me to do exactly what you describe.

  45. Whitney, believe me when I say this (as the Seekers laugh histerically)... the right beginning is EVERYTHING haha. In terms of where in the plot, and more importantly, the POV. (Mine is FINALLY fixed!)

    I had to pull books at random from shelves and I would read the back blurbs, then the first couple pages to really internalize what the common element was.
    1. Whoever I'm going to spend the most time with is the POV that started the book.
    2. External conflict was always introduced within the first five pages. Internal by the end of the chapter.

    I wrote the scenes as they came to me. Beginning with the first three, then the last three. And some of the highlights in the middle. It taught me to be okay with completely scrapping though. It's terribly inefficient, but it's my first complete one so I'm hoping to develop as I go forward.

    Linette: If your novel is between 60 and 80K, check out White Rose Publishing Submission Guidelines. It may be a fit.

    And Camy, at the end of White Rose Submission Guidelines is this statement... proving you're right on!

    "Finally, to get a real sense of what White Rose editors like to see, we recommend reading some of our already-available titles."

  46. Much great advice here, Camy. Like Rose I'm looking for an agent. After reading Lyn Cote's updated list of publishers and agents I know it's nearly impossible to get published without one. Does anyone know of an agent open to new novelists through querying? I've gone the route of meeting a few editors at conferences with no success. I read mainly historicals since I write historicals with strong romantic elements. Reading Sarah Sundin's Wings of Glory series as I have one completed story written in that time period. My dream housea would be Bethany House and Revell. But I'd be very happy to find a traditional publisher anywhere. Thanks, Camy, and everyone here for sharing info.

  47. Nancy, it'll probably end up 85k+. Thanks for the suggestion. If I end up around 80K I'll look at them. Going to save them in my bookmarks now.

  48. Hmm... There's Rose, White Rose, Red Rose. Which Rose publishing are you referring to?

  49. Yay, Patricia! Thank you! That'll help keep food on our table. [grin]

  50. Wonderful advice, Camy! I've targeted LI and LIH, but it's def. taken me awhile to learn about their atmospheres, and that was my mistake.
    Thanks for the post!

  51. You know, Camy, this might be one I have to stick in my files. I just read it again and got more out of it than the first time. I think my brain is sluggish today. LOL Thanks for posting this. It's a huge help! Now, on to research!

  52. Christine, your agent will probably have a good idea of which publishers to target, but if you also have a general idea, that puts you one step ahead of the game. I would suggest going to a Christian bookstore or the Christian fiction section of Barnes and Noble or even just browsing on Christianbook.com and pay attention to the stories and the publishers. That way you can know which publishers might be a good fit for your stories.

    Stacie, that's what I did, too—when I first started writing seriously, I was already reading a lot, but I started being more focused and targeted in my reading and looking at the publishers I was targeting.

    Kirsten—awesome! The HH line is great, I read those occasionally just for fun. :)

    Rose, I'm sure you'll get an agent soon!

    Lynda—yup, this is a great place to visit since so many of us write for LI!

    Karen, Aw, thanks so much!

    Jan—LOL I'm always glad to help with marital bliss. ;) As for changing your time period, I think that needs to be up to you. Ask some critique partners for honest opinions about what would be more appealing to a reader. Or maybe try rewriting a couple chapters in contemporary setting and letting your critique partners compare.

    Missy, that's a GREAT idea, to buy the contest finalling and award-winning books to read! I think I will do that, too. :) And I also read the blurbs on eHarlequin and Christianbook.com.

    Julie, I always carry a book with me too! I actually had a panic attack once when I was waiting for my husband and realized I didn't have a book!!!!!!

    Missy, that's a good way of putting it—each publisher has readers who have a certain expectation for the stories, and if you don't have a relationship with an editor, there's no way to know if you're hitting that expectation unless you read the books.

    Nancy—you've got it tough! But it's totally awesome that their mission statement fits you exactly! Great sign for a great fit!


  53. Kav, I agree, it's hard for me to imagine a writer who isn't a reader. After all, most of us become writers because we love to read and want to write stories we haven't read! I'm sure you'll be able to find your target publishers eventually. Also, critique partners might be able to help look at the book objectively and say, "Well, even if it's a mishmash, it seems to fit with this publisher the most…"

    Casey, my husband rolls his eyes, too! Bethany does a little women's fiction, and the WF I've read from them is stellar, but Tyndale has a ton of great women's fiction and that would be a good house to target, in my opinion.

    Whitney, I love how you describe that! Don't worry, a lot of writers are like that. But I definitely think you should finish your stories. Some writers work on 2-3 book simultaneously and finish all of them around the same time, they hop from one book to the other depending on the day, so that might be an option for you. As for adding a spiritual thread, you don't have to if it doesn't seem the book doesn't call for it. Certain shorelines just aren't targeted at Christians, they're targeted at non-Christians. When you're done with your book, then target an agent to help you know which publisher to target, although if you have a general idea, that will give you a headstart on other writers. But definitely finish the book first. :) And don't let insecurities paralyze you—just write the book! You can do it!

    Mary, LOL! I hope Ivan doesn't give me a nasty phone call …

    Debby, I have that series on my TBR pile! I love her books!

    Vince, I'll turn your logic back at you: if there are books LI refused to publish, it means those books aren't right for the LI line. If you want to write for the LI line, you need to know what's right for the LI line as opposed to the thousands of stories that aren't right. I'm afraid since publishers don't provide a precis of each book, then reading the books and the blurbs of books you don't read is the best way for an author to understand the line. Thanks for thinking my books are original, but I'll confess that before I wrote Deadly Intent, my first LIS, I read about 25 LIS books before I even came up with the storyline. So I knew the storyline had never been done before by LIS.

    Missy, Jan, and Whitney—I tend to hit that wall at around chapter 5!!! LOL


  54. Nancy, ALL writers have phrases and words they tend to use a lot, even those who don't read a lot. It's not always from reading, it's from just personal quirks. I can't begin to start on my "hot words" list of words and phrase I have to delete from my manuscript after it's done! Sigh.

    Vince, I also hate editing, so you're in good company. Some writers love the editing part, but I'd rather write a new book. :)

    Linnette, my suggestion is to browse your Christian bookstore or the blurbs on Christianbook.com to see which shorelines fit with your genre and what houses publish them. That's what I did for my first novel, Sushi for One, which is why I targeted Zondervan. I also targeted Bethany House at the time since they had similar stories coming out.

    Faye—it's like FUN homework!

    Patricia—I'm glad you found that helpful! I have to fight against that all the time, I don't think as writers we ever shake the tendency to compare ourselves.

    Nancy, I think you're absolutely right—the right beginning is EVERYTHING!

    Pat Jeanne, all agents are open to new novelists through queries, so just go for it!

    Jessica, the hard thing about LI and their lines is that their atmosphere subtly changes every few years, so you have to keep up with their most recent titles. That's why I keep reading from the line, to keep up with what the editors are looking for.

    Linnette—aw, thanks! I'm glad you got so much out of this post!


  55. Love reading all the comments its a nice way to start the day (Its a study day and one assessment has to be finished although I got inspiration last night finally worked out to work a rejection letter tactfully.)
    Im glad I am not a writer besides the fact I couldn't do it but it would be hard reading just one line for awhile. I tend to read all over the place. Although If I wrote an aussie book we dont really have a big line yet its still very new.

  56. Love this post, Camy, because it makes me feel that during all my years of reading romantic suspense, I was actually working! Reading what's out there in the CBA market today is the most fun research ever.

    I compare submission guidelines to poetic forms. If we were poets, we'd all follow the same sonnet format, but what filled those 14 lines would vary with each beautiful voice. Blessings!

  57. So far, it looks like Zondervan, Bethany House, and Tydale would sell my type of book.

  58. Great post, Camy. My favorite genre (to read AND write!) is Historical Romance, but I also love Contemporary Romance--so those are the main two genres I read (wish I was a "faster reader" LOL). I'm targeting Love Inspired and Barbour at the moment. ~ Thanks again for these suggestions--another "Keeper Post" for sure! Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo :)

  59. Been waiting all day to get to this. I raead this post this morning but haven't had time to say anything until now.

    I'm currently reading Catherine Palmer's "The Gunman's Bride." (I like the suspense factor she throws into a historical.) I'm always reading an historical but I never get as much time to read as I want.

  60. Nancy: I’m glad you’ve finally fixed your story to open with a wow-factor. Are you looking at deciding on a publisher soon? That’s super exciting.

    My current story opens in my heroine’s POV, but I’m not sure the external conflict comes up soon enough. I’ll have to work on that. Boy, I wish all you guys lived closer so we could set-up a writer’s group. As it is, there’s almost no one near me with which to set up a group.

    THANKS, CAMY! Haha. I know there have been Seeker posts on “hitting the wall” so I’ll have to see if I can find them and re-read the how-to’s of getting through them.


  61. Hi Camy:

    I’m sorry. I wasn’t using real logic. I was using fuzzy-funny logic. I guess it didn’t work. My mind is wired differently.

    When one says read the books X publishes, I immediately thought: ”Yea…what other choice do I have…I don’t know which books X refused to publish. Of course I'll read the books they publish.”

    The above is not logical and evidently it's not funny either.

    That’s the trouble with fuzzy-funny logic. : (


  62. Jenny, I also read all over the place, but it helps that I write in the genre I read!

    Renee Ann, what a great analogy! I like that!

    Awesome, Linnette!

    Patti Jo, I wish I was a faster reader, too! There are so many books I want to read!

    Walt, I love Catherine Palmer!

    Whitney, can you set up an online writer's group? All my writers groups were all online when I first started out.

    Vince LOL now I get it. I do like your term fuzzy funny logic. I think I will use that next time I have an argument with my husband. :)


  63. Great advice, Camy! You are a wealth of information. Carmel tea...YUM!! :)

  64. Hi Camy. I'm still working on learning the craft and in so doing I read books from a lot of different houses. I lean more towards LI & LIS as well as Tyndale & Zondervan.

    Thank you for always giving such wonderful insight to the world of publishing.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.


  65. CAMY-- thanks for the advice. I think I may have found my first online critique partner.


  66. Jillian, the tea is AWESOME!!!

    Cindy, I did that, too—I read from a lot of houses in order to figure out which ones I wanted to target. For my first book, I was also targeting Tyndale and Zondervan!

    Whitney—AWESEOME!!!!!!!! I'M SO GLAD!!! I love my online critique partners. They have helped me SO much.