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.