Granted, writing category romance novels isn't for everyone. Contrary to what many people believe, writing a smaller book isn't easy. While larger books may include more characters and subplots, a category author must work at telling a concise story in fewer words. But for those who enjoy crafting a tightly plotted romance of between 200–360 pages, the rewards can be great … in terms of both the fairly consistent monetary compensation and reader appreciation.
But easier-to-project sales figures and bags of glowing fan mail aren't the only advantages to writing series romance. Most category authors rarely have to promote their novels because their publishers have already done an excellent job of advertising the line.
Plus, with the frequent creation of new lines, category publishers give romance authors multiple opportunities to experiment with fresh, innovative takes on the traditional romance.
Is it any wonder then that many “working” romance authors — meaning those who support themselves solely from their writing income — often spend their entire careers writing these smaller books and never attempt to “break out” with a single title release?
A new romance line offers an unpublished author one of the best shots at publication. But unless you know about the publisher's call for submissions, you won't be able to make that sale. That's why a membership in writers' organizations such as Romance Writers of America can be invaluable for new writers.
While single-title authors have the potential for making more money than their category romance sisters, the odds aren't in favor of a single-title author progressing much beyond the mid-list. When you factor in all the things that a writer can't control about her book — such as the cover art, the release month, etc. — it can be nearly impossible to project with any degree of certainty the earn-out on a new single-title romance novel.
Not so with a category romance.
Generally, the author of a series romance can predict the earn-out of a new title in an established line by using royalty statements from her previous titles. But be aware that some series lines perform better in foreign markets than others, just as some types of romances might do better than others in the same line. (For example, an American West — set contemporary romance might sell better in certain foreign markets than a New York City — set contemporary by the same author, for the same line.)
While the earn-out from a single category romance may not be enough to allow an author to quit her day job and write full-time, when added to the income produced from writing two or three of these books a year, such a step is possible.
Built-in Reader Base for New Authors
Perhaps the biggest benefit for category authors is the reduced need for author-funded promotion efforts. All the books in a particular series will have similar cover art — similar in terms of type of artwork used, its general tone, the font size and color scheme, etc.
Do authors receive equal treatment in category romances?
Generally, yes. While some bestselling category romance authors will receive a larger print run and a larger font size for their name on the book cover, most authors are treated the same in terms of the size of their print runs and book placement in stores.
Some category authors do advertise their books. Generally, they target their efforts toward the promotion of their name, especially if they have several new releases coming out in a short period of time.
Editorial Guidelines — the Upside
Publishers of single-title romance novels will often suggest that new authors read their books to get a sense of the type of stories they release. It is good advice, since reading the romance novels of a publisher is the best way to research a market. But the publishers of series romances will usually offer editorial guidelines for their books.
Typically, these editorial guidelines, or tip sheets, will offer insight into the following:
The tone and feel of the books in the line
Acceptable/unacceptable subject matter
Expected word counts
Manuscript formatting requirements
These editorial guidelines for each series line are generally available for download at the publisher's Web site.
A good resource for checking out the hottest new category lines is to visit Harlequin Enterprises since they are the industry leader of series romances. In addition to informative articles about the romance industry at large, you'll find up-to-the-minute details on which of their category lines is currently acquiring.
Greater Flexibility in Subgenre
Many writers find that they get bored writing the same type of book year after year. For the authors of series romances, this boredom doesn't have to happen, thanks in large part to the myriad of subgenres reflected in the category lines.
This greater flexibility in subgenres in category romance gives authors the opportunity to experiment while still writing to their core readership.