Are you tired of all the businessy stuff yet? You might be. But let’s not lose sight of the importance of knowing the industry. One more post and then we’re on to boy meets girl.
Today we’re addressing Category Romance, a.k.a. Series Romance. Here’s the definition from Goodreads: “Category romances are short, usually no more than 200 pages, or about 55,000 words. The books are published in clearly delineated lines, with a certain number of books published in each line every month. In many cases, the books are numbered sequentially within the line.”
The big players here are Harlequin and Silhouette. Harlequin was founded in 1949 in Canada as a paperback reprinting company. It wasn’t until the mid-50’s that the focus narrowed to Romance. They’ve partnered with many different publishers over the years and are now owned by Harper Collins. It wasn’t until the 70’s that they had American authors - it was all British writers until then. They actually turned down Nora Roberts because they’d signed Janet Daily and she was their “American.” Can’t you just see them sipping their afternoon tea with their noses in the air? Their bad. Eventually, Nora would write for them. So there was a happy ending.
In 1980 Harlequin terminated their relationship with Simon & Schuster, leaving them high and dry. So they formed Silhouette to compete with Harlequin. These books featured American settings and characters. Over time, the heat-level of romance went up and some other companies entered the scene. Harlequin didn’t adapt well, and in 1984, they purchased Silhouette. The Silhouette imprint continues, though. In the 90’s many of their authors began writing longer, single-title romance and, to keep them the Mira line of longer books was created.
But this was all before e-books. Remember, the way these category romances worked is that the company had a number of “lines” of books. Each line featured three or four books a month that were only on the shelves for that month. So a book had a 30-day window to sell. Many customers had subscriptions and got the entire line every month. That help these authors become successful, but it was truly a roll of the dice.
That 30-day window is still around. That’s still how these books are sold. Subscriptions are also still available but are much less popular. Of course, now these books are available beyond their store shelf-life on the Harlequin website in paperback (until sold out) and ebook format. Many romance author still make their living staying within the Harlequin walls.
One of the things - from an authors perspective - that sets Harlequin apart is that they do take un-agented queries. The first version of my True Valor went to New York after a request for the full manuscript. It was ultimately not a good fit for them but I was thrilled to have had it considered.
Their categories now include:
Home and Family
Romance with More
Something for every romance reader and writer. If you’re at all interested in pursuing category romance, their guidelines are all available on their website.
Okay, campers. Next month - we’ll get into the nitty gritty of writing romance. In the meantime - happy Valentine’s Day.