Many of you know I have a cross-genre women's historical novel with romantic elements that I've peddled for awhile. What with its fabulously crafted query letter, *wink* it received several requests from agents and editors alike for partials and the full. The full received revision letters from two agents and made it to pub board meetings twice. But no one picked it up.
Coincidentally, both this novel and SECTOR C got same-day requests for the full on the very first query I sent out for each. Just a reality check for anybody waiting around because one agent has your full.
I tried pitching it as a romance first, under the title SPOIL OF WAR. After the first revision letter that suggested it was maybe more women's historical, I started pitching it under that genre as CAMELIARD RISING. It got multiple requests and good feedback under both guises from agents who read the full, such as:
- "I really enjoyed the read and literally could not put the manuscript down. You create a compelling world and do an even better job of illustrating why that moment in time is so fascinating and placing it in a larger context. I really enjoyed what I learned by reading your book. I also thought the characters, especially Elsbeth, were quite compelling."
- "I read CAMELIARD RISING with much interest and think that your voice is fantastic. Equally good are the plot elements. In fact, I like the novel so so much."
Acquisition editors also admired the writing ...
- "It was actually read by three individual acquisitions editors. While ultimately, the team did decide not to acquire your novel, clearly there was something here that the editors saw and appreciated ... They felt you showed crisp, engaging writing that resulted in an eminently readable book."
Sadly, I can share these observations with you guys here on the blog, but, of course, can't use them as actual reviews ;o)
Interestingly, agents mainly saw the issue with the book as not following the typical conventions of today's romance story (it stays firmly in the heroine's POV, for instance) or including too much romance in an historical novel, while editors seemed to focus on fit with house standards: many of the imprints wouldn't accept a married hero and most imprints didn't think readers would be willing to read a subplot that includes the sexual abuse of a 12-year-old, no matter how sensitively handled it is.
So, I appeared to have a well-written book with good plot, compelling characters and fantastic voice that was unlikely to ever find a traditional home because it isn't enough like other reads out there to be neatly catalogued. What to do?
Well, if you've seen my sidebar, you'll know. Rather than tearing this book down completely and turning it into something it was never meant to be, or abandoning it completely, I've put it out as an e-book. I tried to give it a cover and a description that plays fair with potential readers and doesn't promise what it's not. I gave it a subtitle so romance readers would understand there's more of history to it (and to helpfully attract people looking for Arthurian fiction). I've included that it has some controversial content, but also emphasized that kind of content isn't the focus of the book. I've given it an appealing price to entice readers to try it out.
And I put a quote on the cover. I am deeply, deeply indebted to NT Times Bestselling Author Jennifer Blake for supplying a truly terrific blurb for the book:
"SPOIL OF WAR is a fascinating account of early Britain, a gripping tale of lust, love and the horrors of ancient warfare. Beautifully written, filled with myriad period details and compelling characters, it takes you deep into the heart of a brutal era -- and into the nature of feminine honor, feminine courage. I was enthralled."One of my crit partners even said that simply having the quote there on the cover makes the book feel more legitimate. What do you think?
– JENNIFER BLAKE, NY Times Bestselling Author
I do plan to continue to pursue traditional/legacy opportunities for my latest WIP, an historical romance with fantasy elements, and for SECTOR C, which is high concept and should be an easy sell from a marketing perspective. However, to my mind, SPOIL OF WAR: An Arthurian Romance is a poster child for when it makes sense to self-publish. It's a book that's gotten positive industry feedback about its overall quality, but controversial content and its cross-genre-ness make it a tough sell marketing-wise.
EXTINCT DOESN'T MEAN FOREVER was, of course, an e-project from its inception.
Can you think of other instances when it makes sense to go the self-publishing route? Is it something YOU would do?