Just TRY to Brand My Writing!
Seems the current catch-word in author promotion is branding, but I figured out long ago that a body of work like mine defies any brand: just try to find a pithy, punchy, three-word phrase that covers all the genres I’ve written in over the past 20 years! Genre hopping wasn’t something I entered into intentionally, but it’s been the mother of my reinvention: it’s kept me published.
In 1990, when historical romances were in their heyday, I hopped aboard the publishing bandwagon with six Westerns for the Zebra Heartfire imprint. I loved writing those books, but when Westerns were falling out of favor—and the midlist and a lot of major distributors began to disappear—I went looking for my next writing gig. Meanwhile, my agent fritzed out on cocaine and literally disappeared for weeks at a time, so I was on my own . . . almost as though I’d never sold a thing. Took me six years and a lot queries, but when I caught the attention of the Black Lace editor at Virgin Books, my next phase began.
As Melissa MacNeal, I wrote four first-person historical erotic novels—and then once again, I was told historicals weren’t selling well. At least this Brit editor was a bit more polite about dumping me! By that time, however, I had a new agent and he began casting about the American houses and discovered that Alicia Condon, then at Dorchester, was looking to develop an inspirational series.
Inspirational romance was catching on big time then, and when I pulled a proposal from my drawer which I hadn’t been able to sell to one of the big-time Christian houses (gee, my checkered stint as Melissa seemed to mark me as a fallen woman in their eyes!) Alicia ran with it. My Angels of Mercy series, set in the era when Kansas became a state, once again let me write the Western setting I loved but offered me a whole new audience that treasured these character-driven faith-and-family stories. I got so many wonderful letters from readers—still do, even though these books are only available used, and now in e-format.
“All good things must come to an end” seemed to be the operative phrase for me: Dorchester claimed we “weren’t reaching the desired market” for these books, so my series of seven envisioned titles ended after the fourth book came out. Red flags about Dorchester’s solvency were starting to pop up about then, too, but then I began to sell larger erotic romances as Melissa again, this time contemporaries and historicals for Kensington’s Aphrodisia line. Seems the really hot stuff was every bit as lucrative as Christian books, but of course you go with what you can sell. So Melissa penned four full-length novels and a slew of novellas that appeared in erotic anthologies . . . until once again my editor decided it was time for me to go.
Then, in an interesting and fortuitous turn of events, Alicia Condon jumped ship as Dorchester was sinking, and landed at Kensington. Didn’t take her long to settle in and realize that AMISH romances (aka “bonnet rippers”) were selling like gangbusters for several publishers, but nobody at that house was writing them. My agent reminded her about how adept I was at the faith-and-family thing, so when she asked if I would consider writing Amish fiction, the only feasible answer was “Jah, I can do that!” I was under contract for three books in a new Seasons of the Heart series for her when gee, Ellen Edwards at NAL told my agent she was looking for another author to write Amish romances because Marta Perry’s series was doing very well for them.
So, along came yet another pseudonym, Naomi King, and my second Amish series, At Home in Cedar Creek was developed with Ellen’s input from the get-go. I had to squeeze these titles in between the ones I’d contracted with Alicia, and write more intently, with more focus, than ever before. As you read this, my Amish titles are seeing their debut: SUMMER OF SECRETS is hitting the stores now and ABBY FINDS HER CALLING comes out at the end of February. I’ve got a third, separate website for these Amish tales, www.naomikingauthor.com, where you can read excerpts, try out recipes, and sign on for my newsletter. Another first: I’m doing a Virtual Tour for these books! My blog/interview schedule is posted at PumpUpYourBook.com and you’re invited to my virtual party!
If you’ve been keeping score, you’ll see that I’ve written historicals, contemporaries, erotica, and inspirational. You can’t get much more diverse than that! And you simply can’t argue that for me, genre-hopping has written my ticket: had I said no to any of the opps that came along in new and different types of fiction, my career would’ve faded away. I will also say that writing in so many genres and styles, under three names, has kept me fresh and fostered my growth as a writer.
So there you have it! Versatility has been the key for me, and you can bet that when the Next Big Thing comes along as Amish romances wane, I’ll be looking to hop yet another genre. Trends come and go, but I hope to stay published as long as I’m enjoying these stories I tell, so saying Yes to change will be the key.
Gee…isn’t that how it goes in Real Life, too?
Thanks again Charlotte for sharing your publishing experience with us. Please stop by and see Charlotte’s work at: