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Happy Endings In the Forecast For Romance-Writing Meteorologist, PART 3: Romance Industry Trends

At last month’s National Federation of Press Women conference, I attended a session on romance novel writing, given by author Tracy Sinclare. This is the second installment in a three-part series about her discussion. Click on this link to see the first article, on romance fiction and feminism. And click on this link for the second installment, on graphic sex in romance novels.

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PART 3:
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Sinclare (Tielle St. Clare) - By Daylight Come.jpg
For Romance-Writing Industry,
New Modes of Publishing Bring
Challenges and Opportunities

Romance author Tracy Sinclare wrote her first novel manuscript at the age of 16. The rock-star romance was never published. “It’s dreadful!” she admits now. But she kept trying. In her senior year, when students were supposed to come to school in costume, to reflect what they wanted to be doing in 20 years, Sinclare dressed as a romance novelist.
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Sinclare went on to college and became a meteorologist who now forecasts the weather on Channel 2 in Anchorage, Alaska. But she never stopped writing. And at her 20-year high-school reunion, she handed out cards announcing the sale of her first novel.
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The industry has changed a lot since then. Novels can be published by traditional houses, small presses, or self-publishers. They can be sold by bookstores in printed form, or downloaded as e-Books.
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Sinclare herself has written 47 books, each one between 10,000 and 80,000 words. She has written in several subgenres and under various pen names. Some of her books are written for print publication, some for electronic distribution, and some for publication in both forms. She has self-published some of her books and used traditional publishers for others. So she has a well-rounded view of the current romance fiction market.
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While she believes self-publishing is an excellent choice for some books, she thinks its popularity also has resulted in some poor-quality work. “There are a lot of bad books out there,” she says, because self-publishing is so easy to do and because so many self-published books are not edited.
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On the other hand, new models for publishing have empowered writers to find readers that were being neglected by traditional publishers. Sinclare's latest series, written under the pseudonym Tielle St. Clare, is what she terms, "erotic gay werewolf romance." Understandably, it isn't targeted to the mass market, and would never have sold to a traditional, mainstream publisher.
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Not long ago, adding paranormal elements to a romance novel would have made it harder to sell, but the modern market is different. Gone are the days when genre-mixing killed a book’s marketability. The current romance market, says Sinclare, is more flexible. “Whatever you like to read, there are romance novels for it.” Today’s romances range from chaste to sexually explicit. They can be historical or contemporary; straight, gay, or transgendered; and they may incorporate elements of fantasy, science fiction, inspirational fiction, or horror. The common element is that, “in romance novels, love always wins.”
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The advent of electronic books has made it easier to reach specific audiences but harder to reach a broader one, and harder for many writers to make fiction-writing pay. Part of the problem, she believes, is that many writers underprice their work. When writers charge 99 cents for an e-book on Amazon, Sinclare thinks all writers have a harder time breaking even. She tried selling one of her own books at that price, and realized that she hardly made enough to cover the price she paid for the cover art. Amazon gives writers a much larger percentage if their books are priced at $2.99 and above, so that is generally the minimum Sinclare will charge for an e-book of 25,000 words or more. “I was lucky that I started writing before the e-book phenomenon hit,” she says, because it meant she already had an audience of readers who will seek out her books wherever they are available.
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Sinclare says it takes her about a month to write the first draft of a 30,000- to 35,000-word novel. When the draft is complete, she general waits two or two-and-a-half weeks, and then spends about three weeks editing it. She does not outline on paper, she admits, but she does think her plots through extensively. “I tend to have the entire book in my head before I write anything down.”
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She thinks romance is a good genre for first-time writers, both because of the high number of romance books being published, and because many publishers will accept romance manuscripts that are submitted without the help of an agent. For more information on writing and publishing romance novels, try the Romance Writers of America (https://www.rwa.org/).

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