Writers, have you written a “book of your heart” that you’re thinking probably won’t ever see the light of day? It’s pretty fair to assume that most of us have at least one of those moldering under the bed, written in a fervor of enthusiasm but without the benefit of really knowing what the heck we were doing. Mine is a medieval story set on the Welsh marches during the reign of Edward III. It took me two years to write and polish it (when I started I didn’t even understand point of view, much less internal and external conflict), not to mention cutting it down from about 150,000 words (did I mention that fervor of enthusiasm?) to a much more reasonable 95,000. For all it’s flaws, the book embodied all the passion I felt for the history of the period, and for characters that dominated my imagination and refused to back off until I told their story. That book got me several contest wins, an agent, and some positively glowing rejection letters. But alas….
When I wrote that story, called Falcons In Flight, medievals were actually selling pretty well. Then, suddenly, the medieval market dried up and while I can’t for the life of me understand why, it’s never really cycled back, not like it was. Oh, there are always a few medievals on the shelves – my friend and fellow FRW member, Traci E. Hall, writes a wonderful medieval series – but for the most part they seem to make up a small percentage of releases. I once heard a young editor say she found the middle ages too gritty to be romantic. I don’t happen to agree – the grittiness is one of the things I love – and I know I’m not alone in that.
Anyway, yesterday the mega talented and, by the way, very funny Karen Hawkins spoke at my FL Romance Writers meeting. One of the things she touched on was the book of your heart. Karen advised that if something is important to you and calling to you, you should write it, but you should also understand the market and be realistic about your chances of selling – at least at the current time. She wrote a book of her heart years ago, set in Elizabethan England. This book was published, but under Karen’s earlier pseudonym, Kim Bennet, with the title ONE LUCKY LORD. After that, the Karen Hawkins we all know and love went on to pen the wonderful, funny, heartwarming Regency historicals that made her a bestselling author.
But she never forgot that book of her heart, and how it really never received the care and attention it deserved. Nor did she stop watching the markets. When the Showtime series THE TUDORS caught on in such a big way (I am a HUGE fan), Karen thought…hmm. She dug that book out from under the bed or wherever she had stashed it after its initial publication, and revised and reworked it, giving the story the benefit of everything she had learned through the years. And guess what?
MUCH ADO ABOUT MARRIAGE releases Aug. 31st
Karen went about the rebirth of this story in a very savvy manner. First she reminded her editor about the incredible popularity of THE TUDORS, and convinced her publisher that the time was ripe to take advantage of the opportunity of attracting that audience. Secondly, she rewrote the story to be a prequel to her current MacLean Curse series and her upcoming Hurst Amulet series which debuts this November. In doing so, Karen pretty much guaranteed herself an avid audience for this book. TUDOR fans like me will be excited to find more of this genre available to satisfy our craving for Elizabethan intrigue and fierce men in doublets and trunkhose. Likewise, MacLean series fans, like me, will snatch up this book to learn more about the origins of those sexy MacLean heroes. Karen seized an opportunity from the market and worked it to her advantage by tying it in with her existing author brand.
So the point is: write what you love, while being well aware of market trends and ready to seize opportunities when they arise, and when they do, work them to your best advantage by recognizing & utilizing your strengths as an author. And never, EVER give up on the book of your heart, because you just never know.
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