When I first started writing, my fabulous mentor Candace Irvin said go to the bookstore and figure out what you’re like. You need to know the market before you can start to see where you fit.
So I went. I read Joann Ross, Cindy Gerard, Suzanne Brockmann, Marliss Melton and others. I read Robyn Carr after Roxanne St Claire said maybe you’re more like her. After all, I’ve got military heroes, I’ve got to be like one of these great ladies, right?
Oh how wrong I was. Here’s the problem and its not one I’m sure I can overcome. I’m not romantic suspense. So my War’s Darkest Series is not like Suzanne Brockmann’s Seal Team series where there’s a cast of eight or so strapping men to pick a story from. None of my characters are Special Operations Forces.
My characters are also not prior military like Robyn Carr’s heros, who have all gotten out and headed up country to Virgin River, hoping to find a new life away from their military experiences. My guys are the Everyman, my women spouses, nurses and warriors themselves. No Special Forces, Navy Seals or Black Ops. Just regular soldiers, fighting the good fight.
So my books don’t fit. They aren’t small town based like Robyn’s and they’re not suspense like Joann, Cindy or Suzanne. In short, there’s nothing out there that I can compare to because everyone has either written prior military characters or Navy Seals.
When I wrote military romance in a query letter, little did I know I was speaking in code for romantic suspense. When agents are reading it, they’re looking for suspense. Fast pacing, action, action, romance, action. And that’s not what I wrote. I wrote a character based, contemporary romance with men and women who are all still in the military. I wrote books that were not suspense except that by putting military in the query, I was telling agents that’s what they were.
I screwed myself, apparently. I feel like when I sent out this last round of queries, I should have put in big bold letters, THIS IS NOT ROMANTIC SUSPENSE. I don’t know that it would have helped. I’m reasonably certain there are other issues in my current WIP but I’m also reasonably certain that the main problem agents are seeing is that they’re reading for romantic suspense and putting the book down when it doesn’t live up their expectations, wrong or not.
So, bluntly, I think I’m screwed. How do you pitch a book that doesn’t fit into a nice neat genre? Especially in this market? You can pitch to your hearts content but if you can’t get past the gatekeepers, you can’t get sold. I’m not complaining about agents, mind you. I’m simply stating that I think I pitched my books wrong to the fabulous agents who asked for the full manuscript and ultimately passed with great comments.
So that’s the end of this, for now. I’m revising once more because I’ve got a song in my head that is making me work on this book, even though I’m pretty sure it’s a dead end. I’ve learned a lot, but the one thing I don’t know how to fix is how to query the next project correctly. Maybe I’ll put in the query: this is not suspense.