Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Party Is Over

posted by Michele

Yes, it's a long post. But there's a contest question at the end! Read, or scroll down to it, whichever you prefer.

I have always admired the Harlequin/Silhouette empire. But I have never felt it was a place I really belonged, or would fit in should I attempt to write a story for one of their series. It's as though I have always stood outside the castle gates, in fear of the angry villagers, should I attempt to infiltrate their ranks. Let's just say I 'slipped in to Harlequin through the back door'. And I've felt like an imposter ever since.

By slipping in, I mean, I sold my first book to Harlequin a few years back. It wasn't a romance. Heck, it was a medieval fantasy. I'd just heard of the new Luna line Harlequin had planned to introduce, and did I have a story for that. I sold the book in two months. And suddenly, I was a Harlequin author. But not really. I was a Luna author. I still hadn't broke through to the ranks of series writer. I had invaded the curtain wall, but the keep was yet closed off to me.

One day my Luna editor suggested I send her a proposal for the new line they were starting about kick-ass heroines. "This is a series?" I asked nervously. "Er, I don't know." It wasn't because I didn't want to write a series book. It was because I knew I didn't fit in with that elite crowd of writers who fashioned stories with rich romantic details and emotional punch. My confession? I struggle with the romance part. So how could I be expected to write one of those...romances? I was just fine standing outside the keep door.

Sure, I've written historical romances. And yes, I believe they were very romantic. But I've never sacrificed my love for action and adventure and 'the quest' for romance.

Anyway, my editor asked me again to write a Bombshell proposal. And again. Finally, I figured she really wanted something from me. And, encouraged that this series would be different--action/adventure, suspense and thrills, NOT a romance, but with a touch of romance to fortify the characters and add to the overall story growth. Well, I'd give it a try. I sent in my idea for ONCE A THIEF. My editor bought it. The keep doors were pushed wide open. And I had fallen in love.

I had become a series writer. And I couldn't be more thrilled about it. Still, I felt an imposter, because these books were not romances. But I didn't care. I had breached the inner sanctum. I was part of the empire!

I sold three more Bombshells, and currently have at least two or three ideas beyond that in the works. I have grown passionate about this line. Where else can I write a story that focuses mainly on the heroine? A heroine who is allowed to be rough, tough, a little vulnerable, yet one who DOESN'T NEED A MAN to rescue her? Of course, there always is a man. He's good for joining the heroine on her quest. For eye candy. And sex, sex is good. But he never gets in her way. And if he does? Well, then the sparks fly. And romance? You bet! I've done these heroines so far: a jewel thief, an undercover billionairess who fights white-collar crime, and a getaway car driver. None apologize for mistakes they've made in the past. All are trying to be the best they can be. And each proved the best time I've ever had writing a story.

The Bombshell series was my home. I began to feel less like an imposter. I had found my niche.

Well, you've all heard. January 2007 will be the last month the Bombshell series is published. Sales were not as expected. Theories have been bounced across the blogsphere for the past few days, most landing on marketing. Readers went to their favorite book stores, spied the new Bombshell series nesled amidst all their other favorite H/S romance series and assumed this must be another romantic series. They expected happy endings. They were...confused. There was nothing wrong with the stories. The writers are awesome. I've discovered some great new reads in the line. But something didn't click once the books hit the shelves. The series was given a chance (about 2 1/2 years). Now it's on to the next new thing.

The announcement this past Monday was a shock, even though there had been rumblings that Bombshell was on it's last leg. I am devastated. But I am one of the lucky ones. I had two contracted Bombshells, both in about the half-done stage, slated for publishing later in 2007. Those stories will now be set aside. I may find a new home for them elsewhere. I'm just not sure. In the mean time, I'll replace them with two Nocturne stories, since I am also writing for the new paranormal Nocturne line that debuts this October. That means I have to come up with two new stories, pronto.

Other authors may not be so fortunate. There were first-time sales that will not see their stories published. I cross my fingers for them that they are able to sell the book elsewhere. There are some authors who were in the middle of three or four book series, which will now end abruptly (my Network series ends abruptly as well). Some of these books may find positions in other H/S lines, others will not. It is the nature of publishing. Nothing ever remains for too long. Lines rise and lines fall. Publishers put forth valiant efforts at trying new things all the time. If it works, awesome; if not, on to the next thing.

So here's to all the awesome Bombshell authors who, for a moment, got to kick ass right along with their heroines. Best to you all!

And as for the imposter? Well, I'm still standing inside the keep walls, now writing for an official 'romance' series, which has me shaking in my boots. Sure the Nocturnes are paranormal (which I love!). But that romance I struggle so to put to the page? Do you think people will notice the imposter and charge after her with torches and pitchforks? I'm lying low until I can see if the villager's faces are friendly or ferocious. :-)

CONTEST QUESTION! How many of you found your way to our blog after reading about us in Romantic Times? Please delurk and let us know. And to make things even more interesting, I'll gather all those who post today and will draw one name tomorrow morning. The winner will receive an autographed copy of GETAWAY GIRL, my third (and last--waaaaa!) Bombshell adventure.

M

20 comments:

Helen Brenna said...

Michele, I feel awful for you and the other Bombshell authors. It's all the email links have been talking about these past couple of days, so it's brought to home for a newbie like me how this kind of thing affects everyone, Bombshell author or not.

Reality, yes, but still extremely frustrating. I think, just like when grieving over any kind of loss, I'd first be sad, then very angry. How do you get past that?

Oh, and for all you would-be contest joiners out there, I'm not eligible for the contest, so post away!

Betina Krahn said...

Heck, I'm not eligible either! So I'm going to rush out and grab a copy while I still can!

Michelle, you will not only survive, you'll land on your feet and turn those Bombshells into great big single title releases! We have faith in you. After all, a woman who can handle dragons can handle anything!

And we'll be here cheering when the next big break comes!

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Wow, Michele. You describe very well what novel writers go through when trying to get published and after.

You're detailing of the gist of the Bombshell line is interesting. Is it romance if the ending is soft w/o firm commitment? (Well I think so, which is why I featured "Flawless" on the nat'l RBtheBook sites).

But maybe Hquin is doing readers and writers a diservice by mktng to the romance crowd? I am often frustrated by the novels I'm sent for review which aren't romance and are barely women's fiction. They're just marketed to look like romance.

All that said, I'm sorry for your disappointment. But clearly, you have no probs getting books sold because you have the talent.

I didn't read the RT article, but don't consider myself eligible anyway. But I love dropping by.

anne frasier said...

when i first heard about this, i was furious. but now that i've calmed down i have to admit that it's business. sometimes a shitty, shitty business, but business. and i'm not blaming the publishing house, although contracts are for the publisher, not the writer. any of us could be unemployed tomorrow with just one phone call. that fast. self-employed artists never know what's around the corner.

i think the thing that really bugged me is that i first heard rumblings about bombshell's demise a year ago. and yet they continued to contract books. but i can also understand this, because if the line didn't crash they needed books!

so sorry, michele. and especially sorry that you have to come up with 2 completely new books fast. would have been different if they could have simply moved the contracted books to another line which sometimes happens in these situations.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Back when we were talking about our best and worst covers, I posted the beautiful cover for REASON TO BELIEVE and proclaimed it my worst. In this crazy biz marketing strategy is everything. Placement is SUCH a big part of that. If it's shelved with series romance, it better be romance.

Over the years Harlequin has struggled to make single title work because they kept trying to hang onto some vestige of series. That's where their strength was. Years ago I sold a single title to them for a new program. At first they were committed to single title. Really. Before the first books came out, the feet started getting cold. Better give the books some kind of an imprint. Better put Harlequin somewhere on the covers. It wasn't long before the word got out--they were going to publish the books they had under contract as "The Big Summer Read" and then back off the program. I bought my book back and sold it to Avon.

When Harlequin next took the plunge into single title, they did things differently. You don't see "Harlequin" on Mira covers. The books are honestly and truly sold in as single titles. It's taken time to build, and time is the one commodity the suits are stingy with. They'll pour on the money, but not for long. But the way the bookselling business is changing by leaps and bounds, publishers have to give these projects time and they have to adjust. Clearly there's a market for the kind of book that was being written for Bombshell. Clearly they had good authors on board. The resistence might well be coming from the booksellers. It may be that Harlequin will step back, evaluate, and try again.

anne frasier said...

harlequin has certainly done well with mira. and i have to give them credit for starting the bombshell line to begin with. what is a romance today? for me it's sometimes simply the way a book feels. (but i know nothing. even when i was writing romance, i didn't know what romance was.) i just read michele's getaway girl, and called it a romance. it seemed very much a romance to me, because the basic focus was still the relationship. maybe harlequin was trying to redefine romance - also a good idea. they had good ideas at the foundation of it all, just sounds like poor execution. i would hate to have them say, oh, this kind of book doesn't work. maybe they will come back with a better game plan like you're saying, kathleen.

Nicole said...

I've actually have been visiting for awhile and just haven't commented much, but I have read almost all the posts. Got the site bookmarked and come regularly.

I did notice it mentioned in RT, though. :-)

I thought the Bombshell books have just really gotten into their stride. I wasn't impressed with some of the earlier offerings, but the latest ones seem so much better. Sad that it won't be around. But I can see where readers would be confused. Some romance readers have clearly defined rules as to what they want romance to mean and are upset when a story doesn't deliver.

I do think Harlequin has been coming out with some awesome single titles. Mira, HQN, and I recently loved the Rogue Angel book from Gold Eagle (another Harlequin thing).

I like category romances, but there are almost too many choices each month. I do plan to try out the Nocturne line.

Helen Brenna said...

Yeah, Nicole!! Thanks for coming out and chatting.

Good to know you saw the RT article. We're trying to drum up interest and every little bit helps. We luv hearing we're bookmarked!

Nocturne's going to be great, right Michele?

anne frasier said...

"I thought the Bombshell books have just really gotten into their stride. I wasn't impressed with some of the earlier offerings, but the latest ones seem so much better."

nicole, i found the above comment interesting. that could be part of the problem. i think a line really has to hit the ground running, now more than ever.

all i can do is really reference the good ol' days of romances, when they were selling like crazy. loveswepts were hot from day one. michele's book reminded me of those old loveswepts where the writer could take it any direction and the heroines might even kick some ass. and what was strange about those is that the writers were just as important as the line even though many weren't big yet.

i think i'm rambling.... damn allergy meds. i'll blame it on them, anyway... carry on.

Betina Krahn said...

Wait-- what's this I see? Nicole is that a penguin??? Aha! Another Penguin Lover!!!

Welcome to the nest!

And do we or do we not have a winner in the contest?

Y said...

Well, I found my way here via your personal blog, Michele. :) I was just really interested in reading what you thought about the Bombshell's demise. :(

I'm so disappointed! These novels were all so GREAT. Wonderful, entertaining reads about strong, independent women. And the writers were always so kind when approached via email or the message board too. I'm going to miss these stories and kick-butt characters. I really am! Every Bombshell I've read, I've enjoyed immensely...

Thanks for sharing your POV.

Helen Brenna said...

An author on the HQ Superromance loop has coined a new phrase in reference to the Bombshell line closing. "Save an author, buy a new book!"

Michele said...

We do have a winner and it is Nicole.

Nicole, if you've checked back, do send my your snail mail address, and I'll get a copy of GETAWAY GIRL in the mail to you.

I LOVE the new Rogue Angel series. Read that book as fast as I could; it was right up my Bombshell-alley.

And Nocturne will be awesome. I'm guessing it's going to shock a few readers, as Bombshell did. Nocturne is dark and sexy. Not light. Not warm and fuzzy. DARK. SEXY. ALPHA MALES. So if you're looking for a laugh, Nocturne will not be the place. But it's got great stories and lots of romance, so do check it out!
M

anne frasier said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
anne frasier said...

y, thanks so much for stopping by. in all the bombshell mess i have to confess i didn't think about the loss to the people who were reading and enjoying these books.
:( it's nice to hear your perspective.

helen, i do often wonder what role all the internet book trade and book rental sites play in all of this. used bookstores seem harmless in comparison. but that's a whole other post.

Michele said...

Opps! Forgot to post my email for Nicole to contact me

michele @ michelehauf.com

No spaces in the above address.

Nicole said...

Thanks Michele, will email you now.

Nicole said...

Betina, yup, I love penguins. I took that pic at *I think* the Des Moines, IA zoo.

Helen, I love that phrase. I've found that now that I'm in the blogosphere more, I buy more new books. And despite the fact that I work for a large used bookstore chain (Half Price Books), I still spend around 50 to 70 dollars a month on new books. I want to support my favorite authors and help out the new ones.

And yeah, I just don't think Bombshell started out strong.

And Anne and Betina, can't wait to get your new books. Next month, right?

Betina Krahn said...

Right Nicole! Next month. Ooooo-- that's only two weeks away! Yikes. Two weeks. I may be having a book and a grandchild at the same time!
Oh, and I just got my first full copies in the mail today. I just love this cover. . . and the characters and the story. . .

Nicole said...

Congrats on getting your copies. I've been looking over what I want for September. So many books, it's so hard to decide. Can't always get them all or I'd be broke.