Posted On November 8, 2013 by Print This Post

Making the Leap by Molly O’Keefe and RaeAnne Thayne

Today’s Visiting Professors at Romance University are authors MOLLY O’KEEFE and RAEANNE THAYNE. They are tackling a timely topic: MAKING THE LEAP. Whether you are indie, digital first or a succesful category author there are some things you need to think about before going after a Big Six contract.

Molly: Thanks to all the publishing changes in the last five years the road to making a living in this industry now has a thousand paths. But no matter if you are self-published, digital first, Harlequin and Silhouette or fan fiction when you start to think about signing with a big six publisher there are some questions you need to ask yourself.

First of all, there is no better time than right now to set realistic goals about what you want to accomplish in the next five years. But set those goals without factoring in the things you cannot control. Do you want to write more books? Longer books? Do you want to push yourself creatively? Self-publish? Write for more than one publisher? Start making that list and then ask yourself what can a big-six publisher do to help you get there.

Have you clearly defined in your own head why you want to write single title and whether you’re mentally ready for the challenges ahead? People are making a good living publishing their own work or writing for a digital first publisher with better terms. And signing a contract because writing for a big six publisher used to be a dream might not be the best decision for the present. If a publisher can get you better distribution, or a great advance, if they can get your books overseas or in the hands of an editor that can make you a better writer, then those are reasons to sign. But it’s different for every author.

Is this the right time for you? Going from writing for Harlequin to a single title publisher means more often than not, taking on a lot more than just writing the books and taking care of your social media. From the beginning you will be involved in more conversations about marketing and covers. And you will be expected to do a lot more in terms of promotion, and in my experience, spend a lot more. Are those things you’re ready for?

For me, the best and worst part of making the leap from category to single title is the amount of exposure my books get now. Before I was lucky to get reviewed outside of RT magazine, now thanks to net galley and my publisher’s publicity department, I’m reviewed far more widely. Reviews sell books, there’s no question. But bad reviews can ruin my productivity for days.

And so can sweating the numbers. Between print runs, sell-throughs, Amazon rankings, and Bookscan numbers – it all gets far more complicated. And there is much more to obsesses over. As my agent says: The numbers will only make you crazy. And if you are an author who is used to setting your own price point and putting your books on sale – that will all change when you sign with a big six publisher.
So, if you’ve answered all these questions and are still ready to take the leap, what does it mean for your craft? I’ll let RaeAnne answer that.

RaeAnne: Some people think a single title romance is simply a category romance with a little padding. Not so. If you want to have a successful career writing single title romances, you have to be prepared to take your writing to a different level. It’s not simply about word count, it’s about theme, about carefully layering plots and character development, about fine-tuning your prose so that every word sings.

Keep in mind also that some of the category romance hooks that romance readers love (with good reason!) don’t always translate well in the single title arena.

You have to start with getting a handle on the “big idea” – something that will make your story larger, your characters more vibrant and real, the plot more riveting. This is obviously important for every storyteller, no matter the genre, but it’s absolutely vital if you want to have a successful ST career.

Writing larger books allows for more creative freedom and the chance to expand beyond the very necessary (and beloved!) structure and boundaries of category. This is an exhilarating challenge and can energize a writer to try new things and push him or herself in amazing directions.

At the same time, writing outside your comfort zone can feel strange and even frightening.

When I wrote my first single title, BLACKBERRY SUMMER, the writing process was difficult for me because I questioned every sentence, every paragraph. After writing more than thirty category romances for Bantam Loveswept and various lines at Harlequin/Silhouette, I had become comfortable with the pacing and the form of writing a 60,000-word book. I loved writing Special Editions (and still do, which is why I plan to continue writing for the line!) and believe I had developed an instinctive sense for the kind of stories that readers of that particular line wanted.

Once those boundaries were removed, I felt a little like a teenage girl let loose in a mall with a limitless credit card, not sure where to start and giddy with the possibilities. It took me about three books in my Hope’s Crossing series before I felt comfortable with my developing single title voice.

I have since come to love that creative freedom – the chance to explore a secondary character’s POV, to focus on other relationships besides only the developing romance of the hero and heroine, to build a warm, interesting community that transcends setting alone.

As the publishing industry continues to change, more and more opportunities for authors are created, but one thing has always remained the same, no matter what you are writing it pays to be smart about the business and about craft. Deciding what you want and what you need to do to get there is the first step in having a long career in this tumultuous industry.


So, where are you in your career? Is writing single title for a New York publisher still a dream? Or have you found other ways to make a living in this business?

RU contributor HANDSOME HANSEL is back on Monday, November 11


Molly O’Keefe is a RITA-Award winning author with 24 novels in publication.. WILD CHILD the first in her sexy contemporary romance series The Boys of Bishop, is out now. She lives in Toronto, Canada with her family and the largest heap of dirty laundry in North America.

RaeAnne Thayne is a USA Today bestselling author and four-time RITA finalist who has written more than 40 books for HQN, Silhouette Special Edition, Silhouette Intimate Moments/Romantic Suspense and Bantam Loveswept. She finds inspiration from the beautiful mountains of northern Utah, where she lives with her hero of a husband and their patient children.

You can find Molly O’Keefe and RaeAnne Thayne on Facebook

WILD CHILD by Molly O’Keefe and CHRISTMAS IN SNOWFLAKE CANYON by RaeAnne Thayne were released Oct. 29.

Perfect for readers of Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Rachel Gibson, this sizzling romance tells the story of a sexy small-town mayor and a notorious “bad girl,” who discover that home really is where the heart is.
Monica Appleby is a woman with a reputation. Once she was America’s teenage “Wild Child,” with her own reality TV show. Now she’s a successful author coming home to Bishop, Arkansas, to pen the juicy follow-up to her tell-all autobiography. Problem is, the hottest man in town wants her gone. Mayor Jackson Davies is trying to convince a cookie giant to move its headquarters to his crumbling community, and Monica’s presence is just too . . . unwholesome for business. But the desire in his eyes sends a very different message: Stay, at least for a while.
Jackson needs this cookie deal to go through. His town is dying and this may be its last shot. Monica is a distraction proving too sweet, too inviting—and completely beyond his control. With every kiss he can taste her loneliness, her regrets, and her longing. Soon their uncontrollable attraction is causing all kinds of drama. But when two lost hearts take a surprise detour onto the bumpy road of unexpected love, it can only lead someplace wonderful.
“Molly O’Keefe is a unique, not-to-be-missed voice in romantic fiction.”—New York Times bestselling author Susan Andersen


Christmas in Snowflake Canyon
Holiday gifts don’t always come in expected packages…especially in the town of Hope’s Crossing.
No one has ever felt sorry for Genevieve Beaumont. After all, she has everything money can buy. That is, until she discovers her fiancé has been two-timing her and she’s left with two choices: marry the philanderer to please her controlling father or be disinherited and find a means to support herself.
Genevieve’s salvation appears in the most unlikely of prospects: Dylan Caine, a sexy, wounded war vet whose life is as messy as hers. Dylan’s struggling to adjust after his time in Afghanistan, and the last thing he needs is a spoiled socialite learning about the real world for the first time. True, she may have unexpected depths and beauty to match. But he knows he could never be the man she needs…and she knows he could never be the man she thinks she wants. So why are they each hoping that a Christmas miracle willl prove them both wrong?

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24 Responses to “Making the Leap by Molly O’Keefe and RaeAnne Thayne”

  1. Good morning, Molly and RaeAnne. Thanks so much for being here. Your post hits close to home for me as I’m trying to plan out my next couple of years. I write single titles but also write for Intrigue and I’m still figuring out how to balance it all.

    It’s not easy! 🙂

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | November 8, 2013, 7:37 am
  2. Hey Adrienne!! Truthfully I have no idea how Rae manages to keep one foot in Harlequin and one in single title. I found I was writing stories that were just too similar and my well was running down at an outrageous pace. I’m amazed at authors who are able to keep both going successfully!

    Posted by Molly O'Keefe | November 8, 2013, 7:39 am
  3. Molly and RaeAnne – Thanks for a fabulous post. I look forward to reading your books!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | November 8, 2013, 8:20 am
  4. Morning Molly and RaeAnne!

    I’m unpublished, but would like to be one of those who does both category and single title as well as indie and big 6 published. Not asking for much am I? =)

    We’ll see how this years nano book turns out, I’m still pounding out the word count!

    Thanks for a very informative post today!


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | November 8, 2013, 8:21 am
  5. Hi Molly and RaeAnne,

    I need a plan and a way to make a living writing. More New Year’s resolutions for me.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | November 8, 2013, 8:37 am
    • Mary – HA!!! I’ve given up on New Years resolutions and now I do my year planning/hoping/resolving in September when the kids go back to school and for some reason I feel like it’s made a difference in how I see things through!!

      Posted by Molly O'Keefe | November 8, 2013, 8:54 am
  6. I stumbled onto this post this morning over coffee, and I’m so glad I did. I’m a fan of both Molly’s and RaeAnne’s books, and I also write both single title (for Berkley and Kensington) and category for Harlequin’s Romantic Suspense line. Recently, some of my contracts came to an end and I agonized for months about what next step my career should take. Go for another Harlequin contract? Another single title? Self publish? Ultimately, I know I’ll be a hybrid author, with one foot in the traditional publishing world and the other in self pubbing, but I’ve decided to give traditional pubbing another year of my undivided attention in order to build my platform. Like Molly said, single title has opened a lot of doors for me, respect-wise and with reviewers. But Harlequin has also done so much for me, putting my books in audio format and getting them in the hands of readers overseas. It was definitely not a decision I came to lightly and involved numerous long conversations with my agent and writer friends. Will the sales numbers make this decision worth it? I’m still not sure. I’m not going to lie; it’s sometimes tough to watch self pubbing friends raking it in and hitting lists while I stay my chosen course, but in the end, I think I’ve made the right decision for me.

    All I can say is, what an exciting crossroad in the industry we are all at! We, as writers, have never had so many choices, and I really think that’s a great position to be in. Thanks for this great post, Molly and RaeAnne.

    ~Melissa Cutler

    Posted by Melissa Cutler | November 8, 2013, 8:39 am
    • I think it’s so important to do what’s right for you, Melissa! I took a lot of stick for holding out for Harlequin instead of self-publishing, but it was definitely the right choice for me.

      Posted by Anna Sugden | November 8, 2013, 8:59 am
      • Congratulations on your Harlequin contract, Anna! I love working for Harlequin and credit them with helping me start a solid reader foundation. I think what Molly said about sometimes feeling like we have to do everything, right now, is so true, but feeling like you made the right choice for you goes a long way in combating that feeling like you’re slipping behind in the “race”.

        Posted by Melissa Cutler | November 8, 2013, 9:09 am
        • Thanks, Melissa! I love working with Harlequin too and have learned a huge amount from my editor.

          You’re right too in that I’m happy with how things are going For Me, so that helps a lot with the naysayers 🙂

          Posted by Anna Sugden | November 8, 2013, 9:45 am
          • Anna, I have to chime in here that everyone’s path is different and I admire so much that you knew just what you wanted out of your career and waited patiently until that chance came along.

            As for me, I know I wouldn’t be anywhere without the growth and development as a writer that I gained from having a fantastic editor and then a publishing house that jumped behind me in a very wonderful way.

            Believe me, I know that doesn’t happen all the time (and I know much of it comes from being in the right place at the right time!).

            Good luck to all of you, whatever choices you make 🙂

            Posted by RaeAnne | November 8, 2013, 12:57 pm
      • Anna – So great to see you here! Do you have a date for your next release?

        Posted by Becke Martin Davis | November 8, 2013, 9:17 am
  7. MELISSA! Oh I know that crossroads so well. And I know friends who have made different choices and we all really do end up okay in the end. It feels so often that we have to do EVERYTHING and do it RIGHT NOW! But taking a breath, making some lists, setting some personal goals – those things are never wasted.

    Posted by Molly O'Keefe | November 8, 2013, 8:52 am
  8. Hey Molly and RaeAnne! Still squeeing about RaeAnne’s NYT score!

    Great to see you here today and with a wonderful article. Having finally had the first part of my dream come true – being published by Harlequin – I am in the phase of planning out how I want to build my career. I’m not ready yet to branch out because I can’t write quickly enough – plus I’ve only had one book out! – but the next stage of the dream is to be able to have a second string to my writing bow – be it with romantic suspense or single title.

    Posted by Anna Sugden | November 8, 2013, 8:58 am
    • I credit Harlequin for so much – it’s a relatively safe place to try all sorts of things. I really learned my craft, found my voice – all of it thanks to Wanda Ottewell – my amazing editor at Harlequin. I totally hear you on getting grief from friends and other writers – but this isn’t really a team sport and you’ve got to do what’s right for you!!

      Posted by Molly O'Keefe | November 8, 2013, 9:21 am
  9. Am loving this conversation! I’m with Melissa on being the hybrid author and it can be extremely overwhelming. Molly, it’s great to hear another author say to take a breath! I think we get so caught up in trying to produce and with so many options, it can get overwhelming.

    I’m working on my new single title now and the plotting has taken me much longer than it normally would. With each book I try to make it better, but I’ve made a promise to myself to considerably “up my game” with this book and I don’t want to rush it. Honestly, I had to learn to be okay with the idea that my next single title won’t be out for a little while yet. That was hard, but once I accepted it, it was really quite freeing.

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | November 8, 2013, 11:58 am
    • I’m with you, Adrienne. It’s good to remember to take a breath. It’s amazing how easy it is to buy into the illusion that I’m falling behind, not doing enough, fast enough. We have to remember that our careers are marathons, not sprints. Good for you for taking the time you need to improve your craft and create your best possible art.

      Posted by Melissa Cutler | November 8, 2013, 12:28 pm
    • Adrienne, when I decided I wanted to try to write my first single title, I was up for contract negotiations at SE. Instead of doing a multi-book, as I usually would, I asked instead for a one-book contract and then after I finished that one, I took a couple months off to just plot and think and write a couple of proposals. It’s very hard to do that when you’re tied into that three-book-a-year pub schedule but for me, I needed the time to let the ideas percolate.

      Posted by RaeAnne | November 8, 2013, 12:53 pm
  10. RaeAnne and Molly,

    Thank you so much for your wonderful post and for hanging out with us today.

    I hope you’ll come back again!


    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | November 8, 2013, 8:46 pm

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