Categories and Single Titles

A category romance is a shorter romance (45-60k, depending on the line, up to 75k if it's historical) that has a one month shelf life. Harlequin is the main category publisher though I think there are others who have category-like imprints.(Barbour and Kensington)

Single Titles are all the other books you see sitting on the shelf. They're usually 75k-110k and the plot lines include more subplots than a category.

For the past few months I've been turning my category into a single title. It's hard!

Do you know if there's such a thing as western categories? What size books do you enjoy reading? How long is your WIP?


Terri Tiffany said…
We're doing the same thing! I added 5000 last week but have 15000 to go and that means more twists and plots probably. Let me know how you do!
Lisa Jordan said…
Not sure about western categories. I know Steeple Hill likes western romances. Their readers love the cowboys and ranch life.

I took a single title and cut it down into a category romance. That was an experience, which really helped me find the defining points in the story.

I submitted a category romance geared for Steeple Hill and maxed out their word count guidelines. If SH chooses not to take it and we submit it to a different category romance publisher, I will need to cut more words.

I'm writing a trade length novel now and hope my plot and subplot is strong enough to sustain the length. We'll see.
In the 80's seems to be the sweet spot for mine. I am often drawn to reading long novels for some reason. I guess I don't have to say goodbye so quickly then.
~ Wendy
Emily Conrad said…
I never knew the definition before. I write YA, and my WIP comes in at about 72,000. I would think it would be really difficult to revise a novel from category to single title. Good luck! :)
Jessica Nelson said…
Emily, it is kind of difficult! LOL Good luck to you too with your YA. :-) Sounds like it's the perfect length.

Wendy, you're funny about reading longer books! :-) I'm glad you get your wordage up to the 80s. That's a great count.
Jessica Nelson said…
Lisa, it's true, cutting down does help you see what's necessary to the storyline. I hope you hear awesome news with SH! :-) So how long is trade length?

Terri, did you get my e-mail back to you? I thought it was funny we're doing the same thing. :-)
Thanks for being clear about the difference. It helps!

I'm shooting for 75k, but still have a lot to do in edits to reach it.
Anonymous said…
You have answered the question I had yesterday regarding word count! Although I read an interesting published author interview recently who said the story should dictate the count, and not to be concerned.
Best wishes with your single title! And thanks for posting this today and answering my question!
Jessica Nelson said…
Janna, I like 75k too. I seem to have trouble getting much farther.

Lynn, that sounds like an interesting interview. If the author is already pubbed though, she might not realize that it's easier for a newbie to get pubbed when we follow the rules. LOL I'm glad I answered your question. :-)
patti said…
Yeah, I think there's western. But what does a women's fictive know?

LOOOONGG books, short books; that is totally not a factor for me. If I LOVE the book, I start tearing up near the end, not just b/c of the great plot but b/c I don't want to say goodbye.

Hmmm. Right now, Lily's about 130 pages. Sigh. I never check the word count. My first published babies all push 120,000 words...big girls they are...
LOVE your blog, Jessica!
Great questions.
Jessica Nelson said…
Awww, Patti. You tear up? :-) Your stories are 120K!!! Wow.... lol
Unknown said…
I love writing category. I have a journalism background, and that forced me into writing tightly - I'm afraid almost to a fault. Hopefully, someday I'll write a 100k book. Right now, it seems daunting.
Erica Vetsch said…
I'm usually within spitting distance of the maximum wordcount for Heartsong Presents at 50K.

I'm hoping to try my hand at a trade-length novel really soon which should come in at about 100K.
Jolene Perry said…
Oh, wow. The one that's "done" is 108,000, the one I finally hit the print button on (for the first round of markings) is about 75,000 and not likely to get any bigger. I would imagine most of what I write will be between those words counts.
What do I read? Pretty much everything.
Tana said…
I didn't know categories were 40-60. My MS's are in the 90K range. It seems daunting but I always somehow manage to get there. ;)
Amy DeTrempe said…
I don't have a preferenced for the size of book I read. I am not sure I could write a category romance because my WIPs tend to be 85 to 90,000 words.
Katie Ganshert said…
Erica Vetsch and Mary Conneally write western romances for Heartsongs...historicals. Is that what you mean?

Do you write contemporary, Jessica?
Cindy R. Wilson said…
I am amazed that people can write category romances and fill them full of excellent plot and characters. That would be such a challenge for me! It takes me longer to write a story. I usually try to get at least 85,000. My current WIP is going to be around 90,000, I think--though I did just add in three chapters that weren't in my outline so we'll see if it isn't a little longer :)
Jessica Nelson said…
Julie, I'm the same way! No degree, but I did write for a paper and had to learn how to write tight, so most of mine are on the short side for STs, perfect for categories. Maybe someday you will! We probably need to utilize more subplots. lol!

Oooh, Erica! I'd love to read a longer one by you. Actually, I'd like to get your recent one before it's gone!
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL Jolene, sounds like you're hitting both ends of the ST spectrum. :-)

T. Anne, yeah, the categories are the thinner ones you see on the shelf and they usually have different lines with different guidelines on plot.
Stephanie said…
Great post!!! I never really give much thought to length when I start...I just write!! When I finished A Bitch Named karma, it was on the short side (still is, actually!). I think it was around 64,000. I bumped it up and when it was accepted for publication from Lyrical Press, it was at 69,000. Then after edits, it was up to 72,000. Which made me ecstatic...Lyrical will only consider works over 70,000 for print.
Jessica Nelson said…
Amy, you never know what you can do. ;-) But you're right, you probably wouldn't enjoy it, esp. if you don't read them.

No, I meant westerns like Louis L'Amour and the long arm rifle ones (or something like that, lol). I've written one historical and three contemporaries, but those were linked. I want to write another historical someday, but know it'll require tons of research, which I'm not the best at. :-)
Julie Dao said…
I've never read a western before but I have seen them on the bookshelves! They look very interesting. The romance genre seems to be pretty strict on word count!
Susanne Dietze said…
Great post! I've read several western-set Heartsong and SHs, but I'm not sure if that's what you mean. There are some great western stories out there.

I write category-length. Right now I'm revising one MS and trying to up the word count just a wee bit.

Best wishes with your work!
Karen Lange said…
I've heard of the western categories but not read many of them. I think they might interest me, but I lean toward historicals. Would like to figure out how to get more hours out of the day to read. No sleep perhaps? :)
Jessica Nelson said…
Stephanie, that's great! I hope your book gets into print. :-)

Thanks Susanne! Did you ever hear back on your submission to LI?

Karen, if you figure it out, let me know, okay? LOL
Hi Jess -

I've heard of western romances. You could probably Swagbuck it. :)

It's a stretch for me, but I get to around 95,000 words. After editing, the book evens out at 90,000.


Thanks for visiting my blog and for your kind comment. Like most of us, it's always so exciting to find notes from followers and visitors.


Tabitha Bird said…
My memoir is 77K. That's average for memoir. I enjoy all length of books. It is the writing that counts. Some authors can make 50K seem like too many words and some authors can take 150K and you still wish the story would not end!
anita said…
Don't know if there's Western categories, but Louis L'Amour would be the king if there were. We had an impressive collection of his works at our middle school library ... over forty some odd titles. I understand he wrote over 200 books in his career. Pretty dang prolific! ;-)

As for me, I love a big, thick book, but only if the prose is beautiful and makes me salivate. Heh. Because most the time I'm reading in my genre to learn craft and stay on top of competition, I prefer shorter books to make time for writing. The big fatties(literary ones) are strictly an occasional treat. Like the Godiva of the lit world.

My WIP is about 38k at the moment.
Jill Kemerer said…
It depends on my mood. Sometimes I want a short category novel, and other times I want a long romance. Good luck!
In at 80,000, historical romantic thriller, suspense thingy watsit. Not quite found its genre

It was a challenge for my first.

Good luck with yours.
Nancy said…
I prefer books abour 200-300 pages. Longer books had better be excpetional. The books I write tend to be between 100 and 200 pages, but then, they are children's books.
Good luck!

Sometimes I'm in the mood for a quick read, sometimes I want a big book. :) It depends on the time I have and what I'm in the mood for. :)
Deb Shucka said…
Cool. I learned something new today. This was so interesting to read.
Dara said…
Well my current WiP, in the last draft, was just over 100K and I still had more to write. I've had to trim a lot and it's still too long. I'm in the 30's now and trying not to make it longer than 90K. I think I may be within a few chapters of the half way point but I don't know...

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