I have wanted to post something for a long time about this topic, but just haven’t really had the time until now. I represent romance, but what I usually get in terms of queries is love stories. There is a distinct difference in these two types of books, and to be perfectly candid, I really, really don’t like love stories. In fact, I despise them. I am a genre kind of girl, not a mainstream person, and except for work from our clients and a few classics like To Kill a Mockingbird and such, I avoid it. Mainstream is Robert’s area, and he can pick out the gems from the pebbles. To me, they’re all pebbles. This is not meant to be offensive at all to mainstream authors, many whose work I truly admire. It just means that when I go to the bookstore, I walk past the fiction and literary fiction, unless I see a pretty cover, a sale tag, a client’s name, or Robert desperately trying to get my attention, and wander off toward the romance section. That is just the type of reader I am. If you have considered querying our agency on romance or mainstream, you might keep this in mind.
When I get a query on a love story-type book, it’s an instant rejection. Do I forward these queries on to Robert? Not usually, and not because I am mean or somehow offended myself. It is because there is such a difference between the two types of books, in my estimation, that if a writer doesn’t know the difference, then that’s a big red flag for me. They don’t read the same, don’t feel the same, don’t even give me the same sense of the story. To me, and I don’t speak for other agents or editors or anyone on this, love stories are not in any way genre romances, although people, and, sadly, writers, often confuse them because some mainstream writers have been considered romance writers as well. To me it is either red or blue, with no room for purple, so that’s what I represent because that is what I know and like. Other agents and editors and publishers may feel differently.
Romance is very genre-specific, with everything centering around the main love story between two adult beings (I’m leaving room here for the paranormal) and with a happy ending. By happy ending I don’t mean the couple has to get married, but they need to be on the road to some kind of committed togetherness with most of the kinks worked out of the relationship. There are variations on this, because, like with any type of fiction, the genre has grown and changed as readers have grown and changed. Please, if you are going to query me on romance, know that I seek pure genre romance and nothing else.
As for love stories, I will not even attempt to define them because that is just not my area of expertise. I can tell you, however, and Robert the mainstream guy will back me on this, if in your alleged romance your main character is a man and he occupies over half the book, you have, in most cases, a mainstream love story of some kind. This is not always true, but it is a clue to look for when trying to identify what you have written.
If you aren’t sure about the differences and similarities between love stories and romances, do some research and lots of reading. The first rule of getting published is to know what you have written; otherwise, you will waste your time on querying an agent or publishing house that really isn’t looking for your work. There are sometimes fine lines between the different types of books, so let me state again that this is just what I look for, and others may feel differently. There are also professional organizations that offer information that can help you with this as well, so I suggest seeking out those sites to get information.
Hope this helps.--Sharene