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Launching a Line

Author Casey Claybourne participated last year in the launching of a new line of romances by Jove - the Haunting Hearts series. We asked her to talk about her experiences and to give us an update on her career today.

Here's what she had to say:

When people talk about "launching" a line, I tend to think nautical. I picture an author standing over her computer poised to smash a bottle of Dom Perignon against her keyboard. Of course, that's not quite how it's done, although launching a new line is usually cause for celebration.

Last year, I had the good fortune to be one of the launch books in Berkley/Jove's Haunting Hearts. The opportunity came about when I happened to ask my editor one day, "So is anything new going on?" As it turned out, ghosts were going on and, within two weeks, I had a proposal winging its way to New York.

In this case, fate played into my hands. I had been juggling a number of different ideas at the time, trying to settle on one for a proposal. Luckily one of the ideas involved a man being haunted by the spirit of his mother-in-law; an idea that became A Ghost of a Chance.

From an author's perspective, there can be many advantages to being a launch for a new program. The publisher, generally enthusiastic about putting a new product into the marketplace, develops a sales strategy to introduce the books. This might involve group discounting or the purchase of co-op space or promotional ads. Special attention is also given to creating covers that help unify the line - as seen in the pastel matte-finish covers that identify the Haunting Hearts books. All of the above can be of great benefit to an author, especially one who is a relative newcomer to the publishing world.

I spoke to fellow writer Barbara Freethy about her experience as a launch in Avon's contemporary program. Barbara's Daniel's Gift was an enormous success and she credits this to strong reader response. She believes that readers are eager for the "something fresh" that a new program can bring to the bookshelves; though she also pointed out that some readers might be reluctant to experiment by venturing outside the "tried and true."

There can be other drawbacks to writing for a new line. If the editor who is the brain-child of the program leaves unexpectedly, support for the line might disappear with that editor. Without strong backing from the publisher, a new program has almost no chance of making an impact on the market. Also, let us not forget that there are many different writers and many different writing styles within any line. If a reader should not care for a particular book in a program, that reader might be reluctant to try the next month's book - even though it is a different story from a different author. Sensuality levels, too, may vary and a "sweet" love story might be followed by a hot and steamy one - surprising and unsettling the unsuspecting reader. On the whole, however, I believe the positives far outweigh the negatives when it comes to being a launch author.

From a personal perspective, I have benefitted greatly from helping to launch Jove's Haunting Hearts program. My second book for the line, A Spirited Seduction, hit the shelves the same week I learned that A Ghost of a Chance had been chosen as a RITA finalist. With healthy sales and favorable reviews, these two books helped me establish an identity within my publishing house. After being asked to write a time-travel for the Time Passages line and a novella for a Christmas anthology, I was recently offered a two-book contract to write single title historicals for Jove. So you see, that first book served as a springboard to "launch" my career.

The attention given a new line or program is not easily won by a single writer working on her own. When publisher, editor, sales and marketing all come together to put their support behind a well-written book, only one more ingredient is needed to create a sure-fire success: You, the reader.

Casey Claybourne

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Find links to Casey Claybourne reviews after our AAR Review of Tiger by the Tail