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The Ways of Wine and Roses. . .
Reading steamy romance novels may be easy, but getting one published isn’t

I came by my early love of lusty, long-haired heroes quite honestly. On a weekend beach trip when I was fourteen, my mother handed me the Kathleen Woodiwiss classic, The Wolf and The Dove. Like so many other gawky teenage girls, romance opened up a fantasy world of heroes who would sweep me astride horses on wind-swept moors, gorgeous hunks who would take one look at me and decide no other woman would do.

The fantasy of finding true love got me through some tough times. It also got me in trouble. When my Prince Charming turned into a frog, and my life turned into that of a working mother with two small children and a bad marriage, I eventually stopped reading romance novels. I dealt with reality and left fantasy behind. I divorced.

And then, when I least desired and least expected my knight in shining armor, the dream came true.

But that’s another story.

The point is, romance sells because it’s what women want. Period. We want the “love at first sight” and the “happily ever after”.

Too many women have refused to give up the dream of true love, and I want to tell them “don’t”. Don’t give up the dream.

Inspired by my own happy ending, I decided to try and make a different dream come true. That steamy novel begun when I was younger and full of optimism had never been finished. Now I had the time, and the real-life inspiration.

But how does one publish an erotic romance? Publishers are not exactly waiting with bated breath to read an unknown writer’s work, so how do you get their notice?

If the result of almost three years worth of research saves another aspiring romance writer some time, I will have done my bit to aid the cause. Too many women are waiting for the love story you may have to tell.

Finish the book. This may sound simplistic, but trust me – it’s anything but. Many of us feel the call to write, but having a great story idea is not enough. Being unable to plot an entire novel kills many a manuscript. If you can persevere and get that story written from start to finish, you’ve taken the first step. But the real work is just beginning.

Get the words right. Writing is a skill that takes time. Edit, edit and re-edit your work. Find someone who will give you honest, objective feedback, whether it’s a critique group or your next door neighbor. If you want publication bad enough to make mistakes and then learn from them, you may succeed. . . or you may not, but you’ll at least have written something to be proud of.

Know your market. Publishing is a business. The ‘scatter-shot’ approach is highly unlikely to get you anywhere. Do the research, and find out who’s publishing what. Who wants historicals? Who wants contemporaries? Romantic suspense? Inspirationals? Paranormals? Search the web. Invest in the Writer’s Market, an annual publication of editors and literary agents. Subscribe to Publishers Lunch, a free newsletter considered the industry’s essential daily read. Scour the copyright pages, dedication pages and back pages of your favorite novels. Familiarize yourself with the different publishing houses and specific lines. Read the submission requirements for each before you waste time and postage.

Present yourself as a professional. Nobody’s going to take you seriously unless you do. Learn how to write a good query letter, synopses of varying lengths (1 page, 3-5 pages, 7-10 pages), and proper manuscript formatting. Use good quality paper and standard fonts such as Courier or Times New Roman. Run a spellcheck on everything you send out. Check for typos, not once, but twice or three times. Keep your approach relevant and to the point, and don’t forget the ever-important ‘hook’ – the opening sentence that gets somebody’s attention and makes you stand out from the crowd. Unless you’re applying for a job at a veterinary clinic, it’s unlikely that waxing poetic about your dog and three cats will be vital to your career.

The mailman is your friend. When you think you’re ready, send out those query letters to carefully selected agents and editors. Enter writing contests to get your name in front of those judging editors. Make sure you include self-addressed, stamped envelopes for replies. Get yourself and your name out there.

The mailman is your enemy. Be prepared to wait. And wait. . . and wait. Average response times from publishers and literary agencies vary, but a quick turn-around and reply will probably take at least three months, while an average response time is six to nine months. . . even a year. Editor ‘slush piles’ are just that – piles and piles of reading material it takes time to get to. If you’re lucky enough to get a request from someone to see more, your wait may be a bit shorter – or not.

Start your next book. Leave the fingernail chewing and mailbox watching for someone else, and get busy on your next project. After all, if you actually succeed in getting published, you need to be as prolific as possible to keep that career going. One hit wonders are a dime a dozen, and as I said earlier, publishing is a business like any other. It’s long-term results that count.

When it all seems overwhelming, remember this simple question: “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

Life is full of ‘what ifs?”. What if you tried, and actually succeeded?


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