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  • Writer's pictureBeth Linton

How to Get Your Romance Book Published

Updated: Sep 10, 2022

I love to write, but as a busy working mum it's not always easy to find the time... it was even harder to find the hours needed to prepare my manuscript for publishers. In this blog I run through eight key lessons I've learnt along the way on my publishing journey and pool together some of my most popular #writingcommunity resources. I hope the information here helps.

Contents of this blog:


The First Lesson: Write and Love it!

The Second Lesson: Know Your Genre & Your Audience

The Third Lesson: Three Ways to a Polished Product

The Fourth Lesson: Agent or Not to Agent

The Fifth Lesson: Which Publisher?

The Sixth Lesson: Read & Follow the Publishers' Guidelines

The Seventh Lesson: Your Submission - letter, book synopsis, series synopsis

The Eighth Lesson: Social Media Presence

Introduction: Why I'm writing this & who this blog will help

There's a big difference between writing for fun with the vague hope of getting published in the back of your mind and actually hitting send on that submission email. There's also a million tasks that have to be completed first. I'll be honest, I avoided taking the submission plunge for years. I write for the sheer pleasure of it, but add in applications and (inevitable!) rejection and I was worried that the fun of writing would disappear.

I couldn't have been more wrong - but it was hard work figuring it all out.

It took the pandemic and a serious stint of lockdown to give me the mental shake I needed to send off applications for the first in my romance series, The Guardians Trust: Ana. I was lucky. I found a home for my book quickly, but I think a good deal of that luck was created by being prepared.

In this blog I won't pretend to have all the answers and there are definitely holes in my knowledge. I've only been a #traditionallypublished author for one year, and while I have five romance books published, and a few more on the way, I still have a heck of a lot to learn and a readership to firmly establish.

I'm writing this blog for writers who want to get traditionally published. The contents is suitable for writers who are either just beginning to put fingers to key board or those who have a metaphorical bottom draw full of completed manuscripts - but have yet to do anything with them. If you are planning to be an #indieauthor then this blog will still be of interest to you, but it won't cover many of the burning #howto questions you have.

In sharing my journey, I hope to save you some time and heart ache on your writing road. After all, as a romance author, I love a happily ever after.

The First Lesson: Write and Love it!

There are lots of people who call themselves writers out there, lots of people who say they plan to write a novel, but to get published you actually have to have a finished polished product. (Note the word polished, I'll come back to this in a bit.)

A little while ago, an acquaintance approached me for some advice about writing. They wanted to get published, they told me. They had a great idea and wanted to know how to submit to a publisher. After making all of the appropriate encouraging sounds, I asked them about the book's length, to which I received a rather startling reply. He hadn't written it yet.

And apparently, this attitude isn't that rare. Celebrities and established writers might be able to pitch a book idea through an agent because they have proven success or a guaranteed readership but regular (and certainly new writers) can't. Publishers are inundated with applications and can, therefore, take their pick of hopeful writers. With this in mind I made the decision to try and make myself as strong a candidate as possible. I wanted to present myself as an author who took writing seriously; I tried to present myself as a dedicated career writer (and therefore worth the risk), rather than a one book pony.

My point is that if you love to write, you will write - not plan to write - so this first lesson shouldn't be a problem. When I applied, I had the first three books in the series finished and several more in various stages of draft form. I used this fact as a selling point.

The Guardians' Trust is the first romance series I sent to publishers but it is actually the second series I have written. Knowing what I know now, I can see that what I thought were polished books in my first series are actually seriously flawed. Salvageable, but flawed.

There is a saying amongst writers that an author only gets any good around book ten... Maybe, as I approach book six of this second series (which is actually book eleven if I count that first error filled series) I'm finally getting there...

I may still flop on my face, no one might buy my books, but I am taking the long view when it comes to my writing career. Firstly, I'm focussing on developing a back catalogue so readers who do like my stories and style can read more of my work and stick with me. Secondly, yes I'm published, but I'm not naïve enough to think that this will bring success on its own. If my books don't sell my next book might be rejected... but I will keep writing regardless, and the fact I've been published, and have learnt a lot on that journey, will help me make my next series more marketable (I hope!).

The Second Lesson: Know Your Genre & Your Audience

To develop that finished product you need to take your time and learn your genre and its tropes. Read, read, read and write, write, write! I recommend reading How to Write A Romance Book: Tropes | Beth Linton to walk you through this.

The Third Lesson: Three Ways to a Polished Product

If you've continued reading this blog then I'm going to assume you are serious about writing... and it's a good job because this part is all about hard work. Unlike lesson one, though, there are definitely tools to help you in this area. Let's assume your writing a book now. How do you get your book from draft to publisher ready?

Firstly, know the difference between editing and drafting. Writing seems to be a neat linear process for some writers I know, for me its messy and mixed up. I have polished sections near the end of a book before I've even started earlier parts. Drafting is the fun part of writing. It's getting ideas down and re-writing until they work. Some parts of a story take many, many drafting stages. Others only a few. Drafting is the ongoing process of changing and improving. Editing is different. Editing is proof reading and correcting mistakes. It's chopping out parts and tracking plot and character information to fix mistakes. Editing is the part most writers don't enjoy!

Secondly, know whose job it is to do what - writer's job or editor's? Drafting is all the writer and you also need to edit until you have the best possible work you can produce - only then are you ready for outside eyes to see your book. I have a lot of proof reading and editing experience and so I edit all of my own work extensively before sending it to my publisher. There it is read by the acquiring editor and, if accepted, it goes to my editor. My editor (saint that she is) reads the MS (manuscript) and corrects grammar and punctuation mistakes I've missed. She'll also highlight issues like repeated words or plot holes for me to look at and address. We go through this stage twice (in the early books three times) and then once this process is complete it goes to a proof reader who corrects any small details we've missed.

As a traditionally published author I don't pay for any of the above; they are services provided by a traditional publisher.

If you need extra help with plot feedback or practical writing corrections, there are many ways you can get your MS from draft to polished piece worthy of submission. Many writers use BETA readers to get feedback and aid their final drafting stages. You can also hire professional editors to help you (this is especially important if you go down the indie writer path).

Thirdly, hone your craft. All writers need to develop their skills to improve the quality of their books. For me, my struggle was point of view and head hopping (and this is why an editor is so important because I didn't know I had a problem until I got feedback! Thank you Audrey!).

Here are a few links to posts that might help you hone your craft:

The Fourth Lesson: Agent or Not to Agent

When I first looked at trying to get published, the whole agent thing gave me angst. Did I need one? If I did, how would I get one? It was only after quite a bit of digging that I realised that you don't need an agent when you're starting out. If you read the guidelines of publishers, many will accept submissions from authors without agent involvement.

If you're super keen for an agent - maybe you've already published and your sales are going well and you want to push for the next level of success? - one article I read suggested looking at the dedications at the front of similar books to yours. Often an author will dedicate a book to their agent. This is a good starting place, apparently, to find an agent who works with writers like yourself.

The Fifth Lesson: Which Publisher?

The publishing industry is dominated by the big five publishers. These are Penguin Random House (Penguin and Random House merged in 2013), Hachette Livre, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

These are good to start, but if you are new to the industry you might want to consider a smaller publisher. My experience with Evernight Publishing has been very positive!

This article lists romance publishers and provides their website address. I'm sure one of these forty will appeal to you!

There are two other routes to getting your book out there other than traditional publishing. The first is becoming an indie author. This means that you do absolutely everything yourself. This includes writing, editing, proofing your book as well as advertising and designing the book cover. The second is selecting what is often referred to a vanity publisher. A vanity publisher is a form of self publishing where the publisher offers to complete some of the work for the author but a fee. This type of publishing can be presented in a range of ways. Note, a traditional publisher will never ask you for money.

The Sixth Lesson: Read & Follow the Publishers' Guidelines

This is massively important. Each publisher's website will have a submissions page and with it submission guidelines. This page will also tell you if they are 'open to submissions' or 'closed to submissions'. Only submit if they are open. The majority of publishers require that you only apply to one publisher at a time, so give up any thoughts you have of writing one submission letter and sending it off to several publishers at once. Slow and steady wins the race.

The publisher's submissions guidelines will be very specific and will vary from publisher to publisher. A one size fits all approach will not work as publishers make it clear that if you don't follow their guidelines they will delete your application without reading/responding.

Guidelines will include things like the font size and type, margin size and whether they allow page numbers etc. They will also tell you what they require in terms of the application beyond the manuscript itself. For example, you will likely need a letter, book synopsis (and series synopsis if applicable). These documents will also have specified requirements in terms of length and so forth, and you will be told how to label your email so it goes into the correct inbox.

The Seventh Lesson: Your Submission

As I run through the following three parts of the application, I'd like to point out that I don't work in the publishing industry, I work on the author's side. I can't say what publishers want but I can tell you what has worked for me and draw on the reading I did prior to submission.

The application letter - this needs to be polite and to the point. It needs to be proof read thoroughly. Again, read the submission guidelines provided by the publisher as they often specify what information they want, e.g., a paragraph about your book including word length and title (remember this is your opportunity to sell them your story so think about your hook and key words). They will also likely want to know a little about you, your pen name (if you have one) and your social media presence (see below).

Book synopsis - I found this really hard! Again there will be strict guidelines about length etc. but figuring out where to start is tough. I read a few articles that suggested writing about the hero and then the heroin, and writing in present tense. Keep it active. For example, 'Brenin is a freedom fighter in the Resistance and he wants...' Remember this is a complete overview of the book, not a blurb or a teaser. Include details and spoilers. Tell them the ending, the moments of conflict and how conflict is resolved.

Series synopsis - As always, check the guidance. My series has seventeen books in it so trying to cover the series in two double spaced sides was tough. I took a similar approach to the book synopsis but kept my points about each book to the main characters' motivation and conflict which allowed - I hoped! - for enough information to be conveyed so they wanted to know more.

The Eighth Lesson: Social Media Presence

Now, you might be fine with social media but I wasn't. And there's a big difference between using Facebook to keep up with family and establishing your social media presence as an author. When I started this journey a year ago I was a complete idiot when it came to technology. Seriously, I'd never even been on Instagram and now I use it almost every day and have about four thousand followers. So, if I can get myself set up (see @bethlintonauthor on Instagram and also on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter so you can see examples at work) then so can you!

If you're reluctant to engage in this side of things then start small (Instagram is really great, easy to use and there's a massive #bookstagram and #romancestagram community on there which you will find positive and helpful), but you do need to start. You will find sentences on the submissions pages of publishers that say things like 'priority will be given to authors with a social media presence'. In the twenty-first century social media is integral to the world of #authors so dive in and make a start. It will help and make you more attractive to publishers.

If you have found this article useful, please consider reading one of my romance books as part of your research!😂

Best Wishes,

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