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Top tips for aspiring romance authors

If it’s your dream to be a romance author, you need these tips for writing, editing, and publishing a romance novel.

Romance is the most popular fiction genre, with around 40 million romance books sold within a year. Self-published romance authors are emerging every day, but the demand for romance novels by publishing houses isn’t lessening.

No matter whether you’ve still choosing between self-publishing and traditional publishing or not, this blog post will support your journey as an aspiring romance author.

Image by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash

How to be a romance author

You might already have experience writing and publishing, but for many romance authors this is your first foray into the world of commercial writing. To be a romance author, first you need an idea, and then you need to write.

It sounds simpler than it really is.

There are a few ways to start: by just starting to write anything, by researching and planning a story, or by doing a combination of both.

Don’t feel overwhelmed by the thought that your story might have already been done. As long as you’re not plagiarising someone else’s novel, the way you tell a story will be different from all others.

In a trope-filled genre like romance, it’s also expected that novels will share similar character templates, story beats, and plotlines. Even descriptions can become so popular that they’re used again and again.

Before you begin writing, think about any experiences you’ve already had writing. Do you prefer to write alone or do you want to share your work with others? Do you feel ready to write a novel or would you prefer to attend a workshop or writing course?

Asking yourself these questions helps you to figure out what’s best for your writing journey. Writing a novel is lonely, but it doesn’t have to be unless you want that.

Tips for writing your romance novel

There’s so much information out there about writing a romance novel. So what should you keep in mind?

The writing process is different for everybody. Some romance writers can write thousands of words per week, and others can write a few words here and there.

Whatever works for you, these tips might help:

  • Outlining your protagonists’ conflicts, backgrounds, and plotlines can help you structure your story
  • Read latest releases in your sub-genre to see what’s currently popular with publishers and readers
  • Outline first, write second, and edit third
  • If editing while writing stops you from getting more words down, save the editing until after all writing is done
  • Stuck on a scene or chapter? Make some notes for yourself and move on to keep writing
  • Keep a list, folder, or spreadsheet of writing advice to review
  • If you’re a visual person, make a Pinterest board and search for aesthetic images to collect for inspiration
  • Write or compile some writing affirmations and encouragement to keep your spirits up

Tips for editing your romance novel

Once your novel has been written, you officially have a first draft. Now it’s time to edit. This might be daunting, but you’ve already succeeded in the hardest stage of becoming an romance author!

Here are some top tips for editing your romance novel:

  • After finishing the first draft, give it a week or longer before you start editing, and celebrate your achievement
  • Make a copy of your first draft so you don’t lose anything while editing – if you’ve written on paper, try rewriting and editing at the same time
  • Get feedback from a writing critique group or beta readers to help identify weaknesses in your first draft
  • Write a synopsis while you edit so you can keep track of the plot, character development, and any sub-plots
  • Find books with similar plotlines and tropes to compare your writing
  • Write notes about your characters and how you want them to be perceived
  • Flesh out any scenes that you’ve skipped over or still have notes to research

How to get a romance novel published

You’ve done it. You’ve drafted your novel. You’ve edited it.

Maybe you’ve even sent it out to be critiqued by other writers, or you’ve gotten feedback from beta readers.

Now it’s time to look into publishing your romance novel.

First you need to decide whether you want to self-publish your novel or send it to literary agents.

You can also do both, by contacting literary agents while you edit the manuscript again. If you don’t have any promising bites for your novel, start looking into how to self-publish.

Finding an agent for your romance novel

If you want to be traditionally published – where your book is edited, printed, and marketed by a publishing house – you need to find a literary agent.

A literary agent will find a publisher for your book and help you with all the legal parts associated with publishing. This includes advocating for your advance and royalties, and sorting out rights.

To find a literary agent, you need to create what’s known as an agent query pack – also known as an agent submission pack. This is made up of a query cover letter, a synopsis, and an extract of your book.

Check out my query letter samples for romance novels to help you craft the perfect query cover letter.

Prepare to be rejected and ignored! This is most difficult stage of being traditionally published, but it’s worth it. Having an agent can take away a lot of worries, stress, and loneliness.

If a literary agent likes your query pack, they’ll request a full manuscript of your novel. Beware, this could still result in a rejection!

But when a literary agent offers you representation for your romance novel, you’ll be so relieved that all of the rejections will fade away.

I cover how to find a literary agent in the UK in another blog post.

Tips for securing a literary agent for your romance novel

Whether you’re about to start querying literary agents or you’re already working on it, keep these tips in mind.

  • Look for patterns in personalised rejections for what to work on
  • Attend Agent 1-2-1s or use query critique services to improve your query pack
  • If the process takes too long or you’re feeling dejected, start looking into self-publishing or set aside your manuscript to work on another novel
  • Only contact literary agents looking for your genre or tropes
  • Keep track of who you contact so you don’t send multiple queries to the same agent
  • Pay attention to the agent’s submission guidelines

Becoming a self-published romance author

Let’s get one myth out of the way: it isn’t going to be cheap to self-publish your romance novel.

While many self-published authors cut down their costs by doing as much of it as possible themselves, this isn’t for everyone. And it’s not recommended.

Readers want high-quality romance novels that they can get lost in. If you don’t get a professional editor or proofreader (though you should preferably get both), you’re risking unsatisfied readers, bad reviews, and low sales.

While self-publishing services are expensive, every service improves the quality of your romance novel.

Editing services – including developmental editing, line-editing, and copy-editing – address major writing and story problems. The experience of your editor is invaluable, especially when they specialise in editing romance.

Formatting services create professional-looking and print-ready books. Typesetting a book and designing the cover is important to the aesthetic of your romance novel.

Proofreading services are a final quality check that all books need. Even edited books need proofreaders. If you don’t hire a professional editor, your need for a proofreader only increases, because spelling mistakes, missing punctuation, and formatting errors need to be addressed before publishing.

Why does all of this matter? The launch of your book is your big chance to make an impression on readers. Early reviews matter to algorithms, especially Amazon’s.

There are other self-publishing services out there to help you with different aspects of self-publishing, including:

  • Book cover artists (separate to formatters)
  • Marketers
  • Self-publishing service bundles (like Troubador)
  • Publicists
  • Website designers

Tips for self-publishing a romance novel

Regardless of how you self-publish, your budget and your comfort in working with self-publishing services are up to you.

Some tips to keep in mind include:

  • Figure out a publishing schedule and keep it up to date so you know where your book is and what the next stage is
  • Ask for free sample edits and sample proofreads to check the quality of a service
  • Be clear about your deadlines and budget
  • Decide whether your social media presence is essential for marketing your book
  • Don’t check your own reviews – ask someone to look at them for you so you don’t have to deal with negative reviews alone
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