by Irene Vartanoff
You’ve written a romance. Congratulations. Now to whom do you submit it, and how? Luckily for you, romance publishing is very open to newcomers and information on submissions is simple to find. If you follow the guidelines, your chances of having your manuscript read by the right person are excellent.
Submit only to publishers who currently publish romance fiction. Start with an Internet search on “romance publishers” and you’ll hit paydirt right away.
The Passionate Pen has a comprehensive list of romance publishers at www.passionatepen.com/romancepubs.htm and includes links to the publishers’ submissions pages, too.
The Romance Writers of America’s site at www.rwanational.org has a Current Romance Releases section that lists the names of more than 20 publishers who regularly publish romance. It’s easy to visit each publisher’s website and click on the submissions guidelines for the kind of romance you have written.
Don’t forget to check Preditors and Editors at www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/ for current information about the business practices of these publishers.
As much as you may desire to get published, you should not deal with abusive, incompetent, or downright crooked organizations. Make sure you also thoroughly investigate the romance section of a large bookstore, so you can see which publishers produce a professional package that looks like a real book. And if a publisher’s website strikes you as amateurish, you can be fairly sure that their finished product won’t be much better. Preditors and Editors’ Warning List will also alert you to the types of publishers to avoid.
Don’t rule out online publishers. Many new and established writers are now publishing in e-book format. Many readers prefer the immediacy of downloading a book either to their computer or handheld reader. The Passionate Pen website includes listings for e-book publishers under Small Press (Mixed Format) and e-Publishing. Just follow the same rules as you would in selecting any publisher.
Many romances are written with a particular publisher in mind. If you’ve done that, visit that publisher’s website for details on the kinds of books they currently are buying. Review your manuscript to make sure that it is what this publisher wants, especially regarding topics and word length. Some topics/situations are taboo. And there is a significant story-arc difference between a manuscript that is 60,000 words and one that is 90,000 words. Never make the mistake of thinking you can ignore the publisher’s stated preferences. These preferences are listed for a reason. A publisher knows their audience and what types of stories appeal to them. They also know what books suit their list. Don’t think that you or your manuscript will be the exception to the rule.
If you’re looking for an agent, the Association of Authors’ Representatives has a site,
www.aar-online.org/mc/page.do with good basic information about the author-agent relationship and submissions guidelines, plus a list of agents. There’s a database of over 300 agents at www.agentquery.com that includes information about which agents are accepting queries and under what circumstances, plus their contact details. This site lists the kinds of books each agent represents. If yours is a paranormal romance, for instance, you can review all the agents who list that they sell paranormal. Even more useful, each agent’s profile includes samples of recently sold books. So if you want to sell your romance to Avon, for instance, with a little effort you can cross-reference and find an agent who has recently sold a romance to Avon. Just like with a publisher, don’t send an agent something that doesn’t meet their requirements. It is simply a waste of their time and yours.
Another way to discover which agents are dedicated to and knowledgeable about romance publishing is to check the rosters of romance conferences for attending agents. If you attend yourself, go to the seminars at which they speak, and keep track of who impresses you as competent and personable. Ideally, you want an agent who knows the romance field, whose professional ethics match yours, and with whom you will be comfortable. Conferences usually offer the opportunity for a one-on-one meeting with an agent or editor. If you have a completed manuscript and are comfortable pitching your story in person, then take advantage of these opportunities wherever you can find them.
Once you’ve determined which publisher or agent to whom you want to submit, carefully check and follow their submissions guidelines. Even though you have a completed manuscript, many publishers and agents only want to see a query first, or a partial submission. Thus, in most cases you will not be sending your entire manuscript. Instead, you’ll be sending a query letter, with or without a detailed synopsis and a partial (see below) of your manuscript. Some agents accept e-mail queries. Although in theory querying via e-mail is usually time and cost efficient; it may just add an unnecessary extra step. Ideally you want to submit a sample of your manuscript whenever possible, yet some publishers and agents will not accept an unsolicited e-mail manuscript submission. You’ll have to decide if a speedy rejection of your plot is more important than a longer-drawn-out situation that gives the agent or editor the opportunity to read your actual romance writing. A few publishers do accept e-mail manuscript submissions. But if a publisher’s submission guidelines specifically direct you not to send attachments, or not to send your manuscript either in part or in full, do not do so.
A partial manuscript submission is generally accepted to be the first 50 pages of the manuscript, along with an outline or synopsis of the whole story. Some agents only want a synopsis and the first chapter, to get a sample of your writing style. Some publishers want the first three chapters and the last chapter and synopsis. It varies. The most important element of the submissions process is to follow the guidelines. Make it easy for the editor or agent to view you as a professional with whom it would be a pleasure to work.
Finally, every physical query or manuscript submission should be accompanied by a stamped self-addressed envelope, often called an SSAE or SAE. No publishing professional will reply if you do not enclose one. If you don’t need your manuscript returned, say so in your cover letter and simply include a business-size SSAE for a reply. If you do want your manuscript returned, then you must include sufficient postage on your SSAE and the envelope should be large enough to accommodate your manuscript. Don’t wait until you receive a rejection letter to ask for its return. Many publishers will have already shredded your submission by the time they receive your follow-up letter or e-mail.
About Irene Vartanoff:
Irene Vartanoff is a longtime romance editor and writer who got her start in comic books. She is the author of several romance graphic romance novellas including Breaking All the Rules and The Egyptian’s Texas Spitfire. Under her comic book nom de plume, Poison Ivy, she contributes to the MyRomanceStory.com blog.