How to Write a Romance That Publishers Will Buy

Romance fiction is designed to entertain.

At its best, it can transport a reader to a fantasy place where happy endings are guaranteed, where there are always resolutions to problems and the girl inevitably gets her perfect man.

Is that your understanding? Perhaps.

From an objective (some might say cynical) point of view, romance fiction is an exercise in marketing. Publishers like Harlequin and Silhouette have identified a need, which they set out to fulfill. From a romance publishers’ point of view, the writers actually get in the way of this process. Don’t be naive about this. If they could get computers to write romances, I believe they would!

To them, it’s all about product. If a MS doesn’t do what it’s supposed to, it’s of no use to them. That’s why they reject about 99% of all books submitted.

It’s not personal. They just want you, the writer, to get it right. But, unlike many other publishers, they will usually try and aid you by making helpful suggestions.

If they think you have potential, they will go out of their way to tell you exactly what they think is wrong! In this context, criticism is good. It shows you’re on the right track!

But why would you want to compete in this market?

Well, because it can be a very good career move for a writer. It’s steady work with good advances and fair royalties. At 2000 words a day, you can write a good romance in about a month, and have it on the bookstore shelves within three to six. It’s that fast!

And once readers like your books, they remember your name. Which means, in effect, you’ve got them for life. Many respectable novelists start out writing genre fiction. It’s a clear and well-worn path to success.

But what brings writers to romance in particular? There are probably as many reasons to write romance fiction as there are romance writers. Ask a roomful of them (as I recently did!) and all of them seem to have their own personal slant, they’re own individual reason for doing it. But there are some pertinent similarities. What’s clear immediately is that only very rarely are successful romance writers motivated by money.

Yes, they may enjoy paying their bills with book royalties but that’s not why they sat down to write in the first place. Like all of us, they want to express themselves, tell stories and be liked – and paid – for that talent.

But unlike the struggling, bitter artist who wants to rage against the world in his writing, the romance writer wants to improve things.

She wants to add meaning to the world and show that there can be a better way. She wants you, the reader, to know that there is hope, and that there can be wonder.

Romance writers (and many other artists) believe it is their duty to show that the human spirit is noble and can triumph against adversity.

But is writing about romance important? It depends. If your purpose in life is to enrich other people’s lives then yes. If you have other agendas, it might be frustrating.

What do I mean by this?

Well, almost as soon as a writer reads back her own work or receives some positive feedback, she is aware she is in command of a powerful medium. One she might use to advantage. She realizes she might be able to persuade a reader into accepting her point of view.

Isn’t that the reason why YOU tell stories? Don’t you write to persuade people to believe and concur with your version of reality – even if only for a while? It’s a powerful gift and it’s good, but there is down side.

As adults, we have issues with politics, injustice and various other concerns like poverty, the environment and crime. We might sometimes use our writing to address them, even if only in our fiction. This is all well and good. But it is not always appropriate for genre writing.

Romance writing in particular is not a platform for discussing issues you might have about the world. It is not a soapbox. Whilst reading your romance, readers are not interested in social reform or your views on anything but love, courtship and relationships. This doesn’t necessarily mean that real life can’t intrude on the romance genre. It can, does and should.

But, if you want to succeed in the Romance genre, you must not write with your personal baggage uppermost in your mind. You must write solely for your readers, with the respect and honesty they deserve.

Romance writing is also about being mature, objective and clear-headed.

Also, to write good romance, you should probably consider yourself a storyteller first and a ‘writer’ second.

Think about your philosophy on life. Ideally, for the Romance writer, it should be positive, compassionate and most of all, optimistic.

And, if you engender this positive spirit in yourself – or have it naturally – you are in a prime position to make very good money writing Romance.

Why not give it a go?

This article is written by Rob Parnell. Visit his website at

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