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Week One - Resources for Romance Writers

October 5, 2009 | Deborah Cooke | Comments (8)

Because romance is a commercial genre of fiction that is published primarily out of New York, the majority of these resources are American. It is not impossible that you will find a Canadian publisher or a Canadian agent for your romance novel, but I have always looked to New York first.

The largest organization for romance writers is Romance Writers of America, or RWA. It is the only major writers' organization that welcomes both published and unpublished members, and has in excess of 10,000 members internationally. RWA runs an annual conference attended by industry professionals, writers and aspiring writers. They publish a monthly magazine for members, run annual contests, administer a lot of listserves, etc. If you are interested in writing romance, RWA can be a tremendous source of information.

RWA also has local chapters (in addition to the "national" organization.) These chapters run local meetings, critique groups, host workshops, arrange booksignings, have regional conferences, publish newsletters, hold contests, etc. etc. The local Toronto RWA chapter is Toronto Romance Writers, and they meet monthly at either the North York Central Library or the Fairview branch. In addition, there are online RWA chapters, if you want a more immediate connection or if getting to a monthly meeting is a challenge for one reason or another. RWAOnline is an example.

Many chapters host regional conferences, which can be more economical to attend than the RWA National conference held each July. Chapters often host contests - TRW has a synopsis contest each year - which can be an opportunity to get feedback from other writers and possibly get your work before a final judge who is an agent or editor. There are special interest chapters, which tend to offer workshops online in specific areas of research. You need to join the national organization to join individual chapters - once you're in RWA, you can look for chapters that echo your particular interest.

The AAR or Association of Authors' Representatives is an association of literary agents, which provides a listing of members as well as their various specialities. Although membership is voluntary, most reputable agents belong to this org, and it can be a useful resource when seeking representation. (Just FYI, RWA also maintains agency listings which are visible to members.) AAR has an index of agents on their site which you can search by area of speciality.

Many agents also have agency websites - some even have blogs - and it is worth looking at such a site (if it exists) to get a firm idea of what the agent/agency represents, before you submit your work.

The Authors' Guild is an organization that defends the legal rights of authors and also provides a contract review service for members. Only published authors can join the AG.

Specific publishers often provide information about their lists, submission protocol and about their acquisition policies on their respective websites. If you are targeting a specific publishing hour or agent, it is a good idea to check their submission guidelines first. For example:

Harlequin/Silhouette guidelines

There are chatrooms and reader groups aplenty online, where you can find other aspiring writers and avid readers. Romance Junkies is a big one, which is administered through Yahoo groups, but there are lots of others. (Any good search engine will be your friend here.) Romantic Times is a monthly magazine (and now website) which traditionally was more geared to readers but has become more attuned to writers. RT also hosts an annual conference.

You can also look for informative blogs - some agents have blogs about the business, for example. Romance University is a blog that offers opinions of guest teachers, covering a wide range of topics of interest to aspiring writers.

We haven't even talked about reference books! Try searching the TPL catalogue for books on writing - keywords "writing romance" pulled up a bunch of titles. I'm not familiar with any of them, so can't make specific recommendations. My resource in the early 1990's was Kathryn Falks' HOW TO WRITE A ROMANCE AND GET IT PUBLISHED, which might be out of print. (N.B. Kathryn is the woman who began Romantic Times.)

Publishers' Weekly, a print magazine for book industry, publishes at least one issue per year that focusses on the romance genre. This issue typically identifies trends, and features interviews with editors at various houses.

There are also online publications to keep you updated on the industry, many of them free for the subscribing - PW offers one, and there's another popular one called Publishers' Lunch.

And of course, the best resource for any writer is to read - read as many books as possible in your targeted subgenre. This will help you a better sense of what's already in the market as well as reader expectations in that niche.

As you can probably see, the trick is less about finding information than it is to ensure you protect your writing time!


Toronto Public Library's Romance Writer-In-Residence Deborah Cooke discusses writing and getting published in the romance genre.

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