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Publishing

Simon Fraser U - the Writer's Studio 1st Book Competition

November 25, 2009 | Deborah Cooke | Comments (0)

This notice turned up in my inbox this week, and might be of interest to you.

"This year, The Writer’s Studio is celebrating its tenth anniversary with the 1st Book Competition.  Because we believe it’s becoming increasingly difficult to publish a first book, we want to help three emerging Canadian writers who have not previously published a book.  For the 1st Book Competition, we’re looking for original, book-length manuscripts written in English.  One winner each in the categories of creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry will published by Anvil Press in 2011.

The submissions deadline for the 1st Book Competition is May 31, 2010.  Complete information on entry requirements, submission guidelines, and our judges will be posted on our website www.thewritersstudio.ca by December 1st, 2009."

Readings for Writers - VII

November 18, 2009 | Deborah Cooke | Comments (1)

Today's pick up post is more about career strategy, maybe about charting a course for your future as a writer.

The Escalator Myth

Week Seven - Marketing Your Work

November 16, 2009 | Deborah Cooke | Comments (0)

Once upon a time, I believed that authors just wrote books. (Isn't that enough?!) I thought that authors remained in their studies or spare bedrooms or offices and wrote books, sent those books to publishers to be printed and packaged, then wrote more books while waiting for the cheques to arrive. I had no idea how much other stuff authors do, once books are sold to publishing houses. The production phases didn't surprise me - it only makes sense for everyone to check the typesetting, for example - but the author involvement in marketing the work is far more extensive than I believed, way back in those days before I sold a book.

So, let's review a few of the ways that authors are expected to be involved in the sale of their book(s) to the reading public. You can prepare for some of these ahead of time.

Self Promotion for Authors

In a crowded marketplace, it’s tougher for authors to spread the word about their own work to the reading public. And at a publishing house with a full list in recessionary times, it’s difficult to get a big promotional budget assigned to an individual book. Of course, the more the house pays in advance for the book, the higher the budget will be, but a great many romance novels head into the world with their package as their sole promotional asset.

The package is everything that wraps around the book itself. It includes the cover art, the cover copy, the review quotes (if any) and the endorsements (if any). How much involvement the author has with the development of the package will vary from house to house, and quite possibly from editor to editor. The house has already invested in the book by acquiring it, so will probably want to ensure that it travels into the world with a good package.

How can the author influence the cover?

• Ideas
If the package is the main promotional asset that the book will have in the world, it only makes sense to want as strong a package as possible. If asked by the house, it’s good to provide a few ideas - by this, I mean a paragraph or two - of images or keywords that summarize the book and its tone. There is an entire language of cover art, which the art director at the publishing house will understand. (A clinch on the cover, for example, often indicates a more sensual read. The hero alone often indicates a hero-focussed romance.) The art director will also be aware of what other houses are doing with their art, and most likely strive to make your book’s package distinctive. If you get a great cover, be sure you let everyone at the house know how much you love it.

• Cover quotes
If you have review quotes from your previously published work, it can make everyone’s life easier for you to compile those quotes in a nice little file, then send it to your editor. If you do not have a previously published work - and thus, have no review quotes - you can cultivate advance review quotes. If you know any authors published in the same subgenre, you can ask if they will read the manuscript and quote for you. You can also query authors you don’t know, or ask a favour at a conference or booksigning. Some agencies coordinate quotes between the authors in their list. Some editors will seek review quotes from other authors with the house. Obviously, the more famous the quote-giver, the better. There is an entire protocol to this procedure - I think the main thing is to have a thick skin and not be offended if anyone declines. People are busy.

How else can a new author cultivate interest in his or her work?

• Website
You should buy the domain name for your writing name - whether it’s your legal name or a pseudonym - as soon as possible, even if you don’t intend to launch a site soon. There are various points pro and con for having a website before a work is sold, and what you choose to do is a personal decision. You should however launch a website a minimum of three to six months before your book’s publication date.

• Blog(s)
Many authors also maintain blogs. These can be used to build visibility, to fortify connections with readers and to provide timely updates about releases and sales. The tone is generally chatty and friendly. One of the ways to drive traffic to your blog is to visit other blogs and comment upon posts there, although you have to be a pretty regular visitor for people to notice your presence.

• Social Networking Sites
Many authors use Facebook and Twitter and any of the other multiple of social networking sites to build awareness of themselves and their work. There are also authors who build identities on sites like Second Life. In addition to these broader spectrum sites, there are romance-specific networking sites, like Romance Junkies, which provide forums for romance readers and writers to discuss everything, including books.

• Reviews
A book can be reviewed and that review can generate interest. Romance novels tend not to be reviewed by the mainstream press, but there are a multitude of specialist publications - many of which are virtual - which do review romance novels. Google can be your friend here in finding review sites. You can query them and send out homemade Advance Reading Copies of your book - or the ARC’s from the house, if the house is making any - to ensure that the reviews are concurrent with the publication of the book. Generally authors receive their complementary copies of their own books too close to the release date to use them for reviews. Some reviewers will also post their reviews to online bookstores.

• Bookstore Sites
Many online bookstores allow authors to build a kind of homepage, which highlights the author’s list of titles and includes some personal information. Amazon.com is the obvious example - you can link an RSS feed from your blog to your Amazon page to keep it updated with new content.

• Bricks and Mortar Bookstores
It is entirely possible that your local bookstore will be thrilled to learn that you have sold a book. If you find strong support from a local store, it can be a terrific source of local promotion for both you and the store. Some authors teach workshops at their local bookstores, or do book launches there, or a variety of other activities. Your local library may also be interested in highlighting your work and your expertise. Look locally first to find a champion for your work.

• Writing Groups
We are all aware by now, of course, of the writers’ organization Romance Writers of America (because I keep talking about it!) This is the genre specific writers’ organization for the romance genre. RWA also has local chapters - like Toronto Romance Writers - which organize monthly meetings, contests, critique groups, and sometimes even retreats. They bring in speakers and provide networking opportunities for writers, as well as professional and emotional support. There are other special interest chapters of RWA that can be joined from anywhere in the world, which keep in touch electronically. And there are other writing organizations, as well, for mystery writers, horror writers, science fiction and fantasy writers, etc. etc., plus the Writers’ Guild, the Authors’ Guild and Novelists Inc. which are not genre-specific.

• Conferences
Many writers’ organizations host conferences, either at the national or regional level. As well as providing networking opportunities, such conferences give authors the chance to teach workshops and participate in booksignings. There is often the opportunity to donate signed copies of books to raffle baskets when attending a conference, or provide promotional materials for distribution to the attendees. All of this helps to build visibility.

• Promotional Materials
Many authors create promotional materials. It is useful to have something with your website url to hand to people after a workshop or at a booksigning - or even at the grocery store. You can also do mailings to bookstores or to readers. You can provide press kits to the media. The possibilities are nearly endless.

As always, you must make the choice of how you will spend your time. Self-promotion can be very effective, or it can simply take a lot of time that you might have used for writing. Each of us has to make the personal choice of an ideal balance.

What's up this week?

Wednesday’s pick up post addresses a persistent myth of publishing, just to give you something more to chew on.

Then on Friday, bestselling author Kayla Perrin will be our guest. She’s an enthusiastic self-promoter and I'm looking forward to her post on author promotion.

Remember, as well, that I'm still Alive & Knitting on my regular blog. I've been doing a lot of guest blogging this month to promote both WINTER KISS and GUARDIAN - exactly the kind of author self-promotion that we're talking about here this week. That continues this week - I'll even be blogging on Saturday at Borders' True Romance blog. In many cases, there's a door prize - guess what the door prize is? Right! A signed copy of the book in question.

And, don't forget to register with the library if you plan to attend out closing reception. That's next Thursday, the 26th, and our panel guests will be Brenda Chin and Amy Moore-Benson. Check the sidebar for the link for more information.

Week Six - Writing in Two Subgenres

November 9, 2009 | Deborah Cooke | Comments (0)

It’s a good thing that romance readers are voracious readers - there’s a lot of ground to cover for the avid fan of the genre. The enthusiasm of readers is part of what drives the raw size of the market, and the high number of titles being published, but it also means that it can be hard for a new author to establish herself.

And that brings us to the question of writing in multiple subgenres.

Every author has to build the brand. The house hopes for sales to grow over time for each author as that author becomes established. And one of the ways that authors become established in the marketplace is with frequent publication. This is often associated with linked books - so, for example, an author sells a romance novel to a publishing house. The editor loves the book, loves the author’s voice, and wants to give the author’s work a promotional push. The editor might suggest that the book be the first of a trilogy, and may offer some ideas of how to structure such a linked series. The books then would be contracted all together, they would be packaged similarly and they would be scheduled aggressively. When a single title house shows enthusiasm, it’s common to have publication slots at 6 - 9 month intervals.

If the author, however, is more prolific than that, she might try to sell a second series - perhaps with another house, perhaps in another subgenre - in order to make more money and try to establish her brand more quickly in the marketplace. It’s also increasingly common for authors to explore other media - for example, the author might place one subgenre of work with a print publishing house and one with an electronic publishing house. A benefit of this is that the houses may have different rhythms - the production cycle may be faster with an e-publishing house, or the work might be of shorter length. Authors may write in two different subgenres of the romance market, or they might write for two different genres entirely.

This brings us to the question of pseudonyms. Pseudonyms have been around as long as fiction has been published - even longer than that. There are many reasons to use a pseudonym - some authors do it to protect their privacy, while some do it because their names are difficult to pronounce or remember. Still others do it to affect the position of their titles on the shelves (assuming that authors are racked alphabetically.) Some authors choose to brand their work by using different author names, or some houses might suggest that the author do as much. Houses sometimes suggest that an author with sales numbers that are not very compelling use a different name to break free of the past. A pseudonym may also be used to circumvent the terms of an author’s option clause.

Like so much in publishing, the popularity of pseudonyms is cyclical - it will be very fashionable to do this kind of branding for a few years, and then it will be frowned upon and called “splitting the brand”. I think it’s a good idea to shape reader expectations with the branding, but have noticed that my readers follow me across the genre, no matter where I go. Maybe I’m just lucky like that!



On Wednesday, have a peek at the links to my previous blog posts on writing for two houses.

On Friday, our guest authors will be Eve Silver and Michelle Rowan, both of whom write in two different subgenres for two different houses.

Readings for Writers - V

November 4, 2009 | Deborah Cooke | Comments (0)

This week we've been talking about subgenres, so, some discussion about several specific subgenres:
Science Fiction Romance
Urban Fantasy Romance
You can see from the comments on these posts that my definitions are by no means indisputable!

One of the hottest trends in fiction, one which is also evident in the romance genre, is hybridizing subgenres. We're used to romantic suspense, which stands with one foot in the romance section and one in the mystery section, and paranormal or fantasy romances, which similarly straddles the line between the romance section and the fantasy/SF section of the bookstore. But there are all sorts of innovative mash-ups being published. This pick-up post is about deciding what the spine of your book is or structuring your hybrid genre book to have a spine in the first place.

Mash-ups are not as random as they might appear, and so here's some food for thought:

A Plot is Like A Sandwich

Once you know what kind of sandwich you've made, you'll have a better idea which publishers and editors might find it tasty.

Manuscript Format

October 28, 2009 | Deborah Cooke | Comments (0)

A number of the manuscripts that have been submitted for critique have not been formatted correctly. This isn't complicated, but it's evident that a number of you don't know what standard format is. So, we'll review it here.

Although it might seem rather strange, the intent of manuscript formatting is to make the mss look like it was typed. So, once upon a time, before we all had word processors, writers formatted their mss correctly, even by accident, because there wasn't a lot of choice. Now we can play with fonts and size but, although it's tempting to do so, you need to stick to the standard.

What's the standard? Here we go:

• mss should be presented on 8.5" by 11" white paper

• the text should appear on only one side of the paper

• the margins should be 1.5" at top and bottom of the page, and 1" on left and right edges

• the font should be 12 point Courier (If you can choose fixed width over variable width, do so.) It should be plain text - sometimes called Roman - not bold or italic. (One of the squishy zones is the indication of text that should print in italics in the ms. Traditionally, this copy was underlined, because typewriters didn't have italic fonts. Now, of course, we can put our italics in italics easily. Although ferocious debates rage in writerly circles about this, you can do either. The Production department will understand what you mean.)

• the work should be double spaced (That means 12 point on 24 point, if you can specify)

N.B. This format will give you roughly 25 lines per page and approximately 10 words per line. 250 words per page helps publishers calculate how many printed pages the book will require, according to the print format chosen.

• the first line of each paragraph should be indented .25" from the left margin

• the type should be set to run "flush left". This means that the right margin will be ragged. Setting type "justified" means that the characters will be spaced out to fill the line fully, making a crisp right margin. Although this is how books are typeset, the varying size of wordspaces makes it harder to read this in mss form.

• it is a good idea to number your pages, because stacks of loose paper tend to fall. It is also a good idea to include your name and/or the name of the mss in the header, in case your mss falls at the same time as another mss. There is no absolute rule for how this should be formatted. I insert a header, set it in 8 point type, set it in italics and flush right. My headers include my surname, the book title and the page number.

• your contact information  should be on the first page of the mss. Because of this information, the first page looks slightly different from the subsequent pages.

    • If you have an agent, list the agent's name and contact information in the top left corner of the first page of the mss. If you do not have an agent, place your contact information in that place. In the top right corner, include the copyright information for the work on the top line, and the word count of the finished mss on the second line.

    • Place the title of the mss in caps about halfway down the page. It should be centred. Place your name below it, in uppers and lowers.

    • The beginning of the book will appear in the bottom third of the first page. Typically only half a dozen lines will appear on this page.

    • Because the contact information is already included on this page, you can suppress your header on the first page of the mss. If you can't figure out how to do that, don't worry about it.

• finally, the paper should be white and it should be clean. The type should be black, and your toner cartridge should be fully charged.

• bind your mss with two elastic bands, one vertically and one horizontally. No binders or clips or rings. The pages will be loose, which is exactly how editors like them.

• if you are invited to submit digitally, set up your ms exactly as specified above and submit it in the current (or a comparatively recent) version of Microsoft Word. Some houses prefer mss in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format, although this is more common in other markets than New York.

It is not uncommon for editors and agents to decline to accept digital submissions from unpublished authors. If the house does not offer the option of your submitting digitally, but requests a hard copy of any submission, and you choose to submit electronically despite this, your submission will go straight to the "trash". Spam filters are tough guys. Similarly, I declined to accept digital submissions for the mss critiquing done through the residency. If you submitted electronically, despite the directions, I haven't even seen your submission. Librarians are tough guys too.

• if the house publishes guidelines - often available on the publisher website - check them before submission to ensure that your ms is compliant with their expectations.

Good luck!

A Note on Submitted Manuscripts

October 28, 2009 | Deborah Cooke | Comments (0)

First of all, congrats to those of you who have submitted partial manuscripts to the TPL for me to critique. I wasn't sure what to expect, but the calibre of work has been quite high. Kudos all around!

That said, I have a couple of general comments.

• There is a standardized format for manuscripts in publishing. I've written a post that will appear later this morning detailing precisely how manuscripts should be formatted for submission to an editor or agent. There are no exceptions. Have a look at the rules and follow them!

• Secondly, I think there is a little bit of confusion about the reader expectations for a romance novel. It may well be that many of you know that you're writing a women's fiction novel and not a romance, but let's just clarify things. I've got a post queued up for this morning on genres.

• And thirdly, you need to be sure you follow the submission guidelines. In this particular case, I asked for a maximum of 50 pages double spaced. That could be either the first 50 pages of the manuscript or the synopsis and first chapters of the ms up to a max of 50 pages. A number of you did not send the beginning of your book, but either chapters from later in the book or a selection of chapters from throughout the book.

Manuscripts, though, are not acquired on the merit of Chapter Fifteen - the merit of Chapter One will determine whether the editor or agent continues to read and/or requests to see the entire manuscript. And this makes sense because most readers will judge the merit of a book - as well as the wisdom of their investing their time in reading the book - on the basis of Chapter One. Some decide on the basis of the first half page. (There is a saying in publishing that if a customer cracks open a book in the bookstore and begins to read, that person will buy the book if they turn to page two.)

No matter how wonderful your Chapter Fifteen might be, it's not going to make the sale for you.  And in fact, if you do not want to show your Chapter One to an agent, editor or writer in residence, maybe it's time to have a hard look at how well that chapter is working as an introduction to your book. It's not uncommon, for example, for new writers to begin the book long before the actual beginning of the story. It might be that you wrote a lot of backstory that you needed to know, but that the reader doesn't need to know until further into the book.

Similarly, if your book has an unusual structure, or if you want to check the progression of a subplot, or if some other variable tempts you to send chunks of your book instead of the beginning, please stop and reconsider. We read books in order - this is common to readers, agents and editors. Submit your book in order. It is the job of  the synopsis, which travels with your sample chapters, to illuminate any structural plan or show the dovetailing of subplot(s).

So, please remember to follow submission guidelines when you send out your work. If you send Chapter Fifteen to do Chapter One's job, most industry professionals will send it right back to you, unread. Because I am not such a tough guy, I will read all of your submissions, even if you did send me Chapter Fifteen, and make some comments for every work submitted.

Readings for Writers - IV

October 28, 2009 | Deborah Cooke | Comments (0)

In addition to the usual linked posts for Wednesday, I've added a new post to the queue about Manuscript Format. This is because a number of the mss that have come in for critiquing are not formatted according to protocol, so this is obviously info that people need. It'll be posted shortly.

Today's linked posts are about the synopsis, a tool of publishing which is particularly challenging for new authors to master. When you submit a proposal (or even a complete manuscript) to a publisher, part of the submission package is a synopsis. This is similar to an executive summary, and may be the only part of your proposal that many people in the publishing house read. It has to provide a certain suite of information in a concise manner.

First, the inevitable analogy:
Houses & Blueprints

Then an abbreviated version of a workshop I've taught a whole bunch of times:
Conquering the Synopsis


Week Two - How Romance Novels Are Sold

October 12, 2009 | Deborah Cooke | Comments (3)

Today, we’re going to talk about the romance market from the business side. If you followed all the links last week, you've already read a bunch about what I think makes a good romance novel, as well as RWA's definitions. We'll have another perspective from another guest on Friday.

This week, we’ll talk about the ways books are sold to consumers - not because I expect you to particularly care about the dynamics of the wholesale selling process, but because different marketing decisions shape different editorial policies (and maybe even reader expectations.) That will have implications for your book, and also for the best fit for your work in the marketplace.

There are several great divides in publishing - although these are most vehemently argued between writers - but one really big one that we need to discuss early is the difference between category romance and single title romance.

There have traditionally been two methods by which romance novels were sold. Neither exist in their pure form any longer, but we’ll look at them as if they are, just to get a better understanding of how they work. These two methods are single title and series (which is sometimes called category). The primary difference lies in how each kind of book is marketed to bookstores (and to some extent, to consumers).

In single title, books are sold on an individual basis (or, yup, by single title). This means that the sales team of any given house will take orders from their wholesale clients for each title in the list. It’s called “single title” because the bookstore/customer orders by individual title and can order as many or as few of any given title in the list at once.

In contrast, category books are sold by line or by type. In this sales model, books are fit into a marketing structure by the house - let’s say that there are four sexy contemporary romances published each month by the house. They will be packaged similarly and they will be distributed identically, in a pre-pack containing a fixed number of copies of each title in that line for that month.  In contrast to single title, book sales are not solicited individually in this model - they might even be calculated, based on the previous year’s sales volume for that line - and customers do not actively order or reorder specific titles.

Neither method is good or bad - they’re just different. What's important to you as a writer is that some romance novels fit in one place but not in the other.

Implications

• The first implication is packaging. (That means the cover of the book.) In a single title program, the house tries to build a brand based upon the author - the author name is the brand. The house’s art department will try to give the author’s books a distinctive look, one that communicates graphically the kind of book it is, but still differentiates the book from other author brands. This graphic branding isn’t easy to do, but when it works, it really works. (Take a look at my Dragonfire titles to see graphical branding in action.) And that makes sense, because the house wants to establish the individual author in the market - the author’s sales will drive future orders. In contrast, in a series program, the graphical look of the line is most important, so that the consumer can recognize that month’s books in a specific line from the package. These covers have banners or borders or specific styles of type - the distinction is that they are branded by line not by author. The previous year’s sales in that line in that month will drive the order volume, independent of which authors are published in the line in that month.

• A second implication is distribution. The category line is effectively sold into a number of outlets in advance, independent of who the author is of each book. (It may also be sold direct to consumer by line, like a magazine subscription.) That means that a baseline order level has been established, which diminishes the risk of launching a new author. It has also meant that there has been very good distribution for category books in non-traditional sales outlets - like bus stops and convenience stores, grocery stores and drug stores - because those outlets didn’t have to really understand the book business to sell books. They could just sign up to carry category lines and unpack the boxes when they arrived each month. Over time, this distribution method has been modified, with the same jobbers who distribute magazines also racking a variety of mass market paperbacks (both category and single title). But the fact remains that a new author may have a better distribution in category than in single title - actual results will depend upon the single title house’s enthusiasm for the book and success in marketing it.

• Because of this distribution model, a category author may be expected to do less self-promotion than a single title author. Generally, romance authors maintain their own websites and many blog, but I think you will find that single title authors tend to be more inclined to do more self-promotion than that and be more likely to hire a publicist. This is because there is more potential for upside - in the pure model of category sales, all of the books in the line in the same month will have the same distribution and print run. If one sells very quickly, then it’s just gone. In single title, of course, there is the option of not just shipping more copies but of active tracking the sales during the release month. Although series titles are also tracked by ISBN # now and there is some ability to restock, I’m not sure that there is the same focus on re-orders as in single title.

• Traditionally, there were also editorial distinctions between single title and category romance. A lot of this was because category romance tended to be shorter - when I wrote for Harlequin Historicals, for example, their max word count was about 95,000 words, while single title historical romances at that time were all in excess of 100,000 words, even 120,000 words. A shorter format requires a different balance of elements, perhaps fewer subplots or secondary characters, in order to ensure that the focus remains on the core romance.

There have also been particular editorial mixes and balances that sold well in category but had no echo in single title. Traditionally, there have been different assumptions in category, mostly about what the reader will find acceptable. It has been perceived that a category reader is more conservative, but I think those distinctions have been eroding over the past decade.

Differences? Sure. The point is that where an author’s work fits into the array of possibilities is a big part of the puzzle that each writer has to solve. The fact is that every house has its suite of assumptions in terms of what its editors believe reader expectation to be, as well as how it should best be fulfilled. That’s in addition to expectations about author self-promotion and sales patterns.

When you are writing your book, I think it's smart to consider where it will (or might) fit once you've finished it. If you intend to target any imprint or line or publisher with your work, you should read as much as possible in that house’s list. That’s the best way to get a good feel for what the house is buying. Focus on the work of newer authors in your research - or authors who are new to the house - as that will be more representative of what the house is currently acquiring.



What’s up this week?

Well, on Wednesday, we have pick-up posts from my blog, a few ideas about romance novels to keep you thinking.

And on Friday, our guest blogger is bestselling romance author Nancy Warren, talking about the elements of a great romance novel.

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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