Become a Professional
Romance Writer

©Judy Bagshaw - All Rights Reserved


It takes more than a publishing contract to make an author a professional. Professionalism is by definition the conduct or qualities of a professional person. How you present yourself and comport yourself can make a huge difference in how you succeed in your writing life.


For the past year I have been working in the editing department of a small press publisher. My area of involvement is with the romance manuscripts that are submitted and, if good enough, accepted by the publisher. And in the course of my job, I have noticed, with some shock and bewilderment, an incredible amount of unprofessional behavior. I am bewildered because I cannot fathom why anyone would deliberately jeopardize the chance they have worked so hard to have.


Take for example, the initial submission. It is not difficult to research your options, choose the best fit for your manuscript, study the established submission guidelines, and FOLLOW THEM TO THE LETTER. And yet, so many people seem to find this impossible. Time and again, our acquisitions department receives manuscripts in genres or sub-genres we do not publish. Sometimes cover letters are non-existent, or manuscripts are attached in the wrong format. Sometimes the synopsis is missing or attached rather than in the body of the email. All of these things are covered in detail in the submission guidelines clearly available on the publisher’s site.


Another downfall for many authors seems to be in crafting a decent cover letter. Consider this the editor’s first impression of you. If it’s poorly written, full of errors, long and rambling, or practically non-existent, an ego fest, or a pity party, the interest in considering your book is going to fade fast. It is worth every writer’s time to learn how to write a concise, professional business letter. After all, writing is a business. A simple Google search will locate all sorts of articles on the topic of cover letters.


In publishing, as in any field, there are frustrations and disappointments. It is important to learn how to deal with these let-downs in a professional and mature manner. Sending demanding snarky emails, or angry rants is not either. Getting into a war of words solves nothing. Insulting, threatening, or talking trash on social lists about editors or publishers is professional suicide. And yet, there are writers who feel the need to do just these sorts of things. Publishing is a small world, and by nature a fluid world. Staff move around. It’s important not to burn your bridges, lest you find yourself stranded with no place to submit your work.


I was shocked the first time I discovered that a book I had spent a considerable amount of time reviewing for my senior editor was already published and for sale elsewhere. This happens more than you might think. Many publishers don’t mind simultaneous submissions and will usually say in their guidelines if they accept them. But as an author, be courteous enough to notify them immediately upon the acceptance of your book elsewhere. And certainly if you previously self-published the book, take it off the market before submitting it to a royalty paying publisher. Since that frustrating experience, my first step is now to Google the author or book title to make sure the book is indeed available.


Editors are busy—very busy. They are dealing with hundreds of books and authors. Do not hound, harass, or beg for critiques of your rejected manuscript. If you want critique, join a critique group or find a crit partner. Writing is a solitary pursuit for the most part, but we as writers need to remember that we are not the centre of the editor’s world. We are just one tiny part of the whole. And in addition to this, it serves no purpose to go over the editor’s head to the publisher to get an answer. In all likelihood, your email will just get forwarded back to the editor since it is his/her job to deal with author inquiries.


Publishing is a business, and therefore, editors are going to be very careful of whom they choose to represent. They’ll look for people who submit highly polished work, show a willingness to work with the publisher in promoting the work, and have a pleasant, professional approach.


During the first half of 2008, the publisher I work for received approximately 1200 manuscripts (novels and short stories). Of this number, only four or five made the final cut and got a contract. For many of the ones rejected, it was because of unprofessional choices on the part of the authors.


Other articles to consider on this subject are:




Queries and Cover Letters: Making that First Impression by Judy Bagshaw



Surviving the Slush Pile by Judy Bagshaw


Ten Steps to a Fab Job as a Romance Writer by Lori Soard







About the Author:  Judy Bagshaw has been published since 2000. Writing romance featuring full-figured heroines, her publishing credits include several novels, a collection of short stories, and short stories in multiple anthologies. She was also part of the writing team for the Ginn Reading Series, and Reaching Readers Series, used in many elementary schools. Retired from teaching, she writes full-time from her home in Ontario, Canada. Visit Judy's website



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