How do you become a published romance author? First, you write a romance novel. Then …
And it’s the “then” that stops most writers from becoming a published author. What’s the next step? Where do you go if you’ve queried every romance agent you could find with a Google search and received few or no replies? If you submitted your manuscript to Harlequin and discovered it’s too long (or too short) for their various imprints? If you exhausted every avenue of finding a traditional publisher?
If you truly believe you have written a book worthy of publication, it’s time to consider one other publishing option – the option where you are the publisher.
Years ago, the term “self-publishing” gained a poor reputation when vanity presses offered authors the opportunity to publish their books at sometimes extreme prices with the requirement to purchase hundreds of copies or more. The author ended up with a garage full of unsold books and an empty wallet. Even today, there are several publishing houses that sell overpriced services – editing, formatting, cover design, printing, reviews, and marketing – that make it next to impossible for an author to ever make enough in royalties to cover their production costs. (I know, because I used one of them. If it hadn’t been for the sales of the e-books I produced and published myself, I never would have recovered the expenses of having the paperback version produced. More on that later.)
In just the past five years, self-publishing has given the literary world independent authors. Indies publish their books directly to readers using self-serve publishing and distribution platforms such as KDP, Smashwords, Nook Press, All Romance e-books, and others. Their books represent nearly half the titles on the bestseller lists. And as time goes on, more and more traditionally published authors are giving up their publishing deals in favor of becoming independent authors.
So, are you ready to become an indie? If so, you’ll need help in the form of the following:
- Beta readers. Line up a group of people willing to read your novel and provide honest feedback (and hopefully a marked up manuscript showing where they might have found errors). Reward them with a dinner and movie and a copy of your final book so they’ll be willing to do it again for your next book.
- Editor. Unfortunately, you’ll probably have to pay for this service. Find one by doing a search based on the sub-genre of your romance and ask for recommendations from published authors. A good editor will read your entire manuscript not just for typographical errors, but for organization, sentence structure, grammar, tense, point-of-view, transition troubles and more. Editing takes time, so be sure you allow your editor the time necessary to do the best job on your manuscript.
- Proofreader. After you’ve input all your editor’s suggestions, you’ll want a proofreader to go through your manuscript one more time. You can’t trust yourself to do this – you’ve read your book so many times, your mind will fill in the missing words or overlook the duplicates.
Once you have a solid manuscript, you’ll be ready for the next step. I’ll cover formatting for print in my next post.