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Notes on the Romance Publishing Industry

by Wendy J. Woudstra   


At one point in my life, I decided that what I really wanted to do was run a used bookshop. Shortly after making that decision, I accepted a job as a manager of a small, quaint, used bookshop not far from my home.

In my mind, I was sure the shop, its customers, and my experiences would be something like Christopher Morley described in The Haunted Bookshop. Customers would leisurely peruse the large collections of literature and poetry, people would stop by to chat about the latest offerings from Alice Munro or Tom Wolfe, and I could introduce my many customers to some of the lesser-known authors I loved best.

Reality ran more like this: When the store opened each morning, there would be group of women standing outside the door waiting to get in. Once the doors were opened they headed directly to the series (category) romance section. There was no leisure perusing. They rifled through the books, determining their picks by series and number. They would bring their piles of Loveswepts, Harlequins and Silhouettes to the counter, either buying them for a dollar each, or trading in the books they got the week before, two for one.

I shouldn't have been surprised. Had I done my research, I would have discovered that, according the the Romance Writers of America, romance novels constitute 40% of all popular fiction purchased in the U. S., with $1 billion in annual sales. Romance fans are voracious readers, finishing more than one book a week. Some of my customers were reading more than one a day!

A romance novel, by definition, is a book in which the central storyline revolves around a man and a woman in which there is a "guaranteed happy ending, the establishment of a lifetime commitment between one man and one woman." While you may know how they're all going to end, that doesn't mean all romance novels are alike. The genre is split up into a large number of sub-genres that range from historical to science fiction and fantasy, with romantic scenes that range from steamily erotic to the more old-fashioned romances that even my mother could read without blushing.

For romance writers and fans of the genres, most romance publishers have extensive Web sites, frequently offering tips to aspiring authors, as well as guidelines for manuscript submissions. The list below includes the Romance sites of some of the largest publishers involved in the genre:

Ballantine Group
Ballantine is a division of Random House, publishers of bestselling contemporary and historical romance authors Diana Palmer, Mary Jo Putney, Patricia Rice, Bertrice Small, and Phyllis Whitney.
    » Frequently Asked Questions
    » Submission guidelines

Dorchester Publishing
Publishers of the Love Spell romance book club with time-travel, futuristic, paranormal, 'Legendary Lovers', 'Perfect Heroes', and other genre romance fiction.
    » Submission guidelines
    » Author List

Harlequin series brands include: Temptation, Presents, Love & Laughter, Superromance, Romance Intrigue, Historicals, American Romance Silhouette series brands include: Romance, Intimate Moments, Desire, Yours Truly, Special Edition
    » Frequently Asked Questions
    » American Romance Guidelines
    » Blaze Guidelines
    » Duets Guidelines
    » Harlequin Historicals Guidelines
    » Intrigue Guidelines
    » Harlequin Presents (Mills & Boon Presents) Guidelines
    » Harlequin Romance (Mills & Boon Tender Romance) Guidelines
    » Harlequin Superromance Guidelines
    » Harlequin Temptation Guidelines
    » Mills & Boon Historical Romance
    » Mills & Boon Medical Romance
    » Silhouette Desire
    » Silhouette Intimate Moments
    » Silhouette Romance
    » Silhouette Special Edition
    » Steeple Hill Love Inspired
    » MIRA

Kensington Publishing
An independent publisher of historical romance novels. Kensington, under the Zebra imprint, operates a romance book club. Best-selling romance authors inlude Janelle Taylor, Fern Michaels, Phoebe Conn, Rosamme Bittner and Connie O'Day Flannery.
    » Ballad Romance manuscript submission guidelines
    » Submission guidelines for Encanto Romance Line

by Wendy Woudstra