If there is one thing I’ve learned a lot about in the past two years, it’s who publishes romance novels. I’ve been through the submissions process three times so far. One of my books sold to a small press after participating in a Twitter pitchfest called #Pit2Pub. Prior to that, I had gone the traditional route. I wrote a query letter, synopsis and read each romance publisher’s guidelines before sending off my hopes and dreams.
Along the way I found some great support via the Sub it Club blog and their Facebook group. Finding other writers to offer feedback during the submissions process was crucial for me.
The cool thing about romance is that there are many publishers that will consider a manuscript without an agent. Before submitting, I recommend reading about each publisher on the Absolute Write forum. This is especially important for small presses that you may not have heard of. This will help you avoid some of the scam publishers out there. Drumroll, please...
Some of these publishers offer a print and e-book version of your book as part of the contract but some of these presses are strictly digital only. If holding a paperback in your hand is part of your dream, make sure to seek out the publishers that will offer that as part of the deal.
The only way into Harlequin without an agent is to submit a “category romance”. They are the short paperbacks found on grocery store racks. Don’t let the short length fool you, their requirements are very specific for each line and it’s wildly competitive. Their wait time to hear back about a submission can be six months or longer. They have contests like So You Think You Can Write that might be another good way in. Note: their other lines for longer novels require an agent.
This is an ebook imprint, there are other Avon books that require an agent. From their website: “What we’re looking for now: Big, high concept historical and contemporary romances.” It’s my understanding that they only respond if interested, otherwise there will be no reply or confirmation.
They have several romance lines with different length, heat and character requirements. I’ve noticed they usually have editors participating in some of the Twitter pitch contests.
Carina is an ebook offshoot of Harlequin. They offer some articles with tips about what makes a good submission that are worth a read. Some of their editors also show up in Twitter contests. They accept a variety of romance genres and are interested in what they deem “contemporary crack”. Note: you are not supposed to submit to Harlequin category and Carina at the same time. Wait for a rejection with one before submitting to the other.
From their website: “We are looking for fresh stories in a variety of categories including all romance genres (specifically suspense and historicals with unique settings), compelling psychological suspense fiction, thrillers, women’s fiction, new adult, and cozy mysteries.”
This is a digital only branch of Random House. From their website: “We invite queries for submissions in contemporary romance, erotica, historical romance, paranormal romance, women’s fiction, and new adult.”
They are a digital romance imprint of Hachette. From their website: “Forever Yours is currently accepting romance submissions from all subgenres, including but not limited to: contemporary romance , New Adult, category romance stories, romantic suspense, western, historical, inspirational, paranormal, time-travel, and erotica.”
St. Martin’s Press joined the club as another big publisher with a digital only romance imprint called Swerve. From their website: “We are looking for dynamic and diverse voices, compelling stories, and authors who are ready to build their brand.”
They are a digital imprint that accept romance, women’s fiction, thrillers and other genres. I love their covers. From their website: “We’re looking for entertaining, emotional stories for smart, modern women. Books that effortlessly transport readers to another world and keep them turning the pages.”
Here’s another digital imprint accepting submissions in the UK. From their website: “Endeavour Press is looking for works of at least 25,000 words in length, as well as full length books, both fiction and nonfiction, in the following genres: Crime Fiction and Thrillers, History and Historical Fiction, Romance and popular Women's Fiction.”
Unlike some of the other publishers on this list, HI takes romance but several other genres as well. Women’s fiction, thrillers, suspense and literary novels are also welcome.
They publish in a variety of subgenres of romance and accept a range of word counts. From their website: “We’re seeking submissions from writers who can deliver the emotional punch readers crave. Space cowboys, gargoyles, the hunk next-door and crusty cops welcome.”
This is the publisher that offered me my first book contract for Dating Maggie. They accept all kinds of subgenres and heat levels. They produce an ebook as well as a paperback and their cover designs pack a punch.
In the past I received a revise and resubmit from TWRP and the editorial notes were extremely helpful. They also provide an ebook and paperback. From their website: “We accept queries including but not limited to women's fiction, mystery or thriller, historical fiction and erotica.”
Beachwalk is a digital only press looking for high heat romances under 75k. Though their website says they print a few high demand titles.
I first heard about this relatively new publisher from a writer friend of mine. From their website: “Hot Tree Publishing is open for submissions of all sub-genres of adult and new adult romance. Submissions must be no less than 50,000 words and no more than 125,000 words.”
From Crimson’s website: “Our digital-first romance line is open to submissions in five popular subgenres: romantic suspense, contemporary, paranormal, historical, and spicy romance. We’re looking for previously unpublished full-length novels (between 50,000 – 90,000 words) and novellas (between 30,000 – 50,000 words).”
This publisher accepts a variety of genres in addition to romance. The minimum word count is 60K and they don’t respond unless they are interested.
They seem to be looking for sweet/clean romance. From their website: “we do not accept books with language or euphemisms. We also do not accept open door sex scenes or gratuitous sex.”
They accept many subgenres of romance and claim to reply within four weeks. From their site: “We are actively seeking authors who can tell an exciting story and aren’t afraid to venture into new territory.”
This is a newer publisher started by successful romance author, Marie Force. They are only interested in contemporary romance and it’s great that they have a sample contract up on their website, so you know what you’re in for.
While Amazon’s imprints require agented submissions, the scout program is a digital publishing program open to anyone. The caveat is that you are encouraged to promote your book to friends to be “voted” for as part of the selection process. It’s unclear how much that impacts the books they choose to publish. They accept romance and some other genres as well.
I hope you found my list helpful. I’m sending you good publishing luck mojo! And the amazing news is, if you don’t find the right place for your book, you can self publish it as many successful romance authors have. I’m looking at you, Bella Andre. Truth be told, the co-founders of Pen & Parent also self published The Proposition, a steamy billionaire romance. So there are lots of ways for a book to make its way to readers.
Do you have experience in the submission trenches with your romance novel? We’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment or send us a guest post about your journey for our blog.
If you need some tips on how to write, check out these Must-Have Books for Writers. Or if romance writing isn't your thing there are 18 Parenting Magazines that Pay Freelance Writers.
Melissa Uhles is a Freelance Writer, Co-Founder of Pen and Parent, and mom who has authored three books under her pen-name MJ Greenway. She writes under the clouds of the Pacific Northwest where sometimes her son and husband pop in to check on her.
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