Aspiring Writer FAQs
*Please note that due to time constraints Toni cannot address individual career questions from aspiring writers, and does not share information about her editors and agent, at their request.
What advice do you have for aspiring romance writers?
I strongly advise joining Romance Writers of America and/or other writers’ organizations. Through this national group you will find an endless wealth of information on both industry and craft. Depending upon where you live, you may also be able to join a local chapter of the group, which I also highly recommend as I think it’s helpful to surround yourselves with like-minded people who are aspiring to similar goals. I also encourage you to attend conferences and workshops, whether they are sponsored by RWA, local writers groups, or bookstores. Mostly, be open to learning about both craft and industry on an ongoing basis. There never comes a time when you’ll know everything there is to know – it’s a continuing, and also rewarding, process.
What else can I do to help myself?
Read, read, read. Read the kind of books you want to write. And read not only books you think are good, but also books you think are flawed – then figure out what does or doesn’t work in them. Reading widely – and with a critical eye – will go a long way toward making you a good writer.
How did you break into the business?
By doing the things I advise above. Becoming a successful novelist requires a lot of hard work and dedication, but I’m blessed to have a career I love and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Will you read my manuscript and give me feedback?
No, I am not able to read or critique unpublished work. However, please visit the Writer’s Resource Page at the website of my friend, Laura Resnick for a list of reputable freelance editors.
Are there any scams I should be aware of?
Yes. Vanity presses are publishers who will publish your book for a fee. This is great if you want to put together a family cookbook or other keepsake that you wish to share with a number of people, or if you’ve written a novel and simply want some bound copies to give to friends and family. But when you pay to have your book published, it is not a legitimate “sale” – vanity presses will publish anyone who pays them to do so, and likewise, anyone who charges you a fee to publish your book is a vanity press. Also, beware of fee-charging agents – no legitimate agent or agency will charge a fee for reading your work. There are no rules or laws regulating literary agents – anyone can hang out a shingle and call themselves an agent. If an agent charges you a fee to read your book, this is probably how they make most of their money – as opposed to selling books to publishers. And even if they can present a list of sales they’ve made, charging a fee is still considered unethical in the industry. Overall, when seeking out an agent or a publisher for your work, be sure to verify that they are legitimate and reputable. For a good look at this topic, read "Publishing, Printing, or Scam" by Laura Resnick at Ninc.com.
How much money can I expect to make as a romance author?
I get this question a lot, and unfortunately, there is no “norm” or “average” in this business. However, to get an idea of what publishers pay, you can visit the website of author Brenda Hiatt and click on Show Me The Money to see results of Brenda’s ongoing anonymous author survey. Bear in mind, however, that the survey is by no means all-inclusive – it represents only a sampling of authors.
Do I need an agent?
If you are just starting to write your first novel, no. This is the time to focus on learning to write the best book you can. Once you have one or more books to market, that’s when you should begin looking for an agent. However, if you are part of a writer’s organization, you may start picking up helpful hints on marketing your book along the way so that when the time comes to shop your books to agents, you’ll be prepared.
How do I find an agent or publisher?
If you join RWA, you will have access to tons of information about agents and publishers who handle romance, what exactly they’re looking for, and how to submit to them. If you choose not to join RWA, however, you can still learn about agents and publishers through books like the Fiction Writer’s Market and by doing research online. Also see the links section on this page. Bear in mind that the agent you choose will have an enormous impact on your career, so do your research and find agents who are “the right fit” for you and your books.
How long will it take me to sell my first book?
This is kind of like the ‘how much money will I make?’ question – I’m afraid there’s no good answer. Each person’s experience will be different. But I can’t imagine a more satisfying career, so I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors and I hope you find the information on this page helpful.
Aspiring Writer Resources
Articles on Writing by Toni
- Bare Bones Instructions for Writing Your First Novel
- Hooking Your Reader : A Q&A
- Buttons and Bows: How Much Description is Too Much?
- Repairing Your Novel
- The Art of Waiting Patiently
- Romance as Feminist Literature
Recommended Print Resources
- On Writing by Stephen King
- Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass
- Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon
- Story by Robert McKee
- The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler
- Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King
- Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
- Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamont
Recommended Online Resources
- Laura Resnick's Writer’s Resource
- A page of comprehensive advice on everything from craft to agents to marketing, with lots of helpful links
- The Passionate Pen
- A comprehensive site operated by author Jenna Petersen dedicated to helping aspiring romance writers in all aspects of business and craft
- Stephanie Bond's Writer’s Pages
- A list of frequently asked questions and dozens of articles by author Stephanie Bond
- Romance Divas
- Site offering free workshops, articles, and more on both the craft and industry aspects of romance writing
- Absolute Write
- Site offering workshops, articles, info on marketing and agents, and more – for all types of writers
- Bookends Literary Agency Blog
- A blog by literary agent Jessica Faust on various aspects of the industry
- A blog by literary agent Kristin Nelson