So You Want to Write a Romance Novel…


Harlequin have recently launched a new digital-first imprint that is destined to bring the dreams of many talented novelists to fruition. The digital-first format opens the doors to many more aspiring authors than would find their way to publication in more traditional formats, and e-reading is definitely growing in popularity. Even I am beginning to broaden my horizons and e-read on occasion.

Escape Publishing launched in November so with such a fresh start now is definitely the time to act on those dreams because submissions at Escape are wide open. I was fortunate to have Kate Cuthbert, Managing Editor of Escape, write us a guest post about the submission process.

Hopefully I can inspire all of you aspiring authors out there with a book waiting to be born to get off your butts, get polished and submit!

But that’s enough from me, I’ll leave you with Kate to find out what she’s looking for and what you can expect when you submit to Escape.

I’m Kate Cuthbert, and I’m the Managing Editor of Harlequin Australia’s new digital-first imprint Escape Publishing. We launched in November and are actively seeking submissions to publish using our digital-first publishing model.

Escape Publishing is working towards two goals:

  1. Bringing Australian voices and stories to a global audience. Being Australia-based, we know that there’s an enormous amount of talent here, and we really want to give it a chance to shine. We do accept international submissions, but we’re focused on Australia.
  2. Using our digital-first publishing model to push the boundaries of romance: take some risks, cater to some niche, set some trends, and publish fabulous examples of traditional romance.
Kate with the November authors from the launch
Kate with the November authors from the launch

Want to get involved? Here are some things you should know:

♥     We publish exclusively romance – that is, stories with a strong focus on a romantic relationship and an emotionally fulfilling ending. However, anything you choose to do within those restrictions is fair game.

♥     Our publishing model moves fast. At the moment, we’re averaging about two and a half weeks for initial response, and about three and a half months from acquisition to publication.

♥     We don’t have the time to do the rounds of structural editing that more traditional publishing models do, so the barrier to publication is probably a little higher for us. The manuscripts I accept have to be in excellent shape from the get-go.

Yes, Kate, but what does that mean?

♥     My best advice is to get your manuscript read by someone you trust to tell you the truth. This is probably not your mom. You need someone who will be brutally honest about what isn’t working, where the holes are, where the characters fall down, where you take author short-cuts. A professional editor can also help you with this sort of reading. Make sure your manuscript is the best you can make it, and then proofread, proofread, proofread.

♥     Know what you want to write under, what you want out of a publishing contract, and what you’d like to achieve as a writer. This may seem like pie in the sky thinking, but it will help direct your career, your submissions, and your writing.

♥     At the very least, get your domain name, because once your manuscript is accepted, you’re going to need a website, a twitter handle, a facebook page – or at least control over those things even if you never use them. You don’t want someone else coming along, snapping them up, and using them for, say, used vacuum sales.

♥     Submit. I know this sounds obvious, but so many people will polish and polish and polish and never take that next step. So get your manuscript to that end level, then take the next step.

What, as a submitting author, can I expect?

During the initial submission process, I’ll receive the first three chapters of your manuscript. I read all submissions to Escape Publishing myself. Based on those three chapters, I will make the decision as to whether I want to read the full. Reasons to reject based on three chapters include:

♥     pacing problems (in particular, very linear story-telling: this happened, then this happened, then this happened)

♥     narratives that start long before (or after) the story: that is, too much back story, or the narrative begins by setting up the story instead of actually starting with the story

♥     very generic or well-used stories without a focus on what makes them different

♥     not enough focus on the romance

After requesting a full, I read to make sure the characters are well-developed, the story and plot are interesting and engaging, and, of course, that the ending is happy. I’m also looking for spark, emotional engagement, and maturity of writing. Remember, we don’t have a lot of editorial time, so I need to make sure the story is at near-publishable quality already.

I’m looking to be swept away, and here’s a secret: I want to buy books. I want to love your book so much that I want to publish it and share it with the world. Every time I open a manuscript, I’m on your side – the best thing you can do is make that easy for me.

You can get more information on our website:, as well as my contact details across a variety of social media, so please feel free to ask me directly if you have further questions.

Thanks so much for inviting me along, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Kate is currently on a whirlwind tour and popping in at all kinds of blogs across the net. If you would like to check in on some other spots to hear her talk on other Escape related topics you can find a listing of all the blog stops on the Escape website.

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