The Career No Guidance Counselor Suggests: Romance Writer

I spoke to the Publishing and New Technologies class at Humber College on Tuesday morning and it was a delight to be greeted by such enthusiasm and youthful knowledge about technology. Three questions in particular stood out that I wanted to blog about.

Is being a romance writer a realistic career?

Yes! I spent a decade in Harlequin’s editorial department and  we buy new, unpublished, unagented authors from the slush pile every year. We often discussed sending editors on college campus tours to talk about the great female-centric career that too many college grads didn’t contemplate: romance writer.  (I am going to use the pronoun she throughout this answer because 99.9% of all romance writers are female. Unlike most fiction writers they are full-time writers. )If you sell one book to us don’t quit your day job. But if you can write 3 – 4 books a year, you will have a career.

So for all the ceative writing, journalism, English lit grads — or for anyone who knows she is good at writing — consider becoming a romance writer.

It’s not easy. It’s a lot harder than most people assume. But if you like romance novels, and that is an absolute requirement, and you can bring something fresh, original to the happily-ever-after story, you should consider it.

Being published by Harlequin in series romance means guaranteed distribution under a brand name, global sales and the opportunity to work with some of the best editors in the business! You can learn so much from our publishing team.

Let me give a current example of fresh and original. Star Trek the movie takes a storyline that both fans and nonfans know; iconic characters and then makes it all new. It’s a great example of what good storytelling in talented hands is all about.

If I have intrigued you we have lots of writing information at the Harlequin website including podcasts with editors for all of our series. Current bestselling authors who have written or continue to write for Harlequin include: Nora Roberts, Debbie Macomber, Diana Palmer, Jayne Ann Krentz, Sandra Brown, Barbara Delinsky, Tess Gerritsen, Jennnifer Crusie, Linda Lael Miller and many many more. 

Will I still enjoy reading Harlequin books if I get a job at Harlequin? 

Again, it was delightful to have several class members want to have jobs at Harlequin. And this is a truly memorable and good question. One of the sad facts of any business is that when you are on the inside it is never quite as magical as when you didn’t know how it was made. I’ve heard many writers lament the fact that after they became writers they could never read fiction the same way again.

That said, when I am reading a book that is not working my editorial voice does take over and I end up crafting revision notes to the author in my head and it usually means I stop reading. I have a very low tolerance for waiting for the story to get good. I frequently stop after 3 pages.

But, if the book is good, and this applies to Harlequin novels as well because I do adore them, my editorial voice shuts up and I just enjoy the story.

How can other publishers who don’t have a brand name like Harlequin marekt themselves in web 2.0

This is a really good point because Harlequin as a brand does have an advantage in this space. However, other publishers can and do look for specific messages or niches to explore. You can be as big as a genre, smaller as a niche or very specific as an author brand. All of these approaches work.



  1. What a refreshing take on the subject! I’ve thought about, talked about, dreamed about writing romance for years, but didn’t put any serious effort into it till last year. My first book, a paranormal novella, comes out next month. A full length I’ve written has finalled in a few contests and I hope to start sending queries soon. AND I plan to submit something to Harlequin for Nocturne Bites this summer.

    I tell everyone who asks me about it – yeah, it’s difficult, but so far I’ve been encouraged, and I know lots of people who took the plunge and ended up getting published. Now, making a living as a romance writer, much less making a really good living – that’s considerably more difficult. Most romance writers I know still have day jobs. That’s not such a bad thing. I don’t know any fiction writer who does it for the money. And unlike other artistic careers like acting or art, it’s not so difficult to pursue in addition to a “real” job. It just takes time and dedication.

    If you have the commitment and dedication, and you’re pretty confident you have the ability, I think it’s a great field to try to get into.

  2. Malle Vallik

    Congrats on the paranormal novella sale, Kinsey! What is the title and release date? I think I know more romance writers who write full time than those who have a “day job” but they all sell several books a year. Keep up the perseverance!

  3. A bit late to this discussion, but still…!

    I wish more colleges taught courses on romance novels with a focus on dissecting what makes the best ones so darn good. I would have taken one in a heartbeat. My critique partner and I were discussing just this evening starting a free workshop at a nearby college to encourage young writers to take that first step.

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