The Independent recently ran an article about a contest sponsored by Mills and Boon, the romance novel publisher.
This genre is big business: M&B publishes 60 books every month and they have 1200 authors around the world (“currently all women,” the article says—surely not!).
The authors are paid in royalties which vary from £2000 ($3000) to £30,000 ($50,000) per book.
M&B accepts unsolicited manuscripts and reads all of them. However, they get more than 4000 submissions a year and only 20 of those are published (the rest come from repeat authors, many of whom write six a year).
The article features five tips from Penny Jordan, author of 170 M& B titles. They are basic but useful for fiction writers to consider regardless of genre:
1 Grab the reader's attention in the first line and introduce the hero and heroine by the end of the first page.
2 Convincing dialogue is crucial. Speak it out loud to make sure that it sounds right and flows easily.
3 SEX = Sensuality, Emotion and a certain amount of X factor. Balance the physical aspects of any sex scenes with the emotional intensity of what the characters are feeling.
4 There must be a strong element of conflict between the heroine and the hero, but they will come to value their love more than their differences. Restrict the plot to the hero and heroine; there is little room for secondary characters in a story of 50,000 words.
5 Believe in your characters; let them take over.
I’m always amused when I hear a writer make fun of books like this, claiming they could write them easily if only they could stoop so low. All the ones I know who have tried have failed. It may not be your genre (it’s not mine) but writing any genre well—meaning in a way that appeals to its target readership—is not easy and not to be sneered at.
(You'll find useful guidance on writing in any genre in my book, "Your Writing Coach," published by Nicholas Brealey and available from Amazon and other booksellers.)