Possible Romance Idea

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Mar 09 2010

You don’t know me, but I’m a big fan of romance novels and would like to try to write one. I have a really good idea, which is to write a romance novel about [information deleted by Jessica in order to protect the author’s identity and idea]. My plot idea is that [information deleted by Jessica in order to protect the author’s identity and idea].

What do you think? Does it makes sense? Would the publishing industry “subsidize” me for such a romance novel, or would they think it “senseless”?

Please let me know, as soon as you can, so I can begin writing.

Before anyone starts jumping around and screaming that this can’t possibly be a real question, let me assure you that it most certainly is. Not only that, let me assure you that I get questions like this to both the blog and my email address at least a few times a month.

What I think you need to do is write the book. Yes, a great idea can make a huge difference in whether or not a book will sell, but the execution is so much more important. Not only that, but once you write the book you might find that your idea changes and takes a different direction. Write the book, join a critique group, and learn how to strengthen your idea and your writing. A publisher does not “subsidize” an author. A publisher reads an entire manuscript and decides whether or not it’s a book they would like to publish. They then pay the author an advance against royalties to publish that book. Before you even worry about whether the idea is “senseless” or whether you’ll be paid you need to finish writing that book and then you need to revise, edit, and polish it to perfection.

Begin writing. I can’t tell you whether or not a book will be published, but I don’t think any fiction writer starts on this venture simply to get published. I think they start writing and hope they get published.


26 responses to “Possible Romance Idea”

  1. Avatar Aimee Laine says:

    "… I don’t think any fiction writer starts on this venture simply to get published. I think they start writing and hope they get published."

    100% agree! 🙂

  2. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I can believe this is a real question, but what I don't get is how some people are so focused on themselves that they cannot see the world around them. If she would have done um, maybe twenty minutes of research online, she would have learned just what you said here. Leg work people!

  3. Avatar Wendy Marcus says:

    And why do people think romance novels are so easy to write they can just spit one out and it will be published?

  4. Avatar Fawn Neun says:

    Romance is harder to write than military thrillers, but the research is a heck of a lot more fun. 😉

    Hey – if I thought for a moment I could get away with a plan like that, I'd do it, too. But no, it doesn't work like that. 🙂

  5. Avatar Shain Brown says:

    First off if she has dreams and aspirations of being published she should be reading and writing everyday, regardless of wether this is the piece that gets published or not. Anyone in a craft must practice everyday. Not to mention as a person in a previous comment wrote. If she would have bothered to do twenty minutes of looking around she could have answered these questions on her own.

    I guess I wasnt aware people were really asking agents these kinds of questions.

  6. People also ask that question of writers. "Hey, you're a writer? I've got this great idea for a novel. If I give you the idea, then you could write it, and we can split the profits!"

    Or then there's the even lazier "Hey, you ought to write a novel about that!"

    The only answer, every time, is to simply tell them that they need to write their own books. (Unfortunately, even if you do it very politely and encouragingly, they think you're rude for rejecting them.)

  7. I don't think people realize the work that goes into getting a book finished and then edited and then edited about ten more times before it even goes to the agent or pub house.
    I put this right up there with the people who have a great idea and ask me to write their book for them.
    I tell them to write an outline for the story and character sketches for the main characters and I'll have a look. It shuts them up real quick and to date, I've never recieved an outline from anyone.
    Its easier than just saying get lost.

  8. Avatar JoAnn says:

    Aimless, that is a BRILLIANT answer! I will certainly file that away for later use.

    The thing that I find frustrating is when I hear someone spout incorrect info about publishing (as in the time I heard someone advise an unpublished author to call the agent every day about her manuscript). I try to gently inform people but because I am not a published author, I "don't get no respect." I guess they'll learn the hard way. 🙂

  9. Avatar Kimber An says:

    The question is a great first step.

    Now, if the person is serious about pursuing publication, she must begin to




    Yes, write the book and get thee to a good critique group. My favorite is


    Best of luck!

  10. Avatar Peter Dudley says:

    It's easy for those who already understand the process to treat questions like this with contempt. I prefer to think of these people as charmingly naive. They understand that to write a whole novel is probably a lot of work, and gosh they don't really want to do all that unless they know it'll be successful. Probably other people feel that way, too, so it must be that people come up with good ideas, then a publisher gives them an "advance" to write the book. Otherwise, who would be stupid enough to put all that work in without any guarantee it will ever be successful?

    There is a happy and rose-colored sort of logic behind that thinking. I feel bad for these people because for the most part they're about to be run over by the freight train of reality.

  11. Avatar Tracy says:

    I think, when judging this, we need to keep in mind that we don't know the age of the questioner. If she is only say 18, while she isn't excused from needing to learn how the publishing industry works, she can be given some allowance for her ignorance. Whereas, if she is say 45, she should know by now that nothing in life is ever as easy as it looks on the outside.

    That being said, I think the question proves the point why not everyone who wants to write actually does. Coming up with great ideas is easy — turning ideas into a series of words is infinitely more difficult, and not everyone is up to trying something with no gaurantees.

  12. "… I don’t think any fiction writer starts on this venture simply to get published. I think they start writing and hope they get published."

    I agree 100%, just as Aimee said, but I also want to add that, in my opinion, a writer isn't a true writer if he/she holds onto an idea simply because he/she doesn't know how much money it will generate. A writer is someone who writes for the love and passion of it, then hopes later on that other people love his/her idea as much as he/she did. Whether you pursue the path of writing a novel shouldn't be based on monetary circumstances.

    In my opinion, and judging from the question, that's the first sign of a bogus wannabe–someone who has no idea what it takes.

  13. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Peter, I love what you said! I agree completely.

  14. Avatar Jon says:

    Most people seem to think the writing is the easy part. How did this happen?

    Also, I bet the answer the questioner was REALLY looking for was: "What a great idea! Amazing! Please let me give you money!"

  15. Hahaha, yes I've heard plenty of strange (I subtly cringe) comments about pursuing publication. Someone once asked me: 'So, do you know of any agents that actually read novels?' What kind of question is that? Bizarre.

  16. Avatar Steph Damore says:

    I agree with the concept of what The Davenports said:

    "Whether you pursue the path of writing a novel shouldn't be based on monetary circumstances."

    But I have to be honest and say that for me to some extent it does. I'm not writing for fun. I want to be a career writer, and with that comes a certain monetary assumption (not lofty, however).

    When it comes to writing a new novel, whether or not the concept is publishable weighs heavy on me. I look to strike a balance–write a story that I'm passionate about, but that's also publishable. The trick is to find the concept that fulfills both. I love when that happens.

  17. Avatar clindsay says:

    Oh, it's a real question. I get questions like this all the time about fantasy and YA novels, too.


  18. I don't fully agree with Peter Dudley here.

    Yes, when you're dealing with a stranger, it's always best to assume that the questioner is naive.

    However, there are an awful lot of people who approach everything in their lives this way. It's not that they just don't know enough about how to get started, they just don't value anyone else's time.

    My day job is basically helping art, design and media students with their day to day project problems. You learn pretty quickly that while most just need a little help, and some actually need a lot of help, there are some that are just plain leeches. And you learn pretty quickly to figure out which ones are which.

    And the best way to sort them out, is to see how they react to you laying a little work back in their lap. (Always something that they can actually do, of course.)

  19. Avatar Peter Dudley says:

    Daring Novelist, you are of course correct. I just prefer to assume someone is naive when they ask questions like this. The exact response, as you and Aimless Writer also pointed out, is to assign them work. Those who are sincere will continue. Those who are now will wander off to find something easier.

  20. I totally agree with Daring and Aimless – to a point. My husband has story ideas ALL the time -but he's not a writer. He doesn't enjoy it – it's not that he doesn't have skills or is not willing to put in the work – he just doesn't like it, so he doesn't do it.

    I have other friends that are the same way – one is a painter but she comes up with elaborate 'stories' in her head that relate to the painting – but she would never actually write a STORY about it or try to get it published. Again, it's not something she enjoys doing.

    I guess it's not a matter of a real writer as opposed to a lazy one, but whether or not they LOVE writing in the first place. At least that is what I see. If you don't love writing, then you won't do it, no matter how great the idea is. This applies for those that write poetry but will never write a novel. (Like my sister for an example).

  21. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Wow. Like others, I've also cornered by clueless questioners — why is it always the clueless that are overly conerned with how much money they're going to make?

    I'e had people say to me that they'd like to get published too, if only they "had the time." As if a few weekends a month is all you need, and presto, instant novel and best-seller list stardom, with millions in cash rolling in.

  22. Avatar Anonymous says:

    No matter who you are and what you do someone will always be there to ask a question that you think is stupid. It doesn't mean the person is dumb or lazy, it could be that you are the first person in your business they had an opportunity to learn from. I personally think a person is smart if they try to do things the quickest way possible. In this case they are asking your professional opinion on what you do best. We should be flattered even if it gets old. And truly I think these people are just looking for encouragement to try something that seems like reaching to the stars to them. We all had to start somewhere.

  23. Avatar Jon says:

    Flattered? Maybe, the problem becomes the "free milk" people expect.

    "You want to write a story, cool, glad to hear it, now go do it… oh, No thanks, I'm not interested in collaborating, I've got my own stories. You're going to have to create your own outline… there is no right or wrong, just tell the story. Is it marketable? I don't know. Maybe, go take a stroll through some bookstores."

    Daring summed it up nicely, it's cool when someone is interested in my opinion, but they can't expect me to do the work for them. At a certain point, the only answer is to shut up, sit down, and get to work. All the time some people spend looking for magical answers, they could have spent working on their idea.

  24. The submitter of the question was uninformed about the writing world. That doesn't make him/her stupid, or greedy, or any other pejorative term beyond uninformed. The agent's assistant who first received the request can either pitch it (like the other 99% submitted) or could send a few pointed lines back to say, read the guidelines, or words to that effect. It's too easy to turn people off, who knows, this person really might have something valuable? And at the worst, it is another human. Kindness costs nothing, we all remember times in our lives when we were made to feel stupid and times in our lives when we said or did something stupid and a gracious person salved our embarassment.

  25. Yes, yes and may I say YES!

    Writing a great novel is all about wasting a lot of your own time and making mistakes and not earning a thing.

    In many industries, there are apprenticeships where you get paid to learn.

    That doesn't happen with writing. You write it – it might take years – and then you try and sell it. Not the other way around.

    You may never sell it.

    Tough luck.

    Some people will say, 'what a waste of time.'

    It's not. Because a writer uses that time to get better and better at what they do.

    Thank you so much for the post.