WEBSITES  This is the brainchild of worldwide publishing giant Harlequin/Mills & Boon. . The contest accepts entries from September 23rd to October 9th. Chapter submissions are posted immediately, so submit early so more people can read it. To enter, you submit your First Chapter and 100-Word Pitch. Chapters should not be longer than 5000 words. The contest is open to both published and unpublished writers of original, novel-length fiction. (If you have been previously published by Harlequin/Mills & Boon, you are not eligible for the contest, but may contact the editors directly.)
A 100-word pitch narrows the focus to who your Hero and Heroine are, the conflict they face, and the resolution. While this isn’t easy, it can be done.
The first place winner is offered a two-book contract, as are the second and third place winners.  In 2012, they also contracted five more authors: Marion Faith Laird for Love Inspired, Amy Vastine for Heartwarming, Jennifer Lohmann and Claire McEwen for Superromance, and Lisa Medley for Digital First. To quote the site: “We set out to contract one new author but were thrilled to find more—and hope we can repeat that in 2013! That’s why we encourage everyone to enter the contest so your story can be seen by many editors.” The 2014 one looks to be just as exciting, and they're giving feedback on the site. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find Write for Us and you’ll find two links: Writing Guidelines and Submit to Harlequin. Harlequin, with its variety of romance imprints, is one of the few major publishing houses that still accepts unagented submissions. You don’t have to win a contest to be discovered at Harlequin! If you have a serious intention to write romance, I highly recommend joining the Harlequin Community boards at You’ll meet other writers, readers, and even editors. It’s a great place to make friends and learn more about the craft of writing. I certainly have! Avon Romance’s program is also looking for new authors (though not in inspirational romance). Online submissions only. Check their “Welcome Note and Helpful Hints” for more information. Kensington Books now accepts unagented e-mail queries, or printed proposals by standard mail. Be sure to check the list of books they accept, and address the editor of the line by name. They have a three-month turnaround time, so don’t expect to hear back overnight.

These are three of the few houses that still accept unagented submissions. To search for more, I suggest a subscription to While it used to offer only a yearly subscription, it is now available for $5.99 a month, if you prefer. Unlike the printed edition of Writer’s Market (and its specialty titles), the site is updated constantly, and contains all the latest information regarding submissions, editors, word length, turnaround time, etc.



WRITER’S MARKET — Published annually, in such editions as Children’s Writers & Illustrator’s Market, Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market, etc. Available at or at your favorite bookstore. Many libraries also keep the current issue available in the Reference Section.

Writer’s Digest Press has books on just about any writing subject that might interest you. You can find many of them at the above website or at your library or bookstore.

Read your target genre. This sounds pretty simple, but a lot of people look at a genre that’s selling well and making the Bestseller lists and think, I’ll write one of those because then I can get a contract. Resist that impulse! Write the genre that you love! If you love science fiction or mysteries or westerns, don’t think about writing romance just because it sells well. And don’t think that just adding a love interest will turn a historical western into a western historical romance. Find authors whose work speaks to you. Don’t copy them, but learn from them.

WRITING FICTION FOR DUMMIES. Yes, there’s a “For Dummies” book for that. I’m not familiar with Peter Economy, but cowriter Randy Ingermanson developed the “Snowflake” method for plotting novels, where you start with a single idea and continue to build from there. The nineteen chapters will get you from start to finish, including how to polish and submit your work. The For Dummies series also includes Children’s Books, Romance Novel, Young Adult Fiction, and Writing a Novel and Getting Published. Check or your favorite bookstore or library.

WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL by Donald Maass. This will move you beyond basic writing skills and help you improve your work.

How-to guides exist for every imaginable genre. Find yours and absorb it. It will improve your writing and your marketing skills.

One last recommendation (though I haven’t read it yet): THE ART OF ROMANCE WRITING by Valerie Parv. The internationally famous Australian romance writer is a friend of mine, and her book is available in the US as well, and for Kindle. With over 25 million copies of her books sold internationally, her writing advice is well worth taking. She also writes a weekly blog on


Writer’s Digest Magazine.  Every issue contains articles on how to improve your writing, interviews with authors, and regular columns including one on Standout Markets. It also sponsors writing contests and competitions, some of which have great prizes. for more information.

The Writer. Available in print and digital formats, by subscription or on newsstands.

Poets and Writers Magazine.