Wednesday, April 25, 2018


The editorial process seems to be one of those things that seems elusive to newbie writers and some seasoned authors as well. I’m a professional editor who has worked for a number of big publishers, so I thought I could share my expertise from both sides of the red pen, as it were, to help break down what the editorial process is and should be to help you put out the best books you can. This is the first in a series of columns to explain what editors do, how the editorial process works, and how to find a great editor to work with. But first, WHY you need an editor!

I had a leg up on my classmates when I took a copyediting class at NYU in 2004, not just because I’d been working for a big publisher for over 2 years at that point, but also because my mother, who worked in publishing for decades, used to mark up all my high school papers in red pencil, using copyeditor’s marks. In olden times, before so much of publishing went digital, copyeditors and proofreaders marked paper manuscript in colored pencil using their own code of squiggles and symbols. I still edit by hand this way sometimes.

I tell you this to illustrate that I have been schooled in the ways of editorial work, literally. I’ve spent my entire adult life working in publishing. I subscribe to the Chicago Manual online. I can tell you all about how to use commas and when to use which dash and how to conjugate verbs in the subjunctive tense. What I’m saying is, I probably have more grammatical prowess than your average writer.

And I need an editor.

These discussions periodically break out on author discussion loops I participate in. “Do I really need an editor?” Yes. Hard yes. Absolutely every writer needs to be edited, and edited well.

Here’s the main reason: when you as the writer review your own manuscript, you are more likely to see what you know should be there and not what’s actually there. You can read and reread your manuscript a dozen times and still not catch that you described your hero’s shirt as blew instead of blue. And even if your novel is brilliant, you still need an outside perspective to see it with fresh eyes and offer feedback, no matter how seasoned you are.

My eighteenth novel is about to be published. I still need an editor.
I’m going to discuss the editorial process and what different kinds of editors do in a future column, but for now, I thought I’d focus on when you should hire an editor.

Which is to say, yes, you need an editor. You may not need to hire one, though. It depends on what your goals are.

If you plan to submit to an agent or traditional publishers…
You may not need to hire an editor yourself. If you acquire an agent, many will give editorial feedback.  The traditional publisher will do at minimum two editorial passes (usually a developmental edit and a copyedit—we’ll get into those next in a future column) so your novel will be edited. If your aim is a traditional publishing contract, your book will be edited as part of the publication process and you won’t need to hire one.

The exception is if you want to hire someone to help you get the book ready for submission; some editors offer manuscript consultations for less money than a full edit, in which they will give you some advice for big things to fix. You can pay them to do a more intensive edit, too, if you feel like you need it. You may not; finding a few beta readers, friends, or family members to read your story and give you feedback may be sufficient. Workshopping your book in a critique group or class could serve this purpose, also. Whether you pay for this kind of help is at your discretion.

If you plan to self-publish…
Then you 100% need an editor. Possibly more than one. Every book should be edited. Every book. You might find other consultants also—fact checkers, translators—depending on the content of your book. But, please, at minimum hire someone to give the book a final polish before you publish. I’ll give you a couple of examples without naming the titles or authors to show you why.

As a reader, I’m willing to overlook the occasional typo. Mistakes happen. Publishing schedules are short these days. But a great number of errors are distracting and hard to overlook. I read a self-published novel last year that had several typos, spelling, grammatical, or other errors per page. What that told me is that the author decided not to hire an editor, because any decent copyeditor would have caught and corrected a lot of that. (Not to mention, the hero was a native Italian speaker. Italian is my second language, so I can tell you that just about all of the Italian in the book was wrong. The author probably just typed the phrases into Google translate and cut and paste.)

This level of error made what might have been a good story hard for me to read, because the mistakes kept pulling me out of the story. What you want is the sort of book that sucks in your reader and doesn’t let them go until the last page. Some readers are willing to overlook mistakes, but a lot aren’t, and with so many books available these days, you have to make your book really stellar both to stand out and to ensure your readers come back for the next book.

What’s almost worse is hiring a bad editor. We’ll get into this a little more next time. But I just read a book put out by a small press that had an editor listed on the copyright page, so clearly the book was edited, but not by someone who knew what they were doing. The book was plagued by obvious grammatical errors—random verb tense changes within the same paragraph, incorrectly formatted dialogue, etc.—and it was a real shame, because I actually enjoyed the story. (It was my trope catnip, with a suspenseful plot and likable characters.) But I kept thinking that the book would have been amazing—and thus might have sold better via stronger word of mouth—if a better editor had gotten her hands on it.

I plan to get into how to find a good editor next month, but for now, hear my cry: you need an editor. Yes, even you. ♥

Kate McMurray is an award-winning author of gay romance and an unabashed romance fan. When she’s not writing, she works as a nonfiction editor, dabbles in various crafts, and is maybe a tiny bit obsessed with baseball. She is Past President of RWA/NYC. She lives in Brooklyn, NY. Visit her at

Monday, April 23, 2018


The road to publication is not for the faint of heart.

You've got to decide early on how badly you want to be a published author before you choose to walk this path. Otherwise, you'll find yourself sitting by the wayside asking, "Is this worth it?"

Twenty-four years ago, I began reading romance. I was a sixteen-year-old high school junior who fell in love with Carole Mortimer's The Devil's Price. That book was everything to me. I read it and re-read it until the cover fell to pieces. I actually still have the tattered book somewhere in my basement. It was such a great book, and each read left me sighing with satisfaction.

Over the years I read many great books like Ms. Mortimer's. But, soon I wasn't sighing with satisfaction anymore. Instead, I was wondering, "Why are there no people who look, live, and love like me in these books?" When I couldn't find representation in the stories I was reading, I decided I would write it myself.

I wrote my first book just to see a woman like me on the page. Although it was horrible (and trust me, it was horrible), I was so excited because a woman like me was getting to experience love in this very grand way. That first book, written at age eighteen would go on to become Heart of the Matter, the first book in my Queens of Kings series—after many revisions, that is.

Anyone from the outside looking in would see how well that series sold for me and ask, "Where is the hard time?" Believe me, not everything is as easy as it seems. Although I've been blessed to work with some amazing small presses, it's been a struggle to break into larger traditional houses. With more and more small presses closing, that means getting published with the backing of a publisher is getting harder and harder for every author, doubly so for those of us that write diverse romance.

There are those that will counter my above statement with what would appear to be the obvious alternative to traditional publishing, independent, self-publishing. Yes, indie publishing is an alternative, but it's also expensive and time consuming—if it's to be done correctly. It's not as easy as everyone thinks it is, nothing ever really is.

Although independent publishing is a viable alternative to traditional publishing (or a viable first choice if that's your jam), no author should be forced to take that path, because access is blocked to their preferred method of publication. Not every author wants to take on all of that responsibility. Some authors just want to write.

Now comes the time when hard decisions have to be made. How badly do I want to continue publishing? Is my love of writing in this genre strong enough to make me stay the course even though some days it can look very bleak? Do I just get frustrated and throw in the towel and go back to teaching?

My answer is this. Writing romance is what I was born to do. This is where my passion lies. Whatever, however, I've got to make that dream a reality, I will continue to do so. I will continue to put myself out there, to submit, even when rejection seems inevitable. Why? The answer is simple because I've got to be in the game to win it. The only failure is not trying at all.

I am LaQuette, and I am a romance author, and regardless of the changes in the industry, that will always remain my truth. The question you have to ask yourself is will it continue to be yours. How much do you really want it? 💋

LaQuette-President of RWA/NYC, is the 2016 Golden Apple Award Author of the year winner. She writes bold & sexy tales for diverse characters who are confident in their right to appear on the page. Represented by Latoya C. Smith of the L. Perkins Agency.  Visit her at and

Wednesday, April 18, 2018


I just reviewed the first notes that I jotted down when I began writing my first novel, Starting Over: Rick. My first entries began in late March of 2017, just about year ago. I wasn't even on Facebook or Twitter. Now, I'm part of different writers' groups on Facebook, I tweet on a regular basis, and various writers' tweeting groups draw me in as a means of keeping me inspired and thinking about my progress.

So how has this year been? It has been an amazing one, of incredible learning. When I first began, I had merely been a reader for many years, but I had experience as a writer, and with traditional publishing, just not in this genre. Plus, I had been blogging for a while. Those blog entries were like expository essays, however, not novels!

Writing romance novels had been on my mind since sometime in 2016. I was doing freelance writing, some marketing work, but the projects in my field were drying up, and I wanted something else to do. I was inspired by a few authors that interested me, and it seemed a number of my favorites were starting to go the independent route. I started researching and learning. I joined RWA and sent in my paperwork for our NYC chapter.

But I couldn't attend the meetings in May and June, as I had some conflicts. I only attended my first meeting in July, and by that time, I had taken a class through RWA for those interested in indie publishing. I was writing away and had found a developmental editor through Reedsy, a site for finding freelance writing professionals. RWA members were getting discounts. In retrospect, it seems to me that editors can be like graduate school advisors. They beat you up and make you become better writers. A saying I once heard encapsulates the sentiment, "It's business, nothing personal!" This message was reinforced at our chapter meeting last month, when we heard from editors Madeleine Colavita of Forever Romance and Elle Keck of Avon, each of whom talked about the editorial process from the publisher's end.

If I had gone immediately into pursuing the traditional publishing route, I'm not sure I would have had the intense one-on-one experience I had with the expert editor who helped me polish Rick's book before it came out in August of 2017. When I participated in a Goodreads writing group in the fall, I could see my own growth as I writer. The guest speakers who presented at our chapter meetings taught me as well. I made note of these lessons once I began working on the second book, Going Home: Roger.

So what's next? I originally envisioned doing four books in a series. I am currently working on the third one. Having read for the RITA awards in January into February, I was inspired to learn about other genres that I hadn't read as much. Perhaps I might want to branch out. In addition, I find myself wondering whether I might want to go back to traditional publishing. I'm open to exploring, learning and thinking further about new possibilities.♥

Barbara James is an avid romance reader and a former academic writer. Writing romance novels has been a wonderful creative journey. Feel free to follow her on twitter: @BarbaraJames75 or on Facebook:

Monday, April 16, 2018


International Women’s Day was celebrated last month and while doing research online I found excellent articles about women and writing. I also found a set of TED Talks podcasts from two well-known women writers, Isabel Allende and Amy Tan.

It was Ms. Tan’s account of childhood experiences and Isabel Allende’s Tales of Passion that got me thinking about how our experiences shape us and how they bleed into our own unique creative realm. As such, each story we weave has the potential to invoke a wide range of emotions in our readers.

As one would imagine writers from all walks of life have very different reasons for writing. Below is a common thread among modern day writers:

Leave a legacy:  If you write a book well and publish it, you may actually leave something behind that can last forever.

Incite:  Writers write what the world is like as they see it. Writers ask the difficult questions. And, this boundless curiosity is the foundation that opens the doors to discussing difficult topics.

To stay sane:  To write the endings we wish to see in the world. To make peace with the things we cannot control.

Maria Cox is the 2nd Place winner of the 2017 MANA ( Blog Short Story Series Contest. Maria is also a PRO member of Romance Writers of America and the Treasurer of RWA/NYC. Maria served two terms as President of the Phoenix Writers Club.  Maria has been writing stories since she was a young girl. She picked up her first romance novel when she was just eleven years old and has loved the genre ever since. Maria writes sensual romance, stories that showcase strong, sassy, and sexy characters. When not writing fiction, Maria works as a technical writer. She lives in Queens, New York.  Please visit her site and/or follow her on Twitter.

Friday, April 13, 2018


Every week we bring you an exciting hot book cover from 
one of New York's Leading Romance Authors.

by Wendy LaCapra

SUMAMRY:  The Marquess of Bromton has just learned that he’s a bastard. Feeling his honor is at stake, he attempts to bestow his estate upon a rightful heir by manipulating a high-stakes card game. But the winner demands more than Bromton bargained for—a marriage…to his spinster sister. Lady Katherine may be the least marriageable lady in all of England, but a child of their union would be a rightful heir…

Scandal has hardened Lady Katherine and narrowed her world to duty and family. There’s nothing to be trusted in the Society she left behind…especially not the imperious marquess with his single-minded pursuit. Or his knee-weakening kisses. Except, the more their connection deepens, the more Bromton surprises Katherine. But the truth about their courtship could destroy everything…


Wednesday, April 11, 2018


 This week RWA/NYC members share their observations 
about adding humor to their writing. 

By Maria Ferrer

I firmly believe that if your writing makes you laugh, then others will laugh too.  Writers can’t really force the laughs, because it shows.  One has to visualize the actions, the consequences, the reactions and get all that down on paper.  Always remembering to make sure the joke fits the character(s).  You don’t want them to look stupid and you don’t want to be cruel.

I’m not an expert, but where are some tricks I like to use when writing funny:

Characters – don’t be afraid to make fun of your heroes. You want to throw them in awkward situations for the laughs and to move the plot along.
1)      Names can be funny.  For example, if the whole family is made up of women named Rose after the matriarch.  Or have a family of siblings named after states or cities – Tennessee, Paris. 

2)      Quirky characteristics can help you write funny too.  The big body builder with the teacup Chihuahua.  The nerdy professor with a bright bow tie.  The nervous thief who eats her hair.

Situations – get your characters out of their comfort zone and let them have it. A pie in the face is always good for a laugh.
1)      Location, location, location.  Any place can be funny; it all depends on how you are using it.  A Bed and Breakfast in New Hampshire with each room a different time period or a different BDSM room.  Think Dominatrix lost in Main Street, USA.  Think New Yorker lost in Arkansas.

2)      Forget being politically correct.  This is fiction.  All bets are off.  Everyone and everything is fair game.

You want readers laughing with your characters, not at them.  Well, at least, not always laughing at them.  You have to make your prose funny, but remember that you are telling a story and it has to move on and come to a funny and a happy ever after.

Some of my favorite funny writers include Rachel Gibson, Katie MacAlister, Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Janet Evanovich.  Who are your favorites?  Read them again and pay attention how they make you laugh.  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  Happy Writing!

Maria Ferrer doesn’t think she writes funny so she is often found rereading her favorite funny authors and watching her favorite comedy shows. Her favorite motto:  Live, Love, Laugh…Write.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018


This week RWA/NYC members share their observations 
about adding humor to their writing. 

Beware Flying Tomatoes:
Adding Humor to Your Writing
by Stacey Agdern

So you want to add humor to your writing?  It’s a very tricky, dangerous and interesting world. Humor can be anything from a quagmire of disaster to a purveyor of sidesplitting laughter or even some slightly sarcastic comment that would give your reader reason to smile.  The field is wide, the potential for failure is huge. But sometimes? It’s worth the risk of getting a tomato thrown at your face 😉

The most difficult thing about humor is that you cannot make it seem forced.  If a reader feels like they’re supposed to laugh, you’ve lost them.  My one and only experience with the works of a well-known fantasy writer ended partway through the first book I read of his because it felt as if each page was written with the intent to make a reader laugh. Even though any writer who writes funny intends to make a reader laugh, any writer who telegraphs that intent to a reader will guarantee they’ve lost that reader.

Once we’ve gotten past the thing you’re not supposed to do when writing humor, we get to the way you’re supposed to write it.

Clearly, not all humor is the same; there are more styles of comedy and humor that you can shake a stick at. So the first thing you need to decide is what kind of humor are you writing.  What are you going for? Slapstick? Something more subtle? Puns and wordplay?  Are you spoofing something? It doesn’t matter which style you choose, but once you do decide, pay attention to who you think does it best. Writers? Comics? Songwriters? Television writers? Screenwriters? Playwrights? Once you’ve decided who, pay attention to how they do it. Tear it apart.  Then use what you’ve learned as a guide in your writing.

When I do end up writing funny, I find that the humor comes in the internal monologues of my characters. More specifically, their reactions and descriptions to things they’re having difficulty understanding. Here’s an unedited excerpt of this:

He looked up and her world stopped. Far away he was hot. Up close the charcoal grey eyes pierced through her, the hint of stubble accented those cheekbones, and the jeans he wore showed off a nice ass. She tried not to stare, and clearly failed miserably.

“You saved my life,” he said.

She raised an eyebrow. It was a pen, not mission critical. “It’s a pen,” she said, trying to remain somewhere between polite and flabbergasted. “Really. It’s no big deal.”

“No,” he replied, those eyes burning through her. “I’m serious. It’s …” He took the pen from her outstretched hand, his fingers brushing her palm, and smiled.

Of course his smile had to be killer. Just her luck that he was also unaffected by the press of skin on skin. How was that possible?  Also? How could he be so devoted to a …pen?  It wasn’t even a good pen; a random piece of whatever that he probably picked up at a dollar store. Definitely not worthy of the kind of devotion she’d seen people show to fountain pens or things they bought at prices that were way beyond her comprehension.
(Caught in the Crossfire, Unedited, SA)

The italicized sections got laughs in a reading I did recently. When I thought about why, I discovered that, in fact, they all were the wry observations of the heroine as she processed the hero’s …odd devotion to a pen.

In the end, every writer needs to figure out what their own style of humor is. How do you translate you own sense of humor to the page. And how do you do it in a way that feels natural?  Whatever you do, have fun, enjoy, and be careful of the tomatoes. ♥

Stacey Agdern is an award-winning former bookseller who has reviewed romance novels in multiple formats and given talks about various aspects of the romance genre.  She is also a romance writer.  She’s a proud member of both LIRW and RWA NYC.  She lives in New York, not far from her favorite hockey team’s practice facility.  You can find her on twitter at @nystacey.