Karen Robards Gives Advice to Aspiring Writers - With Giveaway!

Bestselling author Karen Robards, and recent winner of the RT Seal of Excellence in January for Sleepwalker, is back with her latest book, a heart-pounding romantic suspense with a paranormal twist, The Last Victim. And she is blogging here today to give hopeful authors the breakdown on what it takes to be a successful romance writer.

I was there at the beginning. Almost thirty years ago. As a newbie writer, I attended the first Romantic Times convention. I was young (would you believe 12? I thought not. But young. Really.) I was intimidated by the idea that everyone else knew what they were doing while I did not. I was wowed by the firepower of all those writers and agents and editors and other publishing types coming together to talk books. I met Kathryn Falk, RT’s founder, and Ken Rubin, and reviewers Kathe Robin and Melinda Helfer and the entire RT staff. A whole host of writers attended who are big names now. It was at the very start of the Rise of Romance. Before Romantic Times, before RWA, before romance became the sales powerhouse it is today, the genre barely existed. Kathryn and RT deserve a great deal of credit for helping to propel romance novels to the tops of the bestseller lists, where many of them land today.

Along the way, I’ve learned some things about publishing. First of all, if you’re a newbie writer, no need to be intimidated. Editors, agents, reviewers, bestselling authors – they’re all just people. Most of them will go out of their way to help you out. Almost all of them are actually very nice. And all of them, everyone in this business that I’ve met, are interested in finding a REALLY GOOD BOOK. So that’s your entrée: write one. The very best book you possibly can. That’s the key that opens all publishing doors.

Other things I’ve learned: yes, you need an agent. Maybe not right at first, but soon. As soon as you get offered that first book deal. Ask the editor who makes the offer to recommend one. Or find one for yourself, by checking out the Association of Authors’ Representatives or The Writers’ Market or by attending a conference. But you need one.

Attending conferences is useful. If you can’t attend the big ones, like RWA or RT, there is almost certainly a smaller one near you. Very frequently editors or agents will be in attendance. If nothing else, you’ll get to meet other writers, and making friends and networking is always a good thing. Plus, they might know an editor or agent…. Well, you get my drift.

Writing to the market – writing what’s popular, what’s selling – is a really good idea. You want to do it if you can. If vampires are hot, write vampires. If sex books are selling, how erotic can you make your manuscript? But the thing is, trends in publishing come and go. When I started out, historicals were the publishers’ cash cows and, outside the few category lines that existed at the time, you could hardly sell a contemporary. Then the market reversed, and historicals became almost impossible to sell while contemporaries ruled. Paranormals are enormously popular right now, and the Young Adult market is exploding. But none of us knows how long any of these trends will last. So write to the market, but be prepared to be flexible.

Here are the three best pieces of advice I can give you: read what you love, write what you love, and write the very best book you can, every time.

And, oh yeah, relax and have fun with it. The most important rule to remember is, there really are no rules. My newest book is The Last Victim. It’s a romantic suspense with paranormal elements, which is something kind of new. The heroine is Dr. Charlotte Stone, a serial killer expert. The hero is not who you expect. He’s the baddest of bad boys. And, ahem, a ghost. Like I said, there are no rules. Except this: I wrote the very best book I could. And I absolutely love this book. If you try it, I hope you will, too.

- Karen Robards

GIVEAWAY ALERT: Five lucky readers will win a copy of Robards' latest book, The Last Victim. To enter, comment on this post telling us the best piece of writing advice you have heard. You can also e-mail your response here with the subject line "Karen Robards Giveaway," along with your mailing address. U.S. addresses only, please. Winners will be announced August 15.

BLOG UPDATE 8/15/12: The winners are Justine Wang, Marianne Houghtaling, Avonna, SeaGrace, Winter Peck

You can pick up a copy of Robards' latest, The Last Victim, in stores now. For more from your favorite romance authors, visit our Everything Romance Page.