Advice from the Archives: 8 Tips to Stand Out from the Slush Pile

Every year here at Romance HQ we’re lucky enough to receive hundreds of submissions from aspiring writers, but we only buy a fraction of these new authors every year. Editors often work with aspiring authors for months, sometimes even years, to help them reach publication standard. But in order for them to invest that time, they need to see something special in the writing. So what is it that makes an author stand out from the rest?

Firstly, the author’s voice: This is absolutely key and it is something that can’t be faked. We’re looking for the author’s natural voice. All too often we receive submissions that may be technically very good but there is no personality or spark to the writing. Sometimes it feels like writers are trying to emulate authors that they have read before. We’re not looking for a paint by numbers romance. So be fresh, be original, be yourself!

Captivate your reader with sparky dialogue and a great interaction between your hero and heroine. It’s crucial to see blazing chemistry between them.

Readers want to be plunged straight into the action with a high octane, emotionally intense situation. A reader wants to see that the characters are on the point of change and have the sense that they will be going on a journey of development in the book.

But even in a dramatic, emotional scenario, humor can work really well to balance this, especially a hero that can make us laugh. We’re not talking laugh out loud or ridiculous here, but some subtle humor can work wonders at engaging the reader.

The characters themselves are crucial. We want to see that there is a potential to dig deeper. They have to be people you like and want to read about and they must be realistic and relatable.

Editors want to see something unique in the story – whether that be a completely different element or a new twist on a classic theme such as the marriage of convenience.

Crucially our editors want to see highly contemporary writing. Your potential readers are from the 21st century so will need to be able to relate to the characters and the situation that they find themselves in, even if the series is Historical Romance.

Happy Writing from the SYTYCW Team!