Top Tips on Pitching Your Romance Novel

By Katie Gowrie

If you’re attending writer’s conferences this summer and fall, you may be brushing up on how to successfully pitch your romance novel to a Harlequin editor.

We’ve written about this frequently on the blog in the past, but conference season is a perfect time for a refresh! Whether you’re getting facetime with an editor (even virtual!), or pitching in an online forum or Twitter event, having a clearly defined pitch you can always fall back on is a great way to put your best foot forward when seeking publication.

What is a pitch?

The goal of a pitch is to highlight all those fantastic selling points of your story and share them with an editor and/or agent, who will hopefully then take on your project! To do that, it’s important to capture our attention with a few key things…

Elements of a pitch

The hooks and tropes

We want to know about all those well-loved elements of setting, characters and plot—including the tried-and-true themes and storylines romance readers love. Your hooks and tropes should be well-defined when pitching. If you’ve got cowboys, billionaires, unexpected pregnancy, holidays, royalty, a forced proximity reunion romance, lay it all on us and don’t hold back!

The lead characters

Tell us who your protagonists are. They’re the ones we’ll be spending time with in reading your story, so we want to get a sense of the leading couple. That said – keep it to the basic details needed to outline the plot and conflict. Goals and motivations are important, but try not to lose us with too much unnecessary backstory.

The defined plot

Again, give us the basic arc of your plot – two ex-best friends must plan their high school reunion together, and in unraveling the past they find a future. A lawman must protect a witness on the run, and a steamy night together leads to an unexpected pregnancy. We want to get a sense, of course, of how your story builds to a climax, but we don’t need a lengthy breakdown of the story scene-by-scene. Save that for the synopsis! 😊

The romantic conflict

The best part (in my opinion)! Every romance has one—give us the details of those obstacles keeping the couple apart (both internal and external) and how this creates juicy tension and high stakes in your story.

Overall…

Not so bad, right? Again, these elements should be well-defined in any romance story, so pulling them out into a pitch of a couple hundred words, a couple minutes—or 118 seconds, as the standard elevator pitch goes!— is a great way of taking a snapshot of your novel. If one of these elements can’t be condensed to the basics, it’s perhaps a sign that you might wish to review your story first, to see if it needs more focus.

For more tips on Twitter pitching in particular, see our post on #DVPit.

Remember that when in doubt, if you’re pitching to an editor, stay calm, be yourself, and tell us what you love about your story. Hearing you highlight your favourite aspects of your novel helps us fall in love with it too!

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Katie Gowrie
Editorial Assistant

Katie Gowrie is an editorial assistant for Harlequin and primarily works on Harlequin Heartwarming. She graduated university with a degree in Journalism and English Literature, but a short stint on the municipal politics beat affirmed for her that her true passion for storytelling lies in fiction. She’s on the lookout for wholesome, contemporary romances featuring strong, relatable heroes and heroines! When she’s not reading, Katie loves watching crime shows and historical dramas, travelling (whenever she can!), and hanging out with her family.

2 replies on “Top Tips on Pitching Your Romance Novel”

Mrs. Gowrie,
In your experience with novel pitches and projects, have you ever come across this situation?
Have you ever cross-collaborated on a series/single titles between lines? (A Heartwarming based origin could lead to a Special Edition reunion, or Romantic Mystery/Suspense)
I have some WIP (Works in Progress/Possibilities still in early development) that overall “could” fall into this situation.

Thank you for your help
Phil

Hi Phil,
Thanks for your question! We very rarely do this, though I suppose it isn’t a hard no. Sometimes in the past we’ve had a long-running series start in one line and continue in another, but we don’t usually acquire this way. We often encourage writers who are submitting to target the line they think best suits their editorial – or the line they’re most excited about, of course! – and focus there. Hope that helps!

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