You would think romance and marriage go together like peanut butter and jelly, right? Recently, I was told that romance readers believed that once you’re married the romance ends. After they say I do, the book becomes an I don’t.
I recently pitched my latest project to an editor, and her response took me by surprise. I explained the premise of my story, and then I went on to tell her the book starts off with my hero and heroine separated, facing divorce. That’s as far as I got. She threw a hand up to stop me. And this is how it went.
Editor: “I love the concept, but you need to have your couple divorced. In fact, give the heroine a fiancé or a boyfriend so the hero has to fight for her.”
Me: Sits in stunned silence as I digest just how much changing would need to be done.
Editor: “There’s no romance in marriage. Romance readers find married couples boring.”
Me: Still sitting in stunned silence, trying to keep my mouth from flopping open.
Editor: “Once you make these changes I really would like to take a look.” Hands me a business card with submission information.
Me: Being in a romantic marriage, I want to tell her how untrue I felt her assumptions are, but instead I take the card and flash a fake smile. “Great. That’s great. I’ll get right on it. Thank you.”
As I walked away broken hearted for my story, I consciously thought back to the hundreds of books I had read along the way. Had I read any books where the couple starts off separated and then reunites at the end? None flew out at me. Was she right?
It made me a little sad. I wanted to turn around and go back to the editor and tell her what was really on my mind. I wanted to fight for married couples that have suffered a setback or two. I wanted to say there is more to the story than just the beginning. I wanted to say that sometimes couples got lost, and they have to find their way back, by searching for the love that brought them together in the first place. But of course, I didn’t.
Her suggestion to rip my story apart wasn’t what truly bothered me. (Okay, it bothered me a little!) What honestly bothered me was that she put all romance readers in the same box. I got an uneasy feeling inside. So I decided before I would go and change EVERYTHING about my story, I’d pitch it again, and again, and then one more time. Guess what? Our beloved romance readers started crawling out of that box the editor had put them in. The agents and editors I pitched to want to see it just the way it is. Not one of them told me to divorce my couple.
I have a friend who writes historical with some steamy love scenes. She had an editor tell her once that she would consider signing her if she turned it into an inspirational. What? Her hot romance wasn’t even close to being inspirational. She got that same uneasy feeling I did. So she pitched it again. I’m delighted to report that she’s landed the big book deal with her voice and her story still intact.
What I’m trying to say is this: Maybe sometimes your book does need a major overhaul. However, before you go and change EVERYTHING, pitch it a few more times. If the response seems to be consistent, then maybe it’s time to make the big changes, but first give your book a chance. There is a reason you wrote it like that in the first place. 🙂
Remember to Dream Big!