Why Do Some Writers Think They’re So Damn Special?

By Tony Neale,

I’m currently updating our writer’s guidelines, but I wonder why I bother. Based on some of our submissions not everyone’s reading them. If they are, they’ve decided they are the exception to the rule. It must be nice to be so damn special. But really, these writers are not special at all. They’re either ignorant, obstinate, or can’t read any better than they write. Don’t they realize they’re wasting their time and mine by sending me something I can’t use?

We don’t write our guidelines arbitrarily. They are based on the product that we sell and the audience we are trying to reach. The powers that be at Arrow gave it a lot of thought when they carved out our niche in the publishing world. We publish romance graphic novellas. Okay, maybe the term is confusing. We’ve tried others: “illustrated romance fiction,” “fully illustrated romance fiction,” “a cross between a romance novel and a graphic novel” or “an update of the old romance comics.” Still don’t understand? Interested writers can read our stories on our web site. We offer two different free stories on our site each day so if you come back a couple times you’ll get a feel for what we publish. Still writers send us mystery novels, science fiction novels, crime novels, and just novels. We don’t even publish novels!

Yes, yes, I know if I read your novel or at least the wonderful, evocative three sample chapters in your e-mail I would make an exception for you. Guess what, if Agatha Christie rose from the grave, dashed off a mystery and sent it to me I’d have to say, “No, thank you.” I might ask her if she could rework it to give us more sex and romance. And break it down into 70-75 panels so we could put it out as a graphic romance novella. If Agatha says, “yes” then I can use her story. If not, I still might buy it, rewrite the hell out of it and put it out as a new romance novella from the newly risen Mrs. Christie. I bet we could book her on “Entertainment Tonight” and “The View”.

Sometime I reply to a writer explaining what we do publish, and the response is, “There’s a lot of romance in my novel.” While I’m sure there is, they’re still missing the point. Romance is a specific genre. Throwing in a romance scene doesn’t make it a romance. There are certain things we look for in our romance scripts. There should be sexual tension between the hero and heroine with some plausible conflicts. We also like rich, intriguing heroes and womanly, interesting heroine, plus exotic locales. Readers like to escape into a romance so they don’t want to read about a dreary girl falling in love with some schlub in some boring place. That’s most of our lives and who’d consider that romantic?

Guess my other piece of advice is read, read, read what you want to write. We learn by reading. We see how other published writers handle the genre. How can you write a romance if you haven’t read a romance? Strangely, some people try and that’s another reason their submissions get rejected.

How can you expect to write for us if you haven’t read one of our stories? It’s not like you even have to leave your computer to do it—our stories are available online.

My final piece of advice for a writer who wants to be published by Arrow or any other publisher is: learn to read. Read the publisher’s guidelines to find out what they want and how they want to receive it before you waste your stamp or the time it takes to press “send” on your e-mail. Read the guidelines once, twice and three times if necessary until you understand. If you follow this advice you’ll reduce the number of rejections you receive and hopefully the number of ranting editors out there. Well, you won’t really reduce the number of us ranting editors. It takes a wooden stake or a silver bullet for that. And besides, even if everything was wonderful, we’d be cheesed off about that.