There are so many ways to write Romance! And get paid for it. There are Pros and Cons to each of the career paths. But the good news is that these aren’t mutually exclusive.
1. Write for a Big Publisher
PRO: When you dreamed of being a writer, this is probably what you envisioned. A paperback on a wood shelf in a real bookstore, with a familiar label on the spine, like Harlequin. There are so many different “lines” for Big Pubs, it’s easy to find one you fit. It’s a good way to learn how to craft your novel to a niche readership. You’ll get an editor and a book cover.
CON: Advances are smaller than you think. Really. Plus, while you have the advantage of the publisher’s reach, they don’t promote for you. You’re still on your own when it comes to truly promoting you as an author and a brand. Your books are off the shelves and the Publisher doesn’t always care about keeping alive your backlist.
2. Write for a Small Press
PRO: As with a Big Publisher, you’ll get an editor and a cover and a built-in audience. You’ll also have guidelines to write to. And it’s a lot easier to break in than with a Big Pub. Most of these specialize in ebook publishing.
CON: No advances, and no guarantees that royalties will be great either. Plus… frankly, the publisher might provide a cover that really sucks. And you’re stuck with it anyway. You have to promote yourself. And small presses often go out of business…often down in flames.
3. Ghost Writing
PRO: You can find work on a site like Elance or Odesk (which recently merged) and have enough projects to write full time. You have to hustle a bit to win bids, but it’s still a lot easier than promoting your own book—and easier on the ego. You get a guaranteed amount of money upon delivery of the work; it’s like an advance you don’t have to worry about earning out. Depending on what you prefer, you can look for gigs that let you write your own stories (within guidelines), or gigs that provide much of the work for you already done, like background and outline. This makes it a great route for beginning novelists, especially, to hone their trade. It’s like getting paid to learn how to write books.
CON: You don’t get the fame and satisfaction of seeing your name out there on a book cover. Also, you write to someone else’s specs and you have to respect their wishes, even if you think you know better. You don’t receive royalties.
4. Co-Writing / Team Writing
PRO: In Hollywood, it’s pretty standard, but it’s a new thing for novel-writing: joining a partnership or a team. The income is more regular, and you have the ability to bounce ideas off your partner or teammates. You can focus on the parts of the story you write best, and your partner can do the same. You have more control of the final product than with ghost writing, but still less sole responsibility for the final product… including the marketing. If you trust your partner or team, that lets you focus on the fun parts.
CON: You have to be careful that the financial arrangements are solid and that it’s clear how you’ll be paid: an upfront fee for each assignment, royalties, or a salary—or some combination? Make sure this doesn’t ruin a friendship or destroy a small business. And if you’re the one in charge, make sure you have the legal bases covered.
5. Indie Writing
PRO: You’re the boss, and you have full artistic control—and you keep all the net profits. What could be better?
CON: When you go Indie, you’re not just an artist anymore, you’re a business. Remember that the profits you earn are gross, not net. You have to subtract all the costs of your business… editors, book cover artists, promoters. And if you do all that yourself, you are basically limiting the time you can spend writing. If you ignore the other aspects of the business, your books will languish unnoticed—no matter how good they are!