There is a whole other language that goes along with the Romance publishing industry. What does it all mean?
The page below has three tables – one for the terms common to all genres, and one for the terms specific to the Romance Industry. Below the Romance Industry section, you’ll find the definition of the ‘heat levels’ used by RWA to indicate to readers the level of sensuality in a book. These heat levels are also used in the conditions for our various contests.
General Publishing Terms
|A person contracted by an author to conduct the business side of publication; usually paid about 15% after sale.
|Amazon, also ‘the zon’, the largest online retailer of e-books globally
|Author of Colour, a term that began in the USA to denote authors who are not white
|Advanced Reader Copy, a standard way of formatting a manuscript, a draft often used for proofing and also for reviewers.
|Someone an author trusts to read the first draft of a MS and give feedback on plot holes, character arcs, and other places that need extra work
|Also known as BICHOK – bum in chair, hands on keyboard – aka, sit down and write!
|The growth that a particular character(s) goes through during the period of your story.
|Critique Partner; a person who assists with your writing. This can also be a group of people.
|Draft2Digital – a self-publishing support option for book publication and supply.
|Where the author is not obviously writing the story i.e. the story is coming completely from the character. You are completely in the character’s head. For example, instead of “her mother”, it’s “Mum” (or however the character would refer to her mother).
|Did Not Finish. Used by book reviewers to show they couldn’t finish the book.
|Employed by book publishers to acquire books and work with authors on their publication.
|A very short synopsis of your story, that you could tell someone in the space of a ride in an elevator.
|Face to face. Also IRL (in real life)
|A message board/online discussion site where members can hold conversations in the form of posted messages.
|A category or grouping of literature. Genre fiction is popular fiction and can take any form (e.g. romance genre, mystery genre, crime genre).
|Goals, Motivation, Conflict; requirements of a good story; also a book by Debra Dixon.
|GoodReads: www.goodreads.com A book review site
|An author who is published by a publishing house for some works, and self publishes other works.
|An author who self publishes their books – see Self Publishing
|In real life
|International Standard Book Number – a unique identifier given to a published book
|The ‘selling’ line of your story. It is often 1 sentence (< 25 words).
|Manuscript; the typed pages of the story you are working on.
|A female character who is too perfect to be true
|Main Character. Also Motorcycle – a romance trope.
|manuscript wish list, used on social media by agents and publishers
|New Adult fiction (main characters in early 20s)
|National Novel Writing Month – where authors attempt to write 50,000 words in a month
|A written story that has a word count greater than 40 000 words. They are usually less than 120 000 words for published romance novels.
|A written story that has a word count between 10 000 and 40 000 words. It has all the attributes of a novel (beginning, middle, end, character development, story arc, etc) but in a shorter form.
|Not Safe for Work. Don’t open this file if your boss is watching 🙂
|A book written by an author who shares a marginalisation with character, eg autistic author writing autistic character
|An author who doesn’t plot and just writes ‘by the seat of their pants’
|Another social media platform, also used for collecting inspiration. Based on photographs, video, etc.
|A few moments of time ‘selling’ your novel; also, a short (<25 words) sentence that describes your novel.
|An author who plots out a book before they start writing. There is also the ‘plantser’ someone who does a vague plot then pantser writes
|Print on Demand: used by Amazon and indie publishers where books are printed as readers order them – ie: no stock is kept on hand.
|Point Of View; which character is telling the story.
|Query letter; a letter to an agent/editor which asks if they are interested in reading your manuscript; usually gives one paragraph description of your story and your writing credentials.
|Revise and Resubmit – when a publisher asks an author to revise their submission and resubmit it for further consideration
|Really Simple Syndication; allows for the continuous update of websites, blogs, news, or such internet sites that you may be interested in.
|When an author publishes a story without the assistance of a publishing house. They may (and should) use services for editing, cover design, etc. but they maintain control of all facets of publication.
|A collection of books that are connected. In genres like mystery, series tend to be connected by a single main character, eg a detective. In romance, series tend to be connected by a theme with new main characters in each book of the series, eg four brothers who all find love one at a time in their own book of the series
|Science Fiction and Fantasy.
|A written piece that is usually less than 10 000 words. It must contain a beginning, middle and end, and character development.
|A novel that is sold alone by a publisher, not as part of a series of connected novels
|The set of manuscripts received by an agent or publisher from authors. Some publishers won’t accept manuscripts via the slush pile – an author must have an agent to submit to them. Check publisher websites for submission guidelines
|A self-publishing support option for book publication and supply.
|Internet sites that promote friendship or communication (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Blogs).
|A shortened form of your m/s which details character growth, major turning points, emotional growth and changes. Includes the ending of your story.
|To Be Read pile – the pile of books someone owns but hasn’t read yet
|Trad or Traditional Publishing
|This refers to the traditional way an author was published; where a publishing house contracted the work from an author and paid for the production of the books (in print and/or ebook format). The publishing house then paid royalties to the author for book sales.
|Work In Progress – the novel an author is currently writing
|Young Adult fiction (main characters are teenagers)
Romance Specific Terms
|The point of the story where all hope is lost, usually towards the end. In romance, it’s where you struggle to believe that these characters can ever work things out and live happily together.
|Derogatory term used to describe the romance genre. Comes from historical romances written in 1970s and 1980s
|A book that belongs in a publisher’s series (the most relevant and well-known being the Mills & Boon romance, eg Dare, Medical, etc). Each book stands alone but is promoted as part of a series, with new titles available each month.
|A romance novel with no sex on the page, ie it all happens behind closed doors. Some classify this as ‘sweet’ or ‘clean’, however others dispute the term ‘clean’ as it implies books with sex are ‘dirty’.
|Contemporary Romance (the most common sub-genre of romance)
|Sub-genre of romance where sex is crucial to character and emotional development. All stories must conclude with HEA or HFN.
|This is not romance. This is where sex is explored in writing, but a happy ending is not required.
|The first kiss scene in your story, where the Hero and Heroine first kiss. It should be a highly emotional scene.
|Hero/heroine: some writers don’t like this as it reduces the heroine to a little h and prefer to use ‘mf’
|Happy Ever After. The main characters end the story with the reader believing they will be together forever.
|Romance novels are often categorised by their heat level – from ‘closed door’ to ‘erotica’ and everything in between – see the third table on this page for the heat level definitions used by RWA
|Happy For Now; an ending of a story that leaves readers happy & satisfied. HFN means the characters may still need to do some work or take some time to figure out their HEA. Some make the distinction that HEA must include marriage and babies, while HFN is all other types, but this is quite othering of LGBTIQA+ characters.
|Harlequin Mills and Boon – the largest romance publisher globally
|Historical Romance – a sub-genre defined as any book written now but set before 1950.
|Inspirational Romance. A sub-genre that includes religious or inspirational elements
|Love Interest – the other main character, eg the hero and his LI
|Motorcycle Club Romance. A sub-genre of contemporary romance
|The moment the main characters first meet each other in a romance.
|Male female pairing for the two main characters. Some writers prefer this to H/h because it is more equitable. It also allows for other types of pairings such as ff, mm, mmf, ffm, etc
|Paranormal romance. A sub-genre of romance which includes elements such as ghosts, vampires, shifters, etc
|The RWA (USA) annual award for best romance novel. It is named after RWA’s first president, Rita Clay Estrada.
|Romantic Suspense. A sub-genre that includes a suspense story arc, eg the heroine is threatened by a villian and the hero must help her survive (or gender flipped!)
|A collection of stories where emotion and falling in love is explored. It requires a Happy Ever After (or Happy For Now) ending. It must leave the reader uplifted and happy.
|Romantic Book of the Year – the RWAus award for best romance novel
|Romance Writers of America (can also be Australia, so check which it is referring to!).
|Romance Writers of Australia.
|Romance Writers of New Zealand.
|Science Fiction. Sci-Fi Romance is another sub-genre, as is Fantasy
|Seasoned Romance (main characters older than 40)
|Stories that are classed as ‘sweet’ are those where the intimacy between characters is not written on the page. It may be implied, or not. See also ‘closed door’
|A way to express story themes eg friends to lovers, fake fiance, boss/employee, secret baby, cinderella etc
|A character who reviewers feel is ‘too stupid to live’
|Valerie Parv Award – a contest run by RWAus for unpublished authors
Heat Level Definitions