As we re-open to submissions here at Musa’s Calliope Imprint, the Calliope staff has spent some time discussing what we’d like to see in the romance manuscripts we acquire. Wondering what we’d like to see? Head Editor, Jeanne De Vita, and Associate Editors, Jen Murphy and Aimee Benson, have the answers.
For me, the best romances are always the best stories. Concisely: great setting, relatable characters, authentic conflict and satisfying resolution, whatever the ending is.
1) Great setting: A great setting lives and breathes and contributes to the story. Create a universe that is real and genuine--if it's modern day America, make sure it's vital and interesting. If it's a created universe, make sure your mythology is clear, the rules make sense, and readers have enough information to "get it" without getting lost. The BEST stories leave readers with impressions and details that they will remember.
2) The characters need to be relatable, real people. Editorial pet peeve: do not write the story you THINK you know. Good writing doesn't have to be "factual" to be real and true--I'm not talking about true confessions! But if you have never set foot in a law firm (as an employee!) do NOT, please do NOT place your story in a law firm. Lack of authenticity is a major turn off. Getting back on track with characters... don't write about stereotypes... get beta readers, check your facts… before your send out your book. Do the sniff test on everything that you write.
3) Authentic conflict... this is the heart and soul of all romance, right? Characters meet, their issues create STORY, and somehow things work out. Sounds simple... but it's nuanced and incredibly challenging to create an authentic conflict that can drive a story. Calliope has so many very strong books, and we have several books/authors I like to call the "models" for the imprint. Please check out any of the many fine books in the Musa library by Helen Hardt or Cindi Myers, Finding Grace by Rhea Rhodan, Unveil My Heart or Storm’s Fury by Nya Rayne, the entire Ushers series (Amazon, United, the first two of the three are available now) by Vanessa North, Hard Bargain by Grace Wen. It’s difficult to pick just a few but these books and authors are as I mentioned, models for what Calliope romance is and strives to be.
4) Satisfying resolution can mean Happy Ever After, Happy For Now, or any variation thereof that leaves the reader feeling that the plot is resolved, the characters "got" somewhere during their journey on the pages, and finally--and most important--the reader has to walk away GLAD that they read your book!
Tell me a story, tell me a great story.
One with ups, downs, misunderstandings, comedic twists, resolution and above all, real people. I want to live with your characters and to be a part of their world. Above all, I want to be conflicted about finishing the book, happy that all is well (or well for now), but sad that the story has finished. I want to believe that there could be a sequel, either written for me, or created in my own imagination.
I’m looking for smart, sexy romances with a fresh, modern voice. I like small town love stories where the setting could be a character in itself. I enjoy science fiction and fantasy romances where the world building is unique and creative.
Menage in any pairing (MFM, MMF, FFM, FMF) is great--I want to understand how and why characters choose this non-traditional relationship! I love paranormals especially sexy shifter stories.
But above all, I want smart and sexy character-driven romances. I want deep POV, I want complicated relationships, I want tension that leaps off the page and tangles me in knots. Make me blush! I want to acquire romances I can’t stop thinking about for weeks afterwards.
A note on BDSM: I love the flavor that BDSM can add to a story, however, I like BDSM to be portrayed in a thoughtful, nuanced way. I want to understand and relate to the characters in the relationship, how and why this fulfills the needs of each individual. I am not interested in kinky tastes being described as a mental illness or something in need of a cure.
So, have you got a story to tell us? We’re excited to read it! Please be sure to follow the Musa submissions guidelines! And if you don’t read/write romance, check out the other Musa imprints.