Going Hybrid: Rethinking the road to publishing

I’m proud of my indie roots. It took guts for me to go out on my own and self-publish and by god I made a go of it. I found readers by beating my own drum. I’ve sold books and yes – I’ve made a little scratch to line my pockets (actually buy a couple of Coach handbags, one very beautiful pair of boots, and fund my Roth IRA – I’m not totally irresponsible!)

There was a long period of time in my writing career during which I couldn’t get arrested if I’d shown up at an agents door with a gun and a copy of manuscript. I think I’ve been rejected by every agent in the Writer’s Market. Some more than once. Some more than twice.

I accepted a long time ago that this constant rejection was part of the business. I didn’t have to like it, but I accepted it. So I kept on writing and writing and writing some more. I joined critique groups and listened. I attended workshops and conferences and listened some more. I worked to improve my writing.

Then I wrote Poor Man’s Pantheon.

It’s good. Really good. I’m very proud of this book.

If you’re a reader of mine and wondering why you can’t find it online it’s because it’s never been published.

I sent query letters to every agent in the book.

I received rejections from each of them or was just ignored.

In most of the rejection letters there was a line about personal preferences and market demands and blah blah blah. Fine – Poor Man’s Pantheon wasn’t what they were looking for. It doesn’t mean it was bad or unreadable. It just meant it wasn’t what they were looking for.

So I wrote another book.

Claire Takes a Lover.

Again – not available anywhere other than in a file on my computer.

I wrote Grand Duchess, Mail Order Bride, The Phoenix (this is a trilogy), All At Once, Three Wishes, Fifty Ways to Meet a Man, The O’Hara Sisters, The Highway Man, A Marriage of Convenience… There are actually more but I’m starting to get a bit embarrassed writing out this list. I can’t believe that I have this many manuscripts gathering digital dust. In my defense this proves that I’m not someone that just sat down one day, pounded out a story, self-published, and voila decided to call myself a writer. I actually work at this.

I hit all of the agents again and again and again and again… Round after round of rejections. I couldn’t understand why I was still routinely getting rejected. I knew my work was good. But yet I was still getting rejected.

I’m not the best at writing a query letter, but I figured there had to be something more. So I started to think around corners. I asked myself questions. Then I got mad. Then I just made the decision to get off my ass and be proactive.

I self-published.

I’d been playing around with the idea for Memoirs for sometime. I didn’t want to put out any of the novel sized manuscripts I’d written. That just seemed a bridge too far.

But Memoirs on the other hand was a different animal. Something I could put out into the world so I could at last have the satisfaction of being published under my own name. I work I could play around with as I saw fit.

It was also my way to test the waters.

I’d received so many rejections I was starting to think I might really not have talent or ability. I needed readers that weren’t part of my critique circles or friends to tell me what they thought.

Out of the gate Memoirs took off like a shot.

l think a few factors contributed to the early success of Memoirs.

The serialized format has appeal. There was a reason why it was so popular for as long as it was. The rise of the paperback brought about the downfall of the serialized novel. Maybe serialization needs to make a comeback.

It’s written from the heart. I wrote what I wanted to write for me. My own toy to play with written for me without the needs or demands of the marketplace in mind. I haven’t written a word of Memoirs for anyone other than me. In this I am blatantly selfish. I’ve written everything else with the reader in mind. This one was for me.

I found the right way to bang my drum. I see a lot of writers trying to bang their drum on the internet. I see the mistakes they make and how their methods are not sustainable over the long run. I’m gathering readers with content not book marks and ball point pens. This is another blog post.

What happened next after those first few weeks of self-publishing success was unexpected. I learned backwards what Kevin Costner tried to teach us all in Field of Dreams:

If you build it they will come.

I built it (it being a base readership) with Memoirs and they came to me. The agents that had rejected me, suddenly wanted to make sweet love to me. Funny how these things work. Not all of the agents that rejected me – certainly none of the top shelf agents I secretly longed for in my heart – but enough of them to massage my slightly bruised ego.

It was my turn to do some rejecting. I followed standard procedure and just ignored the emails. After all – if they don’t hear back from me in six weeks they should just assume I’m not interested.

I liked the power self-publishing gave me over my work. For certain I wasn’t going to give up Memoirs.

Then came the offer I really couldn’t refuse. Publishing with a new company headed by industry leaders that have been in the business for years. Riverdale Avenue Books. These people know books. For certain they know a whole lot more about publishing than I do.

It would be a lie to say I don’t have big dreams for my career as a writer. This is how I want to make a living and the truth is it’s been a long time coming.  If I want to sell a lot of copies of Memoirs then I need to team up with the right people. These are those people.

So I’ve traveled the long way around to get to where I wanted to be in the first place: I’m a published writer on the road to making a living off of my books. I want to publish those manuscripts I have sitting on my hard drive. I’ve learned the benefit of pushing a book out into the world.

Will I sign with an agent or am I done beating myself about the neck and shoulders with that exercise in futility? I’m actually looking for an agent for my middle grade work. That’s a totally different market than contemporary romance and literotica. To get into middle grade I actually do need an agent. But will I sign with an agent for my adult focused writing? I don’t know. I’m sort of like the woman that’s been burned too many times going on blind dates. Maybe I’ll get lucky and meet a nice person that I sort of hit it off with then we can talk about getting into bed together. Otherwise, I’m sort of enjoying being single.

Going Hybrid: Rethinking the road to publishing

I’m proud of my indie roots. It took guts for me to go out on my own and self-publish and by god I made a go of it. I found readers by beating my own drum. I’ve sold books and yes – I’ve made a little scratch to line my pockets (actually buy a couple of Coach handbags, one very beautiful pair of boots, and fund my Roth IRA – I’m not totally irresponsible!)

There was a long period of time in my writing career during which I couldn’t get arrested if I’d shown up at an agents door with a gun and a copy of manuscript. I think I’ve been rejected by every agent in the Writer’s Market. Some more than once. Some more than twice.

I accepted a long time ago that this constant rejection was part of the business. I didn’t have to like it, but I accepted it. So I kept on writing and writing and writing some more. I joined critique groups and listened. I attended workshops and conferences and listened some more. I worked to improve my writing.

Then I wrote Poor Man’s Pantheon.

It’s good. Really good. I’m very proud of this book.

If you’re a reader of mine and wondering why you can’t find it online it’s because it’s never been published.

I sent query letters to every agent in the book.

I received rejections from each of them or was just ignored.

In most of the rejection letters there was a line about personal preferences and market demands and blah blah blah. Fine – Poor Man’s Pantheon wasn’t what they were looking for. It doesn’t mean it was bad or unreadable. It just meant it wasn’t what they were looking for.

So I wrote another book.

Claire Takes a Lover.

Again – not available anywhere other than in a file on my computer.

I wrote Grand Duchess, Mail Order Bride, The Phoenix (this is a trilogy), All At Once, Three Wishes, Fifty Ways to Meet a Man, The O’Hara Sisters, The Highway Man, A Marriage of Convenience… There are actually more but I’m starting to get a bit embarrassed writing out this list. I can’t believe that I have this many manuscripts gathering digital dust. In my defense this proves that I’m not someone that just sat down one day, pounded out a story, self-published, and voila decided to call myself a writer. I actually work at this.

I hit all of the agents again and again and again and again… Round after round of rejections. I couldn’t understand why I was still routinely getting rejected. I knew my work was good. But yet I was still getting rejected.

I’m not the best at writing a query letter, but I figured there had to be something more. So I started to think around corners. I asked myself questions. Then I got mad. Then I just made the decision to get off my ass and be proactive.

I self-published.

I’d been playing around with the idea for Memoirs for sometime. I didn’t want to put out any of the novel sized manuscripts I’d written. That just seemed a bridge too far.

But Memoirs on the other hand was a different animal. Something I could put out into the world so I could at last have the satisfaction of being published under my own name. I work I could play around with as I saw fit.

It was also my way to test the waters.

I’d received so many rejections I was starting to think I might really not have talent or ability. I needed readers that weren’t part of my critique circles or friends to tell me what they thought.

Out of the gate Memoirs took off like a shot.

l think a few factors contributed to the early success of Memoirs.

The serialized format has appeal. There was a reason why it was so popular for as long as it was. The rise of the paperback brought about the downfall of the serialized novel. Maybe serialization needs to make a comeback.

It’s written from the heart. I wrote what I wanted to write for me. My own toy to play with written for me without the needs or demands of the marketplace in mind. I haven’t written a word of Memoirs for anyone other than me. In this I am blatantly selfish. I’ve written everything else with the reader in mind. This one was for me.

I found the right way to bang my drum. I see a lot of writers trying to bang their drum on the internet. I see the mistakes they make and how their methods are not sustainable over the long run. I’m gathering readers with content not book marks and ball point pens. This is another blog post.

What happened next after those first few weeks of self-publishing success was unexpected. I learned backwards what Kevin Costner tried to teach us all in Field of Dreams:

If you build it they will come.

I built it (it being a base readership) with Memoirs and they came to me. The agents that had rejected me, suddenly wanted to make sweet love to me. Funny how these things work. Not all of the agents that rejected me – certainly none of the top shelf agents I secretly longed for in my heart – but enough of them to massage my slightly bruised ego.

It was my turn to do some rejecting. I followed standard procedure and just ignored the emails. After all – if they don’t hear back from me in six weeks they should just assume I’m not interested.

I liked the power self-publishing gave me over my work. For certain I wasn’t going to give up Memoirs.

Then came the offer I really couldn’t refuse. Publishing with a new company headed by industry leaders that have been in the business for years. Riverdale Avenue Books. These people know books. For certain they know a whole lot more about publishing than I do.

It would be a lie to say I don’t have big dreams for my career as a writer. This is how I want to make a living and the truth is it’s been a long time coming. ┬áIf I want to sell a lot of copies of Memoirs then I need to team up with the right people. These are those people.

So I’ve traveled the long way around to get to where I wanted to be in the first place: I’m a published writer on the road to making a living off of my books. I want to publish those manuscripts I have sitting on my hard drive. I’ve learned the benefit of pushing a book out into the world.

Will I sign with an agent or am I done beating myself about the neck and shoulders with that exercise in futility? I’m actually looking for an agent for my middle grade work. That’s a totally different market than contemporary romance and literotica. To get into middle grade I actually do need an agent. But will I sign with an agent for my adult focused writing? I don’t know. I’m sort of like the woman that’s been burned too many times going on blind dates. Maybe I’ll get lucky and meet a nice person that I sort of hit it off with then we can talk about getting into bed together. Otherwise, I’m sort of enjoying being single.

Leap of Faith: I’ve Self-Published

I never thought I’d self-publish. But I did. This week I stretched beyond my perceived technical limit, and figured it all out. My pet project has been rejected for the last time. I don’t know how many publishers I’ve submitted it to. They all love it. But they want it as a complete work and not in the twelve volumes I’ve divided it into. I don’t want it divided.I want it distributed in twelve different parts. Possibly more. Who knows? I love this story. I love the characters, how they develop, and the world they inhabit. By serializing it I have the ability to add as many volumes as I want. Especially now.

Each of my friends that has self-published promised me I wouldn’t regret it. Despite their encouragement, I did have a moments panic and a bit of hesitation as I worked at it this week. What am I most afraid of? That I’m too much of a perfectionist and there would be mistakes that I could only blame on myself. That no one would buy my book. That I’m really a rotten writer and there are a dozen people out there ready to give me one-star reviews. That I’ll have to put myself out there to market my book. It’s paralyzing the fear.

I own my lovely story. The only one that has any say is me. Talk about liberating.

So what do I do now? Please buy my book. It’s called Memoirs of a Gigolo. The story is about a young man that has come to the end of the party, he is on the edge of growing up, figuring out who he really is, and what truly matters to him.

Why I Love Jude Deveraux

I write romance for a few reasons. Mostly because I like watching two people fall in love before my eyes. I’m a bit of a voyeur in that way. I read my first romance back when I was about ten maybe eleven. It was discovered at the library where I spent a lot of my time. When I was too young to work, I went library after school for refuge. My love for books already existed. What I gained was an appreciation for quiet and the love of solitary pursuits. I read sci-fi, fantasy and romance.

During an on-line writing workshop I took a few years back, one of the participants jumped upon her ass-cheek-chaffing high horse when another participant asked her if her novel counted as romance. The shock! The outrage! The sycophantic falling over herself when I called her out, let her know I was (and quite proudly) a romance writer and that in fact it was a billion dollar business. Unbelievable. Coward was willing to trash the genre writer and her craft when she thought she was immune from criticism, but the second she’s asked to add a little of the proverbial shack to her yack, she’s got nuttin’.

People like to escape. Naughty pirates with billowing shirts help that along tremendously. Chances that you’re going to time-travel to the Scottish Highlands are probably zip. Thank god for the romance writers with enough imagination to help you get there courtesy a four-hundred-page novel. Lot’s of people read for intellectual persuit and entertainment value. They read Booker/Pulitzer/Noble worthy books. I read these books. They’re usually very good and not a little depressing. There is no reason to justify wanting to read for pleasure as there is no reason to justify wanting ot watch reality TV for pure entertainment.

My first romance novel was a Jude Deveraux and I absolutely fell in love with the Montgomery men. I had to have been ten at the time and I was absolutely in love. Probably the reason I’ve always liked the tall, dark and handsome types can be traced back to Jude Deveraux. If I ever get a chance to meet her I will make an ass out of myself. It will be my “I’m not worthy” moment.

Possibly the reason I enjoy writing series with interwoven elements is because of my hero Jude Deveraux. Each of my manuscripts contains extensive family trees and characters which tend to pop up in other peoples stories. I love this about Jude Deveraux’s work. I just love it. I like weaving a braid when writing a story. I love the subtle thread that appears here and then there. That moment when reading and the passing stranger is really that other character from another book.

I am unapologetic about loving writing romance. I love what I do.

Writing Really is a Hard Business, Isn’t It?

The problem with wanting to be a professional writer, is that the writer has to act like a professional. That the process becomes more than about the writing. Writing for pay, doesn’t take the pleasure out of the process, but it makes it a business. The writer becomes the self-employed business person. I’m not much of a business person. Not even a little. In fact, there are many many many people who know me well whom would gladly attest to the fact I am the most incapable business person they’ve ever met. Which is why I find the business of writing so incredibly hard.

If I wanted to write, purely for my love of writing, then I would have all of the joy and none of the grief. But I want to make a career out of this love of mine. I’m not going to say that I’m unemployable, I just spend a little bit too much time in my own head to be of much use to anyone outside of the food service or retail industries. On the plus side, I’m academically gifted and have fallen into that great bastion of unrealized potential; academia.

To make a career out of something means treating it like a business. I suspect there are some writers out there that have tripped into success and the accompanying buckets of money, but I have yet to slip on that particular banana peel. I sort of hoped I would, but it hasn’t happened. At this point, if I do find success, it will be because I’ve worked like a stevedore and clung to my dream like a dragon guarding it’s hoard of gold.

I’ve worked hard to bring the quality of my writing up to a professional level. What I haven’t done is devote even a fraction of the time I’ve spent on my writing career to the business end of the equation. I’m coming to that late. In a sort of vague and disjointed way, I knew there was more to the business of writing than just the writing. But it all just seemed so complicated and boring. Why would I want to get out and tap-dance while singing my praises (two things I lack both the talent and proper clothing to do) when I could be at home with my friend the laptop living vicariously through my characters? I might not have ever come to it if I hadn’t been asked to give an opinion on my life as a writer still trying to make it.

During the course of doing a favor for a friend, an established writer that wanted to know what it was like out there in the trenches, I really had look at my writing career and what I’d done to get published. What was the most eyeopening thing of all, was that I’d done very little to get published. Beyond sending out submission packages and trying to get the attention of agents, I hadn’t done much. I suspect there are a lot of writers out there that could relate to this. I’d done as much as I thought I needed to, but had never really thought about what else I could be doing.

Writing is really only a part of what I need to do. In addition to writing well, I need to write what people want to read, create a brand, and market myself. The writing is the trickiest part. I could write the best story ever written about a dystopian future in which the female main character becomes the leader of a revolution fighting against the tyranny of a male dominated totalitarian regime, but that doesn’t mean anyone is going to want to read it, or, more importantly, that anyone is going to want to take the time to publish it (please do contact me if you’re interested in a story about a woman that takes up arms against the establishment – Everyone that’s read it thinks its brilliant). I should have gotten an MBA. Or, at the minimum, a degree in marketing.

To this end, I’m giving myself a crash course in marketing. I’m going to figure this business of writing out. I’m not certain if there is a secret knock, a whispered password, or I really do need to sleep with the right person (god help us both), but I will figure this out. I am neither a stupid nor an incompetent woman. Then maybe I’ll write a book about how to break into the publishing world.

Do I Want to Self-Publish?

Do I want to self-publish? When I first decided I wanted writing to be my career, I never thought I would consider self-publishing. But here I am a couple of years down the road and not nearly as established as I thought I would be. I one manuscript signed with a small e-publisher, but nothing else. I have about a dozen finished manuscripts. I have about a hundred rejection letters. I don’t think I’m getting rejected because of the quality of my work. I think I’m pretty good. Either my friends are trying to make me feel better, or I’m not what the publishers are looking for.

The publishers demand is significantly less than the pool of available work. There are a lot of writers out there trying to get noticed. Most of them are probably really good. I don’t know if I believe in luck, except for the lottery, but I do believe in hard work and working smart. This is how to generate results. I do understand the position of the publishers. Why take on someone that is unknown without an established following, when there are a lot of authors out there that already have a built in readership?

So I think I’m going to try to self-publish. I’m learning how to market myself. I have extracted promises from a couple of friends that know a thing or two about marketing. I truly do believe I have the ability to make a living out of my writing. I don’t expect to become the next Jude Deveraux or Danielle Steele, but it would be nice to pay the bills and afford my travel habit.

So, I’m going to self-publish. Please wish me luck.