Monday, August 6, 2012

Self-pub vs Traditional Pub #3: Total Reject-My story

I've debated for a long time coming out about this, it's something very few people know about me. Not that I'm ashamed or anything—the genres I write just don't mix.

But it's an important part of my story.

Erotic romance is a fairly new love of mine. I grew up reading more fantasy and sci-fi than anything else, and when I picked up a romance novel, it was always historical. At the time, I didn't know they were 'Bodice rippers', I just found it exciting to read about these young women being captured and ravished.

Now, I always knew I would be a writer. Writing romance, however, didn't appeal to me at all. I've never been too crazy about chick flicks, romantic comedy, romantic drama. Not that I never watch that kind of movie, but it's rare that I enjoy anything too sappy. No, I preferred Urban Fantasy. I wanted to be Ann Rice, or Laurel K Hamilton. Or, for the longest time, LJ Smith.

I decided to write Young Adult.

My first 100k novel was written in High School, mostly during math class. I wrote other books, and yes, even some fan fiction, though I kept that to myself! lol! Many of the books were never finished, but that first one that I finished was special. I know many authors look back at their first story and smile, all the while swearing that book will never see daylight.

After 10 rewrites, over 200 rejection letters from agents, and about 50 from publishing houses, I can't say the same. In a way, though, I'm glad it was rejected. It wasn't ready.

I wasn't ready.

Everyone tells you not to give up, but the rejections got to me. I wasn't even thinking about self-publishing at that point because it seemed like failure. It seemed like something rich people who couldn't get a contract did so they brag that they were published. But to my mind—and, I think, to most people's minds then and still—they weren't really published. Hell, even being with a small press wasn't all that special. I knew I would never make it if I didn't get an agent and make it to one of the big publishing houses.

Finally, I had to admit I wasn't going to do it with a YA book. The market was saturated. Romance seemed an easier genre to get into, so I decided that would be my way to get my foot in the door. And then once I was well known—yep, I still had dreams then of being BIG. Like Stephan King big—I could get my best book, my most special, most spectacular book, out into the world.

Did I mention I wasn't into writing romance?

My first effort was . . . okay. But I got bored and couldn't finish it. I tried a short story for an anthology, but it was rejected. Months were dedicated to one story, then another, but nothing worked for me, I couldn't get into it. I did research, read everything I could get my hands on, picked up my first erotic novel and then it hit me. Total light bulb moment. This wasn't boring and sappy! This was passionate and it could have a story beyond the romance! I could do that!

So I wrote Rosemary Entwined. Naturally, I skipped any attempt to write a normal, contemporary romance between one man and one woman. <g> By this point I'd read a few ménage books, some really bad ones, and I knew I could do better. It wasn't arrogance, I had some experience with ménage and I could write what worked. And what didn't.

The story was primped and polished and out it went. You'd figure by now I would be used to rejections, that the first one hitting my inbox wouldn't faze me, but I remember falling apart, remember telling my father, who'd always believed in me 'I can't do this.'

I then got the speech about how many times some of the best books in the world were rejected. A big hug and a 'Get back to work'.

Looking back, I think that made a huge difference for me in the process. No matter how emotionally involved I was, writing wasn't only my passion, my dream—it was my job. I've had many different, crappy jobs, from telemarketing to working in a hotel, cleaning rooms. I went back to school and took Auto body mechanics because cars were the only thing I loved enough to take me away from my writing for even a little bit. But when I had to choose, writing or cars, the choice was obvious. I sacrificed something I loved for something I loved more and I couldn't let that be for nothing.

Which meant getting up every single day and sending out query letters. And starting that next book.

Epublishing was new to me then, but I quickly learned who the big ones were and almost just as quickly was told my book wasn't for them. Then one day an email came in from a recent batch of submissions I'd sent out and . . . I was offered a contract! I screamed and cried and you better believe I signed that contract right that second.

Yeah, yeah, I know. I probably should have taken my time and read the whole thing first, but I wasn't thinking straight then. Luckily, it was a very good contract. Rosemary Entwined had a home.

Shortly after, I was offered a contract for Deadly Captive—which, btw, was rejected by almost as many agents, publishers, and epublishers as my YA novel—and I felt like I was really getting somewhere. But months later the pub closed, my right were reverted, and once again I was stuck with a book nobody seemed to want.

And sales for my first book were nowhere near what I thought they would be.

But I was published. I knew I could do this now. Unfortunately, self-publishing still didn't seem like the way to go. I would find a publisher that would take my book.

Noble Romance's 'Dare to be Different' slogan had me daring to hope that maybe they'd like my book. Their response time was amazing. Then again, I had absolutely no patience. My book had to be out there, like, yesterday! I already knew I wouldn't make lots of money, not for a few years at least, but I had reached the point where just knowing someone was reading the books I worked so hard on was good enough. I was slowly learning the realities of the publishing world and accepted the fact it would be a long time before I could live off my writing.

During this time, I'd also joined a writer's group and made some amazing connections. I was growing as a writer and becoming more confident with my work. I went to my first event that summer, the Lori Foster's Readers and Writers Get Together and that gave me another dose of reality. There were so many authors! Aspiring authors that I spoke to who were so eager and wanted to know how I did it. I gave them the best advice I could. Keep writing and submit everywhere. To be honest, I spent most of my time in the hotel bar—I was overwhelmed by all the people!—but I made some pretty cool contacts there too.

On the way home, I wrote The Trip (inspired by the hellish bus ride) and then I threw myself back into my writing. I worked on Game Misconduct, Deadly Captive: Collateral Damage, and Rosemary & Mistletoe, almost simultaneously. Writing about hockey . . . well, let's just say it sparked a new fire inside me, renewed my passion for writing. DCCD was also very special to me because people were talking about Deadly Captive, I was getting fanmail and I had readers who were waiting for the next book, but since it was a sequel I had to offer it to Noble Romance first.

But I was prepared to be picky about where Game Misconduct ended up. I sent out queries to the big epubs, got a few rejections, then an offer. But my vision for the books was different than theirs, so I withdrew my book. By this time, I'd 'met' Kallypso Masters (there's a reason I have her up first with a post on self-publishing) and she made doing it myself seem possible. Between her support and advice, as well as some crits and buttkicking from Cherise Sinclair and Cari Silverwood (and countless others) I was ready to take the next step.

And despite what I'd first thought, it wasn't a step down. It wasn't my last option because my book wasn't good enough to be published any other way. It was a choice.
Probably the best one I've made yet.

This post is a bit longer than I planned, but I'll be writing another about my start as a self-pubbed author and what worked for me. Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments.

Previous post in the series:

Self-pub vs Traditional-pub Series #1

Self-pub vs Traditional-pub Series # 2 *Guest Post Kallypso Masters