Among all the traditionally published author spotlights, I wanted to give my writer friends a glimpse of the alternative. So, here is an interesting post by my friend....
I wrote eight books in various genres from fantasy to historical to thrillers, learning so much along the way, but even though I had a couple of sniffs from agents, nobody seemed prepared to take me on. Depressed last year after having two books returned – one from a publisher after eighteen months with a one line rejection, and one from an agent after eight months and a rewrite with a one line rejection – I decided to have a go at writing romance. It is such a popular genre that you didn’t seem to need an agent, and submitting straight to a epublisher appealed to the impatient devil lurking on my right shoulder that kept whispering “You’ve just turned forty! You were supposed to be a bestseller by now!”
I found a competition with Samhain Publishing (http://www.samhainpublishing.com/) that requested ‘sweet’ romances for a ‘Springtime’ anthology, and I wrote a novella (around 22,000 words) about a New Zealand wedding where the best man and the chief bridesmaid fall in love. The story is set over ten hours, with each chapter covering a separate hour. My editor, Imogen Howson, said it was an unusual concept and she fell in love with the heroine’s silky, scarlet bridesmaid’s dress, and, to my delight, bought the story. I read her email at six am, lying in bed with my iPad, and woke my husband by sitting up and yelling: “Yay!” Something Blue comes out in May this year.
After this, I had two romance novellas accepted by Noble Romance (http://www.nobleromance.com/). The first is a paranormal called Black Hawke Down, set in a supernatural unit of the British Army, about a nature witch who’s been blamed for a murder she didn’t commit, and she’s on the run, hunted by her warlock ex-lover. The second is an historical romance, set during the Wars of the Roses, called Surrender Your Heart.
Noble labels these novellas as ‘erotic’ romances. *Blush*. I’m just starting to come to terms with the fact that I like writing about love and sex, and, actually, I’m not bad at it. I’m beginning to realise I may have found my forte. I enjoy writing about relationships and my editors tell me I’m pretty good at creating chemistry between my characters. Also, I don’t seem to struggle with sex scenes as so many other writers say they do. My problem is making sure I don’t go on for too long – my CP once told me it takes me 2,000 words for me just to get the heroine’s top off! But I’ve found I like writing sexy scenes, and I enjoy making them sensual, often funny, and always romantic (at least my characters have never complained!)
After this, I entered the Mills & Boon New Voices competition with a paranormal story called Midnight Shaman, Wanton Witch, (you can read it for free here: http://www.romanceisnotdead.com/Entries/251-Midnight-Shaman-Wanton-Witch/Chapter-One) and although I didn’t get into the top ten, I did make the longlist of 45, and was asked to submit the first three chapters via email to M&B. Again, I found out in the middle of the night, unable to sleep when I knew the results were out, and had to get up at 3am because I was so excited when I read my name! I’m still waiting for a reply on the partial I submitted in November.
It was during NaNoWriMo, however, that I finally realised I could be on the road to success. I wrote a contemporary romance targeting the Harlequin Blaze line, in conjunction with the Harlequin NaNo forum where you had to post your word total every day (those of you who lurk on the Harlequin writing forums may know me as ‘Kiwibird’). It gave me the push I needed, and, rather than spending ages re-reading my work every day, I read the last sentence, then carried on with the story, determined to get the book finished in time. I enjoyed it so much I completed 60,000 words in 20 days, winning the Harlequin prize for writing the most words during NaNo. I guess being a PA and typing at 100wpm has its advantages!
I submitted the first chapter for the Harlequin “So You Think You Can Write” competition, but gained only a form rejection. I was convinced it was a good story, though, and I loved my characters to bits. Shortly after this, I met my CP and she read the book and told me she loved it, so I rewrote the first chapter with her advice. Now I had a decision to make. Should I resubmit to Harlequin via the usual channels? Harlequin Mills & Boon carry a prestige that you can’t ignore, and I really want to be published with them. However, it can be a long time between submitting a query letter and publication. While I’m very happy to wait to receive an answer on my Nocturne and anything else I submit to them, I felt that I also needed to get some more published works behind me, to boost my confidence. So I submitted the book to Imogen at Samhain in February. Within several weeks, she came back to me and said she loved it, and we’re currently working through some revisions with a view to a November/December release date.
I enjoyed writing the contemporary romance so much I have since written two more, and I’m having an absolute ball. In the past, it has been a slog trying to get a book finished, but now I finally realise what a joy writing can be. Putting my heroes and heroines into difficult situations, making them attracted to each other, letting them indulge in long, amorous scenes and then breaking their hearts at the end – what could be more fun than torturing characters so relentlessly? I love writing romance, and only wish I’d made the move to the genre sooner.
One great thing about being epublished is that I’ve learned such a lot from my editors, Imogen at Samhain, and Jill and the other editors at Noble, about the nuts and bolts of writing. They’ve polished my grammar and sentence construction. You can read about what else I’ve found out on my blog, under the Editing tab at the top. http://serenitywoods.blogspot.com/p/editing.html
From my experience, epubs offer a small advance, or none at all, but pay between 30 and 40% royalties for each book sold. So it’s in your best interests to market your work as much as you can. But then that goes for print publishers as well. It’s going to take a while to hit the big money. I don’t expect to make much on these early novellas. But the important thing for me is that I have three book covers on Amazon and my own author page (http://www.amazon.com/Serenity-Woods/e/B004S7GWLM/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1 ). And three published novellas to put on my writing CV. Another important thing to consider is that, with some of the epubs, a book of over 50-60,000 words is likely to be published as a paperback, as well as an ebook. So there’s still an opportunity to hold the printed copy in your hand, as well as read it on your e-reader.
If you want to try an epublisher, as well as Samhain and Noble, there are many others you can try, such as Wild Rose Press (http://www.thewildrosepress.com/ ) and Carina Press (http://www.carinapress.com/ ) (an offshoot of Harlequin), as well as those who publish more erotic romance and erotica, like Cobblestone Press (http://www.cobblestone-press.com/ ) and Ellora’s Cave (http://www.jasminejade.com/default.aspx?skinid=11 ).
I’m still hoping to be published by Harlequin one day. And I will continue to submit novels to them. But while I’m waiting to hear from them, I’m going to continue to submit to the epubs. The turnaround time is amazing, often less than six months from acceptance to publication, and the covers are beautiful. It’s no less exciting, believe me, when you see your name on an e-cover than it is on a real cover. Just knowing someone is out there reading your story, and, hopefully, enjoying it, is a wonderful feeling. So I’d thoroughly recommend giving epubs a go. They are a lot more flexible in terms of storylines and word length than Harlequin, which is great if you’re having difficulty fitting your story into HMB’s guidelines. I have nothing but respect for HMB, and I love them dearly, but not everyone is Robin Hood—some of us struggle to hit the target. That doesn’t mean you can’t write, and it doesn’t mean you won’t be published. I’m proof of that.
As a final note, I’m gifting a copy of my ebook Surrender Your Heart, a naughty-but-nice romance set during the Wars of the Roses, to a lucky winner. If you’d like to be in for a copy, just mention the title in a comment below by Sunday 3rd April. Here’s a clip to get you interested J
Surrender Your Heart
Eleanor didn't see much more of Henry for the rest of the day, and it crossed her mind maybe he was trying to keep out of her way. As darkness fell, the men started filling the Hall for the evening meal. His squire, a youth who followed Henry around like a puppy, informed her that his sire wanted a bath before he ate.
Eleanor considered telling him to ask his master to take a dive in the moat if he wanted to get wet, but refrained from saying the words. She'd always considered herself a good hostess, and decided for the moment she would think of him as her guest—perhaps that way she would avoid getting herself into too much trouble.
She ordered two serving lads to fill the wooden tub resting in the corner of one of the guest chambers with hot water, and was busy laying out towels and fresh clothing when Henry appeared in the doorway.
He looked around the room, his face expressionless, and she realised her error. "Oh. Of course. You should have the master chamber." She cursed herself for her idiotic mistake. "My apologies, my lord." Being deferential to him irked her greatly. Yet the precariousness of her situation—and that of the other inhabitants of the castle—necessitated her good behaviour. She didn't want to provoke him into throwing her out, or worse, throwing her to his men.
He glared at her. "Stop being so damned subservient, Ella. It does not suit you. I will not change my mind and stick everyone's heads on stakes because you gave me the wrong room."
"Fine." She was about to snap back at him, then realised he'd called her by her childhood nickname. Her anger vanished as quickly as it had arisen. She saw through his irritation; he was tired and probably desperate for his bath. She poured a goblet of wine and held it out to him as he approached. "The bath is ready if you would like one."
He stopped before her and looked at the wine. She realised he was wondering if she might have poisoned it. "Oh God's teeth. Do you think me as vindictive as that?" She took a mouthful of the wine and swallowed it, then stuck her tongue out at him. "You looked hot and grumpy. I thought you might like a drink."
He eyed her testily. "I am hot and grumpy because I am wearing all this cursed armour on such a hot day." He faced her with hands on hips. "Do you promise you are not going to try and stick a knife in my back at the first opportunity if I take it off?"
Eleanor raised an eyebrow. "If I come at you with a knife, Hal de Tracey, you will be awake and facing me, and with a weapon in your hand, believe me."
For the first time since they'd met, the corners of his mouth tugged with a smile. "Nobody has called me that for ten years."
She lowered her eyes with fake humility. "I apologise, my lord." She sank into a deep curtsey.
"Oh, get up." He fumbled with irritation at the straps buckling the breastplate onto his leather doublet. "And for the sake of all that is holy, get me out of this metal oven."
"Um, should we not wait for your squire to come and help?"
"I could not find him, and no, I cannot wait." He glared. His manner made it clear he was used to being obeyed.