This is the first in what I hope to be a regular series of posts in which authors tell us about their first publication experience. I’m going first, experimenting on myself, as usual. If you’re a published author–indie, traditional, small press, whatever–and would like to be featured, use the Contact tab at the top of the page and let me know. You would be answering these same questions–and can plug any current project you would like to, naturally! Your book(s) don’t have to be specifically Christian, but I won’t feature books that are offensive or contrary to a mainstream Christian worldview. Hey, it’s my blog, right?
HOW I FIRST PUBLISHED
What was your first published novel?
Summer’s Winter, which I published in January of this year. I just happen to have the tagline handy: When preacher’s daughter Jeanine meets her obsession, movie star Jamie, his dark secrets threaten her faith and her life.
I call it a love story wrapped in a mystery. When forced to choose a genre for it, I have to choose Christian romantic suspense. There is most definitely love and suspense!
Was it a traditional publishing contract or did you go indie?
After trying to land a traditional publishing contract for literally decades, I finally went indie, although I used Story Merchant Books to do the publishing work for me instead of doing everything myself.
How did that come about?
It came at the end of an incredibly long and winding road. If you want to know more about that journey, click on the tab at the top of this page that says The Queen’s Archives. That’s my old blog, from the days I was trying so desperately to land a contract and dealing with frustration and particularly with learning to trust and wait on the Lord. This post is my announcement that I had finally decided to go Indie. I was afraid my writer friends would see me as a quitter, but they’ve been very supportive.
But I digress. As I reached one of those points in my life when I was ready to give up on the whole thing and take up knitting or quilting or almost anything other than writing, I went to a Nancy Grace book signing. Nancy is a well-known TV personality and has her own show on HLN, as well as having written two NYT best-selling suspense novels. She is also a childhood friend of mine. She asked about my writing and then, hallelujah!—she offered to help me.
Now, if I was telling any story other than my own life story, at this point Nancy would have gotten me a fat publishing contract and I, too, would be a best-selling author today. I would also have lived happily ever after. Possibly in a castle.
But this is my life story and if there’s one thing God wants to teach me, it’s patience. Nancy referred me to a man named Ken Atchity, who has worn many hats: writer, literary agent, publicist, even film producer. He suggested major edits to the manuscript of Summer’s Winter, and then when we both thought it was in great shape, he gave me a choice. Choice one, he would represent me as a traditional literary agent. But he warned me that the traditional publishing model was getting harder and harder for a new writer to break into. I should be prepared to…guess what…WAIT. It might take a long time. Choice two, I could go ahead and get Summer’s Winter out there. Based on what he was seeing happen in the publishing world, he believed not only that indie authors can be successful these days, but also that traditional publishers get a lot of their new talent by scooping up successful indie authors. It sort of stinks, but it also makes sense from their point to sign authors who have already proved they can market their books—and write stories that people want to read.
So, I opted to go indie and see what would happen. I was just coming off an unsuccessful five-year stint with another agent and was ready to try something different.
How did this first publication make you feel? Has it been as good as you expected, or a letdown, or exhausting, for example?
All of the above! Plus just about every other emotion you can imagine. I have loved interacting with readers who enjoyed Summer’s Winter.
I’ve had really exciting times when I was receiving good reviews and selling well. Probably the most exciting thing to me was that John Granger, who writes books of literary analysis and is a Harry Potter expert, read my book, loved it, and interviewed me on his blog! What an honor that was! (I mean, hey, this man is an expert on REAL literature!)
And then there have been times like this past week, when sales and reviews have dried up and I’m incredibly frustrated again. I never would have dreamed how much time it takes to market a book. I have a full-time job as a librarian, and I feel like marketing is another full-timer. And oh yeah, I need to squeeze in family and writing more books somewhere!
When you self-publish, you can feel it’s all on your shoulders, that you’re bearing the burden alone. Fortunately I belong to a wonderful Christian marketing group called the John 3:16 Marketing Network. Just today, they were reminding me that it’s NOT all in my hands, but in God’s. I should know that myself, but sometimes you need brothers and sisters around to remind you.
Tell us what’s happened with your writing journey since.
I finished writing my next book, Jordan’s Shadow, which is a creepy gothic young adult novel. It’s still in the hands of two traditional publishers who have shown interest, but the process is just so slow. I’m trying to decide whether to keep waiting on them or continue this indie path. It’s still up in the air right now. I also just started writing the sequel to Summer’s Winter.