Friday, January 31, 2014

Sometimes you just have to believe in yourself.

A well-known mystery writer who lives in Cleveland once said to me ‘writing a book and having it published for all the world to see is like walking around Public Square in the nude.’  What he meant, of course, was that the writer puts him or herself ‘out there’ as a target for the slings and arrows of the entire world. It’s scary. And it’s even more scary now that we have the internet with which to contend.

Still, writers write. What else can we do? There are times when, if you believe in yourself and your creations, you just have to put yourself out there, and then wait and see what happens. Sometimes, you submit your ‘baby’ to an editor. Or editorS. (as in – many). Occasionally, we get lucky and an editor actually professes to like what we sent. And then they want to change it! More often than not, however, ‘baby’ comes back home again, complete with ‘pink slip’. (Although sometimes there’s a letter, rather than just a pink slip.) The more persistent among us send baby back out again, time after time after time.

There are wonderful stories out there about really famous authors who suffered through hundreds of rejections before finally hitting upon the right editor, who truly ‘loved’ the manuscript under consideration, and from then on, the poor author couldn’t write fast enough to keep up with the demand. We should all be so lucky! And believe me, it is LUCK that determines such things.  As hard as it is to believe now, even Steven King and J. K. Rowling collected rejections before achieving their successes!

In 1989, when I first discovered Romance Writers of America and went to my first ever conference (in Boston that year) I was overjoyed to be surrounded (sort of) by my favorite Regency authors, and the editors who supported them. I determined I was going to become one of those select authors! Didn’t happen. I wrote and sent out, and everything came back. I did achieve limited success a couple of years later in historical romance, but not Regency.

I was so determined that I’d even written a Christmas novella, not realizing that those books were a closed deal, available only to the current list of published authors. But still, I really liked my story, even if seeming no one else did! “It’s not a romance, Kelly.” To me, it was. Actually it was a love story, but there’s a world of difference between the two! It did have a happy ever after ending, sort of, but the couple were already married – to each other, I hasten to add. And it wasn’t set in society – but at the country estate of the Duke. Well, my poor Duke (who was very much the main character in the novella) languished in the filing cabinet for a good many years, in spite of all the rejections.

Then, along came the e-book readers and new publishers – same old story. Still not the right thing, but I couldn’t change it – there would be no story if I did that. And – most important – I still liked it as it was. So, last summer (June 2013) I made a decision. I had several unchosen (I like that word better than rejected, don’t you?) Christmas novellas hanging around, and I decided to publish them myself as Kindle e-books. (And later in print, both regular and large print.)

My Duke’s Christmas Gift was first published on October 1, and about a week later, (when formatting it for the print version) I discovered what was to me an egregious boo-boo! Quelle horreur! (That’s Regency for ‘Oh, no!’ or something like that.) So, I resubmitted the entire (corrected) manuscript, and this version was made available on Oct. 22.  In the meantime, I’d also published the other two novellas (A Castle Cramlye Christmas and Pongo Guthridge Finds Love.) They are vastly different from each other.

But whoa! Hang on to my hat! I was totally astonished to discover that other readers liked my Duke! I mean, they really liked him! The first time I really paid attention was October 27, when this novella was listed on the Amazon Best-seller Regency list* at #49! I nearly fell off my chair. Believe me, I then started paying attention. This previously unloved novella spent all of November and December and part of January somewhere on that top 100 list. The highest place of which I am aware was on Dec 15, when it hit #19! Talk about excited! And now it’s January, and there have been a few days when it was still there on the list, although it was #100 on January 18. Trust me. I am thrilled out of my mind by this achievement!
 (* #49 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Historical Fiction > Regency)

 The other two haven’t reached this same pinnacle of success, but that’s okay. They’re not going anywhere, they’ll stay right where they are, and will be joined sometime this summer by their triplet cousins. They don’t know this yet, and neither do the cousins, but that’s okay. One lives in hope. Right?

If you are one of the persons who read this novella, my gratitude is endless. Thank you for taking the chance on a previously mostly-unknown author. Trust me – I do know these numbers are mostly insignificant in the big picture, but they provided an enormous thrill for this writer. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

By the way, in case you’re interested in trying this for yourself, the Cotillion (Regency) imprint of Ellora’s Cave is accepting submissions for the 2014 anthology. Theme is Christmas Feasts. Word count ranges from 12K to 25K and the deadline is May 15, 2014. (Earlier is better.) I’ll post more information about this on March 31.  And with a little bit of luck --  my progress, as well.    In the meantime . . . 

Happy Regency! And Happy Writing!

Hetty St. James  

1 comment:

Tina Donahue said...

Congrats on your achievements, Hetty - what a heartwarming post.

This is a super tough business. You're correct, we write because we have to. Maybe it's in our genes. :)