I can’t believe Private Property was published five years ago today. It was my first published novella, and the first story of my beloved Hauberk series.
Now here I am with ten stories published, and two more to come out later this year. (For those wondering about some of the print books in the picture below, Texas Tangle is the only one I never got print copies for — and the ones for Tangled Past and Red Hot Holiday are extremely limited since Carina Press printed them specifically for a contest entry and aren’t available for sale. My hope is one day they’ll make them available as print-on-demand books. But for now, they look nice on my shelf.)
If someone had told me that within a few years I’d earn more than I ever had, even when I was teaching, I think I would have told them they were full of it. I’m not sure I would have believed the stats I’ve collected — the number of months PRIVATE PROPERTY stayed on Amazon’s top 100 Best Seller’s list, and how it was still there 21 months later, or that it would have been downloaded almost eighty thousand times. I’ve been blessed to be up on that board numerous times since. In addition to reaching those lofty high numbers on Amazon, TEXAS TANGLE even reached #1 on Kobo’s Best Sellers list . (Not bestselling contemporary romance-western, or bestselling romance even. Best Selling. Top of the heap.)
For a brand new author, seeing her name sandwiched between big names like Debbie Macomber and Nora Roberts, or above Stephanie Meyer or Stephen King or James Patterson was both thrilling and terrifying.
With each contract I’ve been offered since, I still squee, but now there’s a lot more relief, and even some panic. Because with each contract, and each new release, I’m more and more aware of expectations both of my own and my publishers’ as well as my readers.
While I’ve fallen in love with each of my heroes, and some of my secondary characters too, PRIVATE PROPERTY introduced Sam Watson, who to this day is the character my fans remark about the most. Sam set the bar high, and with each book I hope that my readers will fall in love with that hero as much as they love Sam. Though it looks like Dillon and Brett of TEXAS TANGLE are giving Sam a run for his money…(Good thing I didn’t kill off Brett the way I’d originally planned, huh?) And now I’m falling in love with the Grady boys.
I have so many plot bunnies for future stories — Scott deserves his own story in the Hauberk series so that’ll be up next. I still get requests for more books in the Barnett Springs world, and I have some ideas for Griffin and his friends. I’ve discovered that perhaps Logan from Slow Ride Home deserves redemption, along with far too many other “ooh shiny!” ideas that are constantly hounding me.
There have been highs and lows since that first contract. The industry has changed with the acceptance of digital books both through epublishers like Samhain and Carina, and the exciting acceptance of authors self-publishing that puts so much power back in the author’s hands. And of course with a renewal of interest in erotic romance. Those changes have created challenges because every time you think you’ve got something figured out, the industry changes on you and you start all over again and what worked when you were promoting your last book doesn’t work with the next one. Social media has exploded so now we have to maintain presences on Twitter and Facebook and Google+ and Pinterest. All time sucks when we’d rather be writing, but necessary to keep our names out there with the public.
We’ve seen lots of scandals from the #Amazonfail where authors of erotic romances and LGBT stories saw their books pulled from the search engines. We’ve seen plagiarism scandals, and scandals of authors admitting they purchased 5 star reviews so those reviews on Amazon aren’t meaning as much to anyone but Amazon who uses their numbers to determine how many people actually see your book in that all important “People who bought this, also bought…” bar.
But we’ve also seen success stories in self-publishing, like authors like Marie Force and Bella Andre taking books that legacy publishers had rejected and self-publishing them with tremendous success. And they led the way for other authors who were unhappy with their publishers or had stories they thought the public might want to read but legacy publishers rejected. They’ve given a control over our rights, and our edits and cover art and even marketing (not that most authors I know like that side of it, we’d rather just write) back to the author.
It doesn’t mean legacy publishing will disappear. Authors will continue to sign with those big 5 publishers, especially if they want their books to be stocked on shelves in B&N, or even Walmart and Costco. When people wonder why I still sign with a legacy publisher like Harlequin and their Carina Press, I tell them about how much they can give me, not only their marketing knowledge, but they give me far more exposure in the market than I can get myself.
When the mantra of the reader today is “when’s your next book out? I have wait THAT long?” puts a pressure on authors to produce 3 – 5 books a year, where back in 2007 when I first started looking at publication, most authors were producing 1 book a year, it takes some of the pressure off me. Because creating that cover art, even if I have to hire someone to do it, writing the back cover copy, determining how to best market a book, and hiring an editor, all take time. Lots and lots of time. Time I’d rather spend writing. And yes, I now have to decide what the long term cost may be, considering the legacy publishers will give me a lower royalty rate than I’d get self-publishing, but at least that’s my choice now. And I totally see self-publishing more books in the future, as well as working again with Samhain and Carina. But again, it’s my choice. And having that power over my own destiny is exciting. And scary as hell.
Anyway, I thought I’d share a blast from the past, and my excitement by reposting my announcement of Private Property’s sale. Because that’s a day I’ll never forget… it was a real Sally Field moment. She liked it. She really liked it. Something I’d written…something a few years before would have stayed on my hard drive unseen by anyone else.
The short story:
My erotic romance, Private Property, is going to be published by Samhain!
The long version:
Just over a month ago, Guitar Hero tapped me on the shoulder as I was sitting at my computer and said “I’m figuring that with your headphones on you couldn’t hear the thunder.” (It’s rather ironic because it’s thundering even as I type this post.) You see, on that day, I turned off my desktop computer and spent the next 90 minutes reading before I decided it was safe to boot up my computer again. One of the first programs to load is the gmail notifier program. And while the icons are still slowly forming on my screen, this tiny blue box pops up that lists the emails that have arrived since I last checked. A message from the Toronto Romance Writers, something from Marley, and … a message from Angela James of Samhain.
Oh. My. God.
You see, I’d subbed Private Property to her back in April, and on June 1st, she’d asked for a full. And now here was her decision. Either yes, or as I’d convinced myself – that dreaded ‘thank you for submitting, but we’ve decided…’ Well, you know – that polite way of saying “No” that we (okay, I) automatically interpret as meaning “You suck!” (Yeah, yeah, I know it doesn’t mean that, but I’m working on my self confidence.)
As I cursed Windows for loading so slowly, that little tiny part of me kept my fingers crossed, hoping against hope … as well as cursing the thunderstorm – why oh why did it have to choose RIGHT THEN to come through? Didn’t it know I was anxiously awaiting that email? The next few minutes were sheer AGONY! Finally both Windows and Firefox loaded, and I logged into gmail and clicked on Angela’s message. And there I read “I loved it and would be happy to offer a contract.“
I’m not sure I made that sound out loud, but I sure felt like making it. I immediately started doing what Gizmo Guy calls “The Price is Right Bounce.” You ever watched the contestants as they jump up and down and all around the stage like lunatics? That was me.
I ran downstairs and told the boys who gave me high fives all around. I then phoned Becky Burkheart – the lady who told me years back to take my writing seriously and get myself to a writing group. *hangs head in shame that I didn’t phone Gizmo Guy first* By the time I got off the phone with Sue and phoned Gizmo Guy, I was hyperventilating. It was so bad that it took me three tries to get out the words “I sold” before GG could understand me.
So here’s to another five years, and the years beyond that. Hang on, it’s going to be a wild ride.