Saturday, May 28, 2011

How I Got Published

Like a lot of people out there, I always meant to write a book. Or several. A best-selling trilogy, perhaps, followed by an epic family saga in many volumes. Before long, I realized that books don’t just happen, you have to sit down and write them. I tried. I kept some of my early writing under the bed. I wrote it on bits of old notepaper and scuffed pads of A4. I dreaded the thought of anyone finding it, or, heaven forbid, reading it. 
Eventually, though, I realized I wasn’t writing for myself anymore. I wasn’t sure what type of readers might like to read my stuff (in fact I wasn’t sure what sort of ‘stuff’ I wrote), but I knew I wanted readers. I needed readers. And since my characters always fell in love, I decided I must be writing romance. As the mist began to clear, I started looking for a publisher. This is the short version of how I found one:

Wanted to write a book
Wrote a non-fiction book
On the third submission, I got picked up by a university press – hurray!
University press got ‘restructured’ - didn’t want my book anymore.
Finished a novel for a competition.
Got bad scores.
Wrote another novel.
Self-published it, against all the advice. 
Was told I might as well have flushed it down the toilet. (NB The person who said that has recently seen the chain of bookstores he worked for go into receivership.)
Started another novel.
Pitched the novel to an agent, and she liked it – hurray!
A year later. The agent is still thinking about it.
Got a cheque for twenty-six dollars in royalties.
Decided there had to be a better way to use my talent.
(Yes, I still believed I had some).
Started submitting to slush piles.
Started to get some ‘encouraging’ rejections. Who wants those?
Felt increasingly impatient about the long wait times with big publishing houses.
House burnt down (mine, not the publishing house – though I was tempted).
Moved to a rental property while my house was being rebuilt.
Wrote a lot, to take my mind off it.
Submitted a novella to Embrace Books, UK.
Got a letter saying it was probably too short.
Submitted an opening chapter to ‘So You Think You Can Write’ run by Harlequin.
They liked it and asked for more.
Wrote like the wind for six weeks.
Six months later, they are still thinking about it.
In the meantime ...
I was accepted by Embrace Books and signed a contract – hurray!
Jane Holland at Embrace Books became ‘my editor’. I still love that phrase.
Did revisions on the novella to make it longer (and better).
‘Scandal at the Farmhouse’ became one of the launch titles for Embrace.
Started writing another book …

UPDATE added October 3rd 2011:
As many of you know, since writing this, I've gone indie. I resisted the idea for a while - because I loved 'being published' and having the support of a good editor. I began to consider the idea seriously when I found that my self-pubbed e-book was selling three times as well as my published title. That 99 cent price tag really helps a new writer to find a readership - people are a lot more willing to try out an unknown author when the price is right.

Then, the decision point came when disaster struck and Salt Publishing decided to close its romance imprint - Embrace Books - after just six months. I'm happy to report that many Embrace authors are now with other publishers and/or selling like hot cakes on their own. I went indie. My novella The Lady and the Locksmith has had over four thousand downloads. Sales of my other books continue to rise and rise - and I have only been doing this for four months. Can't wait to see what happens with my YA series.

If you are contemplating going indie and want to talk to me, don't hesitate to get in touch. It is a hugely exciting time for authors!


  1. I love hearing your story step-by-step. Way cool! Congrats of course, all your hard work paid off:)

  2. Thanks Deana,
    My journey to publication has had so many setbacks that I thought that a lot of writers could probably relate to it. I was lucky to have some 'hurray' moments too, and perhaps that kept me writing. Good luck anyone out there who is pitching, submitting work, waiting on revisions, or just trying to think what to put next in their current work-in-progress!

  3. Agree with Deana; and in addition it is a comfort to me to see the sequence spelled out. It matches my experience about which I tend to feel foolish (default mode *blames self*). Your courage and resilience and sheer GUTS are all fantastic because talent alone isn't enough as your words imply though to me it still seems cosmically unfair that this is the case. I like your sense of humour too:)

  4. Congratulations! So far, I'm at the "encouraging rejections" part and, I must say, it's disheartening. Luckily, no matter what, I'm going to write. Maybe someday my stars will align, too.

    Glad to hear you're on your way.

  5. Kario - they will! Just make sure that what you are writing has wide sales appeal. Sometimes new writers (in a huge effort to be unique and original) challenge publishers with a story that's just 'too different'. I made this mistake several times! Hope this helps - and good luck.

  6. Cody, I always love the "reality booster" I get from hearing true trajectories...good for combatting the committee in my head about how far I've come or not come (with poetry, essays, blogging, you name it).

    I'm in the three club too, though a girl thrown in the mix, so I share that beautiful yoke as I write (wouldn't give them up for anything)...I'm loving the Submission Mission group over at She Writes, using the suggestions there to help me send send and send again...and revise all those files sitting there, pregnant with work.

  7. Thanks Tania. The 'submission mission' group sounds like a great idea. Subbing work to publishers can be very daunting and a volley of rejections is even worse! Every writer should have a bunch of cheerleaders to support them through it.

  8. What a gruelling process, Cody. I'm so sorry to hear that your house burnt down in the middle of it, but am delighted that it's behind you and you're now hitting success! I had at least 10 slush pile rejections before 'my editor' Jane (also love being able to call her that!) picked me up. I guess it proves that you just have to keep writing and submitting, no matter what :-)

  9. Thanks Madeline. Perseverance definitely pays off. By the way, several people have asked me about the fire and I'm thinking of doing a post on that one of these days! We're back in our house now and I'm writing more than ever.

  10. I loved reading your step by step proces- it made me feel less alone in the crazy book industry! What a long and winding road! I am glad you now have an editor! Yippee!

    I found you through Book Blogs and signed up to follow you. When you have a chance- please stop by the blog for my middle grade novel that I am hoping to get published.

    Take care-
    Jess- although I may show up as Fairday, the main character from my novel. I can't figure out why that happens sometimes and I can't fix it. :)

  11. Good luck with Fairday, Jess! I've visited the site and it looks very intriguing. Publishing is changing so fast at the moment it is very scary - but also very exciting.

  12. I fear my process may be equally grueling . . . very discouraging. I have my days where I ask the question, "Why am I doing this?" Who knows? Love it, I guess :o)

  13. Hi Ashlyn,
    Good luck and keep thinking that you'll go on until you succeed. There is a lot of rejection in this industry - but there are a lot of readers too, and in many ways digital publishing makes it easier to reach them.

  14. Thanks so much! Did you self-publish through a particular company? 4,000 e-book sales—congrats! What steps did you take that were successful in finding your audience?

    Kat at

  15. Hi Kat,
    I upload to Smashwords and I also use Kindle Direct Publishing at Amazon. For print copies you can use Createspace or Lulu or one of the other POD companies. If you are starting out in indie publishing I would strongly recommend offering a free book to help build a readership. You must approach reviewers too - some book bloggers won't touch indie books - but more and more of them will. I am in the very early stages of the whole adventure myself - but the numbers keep growing. Goodreads is another great place to find readers who love your genre. Good Luck!