#WriterWednesday – My Journey Through Publishing (Part 2)

writer-wednesday

In part 2 of this post for #writerwednesday, I’ll continue talking about my publishing journey. If you haven’t read part 1, you can catch up here.

I see a clear divide in my publishing career – before 2014 and after 2014. In August 2014, I was writing for Ellora’s Cave. I was riding high and my books were doing well. Without going into too much detail (I can’t for legal reasons), I had an email from editor at EC saying there would be an announcement soon about the company, but it wasn’t looking good. She warned me about sending other manuscripts to be queried until I’d heard the announcement. I didn’t have anything ready at this point anyway, so it didn’t make a difference to me.

The issues with Ellora’s Cave have been widely documented online, but it was a really stressful time for the authors. I saw some sporadic royalties for a few months and then they stopped coming altogether.

So why didn’t I just write for someone else? This was the point where Kindle Unlimited was really taking off, so why didn’t I just start writing  stories for other publishers/platforms? My problem – I was contracted to give EC first refusal on any erotic/steamy romance story I wrote. I couldn’t write as Scarlett Sanderson (not that I wanted to write anything at all, I was so devastated), and I couldn’t buy myself out of the contracts because I just didn’t have kind of money. 

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Looking back now, it was the darkest time in my publishing career. My books were in limbo for 2 years. I couldn’t write anything else and honestly, I didn’t want to. I lost my joy. I had no interest in publishing. I felt so sorry for my readers, people who were enjoying the Mission Pleasure trilogy, who’d invested money in the series, and were waiting for the last book. I was paralyzed, unable to dig my way out of the hole. 

The worst part, I didn’t know how long this was all going to last. It was a mess.

Finally, in December 2016, I got the rights back to all my books. I had to forgo any royalties owed, but at this point I just wanted my stories back.

Ellora’s Cave finally closed its doors. Despite what had happened and the bitterness, I still felt sad. I’d had a blast working with EC. I had a great editor and enjoyed my time with them so much. I read their books long before I began writing for them, so I was very sad when EC closed.

In 2017 I began my self-publishing journey – a journey I’m still on now as an indie author, and boy, has it been a steep learning curve! I’ve republished my books and released new ones. I’ve had to learn publishing from the bottom up. I’ve had to learn about keywords, and cover art, and marketing. I can’t say it’s been easy, but it’s been a lot of fun. And I enjoy the control I have over every part of the process.

The incident made me very wary of publishing houses. Although, I had a book published with Totally Bound in September 2019, I’m still skittish of publishers.

Over the past two years, I’ve learned to let the past stay in the past.  I write because I have to, because I love it. I won’t let fear or my past stop me from achieving my dreams.

It’s been a long road to where I am now. I’ve had highs and terrible lows. I forgot the core of why I write – to feed my joy, to write because I like it. 2017 felt like starting all over again, but I didn’t have the heart for it. 2020 has been a new start for me. A fresh attitude. Despite the pandemic, contracting COVID and losing my Mom, I still managed to get out 2 books, with another 2 due November 1st and December 1st respectively. Go, me!

I finally have the heart and I’m moving forward into a new chapter of my career with joy instead of looking back with fear.

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Additional images thanks to: Styled Stock Society

#WriterWednesday – My Journey Through Publishing (Part 1)

writer-wednesday

Today I want to talk about my publishing journey for #writerwednesday. I’ve been publishing books since 2005. I can’t believe it’s been 15 years since I first had a story accepted for publication!

Although I didn’t publish (or should I say I didn’t have anything make money) until 2005, I’ve always been a writer. Isn’t that what most writers say? As a child I was always composing stories. Always living in an imaginary world. Maybe that’s because I grew up an only child. Had to make my own fun. I didn’t write anything through my early teenage years, until I discovered the wonderful world of X-Files fan fiction.

When I was 17, I loved The X-Files. In fact, I’m still an X-Files geek. I got back into writing by composing X-Files stories on my electric typewriter (oh yeah, I had one of those. Very annoying to make a typo and use correction fluid). In my stories, Mulder and Scully definitely had a lot of romance.

After that I moved into fan-fiction about movie characters – specifically Vin Diesel’s Riddick from Pitch Black (love an ambiguous anti-hero). I published this online. Long story short, I got a fan base and won some awards. This made me realise I wanted to write original stories. I am ashamed to say that I turned one of my fan fics into an original and submitted to a digital publisher – Ellora’s Cave. I loved their books. They introduced me to super steamy romance back in the early 2000s and I wanted to write for them so much. It was promptly rejected for being too tropey. My first rejection.

I moved on to reviewing romance for a couple of review sites and in 2005 saw an open publishing call from a new digital publisher, The Wild Rose Press. They were looking for novella length romance in a number of categories. I wrote and submitted The Invitation – a Christmas themed paranormal romance. Back then I was all about paranormal romance. I devoured every paranormal romance I could get my hands on. I still love to read it, but my tastes have changed.

The Invitation got accepted for publication by The Wild Rose Press. Yah! I was over the moon. I was finally a ‘real writer’. I would be making money from my books for the first time, and that feeling was amazing.

The story got some good reviews, but the sales were minimal to say the least. Undeterred, I wrote 2 more stories for The Wild Rose Press – A Conqueror’s Destiny (historical fantasy romance fiction) and Devil’s Dance (a contemporary BDSM lite romance). 

Devil’s Dance was my longest novella at around 30,000 words and I found I loved writing daring erotic romance. I really liked it, but the same problems occurred with Devil’s Dance. Minimal sales. Sales aren’t everything, but it was really disheartening.

Although I loved working with The Wild Rose Press initially,  I got pushed from editor to editor when my regular editor left and I lost my passion for publishing. I left my work with The Wild Rose Press and stopped creating anything new. I just didn’t have the heart. In 2010 I got my rights back and the copyright reverted to me.

Between 2010-2011 I dabbled with writing. I worked on a dark futuristic romance thriller (that I am hoping to publish next year) when I saw an editor call from Carrie Jackson of Ellora’s Cave. She was a new editor looking to acquire super sexy romance. On a whim, I submitted Devil’s Dance. She loved it, really loved it, and signed me up as a new Ellora’s Cave author.

Oh my god. Ellora’s Cave were my dream publisher. I’d been reading and reviewing EC books for years and now I was working with them. I was ecstatic. We changed the title of the book to Beg Me, as well as major revisions and expansion of the storyline.

Digital publishing rocketed at this point (this was before the Kindle took off). Beg Me debuted at the highest spot for a new author on the indie site ARR. My sales were huge compared to The Wild Rose Press.

I started writing again. Next came a few novellas – At Their Command, Wicked Game, Darkness Comes, Fourth Time’s a Charm, Owned by the Night. The Invitation got republished. Again, my sales rocked. My working relationship with Carrie as an editor was amazing. She just got me. My style. My ideas. I loved working with her. I’d heard rumblings about Ellora’s Cave – late payments etc- but I was riding high. Surely such an established e-publisher would be fine.

When I pitched an idea for a BDSM trilogy, Carrie acquired all 3 on a proposal.

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Claiming Ruby released and my sales exploded. I was seriously considering giving up my day job and writing full time.

And then in 2014 the bottom fell out of my world…

#writerwednesday – When it all starts to go wrong

writer-wednesday

It’s July. We are more than halfway through this strange and crazy year. And it’s #campnanowrimo. I didn’t take part in April because I was laid up with COVID-19. I’m still struggling with the after-effects, but have been writing for a few months. I’ve spent those months (since I received my rejection from Mills & Boon at the end of April) working on getting my MC romance trilogy ready for release over the coming months. I’m so pleased that after a number of YEARS working on it, it’s finally done. Sinful came out on July 1st, and will be followed by Taken (September 1st) and Possession (November 1st).

This meant I was free to start a new project for #campnanowrimo. Last November I set a goal of 1000 words per day and managed to stick to it despite having lupus and going to my day job. For July I set a goal of 750 words per day. I’m still recovering from COVID, my Mom is gravelly ill, and the world has gone to hell in a hand-basket, so 750 words a day seemed like a nice, manageable number.

For the first 9 days I smashed my target, often writing 1400 words in two 20 minute sprints. I had it. I could do it. I was amazing. I was riding high and the writing was flowing despite everything else. Then I hit a wall. My chronic fatigue flared up so badly I could barely move off the sofa, let alone think about opening my laptop.

The mind was willing – I had so many thoughts and ideas, so many ‘things’ I needed to be doing as a writer: promote new books, promote back-list, get a cover made for a upcoming Christmas release, write new words. On top of that, I have a number of things going on with my Mom’s personal home care to sort out from a distance, and dealing with my own recovery. Yet I still continued to push myself – I needed to keep up my morning routine (yoga, journal, meditate) because I believe it made me more productive and that’s what successful authors do – have a morning routine. I baked, I gardened, I wrote, I promoted, I cleaned like a whirlwind.

And I burnt out. Again. If I could smack myself on the forehead without causing myself more pain, I would. I have this cycle. Doing, doing, doing, bust. Burnout. I ignore the signs of my body telling me to rest because I put all these expectations on myself. Especially as an indie author trying to build my community and producing consistent releases. If I take one day off from the schedule I’ve set myself, regardless of what is happening in other areas of my life, I berate myself – I’m not good enough, I’ll never make it, I’ll never be good enough to write full time and make a career out of it, I’m just lazy.

Because of that nagging voice, I set myself gruelling schedules – for all areas of my life. And then I get burnt out and the cycle starts all over again. It’s classic boom and bust, which then leads to me not doing anything writing wise for months.

The last few days I’ve taken a complete rest, mainly because for a few days I could barely move. It’s made me re-assess. Again. Cut things from my schedule. Focus on what I really want to do. What my body and mind can handle. I don’t have to do ALL THE THINGS. Just a little every week. I need to be more mindful of recognising the signs. Of not fighting my body. It’s not failure to take some time for rest or self-care. I need to realise this more.

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This week sees the beginning of a new schedule. A gentler, slower schedule. I enjoy meditating and journaling, so I’ll keep that in my morning routine, but I also like to read. So I’m taking out yoga and putting in reading. I’m going to write 3 times a week in longer chunks, immersing myself in the story instead of stopping at a designated word count. The other four days I’m dedicating to resting and self-care activities – gardening, baking, knitting, yoga on 2 days and a walk on most. Movement helps me mentally and gives my inspiration, so it’s something I’d like to keep up – body dependant.

My new schedule is more about flow and doing what I feel like doing rather than what I SHOULD do. It’s probably going to be trial and error again, but I’m not going to give up.

I wanted to write about this for #writerwednesday because I want this blog to be real. In the past I’ve wrote about how my new daily writing schedule was amazing, and productive, and totally working for me. And it was. Until it wasn’t. As writers it’s okay to let go of what doesn’t work for you anymore. There are so many videos and articles talking about the hustle – the need to go, go, go to be successful. Sometimes you go through periods like that, but it’s not sustainable for different seasons of your life. It’s okay to change your writing habits. It’s okay to let go and try something new. You are not a failure if you want to try a gentler, slower flow.

So I may not meet my #campnanowrimo goal this month, but I’m going to keep doing what I love – writing, creating – and I’m going to listen to my body, listen to my mental health. Being a writer is about being in it for the long haul (for me anyway).

My mantra for the rest of the year: it’s a freaking marathon, not a sprint.

Here is to a slower, gentler, more focused and creative month.