#WriterWednesday – My Journey Through Publishing (Part 2)

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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)

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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…

Writer Wednesday – #Nanowrimo update

Writer Wednesday

It’s time for another Writer Wednesday post. This time it’s an update on how #NaNoWriMo is going.

I’ve been really quiet on my blog and on social media for the past few weeks because I’ve been writing. And *gasp, shock horror, blow me down with a god damn feather* I have been sticking to my word count and writing every day.

Remember the post I wrote back at the beginning of November? If you can’t, I’ll link it here . I set a goal of writing 1,000 words per day for the whole of November, with the aim of reaching 30,000 by the end of the month.

I’m happy to say as of 25th November I reached 30, 117 and I’m still going. Woohoo.

There has only been one day in the month so far that I haven’t written. That was due to being sick so I gave myself the day off – and didn’t feel guilty about it! All the other days, even on work days where I only had 15 minutes to write, I managed to get words down. Most days I reached 1,000. Some days only half that. Other days It hit 1,200.

The important thing for me has been consistency. I only had to write 1,000 words per day. That would take about 30 minutes or so. I broke it down into two 15 minute stints. Sometimes I’d write a little bit more – another 15 minutes or so, but never more than that.

For me, 30,000 words is nearly a whole novella. Although I haven’t finished my Mills & Boon Dare submission yet, I’m proud of the fact I CAN write a full novella in a short amount of time. This is the most productive I’ve ever been with my writing, but the most important thing is it has helped me remember the sheer joy I get from writing.

Yes, some days it’s been hard. Some days it’s like pulling teeth to get the words on the page, but I kept doing it. One word at a time. Other days it simply flowed. After each writing session I came away feeling elated. I love my characters. I love sitting down and creating imaginary worlds on a page. It allows me to lose myself and forget about whatever else is going on for little while.

Another important thing I’ve come to realise is how good a regular writing schedule is for my mental health. I’ve always found writing cathartic. Over the past 26 days I’ve found it’s had a positive effect on my mental health. With everything going on at the moment, the ‘side effect’ of writing has proven to be healing.

I need to write. I’d forgotten that.

With social media and keeping up an online presence (which is important, and I love each and every person whom I’ve met online), promoting my books, the admin side of the business, I’d forgotten the simple joy of sitting down to write. As J. R. Ward said “The work always comes first. Magic happens when you put the work first.” I’ve got this pinned on my board at home to remind myself that the writing, the stories, come first.

Although I set my own goal for NaNoWriMo, the month allowed me to find the joy in writing again. It gave me space and clarity to remember I can do this. I love doing this. I might not do 1,000 words per day from here on in, but I will set a regular word count for each week. After all, I know I can do it.

I just need to keep on doing it 🙂

Writer Wednesday – #NaNoWriMo

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I’m going to introduce a new feature for Wednesdays. I won’t be updating every week, maybe once a month (don’t hold me to that, I’m notoriously bad at updating my blog!) I’ll do a post called ‘Writer Wednesday‘. I’ll chat about the writing process, publishing, the practicalities of writing.  Let me know in the comments below if there is a particular topic you want me to cover and I’ve be happy to do a post on it.

Sooo, for this week’s ‘Writer Wednesday‘ I’m going to be talking about NaNoWriMo. If you’re not sure what that is, it’s National Novel Writing Month. You can visit the website for more info. The basic premise is you commit to writing 50,000 words in the month of November.

I don’t normally do NaNoWriMo. I tend to keep my own schedule and committing to a certain number of words per day (if you do the 50,000 that’s 1,666 per day) just makes me antsy and terrified. But this year I decided to sign up. Go, me!

 

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If you are doing NaNoWriMo, feel free to follow me 🙂

I decided to sign up because I really want to complete a rough draft of a submission for the Mills & Boon Dare line. This has been on my to-do list since April. I’ve started the story (about 5,000 words in already) and have it all plotted, but the Knights of Hell series has been taking precedence. I came to the conclusion I would NEVER get to this Mills & Boon sub if I didn’t do something.

So I signed up for Nano.

The terrifying thing for me is, I’m not an everyday writer. With lupus, a job, and a sick Mom, other things sometimes have to take priority. Added to that, my books have NEVER reached 50,000 words. Some have come close. I think Claiming Ruby comes in around 42,000. I’m not even sure I can do 50,000 words.

But I want to do this. NaNo provides a perfect opportunity to get in regular writing sessions and to have a whole community of support. That is one of the best things about NaNo – the community. There is an online forum for support, but also regular local writing sessions. Honestly, if you are looking to write that novel and want to stay motivated, NaNo might be the thing for you.

I signed up a few weeks before November 1st…and then totally freaked out. I can’t commit to writing 1,666 words per day. Am I crazy? Sometimes I don’t even do that in a week! Lately I’ve implemented a 15 minute writing stint every day where I can average around 400 words, and at the end of the week those word counts add up. But 1,666 EVERY day? Nah. I can’t do it.

And knowing me like I do, I’d feel like a complete failure for not meeting those word counts. No matter how sick I felt. No matter what else was happening, I’d still feel like a failure. And that would put me off sitting down to write at all.

Being a writer is easy you say? Pfff. Hell no. As well as figuring out a writing schedule and actually getting the ideas down, you have to deal with all kinds of guilt (but that’s another blog post).

Anyhoo, at the advice of the awesome romance writing community, I decided to set my own goal for NaNo.

30,000 words in 30 days. 1,000 words a day. I can cover this pretty much in two 15 minute writing stints. Easy, right? I’m already doing one 15 minute stint, another one and I would have 30,000 at the end of it.

It’s now 6th November and I’m hitting my word counts *whoop, whoop*

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I can’t give you my typical NaNo day. Sometimes I write for 30 minutes in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon. Never at night as I’m just pretty dead after 6pm.

I write at my desk, in a coffee shop, at work on lunch. I write on my computer and in notebooks.

Bascially, I’m doing what I can, when I can.

Mister Scarlett asked me what happens if I don’t hit my word count one day. I’m not sure, but I’m determined not to beat myself up. If at the end of the month I don’t have 30,000…that’s okay. But I will have a big chunk of wordage that I didn’t have on October 31st and that is something to be celebrated 🙂

Wish me luck for the rest of the month!