This week on WITS we're looking at how the changing times in publishing are affecting the publishing dream. On Monday, aspiring author Orly Konig-Lopez shared her dream, today you'll hear from debut author Laura Drake and on Friday, multi-published Marilyn Brant will close out the series.
Part 2: A Debut Author’s Perspective
By Laura Drake
This is the hardest blog I’ve ever written. I’ve put it off to the last second – not because I don’t want to write it, but because I don’t know what I think!
Many of you know my story: I had my heart set on New York, and I stuck with it for 15 years until I stormed the walls, and sold 7 books within a year.
I made it! I basked in my debut like a cat in the sun, and I’m just now coming back down to earth, and waking up to the fact that deadlines are hovering on the horizon, getting ever closer.
What is it about human nature? Do you know the song, ‘Constant Craving?’ (I love kd Lang.) It seems that it’s impossible for a person just to achieve a long time goal, and be happy. I’m like a toddler who gets the candy bar that they’ve been screaming for, then immediately wants the next thing. I’m reading about indie superstars (one of them is a friend of mine) and thinking, Ooooh that would be nice!
No, don’t get me wrong. I’m not second-guessing myself, or wishing I had chosen something different. I love where I am.
Here’s a blog by agent Rachel Gardner, that pretty well sums up why I held out (and why I’m glad I did):
What if the soothsayers are right and the last large bookstore chain goes belly-up? What if other stores don’t pick up the shelf space? What if . . .
I think all writers worry these things. As business people, we’d be crazy not to. We have to do our research, create SWOT analysis, constantly stay on top of the trends, poised for change.
My original goal, all those years ago, was to stand in a bookstore, holding a book in my hand with my name on it. New York was the only way to achieve my dream. That picture, firmly planted in my brain, helped me to soldier past the rejections and discouragement. And it worked.
But I’ve realized something else, while writing this blog. My goal is morphing – growing larger, less physical. I want my stories to touch readers…to make them think, “Oh, that’s just how it feels.”
I want to build a career, doing that.
Thinking of it that way, how the story is conveyed to the reader doesn’t really matter, does it? With a shift of focus, it’s removed the angst and worry.
I know from past experience that keeping my eye on this new goal will see me through all the mud, blood, and drama as the publishing industry changes.
And when I forget and fall back in the mud, someone remind me, will you?
Your turn: what is your heart set on? Do you have a picture in your head representing what you want?
What is the deeper goal?
Laura Drake is a city girl, who never grew out of her tomboy ways, or a serious cowboy crush. She writes both Women's Fiction and Romance. The Sweet Spot, the first novel in her, 'Sweet on a Cowboy' Series, was released by Grand Central in May, Nothing Sweeter, in December. Her 'biker-chick' novel, Her Road Home, will be released by Harlequin's Superromance in August, 2013.
Laura resides in Southern California, though she aspires to retirement in Texas. She gave up the corporate CFO gig to write, full time. She's a wife, grandmother, and motorcycle chick in the remaining waking hours.
Copyright © 2023 Writers In The Storm - All Rights Reserved
Now I'm going to sound all argumentative and whiney and I'm not, really I'm not Laura, but I don't find the answer to our conversation in the comments on Orly's post. Unless that issue is answered by the link to Rachel's post.
It will help me enormously to get a clearer picture of why authors choose traditional publishing. I don't want a fight; goodness, I see that picture of the cowboy biker chick and I don't want no trouble.
I just wanna learn something about my peers and clients.
Joel, I wanted the book in my hand, with my name on it. To walk into a store, stroll down the book aisle, and see my book. Only NY would give me that. That was my dream. It's as simple as that.
Is that the most economic (ROI) of my time and effort? It's too early to tell. With NY, I get promo, advertising, and the strength of the publisher behind me. I'm convinced I'll get in front of more eyes than if I published myself.
Either way you go, if you don't have a great engaging book (a totally subjective thing, granted,) you're not going to be successful.
Maybe somewhere down the road, I'll take all my dedicated fans (I'm dreaming again here) and self pub. I don't know right now. But I'm convinced I'll have more of those having begun with NY. I could be wrong.
I can only take one path. I chose mine. I'm happy I did, and I'm grateful that there ARE different paths to choose from!
"I wanted the book in my hand, with my name on it. To walk into a store, stroll down the book aisle, and see my book. Only NY would give me that."
From a technical perspective, I disagree. However,
"That was my dream. It’s as simple as that."
is a feeling and can't be disagreed with.
Joel, Fifteen years ago when I started this dream, only NY could give me that.
And yes, don't you mess with my dreams! 😉
That time frame plays a HUGE role in this.
Now, Laura ... we both know I have not reached my primary goal to publish traditionally. However, during these changing times, notably the last two years, I have made the decision that I want it ALL.
I want traditional for some of my work and I know I must venture into indie for other work. I don't know who coined the phrase, but I am thankful someone finally gave me the handle ... I am a hybrid. I love that. The tea rose is a hybrid. The blend of two colors into another third color. The way it begins as a bud in yellow and slowly the oranges, the hints of pink show on the tips of the leaves and each time the bloom opens the colors continue to morph and change.
Why on earth should that be a problem for anyone ... especially someone as adventurous and fun loving as you have always been? You started on the back of a bike reading against his shoulders. Then you straddled a bike of your own and rode side by side like partners. I am certain at some point you took the lead. Take us around the next bend of the road to the new adventures in the life of our very own cow-girl-biker-chick 🙂 Next time you should tell us what you will pub on your own !!
Could be, Florence. One thing you learn by becoming an old broad is, never say never!
I'll make each decision as it comes to me, realizing I have limited knowledge. You make the best decision you can, and move on, without looking back.
I'm looking forward to helping you celebrate your first release, no matter how you do it!
I love this point in your response to Florence --> "You make the best decision you can, and move on, without looking back."
Let's face it, we all want to see our books out there and to make a teensy bit of money. Thankfully, the industry is at a point where you can reach that goal in any number of ways. But all of us have a different vision for how we get there and what stepping stones are important to us as individuals.
And if you decide differently later? You turn a new direction, and move that way! I can't wait to see what all this will be like in 10 years....
I too am holding out for trad publishing at this point, and getting closer every day. It's been a long wait (or so it feels) and I see by looking back that trad publishing houses can work as the gate keeper to show that you've reached a standard. Yes, you can reach that standard without them, but if I would have self published the MS's I'm working on before this, before the okay of agents and publishers, they wouldn't have been good enough. I see that looking back, and realize I may look back at this point somewhere down the road and think, thank goodness I didn't publish it then, it is so much better now.
I read, or start, too many self pub'd books and cringe slightly because they are just not there. I don't want to be one of them and don't know that I have the selfknowledge to know when I have reached that critical point where my work is good enough.
That said, the strick guidelines in the industry drive me crazy, especially the nebulous line between romance and women's fiction, and I might easily get to a point where I am so fed up I self publish. I'm getting more open to the idea everyday. But I'll hang in there for another conference, another round of agent queries because this time I'm sure I'm ready. lol
Judy, I agree with everything you said above. Like Alpha Dog says, "It's not better or worse, just different." I think any path you take has different challenges, and rewards. Ultimately though, after working as hard as we do to write a book, you should not settle for anything less than what you want - whatever that is!
FIrst of all, I know I congratulated you at the time, but I just have to repeat this: *7 books* sold to NY in 1 year!!!! Really, that is still a jaw-dropping, incredibly fabulous achievement!
As for the morphing of a career dream...well, I'm familiar with that ;). The important thing, I think, is to continue to pay attention to the industry around us but, still, to listen most closely to our own voice. We have every right to stay on the original course, if we want -- or to change our minds.
Thanks, Marilyn - that's the wonderful thing, to me. We're not trapped in ANY paradigm...if you change your mind, or your dream, you have options!
I want to be you when I grow up....oh, who am I kidding? I'm never growing up!
Kudos to you for holding out for traditional publishing. That's what you wanted and you stuck to your guns. I admire anyone driven enough to pursue their dreams and to stand by what they desire. It is the tougher, bumpier road, but the destination is sweeter.
I think 7 books in one year is phenomenal!!! If you look at this over the 15 years you "powered on" to achieve your goal, that's one book released every two years, more than what many authors can boast. Wow!! You're just eating your entire cake in one sitting. Enjoy the dessert. You've earned it. 🙂
Yeah, Kerry, but if I don't stop eating soon...I'm already waddling!
You too, are right behind me, I hear! Whoop! Now, if we can keep Orly out of that cave...
Oh, Laura, I love the honesty of this post. The publishing industry is in such flux, it's hard to know WHAT to want. But, like you, I (currently) want New York as well. That being said, my attitude about other alternatives has changed so dramatically; I'm open to new possibilities, because - as you say - it's the end of goal of "moving readers" that is most important, isn't it?
Congrats on your big successes. Now get out there and meet those deadlines, cowgirl!
Thanks Melissa. Keep at it. If you don't stop, you have to get there eventually, right? Wherever you deem 'there' to be!
An "old broad," ha ha. BTW, I love The Sweet Spot! And, always love your posts on this blog.
Thanks so much, Laurie! You know how much authors love reviews on Amazon, right?
Oh, wait, did I say that out loud?!
Laura, for me, I agree with you. I want to see my books in stores and airports. When I started writing just two years ago, authors were going into indie publishing in a big way, and I had not ruled that out. With my eye on NY, I turned down offers from the smaller pubs I'd subbed to when I wasn't so sure of my path. When I was signed by my agent on my deadline-to-decide-date, I was heart-poundingly thrilled. When Kensington made the offer for an e-book contract, I was disappointed, but I went with it and am pleased with the results. I still don't have a print contract, but if my first books sell well, then I'll be offered one. Unfortunately, right now it's extremely hard for a debut author to be offered a print contract. Recently, one author I know was rejected by an agent who loved her book and her voice, but said that, in this market, she couldn't get a print contract for her.
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I, too, had the NY dream, Laura! Still do, actually, but now I'm open to all options. But first I gotta finish writing that great book, which I'm sitting down to do right now. I'm a very recent retiree - no more excuses! Congrats my friend on all your success so far and good luck in your future projects!
As a newbie coming into it, it is really hard to know which route to take... The opportunities are endless...and big...and scary.... And, self-publishing means you have to put on more of a business hat, which feels like drudgery. The more I look at it, the more I think hybrid is the way to go...diversify your interests. But, it's a lot to take in, and understand. I would love to be able to walk into a Barnes and Noble and be able to pick up my book in my hands...but, by the time I'm published, will Barnes and Noble even still be around? Great post! And, thanks for the link to Rachel Gardner's blog... 🙂
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