What I'm reading: What Would Jane Austen Do? by Laurie Brown
Every so often, you’re at a gathering and you mention you’re a writer. “Oh, I’ve always wanted to write a book. One of these days, when I’m not so busy, I’ll write one.”
Well, first, if you wait until you have time, you probably won’t ever write the book. Writers write because for them, it’s like breathing. Something they have to do.
But there’s the other side. Publication, and all the business angles. Nobody mentions these when you’re starting to work on the craft.
Obstacles abound. Writing the best book you can means learning a lot about the craft. Then there’s the market niche. A good book doesn’t mean it’s a marketable book. You learn that it’s almost impossible to get published by a major house unless you have an agent—they won’t even look at unagented submissions.
An agent has to love your work. They can’t sell something they’re not excited about. But even if they’re excited, they have to know there’s a possible market. Likewise the acquisitions editors. They have to be confident it will sell. And then they have to convince their marketing people to love the book as well.
Small presses will often have a wider range of what’s “acceptable” and they’re also more likely to give new authors a shot. But there are drawbacks there as well. They’re probably not going to pay as much (and don’t be fooled—most writers aren’t surviving on their writing), and they’re also likely to disappear.
My first sale was to a print magazine. That is, I had a contract…but they went out of business before the story was printed, so I never saw a dime. I discovered a new e-publisher that was looking for short stories, so I submitted it there. They accepted it, but down the road, they changed their length requirements, so its life ended in that format. (If you’re interested, that story, Words, is now a free read at Smashwords.)
Another drawback to a small press is small staff. When there's a personnel issue, often there's no one to pick up the slack. I have two short mystery stories contracted for an anthology. They were supposed to be out at the beginning of this year, but "stuff happened" and now they're on indefinite hold. I could probably go through legal channels and demand my rights back, but aside from putting them up on the digital sites, there's really no other place for them—I'm not exactly an in-demand, big-name author. And then I'd also be leaving the other anthology authors in the lurch. I'll wait a while to see what happens.
And last week, I learned that Five Star was discontinuing its Expressions line. I have one more book under contract, which is still going to be released, but now I’m left with a third book in that series, plus a half-written fourth. Where to go next?
It’s hardly likely a major publisher will want a third book in a series. Do I abandon book four? Revise book 3 so it’s no longer a Blackthorne, Inc. story? Start from scratch with a new concept?
Frankly, I don’t know. Five Star is willing to look at romantic suspense for its mystery line, so I could be better off than the other ‘orphaned’ authors who write different romance sub-genres.
One thing I do know. I’ll keep writing. And as proof, I've just uploaded another story to Smashwords. It's "A Summer's Eve" and it's the epilogue I never submitted for Hidden Fire (mostly because I don't like epilogues in books, but Randy and Sarah insisted.)