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Monday, November 4, 2013

When the wrong book finds the right publisher...

Many years ago in my early days of writing, I submitted a "historical romance" to Harlequin Mills and Boon London, (attention:  historical editor). I got a very polite rejection that includes my favourite rejection line "...too many people have to die before the end of this story...". I knew then I was never destined to write for HMB.

Not so very long ago (The Black Moment of the Writer's Soul), I wrote in this column about the agony of  wrestling with a requested rewrite of one of my stories, a regency romance with a mystery story woven through it. After months of struggling to turn it into something that an American publisher may have deemed publishable, I encountered one of those existential crises to which writers are prone and began to seriously question what I was doing with my entire writing career.  

Instead of throwing my hands in the air and swearing off writing for ever, I tossed (in a digital sense) the poor, unloved, ugly duckling of a book (which I had cruelly nicknamed "the Frankenbook") into a dark corner of the cyber sock drawer, pulled up my chair and started working on something new. 

Mt. Doom seemed seemed no nearer... 

Immersing myself in new characters and a new place in time restored the joy and pleasure of writing I concluded that the "Frankenbook" was simply  the wrong book at the wrong time, for the wrong publisher.  So after the RWAus Conference in Perth, more out of curiosity then anything else I pulled the original story out of the even further recesses of the cyber sock drawer and sat down to read it with cold eyes,  and taking my courage in both hands, I submitted it to a new publisher. A provisional 'Yes' with a request for some rewrites came back. At that point I resurrected the "Frankenbook" and realised, with something of a shock, that not everything I had written was total rubbish. 

From the ashes of the "Frankenbook", a new book emerged. While I would like to think it is a beautiful swan, that is probably for the readers to decide. Still fluffing its new feathers, it went back to the publisher and has been accepted and I am ecstatic. Ecstatic because the "wrong story" has found the "right publisher" and LORD SOMERTON'S HEIR (reborn - a Regency historical, romantic suspense) will be published in May 2014  by ESCAPE PUBLISHING, the e-imprint of Harlequin Australia. 

So there are a number of lessons in this experience:

  • "To thy own self be true". If something does not feel right then it probably isn't right for you. I don't regret not pursuing the American publisher.  I felt I was forcing myself on to a path I didn't really want to be on and as I have written before, writing books, for me anyway, is not just about $, its also about doing something I love, with integrity.
  • "Trust your instinct." If a story isn't working for you, put it to one side and get on with something else...something that gives you pleasure and fills your heart with excitement but don't be afraid to revisit that story in a month, three months - a year even. You may find what you wrote is not nearly as bad as you thought it was and with a fresh approach could find a new direction.
  • Always keep an eye on the market. Trends change, publishers change. Two years ago Escape didn't exist and, in the ultimate irony of my writing life, I will be published by a Harlequin imprint. ESCAPE had found a niche in printing the "cross genre" stories that I write.
  • Keep your  eye on the goal...whatever it is. I still have my eye on the airport bookshops but in the modern publishing world I have to be realistic. It has probably never been easier to be published and never harder to sell a book. I am not giving up the day job just yet!

From the battlefield of Waterloo to the drawing rooms of Brantstone Hall, Sebastian Alder’s elevation from penniless army captain to Viscount Somerton is the stuff of dreams. But the cold reality of an inherited estate in wretched condition, and the suspicious circumstances surrounding his cousin’s death, provide Sebastian with no time for dreams, only a mystery to solve and a murderer to bring to justice.

Damaris, widow of the late Lord Somerton, is desperate to bury the memory of her unhappy marriage by founding the charity school she has always dreamed of. But her dreams are shattered, as she is taunted from the grave, discovering not only has she been left penniless, but she is once more bound to the whims of a Somerton.

But this Somerton is unlike any man she has met. Can the love of an honourable man heal her broken heart or will suspicion tear them apart?