LEARNING FROM THE PAST



Here I am signing copies of my romances at T. Charleston in Branson. Above I’m on the billboard on the strip.

Yesterday I was looking through photos I’ve taken since first publication. It was fun revisiting those times and seeing some of the people I’ve met since becoming a writer. I thought readers might like to know how it all came about. I just read another blog in which the writer said that he thought getting a novel published was probably the hardest thing he’d ever accomplished. That’s what he knows because he’s in the place I was then. What can become the hardest thing is continuing to be published.

Often novice writers think that once they are published they have it made. But it’s just as difficult to continue to interest publishers in our work as it was that first one. The only difference is, after networking as we should, many of those we approach at least know who we are. But let’s go back to how it happened for me. Perhaps this will help some of you in your approach to publication.
To begin with, I was past 50 when all this started. I joined a writer’s group, some of us weren’t satisfied, so we broke off and formed our own group which is still going today. The idea of getting a book published hadn’t entered my mind. I was doing what I loved. But after a few years, friends talked me into trying to get published. The first three entries in a small conference contest earned me three first place awards. I’d worked on my craft for about ten years without a thought of being published, other than my articles and columns in newspapers.
One of those first place wins went on to become my first published novel. A western historical romance called Goldspun Promises. It began as a western with a woman protagonist. In order to get this novel published, I attended Western Writers of America, made an appointment with an editor from Penguin and pitched the book to him. He read it, sent it back suggesting that I rewrite it as a romance and so, with the help of a romance writer friend, I did. I then wrote to him and asked if he’d take another look at it. He did, passed it on to an editor in the romance genre with Penguin and she bought it, along with a second book, as yet unwritten.
Then the real fun began. I attended romance conferences, met those good looking guys who posed for the book covers, signed copies of my books for many adoring fans alongside popular writers I never thought I’d meet. I’ve signed tee shirts, the backs of hands and scraps of paper. It was a crazy, whirlwind time and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I posed with my cover models, was wined and dined by my publisher. Everything I’d ever dreamed of.
My editor bought two more books from me after that, so now we’ve gone from 1994 through 1998, and I’m having a wonderful time. Then along came the mid-list crisis, when the bottom fell out. Budgets were cut, and most new writers let go, me included. My agent — my second agent as the first had passed away — managed to get me a contract with another company and I wrote two books for them. It was not a satisfactory pairing, and so I let my agent go and moved on.
It’s difficult to make such a decision. But many of my friends in the writing field told me a bad agent was worse than none at all, and we had some problems, so finally I crossed my fingers and turned loose. What to do then? Well, I’d written and had published a couple of nonfiction books, so I signed a contract for a second book with Arcadia books, a history of Springdale, Arkansas, which remains in print today.
A couple of years went by as I struggled to get back into the fiction field. I wrote four or five books in that time, some good, some not, as I tried out different genres. Meanwhile, I wrote a creative nonfiction biography and it went on to final in the WILLA Literary Awards given by Women Writing the West. Still no nibbles on the fiction books. However, that win led me to two new nonfiction contracts. The books took a year to write and both will be released in 2010. One is The Boston Mountains: Lost in the Ozarks; the other is Arkansas Meals and Memories. We hope to promote them both at the same time. Meanwhile, I wonder if maybe I’m destined to continue to write historical nonfiction.
Still, I remain busy in the fiction field, submitting the best of my novels to whoever will take a look at them. Here’s a little hint. Keep your eyes on newsletters online that tell who is looking for what. Try cynthiasterling-subscribe@yahoogroups.com for a popular one. Don’t worry so much about whether they only take unagented material. If someone is looking for something and it’s exactly what you have, send them a query. Chances are, if you write a good pitch, they’ll take a look at a few chapters.
Meanwhile, I continue to pitch to an agent now and again, and I always sign up to talk to both agents and editors at every conference I attend. Go to conferences, attend book festivals, get acquainted with writers too. All of this is the work we do to remain in this profession.
Advertisements

About veldabrotherton

I'm primarily a writer, but I also speak and teach workshops and co-chair a large critique group. My brand is SexyDarkGritty and that applies to my western historical romances, mysteries, women's fiction and horror novels. After almost 30 years in this business, I still have something to learn and attend conferences to network with other writers, publishers, editors and agents.
This entry was posted in agents, historical nonfiction, historical romance, Penguin, pitching editors, Uncategorized, Velda Brotherton, writing career, writing history. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to LEARNING FROM THE PAST

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s