This is a post that I was invited to write by the great Joe Konrath. I’ve rejigged things to bring it up to date, but it’s basically the same as the one that appeared on Joe’s blog, https://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/07/guest-post-by-geraldine-evans.html/
Joe sez: If you’ve missed the previous guest blogs, they’ve been fascinating and informative. You’ll find them beneath Geraldine’s post.
Now here’s Geraldine Evans…
I’ve been writing for over half my life. But, like most writers, I took a while to get my act together and actually finish a novel. It took hitting one of those age milestones for me to stop prevaricating and actually type those blissful words: ‘The End’.
But, as we all know, and as Winston Churchill famously said in relation to World War Two, we weren’t at the beginning of the end. But we might be at the end of the beginning.
So, beginning made, we advanced proudly on to the next stage. You’ll be familiar with this one. It’s the standard rejection letter stage. This goes on for quite a while.
From there we move on, if we’re lucky, to the more personal rejection letter. Maybe even with a few encouraging words scribbled at the end by the editor. But it’s still a rejection. It doesn’t necessarily smell any sweeter with the addition of a few barely decipherable words.
Six years and six books later, in my case, I received my first letter from a publisher saying they wanted to publish my novel.
I’d been writing romances in the hope of getting signed up by Mills & Boon (Harlequin). I never managed to get taken on by them. Although I did get to the ‘few words’ stage. They advised me my books had too much plot and not enough romance…
So, I decided to try Robert Hale, who also published romance in a smaller way. They accepted my novel, Land of Dreams (set in the Canadian Arctic in an attempt to be ‘the same, but different’!–out of print in any format), for the fabulous sum of — wait for it — £100. Still, it was a start. And, of course, I’d go on to greater things…
Robert Hale rejected my next romance.
This latest rejection had made me good and mad. I simmered quietly during all the time it took before I managed to get published again.
It took me a while—a long six years. But I eventually listened to that quiet little voice inside. It had been telling me for over half a decade to try changing genres.
God knows I felt like murdering someone! So I did what that little voice had been saying, switched genres and turned to crime.
Ironically, I found a niche almost immediately with Macmillan. They sold that first crime novel, Dead Before Morning, (the first in my now 18-strong Rafferty & Llewellyn Mystery Series) to St Martin’s Press and Worldwide (pb). Heady stuff!
Or was it? Gradually, it dawned on me that I hadn’t advanced much, if at all. Although my advances did at least gather a nought on the end.
After Macmillan had published four of my Rafferty & Llewellyn novels (Dead Before Morning, Down Among the Dead Men, Death Line, The Hanging Tree), I still wasn’t earning a lot. I was still stranded on the midlist. With nowhere to go, but down and out.
And out I went, when Macmillan was taken over by a firm of German publishers, and they dropped about a third of their list, including yours truly.
It was another six years before I managed to get published again. What is it with me and the number six? Anyway Absolute Poison started my stop/start writing career off again. This time I’d go on to greater things, for sure.
Alas, the greater things never happened. I languished on the midlist through God knows how many years and another ten crime novels. With no marketing budget, no publisher-paid-for book tours, no nothing. It really was a dead-end job with no hopes of promotion.
Worse, it was a very poorly-paid dead end job which had to be fitted in around my real dead-end job.
Is this it? I thought. Is this what all my aspirations and hard work had been about?
By this stage, I was pretty disheartened and beginning to lose my love of words and the joy I’d previously found in putting them together. I was still working full-time at the day job and fitting in my writing during evenings, weekends and holidays. It wasn’t much fun for me or my long-suffering husband.
I’d always tried to educate myself about the publishing world. The same as I’d tried to educate myself after I left school at sixteen. It was this desire to learn that brought me to Joe’s blog.
Hardly able to believe my eyes, I read what he had to say about going it alone in a self-publishing world.
Could there really be a way to escape the publishing treadmill? Rekindle(!) my previous delight in the written word? And make a proper living, too? It seemed too good to be true.
There’s got to be a catch, I thought. But I continued to read Joe’s blog. From his posts I discovered other authors who’d taken the step into this Brave New publishing World before me. I started to think, ‘Mmm. Maybe it is possible’.
Joe was and is, such a great enthusiast, such an inspiration. He writes the things about publishers that most of us only think. In 2010, the year I turned Indie, it was like a succession of those ‘ping!’, light bulb moments.
Although I still hardly dared to believe I could succeed on my own, after a few months’ I became brave enough to turn down my publisher’s latest contract.
Not a difficult decision in the event. Especially as signing it would mean I agreed to give them the ebook rights to my entire backlist, the potential value of which they were starting to grasp.
Hey, I might be ill-educated, but I’m not stupid; certainly not after receiving a publishing education at the hands of the Master! No way was I signing that. So I said, ‘thanks, but no thanks’, and cut myself adrift to sink or swim on my own.
But I wasn’t alone. I had Joe always there with so much advice. And I had all the other intrepid authors who, like me, the publishing world assured us, would come to regret our foolhardy decision to leave their ‘nurturing’ nest.
Well, I’m happy to tell you we weren’t so foolhardy after all. I now earn more in a month than I used to earn in an entire year publishing the traditional route.
- I was able to give up the hated day job.
- I finally managed to get the rights back to the last of my books.
- And since 2010, I’ve been a proud Indie author.
Altogether, with my eighteen traditionally-published novels, I now have twenty-eight books to my credit (21 mystery/suspense, 1 biographical historical novel (Reluctant Queen), 3 romances (written under a pen-name), and 3 non-fiction. And I’ve published short fiction as well.
The eighteenth Rafferty, Game of Bones– as well as all the rest of the series from Kith and Kill #15 – is one of my self-published works.
My Rafferty & Llewellyn Series is more cozyish procedural than noir, with my London-born and Essex-based DI Joseph Aloysius Rafferty hailing from a working-class Irish Catholic family who – with their little more than passing acquaintance with the letter of the law – are the bane of his life.
Being a policeman in the Rafferty family is not a happy experience. And while they might give me, as the author, and, hopefully, the readers, a lot of fun, they cause Rafferty plenty of angst. Angst compounded by me partnering him with DS Dafyd Llewellyn, a more moral than the Pope intellectual Welshman.
So, alongside the murder investigations, I’ve generally got family-caused mayhem going on in the sub-plots. Which gives Rafferty plenty of ‘how the hell do I get out of this?’, moments.
Now, I really must get on with my so-called work in progress (Untitled #19 Rafferty series), which seems to have been as stop/start as my writing career!
Okay, the catch is that I have to market them, and do all the hundred-and-one jobs entailed in running my own little publishing empire.
But I have a new lease of life, new readers and a new, much improved, source of income. All things the nay-sayers claimed I’d never get. It’s great! And, Joe—so are you! 🙂 xxxx
Joe sez: I remember thinking that it was my fault my books never made the bestseller lists. Even though my publishers made so many mistakes it was a comedy of errors. Even though I’d done more than any author, before or since, to self-promote. I felt the responsibility for being midlist.
Self-publishing for me was emancipation. With it came the realization that I’d done many things right, and that it was the archaic, greedy, dysfunctional, evil industry that had screwed up, not me.
But I won’t place all the blame on NY publishing. Because fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me for eight legacy published books, I became a willing participant in my own victimization.
Granted, it was the only game in town. To a starving man, a crust of bread is a banquet.
But I’ll never forget the feelings of failure, many of which stemmed from my own modest expectations.
I can imagine what young sports stars feel like, working their asses off in college sports, hoping to go pro. I can also imagine how they feel when they get a shot at going pro, and it doesn’t work out. The whole “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” sounds like it was written by someone trying to soothe himself after a horrible experience.
Honestly, I don’t know what hurts more. Spending years trying to break into legacy publishing but never getting a deal, or getting a deal and being treated like crap.
I still see authors going after legacy deals and I honestly can’t understand what the allure is. Aren’t there enough confessional stories of woe on the internet that show how legacy publishers treat authors? Aren’t there more and more indie authors speaking about their successes?
I’d like someone to explain to me why, if they read my blog, they’d still pursue a legacy deal. The hope of a NYT bestseller? It can happen self-publishing. A movie deal? It can happen self-publishing. Someone to guide them through the publishing process? That DOESN’T happen in legacy publishing. Publishers don’t take care of you. They exploit you.
I’m not the only one crowing about this. I’m seeing the same stories, over and over. I’m seeing publishers make the same mistakes. I’m seeing the old system fail, bit by bit. All the information is out there, easily accessible.
And yet there are still authors who want a book deal. The Big 5 and Harlequin are still seducing authors into taking unconscionable deals.
You can read Joe Flynn talking about his publishing history here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/07/guest-post-by-joe-flynn.html
You can read Richard Stooker talking about bestsellers here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/07/guest-post-by-richard-stooker.html
You can read Nikki M. Pill talking about fear here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/07/guest-post-by-nikki-pill.html
You can read Billie Hinton and Dawn Deanna Wilson talking about categorizing your book here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/07/guest-post-by-billie-hinton-and-dawn.html
You can read Helen Smith talking about her publishing journey here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/07/guest-post-by-helen-smith.html
You can read Jeff Carlson talking about his publishing journey here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/07/guest-post-by-jeff-carlson.html
You can read Zander Marks talking abut new genres tion from tiotradut: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/07/guest-post-by-zander-marks.html