I loved reading and I had a vivid imagination. I loved making up stories in my head and like everyone (even if they don’t admit it) I enjoyed a good romance, especially a good swash-buckling historical.
Back in 1988, like most young New Zealander’s, I decided to go to England to do my ‘OE’ (overseas experience). My six-month trip turned into seven-plus years. I loved London. I loved being able to work and travel and see the world. And I found one of my greatest loves – Shakespeare.
One night at a friend’s place, where we had all gathered for a few glasses of wine, one of my girl-friends asked what we all wanted out of life. Tracy asked me what my dream job would be. I thought about what I wanted from a job. I wanted the freedom to work the hours I wanted, where I wanted, doing something I enjoyed. The words, “I’d love to be a writer”, spurted forth.
I said to myself, ‘how hard can it be to write a Mills and Boon’. I can hear you all laughing. VERY HARD as I was to find out. I approached Mills and Boon in London, and received the booklet on how to write a story with their cassette tape. I still have the tape and listen to it every now and then. It really is funny.
Like everything in life, you have to work for what you want. And work hard. I have never been afraid of hard work, especially when it is a labor of love. I set about learning my craft. I have taken numerous online writing courses and joined many writing groups.
Breaking into publishing is extremely difficult. The odds against selling are very high. You not only need talent, you need patience, persistence, self-discipline, dogged determination, a thick skin (to cope with all the rejection), and a measure of luck. Of all of these, talent, persistence, and the thick skin are the most important. You also need knowledge of the markets and a professional approach to the goal you’ve set for yourself.
Through my classes (I took numerous creative writing online courses) and through a wonderful, nurturing critique group, I gradually learned my craft. I also learned about writers’ groups and writers’ conferences and began joining the groups and attending the conferences. I discovered the Romance Writers of New Zealand and joined Romance Writers of America soon after, deciding romance novels were my true calling. And through RWNZ, I began to learn about publishing houses–who publishes what and the kinds of things they were looking for. I learned the names of editors and got market tips on where to submit my work.
Through RWNZ and my writing classes, I met several other writers with whom I felt a kinship, and we formed a critique group. We met only occasionally but we critiqued each other’s work via email. I entered contests sponsored by RWNZ and RWA Chapter groups. I finaled through these contests and learned I obviously was on the right track. However, I fell into a beginners hole of starting but never finishing a book. The first three chapters of a book are easy to write, but to take the reader on a full journey is hard. I have several partial books written but not completed. Finally, at the RWNZ 2009 conference I decided to organize another online Book in 50 Days. RWNZ members can sign up and we try and write a book (50,000 words) in 50 days. It started on 1 October 09 and as I already had 60,000 words completed on my historical, I used the 50 days to complete my first book, Lord of Wicked. I submitted the manuscript in December 09 and in January 2010. I sold the story as my first novel, Invitation to Ruin, to Kensington Publishing.
At this point, I’d like to say a bit more about rejection. I did get rejected by a couple of agents before I signed with an agent. If you bruise easily, if you think your words are too precious to be tampered with, if you cannot take criticism, if you fold under pressure — this business is not for you. Only the toughest need apply, because this is an extremely tough business. The competition is staggering. Out of every ten people I meet, at least one dreams of becoming a writer. Publishing houses receive thousands of unsolicited manuscripts every month. This is where the LUCK element comes in. For me, I was very lucky. I selected to query an editor who happened to like my type of story and was looking to revamp a line with more historical stories.
However, now we have another option. We can self publish. I self publish as well as traditionally publish. If you are serious about self-publishing you need
- A great cover designer. I use several. Try google for ‘romance cover designers.’ there are also some good ones on Fiverr.com
- An editor/developmental editor – I use several. however, Sue Grimshaw my lovely editor at Random House is also Freelance so I tend to use her. you can find her at Edits By Sue.
- A copy editor – I use Angela Bissell or Ray Collet.
Angela has loads of experienced garnered from writing for HMB and doing a diploma in editing. And Ray has a Masters in Creative Writing. Ray also does mentoring and developmental editing.
- For Proof Reader I use my sister Leigh Kaye. She’s a teacher and avid romance reader and picks up any mistakes missed by the copy-editor. She costs $250NZ ($165US) You can contact Leigh here.
- A process for converting word doc to epub and mobi files – I use Vellum
- I recommend joining two self-publishing loops
1. Take writing courses, preferably creative writing or novel writing. Learn everything you can. And practice what you learn by writing every day. Nowadays many of these courses are available online, which is easy, convenient, and usually less expensive than going to a community college or other physical location. Here are my favorite online writing sites (remember most RWA Chapter websites have courses too):
2. When you know what you want to write, read everything you can find in that category to see what is selling. Study the books. See how the writer has crafted the novel. Dissect it. See what makes it tick. Although you should never copy anyone’s work (it’s against the law), you can certainly emulate authors you admire. And you can definitely learn from them.
3. Find out if there are any writers’ organizations in your community and join. This is the best way to meet other writers and find people who have similar interests. It’s also a way to find people with whom you can form a critique group.
4. Learn how to PITCH, and write GREAT query letters, and STRONG Synopsis’s as well, of course, as a great book. See the section called QUERY LETTER below for an example of my first and very successful query letter (see below). Everyone I sent it to requested the full manuscript.
5. If you want to write romance, join the Romance Writers of America, Romance Writers of Australia, and Romance Writers of New Zealand. Ask for membership information. If you want to write mysteries, join the Mystery Writers of America.
6. Once you join RWA or similar writers’ groups, enter contests and attend conferences.
7. Write every day, even if only for 30 minutes. Develop the habit of writing. Even one page a day equates to 365 pages per year, the length of most novels!
8. Once you feel you’re ready, send your work to an editor (and be prepared to learn from the rejections).
9. If writing for publication is your dream, never give up!
The following query garnered, full manuscript requests from 3 agents and 2 editors, everyone I sent it to!
One of my judges in the West Houston, RWA, Emily contest, Anthea Lawson, suggested my book might be a good fit with Kensington. I have been following Lois Brighton’s blog which suggested I submit to you at Kensington. I’d like you to consider Lord of Wicked, my dark and gritty, historical romance, set in the Regency Era, England. The manuscript is complete at 92,500 words. It is one of three – Lord of Danger and Lord of Addiction being the other two stories. (Always introduce yourself and how you came to submit to them in particular)
Lord of Wicked lives and breathes seduction. His lazy, utterly arrogant smile, promises women paradise and nothing more. He is a notorious rake and determined bachelor – but Miss Melissa Goodly will make him love her. After all, she is now his wife. (The hook – she is now his wife)
Avowed bachelor, Anthony James Craven, the Earl of Wickham, is not dubbed Lord of Wicked for nothing. Anthony is determined never to marry and bear a son. His father was a cruel tyrant involved in slave trading, and Anthony is determined his father’s bad blood ends with him. But when he makes a mistake and beds the wrong woman, he finds himself caught in the parson’s noose. Anthony’s solution is simple. He will never make love to his sensible, quiet and reserved wife again. He will offer Melissa security and position but nothing more. (His inner conflict)
Miss Melissa Goodly is sick of being someone’s obligation. Unwanted, first by her parents, then by her much older brother, Melissa has never felt she belongs. Her dream is to find true love; a man who wants to be with her, not out of obligation or duty, but because he cannot live without her. She longs for children and the happy, large family, she never had growing up. So when she finds herself married to none other than the Lord of Wicked, she is determined to help Anthony, a man tormented by his own past, open his shuttered heart to love. (Her inner conflict)
Once they marry, Melissa cannot understand why her devastatingly attractive husband does not come to her bed. She is well aware of his notorious reputation as the Lord of Wicked, the seasoned rake, and was looking forward to entering his world of passion. How can she make him fall in love with her, if he avoids even the slightest intimacy? The more he pushes her away, the more she is resolved to turn the tables on the legendary lover. So, Melissa instigates a seduction of her own. (The plot and story line)
Anthony is in hell. His quiet, demure, sensible wife has metamorphosed into a sensual siren. He tries to resist, but his plan for a companionable relationship begins to unravel.
While locked in their private battle of seduction, his late father’s business rival threatens their very lives, but Anthony realizes the greater danger is to his heart. For he never expected to feel anything for the only woman he finds capable of capturing, taming, and claiming his very soul. (The exciting incident that will make the editor want to see what happens)
The Lord of Wicked manuscript has placed third in the RWNZ Meet the Editor contest. One of my other manuscripts, Lord of Danger, finaled in the RWNZ HM&B Great Beginnings contest. (Your writing credentials – competitions and also any published works you may have.)
The book is available on request. Thank you for your time. I hope very much to work with you and look forward to hearing from you.