Wanna peek into life as a debut author? Harlequin author Emmie Dark is here to share her experiences as a newbie author.
Take it away, Emmie!
My first book, Cassie’s Grand Plan, hit the shelves in North America in March. It’s been an incredibly exciting journey right from that moment my phone rang with the call I’d been waiting on for years.
But I think many unpublished romance authors (or perhaps I’m just speaking for myself here) see the journey to being published as a bit like a fairy tale. You go through all your trials. You fight off the big bad wolf. And then, if you’re very, very lucky, you have your very own happy ending. You get the call (way better than a kiss from a prince!) and wander off into the sunset, smiling and waving as you go. Nothing bad can ever happen again! The End!
Okay, so maybe I wasn’t quite that naive.
But I really don’t think I’d given much thought to what would happen “after”. When you’re striving to get published, all your energy and focus goes into that goal. It’s only reasonable that what happens after that call is a bit of a grey area.
With the hindsight of the past six months or so—two books revised and edited, one on the shelves (my second book, In His Eyes, comes out in August)—I thought I’d share with you some of the highs, lows, and learnings I’ve had along the way.
1. Accept that you are a beginner
In my non-writing job in organizational communication, I’ve been working in the same field for almost twenty years. I’m an expert at it; I have loads of experience and wisdom. Despite my experience in the business world, and with editing and production of all sorts of publications (albeit not novels!) I found myself getting frustrated when things with my two books didn’t go perfectly. Mostly, I was frustrated with myself.
Why aren’t I getting this right? I should know how to do this, shouldn’t I? After all, I got “the call”!
I wailed this to a crit partner. She gently, and wisely, pointed out that while I might be used to being an expert in organizational comms, I’m not an expert as an author. In fact, I’m a beginner. I’m barely a few steps in front of the work experience kid in the corner.
Strangely, this was exactly what I needed to hear. It helped change my outlook. I began to see myself as starting a brand new job in a brand new field. Because that’s what I was doing! I had to recognize that I still had a lot to learn. And of course I wasn’t going to get everything right first time.
That helped me go a bit easier on myself. And to recognize that I had the perfect person to call on for help—my editor. She’s been there, done that. She’s the expert I need to learn from. I also was lucky enough to have the support of other published authors who’ve been generous and understanding and incredibly helpful with sharing their wisdom and experience.
But the key for me was to recognize that I didn’t have all the answers and that I was allowed to stumble along the way.
2. No matter who your publisher is, you’re going to have to do your own publicity
And it’s going to take way more time than you ever thought. Seriously.
With my previous experience in PR, I figured I was a step ahead of most newbie authors when it came to the publicity game. And, sure enough, I certainly had an advantage because I wasn’t starting out from scratch when it came to understanding areas like social media, writing promotional stuff, and even approaching the media.
But what I didn’t count on was how much time and focus it would take. Time that I should have been spending writing book number three (or, to be honest, on my day job!).
This was something I simply hadn’t factored in to my “happily ever after” as a published author.
In fact, back when I was unpublished, I had arrogantly wondered what published authors did with their time. I simply couldn’t see how writing could be a full-time proposition. (I’m glad I didn’t say this aloud to many people. I would have deserved a slap, or, at the very least, a condescending “Bless”.
Take the past few weeks as an example. I have been trying to write book number three. I have been finalizing revisions for book number two. And I have been publicizing the hell out of book number one. (Oh, and I’ve had a day job too.)
I need about twenty working hours in every day!
I’m certainly not advising that as soon as you get publishing you need to quit your day job. But when peering into that fuzzy grayness after the “happily ever after”, I wish I’d thought to realize just how much work was still to come.
3. The pressure never goes away
I don’t think I’d given any thought to what would happen after book number one in terms of future sales. Selling your first book is such a hurdle, perhaps you just can’t see over it until you’re on the other side.
And then guess what?
There’s just more hurdles ahead.
I think I submitted In His Eyes while still in the rosy and secure glow of my sale of Cassie’s Grand Plan—before the revisions to it began. And, joy, it was accepted. Now I’m about to submit book number three and you know what? I’m terrified. I think it’s because now, I have so much more to lose if it’s rejected.
And I’m beginning to realize that that feeling is never going to disappear.
Unless you become JK Rowling and someone will pay money for your grocery list, there’s always going to be pressure to write another book, just as good (if not better) than your last one.
Perhaps that’s a good thing. Sure, it will likely send me gray before my time, but it will definitely keep my on my toes.
4. It’s all worth it
I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining or whining here. I don’t want you to think, oh look at her, published author and all she can do is grumble about how hard it all is.
Because no matter how long the hours have been, how tough the hits to my ego have been to bear, or how frustrating it’s been to stumble, nothing beats the feeling of seeing your book in print. The moment when I opened my box of author copies is etched on my brain. I’ll remember it when I’m in the nursing home telling the grandkids about the good old days.
Yes, it’s hard work. Yes, you have to do stuff that you didn’t expect and—given a choice—might prefer not to do. But overall? My advice is: don’t give up. Keep working towards that “happily ever after”.
Wandering off into the sunset afterwards isn’t The End. It’s actually the beginning of a whole new story—that you get to star in yourself.
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Leave a comment to be in the running for a signed copy of Cassie’s Grand Plan.
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RU Crew, what would you like to know about being a debut author? Emmie will be here to answer questions.
Join us on Wednesday when Louisa George will be share tips on stretching emotion when writing category length fiction.
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Emmie Dark’s Bio:
After years of writing press releases, employee newsletters and speeches for CEOs and politicians – none of which included any kind of kissing – Emmie Dark finally took to her laptop to write what she wanted to write. She was both amazed and delighted to discover that what came out was sexy, noble heroes who found themselves crossing paths with strong, determined heroines. And plenty of kissing.
Emmie’s overnight success has taken about five years to achieve. She began fiddling around with story ideas when the urge to write fiction became overwhelming. In July 2011 she sold her first book to Harlequin SuperRomance and she’s not looking back, with her second sale in September. Both books will be out in 2012.
Emmie lives in Melbourne, Australia, and she likes red lipstick, chardonnay, sunshine, driving fast, rose-scented soap and a really good cup of tea. Like, a really good cup of tea. She’s particularly fussy about it, and has been known to pack her own teabags when she travels. Most members of her family are too scared to make her a cuppa, in case they get it wrong.
Emmie on the web:
CASSIE’S GRAND PLAN
Four steps to a brand-new life
Cassie Hartman knows what she needs to do to get her life under control. First, she’ll get herself promoted. Then she’ll update her appearance. Steps three and four—marriage and family—well, those will have to wait.
Then Ronan McGuire shows up. The too-sexy, too-polished business consultant has the power to derail Cassie’s plans before she’s even really started. If he doesn’t approve her promotion, she’ll be back to square one—and that’s not an option. Cassie needs to keep her focus on that first step, no matter how much Ronan tempts her to skip ahead to the third and fourth ones…
- Making Time for Writing with Emmie Dark
- Weekly Lecture Schedule for April 16-20: Emmie Dark, Louisa George & Theresa Stevens!
- Making Readers Cry with Emmie Dark
- Weekly Lecture Schedule: March 11 – March 15, 2013
- A Year in the Life of a Debut Author by Kelsey Browning