Posted On April 16, 2012 by Print This Post

Reflections of a Newbie Author by Emmie Dark

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But I think many unpublished romance authors (or perhaps I’m just speaking for myself here) see the journey to being published as a bit like a fairy tale.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.

* * *

Leave a comment to be in the running for a signed copy of Cassie’s Grand Plan.

* * *

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.

 * * *

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:








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…

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39 Responses to “Reflections of a Newbie Author by Emmie Dark”

  1. Hi Emmie,
    Your honesty in sharing the newby published author experience is appreciated. Great to see it’s all worth it. Being the leading lady in your life is certainly good advice.


    Posted by Dora Braden | April 16, 2012, 12:48 am
  2. Hi Emmie

    Thank you for the amazing insight into your journey to authordom! It definitely gives an aspiring author something to chew over.

    I think I’m with you – the fairytale sounds incredible, but it’s the journey after the kiss that’s the biggie.


    Posted by Michelle Somers | April 16, 2012, 12:59 am
  3. Great post, Emmie. Everyone feels the same way you do, don’t worry! Every call from your editor with revisions is nerve wracking. Every review gets you on the edge of your seat. And the hours in the day thing… oh for a clone.

    Posted by sarah mayberry | April 16, 2012, 1:09 am
    • Hi Sarah — thanks! I’m not sure whether to be reassured or more nervous knowing that even after however many books you have under your belt, the nerves still remain! I was hoping that might fade over time!! lol


      Posted by Emmie Dark | April 16, 2012, 1:35 am
  4. Thank you Emmie for sharing your journey to publication.

    And I thought writing the story and hoping an editor will like it enough to work with you was difficult!

    Holding your baby in your hand and the thrill of others buying your story, reading and enjoying it would be the best ever!

    Warm regards,

    Posted by Margaret Midwood | April 16, 2012, 2:57 am
  5. A great post Emmie.

    And here we were imagining the glam life of a oublished author after one book!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Posted by Nas | April 16, 2012, 3:05 am
  6. Emmie – You forgot to mention that during all of this learning curve, you were being a great critique partner! I knew you could do it – they would be crazy not to buy your book!

    What has been your favorite experience so far?

    Congrats again – hugs


    Posted by Robin Covington | April 16, 2012, 4:42 am
    • Aw, thanks Robin. And without great critique partners I’m quite sure I wouldn’t have got past the HEA at all! I think you have to BE a great critique partner to get them, so right back atcha!

      Favourite experience? Opening that box of books was pretty amazing. Seeing my book on the shelf was also fabulous. But the most wonderful thing is the little drip-feed you get, every now and then, when you receive a positive review, or someone tells you they enjoyed reading it. They’re little highlights that never fail to brighten my day.

      Posted by Emmie Dark | April 16, 2012, 7:07 pm
  7. Emmie, you have a lot of humility for someone so successful. As long as you stay exactly the way you are, with your feet firmly on the ground, I’ve no doubt you’ll continue to be successful in your writing career. I can’t wait to see your backlist grow and grow!

    Posted by Maria Mohan | April 16, 2012, 5:26 am
  8. Hi Emmie,

    The pressure comment is spot on. Once you’re outed as a published author, where’s your next book? It’s a question that can rattle you to your bones. After your experience, anything you would have done differently?

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | April 16, 2012, 5:41 am
    • Hi Mary Jo, yes, it’s a pressure that I’m growing more familiar with as I’m about to hit ‘send’ on a new proposal soon.

      Good question — would I have done anything differently? I’m not sure — it’s been a learning curve, and a necessary one, at that, so I guess it’s hard to say what I’d change. If I had a magic wand, I’d wave it and give myself more time for everything. I think many of my stumbles were just simply trying to meet deadlines when I probably needed more time to do a ‘better’ job.

      Posted by Emmie Dark | April 16, 2012, 7:10 pm
  9. Morning Emmie!

    Sounds like your life is hectic central! =) How much effort do you put into social media – Twitter, Facebook etc. and is that where most of your promoting takes place?

    Thanks for a great post and congrats on your upcoming releases!


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | April 16, 2012, 6:35 am
  10. Emmie, As a newbie myself, I enjoyed this post. Now I feel normal. LOL. Thanks for sharing.

    Posted by Jenna Rutland | April 16, 2012, 6:41 am
  11. Hi, Emmie –

    Welcome to RU!

    Is there anything you wish you’d done before you got the call, as far as promotion is concerned? Any way you think you could have gotten a jump start?

    Best of luck on your debut book!

    Posted by Kelsey Browning | April 16, 2012, 7:16 am
    • Hi Kelsey, Good question. The thing I was really glad about when it came to promotion is that because of my background I was already pretty comfortable with social media and the online world (see the link to the post I pasted in above). I already had Twitter and Facebook accounts established and knew how to use them to best effect (at least, I hope I did!).

      I’m not sure what else I might have done to be better prepared, although I probably would have tried to be more active on these accounts and on various romance industry blogs (like this one!), both to get my name out there and to create connections and build my network. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to do this, or didn’t think I had to, it was just a matter of time. As I said, prioritizing my time has become essential.

      Posted by Emmie Dark | April 16, 2012, 7:19 pm
  12. Hi Emmie,
    Congratulations on the release of Cassie’s Grand Plan. It’s a terrific read and I can’t wait for your next book. You deserve all the success you’ve achieved to date (in spades). Enjoy.

    Posted by Louise Reynolds | April 16, 2012, 7:47 am
  13. Hi, Emmie. Welcome to RU. I so wish I had seen this post two years ago! LOL.

    I’m about to complete my debut year and I’ve started to think of the debut year as an entry level job in a Fortune 500 company. There’s a lot to learn and many experiences to be had. It’s thrilling to know the opportunities for growth are ahead.

    Wonderful post!

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | April 16, 2012, 9:10 am
  14. Hi Emmie! Congrats on your debut release. I’m so incredibly excited for you.

    Such a spot on, great post!

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | April 16, 2012, 11:10 am
  15. Congratulations on reaching published author status, Emmie! I love reading stories like this! I’ve always liked the SuperRomance line – I want to read your book, too!

    Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | April 16, 2012, 11:11 am
    • Hi Becke, thanks! I hope you will read it! SuperRomance is definitely my favourite HMB line. I just love the true-to-life stories and the deeper characterization you get because of the increased word limit. I’m very happy to have found my home there. 🙂

      Posted by Emmie Dark | April 16, 2012, 7:23 pm
  16. AS another newbie I found your words to be very accurate! I would like to repeat a question and ask what marketing tips have you received (from other authors) that were really effective.

    Thanks 🙂

    Posted by Juliette Springs | April 16, 2012, 12:34 pm
    • Hi Juliette, it’s a good question and I’m not sure I’ve got a great answer. I think I mostly learned just from watching what other people did and learning from them. I’ve certainly talked to other authors about what has and hasn’t worked for them — from whether or not to do giveaways through to how they use their Twitter account.

      Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s any one ‘right’ way to do promotion — it depends on your book, your audience and you and what you’re comfortable doing.

      What I’ve done is watch carefully, plan my own approach, give things a try, and measure (where I can) whether or not it worked. (It’s more or less impossible to know whether a blog post sold you more books, but my “measures” are things like number of comments, type of comments, and whether it drove traffic to my own site/blog.)

      I do feel more prepared now for when book number two hits the shelves in August. But I have a feeling this baptism of fire is something all newbies have to go through — it’s a rite of passage…

      Posted by Emmie Dark | April 16, 2012, 7:27 pm
  17. As a reader, I can’t even imagine all that an author has to go through to get that book published. An author has to wear so many hats. It’s all fascinating and as a reader I appreciate all the hard work!

    Posted by catslady | April 16, 2012, 1:40 pm
  18. Hi Emmie,

    Congratulations on your debut and thanks for sharing your experience with us.

    Do you ever feel that you’ve sacrificed something in your life to be an author?

    Thanks for joining us today!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | April 16, 2012, 1:44 pm
    • Hi Jennifer, I’m getting fantastic questions today! Thanks! That’s a little tricky though.

      What have I sacrificed? Well, I know I’ve sacrificed my social life on occasions. There have been times I could have been out doing things with friends and family, but I’ve decided to spend the time writing instead — whether to meet an external deadline or a self-imposed one.

      I do wonder if the time I’ve spend writing has been detrimental to my business. Would I have more clients if I had spent the time I’ve been writing chasing new work instead? I guess I’ll never know, and as long as the mortgage still gets paid, I guess it doesn’t really matter.

      I like to think that anything worth achieving requires sacrifice of some kind.

      Posted by Emmie Dark | April 16, 2012, 7:42 pm
  19. Thanks Emmie for a candid and refreshing post on what it’s like to be on the other side of that fairy tale hurdle.

    Posted by AJ | April 17, 2012, 4:38 am

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