Today’s guest, KAT CANTRELL, is living the dream many struggling romance writers aspire to. So what’s it like living on Cloud Nine? Kat reveals all! (Scroll down for details – Kat’s giving away a copy of her new book to a commenter!)
Fairy tales do come true. I’m living proof that hard work and perseverance will eventually get you into that glass slipper. I entered Harlequin’s 2011 SYTYCW competition and on February 14th, 2012, I got the best Valentine’s Day present ever—The Call from my editor Stacy telling me I’d won. One year ago, I was a writer aspiring to be published and today, my book, Marriage With Benefits, is on the shelf, with many more releases to come.
It’s been a whirlwind of a year. Even more so than I’d imagined—and I have a pretty good imagination.
See, I’m an obsessive planner, with both my stories and my career. After a lot of research, I targeted Harlequin and entered the publishing arena with a strategic roadmap so I would know where I was going and if I got off track. A complete, publishable manuscript takes a long time to finish and in building a career, we have to be smart about our effort. Harlequin is where I wanted to be for business reasons and because they publish what I love to write. A match made in heaven.
So how did my assumptions about writing for Harlequin pan out?
Here’s a peek beneath the covers of my first year as a Harlequin Desire author (because let’s be honest—we’re romance writers and we like to know what happens under the covers, right?).
Assumption: Harlequin publishes a lot of books. Ergo, they need a lot of manuscripts.
Reality: True. My thought process was hey, have you seen all those Harlequin books at the store? They put out 4-6 titles in each line every month. Do the math. They need new authors and want them to write more than one book. And boy, do they. In eleven months, I’ve signed contracts for seven books, one of which my editor asked me to write (yes, my jaw did hit the floor). Additionally, she worked with me to develop a concept for the three-book series I sold last month. In short, Harlequin buys authors, not manuscripts.
Assumption: Harlequin would do promotion.
Reality: True. Except I had no idea what this would actually entail. Harlequin featured my March release on their Facebook page during Cover Reveal Thursday, and that book hit the Harlequin.com bestseller list for that day. On Twitter, @Harlequinbooks had a contest and gave away five copies of my book. I don’t have any measurable data on how that helped sales, but I’m hopeful the winners will become fans. Can’t have too many of those! In the Harlequin.com forums, I’m the spotlight debut author of the month and an excerpt of my March release went into the back of all February Desire releases. Oh, and this is all in the last two weeks. I couldn’t be more thrilled with promotional efforts on my behalf.
Assumption: My books would be on the shelf at Target, Walmart, grocery stores, heck—everywhere on the planet that sold books.
Reality: False. Walmart, along with almost every other retailer, is shrinking their shelf space. They sell Harlequin lines, but not Desire, or at least not in my area. *sadface* The plus side? Harlequin does have a direct-to-consumer program, which mails books to the reader’s doorstep one month prior to the print release date. I started getting fan mail from these die-hard readers almost immediately. Honestly…that made up for not seeing my book at Walmart!
Assumption: Harlequin contracts are comparable to other New York publishers and an agent can’t negotiate anything.
Reality: False. Very false, as a matter of fact. My contracts have some positive differences from other major publishers and my agent negotiated beneficial changes to my options clause. I’d love to go into more detail, but alas, this kind of stuff has to stay hush-hush. Trust me when I tell you it’s all good!
Assumption: I’d make bukoos of bucks.
Reality: False. Sigh. This is one I really wish had been true. I’m very happy with my earnings thus far in comparison to what Show Me the Money says other publishers pay. But publishing pays sloooooow. My advances are broken up into portions payable upon delivery, which is an industry standard. For example, I get a third upon delivery of the proposal, a third on delivery of the full manuscript and a third on delivery of the revised manuscript. As this stretches over a six-to-eight month period, the money, she is not flowing like an avalanche. Royalties take a long time too, because publishers hold a reserve against returns (where the retail outlets return unsold copies for credit), so it could be another six-to-eight months after the release of your book before you see any royalties—IF you earn out the advance. I still don’t know yet how that’s going to look for me. Write because you love it and think of the money as a bonus.
That’s the run-down in a few words. I’m open to questions.
I’ll give away a print copy of Marriage With Benefits to a commenter! (US residents only please)
“Will you divorce me?” Those are the four little words Cia Allende wants to hear Lucas Wheeler say. Of course, they have to marry first. The gorgeous Texas real estate tycoon shuns commitment, but a six-month fake marriage will help them both. Cia can access her trust fund and build a women’s shelter, and Lucas’s playboy reputation is repaired. No strings. No romance. Simple.
Except it’s anything but. Lucas intends to seduce his in-name-only wife. It’s a battle of wills, and Cia is losing…and loving it. And now the divorce she needs is the last thing she wants….
What would you like to know about a debut author’s first year in the trenches?
Publisher Oliver Rhodes joins us on Wednesday – don’t miss it!
Kat read her first Harlequin novel in third grade and has been scribbling in notebooks since she learned to spell. What else would she write but romance? When she’s not writing about characters on the journey to happily ever after, she can be found at a soccer game, watching Friends or dancing with her kids to Duran Duran and Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Kat, her husband and their two boys live in North Texas. She’s a proud member of Romance Writers of America®. Kat was the 2011 Harlequin So You Think You Can Write winner and a 2012 RWA® Golden Heart® finalist for best unpublished series contemporary manuscript. She writes passionate stories about smart, sassy heroines and the men who try to keep up with them for Harlequin Desire and Carina Press.
Visit Kat’s website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
- Cracking the Category Code – How to Write Short and Write Often with Kat Cantrell
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- Your Voice Is Your Passport: Deconstructing the Mysterious Thing Called Voice with Kat Cantrell