Posted On February 19, 2013 by Print This Post

Author Kat Cantrell: “A Peek Beneath the Covers”

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 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 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)

MARRIAGE WITH BENEFITS: Available now at: Amazon | Kindle | Barnes&Noble | Nook
Her ideal ex-husband.

“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.

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36 Responses to “Author Kat Cantrell: “A Peek Beneath the Covers””

  1. Kat, you’re living my dream! I love Desire and have been fantasizing about the day when my own books are on the shelves. Than you so much for this little peek into the real world of Harlequin authors. I love that although the life of a published romance author might not be as glitzy and bubbly as you think it will be, it actually doesn’t sound half bad! I wish you all the luck in your career and look forward to your Desire titles!

    Posted by Monica | February 19, 2013, 7:37 am
  2. Congratulations, Kat – On winning SYTYCW contest and selling! I love the Desire line and our Walmarts here in Georgia do carry the line. “Marriage With Benefits” sounds like a great read. And I have to say, I love your heroine’s name. LOL.
    Wishing you many sales.

    Posted by Sia Huff | February 19, 2013, 7:56 am
  3. Morning Kat!

    Thanks so much for being with us today! I’m still struggling to get just the right story written – but I’m hoping to join you under the covers someday! (oops, did that come out right?) lol….

    Congratulations on your books and all your contracts – that’s amazing! I’m very happy for you. =)


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | February 19, 2013, 8:54 am
  4. Hi Kat,

    Great article and fun peak under the covers. Thanks for sharing your journey with us. I have no doubt those bukoos of bucks will be arriving very soon. You’re such a talented writer! Add me to your ever growing list of fans!!

    Posted by Tammy Baumann | February 19, 2013, 8:55 am
  5. Hi Kat,

    Someone else handling the promotion is the lure. It’s the worst part for me.

    Congrats on your contracts.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | February 19, 2013, 9:16 am
  6. You are so smart. That’s all I have to say! 🙂

    And I was very disappointed that my Wal-mart did not have your book. I think I should lodge a formal complaint! Thank goodness for online stores that DO carry HQN Desires.

    No need to enter me in the drawing — I already have my own fabulous copy!

    Posted by Cynthia Justlin | February 19, 2013, 9:21 am
  7. Great post. I love to hear about the journey of new authors. I aspire as well. Hearing your story is inspiration. I love Desire. It is my target line. I’d love to win a copy.

    Posted by Nena Clements | February 19, 2013, 9:28 am
  8. This in my email box this morning from Patti…

    Hi, Kat,
    Thanks so much for this “Under the Covers” story! I’ve always been a Harlequin reader and will be looking for your book….the “marriage of convenience” has always been a favorite theme.

    Harlequin got me started writing romances, tho I’ve gotten sidetracked. Your article has inspired me to open that bottom drawer and take out my old mss to see what’s there!


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | February 19, 2013, 9:47 am
  9. Hi Kat – Thanks so much for this revealing article! I know a lot of unpubbed writers (like myself) will be clinging to your words. Huge congratulations on your debut novel and your future releases!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | February 19, 2013, 10:16 am
  10. Kat, congrats on your debut! It’s so fun seeing one of RU’s regulars attain their dream.

    Gotta tell ya–This is a GREAT post and I would have loved access to information like this three years ago!

    Have a joyous debut month!


    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | February 19, 2013, 12:46 pm
  11. Hi Kat,

    Congratulations on your debut and your multi-book contract. Will your writing process change now that you’ve got several books to write?

    Thanks for your support of RU and being with us today. Best of luck!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | February 19, 2013, 2:01 pm
    • Hi Jennifer! Thanks for the congrats and the luck–I definitely need the luck. 🙂 My writing process has drastically changed because I’m selling on proposal now. Several months pass from when I develop the concept and write the first few chapters until I pick up the story again. That’s been difficult. I still don’t think I’ve fully figured out how to do it well. I welcome any suggestions from veteran authors!

      Posted by Kat Cantrell | February 19, 2013, 3:17 pm
  12. Hi, Kat! Congratulations on your fabulous debut. You’re a perfect example of why writers should keep writing while they’re trying to sell manuscripts. It’s like a landslide when the first one sells!

    I’m curious how long it takes for a Harlequin book to hit the shelves once the contract is signed?

    Thanks for being here. I love it when our regulars are featured!

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | February 19, 2013, 3:09 pm
    • Hi Adrienne–yes, keep writing!! If nothing else, it’s good practice. 🙂 For my first contract, which was for two books I’d already completed, both were scheduled for release within 12 months. After that, the release dates spread out according to already scheduled books (mine and others) and also how quickly I thought I could complete the manuscript (since I sold on proposal). Harlequin has been very easy to work with on scheduling and I’ve been really happy with all my dates.

      Thanks for having me here!

      Posted by Kat Cantrell | February 19, 2013, 3:24 pm
  13. Your book sounds great. Can’t wait to read it

    Posted by Melanie C. Murray | February 19, 2013, 6:24 pm
  14. Hi Kat,

    Congrats on a spectacular year. I hope your sales will be equally outstanding.

    Did you zero in on Desire immediately or did you flirt with other Harlequin lines?

    I’m outside the US, so don’t enter me in the drawing.


    Posted by Cia | February 19, 2013, 7:55 pm
    • Thank you so much! I did target Desire from the beginning, with a brief foray later on with Riva in an attempt to figure out the line best suited for my voice. I love to write about glamorous, sophisticated people finding grand passion–Desire was the right place all along!

      Posted by Kat Cantrell | February 19, 2013, 8:16 pm
  15. Thank you for giving us the real deal about the long journey to publishing. The “Show Me the Money” article was a real eye opener.

    Posted by Mona AlvaradoFrazier | February 19, 2013, 8:38 pm
  16. Congrats on a fantastic year, Kat! Thank you for pulling back the curtain, and sharing what this past year has been like for you.

    Posted by Reese Ryan | February 19, 2013, 8:48 pm
  17. The winner of a copy of Marriage With Benefits is–NENA CLEMENTS! Thanks everyone for hanging out with me on Tuesday. 🙂

    Posted by Kat Cantrell | February 20, 2013, 7:36 pm
  18. Thanks for sharing your story. Very inspirational!

    Posted by Laurie Evans | February 20, 2013, 8:46 pm
  19. Wow! Thanks for sharing your experience Kat! I’m just in the process of wrapping up my first novel and really enjoyed reading about what you’ve been doing, it is really encouraging to learn what it’s like on the ‘other side’.

    Btw the plot for Marriage with Benefits sounds like a gripping read, I’ll be sure to have a look between edits of my book! 😀

    Posted by Annalise Cutajar | February 28, 2013, 9:02 am

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