In 2008, I was listening to a song that inspired me to write a novel. Writing wasn’t new to me, I had been writing since I was 14 years old, but writing a full novel and then attempting to publish it was a foreign concept to me at that point. eReaders were gaining popularity, and although I had my eye on a fat publishing contract with a Big 5 publisher (just the thought of that hubris now makes me laugh till I cry), I figured I wouldn’t turn my nose up at a digital publisher. I wrote Eternity in a frenzy, and without even bothering to write a second draft, I shipped it out to 7 publishers and two agents. I had a healthy attitude about it, I knew I wasn’t going to get acceptance letters from all of them, but I had my bet on Harlequin, at least.
Not surprisingly, I didn’t hear back from the majority. I got a rejection letter from Harlequin and I got an email from Red Rose Publishing. It was not a rejection, it was a revision request. It stated that if I made certain revisions in the next 60 days, then I can resubmit directly to them. So I did. And they excepted Eternity for publication. I was ecstatic! It was a small boutique publisher that did mostly eBooks, but if your book sold enough, it would go to print. I was also told that they didn’t do any promotion, that I had to do it all. Er, what? I didn’t have the foggiest notion how to promote myself. I had *just* finally opened a Facebook page, since I had been using MySpace to keep in touch with friends. How did I go about selling myself or my book? It didn’t matter, I’d figure it out (still haven’t, 11 years later).
RRP had a small editorial department that concentrated mostly on copyedits, even though they called them line edits. At the time, I didn’t really know the difference, I just thought, Hey if my only issue is my love of the comma and run-on sentences (that hasn’t changed, either), then I AM A FANTASTIC WRITER! I think I ended up with 3 drafts of Eternity before it went to publication, and that was probably because I was throwing artistic hissy fits when some editor would come back and tell me I needed to cut something (the only line editing that was done). Ok, I’m being melodramatic. I don’t throw hissy fits. I’m unfailingly polite, but stubborn. I just honestly thought that I knew better for my story than they did. I learned NOTHING from this process…because I was mule-headed stubborn and thought I was the best romance writer since Nora Roberts.
Which brings me to today’s blog post. I, Teresa Federici, AM NOT the best romance writer since Nora Roberts, or any other well-known romance writer. Ten years out from publication, I’ve only sold 200 copies of Eternity. 52 copies of its follow up, Magick. 78 copies of Choices. It’s not to say they are bad books, it’s just that they aren’t the best they can be. The picture at the top of this blog, if you haven’t already read it, is a rejection letter from Entangled Publishing. Not a super-well-known house, but gaining a steady reputation. Jennifer L. Armentrout is one of their well-known authors, a writer whose work I admire greatly. In that letter, the editor lays out Eternity’s flaws, succinctly and beautifully (I can say that now). I submitted it to them two years ago, but didn’t bother to read the reply once I saw the “Decline” status on Submittable. I didn’t bother because I was wearing a mantle built of such sayings as “Their loss” and “There’s always another publisher”. No, there isn’t. Not unless I change the way I think, write, and edit.
The editor also gave me a wonderful compliment, that I am a strong writer and they were excited about the fresh take of the story. I accept that compliment with humble thanks. I read that rejection letter finally, today actually, and I’ve been pondering on it for hours. Although I love my books, I can see now that they are far from perfect. I did the books, the people who bought the books, and my gift of writing a grave disservice. I need to take not only the words of that rejection letter to heart, but the meaning as well. I’m a strong writer that needs to learn more, pay attention more, seek advice and USE it.
I also need to seek professional help. No, not a therapist, although that’s debatable. I’m talking about freelance editors. I admit it, I’m cheap. I’m a struggling author working a day job that pays my bills, but not much more. I don’t really have the budget to pay an independent editor to edit my books. I was relying on friends. I love my friends who did this for me, but it wasn’t what the books needed. I need to set aside money in order to pay for professional editing services, which will help two-fold: polishing the books to shine, and teach me what I’m doing wrong. I need to understand that the money is an investment in me, in my books, and most importantly, to the readers who DO buy the books so that they get their money’s worth!