Guest blogger: Joanie MacNeil
At the recent Australian Romance Readers Convention, I listened to guest authors speak about their journey to publication. I began to reflect on my own writing journey. Though the outcomes weren’t what I’d initially hoped for, I learned a lot during my travels along that often uneven and rocky path.
Other than one major publisher, few options were available for authors to submit their category length contemporary romance manuscripts—not until the ground-breaking US electronic publishers dared to appear on the scene. How exciting it was to be in on the ground floor of a new publishing opportunity. While these early epublishers strived for, and were often denied, recognition within the industry, they were the groundbreakers for today’s digital-first publishers and self-publishing providers. The more reputable epublishers worked extremely hard to produce and maintain a high standard, providing the same services for authors as the traditional publishers.
In those very early days of epublishing anyone could upload their novels to the internet for reading on the computer, and these often poorly written, unedited works did nothing to enhance the status and credibility of the fledgling epublishing industry. Thank goodness those days are behind us.
I was first published in 1999. I received an email on a Monday morning from a US epublisher—they liked my story and wanted to publish it. OMG! They must have emailed me by mistake. No one else wanted my book. But no, the offer was meant for me. An editor actually liked my work, thought it good enough to be published. Wow! At last! My writing was on the right track after all. What a great way to begin the working week! It makes me shudder now to recall that my first book was available on a floppy disk, a subsequent book with another company on CD. Downloads were available for reading on the computer. The process continued to become streamlined and more secure, producing different formats for the range of early ereaders. Epublishing was certainly a learn-as-you-go process, for both authors and publishers.
My novels continued to be published both electronically and in print by a selection of epublishers. I was lucky in that most were genuine, very professional and produced quality books. Unfortunately, with minimum staff (usually themselves and one or two others) plus the continued pressure of high volumes of work, and subsequent ill health, some regrettably closed, with rights returned to authors. While recently searching my files for a release letter to enable me to submit the last of my previously published books elsewhere, I realised just how many of my epublishers have come and gone. I am pleased to say that four of my very early ebooks remain with the original publisher, and others have been with the same publisher for quite some time now. Two of my books were re-released last year with Canadian publisher, BooksWeLove Ltd.
My stories came from the heart, with strong, romantic, sensitive heroes who would do the right thing by the heroine. My heroes had qualities that were important to me, as did my heroines.
During those early days of my writing journey, I wrote short stories for anthologies, available electronically and in print; became a volunteer review coordinator for a US review site; a website coordinator for an online group of international epublished authors; and other assorted writing-related activities. I encouraged new writers to pursue their dreams to become published authors. And I found time to write, actively participate in a busy online US critique group, work full time and raise three children. I became an expert juggler.
Those years were an enjoyable, though sometimes frustrating, journey in the very slowly changing world of publishing. There were times when doubts about my writing surfaced, and I wondered whether it was worth the effort. Publishing options had stabilised. In the US, ebook readers came and went, some better than others. While one or two models eventually became available in Australia, the cost was way more than Americans paid. To have my print books shipped to Australia to sell at conferences was an expensive exercise; and impossible to get them into bookshops here—sadly nothing has changed there. I wanted something more for my books. For me, having them available on bookshelves here in Australia would have meant so much.
For various reasons, most not writing related, my writer’s journey slowed dramatically. Though I wrote intermittently, I didn’t really make any progress. Was it time to walk away? Put my writing career behind me? Where was the passion for writing that I’d enjoyed and maintained so strongly in the early years? I was fed up with saying that I’d get back into writing, convinced I sounded like a broken record, but something inside me demanded several times that I hang in there, that my career wasn’t over yet. One of my writer friends commented that she could see the frustrated author in me. I hung on to that thought—it seemed to be a fitting term for how I was feeling about writing and publishing options. Giving it a name meant I could understand it, and that provided a small push towards picking up the pieces to continue the writing journey.
I have come to appreciate that no author’s journey is the same, that it is okay to travel a different path, and that one experience is no less valuable than that of another. I now think of my earlier books as the stepping stones in my writer’s journey.
As authors, multi-published or otherwise, we are always learning new things about our craft, changing markets, expectations of readers, and getting our heads around the new genres; marketing has become more important, along with author branding and social media. There is no end to the added tasks of being an author.
With so many more publishing options available now, authors can pick and choose, or go the self-publishing route. What a long and bumpy road it has been since those early innovative epublishers first challenged the industry. I am proud to have been a part of it. And now, once again, it is an exciting time to be part of the industry changes.
My writer’s journey has been unique. I have achieved worthwhile milestones, which no one can take away from me. My enthusiasm and passion for creating stories is still there. I look forward to writing and sharing my new stories.
Following the death of her husband, Nicolette Oliver concentrates on re-establishing her career as a dancer, though still dealing with emotional issues relating to her life with Mark. When his friend appears on her doorstep, Nicolette honors her late husband’s invitation and invites Jake to stay.
Jake Harrigan has always been attracted to Nic and sees her as untouchable, even though she is now on her own. They are opposites, their lives and expectations literally worlds apart. Drawn into a romantic interlude, the parting is difficult when Jake returns to Europe to resume his career as TV news journalist and Nic moves to Sydney to begin rehearsals for the show that will resurrect her career.
Jake returns to Australia to see Nic again and also to finalize details with his network to sail around the world making documentaries. Will Jake follow his heart and ask Nic to give up all that she’s worked for and sail away with him?