Monday, June 18, 2012

Tossed From a Turret Onto a Field of Rusty Pikes

A literary agent in California and I have been waltzing since winter. She cut me loose last week with the explanation that, while she liked my story concept and felt I was a talented writer, she was still teetering on the fence. The market with the big publishers is extremely tight, she said; a book has to have a stand-out hook, some fresh, unusual new twist to grab their attention.  Not as easily done in the historical category as it is in some other genres. (I flashed back to my blog about werewolf PMS. A missed opportunity, I wonder?) Throughout the process, she made numerous excellent suggestions about building romantic tension and suspense, and I gladly revised my MS accordingly.

I spent several anxiety-filled weeks after each resubmission waiting like a battle-weary gladiator on his knees in the Colosseum. Would I get a thumbs up, or a thumbs down? Stay cool, girl. Don't email her every five seconds like a child on the way to the beach. "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"  After each round, she was always optimistic and supportive, but only offered more comments and never made a firm commitment to represent me.

And so it went until I received an email containing that most dreaded of phrases. After careful consideration, she wrote, "I regret that I am going to have to pass on this one."

Oh, blackest day!  Oh, bitter fate!  I was dashed on the rocks of despair, tossed from a turret onto a field of rusty pikes. I stumbled about in the wilderness of self-doubt and self-loathing in a daze, eviscerated, devastated, disappointed beyond measure. I hadn't realized until that moment how emotionally invested I was in the fantasy of walking into Barnes & Noble and finding The Promise in the romance section, complete with glamor-shot-that-makes-me-look-like-a-Manhattan-realtor inside the back cover. My mother would have been so proud! My children could brag that I was a published author! The countless hours I had spent in front of my computer over the past year and a half would finally pay off!

I succumbed to a fit of vapors and called my husband so he could console me in my darkest hour. Instead, he slapped some sense into me over the phone. An eternal optimist, he never allows me to wallow for long.  

"That's great!" he said with so much enthusiasm that I almost hopped into my car and drove into town just so I could punch him. I was upset (damnit!) and not at all in the mood for his chronic positivity.

"I've been reading a lot about indie publishing and frankly I find it really exciting to think about putting this one out ourselves. I'm almost glad they didn't take you on." This I recognized as a blatant falsehood, but he was keeping a stiff upper lip for my sake, so I let it pass.


"Really!  Think about it; the entire publishing industry is changing and you're fortunate to be launching your novel writing career at a very exciting time.  Never have authors had so much control over their own work.  I've been wanting to try self publishing for ages.  There are a lot of really good reasons to do it yourself."

"But you don't understand," I whined, hesitant to end my pity party before it was absolutely necessary.  "I am bummed.  Bummed, I tell you!  I've been sobbing all morning."  A shameless exaggeration.

"Did you enjoy it?" he asked unsympathetically.

"Well... yes," I thought about it for a moment.  "Yes, I did."

"Good.  Now it's time to move on."

And so I changed out of my tear-drenched pajamas and got dressed. To illustrate how serious I was, I even put on a bra and earrings. Then I began to explore my options in earnest.

This weekend I formatted and uploaded my book to Smashwords. If it hadn't been for a small glitch that took me hours to trouble shoot (a frustrating snafu related to a hidden font, grrrrrrrrr...) then it wouldn't have taken long at all. I had my cover design done already, but they have tools available to do it yourself. If you want to take a peek at mine, go to smashwords and click on the cover thumbnail to see a larger version. After it has been reviewed, the book will go up on Barnes & Noble, Apple's book store, and many other on-line retailers, libraries, etc... And all this cost me nothing but my time and debatable talent. Astonishing!

Next I went to CreateSpace and set up the print version of my book for Amazon. Then I went through the process to list the kindle version on Amazon. If all goes well, both print-on-demand and kindle versions should be up in the next week or so. I can't say this was entirely painless, but it was far easier than I expected.

Have I abandoned all hope of finding the perfect agent for me and going the traditional route? No, but I'm glad I went through the process of publishing my own work this time. If you're thinking about writing a romance, a how-to about beekeeping, or a political rant, whatever... my advice would be to go for it. It's never been easier to get your work out there.

I have to end with a plug for Kevan Lyon and Jill Marsal at the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.  Even though I'm disappointed they didn't take on The Promise, they were endlessly encouraging and helpful.  They actually respond to emails (shocking!) and were ruthlessly upbeat and generous with their advice and gentle criticism. Their love of books and fondness for writers came through with every interaction.  They can be found at marsallyonliteraryagency.

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The Promise is available at Amazon at the following links:

One last thing... I came across this wonderful, subversive, snarky, entertaining article by indie author Jessica Park entitled How Amazon Saved My Life. She wrote Relatively Famous, and her most recent work, indie published on, is entitled Flat-Out Love.  Go to: She talks about Barry Eisler who famously turned down a six-figure deal with St. Martin's Press to go indie.  


  1. I'm so thrilled that you didn't let rejection stop you. Give that husband a big kiss for being an optimistic hero.

    Your cover is gorgeous. It alone should sell tons of copies! (It has sold at least one...)

    Best of luck!

  2. Thanks, Diane! I'm really excited about it!

    There is a fantastic, highly subversive article about self-publishing on Here's a link:

    About the cover... I agonized over it. I must have done a half dozen very different versions before settling on this. I was in a quandary... do I go down to the local gym and get some guy with great abs to pose in a cravat and jodhpurs? Do I buy a stock image of intertwined lovers? Paint something myself? What to do... what to do... Oh well, if it doesn't sell, I can always upload a new one. (Another great thing about doing it yourself.)

  3. Congrats on doing it yourself! I have two books up on Smashwords. One is a collection of semi-autobiographical short stories, the other is collection of erotic fiction written under a pen name. I've gotten some good feedback on both (I put excerpts from the stories up on and got rave comments! I suggest putting an excerpt up on that website--it gets quite a bit of traffic. They don't pay, but it's free advertising for your work. I think it's helped me sell a few copies. Good luck to you!

  4. Thanks, Gloria!
    I'll definitely do that.