What NOT to do on the path to publication

- by J.C. Wilder

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to write. As a child, I was a voracious reader. At the age of nine, my father bought me a typewriter and my career as a writer was born. Of course, in the beginning I did such things as create a twin sister for Nancy Drew (myself of course), and another sidekick for Trixie Belden (you guessed it, me).

By the time I was thirteen, I’d finished my first novel. Set in a high school, it was filled with all the drama and passion my own small-town school contained. Needless to say, that particular gem still lies undisturbed in the back of my closet along with another hundred-or-so fits and starts. 

In 1995 I received my Big Break (or what I hoped would be my big break). I was approached by a start-up, online magazine to write something dark and erotic in a short-story form. I’d never tried to write erotica before — heck, I’d barely even read it. Undeterred, I sat down for a brainstorming session and I thought to myself, “What if a darkly, handsome man were to steal into my heroine’s bedroom in the dark of night…” 

In less than a month I’d penned the original version of ONE WITH THE HUNGER. I was so excited, as this novella literally flew from my fingertips and it was different from anything I’d ever tried before. I was in seventh heaven. I edited, formatted and polished to my heart’s content. Here I was, poised on the edge of greatness, about to submit my first work to be published and… 

The magazine folded.

Lesson number one: Don’t count your sales until…well, until its sold!

Back in 1995, the erotica market was dry and the vampire / paranormal market was deader than my vampire hero. Reluctantly, I posted my novella on my web site for one and all to read for free. In my opinion, that was the end of that story.

During the ensuing years, someone began passing my novella around to the vampire / paranormal list serves. Every now and then I would receive an email asking a question but I didn’t think twice about it. I was just pleased that someone was actually reading my work.

Then in 1998, an editor approached me and asked to publish my vampire novella. She was partner in an epublishing company called Dreams Unlimited. They were getting ready to open their doors and they needed some vampire material. I’d never heard of epublishing, but since she was offering me money for something I was giving away for free, I leapt at the chance.

Lesson number two: Never write off a project until you’ve exhausted all means of publication.

Excited, within a day I’d replied to her email and sent her the completed manuscript. Little did I know, I sent her the wrong one. I’d been working on expanding the piece into a full-length book and I’d sent her the version with my edit notations in the margins.

Lesson number three: Make sure you send off a properly edited book to an editor.

Luckily, I caught my mistake before she could read it, and I was able to rectify the situation. Within a few weeks I’d received my edits and a contract. YEAH – I was a real published author now and the hard work was over. I could sit back and wait for the money to roll in.

Lesson number four: After signing the contract, the hard work begins.

What did she mean, I had to promote myself? Didn’t publishing companies throw millions behind each book? I called some published friends of mine and after their spouses picked them up off the floor from laughing too much, the answer was a resounding, NO.

The concept of promotion was completely foreign to me. Yes, I’d read magazines such as Romantic Times and I’d seen the advertisements, but now I had to actually “deal” with the publicity end of it. I was in for a shock. Luckily, some of my published friends were willing to hold my hand and help me navigate the confusing world of publicity filled with bookmarks, conferences and readers, oh my!

I learned a lot about writing and publishing in the first two years after my first books hit the shelves. I stubbed my toes and received a few bruises, too, but it was an invaluable experience and I wouldn’t change a thing. I guess the best lesson I learned from all of my mistakes was that I really love to write. I love the process of putting virtual pen to paper, of creating living, breathing people with hopes and dreams like myself. I’ve always wanted to be a storyteller and I’m grateful to be afforded this truly wondrous gift.

If I had one suggestion to give a beginning novelist, it would be this – follow your bliss. Be it writing non-fiction, romance, mysteries, or children’s books. Find out what ignites that flame of creativity and follow that light. You’ll never be sorry. So don’t just sit there – go for it!

J.C. Wilder is a National Best Selling author of Paranormal and Erotic romances. Her next release, Tempt Not The Cat will be available October 31, 2009 from Samhain Publishing. You can learn more about her work at http://www.jcwilder.com

2 comments

  1. I am SO impressed with your foresight (about the markets to come), and your perserverance!

    I am also relieved to hear that I am not the only pre-teen budding author who still has her “unborn babies” in the closet.

    A published author quipped (when I introduced myself at a recent meeting, and mentioned that I had been writing for years, but this current attempt was the one I would submit) that the organization was for “Serious writers, not hobbyists”. I wondered if ALL published authors started off with the One-that-sold!

    Thank You for giving me a boost of confidence!

  2. Deb – there are quite a few of us who were pre-teen authors with hidden blackmail material under our beds. :)

    As for authors starting off with the one that sold? Please – that author thinks wayyy to much of themselves. Only you can define what is ‘serious’ in your writing career. For a Mom of 3 that might be 20 minutes a day, to someone else it could 4 hours each Sat and Sunday or five hours six days a week.

    When I was still working full time I did the majority of my writing on the weekends – was I any less serious than someone else? (The funny thing is I still do the majority of my writing on Sat & Sun)

    Of the published authors I know – let’s say 50, in most cases it was between 5-10 novels rejected before they sold. There is no magic number and no magic key to publication…darn it! :)