Knowing the reality of what goes on behind the scenes is a rarity these days even with all the 24-7 access we have into others’ lives, thanks to social media.
That’s why I’m writing this post. I am going to pull back the curtain and show you the real life of an author.
When we hear about the successes people achieve, we are sometimes led to believe that it has been achieved overnight.
We don’t hear about the years of pushing up a hill, the intense lows, the long hours, the rejections and the failures that are inevitably faced.
Since the very beginning, from the moment I wrote my first word, I have wanted to be published in print. I have now been writing for ten years and today, I signed my first ‘print’ contract.
The book I am contracted to write will be my fifteenth. That figure is made up of twelve full-length novels with an average word count of ninety thousand and three novellas of around thirty thousand words each. That doesn’t include the multitude of short stories I’ve written, nor my Master’s thesis.
I can’t give details yet, but I can say the 'print' deal isn’t huge. In fact, it’s humbling. But on my path as a writer, it’s a huge milestone, and I can only hope it gets better from here. Yet, in my experience, I know that it probably won’t. That’s not a pessimistic statement, but a realistic one. I’m actually an incredibly optimistic person. I wouldn’t have persisted for ten years if I wasn’t.
But what I wanted to talk about today was the road to publication for my latest book, Bittersweet. Not because I believe it to be my best work to date (although it is), but because the journey to publication with this book was the hardest I’ve ever experienced. And I know I haven't always been transparent about that.
The first lesson I have learned is to be careful what titles I give my books because this book has been exactly what the title says – bittersweet.
An author’s road (sure there are some exceptions) is a long one. A rocky one. Filled with peaks and troughs. The mental state of an author has to be incredibly strong, our skin thick, unfortunately of which I am neither. This makes for one hell of a bumpy ride (just ask my husband who has to weather the storm!).
Bittersweet is the first novel in my Brothers of the Vine trilogy. I finished writing Bittersweet in August 2016 and sent it off immediately for a paid assessment with an incredibly experienced author. I got feedback, applied it, and sent my book to three agents.
Within days, I had two agents wanting to sign me. The third agent, I hadn’t heard back from (and ultimately withdrew my manuscript). I went with the first agent who contacted me. She was established and experienced in the industry. She was an agent to some big Australian authors who wrote in a similar genre.
Signing with that agent was a dream come true. I cried. My husband cried. I was given flowers. I had a celebratory lunch with a friend. I boasted about it on Facebook and to my family. I truly thought this was the start of achieving my goal of having one of my books on the shelves in bookstores.
The agent believed a particular big publishing house would want this story. They didn’t. They had already signed an author for a series with a similar theme. And an author on their books was also about to release a story with a similar theme.
For the next year, my agent put my book in front of five other publishing houses. All that time, I waited and waited in limbo, not knowing if I should start writing the second book in the trilogy or start something else.
As the rejections began to sporadically come back, I had the stark realisation that there were no guarantees in this industry. Agent or not, I may not be able to sell this story.
In the end, I decided to back myself and write the second book in the series, despite not knowing if I would even be able to publish it. (And any writer would know that that is a massive investment).
The feedback from publishers was amazing but were ALL ultimate rejections. My timing was off. Either the publisher had recently signed a debut author and wouldn’t take a risk on a second or they couldn’t see how they would be able to market Bittersweet effectively. In other words, I was too late. Too late with the genre I was writing in. Too late getting this book in front of publishers' noses.
After all that, my agent ended our contract.
I was gutted. Humiliated. Jealous. Angry. Upset. I wanted to cry. I did cry. I wanted to give up. I did give up. (I still feel anxious about admitting to this).
All the while, behind the scenes, I was struggling with my own demons: Mental illness. Physical illness. An interstate move. Financial tension. Two family members battling cancer. A gaslighting relative.
I knew this book was great, but I didn’t have the wherewithal or care factor anymore to try overseas for another agent. Because after rejections from the big publishers in Australia, overseas was my only option left.
Bittersweet sat dormant for many months. In the end, with nothing to lose, in August of 2017, I sent the manuscript to my digital publisher who has published most of my books. I was reluctant to do this as this publisher is an imprint of one of the print publishers who had rejected Bittersweet on the basis of not being able to market it.
My editor didn’t accept the story. She asked that I revise and resubmit it after giving me advice on how to fix some structural issues. I took her suggestions on board and set about making the changes. In the meantime, I sent her the second book in the series for her to consider for publication.
While this was happening, my grandmother suddenly passed away. I was gutted. Tired. But writing was my saviour, my distraction and coping mechanism, it always has been.
With the changes made, I sent my much improved story back to my editor.
But then my doubts set in again. Was I just going to waste Bittersweet with a publisher that had already stated that they couldn’t market it? I did the hardest thing I have ever done then, and I withdrew the books.
I showed my editor the feedback I received about marketing, but she assured me that her imprint had the audience I was looking for. Because of the trust and support I have received my entire career from this editor, I put my trust in her again and signed a three book contract.
Bittersweet, after all this, will be releasing as an ebook on 20 January 2018. The following two novels in the series will be released in June and December 2018 respectively.
Already, reviews are coming in for Bittersweet showing that readers are loving the story. Also, because I’m being completely transparent, there has also been a horrible review (thus the need for thick skin), which I’ll include below too.
An awesome read and a lovely story of love, healing, and new beginnings.
~ Reviewer 424837
I loved this book, it went through so many emotions and all the characters where so real. I enjoyed Amy and Tom’s growing relationship, and found it refreshing that it wasn’t ‘insta love’. They had met previously and experienced some harmless flirtation, so this was growing through friendship and support. There were a lot of things to work through for all the family and I felt the small hint of ‘magical realism’ was great. ~ Marlene P.
Pulls at your heart strings beautifully. Oh, the emotions that come along while reading Bittersweet. You're heart just gets pulled in so many directions. ~ Becky W.
I couldn’t put this book down from the first pages. Even when I had to get up to find some Kleenex, I didn’t want to stop reading. I can’t wait to read the stories of Tom’s older brothers. ~ Betsy N.
And the not so nice review:
If I am being honest, if I had not been given this copy I would have bailed after the first chapter.
~ Jennifer S.
Have I made it in this business? Nope. I’m still little known to Australian readers.
Will this trilogy guarantee success? Nope. Nothing in this industry is assured.
But my naive optimism, much like a gambler, has me hoping and hoping that this next book will be the one that finds many readers and is enjoyed by most.
So far, so good.
If you would like to look into my bittersweet world, Bittersweet is available for pre-order now. (You can grab your copy here).
Otherwise, it drops 20 January 2018 after the hardest, seemingly longest, journey to publication I’ve ever experienced.
I can't end this without expressing my gratitude to Kate Cuthbert from Escape Publishing who has backed me from the start and continues to do so.
A vineyard, a family in pain, and the healing magic of cupcakes...
Amy Jenkins, a talented and ambitious chef, is left humiliated and debt-ridden, after her city restaurant fails. When her best friend calls asking for help in her small town cupcake shop, Amy jumps at the chance to hide out in the small town of Alpine Ridge while her shattered ego mends.
The youngest Mathews brother, Tom feels over-looked and under-appreciated. His brothers remember every mistake, but never give him the responsibility or opportunity to take his place in the family business. So, he spends three weeks out of every month working at a mine in the back-end of nowhere. But then Amy moves to town to help run his pregnant sister-in-law’s bakery, and suddenly home seems to be where his heart is.
Amy’s move was only ever meant to be temporary, but when tragedy strikes the Mathews family, Amy finds herself unable to move on. As she and Tom get closer, Amy finds every excuse to stay: first, she claims it’s for the family, then she claims it’s for the shop. But maybe, it’s for her own heart...