Nobody chooses to be a writer. It’s important to remember that. Those who are born to tell a story must tell stories. They are as intrinsic to us as breathing and just as vital.
I was born a writer. I tried quitting once, but it wouldn’t quit me. The stories kept coming, and they were too delicious not to tell.
The difference between the writer I am now and the writer I was before my temporary hiatus is that I’ve now come to accept the writer of today and the world she must exist it. I grew up admiring authors like Nora Roberts, Julia Quinn, and Diana Gabaldon. As an author in today’s publishing sphere, I realize how lucky they were.
Like many authors, I tried to get my start through Harlequin as at the time I wrote strictly romance. I sent my historical romance to Mills & Boon. This was back in the day when I had to mail the thing to London. (Yes, mail. Like with an envelope and a stamp. Internationally! And I was a poor graduate student at the time.) My manuscript was unsolicited. I was prepared for rejection but more I was prepared never to hear from them. I had submitted the partial with my letter outlining my background and that was that. I went back to writing.
The request for the full manuscript came six months later.
Well, that knocked me right on my keister.
I sent the complete manuscript and waited. The rejection letter came just as quickly as the request for the full, but it was a nice rejection letter. It was a letter that asked me to resubmit and stay in touch. So I did.
The next manuscript was sent via email, thank goodness. My little graduate student budget couldn’t support anything else. If the request for the partial knocked me over, the reply to this email knocked me into space. It was a woman named Anna, an editor for Harlequin’s contemporary line. She loved my voice and wanted to know if I’d try my hand at a contemporary.
Did she think I was going to say no?
My dreams of publication were so close! I never wrote a book so quickly in my life. 65,000 words per their requirements for the contemporary lines and away it went three months after the initial email from Anna.
Anna’s reply was almost immediate. Something along these lines.
I’ve been moved to another division, and I can’t buy your manuscript.
The year was 2012. I was married for only a few months; we were looking to buy a house so we could get a dog. I had thought everything was coming together, but then…
I stopped. I reflected. She hadn’t even read the manuscript. The reason my manuscript had not been published, the reason my every dream didn’t happen was because of a business decision made by some corporate figurehead.
Why did one person have all of the power to make or break my publishing dreams?
By that point in my writing career, I had been writing for a very long time. (I completed my first novel sitting in Civil Procedure in my 1L year instead of paying attention. Clearly the story I was writing was much better than opening arguments. I would note here that I did not finish law school. So you can see how that turned out…) The point is I had a lot of manuscripts built up at this point, and I had already been told by a “gatekeeper” that I wrote publishable material. (I’m going to object here. What is “publishable” is highly subjective. Different stories grab different people in different ways.)
So if my stories were good, why couldn’t I get them to readers myself?
Enter the self publishing boom of the early 2010s. I had heard seductive whispers of authors making it big in the self publishing world, and after the disappointment from Harlequin, I wanted to see what it was all about. It wasn’t about the money for me. (I won’t start us off on the wrong foot here by saying I didn’t think about the money. The money in those early days bought a lot of nice things for my family.) What I really wanted then and now is for readers to get excited about my stories. So I had to get the stories to them in order for that to happen.
But how did you self publish?
Enter the amazing Sarra Cannon. I took her self publishing course in 2012 and was published July 2013. (Luckily the amazing Sarra Cannon has now packaged her course into an awesome bundle here.) What’s happened since then, I’m still trying to figure out.
My books took off. Readers loved them. My popularity grew. And in 2014, I was nominated for the prestigious Golden Leaf Award by the NJ RWA. I was really nervous about this, but I kept telling myself it’s only the Golden Leaf. It’s like the Golden Globes of romance novel awards. The RITAs are really the Oscars. When I got to the conference where the awards were to be handed out, they had a little meet up for us finalists. The proctor asked if anyone was nervous, and we all said yes. She leaned against a chair and said, “Of course. Honey, this is the freaking Academy Awards of romance novels.” So much for trying to stay calm.
On March 6, 2019, I left my day job. It wasn’t really a choice. It finally got to the point where I couldn’t do it all, and I had much bigger fish to fry. Do I make enough to have left behind that steady paycheck? Hell. No. I have a husband with a regular paycheck and health insurance. I want to be straight forward about that as well.
What do I have?
Consistent, steady growth since 2013 with consistent income across multiple revenue streams. I’m poised for mega-growth in 2019 if only I have the time to commit to it, put in the work, and make it happen. Hence, the necessity to leave the day job. If I’m ever to grow, I need to be able to put the time into it, and it will never be a good time to leave a steady job. So why not now?
The Clever Author is a way for me to chronicle my self publishing journey at this pivotal time in my career and help me to engage in the conversation around self publishing, writing, and book marketing without clouding up my author brand of Jessie Clever. The purpose of The Clever Author is to provide insight into self publishing using my own experience so that it may help others along their own path.
I am not lawyer (see above about not finishing law school), and I am definitely not a financial advisor. (My student loan statements can speak to that.) What I am is an author, publisher, and entrepreneur, and I can’t wait to share my story.
I’ hope you’ll join me. Connect with me on Twitter and follow along here at The Clever Author.