Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Concrete Shoes

I never went into publishing thinking I'd be immediatly rich and famous. In fact, I knew exactly the sort of thing I was getting into, submitting to Black Lace, because Portia Da Costa talked about it all the time on Twitter and on her blog.

That's the great thing about the internet. It's made publishing open and all the information is out there for you to grasp, if you really want to. Even though I suspect most people don't, because the truth about publishing is that it's depressingly unglamorous, weird, ass-bitey, tiring and sometimes soul destroying.

However, there are some disavow-ations of publishing myths and misconceptions that I found out pretty sharpish, once I got into it:

1. It's actually much easier to get into than you think. No, really. Before I had my first thing published, I had been deathly certain that the only way I'd ever get published is if I somehow magically transformed into a ten foot tall blonde with boobs the size of Kansas, and then also magically ran into the boss of Hodder and Stoughton who for some unknown only-in-erotica land reason let me blow him in exchange for a book deal.

In fact, I think I felt it was even harder than this. That I'd have to climb Mt Doom with rocks on my back and feet made out of cement, to even get close to a publishing contract. And even then the contract would turn out to be a four inch square of toilet paper in the fabulous new "Books On The Toilet" concept that Random House just came up with.

But no. No. You work on writing for sixteen years, you practice and practice and you do your research, and apparently it's actually possible. I worked and worked, I honed my writing, I read loads of Black Lace books and knew what they were looking for and then I drafted a query letter based on internet advice, adhered to their sub guidelines, and sent it off.

And then I was published.

And yes, I know that this actually sounds like a lot of work. But if you really love writing, it actually isn't. Or at least, it's not half as soul destroying as climbing Mt Doom to blow the boss of Macmillan with cement on your feet.

2. The after bit is the hard part. Writing and subbing and even getting rejected is easy. Selling three copies of something and receiving terrible reviews from general readers is hard. It is the full stop on the end of the sentence "I have failed".

While you're sending things out there and getting rejections you can still be a success. Even if you do it for years, you can still, one day, be a success. But once your stuff is out there and no-one wants to read it or no-one cares or everyone cares but they hate it, that's it. You're toast.

Or at least, I thought so until some of my books started selling like gangbusters. And then I realised yet another publishing myth and misconception had fallen: you are NEVER toast. You pick yourself up, and you keep going. THAT is the only truth of publishing.

3. It's okay to be yourself. I'll be honest: I was terrified to be myself, at first. I toned down the rambling mancandy talk I'd gone into on my Myspace blog, for my actual writer's blog. I curbed what I said on places like Twitter. I didn't let myself go in forums - and all because I truly believed that in order to get ahead in publishing, you had to be as quiet and nice and normal as so many other romance writers seemed.

But it's not true. You don't have to be quiet and nice and normal. I've long since discovered that actually, people seem to respond more when I'm weird and crazy and completely myself. No-one seems to mind if I ramble about Mancandy. No-one cares if I rant about Masterchef on Twitter. I got three "likes" recently for mad as hell reviews I put up on Goodreads - the biggest response I've ever gotten to anything I've put on there.

So the lesson is: I don't know. Just keep going. Be yourself. And when the head of Random House demands you put on concrete shoes then do things to him, always remember: he has no more power than you have in your own hands, right now.


  1. Good lessons to remember. I wrote for a long time and my first erotic piece was published more or less by accident, in that I came across a call for submissions from Erotic Review and thought 'why not have a go, they can only reject it'.

    Not being ten feet tall, blonde and big-breasted doesn't seem to have stopped me either. I don't know whether a female pseudonym and getting a pneumatic female model to pretend to be me for publishing purposes would have got me more readers - I suspect people who read wouldn't be swayed by that kind of thing anyway!

    I would say though, I've found erotica an easier market than SF and horror - maybe it's my metier, or just that having had some success I spend more time writing it at the moment...

  2. Hi Charlotte;

    I was getting the part about being toast when your stuff doesn;t move, but you give me hope because finally your stuff did take off. It can happen.

    I know you;re a published writer these days and highly regarded because I'm reading your story "Slut" in the new "Mammoth Anthology of Best New Erotica 10", where you and I are sharing the covers together. That's 40 stories out of about 2000 entries. Maxim don;t publish no junk.


  3. Jeremy- It's because of people like you that I feel comfortable being so.

    Fulani- I think generally, erotica and erotic romance are far more open to new writers. Which is orsum.

    Garce- I wouldn't say it's taken off, but I do feel as though I'm getting somewhere. It just takes a lot of hard work and more importantly: respect for the genre and what readers want. Bestsellers are bestsellers for a reason: because they did something better than any other person. Maybe the sex in a bestselling erotic romance is more raw, more passionate, more unconstrained by ideas of what's "good". Maybe the idea was just so amazing, readers can't resist it. Either way, it takes some monumental skill to connect with readers, and I greatly admire the champions of the genre: Selena Kitt, Evangeline Anderson, Lora Leigh, Megan Hart for doing it.

    And re: Maxim, I know. But I'm never going to take the fact that he invited me to submit to the collection for granted. It doesn't make me a great writer, or better than anyone else. It just means I work hard, I produce the best stories I can, and I reflect the passion inside me the best way I know how to.


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