A year ago last month, I received a phone call from Kimberley Young of Harlequin’s London office to ask ‘a few questions’ about the revised version of my submitted novel. She finessed me into thinking there were subsequent revisions and then blew my mind by offering me a two-book deal instead. Surprise!
That means I’ve just passed my first anniversary with Harlequin Enterprises.
Given the rapidly approaching New Year, it seems like a doubly good time to reflect on the (First) Year That Was in my journey as a published author. This will mean most to other writers (just published or yet-to-be published) but I hope that readers will enjoy it, too.
The wise words of Tracey O’Hara (Night’s Cold Kiss) come back to me. She commented on the transition from being a big fish in a comfortably small pond to being a small fish in a giant, anonymous, competitive ocean. A bit like Finding Nemo, I found myself joining a tank with long-timers who weren’t too jaded to help out the new author with the wonky flipper—even if they occasionally burst into conspiracy theory and devised creative plots to escape. Beyond our tank, the ocean was a great, shady mystery filled with strange creatures and dangerous currents ready to sweep an unsuspecting newbie-fish miles off course. Advertising, promotion, blogging, networking, joining loop after loop, luring with the holy chalice of reader access if you just spend $500 on a business card sized ad on some website…
They distract, they confuse, they disorient. My job as an author was to just…keep…swimming…
And like the little blue Dory fish who suddenly found herself surrounded by silent, ominous, rising, sea-jellies…finding a place for me and my measly two-book-deal amongst a rising raft of established anonymous authors was daunting. It took me a while to realise I could stay out of trouble as long as I kept moving. Keep the momentum up. It helped me to see that the flashy jellies with the look-at-me tentacles (and the loudest voices) weren’t the ones I was interested in learning from. It was the big, silent, successful, experienced jellies that offered me the best education.
And then just when I had worked out how to bounce happily around on the harmless tops of the author-jellies, I was diagnosed with melanoma.
Me… Half-hobbit, half-vampire.
The irony of that did not escape me but I grew determined not to let it interfere with my golden new direction. I would be a successful new author. I would go to work in my pyjamas and to morning tea with girlfriends. There was no way on God’s green earth that I was going to let melanoma take me before I saw my book on a shelf and before I was forty. It was a brilliant motivator, it let me stay positive, it gave me a firm horizon to aim for. Two cuts and a lot of Petri-dishes later my positivity was rewarded with an all-clear and I was back amongst the author-Jellies, rising up and down with the tide.
The universe apologised for the skin cancer in the most tangible fashion! I graciously accepted its contrition. I was offered a spot in an Aussie continuity. Then a spot in a UK novella. I was offered a cover flash and two pages of extra materials to talk directly to readers about what I love—nature.
I read. I watched. I worked. I wrote. I sucked up knowledge like a little sea sponge all year. Some days the doubts won, but for the most part I did. I got my first Author Alterations. More learning. I got revisions on my second novel. Then my third.
And still I didn’t have a book on the shelf. Are you kidding me??
I turned forty. It didn’t hurt nearly as much as I’d feared. I was too busy writing to mope.
I asked work if I could go part-time—a commitment to my belief in myself and that golden dream for the future. They said no, the dirty stinking dream-busters. But they pay me so what could I do? J
I entered my first RITA – just because I could. I have no expectation of winning but I did it while I could still say ‘first book’. International politics mean it may be my last RITAs, too.
I entered the RuBY – just because I could. My days of being a comp whore are absolutely not behind me. Hey, it worked for me once!
I signed contracts for books 5 and 6 but still no debut on the shelf.
I asked the universe for one more favour—in return for me working so hard all year—and it delivered. I was offered a job that is, effectively, part-time. This moves me from the influence of some very unpleasant human-jellies and means I can take a bunch of months off in the middle of 2010. And around that I’m responsible for a project that other people would pay to work on.
And so…as I head into my second year as a published author I have six book contracts under my belt, a war-wound as long as a biro on my arm, quasi part-time status at work for 2010, a better understanding of the big pond that is ‘published’ and a book nearly…nearly... on the shelf.
And I remind myself daily of the importance of ‘just…keep….swimming…’
It’s been quite a ride. It’s been quite a year. May you all have one just like it as we head into 2010 (you know, except for the bad stuff ;) )
From me and my family, to you and yours a very Happy New Year to you all.
Nikki Logan’s debut novel ‘Lights, Camera…Kiss the Boss’ comes out (US/UK) in time for Valentines Day, 2010. ‘Their Newborn Gift’ releases in June 2010.