Why I chose to be an electronically published author

There’s been a lot of “stuff” being said lately about e-books. The good, the bad, the ugly. Publishers, self-publishing, vanity publishing. They’re taking over the world. There won’t be paper-printed books in the next century. The whole thing makes me exhausted, and frankly I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what others are (pardon my language) bitching about.

As far as I’m concerned there will always be paper-printed books. Somewhere. Maybe it’ll go back to the dark ages when only the rich owned them, but eh, whatever…

Times change. Technology changes. I grew up listening to LP’s and 8-tracks. It took me a lot of years to succumb to buying an mp3 player—because I wouldn’t give up my tape deck—but now I don’t go anywhere without it. I refuse to own an iPhone or even a Blackberry, and though I’ve been electronically published for 6 years, just this last Christmas I caved and bought an e-book reader. I’m not into change, and I really do despise a lot of the technology I’m forced to use on a daily basis. I have a true love/hate relationship with my laptop, and every time I call somewhere for something and get that digital voice telling me to “press one for English” I want to scream.

But I digress.

Around 2001 I started writing on a full-time basis. Full time being between raising a baby and caring for a husband, being a housewife, etc… I had the goal to get published, and like most newbie authors, I thought if I finished a book, typed THE END and sent it to my favorite publisher, it would be in print in a year, and I’d be on the fast track to fame and fortune. Ta da!

HA! Yeah, right. Did I just hear a lot of you burst out laughing? Do you remember those days of ignorant bliss? *grin*

So, about five years later, I realized that was not going to happen. I had a growing, fattening folder of rejection letters. The worst thing was, all of them, every single dang one of them said things like: “Your characters are strong, but the story is just not for us.” “We’re not looking for medieval romance at this time.” “We don’t feel a double amputee is an appropriate hero for romance.” “Your wounded heroine is too wounded.” (Loved that one by the way. I think I invented some curse words when I read that particular rejection.) And always, “Good luck placing your book elsewhere.”

So there had to be someplace else to place it, right? Sure, after my first rejection I wanted to commit suicide, swore I’d never write another word, and started looking through the Help Wanted ads for a “real” job.

But by rejection twelve, I came to realize I was a darned good writer, I just didn’t fit into their mold. So who had a different mold? Who would give me and my awesomeness a chance?

I’d just joined an online chapter of RWA, and heard about e-publishers.

Huh. Sounds interesting…

So I started researching. This was six years ago. The number of romance e-publishers was rather staggering to wade through, but I found a couple that had good reviews from their authors. I followed protocol, or at least what should be protocol in my mind, and read some of their books in my genres, contacted the authors and asked them to please be candid and let me know what they thought of their publisher, and eventually made a decision and submitted to two of them.

When I got the first email that they would publish my book, I walked on air for a week! I hurried and sent in three other completed manuscripts—a trilogy—and they took those too!

The publisher had really professional editors, and I learned a lot. I looked at this as my “steppingstone” to bigger and better things. The next step was a bigger company, and that one wanted my book, too! They loved it!!! And then when I tried my hand with erotic romance, I got another publisher for that! Life was great!

For a while.

Sales sucked, and two of the three publishers turned out to be very unscrupulous. Not for lack of due diligence, I got screwed. It happens. I got away with my rights revereted back to me, but never saw a penny of what they owed me from royalties. I was luckier than a lot of authors.

I got a bad taste in my mouth and again thought of giving up. I’m not good enough for print, and I can’t make any sales through e-pub.

But remember, this was five years ago. A lifetime when talking about technology. Also, that year I got my first contract, I attended a huge national writer’s conference, and felt like slithering away on my belly because of the way other authors looked down upon me, and were very vocal in how they felt about authors who went the way of e-pub.

Things were tough for me, mostly emotionally, with what the heck to do. But then it happened… I submitted a very short erotic romance to a brand new e-publisher with the thought of, “It can’t get any worse.”

What a difference! An e-publisher that was run like a print publishing house. They help promote their authors. They support their authors. They hired trained, professional editors to put out the best of the best books in the e-publishing industry.

That one little novella made more money in its first month after release than I made on all my other books combined. That novella turned into a best-selling, award-winning series, and now I have over forty books, and a nice little monthly income from royalties with that e-publisher.

Now, fast forward five years.

I got an email last summer from an ex-critique partner of mine that I hadn’t heard from for probably about five years. She emailed me to apologize for what she thought about me when I went e-pub. She said she’d thought I’d sold out. My books were too good for e-pub, my writing was too professional. But look at the whole industry now. Every major print publisher (I believe every single one) puts their books out in e-book format. Kindle, Nook, Sony, etc… It’s a whole new industry. iPad, iPod, smart phone apps (ask my kid about that, I’m still clueless and wish to remain that way)…

 My ex-critique partner said I was just ahead of my time, which made me laugh.

You know what though? I found a place my books are accepted for what they are. Deeply emotional romances, sometimes full of sexy hot naughtiness, sometimes filled with tender, deep, emotional turmoil, with heroes and heroines that aren’t typical. Don’t fit a mold. Defy the “norm.” Oh, yeah, something like REAL PEOPLE!

They’re the people I love, and I bring them to life in my books.

I went e-pub because I write out of the mold. After a decade and some change, I know what I write and what I can’t write. I also know that the readers—the ones who count—love my books. I’ve won numerous awards, made best-seller lists. Maybe not NYT, but still…it’s a good feeling. *grin*

But the best feeling of all is reading reviews written by the readers, not the ones paid to write reviews. When they say one of my characters touched them on a deep level, made them laugh or cry, and when they ask when the next book will be out. I know that I might never be Nora Roberts—who is?—but I like where I’ve gotten in the e-book industry, and yes, I think it’s definitely still growing, and growing, and growing.

And I love my Nook, by the way! *wink*

Anna Leigh Keaton

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5 responses to “Why I chose to be an electronically published author

  1. Great post Anna!

    I won’t ever give up my paper books, but I do love my Nook! (and the ability to download books at 3am! :P)

  2. Raymond Bolton

    Only twelve ejections, Anna? Multiply that by ten for me. All with rave reviews, but rejections nevertheless. Holy Moly. I guess I’ve got thicker skin than I thought. I’m still pursuing the traditional route, but I am definitely giving e-pub a long and serious look.

  3. Jar O' Marbles

    I don’t have a Nook or E-reader, but I do have all the e-book programs on my laptop, and I actually prefer to buy my books in e-form for the most part. We live in a tiny townhome and there’s not much space for books, so e-books are the perfect solution.

  4. Great post! After requesting the rights back to many of my backlist books, along with many backlist books I already owned, I’m putting them up myself. I call it giving them a new life.

    It’s been great to see them out there again.

  5. Oh, I’ve had many more than 12 rejections now! *grin* that was just the number when I made the realization I didn’t write exactly what traditional romance publishers were looking for.

    I’d love to get published with a traditonal publisher, and I still send out a manuscript to them now and then when I believe I’ve got one they would like. That’s how I’ve racked up more rejections. I have had one book gone to print with my e-publisher, and the feeling of actually holding my book is awesome! But I have no complaints about my e-pubb’d books.

    And I do have a few books I’ve re-released on my own that I got the rights back to. Those who have discovered they enjoy my books and want my backlist seem to appreciate it.

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