Jaci Burton

Jaci Burton

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Herstory

So, Diana Peterfreund did this on her blog , and I just loved the idea of showcasing the road to publication. Decided I’d do the same thing.

We often only talk about our successes, and sometimes it looks so easy. It isn’t. Well maybe for some people it is. But for many of us, the road to publication is fraught with wrong turns, stops and starts and big-ass bumps. *g*

So here’s my long road…

Early Summer 2001 – I had just moved in with Charlie and during the process of really getting to know each other, I had told him I used to dabble in writing romantic fiction. After much discussion of all the reasons I put it aside (kids, career, non-supportive now-ex-husband, etc), he suggested I start writing again. So I did. I took out a pad of paper and a pen and plotted out Magnolia Summer, a contemporary romance. I joined eharlequin and formed an online critique group. I finished the book in 4 months and decided to target Silhouette Desire. Sent off my query with my heart in my throat, and jumped for joy when they requested a full!

The very first book I ever finished had been requested by a major NY publisher! I was soaring! I immediately started another book, certain they were going to buy this book and would ask for another. I started a ranch story called Rescue Me.

6 months later I received a form rejection letter for Magnolia Summer. A-form-rejection-letter.
Nearly a year after pouring my heart and soul into this book, and they rejected it. With no explanation why. Just…this didn’t work for us.

I was crushed. I love Magnolia Summer. Charlie loved this book. He edited every word of it for me. I had my hopes pinned on publishing this book. How could they not love it like I did? (Clearly everyone in publishing is stupid and don’t recognize a bestseller when they see one. *snicker*)

Nevertheless, I scooped my heart up off my shoe and shoved it back in my chest, continued to work on Rescue Me and finished it.

Winter 2002 – Queried Rescue Me to Silhouette. A month later received a request for a full! Woo hooo, the journey of anxiety begins again! I sent it off, and waited. Waited. Waited. Started another book, Nothing Personal, this one a marriage of convenience story. After 6 months and no word, I contacted the editor, who called me back and wanted me to revise Rescue Me, shorten it for the Desire line. Wooo hooo! She liked the story! There was a chance they’d buy it! So I worked diligently, revising my heart out, and resent the book.

Fall, 2002 – Talked to the editor at Silhouette – Well no, Rescue Me isn’t really going to work for Desire. Sighhhhhhhh, once again, heart broken. But she wants to see more from me. Okay, so I send along Nothing Personal and a proposal for another book I’m currently working on.

In the meantime, I decided to query agents. Don’t ask me why since I was targeting category, but query I did. Got lots of rejections on my queries. LOTS of rejections. A few requests to see Rescue Me’s partial. A few requests to see the full. Very cool. Agents want to see my work. Things were happening.

Then more rejections on those partials and fulls from those agents. Sigh. I was really beginning to hate rejection letters, especially since I was amassing quite a nice pile of them. Okay, so decided at that point that I didn’t need an agent. *g*

Spring 2003 – No word from Silhouette. By now I have almost two years invested and nothing to show for it. I’ve entered contests, joined RWA, won a couple contests, my work is being recognized, but why am I not selling? I feel like I”m SO close, but I’m so discouraged. And the wait is interminable. I can’t stand this! Argh! Then I find out about this new publishing company called Ellora’s Cave. It’s epublishing, and it’s erotic romance. The hot stuff.

Okay, so I tend to write hot sex scenes and have had to tone them down for the Silhouette stuff. I buy some Ellora’s Cave books. Whoa. Those ARE hot. But fun. I sit down and write a very hot book called Paradise Awakening, and send it in to Ellora’s Cave. 8 days later they email me and say they’re buying my book.

I’m a published author! Woo hooo! I’m ecstatic! Of course it’s epublishing. So not everyone will see it as a huge success, but I’m still thrilled. I will have a book published. And I love writing for EC. In the meantime, I still want that NY contract. (Hey, it’s my dream, dammit!)

Summer 2005 – I’ve been writing for Ellora’s Cave for two years. Have nearly 25 ebooks out and about 12 of those in print. Now some of my peers and friends in epublishing are selling to NY print publishers. tap tap tap. I haven’t sold to NY print publishers yet, dammit. And despite the fact I LOVE writing for Ellora’s Cave, I still have that dream.

Well, it’s time to do something about it. But what? Ya know, sometimes things just happen at the right time for a reason. It just so happens this very cool agent named Deidre Knight has started a blog, and I just so happened to run into her on her blog and started posting. We started talking. I queried her about some of my work. She liked my work. She signed me. I wrote a proposal, then another, then another.

One of those proposals was Surviving Demon Island, which I frankly thought was total crap (I blogged about the whole ‘crap’ thing back in August 2005). Deidre made me send it to her anyway. It sold at auction to Bantam Dell about 4 days after Deidre got it.

Last week she sold me to Berkley.

The road to publication does have some big-ass bumps. Sometimes boulders. If you’d asked me in 2001 if I ever thought I’d get this far when I took out that pad of paper, I’d have laughed hysterically. No freakin way. But I did. I worked hard. Damn hard. I studied, I learned, I listened and I continued to read. I joined RWA and met some amazing writers, both published and unpublishied. I made so many mistakes and wrote some horrible books (though I did rewrite and sell Magnolia Summer to Ellora’s Cave and it ended up with a Top Pick from Romantic Times *g*).

But I never gave up, despite countless rejections from publishers and agents. Actually, my current agent rejected me several times a few years ago. I never even made it past the query stage with her. Of course, back then, I really WAS sending her crap *g*

Sometimes it pays not to give up. ;-)

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28 Responses to Herstory

  1. 1
    TJBrown says:

    The Never Give Up aspect of publishing is an important one. Even when the waiting is unbearable… or so I’ve been told:)
    So happy for you!
    teri

  2. 2

    Oh, I love your story! Maybe I should post mine. It had some major bumps as well.

  3. 3
    Jaci Burton says:

    Teri – I think it’s one of THE most important aspects.

    One of my favorite lines from Galaxy Quest is “NEVER GIVE UP – NEVER SURRENDER”

    It should be a writer’s motto *g*

  4. 4
    Jaci Burton says:

    Gena – Thank you! And you definitely should! I’d love to read it :-)

  5. 5
    Annmarie A says:

    I love that story! *sigh* Sometimes fighting for your dream makes achieving it even sweeter. Sorry you had bumps on your road to success but ever so glad you didn’t give up!

    Annmarie

  6. 6
    Sylvia says:

    I don’t know, still looks kind of easy to me. Two years from starting to write seriously to the first professional writing credit? Rejections on two novels? Doesn’t look like much trouble from here. Sure, not an overnight success, but no way a long and difficult road.
    I don’t mean to diminish your feeling of self-accomplishment, I just wonder about this recent weblog craze to post stories like “I started writing in 2000/ 2001/ 2002 / 2003, and woe is me, I didn’t sell my first book, only my second/third/fifth one, and I got my extremely fabulous agent not within two months, but in two or three or (gasp) four years after I started writing. Now I’ve got a great contract with a big publisher, but look what a hard road it was, because you know, I expected to sell at an auction within the first year of writing. So look how hard I’ve had it.”
    On the other side, there are whines of those who’ve been at it for years, writing literary crap, and again with the woe is me.

  7. 7
    Jaci Burton says:

    Annmarie – thanks. It was fun to go back and look down the road again. :-)

  8. 8
    Jaci Burton says:

    Sylvia – I didn’t post this as a woe is me or as a whine, or to indicate it was monumentally hard, or exceptionally easy. It was simply my journey. I think everyone’s journey and how they feel about the day to day struggle is an individual thing. No one can be in your shoes and know what happens on a day to day basis, or how one person deals with that journey.

    I know I’ve been extremely lucky and have landed some amazing book deals, and for that I’m exceedingly grateful. :-)

  9. 9

    She rejected me too, Jaci!

    It’s not a whine, Sylvia, it’s a description. This began on Jennifer Echol’s blog because a writing class asked her how she first began writing and what were the steps she took on her path to her first sale.

    Regarding expectations, I think that most people think they are goind to sell the first book they write with an eye towards publication when they sit down to write it. If they didn’t, they probably wouldn’t sit down to write it in the first place. It’s like trying to make a goal with a basketball. You never aim thinking, “well, this one won’t make it in the basket.” It’s only in hindsight that you can look back and say, “Here’s why I was throwing it wrong.”

  10. 10
    mandymroth says:

    I didn’t read it as woe is me. I read it as someone who narrowed the vast market down and pinpointed the areas that were her target, thus cutting rejections down dramatically.

    *peeks around, scared to say this* I’ve been writing now for two full years. I’ve only just taken the plunge to try to find an agent. I’m scared to death to even look at NYPs at the moment.

    The minute I finished my first book, I began researching who, if anyone, would be interesting in signing a cross genre, erotic, first person from an unpubbed, brand spankin’ new author. Let me just say the results were depressing but it was a starting point. I went with it and am currently extremely happy with where I am. Does that mean I only ever want to publish with epubs? No. I would love to publish with NYPs as well. But I can tell you that because of the positive experience I’ve had to date with my current publishers, I’ll never completely leave epubbing.

    I read the posts about rejection and know that in the end, it happens to us all. It’s oddly comforting especially when so much of ourselves is poured into what we do. It’s easy to view it as, they’re rejecting “me” not my work.

    Oh, and congrats on your success J!

  11. 11

    This is such an awesome thing to do on your blog. Maybe it’s something I can do tomorrow. In the meantime I have the cowboy of the week up and I got tagged.

    I tagged you, but no doubt you’ve already been tagged!

    Congrats on all your success!!!

  12. 12
    Anonymous says:

    I disagree with Sylvia here. Those aren’t whines. Neither they are the woe is me kind of tales. Just people’s stories.

    I think the surprise is caused by the following: her ‘I wonder about the recent blog craze…’ should be continued with “the blog buzz leads you to expect to read about some exceptionally difficult tales (mainly because fellow bloggers write things like “look here, Fellow S. Author described her extremely tough road to glorious publication”), and when you read those stories, they look like more or less normal, “average,” and often quite smooth stories.

    Not like a scary adventure full of amazing failures, the kind where one pumped gas for twenty years and lived in a trailer, typing thirty-five novels away at an old typewriter before she got a sale.

    But the kind of stories on the blogs are the kind of stories we have gotten used to – -we, I mean, writers. On the blogs, lists, forums. Sort of, normal stories. So to someone who’s been writing a few years, collected a few dozen rejections, this seems totally the usual way. Just the way life goes, only with a gift at the end of the story :) And when it is a friend of yours telling their story, you are prompted to call it difficult and bumpy, because you’ve been there for her and saw her being upset at rejections and struggling to writer, and you felt for her, but when it’s just another author who you personally don’t know, you just shrug. What’s so exceptional about it — everyone on that 50-writer email list has faced the same. Like the professional cops, we have our sensitivies grow dull in a while. A bullet to the shoulder is not an extraordinary and horrible event, but a bad day on the job.

  13. 13

    Jaci, Even tho I’ve known you for most of it, your story still awes me. Your success is sweet and well deserved!

    I agree with Anonymous–perhaps we are desensitized–I know personally how heart wrenching a rejection can be, but how is it we really do shrug when someone mentions they had 23 before selling? Twenty three heartbreaks like that, wow. But you have to stop and think about it before the “wow” part kicks in.

    Truth is, someone could copy Diana, or Gina or Jaci’s road exactly and not have gotten to their “destination” (a NY contract). Right voice, right story, right time, right editor/agent… part of it’s natural talent, part what a writer learns, and part luck. In the end, it comes down to perseverence.

    Besides, would the success be so sweet if it was really so easy?

  14. 14
    Anna Lucia says:

    Jaci, that’s an amazing story! I’m awed by your career!

    But I think the strongest thing that comes out of that story isn’t a ‘woe is me’ element, it’s reading between the lines and seeing how INCREDIBLY hard you’ve worked.

    It’s not luck, it’s talent, dedication and hard work. You’ve earned it, babe – enjoy!

  15. 15
    Jaci Burton says:

    Mandy – I’ve read your writing. I think you’d be surprised who’ll be interested in it. You have a very unique voice. Go for it, babe. And thank you (kisses)

  16. 16
    Jaci Burton says:

    Chey – yes, definitely do it! And got the tag! And thanks! :-)

  17. 17
    Jaci Burton says:

    Anonymous – I agree. To some people it seems difficult, to others not. To our friends who hold our hands through every day, every month and every year of the angst, they feel the pain with us and it is a big deal. To someone reading words on a page, it’s a ‘what’s the big deal?’ kind of thing. It’s all in your perspective.

    And there are others who struggle for years, and even if we don’t know them, just reading their stories tugs at our hearts because you can see how hard it was.

    All we can do is tell our own story and how it was. Hopefully mine didn’t come across as a ‘woe is me’, because that’s not how it was intended at all. I’ve been incredibly lucky in this business and I’m fully aware of it and very grateful.

  18. 18
    Jaci Burton says:

    Mel – thanks babe. And you’re right. So much of it is luck, no matter how hard we work at it. Just falling into the right hands at the right time. There are so many incredibly talented writers out there, way more talented than me, who haven’t had their break yet.

    And for the lucky few, sometimes it’s very easy. But for most, it’s not

  19. 19
    Jaci Burton says:

    Anna – thank you babe! I’m proud of how hard I worked to get here. I appreciate that.

    xx

  20. 20

    I think your story is very inspiring to authors. You plugged away, got rejections, and still had faith in yourself. I am a firm believer you have to believe in yourself and your writing to get anywhere. And you have done very well!!

    COngrats on your contracts. Maybe someday I will be there too. Right now, I am happy writing for EC. :) It is a good place to be.

  21. 21
    Tina Gerow says:

    Jaci: What a great blog idea. Readers are asking me all the time about my road to publication. I’m definitely going to have to blog on that this week :) Thanks for the idea!

  22. 22
    AngieW says:

    Muah. This is a test, this is only a test. Had this been the real deal, this kiss would have been a cherry cordial kiss.

  23. 23
    Jaci Burton says:

    Marianne – thank you! And EC is a GREAT place to be! I love it there, and know you’ll be happy there too!

  24. 24
    Jaci Burton says:

    Tina – thank you! And you definitely should blog your story. I’d love to read it. I’m really enjoying reading everyone else’s road to publication. :-)

  25. 25
    Jaci Burton says:

    Angie

    mwahahahahaha

    and a big cherry cordial kiss back atya *g*

  26. 26

    Thanks for sharing this, Jaci :)

  27. 27
    Anne says:

    Jaci,

    I found your story inspirational as it comes at a time when I, myself, just finished my first book and am going to be heading down this path. So, knowing that such a fabulous author (YOU) got rejected before getting some MAJOR contracts will maybe, possibly, soften the blow when I receive those REJECTION letters, which I KNOW I will receive. Hey, I’m not going to delude myself into thinking I’ll sell my first book right off the bat.. I’m not a total idiot. *G*

    Congrats on your success, Jaci. You’ve more than earned it.

  28. 28
    Jaci Burton says:

    Bonnie – thanks so much. :-)

    Anne – Every writer’s journey is unique. I hope your road is smooth and leads to quick publication. Best of luck to you! :D

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