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GIRL TALK with Jamie Sobrato
Paths to Publication - October 2006

     
Jamie Sobrato   Cindy Procter-King  
Jamie Cindy

Cindy: Hey, Jamie, a few months have passed since I made my first advance-paying sale to an RWA-recognized publisher—

Jamie: Yay!

Cindy: Why, thank you. And, while I'm still sitting in awe of myself and my amazing accomplishments <insert huge sense of the ironic>, it's taken me freaking forever to achieve this milestone!

Jamie: Define "forever."

Cindy: Egad, you have to get technical, don't you?

Jamie: Of course I do!

Cindy: But...but...do I really want this information publicly known? :::cringing::: Okay, I guess someone has to admit how long it can take some of us to earn money up-front for writing. Well, "up front" in that I wrote the novella first, submitted it and then got paid the advance. Apparently there are people out there who only need to submit something called a "proposal" to get their advances (not pointing any fingers), but so far I'm not one of them.

Hmmm, let me think.... I started playing with writing romance novels when my oldest kid was in utero—19 years ago. I hope that inspires someone, because to me it seems a trifle pathetic (but we won't dwell on that).

Jamie: It's anything but pathetic! Incredibly inspiring is more like it. And the good thing about road-to-publication stories is that there's always someone with a longer, twistier road than you (yes, even you, Cindy!).

Cindy: A twistier road than moi? How dare they! Anyway, I had a humongous learning curve, because I'd never (gasp!) read a romance novel before attempting to write one (I know, isn't that awful?). I became serious about writing and submitting when my youngest entered grade one. He just started grade eleven, so you do the math. I published my first novel in 2002. However, to my way of thinking, I didn't technically "sell it," because there was no advance.

Jamie: What would you say you did with it then?

Cindy: Yes, I know I'm picky about such terms. Go ahead and point that out, why don't you? Well, to me, I "contracted" the novel to an epublisher who also put it out in trade paperback. But, that, um, epublisher, turned out to be a crook...

Jamie: Ah, yes, the perils of the publishing world are many!

Cindy: Isn't that the truth! As an aside, I'll say that the perils aren't restricted to epublishers. It's just that in my case, they were. You see, before contracting with the epublisher who first published my first novel, I'd actually contracted it to another epublisher, Nasty #1. That company turned out to have so many problems that I pulled my book before it reached the editing or cover art stage. While Nasty #1 was imploding on itself, several senior staff left to form new epublishers. I knew of at least three. My instincts must have been running on "sucker!", though, because, of those three, I chose Nasty #2 to submit to. They came highly recommended, and I had no reason to believe the boss lady of #2 wasn't playing with a full deck. Meanwhile, the other two new publishers turned out to be above-board and are still operating today. Is there a lesson in there somewhere, Jamie? Or am I a total submission loser?

Jamie: I think the lesson is, sometimes luck—both good and bad—plays a large part in our publishing experiences.

Cindy: So true. I mean, what aspiring author hasn't been blindsided by, for example, an editor super excited about her manuscript leaving the publishing house just when the writer has submitted and then the editor who reads the manuscript instead thinks it sucks? No one ever said this business was easy. But back to me! When my contract expired with Nasty #2, I pulled the book and submitted it for re-issue to Amber Quill Press, one of the three formed out of the ashes of Nasty #1. I'm very happy with them, I'm relieved to say.

Jamie: Excellent.

Cindy: I might not make much more than it takes to buy a couple of cases of Kraft Dinner from my royalties, but the publishing house is honest and they pay on time. For an epublished author, that's major.

Jamie: Important reminder for our aspiring author readers that there are countless unscrupulous publishers out there, and one should take note when they hear of the honest (and dishonest) ones.

Cindy: Yep. It's because of my two bad experiences that I have no issue with RWA's recognized publisher guidelines. However, I must say, I don't regret my experience with Nasty #2. My editor did an excellent job, I loved the cover, and the quality of the trade paperbacks was excellent. I just didn't like not getting paid!

Jamie: A paycheck is indeed a wonderful thing.

Cindy: Which is why I was so ecstatic when I sold an erotic novella to Red Sage! Finally, money up front! Weird. And cool. Hopefully, I've turned the corner and will see more advances in the future.

Jamie: Congratulations on your first sizeable advance. That's a huge milestone for any writer, and I am quite sure you've got many more of them in your future. Big, big ones (big ADVANCES, Cindy. Get your mind out of the gutter!)

Cindy: My mind wasn't in the gutter, Jamie. Although I'm guessing yours was! So, let's turn the tables. Much as it pains me not to continue talking about myself, let's hear about you. Our paths to publication have been totally different. Mine was what is usually called "non-traditional" (which I guess fits with my personality)...

Jamie: Um, yeah. Non-traditional, absolutely. :)

Cindy: Hmph. Well, "we" (I'm using the royal we here) like to think of ourselves as "different." Oops, I'm supposed to be talking about you, right? This is tough! All right, my path was non-traditional, whereas yours was much more...you know, how aspiring authors hope to do it. So, how did you go from being my newfound critique partner to a Golden Heart-winning, multi-published, erotic-romance-writing sensation, anyway? I'd like to take all the credit as your magical lucky rabbit's foot, but somehow I don't think that's it....

Jamie: Ahem, "Sensation" is a huge overstatement. I have to point out first that I am very much still attempting to keep my foot wedged in the publishing door, and I totally count myself as a beginner in this writing career thing.

Cindy: I hear you. I don't consider you a beginner, but then I'm not you. It's always easy to see the green grass on the other side of the fence, isn't it? But, as we both know, most writers are continually learning and advancing, and therefore as a group we probably all consider ourselves "beginners" of some sort. There's always another contract to pursue, after all.

Jamie: And I have to give you your due rabbit's foot credit, since all of my good fortune occurred after your appeared in my life.

Cindy: I seem to have that effect on all my critique partners (though not on myself--very strange). I'm certain your talent has more to do with your successes at a relatively :::cough::: younger age than moi. So take a bow (I'm waiting now to see how Jamie cyber-bows).

Jamie: Ahem. I don't bow for anyone in cyberspace. You never know who might be out there watching.

Cindy: And eager to take advantage of your bowed position, I'm sure (all right, I admit, now my mind is in the gutter).

Jamie: So now that we have all that straight—

Cindy: See how determined she is to remain un-bowed?

Jamie: —here's the Reader's Digest version of my path to publication. I wrote for 5 years before selling my first book. After year four came and went, I finaled in the Golden Heart contest, and (thanks to Cindy's great advice) found my first agent.

Cindy: I gave great advice? Please enlighten my aged brain. What was it again?

Jamie: You were the one who told me to try looking for an agent! You even pointed me in the direction of the agents I should query, and you were right--one of them wanted to represent me.

Cindy: Oh, right! Yes, yes, that was all me!

Jamie: Then the Golden Heart got me the attention of an editor at Harlequin, and several major revisions later, I had my first two sales.

Cindy: I want to hear more about those revisions. How long after finaling in the Golden Heart did you sell? Were the revisions difficult to implement or did the thrill of the sale spur you on? Some readers might be under the mistaken impression that once a writer sells, she's on Easy Street. Is that how it was for you?

Jamie: Questions, questions...

Cindy: I know, I'm aggravating, but indulge me.

Jamie: I sold my first book about a year after being a Golden Heart finalist for the first time. In that year, my soon-to-be editor had two manuscripts of mine (the second of which also was a Golden Heart finalist and later a winner, I feel compelled to point out).

Cindy: Well, if you hadn't, I would have. Rah, rah, Jamie!

Jamie: And she sent me lengthy revision letters on both of them. There was no promise of a sale, just the promise that she'd read them again if I completed the revisions.

Cindy: All that hard work with no guarantee of a sale. Such is the writing biz. And why it's so important not to give up.

Jamie: So I got to work revising both books, and after I did so, they both sold.

Cindy: Yes!

Jamie: Then she had me revise them again.

Cindy: :::gulp:::

Jamie: Revising the books before the sale was extremely difficult. I still didn't believe they would sell, and I nearly didn't complete the revisions. Only the worry of how I'd feel if I didn't at least try spurred me on, and thank goodness it did.

Cindy: No doubt. A lot of aspiring writers would stop at the revising-with-no-guarantee-of-a-sale stage. Or at the won-a-Golden-Heart-but-can't-sell-the-manuscript stage. Or any number of seemingly insurmountable hurdles on the path to publication. If you want to make that sale, you have to keep at it. There's really no other option.

Jamie: There is no such thing as Easy Street in the publishing world, or at least I haven't been there yet. After I made my first sales, I still had lots of hard work to do with further revisions, and every sale since then has felt like a major victory as well. No matter what, there are always revisions to be done, and there is always sweating to be done when waiting to see if a book sells.

Cindy: In other words, the path to publication doesn't stop with the first sale. It's a never-ending cycle that's not for the faint of heart. What, then, are the rewards?

Jamie: The short answer is one only a writer can understand—that the reward is simply getting to write.

Cindy: Ah, yes. Because otherwise we might go insane from all those characters tromping around in our heads....

Jamie: The long answer is that it feels great to see one's work in print and one's name on the cover of a book you've written, to have people all over the world read it, to have said people write letters saying they enjoyed the book. It feels great to earn some money doing what you love, to be able to do that thing every day and not feel like it's just self-indulgence. Am I forgetting anything?

Cindy: I don't think so. There's nothing like connecting with readers after so many years of struggling to sell and thinking you're the only person in the world who understands your characters or wants to live in the fictional worlds you've created. It's what keeps us on the publication journey.

Jamie: It’s either that, or delusions of grandeur. I'm not sure which.

©2006, Cindy Procter-King & Jamie Sobrato

~*~

Jamie writes steamy romances for Harlequin Blaze, loves to waste time on the internet, and kind of wishes she had her nose pierced...or not. Her favorite guilty pleasure is watching bad Sex and the City reruns (though she’ll never admit it—oops, she just did), and she's been known to frequently laugh until she cries. You can visit her website at www.jamiesobrato.com.

Cindy writes romantic comedy for anyone willing to read it, loves to waste time updating websites, and desperately wishes Jamie would pierce her nose so she could tug her around by it. Cindy's favorite guilty pleasure involves back massagers, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and bathtubs (no, she won't get more specific).

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