by Joey W. Hill
Back in the late nineties, I’d done all the usual things. Poured over Writer’s Market, double-checked publisher requirements and sent painstakingly prepared queries to all the traditional publishers. My offering was Guardian of the Continuum, a book I categorized as a “fantasy romance”. Longer than the typical genre story, it had a strong central romance around which the paranormal elements revolved.
I was informed that “cross-genre” work didn’t interest traditional publishers, because it wouldn’t sell. Readers didn’t want a strong fantasy plotline mixed with a lot of romance. Yes, for those of you wondering, I was offering what is called paranormal romance today. You know…that genre that currently dominates the romance shelves because readers can’t get enough of it? (lol)
About that time, I learned about some new publishers willing to contract work that didn’t fit the marketing mold. The only catch was they only published online. Among my peers, the reaction to that was consistently negative. E-publishing was little different from offering it for free, an act of desperation. These publishers had no credibility in the book world, and who wanted to read a book on a computer screen, anyway?
Despite the creative left brain stuff, I’m a practical girl. No one else wanted it, so what did I have to lose? Plus, along with epublishers, there was a new support network out there – the online review sites, the predecessors of our vital book blog sites. They were happy to receive my online book, now published by Dark Star Publications, and talk about it. Because of that, I was able to attract e-publisher interest in my next work. An erotic romance.
Before I wrote Make Her Dreams Come True, I liked writing my sex pretty spicy, but it still would have passed muster on the mainstream shelves. However, as I began to tell Meg’s story, I took a left turn. It was supposed to be about her meeting a sexy stranger (supposedly by chance) in a mall. In the course of a day, Daniel helps her embrace life and love again through a variety of sexy and romantic interactions. Instead, Daniel evolved into a Dom who gained enough of her trust to take the reins. He used her submission to help her embrace her sexuality and discover a self-confidence she’s never known. All within the setting of the mall—Daniel was a pretty miraculous guy!
Okay, here’s where I admit I was an idiot. Before I found out there was epublisher interest in the book, I tried the traditional publishing route. Yes, I’m a little slow. AGAIN, I was reminded that readers don’t want cross-genre work. Literary erotica OR romance was what publishers sold, not “erotic romance”. Well, I’d read literary erotica. Depressing and dysfunctional, most of the time it made me think of sex as a psychological disorder. The last literary erotica piece I ever read had the couple having sex on the floor next to the “hero’s” dead fiancée. Did I mention he dressed the corpse in her intended wedding dress? Ick. To the max. (Sorry, Valley Girl/Nicholas Cage flashback there.)
Fortunately, I did stumble on two stories at that time that gave me hope. Roarke’s Prisoner by Angela Knight, and Exit to Eden by Anne Rice. Great stories that offered emotion, romance and hot sex, they made me think: “yea, that’s how it’s done!”
I’ve always loved romance, and now that I’d discovered a penchant for integrating it with the intense emotion of Dominant/submissive love stories, I knew that’s what I wanted to write. Meg and Daniel helped me embrace my own submissive nature, and I couldn’t wait to explore it more with other characters. Fortunately, thanks to some excellent contacts in the online world, and the fact I was more in tune with who was doing what, I found a publisher, Dreams Unlimited, who was very interested in erotic romance.
As I said earlier, epublishing was in its infancy then. When Dreams Unlimited closed its doors, MHDCT moved over to another small epublisher, who also went under. Then it was moved to an epublisher who took it out of professional regard, but didn’t really want to be in the erotic field. That’s when my editor from Dark Star Publishing (which had also gone out of business), told me she was working for an erotic romance publisher that was starting to gain traction – Ellora’s Cave. Thanks to that recommendation, I found a home and a solid springboard to launch the Nature of Desire series, which has formed the foundation for my current erotic romance career.
A few years back, I remember getting an email from a reader that said, “When are you going to be published by a real publisher, instead of Ellora’s Cave?” In that reader’s mind, the only “real” publishers came out of New York. I don’t get asked that question anymore. Ebooks might have been the path less traveled, but I’m so glad I took that fork in the road. And today I have a lot of company –some of the most awesome authors in the romance field, as well as a fan base of adventurous, diverse readers.
A romance writer can’t ask for a better happy ending than that.
Fan Forum: www.jwhconnection.com (Original Bad Girls thread under Running Contests)