So, when B.E. asked me to write a guest post on her blog, she gave me several general topics I could discuss. When I asked her for one or two specific questions, she came back with:
What made you want to write erotic fiction and how did you break into getting it published?
Or broader, what were some of the bumps in your road to publication and how did you overcome them?
I laughed when I read them, because really those two answers are intertwined in the same story.
I overcame the bumps in my road to publication by writing erotic fiction—and I did it partly because of those very bumps.
One of my critique partners (CP) recently said she admired my “career strategy,” which I found particularly generous because that implies I somehow planned this out. I did not. However, I will say that I did follow a particular strategy, that’s ended up working very well for me.
I’ve studied several success systems at various times. You know the ones—where you’re supposed to lay out your one-year, five-year, ten-year and lifetime goals. There’s lots of programs. Most involve visualizing and being specific. One teacher I had was adamant on the topic of dates. If you didn’t set concrete dates to your goals, they weren’t real enough, he said. Likewise, we were to be detailed in how EXACTLY a goal would be reached. You lay down the schedule for the universe and expect it to deliver.
It strikes me as, if you’ll forgive me, gentlemen, a particularly Male way of seeing the world.
And it didn’t work for me.
Eventually, I found my own way of doing things. I did know exactly what I wanted—what my career would be like, how I would be happy working—and I was willing to leave it up to the universe to find the best way for that to happen.
So, I had been trying to sell the book that became Rogue’s Pawn (http://www.jeffekennedy.com/rogues-pawn/) for a couple of years. I’d revised it a couple of times, kept getting close with agents, who then ultimately passed. Meanwhile my friends and CPs were landing three-book deals. They were getting what I was supposed to have written down on my goals: “Three-book deal, for $X by Y date.”
But I stuck to my resolve, that I trusted the universe to find the best way to get me there.
Still, it was hard to keep going. I wrote a second book—a concept that one of my near-miss agents had blessed and loved—and that one, if anything, crashed and burned harder than Rogue’s Pawn. (In fact, it’s still in the drawer. It turns out to be bizarre enough that my agent wants to wait for a “better time” to try to sell it.)
It was a hard time for me. You all know how it goes.
Then I saw a call from Samhain for an anthology of “Red Hot Fairytales.” On the goals list, I did make, I had “write and sell erotic novella to e-Press.” Here was the opportunity—and, besides, I had a great idea for a BDSM version of Beauty and the Beast. I wrote the novella, submitted it and Samhain rejected it. So I asked a friend who’d been writing for e-Presses where I should send it next. She gave me a list of her top three. Two of them wanted the story, which became Petals and Thorns (http://www.jeffekennedy.com/petals-thorns/).
At the time, it was my first publication in years, since switching over from nonfiction, and I cried because it wasn’t Rogue’s Pawn.
But I went with it because, after all, I’d told the universe I trusted it to make things happen in a way that would satisfy me.
Meanwhile, my friends who’d landed the book deals I had envied? They were struggling. Things went awry. The usual trials of the industry, but they were not living the life of Riley.
Surprisingly, to me, Petals and Thorns was very well received. Readers loved it. They loved it in a way that my other books had not been loved. It sold well and I started to gain an audience.
So, I wrote another erotic novella, Sapphire (http://www.jeffekennedy.com/sapphire/), and sold it to Carina Press. It became the first in the Facets of Passion series. Since I really enjoyed working with my editor there and I’d given up on selling Rogue’s Pawn to New York, I offered it to her.
And Carina bought it.
Just like that.
From there, everything began to gain momentum. I sold another two books in Facets of Passion to Carina. I wrote some erotic shorts for Ellora’s Cave, because an editor there contacted me and asked me to.
Things were going pretty well. I didn’t have the prestige of a New York deal, but I was selling books. I gave up on querying agents and decided I’d just see if the universe sent me one. A far more successfully published author than I even laughed in my face when I told her this. Then she snubbed me as not worthy of talking to, because I didn’t have an agent.
That was June of last year.
Then Pam van Hylckama Vlieg, then a newbie agent at Larsen-Pomada, now a partner in the new agency Foreword (http://forewordliterary.com/foreword/pam-van-hylckama-vlieg/) read guess what? Yes, she read Rogue’s Pawn, loved it, and contacted me, asking if I would be interested in meeting with her at RWA.
I had a LOT of fun at that conference last summer, telling people that I wasn’t pitching—I was taking pitches.
It worked well for me. By the time I sat down for the breakfast meeting with Pam and Laurie McLean, who was mentoring her, I knew all the questions I needed to ask. I had a decent career going on my own, but I was willing to hear what they thought they could do for me. I wasn’t desperate for the least crumb of attention, as I would have been even the year before. Instead it felt like a considered business opportunity to me.
Pam offered representation and, after some time to consider my options, I accepted.
By Thanksgiving she’d gotten me two book deals with Kensington—one a three-book contract for trade paperback.
Would this have happened anyway? Hard to say. Writing the erotic fiction was easy for me. In many ways, the plot lines and dynamics are more straightforward than my fantasy works. I learned a lot about how to write from writing the erotic stories. My fantasy novels improved as a direct result of what I learned about tension and trajectory from the erotic romances.
They also opened doors for me. The erotic fiction career helped me gain enthusiastic readers, established me in the genre community and gave me the experience in the publishing world that I needed.
More, everything seems to have happened at a speed I can handle, in ways that have turned out to be serendipitous. I couldn’t be more satisfied with how it’s worked out so far.
Gratitude to the universe!
Petals and Thorns, originally published under the pen name Jennifer Paris, has won several reader awards. Sapphire, the first book in Facets of Passion has placed first in multiple romance contests.
Her most recent works include three fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns, the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and the post-apocalyptic vampire erotica of the Blood Currency. An e-Serial, Master of the Opera, will be released in January. A fourth series, The Twelve Kingdoms, will hit the shelves in 2014. A spin-off story from this series, Negotiation, appears in the Thunder on the Battlefield anthology, coming summer 2013.
An avid user of social media, Jeffe engages daily with thousands of fans on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. She frequently guests on publishers’ Twitter-feeds and reviewers’ blogs. She’s been an active member of RWA since 2008. She served two terms as president of RWA’s very large Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal special-interest chapter and continues as an advisor to the current board.Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com or every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog.
Learn more about Jeffe's books at her website. I met Jeffe (online only) through the Word Whores and it's been a pleasure knowing her, as well as reading her work. Feel free to leave a comment, ask a question, or just read the post and then go buy her stuff.