Monday, September 10, 2012

The Path Less Traveled

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.

Note: In honor of being one of the “Original Bad Girls of Romance”, I will be offering some great giveaways into September. All the needed info will be posted at the following outlets!
Website: www.storywitch.com (look for Original Bad Girls header on home page)
Like me on Facebook: JoeyWHillAuthor
Follow me on Twitter: @JoeyWHill
Fan Forum: www.jwhconnection.com (Original Bad Girls thread under Running Contests)

11 comments:

Rosemary Gunn said...

You're amazing, Joey! What so many of us aspire to become!

rg

Ann Jacobs said...

Fantastic story, Joey! Your erotic romances show a bit of the fantasy, even in contemporary pieces. That's what makes them unique and wonderful, along with the emotional depth of your characters.

Joey W Hill said...

You ladies are too kind - I'm hugely flattered! :> I'm glad we've all been on this journey together. I learned so much from my fellow authors along the way (and continue to do so). I've also found there's a wonderful solidarity in this genre that I think has helped carry us forward.

Becki Wyer said...

I'm so glad you stuck with it. Your writing is terrific.

Desiree Holt said...

Joey, you know how much I love your stories. They have been my guide and inspiration. If not for you I might never have dipped my toe in the BDSM waters and missed some of the greatest experiences of my life. You are an icon in the world of erotic romance and I'll be forever grateful to EC (who I love to death) for publishing your books.

katsmeow said...

Wow! It's pioneers like you, willing to take a chance and try something new, that have opened the doors for so many fantastic authors that have come after you. Way to reach out and grab your dreams. Like they say, no one is just going to hand it to you.

I'm so glad you took that chance. As a reader, I like my content "spicy" and was disturbed and disgusted by the erotic stories I used to find in book stores. The options now are so much better!

Sue V said...

Way to go the distance, Joey!

"Natural Law" from EC was the first book of yours that I read, then "The Vampire Queen's Servant" as a trade PB when it was released (everytime I see it, I drool over "TVQS" cover). The fact that your female Dominants and male submissives are NOT the typical characters found in most of that sub-genre is what attracted me to your writing and kept me there. You rock, Joey!

And I hope the current interest in erotic romance (the Fifty Shades effect) leads to many more sales, once the BDSM-virgins who read and liked "FSoG" realize that there is much more out there in the genre and is even better than "FSoG".

Joey W Hill said...

Becki, thank you! Me, too. There have been days that the Walmart greeter position looked REALLY appealing, but I've resisted...so far (lol). The support and enthusiasm of so many readers and authors, obvious just from the comments that have popped up here this morning, underscore why I've stuck with it. You all keep me going (smile).

Desiree, you are a treasure. I've met very few people who embrace life the way you do, and so you are a personal as well as a professional inspiration to me. And I share the EC love! :> I'm so glad they decided to prove just how vast reader demand for ER is. It's limitless! (laughter)

Katsmeow, I'm so relieved to hear I wasn't alone in my reaction to what passed as "erotica" back then. The dead fiancee thing just capped it. (Imagine me with the creased brow, curled lip, going "Really? Who finds this arousing, and should they be on an FBI watch list?" lol) Thank you for those comments and your support. We couldn't write this without readers like yourself!

Sue, so happy to hear you took the plunge with Mac! And yes, love it or hate it, I think FSoG is a great gateway into the vast erotic romance library. We're already seeing positive results from that. Not to sound like a broken record, but it's the readers like yourself that are helping with that. All of you who are saying to friends "Oh, so you liked FS? Why don't you try..." (grin)

Thanks for making my morning, everyone! Look forward to any further comments you have (and they don't have to be limited to wonderful comments about me - grin)

Rhea Rhodan said...

Thank you for sticking with what you wanted to write and finding publishers who recognized your talent. I can't imagine not having your books to read, Joey. A few years ago, I was thrilled to discover the wonderful books EC offers. I eventually bought an e-reader because I didn't want to wait for the books to come out in print. Now, all of the fiction I read are e-books.

Joey W Hill said...

Rhea, thank you! The digital book revolution has been another great change. I distinctly remember so many believing that the majority of people would NEVER want to read books with an e-reader, and now digital versions are starting to eclipse trade sales! Plus digital sales overall are gaining momentum so quickly, as much as 100-200% per quarter. Good for trees, good for readers. Win-win. And I love the backlight on my Ipad and Nook. I just wish I could turn it off while on the beach!

Barbara Elsborg said...

Fascinating, Joey. I'm sure I'd have still been languishing if EC hadn't said yes to my first erotic romance. Congrats on your fabulous success!