#TheWriteThing: Breaking Up with Your Publisher
What happens when you and your publisher part ways? Nicola Marsh and Amber Page talk to the PHS about what happens after the break up...
Nicola Marsh: Reunited and It Feels So Good
Now that we’re all humming that Peaches and Herb ballad from the 70s, let me tell you a little about my reunion tale.
No matter how fantastic the relationship, it’s human nature to look at others and envy their bond. When your friends are in the throes of a new passion and it’s wonderful and exciting and glamorous. You’re tempted. You wonder if you could have the same.
So you make the leap.
Only to discover that your original relationship can be fulfilling and rewarding and so much deeper than you ever imagined. That familiarity doesn’t breed contempt. That trusting in what you know best can continue to grow and flourish given a chance.
This is what happened to me. With my first love. Harlequin Mills and Boon.
Mills and Boon published my first romance back in March 2004. Ecstatic can only begin to describe how I felt. I loved writing for the Harlequin Romance series. Creating stories that resonated with readers and competition judges alike. A few years later, I had the opportunity to write for another series, Modern Extra/Heat, and I jumped at the challenge. Reinvigorated, flexing my creative muscle, I produced four books a year, two for each series. I garnered top pick reviews, trophies, bestseller lists.
Then the digital revolution happened.
Paperback sales plummeted. My income halved. For someone who financially supports a family, this was terrifying.
Suddenly, my long-term relationship wasn’t looking so stable any more. But I’m loyal so I persisted. I was part of the launch for the new Harlequin Riva series. It didn’t last. I signed on when a new series was launched, Harlequin Kiss, because that’s where my natural writing voice fit. I was encouraged to do it and I hoped this would flourish. It didn’t.
In the meantime, friends were writing for other publishers and earning a very lucrative salary. I needed money. So I jumped.
At the time, this seemed like the logical thing to do. Take a chance on something new like I’d once taken a chance on Harlequin and left my full time career as a physiotherapist behind me. I wrote the kind of books I loved. Freedom to spice things up, to swear, to push boundaries. I had a ball. But…
I missed my first love. I lamented the loss of my original goal when I sold my first book: to write 100 books for Mills and Boon. It made me sad to think this may never happen.
So I returned to my first love but alas, the series that suited my voice was no longer. Harlequin Kiss had ceased to exist. I tried for other series. Submitting proposals. Waiting. Hoping. But my old love didn’t want me. I had to cope with rejection. Devastating. Until a glimmer of hope. A new series being launched in 2018. Fun, contemporary, super sexy. Me all over. I submitted. Waited. And was offered a three book contract.
To say I’m thrilled to write for Harlequin again would be an understatement.
In that time I wasn’t writing for Harlequin (eighteen months) I met with a lovely editor at a conference. I told her about my desire to return to the fold and I likened my foray into other adventures like a woman exploring other relationship options only to discover the man she left behind is the love of her life. We chuckled over it. I feel like I’m back with my first love. And it feels freaking amazing!
Amber Page: Don’t Call It a Breakup...
At least, that’s what my editor told me when she gave me the news. “It’s not you, it’s us,” she said.
“Don’t worry. You’ll find someone else. We’ll help.”
And she meant it. Every word. My publisher wasn’t breaking up with me, per se - Harlequin was closing the entire line, which meant its authors were suddenly homeless.
But as a fledgling author—my first book hadn’t even been published yet—it sure felt like they were breaking up with me. Especially since my line, Harlequin KISS, had a completely different feel than Harlequin’s other, more established brands.
There was no obvious place for me to go. No soft place to land.
And it crushed me. My heart was in pieces on the floor.
But I didn’t have time to grieve. My second book was due in three months, and they still wanted to publish it. So I had to push through the pain and concentrate on the romance brewing in my head.
That was tough. In order to work through my issues, I had to give my heroine some serious darkness to deal with. She wasn’t happy about it and so we fought. Constantly.
But it got written. And, honestly? I think it’s a better book than the first. Unfortunately, no one in my country got to read it—it was only published in the U.K. and Australia (and later, France and Germany).
So, there I was, four months after that fateful call, a published author with my first Harlequin/Mills & Boon title on the stands. I knew I should be overjoyed, but mostly I was just sad.
And when my second book released? I felt like the one lonely partier blowing my noisemaker at 3:30 a.m. on New Year’s Day in Times Square.
Now, many of my fellow KISS authors hit the ground running. The majority of them have found new homes and are publishing like mad. But I never really got my groove back.
I took six months off before tackling a proposal for Harlequin Blaze. It was a good story, but by the time I had the chapters polished and the query ready to go? Facebook told me Blaze was closing too.
Undeterred, I decided to try to rework that story to make it fit the new, as of yet unnamed line. The one that was supposed to be even sexier and much slicker.
My editor informed me, in the nicest possible way, that it didn’t work. Cue another navel-gazing pity session.
That brings us to last November. I spent NaNoWriMo working on a lovely romance that Harlequin will never publish.
It was quite refreshing. And I hope it will see the light of day eventually.
But for now, I’m back to attempting to think up stories that Harlequin will publish. I’m like that stalker ex-girlfriend who just won’t take the hint.
She did say it wasn’t really a breakup...