So many of us reinvent ourselves in the New Year, so we're asking authors who are rebranding themselves - through choice or necessity - how they go about a writerly reinvention.
As part of our special PHS Rebranding Edition, A. C. Arthur is talking about starting over after the closure of Harlequin Kimani...
I’ve been a published author for fourteen years and one of the first things I learned was how to roll with the punches. Rejections, market trends, publisher and/or line closings all happen in the blink of an eye and there’s nothing an author can do to prevent them. The only response, ever, is to hit the restart button.
It’s a daunting, but necessary task, and one that this time around had a significant impact for me. My core brand has always—and will always be—romance. I love the tumble and fall into love and seeing every couple arrive at their HEA or HFN. So even though I’ve crossed genres in the past (contemporary romance, paranormal romance, romantic suspense, YA and thriller) I’ve always kept a foot in the door of the place I call home. The closing of Kimani Romance, shut that door with a loud thud that’s still echoing in my head.
As an African American author writing stories that include African American, sometimes Caucasian, and multicultural characters, there has always been a narrow window for my books in the publishing industry. Kimani was essentially my home since its inception in 2005. My first book (Love Me Like No Other, book #1 in the Donovans series) was published by Kimani in 2006. Since that time I have written nineteen (with two releasing in 2018) books with them. My most successful contemporary romance series was started there and I’ve been introduced to a number of other talented authors through Kimani. Basically, the bulk of my writing career was rooted in this line.
In the last few months I’ve had to figure out what to do next. That’s never an easy question, so add to it the fact that there are fewer options for African American romance, and it’s a disheartening task. However, I don’t believe in staying down or quitting. I had to make a plan. The first and immediate option was to write for another line at Harlequin. The Kimani authors were encouraged to submit to the Desire line or the new Dare line. I was rejected by both. So now what? As a hybrid author I’d previously been able to maintain a traditional publishing contract and self-publish, releasing a minimum of five books per year. Now, looking into 2018 and forward, it appeared I would become an indie author.
Up to this point in my career I’ve had books on the shelves in stores and through online outlets providing options for all my readers to purchase at their convenience. Without a traditional publishing contract, the bookshelf option disappears. So, for me, that answers the now what question. That means that now, I begin to shop myself and my brand to different publishing houses. I continue to create memorable characters and emotional love stories that will appeal to my readers and lovers of romance books and I try with everything in me to get them on the shelves.
Being told that my book sales were decreasing by a couple of traditional publishers but continuing to see a rise in my self-published work tells me that there’s still an audience for what I’m writing. That means I will continue, without any further thought. I take Kimani’s closing as another step in my writing career and I prepare myself for the next one. If you’re reading this it may sound easy, but believe me, I know how hard this will be. I feel like I’m completely starting over but I know that sometimes that can be a good thing.
Refresh, restart, and remain constant in what I do.
Those are the options for me and I hope that other authors in my situation will feel the same way. One closed door will always lead to another one opening. But you’ll never know until you knock, kick or simply break down the next door.
Arthur's latest release, A Lion's Heart, is out now. For more information about her and her writing check out her website, and follow her on Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest and Twitter.