Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gone With The Print

Please welcome the fabulous Amy Atwell who is sharing her very unique and entertaining perspective on her publication journey! Welcome, Amy!

A huge shout of thanks to all the Bandits for inviting me to blog today. I’ve been on a whirlwind tour celebrating my debut release Lying Eyes from Carina Press.

Today, I want to share my journey to publication and why I think I’m smarter than an iconic fictional heroine.

When I say the name Scarlet O’Hara, what sort of images does it conjure for you?

Spoiled beauty.

Cold-hearted businesswoman.

Hard-working daughter.

Stubborn and blinded by love.

I found Scarlet to be all of those and more when I read the book Gone With The Wind. I shook my head over her tragic flaw: she was so in love with Ashley Wilkes—who didn’t return her affection—that she couldn’t see the potential of a future with Rhett Butler.

Now, I mean, seriously… Ashley over Rhett?

But take a moment and picture Scarlet and Ashley’s world. Plantation owners, families that were household names to one another. Everything was vivid and rich and the future looked, to Scarlet, as if it would follow a predetermined path. Nothing could disturb the life Scarlet pictured for herself. Well…except for a civil war.

Fast forward one hundred fifty years. Leave behind the cotton fields and hoop skirts. Look around instead at the world of publishing.

Like Scarlet, I started my quest for publication with a goal in mind. I wanted to earn the regard of the handsome and wealthy Ashley Wilkes, beloved by all the young debutantes competing against me to win his regard. Yes, in this analogy, Ashley Wilkes represents the big traditional print publishers.

Ten years ago (yes, I’ve been writing toward publication that long…) we didn’t think of print publishing as “traditional.” It was pretty much the only game in town. I remember seeing those digital publishers pop up on the internet—much in the same way Rhett Butler popped up from that sofa when Scarlet all but threw herself at Ashley in the drawing room. But at the time, I didn’t take digital publishing seriously. No, I just had to make those traditional publishers understand how much they loved me!

The first stumbling block I encountered was exactly the snag Scarlet hit: Ashley was already in love with pretty little Melanie. Melanie, who was perfect for Ashley—and indeed, just plain perfect—well, I don’t know about you, but I never could bring myself to hate her. Oh, I wanted to. Just as I’d love to hate the beloved and best selling romance authors who’d attracted the eye of the very publishers I wanted to notice me. Notice me! I’m young and strong and resilient, smart and maybe a bit unconventional. Think of the beautiful future we could have together!

But Ashley stood by Melanie and rejected Scarlet. Oh, I know the sting of that rejection. And there was little I could do except stick as close to the Melanies as I could and try to figure out what they had that I didn’t.

Now, mind you, Rhett Butler continued to appear around Scarlet’s world. Showing flashes of interest in each other, neither was ready to make a firm commitment. As I faced rejections from the traditional print publishers, I studied the growth of digital publishing. I was curious, but not ready to give up my dream. But then, I couldn’t bring myself to throttle or drown Miss Melanie, either.

And then came the civil war. Admittedly, the shake-up we’re experiencing in publishing isn’t as deadly as America’s Civil War. But I do see similarities: an industry split by two very different views of how to bring books to readers, and regardless of who “wins” or “loses,” I think it’s safe to say that the publishing landscape we’ve known for generations will be changing.

This is where Scarlet and I diverge in this analogy. Even while Atlanta burned around her or even when Scarlet agreed to wed Rhett Butler, she was still fixated on Ashley Wilkes. She still clung to the vision of the future she’d held as a debutante, regardless of the harsh reality that the world was changing and, most importantly, that Ashley still didn’t love her.

That’s where I think I’m smart. After writing and submitting a few manuscripts to the big New York publishers, the reality of my situation began to sink in. The print market was getting tighter and harder for a debut author to break into. An author needed to have a story that editors and marketing departments believed they could sell. My stories tended to be big, complex, combining romance with other elements. In short, they were difficult to neatly label.

Meanwhile, publishing continued to transform. Digital publishing numbers increased exponentially while print sales dropped quarter after quarter. Suddenly, Rhett Butler wasn’t lurking down by the warehouses anymore. He was being invited into drawing rooms and attracting the eye of many of the debutantes. Lord have mercy, (fans self) but he was looking good.

I was at a crossroads. I could, like Scarlet, continue blindly on the path I’d been following for years, chasing a static dream even though the publishing world around me was evolving. Or, I could change what I wrote, try to fit more neatly with the unspoken expectations of the New York publishers—in short, try to make myself over more like Melanie to win Ashley.

Or, I could accept the offer of a rather handsome rogue who was quickly gaining recognition in the industry. Carina Press was my Rhett Butler, and I accepted the offer with joy, knowing they loved my unconventional story just the way it was.

This is, of course, the tale of my journey. I don’t share it to convince anyone else to follow my path, your path will be unique. The moral to the story, if any, is to set your writing/publishing goals. Do your best to understand WHY those are your goals. From time to time, review your goals and ask yourself the hard question: is it time to revise the goals?

Best wishes to all on your publishing journey. I’m happy to answer what I can about my experience working with Carina or any other part of my ten-year trek. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Amy Atwell worked in professional theater for 15 years before turning from the stage to the page to write fiction. She now gives her imagination free rein in both contemporary and historical stories that combine adventure and romance with roguish heroes and stubborn (but not too stubborn) heroines. Her debut romantic suspense, Lying Eyes, is available digitally at Carina Press, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. An Ohio native, Amy has lived all across the country and now resides on a barrier island in Florida with her husband and two Russian Blues. Visit her online at her, What’s The Story? and Magical Musings blogs, Facebook, Twitter and/or GoodReads.

Amy, thanks so much for joining the Bandits today. Your story is inspirational and entertaining! KJ


Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Hi KJ! Hi Amy!

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

I can't believe I just happened to stumble in here FIRST!

Lovely to see you (as always) Amy! And I'm very excited about Lying Eyes being available.

Now, I'm putting the GR to work cleaning the house. He and my son have a LOT of work to do! ;-)


Donna MacMeans said...

Hey chookie - welcome back to the USA.

Interesting analogy, Amy. Personally, I'd love to publish at Harlequin - any of their lines - just so I can go to their kick-butt party at National.

But that aside, can you tell us something about your story?

Daz said...

Congrats on the chook, Auntie C. It's blustery in Sydney today so might be better with you.

Amy, thank so much for visiting and sharing your story with us. Love the Gone with the Wind analogy.

Helen said...

Well done AC I agree keep him working LOL


I did love that story and good on you. I do so love a romantic suspense and I do have an e reader so I will be off to check it out on Carina YAY

Thanks KJ for inviting Amy along today I do so love hearing about debut suthors

Have Fun

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

I finally broke down and got an e-reader too. Still love my paperbacks of course but have to say the e-reader is very nice for old eyes and convenience. Can't wait to read Lying Eyes.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Oh, and I loved your comparison to Gone With the Wind.

barb said...

Well done Auntie C

I love reading how authors get started and their certainly are patient.... I have an e reader so will have to get this book

KJ Howe said...

AC, congrats on the GR!! What will you do with him today???

KJ Howe said...

Hey Donna, I also love the Harlequin party--they always have the best DJ!

KJ Howe said...

Daz, I spent a month in Sydney and fell in love with the city. Just hearing you talk about the wind brings back fond memories!

KJ Howe said...

Hi Helen, what kind of eReader did you get? I have an iPad and I carry it with me everywhere. Waiting is no longer a pain--it's a chance to read!

KJ Howe said...

Dianna, I love the fact that you can choose the font size on an eReader!

KJ Howe said...

Hey Barb, thanks for stopping by. Yes, Amy has shown incredible perseverance and it sure paid off.

Amy Atwell said...

Good morning all! Sheesh, if I'd known the Aussies were here, I wouldn't have had breakfast before logging in this morning. It's a joy to finally be celebrating my release. Thanks all for comprehending the GWTH analogy. I don't mean to imply that marrying an Ashley Wilkes (or getting a big traditional print contract) would be a bad thing. It's great--as long as the publisher loves your work and will back your release. I feel like my publisher is a bit of a swashbuckler right now, a cowboy, and it's very exciting times.

Amy Atwell said...

Donna asked about my story, Lying Eyes. It's a romantic caper set in present-day Las Vegas. Cosmo Fortune is an aging magician with a checkered past and a litany of secrets. He gets involved with $10 million in stolen Russian gems and disappears. His daughter Iris becomes a suspect because she's in the jewelry business. She finds herself being shadowed by a cocky thief. She doesn't trust him, but she sure thinks he's hot.

There's suspense but also a lot of comedy in the book. And reviews have been excellent so far, so I'm pleased. There's a blurb and excerpt on my website ( and also on the Carina site. Thanks for checking it out!

jo robertson said...

Hi, Amy, welcome to the Lair. What an interesting and entertaining analogy of your publishing journey.

Thanks for bring Amy to visit today, KJ.

Can you tell us a bit about LYING EYES, Amy? How is it a bit off the trodden path?

jo robertson said...

Hey, Cindy, it's been a while since a Bandita captured the chook, hasn't it! Good going!

jo robertson said...

Thanks, Amy, for the low down on LYING EYES. Do you have another book in the pipeline? What other kinds of stories do you write? Or is romantic suspense/thriller your thing?

Amy Atwell said...

Lying Eyes is a funny romantic suspense. While editors may be seeking romantic comedies or gritty romantic suspenses, marketing departments find funny romantic suspenses harder to market. Readers seem to be enjoying the book.

I'm currently working on the two sequels (headed to Las Vegas soon for some research!): Cheating Hearts and Stealing Kisses. Plus, I'm part way into something completely different, a mainstream historical set during the Wars of the Roses. Yikes--I'm a marketing department's worst nightmare, an author who writes in two totally different styles!

Stacey Joy Netzel said...

The GWTW comparison is great. Thanks for the insight, Amy.

I'm about 1/2 way through LE and Mickey is yummier than ever!

Edie Ramer said...

Love the comparison, Amy! It has everything: yearning, rejection, choosing a different route. And I think you're much smarter than Miss. Scarlet, too.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Morning all!
It is clear but COLD here in NorCal today. Okay, we Californians are wimps, but 35 degrees is COLD for us! I'm sure the chook wishes he was back in lovely summery Oz. ;-)

One thing Amy has not mentioned is how much she gives back to the writing community. She has founded and moderates 4 Goal In A Month groups (I belong to #3).

Thank you, Amy, for all you do!

who has assigned the GR to dusting duty. After all, he has a built-in feather duster!

Donna MacMeans said...

Amy - Aging magicians and cocky thiefs - love it! Congrats on the release!

Dale Mayer said...

Lovely post Amy! Loved Lying Eyes when I first read it and it's even better now I'm sure!

Need to get an ereader - maybe Santa??

It's a cold day in the West Coast of Canada too!! I've got -15C which is about 5 degrees F. But the good news is I get to hit the slopes tomorrow!

Tawny said...


Hi Amy :) I love your call story!! Welcome to the Lair and a huge congrats on Lying Eyes.

Amy Atwell said...

Wow, I ran out for a little pre-holiday shopping (wine), and more people stopped by! Loucinda mentioned the GIAM groups, and I see some of the peeps swung by to show their support (so glad you're enjoying the book, Stacey!).

WritingGIAM is an online community for goal-oriented writers. We're prepping to launch a 5th neighborhood. You can find more info at the group's new website: and click on About in the navigation bar. Yes, it's free, and we now have loops open for writers of all levels and welcome all genres.

Beth said...

Welcome to the lair, Amy! What a great post *g* Congrats on your release and thanks so much for being with us today :-)

Nancy said...

Welcome, Amy, and congratulations on your release. Sounds like a fun book.

AC, I hope you're keeping the rooster busy!

Happy Thanksgiving to those who're celebrating tomorrow, and best wishes for a great weekend to everyone else.

KJ Howe said...

Amy, love the story idea! Jewels, lust, and a lack of trust. Bring it on!

KJ Howe said...

AC, thanks for sharing that info about Amy helping others. I love that!

KJ Howe said...

Hi Tawny, thanks for stopping by to support Amy's success!

KJ Howe said...

Hi Dale, waving hello to a fellow Canadian! It's frosty in Toronto today as well.

KJ Howe said...

Hi Beth, I'll bet you're bundled up as well! Snow is coming soon!!!

KJ Howe said...

Nancy, thanks for your Thanksgiving thoughts!!!

Sandy said...


What a great analogy between your process to publication and Gone With the Wind. You're definitely smarter than Scarlet. You had the right idea to stop beating your head against a wooden door and stepped into a open door.

Have Lying Eyes and will be reading it soon.

KJ Howe said...

Hey Sandy, thanks for stopping by. I also like the analogy that what is most obvious may not be right!

Mary Marvella said...

Amy, girl, I am so lovin' followin' your blogs! I'll be able to say " I knew her when."

Jill James said...

Amy, you are everywhere!! I love the Scarlet/publishing story. I think you are smarter than Scarlet to realize your goal a little sooner than it walking out the door. LOL

I too am enjoying digital publishing and thinking the future is going to be very different from everything that has gone on before.

Laurie Faelan said...

Congratulations, Amy, on your debut release! Loved your post. Everytime I read GWTW, I hope Scarlet makes a difference choice. So glad you made the right one for you.

Do you have any advice for those of us that are interested in submitting to Carina Press?

Amy Atwell said...

Hey all! Sandy and Jill--good to see you. Ever since i wrote the blog, I've been having these visions of Scarlet finally luring Ashley into her bed--and being disappointed. Somehow, Miss Scarlet was not looking disappointed after Rhett ravished her that night. So, my best advice in publishing? Don't hand your beloved story over to an agent or editor unless they really want it. A tepid agent won't do you any good, nor will a lukewarm editor.

Amy Atwell said...

Laurie asked: Do you have any advice for those of us that are interested in submitting to Carina Press?

A few things to keep in mind. Some writers out there will try to tell you it's "easier" to sell to a digital publisher. Nowadays? Not so much. Carina accepts a small percentage of the manuscripts they receive. Every book is read by a first reader, and if it gets a thumbs-up, then it goes to a second reader. BOTH readers have to recommend that Carina acquire the story before an offer is made.

You don't need to have an agent. Submission guidelines are on the website.

You can follow Carina Press on Facebook, and Angela James is on Twitter all the time. You'd be amazed at the "insider tips" you can pull from the Twitter stream. For instance, early last week, most of the editors were caught up with their submissions pile. So NOW is a good time to submit.

Carina prides itself on buying things that don't fit neatly into the traditional publisher niches. My book was rejected by both HQN and Mira (too suspense-y for HQN, too funny for Mira), but Carina loved it. So, if you've been told your writing is terrific but the story *just doesn't fit...*, Carina may be a great option.

Carina accepts a variety of lengths and all heat levels. My book was 99K words--and my editor had me *add* two scenes to bring it to 103K words. I use multiple POVs (10 of them), and they have their eyes on potential series.

Oh, and my book will be coming out as an audio release in December via No word yet on print, but I'm still hopeful.

Does that help??