Authorversary Prize-A-Palooza Day 1

Vector flying Star with light pink christmas backgroundFive years ago this week I signed my first erotic romance publishing contract. Since then, I’ve released 15 titles. During my authorversary I will share the stories behind the books,decisions and consequences, and offer a new prize drawing each day of the event. Every day the prize increases! In addition, everyone who posts a comment will receive an entry into a  drawing for a bottle of Spanking Bottom Red Wine. (Comment on multiple days, get multiple entries for the wine). To receive the wine, you must live in the U.S. and must provide a street address (not a post office box). If the winner lives outside the U.S., a substitute prize will be awarded.

Today’s prize is a $10 Amazon gift certificate. The winner will be announced tomorrow. Be sure to leave your email address! (Complete contest rules here).

Let’s begin at the beginning…

Before erotic romance, I wrote mainstream women’s fiction. Five years ago in 2009, I had one self-published print novel under my belt (which I’d lost money on), three unpublished novels, and a collection of short stories, a few of which had been published in magazines (biggest coups: a $2,000 sale to Good Housekeeping, and a $1,000 sale to Woman’s World ). I’d won a dozen fiction writing awards. But with the exception of infrequent, limited short story successes, mostly I’d garnered rejections. Between agents, publishers, and magazines, I had racked up several hundred. I’d been contracted with two agents both of whom were unable to sell any of my novels.

I’d read romance since I was a teenager. But sometime in the mid 2000s, I started reading erotic romance. I’d read a Lora Leigh ménage book that contained spanking within a sex scene, and I remember thinking, hm…that’s interesting. I also read a Shayla Black BDSM book that I thought was very well written.

But I wrote mainstream and planned to hop back on the hamster wheel and begin submitting my short story collection to agents.

The original cover of Intimate Submission. The current cover looks like the one on Spanked!

And then I got the idea.

One day, I was bored and for fun wrote a playful story about an employment interview that turns sexual when the female job candidate and her prospective male boss succumb to their mutual attraction.  I threw everything I could think of into the story. It had BDSM undertones and a sexual smorgasbord that included sex toys, anal sex, and spanking. At the end, the reader learns that the couple are married and are role playing to celebrate their anniversary. I had wanted to write something different from what I was reading (Danger, Will Robinson, danger!)—so I juxtaposed the past with the present, contrasting what happened when the couple first had met with what was occurring now.

I titled the story Intimate Submission.

In my typical humble way, when I completed the story I thought, this isn’t bad, maybe I can sell this. Where I acquired the optimism after garnering hundreds of rejections, I don’t know.  Um…ego?

That was May 2009.  The ebook market was very different then. I was aware of Ellora’s Cave, but did not know of any publishers who published erotic shorts. Through the miracle of Google, I landed on Black Velvet Seductions, a small ebook publisher who’d put out a call for submissions for a “spanked wives anthology.” The stories had to be 5-15K  (at 11K mine was). They had to focus on a relationship (mine did). And they had to contain spanking. (Check, please!).

I fired off a submission immediately. I’d never felt more positive about a submission in my life. I was almost sure I had sold it.

secret-desires-cover2

This is the cover of my second erotic romance, Secret Desires, as it looked when it was first released.

A month later I received a one page critique of my story—and a rejection. Basically, BVS hated the way I played fast and loose with the time and did not like the ending (that the couple was married), but offered to look at the story again  if I reworked it and rewrote the end.

Rewrite the end?! That was the POINT of the story! My first inclination was to say no thanks. But by morning I admitted to myself that I wasn’t getting anywhere doing things my way, so I would give it a shot. I emailed the editor thanking her for the critique (seriously, no one has ever written a full-page manuscript critique after a submission before) and said I would resubmit.

I kept many of the same scenes, switched to a strict chronology, changed the characters’ motivation, and rewrote the end. Off it went.

And BVS sent me an acceptance letter and a contract, which I signed on July 23, 2009! Intimate Submission was first published in October 2009, but it was only available on the BVS website as a pdf. Amazon was not accepting works of less than 30K at that time. (Later when Amazon started taking shorts, BVS did release it for Kindle as a stand-alone).

By the time Intimate Submission came out, I’d read the two stories by anthology co-authors Starla Kaye and Richard Savage and saw that their novellas focused more on domestic discipline than erotic spanking. So I decided to try that. My second erotic romance, Secret Desires, was an M/F/M ménage DD story (I was still going with the smorgasbord theme). I submitted it to BVS, and it was accepted for the “spanked wives” anthology and published as a stand-alone July 2010 on the BVS’s website. Both stories came out in the anthology Spanked! in ebook and print in October 2010.

Yay! I was published! I had a foot in the door!

Spanked! contains both Intimate Submission and Secret Desires. This same cover is also used on both stories which are available individually for 99 cents.

Spanked! contains both Intimate Submission and Secret Desires. This same cover is also used on both stories which are available individually for 99 cents.

Foot in the door? More like a toe—maybe. And just the little one. Not even the big toe. I received my very first quarterly royalty check for Intimate Submission in January 2010, and it was $30. At the end of 2010, with the two stand-alone stories and the anthology, I only made $300 for the entire year.

And then out of the blue something happened to change everything.

Coming tomorrow: an unexpected surprise and the book that did get me a foot in the door. Tomorrow’s prize will be a $15 Amazon gift card.

Reminder: today’s Authorversary prize is a $10 Amazon gift certificate. To enter, leave me a comment pertinent to this post and your email address either in the sign-in box or in the comment box. The winner will be chosen by random drawing and announced in tomorrow. Also, You’ll receive one entry toward the bottle of Spanking Bottom Red Wine.

For book buy links, click on any book cover!

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70 Responses to Authorversary Prize-A-Palooza Day 1

  1. Karla Doyle says:

    Hi Cara!

    Happy 5th Authorversary! 15 titles in 5 years is awesome.
    I love hearing authors’ “how I got here” stories, especially when they’re not the insta-success kind. (Is that horrible? LOL) I’ll be checking in to read the rest of yours as the week progresses. 🙂

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Yeah, “Insta-success” strikes me as like winning the lottery. Not helpful if one is trying to learn from another’s success (and failures!).

  2. It’s amazing to see what Authors go through to get where they are.
    I love your short, Intimate Submission. <3

    TY for the chance !!
    stamper_sierra [at] yahoo [dot] com

  3. Lisa Medley says:

    I love reading about your journey! I can’t wait for tomorrow’s entry. You give me hope!

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Aspiring authors hear so much about how HARD it is to get published and newly published authors hear how HARD it is to earn a living at it. But it IS doable. It takes a while to get established. I hope that new authors will learn from my mistakes (I’ve made some doozies).

  4. Gosh, even in your blog posts, you leave me hanging. LOL Congrats on your 5-year authorversary! I honestly didn’t know you used to write contemporary and had been published in magazines.

  5. Simone says:

    Well done, Cara. I’m extremely impressed that you still had the belief in yourself to keep going after so many rejections. That you didn’t get crushed & give up on your dreams. A lesser person wouldn’t have kept going. I’m so glad you persevered!

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Thank you. I know many writers who have given up after just a rejection or two or ten. What kept me me going was a couple of things. First was the idea that what if I gave up just before I achieved success? What if the very next submission or book or story would have been “the one?” And second, every time I started to get discouraged, I would receive some small token of success that would motivate me–a contest win, a “good” rejection, a small sale. But what really mattered was that there was nothing else I have ever wanted to do in life but write.

  6. Susan Platt says:

    I am surprised at the pay difference between the shorts sold to magazines and the novella sold to a publishing company? In addition to a fantastic author, I now see a very determined woman! Looking forward to the next post!

    Congrats on 5 years!

    Susanmplatt AT hotmail DOT com

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Good Housekeeping is at the very top of the short story pay scale. It is almost impossible to earn a living writing story stories. There are very few magazines and journals that accept short stories any more–and far fewer who pay well. A $100 sale would be considered very good, and more typical is $10 or $20 and free copies of the magazine. Just after I sold my story to GH, the magazine stopped accepting unagented fiction. The market has changed so much. Nowadays you could make $1000-$2000 off a short story with a publisher far, far easier than you could selling a story to a magazine.

  7. Rayanna Jamison says:

    Hi Cara! Congrats on five years and thanks for sharing your story! I love hearing how people got started! I recently won a 99 cent ebook of my choice from Mad in Wonderland, and chose Secret Desires. 🙂 Can’t wait for tomorrows post!

  8. Leigh Smith says:

    Congratulations on your success – it is well deserved.

  9. Oh – I want to know what happened! I think I had submitted to Black Velvet too once and I think the story was accepted after I had signed a contract with Breathless Press (for 4% royalties – yes I said 4%) so it did not work out for me and BVS. It was like 10K words and one of my first so 4% sounded good to me and I felt rude to make them wait since they’d offered me a contract… I know a little better now. She was very nice at Black Velvet if I recall and I did work with an awesome editor at BP and learned a lot but still, 4%…???? 🙂

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Yeah, 4% is ludicrous! An update on BVS: I just received notification, BVS has been sold to…Richard Savage, one of my original co-authors on the anthology.

  10. Aubrey says:

    Happy Anniversary!!! I’m shocked that they didn’t like the fact the couple ended up being married in the end, when it was submitted for a spanked WIVES anthology! I know I would have loved finding out it was a married couple role playing!

    Love reading about your journey. Can’t wait to see what your turning point was!

    • Cara Bristol says:

      I have run across a story or two since then in which the couple turns out to be married, and it irks me all over again. I still think my original idea was sound. But every editor has likes and dislikes and makes assumptions about what he/she thinks the market wants. Some times they’re right–sometimes they’re wrong.

      • Funny Cara, I had a very similar experience taking a class from the editor at BVS. She and I do not see eye to eye on plot. She is a great teacher and I learned a lot, but she has very strong opinions on how things “should” work.

  11. Donnatella says:

    Congratulations, I’d say you have more than just “a toe” in at this point and richly deserved. You’ve seen a lot of changes in publishing during the past 5 years, I’m wondering how the new $9.99 a month Amazon has started will affect you and other authors?

  12. LOL, what happened next?!?
    Ok, you are so amazing! I would have just given up. My skin is soooo NOT thick, even the thought of a bad review messes with my mind.

    Congratulations on your authorversary!!
    🙂

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Thank you. Katherine, you’ve done very with your first and second books. Blushing is very well known. Had I published with someone like them initially, I probably would have done better at the start.

  13. S.J. Maylee says:

    I love learning from you. You’re so generous with telling us your experiences and what has worked and what has not. All of this is so fascinating to me. It’s amazing to think about how much things have changed since just the 2000s. Crazy. What’s the landscape going to be like five years from now???
    I didn’t know about the magazines either. You’re awesome, Cara. Congratulations on the authorversary!! Here’s to more than 5 more years and more than 15 more books. 🙂

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Thank you, SJ for ALL your support. My predictions for the future: Epublishing will continue to grow, and SELF-publishing is going to take over the market. There is a revolution underway!

  14. Renee M says:

    Wow, I cannot believe how brave you were – just kept writing and submitting until someone responded positively. As a reader I am very grateful that you kept trying because I love your stories. So many times we don’t see the hard work that went into someone’s success. The limited interaction promotes this feeling that the author is this distant, eccentric, lucky person who doesn’t have to go get up early for work every day. Whereas your post shows how much work and perseverance was required just to get noticed. Happy Anniversary and thanks for not giving up.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Thank you!. Like my husband I and say, it took (literally) 20 years for me to become an overnight success. But the market it SO different now. When I started trying to get published (in the 1990s actually), the big New York publishers pretty much had opportunity locked down tight. But by the mid 2000s, epublishing opened it up again. And now, a decade later, getting published has never been easier.

  15. Kathy Heare Watts says:

    Cara thank you for sharing how your change from romance to erotic romance happened. I’m glad you had thick skin and didn’t go off and pout but decided you truly wanted to succeed and tweeted it for them and got published. Very interesting read you have shared with us and then you leave us hanging until tomorrow!
    I really liked the first book with it being a married couple play acting so much more than strangers! Trust me, I’ve been married 38 years, sexual role playing can be exhilarating! Personally I would love to see more books that revolve around committed relationships than the “stranger” one time encounter! I am loving the Corbin’s Bend series, maybe it is the commitment that enhances the stories.
    Kathy (Redrabbitt@aol.com)

  16. Congrats! It definitely takes hard work and dedication to make it as an author. Perseverance too!

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Many years ago, an author friend of mine said it took three things (in this order) to get published:
      1. Luck
      2. Perseverance
      3. Talent.

      So far, time has not proven him wrong. I have had some lucky breaks. I also think that the harder you work, the luckier you get.

  17. Melissa Weeks says:

    wow you are amazing you persevered and proved all those people who rejected your work wrong keep up the good work hun and Happy 5th Authorversary i love your work ;p

    misky90501 at yahoo dot com

  18. Elise-Maria Barton says:

    What a great story to share! Its great to be able to “experience” your early journey firsthand. How much sweeter is it for you that you realized your goals through sheer grit, determination and talent. Nope, no Oprah rocket to stardom for a half-baked book for you~ real and original stories and real, live fans. Congrats gorgeous lady~ I’m pleased to follow you on your journey xoxo

    ilookfamous at yahoo dot com

  19. Congratulations – and way to leave us hanging! I, too, am in awe of your perseverance and am so glad that it paid off in the end. Gosh, I don’t even know the date I signed my first contract so you put me to shame! Haha.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Several months ago, I just happened to think about it and I went back to check my contract–otherwise I wouldn’t have known.

  20. Renee Rose says:

    A one page critique is definitely a compliment! Congratulations on finding your niche– you are an amazing writer and you deserve all your success!!
    reneeroseauthor at gmail 🙂

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Thank you, Renee. Coming from someone as successful as you are that means a lot to me.

      I count the critique as one of those “good” rejections. But in the end, BVS accepted the story, so I can make the claim I sold every erotic romance to the first publisher I submitted it to.

  21. Wanda Fittro says:

    Love reading about other author’s journey to publication. And it’s interesting to see how you came upon this genre. Kind of like one thing led to another. Congrats on your accomplishments. wandafittro@att.net

    • Cara Bristol says:

      At this point, one thing did lead to another, but as you’ll see in future posts I made some abrupt changes.

  22. Alice says:

    Congratulations!!! And a great big THANK YOU for that cliff hanger. I cannot begin to imagine how difficult it is for y’all to write your stories let alone get them published.

    The Kindle Unlimited for $9.99 just started. It gives readers the freedom to explore. Try new genres, discover new authors, and dive into new adventures with unlimited access to our wide and varied selection of books. (blurb taken right from their web site).

    • Cara Bristol says:

      LOL. No one ever thanked me for a cliffhanger before.

      Kindle Unlimited is interesting. I checked out the video on Amazon. It said over 600,000 titles would be available. Hmmm….Amazon is changing the game again.

  23. Susan Clement says:

    I cannot believe you had the wherewithal to stay the course. I think someone taking the time to send a page of suggestions back is really a good thing! I truly think being an author is hell and very few authors are just ‘found’ and published. I am still scratching my head about FSOG, thinking how the hell did that happen with that particular trilogy. Anyway, I am glad you continued writing and looking forward to more of your story tomorrow! Thanks for sharing!

    • Cara Bristol says:

      This is where not being psychic is a big plus. Had I foreseen 20 years ago everything I would go through, I might not have undertaken the effort. But I loved to write, and although I did get discouraged about getting published, my confidence in my writing never wavered. I don’t think I ever got a rejection and thought, well, the work wasn’t good enough (although in retrospect, early on, it wasn’t good enough). My reaction was more, what’s wrong with them that they don’t recognize how good this is! LOL. I once had a boss tell me that low self-esteem was not one of my problems.

  24. It is delightful to read about your beginnings. What a wonderful way to celebrate your authorversary! I always find the back stories of those in this world fascinating. Thank you for sharing!

  25. Happy, Happy Anniversary! I love reading stories on Authors steps to success. It gives me direction, and hope and I can’t wait to read what you have for us tomorrow.

    Lynda

  26. Laurel Lasky says:

    I just wrote a whole page and then it crashed and disappeared. I’ll try again. The 1050’s were more open about spanking stories, then it became taboo. It’s making a come back in the last few years. There are more sources for this. Happy anniversary and many more years.
    Big hugs,
    Laurel

  27. Sharon Davis says:

    I love hearing where you started. And I want to know what happened next!

  28. Wren b. says:

    When I read about you losing money on your first book it made me think that sometimes you have to spend money to make money. Also it showed that you really wanted to be a writer because you weren’t making money on the first book. But I bet you look back and think look how far I have come!

    • Cara Bristol says:

      My first book was self-published in the late 1990s. That was before epublishing, before print-on-demand. I took in the shorts on that one. I’ve always written, and that’s why I stuck to it. There wasn’t anything else I wanted to do.

  29. Happy Authorversary! I didn’t mark down the date of my first sale… but what a lovely idea! Any excuse to celebrate is a good one. 😛

  30. bn100 says:

    Nice of you to share your publishing history

  31. flchen1 says:

    Happy 5th, Cara! Thanks for sharing your writing journey with us–it’s neat to hear an author’s path. It is often a winding road! Wishing you many more years of joyful writing and being read!

  32. Angela says:

    Thanks for sharing your story — you and Renee Rose are my favorite authors. I really appreciate all you bring to the stories. Its theraputic for me to see my own sexuality reflected in such an enjoyable, intelligent way. Thanks for your tenacity!

  33. Stephanie F. says:

    Happy Authorversary!
    I think it takes so much courage to be an author. The rejections and criticisms that you go through have to be hurtful and soul crushing at times but yet you persevere and excel through it. I am so happy you stuck with it, I absolutely love your writing. Hope you have many more amazing years to come.

    fsteph55(at)yahoo(dot)com

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Courage or foolishness? LOL. I started my journey a long time ago. Now, I think that it is EASIER than ever to get published. You still have to write a good book and you still have to be tenacious, but the market is open and accepting to new authors due to ebooks.

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