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Trouble with the (Learning) Curve

I’m thrilled to be hosting today’s guest blog by debut author Arlene Hittle. Not only is she a long time commenter on the Ruby blog, but she’s a good friend and great company when we’re out writing at the local coffee shop. She’s also an amazing example of perseverance and dedication…

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Arlene HittleThe last time I guest blogged with the Rubies, I’d just been named a 2011 Golden Heart® finalist, and we chatted about the Power of the Average Joe. I still believe in the appeal of Joe Schmoe, so it’s rather funny that the hero of my debut novel, DIVA IN THE DUGOUT, is a jock.

But I’m not here to pimp my book (much, anyway).  😉 We’re all writers here, so we dish about writing techniques and the road to publication.

DIVA’s road to publication began the day I got the coveted Golden phone call—or shortly thereafter. When BEAUTY AND THE BALLPLAYER finaled, it was one of two stories I’d entered. Being the practical sort who went into journalism to make money writing while I tried to break into fiction, I decided that if it was going to be the successful story, I’d darn well better have another two or three baseball books to go with it.

Backlist is everything, right?

So DIVA was born—and titled by Ruby Anne Marie Becker at one of our RWA® chapter’s brainstorming meetings, if I remember correctly.

I wrote the story, polished it, pitched it at RWA Nationals in 2012 and it started making the rounds. Rejections trickled in, but mainly the good kind. You know the ones: “We love your voice, love the writing, but …”

At the same time, the popularity of indie publishing was exploding. I believed in my stories enough to start making preparations to go that route myself. I opted to sit out RWA Nationals 2013 in Atlanta to devote the cash I’d have spent to going indie. I hired a web designer to redo my website, signed up for an indie publishing class through Author EMS and began working with cover artist Rogenna Brewer.

Wouldn’t you know it, that’s when Turquoise Morning Press offered me the contract for DIVA. I got the call (really an email) the Tuesday of Nationals week.

What’s that saying? Success happens when you stop chasing it?

Since DIVA wasn’t on my indie-pub radar yet, I was okay with that. More than okay. I was—and still am—ecstatic.

Of course, now I’m on parallel paths, working with TMP on DIVA and going it alone for HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, the holiday novella I plan to put out in November. But busy is good.

Here’s where that trouble comes in.

As pre-published authors, we’re told to hone our craft, tell great stories and, above all else, just keep writing. Excellent advice. The promise of publication, of getting our stories out there in the wild, fuels us through disheartening rejections and encouraging rejections, and through the craziness that is life.

Publication is the all-consuming goal. We want it, and we’re willing to sacrifice free time to get it.

What I didn’t realize—although I probably should have—is that once you reach that goal, you just get a new set of concerns.

It’s a whole new ballgame, so to speak. 😉

Problems with writing GMC, pacing correctly and creating sympathetic characters  may still plague your work, but you get all new things to obsess over, too.

On editing: Did the editor get my email? What if she hates EVERYTHING about my story? OMG, what if I have to rewrite the ending? How fast can I turn around the revisions?

Then there’s promo: How often do I tweet about my book? How many guest blog posts should I set up? They say you should go where the readers are (and it may not be where other authors are), but where on earth do I find the readers?

And, of course, the big question: How do you keep writing the next book when you’re neck deep in trying to sell this one to the masses?

What am I getting at? Writing books and selling them are two very different skill sets.

That, too, shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Life is great at throwing us curves. Success depends on our ability to take the pitches as they come. Adapt. Learn. Grow.

 

Let me ask you, dear Rubies and friends, what is the one thing you wish you’d known before the sale?

 

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Diva in the DugoutIn case you’re curious, here’s the blurb for DIVA IN THE DUGOUT:

Arizona Condors shortstop Dave Reynolds faces the toughest test yet: fatherhood.

After a successful stint in drug rehab, Dave is still trying to outrun his bad boy reputation. When the team’s new owners tell him to shape up or be fired at season’s end, he vows to change. He doesn’t count on fatherhood playing a part in his transformation.

Melinda Cline makes a rash decision: take solace in the arms of a sexy-as-sin ballplayer whose name she insists she doesn’t want to know. Big mistake. Now a single mom to a four-year-old, Mel strives to live as quietly and cleanly as possible. But fate intervenes and she comes face to face with the man who insists on being included in their daughter’s life. The attraction between them is still strong, but it may not survive Dave’s reputation or his attempts to do the right thing.

Can the Condors’ bad boy step up to the plate and knock out a home run for fatherhood? And if he does, will his daughter’s mamma be ready?

Find DIVA IN THE DUGOUT at Turquoise Morning Press, Smashwords, All Romance Ebooks, Amazon. Smashwords will begin distributing to BN, Kobo, iTunes and other e-tailers within the week, I’m told.

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Arlene Hittle is a Midwestern transplant who now makes her home in northern Arizona. She suffers from the well-documented Hittle family curse of being a Cubs fan but will root for the Diamondbacks until they run up against the Cubs. Longtime friends are amazed she writes books with sports in them, since she’s about as coordinated as a newborn giraffe and used to say marching band required more exertion than golf. Find her at arlenehittle.com, on Twitter or on Facebook.

42 responses to “Trouble with the (Learning) Curve”

  1. Great post, Arlene, and congratulations on your release of Diva In The Dugout!

    I’m not yet published, that comes in 2014 with five books! so yes, I have concerns, like how am I going to promo all of them if they release every other month, etc., so I’ll probably be begging you for some advice. Thanks for posting.

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  2. Five books in 2014? Wow. You’ll be an old pro after that.

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  3. jbrayweber says:

    Hi Arlene!

    Great post. And, yeah, being published ushers in all sorts of new demands. It’s a challenge for sure! I was pretty prepared for publication when it finally happened. I guess I was stubborn enough to believe it would, and so I listened closely to what I should do and did it. However, there is so much more to publishing and marketing a book than people realize. And it’s ever evolving these days. So we have to continue to be fluid.

    Congrats on your debut, Arlene. It’s been a long time coming. Love the cover, too.

    Jenn!

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    • Thank goodness for persistence! I like your comment about being “fluid.” It’s the ones who can adapt who will survive. 😉

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    • Thanks, Jenn. I love my cover, too. That pink really pops, especially against the turquoise background on the TMP website.

      I’d like to say I always expected to get published, but when it didn’t happen soon after finaling in the GH, I began to doubt. But now my time has come, and, with some help from the Rubies, I know I can make DIVA shine.

      Being fluid is a great way to put it.

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  4. June Love says:

    Congratulations, Arlene, on your sale and release! Diva sounds wonderful.

    I’m not published…yet. However, I am surrounded by one of the best and most experienced group of published authors anyone could hope for. When my Ruby sisters speak, I listen. 🙂 I know they’ll have my back when that time comes…and it will come.

    I wish you the best with your release!

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  5. Kim Law says:

    Congratulations on your book release, Arlene!!! I can’t wait to read it!

    And hmmm…one thing I wish I’d known before sale? That it’s not that it doesn’t get easier, but that it actually gets harder 😀

    Good luck with Diva!!

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  6. Kay Hudson says:

    Best of luck with both routes, Arlene. You’ve worked hard for it. And that’s great cover!

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  7. Woohoo! Congrats, lady!! I love, love that cover. And, like you, I love the everyday Joe, especially those who play baseball. GRIN I’ll be getting my copy of Diva.

    What did I wish I knew before being published? Hmmmm. How fast readers expect writers to have the next book out? A book a year is not good enough. So, like Kim said, life gets harder when you find you’re in demand. You really need to be focused and organized on so many levels.

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  8. Arlene, I’m so happy for you – congrats!!

    What do I wish I’d known? To enjoy the moments before you get published, because, as others have said, it doesn’t get easier. I’m trying to slow down and enjoy each day (and still keep my word count up). Not easy, but the more I write, the more natural it comes to me, too, and so it actually takes a little less time.

    Oh, and not to compare myself to others. Everyone’s on their own path, and I have to be okay with that. 😉

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  9. Tamara Hogan says:

    Congratulations, Arlene! I think the thing I wish I would have known before I sold is that selling is like climbing the first rung on a very tall ladder. As soon as you accomplish that one huge goal, take that huge first step, you look up and realize there are so many more rungs to climb. There are the next goals to set, other skills to master, other things to learn. Do everything you can to keep your life on an even keel. Try not to compare your journey to someone else’s. And with all of publishing’s ups and downs, do everything you can to retain your joy in writing stories. 😉

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    • “Selling is like climbing the first rung on a very tall ladder.”

      I love that metaphor. Thanks! With two more books set to come out in March & April 2014, I’ll definitely keep it in mind.

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  10. Clearly, Anne Marie wakes up before I do. Thanks for manning the comments while I was still in dreamland!

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  11. Rita Henuber says:

    Oh! Oh! Oh! I’m all squealy and squirmy happy and excited for you. Wishing you much success. I wish I’d known there would be nothing else like writing that first book and would have enjoyed it more.

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    • Thanks, Rita.

      Does that apply when your first book to be published isn’t really your first book at all? DIVA is my eighth finished manuscript (or thereabouts).

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  12. Congrats on the release of Diva, Arlene. I can’t answer your question, however being a tough old broad, I can learn from everyone else’s journey. Thanks for sharing yours.

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  13. Laurie Kellogg says:

    The book sounds great, Arlene. Wishing you many, many sales.

    I’ve been an indie author for about 18 months now, and my method is to do what I can, and not to sweat what I can’t. Probably not the best attitude for success, but it’s one that preserves my sanity.

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  14. Arlene!!!! Super congrats! Your book sounds awesome and that cover is to die for. Yay, you!!!

    I’m asked that question a lot and I never have an answer. Honestly, I’d done so much research that I knew to expect to be overwhelmed by it all. I guess the thing that surprised me the most was that the ‘high’ one gets from a sale or from turning a book in to your editor is very short-lived. That surprised me. I expected to be on cloud nine for months! Weeks at the very least, but there is so much to do, so much going on, and always that next deadline looming right around the corner that the high just doesn’t last long. Anymore, it’s about 5 minutes, then it’s on to the next project. LOL.

    So thrilled for you!

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  15. Elisa Beatty says:

    Big, big congrats on the new book, Arlene!!! yay!!! We knew you when….

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  16. Vivi Andrews says:

    I’m late to the party, but I just wanted to say CONGRATS on your new release, Arlene! I adore baseball and books about baseball written by people who actually know the game, so you can bet I’ll be snatching this one up. Thanks!

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  17. I’m late, too, Arlene, but am adding my congratulations on your release!

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  18. Hope Ramsay says:

    Yay! I’ve been looking forward to your baseball book. You know what a baseball fan I am.

    And I’m really sorry to be chiming in so very late. My day-job (yes I still have one even though I’m published) blew up in my face this week.

    And that’s one of the things I wish I really understood before I made the first sale — just how hard it is to support yourself by writing full time. I haven’t been able to do it. And that means I’m doubly busy because I’m basically moonlighting and the writing and promo has to be squeezed in somehow. I feel like all I do is work these days. It’s pretty exhausting, to tell you the truth.

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  19. […] visited with the Rubies to talk about my trouble with the (learning) curve. I asked what everyone wished they’d known before they published their first novel and […]

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