Monday, May 30, 2011

Staying in the Saddle

The final Monday of every month, the Rockville 8 cuts loose and kicks back with a guest blogger, and this Memorial Day Monday is no exception. With June and the Romance Writers of America National Conference right around the corner, the Eight chats with 2011 RWA Service Award winner and debut author, Amy Atwell.

Amy 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. Her debut romantic suspense, Lying Eyes, is available from Carina Press, Amazon and Barnes & Noble, while her historical Ambersley is slated for a mid-June release. Visit her online at her website, Facebook, Twitter and/or GoodReads.

And now, a few words from Amy Atwell...

Thanks to Nichole and the Rockville 8 for inviting me today. I love groups of women, writers, laughter and, yes, even Mondays. Especially holiday Mondays.

My path to publication has been a long one. I started writing with an eye toward publication in 2000. Back then, the vision I had was clear: I would write engaging, popular, well-crafted stories and attract an agent. The agent would sell me to a big NY publisher who would acknowledge my talent by printing me hard cover and then paperback. I would earn a substantial advance and create a string of sales that would earn me a comfortable living.

That dream sustained me. It kept me “in the saddle” as a writer, despite a lot of hard knocks and spills. I “fell off” the writing horse a few times due to stresses—job changes, cross country moves, the deaths of both my parents. There were also times I “unsaddled” my writing horse because of rejections or negative contest feedback. These were balanced by successes that encouraged me to hold fast to that original dream. I resaddled that NY-published writing horse in 2008 following a string of contest wins, being named a Golden Heart® finalist and signing with an agent.

But after two agented submissions failed to sell to New York, I took a hard look at my dream. My NY-published writing horse was still sleek and beautiful, but it hadn’t earned me more than a few dollars in ten years. Like a real pleasure horse, my writing dream had become an expensive hobby. I didn’t want to quit riding (or writing!), so I considered other options for selling my manuscripts.

Fortunately, publishing has been rapidly evolving as digital technology has offered a new way for readers to buy, store and read books. My agent submitted a manuscript to Carina Press, and that became my debut release. My decision to sell to a digital first publisher was not because I’d abandoned the notion of ever selling to New York. It was a career choice to add a second horse (publishing platform) to my stable. I’m even adding a self-publishing horse to my stable next month when I release my historical, Ambersley.

With three publishing platforms in my writing stable, I have more choices to further my career and create the income stream I envisioned so long ago. I can target a manuscript to New York or digital or self-publishing with the same ease as saddling a horse. And if it’s the wrong fit, I can try that same saddle on a different horse. I’m not convinced that any one platform is better than the others. I think each offers benefits and potential drawbacks, but I’m continuing to pursue all three.

The key is to keep writing, keep improving your craft and keep exploring your options for publishing. And when those hard knocks force you to the ground, dust yourself off and get back in the saddle.

Thanks, Amy! Okay, readers, it's your turn to take the floor. The Rockville 8 and Amy Atwell want to know: How many horses and saddles are in your writing stable? What keeps you in the saddle when the trail gets tough? Is there anything that would make you hang up your spurs?


  1. Amy - you are an inspiration to me as an unpubbed/unagented writer. And your cover for Ambersley is beautiful.

    Thanks for all you do!

  2. Thanks, Lynn! Not sure I should be an inspiration--golly, the road to publication can be a L-O-N-G one. But I wouldn't trade the last ten years. I've learned so much about writing and about myself. And the industry changes, while coming at lightning speed, are exciting. Best wishes to you and your "stable!"

  3. Hi Amy! Hi Rockville bloggers!

    I'm so glad you invited me here, Amy. I love this blog and the interview of course! Your cover for Ambersley is wonderful. Can't wait to read your new book, Amy.

    If you fall off the horse, always get back on and never give up! The journey toward your writing goals is half the fun, isn't it?

  4. Thanks for spending your Memorial Day with us here at the R8, Amy!

    I love how you compare your options to a stable full of horses. As historical authors know, it often took more than one fresh horse to get a lady where she wanted to go!

    From the looks for things, more and more writers are beginning to think of publishing options this way. The question is, will we watch the action or blaze our own trail with these "horses"? Interesting!

  5. Last time I rode a horse, the sucker turned left instead of right and I landed flat on my derriere.

    But you pick yourself up, dust off the debris, and keep going.

    Amy does more in one week, writing wise, than most of us. Kudos for never giving up.

  6. Theresa, Nichole and Donna--thanks for swinging by on this holiday Monday. As Nichole pointed out, it can take a few different horses to get the job done. I think the key is writing fresh stories, really honing your craft, then targeting your audience. If you've got a really commercial book, then by all means find a good agent and seek a terrific deal in NYC. But if your book is more of "sleeper" hit, one that will build a devoted audience over time, then self-publishing might a good option.

  7. Hi Amy! Thanks for blogging with us today. I recently dipped a toe into self publishing, posting a short story to kindle and then nook. But I'm still trying to get that NY publication horse into the race. As you said, what I love about the digital publication changes these days is that we're not limited to just the one horse anymore, and that building a stable can improve our chances in all races.

  8. Yvonne, thanks for inviting me. Congrats on your recent foray into self-publishing. Sounds like you're building your own stable!

  9. Yay, Amy! Glad you stayed on that horse! Looking for more reads like Lying Eyes, and with the indie publishing, there's a lot more types of horse races!

  10. I like the precedent Amanda Hocking set: Self publish first, make a million, then get New York to offer you $2 million for the print rights. That's a pony I could ride anywhere!

  11. Wow, we've got the entire calvary riding with us today. Congrats to Theresa Ragan and Yvonne for blazing their own trails in self-publishing. Here's a big R8 hug to two-time Golden Heart finalist Bev Pettersen who really does write about the wonder horses bring. And Grace Burrowes, winner of Washington Romance Writers' Mentor of the Year Award, it's great to see you here!

    From the looks of things, I'd say R8 readers are interested in a team approach. That's to say, it looks like a combination of publishing options is the way they want to go.

    I wonder if this is happening primarily in romance or across all genres. After all, Amazon just announces its own mystery imprint. What do you think? Is this multi-prong approach now embraced by North American writers everywhere?

  12. Great post. And yes, Amy, you are an inspiration. And a trailblazer. Love the Ambersley cover. Looking forward to the release.

  13. Wow--more visitors stopped by. Thanks, all. I don't think my idea is unique. Established authors who own the digital rights to older print books are choosing to self-publish those via Amazon, PubIt, Smashwords and elsewhere. A few authors who've sold to NY are choosing to self-pubiish their related books instead of signing a new contract. And yes, Amanda Hocking and H.P. Mallory are two authors who started as indies and have since sold to NY. There are pros and cons to each horse, and each horse generates different cash flow.

    Bottom line: do your homework, authors! The industry is changing. Just because it's been done one way for decades doesn't mean that's the best way or the right way (or the worst way or the wrong way).

    Huge thanks to Nichole and the R8 gang for having me. I'll try to check back again tonight!

  14. Amy - thanks so much for your post! To continue the theme...I'd say you've displayed a lot of "horse sense" when it comes to this industry. The old saw about not being able to ride two horses at once no longer applies and that's a good thing for us writers. Well done on improving your stable of options!