A little over three years ago (holy wow, it’s been that long?), I came across an anthology call from a reputable (and rather well-known) publishing company. They were looking for novella length stories, roughly 20k words, paranormal, based around an urban legend, to be published in the fall. At the time, I’d already bumbled through my first attempt at self-publishing and really wanted to find a publisher for the security, the confidence, the professionalism. I still had so much to learn about this writing gig, and I believed getting picked up by a publisher was the way to do it.
I googled “urban legends” and thanks to Wikipedia, came across the Legend of Bloody Mary. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloody_Mary_(folklore)) A girl looks into an enchanted mirror and sees the face of her future husband. It appealed to me.
I mulled over it for a few days, working out the girl’s history, the guy, the reasoning why it would take a magical mirror for the two of them to come together. I had a healthy obsession with gypsies, which fit with the enchanted mirror idea, so I determined I would work the Romani cultural into the story.
And then I decided it should be a comedy, and after purchasing a birthday card for a friend, decided a key secondary character would be fashioned after Maxine from the Hallmark cards, except she’d be a gypsy. With the same sagging boobs, though.
After that, it sort of fell together as I wrote it, as my books usually do. Plotter, I am not. I do best when I simply… write.
Six months later, I sent Mirror, Mirror to that publisher and then held my breath, crossed my fingers and toes, and said a few prayers to a variety of shooting stars and some nature-inspired deities.
Only a few short weeks later, I received a reply. “Can you turn this into a full-length novel?”
Hell yes! Excited beyond excited (ohmigod, this is it, this is finally it!), I fervently pounded the keyboard, hammered out words, sentences, paragraphs, and tripled the size of that novella. The basic guts were still there, but it had turned into a completely different story. It wasn’t the original, fun-loving novella, but I was still pleased with my work.
Once again, I sent it off to the publisher and held my breath and performed various luck-enhancing rituals.
And then I waited. And waited.
Periodically, I received email updates. “We need a little more time.” “We’re still reviewing your manuscript.” And the guilt-ridden one, “I haven’t forgotten about you, I promise!”
A year later—yes, you read that right—a year later, I received that ever-dreaded rejection. “We apologize for taking so [insanely freaking] long to get back to you, but unfortunately, we don’t think this will be a good fit for us. We do like your writing style, though, so please consider submitting to us again in the future.”
I wasn’t crushed, as you’d expect (although hell no, I’ll never submit to them again). I was annoyed, though. Especially because the book was a Halloween-themed story, and they’d finally gotten around to giving me an answer in September. Regardless of what I decided to do with this book, it would be another year before it would be published, and that’s what irritated me the most.
Because I. Love. This. Book.
I sat on it for a while. Contemplated what to do. Should I leave it in my computer to collect dust with the six dozen other unnamed novels that were essentially practice for all those I’ve since published? Start the query process all over again? Self-publish?
By that point, I’d been published with three other publishers—Crimson Romance, Liquid Silver Publishing, and Soul Mates Publishing. I was pretty confident Crimson or Soul Mates would be interested in this book. And I knew it would sell as well as the other books they already had.
I also knew I wouldn’t have control over pricing, over the cover, over marketing, over royalties. If I self-pub’d, I could price it at 99 cents or even a buck ninety-nine, and I could even drop it to free on occasion, if I were so inclined. I could put it up for pre-sale as soon as my editor and I were done polishing, and my fave cover artist came up with yet another spectacular creation. I could even include it in a future anthology or boxed set, if I wanted to.
Let me back up here. I am not against signing with publishers. I already mentioned I’ve signed with three. And while I admit I’ve thought about pulling one of my series from one of them, mostly due to what I consider too-high pricing, I’ve been largely happy with my publishers. I like my covers. I like the authors I’ve met. I like the people I’ve dealt with. I’ve liked most of my editors. I’ve even adopted one of them as my go-to whenever I put out a self-published book. I really appreciate the confidence building emails like, “I love this book, when can you get us another?”
Buuuuuuut… I have to be honest. At 99 cents or even a buck ninety-nine, royalties are pretty miniscule when you split them with someone else. And yes, I realize there’s the huge benefit of not paying for editing and a cover up front.
At this point in my career, I’m not making money on this writing gig. Everything I make goes right back into the business, mostly toward marketing. But, I am bringing in royalty checks each quarter (or monthly, for my self-pub’d books), and it’s enough that I can afford to pay my favorite editor and my favorite cover artist. When you look at it that way, I’m starting out ahead even if I’m paying up front. At this point, I’m confident I can make more on this book by doing it myself, than by sending it off to a publisher to “own.”
Because I’ve decided this book needed to be published. It’s funny. It’s entertaining. I especially love Vivienne, the kooky old lady with the magical mirror.
So therefore, three years after the first draft was written, Mirror, Mirror is finally seeing the light of day, er, is now available on e-readers pretty much everywhere. I think you should give this book a try. It’s been waiting to be read for three years, after all.
Tami Lund is an author, wine drinker, and an advocate of funny romance reads. If these things appeal to you, you should join her newsletter list: HERE.