Friday, July 06, 2007

BookEnds Talks to Kate Douglas

Kate Douglas
Book: Wolf Tales IV
Publisher: Kensington
Pub date: July 2007
Agent: Jessica Faust



(Click to Buy)


Kate Douglas has written professionally, in one venue or another, since her first job in 1971 writing commercials for country-western radio, but erotic romance has become her one true love—besides her husband, kids, and grandkids, of course! She is currently working on the eleventh Wolf Tale for Kensington.

Awards: Three Eppies for contemporary romance and romantic suspense, one Quasar for cover art.

Author Web site: www.katedouglas.com

BookEnds: Describe your book in 50 words or less.
Kate: Chanku are an ancient race of shapeshifters, existing in a society ruled by passion and lust. Tinker claims his mate to protect her from those who would do her harm, but, in this society, the female calls the shots, and Lisa has a few surprises for her sexy alpha male.

BookEnds: Tell us a little about your road to publication and don’t forget to share all the bumps.
Kate: If I shared all the bumps I’d be writing for the next year, and I’m not exaggerating. It took me over twenty years to get published. What I’m going to do is post part of an article I wrote for Romantic Times last year that really sums up a long, convoluted road to publication. I learned an awful lot along my road to publication and I would love the opportunity to share what I can with other aspiring authors.

(Article except begins here)

Way back in 1976 I read my first Harlequin Romance. It was Leopard in the Snow by Anne Mather. I still remember that book, not so much for the content but for the lightbulb flash of inspiration that I, too, could write a romance.

Someday, when the kids were older.

By 1985 my babies were rotten little kids with lives of their own and I was free to indulge myself in that secret dream I’d carried for almost ten years.

I started my first book.

I still have it—Rite of Passage. It’s horrible. It’s filled with every conceivable romance cliché, but it’s category length and has a beginning, a middle, and an end. What it doesn’t have is a cohesive plot, decent dialogue, or anything remotely resembling proper point of view, but it’s still a book and it’s all mine. I entered the first three chapters—all I had completed at the time—in a contest in 1987 and won first place. Obviously I was on my way to a fulfilling career as a rich and famous romance author.

Right. The first-place plaque is practically an antique. Twenty years later, I’m beginning to see the glimmer of success, but the rich and famous part is still around that ever-evolving corner.

I was a newspaper reporter during the '80s, and my creative juices went into stories about drug busts, forest fires, and high school football games. Still, the dream persisted and I finally finished writing my book and started submitting it to New York publishing houses in 1992. When I say I could wallpaper my office with the rejections I received, I’m not exaggerating. My files are a “who’s who” of the romance publishing industry in the mid-1990s, and not a single one of those wonderful editors wanted my story. The advice was always the same—write the best story you can write. Write your own story, the story of your heart.

I thought that’s what I was doing.

Obviously, I needed help if I was ever going to reach my Holy Grail—that elusive New York publishing contract. I joined Romance Writers of America, entered more contests, read everything I could on writing novels, took creative writing classes, and continued collecting rejections. I put the first book away and wrote a second, then a third. My writing grew stronger with each attempt, as did my ability to handle rejection from every editor on the face of the planet.

The reasons they gave for rejecting my stories were varied, but most of them could be listed under the “not what we’re looking for at this time” category. A few editors asked me to revise and resubmit, but that’s as far as I got. I told myself they weren’t rejecting me, merely this or that particular story, but that didn’t make it any easier to file the letters in my fat little folder. One thing I didn’t do, however, was quit. I kept writing. I kept submitting and I kept improving my craft. I found critique partners who had strengths where I was weak. I trusted their skills. I listened and learned.

I continued to write. I continued submitting my stories.

I continued filing the rejections, one after the other.

Then I discovered epublishing and suddenly I had a book coming out. Of course, the problem then was answering the “So, when are you going to write a real book?” question, but I didn’t really care. I was published, I was getting terrific reviews, and suddenly, much to my surprise, I got an agent. (Thank you, Jessica!)

Obviously, success was right around the corner—New York, mass-market publication, here I come!

Or not.

I began to stretch, writing stories that were more involved, a little bit hotter, a whole lot edgier. Late in the year 2000 I discovered Ellora’s Cave and realized I’d found my match—a publisher who wanted the edgy, sexy stories I’d been writing. The company might be located in Ohio, not New York, but I finally felt as if I’d found my spot in the writing world. A couple years later I added Changeling Press and Loose Id to my résumé, both small presses publishing stories for the growing online erotic romance audience. To my surprise, at some point during the year I realized that New York contract had ceased being my Holy Grail. I loved what I was doing and felt comfortable in my niche, writing very successful paranormal and SF series for both Ellora’s Cave and Changeling Press. New York was perfectly welcome to reject someone else.

What’s that saying? Ah, yes . . . don’t get too comfortable. I sent my epublished serial, Wolf Tales (which had its origins as a “freebie” for readers on a chat list) to Jessica. In spite of my overwhelming lack of success, she hadn’t dumped me by the side of the road, and I thought the kinky, sexy, romantic series I was currently writing for Changeling Press would, if it didn’t frighten Jessica away altogether, possibly shock some unsuspecting editor into an acceptance.

Hopefully, Kensington editor Audrey LaFehr has fully recovered from that first read. Imagine my surprise when the series I wrote for myself, the stories I had never expected to see in print, found a home with Kensington Books. Though the entire process still has a surrealistic feel to it, I am absolutely thrilled to say that twenty years of writing, of critique groups, writers’ conferences, seminars and classes have finally resolved themselves into my own personal success story. Not overnight or even close, but I wouldn’t trade the journey for anything.

When you love writing, when you love the words—the process as much as the finished product—it comes down to a very simple truth. The New York contract isn’t the Holy Grail. The Grail is not the advance or even the royalty checks. Writing—the process, the personal growth, the overall mind-blowing experience of writing—is what makes it all worthwhile. When I allowed the quest for a NY contract to become more important than the process of creation, I failed.

When I wrote the stories I wanted to write, the way I wanted to write them, when I finally stayed on a path that led to my own satisfaction, the Grail fell softly into my lap. And, rocky road or not, it’s my road and I feel privileged to have traveled it.

(Article except ends here)


Feel free to ask Kate questions in the comments section. She'll pop in during the day to answer them.

To learn more about Kate Douglas, see Our Books at www.BookEnds-Inc.com.

33 comments:

Cindy Procter-King said...

What a wonderful story of perseverance, Kate.

Christine Wells said...

Kate, you were obviously ahead of your time! What an inspiring story.

I was very focused on selling to NY too but in the end my sale came when I least expected it. I think it's like dating--the editors and agents can smell the desperation!

Anonymous said...

Great story. I just recently started reading this blog as one of my dailies, and I'm really enjoying it.

phoenix said...

Kate, can you tell us a little something about your relationship with your agent, Jessica, during all this? Did Jessica help you sell to EC and Changeling, or did she focus only on taking your writing to a NY publisher?

Where is your focus now that you've "broken through" to NY? Do you still pursue EC and Changeling, or have you "outgrown" them now that you have an agent to feed as well (sorry, Jessica, but you know what I mean)?

Lovely article! Thanks for sharing.

Kate Douglas said...

Thanks, guys. Mom always said I was too stubborn for my own good! Phoenix, Jessica didn't involve herself with my epublishing sales at all. I submitted those stories on my own while Jessica was "shopping" my "regular" romances. The sale to Kensington was like my own little "perfect storm," where everything came together at the right time. As my skill in writing erotic romance improved, NY was beginning to take notice of this sub-genre. By the time I figured out what I was doing (through my experience in epublishing)the established publishing world was ready to take the leap into more sexually explicit stories. Even so, Kensington took a huge chance with me because my stories are pretty "over the top," even in today's market. Luckily Jessica had the foresight to know when an editor was ready for what I was writing. The submission to Audrey LaFehr at Kensington turned out to be the perfect match.

Kate Douglas said...

Phoenix, I just realized I didn't answer the second half of your question--it's EARLY here in California! My focus has been almost entirely on writing for Kensington, but it's not because I've outgrown my epubs, it's because of time. I'm contracted well into 2010 with two novels and two novellas a year for a total of eighteen titles in the Wolf Tales series. That's a lot of books! Writing the stories is only part of the job--I'm proofing galleys and working on copy edits, doing promotion and trying to have some semblance of a life while writing seven days a week. I do have a short story coming out with Changeling Press in the next few weeks, but I haven't had time to submit to EC since signing with Kensington.

loowis said...

And Kate is a wonderful critique partner -- if you aren't thin-skinned. She and Shelby and I had a wonderful time bashing each other's stories as hard as we could, especially back in the EC days. SHe's also very supportive of fellow authors.

Treva
www.trevaharte.com
EiC, Loose Id, LLC
www.loose-id.com

Robin Snodgrass said...

Kate,
I simply wanted to say Thanks for continuing to write and submit. It's awful to think of the wonderful stories we would have missed had you not done so!
Keep up the terrific work!!
Hugs,
Robin S.

loowis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Kate,

I truly think that perseverance is as important as talent in this business. Congratulations on the success you've achieved using both in equal measure--

Alexis Morgan

Lucinda Betts said...

What a great story, Kate! Congrats on all of your successes!

Claudia said...

Kate,

I'm so glad you never gave up.


Claudia

Kate Douglas said...

Thank you--and Treva, thanks for reminding me! The value of good critique partners cannot be underestimated in this business. She's not exaggerating when she says we bashed each others' stories, but every comment I got from both Treva and Shelby made my writing better--after I got past wanting to throttle them both! As far as being supportive of other authors--I know I wouldn't be published if not for the help and encouragement of a lot of other writers, published and not. It's made me a firm believer in the "pay it forward" philosophy. I honestly believe that what goes around, comes around, and I'd much rather have positive energy coming back at me!

Amie Stuart said...

Writing—the process, the personal growth, the overall mind-blowing experience of writing—is what makes it all worthwhile.

Thanks for this Kate...I think it's SO important not to forget this especially when things get tough. And this can be a really tough, frustrating business.

Kate Douglas said...

You're not kidding, Amie! When it comes down to it, I write because I can't NOT write. I love what I do. Publication is a wonderful affirmation of my writing, but it's not the reason I write.

Diana Peterfreund said...

Kate, I just wanted to pop in and congratulate you on your success and your perseverance.

I won one of your books, as well as a cuddly "wolf puppy" at an event a few months back, and I keep it on my desk as a muse-enhancer. Now i treasure it even more because I know what a wonderful journey it stands for!

loralee said...

A truly inspiring story, Kate. After all your perserverance, you deserve your sweet success.

Kate Douglas said...

LOL! Thank you, Diana! I'm so happy to know one of my little guys has found such a good home! I hope he serves you well and keeps your muse working her little tail off! And Loralee, thank you as well. It's definitely sweeter, and far beyond even MY wildest dreams...and yeppers, they're REAL wild... :-)

Michele Bardsley said...

Woot! You deserve every bit of success and more. I get a thrill every time I go to the romance section and see all those Wolf Tales books. Yay, Kate!

Kate Douglas said...

Thanks, Michele! No bigger thrill than I get, I'll betcha!!!

For those of you who don't know her, Michele Bardsley is another one who started out in the early days of epublishing and now has a terrific series with Signet Eclipse: I'm the Vampire, That's Why and Don't Talk Back to Your Vampire. Imagine suburban single mom turned vampire and dealing with her teenaged kids--wonderful fun!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your journey Kate! It is an incredible example of perseverance. I can relate to your statement, "I write because I can't NOT write." However, I see a two-edged sword to this compulsion to write...the need for it to be read. (At least that's the way it is for me.) Right now I'm into my second book, currently without an agent on my first, and the thought of someone not being able to enjoy my story is frankly a downright painful thought. Does it stop me from writing? Not a chance. :-)

Also, I'm new to this blogging and enjoying everyone's contribution. I can't wait to hear what you all are going to say next. It's rather addicting.

Zee

Kate Douglas said...

Zee, I really do understand. Why do you think I finally found an alternative to publishing in NY? I used my years in epublishing to learn more about my craft while at the same time I was able to enjoy the feedback from readers. It was also a good chance for me to build a fan base, so that by the time I finally sold in NY, I had loyal readers who followed me. Don't ignore alternative routes to publishing. Not only do you gain experience, you get to find out what readers think of your work and also make some excellent contacts within the industry.

phoenix said...

Thank you for answering all our questions, Kate. We are ever appreciative!

Kate Douglas said...

You're welcome, Phoenix! If anyone has any questions at all about epubbing or what's going on with my Wolf Tales series, or maybe my "take" on Jessica (snort!) please drop me a note anytime at kate@katedouglas.com I've really enjoyed myself today, thanks to all of you and your great comments and questions. Thank you, also, to my terrific agent Jessica Faust for allowing me to run rampant with her blog. I'll continue checking in for awhile longer, but right now it's time to go cook dinner for the Lord of the Manor.

Sabrina Luna said...

Just wanted to pop in and say what a inspiration you are, Kate, to we epubbed authors --there's always hope! :)

Hugs,
S )O(

Marilyn Barnicke Belleghem M.Ed. said...

I came across this blog by chance and having years of writing without readers is well known to me. While I didn't land a New York publisher I do have loyal readers now. It took me seventeen years to complete my first book. I'm now writing my third.
I laughed Kate at the part about family responsibilities getting in the way of the passion to write.
Thanks for sharing.
Marilyn

Rae Monet said...

Kate, what can I say, YOU ARE MY HERO. You're larger than life in my eyes. I can't wait to join you some day in that NY path. Kudo's my friend!

Kate Douglas said...

LOL! Marilyn, there are times when, no matter how much you want to write or how desperately the muse tries to take control, life wins out. Like today, when our daughter popped in to visit with her three little ones and a good friend in tow...I put away the computer and fed the masses and it was a lot of fun. I may need an extension on my next deadline, but the occasional shift in priorities often can't be helped.

Kate Douglas said...

Thank you, Rae! You only say that because I'm a bigger klutz than you'll EVER be! Write on, kiddo! Unlike you, winning the Golden Heart is something I never even came close to--here's hoping for even bigger and better things for you in the coming year.

syferium said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Thanks for your suggestion Kate on alternative routes to publishing. I'm looking into epub and so far see that this avenue is pretty flooded with submissions also, though the epub concept is rather appealing for those reasons you previously mentioned. I would be interested in hearing more about epub experiences from those of you who use it or have used it.

Marilyn, did you go the epub route also to gather your loyal readers? Congrats on being on your third book!

Zee

Kate Douglas said...

Zee, the best advice I can give you regarding epubs is that you do your research and know what a publisher's strengths and weaknesses are as well as what genres they sell, just as you would with any NY pub. Ask other authors what their experience has been. I was lucky in that Changeling Press was opened by a good friend of mine (that twenty years' worth of contacts in the business that I mentioned!) who wanted something unique to launch her new company. The first "Wolf Tales" story, Stefan, was that book. At the time, I had no idea where I was even going with the plot, only that I'd written something really kinky and hot to keep Margaret (publisher) happy. Depending on the genre you write and the publishers you discover who sell your kind of story, see if they have "readers lists," or chat groups. Sometimes you can make contacts through those lists that give you a leg up on other authors submitting to the same company. It often comes down to who you know and just how lucky you are and how good your timing is when you submit. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Valuable advice. Thanks, Kate!
And thank you, Jessica, for inviting Kate to the blog party. It has been delightful, inspirational, and insightful to hear her story and get to know her a little bit. You, ladies, are great!

Zee