Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Kate Douglas on the Next Step

Kate Douglas
Publisher: Kensington
Pub date: February 2010
Agent: Jessica Faust

(Click to Buy)

Taking the Next Step in a Writing Career

Thank you, Jessica, for sharing your blog with me today. (To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn she’d offered me the spot to shut me up. I’ve been driving her nuts for the past few weeks while waiting for the release of my first mass market paranormal romance, DemonFire, and I have a feeling she gave me today’s spot out of self-preservation. Did I mention the book is out today?)

Oh, maybe about a gazillion times. The funny thing is, this is far from my first book—I have a successful series at Kensington called Wolf Tales (the seventeenth in that series released in January and the eighteenth comes out next month)—but those books sell as trade-sized paperbacks with limited distribution due to their erotic content—no placement in the local Wal-Mart or Target stores for those babies. They’re limited to major bookstores—the big chains like Borders and Barnes & Noble, and online booksellers where erotic content isn’t an issue. DemonFire and the next three in the DemonSlayers series should be everywhere that paperback books are sold. They’re what I think of as “vanilla” romances—more for a general audience than my other books—which is a long segue into the main point of my post today, and that’s where an agent comes into managing an author’s career after the author is successfully published.

I’ve made no secret of the fact it took me forever to get my first New York contract. Even after I signed with Jessica, the running joke was that the best thing about having an agent was the fact she could get me rejected a whole lot faster than when I was submitting on my own. I was used to waiting a year—Jessica was getting rejections within weeks!

Luckily, I discovered I’d signed with an agent every bit as stubborn and hard-headed as I am, and eventually she got the right manuscript in front of the right editor at the right time. That submission, the first Wolf Tales, ended up launching Kensington’s new erotic romance line, Aphrodisia, in January 2006, and continues to be the best-selling series among all their titles. The first book is currently in its tenth print run, and I’m contracted into 2011 for more.

But where do you go from there, and how do you grow a career? Jessica and I talked over some different ideas, all revolving around getting out of erotic trades and into a more general audience mass market format, aiming for increased distribution. I gave her one proposal for a mass market paranormal series that she shopped around, but we couldn’t drum up any interest in it at all. We talked about it some more, and Jessica said I needed to think in terms of a “big” book.

Okay. Now I hate to admit this, but I didn’t have a clue what she meant. Agents and editors tend to toss out terms and phrases like we actually know what they mean, and usually I just nod and agree and figure that at some point it will all make sense. It’s like talking about “voice.” Until you find yours as an author, you probably haven’t got a clue what anyone means. Or that old standby, “write the book of your heart.” I hate to sound crass, but the book of my heart was whatever I could sell, and thank goodness I really loved my Chanku shapeshifters, because I’d hate to have to write over twenty books about characters I couldn’t stand.

But I digress. Jessica was still tossing out ideas, I was taking notes, and then she pulled that “big” book description again. So I shot back, “Okay. How about good versus evil?” It doesn’t get much bigger and I thought it was a nice, witty answer.

She said great. Go for it. Send me a proposal. Once I realized she wasn’t kidding, I went to work. I took the idea of good versus evil and localized it, setting a story in a small town on the flank of Mount Shasta in northern California. I’m familiar with the area, the fact Shasta is known for its energy vortex and the local legend of a lost civilization of technologically-advanced Lemurians supposedly living inside the mountain, and the more ideas I jotted down, the stronger my sense of the story became. I think it was the moment that I got a visual of demon-possessed garden gnomes that I knew I had something. I wrote the proposal, Jessica helped me tweak it, I wrote three chapters, she ripped them to shreds—nicely—but this is where trust comes into the agent/author relationship. I trust my agent’s take on things. She knows what works and how to make my writing stronger, so I adjusted my story, ignored a few of her ideas that didn’t work for me, but ultimately we worked together until I had three really great chapters and synopses for three books.

She began shopping it around in November 2008, and we didn’t hear a word. I was so busy trying to get my next Wolf Tales book written that I didn’t worry too much until she finally called and said we had an offer. It was disappointing, to say the least, and I was tempted to turn it down, but Jessica told me not to worry, that we still had a few other editors to hear from. What I didn’t realize is that often the fact an offer has been made will spur other editors to finally LOOK at the proposal that’s been sitting on their desk for weeks. A few days later, a counteroffer came in. Jessica took that one to the first editor who’d offered, and the auction was on.

I can honestly say that having your book proposal go to auction is just about the coolest thing that can possibly happen. And right before both publishers interested in my DemonSlayers trilogy broke for the Christmas holiday, Kensington came through with the winning bid—for four books, not three. I was thrilled to be able to stay with the editor who had first purchased Wolf Tales—Audrey LaFehr has championed my writing from the very beginning, and it’s made this release today even more special, to know that I have a publisher willing to bid good money for my stories and then turn them into books with gorgeous covers and send them out into the world. It wouldn’t have happened without an agent willing to take a chance on me, and it wouldn’t have happened if I’d given up when those rejections first started pouring in—back in 1985.

Twenty years from first submission to first signed contract, and I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s been a great ride and it continues to get better. I’ve never worked harder in my life or had as much fun, and if you want to see what a sixty-year-old grandmother, who always wanted to be an author, can write when she’s got a supportive agent and a terrific editor, pick up a copy of DemonFire.

Did I mention it’s out today? Thanks, Jessica!

Here’s a quick excerpt, just to give you an idea:

“You asked what would happen if things got out of balance.” Dax nodded toward the fireplace. “That’s a good example. It’s happening now. Demons are slipping into this dimension through a pathway that’s normally closed to them, a portal in the vortex which is your mountain, that gives them entrance.”

Not exactly what Eddy wanted to hear. “You’re kidding, right?” He didn’t look like he was kidding. In fact, he looked awfully serious for someone making a joke. “The vortex is all New Age folklore. No one around here really believes it exists, unless you count my father, who is the king of otherworldly theories, or the stores and companies catering to the tourists. The vortex is no more real than the Lemurians.”

“The what?” Dax frowned and stopped rubbing Bumper’s ears. Bumper growled and wagged her tale. Dax went back to rubbing.

Eddy couldn’t sit still any longer. She bounced to her feet and began pacing around the small living room. “Lemurians. They’re not real, unless you ask Dad.” She spun around and laughed. “He’s going to be thrilled when he finds out about you. Proof that some of his crazy theories are actually true.” Dax and the demons, she thought. It didn’t get any better.

“According to local lore, they’re a race of mystical beings, tall, beautiful people with strange powers who supposedly live inside Mount Shasta in rooms made of gold. Legend says they’re descendents of people from the lost continent of Lemuria that sank beneath the sea, that they had advanced science and technology thousands of years ago. They were even supposed to have flying machines, sort of like the old Atlantis myth.”

Dax shook his head. He twisted around in his seat so he could follow her erratic pacing. “Atlantis is no myth. It really existed and its descendants are still around. I’ve never heard of Lemuria. I’ll need to look into it. The vortex, though, is definitely real. How do you think I got here?”

Eddy stopped in her tracks and stared at him, looking for a twitch, a smile, anything to tell her he was teasing.

He wasn’t.

She glanced at Willow. As if the sprite knew she was being watched, she flashed bright blue and just as quickly faded.

Okay. Point made. Eddy took a deep breath. “Why don’t you tell me exactly how you did get here. Just promise to ignore me if I look incredulous.”

Dax stared at her for a long, slow moment. Then he shook his head and his gorgeous lips turned up in an unbelievably sexy grin. “Eddy Marks, I doubt I could ever ignore you . . . not for any reason.”

She felt it right between her thighs. A hot lick of heat that had no business firing her senses and making her muscles clench, especially after a hokey come-on like that. It took a tremendous amount of will to continue gazing directly into those smoldering eyes of his. Demon’s eyes. She had to remind herself that, for all his appeal, Dax was not only a stranger, he’d already admitted to being one of the bad guys.

“I’m waiting,” she said, planting her hands on her hips, ignoring his innuendo and her body’s traitorous response.

He still had that cocky grin plastered on his gorgeous face, but at least Dax settled back against the couch. “I was a demon. An immortal in a world of evil. It suited me for a long time, and then it didn’t.” He shrugged. “For some reason, I began to question the life, the constant desire to cause pain, to kill.” He shook his head, shrugged. Gave her a self-deprecating grin. “I guess I learned the hard way. One does not question evil. I got tossed out of Abyss.”

The snake tattoo crawling out of his waistband slowly writhed across his belly and chest. Mesmerized, Eddy blinked. She must be more exhausted than she’d realized.

The subtle motion stopped. The tattoo stayed put. She swallowed and raised her eyes. It was too unsettling to steal even the quickest glance at his body, not when things like that happened. “Where does a demon go that’s worse than hell?”

Dax ran his fingers lightly over his tattoo. Had he felt it move? He stared at her for a moment before he answered.



anita said...

Wow, Kate! What an incredible excerpt! I have to get this book! :-) A rebel demon for a hero? YUM.

Thanks so much for the insight into being patient, working hard, and growing a career.

It's so great to have an agent who believes in your work yet has the savvy to help you find your footing when you get off the path a bit, isn't it? That can make all the difference in a successful partnership and career.

Good luck with the new series!

Anonymous said...

Wow. What a fantastic story. Glad you shared it. Congrats and I agree with Anita...great excerpt!

s.w. vaughn said...

Kate, I think I love you. I will definitely be picking up DemonFire!

Don't ever stop being you, okay? You're awesome. :-)

Donna Lea Simpson said...

Thanks so much for sharing, Kate! It's great to hear success stories, especially those that *aren't* overnight!!


Wendy S Marcus said...

Hi, Kate!
I'm not much of a paranormal romance reader, and yet I love your Wolf Tales books. Good luck with your new series. The first book out today did you say?!?!?!

Edie Ramer said...

What a great excerpt! And thanks for sharing your story. I'll be buying DemonFire.

Kate Douglas said...

Good morning--It's 6:30 here in California and I'm headed down the hill to town--promised to puppysit the grandog while the kids are in Disneyland, but I wanted to respond before I take off (And hopefully I'll have Internet when I get there) but thank you Anita! Dax turned out to have so many levels I didn't expect, but that's where the joy of discovery comes into writing. And yes, Jessica has been fantastic about keeping me focused. I've a typical creative brain--which means it's atypical as hell. Tends to wander. She's very focused!

Thanks, Lynn--if you get the book, I hope you enjoy the rest of the story as much!

LOL...thanks, SW. I'm stuck with me. Sometimes that's okay, other times I keep trying to escape. hasn't worked yet!

Donna, if this was "overnight," it's been a DAMNED long night! But, I honestly think I'm enjoying it more because it took so long to reach this point. I've really learned to appreciate each small success, as well as the generous people who helped me get here.

Thank you Wendy--Wolf Tales has been so much fun. I just finished writing Wolf Tales 11 last night, and once again ended up with a story I didn't expect. Those characters have all taken on lives of their own. They're definitely a hoot to work with, and I'm already getting that seem "feel" for my DemonSlayers characters. So much fun to get to know them.

Thank you, Edie.I do hope you enjoy it. Now I need to shut down, but I'll be checking in in a few hours. If anyone has any questions, I promise to answer as soon as I get settled in at Sarah's house. Talk to you later!

Stephanie Damore said...

Awesome post Kate. I'm so glad Jessica turned the reigns over to you for the day. I can't imagine how excited you must be for the release and I applaud your determination. Congrats!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Congratulations on the new release, Kate!

And thank you so much for sharing your journey with us. You've given me a much needed dose of inspiration and encouragement!

Anonymous said...

October of last year I had a question about blurbs and Kate was more than generous with her advice. I was amazed an author like her took the time to explain blurbs and other promotional things in such great detail to a nobody like me.

I really enjoyed reading her story today and can assure you if you buy her books you are supporting a really great person!

Kate, thanks again!


Anonymous said...

I have read the book and I'm going nuts for the next one in this series. I'm so happy for you Kate and you deserve it with so much glee.


Shelley Sly said...

Kate, thank you so much for sharing all of this with us, and congratulations on your new release! This was a pleasure to read, and your excerpt looks fantastic.

Anonymous said...

I am traveling a little over thirty miles today to make a trip to Barnes and Noble I will be getting Demonfire and letting you know how great it was in the next couple days. I will take a photo and facebook you. Have a great release day Kate
Jennifer Cochran

Robena Grant said...

Coolness! Loved the excerpt. Congratulations, Kate, and I'll definitely buy DemonFire.

I've been writing for ten years and have reached the point of total frustration several times, but like you did in those early days, I keep on trying.

One question I have, you mentioned the term writing a "big book" and this happened to me with an Australian romantic adventure story I'd written. I'd submitted to an editor after a conference, it went quickly from 3 chapters to a request for a full, then came back as "unfortunately this could not be a big book" and of course my silent answer was hell then make it a small book. Ha ha.

So, the question is what makes a big book, did you ever find out? Is it the writing style, the concept, the structure, something so entirely different it's mind blowing, a fabulous and different voice, what?

Mira said...

Kate, what a great blog post. It strikes me that it's hard to write about one's own journey in a way that others will find compelling - and you totally pulled it off.

I also loved hearing about your great relationship with Jessica - it made the author/agent relationship seem very real in my mind.

And your excerpt is such fun! Fantasy and a hot demon. Can't go wrong with that.

I truly hope this book moves you into mainstream sucess! Best wishes for the best of luck!

Rebecca Knight said...

What a fantastic post, Kate! :) Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

I agree completely with the others who said this was motivational! Congrats on building a career through hard work, perseverance, and of course, good versus evil! ;)

Rebecca Ringler said...

Hi Kate - This blog, too is very interesting & really great to hear about some of the hoops you have had to jump through to get where you are now. I hope you enjoy the dog-sitting!!

Marsha Sigman said...

You had me at writhing snake tattoo.lol

Terry McLaughlin said...

Wonderful story, Kate--thanks for sharing :-). Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

I love hearing about the different journeys writers take. It gives me hope--something I need right now. Although paranormal/urban fantasy isn't my "cup of tea" genre, I enjoyed this excerpt very much.

Elizabeth Amber said...

Great blog, Kate. I learned some things about you that I didn't know. For instance, that your determination to keep writing and submitting your work to publishers saw you through twenty tough years...and on to today when you're releasing a new series! Congratulations on the release of Demonfire, Kate! Celebrating for you.

Kate Douglas said...

Well guys, so far today is not going as planned...sorry to take so long to get back to you, but on the way over the mountain to our daughter's house the...uh, mountain ran into me? Yeah, the highway patrolman didn't buy that either, though he didn't cite me. It was raining and I hit some grease on the road--luckily I wasn't going too fast when I stopped skidding and hit the hillside, though I hit hard enough to deploy the airbag. (The airbag was NOT real impressive and I'm glad it wasn't a head-on. The thing sort of went "phhhhtttt" and then collapsed. Never did blow up the way they show in the commercials!) Anyway, the truck is trashed but I'm okay--a little stiff and sore but no blood or broken anything except my pride and my cute little Nissan pickup. Luckily my husband's only concern was that I was okay. He hasn't mentioned his pride and joy (the truck) once. I've decided he's a keeper.

Thanks, Steph! Jessica is really quite generous with her blog, but none of us have the energy to keep it going full time the way she does. I am definitely excited about the release--thank you!

Madeline-thank you. I always wonder if I'm being way too self-indulgent telling my story, but I remember hearing from other authors who took the long route to publication, and I figure it's good to know it can happen, even after years of disappointment.

Thanks, Christi! I love helping when I can--I'm a firm believer in the "pay it forward" philosophy. I never would have lasted if not for the generosity of other authors willing to help me along the way, so it's really neat to be able to pass some of that on.

Hey, Tracey! Thank you!

Thank you, Shelley. I hope readers will find the whole book as entertaining...it's out and I'm already hearing from readers who have finished it. Just wish I could write them as fast a people read them!

Jennifer, thank you! I just saw it in my email and I'll get it posted in a bit. What were you doing in Santa Rosa! Isn't that a ways from home for you?

Kate Douglas said...

Robena, I wish I could tell you. I still don't really know what is meant by a "big book." Maybe Jessica can fill us in on that one, but it appears The Demonslayers concept is a big book, so I'll take it! I imagine it's the feel of the piece, maybe the various plot threads and more depth to the characters, but I honestly can't tell you, even now!

Thanks, Mira, for your very generous comments. They're much appreciated.

LOL...Rebecca, I hope it motivates. If nothing else, it's a reminder that we're never too old to follow our dreams. I just had my sixtieth birthday and I've never had more fun, OR more to look forward to. It's really very cool!

Hey Rebecca R! You're going on my blog journey with me it appears! FWIW, I'm blogging tomorrow at Borders.com if you've got time for that one!

Marsha, I've always maintained you never know WHAT a reader will go for. Thanks for proving my theory!

Thank you, Terry. And Anonymous--there are so many different genres and just as many--if not more--roads for writers to travel. The biggest thing is to have faith in yourself along with a healthy stubborn streaks. And a good agent never hurts! Good luck!

Thanks so much, Elizabeth. I do appreciate that.

I should have mentioned (though I'm sort of dealing with a "post accident adrenaline meltdown" right now) that Jennifer Cochran, who commented earlier, understands a bit of the journey I've been through, as I know she's been writing and submitting for awhile now. Jennifer's just sold her first book, and I'm absolutely thrilled for her! Congratulations, Jennifer--and I'm blanking on your pseudonym...Marie Truhart? Something like that! Please correct me.

Venus Vaughn said...


I'm so happy for you. I don't remember what turned me on to the Wolf Tales books initially,(I know what turned me on within them) but I keep reading and enjoying them. I'm celebrating for you with the Demonfire trilogy.

I'm gonna purchase it NEW (a rarity in my book acquisitions), but it may have to wait until I have a few more shekels in my coin purse. Congrats and thanks for the reminder that this career takes a while to build.

Venus Vaughn said...

Ack! I just read the comments. I'm glad you got through the accident okay. After the house fire and Internet meltdown you're having a heck of a winter.

Thank heavens you're okay. Take excellent care of yourself... Hot bath to relax the muscles. Lots of water to flush the adrenaline from your body and don't be afraid to get a full night's sleep to aid in the recovery.



Thanks so much for sharing your path to publication. Not that I don't enjoy hearing stories from authors who've had an easier journey, but your story makes me feel so much better about the slightly bumpy road I've experienced so far. I particularly loved this line, as it's something I've joked about with my agent:

Even after I signed with Jessica, the running joke was that the best thing about having an agent was the fact she could get me rejected a whole lot faster than when I was submitting on my own.

So true! Sounds like we've both been lucky to find agents who believe in us even when it's not a slam-dunk sale right away.

I'll have to rush out ASAP to get my hands on your new book. Thanks for the wonderful blog entry!


Carradee said...

Please don't take this the wrong way, but I think Bumper wagged her tail, not tale.

That just leapt out at me when I read the excerpt.

Otherwise, I might be looking that book up. :-)

Anonymous said...

Your excerpt is great. I'm interested.

Robena Grant said...

Oh Kate, what an awful morning. Glad you're okay, and yes, the hubby is definitely a keeper.
Thanks for answering my question and yes, my guess is it's too hard to define, but the agent/editor knows it when they see it. : )

Kate Douglas said...

Hi Venus--LOL...thanks. Yeah, this has been a weird and wild day, and it's funny but I rarely talk to people who knew WHY they bought the first Wolf Tales, but most either love it or hate it. I'm so glad you've enjoyed the stories, and do hope you'll like DemonFire. I'm pretty excited about it. The nice thing about DemonFire is it's currently $4.97 at Walmart--so not nearly as many shekels as Wolf Tales. :-)

Thanks, Tawna. A good agent makes all the difference. They not only make the whole sales process a lot of fun (instead of agonizing!) but they're really good at listening to writer who need the occasional shoulder. Sort of like having a therapist and a business advisor all rolled into one.

Thanks, Carradee--that got caught in copy edits. The excerpt is from my original file prior to any edits, and I really should have caught and corrected it. That's one of those words I just don't see...probably from writing the Wolf Tales series (instead of tails...)

Thanks, Tabitha, and Robena, I've been thinking about the "big book" definition all afternoon and still can't really come up with an answer. I'll have to check with Jessica when she gets home at the end of the week.

Jay said...

Aloha Kate,

So happy to know that while you are probably one huge black and blue, you are okay. Well, as okay as one can be being clobbered by a mountain.

And given your new series, I would not put it past a mountain to clobber you. You have me believing that Lemurians live and breathe in Mt. Shasta and that demons can animate inanimate objects. Not sure why that officer didn't believe your mountain story.

*blinking innocently*

And I practice this blinking so maybe one day, someone will believe me. =)

Kim Lionetti said...

Oh my goodness Kate! So sorry to hear about the accident. Glad you're okay!!

Kate Douglas said...

Thanks, Jay! In this case, the mountain won the fight, though I've only got one colorful bruise on my leg, and don't even recall bumping anything! Sore but manageable, so I'm hoping to talk my spouse into taking me to see Avatar today. I still haven't seen it!

Thanks, Kim. I honestly feel so much better than I expected (sore but not flattened out!) that it's all good. Now I'm off to blog at Borders.com...it's all about the promo at this point!

Lori Devoti said...

Sorry I missed this yesterday. Glad you are okay and major congrats on your new series. :)

Kate Douglas said...

Thank you, Lori. I'm stiff and sore and have one really cool contusion on my left leg, but I'm really lucky I wasn't badly hurt. It was pretty scary--more so after the fact! An accident like that happens SO fast, you don't even have time to think about it!

Yvonne said...

Congratulations on Demon Fire coming out! I think you might have mentioned it, someplace in that entry...

Yvonne Carts-Powell (another BookEnds author)

Kate Douglas said...

LOL...thanks, Yvonne...maybe mentioned it once or twice.