Friday, April 24, 2009

Petit Fours and Hot Tamales Welcomes the Slightly Nostalgic Author, Marin Thomas

Marin Thomas hails from Janesville, Wisconsin. She played basketball for the University of Arizona Lady Wildcats at Tucson, where she obtained a BA in radio-television--which she has done nothing with all these years. Upon graduation, she married her college sweetheart in a five-minute ceremony in Las Vegas. Her husband's career in public relations has taken the family to Arizona, California, New Jersey, Colorado, Texas and Chicago, where she now calls the Windy City home.

Marin's first book for the Harlequin American Romance line came out in 2004. She's currently writing her 14th book for the line.

Marin's upcoming release (April 2009) A Cowboy's Promise is the second book in her Cartwright Siblings series for Harlequin American Romance. The first book in the series, The Cowboy and the Angel, earned 4 ½ stars and a Top Pick from Romantic Times.

Marin will be giving a copy of both books, The Cowboy and the Angel and A Cowboy's Promise to two lucky winners.

What I Miss About Being an Unpubbed Writer
By: Marin Thomas

Embrace and rejoice in your unpubbed status while it lasts because once you enter the world of a published author--nothing is ever the same. Regardless, the ultimate goal for most serious writers is to reach publication and once published, I doubt you'll find an author who would willingly trade in their published status to return to the land of the unpublished--but that doesn't mean we don’t miss those days on occasion.

Until I sold, I didn't fully appreciate my journey toward publication. Back then all my energy was focused on writing the "story" and making that story the best it could be--whether through revisions, taking online writing courses, reading craft books etc. Today my energy is focused on the "business" of being published and all the responsibilities that accompany it. And the one thing I thought for sure would disappear when I became published was "self-doubt." Fat chance. It looms bigger, brighter and stronger than ever.

Following are a few things I never worried about as an unpubbed writer--but now I do.

Deadlines. Self-explanatory.

Overlapping books. I miss the days when I could just focus on one book. Throw all my energy, time, thoughts into one story, one hero, one heroine. Now my books overlap and I find myself writing a new book, while revising a previous book and brainstorming the next proposal.

Fresh Story Ideas. Why did it seem easier when I was unpubbed to come up with that "winner" story idea?

Critics. The only critics I had as an unpubbed were my critique partners and I've been fortunate through my writing journey to have connected with gracious, supporting, and positive writers. As a published author I have many critics--myself, my editors, reviewers and readers.

Reviews. As an unpubbed I never considered that someone wouldn’t like my book. Now I've come face-to-face with readers and reviewers who haven't connected with my writing the way I'd hoped they would. I learned early in my career that a writer can't please every reader. Readers are human. They come with as much baggage as the heroes and heroines in the books we write. Even though writers never set out to intentionally write a story that will offend or upset a reader--it happens.

The Tables are Turned. Fess up now…how many unpubbed writers out there have ever read a book, then said "I can write better than this"? I'm guilty. Now that I'm on the other side of the fence I'm sure there are aspiring writers who've said the same thing about one of my books.

Revisions. As an unpubbed I loved revising my book--it was a chance to polish it and make it shine. Now revisions are an inconvenient but necessary part of the publication process. Revisions get in the way of my next book, which I've already begun writing before my editor sends her revision letter. Most authors have about a month to complete revisions--sometimes the revisions are light, other times you're re-writing much of the book.

Promotion. I sold my first book in 2002 before Twitter, MySpace, Facebook and Blogs. My only worry back then was establishing a website.

Once your pubbed, the pressure is on to maintain a website, blog, socialize on forums, Twitter, MySpace, Facebook. I enjoy conversing with readers and writers as much as the next person but I am not a chatter-box and most days I have nothing interesting or relevant to say--just ask my kids. This makes promotion a challenge for me.

Respect. Now this was an interesting discovery for me. Before I was published, some family, friends and acquaintances considered my writing a "hobby". Now that I'm published--working on my 15th book right now…there are still holdouts. Why? Because I haven't written a NYT Bestseller yet. Because none of my books have come out in hardcover. Because I'm not signing six-figure advances. And because there are people out there who will always say "I should a write book" and assume the entire process is a piece of cake. I'm working five times as hard at my writing now than before I was published. If people knew how many hours I put into my writing a week and how little I make compared to other careers they'd probably ask "Is it worth it?" Absolutely.

Sales Numbers.unpubbeds don’t fret or worry over sales numbers or if their book meets, exceeds or falls short of the editors' expectations. This is a constant concern for published authors.

And let's not forget there are two sides to every "coin".

Unpubbed:dreams of winning a Rita
Pubbed:another year goes by and no Rita nomination

Unpubbed:dream of getting on the Waldenbook's Bestseller List
Pubbed--another release doesn’t make the list.

Unpubbed:can write the book of their heart.
Pubbed:must write a book that fits a specific line and one you know your editor will buy.

Unpubbedafter you've written several chapters and don’t like the book you can toss it out and start a new one.
Pubbed:you're under contract whether you like the book anymore or not you have to fix what's wrong with it and finish it.

Unpubbed:don’t need a synopsis to write a book. You can write it after the book is finished.
Pubbed:you have to write the synopsis before you can go to contract and write the book.

Unpubbed:discipline is an option.
Pubbed:discipline is a must if you're going to survive and succeed.

Unpubbed:the rough draft can be as rough as you want.
Pubbed:the rough draft should be as clean as possible because you're on a deadline and you don't have much time to revise.

Unpubbed:you're the attacker, the threat, the predator to a published author.
Pubbed:you're the prey--on the run from all the unpubbs who want your slot in the publishing industry.

Unpubbed:competition is fierce to become published.
Pubbed:competition is even fiercer to stay published.

Unpubbed:your book is "your" baby.
Pubbed:your book is "their" baby. It belongs to the publisher to do with what they will.

Okay--is there anyone left reading this post--or did I scare everyone away? Seriously, nothing worth having comes easy. And nothing worth keeping is ever easier. Most writers already know this. But there's something inside each of us that won't allow us to quit or give up. Your struggles along the path to publication will only help you be that much stronger of a writer and a person when you finally sell that book. You'll need that strength and perseverance every bit as much when you're published. But never doubt whether your journey is worth it.

A book has the potential to change someone's life. To make someone smile. To bring tears to someone's eyes. To give someone hope. To make a difference in someone's life. It's that need to give to others that motivates many writers to push themselves to produce the best book they’ve ever written--time and time again. Just remember to enjoy your journey to publication and embrace the freedom and full range of creativity your unpubbed status allows, because one day your perseverance and dedication WILL pay off and you'll find yourself in the world of a "Pubbed" author.

Happy Writing!

A Cowboy's Promise *Men Made in America* (April 2009)

Okay readers, leave a comment or question for Marin to be entered in a contest for one of the following: The Cowboy and the Angel or a A Cowboy's Promise.


Sandra Elzie said...

Good morning Marin,

I was Unpubbed for many years, just sold my first to Avalon. I understand what you've said and you're right. It might have been slight at first, but the view of my writing changed somewhat after being pubbed. I still write the story I want to tell, but I have to keep the editor in mind if I want them to even consider the next one.

Rewrites? (Bad word!) I was just told a few days ago to rewrite a lot of one I sent in before they'll consider it...although she at least said to resend it...but I'm in the middle of the next one. Drat!

Thanks for the thoughtful insight to both sides of the coin and much success in the future.

Sandy Elzie

Tami Brothers said...

"Unpubbed:don’t need a synopsis to write a book. You can write it after the book is finished.

Pubbed:you have to write the synopsis before you can go to contract and write the book."

Oh man!!! You really could have left this one out. ...grin....

Thanks, Marin, for this really neat look at both sides of the coin. I'd not thought about a few of these and will have to start appreciating each step of this process a bit more.

My favorite line - "A book has the potential to change someone's life." That one really hit home. Thanks a ton for this subtle reminder. I think this sentence will be a very nice mantra to pin up on my board and look at during some of those not-so-productive days.

Have a good one!

Tami Brothers

Sally Kilpatrick said...

Thanks for dropping by, although I have to confess you scared the bejeebers out of me. No, seriously, thanks for giving us a reason to enjoy the ride. It's tough to smell the roses when you're on the way to a goal, but I was just thinking earlier about how much fun I'm having--workshops, classes, wonderful critique partners, and time to write. It's hard not to pressure ourselves to forge ahead to publication, so thanks for the reminder that "life's a journey, not a destination."

Debbie Kaufman said...

Morning Marin:

Thanks for the insight on both sides of the coin. Some parts of pubbed I'm not looking forward to managing, but I'm still going for it!

Marilyn Baron said...

Thanks so much for blogging with us today. Wow! This has to be the most honest article I've ever read about publication. You should think about doing a workshop session at the national conference about this topic.

I learned a lot from you and I appreciate your view on pubbed versus unpubbed.

I have to agree with Tami about the synopsis. I think it would be a lot easier and more preferable to just have to write the synopsis to sell than write the whole book and synopsis first.

I loved the part about why we write and how it resonates with the reader. I think that's why we're all here.

The part how people regard your writing as a hobby is so true.

You were very generous to share your insights with us.

My daughter is just starting to write so now I see the journey from a new perspective and I'm going to share this with her.

Thanks again.

Marilyn Baron

Marin Thomas said...


Rewrites & Revisions for a pubbed author can be all over the map. I've had a few books which required little revision because I nailed the conflicts and motivations the first time around. Other books I've had to add a conflict/change a conflict etc. That's a lot of work but in the end I always walk away with the belief that my editor and I have made that book the best possible.

Tami--I'm a panster so synops are very tough for me. I wish I could say they get easier with each book, but in my case that hasn't proved true...yet :-)

Sally--you've got the right attitude. Enjoy the support and fun times with your CP's, writing groups and clubs because one day you may have to cut back on those good times in order to meet your writing deadlines. And you will miss them.

Debbie--yep, nothing worth having comes easy or is it ever perfect, but that's okay because being pubbed or unpubbed is all part of our life's journey and we should enjoy every moment.

Marilyn--I wish your daughter well in her writing. One thing I might add is that I was glad in the beginning of my writing career when I struggled to improve that I didn't have anyone throwing tidbits of advice at me (like my post here)I think one needs to be careful how much one "warns" beginning writers of how difficult the journey to publication is. It's very easy to become discouraged. Had someone thrown all the pro's and cons at me when I first began writing I'm not sure if I'd have stuck with it. Ignorance is bliss sometimes--until you get your feet under you.


CiCi Barnes said...

WOW! Telling it like it is. And we, unpubbed, need to hear it. So, thanks and thanks for coming to our blog.

I have long hated the synopsis part of writing, because I'm a pantser too. My characters take over my writing and don't always go where I have planned. I hate to hear that it doesn't get any easier.

But as the saying among writers goes, "I can't not write."

So I will enjoy my journey, warts and all. Hubby always says, "If you change jobs, you just change problems. They're not going away."

So I'll slog through the unpubbed problems, and I hope some day I get to deal with the pubbed problems, too.

Thanks, again, for stopping by and giving us a glimpse of what we have to look forward to. Always nice to have a heads up.


penney said...

Great post today, so much info on publication I didn't know. Thanks for being here today.

Emma said...

Hi Marin I have enjoyed reading all of your books. Your books are wonderful.I will be glad when your book called A Cowboy's Promise is in stores in my area.

J Perry Stone said...

I am sending the link to this post to EVERY ONE OF MY WRITER FRIENDS. Holy cow. I am not scared off, but you have no idea how much I appreciate a strong dose of reality.

It's important to know what it feels like in someone else's shoes. It's also important to appreciate the shoes I'm in now.

Damn fine post, Marin.

Marin Thomas said...

CiCi--I so envy authors who love synop writing. Maybe one day I'll fall into that category. A girl's gotta dream....

Penney, thanks for stopping by. Glad you found the post useful.

Hi Emma, I appreciate your support. I hope my book shows up soon in your area, too!

J Perry, I'm glad I didn't scare you off! You bet, appreciate where you are--it'll all be worth it when you get to where you're going.


The Writers Canvas said...

Good points, and thanks for the reminder to enjoy the ride. What I love about RWA is the helpful nature of both pubbed and unpubbed authors.

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Hi Marin,
It's nice to see things from the reader's side of this. I can really start to appreciate all of the work that goes into the books that I enjoy! Thank you for guest blogging today!
Caroline Z

Carol Burnside said...

Loved the post. Lots of good nuggets there.

Can you tell us what your definition of an American Romance book is and do you have any tips for targeting the line?

Hmm. Guess this makes me the attacker? Yikes!

Marin Thomas said...

Hi Elaine--life is short and the older I get the more I try to enjoy whatever moment I'm in, too.

Caroline--I never realized how much time an author and her editor put into each book until I sold and went through the process.

Carol, lol, yes you are the attacker! As far as the American line the one word my editors always use when describing the stories is fast-paced. You have to draw the reader in from page one and sprint to the end. Also, be careful not to go overboard with large chunks of character introspection because it will drag the pacing down.

Cowvboys are as popular as ever with readers. Aspiring writers may be tired of seeing so many cowboy books released but readers love them. They aren't about to go away anytime soon!

As far as characters--many of the heros and heroines in American books struggle with the same things we do in our lives--kids, money problems, loss of a job, death in a family etc. Realistic characters are definitely a huge part of the appeal of an American romance.


Carol Burnside said...

Thanks, Marin! Good tips to know.

Thanks for joining us at PFHT!

Linsey Lanier said...


Thanks for sharing this eye-opening view of the pubbed's world. Like the others, I will grid my loins and keep heading straight for it, because I, too, "can't not write." :)


Marin Thomas said...

Linsey--you said it all--we can't NOT write so we might as well give it all we've got and enjoy the ride.

Thanks everyone for the invite today--I enjoyed our chat and wish you all much success in your writing careers!


Nicki Salcedo said...

Thanks for this great post. I don't scare easily, and I love the honesty of it all.

Thank you also for saying this: "If people knew how many hours I put into my writing a week and how little I make compared to other careers they'd probably ask "Is it worth it?" Absolutely."

We are so luckily you stopped by today.

Bridget said...

Thanks for such a great post. I enjoyed reading it and thinking back to what it was like being unpublished. Your honesty was so right on the money.
Bridget Anderson

Maxine Davis said...

Thanks for the post Marin. Geez, some of that I've never thought of, still, being unpubed, I can't wait to go though some things from the other side. Right now, I just keep my fingers tapping away knowing that one day . . . .

ps I love cowboys!!!

Mary said...

Marin, hi. My favorite Uncle and Aunt live in Janesville. Congrats on your success. My question is this: What inspired you to write about cowboys? I look forward to reading your books and wish you all the best!