Thank you for your time in answering our questions about getting published. Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to become an author and pen this book?
Jane: I started to wring seriously in 2004 after I rented an old house on a remote part of Exmoor, in England, for a week. That old house changed my life, giving me a story idea that just had to be written.
Perhaps, it was the atmosphere, the ancient history, or the beautiful scenery of Exmoor that enchanted me, or just maybe, I was inspired by the ghost that shared the house with me.
The house was haunted. I felt that element even before I listened to the caretaker’s stories. My first book turned into a trilogy and combined vampire superstition with a complex and modern love story.
Exmoor was hugely inspiring. A historical dark romance felt like the next logical step. At that time, I had worked in a 1000-year-old castle on Exmoor and learned about the history of the surrounding estate lands going back several hundred years.
On Exmoor, there are many old houses and ancient villages, and many more legends and mythical tales associated with them. The Beekeeper’s Daughter is primarily set in Victorian times, it is a darkly romantic thriller combining a strong element of witchcraft and the supernatural.
Is this your first book?
Jane: No. This is my fourth book.
With this particular book, how did you publish – traditional, small press, Indie, etc. – and why did you choose this method?
Jane: Black Opal Books is a boutique publisher—a smaller traditional publisher that does not release as many books as a big named publishing house.
I chose this method as I wanted to be taken seriously as an author, having previously self-published.
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey? The pros and cons?
Jane: That’s a very long story!
My first novel was called Ravens Deep, and it was a dark romance story combining vampire superstition and a modern love story. I wrote it in 2004 before anyone had heard of ‘Twilight’ or ‘True Blood’. I spent the next two years polishing and editing the manuscript and sending query letters to countless literary agents, in America, and in England.
In the spring of 2007, I received a letter from a top London agent asking me to go up to her London office to discuss my book with her.
I thought that I was on my way to being a successful author, why else would I get the invite?
The meeting started off well. The agent told me she liked my story. She thought it was creative and had great potential. She told me there were a few grammar mistakes, but nothing a good editor could not fix.
But…. and this is where my dream fell apart. The agent declared that ‘vampires are not in right now, and she couldn’t sell this to a publisher.
I was a little taken back and reasoned that was why Ravens Deep could be successful. The marketplace was ready for this kind of story, it was unique, creative and the last successful vampire book had been Anne Rice’s ‘Interview with the Vampire’, ten or so years prior. The agent was not convinced. She said that was part of the problem, there was not anything to compare it to.
Had I known the outcome of this meeting, I would have pushed harder. But I figured she was the big agent, and I was an unknown author, so she must know what she was talking about. She sent me away after asking me to do a few edits on the first chapter, then, a few days later she turned my book down.
So imagine my frustration when only a few months later ‘Twilight’ hit the headlines followed by ‘True Blood’. Suddenly, vampire romance was everywhere. I knew submitting to any more agents would be pointless, I would be just another one out of hundreds of authors now writing vampire romance novels.
I had already received a couple of contract offers from vanity publishers, and I did not want to go that route. Self-publishing seemed my only option if I were ever going to see my book in print. Ravens Deep was first published in 2008 when I was living back in England for a few years. Ravens Deep became the first book in a trilogy.
I sent my book everywhere and to lots of libraries up and down the county. I had a call back from the Richard and Judy show, an English television book club. They had a copy of my book Ravens Deep and were considering using it on their TV show, but their representative warned me that they were in ongoing talks about the future of the show. Consequently, that show got moved to a different station, the format changed, and Ravens Deep did not feature.
Having some small success with marketing Ravens Deep myself, and knowing no agent or publisher would pick up books two and three in a trilogy, I went on to self-publish the next two books. (Blood & Ashes and A Memoir of Carl).
I befriended the owners of many local independent book stores and even a gothic-type shop around Exmoor. They all kept my book in stock and I sold many books that way. I did a couple of book signings and was asked to be a guest speaker alongside well-known authors, at the Porlock literary festival on Exmoor. This went well for me.
Then, the recession hit England. Nearly all the independent book stores closed, and I moved back to America and Florida in 2013.
In 2014 I finished writing The Beekeeper’s Daughter and began to contact both literary agents and publishers in earnest.
I quickly received a publishing contract from a small press. Although, my elation rapidly turned into regret, as this episode was a complete disaster. The owner/editor, gave me dates and then nothing happened, when queried she gave me a myriad of excuses, everything from her computer breaking down, illness, even death in the family, and this went on for months. She also became abusive and aggressive. At that point, my patience was gone, and I requested that all my rights be re-assigned to me, as I did not want them to publish my book. This publisher refused to co-operate until I got a publishing attorney involved.
I got my rights reassigned to me and learned a valuable lesson – do your research properly on any publisher. Had I done this, I would have read other authors’ horror stories dealing with this particular publisher.
In 2015, I started to query publishers again, and Black Opal Books gave me a publishing contract. Unlike the previous publisher, Black Opal Books have been a great publisher to work with.
What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?
Jane: I came so close to having my first book published and taken seriously only to be let down. When it was published, the TV show could have propelled my book into the mainstream, but that wasn’t to be either. It has been a very long journey to get to this point and so I suppose the real moral of my story is don’t ever give up. If you believe in your work sooner or later, someone out there will love it too.
I would say don’t bother to query agents unless you are published. Agents tell authors they want something new, something creative, but what they really want is to pigeonhole your work, and compare you to someone else.
I saw something that a top London Agent couldn’t. I saw the gap in the market, and she was too afraid to take a chance on me because she could not compare me to anything on the market at that time.
I like to believe that she regretted her decision, seeing how vampire romance stories became so marketable and lucrative.
Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?
Jane: Yes, a good boutique publisher is a sound option.
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
Jane: Write what interests you and not what is the current trend.
If you truly believe in your work, someone out there will too. Keep writing, hone your craft, and don’t give up.
Most authors, even famous ones say they have received enough rejection letters to make a book, so don’t take rejection to heart, it’s just part of the journey.