The Long and Winding Road (but not really)
When I look back, it seems like it was almost too easy. That’s not an exaggeration, or a pat on my own head, but more a sincere nod to the people that that have had my back since the start. I don’t mean life, of course, because life is never easy. I mean, the road to publication.
But perhaps I should start at the beginning, as my friend Kelly Wyre is often telling me when I try to tell Kelly something.
Several weeks ago I sent out a call to my social media friends for blog post ideas, and memorieslikestars on Tumblr asked me to talk a little about my road to publication. So I’ve been sitting back thinking about what that was like and to be honest, while I expected a lot of roadblocks and detours and some serious backtracking, I have to admit that it’s been quite seamless.
See, I got lucky… I started this journey in the gay romance genre for fun. In the early days, I was more than content to post my stories online and wow, let me tell you, the support I got from the site that I was posting on was amazing. People didn’t leave harsh reviews, they didn’t poke and prod at tiny grammatical issues, and there was always something positive in their comments. I’ve often thought back at that and mused over the idea that if we all had that kind of positivity when we first start wandering through the murky halls of a new project, we’d all be geniuses in our fields. There’d be no giving up. Or getting disheartened. Or general malaise. As a matter of fact, I was just talking about this very thing the other day. Can you imagine? If a person had an interest in, say, science, and every science teacher they had along the way told them they were awesome? That they had the potential to be something more?
You blew up the lab? No worries, little man, it happens to the best of us! Kudos for your efforts and hey, at least you left a brilliant pattern of ash on the far wall! How about we try it again and see if we can’t get ourselves a different result this time, hm?
My point is, it didn’t matter if I ‘failed,’ because even a failure was given a hearty round of applause and lots of thank yous for even posting. It was an amazing community and I met a lot of good friends and associates that I still have to this day.
So when Kelly suggested that I write for the possibility of publication, I didn’t jump into it thinking: hey, I might make myself some money here; it was: well, this sounds like it might be cool. (Okay, there may have been a couple of conversations where Kelly had to insist that I could do it before I finally stopped saying there was no damn way, but I did get there.)
I wrote that first “novel for the purpose of publication” the same way that I wrote every short story and/or novel that I’d written for no greater purpose than to post for fun—without deadline, without pressure, and for the love of the story. I didn’t research what was currently working within the industry (as many how tos suggested that I ought to) and I didn’t try to assume what it was that my potential audience might like. I wrote it because I loved the characters and I wanted to tell their story, and I didn’t care how long it was going to take me.
I think it took about four weeks from start to finish.
Pretty quick, right? But in my opinion, nothing helps inspire creativity like the freedom to write without a deadline or an expected daily word count. As long as one keeps writing, and loves what they’re writing, it will come.
So with the novel completed, with my friends rooting for me and my expectations low, I did what I consider to be the most important decision of my writing career: I researched publishers. I didn’t look through their publications for bestsellers and I didn’t give a single glance at their numbers of followers on social media. I looked at what they had to say. Did they have strong opinions and did they actually speak them? Did their beliefs seem to run in tangent with mine? What was their tone in the way they marketed themselves? Who did they talk to and what did they talk about? Did they sound like real people or robots? Were they condescending about their authors, their editors, or the reviewers that worked with them? Did they seem decent, understanding, and reasonable? Did they appear to like what they were doing?
In other words, who were the people behind the words and the marketing, and did I consider them my kind of people. I know I made the right decision with that choice, and I like to think that my publishers feel the same way. And that brings me back to my theory that having people believe in one’s success (and offering a strong level of support because of it) leads to the belief in self that inspires success.
If the gay romance genre was mainstream I could see the possibility of setting aside some of my personal hang-ups, handing my manuscripts over to an agent, and letting them deal with publishers to get the biggest bang they possibly could. I could almost see the point of spending weeks agonizing over remolding your novel into what the publisher/editor/marketer says is the only way to make it BIG. But I assure you that it is not, at least not yet. If a person is only going to make a few thousand dollars they should be having fun with what they do. And who they’re working with.
See, some of the biggest mistakes a writer can make in this genre is to go into the fray thinking (a) they’re going to make a lot of money, (b) they know what the people want, and (c) the books are going to sell themselves.
You—the author—are going to be working in partnership with your publisher to sell your novel(s). There will be a lot that you—the author—have to do in conjunction with your publisher and if you don’t get along with each other or if you have opposing ideas on what you’re trying to do, there’s going to be problems.
I fell in love with Less Than Three Press almost instantly, I submitted my first novel to them, and that, as they say, was that. I’ve been with them ever since. Thirteen novels and three anthology stories later, they are still my number one choice. I have three more novels coming out with them, in fact. We Three Kings, a story set in 1982 about three men who grew up in a Catholic orphanage, fought their way out of poverty and abuse, but who still struggle to find a way to resolve their pasts; Wolf in League, the third novel in the Wolf series that introduces two brand new characters as well as answers the questions about the GDBCG; and Exile, Volume 1: Breaker, a novel that I’ve co-authored with Kelly Wyre about our world in a few hundred years from now where death and disease have become all but nonexistent, but a whole different kind of prejudice and “Estrangement” has developed.
In other words, onward, ever onward. Keep your eyes up front and your feet on the ground. Let us not go gently into this dark night. Etc., etc.
The road to publication is only the first part of the process, after all. Or, as I say to anyone who asks me what they should be doing next… Just Keep Writing.
Thanks for reading, and I hope to see more of you all along the way. <3
About the Author
Henley was born with a full-blown passion for run-on sentences, a zealous indulgence in all words descriptive, and the endearing tendency to overuse punctuation. Since the early years Henley has been an enthusiastic writer, from the first few I-love-my-dog stories to the current leap into erotica.
A self-professed Google genius, Henley lives for the hours spent digging through the Internet for ‘research purposes’ which, more often than not, lead seven thousand miles away from first intentions but bring Henley to new discoveries and ideas that, once seeded, tend to flourish.
Henley has been proudly publishing with Less Than Three Press since 2012.
For more information, please stop by for a visit at afhenley.com.
Henley’s Newest Release
Wolf, en Garde
Three years ago Lyle made a mistake that cost him his freedom, and almost his life. Now, sick to death of watching his father love the man that Lyle wanted, Lyle accepts an offer to leave Wolf, WY behind and see what life in Washington, D.C. can do for him instead.
When Lyle comes across a seductive, attractive stranger with a fascinating yet terrifying view of humanity, he’s more than intrigued. It doesn’t take Lyle long to realize that Arius isn’t just playing games, though, and when Lyle runs across a secret in Arius’ lair he has no choice but to flee, even knowing his actions will enrage Arius.
On the run, with only a psychic’s second sight and his own instinct to help him, Lyle has nowhere to go but home. The only question is, will they have him when he shows up.
- Genre: Gay, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
- Notes: Wolf, WY contains some explicit and violent content
- Book 2 in the Wolf series