Bear with me… this does get wordy, but I really hope you'll hear me out. I’ve been up most of the night, unable to sleep due to something that has been on my mind for a long, long time. I need to get this off my chest.
I wanted to address one of the questions that I receive the most these days. Instead of giving the boxed response of “I promise, we’re working on it, but I don’t have an ETA” when it comes to when I’ll have all of my books in audio, I thought I’d give the details behind what’s causing the delay. To do that, I need to explain something.
Back in December of 2013, I received an email that I never expected to receive. It was the first time I was contacted by a literary agent. I remember the feeling I got when I read the email. I was giddy, if not a little leery.
Because I was curious, I responded, requesting more information.
That spurred a lengthy conversation (albeit mostly in email) with this literary agent that went on until the middle of January. During the time I was speaking with this person, I experienced a million different emotions, but mostly fear of the unknown and anxiety over making a wrong decision. I will admit, I ignored them all. Don’t ask me why, but I put my gut instinct aside and decided to give this person a shot. But not until AFTER I turned down their request to represent me. The counter-argument I got was quite impressive – they are, after all, in sales - so I relented.
Needless to say, in January of 2014, I signed to be represented by this literary agency.
What followed was months and months of negotiations regarding offers from publishers on my books. There were two publishing houses in particular who sparked my interest, and I entertained the offers that my agent presented to me. I was intrigued, but very, very cautious. Here was someone telling me that each offer was "the best I'd get". Another would come along and I'd get the same response. I was coming to understand (from their point of view) that a big publishing house would be the way to go if I wanted to be successful. At the time, I already felt incredibly “successful”. I had hit the USA Today bestseller list multiple times, plus I’d hit the New York Times bestseller list. More importantly, I was receiving communications from readers hand over fist, urging me to write more because they loved the stories I was telling.
It took me months and many, many, many sleepless nights before I finally decided to accept one of the offers. Unlike what most people expect, I wasn’t excited. I was terrified. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat. Hell, I could hardly breathe for all the fear that kept me up at night. What if I made the wrong decision? What if I gave away the majority of the royalties on my best selling series and it threw everything off course? Like I said, I was terrified.
Once again, I ignored my gut instinct because this was what I was supposed to want, right? Being picked up by one of the Big 5 publishers. That’s every author’s dream, isn’t it? Because I felt obligated to see it through, I signed a contract to publish the next three books in the Alluring Indulgence series along with the first three books in the Sniper 1 Security series.
Big things were coming, I just knew it.
So that you can have a good idea of what I was doing before this all happened…
In 2012, I self-published four books from August to December. I was taken aback by the fact that people were buying and reading these books. I had fans! Me, of all people. I was getting emails, and people were requesting more. They wanted me to write. My dream was coming to fruition, and I couldn’t believe it. In December, I quit my full-time corporate job to become a full-time writer.
Life was full of rainbows, and I was high on it!
In 2013, I self-published eight books. This is the year that the Walker brothers were introduced into the world, and the response was unlike anything I’d ever dreamed about. After Kaleb’s release in January, things had taken off, and I had to beg my husband to quit his job to help me do this. No way could I do what I loved to do – write – and also be able to handle marketing, etc. After he put up a fight (he was just as nervous as I was that this would all vanish), Colt finally decided to take the leap with me.
Our world was changing.
In 2014, I self-published nine books, although I took a few months off entertaining the idea of becoming a traditionally published author. This is about the time my sales started falling, and my inspiration was running extremely thin. I was freaked out. I was depressed. I was…scared. BUT, I had signed a contract with a traditional publisher, so all I had to do was relax because everything in my life was about to change. I just needed that first contracted book to publish, and I’d be moving up once again.
At least that’s what I thought would happen.
That year, Braydon (AI, 6) published and I expected BIG things. How could I not? I had a marketing team who would be making sure my book was in everyone’s hands.
Compared to the previous books in this series, the sales were dismal although people had wanted Braydon’s story for so long. What happened? Where did I go wrong? Did my decision to go with a publisher backfire? I fell into a deep depression, and my anxiety went through the roof.
In an effort to reclaim what I felt I’d given up, I decided to buy back the rights to the Sniper 1 Security series before I had to submit any of the manuscripts. I didn’t see a reason to give up a majority of my royalties when I didn't see a return on my investment.
After all, I went the traditional route because my agent jumped up and down, telling me that this was the thing to do. It was the way for me to get recognized, the only way I would be seen. Granted, I hadn’t heard from my agent in months unless it was to approve a cover or answer a question. In fact, it was about that time that my agent started getting really angry with me. Seriously. Angry. I got some off-the-cuff emails that made me panic. They made me cry, made me worry that I’d screwed it all up.
But, it had been my decision, so I had to own up to it. Lessons learned, right?
My contract with the publisher required that I submit to them my next self-published work before I published so they could determine if they would want to publish it. We all knew that I wasn’t going to go the traditional route. After all, I had already bought back the rights to the Sniper 1 Security series.
Funny story (not)… when I sent my agent the email letting him know that I wanted to buy back the rights to that series, the ONLY response I got from him was to let me know that I would have to pay back all of the advances I’d already received, including his commission.
Now, I’m no dummy. I already knew this.
Did I mention, that year I invested a shit ton of money in a lawyer who would read over my contracts and ensure I wasn’t signing away my entire life? Well, I had (thank God), and I’d considered all of the repercussions prior to sending that email. What got me most was the fact that my agent didn’t ask why. He didn’t ask what was wrong. He didn’t ask if I was doing okay. He didn’t ask if there had been a problem. In fact, he didn’t ask anything. Ever.
I would see posts from other authors stating how great their relationship was with their agent, and I’m thinking...really? That’s not how my relationship is with my agent. Are we supposed to be friends? That sounds nice.
But, that wasn’t the way it was for me. My agent didn’t email unless he wanted me to approve something. He didn’t ask about my family, what I was working on, how I was, if I had a good weekend. He didn’t ask anything personal during our entire working relationship, and I kept waiting for that email. After all, shouldn’t we have a “relationship”? Shouldn’t he care about more than just his commission? I mean, seriously, I even went to New York (for a book signing) and he said he wanted to meet. When I was available, he wasn't. Ever. However, I did get to visit the publisher, which was an incredible experience and made the trip worthwhile.
Because the publisher had a deadline for each of the books that I was contracted to write for them, I had a hard time writing. I felt too much pressure. The words felt forced, and when Sawyer released in March 2015, I think my most loyal readers saw that. I’d openly told the publisher I was having issues with the plot and asked if they could help me come up with something. I got no response. None. I was doomed to fail because I was pushing myself too hard.
I sent a long email to my agent letting him know how things were going and asking if we could establish some sort of working relationship in order to ease some of my stress. He agreed, but it never went anywhere. Apparently, I had offended him when I told him I wanted to buy back the rights to the S1S series. In fact, I later learned that he told the publisher I didn’t want to work with them directly and that any communication they needed to have with me should come through him. The publisher took him at his word (although I NEVER said that), and I didn’t hear from them except when I asked direct questions.
I want to clarify something. Up to this point, my publisher had been phenomenal. I absolutely adored my editor and her assistant. They were great to work with and they worked hard to make me happy. They really did. But, when my agent relayed incorrect information, they shunned me without contacting me at all. Since I wasn’t aware of the correspondence that had taken place between agent and publisher, I simply felt abandoned.
That manuscript that I was required to send the publisher was rejected because they knew that I wasn’t going to go traditional with it anyway. It was the first book I’d written (in almost a year) that felt…right. In fact, I wrote a little more than 14,000 words on that book in one day, the most I have ever written in a single day. That’s how engrossed I was. I felt as though I got my mojo back and it felt damn good. That book – A Million Tiny Pieces – hit the USA Today bestseller list and it helped to restore my confidence.
I spent the holidays (Christmas and New Years) of that year forcing myself to write. I didn’t get to spend it with my family because I had to deliver one manuscript and edit another. Because I had reworked Braydon the way the publisher asked and it didn’t get the response I had hoped for, I decided to go with my gut on Brendon. I didn’t make any of the suggested changes, wanting to write the book the way I had written the 22 self-published books before it. Brendon hit the USA Today bestseller list, but I wouldn’t know this for months to come because I had written the book long before it released.
It was around that time that I also wrote the first book in the Sniper 1 Security series, and I felt so much pressure from myself that I think it was reflected in my writing. It wasn’t received the way I had hoped it would be, and I cried. Through all of the ups and downs of the previous year, I never had a pity party until then. I had sucked it up, put one foot in front of the other, and told myself that I would bounce back. I would not let this bring me down. However, it all caught up to me and I had a small breakdown.
To add insult to injury, my literary agent dumped me on May 11, 2015. After I had refused to accept another offer from a publisher because I didn’t like the terms, he decided it was best that we part ways. There was no negotiation. He was simply done. For the record: HE dumped ME.
Of course, he insisted that he would continue to get royalties off anything that I published (traditionally) until the end of our contract. He wasn’t talking about the deals that had already been drawn up and signed. He meant anything in my future that I might get through another agent and publisher. I had to get my lawyer involved, racked up significant legal costs, but managed to get the contract terminated so that I would have the option of going with another literary agent in the future and any deals would be free and clear.
SO… my world was turned completely upside down. I kept this all to myself. I didn’t want my readers to know the hell I was going through. I wanted to write for them, to smile for them, to hear about their lives and enjoy the communication. I didn’t want to be the dark cloud in their world, so I kept my mouth shut about all of it, I cried myself to sleep, and I told myself that tomorrow would be a better day.
On the positive side… I was no longer under deadline with the publisher, and I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and decided I was going to write what I wanted to write. Enter Beautifully Brutal (Southern Boy Mafia, 1). The sales of this book weren’t what I hoped, but the story… it came from somewhere deep inside me. It felt right, and I absolutely adore this book.
After that, I endured a long bout of writer’s block. I decided to take a breath and not panic. I wrote a novella (Devil’s Playground) during this time, and I’m happy with it. Is it literary perfection? No, probably not. But, it helped me get through a period when I felt like there was a black curtain over my creativity. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t see any characters. I didn’t hear the voices, didn’t envision the scenes. A good friend of mine helped me through that time. She encouraged me to write whatever I wanted and just get words on paper. (Chancy, if you’re reading this, I can’t tell you how much you helped me through that, and I love you all the more for it).
I haven’t had a book hit a list since Brendon. With every new release (all 10 of them since then), I hold my breath, hoping it’ll be received well. The reviews are amazing, and I hold on to that. Hitting a list isn’t my top priority, but supporting my family is. Since lists are based on sales, it’s safe to say that sales are good when the book hits the list, so that’s the only reason I use that as a basis.
During all of this, I felt as though I had let my family down. You may be aware that I employed my two oldest kids to handle marketing for me. I don’t know what I would’ve done without them. Their creativity carried me through. Unfortunately, the sales have dwindled, and I could no longer afford to employ them. I laid my oldest son off in July of 2015, and I had to bite the bullet and lay my daughter off in May of this year. It hasn’t been easy for Colt and I because we are now carrying the full workload again which means we aren’t able to get it all done in a day. Thankfully, my children love me, and they’ve found jobs that they love. Although I hated cutting them loose, it has gotten them out of their comfort zones and allowed them to make more money than I could’ve paid them anyway. I’m so proud of them, and I’m grateful that they understand. I don’t know what I would do without them.
Please understand, I’m not looking for sympathy. I simply want you to know what has happened. To know my story. People only see what you want them to see, and I didn’t want to burden anyone with what I was going through. I want to write, I want to interact with the readers, I want to enjoy this incredible journey that I’m on. That’s my only goal.
I also want to clarify that this isn't the norm. This was one literary agent. Not even the agency, although they did back their agent despite the email correspondence that was provided. Again, that doesn't tell the story of all of them. And there are many traditionally published authors who haven't had these road bumps. They love what they do, they love the people they work with and that's the way it should be. I can speak for no one other than myself.
Now, to address the question regarding audio books.
When I signed the contract with the publisher, I sold the print rights to the Alluring Indulgence books and they have chosen only to publish in electronic format. In order for me to get you the paperback books that are in high demand, I have to purchase them in lots of 500 – cash up front – directly from the publisher. I have to budget for this, so I’ve allocated money to do so. I still have two more books to purchase before I have the entire series in print. And when my stock runs out, I’ll have to buy more. It’s expensive, but I’ve promised the readers, and I fully intend to deliver.
When it comes to audio, my agent helped me to get audio contracts which allowed for a majority of my books to be published in audio. Because I no longer have an agent, I do not have access to audio publishers or deals that would bring these books to you without significant cost to me up front. As I’ve said, I am working to get my books in audio, but it requires me to pay up front to have them produced, therefore, it will take some time.
Since I’ve allocated so much to getting the AI books in print, I don’t have the extra funds to produce the audio books. Although we are attempting to work with audio publishers to get them produced (without the out-of-pocket expense), we aren't getting anywhere. So, please bear with me. I am working with independent audio publishers, and when I have the money to start producing them, I assure you, we will be.
As of right now, I still don’t have an agent. I know I need one. And when the right one comes along, I’ll have all of these lessons from my past that’ll help me make the right decisions in the future.
I guess what I'm trying to say is thank you for your patience, for your understanding, and most importantly, for all the support you’ve shown me through the years. I promise I'm not feeling sorry for myself. I have picked myself up, dusted myself off a dozen times, and I will continue to write for as long as you let me. YOU are the reason I sit at this keyboard and get lost in the fictional world that consumes me. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be on this amazing journey.
Get Nicole's blog posts sent right to your email: