Just Published this month and for the start of what I hope will be a productive and successful year! I got to know Cara online and she writes in a very interesting sub-genre, so let's find out how she got into writing, became published and what adive she'd give those pursuing this dream! The details of Cara's first published piece are:
Title: Secret Desires & Intimate Submission (part of the Spanked! anthology)
Genre: Erotic Romance
Words: 19K - Secret Desires & 16K - Intimate Submission
Publisher: Black Velvet Seductions
Date Published: October 2010
Congrats! So, how would you describe what you write?
I write explicit, hot erotic romance. Basically I’m an erotica writer in erotic romance author clothing. I’m not afraid to push the envelope a little. I don’t write BDSM, although I do explore the concepts of dominance and submission in my romances. Lately, I’ve been focusing on erotic stories involving spanking.
Spanking, huh? I'm intrigued :). What’s your writing process in a nutshell?
I start with a concept (often a sexual scenario), jot down some ideas as they come to me, and try to figure out roughly how to get from the beginning to the end. I never do character sketches. I like to discover who my characters are as I write. I do like to know how the story will end. It helps me to get to my destination if I know where I’m going. My “outline” for the novel I just finished was thirteen 3 x 5 cards, one to three sentences on each.
I love hearing about different processes. What has your submission history looked like? Rejections? Manuscripts written? Number of years ‘seriously writing’, etc?
I have a degree in journalism and worked as a newspaper reporter before switching to corporate public relations, so I’ve been writing professionally for almost 30 years. I’ve been writing fiction for 20 years, beginning with a mainstream novel. I was contracted with two different agents, but it never did sell. I ended up self-publishing it and won an honorable mention in the Writer’s Digest Self-Publishing Award competition, but I don’t recommend self-publishing to anyone. I switched to writing short stories, won quite a few awards, and had a few big sales (Good Housekeeping, Women’s World).
After leaving the corporate world, I did some newspaper/magazine freelance work. About a year and a half ago, I came up with the idea for Intimate Submission, an erotic romance novella, and sold it to the first publisher I submitted it to.
And how did you pick your publisher?
I wrote Intimate Submission simply for my own amusement. It was basically a sexual smorgasboard that included some spanking scenes. When I finished, I thought, “Hey this isn’t bad. Maybe I can sell this.” I did a search for erotic romance publishers on Writer’s Market and found that Black Velvet Seductions had put out a call for submissions for a “spanked wives” anthology. Based on the description of what BVS was looking for it seemed like a perfect fit.
It did! What’s your ‘call’ story?
I had a very strong gut feeling that I was going to sell Intimate Submission. It was about a married woman who goes to a job interview ends up sleeping with the interviewer. At the end of the story the reader finds out that the interviewer is her husband and they’re celebrating their anniversary with a little role play.
Maybe a month after I submitted Intimate Submission, I got a rejection letter! My editor at BVS liked the writing, liked the story, but DISLIKED the ending. She wrote a full page critique and told me if I wanted to rewrite it, she would look at it again.
REWRITE the ending? I love the ending. It’s the whole point of the story! That was my initial response. But I recognized that I had received a “good rejection” and no editor had EVER given me a full page critique. I knew I had nothing to lose, and everything to gain by rewriting it. I sent her a thank you, rewrote the story, resubmitted it, and…got a contract in the mail. The whole process from first submission to contract was about three months. I immediately started writing Secret Desires. When it was finished, I submitted it and it was accepted right away.
Did you have an agent when you sold? Now?
No & no.
What’s it like working with a publisher and editor? Are revisions really as bad as you hear?
Knock on wood…it’s been pretty smooth. The first revision of Intimate Submission before it was accepted was a little tricky because even though many of the scenes remained the same, the story had changed! My editor gives me some rough ideas in the contract of changes she’d like to see, I do my best to incorporate those and send her a new and improved manuscript. She then edits that, sends me her changes (quite detailed), I make the changes and send it back to her. She’s edited two novellas of mine, thus far, and I haven’t had them come back for a second go-around yet. I once had a boss tell me I never make the same mistake twice!
How did you feel the first time you saw your cover? How much input did you have?
I was SUPPOSED to participate in an online chat to discuss the cover of Spanked! with my editor, and the other two authors, one of whom was also the cover artist. But I totally spaced on the time change between east and west coast and missed the meeting! So, short answer…no input, but it was my fault. Given that Spanked! contains four diverse stories and styles linked by the theme of spanking, I think the cover does a good job of representing all four stories.
What was release day like?
It was fun. Very satisfying to see it all come together. I’ve had short stories published. And I was newspaper staff writer and freelancer for a number of years, so I’ve seen my name in print a lot. But there’s something special about a book. We had a Cyber Launch Party on Authorisland.
I agree. There's just something about a book. How did you market it?
I rely on my blog a lot. I use it as a web site. I’m linked in to a couple of spanking blogs and I get a lot of traffic from them. Anytime I can put “spanking” in a blog, I get a lot of hits. I try to use my blog as an entertaining source of information for readers.
I post on Goodreads, Facebook, Passionate Ink, CoffeeTime Romance, and other people’s blogs. I’ve joined and posted on some reader’s groups on Amazon. I sent both Intimate Submission and Secret Desires out for review. Intimate Submission got 4 stars from JERR.
My publisher set up the Cyber Launch Party, set up a loop chat with Two Lips Reviews and sent Spanked Out for review. It was named a “Top Pick” by Night Owl Reviews. Two Lips Reviews gave it four kisses.
I think it’s important to focus one’s efforts. No author has the time to do everything, and what works for one person may not work for another. I’m still in the process of determining what works for me.
My strategy is to develop a niche, create a Cara Bristol brand, leverage what other authors have done and basically make it very, very easy for people to buy my book.
That's great information. What’s the most surprising thing you learned during the publishing process?
How much competition there is for readers. Of course, I knew this already, but it really hits in a visceral way when you’re trying to market a book. There are so MANY romances out there, it’s a wonder that any of them manage to float to the top of the pile and attract a reader’s attention. Hence, my strategy to develop a niche, a la spanking stories.
Yeah, I think a brand is important in today's market as well. What do you think were the factors that got you published?
Two things: First, going with my strength. I write sex really well. I can make readers feel what the characters are feeling. I should have been writing erotic romance years ago. It would have saved a lot of time. (Can you hear my husband saying, ‘I told you, so!’?) Second, I was willing to set aside what I thought it should be (the ending of Intimate Submission) and try it my editor’s way.
What’s your 5 year plan look like?
My goal is to earn a living wage by writing. But that’s always been my plan! My strategy is to build a backlist ASAP, and make a name for myself and my books.
That's great, Cara! So, what’s next for you?
I am currently working on an erotic domestic discipline series centered around a secret organization composed of men who spank their wives. The first novella in the series, Spanking Melania, is under contract with Black Velvet Seductions. I just finished the first draft of the second book, Disciplining Emma, which turned into an actual novel. The third and fourth books are knocking around inside my head. SOMEWHERE I have some notes jotted down for the third. And I have an idea for an erotic romance involving an older (forty-something) H/h.
What’s the best advice you can impart to writers aspiring to be published?
Go with your strengths. Be open and flexible to criticism. Don’t give up.
Now for some fun! If you were stranded but could only take 1 thing from each of the following categories, what would it be & why:
This is hard to answer, because I need to know WHERE I’m being stranded and for how long so I can plan! My answers would change if I were on a desert island or stranded say, in a large foreign city. Assuming I’m on a desert island and don’t know how long before I’ll be rescued….
Person My husband because he’s the most competent person I know.
Animal Maybe a hunting dog so he can help us get something to eat.
Food A huge Costco-sized jar of peanut butter…good protein and it wouldn’t spoil
Book Assuming I’m going to be stranded for a while, I’d bring something really long that I had intended read…maybe War and Peace or a foreign language textbook—relearn all the Spanish I forgot!
Music Nothing…it would make me long for home, too much.
Personal Item…Assuming I couldn’t bring my CELL PHONE (which probably wouldn’t work anyway), I’d bring my pedometer. No reason to give up physical fitness just because I’m stranded.
Cara, thanks so much for being here today and I wish you all the best in 2011 and beyond. If anyone would like to get in touch with Cara or learn more about her or her books, you can visit her here:
Blog - http://www.carabristol.com/
Twitter - http://twitter.com/carabristol