I was pregnant and on a leave of absence from work when I read my first romance novel. For a few hours I taken away to another world, and I loved it. I knew instantly that I wanted to write my own romance novel and provide that same escapism to busy moms everywhere.
I began researching medieval times, and I read a lot of romance novels. I didn’t have a computer, so I went to the library to do research. I wrote late at night, early in the morning, and in the car while waiting for kids to get out of school. Five years later, when my youngest daughter was entering kindergarten, I finished my first book, Return of the Rose, and I immediately began to query agents and editors.
I celebrated my first rejection because I had read many how-to books—I knew rejection was part of the deal. In 2001, it was a thrill to sign with my first agent. She loved my time travels and did everything she could to make a sale, but it was not to be.
Time travel was a tough sale, so I started writing contemporary romance. I knew that getting published would not be easy, but I had no idea it would be quite so difficult. Determined to succeed, I wrote every day. I also joined the Romance Writers of America and critique groups, and I entered contests. I attended workshops and conferences all over the country. I worked closely with more than a few editors. I garnered six finals in RWA’s prestigious Golden Heart competition, but I still didn’t make a sale. Many of my writer friends were signing contracts, and I was glad to know that New York publishers were still signing new authors. There was hope.
In 2009, my husband suggested that I self-publish, but there was a stigma attached to self-publishing, and I wanted to do it the traditional way. I had dreams of winning a RITA Award, and I wanted to see my books on the shelves at the bookstore down the street. I had written a dozen 400-page novels and many partials. Writing was my passion. I hadn’t made a dime, so obviously I wasn’t writing for money, but I always wanted readers.
Frustrated with the industry, I decided to write a thriller and kill off my characters along with my frustrations. The only problem was that while I researched real-life serial killers, I couldn’t sleep. I put Abducted away for months and wrote Having My Baby, a contemporary romance. When I came back to Abducted, I liked what I had written, and I had no problem finishing the book. I sent Abducted to my second agent and did what I had always done…I waited.
Time to Self-Publish
It was 2011, and that daughter I had at the beginning of my journey was going off to college. It was time to get a “real” job and make some money. While looking through the want ads, I noticed authors discussing self-publishing online. I had to give it a try. It was time. I had nothing to lose. I talked to my agent about self-publishing my time travels and she gave me the go-ahead. I sold my first book on Amazon in March 2011, and what an amazing feeling that was! Surreal. Magical. Expecting to sell 10 books, I was absolutely stunned when I began to sell hundreds of books in a matter of weeks.
A month later, I began to receive fan mail, and that’s when I knew that I was done waiting. No more queries. No more rejection. It was time to take full control of my career and let readers decide if they liked my stories. I parted ways with my agent, and in May 2011, I released my first thriller, Abducted by T.R. Ragan. The second time Abducted hit Amazon’s Top Paid 100 List I began to receive requests from editors and agents. For 19 years I couldn’t sell a book, but suddenly I was getting offers for my Lizzy Gardner series. I felt like an overnight success. On March 27, 2012, I signed my very first publishing agreement with Thomas & Mercer, an Amazon imprint. I negotiated my own contract and I loved every minute of it. In a little over a year, I sold 300,000 e-books.
To anyone considering self-publishing, I say, “What do you have to lose?” Whether traditionally published or self-published there is no guarantee that your book will be the next bestseller. Whether traditionally published or self-published you will have to market and promote yourself and your book.
Either way, readers will decide how well your book will do. Word of mouth is the best advertisement. Find beta readers. Hire a copy editor and a proofreader. Only release your best work. Put yourself out there and try everything. Believe in yourself and in your stories. If you don’t, who will?
The best part about self-publishing is that writers no longer have to jump through insurmountable hoops to get their books into the hands of readers. Writers have more options and readers have more choices. It’s time to celebrate.
Stay tuned for future guest blogs from Theresa Ragan to learn what steps she took to self-publish and how she has sold 300,000 e-books and counting. You can find her over at her site, theresaragan.com.