Last month for my turn here on Austen Authors I celebrated our FIVE YEAR ANNIVERSARY with a retrospective of our journey as a group blog, loads of remarkable statistics, and a loud round of applause for all of our authors (past and present). If anyone missed that post, please pause here and click over! Share in our happiness and ongoing success. It is never too late to celebrate a special milestone event, and feedback from our readers is always greatly appreciated.
This month, as I mulled over possible blog topics for today’s blog, I didn’t anticipate carrying on with the theme of anniversaries or retrospectives. This being February, the “month of love” themes had me leaning toward something romantic and Valentine-ish. As I flipped through various ideas, I was suddenly reminded that the romantic sentiments of Valentine’s Day (or more accurately the marketing push by businesses because of these romantic sentiments) had a direct effect upon my publishing career.
Oh yes, it is quite the story! Here follows a tale of how true love, romance, and happily ever after impacted the future of The Darcy Saga sequel series to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice eleven years ago this month.
I won’t cover the full history of my publishing journey from dabbler in online fan-fiction to under-contract debut author with Sourcebooks, Inc. However, if interested in that portion of the whole tale, I have the highlights on my website: About Sharon ~ Publishing Journey
I end that truncated portion of my pathway to published novelist with the initial call from Deb Werksman, Editor in Chief at Sourcebooks in June 2007. As some may know, the process of preparing a book for sale within a traditional publishing house is lengthy. Originally, as Deb and I discussed the process while hashing out the contract bullet points, the tentative plan for my debut novel was a Fall 2008 release. I suppose it may surprise many of you who are new to Jane Austen fan-fiction as a publishing sub-genre, but way back in 2007 the genre was in its infancy. Additionally, aside from a handful of notable exceptions (such as Regina Jeffers with Ulysses Press), Sourcebooks was the only publisher focusing on Austen literature, this after the surprise success of Linda Berdoll’s Mr. Darcy Take’s a Wife (published by Sourcebooks in 2004). The signs of what we now know is a hugely popular literary genre were there, but in 2007 to 2008 publishing JAFF was still a leap of faith.
Other points to recall from what feels like the Dark Ages, publishing-wise are:
1) independent publishing, while beginning to make strides due to advances in print-on-demand technology, was rarely done and even more rarely successful for the author,
2) digital ebooks did not exist, and
3) online marketplaces for books were minimal, including Amazon which, other than selling print books from the major publishing houses, had not entered into the publishing business itself.
These points are relevant in that although these changes in how novels could be published and sold were in the earliest stages, and while the popularity of Austenesque novels on the whole remained largely unknown, the potential impacts were rippling through the industry. As for me and the publishing date of my debut novel — by that time renamed Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One — shifts in the business by the latter half of 2008 led to a postponement of its planned release for that season. A new release was set for the Spring of 2009 season, my novel’s debut for mid-March.
There were several reasons for the postponement, some of which were merely the realities of a busy editor getting behind, but mainly due to the points noted above. Several brick-and-mortar book stores were teetering on the edge of closure, for one, and the uncertainties all the way around resulted in Sourcebooks hesitating to release my book at the same time as the other Austenesque novels on the list. As shall soon be seen, the postponement was perfect and, I believe, divinely arranged, but naturally I was devastated! Authors are fragile creatures at times, especially when complete novices who never in a million years expected to be a writer let alone a published novelist! I accepted the delay (As if I had a choice, LOL!) and spent the holiday praying nothing else would happen within the fickle world of book publishing to mess up the release of my novel.
Oh, how God has a sense of humor!
Unbeknownst to me, Deb and the Sourcebooks owner and publisher Dominique Raccah were paying very close attention to the rapidly-expanding fascination with all things Austen and seized upon an opportunity to market my vision and tagline of “happily ever after comes true” for Darcy and Elizabeth. This marketing opportunity was to none other than TARGET!
Now, again going back in time for those who may not recall, during this period of pre-digital and pre-online sales, Target and Walmart had HUGE book departments. In fact, these two superstores sold more physical books than ALL the other book stores combined! Yet even with the much-larger-than-today book section at the typical Target, rarely did a debut, untested author end up on the shelves. I am still unsure what magic Deb and Dominique pulled, but not only did Target want my novel for their stores, they wanted it before Valentine’s Day!
The irony of having to hustle to finish the printing and shipping process for a nearly-one-month sooner release after postponing for roughly six months is definitely humorous. The official release date was updated to March 1, 2009 but the finished product began hitting all bookstore shelved well before that date and was in Target stores a week or so before February 14. The images below were taken by me at the Target in Hanford, California, where I lived at the time.
Seeing my novel on a store shelf was truly an extraordinary, surreal experience. I waited for the sky to open with a beam of bright light and heavenly angelic voices singing, while I stood there grinning like an idiot and hoped someone would wander by for me to hug! Probably for the best that neither happened. LOL!
Five days later, a trip to the Barnes & Noble in Fresno was required to snap photos of my first novel in a prime location near the front on the “noteworthy paperbacks” table. Another perk of a publisher with close personal connections to the buyer for B&N.
I have no doubt that being on the shelves at Target made a monumental difference in my overall sales and career as a whole. Target stocked the first five novels when they were released, the others suffering from the decrease in Target’s book section prominence as online sellers cornered the market. Even so, all of my novels were available at Target.com until about two years ago.
So that is the story of how this season of love and romance directly augmented my career success. I am a hopeless romantic who LOVES Valentine’s Day in all its flowers, chocolate, and sappy card glory. No shocker there! And as my longtime followers are aware, my husband is WAY more romantic than me. (see image below) Yet, even if one of those who shrugged away Valentine’s Day as nothing more than a “Hallmark holiday” created for businesses to make money off gullible consumers, I’d have to be thankful to whoever capitalized on the idea!
In honor of my eleven year anniversary of the release of Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One, and because love is still in the air, I am offering a giveaway!
THREE (3) copies of the novel that started it all, winners’ choice of ebook or print.
Simply leave a comment to this blog post to be entered into the drawing, which will be done by the end of this coming weekend (Sunday 23) using random.org. Winners to be announced on Sunday, March 1.
Below I have an excerpt from the opening chapter of the novel which started it all. For more information on all of my novels, including links to all selling places, reviews, synopsis, reading order, additional excerpts, and much more, click the image below to reach my website. All ten of my novels have a separate page easily accessed from the “Novels” link in the menu.
To directly head to Amazon for easy purchasing of any of my novels, all of which are available in print and ebook (the first three are also on Audible), click the image link to the left.
Thank goodness it is finally over, Fitzwilliam Darcy thought with a heavy sigh.
He realized that he probably should not entertain such a thought, but it could not be helped. The past eight weeks of his engagement had held many wonderful moments and all in all had been delightful, but also exceedingly trying. Daily he wanted nothing more than to spend time with his beloved Elizabeth. However, the constant pressures of wedding plans, visits from a seemingly inexhaustible quantity of friends and family, the constraints of propriety, and business interests that had taken him from Hertfordshire on several occasions all had conspired to separate him from her far too often. Add to that his own uneasiness with all the social engagements, not to mention his continued distaste for Mrs. Bennet, and the weeks had seemed interminable.
Nonetheless, he thought while gazing lovingly upon his sleeping wife … my wife! … there certainly were some marvelous times to be remembered. In truth, he and Elizabeth had managed to pass numerous satisfying hours together alone, or at least almost alone, yet it never was sufficient as far as Darcy was concerned. She had teased him on occasion for acting like a petulant child whose favorite toy had been taken away. Initially he had been a bit offended, but then he realized she was correct and had to laugh at himself. Yet he could not deny how bereft he felt without her by his side and how he had treasured every moment that they were together, even if it was brief.
They discovered, much to their mutual joy, that the trials of the previous months, during which each had suffered tremendously, had brought them to a place of complete understanding and honesty. The conversations they now shared were open, deeply profound, intimate, and blessedly free of all artifice and misunderstanding. He had revealed himself to her as he never had to any living soul, not even to his sister or dear Cousin Richard. She had done the same.
They had striven to learn as much as possible about each other. The resulting adoration and respect had only grown deeper with each passing day. And all this before they were married! Now they were truly husband and wife, and Darcy could only imagine their love and communion growing stronger.
He rested his head back against the rocking carriage wall, tightened his arm around Elizabeth, and closed his eyes as his thoughts continued to drift. The ceremony itself had been lovely. The women had triumphed in every aspect of the arrangements. Frankly, Darcy could not have cared less about the decorations as long as his precious Elizabeth became his wife. However, he understood the importance of these things to the ladies and had to admit that the Meryton church and the reception hall at Netherfield were stupendously adorned with flowers in profusion, ribbons and bows, candles and more.
Darcy merely gave it all a cursory glance, eyes riveted to the door. Once Elizabeth entered on the arm of her proud father, Darcy saw or heard very little else. She simply stole away his breath and all conscious thought! How he managed to recite his vows was a mystery. Elizabeth was wearing a simple but lovely white gown of silk with lace along the edges and a golden sash. She had styled her hair in an elaborate design of curls and braids with thin gold ribbon and buds of baby’s breath and lavender intertwined. She wore the strand of sapphires he had given her as an engagement gift around her slender neck. Her fine eyes sparkled; her cheeks were rosy; and that special smile only for him highlighted her luscious lips. It was a picture imprinted on his mind’s eye and would remain there flawlessly rendered for all of his life.
The lovely and ancient church in Meryton, where the Bennet family had worshipped for years, was perfectly suited for the ceremony. In truth, Darcy had always imagined marrying in the chapel at Pemberley and was mildly saddened initially at the natural choice to marry where both Bennet daughters had grown up. However, he quickly recognized the logic to the decision and realized that he honestly did not care as long as they were married with the sanction of the Church, religion being a vital part of his life.
The elderly vicar performed the traditional ceremony impeccably, his strong voice reciting the vows and quoting Holy Scripture with firm conviction. When Darcy slipped the slim, etched-in-jeweled gold band onto Elizabeth’s finger, nestling it alongside the sapphire and diamond engagement ring that had been his mother’s, it was far and away the most profoundly moving moment in his life.
Elizabeth stirred slightly and he pressed her closer to his side, kissing her gently on the top of her head. He pulled the blanket further over her body and tucked it in. Once he was sure she still slept, he rested his cheek on her head and went back to his daydreams.