Please welcome today’s special guest JENNI HOLBROOK. She is an author, editor, and publisher, and I’m thrilled she’s here to share her road to publishing story.
My journey from reader to writer to publisher and beyond.
I didn’t set out to be a writer. When I was a little girl my only goal in life was to “out do” the boys. I wanted to prove that girls could do anything boys could do…only better. I was a very active child in both activities and in imagination. If I wasn’t hiking up mountains or sailing across lakes, I was in the dance studio. If I wasn’t doing those activities, I was living inside my head, creating stories, imaginary places and finding ways to express them. I used to do one-person plays I wrote myself and invite the neighborhood (for a fee of course) to come watch me perform. My family wasn’t quite sure what to make of me. I was different and I sort of knew it. These plays would come alive inside my head like a movie. I would see scenes and conflict and actually have conversations with imaginary characters all the time. Even though I was an outdoorsy kind of kid, I was one who used the outdoors to think. I wasn’t little miss social. I preferred the social activity that I played out in my mind. I learned as I got a little older to socialize more, but still, my imagination was alive and well and very active.
When I went to college, I majored in Business Education. It was what was expected and a good way to earn a living, so it made sense at the time. I focused on my core classes until one day I was told I had to take an English class. I took American Literature. It was fascinating until I got to the final paper. I had to write 75 pages and the topic was “compare and contrast the role and concept of the land as it is depicted in The Grapes of Wrath and Go Down Moses.” For a business major, this wasn’t going to be an easy task. When I handed in the paper I thought, “Well, there goes my 3.75 grade point average.”
The professor asked to see me about my final paper and I was a bit on the nervous side. When I went to his office, his first words were, “Have you ever thought of being a writer?” I laughed. Um, no. He told me that I had a real knack for the written word. That the way I approached the paper was incredibly creative and unique. I thanked him, but didn’t give it a second thought. However, I did fall in love with reading during that class. For the next ten years or so, I read at least a book a week, if not more.
Fast forward to 2003 and three children later. I was sitting at the lake, watching my children swim and reading a Sandra Brown novel. I set it aside and thought I could write something like that. Without telling anyone, I wrote my first book that summer. I did it long hand then typed it into the computer. What a great feeling it was to finish. So, I wrote another book. Then another. Then I Googled Romance Writers and went to my first Central New York Romance Writer’s meeting. It was there I found out I wasn’t “different”. I found out a lot of other people had imaginary characters and towns and even crazy murdering characters living inside their head. Then I went to Nationals in Reno and for the first time in my life, I felt like I fit in. Like I belonged somewhere.
I learned about the craft of writing and the business side of publishing. I entered contests. I finaled in a few and I also won The Beacon and The Molly. The movies that played constantly inside my head were finding their way to my fingertips and onto the computer screen. I was the happiest I had ever been.
I submitted everywhere and got rejected everywhere. ePublishing was on the rise and since I did read ebooks, I submitted to a few of the ePublishers. My book was accepted by Triskelion around the same time they received RWA recognition. I was thrilled. I knew it wasn’t the big leagues, but it was a start and I was doing what I loved.
And then, Triskelion started having trouble and went bankrupt. For those of us writing for them, we could see it coming, but there wasn’t anything we could do. During this time, I had also made the decision to leave my agent. It was a very difficult decision. I think the world of my first agent and all of her clients. Many of them have gone on to great things and I am very happy for them. However, at the time, I was having some medical problems and for me, it was time to step back and take a good look at what I wanted to achieve with my writing.
This decision to evaluate my goals lead me to Bob Mayer. I had met him a few times at various conferences and I was also lucky enough to have had him critique my work. I decided to take his retreat. It was the hardest week I ever had, but at the same time, the most enlightening. I took a lot of what he taught in the workshop and applied it to my writing. But also took a lot of what he said about the business and started writing down my goals and making a plan of action. First order of business was to find a way to get a teaching position at Writers and Books of Rochester.
I also decided to publish the books I had with Triskelion with The Wild Rose Press. They are good books and I wanted them to have a home. For me, it was a great decision. I have had 4 books and 2 short stories published with them. I also got the job teaching. I was achieving goals and moving forward, but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next. I felt like I had hit a stumbling block. Bob was working on developing his Warrior Writer program and since I had taken his Novel Writing course, I was very interested in this new workshop and decided to ask him about it. Again, he was very gracious and answered my questions.
During one of our conversations, the concept of epublishing and backlist came up. Bob had received the rights back to many of his books and wanted to re-release them. Some of the technical aspects of file conversions and cover design he was going to have to outsource, except I knew how to do those things. Somewhere along the lines, we decided to create Who Dares Wins Publishing in January 2010. We started with his backlist and we now have 3 other authors and more in the pipelines. It’s hard to believe that we have been in business now for a little over a year. We are constantly re-evaluating our goals and looking to the future. With all the changes and uncertainty in publishing two things remain the same…readers and authors.
I’m currently working on a book titled Legacy of Lies and working with agent to hopefully get it traditionally published. I spend half my workday on my writing and the other half working on Who Dares Wins Publishing. The truth is, my journey has really just begun.
You can visit Jenni’s blog at http://jenniholbrooktalty.wordpress.com/
Thanks for such a great story, Jenni!
Good for you! You are an inspiration!
Wow Jenni, inspirational stuff. I know how you felt when Triskelion went down, your experience mirrored mine. I was with another publisher who went out of business, and it rips your heart out, but what can you do but pick yourself up and start looking for another publisher, which is what I did also. I am multi-published now with Whiskey Creek Press and The Wild Rose Press.
ohmigosh! what an inspiring story, Jenni! Thanks fo sharing it here. It’s a great reminder — on a Monday — of what a difference setting goals and reaching for your dreams can be. Best wishes on continued success!!
(p.s. how did I not know you were a file conversion geek, too? and why am I not more surpised? *ggl*)
Thanks for being my guest, Jenni. Your story is proof that perseverance is one trait a writer needs to succeed.
Perseverance is a good trait to have. A little tenacity doesn’t hurt either. Glad you all are finding the story inspiring. I’ve always liked Winston Churchill’s quote “Never, ever quit”.
Jen — can’t wait to see you again. Hope it is soon! We can talk geek talk!
Perseverance is the key to success along with focus. It was an exciting year starting Who Dares Wins Publishing with Jenny. Some things we thought would work great, didn’t, such as serializing a novel. Many others did work. Perhaps the biggest lesson we learned was that consistency was the key. That it was a question of every single day, seven days a week, doing the work needed.
I already knew most of the story, but it was great ‘visiting’ with you again. If only I would get off my behind and work as hard as you do.
The best of luck with Legacy of Lies. I’m confident you’ll succeed with that as well.
Great post! Thanks for sharing your journey. And I’m so proud to be part of the WDWPub *team.*
Ah, yes…focus…and consistency. Consistency is key for us.
Hey SARAH! PMH! Miss you!
What a great journey for you! And it’s only just begun!
I know I have been very grateful for Jenni’s persevering nature. WDW Pub was just starting out and Jenni dug in and self-taught herself how to design convers and upload to iBooks and all akinds of high tech stuff that would have had me running for the hills.
Knowing I can count on Jenni has really helped me flourish as an author. I don’t have to worry about the details, because I knowm my editor has me covered.
Thanks for sharing!
Pingback: Tweets that mention JENNI HOLBROOK is our special guest today! « Liz Arnold-Stories You Will Love -- Topsy.com
Wonderful read. Thanks for sharing. Now I’m off to check out your web site.