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My life on the mid-list

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I wanted my book on the shelves of bookstores. I had never read a story like mine, and I was sure that other people would relate to it or at least like it. Then, I'd be Nora Roberts. And my book would be made into a cheesy Lifetime movie, and I could move to New York and write from a sidewalk café all day. (Yeah, I had very unrealistic expectations. But, if you're going to dream, why not dream big?)

I joined every online writer's group I could find, hoping that networking with other writers would point me toward that coveted bestsellers list. By this time, I'd interviewed a dozen or so best-selling authors. They'd all had one common thread: They faced rejection before hitting the big time.

I could do this. I was born to do this. And then it happened: I received a letter that didn't say "no."

Genesis Press wanted Revelations. I thought this was fitting and funny. Less than three years ago, they'd turned down my first book. At the same time I was offered a contract from Genesis, I found an ad from a new literary agent out of Maryland. Though I had been offered a two-book deal, something told me to go ahead and reach out to this agent. I had hopes that I wouldn't be greeted by another scam or rejection.

I e-mailed Sha-Shana Crichton and, to my surprise, she e-mailed me back the same day. My synopsis had caught her eye, and she wanted the entire manuscript. Yes! When I told her that I had been offered a contract, she seemed even more interested in signing me as a client. And signing with her was a good thing because she renegotiated the contract that I was ready to sign and secured a better two-book deal for me as well.

It was 2002, and I knew it was only a matter of time until I was sipping espresso in Greenwich Village.

What I didn't know was that unless you're with a large publishing house, like a Random House, and your name is Dan Brown or Eric Jerome Dickey, you've got to do your own publicity.

It'd be great if people just picked up your book because they wanted to give a new author a chance, but that isn't the case. Just read the reviews of books on Amazon.com.

And when authors call bookstores and ask to set up a signing, the response isn't very positive. It's as if the bookseller is wondering, "If you're going to sell so many books, why are you calling and not your publicist?"

But who could afford to pay a publicist upwards of $400 a month? That money doesn't guarantee that you'd get coverage in regional, local or national publications or that your book would be reviewed.

I figured: If I can write a book, I can write a press release. It also helped that, working as an editor, I saw press releases on a daily basis; some were good, some bad. So, I tried being my own publicist for about a week, and let's just say a full-time job, a deadline for book two and life in general made it a little difficult to keep up with details like who had received a press release and the location of my next signing.

Thank God for friends. One of my good buddies works in public relations and was ready to start her own company right around the time that I realized I needed a publicist. We came to an agreement: She handed over her contacts, and I sent out the press releases from her e-mail address.

It worked. By 2006 when my book, The Business of Love, was released, I was finally getting the publicity I wanted.

Book signings are another way to meet the public and another way to find out that being famous on MySpace doesn't always translate into sales.

I've had the pleasure of attending some great signings -- like the time the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library hosted me at the Beatties Ford Road branch the day after Valentine's Day. While my ego would love to take the credit for packing the house, it was probably the free chocolate that got people in the door.

I've been invited to discuss my work with two book clubs in Charlotte and one in Jacksonville, Fla. Those women take to your books and while you're in their presence, you feel like your work actually matters. You can look over your shoulder and see Hollywood calling.

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