Day jobs, death and the NY Times: My adventures in self-publishing
By Bonnie Vanak
It began with a small story I thought no one would ever buy.
Traditionally published with Harlequin, I was between books and decided to write a short story for fun. I work fulltime as a fundraising writer for a charity, and romance writing is my outlet. The romance writing counters some of the horrific suffering I’ve seen in my travels to countries like Haiti and Honduras.
The story was about an overweight college graduate who happened to be a werewolf. After four years of living like a human, she returns home to her pack to find out that if she wants to remain at home, instead of facing up to life and finding a job like most grads, she has to shift into a werewolf. But she can’t, so she’s forced into choosing a mate. The hero is a cowboy on her uncle’s ranch who’s secretly loved her and couldn’t wait for her return. He’ll do anything to have her.
I added in lots of sex to give an erotic overtone and some mystery and adventure. And I had fun with it. Then I hired a designer to do a cover, an editor and proofreader, someone to format the book and self-published The Mating Chase, selling it for 99 cents.
The results stunned me. The Mating Chase became a Top Ten bestseller on All Romance ebooks and sales with other vendors, like Amazon, were very good.
And thus began the series called my Werewolves of Montana, a series of PNR sexually-explicit books about werewolves who were cowboys, lived on a ranch in Montana and were searching for their mates.
In August 2013, I published The Mating Hunt, Book 2, a longer book with a higher price. A few weeks later, my good friend Jennifer Ashley asked me, “How would you like to be in a self-published book bundle with me and four other PNR authors?”
My response, “Oh hell yeah!”
The authors were Jennifer, Laurie London, Erin Kellison, Caris Roane and Felicity Heaton. I contributed The Mating Hunt to the boxed set. In October, we published Dark & Dangerous; six-in-one paranormal tales and sold the bundle for 99 cents. We promoted it heavily and it hit the USA Today list for three weeks straight.
The first week on the list, Felicity, who lives in England, emailed all of us. I was at work when I got the news and my coworkers wondered why I was screaming with joy.
I was a USA Today bestselling author! I’ve been published traditionally since 2002, but this was the first time I’d ever made a national list. Soon after, I published The Mating Seduction, a novella about a cowboy who promises the heroine she can ride a champion horse in a barrel racing competition…if she spends three days in his bed. Self-publishing was hard work, but it was fun and I enjoyed having control over my writing career.
About two weeks later, my joy at being a USA Today bestselling author turned into alarm and then real fear.
We received the news that my beloved sister-in-law, Glenna “Sissy” Fischer, was in liver failure.
November and December turned into a nightmare, constantly worrying about Sissy. We live in Florida and my brother and Sissy lived in Tennessee. Our Christmas plans to visit them had been made months ago. We’d even planned a menu; Sissy’s delicious prime rib, and bacon-wrapped scallops and many other delicious dishes. I’d told Sissy, “I’d walk to Tennessee just for your cooking.”
Sissy was the sister I’d always wanted and never had. She had a warm heart, a terrific sense of humor, encouraged my dreams, helped me with book research, and every time I called, she’d tease me with, “How’s the writing of those sexy books going?”
Sissy had faith in my writing that I sometimes lacked.
About the time Sissy was diagnosed, the other authors in the original book bundle decided to do a second bundle. They asked me to join them. I wasn’t certain I could contribute. It took everything I had to struggle through the day job. But they insisted.
Caris emailed me, “But Bonnie, you HAVE to be in the bundle! It wouldn’t be the same without you.”
I promised I would have a story ready. We set a publication date and asked Alyssa Day and Erin Quinn to join us, making our bundle into eight stories by eight authors this time.
Christmas arrived. My husband Frank and I spent it in the hospital with Sissy and my brother. We were hoping and praying for the best, for a miracle, for a transplant.
Four days after Frank and I returned home, Sissy died.
Numb, I could not write fiction. But there was that second book bundle and I had promised the others I would contribute.
I had barely started working on my story when my best friend’s husband dropped dead, two weeks after Sissy was buried. Another funeral. More grief.
But I’d made a promise so I forced myself to write. Baby steps. A paragraph here, a few sentences there. Finally, The Mating Heat, the prequel to my Werewolves of Montana series, was ready.
Dark & Deadly; Eight Bad Boys of Paranormal Romance, was published on April 14. It hit USA Today’s bestseller list the first week of publication. Three weeks later, it was a NY Times bestseller.
I was a New York Times bestselling author. The night I received the news, we were sitting at the dinner table. I screamed, “Oh My God!!!” My husband looked at me with panic and asked, “Oh no. Now who died?”
Later, we laughed about his reaction. A shared sense of humor has helped my husband and I get through many hard times.
Thanks to Jennifer Ashley, Alyssa Day, Laurie London, Erin Quinn, Caris Roane, Erin Kellison and Felicity Heaton, I didn’t only make the list of all bestseller lists. I achieved something far more precious – I learned to push past the pain and learn to write through it.
As I write this blog, I’m releasing The Mating Rite, Book 4 in my Werewolves of Montana series. This book is about Darius, a sexy werewolf who thinks his mate is dead and has grieved for her for years. He finds out she is alive and does everything he can to claim her. The book is bittersweet for me. In my personal life I have loved and lost so many people, loved ones I’d give anything to have back in my life again. But a part of them can live on in my stories and the happy endings I give to my main characters.
I don’t know what my self-publishing career holds next. Publishing, like life, is unpredictable. But I’m on that roller coaster and riding it for all it’s worth. In my mind, I can see Sissy in Heaven, grinning like crazy, and telling me, “You go girl! Go write those sexy books!”
You can purchase The Mating Rite on Amazon Kindle here: http://amzn.to/1o0Epmr
Welcome to the sensual world of the Lupine, where the burning drive to mate claims all...Ten years ago, Darius Bryant fell in love and lost his mate before they consummated their union. He mourned her death and moved on, but innocent, carefree Samantha always possessed his heart, no matter how many women he had in his bed. When the sexy werewolf shifter discovers Samantha is alive, he becomes determined to claim her as his forever mate. He must convince the now-cynical Samantha that her heart, body and soul belong to him.
Samantha Evers spent years waiting for Darius to return, and thought he’d forgotten his promise to make her his own. She’s vowed to live as a human, for she fears the sexual savagery of the wolf life. Now Darius is back and the only act that will seal them together is the intense sexual bonding of the mating rite. She will fight hard to resist Darius’ sensual allure and his tender words of passion. But a far greater problem awaits them both when they discover someone wants Samantha out of Darius’ life for good, and will stop at nothing until she is dead…
Find out more about Bonnie Vanak by visiting her website: http://www.bonnievanak.com/