By Mark Williams
Time was, only women read romance novels, and only women wrote them.
Of course, that’s not strictly true .
Barbara Cartland has a lot to answer for!
In fact many (most?) of the geat novels of English literature have been romances, and not just the obvious ones like Pride & Prejudice or Jane Eyre.
Easy to forget that so-called “horror” classics like Dracula and Frankenstein are first and foremost romance novels.
Love, of course, is one of the eternal themes of literature.
Love is what separates man from beast.
That, and the ability to write.
No wonder so many novelists choose it as a central theme.
Enter: Tom Winton and Beyond Nostalgia.
“‘Beyond Nostalgia’ is a monumental romance, a ‘Gone with the Wind’ set not against the backdrop of the burning of Atlanta, but against the rumbling disaffection of America itself. “
So said one reviewer on Amazon.com, and plenty of others share those sentiments. Not least, me!
As male romance writers blossom in the brave new world of e-publishing (two in the UK Kindle top ten!) it is writers like Tom who have a geat future ahead of them as word spreads and promotes their work to a wider and appreciative audience.
But Tom Winton offers not just a great novel for us as readers.
He also has an inspiring story for those writers among us struggling against great odds (ie all of us!).
Here, in Tom’s own words, is the story behind the story.
The Struggle of the Aspiring Author
I can’t speak for all authors, but the road to the recent publication of my novel, Beyond Nostalgia, has been fourteen years long and full of potholes, bumps, and more than a few depressions. But wait… don’t throw away your pens and give your computer the old heave ho quite yet!
It doesn’t have to be that way.
I read somewhere that Robert James Waller wrote his mega-selling novel, The Bridges of Madison County, in three short weeks.
Much of my delay was self-inflicted. What I am going to say here has nothing to do with blowing my own horn. It is meant to convey a message — do not give up.
It took me two and a half years to write Beyond Nostalgia, on a part time basis. While doing the seven drafts I laughed, I cried, and I even got turned on a few times.
I loved the process and I hated it.
When I finished it twelve years ago, I sent out a fair amount of queries. Two or three agents showed interest – read a few chapters — but there was no cigar.
Disgustedly, I threw the manuscript into a closet, and there it stayed for eleven years. Alongside it, on that closet floor, I left a piece of my soul.
I wrote virtually nothing from then on and wasn’t the most pleasant person to be around. No longer experiencing the high I’d always gotten after a good thousand word session, I was not happy.
Then, in December of ’09, I was at my local library one day and, after choosing a few books, I sat down and started reading a copy of Writer’s Digest like I used to years earlier. I read an article about online writers’ communities and thought, “heck… maybe I can give this a shot.” A day or two later I had the missus upload the entire manuscript onto Harper Collins’ authonomy website. I was absolutely stunned by what happened next.
I’ll never forget the first of over 400 reviews I received.
Other than those few agents who’d taken a peek, the only people who’d ever read Beyond Nostalgia were my wife and I. I’d always believed I had a good book but had very limited feedback.
When I read the first review I received, chills ran up my arms and the smile that rose on my face was far wider than it had been in many years. The reviewer, who was very experienced on authonomy, said, “This is far better than most of the books I’ve read on this site”.
And what happened after that blew me away.
Many, many of the reviews I received were more like raves. Beyond Nostalgia climbed to number 61—out of a field of 6,000 books– in less than three months.
The first two months, in the monthly ratings, it was ranked #3 or 4 in romance and in literary fiction. It also got to #9 in all genres. Harper Collins has since changed some rules which make it possible to rise faster, but back then things didn’t happen so quickly.
One morning, after those three months, I burned out and no longer wanted to do so many reads and reviews. But I had become a much better writer.
I then did an eighth and ninth draft and started sending out queries. That was the most difficult writing I’d ever done.
How, I asked myself, can I possibly tell these agents what my 87,000 word story was about in just two or three paragraphs?
I literally spent over one hundred hours trying to make the query right, and still wasn’t satisfied when I sent them out. Someone once said some very true words, “You never finish a novel you abandon it”. And that’s what I did with the query letter. Finally, I threw up my hands and said, “That’s it, I can’t do this anymore. And I sent them out.
While waiting for responses a friend recommended I put the manuscript on Random House’s YouWriteOn site. He said it was very low maintenance, and since he too was an authonomy veteran who had done lots of time in its trenches I thought I’d give it a shot.
After receiving eight reads (the minimum required for a ranking) Beyond Nostalgia was ranked 13th. The next day it hit number one, where it stayed most of the month. Only at the very end of the month, when I accidentally deleted the wrong review, did I finish in fifth. But the top five are considered Best Sellers, and my novel is now in contention for Random House’s YouWriteOn “2011 Book of the Year”.
I was riding high after being one of YouWriteOn’s Best Sellers last July. Then responses from those queries I’d mailed out started trickling in.
I suppose I shouldn’t say “trickling in”, because in one month I had ten agents request to see part or all of Beyond Nostalgia–four of them in one day.
Son of a gun, I had Brad Pitt picked out to play my mc in the sure to come movie. Martin Scorcese was to be my director. Even the sound track played in my head. Then, over the next couple of months, everything went poof! I didn’t have one agent offer to represent my book. Three said they were sure I’d find an agent “soon”. But it didn’t pan out. I was almost ready to throw Beyond Nostalgia back in the closet.
But I didn’t.
At the eleventh hour Tim Roux at Night Publishing took a look at my book when one of his authors recommended it. A couple of days later he offered to publish it.
We first did a test run for a few weeks on Smashwords, and it did very well. It did so well that Online Novels declared it one of February’s two “Most Popular” novels in their General Fiction category–and It hadn’t come out until February tenth.
Tim is a small, new publisher, and we are trying to make a go of it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many other online outlets. The book can be ordered at any Barnes & Noble brick and mortar store, but I only wish they would stock it.
At any rate, after being on Amazon for just four weeks, Beyond Nostalgia made the Literary Fiction “Best Sellers” list for a short time last week. It is also on Amazon’s “Highest Rated” and “Hot New Releases” lists in both Literary Fiction and Contemporary Romance.
It will take a lot of work, and luck, to keep the book out of Amazon’s sea of obscurity, but this time I will not give up.
And any aspiring author who believes in their book needs to do the same thing.
Don’t make the mistake I did.
With the online market growing as you read this and all the helpful online writer’s communities available today, we all have a chance to go up against the big boys.
It won’t be easy, but we have that platinum opportunity.
Click on the links above to visit the sites I mentioned and one more called Agent Query, which is the only one you’ll need when you’re ready to chase down that elusive agent.
Tom’s book is available in paperback through Amazon.com and as an e-book from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and smashwords.
Unquestionably a great romance novel. Unquestionably not Barbara Cartland!
Mark is co-author of Killing Cupid, a commercial crime-thriller that he hopes (and we hope too, but not quite as much!) will give us a run for our money in the Kindle charts.
Like Tom’s, Mark’s road to publication has been an emotional roller-coaster of a ride, and the road behind him is littered with shattered hopes and dreams.
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Posted on March 13, 2011 by Tom Winton
Tom Winton was born and raised in New York City. During his working career, he has done everything from working on a railroad gang in the Colorado Rockies to driving a taxicab in Manhattan. Now retired, he has been a mailman, a salesman, an entrepreneur and more. He lives in Hobe Sound, Florida, with his wife Blanche and their ill-tempered but loveable Jack Russell terrier, Ginger. They spend part of their time in Carmel, Maine.
Although he has written a considerable number of newspaper and magazine articles, Beyond Nostalgia is Tom’s first novel. He is currently working hard on his second novel, which is nearly completed.
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