Sharing the tips I've learned about writing and publishing.
From Book Rejections to Best-Seller Status: Author Interview with Jamie Beck
Today's interview is with Jamie Beck, a bestselling author, who has sold more than two million copies of her books. She is a Booksellers’ Best Award and National Readers' Choice Award finalist. Read on to learn how her writing journey began and where it stands today. What made you decide to write contemporary romance novels?
During my teens, I’d dreamed of writing love stories, but life took me in another direction until my forties. At that point, I’d been a stay-at-home mother for several years. My kids were finally both in grade school, which freed up several hours a day, so I started writing a sweet YA romance (which remains under my bed to this day). I had no idea what I was doing at that point, but I loved every minute of it.
How long did it take you to write your YA book?
It took me about nine or ten months and multiple revisions to complete—and it still wasn’t very good. I had to learn much more about craft before I could write anything of publishable quality.
How long does it take to finish a book today?
In contrast, my current contract requires me to turn in a manuscript about every five months, so I have half the time to write books that are roughly twenty thousand words longer than that first attempt.
You’ve written multiple series. Where are you in the process with these books?
I have four series (St. James, Sterling Canyon, Cabot, and Sanctuary Sound). The first three are complete, but Sanctuary Sound still has two releases this year (April and September).
I’m currently working on a new series (Potomac Point), but these books will be different in a couple of ways. First, unlike my other series, which involve a family or a group of friends and a series arc, these new books will all be set in the same town, but they will not focus on one group of friends or a family, nor will they have a series arc.
Also, while the new books will still have a romantic thread, they will have a women’s fiction focus and maybe contain a little mystery, too (think of Elin Hilderbrand or Dorothea Benton Frank or the like).
Your publisher is Montlake Romance, which is an Amazon imprint. How did that connection come about?
I’d actually sent Montlake the “In the Cards” manuscript before I got my agent (back when Montlake still took unsolicited manuscripts), and an editor there picked it out of the slush pile. My agent got them to also take “Worth the Wait,” too, and I’ve been very happily part of the Montlake family ever since.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
As much as I love this work, almost every part of it is difficult for me. I love creating characters and piecing together the spine of the plot, but often halfway through the book, I’ll end up changing a lot of the original idea. Dialogue can be difficult at times, then other moments it flows quite nicely.
The key to making it all easier is to know exactly what you want out of a scene before you start writing it. Sometimes, however, when I’m pressed by deadlines, I don’t have the luxury of taking as much time as I’d like to do that thinking. I write full-time, so I spend my mornings attending to administrative things like email, social media, and interviews like this. I also like to read over whatever I wrote the day before to clean it up and refresh my recollection of where I was.
What is your daily writing schedule?
I tend to write new material between two and four o’clock. In the evenings, I’ll circle back to social media and email.
What does your editor remind you to do most often?
When I turn a manuscript in, I always believe I’ve put everything important on the page. Inevitably, my editor will raise questions that make me realize that some of what I know about the characters and their motivations hasn’t quite made its way into the story yet.
What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?
I’m very self-motivated, so I haven’t needed much encouragement. However, I’ve had wonderful advice from some of the best writers and friends I could’ve hoped to have made in this business. For me, the guiding principle is to “Write the story you would like to read.” I don’t write to trends and I don’t write “to sell.” I write something that has meaning to me and hope that it will resonate with some readers. I feel very fortunate when that happens!
We have all experienced rejection. How have you learned to write past it?
Oh my, yes. Rejection is a major factor in this industry. That first manuscript that is still under my bed racked up more than 50 rejection letters (only one “revise and resubmit”).
My second manuscript (In the Cards) ultimately had about the same number of rejections, although I did get a few requests to review on that one. Worth the Wait (my best-selling book to date) also got rejected by a lot of the publishers, so I was nervous it would flop when Montlake took it on, and then thrilled when it did so well.
What has surprised you the most in writing/publishing?
I used to practice law. Back in my day, men dominated most law firms. Conversely, women dominate the romance-publishing industry, and the pay-it-forward mindset of these amazingly talented and driven women has been such a blessing.
What frustrated you the most?
For me, the biggest frustration is that there is no linear path you can follow to assure success. Often, great books can go unnoticed while very average books fly off the shelves. One editor might say “Don’t do X,” but then you'll see another book that did “X” become popular. I like order and logic, so it is very difficult for me to navigate such a squishy, subjective industry.
What do you know now about writing you wished you had known sooner?
Don’t take rejection personally, and don’t believe that it means your story has no value. Like I mentioned above, my best-selling book was widely rejected and has gone on to sell over four hundred thousand copies so far. I have come to realize that no agent or editor “knows” for sure what will succeed and what won’t (otherwise, everything they bought would be a best seller). They are making educated guesses. Take the good advice (especially if it is craft-related), but don’t revise the soul of your story to suit someone else’s taste.
What is the next book coming out?
My second Sanctuary Sound novel, THE PROMISE OF US, comes out on April 9th.
Can you give me a short synopsis?
Here’s the back jacket copy:
They couldn’t be more different…or more completely perfect for each other.
Claire McKenna knows about loss. The bullet wound that ended her promising professional tennis career drove her to make a quiet life for herself working with fabric samples, chatting with her book group, and spending time with her parents in her sleepy coastal Connecticut hometown.
Then there was the boyfriend who dumped her to pursue her adventurous childhood friend. Now, Claire’s business has hit a financial snag, but she’s up to the challenge. After all, she can survive anything. At least she thinks so…until her teen crush, Logan, returns to town with his sister, Claire’s traitorous friend.
Photographer Logan Prescott is more playboy than a homebody. But his sister’s illness teaches him that there’s more to life than chasing the next thrill. Bent on helping her win Claire’s forgiveness, he turns his charm on Claire and offers her big bucks to renovate his multimillion-dollar New York City condo.
After years of playing it safe, Claire must now take some risks. The payoff could be huge, but if it all falls apart, can her heart recover from another loss?
That’s all for today’s interview. If you’d like to learn more about Jamie’s series, here are some links to get you started.