A former Associated Press reporter and TV columnist, USA Today bestselling author Jacqueline Diamond has sold 100 mysteries and romance novels to traditional publishers. Her 101st book, The Case of the Questionable Quadruplet, launches her Safe Harbor Medical Mystery series. Learn more about Jacqueline and her books at her website. Today Jacqueline joins us to talk about her talent for failure.
A Talent for Failure
“How many books have you written?”
That shouldn’t be hard to answer, right? I’ve published 101 novels. Problem is, I’ve written way more than that—thousands of rejected pages, including a few complete books plus unsold partials and proposals.
Chalk them up as failures. But only in a sense.
Throughout my twenties and thirties, I turned out plays, screenplays and novels while working as a journalist. My bed rose into the stratosphere as unsold manuscripts piled up underneath (this was in the days of typewritten manuscripts). It sometimes felt like I was receiving rejection slips from publishers I hadn’t even submitted to.
At last, I sold a Regency-era romantic comedy called Lady in Disguise, followed by another three. Success at last!
If that had been the end of my rejections, this would be a very short blog. But as it turned out, failure is an option, even for published authors.
My editor rejected my fifth Regency, A Lady’s Point of View. She said the plot was too complicated and didn’t even request revisions (more about that book in a minute).
I moved on to writing contemporary romances and other genres. Gradually, more books sold, including a mystery (The Eyes of a Stranger) and a paranormal thriller (Echoes). But others, equally loved by me, didn’t.
Looking back, I came up with a few lessons worth sharing.
1) Although rejection hurts, I learned from it. Sometimes, the concept just wasn’t strong enough. Or the characters weren’t deep enough. Or the storyline didn’t fit what the publishers or readers were looking for at that time.
2) Failure isn’t forever. After a rewrite, my fantasy novel Shadowlight found a home at DAW and my offbeat mystery Danger Music sold to Five Star Mysteries. A Lady’s Point of View, after revisions, sold to another Regency line. All three are now available as ebooks.
3) When life gives you lemons, open a fruit stand. My Gothic romantic suspense Touch Me in the Dark endured multiple rejections before selling to an epublisher named Triskelion. The month it was published, Triskelion went bankrupt, and I didn’t receive a penny. Eventually, I regained my rights, updated and self-published this book, which has done well in its new digital life.
4) When life doesn’t even give you lemons, plant your own lemon tree. My favorite unsold book was a science fiction thriller called Out of Her Universe, about a woman with no idea that, as a baby, she had been brought to this world from a parallel Earth. Then, without warning, her life and those of people she loves are thrust into danger. I loved writing it and published it as an original ebook that has received outstanding reviews.
5) Taken together, lessons add up to an education, which can pay off in unexpected ways. Take my latest writing venture.
For my 101st book, I was eager to return to writing mysteries with puzzle plots and offbeat characters. As my experiences had shown, I no longer need an editor’s permission to publish my work.
Rejections also taught me that a concept has to be strong to appeal to readers. Being a fan of Grey’s Anatomy and the author of a 17-book medical romance series, I decided to feature a doctor as my amateur sleuth.
Thus the Safe Harbor Medical Mysteries were born. I’ve published the first book, The Case of the Questionable Quadruplet, and am well into writing the second, with several more plots on tap. Without my failures, I might never have developed the confidence or the market awareness to write and issue this series.
We all enjoy hearing of people who succeeded in spite of their failures. In my case, I may very well have succeeded because of them.
The Case of the Questionable Quadruplet
A Safe Harbor Medical Mystery, Book 1
Eric Darcy, a young, widowed obstetrician, is stunned when the mother of triplets claims to have borne a fourth baby, a quad, that was stolen from her years ago. When someone murders his patient, Eric believes the police are dismissing a vital clue, and teams up with his PI sister-in-law to investigate, never imagining his own life might be in danger. This medical cozy is the first in the Safe Harbor Medical Mysteries.