My first two novels, Spirit Warriors and Witch Hunt, were published by Simon &
Schuster’s Pocket Books twenty years ago. They were written as metaphysical fiction
before this was an established category. The acquiring editor was a forward-thinker and
wanted to use my novels to launch a line of New Age fiction. This was the understanding
when we went under contract. Then came the famous marketing meeting where the
execs nixed the idea with the words, “But where will we put it in the bookstores?” So
my editor was told to have me revamp the books to fit into the established category of
horror or they would terminate my contract. Reluctantly, I complied, and although I made
a boatload of advance money, the books never earned out. They were too New Agey for
horror fans, and too horrific for New Agers.
Ironically, at the same that time Pocket got cold feet about the metaphysical tone of my
novels, Warner Books released New Age novel The Celestine Prophecy. TCP spent 165
weeks on the New York Times Bestseller’s List and sold over 20 million copies. Did I
mention my editor was forward-thinking?
I was so disillusioned by my experience that I quit writing for a long time. When I could
no longer resist The Muses, I returned with a comic novel, Red Hot Property. My favorite authors include Carl Hiaasen and Dave Barry who are known for their satirical, irreverent styles and I longed to try something similar. Red Hot Property turned out to be a blend of genres: edgy comedy layered on top of poignant drama. Think MASH. Think Ugly Betty.
After I wrote RHP, I contacted Pocket Books. My editor was no longer there, so I
connected with another who liked the book but wanted me to revamp it into a traditional
romance novel because, “Where will we put it in the bookstores?”
Some things just never change.
So, I self-published it. And I kept self-publishing my books. I released YA urban fantasy,
Glory, which was nominated by the American Library Association to the prestigious
YALSA 2011 List of Best Paperback Novels for Young Adults. It, too, went bestseller
on Amazon. I just released Red Hot Liberty, which is the sequel to Red Hot Property, and a companion novella told from the dog’s perspective, Show Dog Sings the Blues. Show Dog hit Amazon’s bestseller list the day it was released and reached #1 on their Hot New Release List.
Along the way I rewrote Witch Hunt according to my original vision, and self-published
it. Witch Hunt immediately hit Amazon’s Metaphysical Fiction Bestseller List and has
become the most popular novel I’ve ever written. Publishers in Greece and Turkey have
solicited it, and its future looks bright.
So, do I advocate self-publishing? That’s a tough one. For all the bestseller lists, foreign
publisher excitement, and steady sales, I’m not yet making a boatload of money. I work
10x as hard as if I were just writing books and letting someone else handle the technical
details. I long for someone else to make command decisions. However, I am writing what
I want to write in the manner I want to write it. I love my books, my fans love my books,
and writing them provides me tremendous joy and creative fulfillment.
Would I accept an offer from a traditional US publisher at this stage of the game?
Frankly, I don’t know. I still work with the same New York literary agency that sold my
books to Pocket and through recent discussions have discovered that many agents and
editors now feel that self-publishing often trumps traditional. And it does.
Bottom line is that I think an artist who is true to his or her own vision, who finds joy in
the creative process and works hard, will find fulfillment. Whether wealth will follow
is an entirely different matter—no matter how hard we authors market ourselves, this
aspect of success is, ultimately, beyond our control. And although I want it all, if I have
to choose between wealth and artistic integrity, I would rather leave behind a legacy I am
proud of than a well-funded bank account. We creative souls aren’t always known for
Please visit my website at www.DevinWrites.com
Devin O’Branagan’s novels include the paranormal thrillers Spirit Warriors and Witch Hunt, published by Pocket Books in English and Heyne Books in German. A new edition of Witch Hunt, updated for the 21st Century, was released in late 2010. She is the author of the hilarious Red Hot series of chick lit novels that include Red Hot Property, Red Hot Liberty, and the canine chick lit spinoff, Show Dog Sings the Blues. She is now hard at work on the sequel to her bestselling urban fantasy, Glory. Devin is a member of the Dog Writers Association of America, and writes a weekly humor blog for TAILS Magazine.