American Life, Business, Friends, Literature

Dear Dana, Romance Novelist

Microsoft in the 1990s: more multi-talented people per square inch than should’ve been geometrically possible.

Which was why Microsoft, not Disneyland, was “The Happiest Place on Earth.” (Except for the Internet Explorer team during the Netscape smack-down, which was “Divorce Court.”)

During those years, I worked with a ballerina marketing lead, a city councilman graphic designer, a Special Forces parajumper database admin (who would neither confirm nor deny), and a brass ensemble of program managers.

Not one, but two pro surfer finance analysts.

Channel sales bagpipers, who practiced after work in the parking garage, giving us a sense of what it must’ve felt like being a lowly British soldier hearing that music coming at you from over the next hill and knowing you were done for.

Then there was Dana, DDEE.

Database Darling and Editor Extraordinaire.

If I was writing the potentially Great American Novel, I’d want Dana to be the poor soul poring over my sorry manuscript because she is, hands down, the best editor I’ve ever worked with.

Ever.

Nowadays she’s Dana, BSRN.

Best-Selling Romance Novelist.

Romance novels just aren’t my thing at all, but it’s a literary fantasy world that’s wildly popular. To the tune of $1.36 billion per year popular.

That’s why some of my first Microsoft friends hatched this grand plan to pay off our student loans by writing romance novels on the side, since girls’ poker night with nickel stakes was going to take forever.

(The guys played with stock, which made them no-fun competitive whiners, so they were banned.)

Problem was, writing compelling, marketable romance novels is part art, part science, part Joy of Sex. There are people in this world who are really, really good at it, and consequently are very, very rich.

Then there’s us.

We just couldn’t figure out how to go about it. (I think the fact that we used a database schematic to map out potential characters and plot lines tells you everything you need to know.) The harder we tried, the more embarrassing it got and the more we laughed until we cried, which apparently with romance novels you’re supposed to do only while you’re reading one.

Eventually, we realized it was hopeless and good thing we had some unromantic skills and day jobs to fall back on.

We also realized why none of us had hot dates for the company Christmas party and that we’d probably have to go together as a group, wearing name tags saying “Romance Writing Failures.”

With the word “Writing” crossed out.

However, I’d heard somewhere that the best way to come up with character names for your romance novel was to pair names of your childhood pets with names of streets where you grew up.

My computation resulted in 4 admittedly promising romance novel personas ‒ Julius Nye, Crispin Victoria, Skipper Melrose, and the one-and-only (thank goodness) Bo Fremont ‒ whose lives ended before they began because I’d learned the hard way to leave fiction writing to the experts.

Allora, cara Dana, whose 4-part romantic suspense series “Blood and Honor” is set in Italy, about which I contributed the tiniest bit of background for book 1, Revenge: it’ll be a pleasure buy the first romance novel of my entire life because you’re a star in anyone’s book and I’d read anything you wrote on the back of a deposit slip.

Like many smart tech-savvy new authors these days, Dana bypassed the world of traditional publishing. Her story is a perfect example of why those dinosaurs are scared to death of self-publishers and e-books, namely the fact that writers aren’t much tempted anymore with measly offers to give them 40% of the profits when they can DIY with equivalent quality ‒ and smarter distribution ‒ and keep 100%!

Also, did you know that if you write a book series you have to sign over the rights to your series story line and characters to the publisher in advance?

According to Dana, let’s say after book #2 of your series goes to print, your publisher decides to dump you. You can’t just take books #3 and #4 to another publisher. The series just dies, unless you go to court to win the rights back…to your own series, which you created!

By the time your case has made its way through the legal system, the only thing you might accomplish after all those attorney fees is to pass those rights onto your novelist grandchildren.

Who, bad luck, might turn out to be commentator types like me and for everyone’s sake should stick with what we know.

Anyway, Dana proves that you don’t need an old-school publisher, who still hasn’t gotten over the Borders Books bankruptcy, to sell your paperbacks and e-books on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com, let alone on Smashwords, Kobo, and Sony!

Dear Ms. Delamar, I’m a long-time fan. (20 years long.) Can I get an autographed copy on iTunes?

You can follow Dana on Facebook, @DanaDelamar on Twitter and at danadelamar.com.

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