Tracy Brogan’s Tips on Strong Starts and Traditional Publishing

Tracy Brogan a national bestselling author and romance novelist, plus a Romance Writer of America® RITA Finalist for Best First Book, and a two-time Golden Heart Finalist. Her popular books include Crazy Little Thing and Highland Surrender. Though busy turning out new narratives from her home in Michigan, Tracy is very accessible to fans of her work.

Below, Tracy talks about early successes that contributed to bigger accomplishments, authors' lesser-known responsibilities, the value of membership with an association for authors, and why she chose to work with traditional publishers.

Were there any initial small victories with Crazy Little Thing that you think made subsequent, larger victories possible?

Tracy BroganAbsolutely. Success in publishing is a marathon, not a sprint, and all the tiny victories keep me moving forward on days when I think “maybe I should just be a reader.” Finishing the manuscript was a personal victory because I had dabbled with writing for a while before committing to getting published.

Once CRAZY was finished, I started entering contests through Romance Writers of America. I won the first contest I entered, which provided wonderful motivation to keep at it. I’ve since been a finalist and/or winner in several contests, and was also nominated for a prestigious RITA award for Best First Book of 2013. That was a big victory. Along the way, I’d also add that landing a fabulous agent, learning to craft a more engaging story, and coping with inevitable rejection were other important victories.

Did you do anything special to market Crazy Little Thing when it first came out?

I was on a ferocious deadline when CRAZY came out so all I could think about was getting the next book done! And both my kids had school projects due the next day so I ended up at the store that evening buying duct tape. Not very celebratory. Plus I was paralyzed with the fear that I wouldn’t sell any copies! Fortunately I was wrong, but it took a few weeks for CRAZY to pick up speed and really start selling.

What aspect of your work as an author would not even occur to most people?

That drafting the story is just the tip of the iceberg. Once it’s written, authors revise and revise and revise. My favorite compliment is when someone says my stories flow “effortlessly” because there is nothing effortless about it. It’s hard work. I think people would also be surprised to know how much time writers spend learning about the publishing side of the business. It is a business and books are a product. My books are my creation, and I write what comes from my heart, but I’ve also learned that in order to make a living at this, I need to account for reader preferences, the market, and a variety of other things.

Under what circumstances would you recommend that an author join Romance Writers of America or one of its more focused chapters? What value does it bring to your career?

I can say without hesitation I would not be published today were it not for RWA. The connections I’ve made through that organization, the excellent mentorship of RWA authors, the access to agents and editors, and the workshops available online and at conferences has been invaluable. My home chapter has been wonderful, too. There is kind of a group therapy aspect of being surrounded by other writers who understand that when you refer to your characters as real people, you’re not completely crazy. Just a little crazy.

Under what circumstances would you recommend an author submit manuscripts to a publisher instead of self publish?

I have no experience with self-publishing so I don’t feel qualified to answer that. I know many successful self-published authors and I love all the options available to writers today. For me, I wanted to try the “traditional” route but had I not gotten a wonderful offer from Montlake Publishing, I would have pursued other avenues. Another aspect of that question would be influenced by whether or not that writer had an agent.

How is your experience publishing with Montlake Romance different from the experience of someone publishing independently?

I’m incredibly driven to write, but I’m not sure I have the discipline necessary to self-publish. The idea of formatting my own work, creating a cover, doing all the marketing and distribution seems a little overwhelming to me. Some writers have a fabulous talent for that sort of thing. For me, I like having Montlake deal with most of that, and I’m incredibly fortunate that I still have final say over my covers, blurbs, book content, et cetera. I feel as if I have the best of both worlds.

What first steps would you recommend to an author with a finished manuscript who feels overwhelmed by the options and does not know how to proceed?

I’d encourage new writers to join RWA or some sort of writing community for their genre, learn to draft a query letter, enter contests, and strive to continue growing as a writer. Conquer the fear of rejection and/or bad reviews because that’s a constant in this business.