By the Book was the fourth book I wrote (I started work on it during NaNo of 2009, after I’d finished Long Time Coming, Dark-Adapted Eyes and Plus One earlier that year.)
LTC was half-written by the end of 2008 and DAE had been drafted a couple of years before; I ‘only’ rewrote it in 2009. It sounds like I was a lot more productive than I really was, because Plus One was the only novel I wrote in its entirety in 2009.
How did By the Book start out? Firstly, with another name, The Devil You Know. Why was it so called? Because the love interest, Daniel Cross, has two angel wings tattooed on his back. Okay, okay, call that cheesy if you like, but back in the day I was seriously into inked guys. Still am, if you want the truth, and angel wing back tattoos weren’t the romance genre cliche in 2009 that they have since become, over a decade later.
My God, I can’t believe I just typed that. By the Book is over a decade old.
I’d freewheeled LTC and DAE; Plus One was the first book I ever outlined — more on that later, in its own dedicated blog post. But I got a taste for planning my work, after swearing up, down, sideways and back to front that I was not, absolutely not an outliner. What I like about the method I have since perfected (in the sense of it fitting my work style perfectly) is that it enables me to work out of sequence. I can jump to whichever chapter I fancy working on, on any given day.
And that’s what I did with TDYK, or BTB as it later became. Almost immediately after finishing Plus One, I outlined a story in advance of NaNoWriMo, and decided, “Yep, this is the book I’m going to write.” Plus One had positively jizzed out of my fingers; I swear, it was the easiest book I’ve ever written. 20k words in three days at one point, without even trying. What was different? I’d outlined it! Problem solved! I’d never have sluggish work days again, right?
Something about the outline for BTB didn’t feel right. Then I realised — the love interest (the aforementioned Daniel) was a self-confessed slut, but it wasn’t Georgia from the couple established at the beginning of the book that he fell in love with.
It was Reece.
Apparently the story would flow better, just felt ‘right’, if the story was about Reece discovering his bisexuality, not Georgia deciding she loved the cock so much she’d quite like some more, thank you please.
After all, Reece and Georgia already had a kinda sorta open relationship, with occasional threesomes. Where was the conflict if BTB was about…a threesome? No, there would be no conflict, no story, unless one of the characters did, or discovered, something new.
So the point of view character became Reece, rather than his girlfriend, Georgia. And once I realised that, well, the words just flowed.
The first draft came in at around 65k words or thereabouts, but it took me 4 months to write. I won NaNo that year, but that means it took me until the end of February to write another 15k words. Was I burned out? Well, not quite, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to write much at all. I think it was simply a case of looking at the manuscripts I had piling up on my laptop (three at that point), wondering what I was going to do with them.
During November of 2009, I’d subbed LTC to an agent and received a polite rejection, and later thought it was probably a better idea to try to get into digital-first publishing. You see a return on your investment much quicker doing it that way, and erotic romance was really beginning to take off back in those days. So while I was writing BTB, I was at the same time trying to decide what to do with LTC, DAE and PO, which publishers to send them to, etc.
Anyway, you’ll know from my previous ‘The Story Behind the Story’ post what I did with LTC and how that came to be published. But, while I was writing By the Book, I hadn’t yet sold it, so that and two other novels were still loitering on my hard drive while I got on with By the Book.
As mentioned, it took me four months to write, but in the end I was pretty satisfied with it. Added to which, I’d written it much tighter than my previously-outlined manuscript, Plus One. That book had come in at 125k words, far too long for most publisher’s requirements for an erotic romance. BTB was a much shorter book, but better for it, in my opinion.
I used to have a spreadsheet where I tracked all my submissions, which I’ve since deleted, but I do know that I submitted The Devil You Know as it was still then called, to Samhain, in the late summer of 2010. That came back as a no, which disappointed me greatly, because back then, Samhain was the shiz. (Since gone out of business, so who’s laughing now, not that I’m bitter of course…)
Thereafter, I subbed the novel to Loose Id, the other of the ‘big two’ epubs. (Yes, there was also Ellora’s Cave, but there were already rumblings of shady behaviour there so no thank you.) I tried to forget about the submission and went about my business — editing and submitting other books, writing more.
One evening I’d been out and something had gone wrong with the transport. Either I didn’t have change for the bus, or a friend who’d been supposed to give me a lift home couldn’t make it, something like that. Anyway, I had a long walk home and just wasn’t in the mood for anything. I got home, kicked my shoes off, put the kettle on, and went to check my emails. Back in 2010 mobile phones weren’t as swanky as they are nowadays and my goodness, I feel old saying that. Upshot is, the phone I had at the time sent texts and took photos; that was just about it. I could get online but it was clunky and awkward and used up too much mobile phone credit, so unless it was an absolute emergency I stuck to checking my emails on the laptop at home.
I got excited when I saw the email from Loose Id, but my heart soon sank when the words ‘sorry’ and ‘not at this time’ in the message. Buggeration. So I stomped off in a huff to finish making my cup of tea, and to stuff my face with consolation cake.
Everybody likes consolation cake, right?
Then once I’d calmed down I decided to go back to the email and see if, on the off chance, they’d told me exactly what it was they didn’t like about the book. It’s rare for publishers to do this, because generally speaking a no is a no; why would they give editorial advice to an author they’re not going to sign? It would be a waste of their time to tell someone how to improve their writing then let some other industry professional benefit from their input when the book is finally contracted elsewhere.
But hope springs eternal, as they say, and I did think it would be better to read the email properly this time instead of insisting on hazzing a sadz for the rest of the night.
I was tired and emotional though, after a difficult day where a few annoying, inconvenient things had happened. I hadn’t been paying proper attention when I’d first scanned the email. Turns out Loose Id hadn’t been saying an outright ‘no’, they’d been saying “No in its current state, but probably yes if you make these changes.”
That’ll teach me to read properly.
I still felt just a smidge upset because my literary masterpiece was perfect as it was, right?
I read the editor’s suggested changes and decided which ones I’d be willing to make. I can’t remember in detail what those changes were, but they were along the lines of “Your writing’s good, but can you amalgamate these two scenes and strengthen Daniel’s motivation?” That kind of thing. I emailed the editor back to say I’d change X and Y, but didn’t feel it was necessary to completely rewrite Z, because that would necessitate writing a whole new novel with completely different plot threads. She politely said she looked forward to reading it, I dropped everything else I was working on at the time (probably outlining another book or writing synopses for other people to lazy to write their own when I was willing to be a doormat for them) and got to work with the rewrites.
In the end they didn’t take too long. I think I had the book ready to resubmit within a fortnight. The word count of the book remained pretty much the same, but I’d rewritten some chapters then plastered over the cracks (heh) to smooth transitions between scenes or chapters. Basically I made it look like the book had been written that way all along.
Within days of me sending it back, I received a contract offer. Naturally I jumped at the chance to sign. I mean, we’re talking one of the two biggest epubs of the time. (Again, ignoring Ellora’s Cave because ugh, rapey romance and financial shenanigans.)
But the tears didn’t end there, no! When I got my first round of edits back, I burst out crying because the manuscript was covered in red. I remember staring at my computer screen and wailing, “Why did they contract it, if it’s so awful?”
And thus began my tradition of, when I’m upset about something publishing-related, giving myself twenty-four hours to weep and wail and feel sorry for myself. Then I suck it up and get on with things.
After all — I’d been so upset at that first email from Loose Id, hadn’t read it properly, so I figure when I’m over-emotional it’s better to step away from the task in hand and go do something more fun, like drink tea, binge watch something with a hot guy in the lead role, or masturbate.
Hell, all three.
There were a number of rounds of edits and at one point, once I’d settled into Loose Id’s way of doing things, I even challenged my editor Antonia by saying, “Go on, tear me a new arsehole. I want this book to be as good as it can be.” And her reply was something like, “No need for such violence! You’re a good writer; the book just needs to be polished up a little, now.”
I mentioned in my blog post for LTC that through my dealings with Loose Id, I acquired an ITIN (International Taxpayer Identification Number). Basically what this meant was after the contract was signed, but before the edits had taken place, I had a metric shit-ton of paperwork to fill in regarding my residency status. Sent it, along with my passport, to the U.S. Embassy in Grosvenor Square, London (since moved, I believe, but this was its location at the time). Once they were satisfied that I was a U.K. citizen and not a U.S. taxpayer, they issued me with the precious ITIN and returned my passport (since expired). I remember going to pick it up from the post office depot and them asking for I.D.
“Don’t have one.”
“Listen, I’ve told you — that’s what’s in the bloody parcel.”
In the end I offered to open it in front of him and show him who I was after the fact, and that was that.
Now I had my ITIN, I could use that on my royalties-related paperwork with Loose Id so Uncle Sam wouldn’t skim 30% off the top before the money reached me. In fact, I still use the ITIN today for other U.S.-based publishers or ebook vendors such as Amazon or Draft 2 Digital.
But back to the title change — that was nothing more than Loose Id already having a novel called The Devil You Know in its back catalogue, so to distinguish between the books, I had to change the title of mine. It’s only fair; the other author concerned had been there first, after all. I sent my editor a few suggestions and right from the off, we both favoured By the Book. Reece Hutton is a librarian and Daniel Cross is a fiction author, so the puntastic title worked for both of the main characters.
I was nervous about how the book would be received because it was my first attempt at a M/M romance and writing from a male point of view. Would you believe it, even down to this day, it’s my absolute bestseller. It seems to be the book that, if people are asked to recommend a Scarlett Parrish book, tops the list. Apparently it’s the most ‘me’ book I’ve ever written. (Is that good or bad, given that it was the fourth book I wrote and the second one I sold?) No other has even come close to By the Book in sales. In its first month, it earned out its advance and made a few hundred dollars on top of that. A modest amount, but enough for me to buy some new furniture and a couple of DVD box sets of my favourite shows.
Why is the book now self-published? Well, the full story also affects my only other title with Loose Id, A Little Death, and I’ll go into more detail on its dedicated blog post. Suffice it to say I had payment issues and problems with Loose Id’s staff not taking the matter as seriously as they should. So I asked for — hell, demanded — my rights back as soon as contractually possible, and decided to put the book up on Amazon myself. At first it was in the Kindle Unlimited programme but now, distribution is wide.
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Two’s company; three’s allowed.
Reece Hutton conducts his life between the covers – of books and beds. A librarian by day, in the evenings he’s a man whose tastes are anything but vanilla. So when local writer Daniel Cross appears in the library one afternoon with the aim of doing some research, Reece has a hard time not noticing how attractive he is, or what feels like chemistry between them. They exchange a few words and Daniel’s business card, an interlude which Reece puts down to networking rather than flirtation.
After all, he has his girlfriend Georgia to go home to and her best friend: a threesome to help his birthday go literally with a bang. Reece, being a gentleman (most of the time), has no objection to returning the favour, especially as his new friend Daniel seems all too willing to be their third for the evening. Georgia sees their triangle as nothing more than a temporary bit of fun but Reece…? He’ll eventually have to own up to breaking the unwritten rules of their relationship or close the book on a growing attraction to Daniel.
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