My Breakup Book with Trad Publishing

on November 30, 2023 Lucy 10 Replies

A Little Backstory

I published my first book with Harlequin in 2003. Over the next two decades I published 75 more books with 4 traditional publishers and 1 small press. I learned so much, had some incredible editors and connected with readers that became part of the fabric of my life.

In 2017, I got the rights back on a few out-of-print books from Kensington and Berkley and I rereleased them under Lucy Monroe LLC to keep them available to readers. In 2019 I indie published my first new releases, two books from series my publishers had lost interest in: Hot Alaska Nights & Viking’s Moon.

Then, in 2020 I added a book that I took back from Harlequin when they wanted me to tear it back to the very basic story idea, creating new main characters and rewriting the entire thing. In 2022 I made the decision to take the books I was still writing for Harlequin and go indie with them, releasing several more new titles over 2022 and 2023 (bringing my indie book total up to 15).

During the 20 years I wrote for Harlequin, Kensington, Berkley and Grand Central, the landscape of traditional publishing has changed. A lot. Marketing drives editorial guidelines for many of the major publishers now. Authors that made a decent income are earning a fraction of what they once did on their books. Many have been dropped by their publishers entirely. The midlist has all but disappeared, leaving a gaping chasm between top sellers and the other authors writing for the same publishing houses.

The Breakup

A lot of people assume that my break up book is Cinderella’s Jilted Billionaire, the book over which I bought back my contract from Harlequin. But when I decided to take my alpha hero billionaire romance indie in 2022, I still intended to maintain a hybrid career. While indie publishing my paranormal and short contemporary romance, I expected to eventually write single title for a traditional publisher.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue writing steamy romance or move to mystery/suspense. Or maybe write both? But I was confident I wanted to keep part of my career  with a New York publisher. So, I wrote what I believed would be my breakout book: Masquerade in Egypt. The culmination of years of research and a story I was passionate about telling, I thought Masquerade in Egypt had the legs to launch a new facet of my career.

My agent and former publishers did not agree. I was told that a book set in 1920s Egypt was too hard a sell in today’s publishing climate. It didn’t fit with the other books they were currently publishing. The story didn’t niche into a single category well enough. Action adventure, suspense, steamy romance, women’s fiction…I needed to pick a lane and stick to it. Decide what I wanted the book to be. Only, I knew what I wanted the book to be. All of those things.

Traditional publishing is risk averse and no matter how much I loved it, this book did not make them want to overcome that aversion.

This left me with a dilemma. Did I focus on writing a more marketable book and continue to pursue a contract with a traditional publisher, or write the books burning inside me to be written? If I chose the latter, what were those books? I mean, writing Masquerade in Egypt was amazing and every moment I spent with the characters and their story delighted me, but there weren’t any other 1920s steamy adventure romance stories tingling at the tips of my fingertips.

However, I did have a suspense book that was clanging around the creative space in my brain. Shoving aside any worry about careers, or where I was going from there, I wrote that book next. And loved doing so. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I thought, this…this is what I’m meant to be writing now. I had a second book in the series already planned and developed a cozy mystery series besides. But something held me back from leaping in with both feet. Fear or rejection? Maybe.

But am I glad I waited to start submitting that book to agents? Yes!

The Aftermath

That was a year ago. While taking some time off from writing to refresh, I decided to fill my creative well with lots of reading and on Jan 3 of this year, I read my first mafia romance by an author I didn’t know. Run, Posy, Run by Cate C. Wells (who has since become a dear friend). I’d started last December with her MC and small town contemporary romance books (on the recommendation of another friend, Amanda Cinelli). But Run, Posy, Run was the book I wanted to write and had never dared to.

Until this point, I thought how much I loved Aleksandr Voinov’s mafia romance, Burn this City, was a fluke because I adore his writing. It wasn’t. I love, love, love mafia romance. I discovered amazing authors like Neva Altaj, Cora Reilly, A. Zaverelli, J.T. Geissinger and Michelle Heard, to name a few.

I glommed hundreds of mafia romance books and suddenly the floodgates holding back story ideas burst inside my brain overwhelming my every waking thought and my dreams with story. Scene after scene from stories I wanted to tell played through my head. In a fervor of inspiration, I had to carry a journal around with me every minute so I could write down the ideas as they came to me.

By the end of February, I had eight unique book ideas (that number has now grown to more than a dozen) for my own mafia romances. I started writing soon after and nine months later, I have published the first 4 books in my Syndicate Rules series and I’m working on Book 5, Brutal Capo (which will be out in Mar 2024). Reader response has been amazing and affirming, showing me that following my muse was the right choice. For me.

I suppose that in a way, Masquerade in Egypt did turn out to be my break out book. Writing it gave me the courage and the impetus to break out and try something entirely new. More than one something. That suspense I wrote last year? It’s going to become the first in a dark romance duet where the serial killer turns out to be the love interest.

I didn’t just break up with traditional publishing this year, I broke up with the me afraid to tell stories outside my wheelhouse. Will I write another 1920s book? Maybe. Will I ever write those cozy mysteries? Probably. Someday. One thing I know for sure, I will continue to write the stories I want to read and be grateful for every reader who wants to read them too.



10 thoughts on “My Breakup Book with Trad Publishing”

  1. You are fabulous and I’m so happy for your success, Lilles! I love that you are writing the books of your heart and you are doing it so damn well! It’s so amazing to see so many authors doing this and creating their own market.

    1. Lucy Monroe says:

      Huge hugs! I agree with my whole heart that is amazing to see authors creating markets out of stories they want to tell and readers want to read. I came to mafia romance relatively late, but it’s such a good fit for me. I’m excited to see the books you have in store for us. ❤️

  2. Michele Tunnell says:

    So, so proud and happy for you. Personally I loved Masquerade in Egypt and could absolutely tell the amount of hearts and research that went into. I haven’t started your Mafia series yet but I know I’ll like it because there hasn’t been a book of yours I haven’t liked. Authors have to tell the stories that are in them. How else will they have life and give us readers a book that is written with heart. I as a reader do not want some publisher’s cookie cutter idea of what we as readers want. So bravo and please keep doing what you’re doing.

    1. Lucy Monroe says:

      Thank you, dear friend, your support means so much to me. And your willingness to beta read Masquerade in Egypt meant the world. Hugs and love always!

  3. Wonderful post, Lucy!!! So glad you found such amazing success following your muse.

    1. Lucy Monroe says:

      Thank you so much, Carol. You were there every step of the journey and showed true friendship reading totally outside your preference to give me feedback on that first book. Massive hugs and much love!

  4. Marcie R says:

    Wow. Thank you for telling “your” story and being transparent and honest.
    I’ve seen a lot of authors go indie and I applaud their courage, just as I applaud you. Taking that leap of faith… well… it can be a huge leap yet worth it.

    Mafia romance – I’ve recently heard about this genre and, to be truthful, not really sure what it is. You have me curious, that’s for sure.

    I wish you all the happiness in your writing adventure.

    1. Lucy Monroe says:

      Thank you so much, Marcie. I glommed hundreds of mafia romances before I started writing it and I’m still not sure I have a complete handle on the genre, but I do know what I want to write within in it and I’m lucky to have found a pocket of readers keen to read those stories. 🙂

  5. Jackie Anumba says:

    I am happy for you that you have been able to follow your dreams. I love your Harlequin romance books (I used to read romance novels published by Mills & Boon. Those were the only ones available at the time). I usually buy a book based on the blurb and I’m glad I discovered your books. I also have reading phases, and I’ve read the historical, the vampire, even the serial killer as a love interest. So, I’m looking forward to reading yours. I love your mafia books and will also be looking for more of them from you. Happy writing.

    1. Lucy Monroe says:

      Thank you so much, Jackie! Your support is such a gift to me. People might think that writers just write whatever they want and go on doing it, but without readers loving the stories like we do, it’s a HARD row to hoe. 😉 Hugs!

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