"Mommy, what's an ebook?"

I was in the kitchen on the evening of March 9, helping my kids with a craft project, when my husband Mark came in brandishing The St. Paul Pioneer Press. “Did you hear the big news?”

“What big news?” I almost dropped a glue bottle. “Oh, no! Wills and Kate didn’t call off the wedding, did they?”

I’m ever so slightly obsessed with the royal wedding.

“No, no, forget them.” Mark had to wait for the squeals of Daddy! to calm down and trade welcome-home hugs before he could explain. “It’s about this writer from Austin. The one who self-publishes her own e-books?”

“Oh, that.” I started gathering up construction paper and tubes of glitter. “People have been doing that for years. Nobody makes any money at it. Girls, help me clear the table so we can get dinner started.”

“Mommy, what’s an e-book?”

I smiled at my four-year-old. “An e-book is just a silly waste of time, sweetie. Hand me that paintbox, please?”

Mark took the paints, glitter, glue, and everything else from my hands. “It’s not a waste of time anymore. You have got to read this.” He foisted the newspaper on me.

I shook my head. “E-books are only for people who can’t find a real publisher.”

“That was then.” He tapped his finger on a headline halfway down the page. “This is now.”

NO BOOKS, JUST BEST-SELLERS: A young author in Austin, Minn., finds fame — and fortune — publishing her work online.

“No way,” I said. “Really?” I skimmed the article. Amanda Hocking? Never heard of her. Years of struggle, piles of rejections, yada yada, the usual story — until she decided to self-publish her books in digital format for the Kindle and Nook and other e-readers. Now she was selling hundreds of thousands of books a month. “No way!”

I was moving now, still reading as I headed downstairs to my home office. “No way!” I couldn’t stop saying it. She was getting 70% royalties! Her earnings to date were just shy of $2 million! “You are kidding me!” She was inspired to try e-publishing because of some writer named Joe Konrath — who was so busy selling 1500 e-books a day that he declined to give the Pioneer Press an interview.

People were doing this? People were actually doing this?

I reached my office, tossed the paper, and jumped online for a quick Google.

Amanda Hocking was just the tip of the iceberg. Konrath was making six figures. A dozen other mystery authors had “gone indie.” And romance writers! Suddenly I was tripping over familiar names. Marsha Canham. Julie Ortolon. Alexis Harrington. Miriam Minger.

People were doing this! People I knew were doing this!

Cue the crash of cymbals. The bolt of lightning. The sky suddenly opening up and angels bursting into song.

I could do this!

I literally sat there with my mouth open, stunned by the possibilities. The clues that had slipped past me for months all clicked into place. The indie designers on Ravelry…the women in the cafe with their e-readers…the People magazine report that romance is the fastest-growing e-book genre.

I could do this!

I didn’t need to wait for the market to shift, for publishers to take a chance on me again. I didn’t need a publisher at all.

I could take a chance on me.

Feeling a bit dizzy, I turned and pulled open the top drawer of my file cabinet. I had the rights back to my out-of-print books, didn’t I? I thought I remembered getting those rights back. I found my thick Contracts file and started tearing through it. Where were those letters?

For years, I had tried to get the rights back to my out-of-print books. I’m not sure why I was so persistent, when I didn’t have much hope of ever getting published again. By 2001, I had almost given up. But when we moved to Minnesota, I needed to send my ex-literary agent an address update — and while I was at it, I had asked him to please try, one more time, to get Avon to relinquish my backlist.

Four years later, Avon finally relented.

I let out a whoop of relief and joy as I found the letters. I was the proud owner of a slim stack of paperwork dated 2005, granting me all rights to my out-of-print Avon books.

They were mine! All of them. I could e-publish my backlist. Even better, I could write new books. All the spin-offs and sequels I never had the chance to write. And short stories. Novellas. Whatever I wanted!

I jumped up and did a happy dance right there in the middle of my office. I wasn’t just happy, I was delirious. It wasn’t Wednesday, it was Someday.

I get to be an author again.

  • I just stumbled on your blog today and I can’t believe it. My favorite author is going to write again! I can’t wait!! Hope to get both your previous works and NEW works on my Kindle soon.

    Congratulations to you! and to me! Now I feel like dancing too~

  • Hi Chihaya! You just made my day! I was worried that my fans had all forgotten about me, and it’s nice to find out I was wrong. I’m SO excited to be “going rogue” and starting this new adventure. Thanks for joining me here on the wild e-pub frontier!

  • Now *I* am doing the happy dance now that you’ll be writing romances again!! Shelly, I discovered you several years ago and bought all your books. Through the years, I’ve been checking in on you to see if you had anything new and didn’t know why you hadn’t continued with the awesome talent you had (I now know why! ;o) ). It’s been a while but – how’s this for timing – you came to mind in the last few days so I Googled you again and there it all was (I tried to comment sooner but technology wouldn’t let me post to your site). Happy, happy news!! I love all your books. You have such amazing talent for stories and now we’ll all get the benefit of that again. I’m sure you’ll be wildly successfully with this new phase!

  • Thanks, Linda! Every kind word really warms my heart. I’m so happy you’re here and that you’re excited about my new adventure. I’m looking forward to bringing you lots of new stories — I have so many ideas, I can’t decide which to start writing first! :)

  • I’m so excited! My favourite author is going to write more books. Short stories. Novellas. I loved your books. I keep going back to your website every so often to see what you’ve been up to. So glad the world will have more of your stories to read soon.

    Life Write Now

  • Hi Cindy! Thank you! I’m humbled that readers are as excited about this as I am. My first 3 books are being formatted as we speak: I decided to launch my e-book career with my trio of medievals, FALCON ON THE WIND, FOREVER HIS, and HIS FORBIDDEN TOUCH. I’m having a blast revisiting those characters and falling in love with them all over again!

  • Hi Shelly! I love your books, especially A Stranger’s Kiss! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read that book and how badly I’ve wanted Julian’s story. Do you think Julian will get his book? *bats lashes*

    Also, A Stranger’s Kiss is one of the first romances I remember reading where I went Ohhh, smart heroine and smart hero, yes, please and made me a total lover of the romance genre (and made me want to write them, too!).

    So thrilled that you’re writing….and that I get to read them!

  • Hi Elyssa! Thank you so much for the warm welcome back. Good news: yes, Julian will absolutely be getting his own book! I’ve gotten more e-mail about him over the years than any other character. I’m SO excited to finally have the chance to tell his story.

  • Shelly, this is the BEST news and I’m so excited!!! Yay!

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