Don’t ever tell bestselling author HM Ward she can’t do something because she’ll prove you wrong. That’s what I learned when I connected with the Scandalous author who, although she may have sold over 5 million books in less than 3 years without a traditional publisher, only did so because she was rejected and told she didn’t have the talent to write.
Ward reveals that and more in my interview with her.
What negative words did naysayers say to you when you told them you wanted to be a writer or to indie publish?
Doing anything with the arts was greatly discouraged from an early age because of the whole ‘starving artist’ notion. When I said I was going to self-publish, my agent at the time had been shopping my book.
I told her to pull it and that I’m doing it myself. Why should I saddle up with a company that doesn’t think they can sell 8,000 copies? At the time, I already had over 10,000 Facebook fans – and publishers were worried about an 8,000 copy initial print run? I was pretty sure I could sell 5,000 books. It’s funny now. 5 million pretty clearly beat the mark.
When I had my first Indie mega-hit and it topped out and held #1 on Amazon for a week, I got six-figure offers. People told me I’d be stupid to refuse them, “People” mostly being my agent at the time. She put a lot of pressure on me to take the deal. My family told me to go with your gut. Turning down six figures was HARD because we were still strapped and drowning in medical bills and student loans. I said, “no”, anyway. They offered twice more, increasing their offers, and I said, “no” twice more. Accepting any of their offers would have been a tremendous mistake.
And have you heard from them since?
What would you like to say to them now?
There’s an assumption that when your book is a success that it’s only going to be fifteen minutes of fame, and that the flurry of fans will fade away—that you’ll be forgotten. That’s simply not true. I’ve watched my contemporaries sign deals and not one has expressed utter joy at doing so a year or more after they signed. They signed traditional deals, and I haven’t seen their names hit the top of the lists in a long time. They lost their momentum and are fading from memory. Ironic, isn’t it? Just because you have a New York address, doesn’t mean you have a New York business mind (I’m a NYer myself). Sustainability is key. Most indies that hit the top of a list are better off keeping their rights. You’ve achieved the impossible. Ride the wave and kick them off your coattails, because that’s all they can offer you at this point.
Who specifically rejected you when you first tried to get published?
One editor told me that I didn’t have what it took to be a good author, that my grammar and strange sentence structures were too out there. Her name is Mary. I’ll spare her from embarrassment, but the reason she despised my books are the exact reason that the readers love them. They’re written in common-speak and don’t sound like a thesis paper from a doctoral candidate.
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