When I started writing To be Maria three years ago, I thought I had a breakthrough idea, that this story would be a smashing success, one that would catapult me into literary stardom. Part of that belief stemmed from the fact that Young Adult literature was — and still is — a huge market, but also because I genuinely felt comfortable writing YA fiction. I had poured my heart, soul and personal experiences into writing this story. At least I thought I did.
Three years later, I grievously regret that I wrote this book over another historical novel.
The pain started in May 2012. I was offered a contract by PULSEpub — a new, independent press based in South Carolina — to publish To be Maria. They claimed they were a traditional royalty paying-press; that they offered worldwide distribution and marketing assistance. Elated, I jumped at this opportunity. The contract was ideal, I couldn’t pass it up.
It was too good to be true. Come October, the editors and marketing personnel stopped all contact with me. I never received any royalty statements from them and my book wasn’t widely distributed as promised in the contract; it was available only on Amazon.com and on Barnes and Noble, and in only a few formats. For those reasons, I terminated my contract with PULSEpub. All rights returned to me and its availability for purchase ceased to exist.
As hurt as I was over the situation, I still felt strongly about To be Maria, I believed it still had immense selling potential, but was never given a chance to find its target audience. In the short time it was published, it did receive a few good reviews from readers. So, earlier this year, I decided to re-introduce To be Maria to the market. I did another thorough edit, rewrote the ending, had a new cover art designed and, in early April, paid Smith Publicity $350.00 to have To be Maria listed on NetGalley. Since I had planned to release To be Maria on KDP Select, I also paid a small sum for a KDP Book Blitz.
Things started out well. Over a hundred book bloggers requested to read my novel and several other bloggers signed up to host To be Maria on its scheduled 5-day virtual book blitz tour. I was thrilled, yet cautiously optimistic. But then, things turned for the worst. Again. To be Maria received negative reviews from several NetGalley reviewers. The reviews weren’t just negative. They were scathing. Until then, I didn’t realize I had the potential to offend people. To be Maria wasn’t written with the intention to affront anyone in any sort of way.
As hard as that was to endure, I had to pick up the pieces and move forward, which I did. I have recently decided to pursue a career in teaching ESL, something I’ve wanted to do five years ago. But my lust for fame led me off the beaten path (another thing I regret doing).
Yet, I’m still young; I can still settle into a new career before 30. I have been so focused on my new goals that I forgot about To be Maria and the negativity it wrought on my life until I discovered it on Audible yesterday afternoon. PULSEpub — now called Pulse, LLC — released it as an audio book on Audible on July 9, 2013, eight months after my contract had been terminated. I recently removed the new version of To be Maria from KDP Select. I was in contact with an employee at Audible, the person responsible for dealing with authors, publishers and agents, and she said she would remove my titled as soon as possible.
To be Maria, the story I was once most passionate about, turned into a nightmare. It was a project that was cursed from the moment I started writing it. At that time, I didn’t realize it because I didn’t want to. Now, I can only hope and pray that To be Maria is removed from Audible without a fight and that the negative publicity it has received doesn’t mar my reputation as a writer.