I self-published SPANISH LESSONS, the first book in my Study Abroad series, over a year go. It was a tough time for me; my traditionally published historical series wasn’t selling well, and Penguin declined to sign me for another series. I did have some hope for an awesome YA project I was working on with my awesome agent, but that was later rejected by pretty much every publishing house on the planet. I tried to write another YA in the hopes of pitching that book, but it wasn’t strong enough to make it past my agent. Like, it was so bad, even edits were out of the picture.

Needless to say, my future in the publishing world was looking pretty bleak. I felt so lost at that moment. All my worst fears were coming true; I gave up a lucrative career (that was NOT a great fit for me, but at least I had a future in it) to pursue this writing gig, and I was failing at it. Big time. I was embarrassed, heart-broken, and scared as hell. Who was I if I wasn’t a writer? What would I do with myself if I couldn’t write? This was always the end game.

That’s when Ben brought up the idea of self-publishing. In retrospect, I am seriously kicking myself for not self-publishing sooner. A lot of ladies who went indie in 2012-2013 are absolutely KILLING it now. But like a lot of the publishing world, I was a snob about indies; they weren’t “real” authors. The thinking was that if you could be traditionally published, you would. Why go indie when you could experience the joys (HA!) of writing for one of the Big Six?

God, what an idiot I was. All the time I spent worrying about my books and my contract and what my editor would think and what Publishers Weekly said I could’ve spent writing and self-publishing books. Now, this isn’t to say traditional publishing is evil, or awful, or both. For some people, it is the right path. But for me, it wasn’t, and if I’d recognized that fact sooner – if I’d stopped trying to jam a square peg in a round hole – I think I’d be in a much better place in my career right now.

ANYWAY. Ben said to give it a try, because this was my dream, and I had to keep pushing; I couldn’t give up now (is he good or what?). I already had an idea for a contemporary series I’d wanted to write for a while, based on my time studying abroad in Madrid. So I went for it. I wrote the hell out of it, and found a great editor to work with. I felt I was starting to find my footing again, career-wise. SPANISH LESSONS felt more like “me” than my historicals ever did; I really do love writing in a more fun, contemporary voice.

I was reading a lot of Rainbow Rowell at the time. That woman can do no wrong, and I worship at her altar. I think that’s why I sort of pictured SPANISH LESSONS as a YA-NA crossover. I wanted to write sex in my books – sex scenes are, after all, my favorite kind to write! – but I also wanted to reach the fans of Stephanie Perkins, who writes AMAZING YA (if you haven’t read ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS, do it immediately).

So I finished SPANISH LESSONS, sent it to my editor, and hired an awesome cover artist who had done some work for Rainbow. Did I research covers in my genre? Nope. Did I think about the tone and sexual content of my book? Nah. I just wanted it to be like Rainbow’s. And the first cover DID turn out beautifully – it truly is a work of art. Cover #1:

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HOWEVER. It was not at all genre-appropriate for my book. When my editor came back with revisions, she put it to me straight – the cover wasn’t going to work, because my book wasn’t YA. It was a hot, sexy, angsty New Adult romance. And romances like that have hot, sexy, angsty covers. I finally went on Amazon and did some research; my editor was right. So $1000 later (yup…that one hurt) I was back to square one. Which is when I brought in the fabulous Noelle Pierce of Selestiele Designs. She has of experience in the New Adult/Contemporary genre, and I knew right away she’d come up with something awesome. Cover #2:

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Love, love, love this cover. It’s playful, it’s sexy, and it plays to the themes in SPANISH LESSONS really, really well. I stuck with this cover for over a year. But by now, I’ve really been paying attention to my genre; I track what’s selling, what’s hot, what readers respond to. Time and time again, I noticed how much people love SUPER sexy covers with SUPER sexy guys on them. I happen to be one of those people. I recently picked up a book based on its cover alone; I could SO imagine the smolderingly hot guy on the cover as the hero as I read it. That’s when I knew I had to change the cover for SPANISH LESSONS one more time. As I said in my last post, my sales have been pretty terrible, and I’m trying a bunch of different things to change that. I figured a hot cover with a hot dude on it couldn’t hurt.

So back to the drawing board I went with Noelle. I spent DAYS on stock photo websites, trying to find the perfect hottie who could play Rafa Montoya in the movie adaptation of SPANISH LESSONS. I finally found him on iStock – definitely my favorite stock photo site, even though it is a bit pricey. I sent him to Noelle, and after a few versions, we finally fell in love with this one. Cover #3:

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I *just* uploaded it onto retailers, so we’ll see how Mister Hottie Hot here does with readers browsing for their next romance. But doesn’t he make you melt a little? Like, hello, you can teach me any language you want, especially body language. I’m a little obsessed, although I still think cover #2 is so pretty and so fun. I’m going to miss it.

Moral of this (very long) story: I could’ve saved myself thousands of dollars and a lot of frustration if I’d done my homework. I should’ve researched my genre from the start. I should’ve trolled the bestseller lists and read everything on them to get a feel for what was YA, NA, and Erotica – and I should’ve noted that my writing resembled the NA stuff much more closely than YA. I also should’ve recognized that, as much as I love Rainbow’s work, I’m a different writer than she is. I like to write hot. I like to write angst. And I like studly, shirtless guys smirking at me on book covers. Yeah, I’m worried about looking trite – I mean, who doesn’t have abs on their covers these days? – but then again, readers really can’t seem to get enough of guys like Mister Hottie Hot here. I think this is an experiment worth doing, so I guess we’ll see.

What do you guys think? For those of you who have read SPANISH LESSONS, do you think this guy could pass for a good Rafa? I always pictured him as Max Irons, but I do believe Mister Hottie Hot will fill those shoes quite well, too.

PSSST…if you haven’t grabbed your free copy yet, you can do so over at Instafreebie. Happy reading!