Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Guest Post and Giveaway With Karen Duvall


Winners to be announced this weekend.

Last week I announced that Karen Duvall would be joining us today to share the tale of her publication journey, and give away a signed copy of her newly released Urban Fantasy, KNIGHT'S CURSE. (See contest details at the bottom of this post.)

I've known Karen for a while, and read excerpts of KNIGHT'S CURSE way before it was published. I even interviewed her in 2009. The cool thing is, she had written KNIGHT'S CURSE back then and was looking into publishing it. So if you ever want some encouragement, go read that post--then come back, and read this. Because she has definitely had a fascinating journey, and it's amazing to see how far KNIGHT'S CURSE has come.

So now, without further ado...Mrs. Karen Duvall!

From Small Press to Big Press: My Publication Journey

The road to publication has been a long and winding one with lots of steep hills and deep valleys. Creative A interviewed me for her blog almost two years ago, and though my writing process hasn't changed, my publication status has. I'm here to share the lessons I've learned since my first published book with a small press over a decade ago.

I've been writing fiction for a very long time, and like most new writers, I had to balance being a full time working mom with my passion for telling stories. I started out writing short fiction, using the short story form as a tool to teach me a few basic lessons in craft. It wasn't until I wrote my first book that I realized the long form and the short form are drastically different from each other.

After completing that first manuscript, I was hooked on writing novels. My first book never saw the light of day (thank God), but it did make its way into the hands of an agent, who tried her best to find it a home. Unfortunately, the book suffered from just about every writing flaw you can think of, and editors passed so fast the signatures on the rejection letters were barely dry before going through the mail. That's right, snail mail. Email at that time was not yet the communication method of choice for the publishing community.

So if the manuscript was so bad, why did an agent choose to represent it? Well, the agent was about as new to agenting as I was to writing books. She's quite successful now, represents mostly nonfiction (perhaps her experience with my disaster was the catalyst for the switch), but she was too green to recognize a bad book and I was too naïve to realize that's what I'd written.

Lessons learned:

1) Hone your craft and have your work vetted through critique partners before trying to find an agent or publisher.
2) Research the agents you want to approach and only take on a seasoned professional.

I then joined Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, a professional organization for writers of commercial novel-length fiction. It's been one of the best decisions I've ever made, and I still belong to that group to this day. I joined a critique group within the organization, attended numerous workshops, read lots of books on writing, and made sure to never, ever miss the Colorado Gold Writers' Conference every year. And I wrote another book.

I wrote this new book applying all the great knowledge I'd accumulated through RMFW and my critique group. Though I got some interest from agents with my supernatural thriller, I found a traditional small publisher, Speculation Press, who loved the book and wanted to publish it. I was over the moon with joy. I received a small advance, was paid to design my own cover (I'm a professional graphic designer), and the book came out less than a year later. The title of that book: PROJECT RESURRECTION.

I loved my publisher, and we're still good friends to this day, but I found a number of problematic issues associated with small press publication. The press was relatively new, had very limited distribution, and the book was only available on This was before ebooks took off as a viable publishing format, so the book could only be purchased in trade paperback.

Lessons learned:

1) Distribution is important and vital to healthy sales.
2) Self promotion is exhausting and isn't always effective, but it helped me learn what works and what doesn't.

I wrote another book, got an agent who didn't work out, shelved the book, and wrote a new one. DESERT GUARDIAN was a romantic suspense novel published by The Wild Rose Press as an ebook and also in trade paperback. TWRP is a decent ebook publisher, but they publish lots of books, and at the time my book came out, they didn't do much in the way of marketing. Therefore, the book got limited distribution and back in 2006, ebooks had yet to hit their stride.

Lessons learned:

1) A publisher that churns out hundreds of books a month may not have the time or inclination to back each and every title.
2) Small presses are a good launching pad for the learning experience, but--for me--not the best choice when aiming for a writing career.

At this point, I had to make a do or die decision. I needed a goal, and that was to make a sustainable living by writing books. I changed my game plan and was determined to find a good agent to represent my career. I decided to no longer consider the small press option. I stuck to my guns and found an amazing, successful, and dedicated agent to represent me and my latest project at the time, KNIGHT'S CURSE.

My agent sold KNIGHT'S CURSE to Harlequin Luna in a two-book deal. The second book in the series is called DARKEST KNIGHT and will be out in the spring of 2012. The third book is still in negotiation.

Being published by a large press, especially one as big as Harlequin, is a whole new ball game. And I love this game. I love my editor, her assistant, the marketing department, and all the amazing steps and processes of this professional publisher that's known worldwide. It's now clear to me that my long and arduous journey was well worth the effort.

Lesson learned: Persistence pays off big time.

There's quite a bit happening for me at the moment that I'm not at liberty to discuss, but I'm pleased to report it's all good. I'm going to be a very busy writer and that's perfectly fine with me. I say "bring it on!" Writing is my career now and I couldn't be happier.

You can help me celebrate by entering a contest to win a signed copy of KNIGHT'S CURSE. Good luck!

Karen Duvall is a native Californian who grew up in Hawaii, lived in Colorado most of her adult life, and now lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband and four incredibly spoiled pets. She has three grown children and five grandchildren.

Karen has been telling stories since the age of three, when she wasn’t yet able to write but could tell her tales to her mother, who wrote them down for her. Illustrating the stories with crayons was one of her favorite parts of writing those early books.

She still draws pictures, but put her crayons away in favor of computer graphics. Karen is a professional graphic designer with a passion for portraying her characters and scenes by painting pictures with words. You can learn more about Karen and Knight's Curse by visiting
any of these locations:

Karen's blog


  • Leave a comment on this post with your email and a contact name. Due to author request, you must have a mailing address in the Continental U.S.
  • The contest will run for one week.
  • There will be one winner, chosen at random using the lovely generator service.
  • The winner will be announced here, on my blog, within a few days of the contest closing; and I’ll be emailing the winner for their mailing address.
  • Then, future winner, you will be on your way to receiving a SIGNED copy of Knight’s Curse.
  • Yay!

Entries now open.

Truly and always,
-Creative A


Anonymous said...

Great interview, and way to go, Karen! Wishing you continued success! :-]

Anne E. Johnson said...

Thanks for sharing all of this, Karen. I'm in the early stages of the publishing adventure, with three novel contacts at three very different small presses. The learning curve is incredible! Always great to hear about others' experiences.

Best of luck with your big-press books!

Lizardmaker [at] gmail [dot] com

Claire L. Fishback said...

What a great blog post! It's always fascinating and inspiring to read about an author's road to success. This one was great because of the "lessons learned" sections! Wonderful! Thank you for sharing!

Claire L. Fishback

Rashda Khan said...

Hi Karen,

Loved reading your road to publication story and lessons learned. I found a lot of wisdom & inspiration in it. Congrats on getting the career you wanted :)

Since I already have the Knight's Curse, keep me out of the giveaway. I just wanted to stop by & cheer you on!

Creative A said...

Hey guys, thanks for everyone who has commented and supported!

Fdorchak--if you comment again with your email, I can enter you in the contest :)

Claire--hey, no problem about the double comment! I took care of it.

Good luck everyone!

Regina Mize w/a Rechelle Owens said...


Thanks for sharing your publishing experiences and I am so glad to hear about your 2-book contract with Harlequin Luna! Way to go and much continued success.

reginamize [at] gmail [dot] com

Sherrie Petersen said...

Great story! Every path to publication is different. I loved hearing this one.

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