By Rob LeDonne
Sárka-Jonae Miller was on the verge of giving up on her dream of landing a book deal and getting published. The Rancho Santa Fe author, who graduated from New York’s Syracuse University in 2003, first got the idea for her novel, “Between Boyfriends,” as a junior attending school and since then has been trying to get it off the ground.
“At the time, I was working 30 hours a week while taking classes full-time,” she said. “It took me a good year and a half to write it. Like any author, all I was getting was [rejections] when I sent it out.”
Miller knows well that rejections are a major part of being a writer in this day and age. With the publishing world shrinking and book stores closing every day, making a living as an author has become increasingly difficult over the past decade.
“That’s what’s really changed since I got my start,” she explains. “With so many stores shutting their doors and people willing to spend less money on books than ever before, unless you’re an established, popular author you’re not going to sell a lot of paperbacks.”
After that initial round of rejection, Miller’s novel (which East County Magazine calls the “ultimate chick-lit read”) underwent some major changes.
“I made a significant rewrite, and I think it came out much better,” she says. But, after another round of submissions, she was met with more rejection. As a result, like many authors, Miller turned to the world of e-books and went about self-publishing her story.
“Once you’ve exhausted all your possibilities, which I thought I had, self-publishing is pretty much your only hope. My goal when I self-published wasn’t to try to build a career... my goal was to make my book as successful and popular as I could to attract an agent.”
Miller says self-publishing, while relatively cost-free, isn’t a walk in the park either. She worked tirelessly to promote “Between Boyfriends” in a variety of outlets, including blogs, and thanks to effort (as well as her critical praise) it rocketed up various best-seller lists on Amazon.com.
Then, after years of struggle, a tweet on Twitter changed everything.
“Andy Roberts from a publishing platform named Booktrope messaged me. He said they were having an open submission call and that I should send over my book,” Miller remembers of that fateful message. “I don’t know why he chose me, I’m not sure if he was just searching Twitter or what.”
Miller submitted a short sample which led Roberts to request the full manuscript of “Between Boyfriends.” After months of waiting, he came back with an answer: “Yes.”
“When he said he was going to sign me and republish my book, I jumped up from my kitchen table and started screaming,” she remembers. “Thank God no one was home, or else I would have scared them to death.”
Miller was doubly happy considering how difficult it is to get an already-published book officially released through a book deal.
“Publishers prefer to publish books that have never been published before. It happens, but it’s rare,” Miller said.
Booktrope is releasing “Between Boyfriends” in October, and with a sequel coming soon (titled “Between the Sheets”), only time will tell if Miller becomes a household name like Rowling, Steel, or Blume. Until then, along with writing, Miller also has her hands in a publicity business that helps authors gain traction in the Wild West of publishing.
“I had a strategy,” she explains, clearly enjoying her own success and itching to pay it forward.
Visit Miller’s business, SJ Publicity and Editorial Services, on the web at www.sjpublicity.com. To order a copy of “Between Boyfriends,” visit www.amazon.com. Also visit www.booktrope.com in October.
For more information about Miller and “Between Boyfriends,” visit www.SarkaJonae.com or go to www.rsfreview.com for a previous story and enter her name in the search file.
About “Between Boyfriends”
Like Jan Weston, the main character in her debut novel, “Between Boyfriends,” Rancho Santa Fe author Sárka-Jonae Miller is single, grew up in San Diego and worked at various times as a pet groomer and massage therapist.
But she doesn’t consider her novel autobiographical, because she doesn’t share her protagonist’s obsession with men and relationships, nor her self-centered view of the world. Rather, Jan is a composite of a number of people Miller met while earning a degree in magazine journalism at Syracuse University, and from her high schools days.
While she and most of her fellow students focused on their classes and other aspects of their lives, Miller said, certain people spent all of their waking moments thinking about their current or future boyfriends. “That’s all they ever talked about,” she said. That got her thinking about what would happen to these young women if they just stopped dating cold turkey, which is what Jan Weston does after suffering through a particularly traumatic breakup.
The novel chronicles Jan’s life as she works hard at staying away from dating and also to become financially independent when her wealthy parents cut off her living allowance.
Miller sought to infuse her character’s exploits with humor as she encounters men she would certainly have dated in the past. “She’s like someone going on a diet and trying to avoid fast food, and everywhere she goes is a fast-food restaurant,” said Miller.
Over the course of the book, Jan, who is in her early 20s, begins to grow as a person and even strikes up a true friendship with a man, a first for her.
“Something I was adamant about, it had to be realistic, she had to change and grow at a realistic pace and everything was not going to get resolved by the end of the book. But she makes a lot of progress and definitely becomes a more likeable person. She’s someone you’d want to be friends with by the end of the book,” Miller said.
— Reported by Joe Tash