Kensington Books published my first two romance novels, Just My Imagination and Table for Two, back in 1998 for their Precious Gems program. Not long afterward, I sold two to Berkley Jove’s Haunting Hearts line, Unforgettable and Night Whispers, which were released in 1999. (side note: when my Night Whispers came out, there were two other books available with the same title, one by Judith McNaught).
Within that same time period, I sold my first e-book, Eternity, a science fiction romance, to Hard Shell Word Factory, which was strictly an e-publisher at that time. I later ended up selling them one other original romance, The Right Mr. Wrong, and an original middle-grade book, Time in a Bottle. In 2000, when rights to my two Kensington books reverted to me, I sold those to Hard Shell too. One other romance, Chocolate Magic, which originally came out in hardcover and then trade paperback from Thorndike Press, eventually became a Hard Shell e-book as well.
But I didn’t stop with selling rights to those early books only to Hard Shell. I discovered the large print market and was able to sell all of my first six romances as hardcover large print. That meant that for Just My Imagination and Table for Two, I sold various rights to three publishers within five years.
This is all prologue to what I’m up to now. Rights for all of the above-mentioned books reverted to me August 2011. Since then, I’ve been republishing the books one by one as Kindle e-books.
It’s been a steep learning curve. First, the cover. I am not a visual artist. I just don’t have the patience to search through online clip art, nor the talent to put images together into a cover. No clue at all as to what would look good.
I was lucky enough to find a cover artist who’s quick and reasonably priced. She uses royalty-free clip art to keep costs down, and has a good eye as to what elements work for a given story. I’m astute enough to look at what she’s done and suggest changes as needed, but I don’t have to create the cover myself.
My second problem was the author name issue. In the last couple years, I’ve switched from romance to the children’s market (young adult). It wasn’t so much that I didn’t want my YA readers to figure out that I’d written romances as Karen Sandler (Harlequin is still selling all the romances I wrote for them under that name). It was more a marketing issue. I didn’t want to tweet about my romances using my @karensandlerya identity on Twitter, for instance. I didn’t want to advertise my romance novels on my karensandler.net website. Which meant I needed a new identity.
I’ve always wanted to use my mom’s maiden name, Russo, as part of a pen name. With that as my surname, I only needed a first name. I had the perfect choice right at my fingertips, so to speak–Kayla, the name of my main character in my YA book, Tankborn. So my romance identity became Kayla Russo.
I also started thinking that maybe I ought to be retitling my books. For the most part, I was going for something a little less generic. I also wanted a fresh start on the books. It’s not that I wanted to fool anyone into thinking these are brand-new books. There’s a note inside each one identifying the original title and publisher which a reader can find by downloading a sample. But I wanted to catch the eye of those who might not have heard of me before with (hopefully) more clever titles.
Unfortunately, I didn’t make the decision to change my name or the titles until I’d not only had the covers created, but had also put up the first two books for sale. Having my cover artist make the name/title change was the easy part. Getting the books updated on the venues I’d submitted them to was a whole other story. I’ll get into that in part 2.