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Rita Henuber’s Publishing Path

Rita Henuber
Under Fire
Publisher: Carina Press
Pub date: August 2011
Agent: Jessica Faust

Author Web/Blog links:;

Recently Jessica negotiated the sale of my first book, Under Fire, to Carina Press. I’m asked how long I’ve been writing. What my path to being published was. What advice do I have. Here’s my story.

To get over a series of shattering events, I lost myself in reading. Two and three books a week, sometimes more. In one of those flash-bang-aha moments, I thought I’d just sit down and write a book. It can’t be that hard. After all, those people living in my head in that parallel world will certainly have a lot to say.

By chance, I saw a Beginning Romance Writing online class. Fate for sure, so I enrolled. The class instructor strongly suggested I join RWA. I did and went to work writing my first manuscript. In my obnoxious enthusiasm, I made a plan:

  • Finish book.
  • Enter contests for feedback.
  • Enter RWA’s Golden Heart.
  • Get an agent to represent me.
  • Sign a contract in two years.
  • Snap. Snap. Easy. Easy.

I finished the manuscript.

Eight months after starting the book I began entering contests. My budget allowed me to enter six chapter contests and RWA’s Golden Heart. My goal was to final in two of the contests and the Golden Heart. Under Fire finaled in three chapter contests with mixed feedback.

For two months I researched agents. In February 2009 the great agent quest began. March 25, 2009, I was notified my entry was a Golden Heart finalist. Feet didn’t touch the floor for three days.

Four months and thirty-nine “No thanks, not for me” letters (more commonly called rejections) later, I signed with Jessica. Insert big smile and happy face here. This is when publishing started to shift and I was forced to change the time line for signing a contract to three years.

Three years and eleven days after I started that romance writing class and writing my book, Jessica called to say Carina Press made an offer.

I’m happy to say I’m very pleased and impressed with the professionalism and support of the Carina family.

Advice? Set your goals and be realistic. Face it, if you are a single parent of five children and the only caregiver of infirmed grandparents, saying you will write five thousand words a day is not going to work, unless you’re a superhero.

Surround yourself with people who are supportive of your goals. The very best part of being a Golden Heart finalist is meeting and making friends with other authors who are on the same path. We’ve formed a close supportive bond and blog together on the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood to assist other writers.

Be mindful of getting stuck in one place of your process. I understand it’s comfortable. But if you have entered a gazillion contests and finaled and/or won in each of them and have half a gazillion requests from agents and editors and haven’t sent a single one out, you are stuck. Get the courage to move to that next level.

“Learn to embrace rejection,” says the deep voice from beyond the curtain. It will come at every level of this business. No one escapes it. Not saying you shouldn’t get upset, but don’t let it wipe the floor with you. Find a way to deal. Pity party, my personal favorite. Champagne. Wait, that may be my favorite. Chocolate, oh, what the heck, they’re all my favorite and all at once is even better.

No one can teach you to be a storyteller. That’s already inside you, in your heart and mind.

If, like me, you had no idea what the romance genre required, learn the writing basics. Look to your favorite authors for advice. Many successful authors offer free writing tips on their web pages. If your dream is to write like them, study every book they’ve written. What works, what doesn’t.

Listen to industry professionals. Follow agents and editors on their blogs, Facebook, and Twitter to stay current. Don’t rely on how it was done last year or even last month. Things in this business seem to change at light speed. Keep an eye on the future.

If you don’t want to blog, don’t. If you don’t want a web page until you’ve sold, don’t have one. Work on marketing when your book is finished. Don’t worry about what is selling and what isn’t.

The absolute, single most important thing is write a good book.

Writing is journey. You learn who you are and who you want to be. There is no one way to do this. Seek and find your own path. If you see me on the way, wave.

Happy writing.

Category: Blog



  1. I always love to see the Path to Publication stories. Thanks for sharing yours. And congrats! I especially liked what you said about not getting stalled out in a particularly comfortable part of your process. Sometimes even the Rejection Hole becomes comfortable. It's a whole lot easier to sit around feeling bitter and superior to your position than it is to actually live up to your potential. Here's to your continued success! I like your chocolate and champagne idea. I use a hot bath, a Nancy Drew book and a leetle teeny bit of scotch in a coffee mug.

  2. Great post, Rita! I'm fighting free of my "comfort zone" as we speak. I'm sure your book will sell like Wildfire (oops, that's AJ's book, but I'm sure it sold well!)

    You deserve to reach your goals, doll. I'm so glad you did.

  3. Wonderful post, Rita! This is a tough business and I think we writers need to keep an open mind about the path we choose to take.

    I had a plan for getting published as well and for five years I followed it. Not until I decided to change my plan did I get published and it's been a fantastic ride. Sometimes, I think we need to reevaluate and see if our plan is working.

  4. Wow, I didn't realize how fast it was for you. I'm so glad I've been able to cheer from the sidelines as a Ruby Sis. Support from your writer friends is so important in this business.

  5. good story, rita, with a happy ending. It's nice that you had a plan to reach your goal and followde the steps. Nice sentence .."Feet didn't reach the gound for 3 days." Best wishes to you and your agent with this book and the next ones to follow. Carina Press is a good place in your genre.

  6. What a lovely interview, Rita. Congratulations on your successful journey. But remember that success came because you had a good product. Without that, all the plans in the world would have fallen short.

    Your words about getting stuck in one particular phase hit home with me.

    I think I've been stuck in the "not submitting widely enough" phase for a long time. I write a story, it places in a contest, I send out a half a dozen queries, and then move on to the next story. I need to get serious! Get a real plan, and that should be revising and polishing a ms. before sending it out.

    Thanks for making me think about this. Off to sharpen the red pencil….

  7. "It can't be that hard."

    No, I've never said that before. Not me. Please don't read my blog; instead, believe what I say now. I always knew how hard it would be. Really. 🙂

    Sheesh. It really is funny how much different the actual effort is from the fantasy we start with.

    In any event, thank you for the fun-to-read blog post. It's motivational to read any author's idea-to-publishing story, but yours is particularly well written.

  8. Wonderful, inspirational post, Rita. And I can't stress how important it is for a writer to set goals, but also know that at times one must be flexible. Doesn't mean you won't get where you are going, but it might be a different path that takes you there.

    Congrats on the new release. I was lucky enough to read this one in a contest 🙂

  9. Robena we need to talk. Polish that query letter and MS. Submit. Check out all the Bookends query posts. Big help! I would get a no thank you email and send out three more queries. It was the rule! I swear after I accepted Jessica’s offer of representation I suffered from query withdrawal. I sent queries to myself and friends until the shakes went away. Really!

  10. Hello, Rita, my fellow RWA door-checker! I was tickled pink to see your name in my blog roll today!

    It was wonderful to meet you at RWA. You were so kind and giving, offering advice and encouragement (not to mention prime seating!). It's fantastic that more people get to hear your words of wisdom through this blog.


  11. Oh Megan can you see the red glow in the sky coming from the direction of Florida? It’s me blushing. I’m so pleased you liked the blog. RWA was great. Will you be in California next year?

  12. Wonderful post, Rita! Your advice on getting stuck in a particular place in the process resonated deeply with me. Keep moving forward and eventually you’ll get there…wherever there may be. 

  13. Rita, I am setting my goals, and they (fingers crossed) include California! RWA was such a great experience, I'd love to do it again. (This time with less volunteering, more learning, and agent appointments for me!)

  14. Leslie, I really don’t like the word rejection. Think of them as an RSVP regret to your publishing party. I am always amazed when I hear someone say they are quitting because they’d received 10 ‘rejections’. Huh? When I think of J K Rowling and all the people who said no thanks to her, I think it was hundreds, I smile. I’m sure they cry. Remember those letters are part of the process. Best to you .

  15. Thank you for this! Sometimes I get so far into writing, hoping, and dreaming that I forget about reality and need a grounding moment. I enjoy hearing about what really takes place. And yes, congratulations! 🙂

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