“Someday is now.”
That’s attorney Ruth Kaufman’s motto, but ironically, her “now” is 1453, Henry VI is king, and what we now call the Wars of the Roses will soon begin. The king sends Sir Nicholas Gray to protect the recently widowed lady Amice Winfield from undesirable suitors. Though Nicholas is intrigued by her (and she by him), Lady Amice yearns to run Castle Rising without a man’s control.
At His Command, winner of the 2011 Romance Writers of America’s® Inspirational Golden Heart® Award, is Kaufman’s first published historical romance, available now electronically and in paper from amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and iBooks. Although she came very close to selling the novel to a major publisher, after noting changes in the marketplace and the success of fellow romance writers who’d pursued alternative publishing avenues, she decided to indie-publish—and to put her unique spin on that as well.
An on-camera and voiceover actress with a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Communications , a master’s degree in Radio/TV, a J.D. and years of experience in contract negotiation, marketing and training in corporate America, Kaufman is well qualified to run her own castle, and just as she has forged her own career, it is not surprising that her creativity led her to what’s being called a “genius idea.” By all accounts, Kaufman is the first to publish her novel in two versions: “Inspirational”—sweet and mild, with a faith element—and “Historical Romance”—a spicier tale which deletes the faith element and “opens the bedroom door.”
She says the two versions allow her to reach the widest market possible. Each is clearly labeled. The Inspirational Version features the heroine on the cover; the Historical Romance the hero. The buzz on romance writer websites is that Kaufman’s savvy business move is likely to inspire others to rethink how best to reach broader audiences, and while not all novels will lend themselves to two versions, it is a clever technique which could well have a significant impact on the romance market.
While Kaufman says she gladly would have traded the “control”—and work—of indie-publishing for a major publisher’s name on the spine of At His Command, Kaufman, as in everything she does, was committed to doing it “right.” Rather than merely purchasing a standard package from a “self-publishing” company, she realized she knew her genre, her book and her audience better than any such “one size fits all” outfit. Much the way one might manage a massive legal project, she consulted other writers in romance groups, built a team of experts to edit, format and design a cover, solicited cover quotes and reviews (Publishers’ Weekly’s BookLife selected the title for a forthcoming review), and made a myriad of decisions about the details, such as the fonts for the paperback versions, and the drop-caps at the beginning of chapters.
Then came promotion, an ongoing effort to stand out in a fast-changing industry. At one point in January, for instance, there were 738 books listed on Amazon>Romance> Historical> New Releases. At the end of the month Kaufman’s efforts paid off: At His Command reached #4 on Amazon>Medieval> Romance>Hot New Releases.
Her usual writing routine–a goal of 5000 words/week (about 20 manuscript pages)–has been disrupted. “I spent days running my own publishing company,” she says, “instead of writing new books.” She has a backlog, though, of at least 11 manuscripts, and is currently preparing her next indie title.
Kaufman is generous in sharing her knowledge and experience with other writers, and offers talks and workshops on topics such as “Persistence,” “Rejection” and “Sales Skills.” She also employs her acting skills in a workshop that shows authors how to use theatrical improv techniques to help develop characters.
While some might think it unusual for an attorney to be hooked on writing romance, Kaufman loves to read romances, and is drawn to “the great stories, interesting characters and settings, and the journey towards a happy ending.” She chose late medieval England as a setting after having a small role in Richard III in college. She sounds every bit like an attorney when she says, ‘I wondered how much of what Shakespeare wrote was true.” She employed her considerable research skills to learn as much as she could about the period, and the more she learned, the more potential “plots popped into my head.” She says, though, that she doesn’t write to a plot or an outline; she most often starts with an idea, a “What if?”
We all can’t have a “genius idea” about how to write or publish our novels, but Kaufman’s experience is further proof that legal skills—arguing in the alternative, seeking alternative versions of the facts, thorough researching, managing major projects, asking “what if” questions—are just the skills that can help us “someday” run our own writing and publishing castles. Now.