Granite Bay’s Theresa Ragan toted up $1 million in book sales by March 2013, two years after self-publishing her first novel, but don’t call her an overnight success. Nothing could be further from the truth.
“Twenty years ago, when I was pregnant with my fourth child, I read my first romance novel,” Ragan said. “I was home on leave of absence. I was a legal secretary for a big corporation, and I knew instantly I wanted to write romance for a living, so I started that day. And five years later, I finished my first book.”
Within two years, Ragan had an agent. She joined Romance Writers of America to learn from others. She steeled herself for rejection but didn’t expect 20 years of it. Friends got deals with Big Six publishers. She came to call herself the “Susan Lucci of the Golden Heart awards” because she entered the contest for unpublished writers six times and came up a finalist each time.
By 2011, Ragan was looking at want ads for secretaries. The last of her four children was heading to college, and she and her husband, Joe Ragan, were upside down on their mortgage. Seeing that some friends were getting money from self-published work, she wondered if the stigma of inferiority that once plagued the industry was dissappearing. She called her agent seeking the go-ahead to self-publish a series of time-travel books. The agent, more interested in Ragan’s suspense novels featuring private investigator Lizzy Gardner, told her to go for it.
“I thought I was going to sell 10 books” Ragan said. “I sold thousands within weeks.”
Years of going to workshops she couldn’t afford, meeting other writers and joining their critique sessions had paid off. Writer pals bought her books and told friends. She has sold roughly 900,000 books now. When her first Lizzy Gardner book, “Abducted,” hit the top 10 twice on Amazon.com, two of the Big Six publishers came calling. Amazon.com did, too. She chose to dance with the outside-the-box partner that had brought her success, receiving a six-figure advance from Amazon for three more Lizzy Gardner books. She gets 70 percent of the profit off her self-published works. Her books sell for anywhere from $2.99 to $4.99 with discounts.
Her husband lost his job as chief operating officer for a pool products company after it was sold. Now he manages operations for her business, finding translators for her books and readying them to sell in other countries. The couple just bought a new home, and they’re paying for their daughter’s college expenses in cash.
Inspiring a nation
The February issue of Latina magazine, now on newsstands, is putting the spotlight on Sacramento attorney Isabell Wong Flores.
Flores, a graduate of Hiram Johnson High School, got her law degree just like Abraham Lincoln did. In 2007, my colleague Anita Creamer told the remarkable story of how Flores apprenticed with an attorney and worked her way through the reading list of UCLA Law School. Flores had a business degree from St. Mary’s College of California in Moraga.
“I really want to use my story to make a difference to inspire people to set a goal and achieve it,” Flores said. “ If I can do it from Oak Park, South Sac, they can do it, too.”
The 36-year-old Flores has her own practice in criminal law and DUI cases, and she also makes special appearances for other attorneys when they have scheduling conflicts and can’t make court appearances. Flores told me that she met Latina’s editors at a conference, and they decided to interview her for their ‘Featured Reader’ spread after seeing her story highlighted recently in the local D’Primera Mano Magazine.
One last try
The Capitol Gardens apartments, an Art Moderne-styled apartment building built by Sacramento architect Jacob Loyth in 1949, is set for the wrecking ball in March, but Sacramento City Council member Steve Hansen is throwing a Hail Mary pass in hopes of finding a home for the four-unit structure at 1517 N St.
The Capitol Area Development Authority worked for about seven years to relocate the building, which sits on a site that the authority has long wished to redevelop. NCRF Holdings, a unit of Sacramento’s Nehemiah Corp., won the competitive bidding process and expects to have financing in place by March to begin construction of The Warren. Named for former California Gov. and U.S. Chief Justice Earl Warren, the planned 118-unit apartment building will be built using innovative modular construction, which is popping up in cities around the world.
CADA had hoped to give the Capitol Gardens building to a property owner with a site in midtown or downtown, said Marc de la Vergne, the agency’s deputy director, and $60,000 had been budgeted for the relocation project. A handful of property owners negotiated with de la Vergne, but each one eventually decided it would be too costly or unwieldy.
“We’ve run out of time,” de la Vergne said.
Hansen, however, said he’s willing to try to help expedite the city paperwork if someone steps up to take the building. The Warren’s developers say they’ll be ready to start construction in early March.