Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Things to Think About

In my last post, I talked about an article, I'd read that was written by a romance author who was discussing her recently released sports themed contemporary romance novel. It seemed that the first book in her series didn’t sell nearly as well as her second book, and let me clarify that. The first book sold a few hundred copies in comparison to the few thousand the second book sold. The author and publisher were frustrated and looking for answers. What she suggested was an interesting yet sad commentary on our times, and I promised to address that in my next post. This is difficult for me to do, but I owe it to myself and my readers. 

In the article I read, the author pointed out that the cover of her first book featured a sexy black man while the second book featured an equally sexy white man, leaving the author to wonder if the problem was that covers featuring men of color aren’t as well received as those featuring white men. This comes on the heels of an issue with a well-known romance publisher dropping their black romance line and actively encouraging their white authors to start writing about different races and ethnicities.

In her article regarding her covers, the author acknowledges that she had input in and final say on the art of both covers. She admits that she can’t necessarily prove that the first book didn’t sell as well because the model was black, but it seems awfully suspect.

So much about this article got me thinking. As authors, we’re encouraged to write what we know. The advice is sound, but I don’t think we all follow it. I once wrote a young adult series about vampires, and I can tell you for a fact I know nothing about vampires. Anything I didn’t know, I made up. That’s the beauty of being a fiction author. We are allowed a certain amount of creative license, more so in fantasy books, which brings up another interesting point the author made.

Maybe her books weren’t selling because they had a high element of realism and readers want to escape reality. Readers are happy to read about billionaire CEOs, pregnant shape shifting men, and the like but they don’t want to read about characters struggling with real issues. I sure the hell hope not because while I’ve dipped my toe in the fantasy pool, I’m much better at writing books that have a basis in reality.

If you’ve read any of my books, you know most of my characters are white. There have been a few books where I’ve included black or Latino characters, but they’ve never been lead characters. The closest I’ve gotten to writing about minorities is writing a book with a straight, transgender male lead and a few books with gay male leads, but all of those characters were white.

It’s honestly never even occurred to me to write a black, Latino, Asian, Indian or non-white character as a lead. In asking myself why, it comes down to two things. The first is that I write reality based novels, and I don’t know enough about these cultures and the issues they face to do justice to the characters and their struggles. The second is honestly the bigger issue for me. I want to be taken seriously a writer, and there’s a part of me that wonders if writing lead minority characters as a white female author means that I’m going to be judged more harshly and held to a higher standard than a minority author writing about these characters.

Am I right to think this way, or does my lack of diversity in my writing make me part of the problem this author was trying to bring to light? I truthfully don’t know. I certainly don’t have any issues with buying books with sexy men of any race on the cover. If I don’t buy a book, it’s because the story doesn’t appeal to me. I’ve never looked at a book cover and refused to read any further if the model is a man or woman of color.

Is being a diverse reader enough though? Should I be a more diverse writer? Do I have a responsibility to? I don’t know, but the author has definitely given me a lot to think about.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Writing Your Way, No Matter What

I recently read a blog post from another author who was frustrated by the lack of sales of her first book in comparison to her second one. The author offered up a lot of theories, one of which is quite provocative and I’ll address in a future blog post.

You can definitely feel the author’s frustration, and it’s understandable. Authors put their hearts and souls into their writing. We spend a lot of time, effort and money to produce and promote our work and often don’t see an equitable return in our investment reflected in sales and reviews. There is no way to adequately explain what goes on behind the scenes of writing a book. You just have to take my word when I say that it can be a soul crushing process.

One of the less controversial theories the author put forth was that readers just weren’t interested in sports romances. She went on to point out that there are plenty of best-selling books about billionaire CEOs, MMA fighters and even pregnant men who can shift into animals. This really struck a chord with me, and I found myself doing an emphatic head nod in agreement.

When I first started out as a writer, I wanted to write young adult novels with disabled characters as romantic leads. I can’t tell you how many agents, publishers and editors told me that would never sell. The industry wanted fantasy novels. Readers wanted vampires and werewolves and fairies. Books were about escaping reality.

I floundered for a while. I’m ashamed to admit, I threw my hat in the vampire ring. Guess what? It didn’t make a difference. Even that wasn’t good enough. I was told I’d never compete with Twilight or True Blood. As much as that hurt, I could live with it because that’s not what I wanted. I’m going to date myself here, but I grew up reading Judy Blume and Lurlene McDaniel. These women were writing stories about kids my age that were dealing with sobering realities and we devoured those novels. Those were my heroes and who I aspired to be.

It took a lot of soul searching and trial and error and some growth and change in the publishing industry for me to find my way. Now, I write what I want. While all of my books are romance, I don’t let myself be penned in. If I want to write new adult or young adult or anything in between, I write it. I don’t care if the story is m/f or m/m. I give my characters the love interest that I think fits best for them. It’s amazing the amount of stress that I took off myself when I accepted this was the approach I wanted to take as a writer.

So, if you write about pregnant omega wolf males or billionaire oil tycoons or up and coming MMA fighters, that’s great. It doesn’t make you better or worse than your peers who choose to write in a different genre. You have to write what makes you and your readers happy. It might not make you rich or a best seller, but writing your way doesn't make you a failure either.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Long, Hard Indie Road

After years of rejections and a few heartbreakingly close calls, I made the decision to become an independent author. That was back in 2006 when I self-published my first book, Letters from Linc. Since that time, I have released a total of 18 books, which includes 3 novellas but doesn’t include the multiple titles I’ve released on Wattpad.

When I published Letters from Linc in 2006, I told myself this self-publishing thing was a one-time deal. I just wanted to be able to see and hold and touch an actual book that I’d written. I said that if I could do that, I’d be happy. I’d feel like I’d achieved my dream and I could move on. With an additional 17 books under my belt, it’s obvious I was wrong.

So much has changed since I released that first book. In 2006, E-books were offered by only a few publishers because e-readers were still in their infancy. Authors who released their own books weren’t recognized as being independent authors. They were called self-publishers, and they had to pay to have their books published. Companies that published books for pay were, and still are, known as vanity publishers. The difference is all those years ago, paying to publish your book was frowned on. You weren’t considered a real writer. Now, some indie authors are far more successful than many traditionally published authors. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them.

In the time since publishing my first book, I’ve come a long way in my promotion efforts. I went from a basic website with a few tabs to something that’s far more intricate. Thanks to the advent of social media, I have accounts with things like Facebook and Twitter and Instagram that I use to increase visibility. I’ve taken a couple of online book tours, held a few online release parties, hired a third party to do promotions of my new releases, done at least two Thunderclap campaigns, had a third party make a book trailer for two of my books and have done countless giveaways.

When I see it all laid out like that, the amount of effort that we as authors do in promotion of our work is staggering. It’s also somewhat depressing for me. I spend a great deal of time and effort on writing my books, and when it comes to promoting them, I spend quite a bit of money. Often, I spend more money than I make. Considering the number of books I have published and the level of promotion I’ve done, it’s pretty discouraging to make such an emotional and financial investment and see so little return.

With every new book I release, I tell myself this is going to be the one. This one is going to break that glass ceiling and get noticed and I’m going to reach more readers. It doesn’t happen, at least not on the scale that I’d like. The funny thing is, my books are always well received by the few who do read them and are kind enough to leave a review on Amazon. My latest novel, The Truth Inside, has only 5 reviews on Amazon, but they are all 5 stars. While that’s a great feeling, there’s also this part of me that wants more. Trouble is I just don’t know how to get it.

Today is one of those days where I question everything about this decision. Am I even good enough to be in this game? What more can I do to reach more readers? Should I be spending more money? More time? Or is there something else I should do? Should I just quit?

Quitting isn’t in my nature. I figure I’ll probably be writing until my mind and body are too far gone for me to write anymore, but as you can see, being an indie author isn’t all fun games. This is a long, hard road, and it’s not for the faint of heart.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Pretty Happy Birthday

A couple of weeks ago, I told you that my birthday was coming. We talked about what I wanted for my birthday, which is pretty much the perfect gift for any author.

Last we talked, I promised to come back and give you an update on whether or not my birthday wishes came true. In case you forgot, I asked for Amazon reviews, social media posts about my books and to make a best seller list. 

Let’s start with reviews. Guess what? I got two additional reviews for my newest book, The Truth Inside. Two reviews might not seem like much, but it’s two I didn’t have before. And best of all, both of those were five star reviews. It can’t get any better than that. So, to the two of you who read and reviewed The Truth Inside a few days before my birthday, thank you. You made my day.

Social media posts? I think I got a few more. I can safely say that I Love HEA Romance Book Blog did some heavy posting for me after reviewing my book. The blogger’s reaction to The Truth Inside was shared all over Facebook, Instagram, and more. That was pretty awesome. My book was also on tour that week, so it got some decent exposure as did I. 

Sadly, I have yet to make a best seller list. Not even the Amazon best seller list. Don’t worry though. I’m not giving up. I’m going to keep writing and keep improving my writing so that one day I can reach that goal. I have no doubt that it’s going to happen, and I can’t wait. This is one dream every writer has. It’s not easy to accomplish, but the good things in life don’t always come easily.

Aside from the writing related things, my family made sure I had an amazing day. I got some nice gifts and a few sweet cards. My favorite card came from my twenty-two-year-old daughter who wasn’t home for my birthday this year for the first time since she was born.

All in all, it was a pretty happy birthday thanks to my friends, family and some awesome readers. You guys never fail to make me smile.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

It's My Birthday; Almost

Exactly one week from today, I’ll be celebrating my birthday. Last week, the big question came up. What do you want for your birthday? Some of you might know the answer to that question since it hasn’t changed in the last few years, but here it is. Some cheap and easy ideas to make this author’s birthday one for the record books.

I want to be a best-selling author. It can be the New York Times or USA Today. It can even be Amazon. Better yet, it could be all three, but I’m not picky. I’d be happy to start with reaching just one of those lists. In order to do that, I need your help. I’ve done all I can. I’ve written the books. It’s up to all of you to buy them and enlist your friends and family to do the same.

I know what I’m asking. There are a lot of titles out there. Spending the money to buy all of them can add up. Along that vein, buying even one of my books is an amazing gift to me. It tells me that you are interested in my work and want to read it. Hopefully after you do, you’ll want to keep reading it.

If you want to get me a gift that won’t cost you a dime then review any or all of my books on Amazon. Reviews are an author’s life blood. Yes, sales are important, but your reviews let us know how you feel about the book. If you loved it, we want to know. Gushing reviews make our day. If you hated it, we want to know. Maybe your insight can help us figure out where we went wrong so we can improve our next story. Of everything you can get me next Thursday, this is the one thing that is easiest for you and means so much to me.

What else could you get? How about promotion on your social media? Behind a five star review, I get the biggest kick out of seeing people sharing me and my work on their Twitter, Instagram, Tumbler, Facebook and what not. It’s so flattering to know that you liked my books so much that you’re taking the time to share them with others. Every time I see something like that, you better believe I’m sharing it with everyone I know.

There you have it. It's not much, but it's what I want. I can't think of another author who wouldn't be happy with any of these gifts. Be sure to check back in the next two weeks, and I'll let you know if any of my wishes came true!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Bringing The Thunder

On January 30th, I released The Truth Inside, my first novel in the New Beginnings new adult romance series. This year, I made a commitment to do more promotion of my work in an attempt to reach more readers. Right now, there are two simultaneous promotions underway. I’m here to tell you about one of those and ask for your help.

As of yesterday, I started a Thunderclap campaign to spread the word about my book. For those of you who have never heard of a Thunderclap campaign, it’s a three step process. Well, four once you create your account.

So, you create an account and then you have three steps to go. First, you write a message for your campaign that you want to share with the world. Then you determine how many supporters you want to reach. Once your campaign is approved, you start your outreach. You can do this at no charge or you can choose to purchase a plan that will allow you more benefits.

Since this is the first time I’ve tried this on my own, I decided to start small. I did the free campaign and chose the mid-level amount of supporters. Now, it’s up to me to get those supporters. Of course, I’m doing all I can. I’m blogging; here we are today. I’m also posting on Facebook, Twitter and the like.

Today, I’m asking for your help. If you haven’t already done so, please take a moment to support my campaign and then share it. It only takes a minute or so, and it would mean a lot to me.

What do you say? Are you ready to help me bring the thunder to The Truth Inside? The Thunderclap, that is. Just click the link below and let’s make this happen.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Truth Is Out

It’s finally here. After months of writing and rewriting and editing and then editing some more, The Truth Inside came out yesterday with little fanfare.

While I would love to have received a bigger reception, I’m still proud and excited. This book, the first in my New Beginnings new adult series, gets back to what I always wanted to do; write books that touch people’s hearts and give them characters they identify with. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve enjoyed all of my books and I’d like to think my readers have too, but this is different.

I know parents aren’t supposed to have favorite children. Since authors often feel like their books are their children, I suppose the same could apply. Maybe we shouldn’t have a favorite book that we’ve written, but I do. This one is it for me.

The Truth Inside tells the story of Nate Holland, an MMA fighter who’s trying to get his career off the ground and having his first serious relationship since making the transition from female to male. Nate not only has to navigate his romantic relationship but also the ones he has with his friends who haven’t been privy to his secret until now.

I’d been toying with writing a new adult series for some time, and a transgender character in one of my stories seemed like a good idea. Stories with trans characters exist, but they’re difficult to find. Even more difficult is finding a story that doesn’t sensationalize the trans character or use him for shock value.

In The Truth Inside, Nate starts out by keeping his transition a secret from his new friends and girlfriend because he’s struggling with his journey. Nate has a hard time accepting himself and he projects those feelings onto those around him. Like with all secrets, this one won’t stay hidden for long, and readers join Nate in the aftermath of sharing that secret.

As soon as I got the idea for this story, I wanted to stay true to the theme. I wanted to write a story that anyone could relate to, especially anyone struggling with their gender identity. I not only wanted a realistic story, but a cover model who was transgender to pay proper homage to the theme. Thankfully, transgender activist Jeffrey Rubel stepped up to the plate to help me bring Nate to life.

The Truth Inside has finally come out. It’s my biggest hope that it touches people and helps them to feel better about who they are. Everyone deserves a happy ending, except maybe murderers and rapists and child molesters, but you get what I mean.

I hope you'll give this story a chance and share it with others. Thank you for taking this journey with me and Jeffrey and Nate.