Thursday, September 17, 2015

Pushing Past the Nerves

As a writer, I strongly believe in doing all that I can to avoid self-censorship. I can always get a sense of when an author censors their work based on how the sex scenes are written, but I understand. It’s easy to fall into the trap of censoring your work when you have that little voice in your head reminding you that your mom, dad, grandma, etc. is going to be reading your book. Last week, I ran in to a new possibility for self-censorship that I haven’t faced before.

One of my coworkers, an avid reader who happens to be a sweet Catholic woman, informed me that she purchased all of my books and had already started reading the latest one. While I’m always ecstatic for the sales, I can’t lie. I cringed a little when I thought of all the rather graphic sex scenes in my new book. Now, in my defense, I am a contemporary erotic romance writer. The word erotic is supposed to serve as a warning that my books will not only contain hot and heavy sex, but that hot and heavy sex will be described in detail. Still, my first thought when my dear coworker told me that she bought my book was ‘Well, that’s a bit unnerving’, followed by ‘Hope she’s ready to see a whole new side of me’!

I am not the same person at work that I am at home. The fact that I wear my hair in a bun and wear tortoise framed glasses to work every day seems to give people the prim and proper librarian impression. While I don’t do anything to foster that, I don’t go out of my way to remind people just how scandalous I am. However, I do warn them that nobody wants to know the real me. That would be frightening, but I’m okay with that. My bosses don’t pay me to be myself. They pay me to get a job done.

Not only has my coworker now been introduced to a new side of me through my writing, but she has exposed other coworkers to me as well! Come to find out, she was reading aloud from my book to the four other people she shares an office with. As flattering as that is, I still had that initial gut reaction of it being unsettling.

I can’t say her recitation was the reason, but one of her office mates then went out and bought the newest book, the one my coworker had been reading from. Another sale for me is always good. My second coworker hasn’t really given me an indication of how she liked the book other than to say ‘I finished your book this weekend’, but it turns out the sweet little Catholic lady is hooked. She not only told me that I was going to end up being another of her favorite writers whose next book she anxiously awaited but she found a rather racy picture of a muscular man she imagined my male lead to be and posted that to my Facebook wall.

Moral of the story? Yes, it can be unnerving for your friends, family and coworkers to read your work. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write what you want. Either they will like it or they won't. That’s not something you can dictate, but you can stay true to your writing if you push past the nerves and just go for it. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Another Rant about Reviews

Last week, I talked about bad book reviews and how authors can handle them. Well, guess what? My rant about reviews isn’t quite over. This time, I’ve got a different beef, one that falls under the category of ‘be careful what you wish for’.

So, what’s my problem with reviews now? It’s a personal one.

If you buy a book, and you like the book, please write a review. Reviews aren’t just a way to validate an author’s hard work. They have a much greater significance. Reviews can influence sales. Some people read those book reviews before they buy and might be more likely to buy a book that’s well reviewed. 

Amazon reviews can be instrumental in promotion. When a book surpasses twenty-five reviews, Amazon will include the author’s book in the “Customers who bought this also bought” category when readers are buying other books. After more than seventy reviews, Amazon will highlight the book for spotlight positions, including their newsletter. Even more reviews and an author’s book can be included in an email to all Amazon customers who have purchased other titles in that author’s genre. Talk about exposure!

Yes, it feels good to get a good review. If you’re not a writer, or you don’t know one, you may not realize how much goes into a book. It’s not simply writing a story and handing it off. Most books start with story and character outlines well before they’re written. After writing comes the editing and revising and then still more editing. Then you share your work with beta readers and with their feedback comes still more revising and editing. Then, maybe if you’re lucky, you can release the book.

When you finally release the book, you hold your breath and hope that readers like it. And you’re not going to know if they like it without that review. I’m not going to lie. It’s very depressing to release a book that you’ve worked hard on and feel proud of and wait for reviews that never come. It can make you question your ability and wonder why you worked so hard.

So, if you read a book you like, especially if it’s one of my books, please take a moment to write a review. It doesn’t have to be an essay. A few kind words will do. Those few kind words can make a huge difference to an author that has no reviews at all. And to those of you who faithfully read and review my books, thank you. I couldn’t do this without you.