Thoughts on the RWA

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I’m a member of the Romance Writers of America. I like being part of a group of people with similar interests. I was especially proud to belong when they stepped up to bat during #cockygate. (For those interested in following along with the hashtag on Twitter, look here.) I feel it’s an organization that has my best interests at heart as a writer and author and wants to help me succeed. In fact, I’ve been a member for a while now, and I haven’t even started to explore all the resources they offer their members.

I was listening to the Sell More Books Show and they featured a blog post by Allison Brennan who left the RWA because she felt like the organization operated more for indie writers than traditionally published romance authors.

While I don’t have a problem with the RWA operating this way because I am an indie author, I did notice this, too, as I paged through the Romance Writers Report. I’ve read articles about marketing, discoverability. How to work with editors and book cover designers. These articles are written with the self-publishing author in mind (trad-pubbed authors don’t have to worry about editing their own books, or hiring their own cover designer). Even in the June issue I have on hand, some of the articles include:

  • Romance Law School is Now in Session: How to include law in your fiction in a realistic manner.
  • Fifty Ways to Show the Spark without the Heat
  • Proofreading Hats

I’m not saying traditionally published authors don’t need how-to articles like these, but I am saying that indie or new writers could find more value in them. I suppose a veteran writer could use the Fifty Ways article for writing prompts, or read the Romance Law School is Now in Session article for ideas on how to write a new series featuring a lawyer. But the Report also features ads, and they are geared to the indie writer–lots of editing, proofreading, and formatting ads no traditional published author is going to need.

So the question is, is this the right move for the RWA?

They want to support all their members, and if indie membership outweighs traditionally published author membership, then perhaps it is a good direction for them to take.

However, it feels like there are more organizations aimed at supporting indie writers than ever before. The Alliance for Independent Authors is very supportive offering an array of services from podcasts to a services directory where an author can find professional editors, cover designers, and formatting professionals. There are other organizations as well, such as the Independent Book Publishers Association.

There is support for us indies. So does Allison have a point? Where do traditionally published authors go for support if they find RWA lacking? Do they even need support? After all, they are where a lot of us hope to be someday. Is the RWA pushing them from the nest because they are ready to fly? Do traditionally published authors get enough writing and publishing support from their publishing houses and their agents? Where do they go for networking opportunities if they are slowly being ousted from the organization?

Allison does make a good point, too: if all the traditionally published authors leave the RWA because they don’t feel RWA has anything more to offer, what becomes of us who look up the traditionally-published authors? Who would judge the RWA contests? Who would be our mentors? Who would be our professional critique partners and our chapter leaders?

But let’s be honest, here, too. If the RWA wants to support writers, and by support, I mean, help them make (more) money, then self-publishing is a viable way to go. At least for romance. (If you want to read about indie romance authors dominating the self-publishing industry, click here.)

To me, it makes a lot of sense for RWA to shift. After all, the distinction between traditional and indie publishing is blurring more and more every day. And a lot of traditionally published authors are still the ones who do a lot for their books: marketing, platform building. Some authors have to set up blog tours, book signings, that kind of thing.

Being a traditionally published author today doesn’t even guarantee you’ll end up on a bookshelf. Maybe a virtual bookshelf, but the chances of seeing your book at Barnes and Noble shrink every day. I took a quick peek at Harlequin’s mail service, and if you subscribed to every line and subscribed to the maximum they mailed you in that line every month, you would receive 86 books a month. It isn’t possible that every book would find shelf space, even for just four weeks.

So what does it mean to be traditionally published? To pass the gatekeepers? Is this Allison’s main guff with RWA supporting indies? Perhaps she wants the RWA to nurture us to being published traditionally. But not one way is going to be the right way for everyone.

The publishing landscape is changing. Maybe Allison Brennan doesn’t want to see it. Maybe she sees indies as her competition, not her colleagues. Maybe she sees herself as better because she’s traditionally published. The problem is, that way of thinking divides indies from the traditionally published authors, and that’s just not the way things are anymore.

One day traditional publishing won’t give Allison what she needs, and then she’ll need the RWA to help her gain her footing in a constantly changing publishing landscape that she’s refused to acknowledge.

rwa missionRomance writers are all the same. We all want the same thing. To write quality books and make a reader swoon over a happily ever after. And the RWA supports that, no matter how those stories are published.

Issues like #cockygate affect all of us, and we all need an organization like RWA to have our backs.

I’m proud to belong.

The Scary World of Amazon Marketing Services

Writers need to get their books out there. Twitter doesn’t sell books. Neither does Facebook–at least not on your personal profile. There are only so many copies Aunt Edna wants. And she’s not going to pay your bills. (If she is, that’s no one’s business but yours.)

So what is an author to do? Well, you can write more books. You should be anyway. What else? Instagram the shit out of your life hoping to draw some attention to your fabulous #writerslife.

What else?

Pay for promos, maybe. I’m assuming I’m still getting some KU page reads from a Freebooksy promo I did a few months ago. (To read about that, click here.)

I’ve come to the conclusion after a few years on Twitter, the only way to find readers is to write books and tell people (who aren’t on Twitter) about them (you know, actual readers). I’ve decided to dip my toes into the world of Amazon ads.

amazon adsNow, lots of people have told me that they don’t work. I bought Brian Meeks’ book, and he tells me they do. But you gotta be smart, and you gotta be patient, and you gotta test. Test and Test. And Test.

Oh, by the way, you have to have a decent book, good cover, good blurb. Because if you don’t have a quality book, no amount of advertising will sell your POS. (Sometimes people forget about that part.)

So, I’ve been running ads for a couple of weeks. Brian says this isn’t hardly any time at all, and I agree. Buying and running ads on Amazon isn’t the magic trick to selling books and getting famous. You need to have patience, and you need to know what you’re doing.

At first, I bid low (like Brian advised–he walks you through the entire process), and piecing together information from other sources, I realized this was way too low. I write contemporary romance, and it’s a highly competitive market.

The thing with Amazon ads is you need to bid high enough that Amazon will show your ads, but not so high that if someone clicks on your ad but doesn’t buy, you don’t go broke paying for clicks that don’t turn into sales.

It’s called a sweet spot, and from what I can tell, few people have the patience to get there. Or they are too scared they are going to waste a lot of money trying.

I’ve been running ads for 13 days, and this is what I have so far:

ams ads so far june 18

Remember, 13 days isn’t hardly any time at all. But for anyone scared to run ads, take a look: I have 12 ads running right now, and I’ve spent 35 cents. Not dollars, cents. None of the ads are doing particularly well, and I assume it’s because I’ve bid too low. The ad for Don’t Run Away that has over 3,000 impressions, hasn’t cost me anything. But those impressions could have given me a few page reads in KU if someone saw the ad, but didn’t click and just decided to try the book in KU anyway. Where and when someone decides to read your book if it’s enrolled in KU will always be a mystery.

Here are my KU page reads for DRA. I took this screenshot on June 18th. The same day I took the screenshot of my ad dashboard.

sales and ku reads for dra

Nope, I don’t have any sales yet. But I haven’t gone broke trying, either.

So anyone who is wanting to try this but is afraid of losing money can err on the side of caution, figure a few things out, and go from there.

I’m surprised that DRA is getting impressions, as the second set of ads I did for Wherever He Goes is a higher cost per click (which you would think would buy me more exposure), and I think the cover for WHG is better than DRA. But maybe the blurb is better written, or the characters resonate better with readers.

So where do I go from here? I plan to bid a bit more for WHG, and see if I can’t get some impressions, at least. Maybe I could even do another set of ads for DRA at a higher bid, and see if that doesn’t ramp up my impressions even more and hope those turn into clicks. Or I could do nothing, and wait to see what happens, because 13 days of ads is hardly any time at all.

But I’ll keep an eye on it. I just wanted to let you know a high daily limit doesn’t have to scare you.

And if you take anything away from this it’s this: if your ads are successful, and you are getting a ton of clicks but they aren’t turning into sales–you need to look at your book. You need to look at your cover. Your Look Inside pages. Your blurb. Don’t pay for ads for a crappy book. Make it better.

I’ll keep you posted!

Acknowledgements and Dedications

dedicationRelationships come and go. No one knows this better than people ensconced in social media, or, more specifically, the writing community online. One day you’re good friends with someone, and the next they’re not talking to you anymore. Blocked. You don’t know what you did, what you said, but suddenly you are no longer in communication with someone you used to speak with every day.

And it hurts.

For my mental health, I’ve pulled back with speaking to some people I used to talk with quite frequently on Twitter and Facebook. For one thing, there’s not enough time in the day to talk to everyone, and for another, it’s easy to get wrapped in a relationship that’s one-sided. While I love to support my friends, sometimes, dammit, I need a little support too.

That being said, I’ve made good friends online. Such good friends, I’ve mentioned some of those people in the acknowledgments of my books.

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Until recently, my dedications have been to my kids, “family” in general, my mother. And while I’ve been married for 16 years, never once have I dedicated a book to my husband. I always felt like a dedication belonged to someone who cared about me and my writing, and while I know my husband loves me, he’s never been interested in my writing. This isn’t anything I’ve kept to myself, sometimes tweeting my frustration. On the other hand, part of that is entirely my fault. I never wanted him to be a part of my writing. I wanted something that was just for me, and that’s what writing is for me. My escape. My passion. So maybe, in all this, I was punishing him for something that was my own doing. I don’t know.

But this post is about what happens when you acknowledge someone, or dedicate your book to someone, who no longer holds that significance in your life.

I realized that looking at my proof for Wherever He Goes I have a choice to make.

Some of my closer friends know I met someone on Twitter. A friendship that began because of our love of writing turned into something more. At least, as more as something could turn into with him living down south and me stuck in the frozen tundra of Minnesota. And through it all, I drifted further from my husband than I already was, and just these past couple months we decided to separate.

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That’s when I finally dedicated my book to a significant other, someone who loved me, supported me, supported my writing, believed my books could take me all the way.

Only, the joke’s on me because that relationship crumbled around me, and now I’m left with nothing but words on a printed page.

So I have a dilemma. Do I change my dedication page?

Authors every day have that choice. With self-publishing, making changes to your book is simple and the changes take effect almost immediately. You can wipe out a whole relationship in 24-72 hours. Actually, KDP only takes you about 4-6. Whole friendships, whole relationships, poof.

Should authors do that, though? How right is it? People move in and out of our lives. They teach us something, give us something, and then sometimes they move on. We do the same for other people, maybe without even knowing it. A simple tweet, a DM. Those friendships can grow deeper–you help a person publish a book. You bitch talk about the publishing industry; you are a person’s cheerleader while they query. You help them through a bout of depression, a case of writer’s block. Someone does the same for you, and you thank them for it. Then, one day, you’re not talking anymore. They’ve moved on.

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But the acknowledgments and dedication pages are still there, remain untouched, a testament that those people affected us, helped us grow, changed us for the better.

My southern gentleman did all that for me, until he couldn’t anymore. It doesn’t make our relationship less meaningful. It doesn’t make what he did any less important to me.

But every time I open that book, I’ll hurt. I’ll have to swallow back tears because the support I treasured, the support I needed, is now gone.

It’s up to you on a personal level if you want to change your acknowledgments and dedications. I understand completely if someone did something to you that you cannot, ever, forgive.

Your readers won’t know the history behind your acknowledgments and your dedication pages.  I’m willing to bet some readers don’t even read them.

My mantra is always move forward, always move on. There will always be another book. There will be pages and pages of acknowledgments and dedications ahead of me, if I’m lucky.

And, you know, if I ever run out of people, I haven’t dedicated any of my books to my cats, yet.

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You never know.

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What People Don’t Tell You About Blogging

What people don't tell you about blogging.

 

When you first start out writing, or want to be writing, or want to be publishing, or whatever it is you want to do to sell books, poems, short stories, non-fiction, people tell you to blog as part of your platform. And that’s all fine and good. Blogging is fun, you’ll build an audience, a fan base, and your content will sell like hotcakes because they like your free stuff.

But then the questions start popping up. Where do I set up my blog? What do I blog about? How many times do I have to blog, per week, per month, per year? Where do bloggers get those awesome graphics? Are they expensive, do you have to make them yourself? How much are the pictures?

In my last blog post, I wrote about my lack of time, and I said I would give up blogging to write. Blogging is writing, but I don’t see it being a huge moneymaker some blogs can be. I don’t do affiliate links, I don’t support advertising on my website. Partly because I’m not popular enough to make any money from it, and partly because I don’t want to be known for my blog. I want to be known for my books.

But if you haven’t blogged yet, or need some tips to get your blog on track, here are a few that I’ve picked up, and a few that I’ve read about. Maybe you can turn your blog into something amazing!

 

Figure out who you want to blog for.

I blog for indie writers. I blog about non-fiction books I’ve read and liked, editing tips, publishing tips, formatting tips, making-your-cover tips. If it has to do with indie-publishing and writing, I’ve probably at some point blogged about it. And so have countless others. While we’re humans with different experiences, thoughts, and feelings, you’ll be hard-pressed to find something in this area no one has written about yet.

What people don't tell you about blogging. (1)

That said, I wish I would have started blogging for readers. I would have blogged for my fans, my people who love my books. The problem is, when I started blogging, I didn’t have a book out yet. Was that detrimental to writing for my readers? Not really. I mean, your readers will want to know where your ideas come from, maybe how long it takes you to write your book. They like the cover reveals. And maybe if you’re prolific, you have a lot to write about. The problem with blogging for your readers, however, is that all that you’re blogging about should go into your newsletter. There is only so much content to go around, you know? At any rate, it doesn’t matter who you write to, as long as you make the choice and know what you’re getting into.

 

Decide what you want to blog about.

I’ve read that when you blog, you need to choose 3-5 topics and write about only those. Always. Your readers follow your blog for a reason. If you write about publishing tips and news, then your readers want that. Not your thoughts on Trump, or the rogue blog post about how sick your kid is. While I’ve been accused of not being personal enough, do people really care that I had a crappy day and didn’t get my words in? Maybe if I can turn it into a post about productivity even when you’re not feeling well. But no one cares if I have a cold and I watched six episodes of Castle while I ate a gallon of ice cream. Begin as you wish to continue. If you want a lifestyle blog, then find an audience for that kind of a blog. I know for me, (and I know everyone will like different things) if you get to personal one too many times, I won’t read your blog anymore. Not when I follow your blog for tips on publishing, your own experiences, what you found out, if you stumbled upon any shortcuts. I started your blog because I was interested in that. I don’t have enough time in my schedule to care if you had to take your dog to the vet. Sounds harsh, but I don’t care. I read blogs to further my own career. Write your blog assuming that of your readers as well.

What people don't tell you about blogging. (2)

***A quick word about turning your blog into an indie book review site: if you decide to do this, and you decide to be honest in those reviews. Be prepared for backlash. Posting a negative review of a peer’s book is never a good idea, and rarely can you find an indie book where you will have nothing bad to say about it. A good rule of thumb would be to have a policy such as, if a book would have gotten less than three stars, then don’t review it. It’s a personal choice that can come with big repercussions if you upset one too many people. On the other hand, if you only give out 5-star reviews and you’re reviewing crappy books, your credibility will tank. Fast. Trust is hard earned. Don’t lose it. You may never get it back.

 

Find a spot. 

I use WordPress because I like being part of the network. I don’t self-host, I let WordPress host my site because I don’t care about all the little extras you get with your website when you do that. I pay for my website address, and I pay for, I think, the business package so I can use some plugins. But if you don’t want WordPress, you can do Blogger, or Squarespace. My friend Aila did a great blog piece on Wix. WordPress was easy to set up, so I’ll recommend that. Plus the free templates WordPress make it easy to switch up your look when your site gets stale. As you add content (write books) it’s easy to add to your website. WordPress has been able to give me what I need, but it doesn’t matter where you blog. Just get an address and start producing content. Then tell everyone on social media about it.

 

Decide on consistency. 

The reason your blogging is to get your name out there, build your writer’s platform, attach a person to your brand. The more you blog, and the more people who read you, the easier it is to find you. When you Google “Self-Publishing Help” Joanna Penn’s name comes close to, if not to the very, top. Eventually, you want to get up there. Self-publishing help, top fantasy writer, the most popular romance writer. Whatever people search for, you want to be close to the top. This can take years and years and years–I think Joanna’s been blogging since 2008. She has every right to be at the top. But you want to at least stand a chance of being found in a search. That means blogging good content, consistently. This is easier said than done. I’ve heard advice to blog as much as you can when you’re first starting out. Every day if possible. Then when you start to have a following, you can ease back. I try for twice a week, but lately, I’m lucky if I can do twice a month. Even if you blog four times a month, always post on the same day so your readers will get to know your schedule and know when to look for new content. Do I do this? No. Should I? Yes. Do my blogging friends do this? Yes.

What people don't tell you about blogging. (3)

 

Where the hell do you get all those cute graphics?

Probably the best place for graphics is Canva.  Canva is cool. Just choose the size of the graphic you want, slap some text on a photo and there you go. Awesome. Canva has some great photos free to use, and I also use Unsplash, Pexels, and Pixabay. You may not be using the photos for anything, but I still try to make sure the photos I use are free for commercial use. It just takes the headache out of it, you know? If you want to see how I used Canva to pretty up some blog posts, look at my interview with KT Daxon. I made those quote graphics in Canva using quotes from her book. Also, see my interview with Aila Stephens. I made those graphics with the cute pictures of macarons and looked up the quotes to slap on them. This leads me to my final point:

 

Figure out how long you want to spend doing this.

I can’t concentrate on anything for too long. I’ve been going back and forth between Facebook and Twitter. But being distracted didn’t do me any favors, and I’ve already put two (okay, three because I went to the kitchen for a snack) hours into this blog post. And I haven’t prettied it up with graphics yet. You need to, because studies have shown, (no, I’m not making this up, but I’m not going to dig for it for you, either) that people consume content better when it’s accompanied by photos. You want to break up long-ass paragraphs of text anyway, so might as well add some pretty stuff to it. A lot of my blog posts come off as book reports, or just reports, heavily researched and referenced. There’s not often I don’t add a few links to someone else’s blog post. That’s a boon for you because you add valuable content to your blog, and it’s great for the other blogs because you are driving traffic to their sites as well. The blogging community is much like the writing community. To get any traction, you have to read others’ blogs, comment, and share. Once you start to get going in that, you’ll have others do the same for you.

What people don't tell you about blogging. (4)

 

Blogging can be fun, but it can be a drain. It can be discouraging when you feel like no one is listening to you. I’ve been at this for a while, and I still don’t feel like I reach many people. If you only have so many hours in the day, you’re better off writing your books. Chances are good if you start a blog in hopes for a book deal, it’s not going to happen. Blog because you want to, because you want to help others, because you want to share your writing journey. Blog because you want to be included in the writing community.

I’m going to bed now.

Until next time!

Important Reasons Authors Need to Think About Blogging by guest @kikimojo

3 Reasons Why You Should Be Blogging

Why You Should Start a Blog (Even If You’re Not a Writer)

Let’s Talk Engagement

There has been a lot of talk of engagement on Twitter lately. What exactly is engagement? The Macmillian Dictionary defines engagement as

definition 4: the action of parts of a machine when they connect with each other or definition 6: the feeling of being involved in a particular activity.

You could even go as far as to say engagement means definition 3: a battle between armies, because, let’s face it, Writer Twitter isn’t always friendly.

 

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She’s cute, but forcing people to talk to you isn’t pretty.

No matter which definition you choose, engagement means a give and take between people or things. So when someone on Twitter says they don’t follow back without some engagement first, or they threaten to unfollow you if you don’t engage with them, what does that mean exactly?

This kind of attitude has always baffled me because first of all, they don’t understand what kind of social media tool Twitter is, and second of all, TWITTER IS F*CKING HUGE. “As of the fourth quarter of 2017, the micro-blogging service averaged at 330 million monthly active users.” Obviously, no one is going to have 330 million followers, but even in Writer Twitter, the number of people following you can grow to the double digits quickly.

 

So what does engagement really mean? What are you asking for when you expect (demand?) people to tweet with you?

i#followFriday (1)For sake of simplicity, we can pick on a relatively small account. Say you’re following 300 people. You have more people following you; let’s say this number is 1,000. We’ll keep an even number because my math is terrible. Let’s subtract the 300 you’ve followed back, leaving you with 700 people following you that you have not returned the favor to. Let’s subtract 200 of these because we’ll just assume they aren’t real people. Sexbots and whatnot. That’s 500 people, writers, potential friends, and connections, mind you, you’re not following. What if all of a sudden half those people started engaging with you.  You tweeted something funny, an article that hit home. They try to chat with you. Suddenly you have 250 people engaging with you.

What are you going to do, ignore them? This is your dream come true! You want engagement! Now you’ve got it! Oh, you say, 250 people aren’t just suddenly going to want to talk to me. Okay, fine. What about half that? What if 125 of those people started tweeting with you? Then what? You still don’t buy that? Okay, 75. It’s #FollowFriday. They haven’t been pissed off by your snotty attitude yet, so they try to get into your good graces by giving you a happy shoutout. Seventy-five #FollowFriday happy weekend shoutouts. Yee-haw!

i#followFridayYou better believe you respond to these people because this is what you wanted, right? All right, I know I’m being facetious, but let’s be real for a minute. Even if you had 25 people on a daily basis wanting to tweet with you, that’s a huge time suck. There are days, like #FollowFriday, or #WriterWednesday, where I do get quite a few notifications, and I do have to take the time to sit and thank everyone. I’m getting to the point where I may not be able to always answer all my notifications, but for now, I’m trying my best. I respect my followers, as should you. Someone thought you were interesting enough to follow, or you’re part of Writer Twitter, whatever, and you thank them by . . . ignoring them. Nice.

I admit, you can look at my numbers, and see my following and followers are not even. And that is fine. Some are bots, some are huge accounts I know will drop me after they get a follow back, huge marketers with 100K following/followers, writers who only tweet their books and nothing else. Yes, I do not follow those accounts. And I’m not suggesting that you do.

I follow back writers, readers, bloggers, agents, anyone human related to the reading/writing/self-publishing/traditional-publishing industry.

What I am suggesting is that with an engagement entitlement attitude, you do not.

I get that if you’re a big-time author you’re not going to follow back everyone. I was lucky and Karen M. McManus followed me, or vice versa, before she became famous. You can see that she’s no longer following everyone who follows her. I was lucky, and I’m able to tweet with her now and then.

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Buy Karen’s awesome book here!

 

So, why do I have a problem with this attitude, this need for engagement on Twitter? Because it’s the wrong platform for it. I’ve suggested to a few people on Twitter that if they want to keep their groups small, then they should invite 200 of their nearest and dearest and form a private group on Facebook. Chat away until your heart’s content, and you won’t have to worry about those pesky people wanting a follow back without saying hi first.

Twitter and Facebook are different.

Twitter is used for quickly exchanging information. Read an excellent blog post about editing, tweet it! Found a shortcut for formatting? Share it. Twitter is also for supporting your colleagues. Congratulate someone on their new release. If someone has a question, and you just read a book about it, let them know! Twitter has it set up now that tweets pop in your feed from people whom you do not follow. They did this to broaden your horizons and help you find more people to connect with. Don’t be annoyed by it! Use it to find your next Critique Partner or Beta Reader. If you need something, would you rather be able to ask 200 people, or 10K? Build up your account. Spread out your reach.

i#followFriday (2)Twitter is like being at a gigantic party! Grab a drink and say hello to everyone. You may not exchange business cards with every person you meet, but you never know when you’re going to make a connection. Or know someone who knows someone who can help you. It only takes a moment to follow back a living, breathing writer.

Do not insist on engagement. Twitter isn’t made to be a small group of people, your profile open to the public, and anyone can enter.

If you want privacy, switch over to Facebook and start a small writer’s group there. Share resources, tips and editing, vent. You’ll be happier.

I adore tweeting with people. Maybe I’ll only tweet with them once or twice and they’ll slip away, but that doesn’t mean they’re gone for good. They’ll pop back up one day, and then I’ll be the one to say hi.

And I’ll just make one last point before I go–you’re a part of Writer Twitter. Doesn’t that mean you’re supposed to be, oh I don’t know, writing? Insisting on engagement isn’t fair to the people on Twitter who spend the bulk of their time either working their day job, taking care of kids, and in the little time they have left, writing. Don’t punish your connections for doing what you should be doing, too.

Come say hi to me on Twitter and tell me what you think! I’ll see you there!

 

Happy writing Vania Margene

Genre-hopping: Why writers do it and should they?

Writers need to genre-hop. We need to explore what we like to write and how we want to write it.

I genre-hopped. I stayed within romance, but I explored romantic fantasy and erotica. I explored enough that I knew I didn’t want to write them anymore–and that is the whole point of genre-hopping. I settled into contemporary romance, and that’s where I’ll stay.

But say you want to build your writing career, actually make some money selling your books. It’s important to your customers they know what they are getting when they think of your name. Like what Stephen King is to horror, or what Danielle Steele is to romance, you want to build your brand on your name and be consistent with what you’re selling.

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Do readers really know what they are getting when they buy one of your books?

I remember clicking on a romance author on Amazon. I can’t remember her name, and I wouldn’t call her out anyway, but she had several books published. When I went through them, though, some were written in first-person, some in third. Some in present tense, some in past. Maybe you like her third person past books, but when she releases a new book or if you try to read through her backlist, you may not always like what you buy. Maybe then you don’t read it, or you slog through it because you spent money on it and you don’t want it to go to waste.

Is this how you want your readers to feel about your work?

I started thinking about this because I wondered how the big names do it. How did Stephenie Meyer go from the Twilight series to The Host to The Chemist? Was it seamless for her because adults read Twilight, so her adult fiction wasn’t a departure from her original work? Or did she lose millions of readers because the teenagers enamored by Edward and Bella had no use for her adult fiction?

Is genre-hopping like jumping from a cliff--career suicide_

Photo by nour c on Unsplash

I think about Nora Roberts, too. She writes under a pen name as well, but under Nora Roberts, she writes contemporary romance with maybe a bit of paranormal or magic thrown in. She’s well known for her trilogies, and she has many contemporary standalones to her credit. But her newest release under her name is a post-apocalyptic called Year One. Does Nora have a big enough audience that they will read whatever she writes, or will she lose readers who are not interested in a new genre? Would she have been better off releasing this new book, which is the first in a trilogy, under a new pen name? I guess until reviews and sales numbers come in (there are a few 1-star reviews that indicate that some readers aren’t happy she took a detour), we won’t know. I admire her for spreading her writing wings and trying something new, and by now, maybe she doesn’t care if her career takes a ding because she took a chance.

No matter how much I preach you have to write with your reader in mind, you still have to like what you’re writing.

There are other reasons for genre-hopping, but you have to decide if it’s right for your brand:

1. Maybe the genre you write in is dead or not selling. Trends come and go, and if you can quickly write a book and publish it, perhaps you can ride the high of the next new thing.

2. You’ve depleted your ideas. Maybe you have no choice because if you didn’t genre-hop, you wouldn’t be able to write anymore.

3. Maybe a complete plot fell into your head, and you don’t want to waste the idea.

4. You have an opportunity to collaborate with an up-and-coming author in a different genre, and you are excited by the chance of exposure.

One of the problems I see indies having is they aren’t thinking about their books as abusiness for authors business. Joanna Penn, on a podcast I listened to a while back, said her Business for Authors book is her poorest selling book and she can’t understand why. I know why–because indies don’t like to think of their books as a business (yet they are quick to pout when their books don’t sell).

Think of this analogy: Say you have a favorite chocolate store; you go there all the time. You know the owner, you love the chocolate. But one day you take the time to drive there, and they don’t sell chocolate anymore. The store is full of baseball cards. You get disgusted, not to mention confused AF, and leave.

Do you go back? Maybe once to see if they started selling chocolate again, but when you find out that they haven’t, you won’t go back.

Or maybe you want your books to be like a flea market. Something for everyone. Or will you end up with nothing for no one? You never know what you’ll find at a flea market.

I used to be super against genre-hopping, and for my brand, I still am. I want to be known for contemporary romance written in the third person. When I use the pre-order feature, I want my readers to get excited that I have a new book being released because they’ll know exactly what kind of book it will be.

I don’t want my readers to look at my pre-order like it’s a white elephant sale.

If you decide to genre-hop and publish under your name, you’ll have to market it differently, and you’ll have to be prepared for readers to be unhappy if they inadvertently read something they didn’t mean to. Take this comment from this blog post:

blog comment

Her reluctance to use a pen name is costing her reviews. Well, one, but maybe more in the future. Where do you cross the line between knowing you need a pen name, or not to genre hop, and when to keep going? You would think that readers would be able to tell between racy and sweet by looking at the covers, reading the blurbs. But on the same token, don’t you want everyone who likes you to read everything you ever write?

Unfortunately, I paid for the ISBN numbers for the genre-hopping books I published. Maybe one day I’ll yank them because as my backlist grows, they will not fit into my library. It’s the price I’ll have to pay for not thinking ahead, or for experimenting and actually publishing them.

Maybe you won’t care, and that’s okay. We all do what we need to do to achieve our goals.

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Where do you want your book business to go?

So think where you want to be in five years, in ten. How will your genre-hopping fit into your plans?

It’s never too early to plan–or do damage control.

Do you have thoughts on genre-hopping and pen names? Let me know!

Other articles about genre-hopping:

Genre Glue

Thinking About Writing in Multiple Genres? Here’s What You Need to Know

The Pros and Cons of Switching Genres — Guest: Summerita Rhayne

Happy writing Vania Margene

Write Naked: A Bestseller’s Secrets to Writing Romance & Navigating the Path to Success by Jennifer Probst–A book review

Every writer could use a guidebook, a map, perhaps a mentor who can say, “If it were me I do this.”

I read Write Naked: A Bestseller’s Secrets to Writing Romance & Navigating the Path to Success last year, but as a series of book reviews I’m starting for my blog, I pulled it out again and reread some of my favorite chapters.write naked

In Write Naked, Jennifer Probst takes you through from the beginning of her career, when she didn’t think she would make it, to present time, when indeed she has made it, evidence being she’s able to add best-selling author after her name.

It’s gratifying to know that even a best-selling author has fears, flaws, and has made mistakes, but being she has made it to the other side, she also gives us tips and tricks to overcome our fears and if you really want this thing called a writing career, what to do to achieve it.

Some of my favorite chapters include:

Chapter 4
Green With Envy
Jennifer acknowledges that yes, writing is a community, but that community is steeped in jealousy, cruelty, and fear. I see it on Twitter. I read it in a poor book review by another author, sometimes even a malicious review. I see it in the passive-aggressive interactions between me and my other writer friends. Pretty soon you don’t know whom to trust, who really is happy for you and your success. Jennifer writes a chapter on this–a very honest and forthcoming chapter. She says on page 34 of the paperback  . . .  “jealousy . . .  is an endless vicious cycle.” Don’t let it consume you; there will always be someone doing better than you, and you will always be doing better than someone else.

Chapter 5
The Write Path
1. You’ll make mistakes. Costly mistakes.
2. Overnight success is never overnight.
3. Once you reach the top, there is nowhere to go but down.

This may seem like a downer of a chapter, and perhaps it is. Jennifer reminds you that a writer’s journey is tough. There is a reason why writing is compared to running a marathon or climbing a mountain. Your journey takes a ton of preparation–years of writing, years of learning the craft, refining your work. It takes many books. One foot in front of the other for years. Then what do you do when you reach the top of the mountain? When you bury a flagpole in the summit and can call yourself a success? You climb down and do it all over again.

Chapter 8
Trademarks of Bestselling Authors
There are no shortcuts. Sit down, do the work. But what is the work? Jennifer, along with other romance authors, gives you an idea of what it takes to get where they are. This chapter includes writing advice, networking tips, and thinking about writing as a career, not a hobby.

Chapter 12
The Indie Revolution
Jennifer did publish as an indie author, and she gives her readers a few tips on how to publish a good book. You may not like what she has to say, but all of her advice has merit. Probably the biggest takeaway from this chapter is indies need to remember they are writing for readers. You want and need them to like your books. Publish accordingly.

Toward the end of the book, say the last third or fourth, Jennifer goes into what makes a romance book an addicting read. Snappy first lines, lovable characters. Setting up and delivering on a hook, keeping up the sexual tension, keeping your middle from sagging. She touches very briefly on all these and more, so if you think you have any of these issues in your own writing, find other craft books to study with, because these chapters tell you what I know many don’t want to hear – write a good book and keep reader expectations in mind as you write. As with any genre, there are tropes and rules you must follow, or all you’ll do is make your reader mad, and that could result in a bad review.

Jennifer’s last chapter is Happy Endings. She coaches you on how to end your book on the best note possible. But finishing one book isn’t the end! There will always be another book to write, another mountain to climb, another race to run.

Jennifer-Probst-2-1Jennifer won her gold medal, and she tries for another every time she sits down to write.

I recommend reading this book in its entirety, and I pull it out every now and again for a pick-me-up or a reality check.

You can find it on Amazon here.

Thanks for reading! Do you have any books from authors you like to read that give you tips or a much-needed reality check? Let me know!

 

Happy writing Vania Margene