When Do You Recommend Your Friends’ Books?

The indie writing community is very tight-knit. Make one of us mad, we all get mad. I think Faleena Hopkins figured that out quick enough. We support each other; we help each other. We do free things for each other: cover help; editing; beta reading.

We even do some naughty stuff like review trading.

We tweet each other’s books.

Lately, there have been a couple of people asking for book recommendations from indie authors. They want to start a list on their website, or they want to start reviewing indie books.

There were lots of tweets, as you can imagine.

And there was something that surprised me, but I guess it shouldn’t have. Someone was recommending books they haven’t read. How do I know this? For one, I know she doesn’t read indie. Two, she’s a very picky writer, and I don’t think she would have recommended these books had she read them. (That is a polite way of saying they could have used more editing.)

This made me do one of my super researching techniques: I ran a poll on Twitter. While the participant number was low, the results still stunned me.

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I’m trying to figure this out because this bothers me.

Why would you recommend a book to someone if you haven’t read it? Would you walk into a bookstore, grab any old book off the shelf, and tell your friend it was fabulous and a must-read? Of course not.

This seems to be an indie-only thing, like not full-justifying your margins in your books when you format or adding your cover designer to the book’s contributors when you publish. Indies start stuff traditionally published authors don’t do. And the more indie authors do it, the more it becomes acceptable and the more newbie authors do it.

Of course I want to support my friends. But we all know indie writers don’t read that much. We might beta read, or be a critique partner, and that’s fine. It’s a little different in that I would assume the published book is different from a draft a beta or CP read. But at least you know the gist of the story, know if the book has proper punctuation and grammar.

At least you know the story makes sense.

But what are you doing to your own credibility if you recommend a book to someone you haven’t read and that someone takes you seriously? What if that someone takes a peek at the look inside on Amazon. What if that book has no established POV, or doesn’t have a good hook (AKA boring as f*ck)? What if the formatting is messed up, or has typos in it? What if the first paragraph head-hops into five different heads?

There were a couple comments in that tweet thread that asked the question: Who doesn’t read their friends?

Well, quite a few if my own track record is anything to go by. I can count on one hand the number of my friends who have picked up Wherever He Goes and read it cover to cover.

And if you want to ask me what indies I’ve read in the past few months, I can say one. And it was someone I edited for back in February. Otherwise, I’m busy writing or reading craft books, or reading trad-pubbed romance books. I don’t read indie simply for the fact that most of my friends don’t write what I like to read–contemporary romance. And then another reason I don’t read indie much anymore is if they find out I’m reading their book, they expect a review. I won’t leave a bad indie review. I won’t do it. So I don’t want my friends to wonder where their review is because there won’t be one if I don’t like their book.

Given those reasons, I rarely recommend indie books on Twitter. I recommend how-to publishing books or marketing books. I recommend trad-pubbed books that do something well that could be used as an example to my fellow writers.

I think it’s great that we help our friends. But if we want to help our friends, we should do it in a different way. Pass along promo sites. Recommend books you’ve read on how to do proper Facebook ads or Amazon ads. Marketing your friends’ books is not your job.

Sure, I’m flattered when someone posts a picture of my book on Instagram, or tweets about it. (And yeah, less five people have done that for me anyway.) But I don’t expect it and I don’t ask. My readers aren’t on Twitter. They aren’t even following me on Instagram right now–I got sucked into the writing world there, too. {KT Daxon is a good one for this, and I have to give her credit where credit is due. She does a great job of promoting the books she reads, and she truly does read the books she says she does.}

I would only recommend books I’ve read. It’s honest.

And you want people to be able to trust you, not question your taste.

Not question how good your books are.

I know this blog post sounds like I don’t think indies can write and publish good books. That’s not the case. What I am saying is that some indie books could use more editing. And I understand why indies don’t. It’s expensive and time-consuming. Waiting for an editor to get back to you is like sitting on pins and needles, and then you have to put in all the edits once you get them back. A total edit could push your pub date back by several months. But let’s not pretend that indies aren’t impatient, and rushing to publish is a mistake a lot of indies make.

This reminds me of the trad-pubbed writing community. I’m exposed to a lot of YA on Twitter and Instagram. It seems like a lot of YA authors do read other YA authors and tweet about their books and support each other. Being trad-pubbed is like being in a club, and those authors have each other’s backs.

Romance writers are the same way:

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Here’s Brenda Novak reading Lori Foster for a book club Brenda is going to hold in her Facebook Author Group.

That’s real support. That’s real networking and collaboration.

There’s lot of bad things to say about the traditional publishing industry, but this isn’t one of them.

Let’s support our friends the right away.

Read the books you’re recommending. Because reading a book and having a discussion about the book with its author would mean a lot to the author, and a tweeted conversation about a plot twist or an evil character is true promotion.

Do you have any good reasons for recommending books you haven’t read? Let me know!

 

Blog book promo for the end of blog posts

 

I Did an Amazon Giveaway–and It Did Pretty Much Nothing

I was always curious about the Amazon giveaways–you know the cute little button at the bottom left of your books’ (or any products’ really) page. You have to scroll down pretty far to find it–after reviews and two sets of sponsored product ad strips.

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You can give away paperback or Kindle versions, and it’s obviously cheaper to give away Kindle versions. Amazon makes you pay for your book, so if you gave away paperbacks, you’d be paying the price you set in CreateSpace or KDP Print, plus shipping.  There’s no shipping with Kindle files, but there is tax. So make sure you’re looking at the correct page, and Amazon tells you which version you’re giving away–it’s in the blue to the right of your book’s cover.

Choose your number of prizes:

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I’ll give away three Kindle file copies. I did five when I did my giveaway for Wherever He Goes, so I feel like I’ve already spent money on something that probably won’t do anything for me.

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Add your photo. I chose a different pose of my author photo that I use everywhere else, but I still look like me.

The next part is where I royally screwed up because I had no idea giveaways ran that quickly, or that people would enter, or maybe I just didn’t understand the stats of a giveaway like this.

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I did the recommend Lucky Number Instant Winner, and I chose 100 for the lucky number for the winning entry.

This is what it says if you click on LEARN MORE:

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My giveaway lasted fifteen minutes. So When I chose 5 prizes along with the 100 entrants,  500 people entered my giveaway and every 100th entrant won a copy of my book. The fact that it only too 15 minutes for my giveaway to end blows my mind.  So will be going with a higher number next time.

And then, of course, I have them follow me on Amazon.

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I made it public of course, because the more the merrier.

To recap, I’m doing 3 copies of Don’t Run Away. I have the number of entrants set at 200 per prize so 600 people have to enter to win three copies. They all have to follow me on Amazon.

You would think this would be a great thing. But the thing is, most people enter giveaways just to enter giveaways. That is what they do. Just for the rush of winning, I’m assuming.

I don’t think this giveaway is going to go any slower than my other one, but we’ll see.

Click on no for not offering discounts, then click next.

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This is the last page, and it’s laughable. It’s probably where my high expectations came in. The giveaway will end in 7 days? Yeah right.

Then you get your shopping cart screen and you purchase your giveaway. I didn’t screenshot that because you don’t need to see my stuff. After you buy it, you get this:

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And you’re all set.

You get an email when your giveaway is live, and for me, fifteen minutes later, I got an email saying my giveaway was over.

Amazon doesn’t tell you how many followers you have, but at some point, hopefully when they email your followers when you release a new book, that some of them will buy it.

Don’t turn blue holding your breath.

While I was typing this up, my giveaway went live–I got the email.

We’ll see how long it takes for the giveaway to end . . . . go get something to eat. I’ll wait.

At any rate, did the giveaway for Wherever He Goes do anything for me?

Not really that I could tell. At least with my AMS ads, even with little results, those are still measurable. These giveaways seem like a waste of time and a waste of money.

Maybe I’ll do a Goodreads giveaway when my new book comes out.

It will be something to blog about anyway.

Did you have a good experience with an Amazon Giveaway? Let me know!

Blog book promo for the end of blog posts

 

 

Can You Please Stop Saying Your Work Sucks? What if Someone Believes You?

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You would think writers would love their work. We sit for hours and hours holding pencil or pen to paper, or sitting in front of our laptops, or holding a microphone to our mouths weaving plot and character together to hopefully create story.

Yet, writers are first to degrade their own work so completely that if you listened to every word they said, you’d fully believe your kitten could do better.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

I don’t mean insecurity, or doubts while you’re writing. We all have those. We should have those. We all have more to learn and we need to stay open to new ideas. Thinking you’re the best will close your mind.

Mainly, what I’m talking about is Twitter behavior in the #amwriting community. And perhaps this isn’t such a big deal. But writers have to remember Twitter is still a public forum. Do you want a potential reader to stumble upon your handle, excitedly look through your tweets only to find you bashing your own work?

Of course not.

But we do it.

I’ve seen it enough times by authors that, no, I won’t spend money on their books. Why should I waste money on a book when its own author says it’s crap? They would know, wouldn’t they?

Why do writers hate on their own work publicly? I have a few ideas:

  1. They do it to fit in.
    The #amwriting community is full of doubt, insecurity, and competition. We need allies in this writing war. Why stand out when you can blend in? You don’t want to alienate anyone by actually being proud of you what you’re writing. Blend in or get out. No one wants to be your friend if you know what you’re doing and like it.
  2. You need sympathy and people to commiserate with you.
    There’s nothing more boosting to your ego than if you tweet that you just wrote twenty-five pages of crap and have ten people pat you on your virtual back and say, “You did not! Read it in the morning and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.” Or, “I just deleted two chapters of sludge. Here’s a hug and shot of whiskey [insert whiskey GIF here].” Uplifting. Encouraging. You’re not suffering alone.  Well done.
  3. You want to put your work down first.
    Say all the bad things before anyone else can. Beat them to the punch. There’s nothing better than posting a snippet with an “I know this is bad, but I’m tweeting it anyway” warning label. Besides, you know it’s not that great, even if you did rewrite it five times before you tweeted it.
  4. You’re not going to brag because what if you think it’s good, but it really does suck?
    There’s nothing worse than saying you are super proud of your work, and then later finding out it’s only sub-par. Too many filler words. You tried to be too flowery, so WTF does your line even mean? Better to admit it’s crap because really, your betas and editor will tell you it is anyway.

The thing is, at some point, you have to be proud of your work. You have to be. Or you wouldn’t query, submit to contests, or publish. Very few authors honestly look at their work, say, “This is crap,” and while believing it, still click publish.

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So if you have pride in your work, why not say so? Maybe your excitement will boost someone else. Maybe your enthusiasm will open a door. You could be invited to participate in an anthology, or an agent who is thinking of signing you will be charmed by the simple joy you have in your projects.

Why sabotage your writing career?

We all have doubts but find a trusted friend and vent offline. Not everything belongs in a tweet.

Stop saying you hate your work.

Because you don’t. If you really did, you would stop writing.

And we all know you don’t want to do that.

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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.

Beach Reads Giveaway Coming Soon!

Super fun beach reads giveaway!

 

Even though I said I wouldn’t do many giveaways anymore, it’s SUMMER and that means an opportunity to do a beach reads giveaway!

Let’s break out the beach towels, hit the beach, or the pool, or even the backyard and the sprinkler, and pull out those books while you bake out your brains and try to banish those hold-over winter blues!

I’m in the process of putting together a fabulous giveaway. Need a beach towel–I’ve got you covered. Hypo-allergenic sunscreen? Check! Pool-safe beverage container? Check! Cooler? Check! And most importantly, books.

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Did someone say SHARK????

Lots and lots of books!

I’ve got my fellow author friends sending me books–all the books! And that means an awesome assortment for you to try your luck at winning.

Mystery/thriller, Women’s Fiction, Romantic Tragedy, and Contemporary Romance are just a few of the genres that will be included in the giveaway!

I’ll post a link soon, so keep an eye out for more information!

Until then, enjoy the weather, and keep reading!

 

 

 

Photos by Unsplash

 

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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Writing to Market vs. Chasing a Trend

I talk about writing to market all the time. To the indie writing community, there seems to be something fundamentally wrong with a writer who sits down at their computer, looks at their WIP, and says, “Who would want to read this besides me?”

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As James Scott Bell phrases in his book Just Write: “Without readers, a writer has no career.” Of course, writers write for more than just money, but if you’re reading my blog, you probably want to sell some of your stories. And that means writing what people like to read.

Writing to market is primarily writing popular commercial fiction. Nora Roberts, Stephen King, Dan Brown. Tom Clancy. They sell books by the truckload. Every book they write ends up selling thousands of copies. There are other writers who write commercial fiction too, like most big romance writers who don’t always make the list: Lisa Marie Rice, Susan Mallery, Kristin Higgins, Brenda Novak, Laurell K Hamilton. They write consistently what people consistently read. They don’t vary because something is popular. In other words, they don’t chase trends.

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It used to be a writer was warned off chasing a trend because traditional publishing moves too slowly for that to work.

When Twilight was popular, if you wanted to jump onto Stephenie Meyer’s coattails with a traditional book deal, it would have been almost impossible. First, you have to actually write the book. Then you have to find an agent, and she has to shop you around. If she succeeds, then your book is stuck in the publishing process that moves slower than my kids getting dressed for school.

Sometimes movies can draw out the popularity of a trend. Like with 50 Shades of Grey, there were a couple authors I know of that managed to get in on the action, though if it was just timing, or a thought out plan, I guess we won’t know. Sylvia Day wrote The Crossfire quartet, and Jennifer Probst lucked out with the Marriage Bargain. (An experience she shares in Write Naked.)

And sometimes that can backfire. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was glad when Fifty Shades Freed, the movie, was released, and that trilogy could be put to bed. Literally and figuratively. If people are sick of a trend, it’s far too late to try to get in on it.

But with self-publishing, if you can crank out a book in 3 months, and publish it, you could very well get in on a trend before it dies.

Is that a bad thing? I’m going to express an unpopular opinion and say no. Why not? If grip – lit is still going strong and you can write a good book in that vein, why not try?

Trend chasing isn’t evil. But I say that with a couple of caveats.

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1. You can’t build an audience that way. The writers who make it, or seem to be making a go of it, remain consistent in their writing. If you want to chase a trend and can spare the time, maybe write in a pen name.

2. You still have to love what you’re writing. People think when a writer writes to market they don’t love their work, that they are just chasing the almighty dollar. To find a foothold in the industry you need an extensive backlist, and the only way to create one is to stick with it for however long that takes. And that means loving what you write. If you love the trend you’re chasing by all means. But if werewolves are trending, and you hate them, don’t bother. Which leads me to a third caveat:

3. You need to be familiar with the genre so you can hit all the tropes. If werewolves are trending, but you’ve never read them, don’t think you can write them. You’ll disappoint your readers who do know the genre and will be upset they spent their money on your book.

So, chasing a trend isn’t a cop-out. If you can plan it into your writing schedule, if you have a great idea that could potentially be published before the trend fades, why not? What is trending now? It seems like women’s fiction, mystery-driven domestic (family/wife/children) pop up on the list.

As for something sweeping the world by storm, such as Twilight, The Hunger Games, or The Girl on the Train, sometimes all it boils down to is the lucky timing of when the book was published. Ruth Ware, who wrote The Woman in Cabin 10 and The Lying Game, seems to be doing okay. But I wouldn’t accuse her of chasing a trend. Perhaps just lucky, because she’d written a few books before The Woman in Cabin 10 made her a household name.

There is a difference between writing to market and chasing a trend. I write straight up contemporary romance. Tropes, plots, and characters like those will never date themselves. For now, I’m not interested in chasing trends. Mainly because if I missed the mark, that’s time wasted on a book that won’t sell. I’d rather invest my time in books for my backlist that will never go out of style.

You are in control of your own career. Chase a trend, write to market, write that thing that’s weird, but you can’t stop thinking about it. We all have different variations of success, and you have to be honest with yourself about what those are. Only you know what will make you happy. Good luck!

 

Happy writing Vania Margene

 

Why authors shouldn’t chase trends

On Chasing Trends…. And why you should just write the book you want to write…