Happy Monday! It’s Labor Day in the US, and most people have off work. I have Mondays and Tuesdays off, and today I’ll be catching up on chores. I finished editing my Bridgeport Trilogy (I don’t think that’s going to be the name of it, but I haven’t thought of anything better) and book three is off with a beta reader (S. J. Cairns, and I did an author interview with her earlier this year). I did more pantsing with that book than others in the past, so I just wanted to be sure the little mystery and plot twists made sense. After I get it back and put in any suggestions if she has any, I’ll listen to them and package them up. Book One is 76k, Book Two is 77k, and Book Three is 81k as it wraps up the trilogy. I’m happy with these and can’t wait to get them out in January!
Against my better judgement, I published the paperback of Rescue Me so I can list it with BookSprout for a couple of reviews. I paid the $9.00 to offer one book a month (which is fine–that’s all I’ll need anyway) and after KDP approves the paperback I’ll put it up for reviews. Per their help page, they don’t recommend having your ebook in KU while it’s listed for reviews, so I’m going to stick with the ebook publication date of October 1st. The readers who grab a copy shouldn’t need a whole month, but I know they’re reading more than just my book too, so I don’t want to rush anyone.
I probably should have done this with my duet, but I was hoping running ads and mentioning my book in my newsletter would help with reviews. I’ve been selling slowly primarily running Amazon ads. Since its publication in June, Captivated by Her has sold 5 ebooks, 3 paperbacks, and has had 10,736 page reads which is the equivalent of 26 Kindle books sold. Not extraordinary, but next month after the ebook version of Rescue Me releases, I’ll use a couple of free days in Select and buy a promo. I’ll have three books out by then and hopefully not only will I start to create a buzz, I’ll earn my fee back.
I understand it’s a very slow process, and I’m okay with that. I admit that I’d rather write than do anything else, and since June I’ve been busy writing my trilogy. I already know what I want to write next, it’s only a matter of how long I can hold off the urge to sit down and get to work. I am also very much wanting to write a duet that will go with these covers, but no plot means no writing, so we’ll see what happens.
But I also need to read my six-book series because I’ll start publishing them after my trilogy in January. I wrote them in 2020, so I need to stop stalling and just get them out there. I have the proofs for them, and reading them all in printed form for typos is the last thing I need to do before publishing.
There was lots and lots and lots of discourse when it came to Ali Hazelwood’s interview on the Goodreads site last week. Tropification of romance novels has been a sore subject for a long time, and I don’t think that’s ever going to change. Ali admitted that her agent suggested tropes and she wrote a book around those tropes. Personally, I don’t see what the fuss is about. Ali’s background came from writing fanfic, where characters and their backstories already exist. She didn’t know how to write a novel from the ground up, and her agent, who discovered her through her fan fiction (not unlike EL James) kind of talked her through it. I’m still struggling to figure out what the big deal is. Her agent obviously saw her writing potential and that’s why she signed Ali in the first place, but apparently Ali not knowing how to craft a novel rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, since, I guess, there are thousands of writers out there who do know how to write a book without handholding.
I see there are two different issues here–1) Ali was signed without the blood sweat and tears that usually accompanies querying, and 2) not that she was told what tropes to write, but that romance books are more than the tropes they’re made of and being that she admitted she didn’t know how to write a book from scratch, this caused a lot of outcry.
We can tackle the first one easily enough, and boil that outrage down to plain old jealousy. I’d never resent someone success of that nature: Ali, EL, Brandon Sanderson and his KickerStarter triumph as examples, because there’s usually a lot of groundwork being laid that we don’t know about (it’s the same as being an “overnight success” which never happens overnight). I’ve never read Ali’s fan fiction but she must have been popular, EL James already had the buzz and the traffic she earned simply writing a story readers like to read, and for years Brandon has been writing and cultivating an audience that would pay for his books. How anyone can be jealous of that is beyond me. Put in the work, reap the rewards. It’s the same as these bigger indies who worked hard, put their books out, hustled for newsletter subscribers all so Montlake (Amazon’s romance imprint) could approach them and pick them up. Am I going to be jealous of that? No. Am I going to work hard so it happens to me? Damned straight.
The other point about the tropes, I guess I can see the concern. Romance books are more than the tropes they’re built around, and when you focus on tropes to describe your book, you’re not telling a potential reader anything more about the plot. Sure, your book could be enemies to lovers, but why are they enemies? Why do they turn into lovers?
While I have built my pen name around tropes because they are easier to sell and because let’s face it, knowing your tropes and the whys of your characters’ motivations makes it a lot easier to write a book (a fact Ali’s agent knew), twisting that trope is part of the fun. In the first book of my trilogy, the trope is a baby for the billionaire. He hires his personal assistant to surrogate, but in all of the 76 thousands words, she doesn’t get pregnant. I didn’t make that the focus of the book. The real focus is why he needed to hire someone (hello, backstory) and her signing on the dotted line to spend time
sleeping with him hoping to get him to fall in love with her. It honestly didn’t occur to me to let her get pregnant. His family issues were a lot more important to me, and they carried over to his sister who has her own book.
This trope stuff is made even worse by the subtitles we’re pressured to add to our ebooks on Amazon and like I said before in a previous blog post, all the qualifiers we’re encouraged to add to a blurb to ensure the “right” reader buys our books so they don’t leave a bad, or even worse, lukewarm, review is simply maddening in a amusing and bemusing way, of course.
“Author’s Note: This book contains a billionaire possessive alpha-hole and steamy scenes.”
“Full-length enemies-to-lovers office romance with slow-burn sizzle. Witness one commanding single dad become so enchanted with the hellion he can’t stand that he’ll do everything to keep her forever.”
“Twisted Love is a contemporary brother’s best friend/grumpy sunshine romance. It’s book one in the Twisted series but can be read as a standalone.”
“Grumpy vs. sunshine on steroids. This book is packed with banter, red-hot heat, and lots of dog-sized bow ties.”
It didn’t take long to find books with the summarization sentence at the bottom of the blurbs for these books. They are written by popular authors, so they know what they’re doing. I don’t do this. I don’t do this! I always forget. Should I be? Probably! Is there a lesson here? Probably! It took me long enough to add a hooky line and put that at the top in bold, a marketing strategy that has been adopted by every author on the planet at this point.
But then I have some books that just don’t have a trope. I mean, friends to lovers can encompass any kind of romance book, really, and says absolutely nothing about anything. And that’s how the second book in my trilogy is. The third book is the same. Second chance. That also could mean anything.
So the takeaway I got from all this is, you still need a damned good blurb to sell books. If your blurb is too vague because you’re scared to give too much away, or it’s confusing because you didn’t ask for some feedback, you’re not going to sell book no matter how many tropes you cram into the subtitle field of your ebook when you publish. Your cover also needs to convey what genre you’re writing in and wanting your readers to buy, and Amazon’s ads guidelines make this damned difficult, let me tell you. That I add steamy anywhere I can to make it clear I have sex in my books is imperative because I can’t add sexy manchest to my covers and think I can run ads. I can’t. Until I start selling by name and reputation alone, I will need ads. Need them. The meagre sales I’ve gotten so far on my duet are solely from Amazon ads because I haven’t advertised my book anywhere else. And God forbid someone who hates sex in their books reads my billionaire romances because he’s fully dressed thinking I have sex off the page. That is the fastest way for any author to get bad reviews. So.
I understand how difficult it is to try to steer readers toward your book if you think they’ll like it, but also AWAY from your book if you think they won’t. Readers need more than tropes though. They need plot, fully rounded out characters. Natural dialogue. Juicy backstory. Throwing a bunch of tropes at them is only half the job.
Apparently this all started with BookTok, a place I haven’t visited. They’re going crazy over tropes, but that’s easy to explain. It’s the fastest way to describe a book. So, use a trope to grab a reader’s attention, but use your cover and blurb to reel them in the rest of the way.
Want to read some more articles about this:? Look here. Thanks for reading, and if you’re in the US, enjoy the holiday!
Book Tropes that Every BookToker Secretly Loves – BookTok Favorites
MY FAVORITE BOOKTOK BOOK TROPES by MARIANA BASTIAS
BookTok is feeling romantic by Meera Navlakha