This week has been a search for where I went wrong.
I read another essay by a financially successful author who writes what's kindly called "monster porn." In short, his advice is to write prolifically, bundle stories together, and publish frequently. His stories run 5,000 - 8,000 words. Mine typically run well over 100,000 words. Mmm, methinks frequent output isn't going to happen.
However, the essence is that the author has to have a fairly large body of work out before the royalties amount to anything much. These days, that's sage advice. There are hundreds of thousands of books published and available just through Amazon. An author's go to build a body of work just to build a fan base or any name recognition.
I'm working on it, damn it.
This week I added pages to Tiger in the Snow, the sequel to The Barbary Lion. It should be almost finished. I never intended it to be anything more than novella length. (Yeah, yeah, we all know the destination to which the road paved with intentions goes.) Anyway, that got me thinking again why I was even bothering writing a sequel to a story that has received poor reviews and why the story has done so poorly.
Over the past few weeks, I've seen promotional blitzes for romance novels that wallow in hardcore BDSM, Stockholm Syndrome, and abuse. If the prevalence of those promotions is any indication, those books are doing quite well. I don't understand it, though, because I don't find humiliation and degradation romantic. Maybe I'm just weird.
But The Barbary Lion does have a bit of that. The hero's arrogant beyond belief--hey, he's 1600 years old and was once a king--wealthy, and the complete male chauvinist. He's also a lion shifter and he's lonely. The heroine is "everywoman" and goes to Italy for a dream vacation. The hero recognizes her as his mate, takes her captive, and generally doesn't treat her very nicely. But his treatment of her doesn't involve beatings or the like--that I don't do in my books.
The heroine is different from the other women in those other books. She doesn't identify with her captor. She schemes. She escapes, damn it, and she maintains her freedom for a good, long time. Our hero's bestial alter ego prevents him from chasing after her, so he hires a hunter whom our heroine outwits and event shoots to escape. Of course, she's found once and for all. This is a romance, after all, with a happily ever after ending.
But she doesn't just sigh, bat her eyes, and fall into step behind her lord and master. She haggles with him, negotiates her rights and privileges. Because the hero's a man of his word, he'll not renege on that agreement that brings her back into his life and, actually, saves it.
In my mind, that's better. We have a heroine who isn't a spineless doormat and a hero who learns regret and consideration for others. Not a bad deal. So why the poor reviews?
Perhaps the lousy cover is part of it. Granted, the book's cover is not my best work. This week I spent several hours coming up with a new cover that's a definite improvement. If nothing else, an attractive cover should help increase sales. I set up a 3-day giveaway--Oct. 29 thru 31-- for the book, asking for reviews. (I cannot in good conscience ask people to read and review and then also expect them to pay for the book.) Let's hope that works and that the reviews improved.
Fingers are crossed.
No, not my advice. I have little to give, except when it comes to proofreading.
The hard hitting advice comes from this little article: http://menwithpens.ca/make-money-writing/. This is where I want to be, the writer who makes a lucrative living from royalties and other payments received for writing content. It's a tough article; the author doesn't mince words. I fall short. It's honest and blunt. I appreciate that.
So, what am I doing about it?
Pending unemployment will open up time to write more, network more, promote more. It would be great to have a mentor who can take me by the hand and say, "Do this, that, and the other," while pointing me in the correction directions. I can do only so much by heeding written advice; having someone walk me through the process once or twice is much more helpful. I suspect I'm not the only person to whom that applies.
I write. I always have multiple manuscripts in progress. In fact, I started another one this week. Yep, it's in the romance genre (contemporary). But then, my mind doesn't hie off into mysteries or military action and adventure. I enjoy them, but I don't write them. I write to my strengths, to where my weird imagination takes me.
But the goal remains out of reach, so I continue to strive. It's a lesson in perseverance. The $10/month royalties can't support me. More books are needed. More (positive) reviews are needed to encourage more book sales. So much depends upon the good will and support of others that I almost wish for the old days of traditional publishing. Almost. Because without today's capacity for independent publishing, I wouldn't have six books out. I'd still be writing, but without the prospect of imminent publication.
So, here's the pitch. The beggar's plea. Please buy my books and refer the to others so they'll be encouraged to buy. Please leave reviews. I want candid reviews as much as I want positive reviews. Contact me if you have suggestions to improve my writing. Your suggestions might sting, but they'll be appreciated all the same. I do want to improve and, yes, I want to sell. The sooner I reach that goal of being able to support myself doing what I love to do, we'll all be a little less disgruntled. Well, I will. And maybe these posts won't be quite so cranky.
The end of August and early September were busy, busy, busy. I finished and published three books. And then my brain imploded. I've hardly written anything since.
I thought about ideas. None of the already-started manuscript beckoned, although I've been adding a few words here and there to Tiger in the Snow, the sequel to The Barbary Lion. I thought about going back to the more obscure fairy tales for a retelling or may an "after the fairy tale" type of story. Again, nothing appealed.
Then Robbie spoke to me. "Where's my story?" he demanded. This is Robbie, sith brother to Connor in The Dragon Wore a Kilt. Creativity sparked.
The spark's been feeble, though. There's a lot of worrying about the future going on, what with unemployment looming. That's another story, not for this blog. Suffice it to say, that my energies have been directed more toward finding a way to earn a decent income than to developing stories.
So last week, I posted a few outbursts on social media (Google Plus, Facebook).
1. A writer asked for editing of the prologue to his novel. I did and found many, many errors: punctuation errors, incorrect word usage, sloppy formatting, mixed tenses, historical inaccuracies, etc. After pointing out the first several instances of mixed tenses, I suggested he go back to the manuscript to fix them. "What's tense?" he asked me. Egad. Folks, if you're going to write for publication, learn the craft of writing first. I directed him to my favorite resource, the Harbrace College Manual.
2. My next rant came after reading a book in which the heroine exemplified the characteristics that most make my teeth itch: abysmal stubbornness and terminal stupidity. I can't stand heroines like that, especially when the author constantly writes "she's intelligent" into the content. Ugh.
3. My third rant concerned the cliche of the man-whore as hero. What is it about romances that heroes have to be handsome, wealthy (Look, Ma, there's a billionaire on every corner!), and a dedicated womanizer. What makes a woman think that a man-whore's past history of treating women like toilet tissue (something to be used once and discarded) will change just for her? Really, how many women, if meeting a man like that kind of "hero," would turn around and run for the hills?
I'll quit while I'm ahead. Check out my next special: Pure Iron will be offered November 1 - 7 at a discounted price of $1.99. It's a Kindle Countdown Deal. Buy the book, read it, leave a review. I'm hoping it will be a positive review.