These past two weeks have seen both highs and lows in the form of book reviews. Triple Burn was released on April 15. In less than a week, it received its first review: 5 stars. Warm fuzzies all around! My heart went pitter-patter with joy. Ah, there's nothing like basking in praise.
The second week, the book received a negative review: 2 stars.
Wow, that stings!
The reviewer complained that the story did not end on an HEA (happily ever after) or HFN (happy for now), which is what the Romance Writers of America (RWA) require for a book to be categorized as a romance. Well, I'm not an RWA member, folks.
The review delivers a spoiler, too, which annoys me to no end. So, let's pick it apart.
The power imbalance. Most romance novels have a power imbalance, usually in the hero's favor. For instance, in Regency romances, a woman had no rights and, therefore, no more power nor privilege than her guardian(s) permitted. In BDSM romance (and I hesitate to call that romance), the heroine is almost always the submissive in the D/s relationship. So, according to this reviewer, it's OK if the heroine is restrained, beaten, humiliated, and otherwise hurt in BDSM--treatment that would have the ASPCA, HSUS, and law enforcement knocking at your door if you treated your dog like that. However, if the hero (multiple in my book) does his very best to preserve the heroine's dignity and make her happy, then the cultural power imbalance is somehow wrong.
I must be missing something.
The HEA/HFN requirement. Due to the review's spoiler, you know one of the heroes dies. That leaves two heroes alive and dedicated to our heroine's happiness. There's also an element of hope at the end. It's bittersweet, but not an absence of an HEA or HFN.
Let's face it, the heroes are warriors. They go into battle. There's good reason--explained in the story--as to why a warrior triad takes a mate, when the rest of the Uribern castes allot only two males to a female: because of the likelihood that one (or two) of them will die. The "extra" mate is needed to ensure the well-being of the female. In this story, the purpose of the triad becomes clear because that purpose manifests. It's an element of realism that the wife of every active duty soldier and law enforcement officer faces.
Finally, the Romance Writers of America specify that a story must end on an HEA or HFN to be considered a romance. Sure, they're the 800 lb. gorilla in the genre, but I'm not a member and I feel no particular obligation to adhere to their formula for the genre. In short, I don't write for them.
I strayed from the well-paved path. I deviated from the charted course. I went my own way. No one has to like what I write, but neither do I have to follow anyone's prescription or formula for a story.
At least the reviewer didn't complain the writing or editing sucked. Sometimes an author can't win for losing.
Reviewed by Long and Short Reviews
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Authors need not resist temptation, which makes writing stories so uniquely satisfying. That satisfaction includes the use of "real" people in fiction. Many authors gleefully kill off their schoolyard or office bullies in villains modeled after the people who make their lives miserable. Change the names to protect the guilty, but leave the rest the same and, voilà, one more demon vanquished. Of course that little bit in the front matter of the book that states, "This is a work of fiction," helps to mitigate the author's culpability should the real person upon which that villain is modeled recognize himself (or herself) in the story and take offense.
Real people appear in fiction all the time. Anyone familiar with Regency romances recognizes the name of Beau Brummell, once a friend to Prince Regent George who would become King George IV of England. Brummell rose to fame as an arbiter of men's fashion and held considerable influence over the fickle haute ton until he fled England in debt and disgrace. Royal and influential personages often feature in fiction, from France's Cardinal Richelieu who appeared in Alexandre Dumas' The Three Muskateers to English Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the USA's Daniel Boone.
The trick to using real people in fiction is to either disguise them or to ensure they have no descendants who care about that person's good name. By that measure, anyone who's been dead for at least four generations is probably fair game. Less than that, and you may face litigation from offended relatives who object to their ancestor being maligned or ridiculed. Relatives whose motive may be more greed than affront may seek to acquire a share of royalties earned from fiction that profits from the inclusion of their ancestor as a character.
Get your revenge. Off with their heads! But don't be too blatant.
A lengthy and increasingly unnerving interview lands Ursula a job as the event planner at a foreign embassy. Not until the government hustles her off to a different planet does she realize just how foreign that embassy is. When the U.S. ambassador hands over one of her coworkers during her first event as collateral to seal a trade agreement, Ursula breaks out of the embassy, determined to find a way back home before she, too, can be used as a bargaining chip in this world desperate for females.
What she doesn’t know as she navigates the unfamiliar streets of a totally alien culture and climate, is that she already caught the attention of a native warrior triad in a land where women are coddled and kept, yet prized above all else. They take her, elated to have obtained their collective heart's desire.
What they don’t know is how fiercely independent a woman from Earth can be. Disoriented, confused, and not a little angry at the way these three overbearing, dominant, sexy warriors take over her life, she wants to go home, but soon discovers this job was a one-way ticket courtesy of the United States government. If she can’t go back, she must go forward. Can she retain her identify and adapt to life on this new world with the three warriors who’ve claimed her as their mate? Is compromise possible between a woman used to controlling her own life and three warriors steeped in a culture that forbids it?
“Well, go on, Miss Cartwright. Up the ramp. The wormhole is open.”
“Miss Cartwright, you’re stalling.”
“You’ve been dishonest with me, Mr. Argosie. I never agreed to somewhere in outer space.”
The fat man frowned. “Miss Cartwright, you have two choices.”
The two soldiers drew pistols from the holsters at their hips and aimed them at her. Her eyes went wide with fright. Her sphincter clenched.
“You go through that portal or we kill you, because what you know cannot be divulged beyond this facility.”
“No one would believe me,” she muttered. “No matter. Make your choice now.”
Ursula swallowed the lump of fear clogging her throat and stepped forward, eyes locked on the black hole in the center of the room. Formed like an arched doorway, the gleaming metallic rim flashed with sparkles of sudden color like black opal. Her heels echoed in the nearly empty chamber as she trudged up the steel ramp toward an open doorway large enough for a Clydesdale to trot through. No sound penetrated the opening. She looked back over her shoulder. The grim expressions and leveled pistols convinced her to go forward. At least she had a chance of surviving by doing so.
She did not want to think there were worse things than death, but the thought occurred to her anyway.
She paused in front of the black void beyond the arched door frame and listened. No sound. She saw nothing. The world oubilette came to mind and she shuddered again. Ursula’s heart pounded as she crossed herself and whispered a quick prayer.
“Miss Cartwright, don’t make me push you through,” Mr. Argosie snapped with obvious impatience.
Ursula’s hand trembled with fear as she raised it with the intention of testing the portal with a finger, like dipping a toe into a pool to test the water. The empty blackness clamped down on her finger and sucked the rest of her through, her frightened yelp of surprise abruptly cut off before it could echo within the large, nearly empty room.
Flashes of color burst before her eyes and vanished as something squeezed her in its crushing grip and then spat her out. Frost rimed her exposed skin and she crumpled at the base of the portal, shivering uncontrollably.
“Quickly! Get her to the recovery room,” an authoritative, masculine voice ordered.
Hands grabbed her shoulders and legs and shifted her onto a stretcher. Ursula blinked, but could not focus her blurry vision. She whimpered when straps anchored her to the stretcher.
“Damn it,” the voice muttered as the loaded stretcher was hefted into the air and carried away. “I wish Argosie would better prepare new hires for the journey.”
Triple Burn came out last week. It already received one lovely review and a request for a sequel.
Sequel? I hadn't planned on that.
Looks like I'd best get cracking on the current work-in-progress and figure out what to write for a sequel.
I'm trying out different book promotion services in an effort to penetrate more deeply into the target market so people at least know my book(s) exist(s). Past efforts with Facebook ads had dismal results. Book tours, likewise, disappointed. Inclusion in Megabook Deals for Six Shots Each Gun and Hidden Gems Books for Bear of the Midnight Sun did not come close to breaking even with book sales; however, I might try them again with other titles.
I've come to accept that such promotion is a cost of business; marketing is necessary evil.
I've campaigned for reviews. Honest reviews. Thus far, reviews trend toward the positive which I hope continues. Every author holds that hope in common. Do the reviews translate into improved book sales or book ranking? I haven't noticed any discernible uptick, but one can always hope.
Keywords and key search terms are under review. My publicist, bless her, will do the heavy lifting there. She's the marketing expert. We hope that updating keywords and key phrases will make it easier for potential readers who enjoy the kind of fiction I write and search for it will find my books and, if I get lucky, take a chance on one.
My publicist has a plan in place. We tweak it, adjust to changing circumstances and trend reports. One pending adjustment will be new covers for the Russian Love series, which includes Russian Lullaby, Russian Gold, Russian Dawn, and Russian Pride. With the able assistance of someone who knows what she's doing, the new covers will conform to the current trend in cover design for mafia romances. Look for muscular, dangerous looking, smoking hot men who may or may not be wearing shirts.
Another fan wants me to continue that series.
I'm going to pull several poorly performing titles from Amazon exclusivity and "go wide" with them. That means they'll no longer be available as free reads with a Kindle Unlimited subscription--that requires exclusivity with Amazon--but other platforms like Barnes & Noble (Nook), Apple's iBooks, and Kobo will carry them. The process will take some time, as I must find another platform on which to publish them. Some of those books may receive new covers, too.
Publishing has become a process of adjustments. Maybe it was always like that.
Authors often appear to be money-grubbing manipulators. However, why is it so terrible to want to boost our book sales? An indie author puts uncounted hours into writing a story, pays an editor (or should pay an editor), and then countless more hours revising. Additional costs go into cover design and, for some, book formatting. Self-publishing with an eye toward a quality product incurs a hefty cost. Royalties present one way--the preferred way--to recoup that cost so it can be applied toward producing the next book and maybe with something left over.
So, what does an author earn? If we go by Amazon's general royalties, an author earns 35 percent of an e-book's purchase price. For a $0.99 book, that's $0.34 per copy sold.
Editing a 50,000-word book easily ranges from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars, depending upon the depth of editing needed, the number of rounds of editing performed, and the rate charged by the editor. Cover design covers a wide range, from cheap to exorbitant. Let's not even bother with formatting or the value of the author's time for this discussion. We'll "guesstimate" the cost to produce the hypothetical, 50,000-word book at $1,250.
The author must sell 3,677 copies of that e-book to break even on those costs--before taxes. Most authors never come close to recouping their investments.
Publishing a book is no get-rich-quick scheme. The competition overwhelms unknown or little known authors. Career or business coaches tout that publication of a book enhances their clients' credibility and authority. However, any author who publishes fiction knows that he or she cannot rest upon the laurels of the past book; another must always be in progress.
#HenHousePublishing #HollyBargoBooks #SpringfieldOHBookFair
Hard boiled, scrambled, over easy, and sunny side up: eggs are the musings of Holly Bargo, the pseudonym for the author.
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