It’s hard to believe that it’s coming up on the one year anniversary of the release of Silenced. I joked that after writing The Intoxicated Books, I didn’t plan on writing another series for quite some time, claiming a serious series hangover.
In all honesty, it was more of an author hangover.
I’ve never been a mainstream author, shirking most of the popular conventions of the self-publishing industry and more or less doing whatever the hell I want. I’m good with the fact that I’ll never win any popularity contests, and I’ve embraced that. You may have noticed that by taking a quick peek at my cover art, which lacks the usual hallmarks of almost kissing lovers or bare chested specimens of hotness. Or you flipped to the first page and realized that each book in the series began with a poem – never again on that one, because my poetry days are over.
With that in mind, I didn’t pay for advertising for the release of my fifth book. I quietly distributed it to some trusted friends and blogger types, and sat back and sort of disappeared. My work was done, and I had lots of other things to attend to.
The past year of my life has been largely spent living in a sort of dream world. Sure, there were some difficulties along the way, but by and large everything has changed for the better. Since I’ve been away, I’ve relocated to beautiful North Carolina, where we had the windows open in January. My husband and I built the house I had admired online from six hundred miles away, and now I get to live in it. And I also scored on the working from home front simply by becoming a trailing spouse. Life is good.
I’ve largely been an observer in the writing community for the past twelve months, and what I’ve seen doesn’t exactly fill my heart with joy. There’s a lot of negativity and anger on both sides of the equation. Readers are complaining about pricing, cliffhangers, series being too long or too short, you name it. Authors are upset about exposure, sales, reviews, whatever. The foul smell that has risen from the depths of social media in general has permeated what used to be my happy place, and I don’t like it.
While both sides have some valid points, every time I open up Facebook or Twitter, it seems like all the content I see is depressing instead of uplifting. True, life isn’t ever going to be perfect, but it seems like by and large we are forgetting what brought us to this party to begin with. Books. Characters. Stories that keep you reading way past your bedtime. Plots that stick with you long after the last page has been read.
Readers love to consume them. Authors love to create them. Right?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I am extremely blessed that I don’t have to do this for a living. I have a fabulous job that pays the bills. Writing is fun for me. While I take it way too seriously to consider it my hobby, it’s not responsible for paying my mortgage, or my electric bill, or for my groceries. If I don’t feel like writing for a weekend, or a month, or a year, I just don’t.
Case in point: Chasing Echo was started over a year ago, so a preview could be included at the end of Silenced. I’d originally planned to release it in December of last year, but that didn’t happen. I’ve tinkered with it off and on over the past few months, but it’s really only about halfway done. So I pushed the release date back to September 2017, because I can. No big deal. No pressure.
I realize that I’m lucky to be able to do that. I know there’s plenty of other authors out there who have a strict release schedule, and a decision like that just wouldn’t fly. I’ve seen apologies posted on Facebook for books being delayed a couple of weeks – like writers are afraid that they’ll lose their fan bases if they don’t deliver on what was probably an unrealistic goal in the first place.
Nobody said a damn word when I changed the release date for Chasing Echo, even though it was already up for preorder at most retailers. Of course, since I didn’t publicize that purchase links were live, no one probably knew. I didn’t receive any hate mail, or lose any followers, or have anyone give me any grief.
I can’t imagine what it would have been like for me if my income depended on my writing. If by not making my original release date, I wouldn’t have been able to pay for Christmas presents, or put gas in my car, or so many other things. I’m so glad I never have to find that out.
Realistically, even though by some people’s accounts, I’m successful at this writing gig, I know for me it’s never going to be something that I can do full time. I’ve grown accustomed to a certain lifestyle that is in part supported by my 9-6. I would have to consistently sell tens of thousands of books annually in order to replace that income, and that’s never, ever, going to happen. I don’t see myself selling tens of thousands of books total before I die, and I’m only thirty-eight. I hope I have a lot of time left to keep writing and keep selling.
So my take away from all this as I re-enter the fold is to keep doing this thing that I love. To keep creating on whatever timeline feels right, and not worry about what impact it has on the bottom line. For me, there is no bottom line, and there won’t ever be.
I began writing when I was young, much like the cliched story that most of us author types tell. It took me until 2012 to have the guts to actually do it for others to potentially read. But ultimately, I do this for myself. Somehow, I’m fortunate enough to have amassed a readership, however small, because of it.
So my promise to you is that I’ll keep doing it my way. The positive way. The way that my stories and my characters deserve. And I can assure you, what you’ll get will be something worth waiting for.
Tonight I finished writing Silenced .
As with any of my previous four books, coming to the end of a novel is always a double-edged sword. A feeling of accomplishment mixed with a bit of sadness that this story is over and these characters that have grown throughout the course of the book are sailing off into the sunset one last time.
As most of you know, this is the fifth and final installment of The Intoxicated Books, so for me this is a big deal. Most of these characters have been a figment of my imagination for about twenty years, and however silly it sounds, I’ll kind of miss writing for them.
My goal was to finish writing the book sometime in November. I’d say that wrapping things up on the first of the month pretty much shattered that goal. I wanted to have a finished – but not perfect – manuscript when I uploaded the preorder to Amazon. And to be honest with you, I wouldn’t be embarrassed if this version I just finished went live. I’m a pretty clean writer, and my final copy never looks that different from the rough draft.
Admittedly, I have an unorthodox approach to publishing. I’m of the rare breed that likes to finish very early, read it once, then set it aside for a while and start writing on the next book. About a month after the first read through, I go back and read again to make any other changes. My sideloaded mobi copy gets highlighted and notated, then I go back to the Word doc and change the real thing.
I usually have ARCs ready well in advance. Not that many people care about them, but I do have four or so people in my back pocket who will read and review for me. Once that’s done, I focus my attention on formatting the print copy and of course, writing the next book.
This time will be different. I’ve already decided that I won’t be doing a massive release day rollout, or a preorder event, or a blog tour, because I don’t really feel like I’ve benefited from them in the past. In fact, my paid marketing tactics for book four left me so upset that I seriously thought about erasing the entire novel (which I loved), cancelling the preorder and never releasing it to the public. With that horrible aftertaste in my mouth, I can’t treat any future books in that same manner. I have a couple marketing ideas that I’m tossing around, but nothing set in stone. Whatever I do end up doing will be controlled entirely by me and distributed by me, because I’ve learned it’s a good idea to trust only myself.
And in addition to me embarking on writing completely different characters, I’m doing something else unprecedented shortly.
I’m taking a break from writing romance.
Chasing Echo is by no means a romance book, but it’s definitely a love story of sorts. However, I’m categorizing it as Contemporary Literary Fiction. I can’t even realistically call it Women’s Fiction, because it will be told entirely from the viewpoint of the male character.
Because I think ahead, the next two books on my plate after that will more than likely be Women’s Fiction, and that will mean that I won’t be writing anything of the Romance genre for at least a good two years. Maybe longer, because I have some pretty decent concepts for Chick Lit tales as well.
Why? I’m tired of sex.
I’ve always been an outsider in the Romance genre, because my series has been notoriously difficult to categorize. People looking for an alpha male, mommy porn novel are bored to death. People looking for a clean romance are turned off by my foul language. And The Intoxicated Books are probably the closest things to romance that I’ll ever write. I do have a very loose concept for a new romance series, but that will be very, very far off, if in fact it develops into something more.
I’m having so much fun coming up with ideas for standalones that the thought of being bogged down in another series doesn’t appeal to me at this point. I’ve blown my series wad with these characters, and I can’t imagine anyone else taking their place.
Like I’ve said many times before, I write for selfish reasons. I don’t write what sells, but some people end up buying it anyway. I write stories that I want to read, tales that I don’t feel have been done before in the way that I can do them. And true to life, most of what I write does have romantic elements. Relationships permeate your entire life – for good or bad. And I think that comes across in what I create.
But the idea of writing full on romance, or even masquerading like I do, feels like a lie. And the only thing I’ve wanted to do during this journey is be true to myself.
I’ve been away for awhile.
During my respite from blogging, I’ve actually been living out my author dream pretty well. Just like the words of wisdom that I read from some other blogger sometime quite long ago, many authors start to hit their stride somewhere around the fourth or fifth book. I’ve found mine and it’s a beautiful feeling. For some reason, it’s the sweet spot and if you’re doing things right, by that point you should be pleased with your sales figures. If you’re not, it’s time to re-evaluate what it is you’re writing and how you’re promoting yourself.
I’ve always been a genre bender. I’ve always had difficulty categorizing what exactly the hell it is that I write. It’s easier to list off what I don’t: paranormal, historical, fantasy, sci-fi. For The Intoxicated Books, I settled on classifying them as contemporary romance.
But I’ve always known they were different. They don’t fall into the typical romance book mold, even though there’s plenty of falling in and out of love. But there’s humor and heartache and family drama too. And there are definitely some romance buzzwords that don’t show up in my writing, though I certainly am not afraid of the F-bomb. As such, readers looking for a cookie cutter alpha male story with hot, hot sex aren’t going to be impressed. That’s perfectly fine.
That’s part of the reason that I decided to market Book 5 in the series in a completely different way, if at all. It’s something that has been brewing in the back of my head since the debacle that was the release of Book 4. The moment that I realized without question that I didn’t fit in where I had placed myself. The moment that I realized that I didn’t want to play the competition game. The moment that I decided it wasn’t fair to myself to pay someone else for a marketing campaign that left me in tears and wanting to cancel the entire damn thing. Though Book 4 is quite arguably my favorite in the series (but I say that about all of them when I write them), for a few weeks I absolutely hated it and regretted ever writing anything.
Marketing your books shouldn’t make you feel like total hell.
So I stopped, and then the magic happened.
Of course, there is always room for improvement, and no one ever sells as many copies as they ultimately dream of. But my expectations are reasonable, and I’ve always been very clear that I do this on an extremely part time basis. I don’t spam book links to various social media accounts, nor do I even post everywhere frequently. Yet most days, I get paid sales on at least one platform. Sometimes I get more paid sales than free downloads. And I realize that by accomplishing this, I’m doing better than a large percentage of self-publishers. I’m not greedy; I’m humbled that I have found repeat readers. Readers who get hooked on the first book, who maybe did pick it up as a perma-free, and who dutifully come back and purchase the remaining books in the series. I’ve even gotten preorders for Book 5, which doesn’t come out until February, simply by having it available at most retailers already.
And you know me. I am always thinking ahead. Book 5 is over halfway done on the laptop, but complete in my head and I’ve moved on from those characters. They write themselves for me, after having been with them for the better part of twenty years.
I was sitting on ideas for about 7 standalone books, along with a very basic concept for another series. They range in flavor from chick lit to steamy romance, but never to the point of erotica. I might read it, but I don’t see myself writing it. And considering that I will have to start writing one of them to put a teaser chapter at the end of Book 5 before it goes live, I knew I needed to make a decision on which figment of my imagination was going to come next. I had almost decided on one of them; the one most fully formed with a title, tagline, entire plot and a cover vision.
Then Tuesday happened and another brand new idea took precedence. In the span of twenty-four hours, I had all of the above plus character names and a half-assed blurb jangling around in my brain. I was writing scenes and dialogue, envisioning the beginning of the book in my screenplay-esque way. And I knew without a doubt that it would be the next book going up for sale.
Guess what? It’s not a romance. Sure, there will be romantic elements. But this will be dark and depressing, a haunting novel that will hopefully stick with readers much the same as it’s consumed my thoughts lately. It’s the story that I feel I need to tell next, genre be damned.
Call it women’s fiction, or literary fiction, or whatever you’d like. And take the plunge with me if you want to. For I don’t write for sales, I write for myself. And maybe I’ve found that being a little off and unpopular is exactly where I want to be.
If you’re really observant, you’ll catch the title here, hiding somewhere on this blog. But that’s all I’m ready to say at this point.