Tag Archive | publishing trends

When Your Novel Is More Than Just A Story

“Write to market”, they said. “Your books will sell better”, they said.

Most of the time, that’s good advice. I took it to heart when writing my latest contemporary romance series, the Love Grows series. However, I did have some reservations. They were concerning, even though they were more rhetorical than factual.
• Would a story written to fit a certain genre feel contrived?
• Would “hitting the buttons” or the “checklist” of a genre or trend suck all the creativity out of the story?
• Did I risk targeting a trend that has already passed?

Such are the burning questions which keep authors from sleeping.

Despite my initial reservations with “writing to market”, once I started writing, I found I was able to compose stories that I enjoyed while still targeting a specific audience.

The Love Grows Series

My approach was to take a popular trope- billionaire romance- and put my own twist to it. What could it hurt to try? If I hated writing it, or it fizzled upon release, the experience would provide valuable information. It would be a lesson learned. I’d write the best book I could, with a targeted cover and blurb, and niche-focused marketing.

In January 2019, I released the first book in the Love Grows series, Not So Broken. Creating the perfect title had eluded me at first. All the possibilities were either too on the nose, or too vague. My editor actually commented on a great line in the book, “perhaps I was not so broken, after all”, and I knew I had my title.

Oddly enough, that sparked the titles for the next two books, Not So Wrong, and Not So Far. Which proved to me that creativity can indeed flow within a framework, especially if you’ve some experience at writing fiction. Not So Broken was my fifth book, so I had the general plot structure and process down before I started writing a word.

To my great surprise, the book was well received. Based on the feedback, I’d “hit all the points” expected of the genre. And I’d fallen in love with the story in the process.

Not So Wrong

When I crafted the second book in the series, Not So Wrong, I took a secondary character from Not So Broken and gave her the spotlight. It so happened that Melanie Parker was a singer, which I had just thrown in when she appeared in the first book. Her profession became the central theme and conflict of the story, which I had not planned out previously.

The hero, her love interest, had also appeared briefly in the first book. Spencer Colebank was introduced as an annoying cousin, who was suspected of scheming to take over the family business. I don’t know why I chose him, of all people, to woo free-spirited Melanie. But I sensed there was much more to him than was shown on the surface, and the challenge of redeeming him intrigued me.
Boy, was I in for a surprise! He turned out to be as strong a hero as Gibson was in Not So Broken, but in a different way. He was all business on the outside, sucking up to his uncle (who is his boss) and trying to please everyone. When alone, he drank scotch and played piano. He was a musician at heart, and a chunk of painful baggage had dragged him down so far he thought he’d never get up again.

Meeting Melanie was the spark that brought him back to life, and to his first love, music. She encouraged him to pursue his passion, while she had all but given up on hers. Her family needed her, and she was plain tired of trying to find success with her band, Sparker. How they resolved these issues, confronted their pasts, and figured out a future together, was the story.

The Value of Creating

But it was so much more than a boy-meets-girl romance. As I said in the dedication, this book was a tribute to all the musicians, artists, and writers who sacrifice in large and small ways to bring beauty to the world. In an era where creativity is highly prized but at the same time, almost completely devalued, that’s a significant statement.

The creative arts can be a hobby, or a job, but either way, it involves giving a piece of your soul to the world. The internet has made creative works in all their forms plentiful, but that in no way lessons the value of efforts of the creators. The sense of abundant opportunity has made many creatives work even harder than they ever would before. The sad thing is, when there is more opportunity, there is also more competition vying for those opportunities. Which makes it increasingly harder to be noticed. Thus, the price of art, photos, music, literature, etc., goes down as hopefuls offer discounts and freebies in order to gain the attention of an audience, and ultimately, be able to afford to keep creating.

Not So Wrong was at heart, about the salvation of music and the sacrifices the characters were willing to make to keep creating it. Whether they were rich or not, they had the same desires, and the same struggles.

Themes Matter

The first book, Not So Broken, also dealt with larger themes–single parenthood, career vs. family, and loss. Those are universal concepts. Not So Wrong deals with the struggle to be your true self, and the sacrifices and compromises often necessary to make your dreams come true.

These are the themes that go way beyond the meet cute and the hopping in bed. All the flirting, romantic moments, and hot passion still serve to bring the characters closer, and by doing so, they eventually fulfill those larger goals.

Recently, a very vocal critic of the romance genre (we’ll never run out of those, it seems) called romance authors “literary prostitutes”. Blanket statements like that have to be taken with a grain of, or maybe a rock of, salt. One reason why romance readers are so voracious, (fueling a billion-dollar industry) is these books make them feel good.

And quite often, there’s more than just a cute love story between the pages, even if the book is “written to market”.

Here’s a sample scene from Not So Wrong:

Suddenly he was on the floor in front of me, kneeling. He took both of my hands in his and looked into my eyes. My heart skipped a beat. What was he going to say now?

“Melanie, you keep saying we’re so different, but we’re really not. Music saved my life, too. Piano lessons were a gift from my mother, her legacy to me. Later, when my world shattered, when I thought there would never again be any joy in my life, music kept me going. To share that personal salvation with someone else is a miracle. You understand me, and I understand you. That’s priceless. That’s something my money could never buy.”

Hot tears sprang from my eyes. I blinked them back, not wanting to cry in front of him. He was right; we had a deep understanding that connected us. I’d felt it that first night at the party when we played music together. Even before we confessed our deepest secrets, we knew them.

© Renee Regent, 2019

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Do Debut Authors Really Have A Chance In Today’s Market?

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“The E-Book Goldrush Is Over.” “The Market Is Saturated.” “There Is A Tsunami of Crap on the Internet.”

There’s doom and gloom in the world of publishing lately. Articles and blog posts, forums and feeds all dissecting the state of the industry, and for the most part, it’s not pretty.

What’s Happening

Many authors, Indie and Traditional, report declining sales. The average price of books has dropped as well, which means more units must be sold to make the same income as in prior years. Competition has increased as self-publishing has exploded, and established authors also republish their backlist as e-books online. Even the classics are being republished as e-books, now listed for .99 a pop.

Sure, the Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy stands to rake in a bajillion bucks, but that is a phenomenon unto itself. Unless you happen to have the next mega hit (and how would you know in advance? Are you psychic?), is it worth even trying to break into today’s crowded market?

How can a newbie hope to get noticed, as one tiny drop in an ocean of content?

Trends Are Changing Rapidly

There is about as much advice out there as there are authors trying to get noticed. But with everything (new technology, algorithms, buyer’s habits, the next hot social media site, etc.) changing so rapidly, by the time you read an article the advice may be outdated. The volume of books and authors trying to get noticed is so great that as soon as a trend begins, it becomes oversaturated to the point of being ridiculous. A recent case in point- how many box sets are being offered right now? Probably more than any of us could read in a lifetime! 16 books for .99? I understand the strategy behind it, but when the market is flooded with bundles the strategy may soon become ineffective.

Becoming a published author has always been a difficult road. For a short time, it seemed that self-publishing online was the answer to the prayers of unpublished authors everywhere.

And perhaps it still is. But even if you have written the next literary masterpiece or popular mega-hit, you still have to find ways to initially get your work discovered. And traditional publishing isn’t much easier. Often publishers expect the author to do most of the marketing, and the window for discoverability (time on the bookstore shelf) is very short.

There are only so many readers, and they can only read so much, as Guest Host Dario Ciriello deftly explored in this recent Fiction University Blog post.

 

What Seems To Be Working Right Now

From what I have read the debut authors who have a decent chance today, assuming their work is professional quality, and they have a media platform and marketing strategy in place, are those that are incredibly prolific, churning our several books a year. Target numbers vary, but at least 4-12 or more (including novellas and short stories). The consensus is that having a volume of titles available creates more of a following, as binge readers can feast on a constant supply of titles. Turning out a new title every 30-60 days is almost required to get noticed, gain traction and build a fan base. Kristin Lamb wrote an excellent post recently that hones in on why “binge watching” has become so popular, and it seems to happening with readers, as well.

That kind of schedule is simply out of reach for many of us. So what can you do if you are not a high-producing author?

Slowly building a following still works well for some authors, especially if they write for a niche market.   So if you aren’t prolific or a fast producer, you can still have a successful career. Just be prepared for a marathon, not a sprint.

Should A New Writer Even Try?

So if you are new, and it is taking a while to get something ready to launch, can you even hope to have a chance by the time you are ready? Won’t the market be even more crowded by then?

It is entirely possible. But, just like the lottery, if you don’t play, your chance of winning is zero.

If you love writing, take your craft seriously, and spend the time and money to make your work the best it can be, why not take a chance?

You will never know what can happen, unless you try.

Anne R. Allen posted an article recently on this very subject with excellent suggestions on marketing for new writers in today’s turbulent world of publishing. If you get discouraged, as I sometimes do, look around to other authors who have been through the ups and downs, the cycles of the industry. There is always something you can do to move forward.

The upside is– there has never been a better time to be a writer. Even with all the changes, and the gloomy market out there, at least now new authors have options. Today it is easier than ever to get the help you need to succeed, too.

So, yes, despite the Chicken Littles who say the publishing sky is falling, I say give it a shot. As the saying goes, “The truth is sometimes stranger than fiction”.   Make your own truth!