Once a Romance Writer

IMG_4778It’s not a bad thing to say that once you are labeled a romance writer, you will always be a romance writer. It’s just true. At least for me. No matter what I write. I’m okay with that label. I’m okay with the multicultural label too. At least it’s a bigger box.

I was on Amazon a lot yesterday because I had a Book Bub ad and was checking on my rankings obsessively. I noticed that all my categories except for “Best Sellers” (My book is #335 on that list this morning) have romance at the beginning of the ranking line, despite Book Bub slotting me into crime fiction, where I think it is better suited. Anyway, on Amazon, my numbers look like this:

#3 in Books > Romance > Multicultural

#5 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Romance > Multicultural & Interracial

#25 in Books > Romance > Romantic Suspense

Those were my rankings about 10 pm last night EST. Amazon is three hours behind us in Seattle, so it would have been 7 pm there. I wanted to stay up to see if the book ever got to #1 but I’d had a glass or three of celebratory wine and just couldn’t make it. (I have no idea if you can retro-check something like that; if you know, please tell me!)

Another new thing I noticed this morning on Amazon is my “Author Rank.” I don’t know if I ever had one before or if the number was too high to mention, but this morning it is #56 in Romantic suspense , #57 in Suspense #61 in Mystery & Suspense.

I am not a numbers person and I don’t do well with analytics and charts and things. I am not sure what any of it means, not precisely, but in general I think it’s all good. When my book first came out I was #onebilliontrillion in the “best seller” category, and into the thousands in other categories, so a lot of progress has been made.

Writing this post has made me look a little more closely at my rankings and I now see that not all of them call me a romance writer. Those Author Ranks only mention it once out of five labels. The categories are four romance and four other labels. And really, I don’t mind any label. IRL I am an extremely romantic person. I love a good love story and absolutely insist on having Whole Lotta Love in my marriage. My husband likes Led Zeppelin so it works out for us.

Even when I set out to write a book with NO ROMANCE, it still gets in there somewhere in the plot. I’m in very early stages of writing my next book, set in St Pete, and so far there is no romance. I deliberately made the female lead 20 years older than the male lead, who is in love with someone else who does not love him, and for good reason. But like I said it’s early days in the new book and I said the same thing at the start of Lily White in Detroit.  

A wise writer once told me that labels and categories are useful to publishers, booksellers, and agents. Not so much for writers. Gotta say, I agree.

Audible Update

I’ve signed the contracts for my five TWRP titles to become audio books. My publisher has also signed the contracts, making us partners with Amazon in this audio book adventure. There’s a little more for me to do. I need to fill out a Spec Sheet–details like do I prefer a male or female to voice my book and choosing a short passage from each book for the narrator to read as a demo. The demo(s) will then be sent to me so I can get a feel of whether the recording artist is a good fit. After I agree to the narrator, that’s it on my end until the book is recorded. Amazon handles all of those details.

The excerpts I send are important; they should convey not only the tone of the book, but also give an idea of genre and plot. Audible has a staff of recording artists and the artists  choose which books they’ll narrate based on these snippets. TWRP has many authors, and lots of us want to do this deal. So the narrators will have plenty of choices. The Spec Sheets are a little like an audition for me and my work. It’s important I get them right and not rush. I do tend to rush paperwork that relates to my books; I always feel if I’m not writing fiction (or the blog) it’s more business than pleasure. And I’ve never been a fan of the business end of writing.

My TWRP books, except Blue Heaven, which is under exclusive contract to Kindle books, are available widely on the internet. They’re all on Smashwords and Nook and every other e-reader retail outlet. But the audios will only be available on Amazon. This is because TWRP and Amazon have done a deal together that makes it very lovely for TWRP authors. TWRP is a small boutique publisher and they are almost entirely about e-books. Yes, they have print editions,  but they do these mainly as a courtesy to their authors, and have no print distribution. TWRP authors hand-sell their print editions at conferences, book festivals, and brick and mortar bookstores.

About the money, I pay nothing for this new perk. I receive royalties that are in line with what I’m paid for e-books. Another question some authors ask is “Can I narrate my own books?” and the answer is maybe, if you have a home recording studio. In my view, this work is best left to the professionals. The last thing I will do before my books become available in audio is to listen to each of the entire books, I’m thinking of it as an ear edit, and it’s my job to note any mistakes so that the book will be perfect for paying customers.

Eventually my publisher would like to pursue audio books for other venues but that’s down the line a bit. I understand from all the recent discussion on our author chat board  that recording audio books is a very pricey deal. If an indie author wants to do this, it would cost them anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars. Which is why the Amazon contract is a sweet deal.

 

Early Release!

BlueHeaven_w7796_300

When I was in junior high, I tried out for cheerleading. No matter that I couldn’t see and refused to wear glasses so there would be no way to learn any of the cheer footwork since feet were fuzzy and too far away. No matter that I’d never turned a cartwheel or done anything athletic in my life. I jumped in and did it. And I failed. When I saw what the other girls could do–human pyramids!– I understood that cheer was not something I could join in order to learn. It was something that needed previous practice. So girls who had parents that took them to classes before they tried out, or even just girls who went out and hunted down someone, an older sister, a neighbor,  to train them, were in and I was out.

I have a new challenge ahead, and like every challenge I face, I’m reminded of why I failed at cheerleading try-outs. I was not prepared. I also thought I was clumsy, just a natural clod, until I started yoga many years ago. Through yoga practice I learned headstands and plows and half moons. I learned balance and loved it. So when I have a new challenge I also think of yoga and what I can do. So, I felt both fear and elation when I learned that Blue Heaven is going to be released this Friday exclusively on Amazon.

All the hard work of writing, when you don’t want to, when you’ve revised to death, when you’re unhappy with sales and think “Is this really worth it?” It is. And the way I feel right now is why. Fizzy with happiness. Elation mixed with fear. What if my book sinks without notice? So many books do now since indie publishing has gained tremendous momentum in our popular culture. How to stand out? How to sell?

This “early release exclusive” is a marketing ploy; I’ve used some of the tricks before, when I was on my own and didn’t have the savvy of a publisher and super media consultant. I cannot wait to see the results this time! There are a couple of steps to this extended release. First step is Friday. I can feel myself at the keyboard all day saying “Hey!! Look at me!! I published a book!!” Hmmm. Maybe I should apologize for being obnoxious up front. Maybe during my cartwheels, I’ll fall right on my tush.

Marketing does not come easy or naturally to me. Some folks have it and some of us don’t. But I’m going to try for my little book. Books are like pets or children in that you will go places you absolutely fear to ensure their happiness and health. And healthy sales bring happiness. So, watch me as I try to do this thing called marketing. No cartwheels necessary.