You might be thinking that the subject of this blog post is a bit odd for me. Well, truth be told, it is. I had a family friend over the weekend after discovering that I wrote romance novels begin to question me. Why do you write romance? Do you write about your real relationship with your husband? Does your husband know you write smut? Do you want to be whipped or hit with a crop? She seemed to have a dozen questions that only came with the same response from her.
"So, you write explicit romance because you're unhappy in your marriage."
Just hold on a hot second. Never in any of my answers did I say I write romance because I am unhappy in my marriage. On the contrary, my husband and I have a very happy and fulfilling marriage, but that's honestly none of her business. It really shocked me, to say the least, that she would automatically assume it was my marriage that made me interested in romance novels. Why couldn't it be because I love a good love story or enjoy the journey of two broken people finding love again? It honestly just didn't make sense to me that she would be so offended at my choice in genre.
Fast forward two days later, I am still mulling over her assumptions. When did it become taboo to write or even read romance? Does everyone outside of the romance reader world automatically assume that every romance book is like Fifty Shades of Grey? Because I'd like to stop right here and debunk that assumption. Romance comes in all shapes and sizes from innocent, first loves to paranormal shifters in the midst of a clan war. Romance isn't just about graphic sex or BDSM, but the bringing together two people. If I sat down and counted all the genres of romance that I could think of, I'd have to borrow fingers from several more people. The romance genre is by far one of the widest range of reading genres out there. You can be whisked away in a dsyoptian world where loving someone outside of your clan isn't permitted or be seated on the back of some dirty talking bikers ride cruising down the highway. It's not just sex, but so many other emotions evolving into a passionate and caring relationship with one person. Well, sometimes more than one person if you like menage books, but again, there's a genre for everyone's tastes.
What about movies? Is it taboo to watch romance stories unfold on the big screen? How many of you binge watch television shows or movies to follow the romance story line? It's no different than reading about it in a book. The romance and the sex are all still there, but instead of reading it, you are watching being portrayed by actors in motion. It seems to me that romance is all around us in this world, but only romance novels seem to be targeted by naysayers. Which brings me back to the my original point.
When did reading romance novels become so taboo? Are we as people expected to forego reliving the feelings of falling in love all over again with fictional characters because we are romantically involved in real life? Why is reading about true love such a bad thing when our world is filled with cheating and deceitful vows? I don't know how many times this year I have seen family and friends who have been married for 15+ years divorce because their marriages went stale or their spouse cheated. We were put in this world for one sole purpose, to love. Reading romance inspires me to think outside of the box to keep my marriage alive. Every fictional couple makes my heart swell and reminds me why I feel the way I do about my husband. Sure, the settings and plots are far from my real life situation, but the emotions are all the same. While I'm not saying reading the dirty romance novels that I love so much is keeping my marriage a live, it certainly isn't hurting it.
I challenge those naysayers to try reading a romance novel and to see what I mean about the emotional connection flowing from the fictional characters into your real life. Love surrounds us all, and honestly, in a world where innocent people are murdered on a daily basis, I think we all need a little more love in our lives. Give it a try, and if you don't like it, I'll be happy enough knowing your tried.
COVID-19 is almost a dirty word at my house two weeks into the stay at home orders begin rolling out across the United States. It's been two weeks of alternative work schedules, my husband going from two jobs to none, and the madness churned to life outside at every single grocery store. Chaos incarnate has descended upon our entire country, and planet. We're fighting for our lives, to protect our families, and over all things... toilet paper because we've been tossed in a world full of fear and uncertainty as the positive case numbers been to skyrocket around us. Even going outside for essential goods and services seems a daunting task because there are some out there who are living like everything is normal, but it's not.
This experience was jarring at first, but we are coping. Just like everyone else. As 80s babies, we've never experienced being told by the government that we couldn't leave our homes aside from the occasional winter storm shutting the state down. Yet, here we are with no sports, no forms of the usual entertainment, everyone is wearing masks and gloves, and even a simple cough from someone standing behind you in the checkout line is enough to send shock waves of panic to anyone nearby. We are living in a medical war zone now. The normal rules no longer apply.
Hospitals are overrun with cases, low on essential supplies, and are forced to watch this disease steal lives away from otherwise healthy people. Laboratories are begging for test kits and able bodied workings to process them. The shelves at your local grocery store are bare because people are panic buying months of supplies. The elderly are shuttered inside of their homes from the outside and terrified to step outside for fear of contracting the virus.
We live in a state of perpetual fear now.
I am considered essential at my laboratory, and continue to work, but I do my best to spend as much time as I can working from home when able. At first, I was frustrated with that designation because I fall into the highest risk category being immune-compromised. How dare my company insist that I need to work? That feeling only lasted a day as I saw millions of Americans, friends, and family begin to be laid off without pay left and right. It's a blessing that I can still work, and that my company has stepped up to the plate to help collect and process COVID-19 tests over the last weeks. But, not everyone is so lucky.
My husband is the prime example. Both the school and the church are closed indefinitely, and while both have pledged to keep paying him from the time being, the threat of the loss of such a large chunk of our income is still out there the longer this goes on to the point he started working for a local grocery store last week to make sure we still have something coming in. But in doing so, he's has to distance himself to protect me from anything he might have been exposed to on the job. He's had to give up going to see our two new godsons born this week to protect them. People like my husband are sacrificing their entire lives to protect those they love because it's the only thing he can do in times like this.
For others, it's not such a heartwarming story. There are so many families out there that have gone from income to nothing in just a blink of an eye. They are terrified about how to feed their families and keep a roof over their head. The agencies that can provide such help are now overwhelmed with the number of calls coming in begging for relief, and help is hard to find with other agencies like churches now shuttered. Our world is crumbling around us, and these people need the most help.
Despite all of the negative, I have to hope that once the threat dissipates that our world will be forever changed in a positive way. That we as a country, and as a planet, can use the lessons we have learned to help future generations avoid such chaos. It is the idea that maybe we as a nation can stand together in support, after social distancing ends of course, and turn this train wreck around to reunite like we once did after 9/11 and the previous wars. Is it a pipe dream? Probably, but in a world of such uncertain times, hope is all that we can cling to until the world rights itself once again.
This week’s topic stems from a situation I found myself in recent months with a new author who’d asked me to read over their book before it published. I want to start off by saying that I do not even remotely consider myself an expert in the field of book publishing, but I have learned a lot within the last few years.
I’ll admit that I couldn’t finish the book because I was so distracted by the lack of editing and the choppy flow within the first 20% of the story. The book was desperately in need of a good editor and a good group of beta readers. Publishing your debut is very exciting and nerve-racking all at the same time, but there are some things you need to make sure that you’ve done before you click publish. Your debut will give your readers the first impression of your writing style and story-telling ability and in some cases could make or break you.
First impressions, in my opinion, are the most critical step to publishing more books. If your book is poorly edited, the time line is all wonky, and especially if your sentence structure hinders the flow, you may find yourself in hot water with your potential readers. Readers, especially those who are critical of grammar, may blast your book and place you on the never read again list based off of just one book. I think by following the things I have listed below that you can make your debut release as best as it can be.
1. Don’t rush your book.
Take your time writing your book and self-editing. You need to make sure that you have clearly led your characters where they want to do and not overly detailed the book. When you rush, you make mistakes like calling your character by two different names or switching the ages on characters mid-way through the book. Just take your time and write from your heart.
2. Don’t skimp on the editing
Most new authors have a very small or non-existent budget for their first book. But, editing should be your biggest expensive in writing. Just like point #1, if you rush and skimp on the editing, the readers will notice and your reviews will not be glowing. If you don’t rush on your release, you will have the time to save up for a good editor. I’d also advise trying to find beta readers who can pinpoint troublesome areas and help your story flow better. A secondary don’t for this topic is don’t let your friends edit unless they can be unbiased and brutal. You need those kind of readers to make sure your book is up to snuff. Grammar dictator friends are nice when you’re an author, but only if they tell you the truth about your book. Protecting your friendship and feelings is hard if you use a friend in this capacity, but honesty is truly the best policy.
3. Don’t ignore bad reviews.
Embrace the feedback. This is problem the hardest part of publishing after writing and editing. If you have thin skin and are easily hurt with negative words, I’m just going to come out and say that you may not be cut out for writing. You will get negative reviews and for some of those Goodreads reviewers, they will be demeaning and hurtful. But, it is what those reviewers say that should take precedence in writing your next book. If they talk about your editing, character development, overuse of certain words, or even timeline issues, you need to take those to heart when plotting your next book. If you see reviews like that from betas or ARC readers, you might consider pushing back your release to make sure you can make the necessary changes. Granted, of course, that you didn’t set-up a pre-order on Amazon. They may say out with the bad and in with the good for everyday life, but in book world, it’s completely the opposite. Embrace the bad and create the good.
1. Run your book through multiple betas and proofreaders
This! A hundred times, this! Every single person reads a book differently and notices different things. By finding a great group of beat readers and two good proofreaders on top of your editor will go a long way. I often run the unedited manuscript through my beta readers before sending it to my editor and even some times during the editing process. Before I send my final read through back, I always run it through one of my proofreaders and the other when I get the final copy back to make sure we caught everything. Having just one person fill every one of those rolls will lead to mistakes because you will honestly go blind to spotting errors after the second or third read-through. Every big time author has a team behind them and big or small, you need one of your own to make sure your book is as perfect as it can get.
2. Scour your timelines, ages, and names before publishing
I don’t know how many indie titles that I have read this year where this was a problem. A character would start off being in his mid-twenties only to jump to his early thirties within three or four chapters. Every time I start to write, especially when the book is in a series, I make out a timeline chart of character’s ages, the birth of their child, ages of their family members. Having this readily at my disposal makes the writing and plotting process easier for a new book. I also keep all of the old timeline charts and character profiles so that I do not have to spend weeks on end trying to re-work the previous books to get that information. I’d also suggest having a list of characters names so if you decide to bring side characters for a short time that you don’t end up with two or three Bob’s or Betty’s in the same series.
3. Research the market and pick a good release date
You’re probably wondering why I said good release date. There’s a reason I wrote it that way and it might shock you. Indie authors, especially new authors, need to research their genre market when picking a release date. Say you wrote a MC romance novel and you decide to publish is on a Tuesday in July. Chances are you book will not be seen because July is a big MC Romance release month because of the Sturgis motorcycle rally. Most MC authors will do a big release in July because of the rally. Tuesdays are also bad because every traditional published author releases their books on Tuesdays. Don’t believe me? Watch some of the big time blogs on a Tuesday and you will see what I mean.
As a debut author, you have to be smart about your release day. Other than Tuesdays, you need to avoid major holidays like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and New Year’s Eve. Not only will your pool of readers be smaller than normal for impulse purchases, but bloggers will be away with their families. By publishing on a holiday, you will lower the likelihood of your book being seen or promoted by a wide margin. Market Smarter, and you’ll sell more books.
This week's blog post will be all about how to promote your book! Promotion is key when you are trying to establish your foothold within your genre. I won't lie and say this is easy. Honestly, it is just about as hard or maybe even harder than actually writing your book. Successful promotion is how you get your book and your name out there to drum up sales and meet fans. Without promotion, your book sales are likely to stay low because just being on Amazon or Barnes and Noble will not get your book seen. In fact, Amazon will not promote your book until you have a minimum of 50 reviews! That seems daunting, doesn't it? It doesn't have to be, and the following points are why.
1. Promotion Begins Before Publication Day
I know, I know. You are thinking, "Avelyn, how do you promote a book if it's not released yet?" The answer to that question is simple and might surprise you. New authors who spend 6 months to a year promoting their book and creating their brand have a much higher success rate than authors who pop up out of nowhere and release a book. Promotion takes time and a lot of effort to be successful. Share your teasers in groups. Find a support group for authors on social media sites like Facebook and start building relationships with other authors. Do not understand the power of word of mouth and sharing on Facebook and twitter.
One big thing with promotion on social media that you need to watch out for is flooding the same group with the same stuff. Make a list of groups where you notice your promotions being liked, seen, or even shared and rotate the days you share. Also, having several images or graphics to use with your pre-order links or links to your author page keeps your promotion fresh and draws in new people. Please make sure the groups you are choosing to share don't have a "no promo or pimping" policy or you might end up being banned.
2. Don't Limit Yourself to Just Facebook
Using more than Facebook? Am I crazy? Yes. Yes, I am. With the new rules of Facebook, you are more likely to not be seen, blocked, or even banned than you are being seen. The algorithms of Facebook are now blocking pages and the ever-growing numbers of Facebook police reporters will kill you unless you expand your horizons. You would honestly be surprised by the sheer number of fans you can garner from sharing funny book nerd related memes on Instagram with your teasers and snippets or sharing funny book things on Pinterest. Just because they aren't as big as Facebook doesn't mean they can't be useful.
3. Goodreads or Badreads?
Ah, Goodreads. The book review website where swearing and vulgarity are legal and where critical reviewers lurk. Once a simple book nerd website with books and groups, Goodreads has turned into the hotbed of negativity when it comes to book reviewing. I would need several friends to join in if I counted on my hands of how many times a Goodreads reviewer made me cry. They are known to be brutal and you need to know that going in. HOWEVER, it is also a great place to meet readers and advertise your books. I highly recommend checking out book especially the monthly group readers. You may not find a winner every time you join a group, but there are some out there. Look for a group with rules, and several different topics for posting. Those are all good signs of being one of the good groups
Hopefully after reading this, you will feel more comfortable about promoting your books. Promotion is hard and a necessary evil in this business. If you skip it, you'll likely have a less than successful release.
Avelyn Paige is an Wall Street Journal and USA TODAY bestselling Motorcycle Romance author.