Distraught by indirect feedback by a potential agent or two, I ventured out into the world of self-publishing. I should also mentioned that I was encouraged by recent articles floating around about a young author who had become a millionaire by selling her ebooks for $.99. I needed to become a millionaire, too.
And hey, I wrote some books… some damn good books. So why couldn’t I achieve the same success?
Exactly the question I’m asking myself right now. Why couldn’t I achieve the same success? I may never truly know the answer. But I have a few ideas on what’s holding me back.
1. Time – I have a full-time job that doesn’t consist of creative writing, because let’s face it. I’m just not a millionaire yet, and I have bills to pay… But there simply are not enough hours in the day to do what all needs to be done to make a self-published book successful… but this is a pretty lame excuse. After all, the successful young author in the article doesn’t get 25 or 30 hours a day. She’s forced within the same time constraints.
2. Marketing – You’d think after working for ten years in marketing, this one wouldn’t be a problem for me. Well, you’d think that, but you’d be wrong. I was never good at marketing myself. And now, there are so many different avenues to take. I can offer free books or discounted books (and I do). I can tweet to my heart’s content (and I do). I can send out email newsletters and beg my friends to forward them on (done that). I can have book release parties (did this, too). I can have a web presence on Facebook, on my own personal domain, and on Word Press… but I can’t make people buy my books (<–see, haven’t done that). To date, I have probably gone through about 15 different Twitter campaigns. In those, I’ve probably thought of about 500 different 140-character descriptors that I’ve used to entice people to buy. I get clicks somehow, but rarely do people follow through with the sale. How does one ask for a sale on a website? I need to make an offer people couldn’t refuse. I thought I had by pricing my well-written, character-driven, emotional novels at $.99 each. But people still refuse that.
3. Genre Identity Crisis – My books don’t fit neatly into a certain genre. I think this one really hurts me more than anything else, but I simply don’t know how to rectify it. Is it a dramatic romance? Is it a romantic drama? Are those really genres, anyway? No, no and no. Romance readers have told me that they aren’t really romance books. But literary readers tell me there’s too much sex. So, um… I don’t know how to place them. I don’t know how to market them, in essence. I may think of people who will love the way the stories draw them into the characters lives… but those same people may be uncomfortable with the sex. And the people who read books for a little titillation might be disappointed with the amount of emotional drama they contain. I do believe there’s a market for these books. I just don’t think that the Bookstore Gods have created it yet.
4. Content – Let’s talk about sex (baby). I know some people are squeamish about this part. Someone once wrote in a review that the books had “graphic sex scenes” and I realized right then and there that people have varying degrees of acceptance for “love scenes,” as I prefer to call them. None of my characters ever have sex just to titillate a reader. Every single scene is integral to the story in some way. It’s either essential to the plot line, or important to character development. None of the scenes are gratuitous, though, and I don’t believe them to be graphic– or pornographic, as I’ve heard suggested. These books are for adults, admittedly. Adults are my audience. These books are about adult relationships that are common and real in our society today. The scenes are not dirty, and I don’t think they’re overly descriptive… and I tried to make them all tasteful. I don’t like using slang words (or clinical ones, either). I allude to as much as possible without using offensive words…
5. Language – …which brings us to offensive words. Do I say “f*ck” one too many times in the book? I don’t think so. I wrote it as my characters would say it. Anyone who reads the books would know that a) Nate used it quite often, as a lot of twenty-something men I know do; b) Emi used it when she was angry, typically, or frustrated; c) Jack used it once when she was caught off guard in a physical confrontation. It’s not an author just throwing the word out there for shock value, it helps the characters emote in a modern-day-way. The word– taboo as it is in our society– is still a valid word that people use to express different emotions. They’re four little letters– one letter different from the word “luck.” Why does one little letter make it so horrible? I’m not sure… in my world, it’s not that big a deal, but in the minds of many others, it’s too much. They’ve told me so. Some people can overlook it, some cannot. Would it sell better without the language? Honestly, I don’t want to find out. I’m not being stubborn, I’m just staying true to Nate and Emi. That being said, am I being “choosier” about the words in the next series? A smart author would say yes. And I’m a smart author.
Anyway, if anyone out there has some advice, I’m listening… because again, I’m a smart author, and I know I’ve got smart readers.