You know when you have a bad case of heartburn and you lay down in bed, and it burns the hell out of your chest? You wonder if you’re having a heart attack, remembering if you had any tingling in your arms or not. You turn on your right side, then your left. You eat a graham cracker, which provides only momentary relief. You chew some tums, take an antacid, or swallow something stronger. These too only provide short-term relief because at the end of the day, you need to find out what the heck is causing the heartburn…
That’s what this blog post is like for me. It’s been sitting there, festering, eating away at me slowly. Despite several momentary lapses in my thinking, the idea still sits there, hammering away in my brain.
If I don’t put these thoughts out there, I will continue to be agitated to the core…so, here you go.
…Sometime in 2013, I wrote a piece on E.L. James and the Fifty Shades Trilogy (I would link to it, but I’ve taken my blog down since then). Anyway, I began to cover the book series from a mom-in-business perspective. Disclaimer: I and devoured all three books, and I would do it again. That being stated, I looked at James and her series from the perspective of creating a name/brand for oneself. Hot damn, Erica did that—whether you liked the subject matter or not doesn’t matter. Who the hell doesn’t know who E.L. James is?
Around the time I published this blog post, I was contacted by a producer for the Katie Couric show. We chatted about my theory. We talked some more on the idea of the trilogy spicing up bedrooms. I was invited on the show (I had to politely decline for an unrelated reason). Somewhere in there, I mentioned I always wanted to write a book and had been sketching out an idea for some time. Needless to say, this producer encouraged me to do just that. She loved my blog, had been following for some time, and liked my voice.
Flash forward to early 2014, book in hand, editing underway, and other decisions to be made. The notion of self-publishing appealed to me; I was a business woman too and wanted to control marketing and what-not. The biggest question was whether to use a pen name or not. At the time, I already ran a successful blog of my own, was syndicated on several other outlets, and had a pretty significant audience. If I had a quarter for every time I heard, “You should use a pen name and then you can self-promote without people knowing it’s you,” I could retire.
I AM NOT JOKING.
The notion of this felt like such a slap in the face. Did I have what it took to be that disingenuous? I consulted with several big-time blogging, writer colleagues, and decided honesty was the only path I could take.
Not long after that, I hit publish using my real name. It’s been a pretty vast journey since. Initially, there was a lot of money and success to be had…I found readers, hosted blog tours, started a newsletter, continued blogging and writing, and on & on.
Tough times fell on the Romance category. We don’t know the specific reason, more than likely many factors contributed. A flooded market, Kindle Unlimited, sales, freebies, voracious readers, signings gone bad, the closing of brick-and-mortar stores. You name it, and I’ll list it. Mostly, there were a lot of newcomers to the category (and I was still relatively new myself). The stupid fucking algorithm changed and changed again—keep in mind, we never fully understood it to begin with. There were theories and rumors, but never anything proven. We needed 30 reviews, then we needed 50, now I think we 1 bazillion in 24 hours. What we needed was to be noticed. There were sales and a whole slew of websites who promoted your sales for a fee. There were freebies, and blitzes, and READING GROUPS became a thing.
None of these tactics were wrong. In fact, used together or separately on any given day (while running ads), you may see some traction.
The thing was, we only wanted to be seen, discovered, and read. It became harder and harder. The tapestry of our individual lives varies differently, and authors have extremely different output levels.
And there came the mills: the faceless authors who published continually, recycling themes and ideas, padding books, sometimes found to be copying content, yet were burning up the charts, dominating KU and sales, pushing hard-working authors to the far ends of the algorithm. These authors love chocolate and red wine like you and me. They have a dog or cat and live in the foothills of some gorgeous rural setting. You see where I’m going with this?
Some of this is speculation, some is founded. Plagiarism continues to be discovered.
And all this has both me and many others saying: WE need to reinvent ourselves, create a persona, who can compete in this made-up market.
I don’t want to do that, which is why I mentioned my backstory.
I want to be me.
I want to own my words and ideas and love my readers.
Isn’t that what every writer wants?
Competing against a “machine” is a bigger blow than a bad review or two.
I’m not certain of the solution. When I have an idea, I will let you know.
What I am CERTAIN of is this:
I write my own words.
I spend time staring at each and every one on my laptop screen while often drinking cold coffee.
I’m not fast. I’m not slow. I’m just me, and that’s all I can expect of myself.
If you’re curious what I’ve been writing…it’s something new. A little different for me. More Women’s Fiction, with romantic elements, and a lot of complicated relationships amongst friends and couples. I LOVE it, and I hope to have it in your hands sometime soon.