Today I spent the day with an old friend who found the book her daughter was reading (and left behind) while they were on vacation. It was a Nora Roberts paperback. After telling me that Roberts’ book had a bit of mystery, not as much sex as my book, and was generally okay (she prefers to read detective mysteries, I think), she asked, “I don’t get it. Why aren’t you as popular as Nora Roberts?”
I told her that Nora Roberts has been around much longer than I have and that she’s traditionally published (Silhouette Books, Bantam, and Putnam to name a few – although I didn’t add this bit) – which makes a HUGE difference between us. That means she has way more marketing dollars devoted to her books than I ever could have – and this I am acutely aware of because I hit my billing threshold with Facebook the other day and my bank account is woefully devoid of signs of life.
But that’s the life of a self-published author and in my case, in her third year of publishing. I started slow… like really slow, and I made so many mistakes. I thought blogging was a great way to promote my books (it’s not, at least for me), and that with some of my books being on Kindle Unlimited, all I had to do was set them to free a few times during the 90 day contract and readers would flock to read my books and thus result in inflated page reads (they didn’t). I believed that all I had to do was the write the best and most authentic story I could write and readers would find me (they didn’t), and that if I just kept writing book after book, success would eventually come (still working on it).
It took close to two years for me to learn that writing a novel is the easiest part of being an author. Bleeding emotions on the page is so easy to do as authors. The hardest thing – and even famous authors like Marcel Proust and Dr. Seuss learned this – was making the sale, whether it’s a publisher finally offering you a publishing deal (that you actually like) or readers buying your books from retailers.
I did two things last year that changed everything. I wrote a book that I’d always wanted to write – about an older woman who falls in love with a younger man. It’s a trope, yes, but I don’t give a fudge about tropes. I wrote what I felt and I didn’t let anyone stop me from writing my truth, my fears, and my dreams.
Then I made sure that book was going to be noticed.
It wasn’t just the cover choice although I do have the one and only Dax Drexel on that cover. It was the networking, promotion and most of all, advertising. It was acknowledging that as a romance author, my audience lived and breathed Facebook, especially Facebook groups. Authors networked with each other and readers got to meet their favorite authors. Fan clubs have moved from newsletters and mailing lists to FB groups.
And for someone like me who was so used to blogging for so many years, first about my knitting and spinning endeavors and then to some pretty raw poetry as MorrighansMuse, diving headfirst into Facebook was a shock to the system. It was also very distracting, and still is.
I don’t have a personal assistant, PR company, or a literary agent. I don’t have a big name publisher. But what I do have is dogged determination to make it in this business. It’s not for the weak of heart, that I can tell you. It can make you cry sometimes especially when the green-eyed monster rears its ugly head time and again, and you ask yourself what the heck are you doing wrong.
And when that happens, I’ve also learned to take a step back and reassess why I feel the way I do. And then I ask myself what I can do on my end that I feel I should be doing (just because everyone else is doing it), only to wake up a day or two later and realize that while it’s true I need to do certain things like advertise more or do author takeovers and network more, I also need to stick to what I have the most fun doing: writing stories that are truly my own.
But at the moment (and getting back to the topic of the title because I tend to ramble), nothing can change the fact that I’m not as famous as Nora Roberts. Not that it matters really, for in the end, we both are doing what we love, and readers – wherever we find them – are obviously enjoying them.