In Response to Taking-a-Break Lady

Recently, the social network of Readers and Writers blew up with this article: Why I'm Taking a Break From Contemporary Romance. I believe she hit the nail on the head in regards to how inundated the market for books is with...well, books. Romance. And the trends we're seeing are disturbing. An erotic novel is no longer the story of a sexual journey, it's merely how much sex can an author fit between the covers and just how kinky can it be--storyline is optional. And speaking of storyline, how many billionaires, motorcyle clubs, fight clubs, and private military security companies can we take?

So, I'm here to talk about what this article means to writers. The authors behind the books and how the industry and the readers have changed our world.

1. The Publishing Industry: In ten years, the industry has gone from NY publishing to Digital Publishing to Self-Publishing. And the world is still seeing the effects of how instant gratification can ruin the book market. Who is to blame? The authors who say, "I will never use an editor. Grammarly is all I need." [someone actually said that to me, so I bought her book. And she's wrong. She could use an editor!] The publishers who follow the market trends and only buy what they "think" is going to sell? The agents who seem to be accepting fewer and fewer clients? [Or are they really? Because maybe it's just that there are so many authors with even more access to agents and publishers?] With the changes in the industry, an author is at a disadvantage.

How is that? you might ask, since it seems that we have the world at our fingertips, that if nothing else, we can at least self-publish!

But I disagree. And every time I hear of an author whose novel breaks out of the ranks and rises to the top, there is a small part of me that cringes. Because the career then becomes a study. How did she do it? What can I do to make it happen? Consideration for writing to the market becomes this snake in the garden of creativity. Hence, the copycats. [just so I don't insult everyone, I do believe that authors are inspired to write the next MC book or the next Military romance. Copycatting is not necessarily the crime. Even Christina Dodd spoke in an interview once, saying how she picked up a book at the store, read the blurb on back...and immediately thought, "No. The heroine would never do that! This is what she would do." And her story took off from there.]

I believe as authors we must write the stories in our hearts. We can be inspired by life, by other books, by people, or events. I do not believe there is a crime in writing another MC story or another Billionaire story. But, we must write with our own voice. My comment for the Taking-A-Break Lady was that most readers cling to an author because of their voice. Auto-buy, one-click. Storyline comes in second place when we finally find an author whose voice we love. I'll read anything by Elizabeth Lowell, anything by Nora Roberts, anything by Kaylea Cross. The story comes second. Show me the Motorcyle Club, The Billionaire, The Unexpected Baby, the ridiculously corny Bakery Matchmaker.

I, for one, am not going to change my story ideas, of which I have plenty... like the former-military security company. Do I have one with an accountant? Yes, I do. And I'll run with that one as well. And I'll keep submitting to agents [cuz who doesn't want that next Hallmark Channel movie deal?], and I'll continue pounding the pavement to any publisher who will accept manuscripts without an agent. And I'll self-publish, and if you're worried, I'm here to assure you...I belong to a critique group of published authors. I always have an editor vett my books. My revision and editing process is long and extensive. I take my time when it comes to publishing my books. I will not do it in less than a year, because I believe every book deserves that time to be written, to simmer, to be fixed, and to be set up for publication.

You know what that means?

I'm at the disadvantage. Because along with all these industry changes has come an audience that settles for nothing more than quantity.

2. The Readers: Remember those days when authors were elusive? They were people out there, living very special lives. We weren't privileged to know anything about them. The short paragraph at the back of the book was all we had at a glimpse into their life.

Those days are over.

And we're told, as authors, not only do we need to be available to our readers, we must make a bond with them... I'm all for being friends with people. I've met so many wonderful people through my author events. But along the timeline somwhere, we crossed a line between professional and personal, and the monster that is social networking. I'm happy being a regular person and not some elusive personality whose life doesn't look anything like the average joe's [because, let's face it, it does!]. But I'm not happy that authors have become the scapegoat for everything wrong with the publishing industry. It's a pretty regular occurence to read articles like Taking-A-Break Lady's post. Bashing the industry, bashing the books, harshly criticizing authors for not writing what they want to read or for writing something "just like that other author wrote." [FWIW, and to not insult the strongly opinionated people (of whom I am one), this isn't contained to the publishing industry and books. This is an internet, social media monster that affects everyone--politics, religion, race, and publishing.] There is no respect, no thoughtful, educated dialogue using thoughtful, smart words.

Yes, for example, the article mentioned above that used five swear words in the intro... so to that, I'll just say this:

“Swearing doesn’t make your argument valid; it just tells the other person you have lost your class and control.” 
― Shannon L. Alder

[In Taking-A-Break Lady's defense, her topic and choice of book has little class as well, so I will give her that much. Perhaps she needs to classy up her reading material, eh?]

But, I'm seeing it every day. Authors are forgotten the instant the book goes live. And if an author isn't shoving books down their audiences' throats--3, 4, 5, and 6 releases a year, They can kiss making any money good-bye.

The readers are hoarding for more books All. THE. TIME.

I truly believe that if you want quality, you can't insist on quanitity. To this reader/blogger-breaker Lady who reads 300+ books a year??? Maybe it's time to slow down and enjoy the books you're reading. Take a few days at a time to read a book. Wait for that best-seller or favorite author's book. Do some research. Check out the webpage of the author. Jump into a different genre. Read something nonfiction, read something Mainstream, read something Historical Romance. Hell, go back to school and learn something new. Take up guitar playing or underwater basket-weaving.

Give the authors a chance to put out quality work. Look for the authors who aren't releasing books every other month!!

Some [because, good Lord, if I just sat and thought for more than a day, I could probably come up with a much larger list!] advice to authors after a year of experimenting with social media and promotion, after 13 years in this business....

1. Do one blog tour. [I've done them, did three for one book--cover reveal, prequel book blitz, and release blitz book tour. No one is looking. No one is buying your book over a blog post.] Pick one and hire a company... but don't use that company the next time. Mix it up, because really...then NO ONE will be seeing your stuff.
2. Do a FB event a month--your own or join one. [And really invest yourself. Make friends. Be real.]
3. Pick one social media outlet and embrace it. Love on Twitter or FB or Pinterest, but don't try to do it everywhere.
4. Write the story that inspires you. [Let the trends go!]
5. FIND AN EDITOR!! I can't say this enough. As much as it seems like I'm "arguing" with Taking-A-Break Lady, I agree with just about everything she says in her article.  [Don't write CRAP. Don't write sex just because it sells!] If you aren't paying at least a dollar a page for editing [please consider spending more], you aren't getting the job done.
6. Break the mold. [Yes, it can be done...use your voice. Find the unique quality that is you and use it in that MC book you are dying to write because you loved Son of Anarchy like crazy.]
7. Submit to agents. [I get it. There is so much we can do without an agent. Are they even necessary? Question: Do they have to be necessary to give your career a boost?! No. They don't. They have to know your business, know THE business, and love your work. Wouldn't it be nice to have one person backing you, saying you are worth it? Your book is going straight to Bantam?]

Anyone with even an inkling of publishing sense could see the future 10 years ago when NY tightened their ranks and self-publishing exploded. The market is saturated with barely readable crap. The complaints of the Scandalicious blogger are valid. She makes several good points that as authors we should have a mind to at least consider.

But along with all of her ranting, we can also remember that we're the authors. We're the ones sweating bullets over our manuscripts, wanting them to be the best and to make an impression on the audience. We are the ones doing the work. Eventually, the tides will swing back. The consumer will demand quality, and when that happens, be the one who has built a solid, well-written backlist.

Write. Practice. Write. Read. Write. Read. Write...
Do it well. Do it because you love to and the stories pour out of you with no stopping them.

With Love,