Thursday, February 8, 2018

Asking for help #willaedwards #RWA #eroticromance #menage #askingforhelp #improving

I started my writing career at the height of the erotic romance boom. The industry as a whole had been growing for years but it was just reaching its full potential. Fifty Shades of Grey took over the country the following summer. Self publishing didn't exist yet, certainly not for good writers. Any author worth their salt in those days wanted to work with a publisher. At that time readers were voracious for new erotic romance and ate up everything that was published. They weren't difficult to find, and neither was a way to connect with them.

It was heaven. There was never a better time to be an erotic romance author. Everything you put out found an audience. Big name authors were climbing best sellers lists all over the place. I didn't receive that kind of success, but it seemed possible. Anything seemed possible back in those days.

But since then so much has changed. Publishers that I loved an revered are now disappearing. Readers are harder to find. Many fantastic authors have turned to the self publishing exclusively. And there is enough material out there on the digital selves to keep readers searching for years just for new authors. And over that time my sales have been slowly, or not so slowly sometimes, vanishing. In 2017 they reached the point where I was contemplating whether it was worth it to publish at all. I love writing and I can't imagine not doing it, but publishing can be very grueling and if no one is buying your work it can definitely take a chunk out of your self esteem. The industry had changed so much I didn't know how to keep up or what to do. I would spend hours trying to figure out how I could reach readers, how I could change my downward trend, unable to come up with an answer.

I needed help. Unfortunately, I'm not a person who really likes to ask for help. I don't have a good reason for it. I can't think of many times when I asked for help and people turned me down. It just makes me uncomfortable in a way I don't like. But faced with the option of not publishing again or reaching out a hand the answer was clear. So I signed up to attend the RWA Conference.

It was the best decision I ever made. I learned so much at the conference, about marketing, reaching readers, improving my writing in general. And most of all I got some of the love and creativity back that years of bad sales and banging my head against the wall had whittled away. It was exactly what I needed, probably in more ways than I realize. It not only gave me the tools I needed to promote my writing career the way I had before, but the confidence that I had been missing for some time to crow to the world about how fanastic my books are.

I came back from the conference swinging and applying many of the techniques I learned there. My next releases sold exponentially better than I had in years. My sales aren't quite up to where they were in the beginning of my career but for the first time in years they are on the incline. And due to my releases in December, 2018 is on track to be my highest grossing year ever (it is already my best year in over five years and its only February).

The reason I tell this story is not to complain about the industry. The publishing industry, every industry really, is always changing. And every time any industry changes some people will be left behind. Its the nature of progress. But instead I tell this story to encourage all those that are struggling with something to ask for help. To reach out to those around you. No matter what the issue is, someone is out there to help you. And 99% of the time they will be so happy to do it. Don't be afraid to lean on people, its not a sign of weakness, its a sign of strength.  When the time is right, it will be your turn to give in return. I know I'll be happy to if anyone asks the same of me, because I know what it feels like to be in that dark spot.

Also I encourage anyone who is interested in pursing romance writing to attend the RWA Conference (registration is now open for the 2018 conference). It's an amazing event. And if you're going, let me know, I'd love to find another friendly face in the crowd.

I want to give a shout out to Tina, who was another person I reached out to for help in my time of, and was so amazing and giving with her advice. I only wish I'd done it sooner. You're the best lady.


Tina Donahue said...

Thanks, Willa. :) I enjoy helping. No one is born with the info. We all learn as we go.

As far as self-publishing: Lots of good stuff exists out there and an equal amount of truly bad is right next to it. No one would consider buying a violin then booking Carnegie Hall the next day for a solo performance, simply because they've heard a violin concerto before. Yet, too many wannabe authors think if they've read a book, they can write one. They're not willing to earn their place by honing their craft and learning what makes a great story work. They're in in for the $. If FSOG earned a zillion bucks, they should too. How wrong they are.

Someone recently said the slush pile has moved from publishers' offices to Amazon. So true. IMO, that's why sales suck. Readers are getting burned big time and are shying away from the genre. Such a pity.

Willa Edwards said...

That's so smart. I've never heard that about the slush pile before but its so true. There are a lot of books on amazon that I know would never make it through a publisher, definitely not a good one. But I know many other authors that are amazing that are self publishing, so its a real mix bag that even I have reservations about. And as more and more publishers go under, a lot of us don't have any choice.

In its infancy stage, it was all authors that couldn't get published traditionally (not necessarily because they wrote poorly, but maybe because they wrote something publishers didn't think would sell). But that is definitely not the case anymore. Some of my favorite authors only self publish now due to lack of options.

Its a complex issue that I can't begin to have an answer for. All I can say to all the authors out there that are self published, have one book for free. That's the only way you can hook me now a days, if I don't already know you. If I read your free book and love it, I'll buy the rest. But without a sample, its just to risky for me to buy your book when there are so many amazing books out there.

Tina Donahue said...

Free chapters help also, which I'm currently doing. If a reader isn't hooked by chapter one (preferably the first page), they're unlikely to buy a book.

Since the majority of my books are sold through publishers, I have very little choice on the free book option. Currently, I have one, because the publisher went under and I don't want to bother shopping the book anywhere else. Other than that, my only self-pubbing is in boxed sets.

I agree that many fine authors had to go the self-pubbing route because publishers have such a narrow focus on what they think will sell. It's like the networks were before cable. Can you imagine Breaking Bad on NBC, ABC, or CBS? They would have freaked over the story line because it had to do with drugs.

IMO, the only reason publishers are taking a chance on story lines that are more real rather than fake (eg: goody-goody heroines who are breathtaking and surly heroes who are misunderstood) is because of self-pubbing. (The same holds true for films. You get a lot of junk from the major studios, while indie films are almost uniformly excellent, thought-provoking, and different).

That said, there are simply too many people who think writing romance is an easy way to get rich and their unedited stories are making it difficult for everyone else in romance.