Over the past few months, I did some evaluation of being an author at this point in my life and I began to get over negative interactions with previous readers. Last week I went into Amazon again for the first time in years. Not with flight syndrome about comparing my books to other people's or even comparing my books to each other. I just examined the book section as if I was new to reading, like a potential audience for a book--an increasingly disengaged, only-reads-a-little-bit type of reader. In short, the way most people browse Amazon books. It was both eye-opening and fun. I really, really enjoyed it. After looking at each genre, I noticed readership patterns, types of books that were popular, and levels of engagement with entire genres that surprised me. (Some have MUCH less than you'd think, some much more.) My books are on a par with other authors except for visibility and intensely genre-specific expensive cover design. But I don't write formula trope books that readers can pick out just by their cover. I write within a category, but my work has a bit broader goals than being identical to other books and for placement within a genre, so readers have some idea what to expect, my covers are more than adequate. They're actually excellent.
I found myself in the Teen and Young Adult Category, which is how I've marketed myself for basically all my writing career. But a problem arose as I noticed that three of my books didn't really fit into the category and what I find quite ironic is that these three out-of-character books have also been some of the most reviewed. If readers were looking to learn more about my writing (or about me personally), they should have looked at any of the other books that were tucked away on the side since those are far closer to showing my thoughts on relationships or at least more reflective of my writing persona even if they don't reveal much about my personal life.
So for various reasons, these three books keep my marketing from being sufficiently focused on a category. They are still available for sale and I have added hardcover editions of them on Amazon along with the hardcovers for all my other books. But I am simply removing them as part of my overall author image. For instance, they don't appear on my website; they won't be featured in any new stories that use characters from my books (after consideration, I've changed my mind from a few months ago when I planned to use elements from Bellevere); and they will not be promoted through review or book promotion sites. I feel almost sorry for readers who got sidetracked by these three books, even if finding out more about my personal secrets wasn't a good motive to have. I need to be very clearly a Young Adult Author so in future I am going to be a little more focused on that genre. What started out as simply an openness to trying more writing styles became a bit of a marketing issue when my less-typical books were viewed by readers as my primary ones. And since neither of us found what we wanted--they gained no information about my personal opinions and I didn't get a dedicated readership on my slice of YA fiction--it's best to take a new path that is more narrowly placed.
And there will be more updates.
I was shocked when I looked at the calendar and realized it’s been three months already. I was supposed to come back with lots of publication-type-things to unveil! I have collected a lot of writing-related items and ideas, including new folders, new notebooks, and a commitment to writing by hand (used to do it all the time as a teenager and I think I had more fun writing that way.) 😊 I got a book of writing prompts, that I picked up for $2 in a resale shop, and a brand new workspace complete with a lovely organizer set that has each item in a different pattern in shades of blue. I had initially decided not to include four of my books (Harrisons, Bellevere, MerrySummer, and Ryan and Essie) in the new time-travel magnet because I could not think of any continuing storylines for those characters. But I got a load of new ideas as I was organizing the china between our little white cabinet and our hutch. It was a busy afternoon's work as all the china needed to be taken out of cardboard boxes and unwrapped out of newspaper. So I thought about stories while I worked and those four books quietly found a place to belong.
This summer I spent a lot of time working in the house, reorganizing and renovating it. Writing fell by the wayside as a complete restructuring of our living space became a priority. My sister and I woke up one day in late April and realized we had never adjusted our home to accommodate two adults living alone, no children and just one small cat. Our changes had been gradual before, still keeping lots of old habits, as two sisters left the house and our parents moved down the road into our grandfather’s house. But except for some stuff that left the house when these people did, our structure remained the same on a daily basis. We were occupied with routines and never looked at items we had placed years before because they had always been there and we don’t spend most of each day thinking about household physical objects. But this year we saw that we hadn’t caught up to where our lives are really at. We were living in a house that was for a different family at a different time of life.
For instance we moved two musical instruments (our piano and also one of those huge old Conn electric organs that someone gave to us years ago so they could get rid of it) out of our bedrooms where they were taking up large amounts of space. From the sound of "piano and organ" you might think our house is sizable, but it is SMALL and that's the reason they hijacked our bedrooms. They had been put there to keep them safe as there was literally no place for them anywhere else, but honestly it’s been a decade since the youngest of us was under 13 and nobody is going to be kicking, scratching, or crayoning on these instruments now. I was especially glad to get a chest of drawers and my sister to get a desk, now there was actually space to put these things in our rooms! In fact, I made my new motto be “STOP keeping stuff in my room for later, to keep it safe. My room is MY room, all mine!” 😊 We also discovered a lot of gaps as we made the house better organized—for instance, we never kept bathrobes in the bathroom although there are hooks for them, because our house used to be very crowded so we kept our clothes near where we slept. But as we looked around the house we saw it was virtually empty these days. In fact we even have a SPARE bedroom now! (My parent’s room, vacated after they moved out.) We’d been using it as a sort of garage for junk we didn’t have time to go through. So we made time this summer and are turning the room into a den. Having suddenly much more space in the house also means we can create a small dining room area adjacent to the kitchen. We had no room for this before because the only table was used for both schoolwork and food preparation. I look forward to hanging some china plates on the wall.
Anyway, in the midst of all that, I got a nice computer and tidied up massive amounts of stuff from my desk (a lot of the stuff was stashed there to keep it for later and didn’t even belong to me.) I’m getting all set to write some more. I also uploaded about 18 months worth of new reviews to my book reviews blog, as I tend to get behind on that aspect of my website, and I redid the back covers for my books because when I finally got them out of a crowded closet box and onto a bookshelf I noticed too many of the spines were similar and too many of them were black. But I’d never put them in a bookcase before, so I hadn’t noticed. I like the new prompt book I got because writing prompts have always annoyed me. They are everywhere, often given as links or emails. But I don’t have a place to write the story immediately once I see the prompt. This book has a page below each prompt for writing. I’ve never used prompts before, but I’ve been so distracted lately I’m going to need them to get back in the writing game as I start the time-travel magnet.
AND I am going to send out the newsletter only when I have an announcement about a new book, a sale on older books, or other stuff like that. That way you’ll know when you open my email that you’re getting something big and that I’m expecting action on it, instead of you just receiving and languidly browsing a stream of updates about my life. Many authors both blog and send newsletters, but they often don’t combine them as I’ve been doing. Sending only every 2-3 months when there is something to announce is what I’ve seen other authors do more frequently than sending out constant blog posts to a newsletter. They might send these to a blog audience but not double it with a newsletter audience. So that is what I will switch to as well.
Until my next announcement, best wishes to all of you!
I mentioned in my last newsletter that I'm really busy these days. Not to go into particulars, but getting lots of newsletter posts written and published last year while I was also writing and publishing Celestine was a strain because it's hard for me to find time and proper environment to write. This is not an excuse or a subtle way of signing off--the old "I'm just so busy" phrase is a catch-all for gently eliminating any socializing that has become an unnecessary part of your life. Let's admit it, we've all done this when we have too many things on our plate and need to cut back. It's not lying to say we're busy. It's quite truthful. We are busy and that means we need to prioritize some things over others. But "I'm busy" sounds much kinder than "I'm deprioritizing you" which is why this excuse is so ubiquitous!
This blog post isn't such an excuse. I am not deprioritizing my newsletter subscribers because without you I can't share my book concepts, bounce off ideas, spout about reviews and reader/author culture, and talk shop generally. (Well, that's not technically accurate. I share a lot with my sister, Sister 4, who still lives with me at home.) But having a close relative listen to you, while invaluable emotional support, isn't quite like a newsletter or beta reader circle because she's always so loving. This type of support is crucial, and without it authors will wither up, but authors also need a sampling--or warning--of what potential readers, strangers, people stumbling into your genre by mistake, and those looking for faults in presentation and editing might be examining in your work.
But right now time taken writing blog posts is time taken away from writing books. And I've got to get back to writing--the reader magnet I planned, the series of time-travel stories for sale on my website, and then later books. I need to return to my story set in Scotland (which has moved from a historical story to a contemporary comedy with some romance) and then there's that epic fantasy book I've always wanted to get back to. Plus there is The Prince's Ball, a rework of an old manuscript with so much extra material that never made it into the story we call Millhaven Castle. I've floated this idea around for years, but never quite found an opportune slot for publishing it as other projects got in the way. In short, I have a lot of things in the queue like lava in a volcano when the vent is blocked.
So I'm going to take the next 3 months off from all online activity outside of a once-weekly post on FB just to show I'm still alive. Could be longer than 3, but that depends on how much new writing I get done in that 3 months. If I get a lot done, I'll come back with new announcements. If I need more time, then the online vacation will stretch until I'm ready to return. This hiatus includes my blog and newsletter as well. I am going to hibernate and write, write, write. If you want to follow me on FB, feel free to. I no longer use my official author page, though it still exists, because it so boring and clunky to toggle 2 FB accounts and FB won't let most people see my author page posts anyway. Here's a link to my personal profile where you can Follow me or you can add me as a friend if you prefer. I confirm requests from women. Men--just send me a message with your request, saying that you are from my newsletter and that's how you found me. If you're already on my FB, good for you. You are a valued friend. :)
In a few months I will have a lot more to share with you!
Young Adult Fiction Author
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