Of porny books and publishing

December first is upon us, and…I didn’t finish NaNoWriMo. I know, I know: Everyone must be shocked.

I didn’t even come close. This year was the most pathetic attempt so far. I made it about 20,000 words in before I said “Nuts to this” and returned to Celestial Chaos and a contemporary erotic romance that I may or may not complete. I did tally up an approximate word count for the entire month of November and everything combined clocked in at over 50,000 words, which is pretty damn amazing considering I took on a second (and temporary) day job that I did from home (it’s transcription, in case you’re wondering, and dear GOD, was it boring).

However, I will get back to Manor House and I’ll have a draft completed in the New Year after I finish the first one of Celestial Chaos.

In Supernova news, I’ve launched a giveaway on Goodreads—three copies are up for grabs! It ends on December 28; enter here.

***

Last week, I went to my sister’s birthday shindig, where she introduced me to a couple of her friends as “My sister, Jess,” followed by, “She writes porny books.”*

“Dude!” I protested. “I do not! Uh, I write sci-fi romance.”

And the friend I was being introduced to would reply, “That’s a thing?”

It is. It’s not a big thing. There’s a larger market for it than a lot of people think, but it’s still niche.

I wrote Supernova over four months in 2011. When the novel was finished, I didn’t know what to do it with it. I love the SFR genre and researched the epubs that were publishing it—as an unknown, with a novel whose word count barely squeaked over 70,000, I wasn’t expecting to land an agent or a big trade contract—and found myself disappointed with a lot of the publishers when I actually read the books they put out. I found a lot of formatting errors and poor editing and outright horrible covers that looked like they had been done in MS Paint. The SFR books with strong sales tend to be erotic romance, which my book isn’t**. The larger epubs didn’t place a lot of focus on its SFR offerings when they even existed. Plus—and I know my ego works into this—I wanted it available in print in some way, even if it was POD (and it usually is when it’s available) and that’s not always offered by a lot of the presses that contract SFR authors.

I lurked on the Absolute Write boards for months. I read industry and author blogs, ignoring those that complained about “the gatekeepers” and compared publishing to the music industry (it’s not the same thing, folks!) or claimed that trade publishing is in its death throes (it’s not!). I learned how trade publishing works, its benefits and trade-offs.  I learned about book marketing, or the lack thereof, of the effective and cost-effective methods.

And I came to realize that if I had written a novel in just about any other sub-genre, querying agents or submitting to publishers would have made sense. If KDP et al didn’t exist, that would have been my only viable option.

In all, I spent nearly a year researching publishing. I emailed back and forth with a writer friend in the US with experience in trade and self-publishing and he provided some invaluable advice about the pros and cons of each. I did some more research made a list of things I can do on the publishing front and what I would have to hire someone else to do (me=typesetting and e-book formatting; someone else=cover artwork and editing).  Self-publishing made the most sense for this book. I came up with a budget and hired the appropriate people.

I read an interview with an SFR author whose work I adore a few days after Supernova went live. She had chosen to self-publish, and reading her experiences helped erase any doubts I had about my decision.

I don’t publicly discuss my finances, and I haven’t posted much about sales numbers aside from an occasional excited tweet when Supernova shows up in the top 100 lists on one of Amazon’s foreign sites. All I’m comfortable saying about the money aspect is that sales have been better than I expected and I’ve received royalties when they were due. I haven’t spent a dime on marketing aside from offering free copies at Goodreads—research shows me that paid advertising doesn’t work, and as a reader, I’ve never purchased a book I saw on a Facebook ad. Nor am I one of those obnoxious authors who tweets every 20 minutes about her books (and I don’t follow the authors who do that and I refuse to buy their books). The best advertising is having a backlist, and I’m working on that.

I’ve been reluctant to write about publishing because it’s so polarizing. There’s a huge amount of misinformation out there about both sides. I did not self-publish because I think it’ll make an acquisitions editor at a trade press cry at her desk, I did it because for this particular book it made the most sense. I’m completely open to trade publishing if and when I write a book with more commercial appeal.

E-publishing and e-books are not a bubble; they’re here to stay. Self-publishing is a mini-bubble of sorts, one that’s going to deflate a little as more authors realize that readers are expecting books of a professional calibre no matter where they come from, and that editing does not consist of running a document through a word processor’s spell-check. Self-publishing is here to stay, but the standards are going to be a lot higher.

 

*She’s my sister, we’re very close, and she DOES respect my work, which is why she’s allowed to use the term “porny” to describe my books. Plus we were drinking, and “porny books” is funny when you have a couple shots of Jager in you. Hell, it’s funny when I’m sober.

**There’s action (hehe), rather it’s 3 flames out of 5 on the unofficial heat indexes.

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