After stepping away from book promotion for a while, I’d almost forgotten the process of getting reader feedback to my work: that anticipation of knowing a review has been written and wondering, “How did it hit them? Did they get my story? Did it move them, strike a chord?” So, to open my Facebook page this morning and find the link to this lyrical, poetic review of a book that meant so much to me to write is… well, it reminds me of WHY we write.
Thank you, Lisl Zlitni, for taking the time to read, to enjoy, and write your beautiful and deeply thoughtful review of my work. I cannot tell you how moved I am. I will float through the rest of my day!
Perceptions can be tricky animals, especially when filtered secondhand, even more so when they involve those closest to us. What happens when we find out that what we thought others thought—of us—is way off base? That actually the reflections they’d been silently entertaining along the way were rather negative? The kicker: what if that person was our parent?
Tessa Curzio’s situation goes one step further in that she discovers her father’s dismal judgments about her after he has already passed away and she can no longer ask him about it. In fact, After the Sucker Punch opens with Tessa reading his previously-journaled words reaching out to slap her with a hurt as fresh as the grave the family had lowered him into just hours before. It’s a sucker punch that she knows not only re-writes the past, but also…
Literary journals are like boxes of treasure. Poems, essays, memoir pieces, fiction… the best of the best coming together to regale readers with myriad choices created by some of the most thoughtful, inventive writers around.
I entered a piece of mine, “The Mother of My Reinvention,” into the Rocky Coast Writing Contest sponsored by The Maine Review, and was honored to have it awarded as an “Honorable Mention” (or “the runner up,” as wonderful Maine Review editor, Katherine Mayfield, framed it!). Which, of course, truly is an honor, particularly given the number and quality of submissions made.
Excerpt from “The Mother of My Reinvention”:
Tucked in her lift chair, chilled and uneasy, she waits for tea and dry toast to calm her daily quarrel with queasiness and hunger. With a raised eyebrow and sardonic grin, she remarks, “It ain’t easy gettin’ old.” I commiserate, but she dismisses my empathy; tells me I’m too young to understand. I don’t bother to correct her.
She’s tired, though she’s been in bed since breakfast. It’s a long day by two o’clock, and not necessarily a good one. Though there are good ones: days when she plays cards, sings along with glee, or gets to video Mass in the community room. She still relishes her three squares and always brightens at the sight of chocolate. She’s now in a wheelchair full-time but loves a roll around the park. She’s almost eighty-five, a widow for fifteen years, and a diagnosed Alzheimer’s patient for five.
She is my mother.
I left home—and her—a long time ago. I left hard and fast, no quibbling or weepy boomeranging. My mother refers to this as, “when you ran away,” which isn’t far from the truth. It had been a challenging childhood.
I am a third child, the third girl in a family of eleven children. My two older sisters and I, by virtue of gender and birth order, became “little mommies” for smaller, younger siblings while we were still smaller, younger siblings ourselves. And though being in charge of an infant at six-years-old is, perhaps, too steep a curve, the responsibility did promote skills found useful later in life. I not only learned to change diapers, feed babies, and wrangle toddlers, I became adept at making meals, doing laundry, and running interference for a mercurial and confounding mother. And that was before I got to high school.
By the time I did get to high school, I was bone-weary of family and desperate to fly. Somewhere. Anywhere. Graduation couldn’t come quick enough and my departure for college was so swift, high school friends claim I never even said good-bye. I don’t remember; I was moving too fast. I came home the summer after freshman year, but by next, I was gone for good. My first apartment was a hideous ninety-dollar-a-month single with lousy furniture and a stuttering landlady, but it may as well have been heaven.
It wasn’t just the weight of trading too much childhood for “little mommy-hood.” It wasn’t just the burden of my parents’ religion with its restrictive views of human interaction (i.e., boys and sex). It wasn’t even that one-on-one time in a big family was too spare to be satisfying. It was that I couldn’t find an honest way to consistently and compassionately tolerate my mother.
She was a paradox. One minute clever and creative, the next enraged and irrational. She was impossible to predict and easy to trigger. She loved music, did a mean jitterbug, and had a wildly romantic relationship with the handsome man who was my father. She could make any day a holiday, taught us that fun was our birthright, and, oh, she loved with a passion. All this provided the good that pushed against the other. Her dark side. The turbulent state that came with frenzied tears, cold silences, or rages that scattered us like terrified animals.
As a child, I would tremble at the sound of her stomping down stairs to mete out punishments I could never seem to avoid. She would be physical, vocal, and unrelenting, and when control snapped and life got the best of her, everyone suffered.
She tried; I believe she sincerely tried, but she was undeniably overwhelmed by a family too large to manage, a husband often too detached to meet her emotional needs, and a psyche too fragile to offer the flexibility and endurance required by the job.
So when I left, I stayed away and kept her away. She and my father didn’t meet my husband until years after we eloped and I’d already given birth to a son. They were that distant and I was that intractable.
Growing up Catholic in a small midwestern town meant the traditions of our most universal holidays were a mix of sacred and secular. Easter came not only with the solemnity and pomp of Lent and Easter Mass, but the joy of bunnies and baskets of jelly beans and pastel boiled eggs. Halloween surely meant costumes and voluminous bags of treats, but the prayers and patronage of All Saints’ Day that followed were also demanded. And, of course, the big ticket item, Christmas, began with Advent calendars and candles lit during the four weeks before, to be accompanied later by a house festooned with Santas, reindeer, and every kind of snowman, snowflake, and Christmas tree.
Christmas also meant carols: the holy kind— “Oh, Come All Ye Faithful,” “Joy To the World,” “Oh, Holy Night”—and the not-so-holy—”Frosty the Snowman,” “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Jingle Bells,” and the rest. I loved them all. The lyrics inspired every range of holiday spirit, the harmonies evoked joy in shared vocal expression, and the melodies stirred emotion and nostalgia whenever heard. That remains true even now.
But there was one certain carol that touched my soul like no other. The almost mournful tone, the somber melody with its repetitive “pa rum pum pum pum.” When “The Little Drummer Boy” began playing in the rotation of stacked Christmas records, my siblings and I would respond almost universally: we’d stop whatever we were doing and start singing along, a chorus of voices in honor of Christmas and that little boy with a drum.
Why this one song over any other? I don’t know, but to this day it gives me a shiver of nostalgia.
So it was with great delight when, three years ago, long after record players were retired and we’d gone from albums to cassettes to CDs to iTunes to streaming music, my brother showed up at our holiday celebration with two vintage LPs of this beloved song; the original recordings, with the memorable album cover, sung by the Harry Simeone Chorale.
Just looking at that cover brought back so many poignant and visceral memories, but it was listening to it (on an accompanying CD!) that transported both my brother and I back to our little house in Illinois, with its warm rooms decked in Christmas finery and the gaggle of siblings leaping about, singing “pa rum pump pum pum” full throttle.
Starting that year, I began using one album cover as part of my own Christmas decorations; the other I brought to my mother’s room at the Alzheimer’s facility where she lives, bedazzling her room to remind her of family Christmases and the song that was a favorite throughout our growing up. When she saw the album cover tucked amongst the basket of her other decorations, she squinted her eyes and asked, “What is that picture there, the one behind the snowman?”
I pulled it out and showed it to her. “Tom found it; it’s the album cover for our favorite Christmas song, ‘The Little Drummer Boy.’ Do you remember?”
She said she didn’t, but, then, she doesn’t remember much of anything from the past these days. I just smiled and said, “No worries, Mom, maybe it’ll come to you later,” as she sat back in her wheelchair, enjoying her rather large chocolate Santa. Yet, as I was cleaning up, packing ribbons and red paper into my bag, I slowly started singing: “Come, they told me…” and in her scratchy, dissonant, but always-enthusiastic singing voice, she suddenly popped up in her chair, eyes bright, intoning loudly and in perfect time, “… pa rum pum pum pum!”
It seems some things never completely leave you.
Back at my own house, as I listen, once again, to those pitched voices and the vocal drumbeat droning rhythmically behind, I can’t help but be filled with the ache of nostalgia: remembering my father, who made backyard ice rinks, and “Bishop” punch, and every Christmas so special; remembering the excitement and creativity of my ten siblings, who turned every holiday into an event, and, mostly, remembering my once-vibrant mother, who loved music, loved Christmas, and loved hearing her children sing. My brother and I will be sure to get over to her room during the holiday to sing a few “pa rum pum pum pums” for her. In harmony, all the verses, as we always did…
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Being the contemporary girl I am, I wanted to share both my beloved original version, as well as a most modern one by a favorite group of mine. Enjoy… and Merry Christmas!
The original version:
And for those who’d appreciate a little extra Drummer Boy trivia, there’s always its page at Wikipedia!
An interviewer asked me recently about the themes I most often employ in my writing, mentioning that love and family were central pivots around which both my novels spun. She wondered why those two themes so resonated with me, and I told her it was simply because they’re the most universal themes in all of life. Regardless of circumstance, ethnicity, social status, or any of the other qualifying ways in which we define and divide life, we all have family and we all want love. Even Edward longed for his Bella and he was a vampire!
When I started writing Hysterical Love, my second novel, the story evolved in a way that made it a companion piece to my first,After The Sucker Punch. While very different stories in terms of tone, plot, storyline, and protagonist, both involve thirty-something people reacting to the words of their fathers. But where Tessa, of my first novel, was most involved in rediscovering who she was—and who she was to her deceased father—after reading his scathing journals, Dan’s journey in Hysterical Love is all about love, sweet, elusive, maddening love.
And it’s an exploration of love on many levels: not just the heady lust and passion of new love that’s so often the driving force of drama, but the longer-term love of Dan’s three-year relationship with Jane (his very-soon-to-be-ex-fiancée); the lifetime love of his parents married for forty years; even the fleeting love of youth described in a fifty-year-old story written by his father. His roommate, Bob, revels in love’s abundance, his workmate, Zoey, can’t seem to find it, his sister, Lucy, is convinced it’s all about soul mates. But it’s when his father has a stroke and hovers near death, mumbling the name of the woman from the fifty-year-old story, that Dan is struck by the realization of another kind of love: love unrequited.
Given the strains and struggles of his parents’ cranky, utterly unromantic marriage, the story of his father’s aching first love of fifty years earlier overwhelms Dan’s imagination. And when he hears his comatose father mumble the name of the woman from the story, he’s struck by an unrestrainable urge to go find her, convinced she holds answers to his many questions about love.
So Dan sets off on an untimely and ill-conceived road trip to Oakland, CA, where the woman was last located, determined to change the course of his and his father’s lives. While on that tumultuous journey, he not only questions every aspect of his life, he’s faced with defining a whole new level of love when he meets the gorgeous, intriguing Fiona, a woman surely formed from someone’s fantasy. She appears as if sent from the gods to help in his quest and, in doing so, takes his breath away, forcing him to face his own definition of the elusive emotion.
But it’s the one-two punch of the plot’s unfolding—the reality of the woman he’s searching for, and Jane’s unexpected arrival to win his heart back, that forces love, an urgent pull both life-giving and soul shattering, to be most deeply examined.
For any adult who’s experienced the roller-coaster ride inherent in our human urge to connect and find affection, Dan’s story, and that of his parents, his fiancée, his workmates, his roommate, even Fiona, will surely resonate. He’s led to new thoughts, new realizations, and some painful, if undeniable, conclusions about the many faces love wears, and, in ways he couldn’t have imagined at the start of his story, he finds life altered accordingly.
Consider this article a favor of sorts, a cautionary tale for bloggers, writers, social media posters, etc., who like to use images to illustrate the pieces they write and promote online:
I am not only a writer, but also a photographer and a recorded singer/songwriter. As such, I know well the issues related to piracy of copyrighted materials, and the incredible vigilance it takes to prevent one’s work from being used and sold illegally (i.e., without proper credit, without proper payment, without proper permission, etc.). I have found my CDs selling in random Asian countries for $100+ each (who the hell would buy anyone’s CD at that price, and, if they did, where’s my cut?). My photographs have appeared on strangers’ blogs without credit or payment. My articles are frequently excerpted, republished, and copied without permission or compensation, and my books are sold on myriad pirate sites set up by who-knows-who from who-knows-where.
The Internet has turned the commerce of any product available or searchable online into a sort of mayhem, and we artists could literally spend every waking moment of our lives chasing after the illegal usage and sale of our work. But we don’t, we can’t, or we’d never get anything else done. What we do do is protect our work as best we can with copyrights, trademarks, statements of ownership, watermarks, etc.; do our best to market the authentic sites selling our work, and chase after only what makes sense in terms of piracy, leaving the rest to fate.
Given this slightly insane state of affairs, most artists are very sensitive about using the work of other artists, making sure proper permissions, credit, and payment are transacted as required. Writers for The Huffington Post are instructed to use only permissible images—which, for me, means I typically use my own photographs or tap heavily into Wikimedia Commons. Other sites I’ve written for were not, perhaps, as vigilant as Huff Post, but most insisted that writers find and use photos and images that could be properly credited and/or linked to common usage sites (odds are good Huff Post has the safer set of restrictions!).
For my own blogs, I am very particular about using images I’ve either taken myself, or ones that can be tracked down to “free” sites, open-user sites, or are from someone who’s given me explicit permission. Sometimes I find photos online that I want to use, can’t find any information on them, and so do a thorough “Google image search” to attempt to track down the photographer’s name and/or usage rules that apply. But often, particularly given the rampant use of photos without permission or credit, you can search for pages and not find anything helpful…except for the fact that this image is linked to a bevy of blogs! In that case, I sometimes take a chance and, at the bottom of my blog, will credit the photo as: “Photo of blank: artist unknown,” or “found at Pinterest,” or I’ll link it back to the blog where I found it. And in the six years I’ve been writing online, I have never had a problem.
Today I got a letter from Getty Images, alerting me that a random vintage photo I used in an article on this blog several months ago is actually a Getty-licensed image and, as such, I was not only not allowed to use it without permission, I would now have to pay a “settlement” for my infraction. Before I called, I tore though my blog to find the offending photo, immediately took it off the site; frantically did another Google search to see what I could find, and again, it was pages and page of just links to other blogs. But then…. there is was: the link to Getty. It did, in fact, exist, even if it took me pages to find it. In my rush to get that particular article up (it was a response to a rather heated debate going on amongst indie writers and I can only say I must not have been of fully-sound mind at the time!), my search clearly ended just short of finding the rather Google-buried Getty link.
Getty, of all places. I knew I was fucked. Ignorance of the law, as they say, is no defense.
I called the number—a nice enough guy answered, and he told me, in a somewhat condescending tone, that even if one doesn’t find a link to Getty or any other licensing company, using any image without first ascertaining the usage rules, the licensing permission, the photographer’s name, even if that image appears all over the Net without attribution or copyright information, doesn’t absolve one of copyright infringement.
“So if you can find no information about an image—the photographer, the copyright, any usage restrictions, etc.—you simply can’t use it? Ever? Even if you link back to the place where you found it? Even if you did your absolute best search so you could do the proper thing , you still can’t use it?”
“That’s right,” he said. “The artist is not obligated to make that information easily available. It’s the user’s job to find and get permission.”
Or something like that.
I was astonished. I explained that I was an artist, a photographer; I explained that I’m vigilant about checking for these things, and, as a photographer, know well the frustration of people using work without permission.
“All someone has to do is put any image of mine into a Google image search and my name, my website, my information pops up, easily accessible, easily findable; no excuse to not give proper credit! But you’re saying your guy, a Getty photographer, isn’t easily found, is pages and pages into a search, because basically it’s not his, or your, job to make his images findable?”
Or something like that.
He pretty much responded:
And with that, I was sh*t outta luck: he dinged me $249.00 for using this heretofore unknown image on this little blog of mine, which, in a good month, probably only gets about 20 readers and certainly doesn’t make me any money. No amount of pleading (“I’m an indie artist, I’m scrambling to cover my marketing costs, my own images aren’t being properly purchased,” etc.) had any impact. He was a Getty guy and he was doin’ his job for his client.
Good for him. I wish I had a him.
So that’s my cautionary tale, folks. DON’T USE IMAGES TO ILLUSTRATE YOUR BLOGS, YOUR POSTS, YOUR TWEETS, WITHOUT SPECIFIC CREDITS, PERMISSION, AND FEES PAID!
I have NO idea how he found my very-low-on-Alexa blog; I don’t know if someone alerted them to my use of this particular picture (given how many other sites were using it, they must have had quite a payday today!), but I do know I’ve now gone through every image on every article I’ve ever written to check that all permissions were intact; removed any images I was even remotely uncertain about, and will NEVER again use any image I didn’t either shoot myself, find on Wikimedia Commons, pull off a free usage site, or specifically receive from a living, breathing, permission-giving person.
There goes my Christmas budget. Damn.
UPDATE: After being told by other bloggers that Getty has an “embed” option, one touting , “it’s easy, legal, and free!!”, I got back in touch with my Getty “handler” and asked why he hadn’t alerted me to this, allowing me to just embed the photo-in-question rather than rake me for $249. His response?
“Your website is commercial in that it promotes you and your writings (some of which you expect to be paid for). The embed offering is not authorized for anything connected to commercial intent.”
“Commercial.” My little blog here, talking about my self-published books and those of others, is “commercial.” For God’s sake…
And he continued:
“The use we found was not embedded—which is why we selected the fee associated with the un-embedded use of that image within a blog post (on a website that promotes you and your writings). Had the image been embedded within a blog post that wasn’t directly promoting/selling/advertising in a commercial manner then it’s unlikely you would have heard from our compliance department.
“Believe me, if that image was somewhere listed as “embeddable,” with the rules about embedding vs. inserting clearly indicated, I doubt I, or anyone else who used it, would have had any problem ascertaining how to use it properly. It was not.
“But, again, your assignation of my blog as being of ‘commercial use’ is patently absurd. I did not use your photo to sell a product; it was used to illustrate an article about writing, the act of writing. To hit me up for $249 as a result of that, for a photo that, if I’d embedded it would have been free, is very…uncharitable, I’ll leave it at that.
“Basically, it seems wise for any writer/blogger/website owner to NOT use (even via embedding) any Getty image, since the interpretation of what is ‘commercial’ by your company is quite…expansive. I will be sure to advise colleagues accordingly. Which is a shame for the artists you represent, who might appreciate the use of their work in blogs and on websites of articulate writers and bloggers.”
Big corporations just love us little guys.
I’ll let you decide how to proceed using Getty images, but be very, very sure they can’t ding you for being “commercial.” That’s an expensive little ding.
Imagine that you are a writer of romance. Sometimes steamy, sometimes so heart-breaking that grown men in their forties have scowled at you on the street.
Then, imagine that all the people who don’t regularly buy books – which, in case you don’t know, is a far larger number than the book-buying public – think that every single book in the romance genre, including yours, is the exact same as Fifty Shades Of Grey.
If that means nothing to you, let’s say, then, that you are a parent. You are but one out of billions of parents around the world. However, let’s say the biggest cultural event in parenting this year is the blockbuster Mommie Dearest. Suddenly, all non-parental people think that you behave like the titular Mommie. Whenever they see you, they shield their dogs (and it’s nothing to do with your sheepskin gilet).
Given the many challenges of marketing indie novels in a wild and crazy industry teeming with books of every kind, I’m always grateful for those who step up with true interest and awareness of what I’m doing as a writer. It’s gratifying to not only get noticed in the literary tsunami, but get pulled out for recognition and a little conversation.
My debut novel, After the Sucker Punch, was awarded an indieBRAG Medallion last year and that honor triggered a lot of media attention and a spate of new readers who might not have heard of the book otherwise. So when, this year, Hysterical Love was awarded that same honor, I felt doubly fortunate.
They’re agreat organization run by a strong leader, Geri Clouston, with an able and enthusiastic ambassador inStephanie Hopkins, who is indefatigable in her efforts to promote indieBRAG authors and their books.
Toward that end, she invited me to sit down with her to have a chat specifically about Hysterical Love, as well as my general writing process. Thank you, Stephanie; I enjoyed the conversation, always delighted when my books strike a chord!
If you are alive and aware in the year 2015, you know that one of the most common complaints articulated is how technology has surpassed all other avenues of entertainment for “today’s youth.” Likely every parent, teacher, mentor, writer has made note of this cultural evolution (devolution?), and while most would claim no antipathy for technology itself (many quite happily using it to their own advantage), there is a general sense that proper balance between the tugging mediums has yet to be found.
Which prompts the question: Is there a way for kids to learn and engage with technology without losing the glorious and countless benefits of reading actual books? As any book-reading/loving adult who concurrently loves the Internet can attest: YES! But first you’ve got to inspire a love of books and reading, and that’s not easily done in the cacophony of ever-more-seductive screens.
Mark Barry, a Nottingham UK native who also happens to be an incredible writer and novelist (two of his books,Carla and The Night Porter, are top faves of mine!), is the co-founder of a brilliant organization called, quite appropriately, Brilliant Books (you can read all about it HERE). This organization’s sole mission is to create access to, and interest in, books… books that children are then inspired to read. Books that are put into the hands of children who might not otherwise have them. But Mark and his partner, Phil Pidluznyj, don’t just leave it there:
Essentially, Brilliant Books go into schools with successful people in tow; people who credit their success in careers, etc. because they read fiction as children and continue to read.
In two hours, they give an inspirational talk, then help us work with up to twenty children, in small groups, mostly reluctant readers, each writing a short story. Finally, after eight weeks, the stories are collected in an anthology which is presented to the kids in front of their peers, so they essentially become published authors at between 10 and 14.
Pretty amazing idea, isn’t it?
Obviously, there is a need for this sort of activity in millions of schools around the world, and if you’re interested in organizing just such a group in your area, much info and inspiration can be drawn from reading whatBrilliant Booksis doing.
Another way you can help is from afar: by purchasing Access All Areas, a sweet little short story anthology Mark put together as a fundraising gift.
Gathering many of his favorite authors (including, humbly, yours truly!), he gave the prompt to “focus on the magic of books and reading,” inviting writers to share stories about what inspired them as readers, what sparked their passion for words; what contributed to their love affair with books. The proceeds of this anthology, now on sale in both e-book and paperback at Amazon, will go directly toward much-needed items for Brilliant Books.
But the biggest call-to-action here is BUY THE BOOK!
Because this one’s not about raising the profile of any specific author, or participating in a push to get Amazon rankings up, or a contest won. It’s about spending a few dollars on a lovely collection of stories, all written for the purpose of getting — and keeping — kids interested in reading. As Mark always says: “A society that doesn’t read is a poorer one than one that does.”
I have a thing about book covers. They’re not only the initial calling card of a book and its author, they are the art, the statement, the quality, that sets the tone for, hopefully, what follows within.
I’m sharing this piece by JJ Marsh because I think she hit the point on the head, about both the covers she features in her piece, as well as the article she references with their own examples. Interesting comparisons. And, yes, to each his own, but why not make the first statement of your book be a thing of beauty and intrigue?
The key elements to lure readers? Animals, beaches, seasonal themes, friendship/sisterhood, shirtless men, great photography, chicklit glitter and cute kids.
Sure, I get that. Certain readers will buy stuff that guarantees satisfaction – stuff that does what it says on the tin. Yet I scrolled through those covers and not one appealed to me. No surprise there. I loathe anything mawkish or sentimental, rarely read chicklit/romance/erotica and I’m drawn to covers which promise beauty, intelligence, new ideas and experiences.
I know very little about design, but as a reader, I do judge books by their covers. Never one to keep my opinions to myself, here are ten indie-published covers which appealed to my own personal predelictions. In no particular order, this is my own subjective beauty parade with links to the designers.
As one who is hellbent on making sure my points, my theses, are all thoroughly clear and understood, I find that when evidence suggests I’ve not succeeded, I occasionally go overboard with “clarifications,” addendums, updated material, etc., in a quest to correct the problem. What I discover is, more often than not, there really is no problem, just the dissent of those who do not share my opinion (sometimes with horribly bad manners!). So when a tweeting follower sent me an article that supported a controversial theme I covered recently, I paid attention.
When I publishedDear Self-Published Author: Do NOT Write Four Books a Year, a strongly worded (I’ll admit 🙂 ) opinion piece about the “quality vs. quantity” debate that inspired prodigious pushback from angry writers, I considered that I’d taken, perhaps, too broad a brushstroke about who ought to publish in volume (those who vigilantly take the time and care to put out excellent work regardless of how often) vs. those who shouldn’t (anyone who doesn’t). But no amount of clarification would mollify the angry mobs who found my theory heinous, so I left it where I could and got on with my life.
Then this article was sent my way,That’s Not Writing–It’s Typing, and I felt the writer, developmental editor/writer,Jamie Chavez, not only echoed some version of my thesis, but very possibly did a better job of articulating the issues. Have a read:
A good friend of mine proofs for a small firm that publishes category romances. Her social media commentary about it is hilarious (and most of it unprintable in a family blog like this one, though recently I learned the word throbbing, among others, is currently out of fashion in the romance novel biz).
It’s a time-honored, legitimate publishing endeavor, the writing of romances—and whether they are PG or sexy or hard-core, there’s a huge fan base of smart, savvy romance readers out there. Don’t believe me? Check out the Smart Bitches Trashy Books website, which has been doing a booming review business for ten years now.
If you’re a writer, then, this is a huge market you might want to tap, n’est-ce pas?
Oui. As Entertainment Weekly notes, “Romance novels were once the book world’s dirty little secret. No more. Thanks in part to e-readers and Fifty Shades of Grey, they’re now the hottest fiction genre going.” Even Jane Friedman, to whose blog I subscribe, wrote a piece about a highly successful self-published author, Bella Andre, and what other writers could learn from her path to success.
Who is this Bella Andre? I wondered. EW says,
In 2010 Bella Andre was dropped by Random House after her firefighter romance series failed to generate sales. She’d spent the previous seven years shuffling between publishers, and now it seemed that her career was over. … Some friends and romance readers encouraged the writer to self-publish. So in July 2010 she uploaded the fittingly titled Love Me—a sequel that her then publisher, Simon & Schuster, had never wanted to put out. She sent personal notes to every fan who’d ever contacted her during her career, urging them to seek out the new book on Amazon. “I probably made $8,000 that month, which was bigger than the advance of $5,000 I’d been offered by Plume, and I retained all the rights,” she says. Five months later she self-published another sequel, and within weeks she became the first self-published author to hit the top 25 on Barnes & Noble’s Nook best-seller list, selling 1,000 books a day.
I didn’t know that when I read Friedman’s piece, though. So I looked up this woman’s best-selling books. They must be good, I thought. And I bought one, in spite of the dreadful cover. (That should have been my first clue.)