The Good, The Bad and the Really, Really Ugly….

I’m always amused when, upon hearing I’m an author, a new acquaintance responds with, “I might write a book myself.” As if it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. It’s not. Traditionally published authors have to put up with getting small percentages of royalties (if you even get that far), having to write at night while working at a full-time day job (I didn’t, but I lucked out–I had a really good agent), delivering a manuscript only to be told it will need extensive revisions and/or rewrites and holding your breath while you wait to see how good or bad the reviews and sale turn out to be. Self-published authors deal with a lot of criticism, not being taken seriously most of the time, and trying to write while also marketing their own work. No fun.

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In short, your ego can take a major beatdown, no matter which way you go.

I much prefer the new breed of publisher, like Creativia, my current publisher. I have full control over what I write…though what I’m “writing” for them at the moment is reissues of my backlist books, which means reformatting text lifted from the pages of the published books. I’m too lazy and too slow on the keyboard to retype them, and don’t have backups of the originals that are compatible with current technology. I’ve had mixed feelings about even bothering to republish the old books. They were originally published back in the ’80s and ’90s, and trends were quite different then. The five books originally published by Berkley–Dance of the Gods, Angels at Midnight, A Time for Legends, Solitaire and Luck of the Draw–were written and published at a time when the big, glitzy romance novel was king. Now, that’s not so popular. My nine series romances are a big question mark. Is that genre still selling?

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I don’t expect to have a second run at the bestseller lists with any of them. I’m content to have them reissued and maybe make modest sales while putting my chips, so to speak, on the newer works. Chasing the Wind (2008) and Final Hours (2009) are not exactly new, but definitely more recent. The latter was a gamble; I knew that when I wrote it. A male protagonist who’s an adulterer isn’t a hero by any stretch. Chasing the Wind, however, is the basis for what I hope will be a series. Time will tell. These days, it takes me much longer to write a book than it used to. Sometimes, I think my mind wandered and got lost!

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The worst part, I think, is working on a book for months or years and, nearing completion, discovering you got it all wrong and having to start over. This is what happened with Sam’s Story. It was a difficult book to write, because while Sam has been gone for over five years now, it’s painful for me to even think about him without tearing up. He was with us for almost all of his twenty-one years.

The first draft was too short. The second, I discovered, was too much of a downer. I wanted the story to be fun and uplifting. So a few days ago, I started over. I took a different approach and it seems to be working. The story is coming easily, flowing smoothly. For how long, I wonder?

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Recently, I saw the cover for a foreign edition of Luck of the Draw on the internet. I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t even know it had any foreign sales! I don’t remember signing a contract for it. I’ll have to check with my agent. I probably signed the contract and just forgot about it. That sort of thing happens more often than I care to admit. It wasn’t exactly my agent’s favorite of my books. If Berkley hadn’t given me a contract for an untitled, unknown fifth novel, I doubt my agent would ever have sent it to them. I’m surprised she sent it out to any foreign publishers. It’s more of an historical suspense novel than a glitzy romance.

I also discovered a review of Dance of the Gods that had been posted a few years ago. When a review starts with “I consider myself a connoiseur of bad romance novels…” you can be sure it’s not good news. But I wish I could find the link again. It was actually pretty funny. Like most established authors, I’ve learned to not take bad reviews personally. Nobody can please everyone all the time, and bad reviews are a fact of the author’s life. You deal with it and move on, if you want a career in this nutty business.

Some of us used to compare bad reviews to see who got the worst. And we cried all the way to the bank, as the saying goes.

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4 responses

  1. It’s true, you can’t please everyone constantly, and as an author you have to just let bad reviews slide- as they even serve their own purpose, telling readers that those positive reviews are not just from people you personally know.

    I have seen other authors (the Patricia Butler demon comes to mind) who have gone out of their way to have screaming matches with those giving bad reviews.

  2. I guess a certain Presidential candidate isn’t the only one with a thin skin. Most of us know that if someone doesn’t like what we wrote, we have to just suck it up and move forward.

    Patricia Butler…I hadn’t thought of her in a long time. She really couldn’t handle criticism, could she? I’ve always wondered how much her tirades had to do with the shutdown of the Writers Digest message boards.

  3. Glad you’ve found a way to write Sam’s story that is working for you. I’m looking forward to reading the wit and wisdom of Sam. Lately I’ve found myself reluctant to write because I worry that I’ve lost my edge as I’ve gotten older. It’s so easy to let doubts creep in and paralyze you, and so hard not to worry about what other people think.

  4. Thanks, Karla! I used to constantly be thinking about the book I was working on. I’d either be working through ideas or imagining my characters’ lives outside the action. It was never far from my mind. A few years ago, that stopped. I don’t know why, and I don’t know how to get it back. I think that’s why the books are no longer so easy to write.

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