Category Archives: In reflection

Love is a Beach or Darcy Comes First for a Change? WTH is going on?

Very recently, I released a new novel–my BIGGEST novel to date–called ‘Love is a Beach’. My editor called it my best work. Early reviewers loved it. New release readers hugged it and wanted to be Nana when they grew up. But the rest of the world? Crickets. It didn’t matter what advertising or promotional angle I tried, I couldn’t get the book moving.

So, what’s an author to do when her newest baby won’t fly out of the nest? Give up and move on? No way. That’s never been my MO.

While I’m aware that some books just never find their audience, I wasn’t willing to put Love is a Beach in that category until I’d exhausted all options. *The following is a bit of business talk that may or may not bore you senseless. If you find your eyes glazing over, feel free to scroll to the bottom of the post where all is explained in summary* I was running ads. It’s something I’m good at, so I knew they were doing their job. They were finding readers and sending them to my Amazon sales page, but those readers weren’t one-clicking. Since I knew the problem wasn’t the actual book, it had to be the description or the cover.

First off, I tried a few different tag lines at the top of the blurb–something to grab the reader’s attention to get them to read on. I noticed a tiny bit of a shift there, but nothing significant. I tightened the actual blurb with the same result which let me to toy with the cover.

I tried out a different image that was more in line with popular rom-com books at the moment and things improved but only slightly. After switching the cover back, I wondered if perhaps changing the title would make the difference. Maybe readers thought the title ‘Love is a Beach’ was too sweet? Maybe they took it too literally instead of translating it to ‘Love is a Bitch’? I had no clue by that point, but my confidence was really shaken and I needed to do something bigger since the smaller changes weren’t helping.

Deciding to buck the man-chest trend, I went with an overjoyed looking woman and the title ‘Darcy Comes First for a Change’. I thought it was still tongue in cheek and fit the story well because Darcy is a mother who rarely puts herself first, plus her new man Leo ALWAYS makes her come first :insert winky face here:

To my absolute relief, the cover and title change worked. Within a few hours of it going live, my sales and borrows started moving upwards and this awesome story (if I do say so myself) is getting the audience it deserves. So we’re sticking with it. The puzzle has been solved and I’m able to put my creative focus into what comes next instead of agonising over why I can’t sell a book I poured my heart into and worked ridiculously hard on. Hallelujah!

For those of you who read my work the moment it released, I want to thank you for always trusting me to delivery the steam and the entertainment no matter what the subject. I’m always honoured to have you travelling this road with me. I hope you like the new title and cover, but if you prefer the original the paperback version still has it. I’ll leave it available so you can grab that for your shelves over the next couple of months.

And to those still waiting to read, here’s the link to get your copy. You won’t regret it. books2read.com/u/mZN8pp

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Learning to Listen. Learning to take Pride.

It’s that time again. It’s the last day of yet another year, and we can’t help but look back and take stock of all we’ve done…and all we haven’t done. Did we accomplish everything we wanted? Was it a hard year? Was it a good year? Was it a year to look back on and be proud?

Each of us have our own answers to those questions, but for me, 2015, was a year of finding my feet yet again in an ever changing industry, while dealing personally with the chaos loss creates within one’s family. If I had to sum it up with one word, I’d call 2015 ‘Complicated’.

In saying that, I have learnt some wonderful lessons, and I think as a result, I’ve become a kinder and more caring person in both my personal and professional life by taking the time to pay attention to those around me. Some people, I saw more clearly, and others I realised that I hadn’t really been seeing at all. I also took stock of what was important to me as a woman, as a mother, as a wife and as a friend, and I took steps to find contentment in all that I was and take back control of the things that weren’t working.

I let go of a lot in 2015. And while doing so, I felt lighter, and lighter in my heart. And in my heart, I found that girl who dreamed of love and happy endings, the girl who was ballsy enough to take risks and follow her heart – the girl who convinced me to start writing professionally in the first place.

Oh, how I welcomed her back into my life!

Somewhere along the way, I’d stopped listening to her – I don’t know why – I suppose I got caught up in numbers and business decisions and marketing plans and everything else that goes along with this job of mine. But, when I started listening to her again, she convinced me to write THAT book. You all know the one – the one that made you all cry. I’d been so scared to write it. I was worried that you’d all hate me for it. I was worried that it would ruin my career. But that little voice inside me convinced me to take a risk, so I did, and it was totally worth it. Did I lose some readers? Yes. I did. Did I gain some readers? Most definitely. But more importantly, I gained a sense of pride in myself. I was proud because I finally stood up and took a big risk; I finally did something that really scared me.

In my career, I have written four books that were truly contained the loudest and most intense characters in my mind – A Beautiful Struggle, Drawn, 47 Things, and now, In the Wind. There were the books were I could close my eyes and see everything so clearly that the words just poured from my fingertips. It was truly as though I was there, witnessing everything that was happening first hand. They are the books that I, as a writer, love most. Those are the books I want to write – they’re the books I’m in love with.

Don’t get me wrong though, I’ve loved every book I’ve ever written, and I loved all the characters each time I let them take over my mind. But sometimes, I’ve had to mix my writing choices with my business decisions, and at times, that has taken some of the fun out of it.

At any one time, there are numerous characters from numerous books living in a writer’s mind, and sometimes, because this is a business, writers have to tell those voices to be quiet because they need to write a story about XYZ because of commitment ABC. Maybe that isn’t where their heart is in that moment. But it doesn’t mean they don’t love the characters they have to write about, it just makes things a little more difficult when characters from other stories are being pushy and yelling while you sleep.

Anyone feeling as though we’re in Wonderland yet?

 

So, in 2015 I made a promise to myself to write the stories that are the loudest in my mind. I did that with 47 Things, and I’ve done it again with In the Wind. And I have to tell you, I love both of those stories. They are my best work, and there isn’t a negative review in the world that will change my feelings about those characters or about my ability as a writer to tell their stories. because like I said, I found a sense of pride and I learned how to listen to that driving force inside me, showing me my path and pushing me take those risks by telling love stories that may not be what people are expecting, but are relevant to the world we live in. My goal as a writer, is to stay true to my characters, and to make readers feel, and to do that successfully, I need to feel it to my very core whenever I sit down to tell a story. I need to laugh. I need to cry, I need to fall in love, I need to feel that pain of fear in my chest when I think something isn’t going to turn out so well. I need to hand out pieces of my soul within my work if I expect you all to take it in and live amongst my words. That’s my job. And that’s what I promise you as a reader, and myself as the writer that I’m going to do moving forward.

In 2015, I grew up. In 2015, I learned to stop being scared. In 2015, I learned to listen to the loudest voices. In 2015, I learned to take pride. In 2015, I fell in love with writing again.

In 2016, I hope you’ll stay with me, it’s going to be quite a ride.

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New Adult Romance. No, it isn’t just ‘sexed up’ YA. #AussieNA

There seems to be quite a misconception out there as to what the New Adult genre really is, and therefore, it’s developed a bit of a stigma. Many readers and reviewers have previously shown a knee jerk reaction to the genre by shaking their head and saying ‘Oh, I don’t read NA’. It’s led me to wonder why? So many of our industry’s favourite authors actually got their start in self publishing by writing New Adult Romance – what happened in the space of only a few years to change people’s minds?

Wikipedia describes the genre as –

New Adult (NA) fiction is a developing genre of fiction with protagonists in the 18–30 age bracket.[1]St. Martin’s Press first coined the term in 2009, when they held a special call for “…fiction similar to YA that can be published and marketed as adult—a sort of an ‘older YA’ or ‘new adult’.”[2] New Adult fiction tends to focus on issues such as leaving home, developing sexuality, and negotiating education and career choices.[3] The genre has gained popularity rapidly over the last few years, particularly through books by self-published bestselling authors like Jennifer L. Armentrout, Cora Carmack, Colleen Hoover, and Jamie McGuire.[4][5]

The genre was originally met with some criticism, as some viewed it as a marketing scheme,[6] while others claimed the readership was not there to publish the material.[7] In contrast, others claimed that the term was necessary; a publicist for HarperCollins described it as “a convenient label because it allows parents and bookstores and interested readers to know what is inside”.[8]

Examples of books in the new-adult genre include Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Wait For You, Jamie McGuire’s Beautiful Disaster,[9] Colleen Hoover’s Slammed,[10] and Cora Carmack’s Losing It.[11]

My thoughts are that the genre has been misunderstood. By many, it’s seen as the sexed up version of Young Adult, and when it gained popularity and became an actual category in 2013, it seemed that every author with a protagonist within the 18-25 (which is the industry gauge of a NA character) age range selected NA as a category to help with their visibility on Amazon. That has created a genre that is filled with so many sub-genres that it makes your head spin. And, like any popular category, it attracted a slew of ‘get rich quick’ authors who very quickly filled up the market. Eventually, it turned readers away when their expectations weren’t being met by poorly thought out story lines that were too dramatic or too ‘porny’ for their liking. As a result, the New Adult genre was given a bad wrap and became widely dismissed by those who had a bad experience with it at the height of its popularity.

However, in recent months, I’m seeing that things are changing. Reviewers are starting to say ‘I didn’t think I liked New Adult, but this book changed my mind…’. And that’s not just on my books, I’m seeing that comment on books by my peers as well. I’m seeing that comment in blog posts by people who had previously turned away from the genre. I’m seeing that comment within articles in magazines. I’m seeing that comment in Facebook posts.

Every time I see that comment, it makes me smile. Because finally, readers are starting to see that New Adult Romance isn’t just ‘sexed up YA’. At the base of its existence, the New Adult genre focuses on finding one’s path in life.

Do you remember that period in your life? Are you going through that period right now?

It’s that time of life when you are literally a ‘New Adult’. When you first get the chance to spread your wings and fly out into the big bad world, following your own path. For the first time, your decisions are your own, and if you want to eat pizza for breakfast, you can. If you want to have a sordid relationship with the bad boy down the hall, you can. If you want to drink until you’re sick, you can. But at the same time, you also have your first real taste of responsibility, and are in complete control of your successes and your failures. Sometimes, you have to make really hard decisions. Sometimes, you have to let something go that you wanted so much. Sometimes, you have to face something that has been stopping you from living your life. Sometimes, you simply have to pay for what you did, and learn to live with regret…

There are a million different scenarios, but essentially, New Adult focuses on finding one’s own identity within the freedom of living your own life. You’re away from your parents, and the great path of life is laid out in front of you. It’s such an exciting but difficult time in almost all of our lives, and I find that many of my readers are women (and sometimes, men) who have already lived that part of their life and enjoy looking back on it fondly. And for those readers who are at the age, reading in the genre helps them feel as though they aren’t alone in feeling a little lost.

New Adult romance has angst, comedy, passion, all laid out in a journey of discovery that, if done well, will give you ‘the feels’ and leave you feeling hopeful and happy. It isn’t a genre that is widely popular in Australia, and it has been difficult for me to find other New Adult authors who write within an Australian setting as I do. So far, I’ve only come across CJ Duggan (Summer Series, Paradise City, Paradise Road) and Lauren K McKellar (The Problem with Crazy, How to Save a Life), and really, I’d love to find more. I’d love to champion this wonderfully personal and nostalgic genre with them and make it something great within our sun kissed shores. So, if you know of any other Aussie stories that fit under the NA banner, I’d love to know about them. I’d also love to know what New Adult romance means to you – do you agree with the above, or do you see it as simply an age classification? Comment below to discuss.

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Good bye 2014. Thanks for being awesome!

A friend of mine recently shared the following link with me – http://www.luckybitch.com/2014/12/end-of-year-ritual/. Basically it’s a blog post by a women’s business coach, and in it, she talks about doing a great end of year ritual where you look back on the past year and make a list of everything you’re proud of so that you enter the new year in a positive mindset.

And it got me thinking about how most of us enter the new year thinking about all of the things we didn’t accomplish the year before and I really like the idea of picking out the thinks you did do. Because, let’s face it, as women, we do a hell of a lot but we’re taught to be humble and not to brag. But guess what, ladies? You’re worth so much more than you think you are, and I am too.

So, here’s the short list of what I’m proud of accomplishing in 2014.

I am proud of…

1 – publishing 6 novels, 2 novellas and 1 short story. (A Beautiful Rock; Drawn 2: Obsession; Drawn 2: Redemption; Devotion; Our Lives Entwined; Partners; A Beautiful Star; Deep Cover: Case 001; A Drawn Christmas)

2 – being there when my kids needed me. I managed to attend all of the concerts and performances and excursions that most working mums don’t get to attend because I’m lucky enough to work at home.

3 – writing two different sequels to Drawn and creating a fun ‘choose your own adventure/sliding doors’ experience for readers. This one, I think I’m most proud of. At times it felt impossible keep track of those two stories and weaving their timeline together. But in the end, it was worth it because…(see next point)

4 – topping the iBooks charts in almost every country in the world when the Drawn Sequels released, then topping the Self Published Best Seller list and staying on that list for three months in a row.

5 – overcoming my internal hermit and attending three book signings to meet some of my beautiful readers. It was so worth seeing your smiling faces and getting the chance to talk to you in person.

6 – becoming the main bread-winner in my household and surviving the transition without killing my very patient hubby. Early this year, my husband and I had to make a very important decision, I was drowning in a sea of bookworld and houseworld and I wasn’t coping. I needed help, so we decided to trust in my abilities as an author to continue releasing books you want to read and take the plunge so that hubby was now a house husband. Now, I’m a bit of a control freak and it took a lot of restraint on my side to step back and let him run things his way. Now, after almost a year, everything is running smoothly and I’m able to go into my office to work without worrying about coming out to an exploded house – that in itself is probably one of the best things of 2014!

7 – becoming stronger and refusing to be pushed around. You know how you have those people in your life who just don’t treat you the way you should be treated? Well, we all have them, and this year, I stopped taking their crap and simply said an appropriate no at the time. I guess in some way, I realised my worth and I didn’t want to be made to feel less than I am. (if that makes sense! lol)

8 – being generous. I’m a firm believer that if I have, then those around me should have too. So whenever I can, I give. I often say ‘take it now, you never know when I’ll be poor again.’ as a joke. But the thing is, your world can change in an instant, so I want to give while I can. Whether it’s with material things, or just my time or advice, or even just an ear to listen, I’ve made sure I do that for those I care about and those I see who need it.

9 – becoming more professional and realising that I’m running a business. So, I’ve taken steps to grow that business by employing the appropriate people to help me organise my work load and focus on what’s important – writing books.

10 – taking chances. Not all of my risks pay off, but I’m proud that I write what I want to write and I take a chance by putting it out there and possibly getting flamed by a thousand reviewers. But, it’s the reason my tagline is ‘Romance…with a difference’. I’m always told that I’m unconventional and I love to put that into my stories. I often put it in terms of the massive Team Edward/Team Jacob craze that swept the world with Twilight, I like to think I write for Team Jacob – the people who root for the underdog. That’s because I always do and I love it when a book surprises me and goes the way I want it to.

I’ll leave it there, but I have to say that once I got going, I thought of so many things I did that I can be proud of over the last year – both personal and professional. So I know I’m growing as a person and as a business woman, and I’m really looking forward to moving things to the next level over the coming year. I’ve set myself goals to achieve that involve my health and my career, as well as my family and ME. In 2015, I’m going to take the time to nurture myself. Because if I don’t do it, I can’t expect anyone else to.

So, what are you proud of? Feel free to comment or just have a think about it. You might realise that 2014 was better than you thought – I know I did.

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