Monday, December 29, 2014

What Readers Want—And Don't Want

Two days ago, I came across a post on Facebook by author Lacey Weatherford, where she had polled her readers for what types of books and story lines they're tired of seeing. I thought the post was interesting, so I decided to poll my readers, as well. Between these two posts, there were many similarities about what readers are tired of reading. Some of the responses might surprise you:

  1. BDSM topped the list. A lot of readers are apparently totally over D/s. As in, it's been beaten to death with the flogger of overindulgence and whipped beyond novelty, to the point that readers are gagging on their ball gags.
  2. Fifty Shades knock-offs were second on the list. If you count responses of "billionaires who hook up with a recent college grad/innocent young woman/etc." or any such derivative thereof as Fifty knock-offs, this was easily the number one answer. But since Fifty Shades was what made BDSM so popular, how about we just lump these first two responses in one gigantic category called "Readers Would Like To See This Die A Fast Death."
  3. Weak Female protagonists ranked high, as well. We're lumping comments such as "wishy-washy," "stupid girl who falls for the bad guy," and "weak females who let their men walk all over them" in this category. In other words, readers want a strong, smart heroine who doesn't do stupid things or let her jealous friends persuade her to do something idiotic to risk her relationship. Thank God for Samantha, Gina, and Cordray of my AKM Series. Strong girls ROCK!
  4. Unfaithful hero/man-slut. I was shocked to see so many responses for this, because it's common knowledge that in a romance, you don't want a hero who's sleeping with every girl in town. There are exceptions to this, but they have to be pretty compelling exceptions with realistic, believable reasons for the man-slutting.
  5. Virgins (male or female), especially the female virgin with the man-slut. Snooze-yawn. This was why I made sure Karma wasn't a virgin in my Strong Karma novels. Even I thought that wasn't realistic.
  6. Motorcycle club books, aka Sons of Anarchy.
  7. Insta-love. This one received a lot of hate, as well.
  8. Erotica (surprise!) One reader commented that this was the first year she didn't have any romance on her Christmas wish list. The sex has become overwhelming. A lot of readers would like to see more tension, plot, and story over sex. Thank goodness my contemporary books are taking a turn this direction.
  9. Vampires. One reader said she's tired of vampires being seen as the good guys. This one makes me sad, as I love my AKM vampires. However, readers have said my vampire stories are so unique and fresh that they make an exception to read them. So, yay! Here's to being unique and fresh! But I will say that I've been playing with the idea of a novel where the vampire is the bad guy and follows a more traditional, "Dracula" approach. So, even I would like to see vampires represented as the bloodthirsty, evil beasts they've been portrayed as in the past.
  10. Repetition, repetition, repetition. Readers are tired of seeing an author play out the same story line over and over with different characters. One gal even said she is sick of repetitious sex, where the same language is used in every sex scene.
  11. Speaking of sex: Readers got a good laugh regarding overly creative descriptions of sex and body parts, such as "his love wand invaded her slick love cave," or "his engorged muscle slammed through her cervix." Ouch! Um, that's not even remotely sexy. Does the author know how painful that would be? This is the hazard of trying too hard to use words other than dick and pussy/vagina. As Stephen King says, keep it simple. If a character has to take a shit, say he has to take a shit, not that he has to perform an act of excrement removal. In other words, he drove his cock into her vagina. Nuff said?
  12. Rape disguised as romance was another item readers don't like, but it opened an interesting conversation about how rape should be presented in novels, and that it can be used as an excellent device to show a character's strength and ability to overcome adversity.
  13. Cliffhangers. Nothing new here. This continues to be something readers generally don't like. The warning to authors is, "Hang readers off a cliff at the risk they'll grab you and take you down with them." 
  14. Serials (but I think that's because the readers who said they didn't like serials read serials written by authors who don't truly understand what a serial is, based on the reasons given for not liking them.).
So, do you agree? Disagree? Is there anything missing? Add your two cents in the comments. What do you want to see more/less of in future romance books?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Quest for 1,000,000 Words - Crushed It! Now what?

Last week, I hit the goal I set out for myself in January: to hit 1,000,000 words written. Now I'm looking toward the next year. Without goals, how do you measure success? How do you know what to shoot for?

Sometimes to look forward, you have to look back. To make goals for next year, you need to look at your accomplishments for this year so you can build on them.

For me, this year has been a blend of frustration and achievement. Frustrating because I'd put myself way behind in 2013 by running a lot of promotion and one huge blog tour. This killed my writing production, which carried over into the first half of this year. What I learned from that is to do a much better job planning and organizing promotion, and to ensure I always put writing first. After all, I'm a writer. I should be writing at least as much as I'm promoting. 

Year In Review
Once I recovered from my promotional misstep and the ensuing stress it caused, I got back on track. I spent a lot of time completely shut off from social media. In February, inspired by the Olympics, I plunked out a 60,000-word novel called Finding Lacey Moon in two weeks. That novel is now in the hands of my editor and slated for a February 9, 2015, release. Finding Lacey Moon is a winter story, so it made sense to hold it through the summer. I'm glad I did. During editing, I rewrote half the book, and my toughest beta reader, who was lukewarm with the first version, said that she absolutely adored the new version. This was the first time she didn't have any feedback to improve the story, so I guess it's good.
After writing Finding Lacey Moon, I finished my AKM prequel, All the King's Men, which I published in April. Then I hunkered down on book one of the Strong Karma Trilogy, Good Karma. This 150,000-word novel had haunted me for two years and during two-and-a-half full rewrites, I think I wrote more than 600,000 words to get Good Karma to its final version.

The other challenge preventing me from finishing GK was that I kept putting it off so I could work on my All the King's Men Series. Good Karma finally forced me to shut down everything else so I could focus only on it. I hated stopping work on Bound Guardian Angel, which is the next AKM novel, but with the Strong Karma Trilogy taking up every single brain cell, nothing else could get through. My choice was to finish Good Karma, along with all the other Strong Karma books, or stop writing completely.

In August, Good Karma came out. Book two of the trilogy flew out of me at that point, and Coming Back To You was published in November. Both book have received rave reviews, for which I'm so grateful.

Then I took time out to rework an old novella called The Arms of Winter I got the rights back to. I added 40,000 words to the novella, turning it into a novel, and completely reworked the plot and the ending. This was the story as I'd always envisioned it, and I republished it under the new name Winter's Fire this month. 

Now, with the end of the year less than a week away, I just finished the first draft of Full Circle, the final book of the Strong Karma Trilogy, and have begun work on Bound Guardian Angel again. 

The Year Ahead
Now that I know where I've been, it's time to look toward where I'm going in 2015. 

I didn't spend a lot of energy and effort on promotion in 2014, because I needed to get back on track with my writing. This year, with the release of the much-anticipated Bound Guardian Angel, I am planning another massive blog tour. But instead of trying to coordinate it myself, I'm hiring three blog tour coordinators and will let them handle ninety percent of the coordination. This way I will still be able to hit my writing goals instead of focusing four months of energy on the tour.

With that said, I'm planning a new release every other month in 2015. Finding Lacey Moon comes out in February. Full Circle is projected for April. An All the King's Men omnibus is planned for release in June, and Bound Guardian Angel is currently slated for August, although I have vowed not to rush that book. If by some chance it's not ready, I won't release it. Trace's book is too important. Right now, I don't see any reason why it won't be ready, but I've recently been diagnosed with a tumor on my pituitary gland. I don't think the current treatment plan will negatively affect me too much, but if the treatment changes, my productivity could change, as well. We'll have to see. In October, I want to release the Strong Karma Series Companion, which will include some deleted scenes, and perhaps a novella and a handful of short stories. Lastly, I'm shooting for Severin's Muse to come out in December. 

Each of the projects scheduled for 2015 is already started, thanks to a very productive 2014, so hopefully that will bode well for each of them releasing on time. But now I need to get back to splitting my time with promoting my books. Thanks to a solid plan, I think I'll be able to make it work without losing my mind.

And Beyond
I've already started scheduling for 2016-2018, because in this business, you need to plan in advance to meet readers' and publishers' expectations. 

So, are you ready for a new year? Have you taken stock and looked ahead? If not, what are you waiting for? Time's a wastin'.

See you next year!

Monday, December 22, 2014

15 Autographed Books From 15 Awesome Authors!

Have the holidays petered out your get-up-and-go, as well as your book-buying fund? Have no fear, the 15 on 1/1/15 is here! 15 books by 15 authors to be awarded to one lucky winner on New Year's Day, 2015. You can't beat that!

What's up for the winning? Check out this list:

Insidious by Aleatha Romig
One to Hold by Tia Louise
Last Resort by Kate Roth
Blue Falcon by Tia Catalina
Heartless by Vanessa Marie
Soundless Silence by M. Katherine Clark
Good Karma by Donya Lynne
Waking the Beast by Lacey Thorn
Revealed by Britni Hill
Embracing Destiny by Suzanne Purewal
No Stranger by Anya Breton
For Nicky by A.D. Ellis
The Cheyenne Bride by J.J. Devine
Intoxicated by Jeana E. Mann
Ember's Center by Jillian Jacobs

Don't wait, and make sure to share every day for a greater chance of winning.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway