Saturday, June 22, 2013

Guest Post by Dakota Madison

Why I Decided to Write Romance Novels

By Karen Mueller Bryson aka Dakota Madison

I've been independently publishing my work (fiction and non-fiction) since 2002. That was long before eBooks and the rise of indie publishing. As a part-time author, I produced what I thought was a significant body of work (all while working full-time and going to school part-time to complete my doctorate and eventually earn tenure). The one thing I wasn't able to do, though, was sell a significant number of books. Despite all of my marketing efforts, I was never able to sell more than a few hundred copies of any of my books. I liked to joke that I earned enough money selling books to take my husband out to lunch at Subway once a month but it’s not far from the truth.

In the fall of 2012, I was getting extremely frustrated with putting out what I thought were interesting books, getting a number of glowing reviews, doing tons of promotions and books tours and still not achieving any significant sales.  So after seeing the success of books like Easy by Tammara Webber and Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire (new adult contemporary romances that I absolutely love), I decided to reinvent myself and become the romance writer, Dakota Madison.

In November 2012, I joined National Novel Writing Month and decided to try my hand at writing my first romance novel, STILL FINE AT FORTY (which is currently on sale for $0.99 for summer beach read season).  I loved the process of writing a book in a month so much that I didn't stop. I decided to challenge myself to write 12 Novels in 12 Months.  It’s now seven months later and I've written seven more romance novels (all of which have either been published or will be published this summer). The most interesting thing about this venture into the romance genre is that I've spent very little time on marketing and have made more money than I ever thought possible. (My first published Dakota Madison romance, MATCHPLAY, made several thousand sales the first week it was released before I had time solicit reviews or even begin to market it!) I’m no longer joking about making take-hubby-to-Subway money. My Dakota Madison romance novels have made pay-the-mortgage money.

My lesson learned: No amount of marketing will sell books if you’re writing stuff no one wants to read and 
no marketing is necessary if you’re writing stuff that people want to read.

So as long as people still want to read romance novels, I’ll continue to write them!

Joe sez: There are many reasons to want to be a writer, and often these reasons overlap. Some just  want to be read and don't care much about the money. Others want to make a living.

If your goal is to quit your day job and pay your bills, you're going to have to come to the realization that this is a business. That means writing for the market.

I've said, and even blogged about, having no integrity when it comes to this profession. I'm a hack, a whore, a guy whose muse is the almighty dollar.

That isn't to say I don't love what I write, or work hard to craft good stories. But when I'm writing, I write for a certain demographic that I believe will enjoy my work. I stick to genre conventions, and give readers something recognizable. I learned how to do this by reading a whole bunch of books, and watching what sells.

If your books aren't selling, change genres. I have two super-secret pen names where I've experimented with different kinds of ebooks. One is successful. One isn't. I've written mysteries, thrillers, horror, humor, sci-fi, espionage, and even paranormal romance. My sci-fi doesn't sell well. I have no idea why, because I think it's a lot of fun to write and to read. But I have to heed those numbers if I want to have a career. Eventually I will finish the Timecaster Trilogy, but only because I'm also writing things that do sell well enough that I can occasionally be self-indulgent.

All the marketing in the world won't help a book succeed if no one is interested in that book. If you have weak sales and you want to make a living, maybe it is time to try something else.

Remember the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over, hoping for a different outcome. If you want a different outcome, you have to do something different.