Tag Archives: publishing

what publishing (and all of us) can learn from two buck chuck

Yes, I’m a marketing geek. I must be because I found 3 PR and Marketing Secrets from Trader Joe’s, a recent article about marketing and PR, absolutely fascinating. It’s short, it’s interesting, go read it! I dare say that we could all learn an important lesson from Trader Joe’s, both in life and in our careers. Such as the people with power don’t always have the money, never underestimate the need for booze, give the people what they want (even before they know they want it), start the trends don’t follow them, travel is indeed research, in marketing word of mouth is king, and finally consumers want a good value for their buck.

I know for sure big publishing should heed every one of those above points. I think I myself could adopt a few as well. You can’t argue with Trader Joe’s commercial success. I love a good trip there and have enjoyed more than a few of their signature products, but it’s the philosophy behind the success, driving it, that is the most important.

(mis)perceptions #RT12

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, a blog which was founded to prove that smart women do read romance, did an excellent wrap up of the RT Booklovers Convention. It was right on target, from the misperceptions about the genre in general, as well as this specific convention in particular, to the unprecedented media coverage of the RT event last week in Chicago thanks to that book which shall not be named. The continued top seller status of  “Voldabook”, as we have begun calling it in my circles, meant there were TV crews there from CNBC and NBC Dateline perpetuating the long standing myths of the romance industry and even creating new ones. I.E., no Voldabook did not reignite the erotica industry and the eReader did not save it. What did happen is that technology finally caught up with consumer demand. eReader devices got better and cheaper and  made it economically feasible for  shorter works to be published, for publishers to take a chance on unknown authors or new and different cutting edge sub-genres, and for authors to self-publish. That all means that a romance reader has more choices, for less money, than ever before in history. It’s not that they can “hide” what embarrassing materials they’re reading, because there have always been decorative book covers that did that very effectively for paperbacks for years, if that was the goal.

Now that the RT dust has settled and my fun blog wrap-ups have been posted, I can get down to reality and post what really happens at RT. As Sarah on Smart Bitches mentions, though I can fault the CNBC piece for crediting THAT book with reigniting the industry in one breath while saying how the RT convention has been happening for decades in the next, and for finding and interviewing one of the small handful of (unknown) male erotica authors at a convention where there were easily hundreds of female authors, some making $1 million a year selling erotica, we really can’t fault CNBC for stripping the 4 male cover models that were actually at the convention and putting them on camera, because sex sells.

Want to know the reality? Part of that CNBC piece was filmed in the lobby at  6 a.m. the morning following the Ellora’s Cave party (which want late into the night). That scene was staged. Those authors milling around the hotel lobby with shirtless male models would not have been there at the crack of dawn otherwise. In reality, those models would have been in the hotel gym in tank tops working out before the start of another long day and night. The B-roll of the dancers and party were shot the night before at the EC party.

Yes, there are models (though one tenth of the number there used to be before the death of the Mr. Romance competition), and there are costumes, and fun and games and drinking and hanging in the lobby bar, but much like high dollar deals are so often made by men on the golf course, there’s that at RT too. I came home with a list of 15 items to do, a document with notes regarding ATF agents and bomb-sniffing dogs and another document full of notes I took at the Mark Coker (Smashwords) session with 11 points on how to top the best seller lists. My to do items included following up with the publicist from Kensington I met at the Kensington party, to send her promo materials to start getting some media attention for my book which doesn’t release until April 2013. It including items discussed at lunch with my editor at Kensington that I need to take care of now, again for that new release a year down the road. It included to do items from a discussion I had with the Samhain author liaison in the bar, to email my Samhain editor regarding my next bull rider series book release. On my list is the session I need to pitch to the RT organizers for next years convention in Kansas City in May 2013, and items to follow up with fellow Western authors regarding a reader event we may try to plan for one of the smaller cons happening later this year. On there was how I need to follow up with cover artists for my self-pubbed backlist, and how I needed to send follow up emails to some of the authors I had discussed a possible collaboration with.

So yes, I did post pictures of me in costume with two shirtless cover models holding big swords while wearing kilts, because readers most likely don’t care about my To Do list, or that this RT was the most productive to date for me professionally. But as CNBC and I both know, sex sells.

what i know for sure

booksI’ve been in this business (that being publishing) for a while now and I’ve learned a few things. Here’s what I know for sure.

1- Things change. What was true yesterday is no longer true today, and if history has shown us anything, it won’t be true tomorrow. Which brings me to the next point…

2- Never stop learning and never ever assume you know it all. Because, as I mentioned above, things change, but…

3- As much as things change, there will also be things that remain the same. I’m thinking particularly of legacy publishing as I type this, holding on to the way things used to be by the skin of its teeth. Yes, it may be making small concessions here and there, but basically, still the same. But as I said…for the sake of repetition, please refer to point #1.

4- You have to put your best foot forward at all times. You never know who’s watching. Honestly, you really never know, and what you are doing when you think no one is looking could be the defining moment in your life. It could make or break your career. Did you write a free short story just for fun? Did you put in out there for the public to read? Then that piece of writing better be the best damn thing you can put out there. It had better be as good as what you would send to your editor. It better be as good and as clean as it would be if it went through edits and proofing because, as I said, you really never know who’s out there reading it, now do you? The same goes for web presence. What’s out there on the web, be it your own domain, or blog, or Facebook or Twitter (especially FB & Twitter) it better represent you the way you want to be represented to the world, because, you just never know.

5-Luck is nothing without hard work, persistence and talent. Luck may drop an opportunity into your lap but if you let it sit there and don’t act on that opportunity, it will shrivel up and die as surely as that houseplant you forgot to water. In fact, I’m starting to wonder if there is such a thing as luck at all, because it is more likely the hard work, persistence and talent brought that opportunity to you in the first place.

6-When others talk, listen. You can decide whether to accept their opinions/suggestions later, but at least hear them out, because you never know from where the next gems of wisdom will come and because (see #2) you can never stop learning because (see #1) things never stop changing.

7- Always check your email spam folder. Sounds silly. Sounds strange. But believe me, Microsoft’s “junk” may be the thing that could change your life. And I’ll leave you with that and the promise of an explanation…soon.

Cat

is this as hot as it gets?

So let me tell you a tale…

One day a romance writer who was making a decent living, a better living than she ever dreamed she could by working from home in pajamas each day, read an article. There were vast riches to be made in that land called Self-published Erotica eBooks. Huge riches to be made in the provinces of Nook and Kindle and it was no tall tale. Alas there was proof. Authors who this romance writer actually knew were panning the gold from the erotica waters and coming up with mind-boggling profits. (Seriously folks, I’m talking a million dollars a year or more in their pockets not accounting for Uncle Sam and his evil tax collectors, of course.)

So this author read the million dollar author’s book and declared–I can do that! I will do that! I’ll do it right now! And she came up with a brilliant idea. Why not be who she was now, writing romance, AND be that other writer too, the one who was making a million dollars a year by selling what some critics have called “porn on the page”.

So she took this story she had already written, a story that had been rejected by 3 or was it 4 publishers. A nice little story she really liked about 2 cowboys and a rich girl from Connecticut, and she decided to sex it up. There’d be boys doing boys. Girls doing girls. Boys and girls doing each other, in public, in private, in the barn, in the pool, day and night. Hell, it was already written, and rewritten, and rewritten again, according to the suggestions by the very nice rejection letters she’d gotten so many of. After all, how hard could it be to sex it up? Then she too would have the millions in gold. THEN after that, she’d write more stories. Filthy, dirty stories that would bring even more gold.

And it worked, kind of, for a little bit. Not exactly, and not at all as she’d planned. In fact, not so much according to the plan at all.

Yes, the nice little story sold like mad, crazy sales, but it never really reached the level of filth the author intended, nor the million dollars said filth would have yielded. There was still safe sex. There was still character motivation and reasons for the sex. The characters, once they met each other, still wanted to be monogamous, even though there were 3 of them. There was still a happily ever after ending.

And then the second story wasn’t the filthy dirty one it was meant to be at all. That too ended up being kind of tame to be called erotica. And the happy ending, and the monogamous relationship and the safe sex tried to sneak in again, and the author had to beat them down as best she could, but alas they were stronger than she was.

She had tried…that is I had tried. I really did, but it comes down to this–we are who we are, and no amount of determination or inspiration to change will change who and what we are.

My vow to be the raunchiest writer I could be for my RED line of “erotica” books did not end up exactly as I planned. I put “erotica” in quotation marks because I hesitate to even call it that. As much as I tried to write erotica, it’s still more erotic romance, which is what I have always written, and probably always will write.

I’d made up this long warning label for my RED books, to make sure the readers of my erotic romance wouldn’t be horribly shocked by my new erotica line. It turns out, I needn’t have, because no matter what, I still am who I am as a writer.

Oh don’t get me wrong, the RED stories are hot. Very hot. But there’s still a happy ending, no matter how convinced I was I’d be writing pure erotica without one. There’s plenty of sex, even experimenting with other partners, and same sex, but the characters always seem to end up in a happy committed relationship in the end.

So what am I going to do? Hell if I know. I still have plenty of ideas for some raunchy adulterous erotica stories about a bored cheating housewife who does everyone from the carpenters, to the waiter, to the UPS man while her husband is at work. It was these story ideas that I created the RED line for–and then chickened out miserably. Will these ever see the light of day? I have no clue. If they do I suppose I’ll have to make a sub-line–the REALLY RED line for stories that really are erotica this time, I swear…

Maybe having written for publishers and editors who drilled the HEA (Happy Ever After) into my head, along with the concepts of safe sex and monogamous relationships has influenced me irreparably. Kind of like the lessons beaten into students with a wooden ruler by nuns in Catholic school–you can be sure you’ll never forget them and if you ever do bring yourself to break those rules, you’re going to be twitching while doing it.

So there you go, my tale. I’m happy I wrote Educating Ansley. I’m thrilled with the sales. I’m happy I wrote The EX-Files. Compared to Ansley I’m not as happy with those sales but that’s what I get for hitting it out of the park on the first at bat–it’s a hard record to live up to. I’m iffy on the creation of the RED line. I could probably just as easily have published those stories just as Cat Johnson titles and no one would have been offended or disappointed. And if I ever have a lobotomy or start taking hard core drugs to overcome my romance indoctrination and actually get myself to write the pure erotica I’d planned–well then we’ll have to figure out how to market those alongside the others in the RED line. We’ll see.

And so the author’s coffers are far from empty, but the biggest heaps of gold still belong to the others who dare to stretch beyond, and for now, that’s okay.

Cat

catching lightning in a bottle

If there’s one thing for certain, it’s that being in a business where your livelihood depends on the opinions of others will keep you humble. Or it should, at least. I know there are a few divas out there who think they own the world but whether it’s the music industry, or publishing, or Hollywood, the artist is not the master of his own destiny. Yes, we can take steps to further our chances of success, but that is no guarantee whatsoever. This world is like catching lightning in a bottle. I don’t know how it happens or what can keep it there. I can make some guesses but in the end it’s as much luck, fate, whatever, as it is talent. I suppose the forces out of our control give us the chance to succeed, but then in the end, talent will keep us there? Or maybe not. I truly don’t know.

I do know this, to not try at all is a guarantee of failure. And so we keep trying, stumbling at some times, soaring at others. In the end it may come down to ‘she with the most books (or albums, or movies) wins’.  Again, who the hell knows. Certainly not me.