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How to Fail Miserably at Marketing

© 2017 by Giselle Renarde


All rights reserved.


No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.


The essays in this collection were originally published on the authors’ blog Oh Get a Grip!


Cover design © 2017 Giselle Renarde

First Edition 2017


How to Fail Miserably at

Marketing


Everything I’ve Done Wrong

By Giselle Renarde


Table of Contents


What If It Doesn't Sell? What If It DOES?

In 20 Years, You'll be an Overnight Success!

Resistance

I'm Tired of Writing Books That Don't Sell

Passive Consent

Learn from the Master

Trust In Me

I'm a Book Snob (or What I'm Not Reading)

Take a long walk off a short career

Garbage


What If It Doesn't Sell? What If It DOES?


Writing isn't my bit on the side. It's my full-time job. So I need to consistently earn enough money to pay my rent, buy food, cover the bills, all that. There's no safety net, here. It's just me tapping away at a computer, hoping readers will buy my words.

I write a book and, before the first draft is even done, I'm asking, "What if it doesn't sell?" Because I know my work and I know the market, and those two things do not match up. Not even close. The vast majority of my books cater to a niche market. Even award-winning works like The Red Satin Collection and My Mistress' Thighs don't have a wide appeal. Only a slim segment of the market is going to shell out for erotic romance featuring transgender characters.

Well, if I'm so concerned about selling more books and the books I currently write don't appeal to a wide market, why don't I just write books with mass appeal? Easy-peasy. We all know readers like alpha males, shapeshifters, billionaires, men in uniform, and abusive pseudo-BDSM. So why don't I write that?

Because... and I know how whiny this is going to sound, but, guys, I haaaaate all that stuff. The big man-chests and douchey demanding dudes? No. No, that stuff grosses me out. Please don't take offense if this is your thing. I don't mean to yuck your yum, I just don't like it. And if I don't like it, how can I write it?

The answer is: I can't. I know because I've tried. More than once. And every time the story has veered off-course until it's suddenly ME again, and lacking market appeal. By trying to please everyone, I end up pleasing no one--not even myself. I'd rather write something that I can be proud of, even if it only appeals to a slim audience.

Look at that! I've just talked myself out of making money. What a shrewd businessperson am I!

The truth is that I have written a book that sold astonishingly well, and it wasn't exactly a pleasant experience. I'm talking about Stacy's Dad Has Got It Going On, an erotic novel about a college girl who has a fling with her roommate's father.

I've mentioned this book before. It hit the ground running. By the time my publisher sent me buy link the day after it was uploaded to Amazon, it was already a bestseller.

Dream come true, right?

Well... not so much. Because pretty soon after Stacy's Dad sold 50 million copies (okay, that's a slight exaggeration), the 1-star reviews started coming in. But I can't complain. It's my fault for writing the most boring book EVER. If I hadn't written such a HORRIBLE novel, readers wouldn't have had to hack it to pieces. My bad. Sorry for wasting everybody's time.

So, whenever I write a new book, I find myself asking these questions:

What If It Doesn't Sell?

What If It DOES?

Is it better to sell 3 copies to readers who love the story, or sell thousands to readers who hate it?

I want readers to enjoy my books... but I also want to pay my bills, so...?

So I guess that's why I write hardcore smut like Nanny State and the Adam and Sheree series? I love writing dirty taboo erotica with absolutely no redeeming qualities, and readers eat it up. Problem solved. Why don't I just write that all the time?

Good question.


In 20 Years, You'll be an Overnight Success!


I've never been entirely clear which generation I belong to--X or Y? According to Wikipedia, Generation X spans birth years from the 60s to the early 80s and Y is early 80s to 2000. I was born right on the cusp. Maybe that's why I've never seen the qualities typically associated with either of those generations in myself.

This is going somewhere--I promise.

When I worked in the business world (this would have been maybe 2002-2006?), I couldn't get over the number of V.P.-by-thirty types. They were everywhere: in my company, my clients' companies, my clients' clients' companies. The kids were in charge. Twenty-somethings were the bosses. It was... weird.

Me? I never wanted to leap-frog ahead. I've always believed in climbing the ladder, and that should take time and maturity. When I think of myself just out of university... WOW!  I was incredibly juvenile.  My interpersonal skills were terrible because I hadn't learned how to relate to other people with compassion.

With every year that goes by, I realize how much I didn't know the year before, and how very much I have yet to learn.

That's why I've never been keen to rush my writing career ahead of its natural pace.  Don't get me wrong--I would love to sell more books and earn more money, but I don't feel that I "deserve" huge success right away. I don't think anyone deserves that, necessarily, but seems like there are a lot of authors who will do whatever it takes to make it big.

I don't want to be critical of ruthless self-promoters.  When it comes right down to it, they're just more driven than I am.  Honestly, I wouldn't find myself so irritated with authors whose twitter streams are a steady flow of books ads and "Yay! My book has a hundred million 5-star reviews!" if I weren't so jealous of their ability to do so. I have trouble selling myself.

This is obviously an antiquated notion, but I believe success should take time and effort. Feel free to say it's envy talking--it probably is--but when authors achieve wild successes by morally questionable means, it bothers me. But why? Why do I care about other authors' ethics and practices?

I guess I just feel like we should all operate on a level playing field.

The thing is--we do.  In any industry, some people are going to cheat to get ahead while the rest of us schmucks toil away to scrape enough cash together to pay the rent.  For someone who's led a fairly immoral personal life, I have surprisingly high ethical standards when it comes to my writing business.

At the end of the day, I guess I'd rather eat oatmeal three meals a day and go to bed with a clear conscience. I can't control other people's actions. Only my own.


Resistance


No, you can't be my Facebook friend.  Sorry.

I don't have a Facebook account.

How did I become a Facebook resistor?  I remember having reasons, but I can't recall what those reasons were.  I think I always felt like I didn't want my whole life on the internet but, honestly, if you read my posts at my Donuts and Desires blog, or if you follow me on Twitter, you know I tell the internet everything.

Oh, and my life is in my work, too. Duh. There's a reason my writing has been called "scary honest."

There are lots of little reasons I still resist setting up a Facebook account, despite pressure from those who care about my marketing efforts. Thing is... I'd feel sleazy establishing a social media account for the sole purpose of selling stuff.

People with low self-esteem shouldn't be allowed to run businesses.  My self-deprecating brain is always thinking, "It's going to bother people if I keep telling them about my new book."  (Although, to be honest, it does irk me when someone's Twitter feed is a steady stream of book ads. I usually unfollow them.  So I don't want to be that guy.)

There's an obvious solution: set up a Facebook account and don't be a dick. Ta-da!

But, you know, it's just one more thing to babysit. It's one more password to remember.  One more goddamn online presence.  One more thing I need to remember not to forget to sign into and keep up with and provide content for on a daily basis.

It's exhausting, all this, isn't it?

I went to a St. Vincent concert last week and a lot of the songs on her new album speak to the digital experience.  In Every Tear Disappears, she sings, "Yeah, I live on wires. Yeah, I've been born twice."  Every time I hear that, I'm like tell me about it!  I spend most of my life as this internet incarnation. I miss the days when, if you wanted to know something, you had to read about it in a book... or experience it, first-hand.

Anyway, I'm swerving a little off course.  I came here to talk about why I'm a Facebook resistor.  And now that I've talked about it, I realize that none of my reasons sound all that convincing.

When it comes right down to it, I just don't want an account. I want to hold on to what's left of my privacy.

And as I write this I realize these concerns about the online sphere extend seamlessly to my personal life. Why would I invite Facebook friends in when I can't even invite flesh-and-blood friends?

I've always kept people at bay because I'm still afraid (after all these years!) someone might get a little too close and see a little too much of my ugliness, my messiness, my unsavoury-ness. It's funny how there are some things you never quite get over.  This pushing people away is a blatant leftover from growing up in an alcoholic household. You know (or can imagine) how it is: we were all too ashamed to bring friends home. My family was so insular because we had a secret to keep.  As open as I seem to be, I'm still haunted by a wide variety of demons.

Sorry, potential friends, but I'm just too psychologically damaged to join your social network.


I'm Tired of Writing Books That Don't Sell


I need to stop writing so many books.

I write waaay too many books. Do you even know how many completed manuscripts are sitting on my hard drive right now?  Three.  Three full novels just wasting away. And it's not like I've shopped them around and they've been rejected by publishers.  I haven't shared them with anyone yet.

I've mentioned before about how getting published is only half the battle. Less than half, these days, probably. You spend all this time pouring your heart out on the page and, what, three people buy a copy?  And then you feel like you've disappointed your publisher (and you probably have, and they'll probably never give you another contract) and you wonder if you'd be happier if you just self-published. 

So you self-publish the next one and how many copies sell?  Three.  And you go to town marketing this son of a bitch because it's a good book (it really is! if only someone would read it!) but the marketing makes no difference. Sales slip. Across the board. You suck. You must suck, or more people would be buying your books. What's the point in writing?

I shouldn't write blog posts when I'm half-asleep, because this is what comes out. But I post these thoughts because I'm too honest for my own good and there are enough fake-it-'til-you-make-it authors out there.  Don't believe the hype. People keep telling me I'm famous, but I still live below the poverty line.


Passive Consent


Maybe this has happened to you:

You get a newsletter from a fellow author (assuming you're an author, I guess) and you ask yourself, "Did I sign up for this person's mailing list? Nope. I didn't even know they had one. I'm 100% certain I didn't."

And yet I'm getting this marketing email. Why?

Because this person is someone I know. A friend or acquaintance, maybe someone I was in contact with about something or other, an author I helped or swapped blogs with or offered a guest spot at Donuts and Desires.

And they signed me up for their mailing list. Without my consent. So now I'm receiving this email about "yay my new book is out and you should buy it, blah blah blah."

I'm not complaining about newsletters. I send out a newsletter... to the 19 people who have elected to receive it. Nobody else. Just those people. I never have and never will add a business contact's address to my marketing mailing list, and to be perfectly honest, I lose A LOT of professional respect for those authors who do this to me.

And it's a lot of people!

You're probably going, "Who cares? Just unsubscribe and get on with your life." And I do unsubscribe, but the point is that I shouldn't have to. I don't subscribe to ANY mailing lists with my professional email account (I have other accounts for that) because it clutters things up. 

If I haven't elected to receive your emails, you're spamming me.

Dirty word, but there it is.

This probably sounds especially cruel when some of the people I'm talking about are people I regard(ed) in a friendly/professional/acquaintancey way. I feel like I've placed my trust in them and they've betrayed me.

Same goes for whoever gave/sold my email address to an LGBT PR mailing list.

Yes, I'm queer. Yes, I'm an author with a blog. But I'm not a blogger nor am I a media outlet. Do I want to receive press releases about every goddamn sissy weekend in the Poconos? No!

(I'm not saying that flippantly or picking on sissies--I really do get these press releases. Every one of them!)

What's worse, PR mailing lists get sold off to whoever has the money to buy them and the PR people sending me PR emails don't use programs that allow the receiver to unsubscribe.  The only way I can *hopefully* get them to stop emailing me is to contact them directly and say "please take my address off your list" and risk looking like a dirtbag. I cross my fingers and hope they'll actually do it, but not ONE PR person has ever replied.

There's another angle to this whole passive consent thing I want to cover really quickly and that has to do with television and advertising. This is something I encounter a lot, living in a big city, and I don't like it.

When the Oprah Network (OWN) was gearing up to enter the Canadian marketplace, they set up a couch in the square outside Toronto's City Hall.  I think they were trying to create some CanCon (Canadian Content), and there was a film crew with an interviewer trying to draw passersby into a conversation for whatever show they were producing.

I know this because I happened to be walking through the square when this was going on.  It's not unusual to encounter film crews in Toronto, but usually if you cut through their shot they yell at you. This was different. There was a sign that read something to the effect of "by entering this area you consent to being broadcast on television."

Ummm... NO.

By walking to CITY HALL on CITY PROPERTY, I consent to appearing on your TV show? No. If you ask me, "Do you want to be interviewed?" and I say, "NO," my words are moot because I've already provided passive consent simply by walking by.

This is where passive consent gets scary, to me: when some entity tells me that by the time I've read your consent form, I've already given my consent.

I encountered this sort of thing again at the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition, a big fair that takes place in Toronto every summer): there was a food truck alley going on, and one of the food trucks belonged to Hellman's. They were giving out something, I think for free, I think fries--I don't know. I didn't go anywhere near the truck BECAUSE there was a sign (easily missed in a crowd, I might add) that stated by approaching the truck you are consenting to potentially appearing in their advertising campaign.

Sorry, but NO.

Your free fries are not payment enough for me to appear in your TV and YouTube spots.

I'm really tired of the assumptions professionals and organizations are making about what constitutes consent.

Consent is saying YES.

Passive consent is no consent at all.


Learn from the Master

A Guest Post by Lexi Wood


Who's got two thumbs and writes such dirty, filthy (not to mention QUALITY) smut that it's been paying Giselle's bills for months?

This g... okay, well I don't have thumbs, but you get the gist. 

You know me. If you haven't heard about my rise to stardom from my bunk mate/evil captor Giselle Renarde, I'm the most popular erotica-writing sock puppet on the planet.  I've also got the best hair, but I don't have any tips for you there. That's down to Mother Nature.

When it comes to establishing an author brand, Giselle's got nuthin on me.  I mean, look at Giselle's backlist: queer fiction, genre fiction, literary fiction, non-fiction, erotic romance, erotica of every kind, from queer kink to trans science fiction to straight-up adultery. Novels, novellas, anthologies, short stories?  She published her freakin' DIARY, for Christ's sake! She's out of control!

With Lexi Wood, you're getting the same fine product with every purchase.  You can count on all my smut to you hot.  How?  Take one barely-legal stepdaughter, add one sexy stepdad who knows he shouldn't, and make sure they get it on... and get you off!

There are variations on this theme, of course.  In Driving the Sitter, you get a babysitter and the dad driving her home.  In Blueberry Brat, an older man gets it on with a barely-legal blueberry seller in her roadside hut. Even though they're not related, you can count on these sweet young things to call their lovers Daddy, loudly and repeatedly. "Fuck me, Daddy!  Fuck me HARD!"

Amazon doesn't make it easy to communicate with readers what they're in for.  They won't let you call your book Sweet Young Thing Fucks Her Sexy Stepdaddy, or even refer to it in the blurb.  You have to count on readers of taboo erotica to seek out the term Taboo Erotica, and hope that anyone who buys your smut knows what they're getting into.

Since you don't want readers who are offended by seriously salacious content picking up your smut by accident, it helps to title your work in a way that tells the reading public exactly what's inside (but that won't get your book banned--notice Driving the Sitter isn't called Driving the Babysitter. Why? Because I've heard from other authors that erotic books including the word "babysitter" in their metadata have been banned. Can't be too careful!)

Back to titles. Take Good Girl's Fertile First Time as an example.  It's about an innocent young virgin who gets knocked up the first time she has sex (with her best friend's father).  Same principle with Pregnant by the Professor: The First-Time Fertility Experiment. A keyword-packed title tells the reader what's going to happen, and who it's going to happen to.

The reader knows what they want, so why not give it to them?  I don't get why this is so hard for Giselle the French Bitch.  She's been at this writing gig for more than 10 years and she still makes novice mistakes, like writing a dark romance with a hetero HEA that's also full of hardcore lesbian rape scenes?  What even IS that?  There isn't a reader in the world who's searching the internet for the weird random stuff she's writing, and it shows in her royalty statements.

So fill those screens with daddies and daughters. Or find another fetish and stick with it. Readers of genre fiction have precise expectations, so be predictable. What have you got to lose...?

Besides your soul! *Bwahahahaha*

 

LEXI WOOD is a sock puppet who came to life one night while her keeper was out picking up Chinese food. When nobody’s around, she bashes her face against a typewriter until stories come out. And those stories are shocking.

Lexi’s exterior is 53% acrylic, 37% nylon, and 10% recycled tinsel. On the inside, she’s full of bloodlust, wanderlust, lust-lust, bathtub gin, and pills she found on the floor. She also got into those tranquilizers you give your cat to get it in the travel carrier. You shouldn’t leave those things lying around.

Handmade in Vulgaria.


Trust In Me


The other night, I had dinner with my mom, my sister, and a family friend. They all live in the same neighbourhood and they all go to the same mechanic. Apparently, he's the best. Okay, so his prices are a little on the high side and his hours of operation are ridiculous, but they're all willing to shuffle things around in their schedules to get their cars in after he opens and pick their cars up before he closes.

Because he's the best.

I'm thinking... if he charges more than other garages and his hours are truly craptacular, what makes him the best?

He doesn't recommend work your car doesn't need, and if he fixes something that only takes two seconds, chances are he won't charge you for it.  He's the best because they trust him.  Not an easy quality to find in a mechanic. Not just that, but they've trusted him for years. My mom and her friend have been raving about this guy for as long as I can remember. 

I don't know how they found him, initially.  Proximity, I imagine.  They could drop their cars off at the garage and simply walk home.  But they wouldn't have stuck by him for thirty-plus years if not for consistently superior service.

Today’s theme is hustling. What that brings to mind, for me, as far as the business of writing is concerned, involves working your butt off:

  • telling everyone you know about your new release, 

  • giving your book to all your friends as birthday gifts, 

  • maintaining at least twelve active social media accounts, 

  • calling up every bookstore in the country to sell them on the idea of stocking your book so they'll have plenty of copies when you stop by for a signing event, 

  • flying to every conference on the planet to meet readers and network with other authors

...and that's just Monday.


I do none of those things.  I'm tired just thinking about a life like that.

The life I want is my mom's mechanic's: work when I want to, close up shop if I'd rather be somewhere else, charge more than my competitors, and still hear my customers shouting, "Shut up and take my money!"

I am so not into the hustle. I'm just too lazy.  Or... is lazy the right word?  I'm always saying I'm lazy, but I spend pretty much every waking hour working.  I definitely work more hours now than I did doing the 9-5 thing.

Most writers want to write.  I want to write.  But all writers, whether we're traditionally published or self-published or anything in between, need to hustle our asses off.

What if we don't?  What if we just write and we don't hustle at all?

On the one hand, it's hard to answer that question because I've never done the hustle--not the big-time hustle, like attending conferences and buying expensive advertising and giving away Kindles. I know people who do these things and they seem successful to me, but I'm not them so I can't really say.

All I know is that in the 10 years I've been selling my work, some books have sold well and some books have sold 3 copies and I've never felt like I had the slightest bit of control over any of that.  If a book taps into the zeitgeist of a reader group, it takes off.  If it doesn't, no amount of hustle's going to make that baby a bestseller.

I didn't enter this business to get rich quick, or even get rich slowly.  I'm here to do the best work I can for as long as I'm able. 

Maybe in another 25 years I'll have readers beating down my door for the next new book. And it won't matter how long they have to wait. And it won't matter what I charge. If that's how my career plays out, they'll want it because they trust me.


I'm a Book Snob (or What I'm Not Reading)


A book snob is not a popular thing to be when you write genre fiction.

In fact, there are a lot of things you're not supposed to admit when you're a genre fiction writer. I write erotica but I don't read it. (Don't tell people stuff like that!) I've never read a romance novel. (Don't!) A lot of genre fiction, even the bestselling stuff, is surprisingly poorly written. (Don't say it!)

At the start of my career, I used to wonder why established authors would say inflammatory things. Didn't they care about their reputations?

Ten years into my writing life, I kinda get it. You get tired of saying all the right things. It's boring.

So here I am, saying all the wrong things.

I love literary fiction. I just finished reading All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews and it knocked my socks off. Her writing style is so unique, and the way she approaches difficult subject matter is spellbinding. This book is written with divinely humorous compassion, but the writing isn't lofty. It's not even particularly pretty. This is a book that had me laughing and crying simultaneously. I am so in awe of Miriam Toews. I am so in awe of her work.

My girlfriend bought me another book while I was reading All My Puny Sorrows.

We were at my local library, looking at the shelf of books they were selling off, and she spotted a thriller she'd read and enjoyed. It was a #1 bestselling book by a #1 bestselling author. So she bought it for me, and we were both excited to share something. We really don't read the same books. She likes Nora Roberts, Stephen King. I'm into Canadian litfic. We both like autobiographies, but she goes for celebrities and I go for random queer people.

I started reading the thriller Sweet had enjoyed so much, and from the first page it sparked my editor brain.

That's never a good sign.

I had trouble paying attention to the story because I was too focused on awkward sentence structure and crappy word choices. It reminded me of the first revision I submitted on my first ebook. My editor (bless her heart--my book was certainly a challenge!) told me I needed to vary my sentence structure. There was too much "She did this. She did that. She did some other thing." So I tried to mix it up like "Doing this, she did that" and what a disaster!

I could feel my editor cursing me under her breath as she wrote, "Pushing down her skirt, she pulled up her top? How can she be pulling up her top and pushing down her skirt simultaneously?" 

That's how I felt reading this bestselling thriller. I couldn't look beyond the messy language use to focus on the story.

There were things I appreciated about it. Chapters were short, which made me feel like a fast reader (which I'm not), and each chapter ended in some moment of "Gasp! What's going to happen next?" I always wanted to know right away, so I'd flip the page and read the start of the next chapter, then get swamped down by my editor brain evaluating the language.

I gave up after 54 pages. Maybe I'll go back, but probably not.  It reminded me of the kind of action/adventury crime show I might put on TV and half watch and half enjoy, but when I sit down to read words, the words themselves matter. The order of those words matters.

Now, I don't want anyone thinking I'm saying thrillers are universally BAD or that my taste in fiction is superior to anyone else's. Everybody's got different tastes. And that's great because it leaves room for authors to find a niche. There is a reader for every writer.

I read literary fiction because I like it. It appeals to me. There are terrible litfic books, just like there are terrible books in every genre. Did I ever blog about The Postmistress? Because that book was awful (not that I finished it). But lots of people liked it, so there you go: tastes differ.

So are there good books and bad books? Or are there just books we like and books we don't like?


Take a long walk off a short career


I listen to podcasts while I clean the kitchen. Self-publishing podcasts, mostly. That's why the notebook on my fridge is covered in titles of books I want to write.

Books like: The Lazy Writer's Guide to a Sustainable Long-term Writing Career.

If I actually wrote that book I don't think anyone would buy it, so I probably won't write it. Mind you, I've written a lot of books nobody buys, so maybe I will. We'll just have to wait and see.

What brought this idea to mind in the first place? Most of the marketing advice geared toward authors (in the self-publishing sphere in particular) is stuff that I'm either way too lazy or way too cheap to put into play. Maybe I should call my book The Cheap-Ass Writer's Guide to a Sustainable Long-term Writing Career. Because, lazy as I am, I'm ten times cheaper.

There are a number of authors who make a mint self-publishing. They exist. They do. But the vast majority of those uber-earners work waaaaaaay harder than I'm willing to work. That, or they spend way more money than I'm willing to spend.

If I funneled hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands of dollar into Facebook advertising maybe I'd make more money. Or maybe I'd be out hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of dollars. Maybe if I purchased pricey advertising slots on bookish newsletters I'd sell more copies of my books. Or maybe I wouldn't.  I'm not the kind of person who likes to take risks. Just ask my sister how it works out every time she tricks me into going to the casino with her. I am not a gambler. In my mind, expensive advertising is always a gamble.

My book would be incredibly controversial. It would go against all the advice you'd typically get from those in the know. But what it really comes down to is how you want to live your life. I think a lot of advice is aimed at people whose idea of success is vast financial gain. If you want to earn a lot of money, you should be prepared to work hard and make sacrifices.

My advice would be geared toward people like myself: writers who are in it for the long haul, but who want a pretty peaceful life, who aren't expecting to make millions in their first year, or probably ever; people who are laying the groundwork for a slow and steady career as a writer.

You can work really hard if you want to. You can wake up at 5 in the morning to write until your brain melts. But the thing about writing 40 novels per year is that it's really fucking tiring. Maybe you can do it for a couple years, but most people aren't going to find that type of production schedule sustainable across the decades. And instead of backing off and just writing... oh, say, 30 novels per year... a lot of authors burn out and stop writing completely.

I don't want anyone to think I'm tearing down authors who make a quick buck and then ride off into the sunset. Earning a shit ton of money is a huge accomplishment--and it's certainly an accomplishment I have yet to accomplish.

My goal was to earn enough money from writing to pay my bills. I'm not a shifting goalposts type of person. I don't feel the need to earn more money this month than I earned last. I just need to keep afloat, and I can do that because I've being doing this work for more than 10 years.

Every book is an investment. I couldn't pay the rent with my earnings in Year One. Not sure I could have done it in Year Five. I've had a variety of part-time jobs over the course of my writing career, but the writing was never my part-time gig. The minimum-wage jobs were the part-time gigs. Writing came first.

Like I said: I don't think anyone would buy my guide to a sustainable writing career. Most people who are prepared to take ten years to reach their ultimate goal can probably figure out on their own how to get there. But maybe it would be encouraging for people like me to know that you can be a writer without being a go-getter. That's okay. You don't have to feel bad if you don't earn much or you don't release a book a week. It's still possible to make a living from your writing. It just takes a while.


Garbage


I started hearing this song on the radio a couple months back: "Only Happy When It Rains." I kept thinking how much I enjoyed it. The lyrics spoke to me and I liked the sound.

Last Friday, by chance, I caught a concert of indie and alternative rock on PBS. One of the bands performing was called Garbage. That's how I found out who'd been singing that song on the radio: Garbage.

That's how I found out when the song came out: 1995.

I was in high school in 1995. If I could go back, I'd spend my teen years listening to grunge and punk and... I don't know. I still don't know what's cool. When I was a high school student I listened to a classical radio station and Broadway musicals. My best friend in Grade Nine loved Iggy Pop. I should have followed her lead.

Anyway, doesn't matter. I can't go back in time. The point I'm trying to make is that this song is 20 years old, but it's new to me because I didn't listen to cool-kid music back in the 90s. Everything we create--as artists, musicians, writers--isn't just new the day it comes out. A song is new forever to new listeners. A book is always new to new readers.

Let’s talk about how this relates to selling ebooks. The point I'm particularly interested in is this: just because Amazon is huge doesn't mean it's the be-all and end-all, especially for those of us who write erotica. Other authors have mentioned faring better with other vendors by writing erotica that's so dirty Amazon won't have it. This has been my experience too.

But wait... there's more!

In my experience, having a big backlist (haha, yeah I know) doesn't do you a lick of good at Amazon. Amazon's algorithms favour what's new. And new, to Amazon, doesn't mean NEW TO YOU. It means PUBLISHED THIS WEEK. Once a book's been available for more than a month, it might as well not exist unless you've got a steady stream of sales to keep it afloat. Some authors have that. I sure as hell don't.

Things are different at the other stores--Kobo, iTunes, Barnes and Noble, all those. Not that I'm a fan of any ebook retailer in particular, but I do prefer the ones where my books sell not wildly or in spikes, but consistently over time.

Tax-wise, I don't know how royalties are reported in other countries, but here in Canada royalties from artistic works or inventions are reported on a T5--a statement of investment income. That's how I like to think of my books: as investments. I don't expect to do the work today and get paid for it consistently at two-week intervals. That work needs to pay off over the course decades. After I die, it'll keep earning money for my heirs (okay, my cats).

Most of my readers don't yet know I exist. They haven't found me. I haven't found them. Some of them haven't even been born. Twenty years from now a reader will find something I wrote tomorrow and it'll be new to them. I'll be new to them.

You can't be forever new with a vendor that consistently sweeps books under the rug. Discoverability is important. But ultimately? Stores will come and stores will go.

Readers and writers will stay.



ABOUT GISELLE RENARDE



Giselle Renarde is an award-winning queer Canadian writer. She was nominated Toronto’s Best Author in NOW Magazine’s 2015 Readers’ Choice Awards, and her book The Red Satin Collection won Best Transgender Romance in the 2012 Rainbow Awards. Giselle has contributed erotica and queer fiction to more than 100 short story anthologies, including Best Women’s Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Bondage Erotica, and Best Lesbian Romance. She’s written dozens of juicy books, including Anonymous, Seven Kisses, Bali Nights, Ondine, and Nanny State. Giselle lives across from a park with two bilingual cats who sleep on her head.

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