Increase Sales Through Stupid Publicity Stunts

Wow… two blog posts on two consecutive days!  That must be some kind of record for me.  I was scrolling though Facebook today (surprise, surprise!) and I noticed that a publisher had put up a link to an excerpt of a book that I personally find a little questionable.  Yes, I write erotic romance and my stuff is pretty darn racy, but I like to think I manage to maintain some class with what I write.  Given what I know of this publisher, they’re pretty well known and in my opinion, have always been a class act.  That’s why I really had a difficult time with this particular book that they’re putting out.  The book in question (and keep in mind that I have not read this book and probably won’t) seems to advocate some unsavory behaviors.  Trust me when I tell you that I have a pretty narrow definition of “unsavory.”  Mind you, the book isn’t rape fantasy or daddy-daughter porn or anything like that.  But I do feel that it paints a pretty yucky picture of women, which in this new age of degradation (i.e.– Supreme Court regulating birth control, rape jokes and Justin Beiber) is pretty unsavory.  The publisher in question has always been about empowering women.  But, how is it empowering to show women– particularly young women– that it’s okay to have promiscuous sex and sell it to get what you want?  Their other titles feature heroines that are smart and sexually liberated, however that doesn’t mean that they’re sexually irresponsible or opportunistic.  Again, let me remind you that I have NOT read this book, only that I’ve heard a bit about the plot.

So my next question is, why would a publishing house that has made such great strides in bringing erotic romance to the forefront suddenly decide that trash fiction is their next big thing?  I can only conclude that they’re trying to drive sales.  With so many other publishing houses producing steamier romance in the wake of Fifty Shades of Gray, sales on specialty houses have dipped.  In other words, they used to be the only game in town and now they have competition.  So they’re responding by using sensationalism and “celebrity” to sell books.  I use the word “celebrity” very loosely.  After all, we live in an age where “you tube personality” is a job title.  I wish I were kidding.  The publisher thinks that by slapping a “celebrity” name on the book that it will be a feather in their cap that will drive up their sales.  Here’s the catch:  anyone buying this particular type of book is not going to buy the book.  They’re going to steal the book (illegal downloads, etc). And they aren’t going to steal it to say “oh what a great book,” they’re going to steal it to say “you will not believe this shit!”  I fear that this publisher, who has had a good name in the publishing industry and with a base of rabid readers, is about to be very unpleasantly surprised. 

The other thing that peeves me about this is the way in which it’s being promoted.  This link on Facebook was to an article on cosmopolitan.com.  Cosmo-fucking-politan.  I also heard about this book on a nationally syndicated radio broadcast.  Have any of this publisher’s other authors been featured in Cosmo or on the radio?  Have any of this publisher’s other authors been offered the level of promotion that this author has been?  Most likely, no.  I would imagine that the other authors are being treated as second class citizens in comparison.  The other authors that have devoted so much time and energy producing quality work for this publisher are now being shoved aside for a flash in the pan who, by all reports, can barely string a sentence together.  I predict that these authors will be looking for a new home soon.  Is it a coincidence that Samhain has just announced that they’re revamping and expanding their press? 

The universe is rarely so lazy.

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Just Sluts with Pens

me and amy (2)Hello, denizens of the Interwebs!  It’s been a while since we chatted and I know you’ve been waiting with bated breath to see what I had to say next.  Well wait no more, here I am!  Well, it’s going to be an exciting Springtime for the old girl. Why, you ask?  Well, tomorrow 3/19/2014, I have a new release coming from Ellora’s Cave and, wonder of wonders, it’s my first novel length work with them!  It’s also my first foray into erotic horror with them, so we’ll see what happens.  So keep watch tomorrow for excerpts, blurbs and just general squee-ing.  I’ve also written a little article called “Velocirapture, the Rise of Crypto Porn” that will be featured in Jamais Vu– Journal of the Strange Among the Familiar, Issue 2.  It’s snarky and fun and I do hope that you’ll like it.

Well, with all that in the works, you’re probably wondering about the title of my little blog today.  Yes, I’m afraid another rant is coming your way.  I know you’ve missed them.  At any rate, yesterday I heard that some romance authors in my area were approached about a reality show that is set to focus on romance writers.  Now, I’m sure that what’s being pitched is a show that would feature “The Writer’s Life.”  But think about it, people.  Many of you reading this blog right now know that “the writer’s life” in actuality would probably not make a good reality show.  Watching me go to my day job, trying to write a sex scene in between answering the phone to say things like “no, I cannot excuse you from jury duty because you have an infected toenail.”  Sitting for hours on the couch with my dog, trying to write but instead succumbing to the swansong of Pinterest and Facebook.  Knowing that I need to write the next chapter of my novel when really all I want to do is write more Sherlock fanfiction.  Staring at a blank piece of paper while I sip yet another cup of tea.  These things would not be intriguing to the general public.  This is not glamorous.  Which makes me wonder– what is the show really going to be about?  I don’t know, but I have some guesses.

It may be because I’m jaded or because I’ve gotten the “oh, you write romance” look far too often.  You know the one.  The one that says 1) Romance novels… that’s not like real writing and 2) You must be a freak in bed!  But I’m very skeptical. I have visions of romance novelists being represented as desperate housewives who are writing up their sexual misadventures with the plumber.  I’m seeing camera crews following authors to conventions where they only manage to catch the parts where we’re sitting in the bar after a day of panels, knocking back some margaritas.  Maybe producers encouraging said authors to dance on tables while having lipstick lesbian encounters with other members of their caste.  Or worse, romance novelists being portrayed as frustrated librarians who can’t get boyfriends writing about their fantasies of watching homosexual couples whipping each other with riding crops.

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NEW RELEASE!

In short, I’m afraid that reality television would perpetuate the myth that romance authors are “just sluts with pens.” Reality television isn’t solely to blame, of course.   After all, I have no idea if the show has even been greenlit.  I do spend an awful lot of time on Twitter and Facebook and see an awful lot of authors that, while talented, are so desperate to be noticed that they’re glad to project that slutty image (by the way, if you’re an author and my Facebook friend– I’m not referring to you) just to get attention.  Here’s a pro tip:  if your profile picture on Facebook shows you either A:  half dressed with your tits jacked to Jesus, or B:  wearing a collar and sucking a riding crop,  chances are folks aren’t interested in you for your books. And you’re degrading yourself and the rest of us who consider ourselves artists.  Those of us who work hard every day to craft a story that we can be proud of.  A story that is worthy of our readers.

Just a thought.

Coming up tomorrow:  A new release!  And a blog post entitled:  “If the words “dripping wet love hole” appear in your book, it’s probably not erotica.”

 

Caution: Publishing Industry Rant

me and amy (2)So I was all set to write up my review of The Hobbit (aka How Benedict Cumberbatch Laid Waste to My Ovaries) and then I made the mistake of opening MSN news.  A headline reads, “Gillian Anderson Inks Sci-Fi Book Deal.”  This catches my eye.  I’m a fan of the X-Files and I think Ms. Anderson is a fine actress.  My immediate thought is that maybe she’s always wanted to be a writer and had this manuscript lying around her house since college and she never got to do anything with it because life and the entertainment industry got in the way.  Maybe now that her career has slowed down a bit, she finally got the chance to polish up that book and submit it to a publisher.  Maybe she had published some short stories in her youth that were really good and they just went unnoticed.  Good for her!

 According to the article, she’ll be writing with a co-author (a real writer who will do the majority of the book most likely) to develop a new series to go with Simon & Schuster’s new speculative fiction line Simon451 (clever, huh?  they just discovered that speculative fiction was a thing).  She says that she’s looking forward to her venture and that she feels that she has the perfect background material to do this.   That she “enjoys writing” but has never allowed herself the time to do it. 

Brace yourselves, this next part gets loud….

NO!  I do not accept this.  It does not compute. Let’s make one thing very clear:  writing a book is hard. Despite what Amazon and those self-pub vanity press banner ads tell you.  Writing is a talent that NOT EVERYONE HAS.  Even those of us who write genre fiction.  It is not easy, it is not a fast track to fame and fortune.  Simply “enjoying writing” is not good enough.  You can “enjoy” making a grocery list.  You can “enjoy” telling your kids bedtime stories.  Writing, real writing, having INTEGRITY as a writer means you love it.  You do it because you have to.  Not because you were on a sci-fi television show twenty years ago and you’re an aging starlet who needs a shot of adrenaline in your career. 

Do I blame Ms. Anderson for this?  Hell no.  I blame Simon and Schuster.  Poor Ms. Anderson is being used as a cash cow.  There are thousands of good authors out there.  Authors whose prose is so clean and so breathtakingly beautiful that it makes me cry.  Authors who write across a variety of genres.  Authors who write every single day and turn out book after book but can’t manage to get noticed by the upper echelon of publishing because they’re too busy giving book deals to Snooki and sci-fi pinup girls.  These are authors who shouldn’t be struggling to make a living.  I even have examples (other than myself):  Lucy Blue, Tally Johnson, S.H. Roddey, Stephen Zimmer, Michael West, Selah Janel, Crymsyn Hart, Nicole Givens Kurtz, Debra Glass, Steven Shrewsbury, James Tuck, John Hartness and COUNTLESS OTHERS who are hovering under the radar.  Writers who write because they love it, not for a paycheck.  And certainly not to be a whore for a publishing house. 

I also blame society.  Us.  We the readers.  Its a shame that P.T. Barnum isn’t alive today, he’d make a fortune.  It seems that the only thing we’re interested in these days is the freakshow.  The publishing houses, movie industry, music industry, etc. keeps heaping shit on to our plates and we keep lapping it up like its the best thing we ever ate.  Fanboys that still masturbate to their posters of Agent Scully will buy her book by the truckload and Simon & Schuster will make a sack full of money off of her whether its good or not.  And as an author it makes me physically ill.  As a lover of art, it makes me physically ill.  Almost as ill as people being able to quit their day jobs writing dinosaur porn and lactation romances. 

Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe Ms. Anderson will turn out to be a great writer (not that we’ll ever know because of her co-writer. i wonder if his name will be in big, glossy letters on the cover).  Maybe she just missed her true calling.  Maybe Snooki really is an intellectual whose been hiding her light under a bushel all these years.  Doubtful, but stranger things have happened.  tumblr_inline_mr9t7xlXDT1qz4rgp

Okay.  I’m going to climb down off the soapbox and go back to browsing pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch on Pinterest.  As I suspected, that’s much better for my mental health.

Dinosaur Porn… WTF people?!

me and amy (2)All right, faithful readers.  Get ready.  It’s time for another Alexandra Christian: Shrieking Violet rant.  If you’re faint of heart or are offended easily, back out now while you still can.  Extreme snark ahead….

Have we finally sunk to the rock bottom of our culture?  Has the romance market finally become so saturated that we, as readers, are willing to accept any trash just to find something new and different?  Over the last few months I’ve come to realize that “like to hate culture” is killing art in America.

Think back to 2004.  It was the heyday of American Idol and other televised “talent” shows. There was a little show, passing just under the radar on the WB, called Superstar USA.  The premise of this show was to get a group of poor suckers to believe that they were going to be on a TV talent show looking for the best singer in America when in fact, they were looking for the WORST singers in America.  For seven weeks, viewers at home suffered through some of the worst Queen and Edwin McCain covers ever, voting on the one that was the most excruciating.  Was it hilarious?  Yes.  Was it humiliating for the contestants?  Yes.  Do I feel sorry for them?  HELL NO!!  The reason being, even if they were completely oblivious when the show was filming (doubtful), they were at some point told what was going on and they still made grabby hands at their fifteen minutes of fame like Veruca Salt at the Chocolate Factory.  And why?  Because being famous for being ridiculous is better than not being famous.  Apparently.

Which brings me to the purpose of my rant.  Today I saw no less than 2 news articles, 3 Facebook Shares and 5 Tweets about a series of books up on Amazon that are…. wait for it… dinosaur erotica.  I wish I were kidding, but I’m being dead serious.  Now, here’s the really depressing part—- the sales were through the roof.  The books have gotten NATIONAL attention.  Now, why does this peeve me?  Because myself and so many authors are struggling, literally struggling, to get our books into the hands of readers.  Authors that tell wonderful stories that are intelligent, beautifully written, have intricate and intriguing plots.  Books that transport their readers into a world where romance is still alive and adventure is waiting right outside your door.  But we can’t get noticed because we’re getting lost in a maelstrom of “books we love to hate.”  You see, it’s the same mentality as the Superstar show.  Whatever is the most shocking, the most offensive, the most ridiculous– the squeakiest wheel– gets the sale.

As many of you know, I do a lot of writing/sci-fi conventions to promote my books.  One of the conversations I have the most often on panels and with other authors are about how romance writers are the redheaded step-children of the writing business.  A lot of folks assume that writing a romance novel is easy.  That it’s not as worthy a genre as say, sci-fi or fantasy or literary.  The truth is, writing a sexy, entertaining and honest romance novel is hard work.  They are extremely character driven and require a lot of emotional investment on the part of the author and reader.  It ain’t easy.  And what truly pisses me off is that the dino porn, incest porn, rape glorification and borderline pedophilia porn that manage to get all this attention are perpetuating the myth that romance is not a worthy genre.  Perhaps this isn’t the intention, but I feel like the authors of these “shock” books are poking fun at the rest of us.

And the readers.

In short, I’m a damn good writer and I have hundreds of writer friends across many genres who are also damn good writers.  Those are the people who should be getting the big sales.  So now… all of you beautiful, intelligent readers– go forth and pimp your favorite writers’ books.  Tell the world how great they are through reviews and suggestions.  In an age of Miley Cyrus and Justin Beiber, be a champion for smart people everywhere!!  Remember:  you can read!

I’m a Southerner, NOT a Freak

I just saw something on Facebook that has made me snap. So pardon me, but I’m going to have to go a little Julia Sugarbaker on y’all.

I am a Southerner. I drink iced tea, fry chicken just like my momma used to, have a big and loud family, wear flip-flops in the winter and even I even wave to strangers on the street. I’m also a seven-time published author, former teacher, college graduate and I can complete the crossword puzzle in the newspaper in ink. But apparently the people at The Learning Channel and their affiliates think that I’m some kind of adorable moron that should be paraded in front of the masses.

Lately, there has been an explosion of “southern-fried” reality shows on TV. “Hillbilly Handfishing,” “Lizard Lick Towing,” “My Redneck Vacation,” and the now-infamous “Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo” are just drops in the proverbial pond. I admit that I find Ronnie, Amy and Bobbie on “Lizard Lick” amusing. They’re like folks that I would know. And though they get up to some interesting antics, they do show some intelligence and savvy with their chosen profession. But come on, people. Is this how you really think Southerners are?  Many of us are articulate, well-educated folks that go to a real job every day.  Most of us don’t make up names for our friends and family like Nub, Bubba, or Huggy Bear.  Most of us aren’t trashy, toothless rednecks that live in broken down trailers.  I am personally offended by the stereotypes perpetraited (see… I even know some big words) upon viewers by the Honey Boo-Boos of the world.  And not just at TLC, but at the Southerners that have cashed in by appearing in these atrocities.  Have some pride and self-respect, please!

Bad form, TLC.