Author Seeking Complex Readers

 

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Greetings from the world of the living! It’s been a while, but I hope you’ve all been well. I’ve been writing my little heart out the last month trying to finish up my upcoming release from Little Red Hen Romance. It’s a charming little #Sherlock Holmes #mystery entitled “Chasing the Dragon.” It’s a bit longer than the regular LRH release, coming in at just under 30K. But the 30K are well worth it in my humble opinion. As I was talking to my editor about it this morning, we inevitably veered the conversation into that deep, dark pit– how to sell more books? It’s a question that is always on the minds of writers these days. Many of my colleagues have gone from selling enough books to make their car payment to barely selling enough to warrant a check. There are so many layers to this question that we can’t even begin to examine all of them, but I wanted to focus this blog post on the most important one:  YOU, dear reader.

Picture it, Facebook: 2016. A beautiful young writer is browsing the author groups and reading blogs. She is puzzled, as she keeps seeing words like “BESTSELLER” and “5 STARS.” The problem is, all the books that had been tagged as “BESTSELLER” or “5 STARS” seemed to be carbon copies of one another. And they certainly weren’t the kinds of books that the young writer was churning out at light speed. Romances that weren’t even remotely romantic that featured predatory relationships, unreal situations, no high-stakes conflict, increasingly whacked-out scenarios– the list goes on. And apparently readers are lapping it up like milk and honey.

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Something about this just doesn’t gel.

I know readers, particularly romance readers, are smarter than this. I know they want complex stories that aren’t just about the sicky-sweet love and the increasingly disturbing sex. And how these two things exist in the same story still escapes me.

Here’s what I want in a reader: 

Someone who believes in love. I often get the impression that the people writing 50 Shades knock-offs think that love is a joke. That the fairy tale stuff doesn’t exist so we may as well make it a humiliating experience that no one will enjoy. Love ISN’T perfect, but it is out there. Sometimes hiding in the most unlikely of places.

Not a hopeless romantic, but a hopeful one.

Someone who wants adventure and a complex storyline in their romance. It doesn’t have to be all about the romance. There should be more at stake than an old boyfriend blowing back into town. Romance CAN exist in the midst of an international incident. Or on an interplanetary mission to save the sun. Or between a dragon and the slayer sent to kill him on behalf of the government. Romance novels don’t HAVE to be Hallmark Channel movies of the week.

Someone who isn’t just reading from one sex scene to the next to get off. That’s what Penthouse Letters are for.


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So where can you find these amazing feats of literary fitness? Well look no further than Little Red Hen Romance. It’s co-op of authors, Lucy Blue and yours truly, work tirelessly to bring meaty love stories to the complex reader. That reader that wants to lose themselves in the magic and adventure of a damn good story and feel the heart flutter as they witness two people falling in love.

I know you’re out there.

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!