Ten years have passed since the release of The Lust Diaries: Book One, and looking back at the book's positive reviews brings back many fond memories. I feel grateful for the support that has come my way from all the romance readers and authors who have read and appreciated my work. Writing The Lust Diaries series was a passion project, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to put my stamp on the romance genre. This pub-anniversary is a moment of reflection for me, reminding me of the hard work, dedication, passion, and love required to bring a novel to life. I am so grateful for the love I’ve received. And while I’m struggling with burnout and slowly getting back to writing, I promise to keep providing my readers with quality stories that will offer entertainment in the midst of life's everyday challenges and inspire them to embrace their unapologetic selves.
To celebrate this pub-adversary, please grab a copy of The Lust Diaries Trilogy for free until Saturday, May 26th! You can also find the audiobooks for this trilogy on Scribd! Free with your subscription! You can also read a prequel short story, A Slant of Light for free, here on the blog!
I've learned so much about writing and publishing since I launched Yves and her supporting cast out into the world.
Here are ten things I learned in those ten years since I published In Her Closet:
1. Study your craft.
I joked about deciding to write a romance after reading a ton of them. Yes, that's a great place to start, but passion for the genre is not enough. Like every genre, romance has its conventions, and romance readers have expectations you'll be expected to fulfill. If you don't, readers will make you sorry you didn't. Also, by taking the time to study what makes a romance, I’ve been able to find a segment of readers who are willing to venture away from the formula as long as I give them the HEA/HFN. This has become increasingly important to me as a writer who likes to play with form and theme, and it will be even more important as I continue to grow as a writer.
2. Publish the damn thing.
It's important to do market research so that you know what's popular. That's how you decide how to sell your book to readers once it's written. However, if your book is so niche that you can't find any read-likes, don't let that discourage you. Publish it anyway. You never know what books will be a hit or a flop. As long as you believe in your work and you wrote the book you wanted to write, there is something to be learned from the experience!
3. Have reasonable expectations of success.
When I first published my first novella in 2011, there were a few breakout stars who reached immense popularity on their own, then leveraged that popularity into fantastic book deals. While there have been a few since then, I strongly advise you not to expect to become an Amazon or TikTok famous right out of the gate. That is still super rare, and honestly, you should probably aim for the mid-list. mid-list authors sell steadily and have longer careers. Careers that a lot of them retire on. So aim for the stars, but recognize that even if you don't reach them, self-publishing is a long game.
4. Learn your tropes and use them liberally.
Tropes catch a bad rap because people falsely believe that it's the thing that makes romances formulaic. I strongly disagree, in case you were wondering. There are lots of reasons why mainstream romance is formulaic, but that's not what this article is about.
First of all, all genres utilize tropes. Mystery, adventure, sci-fi — pick a genre, and you'll find tropes. The only difference is that romance authors use the same tropes to craft stories with pants feelings, and that makes people who don't read books with pants feelings uncomfortable. Maybe they'll get over it one day, I don't know. But I don't really care either, so that's that on that.
Secondly, romance readers love tropes. There are some romance readers who read nothing but enemies to lovers, or opposites attract or marriage of convenience. Write to trope, and your book will find a reader.
And the last thing on tropes, even when you think you're not writing a trope, you're probably writing a trope. In fact, I'll remove probably from the last sentence and replace it with definitely. Tropes are such an integral part of how humans tell stories that it's something we do unconsciously. So stop blaming romance for trope heavy books. If you wanna blame someone, blame Homer. His work is stuffed with tropes. Not only that, Homer is super dead and won't get pissed if you talk shit about his super trope-y epic poems.
5. Content is still king, and as a romance author, your content is your next novel.
There are lots of books you can buy and courses you can take to learn how to craft the perfect Facebook or Amazon ad, and you should absolutely learn as much as you can about that. However, nothing sells your last book better than writing and publishing another book. The most important step in self-publishing is to always be writing. Also, if you want people to know about your book, you have to be the one to spread the news. Hitting publish is not the end or the beginning of the job. There are lots of ways to get the word out but it needs to start with you!
6. Learn to fail up.
Not every book hits the same, and sometimes there's no rhyme or reason to it. However, it's good practice to pay close attention and keep a detailed record of what works and what doesn't. Paying attention to how your book performs will give you the information you need to avoid failing in the same way twice (theoretically).
7. Find your process.
Writing is hard work. It just is. And I’m sorry to tell you that it gets harder in different ways the longer you write. The only thing that makes it less hard (not easy!) is to figure out how you get from idea to done and perfect it with every book you write.
But listen to me closely.
There is no one true way to write a novel. Plotting is not the one true way. Pantsing is not the one true way. Stephen King's way is not the one true way. Nora Roberts’ way isn't the one true way. The only one true way for you to write a book is the way that works for you.
8. Connect with other romance writers.
Despite the implosion of Romance Writer's of America, #Romancelandia still has pockets of welcoming citizens. With a little bit of work, you can find your people. Making those connections can make or break your career. There are lots of Facebook groups built around making those crucial connections and developing relationships. If you prefer twitter, which is my stomping ground, start out by participating in twitter chats. #Romancelandia, #romchat, #writestuff, or you can just take a trip down the #amwriting hashtag. I also run a writer’s group so you can check us out as well!
9. Your ego is not your amigo.
I think this applies to pretty much any creator, but it would behoove you to learn how to detach yourself from your work. I know a lot of folks like to romanticize the writing and publishing process. They call their books their babies and compare writing one to giving birth.
Don't do this, author-friends.
Yes, writing is hard. That has already been acknowledged, but that doesn't mean that you should attach any other significance to the process than the fact that it is work. And more to the point, it's important to detach yourself from your work because once it's published, it becomes a product. A product that you're sending out into the world to be consumed by readers. If you're lucky, you'll get some reviews, and some of those will be "bad" reviews. And while some of them might seem hateful, cruel, or unnecessarily personal, they're really none of your business. Reviews are for readers. PERIODT. If you can't read reviews without taking to social media to whine about it, I suggest you refrain from reading them altogether. Or take them to the group chat. #keepitoffthetimeline should be an ongoing trend in this year of Our Lord Prince Rodgers Nelson. Don't make yourself infamous by getting dragged for behaving badly.
10. Writing advice is just like any other advice. You can take it or leave it.
It's true that there are some very basic rules about grammar and punctuation that you should learn to make your book readable. Genre expectations and conventions also fall under that umbrella because you want to make sure that you’re giving the people what they want. All of that other writing advice? Use what you can, toss the rest, and hire a professional to help you fix it.
To the characters of The Lust Diaries:
Yves, Elijah, Julian, Ava… you’ve all taught me so much about what I love to write. I hope that future readers will come to love you and your stories as much as I do!
Readers… have you read The Lust Diaries? This author would like to know, what did you like the most about these stories? If you haven’t read them yet, make sure you grab your free copy of of the trilogy or listen to the audiobooks on Scribd!