On Releasing Three Novels in One Calendar Year — and why I wish I hadn’t!
Well, on Feb. 3 I’ll have achieved this feat — something even mad dogs and Englishmen would baulk at. Except, of course, for those terrifying romance writers who churn out a new novel every month.
How do they do it? This is how.
ROMANCE NOVELIST (PACING ACROSS HER CONSERVATORY, TO SECRETARY): Right. To continue… Lady Petunia said — no, wait, Lady Petunia vocalised — “Unhand me, you disgusting-but-manly beast!” Whereupon, Lord Culbertson said, “Heh heh, you will escape me never!” Wait! — didn’t we use the same phrase in the previous chapter?
SECRETARY: No. In chapter 78, when the estate steward was attempting to ravish the wayward daughter of the house, you had, “You will never ever escape me!” instead.
ROMANCE NOVELIST: (RELIEVED) Fine. Good. Excellent. On we go then…“Heh heh, you will escape me never!” Lady Petunia turned her damasked cheek away from him, saying — pertly, yet with a certain indescribable wistful panache — “Nay, sir! You cannot impose upon my sovereign will!” But her rapacious, captious, elusive captor remained implaceable.”
SECRETARY (CLEARS THROAT): Perhaps implacable?
ROMANCE NOVELIST (WAVING HER HAND): Whatever! We can’t get hung up on details! We have to nail 8000 more words in the next half-hour. Onward!… But her rapacious, captious captor was implaceable. Putting his manly arms around her frugal form…
And so on. (And on.)
But yes, my hat is off!!!!
However, I will never be rich and famous: I can’t write romance. I still have a letter — was the early 90s — from the world-famous publishers Mills and Boon, of which I am modestly proud.
My writing is “far too literary, not sufficiently genre-based”. My vocabulary is “too challenging” and there is “far too much character development”. The plot should involve “external, rather than internal, drivers” and I needed to “stick to the winning formula” rather than to attempt to experiment. Nevertheless, the reader kindly urged me not to give up on writing — only to give up on romance.
Advice I have taken.
So, despite striking out in 1990 with The Ambassador’s Daughter, once Harriet is published, I will have shoved THREE naked, terrified, and almost unprotected novels out into the world within a single calendar year. And it’s practically killed me. But, given that many formidable romance authors publish three or four times as many books in the time, what have I got to moan about?
I accept that it’s All My Fault but simultaneously marketing a dystopian thriller under a pen name PLUS two Jane Austenesque novels, you have to do the following, omitting no step, however exhausting:
1) Start a newsletter — make that TWO newsletters — join every possible writers society in two genres, and remorselessly keep up with inane sites on social media
2) Respond graciously to every lovely reviewer on Goodreads…
3) …while ensuring that you never ever allow yourself to respond to Madmomma of Texas on Amazon. (You remember, the one who awarded you your only two-star book review, purely and simply because Mr Darcy never appears in your novel?)
4) Evaluate, submit to, and fork out for every paid promo that you can afford — while timing these promotions perfectly! They must be “stacked” on release and submitted at correct, but not excessive, intervals thereafter. And woe betide the author who gets all involved in writing, and allows their novel to waver and drown in the Amazon rankings! In this case, the Amazon algorithm bots instantly decide that the seemingly promising author is dross after all, and ceases to push your book on other pages.
5) You have to be so organised! — Trouble is, even the best-laid spreadsheets have a way of going wrong.
For example, at one point you forget that you joyfully agreed to scribble a witty article in exchange for a mention on some mega-influential Austenesque website and that it was due YESTERDAY and if you get a REPUTATION for not following through you’ll get SHOVED ON THE BLACKLIST because — believe me — these bloggers are all besties.
6) Or when the thriller writer you traded “newsletter mentions” with — on your science fiction newsletter, natch — emails you, seriously miffed because he only flogged four copies of his masterpiece, Blood-Encrusted Zombies Blasting Other Zombies with Lasers, from your joint newsletter mention.
(You mention his novel in your newsletter; he mentions yours in his. Basically.)
But what the zombie enthusiast will never know is that — eek!!! — this is, in fact, a pretty fab result, given that fathead here only went and mentioned Blood-Encrusted Zombies Blasting Other Zombies with Lasers in THE WRONG NEWSLETTER, didn’t she?
Yep. At least four of those classy, classic regency lovers must be secretly into blood-encrusted zombies!!!
And yes, the mind does boggle, rather.
7) You also have to choose, submit to and pay a fee for practically every award the reputable Alliance of Independent Authors approves, just in case you get lucky. (OK, I certainly HAVE been lucky. But had I not been lucky… and a lot of it is luck… what a waste of money and effort it would have been… Most of these awards are in USA-based and demand paperbacks, at £16 a whack!!
And yes, the guy at the Post Office does sit up and pay attention when he spots me hoving over the horizon, these days.
8) You also have to obsequiously and grovellingly contact every magazine displaying even the most tepid interest in (a) dystopian thrillers or (b) Jane Austen and/or historical fiction, in hopes of swiping interviews, mentions, giveaways, articles, kind words, dog biscuits etc.
Not a single one of these, by the way, will ever, ever forget you. No, you will get daily emails from them until the end of time. And should you press the “unsubscribe” button, they will loose malware upon your computer, meaning that every other sentence you write will start with, “The forked tongue of the murderous dragon” or else “Henceforth.” (Hard to say which is worse.)
9) You’ll need to sign up for every society, blog, vlog, YouTube channel, bookstagrammer, and TikTok influencer in — yes, you’ve got it — not one, but two genres. You’ll also have to sign your books up on every free website going — not to mention gift free copies to libraries, at vast expense.
You’ll also to pay for a website perfectly designed to be neither too regency or too literary nor too abstract and off-putting.
You’ll also need to somehow keep relentlessly peppy and upbeat on social media without screeching at (a) your spouse (b) your sausage dogs or © thoughtful, intelligent and entirely innocent passers-by.
10) And you’ll certainly need to find — in fact, kidnap and imprison, sticking lit matches between their toes — people willing to read the Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) of each book.
This is because these noble souls get nothing more than a warm fuzzy feeling for helping your brand-new novel, like a fat-legged baby, remain upright during its earliest days without flopping down on its podgy little bum.
(WHY do you have to do kidnap and imprison these readers? Because, frankly, even the THOUGHT of reviewing a book on Amazon gives the natives the vapors. Given a straight choice between reviewing a book on Amazon and trekking naked across jaguar-and-crocodile-infested jungles it turns out that nine out of ten of your ideal readership think that crocodiles are “kind of cute”.
11) Then, one Friday night, after a couple of glasses of wine, you decide that you can save a fortune by NARRATING YOUR OWN AUDIOBOOK!!!!
Brilliant idea!!!! I mean, you’re artistic, right? You’re a performer! And how hard can it be?
12) The next morning, 100% sober, you gloomily decide that your narration sounds like a perfect cross between an Anglo-American buzz-saw and Bill Bryson on speed.
You then begin to audition expensively brilliant audiobook narrators, both humbled and unnerved by the level of international talent on offer.
With very few exceptions, though I did enjoy Maybelle X of Mississippi. Despite my stated preference for a UK actor — the Regency being pretty British, on the whole — this gung-ho, southern be-elle was determined to give it a go:
“Dear Mrs MacVeague, Hey, girl, I jus’ love love love your writin’!!! And I just love lil old England and I just love love love Gone with the Wind, where the star sounded as English as can be, and my mom thinks I talk just like her…Probly ’cause I’m just about dyin’ to come to England and find my very own Mr Darcy! Ha ha! So here-all’s my l’il ol’ audition, and I sure do hope that y’all just have a great day!… (COUGHS AFFECTEDLY) “Mr Frank Churchill sa-id, “But I ha-ave not ye-et had the pleasure…”
13) Once the audiobook is published, More Experienced Writers will gloomily warn you that you have to contact every audiobook blogger, influencer, reviewer and competition in the world, and that, if you don’t, you will never ever sell a single audiobook. But… no way could that be true, could it? Haha!
14) Um, oopsy.
15) Then Amazon starts up an A+ area, specifically in which for authors to brag about their books, awards, sales and reviews. Hey, YOU’VE won awards!!!! Go, Amazon!!!!
But, after struggling with the tech for the better part of two days, you console yourself. “Listen, people don’t READ that part anyway. They’ve all got LIVES, right? Right?”
16) Then you get your best marketing idea yet, the one when you hire a bright spark at an agency that does Amazon and Facebook ads. Yes!!!! No more promos!!!! No more hassles!!!! What a load taken off of your shoulders!!!! You can get down to some writing again, at last!!!!
This is such a great plan that I recommend it to absolutely every author I know, or — at least — to every author I know who has both (a) a sensational sense of humour and (b) thousands of pounds to throw down the toilet!!!!
17) Then you decide to make a book trailer. Your book trailer is a massive hit on YouTube. Every single viewer gave it a thumbs-up!!!
Yep. All seven of them.
18) But you really are flattered when 750 warm bodies — OK, a few were possibly bots — loved your TikTok video, the one where you try (but fail) to sink into the Med, holding your book over your head.
No question, that one really was a pretty major hit… So much so that I’m still fielding cracks about it from my closer friends…
I could go on, but it’s prob. way too long already, and you’ve already got the picture. Which is:
One book in a year: Go for it. Enjoy the ride — and have a laugh!
Two books in a year: I don’t think so.
THREE books in a year: %%!$&!$)£^($%!!!!!!