I am hyped for tomorrow, when Twenty-One Nights in Paris hits the ereaders (shelves are another story…), but publication day is always a mixed experience, full of adrenaline and highs and lows. I am incredibly grateful to be here doing this, plugging away at my writing career and spending time with my characters. The writing part is amazing (even edits and proofreads etc). Getting my head around the market has been the most difficult part for me, so far.
Why do I need to know about the market, I hear you ask. I didn’t realise when I started trying to get a book published just how much I would need to understand about the market. Firstly, it’s expectations, coming to terms with wildly varying sales and just how many amazing books are out there competing for eyeballs and just how many copies an author has to sell to make even a part-time income.
The vast majority of authors didn’t choose to write their books for money. It’s a labour of love. But the amount of time that goes into a book is huge, so poor sales are disappointing on many levels. And if a writer dreams of writing full-time and still needs an income, then they have to write top 100 blockbusters every time and even then they will be making a modest income.
All of this means that writers (and publishers) can’t ignore the market. They have to bring out books that will definitely sell huge numbers of copies. It’s not possible to predict what will sell with a great deal of accuracy, but following trends and watching other books gives you some idea.
I detested all of this when my first book came out and I think it’s largely the reason for ‘second book syndrome’, where an author has a lot of trouble writing a second book, particularly if the first has done well. As a reader, I have quite specific taste and it hasn’t alwas reflected the wider market well (in fact, if you see my posts about the romance genre, you’ll see that I struggled to find any of the books I loved in bookshops for most of my life). As a writer, I wanted to write those books, those satisfying love stories.
But it’s possible they will never be big sellers in a market that classes romantic storylines as second-rate. It’s possible I’m just a weirdo and will only ever have my little fan-base of readers like me (which is still a result that makes me happy, just poor LOL). So, what do I do?
Currently, I write as a bit of a balancing act, with guidance from my publisher. I understand a little better what kinds of hooks sell a book and I try to balance that with the story I want to tell. Sometimes it’s difficult, as was the case with Twenty-One Nights in Paris.
I am super proud of this book, partly because it was difficult and partly in spite of the fact that it was difficult. It’s the first book of my new contract. It feels strange to admit this, but deciding to set the book in Paris was a marketing decision I made together with my publisher. Of course I love Paris, or I would have written something else, but we decided it needed to be a place that would be easily searchable, that would make people click!
I at first tried to combine a story idea I’d had with Paris, but it didn’t work. I had to go back and really brainstorm Paris and decide what I wanted to bring out about the city. It felt as though I was reverse-engineering this book which, while I was drafting, hit my confidence a lot. We writers operate on inspiration, not engineering!
But it turned into a really special book. Looking back, I can see that I created the character of Sacha directly out of the city I wanted to bring to life. And I had clearer ideas from the beginning of the ambience I wanted to create – the vibes – which I don’t always have at the beginning of the writing process.
I think all writers reach a stage where they need to learn to be engineers, as well as artists, to craft something special that still sits comfortably in the market.
I would love it if Twenty-One Nights in Paris sells well. I’m hoping that one of my other books eventually gets picked up for paperback distribution, like Italy Ever After was. It’s some recognition for the months I’ve put into these books and makes me less worried about the future of my career (but I will keep going regardless).
For the weirdo reader me, I’ve recently made a big decision that is very exciting. I’m going to keep writing stuff just for me, just for fun, without worrying so much about the market. And I’m going to publish it myself. I love that self-publishing opens doors for niche books and for authors with lower sales to still make a return. So, I’m giving it a go.
I’ll post more about this as time goes on, but look out for some new spicy, tongue-in-cheek romcoms by Lilo Moore (I’m using a pen name to differentiate between my OTT spicy stuff and my travel romance for my publisher). The first book is called Berlin Calling and it will be out early 2023.
More to follow…