With one week to go until Berlin Calling is released, I wanted to share a little more about my author journey and the experience of being a creator in the current climate of the publishing industry. These thoughts won’t be particularly organised, but hopefully they’ll give my followers some context and maybe some other writers a few hints about how it all works.
My impetus to write this was a recent review for Berlin Calling. I’ve had some amazing reviews come in for it (and one obligatory one-star – I haven’t read that one, but I hope they hated the sex scenes LOL). But it’s been a very different experience than garnering early reviews with my publisher.
Most of the reviewers of Berlin Calling sound surprised that the book is good. I suppose it is a debut under this pen name, and it does what it says on the tin: provide a rather silly Eurovision romcom (albeit with some sharper themes, because I’m still me and they sneak in). But it makes me wonder why people read my Leonie Mack titles for Boldwood with different eyes, expecting… who knows what, but something else.
The perception of difference between self-published and traditionally published authors is interesting to experience. I’ve read books I loved by self-published authors and books I hated by traditionally published authors (and vice versa, of course) and there certainly can be no perceptible difference in quality between the two (I say ‘can’ because there are a lot of self-published books out there and I’m sure some of them will have issues that should have been fixed before publication, simply because it’s so easy to publish your book without reflecting on it).
For a lot of authors, both self and traditionally published, the perception is the only difference. Some self-published authors spend lots of marketing, like publishers. Some publishers spend very little on marketing. Some authors are well-connected in reader communities, giving their books a boost.
My point is, none of these things is a good measure for the quality of a book. Only an author is, and the particular individual who is reading the book. There are unfortunately lots of amazing books being written that will never cross a publisher’s desk because they’re not catchy enough or they wouldn’t look good on TikTok or an established author just brought out a book that’s too similar or the ‘market’ doesn’t need any more of these books (but what about me? I’m the market, too! I’m not the market. I have really weird taste, but anyway). It doesn’t mean those books are any lower quality than the books that do make it through a number of gatekeepers (who are mainly gatekeepers because of their knowledge of the market and not just writing technique).
Even the very concept of the ‘quality’ of a book is subjective, as well. Some people love a tightly plotted love story with lots of internal conflict and romantic tension; others will immediately dismiss something like that as ‘Mills and Boon trash’ or similar (I love a Mills and Boon by the way). Depending on what the reader is looking for, any book can be the quality they want.
Then we come to the next complex aspect of all this, which is how authors and publishers pitch books to readers. Sometimes it’s in the interest of the author or publisher for the readers to think it’s trash. Sounds weird, right? But, like the reviewers who have picked up Berlin Calling expecting some kind of self-published ‘trash’ and finding it’s actually good, they chose to read it. Some readers choose to buy books because they think they will be full of romantic cliches and overdrawn sexual tension and a wacky, dramatic plot – something that breaks the rules of traditional publishing.
This is the reason why self-publishing, particularly in romance, has taken over where traditional publishers have moved out of the market. Reviewers might not want to admit that they want to read something that’s not very ‘literary’ and give it a low star rating, but lots of readers will love it.
I’m incredibly grateful to the Goodreads reviewer who picked up my book with whatever expectations she had and, to her surprise,:
This ended up being a genuinely good book.
I love to write romance. My books will always be pitched a little ‘trashy’ (by both my publisher and by myself with my self-pubbed books). But I’ve been around and sold enough books to be confident in saying that I write well and I can develop characters that keep readers interested. I challenge myself with each book to create the gripping emotion of a romance without using tired or empty language and I always have little bits of the world, good and bad, that round out the story.
One reader’s trash is another’s treasure!