When I first began publishing, every new review meant my books were being noticed and read. Of course, being new meant my reviews numbered in the single digits or, occasionally, a dozen or so. A few of my books still number in the single digits, actually, all these years later.
Some fellow authors of my acquaintance had amassed an unheard of number of reviews in jaw-dropping numbers…eight hundred and more. A sizable number of reviews was a badge of honor in the writing community, and I wanted to earn that badge. Since I was not a New York Times Bestselling Author, how was such a feat to be achieved?
At that time, I learned the most achievable way to get a sizable number of reviews was to advertise with BookBub. My first BookBub feature was for Larken, back in June of 2015. When I applied for the Featured Deal, Larken only had 28 reviews and I was certain it would be rejected. To my shock, it was accepted for a Featured Deal and did very well for me in many ways. Not only did readers leave reviews, but many went on to buy my other books. As of this writing, Larken has 831 ratings on Amazon–a number I could only dream about in 2015.
I’m all about celebrating achievements, small and large. Therefore, I would like to raise my glass in a toast to The Mannequin–the first of my books to have over 1,000 reviews. As of this writing, The Mannequin has earned 1,178 ratings on Amazon.
For an independent author, marketing my work is challenging and often perplexing. In the early days of BookBub, if an author could snag a featured deal, the exposure would be enough to buoy him or her into the stratosphere for months or longer. These days, however, even the magic of BookBub can flag, and marketing books has become increasingly hit and miss.
Reader expectations are always on my mind when I’m writing a new book. I try not to stress about bad reviews, but I do often glean insight when readers say what they did or did not enjoy. My latest release, The Prettier Sister, seemed to satisfy readers who liked a certain measure of snappy repartee between the hero and heroine as well as a happy ending. The book has been well received and I’m glad.
Since I don’t like to get caught writing the same story over and over again, I will occasionally step outside my zone. I usually set my historical romance in England, but I have written two historical romances set entirely in America.
How did those books sell?
They fell flat.
I’m referring to Rumer Has It (set in Charleston, SC) and An American in Paris of the West (set in Virginia and San Francisco). Both books were liked by the readers who left reviews on Amazon (4.5 rating for RHI and 5.0 rating for AAIPOTW), but neither book performed to my expectations sales-wise.
So, what is an author to do?
Shall I stay in my lane or continue to try new things? Can an author ever tempt her readers into trying something different? Let me know what you think. ~ Suzanne
Imagine that you are Dorothy in TheWizard of Oz, skipping along the Yellow Brick Road on your way to the Emerald City. Suddenly, the Wicked Witch flies in your face and lobs an insult along with, “…and your little dog, too!” She zooms off into the sky before you can retort, of course, because the last thing the Wicked Witch wants is an actual conversation. Her intent is to get you to give up your quest, go back to Munchkinland, and settle for being a big celebrity fish in a small pond.
It wouldn’t be much of a story if Dorothy gave up, would it? Oh, it would be easier to capitulate. She could collapse in the corn field, have herself a good cry, and then slink back the way she came…
As Dorothy decides to do exactly that, Scarecrow gives her a piercing glance. “What are you doing, Dot? I’d like to get to the Emerald City before nightfall.”
“I’m not good enough to get to the Emerald City.” Dorothy’s lower lip trembled. “And if I keep going, the Wicked Witch will insult me more and insults hurt!”
Scarecrow stood with his arms akimbo. “Seriously? You’re going to let a green woman who consorts with Flying Monkeys stop you from achieving your dreams?”
“But why would she pick on me in particular?” As Dorothy picked up a rotting apple from the field next to her and tossed it, Toto scampered off in pursuit. “I must be some kind of loser.”
Scarecrow sighed as he sank down onto his knees. “You’re new around here so maybe you don’t know, but everyone on the Yellow Brick Road gets harassed.” As he shook his head, a few pieces of straw fell out. “The Powers That Be try to discourage anyone from succeeding except the people on their team.”
“Really?” Dorothy studied him a moment. “That’s not fair.”
“Fair?” Scarecrow rolled his eyes. “No such thing in this universe, friend. You have to know the game and have enough gumption to keep going anyway.”
Dorothy bit her lip. “Mean people stink.”
“That they do, but you have to understand a great many mean people are actually Flying Monkeys in disguise, sent by the Wicked Witch to kick the stuffing out of you.” He stuffed a protruding bit of straw back into his plaid flannel shirt. “I should know. I’ve had the stuffing kicked out of me so many times, I can’t think straight.”
She gave him a grin. “Maybe that’s because you don’t have a brain yet.”
Scarecrow snickered. “You got me on that one.” He stood and reached out his hand. “Come on, fellow traveler. We won’t give up our quest until the credits roll at the end of the movie.”
“All right.” Dorothy allowed him to help her to her ruby slipper-clad feet. “Why are you so brave?”
A sad smile lifted the corners of his lips. “I have nothing to lose, that’s why.”
Her spine straightened. “Neither do I.” Dorothy glanced over her shoulder. “Let’s go, Toto. We’re off to see the wizard!”
The moral of the story is…expect Flying Monkeys to bedevil you as you try to achieve your dream. Find the courage to keep going because the credits haven’t yet rolled.