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Lessons Learned…or Relearned, as the Case May Be

It’s that time of year, when the media recaps big events of the past 348 days or so and/or people announce their resolutions or goals for the coming year. In that vein, but hopefully with a twist, I’m sharing the things I’ve learned since mid-January/February.

I’ve learned a lot, which frankly, is a vast understatement. I’ve learned that while readers see me as a writer and my books a form of entertainment (and they are, there’s no doubt). The books are also my small business. That has posed the biggest learning curve for me so far. I’m a small business owner essentially, and yet I’m a creative type, so it’s often difficult to mesh those two concepts mentally.

Things that have come up from my past:

  • YMMV – this is an acronym (and for the record, I do not like acronyms by and large…unless it’s texts, but even then, I’m not much of a texter) I first encountered it in graduate school, roughly fifteen years ago. There was finally a creative writing class at night! Since I was working full-time and going back to school that was like a mystical treat. One of the other students was a couple of years older than me, married, and I want to say he worked in a technical field…at any rate, we had to upload our short stories or single chapters of novels to an intranet, download, review/critique/edit, print and turn the printed copies into the fellow student/writer. This man had given quite a bit of feedback on my piece, but in the margin was YMMV in his scrawly handwriting. I puzzled over it for at least 20 minutes. What on earth did that mean, it didn’t say yummy, did it? No, that v was not a y at the end and this wasn’t cursive…hmmm. The following week, I asked him about it and found out it meant, “Your Mileage May Vary.” I knew the term, just not the acronym, and for that matter, I associated it with automotive issues. However, it’s so true of books and one of the main things I try to keep in mind when I read reviews from other people of my books. There’s an argument that I shouldn’t read the reviews (believe me after I’ve read some, I wish I could keep myself away), but nevertheless it’s true. Business decisions that work for one book of mine may not work for the next. Tactics that work for a fellow author may not be right for me because I write in a different sub-genre. Bottom line, I’ve learned to operate with that acronym in mind.
  • You don’t know what you don’t know – I mentioned this in another blog post, but it deserves repeating. I have a feeling this will be a prevalent theme even as I move into 2019! It’s an uncomfortable feeling for me, but as they say, you learn something new everyday.
  • Professional etiquette is imperative. There were at least two instances in Romancelandia this year where a heaping of professional etiquette would have gone a long, long way for a couple of other authors. Not going to rehash those issues, but I know I’m going to be sure to stay on my P’s & Q’s!
  • Romance as a genre gets the short end of the stick. From other readers to organizers of book conventions to clichés, romance often gets a bad rap. “Oh, it’s a romance novel…” which might segue into other comments, but why others frown on a genre that most of the time insists on a happily ever after, I’ll never really know. And as for the cliché I mentioned, why are romantics dubbed ‘hopeless romantics’? Yes, I could Google this, and I should, but it’s a semi-rhetorical question. I believe there are hopeful romantics out there!

Things I’ve learned this year:

  • Nobody reads the same book….this one sticks in my craw for so many reasons. Not the least of which is having a Master’s in English, I darn sure should’ve known about this. Otherwise, how on earth do you end up with deconstructionist lit classes, lit theory, the whole shebang? And for that matter, just look at The Bible! There are so many denominations of Christianity and nearly all of them have a different take on any given Bible verse! Nevertheless, the first time I encountered that saying back in May I thought, really? They’re words, sentences and paragraphs….how are we not reading the same book? But, as they say to pregnant women – every woman is different, every baby is different, every pregnancy is different, so too with books.
  • There’s a whole other side to publishing that has opened up…there are all kinds of freelance opportunities out there, but I’m not talking about writing, though that may well be the case also, but book trailers, animated book covers, pre-made book covers, bloggers, blog tour/promotional companies, editors, proofreaders. There’s a lot and it can boggle my mind if I focus on it all at once.
  • Facebook has definite value! I have legitimate doubts I would have sold as many digital copies of Unforeseen Riot as I did if it were not for Facebook. More importantly, I have doubts I would have even self-published if it weren’t for Facebook because that’s ultimately how I found my editor! So, for all the times you might think the Internet or Facebook is alienating us, when used right it can definitely help bring us together without being geographically close.
  • Romance Readers are voracious and intense. There are things a romance writer is not actually supposed to do…I did not know this when I wrote my second book. Or, if I did, I ignored it thinking it was a smattering of other readers from a book club who were fussy about their books. I was wrong! I knew romance readers read a ton of books, but what I learned was, if there is:
    • Cheating…no! They won’t read it.
    • Love Triangle…no! They won’t read it.
    • Rape…no! They won’t read it.
    • Miscarriage…probably not, or no! They won’t read it, or they’ll read it but go in not expecting to like it

This list could go on, but it’s definitely something I’ve learned and if I’m gonna break one of        these rules, I now know I have to tread cautiously.

  • As far as my writing: I’m strong on the front-end and drag on the back-end…please no Car Talk like jokes…but seriously writing the endings of my books are a killer for me! Sit me in front of a blank page and say, write a story…I can go for six thousand maybe ten thousand words easy after that it’s a crap shoot.

This post is rambling and haphazard, but I felt the need to get all these thoughts out there. I’m incredibly fortunate that Amazon, Smashwords, and Draft2Digital exist. Those sites allow writers the opportunity to become authors without navigating the long and arduous road of traditional publishing. To the reader, I’m providing a source of media/entertainment; to me, I’m finally doing the job I always wanted to do. And it is a job, which means it’s work and it’s a business. Here’s to 2019, and now that I know better, I’m going to do my best to make sure I do better!