Monday, August 31, 2015

This is Not Your Mother's Publishing Career (part 3)

If you just happened to pop over to the blog today, I’m chatting with L.B. Gregg about how publishing has changed from the good old days. (Although the Good Old Days had their problems too.)

The conversation began over at LoveBytes, continued at LB’sblog and we’re finishing up here—and hoping to get some other insights and perspectives.


Platform and persona


Once upon a time a writer’s “persona” amounted to a decade-old staged photograph on the back of a book jacket. Raymond Chandler with his cat. Mary Stewart with her pen. Pearls or elbow patches optional. Now it’s a whole different world.

The problem with the new emphasis on persona is it creates this huge pressure to be out there being social and personable and “on” twenty-four seven -- which is not necessarily the writer temperament. Not everybody is good at making small talk.

L.B. - And ai yi yi, not all of us are good at blogging. I’m very good at small talk and cocktail conversation. I wish there were more opportunities to chat with readers, but I don’t like doing so online. I am uncomfortable with the nature of online commenting and social media. It’s a shit storm on the best of days. I’d rather chat with someone at a conference or signing.

But see, you go to conferences and talk with readers in real life. And, I want to make the point that you were/are a brilliant blogger. You just made the decision not to continue reviewing/blogging once you became an author. And while I miss your blogging, I think that choice to quit reviewing was shrewd.

Once you create this expectation of accessibility and interaction, there really isn’t any way of going back without appearing to withdraw or subtract previously added value.

L.B. - You can go back, but I think if you withdraw once (and I have) the real question becomes whether interaction and accessibility add value to your writing. Because if it distracts or depresses or overwhelms or angers you, then find another avenue.
Puppy Makes Everything More Interesting


Maybe it’s crucial to set up realistic parameters to start with. Because I started out being Everywhere All the Time, and that was a contributing factor to burnout.

L.B. - You were all over the map. I think finding that one right place, whether it’s Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or what, is better than spreading yourself too thin.

Which I learned, to my cost.

Then there’s the notion of platform in genre fiction. This is an idea that evolved with mainstream publishers hoping to give certain books a marketing edge in a crowded market. So a former police officer writing a police procedural is theoretically going to be more interesting to readers than, say, an ordinary run-of-the-mill author writing a police procedural.

L.B. - Or a housewife writing a romance novel.

Ha! So if you’re a gay man writing something like male/male romance there’s supposed to be this added cachet to your work. But that’s nonsensical. You’ve got to bring more to the table than genitalia.

Um. In a manner of speaking.

L.B. - Not touching that table. No.

I don’t care who you are or what you’re writing, platform is about how the work is marketed. It’s an advertising gimmick. It’s not a substitute for the work. And I think sometimes people are disappointed because they’re leaning very heavily on their credentials, and credentials don’t turn pages, don’t leave readers misty, don’t lead to someone heading straight to your website at midnight and clicking a buy link. 

L.B. – Well, true, the notion of platform can and does work against some authors in this flooded market. Does that make sense? There are a lot of people asking for justification. Or offering it. Why do your write x,y, or z when you’re not an authority? Here’s why I write x,y, or z.

 I don’t have time or patience for that.

No, it’s boring. It’s pointless. To even ask the question is to miss the point of FICTION.

This concept of “authority” in fiction is a new one, and I believe an ephemeral one. It’s part of that Every Child Gets a Cookie mentality wherein passion and sincerity are supposed to be just as good as talent and craft. We all give lip service to the notion—nobody wants to be the Genre Grinch—but the fact is when it comes to buying books, craft and talent trump enthusiasm and sincerity (or even authority) because what readers want is a great book. Every. Single. Time.


Readers buy books they want to read. Building a readership means you consistently supply the books your readers want to read. If there is such a thing as branding, that’s what it amounts to.

And as for platform, well, readers will support enthusiasm and sincerity and authority, but they’ll do it in different ways. 600 likes on your FB post, for example. I LOVE YOU SO MUCH, AUTHOR X!! but your books are boring, so I usually don’t buy them.

I had an interesting chat with Nicole Kimberling at Blind Eye Books the other day, and she was theorizing that it’s not so much that more books are being published as the slush pile is now largely filtered through DIY publishing. Readers and citizen reviewers have replaced editorial and agent assistants as the new gatekeepers. I think there is a lot of truth to that.

But now I digress. What platform does do—and this is very valuable—it gives you something to talk about besides BUY MY BOOK FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. Original and continual content in the Age of White Noise is an issue. You can’t just keep posting about new reviews or new releases. You have to have something else to talk about. In order to engage with readers, you have to talk to them. And a sales pitch is not conversation.

So the pressure is on to be charming and personable and witty and pleasant and…and…say something interesting.

L.B. – Or I can tell a joke. Or post a photo of a puppy.
More completely gratuitous puppy 

LOL. You have adorable puppies.

Then there is branding, which is a big part of—

L.B. - I am not a brand. I’m an author. I say this smugly, with the kind of mustached self importance of a hipster, but I’m not selling as much as I’d like so maybe I need to focus on branding myself.

It just sounds so painful. And distasteful. And…dishonest. Is it me? I don’t want to walk around with a giant sign that reads LB GREGG BOOKS and, IDK, hand out business cards to strangers like I’m witnessing for Jehovah. (can I say Jehovah?)

The thing is…the thing is publishers will try to create a brand for you and sometimes, if you’re not sure who you are yet, you allow that to happen. If if it’s not a good fit? You have to start all over again. The LB Gregg I was when I wrote the first Smithfield books, she’s not the same LB six publishers later. She’s a little less starry eyed and a lot more cautious.

So isn’t it better to define your brand yourself?

L.B. -- I still don’t know what my brand is. But I know what it’s not.

But then I also think too often people are worrying about their tagline and brand before they’ve actually worked out what kind of writer they are. Honestly, I see more authors worrying about promotion than about whether their writing is good enough for prime time.

Is this cynical on their part or are they right? I go back and forth on the question.

L.B.— Well. Look there’s bubble gum music and quality pop, and people buy and enjoy both.

A lot of people buy books based on the ‘cool kid’ word-of-mouth factor (not mentioning any names here—oh fuck that. EL JAMES). The issue is that as a romance author, we’re already viewed as bubble gum writers by the rest of the publishing (and reading) world, and it’s in our best interest to do good work. To focus on craft. Not that I’m the bees knees of romance. Holy no. In truth, I’d love to be a cool kid who sells books based on my incredible promotion machine because there are bills to pay.

Well, I guess it comes back to what you want out of your publishing career. I think people aren’t always honest when they answer this question. Me, I want to continue to do the work I love for a living. I don’t need six hundred “likes” on my posts and I have zero wish to be a celebrity.

Genre authors as celebrity

What? Who? Define celebrity in this genre.

I guess we could both name a few of the “celebrity” authors in any given genre. Basically these are the people with name brand recognition (I know!) which translates into earning power.

I mean, being known within your genre doesn’t always translate into earnings. The nutjobs are well known but they usually don’t earn well. And there are those who are highly respected by their peers and reviewers, but they don’t always earn well either. Which of course creates great confusion and frustration.

Success in publishing is not always fair. 

Nor is publishing a democracy.

At the same time, celebrity does not always equal success (unless ego-stroking was the primary goal). But maybe again here is where people need to be honest because, not to be the Debbie Downer, most authors will not earn a living at writing fiction. Period. And maybe that doesn’t matter. Maybe you love your day job and being considered one of the cool cats in your publishing circle is all you’re really looking for.

L.B. –I like to believe one can keep on the radar without being an online personality. In this new publishing world, where producing four books a year is considered the bare minimum, keeping readers interested is vital, particularly if you’re not producing four books a year. Free reads, self-publishing the back list, producing audio books, foreign rights—blogging—there are small ways to keep your name on the radar, but you have to be realistic if you’re a) not able to churn out books and b) you suck at promo.

So. I’m not going to buy a Tesla with my earnings any time soon, but I’m okay with that.

I will have my friend J. Lanyon buy me a Tesla.

I wish. And not just about the Tesla. I want to believe you’re right about the promotion side of it, and maybe you are. I do know that I can be out there tap-dancing twenty-four-seven, but three months without a new release, and my sales slump. You have to feed the engine. Or maybe "monster" is a better word.

You also have to be honest with yourself. And I think you have to get informed about the industry. Frustration and anger and depression are a reality, but I think information helps diffuse some of that anxiety.

Or maybe not. But the bottom line is, this is the new publishing reality. This is not your mother’s publishing career. That was then, this is now.  

 For the moment. 




L.B. Gregg –When not working from her home in the rolling hills of Northwestern Connecticut, author L.B. Gregg can be spotted in coffee shops from Berlin to Singapore to Panama -- sipping lattes and writing sweet, hot, often funny, stories about men who love men. Buy her books here:


Josh Lanyon – A distinct voice in gay fiction, JOSH LANYON is the multi-award-winning author of nearly seventy stories of male/male mystery, adventure and romance. Josh is the author of the critically acclaimed Adrien English series, including The Hell You Say, winner of the 2006 USABookNews award for GLBT Fiction. Josh is an Eppie Award winner, a four-time Lambda Literary Award finalist, and the first recipient of the Goodreads M/M Romance group's Hall of Fame award. Learn more at


Friday, August 28, 2015

If it's August it Must be...

No significance whatsoever to thumbtack in New York

I'm still struggling with the fact that it's August.

I was going to write about the weirdness of the month, but who am I kidding? It's the weirdness of the year--and more weirdness ahead. This has been a year of many changes. And it's not so much that I planned for them as they just seemed to come upon me. Me and the Lady of Shalott.

I seriously underestimated how distracting and time-consuming--all consuming--this move would be. Because it's not just about where I hang my hat. Buying a new house at this point in my life is kind of commitment to...well maybe not forever, but a foreseeable future. It has to do with long term financial decisions, which by default have to do with long term creative decisions.

Many, many changes. And while I am eager for them, embracing them, change is a tiring thing. Change is movement, and movement requires energy, and energy is not inexhaustible. That's not a revelation, or it shouldn't be, but yet it always comes as a shock to me that I can't do as much as I think I can.

I'm a slow learner on that point.

Anyway, Jefferson Blythe, Esquire is now in lines. So that's exciting because as usual, when I'm in the rough draft phase I always believe I can never possibly finish the book. Maybe some day it will be true. It is weird how much I LOATHE writing during the phase of rough draft. I mean hate it with a passion.

Which is funny given that in the dreaming, planning stage, I am totally in love with writing and the book and the characters. Then it begins. Then I hate the book, the characters, writing, my life, whoever the hell got me into this, etc. It is effing torture. I am not exaggerating. I hate writing a rough draft. Some more than others, but always without fail, I hate writing a rough draft.

Nearly as much as I love the initial planning and dreaming about the book. And nearly as much as I love the editing process.

During the rough draft phase, I feel like English is a second language. I feel like I'm brain damaged. And then comes editing. And suddenly I speak English again. Suddenly I've made a miraculous recovery and I remember how the world -- and words -- work.

It's pretty weird. And I don't know that it works for most writers like this. I do know that it has not been a spectacularly productive year for me. But life is settling down again. Sort of. Still plenty to come. Scotland, for one thing. Cannot. Wait. As much as I dread traveling.

Next year will be a very different year for a lot of reasons, but I feel good about it. I feel calm. Fatalistic? I don't know.

Anyway, on Monday I'm doing a joint multi-part blog with my writing chum L.B. Gregg called THIS IS NOT YOUR MOTHER'S PUBLISHING CAREER, wherein we discuss how much things have changed in today's vibrant and competitive (AKA enormously stressful) publishing environment). It's not so much that we have great advice for anyone because what advice can anyone give in a tornado beyond HOLD ON!!! This is the new normal.

We'll start out over at Love Bytes, continue the conversation at L.B.'s and finish up over here. Your comments and insights are encouraged!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Five Things I Do Wrong in My Publishing Career. And You Can Too!

1 - I Write What the Hell I Want With No Regard to the Market 

That's how I began publishing gay fiction, by the way. My agent believed it would be the kiss of death, and she was right for a long time. Well, no. She was right that I did not make any money writing gay fiction for many years. But I continued to write it anyway, and hey! Eventually I found an audience.

That said, I do market my work appropriately.  Because to try to sell your work to the wrong audience is an exercise in frustration for all concerned parties.

2 - I Do Not Network With Other Authors

I do however form real and lasting friendships with other authors. And I guess that can lead to "networking," but I don't try to force alliances, I don't exchange reviews, I don't promo books I don't like, and when I promo books I haven't read, I make it clear I'm promoting a friend or a publishing colleague.

Here's why. I have five thousand Facebook friends. And around that number on my Fan Page (with relatively little crossover) and no idea how many Twitter followers I have these days. Even if I wanted to, it would be impossible for me to "support" all my fellow writers. I would spend all day on social media and I would be blasting a never ending stream of promo into the ether. That would not do anyone any good. I love to interact with my author friends, but it's got to be organic.

I'll tell you what else I don't do. I don't write fake hostile reviews, I don't backstab or bad mouth colleagues in mixed company, I don't undermine or undercut other authors, and I try to control my jealous, competitive streak. I mind my own business -- because that's what my writing is. A business. And I try to run it in businesslike fashion.

3 -  I Don't Read Reviews

I should qualify that because I do occasionally go through and read a ton of reviews all at once--it's really the only way to do it because that way you see how crazy-ass-subjective it all is. Good reviews make you self-conscious and bad reviews are demoralizing. So I avoid them and thus preserve what's left of my mental health.

Which isn't to say that I don't value reviews. I do! Very much so. In fact, I need to be way, way better about organizing reviews. But I still won't read them because...what am I going to hear at this point? Someone thinks something I disagree with. Or someone thinks something I agree with. Either way that book is over and done and I'm already working on the next one.

That said, I did read reviews for many years. I think reviews can be valuable for new and beginning authors, and I think authors still learning their craft and trade should most definitely listen for a consensus of opinion when hearing from readers.

4 - I Like Tropes. I Like Clichés.

Every genre has its tropes -- and they are not optional. They are required. In the detective story, the detective must go around asking people questions--even if he is an AI and does all investigating on the computer. In genre romance, there must be a HEA or at least a HFN. These are the parameters, they are how we define any given genre--a western will have to take place in the WEST--but they can equally be regarded as tropes.

But my sins go deeper. Much deeper. I LOVE goofy tropes. Secret passages. Secret babies. (Okay, maybe not secret babies. Not big on the kid trope.) I love trying my hand at a story concept that has been done a million times, giving it my own spin, my own treatment. I love kooky motifs and YES clichés like Happy Endings. I have to like what I write. Otherwise it's just data entry.

5 -  I Don't Use my Political Affiliations as My Writing Credentials

There's nothing wrong with posting support for the causes you believe in and support, but I also don't feel like I have anything to prove at this point. I'm not a flag waver. I never have been. I also didn't like wearing a school uniform. But I donate more to the causes I believe in than most writers earn in a year--in fact, one of the causes I believe in and donate to is the Author's Guild retirement fund. I believe in and support a lot of political and social issues. I think my work reflects my opinions and sensibilities, and because I'm a competent and persuasive writer, that can be a good thing. But I don't think sincerity replaces craft or talent. Mostly we're all writing to a built-in audience. It's a given--or it should be--that we're on the same side of these issues.  

 So there you have it? Would I--could I--be more successful in my writing career if I didn't do some of those things? Maybe. What is Success? It's relative, right?

I kind of think being happy in your work is a sign of achieving real success.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

And the Winners Are...

We've got our winners for the "Cherries Worth Getting" audio giveaway!

Will Jacquie Sawyer, Haldis and Lestweship please report to the Principal's office?

No, no, just kidding! You're not in trouble THIS TIME. Could you either contact me or Nicole through Facebook so we can get your audio download codes to you ASAP?

Thank you to everyone who commented and  congratulations to our winners!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Welcome to Guest Author Nicole Kimberling!

So this morning we are having a little blog surprise! Nicole Kimberling is here talking about her new audio book -- and giving away a copy to some lucky commenter below! 


Hey Everybody! I know it’s been a while, but I’m so happy to be back here hanging around at Josh’s. For those of you who do not know me, I am writer of speculative fiction, mysteries and spec-fic mysteries. I’m here today giving away some free copies of my brand new audiobook, Cherries Worth Getting.

This story originally appeared in the Irregulars anthology, which was put out by Blind Eye Books a few years ago. It detailed the exploits of four agents of NIAD, an international governmental agency set up to police and protect the extra-human citizens of the earthly realm. The stories featured demons, goblins with guns, guys with giant swords and at least one kimchi burrito.

Irregulars also featured stories by Astrid Amara, Ginn Hale and our delightful host, Josh Lanyon. The project was generally considered to be a fun time for all of us who worked on it. So the question is—why make an audiobook now, three years later? Well, it was the result of a strange synchronicity. I happened to learn that my brother-in-law, who is a filmmaker, was coming to town for a few weeks on the exact day that I ran into my friend Tommy Jordan, indie rap artist, former merchant marine and audiobook enthusiast. As I was bragging about how my brother-in-law was going to make me a book trailer, I realized that Tommy looked and sounded more or less exactly like my main character, Special Agent Keith Curry. 
Sometimes vid star, Nicole Kimberling

I asked him to be in my book trailer and he agreed on the spot. In a frenzy of creative euphoria, I asked if he would be willing to record and audiobook for me as well and he said yes. Joy burst through me at having made two huge scores in the space of five minutes. I would have a book trailer! And an audiobook! Then, once my feet hit the ground again I realized that neither of us had any idea how to do either of those things.

So for the next two months, practically glued to each other, we learned. We created what my wife called a “tiny little multi-media empire.” And that’s what I’m here to present today.

To win a copy of Cherries Worth Getting, please tell me what your favorite imaginary creature is in the comments below.

Good Luck!

Nicole Kimberling

PS—For those of you who already know and (hopefully) enjoy Special Agent Keith Curry, you’ll be happy to know that he’ll be making an appearance in the new Charmed and Dangerous anthology, put out by JCP Books to be released on August 25.

PPS—Tommy Jordan is also the front man of a pop band called Urban Fantasy. He and my brother-in-law liked each other so much they made a second film together—the music video for Urban Fantasy’s second single, “HolySh!t, Mom.” See if you can spot me in my guest appearance as “Mean Drunk Boss Who Fires Connor.”

Friday, August 7, 2015

What Shall We Talk About?

Today's blog is obviously late. Partly because I'm in the middle of edits, but partly because I'm not in the mood for anything heavy or industry-related, but I couldn't think of anything else.  ;-)

A lot of authors are giving up on blogs in favor of communicating with readers on other social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy Facebook and my Goodreads group. I'm not a fan of Twitter, though I do occasionally pop in. The problem with Twitter is that it's difficult to have an actual conversation, and as I think about it, one thing that I do really like about blogging is the discussions that often arise out of it. This is also why I used to enjoy LiveJournal so much. The informative and amusing discussions that would evolve in the comment section.

But then again, as more and more members of the m/m romance community become writers and reviewers in their own right, there's less time for discussion anyway. Do you still visit blogs like you used to? Do you yourself blog? I used to visit and interact on blogs, but that was years ago. I really rarely have time to read blogs, let alone comment barring the occasional industry train-wreck or post on something of current interest.

Which brings me back to my own blog. I don't have a huge following here, and most of you follow me elsewhere as well, but the traffic is pretty decent and I enjoy our interaction. 

So I expect to continue to blog on a weekly basis. My question is, assuming you still plan to read the blog on a weekly basis, what would you like to see here?

Most of you are readers, not writers, so I assume general writing info would not be of interest. But then again, you never know. Do you want to see more guests on the blog? Do you want more excerpts? Contests? Giveaways? Incessant babbling from me? ;-D  What would be of interest?

Now's a good time to figure this out because we still have half a year's worth of blogs ahead.