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.


  1. Re:
    1) Thank goodness.
    2) Who cares.
    3) I wouldn't either.
    4) So do I.
    5) Nobody's business.

    All in all, if it's possible, I like you even better.

    Warm regards,

  2. But.. but... there's nothing wrong with tropes and cliches! One of the reason why I love your books so much is because it's so... comforting! Yes, the relationship may be predictable but the HOW they get to that point is always aways very endearing to us readers. You have the way of writing that makes the characters come alive with their conversations, their snaps and charms, and we love your characters for all those little things. Plus each one of them is very unique, and that matters a lot. I don't mind cliches at all. I just hate it when some authors try TOO hard to make some twists and it just make the story more confusing and frustrating than it should be. You are truly one of the kind author in M/M romance Josh, and we love you for that! ;)

    1. That is a lovely way to put it. ;-D

      As for predictability, this exists for any artist with a large body of work. It's an inevitability. Even unpredictability becomes predictable if you have a large enough body of work! :-D

      Tropes exist for a reason. These are ideas, themes, motifs, plot points that have stood the test of time. A lot of people have fondness for them. And I don't think anyone should feel guilty about loving cowboy stories or coming out stories or whatever the well-worn trope is: the millionaire and the shop girl, the lost heir, the pirate and the merma--wait. What? But anyway, you get my point. ;-D

  3. I want to hug this post. Hug it tight and never let go!

    And I love secret passages. I mean, hello, Perry, King of Secret Passages! Or would that be Tiny. Or Mr. Teagle...

    1. I think the world divides into two camps. People who like secret passages and people who don't. :-D

    2. Only one of those camps truly matter.

  4. This is a brilliant post, Josh, and I have shared it on both twitter and LinkedIn. Thank you.

  5. For all your quiet, wrong way of doing things, you sure have amassed a devoted fan base. Maybe it hasn't been the wrong way :)

  6. Here's my question: does an painter look at a field of beautiful flowers and say to themselves, "I would love to paint this, but Monet and hundreds of others have already done that so I'll just look for something completely and utterly different that no one else has done." Thank goodness, no.

    For me, I love the whole Cinderella (or Cinderfella for us here) trope but it gets such a bad rap from editors and the like who claim to be so tired of the poor, helpless woman (or man) who can't pull themselves up out of their tragic life without a hero/man/billionaire, etc. Maybe it's more about someone who desperately needs a helping hand or a shoulder to cry on, and so what if that "angel" happens to be well-to-do! I love that stuff!

    Please keep making these "mistakes", Josh. It's one of the main reasons you are an auto buy for me; you don't listen to the critics who are "sick and tired of [insert traditional-well-loved trope here]". Its not about the trope as much as about the characters and how they live out the trope, and that's where you excel in spades! :)

  7. If I ever get around to finishing that first novel (or that other first novel or maybe this novella...), I'll do exactly the same :-D