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Romance Authors and How to Act Like One

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By EelKat Wendy C Allen

"I can’t get any sales from my book. I write sci-fi, and I’m told it’s pretty good. I’ve done the free days on Kindle and gotten a few good reviews, but I’m just not getting the amount of downloads other Kindle authors keep talking about. I’m seeing others say they are getting 900 downloads a day. I can’t even get that many a year. I’ve got 172 fans on FaceBook, but they already bought my book. People with that many downloads probably have as many, if not more, social network connections and are  writing romance novels. Is that it? Is that the secret? Should I write a romance and post it on FaceBook, get sales to that book so people will buy my other books? It seems like every bestseller out there is a romance novel. All the FaceBook pages with tons of connection they are all romance authors."

Yes - this is what I have always noticed. Almost every time I see folks saying they get a ton of downloads, it's nearly always romance, with paranormal and historical romance getting the highest downloads. Other genres just don't seem to get the high download rates romance does. And sadly sci-fi (my favorite genre) gets the worst sales of all the genres.

Likewise romance authors tend to network with other romance authors and "share" fans, so you'll see Author A has 2,000 fans on FaceBook and Author B has a different 2,000 fans, the two authors will start recommending each others books and next thing you know they both now have 4,000 fans. 

Romance authors are like that.

It's really common for romance authors to read romance and then tell their fans: "Hey, this author is great too, if you like me, read them."

I actually never see authors of other genres doing this, in fact, I've seen many self-pubbed authors doing the opposite, and looking at fellow authors as competition and ratting them out.

I can't even begin to count how many times I've read 1 star (Amazon and GoodReads) reviews that were clearly written by an author who was angry that a competitor was getting higher sales.

I make a hobby out of reading 1 star reviews, even on books I've no intention of buying, because I find I learn a lot about editing from them (reviewers love to write very long and detailed reviews when they are angry! LOL!) I see nearly every genre being hit by angry self pubbers lashing out at fellow better selling self pubbers, in a mentality that seems to be "If you out sell me, than I'm going to create 20 fake accounts and stop your sales buy giving you 20 1star reviews, so readers will start reading me instead of you, let’s see how you like that! So there!"

Yet in the romance genre you rarely ever see this sort of self pubber 1 star attacks on each other, instead it's tweets reading: "OMG I love this book, she writes even better than I do, check her out!" and FaceBook posts with lots of links to OTHER authors books, but almost never a single post linking to one of their own books.

It reminds me of Miracle on 34th Street when Macy's Santa was sending customers to Gimbels, and suddenly Macy's got more sales because of it.

Sort of a reverse psychology thing, where if you promote someone else, suddenly you're seen as the better person so folks buy yours too.

And that's another thing I've noticed: romance authors tend to hang out on Twitter and FaceBook and bounce happy thoughts and encouragement off each other.

While other genre authors hang out on Goodreads and troll each other with 1 star review feuds. Has anyone else ever noticed this?

I've been with NaNoWriMo since 2004 and I see the same thing over there on their forums as well. Romance authors gather in joyful hoards, patting each other on the back, exchanging ideas, often throwing out a single idea which they all then write a book about, for example, one author may say: 

"Hey, let's write a story about a Highlander who kidnapped a witch from the enemy clan, planning to kill her, but falls in love with her instead?"

Next thing you know there are 50 romance authors writing a story based on that idea, at least 2 of which will get picked up by Harlequin, another by Avon, and the rest will be self pubbed.

Within a year all 50 books ON THE EXACT SAME STORY IDEA will come out and instead of kicking 1 stars at each other and screaming "You stole my idea" you'll see all 50 authors gathering on Twitter and FaceBook and posting links to all 50 books, and shouting out:

"Hey cool, check out this book, it's just like mine, you'll love it too!"

The readers end up buying all 50 books, because romance readers who like Highlanders kidnapping witches, want every single one of them (because the more Highlanders they can moon over the better) and will buy every single one of them, even if they never heard of the author before.

And believe me - as the proud owner of more than 2,000 paperback historical romance novels, a large majority of them about Highlanders kidnapping witches - I know it's true when folks tell you, romance readers can read the same story over and over again - there are only just so many times a Highlander can kidnap a witch and fall in love with her, but heck, does that stop me from buying every single dozen or so yearly new releases on that theme? Nope.

Interestingly, go on the NaNoWriMo fantasy forum and try this, and OMG! watch out! Within a week the mods will be on the forum breaking up the "you stole my idea you creep, I’m gonna hunt you down, I know where you live!" fights, that start breaking out.

The sci-fi authors are screaming "I created that race, don't you dare use them! You bastard I’m gonna kill you, that was my idea!"

Others are saying "Well just you wait and see, you dare publish that and I'll 1star you to hell and back and make sure you don't ever get a sale, the world's gonna know you stole my idea, just you wait and see! I'm warning ya! I’m warning ya! Don’t think I’m joking! I’m warning ya!"

And you really want to see the fur start flying? Head over the Absolute Write’s Water Cooler forums and check out the “I’m a REAL author, I’m TRADE PUBLISHED, you get the hell off our forums you self published piece of shit! I know who you are. I know what books you wrote. You get your no good self published ass off our forum or we’ll all gang up on you every damned one of us is going to give you a 1 star review. You’ll have a 100 1stars before nightfall, just you watch and see. We only want REAL authors here.” And those are just the posts you see from the mods, wait till you starting reading things actual members say! Yowsa!

I don't get it, I really don't get it, but I see it happening on every single writer forum, every single year, all year long. It's like in every genre, the authors are viewing each other as the enemy and feel the need to compete and put each other down, and make sure they use GoodReads and 1star reviews as a weapon against each other. It's just so weird to see this sort of kill or be killed mentality among writers (myself being a romance writer I'm used to the whole banding together like a big happy family and sharing ideas.)

It seems to me that romance authors have this “we are all in this together so let’s help each other” outlook.

While other genres have high rates of authors who feel they are “loners” with the need to “fight tooth and claw to sink or swim” and make sure they trample as many others on their way to the top as possible.

I think the thing with romance is, readers are used to Harlequin and it's habit of sending out 4 new books every month to it's subscribers, all from new authors, (and just about every reader of romance has at least 2 or 3 different Harlequin subscriptions).

So romance readers get used to reading stories based on a theme as opposed to stories written by an author.

Therefore, the reader who subscribes to romantic suspense, read every romantic suspense, vampire romance subscribers read every vampire romance regardless of author, woman obsessed with Texas rangers read every book with a cowboy on the cover without ever once thinking about who the author is.

In romance, readers do not form author loyalties, instead they form, hero type loyalties, and romance authors are used to this type of fanship, so they go out of their way to actively promote each other, thus you see fan crossovers in places like Twitter and FaceBook, and the end result is, romance authors end up getting higher download rates, simply because of the comradey among romance authors, with everybody promoting everybody else, and because readers of romance are conditioned to give new authors a try. Likewise romance authors are often also the biggest romance readers, so while they are writing a new book a month they are also buying a few new books each week.

Whereas other genres, there isn't that same sort of genre loyalty among readers, so authors feel the need to push above the competition, because their readers are more picky about WHO they read, with readers forming tighter author loyalties. Authors than have a bigger need to promote themselves, rather than promoting their book's hero.

I write romance, horror, and sci-fi, and I have seen a marked difference in sales, fans, and fellow authors in each of these genres. Romance way out sells horror, which way out sells sci-fi. In romance, I can literally take the same story and republish it with new character names and it will sell every time - try that with horror or sci-fi, nope, nadda.

I heard of an author who did this: she wrote one story, than every year, she'd edit it to have new place names (say the original was set in Scotland and the new one was set in Texas), new character names, and reword the love scenes, than publish it with a new title. She started doing this every month, then every week.

In the end she wrote 881 romance novels this way.

Her name was Barbara Cartland, perhaps you heard of her: she's in the Guinness Book of World Records under 350 different entries, including the top selling author of all time, the highest paid author in history.

She was the inventor of "formula writing" in the 1940s, and is the reason romance subscriptions like Harlequin exist today, and is the reason why romance readers got into the habit of reading the same story, over and over again and not caring that the only thing that changed was the character names. Even today, 20 years after her death, her books are still selling like hotcakes, and the trend in formula romance writing is still going strong.

Yeah, basically, at least from what I've personally seen, if you are writing romance, you are going to get higher sales/downloads than every other genre, and every other genre is going to be really hard to get high sales rates, simply because romance readers have been conditioned by 50 years of Harlequin's "read every romance author under the sun" promotion style mentality, while other genre readers are conditioned to "devote all you energy to your 1 or 2 fave authors and ignore the rest" mentality.

What other genres need is a subscription group like Harlequin to condition readers to read every author in the genre rather than sticking with just a few faves.

The other times I see high downloads are with non-fiction/self help books on the topics of "finding love", "getting rich", and "power of positive thinking". It also seems like non-fiction in general, gets more sales/downloads than fiction.

No idea if anything I just said could be proven as actual trends or not, it’s just stuff I have noticed in my 31 years as a writer and self publisher. I’m sure others have noticed other trends, and my view is skewed by the fact that I hang out in romance reader/author circles, but this is how it seems to work from what I’ve seen, at least.

Well, so that's my comment to your comment. I'm not sure, were you asking a question here or just making a statement?

If romance is not your thing, don't write it. I can tell you that much. Romance readers know good romance writers are good romance readers who know romance well, and if you don't know romance well, you won't write it well either. Stick with genres you have a passion for writing.

And sci-fi, yeah, sales rates in sci-fi suck, basically you have to write a lot of books and settle for fewer sales each. You can't be a one-hit-wonder in sci-fi and expect to put food on the table. Publish a new book every 3 months if you write sci-fi. It's the only way you'll make a living at it.

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For help in creating characters in genre fiction try:

Most of the articles I write in response to reader questions are genre specific, making the genre section of this web site the largest section.

My areas of expertise are:

#1 Horror and all of it's subgenres esp Gorn, Tales of the Macabre (Poe style) and Gothic Romance.

#2 "Dark" (BDSM) Medieval Historical Erotica, esp gay M/M.

#3 Alternate reality speculative/weird/bizarre science fiction

#4 Dark/Gory/Slasher retellings of folklore, nursery rhymes, and fairy tales

On occasion I also write Westerns, WWII War Stories, and Dark Fantasy.

Everything I write tends to have predominately non-human characters, usually alien races of my own invention that are trapped on Earth, along side Fae races (usually Phookas, FarDarrig, and MerFolk) and monster races (Vampires and their kin.)

I do not write happy endings, villains tend to win, good guys usually die at the end, and most everything I write falls under heavy "Dark Gallows" satire focusing on taboo topics. Everything I write, even my children's fiction, walks on the Dark Side. Most of my non-children's books are M-rated for adults 21 and older. About 90% of my books have been banned and most book stores refuse to carry them.

My stories are often short, rarely longer than 35,000 words (7,000 to 13,000 word average). I write nearly as many stage plays as I do short stories. I also write children's books (early readers, why tales, bed time stories, picture books, and quick classroom play scripts.)

I do not write novels (novels are books of 90,000 or more words, most being in the 120,000 to 240,000 word range), so questions specifically regarding novels are going to be answered in reference to my novellas (a novella being a story 25,000 to 90,000 words).

I rarely write articles about any specific genre other than those listed in the link headings above, because the genres above are the genres I write.

Keep these facts in mind when asking advice from me, about your own writing career. I will gladly try to help you out, but my knowledge of writing is limited to what I know and write in my own career.

If you are looking for advice on Westerns, War Fiction (other than WWII), Fantasy, Contemporary Romance, Mystery, Action, Adventure, Suspense, Chick Lit, Romantic Comedy, Humor, HEA, etc I'm probably not the best person to be asking your questions to. You can certainly ask and I will try to answer, but I don't write these genres so they are not my area of expertise.

Recommended Books for Genre Writers:

Below are books I use as reference when writing my own books, articles, and short-stories. A quick heads up, these are not linking to pages where I review each book, here on my website! I have . Each of the books shown below are linked directly to the site/book seller which carries it for sale, so clicking on any of the books below will take you away from my website.

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