Here is a text transcript of DBSA Podcast 70. An Interview with Lisa Renee Jones. This one took a little longer, due to the length. You can listen to the mp3 here, or you can read on!
Here are the books we discuss:
Hello and welcome to another DBSA podcast. I'm Sarah Wendell from “Smart Bitches Trashy Books,” and with me is Jane Litte from “Dear Author.” Today, we are interviewing author Lisa Renee Jones. She's going to tell us about her self-publishing experience and her experience marketing and promoting books, in a marketplace that changes pretty much on the hour. We'll also talk about where the market may go and what big trends in romance may be coming in the next year or two.
The music that you're listening to was provided by Sassy Outwater, and I'll have information at the end of the podcast as to who this is.
A note from our sponsor. This podcast was brought to you by Signet Eclipse, publisher of Jo Davis's “Hot Pursuit,” the hot new novel in the “Sugarland Blue” romantic suspense series. I will have more information at the end of the podcast about this book, the music, and anything else you need to know about.
For now, I hope you enjoy the interview, on podcast.
Jane Litte: Hi. Lisa, I was the one that recommended that we interview you. I have read you for quite a while, and I was thinking about the interview last night. Did you get your start writing categories or did you write before Harlequin?
Lisa Renee Jones: I actually did a book for Five Star when they were trying to get into romance. That was my first book. Then I got turned into categories, and I kind of have consumed to my career for while, which was not necessary a good thing. I think that really delayed my career in a lot of ways.
Although, I will say I grew as a writer a lot and I learned a lot from editors there, so I'm really thankful for that time from that stand point.
Jane: One of the reasons that I suggested that you would be a good interviewee is because you had such a varying career. You've been in that for so long, and I feel like you really look at writing as a business. You come from a business background, you've owned your own business and I've been watching you, and I…
Sarah: Creepy, it's not a creepy sense. She's not watching you in the creepy sense. I promise.
Jane: [laughs] It couldn't be creepy. I watch your social media interactions and so forth. I felt like you are one of the authors that really took advantage of the new readers that 50 Shades brought to the romance genre and then kind of capitalized on that, so I thought maybe you could share some of your observations of the reading world, the industry and that sort of thing and how it's change, and how you've adapted.
Readers have changed, as they have at all, or whether you're just finding new audiences. Why don't you tell us a little about how you got started writing? You said you started writing with Five Star, which is no longer in business. The Backless was even bought by Amazon, wasn't it?
Lisa: I don't know. I got out such a long time ago and got my rights back so long ago that I'm not sure, but at the time that I got in with them, I did what I did in the staffing business, because I was in the staffing for 11 years and that was I wanted to be able to know as much as I could possibly know because it felt like that gave me an advantage.
The first thing I did when I started getting the urge to write was I went to a convention or multiple conventions and took every class I could possibly take because I thought, “If I'm going to do this, I got to understand how it all works, not just how to write a book but how the business aspect to the works.”
I entered a Romantic Times writing contest, and was fortunate enough to win that. When I did, I ended up getting my manuscripts submitted, and Five Star bought it. At the time, they had an editor whose name escapes me now, but he wanted to put them on a map and turn them into this romance megastar. As exciting at the time, but he ended up not being able to get them to listen to him and he left. That's we see what happened, right?
In the mean time, I wasn't agented. I was pounding the pavement, trying to figure out how to get an agent, how to get things right. Then I got an agent, and then that led to the category step. Even with an agent, I had a couple agent offers when I did get an agent, and I went with the one that made me cry instead of the one that told me I was already terrific, because I knew I wasn't already terrific. I wanted to be terrific though.
In hind sight, I'm not sure. It was a good decision, only having an agent that makes you cry, isn't it? [laughs] I don't know if they even think that was her fault. I think it was because I've been used to being successful in the staffing industry, and I felt less than successful, because I felt like I didn't know everything, and I wasn't the best I could yet. I think it was more my issue than her issue at the time.
Jane: How is it the agent relationship change for you, because some of your more successful series seem to be self-published?
Lisa: My agent story goes like this. I had numerous agents, and I had some pretty bad agent experience. I kind of learned that the thing about agents, and a lot of authors are told, “Want an agent, want an agent,” we see that it is some sort of point of success. The reality is, more so than ever, that's not the case. But, even in the past, it wasn't.
Because you have an agent that sets your manuscript to the side, or is more focused on something else, does not make you successful. It's how well you're selling books and how your career is framing the way that you want it to be framed, and a good agent helps you do that.
I found that agents are much like sales people, from my business career, in that they get residual commissions. If they are a big name agent, sometimes those agents have already gotten to the point of they're making lots of money, if they happen to make a sale great, if they don't, great. That can be an issue.
So, I tell authors, one of the hard things I learned was look for, you know, have those agents actually sold the books that they brought, that you think that they sold — a lot of times they inherited the authors and they're just negotiating their already successful careers.
But anyway, I got off track. You asked me, “How has it changed?” Whenever I got into self-publishing, it changed my career. I went from making school teacher pay for a year, after walking away from a six figure corporate career, and wondering what the heck was I thinking, to making as much in a month that I had been making in a year. I mean, totally life changing.
So, I credit self-publishing for giving me confidence, and I had been going to write “If I Were You,” for a long period of time. I'd started on it and stopped and, it just…I think it was, you know, kind of a fate timing thing, and when I did finish writing it, I'm like, this is the best I've ever been and if this isn't good enough, then I'm not good enough. Even though I'd had that success of self-publishing, I still felt like I wasn't where I wanted to be in this book, it felt like it was the thing that was going to take me there. I decided because, I mean I had to have confidence in that.
One of those stories where I got beat down by the industry many, many times, and I had a lot of tears, almost quit a million times. So, I said, I'm going take this to my agent at the time, and she said that it wouldn't sell anywhere, and I said, I don't believe that.
So, I took it to some editors myself and I had an editor offer me, at one of the New York houses, $10,000 for two books, and I can remember that surreal moment where I, not only did I go against what my agent, who's always been kind of like a god in my eyes, said to do…I'm going to turn down this New York deal, because I know I can make more self-publishing. So, I did…
Sarah: Is that sort of the thing where you know intellectually, this is a good idea and then inside, like in the middle of your chest you're like, “Oh, crap?”
Lisa: You know, yeah, I was scared, I think because you're taught that, I had been taught in the process of being in publishing that the thing that made you successful was being New York published. I mean, that's what we all are convinced, I mean there's a certain process, you get an agent, you get a New York house…and it doesn't, and nowhere in that picture was you make money.
Whereas, the thing that I think a lot of authors don't realize, and I even forgot, and I came from the corporate, and I dealt with a lot of CEOs a big wigs was that, to corporate people, which publishers are, it's always about making money.
I mean, yeah, there are people within the organizations who love books, but it's always about making money. So if you think about it as an author, “I'm going to make money.” Well, if you're making money, they're making money, so it's a win-win situation for you.
So, I had to really change that mentality, and that's where I think self-publishing helped. It also reshaped agent relationship, and I still think a lot of new authors feel that way. They are the royalty and we are just the peons of so, we're so lucky to have them. Now, the relationships have changed to where we need each other, and hopefully, I think it's a more positive interactive relationship. That's how it's changed for me.
Jane: What changes have you seen in readers? Do you feel like there's a new audience that you're finding? Do you feel like the existing readers have changed? How are you finding your new readers? That sort of thing.
Lisa: Whenever I turned down that deal, I decided to find a new agent to do my foreign rights only, and she ended up being so excited about the series and took it to New York while I was still working my self-publishing plan. It went into a bidding war, and we sold it for a really large sum of money. Of course, I was so thankful for self-publishing, because it made me confident enough to turn down that $10,000 offer.
But I had decided that I was going to go into it with a business plan just like I would my business. I was going to have a way that I marketed it up to release day — that kind of thing — and I wanted an angle to market the books.
I had already had this series in the works for a long, long time, before “Fifty Shades” and even “Storage Wars” existed, because in my case, it was inspired by this erotic journal found in a storage, and we really found the journal, so I was able to say, “What's in the market right now, and how can I make that work for me?”
At the time, that was “Fifty Shades,” and the “Storage Wars” show had really taken off, so how can I make those things connect the dots for me? That's what I used. That did help me find new readers, but then I had to say, “How do I get to those readers?” But so much lead up to the point of me knowing how to do that, and that was educating myself.
I got involved with several indie loops, where authors were talking about what was working for them in self-publishing and what was not working. I constantly am looking for what are other authors saying worked, what is all of a sudden not working, so that I know how to frame what I do next.
When I first started self-publishing, I made $60 a month. I was like, “OK, what am I doing wrong?” I didn't go, “Oh, this won't work for me.” I said, “What am I doing wrong?” Then the next thing I know I was making the same amount I'd made in a whole year in a month. So a message to authors is, I think, don't give up, and look at what you can do differently.
When I hear people say, “I don't have time to figure out how to market,” well, if you can take a book that you can make $60 a month on and turn it into thousands of dollars a month, how can you not have time to look at that? Then, certainly, social media has changed so much since I got involved in this.
I think the key to social media is you can't just show up. You have to do, just like anything else, you have to really get involved in…readers care, if you actually want to be involved with them, and I actually enjoy it. You can't look at it as this cumbersome thing. You have to look at it like this is part of my career, and I'm lucky to have this career. Without my readers, I don't have my career.
Sarah: I have a question. You mentioned you joined a lot of author loops where people talk about self-publishing. One thing that I've noticed among the authors that I follow on social media who are self-published, there is an enormous sense of education and camaraderie and an enormous amount of sharing, “This is what works for me. This might work for you.”
Have you noticed that same thing, or is it as competitive as authors competing for the same set of contracts in New York? Is the community different for you, or do you think it's very similar?
Lisa: It's bigger and different. I think that's one of the shocking changes that — I've said this, actually, on numerous occasions — it's amazing how giving and helpful people are. It used to be, like, this elitist thing, like, these authors were the bigwigs that barely speak to you.
You come together on this indie loops, and all the walls have come down, and everybody is talking. Also, I think it's a little humbling sometimes for people who thought that they had these spectacular careers, and then they go into indie, they can't seem to be as successful as people who otherwise are, and they go, “Wow, what does this say? What could this mean about my future too?”
It's humbling, and I think it's been good for everyone in that way. But let's just face it. The industry has changed so much. There are a lot of people who are doing very, very well in traditional publishing that aren't even doing as well as they were, and I think…
When I first started out, actually, one of the things I did to help supplement my income and to teach myself was I did author promotion. I ran this place called “Authorship Room.” I had usually about 30 authors at a time that I worked with.
The interesting thing for me was to see people who would get a little bit of success become such [indecipherable 0:14:43] . They'd be nasty and mean to me. Then sometimes there'd be these really successful authors that weren't like that at all.
Then also to look years back and see how those people's careers had been shape. Even how some authors who I know really struggled that are successful now tell everybody pretty much it happened overnight for them, when I know differently. For me, I think, tell people that you struggled, so they know what they have their dream, they can go after it, and they'll be OK too. They still have that chance.
It's funny to see that, but, yeah, I think it's changed people in all kinds of ways.
Jane: I guess one of the questions that I would have, and I eluded it to in an email to you the other day, you obviously had some kind of platform from your category days. Maybe it wasn't very big, but you had some kind of name recognition. Are there many readers that you had then that have come over now to your new writing, or is it an entirely different platform?
Lisa: I did not find that they've followed me over to other books at all. I have some theories about that. I think that a lot of the New York houses already knew that, because they aren't very quick to pick up category authors. I thought that that had a lot to do with they thought they could only write category romances, which, I think, is part of it.
But it's also, even though I could sell 100,000 copies of one of my category novels, if I release another book, it doesn't mean I'm going to sell 100,000 copies, because those readers are following the Harlequin brand. To them, the Harlequin brand is this, this, and this, and, to Harlequin, that's been very important.
They weren't readers to see that that's what they are going to give them — this, this, and this, no matter whose name is on the book. They conditioned readers to believe that for so long that they do believe that, even though it's like, “Oh yay,” because it's a category book, and maybe it has Lisa Renee Jones on it and they know me, they're more likely to pick that category over the two other for that month, but they're still going to those category books only because that's what they want.
I don't think it transfers at all. As far as the new platform, yeah, completely different platform. One I changed what I was doing, that, when I went into self-publishing, instead of being told that I had to do A, B, and C, the great thing about self-publishing is that we could do C, D, and F, or we could do whatever we wanted to do, whatever felt right.
I think that one of the reasons that's resonated with readers is that not just Harlequin but all the houses had this “This is romance.” The thing is that “Happily Ever After” for people is great, but I think that, if you see a “Happily Ever After” that comes after some real-life crap. Real-life stuff.
I cannot tell you how many times I was fooled by editors — “You can't put that in there.” But indie authors put it in there, and readers went, “Wow! I can go through this kind of crap and still get the 'happily ever after,'” so “happily ever after” felt real to them.
That platform changes and the fact that for many of us, we can finally write the books that we wanted to write and clearly, that resonated with readers and New York found that out.
Jane: What I have perceived is that I don't see a lot of, I don't know if reader loyalty is the right thing, but readers seem to be liking one particular type of story. Even when the author that they've really enjoyed comes out with another type of story, they're not really eager to follow that author to those other places.
I've seen that with indie authors. There was a really infamous blow up a while back by an indie author by the name of Kendall Grey. She writes these erotic rock star books but she also writes an urban fantasy series and she was lamenting that no one was reading her urban fantasy series. Even though her, porny rock star books were selling like hot cakes. She was very angry about it.
There's quite a few of these, especially new adult indie authors, who have a pretty extensive back list of paranormal whatever. Those books just don't sell. They sell, but just not at the really high levels of the other books. Samantha Towle, for example, or Jessica Sorenson, even Jamie McGuire.
These are authors who have all had previous paranormal romance releases and the interest for those is very small. Sylvia Day, for example, had two releases from different houses other than her Crossfire series. She's had a paranormal release, which Avon has been marketing I think as a contemporary.
I wonder how many returns they got on that one. Then a contemporary novella collection from Harlequin. Those books, while they sold well, they weren't the level of her Crossfire series. I'm always interested in reader behavior. I bet you are too, Lisa.
What is it that the readers are looking for? To me, it's like they're not intrigued just by the writing, but the specific story line. If it was just for the writing, wouldn't they go back and read everything else the author has written?
Lisa: Everything cycles. Everything. In business, you learn what goes up must come down. That's how I have found, in the years that I've been in this business, the genres are. Historical is hot. Paranormal is hot.
If you look up paranormal right now and you take out of the picture Sylvia Day or Kendall Grey, or whatever, and you look at just the authors that are hot names of paranormal and you compare how many hot names of paranormal are selling as well as they were before, only a very small little group of people.
Even if they're doing OK, compared to what they were doing, not as well because that genre is cycled down. We beat it down like we're doing new adult now. Everybody was writing urban fantasy, everybody was writing a YA urban fantasy.
I was like, “Oh, my god. I can't take it anymore.” I'm so sick of these story lines and they moved on. I think we're starting to get there with new adult. In my humble opinion, I'm going to say that I think new adult is going to get that low here very, very soon if it hasn't already. I think that that's one factor.
Even if you put in a big name author, it's like I love these books, I'm sick of paranormal. The only ones that I still really want to follow right now are the series that were already going that I love, because I'm already attached to those characters.
That's my thought on that. As far as Harlequin, and Cosmo did that whole thing, my thought is that it goes back to the cycles. They say they don't have a formula but Harlequin has a formula. Every book has certain things.
It doesn't matter what line you're in. It doesn't matter if it's single title, there's a certain feel to a Harlequin book. That feel is not the feel of the indie books. Just like everything cycles, Harlequin's brand that they worked so hard for, that means something to people, does mean something to people.
It's not that something that's hot right now. It doesn't matter whether you attach Cosmo to it or not because Cosmo almost has that same feel as Harlequin anyway. They're a good much but they're not a match for the market right now.
If you release for Harlequin, maybe you could better than any other author that releases for them right now, but that still doesn't mean that you're going to do as well as you might do otherwise.
Jane: I think that you're right, that it's cyclical, everything is cyclical. I also think that digital and the kind of binge reading that people do accelerates the cycle. Whereas, new adult, if it was published in a traditional publishing timeline, without the huge amount that we have now, might last longer. What do you think the next trend is?
Lisa: I think it's going to be romantic comedies — as much as I hate to say that, because I don't write them. [laughs] If you look, there's a couple series that are doing really well. There's not a lot there, new adult is so dark and gritty, and even urban fantasy and paranormal which is before that, very dark and gritty.
People, I think are going to radiate towards something lighter but they still don't want to lose that kind of realism that's come with indie publishing. I think those books might bring some humor but still keep that realism there, is what's probably going to be next. We'll see!
Lisa: You could say, “Lisa said this whenever! Yeah, she was so wrong.”
Sarah: While we're talking, do you have any lottery numbers you could share with us?
Lisa: All I can say is 11 is my lucky number. [laughs]
Sarah: All right, we'll keep going on that. You said a minute ago that things were cyclical and I completely agree. My theory is that what happens is a genre gets so big that the one name doesn't communicate it accurately anymore.
You have contemporary romance and I could say contemporary and be talking about Debbie Macomber and you could say contemporary and be talking about your books and those are not the same thing. Those are not the same readers.
I think that what happens, my sketchy theory, which I'm sure…Jane is shaking her head, “No, no, no. You're wrong.” This is what we do in our podcast. We disagree with each other most of the time.
I think that the genre name gets so big that it needs to split and have a better name that describes what it is you're looking for. New adult, I think was a reader generated name in part to identify what it was specifically in the contemporary genre that people wanted to read.
I really hope you're right that romantic comedies are coming up. I think they're really good. They are really hard to write, though. It will be a little bit less easy to binge read because they're really hard to write well. Comedy is very difficult.
You mentioned earlier how you researched publishing and how you wanted to look at it from a business perspective. I don't know how much you talk about your career prior to writing and it's totally cool if you don't want to bring it up, but what are some things from your career that you have brought into your new career?
What are some of the things from thinking as a business that you have applied? I know that you have mentioned you have a business plan. How do you develop a business plan as a self-published author?
Lisa: One great thing now is that I actually have an agent that I can sit down and go, “Here's where I am. Here's where I'm going. What do I need to do right now to make those things happen?” In the past, I did not have that.
I can say to authors that it is a joyous thing to have an agent that you can do that with and to date with and have healthy conversations with and try to have that if you can. I wish that for all authors.
Coming from the business world, one of the main things I had that I think was important was knowing that I had to educate myself, knowing that the market changes. It's very frustrating when I first started though because I felt like nothing I knew or matter how hard I educated myself would make a difference.
Being a type A personality running a business, it's like, “If I push, if I work harder, I could make it happen.” That just wasn't the case. That's been a great thing about indie is I can take everything and I can write it down and I can say, “Here's what's working. Here's what's not working.”
I can look at another author and say, “She did really well.” I try and go back and backtrack and say, “What did she do? What does it look like she did?” Sometimes you can't figure it out. There doesn't seem to be anything. Sometimes you can say, “Here's the things she did.”
I've learned this in business the hard way. Everything that works, everyone will copy and it won't work anymore. If I were you, I wrote out a plan and I'm going to have it on so many bookshelves at Goodreads. I'm going to have people talking about it on this many blogs. I'm going to do this, this, and this.
All those things worked really well. Again, because I did it and a lot of people saw it work, a lot of those things no longer worked. With each book, I have to look at it and say what's going to work for this book and what's going to work for it in the current marketplace. Always changing.
We all as authors have to go and say, “Here's what I think is the right plan for me.” Sometimes, it doesn't turn out to be the right plan. The ideal thing is you just quickly adjust and move on and find out what is.
As I've watched what's happened with a lot of people, my biggest goal has been, “How do I either not repeat what they do that doesn't work and how do I repeat what they do that does work?” Again, it always comes back to you're always guessing to some degree in every form of business.
Like for me, I have my “Inside Out” series. It's being made into a TV show. I thought, “The TV show is going to consume my career and my series and all people are going to think about is my series.” Sometimes, I think of “Hunger Games” and I think, I can't remember Suzanne Collins name.
I think, “Oh my god. I'm so mad at myself as an author because she deserves for me to know her name.” That's how much that series became its own identity.
My goal was to have another series that really helped me develop and grow and show that I had an identity outside of that series so later no one would question that I could carry another series.
My goal was, even though it meant writing like crazy seven days a week, to create something else that was successful before that TV show takes over. That's been my strategy. Will it work? I don't know. That's the kind of thinking process that I'm trying to have. How do I bring my career for the future?
Sarah: You are so right about how one thing works, people will copy, and it stops working because now it's like how many box sets are there online now? There's like 20,000 nine book sets for a dollar. That's going to stop working.
I've also noticed people reporting that things that worked really well in the past aren't working so much. They work somewhat, but to the degree that they have in the past, like the BookBub newsletter. People aren't reporting as many big huge jolts of sales.
I'm not going to ask you what do you think will be the next thing to work because that would be completely disadvantageous to you. I don't want to spoil your options.
Lisa: The thing that some people don't realize is that the free in the BookBub, unfortunately, are really not about readers. It's about algorithms. Free worked because if you got to a certain point, it would trigger Amazon's algorithms and, therefore, you would get higher sales for 30 days afterwards.
It was sweet. It didn't matter if anyone ever read that book because it was all about the people who would read it when those algorithms were triggered. Then, of course, people loaded up their devices with free books that they never read and they didn't get read.
Ultimately, the long term of books for an author's career weren't necessarily that huge. Then you saw a point where Amazon no longer liked that. That was clear, because they changed the way they featured free books. They told bloggers that if they had so many referrals from free books that they would penalize them. There was a shift in the algorithms. You could tell, because all of the sudden, the free books that were even at the same download level didn't trigger the same after effect.
My theory is that Amazon is so savvy and business-smart, that with BookBub, it was the same thing. It would trigger the algorithms, and you would see books stay up for enough time that they would even hit a list.
Now, I've been watching BookBub, and you only see a handful of books that happens to. I haven't gotten to finish fully analyzing this, but I'm thinking that for the ones that still stay up for days instead of dropping like hotcakes, that they've done something other than just BookBub to make that happen, a combo thing. Because when you do a BookBub now, there are a lot of people who don't even break the top 100 until 2 o'clock or 3 o'clock in the morning. You don't trigger the algorithms enough to stay up. There's no after effect. Even getting your money back from BookBub won't happen. Why? Going back to Amazon being savvy. I don't think that Amazon will let anyone but Amazon control their business or their top 100 list.
Sarah: You don't say. [laughter]
Lisa: They can control those algorithms, so when they see that happening, they're going to do something to change that. Now, the impact, long-term for BookBub and why I think it's been so bad for authors is this.
I don't think people are even reading those 0.99 cent books. I think they're just like “Oh my gosh! 0.99 cents!” I think for a while there was such a rush of “I have to get those books while they're cheap!” Now, when an author releases a book, I think — and this is just my opinion — that they have adjusted the algorithms. They know what the BookBub level is on average, so to control their top 100 list I think that you have to sell more books to break onto the top 100 list on the first day you release to get there. I think the impact on authors across the board, regardless of who they release with, is that they're not going to make it to the top 100 unless they sell more books.
This brings me to pre-orders, where now they are offering everybody this chance to do pre-orders. I tried that, but I hadn't put together this whole BookBub thing at the time, and it backfired on me. I didn't do it for book two of my series, because, even though the great thing about pre-orders is that the USA Today list counts them all on the first day of release. Sort of the week of release.
I actually talked to USA Today and confirmed that all because I was confused about it. All of those books being spread out, doesn't help you climb up the top 100 list. Now, more than ever with this BookBub stuff, you need every boost you can get one day one to get as much volume to climb up there where you're going to get recognized and keep the sales going. I think that's been the long-term effect of BookBub on authors and on publishers.
Sarah: A thing I've noticed with BookBub that does work with some promotion is that when they have a cookbook featured, it seems to do much better because it's a very, very limited list. I realize that fiction authors don't have any use for cookbooks, but when I notice a cookbook on BookBub and then promoted as on sale, especially if its under $3, I'll start seeing on their list, but it's never on a fiction list. It's always on the nonfiction, cooking specialty list, so no one ever pays attention.
For things that are not fiction, BookBub seems to do OK. Things that are fiction, it's flooded. So what you need to do is write a cookbook, is what I'm saying here.
Lisa: [laughs] Well, since I can only microwave, it would be a microwave book.
Sarah: You know, I think that would do really well. The author's guide to microwaving. [laughs]
Jane: You got to release that in June or July, because it will be the ultimate grad gift.
Lisa: There you go. [laughter]
Sarah: The busy persons' guide to microwave cooking. I'm telling you. Bestseller.
Jane: Then we will expect proceeds. Kind of like a finder's fee. In Hollywood, don't people get paid for their ideas? Yeah, we're going to need that when you make a lot of money from the microwave cookbook.
Lisa: We can make it a Food Network show. [laughs]
Jane: So, in 2014, we'll be seeing funny books from Lisa Renee Jones?
Lisa: No, unfortunately. You know what? What's crazy is I'm the person who falls on her face, and has all this stupid crap happening. I could write a book about my corporate days and all the crap that happened to me in airports, and it would be funny if I told somebody who had that sense of humor to write it. You'd think I would write funny because of that stuff, but I don't.
Jane: Elle Kennedy is my favorite funny writer, so I hope her books take off.
Lisa: I hope so too. I always love to see authors, especially ones that I know, really struggle to see something great happen to them. You know, one of the things an agent said to me early on, she said to me that “Everybody's path is their own,” and you have to focus on that. Don't look at everybody else's career, and don't think that it should be yours. It has helped me so many times. So many times I have said “This is my path, and my path is how my path is supposed to be. My career is how my career is supposed to be.”
It helps you to rejoice with other people. I've seen it happen and I have experienced it on many levels where authors are suddenly not friends, because their careers shift and change. This is an emotional thing. You're trying to succeed in a really competitive area with something that feels very personal to you, and a lot of times it affects people and it's sad. I love seeing people succeed.
When another author comes to me and says, “I'm trying to be successful, can you help me in any way, shape, or form?” I always take time to answer them. Many years ago, I wrote an email to Sherrilyn Kenyon and asked her for some advice, and she wrote me a book back. I've never forgotten that. In her busy career, she took the time to write me back. It meant something to me as a newbie author, and I try and remember that.
Sarah: Because this is a podcast for readers, what book have you read that you think is under-recognized and romance readers should be looking for it?
Lisa: I'm so bad. I tend to read that things are hot, because I'm analyzing the market. Although, I think that there are some authors that were really hot in the past, and now that MD has become to big that there are a lot of new readers who haven't discovered some of those old authors that maybe we as long-term readers know. Like the early Linda Howard books. “Mr. Perfect” still makes me laugh so hard. It's very out of date now. There would be all kinds of lawsuits for the office stuff that happens. [laughs] The former HR part of me sees that. I just bought one of the early, old Jane Ann Krentz that I hadn't read in years, and I thought “Oh my God, how did I forget she's such a great author.” I think all this new stuff makes us forget some of those older, great books.
Jane: I agree. Linda Howard, in her early single titles or even her categories were fantastic. I think actually the type of stories she writes, that kind of high drama, would totally appeal to these indie readers. I love old Jane Anne Krentz, like “Perfect Partners,” “The Wildest Heart,” “A Golden Chance,” “A Family Man.” Those are awesome books.
Lisa: They are. They all have those macho men, alpha guys that these indie readers are loving. They don't realize that they are missing some of these awesome alpha guys. Those ladies were pioneers for writing those kind of men.
Sarah: What is coming up for you in 2014?
Lisa: Hopefully, the TV show. I'm hoping to be able to talk more about that soon. It's been really exciting. I'm excited because its cable. With cable, unlike regular TV where they cancel people sometimes before the show has barely aired, with cable you usually get two seasons to make a go of it. More books in that series, which I'm excited about. I have this new indie series that I've released, “The Secret Life of Amy Benson,” that there will be more in. Those are going to be my two main focuses that I have going on for this New Year.
Jane: Do you like being a hybrid author? Digital Book World came out and said the people that are best suited for this market, making the most money, are hybrid authors. You're a hybrid author. Do you feel like that's the best thing, or would you rather just be one or the other?
Lisa: When you're looking at the market and who you are, what you're doing within it, and however people might see you, you have to keep in mind “Who are you?” I tell people “Don't write to the market, but write to the market” and they wonder what I'm talking about. What do you have that works for you? How do you fit into the market? I'm not going to write a romantic comedy, because that's not me. Figure out where you fit and focus on it that way. That's how I try and look at it.
Sarah: I think that is very smart advice. I think one of the things that trips people up, at least from my perspective, is the idea that “I have to do everything. If I'm going to self-publish, I have to do everything, and I have to do it all perfectly and hit a list every time.” That's not possible because there are a lot of indie authors right now. There are a ton of them. People who are established authors are turning away from contracts and also going indie. The market changes almost daily.
Jane: In the beginning of 2000 and every year, I do my market predictions for the year. One of my market predictions is that, while I don't think we'll see it in 2014, but in 2015, I think we're going to see a lot of traditional authors flocking back to traditional publishing.
I don't know what happens, because I don't know a lot of them, but I see a lot of them try out this self-published market and that do very well, and turn down big contracts and not do very well. I think that we're going to see a retrenchment, at least from the established authors, trying to go back to traditional publishing.
I'm not saying the market is going to shrink. I don't think it's going to shrink at all. I do think that more and more authors are going to try and get back into traditional publishing. I think there is a flood away right now, but self-publishing is pretty hard and not every author is really well-suited for that.
Lisa: I think you're right for a number of reasons. What's unfortunate is that a lot of people, when self-publishing was really hot, they didn't think about how the market changes. They didn't think to not put their eggs in one basket. They didn't stay diverse. One of my main goals from the beginning was that my career was going to stay in New York and indie, because I hoped I was smart enough to know that craze for indie could always end.
I always think about what happens if Amazon thinks that they own us so much, that they change it so that we all a lower percentage of income. We'd put all of our eggs in one basket, and all of the sudden we're not making the money that we were. I though “I'm not going to give that much power to anyone.” I'm going to try to hold that power myself and stay diverse. That was one of my main goals.
A lot of those authors that you talk about, flocking back because indie isn't going as well right now for them. Maybe it never did, or maybe it did and it's not now because of changes in the market. Some of them really burned some bridges.
Jane: Yep. With agents and editors, yep.
Lisa: The thing about agents and editors is that most of them, even though this was new territory for them, have been in the business world long enough to kind of know that things are going to cycle, too. They kind of sat back, I think, and said “It's going to come back around, to some degree.”
That's why some of them didn't jump on the indie bandwagon at all, they said it was going to come back. Publishing traditional takes forever to cycle, so we're talking about two years from now.
Sarah: That's it for this week's podcast. This was a long one. I hope you enjoyed it. I'm just going to leave that joke right there. You can do what you want with it.
I want to thank Lisa Renee Jones for all of her time and her wisdom. I learned a lot from listening to her, and I thought this was a really fascinating discussion. I hope you enjoyed it too.
Sarah: The music that you're listening to is provided by Sassy Outwater. Yes, I've used this a couple times this month, but I really like this because it's awesome. This is “Three Ships” by Deviations Project. We're close enough to the holidays where three ships come sailing in, so why not enjoy it, right?
This is from their Christmas album, “Adeste Fiddles,” which is probably one of the greatest holiday titles for an album. You can find out more about it in the entry that comes with the podcast.
Now, a word from our sponsor, Signet Eclipse, who are entirely made of excellent things. They ask that you check out “Hot Pursuit,” the latest in Joe Davis's romantic-suspense series, featuring sexy men in uniform. In Sugarland, Detective Taylor Kane is always ready with a quick wit and an even quicker smile, but he's about to meet a woman who'll make him want to take his sweet time. Don't miss “Hot Pursuit,” available wherever books are sold.
If you like the podcast, and I hope that you do, if you want to give us suggestions, a topic idea, you want to task questions, you want to tell Jane that she's wrong, I like when you do that. Just kidding. You can tell me I'm wrong too. You can email us at sbjpodcast@Gmail.com. You can also leave us a message at our Google Voicemail box, which is 1-(201)-371-DBSA. Please don't forget to give your name and where you're calling from so we can work your message into an upcoming podcast.
We will be continuing the podcast in the New Year, and I will do my best to keep up with the weekly schedule. This is really fun and I hope you enjoy it. I very much appreciate that you listen, and that you email me, that you make suggestions, and that you email me at the podcast email address. I love knowing that you're listening. Even if we have no stats, I know you're out there.
As always, Jane and I wish you many things. We wish you a happy holiday, if you're celebrating at this time of year, and most of all, we wish you the very best of reading.