The Opposite of Popular

The online home of alleged author Victoria Leybourne

Pivoting

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a scene from Friends. Ross screams at his friends to

I hate Ross and he did not deserve his friends’ help with that stupid sofa, but this is all I can think about when I hear the word “pivot”

I have done a lot of thinking over the last few days. Even for me, an inveterate navel-gazer.

I will tell you all about it (lucky you), but first I should update you on how the book is selling. As of right now, it has sold 47 copies, and been read an estimated 6 times on Kindle Unlimited.

That’s… okay, I guess. It’s difficult to compare it to my previous launches because the book was at 99c for the first few days, which I haven’t done before, and obviously it’s much easier to get people to part with 99c than $3.99. I have to admit to being a little underwhelmed – by the KU reads, mostly. Those came in thick and fast right out of the gate with my first book and I really hoped to see something like that again this time. In fact, a big part of my thinking behind launching at 99c was to try and get further up the charts and get noticed by more KU readers.

On the positive side, I’m still getting sales coming through now that the book is up to full price, and reads are picking up, too. And the reviews are looking great! My ARC readers liked the book, on the whole, and have left some really thoughtful reviews.

I guess releasing a book is always going to be an anticlimax, unless it succeeds beyond your wildest dreams. I mean, it takes a lot of work over a long period, and then, suddenly, without much fanfare, it’s all over. But this time, as mentioned, I’ve been thinking. And pivoting.

The first thing I thought of, while putting together a list of relevant book titles and authors to use for my AMS ads (Amazon’s pay-per-click ads, you can learn more about them here), was that my cover was all wrong.

I know. I KNOW. I have a terrible time leaving covers alone. But they’re so important in grabbing a reader’s attention – and in communicating what kind of book it is. In some places on Amazon, a cover is all a potential reader sees, so it really does need to be right.

And mine… isn’t. I’ve had doubts all along about the general colour scheme of the cover I made. It’s just too dark, which belies the essentially light and fluffy plot and style of the contents:

the cover of "rescuing the prince" by victoria leybourne. A young woman in a dress gives a thoughtful sidelong look to a man in a suit, who glares back at her

But there wasn’t much I could do about it. My enthusiasm for Photoshop doesn’t match my skill. I did a terrible job of cutting out the two models, and it’s dark around their heads to hide the mess I made of their hair. I did my best, in short, but it wasn’t good enough.

Technical concerns aside, though, I think the real problem with this cover is one of genre. In fact, I think that’s a problem with the whole way I set about marketing this book. I drew my inspiration for the cover, such as it was, from the contemporary romance genre, because that’s what I thought I’d written. The RWA (Romance Writers of America) describes contemporary romance as “Romance novels that are set from 1950 to the present that focus primarily on the romantic relationship“, and that’s what this is. I thought the term was basically used to mark out romance novels with modern settings from historical romance.

It was… simplistic of me, and a bit silly, to work on that assumption without further investigation. Because contemporary romance actually carries quite a few reader expectations besides that, including heat level. That is, they expect sexytimes. (I do not write sexytimes. Not because I think there is anything wrong with writing or reading sex scenes, I just a) don’t really want to and b) tried once and was terrible at it.) At least, on Amazon, they do. Here’s the Amazon contemporary romance chart – I think you’ll see what I’m talking about pretty quickly!

I kind of knew this about contemporary romance. But I thought it would be okay if I made a cover that looked sort of like a contemporary romance, but with everybody fully clothed and generally not looking as though any, er, imminent business was to result. This is a thought process I must have had, like, three months ago, and I already can’t believe how stupid it was. This isn’t how it works at all. People aren’t going to spend minutes of their lives frowning over your cover and going “hmm, okay, well, the general look says one thing, but from the specific poses of the models I deduce something quite different!” They’re going to think either “this book is for me” or “this book is not for me” and then click, or not. In about a second.

As soon as I figured all this out, I went back to the drawing board. The first pivot. A smart person would probably have given the first cover time to breathe (and a smarter one would have figured this out prior to publication, ffs), but apparently I am not a smart person. I wanted to make something that was properly on-genre for this book. The fairly major snag, however, is that I now don’t have much of a clue what genre it is.

The other suitable-sounding genres on Amazon are “Clean & Wholesome” and “Romantic Comedy”. “Clean & Wholesome” at least means that sex isn’t expected, but… well, to be honest, I sort of object to the terms (what’s unclean and unwholesome about sex?) and it also carries its own set of expectations which weren’t in my mind when writing the book. (I prefer the term “sweet” to indicate no-sexytimes, but Amazon doesn’t have that as a category.) “Romantic Comedy” is a bit more promising, but I ran into problems when trying to figure out what makes a successful cover or book in this genre because the bestseller chart is, erm, pretty much identical to the contemporary one.

So, I had no idea what the cover should look like, I just knew that I didn’t like the existing one, both because I felt I’d technically done a bad job with it and because it didn’t accurately indicate what was in the book. I knew I wanted it to look colourful and bright and fun – and cute, as opposed to sexy.

In the end, I made this.

This doesn’t particularly conform to a genre, either – but, given that I’ve now realised that the book doesn’t, I guess I couldn’t really expect it to. Actually, in a way, I think… well, I like it, and it looks sweet and fun, and people will either want that or they won’t.

I guess I’ve kind of checked out, with this book. At some point over the last few days, some kind of switch flipped in my brain. I still want to make the best effort I can, hence the new cover, but… I don’t care about this book like I did the others. And I think that’s because I honestly think I did what I set out to do here. With the others, there was always a sense that I’d produced an acceptable piece of work, but it wasn’t quite what I was trying to make – and I was afraid of having that failure confirmed. But this one is different. I’m more proud of it than I’ve been of anything I’ve written before, and I really did have fun writing it. It’s the book I wanted it to be.

The problem is that the book I wanted it to be isn’t necessarily a book anyone else wants to read. Or, at the very least, no one knows they want to read it because it doesn’t fit cleanly into anyone’s favourite genre and I don’t have the money or the knowhow to reach out to people who might like it and explain why they might like it, despite that.

The funny (or not-funny-at-all, depending on how you look at it) thing is that I really thought I was “writing to market” this time. I steered clear of all the obvious genre-bending from my other books, which are historical-fantasy romances that are a bit YAish except the characters are too old, and aimed squarely for one genre. I just forgot to check that that genre, you know, existed.

Well, I don’t want to make that mistake again. So here’s the second pivot. Rescuing the Prince was supposed to be the first book in a series, and I’m about halfway through planning the sequel. For now, though, I’m shelving it, and leaving Rescuing the Prince as a standalone. (Which it can easily be, because it’s a complete romance story – the sequel would have been about a different couple.) I still hope people find Rescuing, and I still hope they like it, but I can’t sink the next few months of my life into writing another book like it now that I’ve figured all this out.

This sounds sad, and I know a lot of this blog has been about how sad I am and how I think I’m terrible at everything, especially writing, my favourite thing. About how I should probably just give up because I’ve already failed. But I don’t think this is that. In fact, I think… I think that, now that I know I can write a book I’m proud of, I’m ready to get out of my own way. I’m ready to stop writing blog posts about how I’m an abysmal failure as a writer. I’m ready to do this properly from start to finish. And I’m pretty excited about it.

If you’re wondering how I’ll accomplish all of this… well, me too. But I have a few ideas. Stay tuned, I guess!

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