One More Thing About Women’s Fiction and Ethnic Fiction…

Holy ish. I cannot believe the response I received on my last post. I feel a little bad for Nicky Sparks—I wasn’t trying to make him a symbol of the institutional problems of the publishing industry, I just expected him to have a better stock answer to the question “would your career have been different if your name had been Nicole Sparks?”

I’m realizing that the issue of how novels are categorized and the meaning of the various genres is one that a lot of writers think about.  I mean my blog and Twitter blew up with opinions on the topic!  Yes, that may have been because Jodi Picoult retweeted my post (teehee)—but I don’t think it’s just that. I was retweeted once before by someone with a lot of followers, and my hits spiked to 250; however, when Jodi Picoult retweeted me, I got over 2,000 hits in a single day! I mean, damn. This tells me that this is an issue that really impassions and infuriates a lot of people. In fact, the more I read about this, the more I find articles about writers trying to disassociate themselves from a specific genre–even Danielle Steel denies being a Romance author!

At first the whole thing just confused me, but now I’m beginning to better understand authors’ frustrations. For example, just the other day I was in the airport and found this:

women's fiction airport

I didn’t capture the whole section—the bottom rows have Danielle Steel and Nora Roberts books.  Basically everyone in the “women’s fiction” section is a Romance novelist. Now, I have periodically claimed to be writing a women’s fiction novel; however, if I saw this, I might want to take that claim back. Not because I have anything against Romance writers—it’s just those books tend to have a different formula/focus than the one I’m writing. It would feel inaccurate.

But it gets worse.  Then I went to the Ethnic section:

ethnic fiction airport
Ok, yes I love Terry McMillan, I’m down with that. And let me not knock Eric Jerome Dickey or any of the authors on here—but is this really the best they could do? What about Taiye Selasi or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie or Ayana Mathis? Yes, I understand it’s an airport and so people are looking for beach reads, but other parts of that bookstore had more than just beach reads.

It just makes me feel like this is why sometimes “ethnic” genres or “womens” genres get such bad raps—because bookstores like these make it seem like the novels in these pictures are all the new fiction books out there that could be described as “ethnic” or “women’s fiction.”
Oh, and I didn’t even get to the Latino part of the “ethnic” section:

Spanish fiction airport

I just don’t have enough time to comment on the problems with this section.

Anyway, it’s all just all so weird. Til next time—adios!

Pouncing on Opportunities

As I trot along in my legal career, I often receive advice about how to position myself for my long term goals. Network! Gain exposure! Join organizations and associations! Communicate your goals with others! It seems exhausting. But then when I ask people about how they became partner or in-house counsel or [insert important legal position here], inevitably their opportunities emerged from a combination of everything I mentioned above and, of course, “hard work.”

For better or for worse, I have internalized these lessons—with respect to my writing career. Every time I see an opportunity to network or get my name out there, something inside of me tells me to pounce!

First, was this chance to become a regular contributor to The Write Practice—exposure to 40,000 monthly subscribers for doing the same thing I’ve been doing right here for the past year? Pounce! Guess what peeps? I GOT IT. Every other week, they will feature a post from little ole me.

Then, I learned about this new organization called the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. For $50 a year, you gain access to free courses, resources on agents and conferences, and electronic friendships with other writers and potential beta readers. Of course I hesitated about spending more money on this, but–again–I couldn’t help but gear up like my cutie cat Jack (NOT pictured above) when he spots his favorite toy—opportunity? Pounce! I joined. Since the group is so new, everyone is “friends” with everyone else on the site—meaning I’m now connected to dozens of published and aspiring women’s fictions authors. I’ve even found some writers whose blogs I follow on a regular basis on there. Pretty cool!

So I sort of feel like I am on the right track and setting myself up for success, which is great—except 1) these opportunities also mean more responsibility and 2) I still have to deliver a novel. I’m making progress, but as I’ve mentioned, editing is a bi-atch. It always takes longer than I expect, and the more I do, the more I realize I have to change/fix. I feel like I’m doing this crazy balancing act, where my goal is in reach, but if I’m not careful, everything just might fall apart! (Side note: I’ve noticed that when I say stuff like that, it sometimes causes people to worry—don’t worry! Right now, I feel more steady than not, just not completely secure). That’s all for now. Look out for me on The Write Practice!!

On Book Trailers: Publishing a Novel Today Requires Some Serious Movie-Making Skills

This industry never ceases to surprise me. Recently I discovered a little something called book trailers. A book trailer is exactly what it sounds like—a short video meant to entice audiences into purchasing your novel. So basically, to become a novelist today you not only have to be a writer and a marketer, you also have to be a movie producer!

Before I proceed, here’s the trailer for Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl,”–the book I’m reading now:

After procrastinating for a while by watching various trailers on the Internet, I’ve come to the following conclusions:

  • Thrillers make the best trailers. Put on scary music, show a knife and blood and you’ve captured the readers attention. Easy peasy.
  • Trailers also make a lot sense for memoirs. When you publish a memoir, you’re trying to get a stranger to want to read all about your life—a trailer is a good way to introduce yourself to the world and get people to like you.
  • Women’s Fiction may be the hardest genre to produce a good trailer. Most that I’ve seen come across as really, really cheesy—like it’s going to be a terrible movie book.
  • Trailers are high risk/high reward—while the good ones can definitely draw in a new crop of readers and create excitement about the book, a bad one can undercut all an author’s hard work. For movies, it makes sense that great trailer probably = great movie, but not necessarily so for novels. A wonderful writer may turn out to be (and probably will be) a horrible producer.
  • There are millions of ways to produce a trailer all by yourself!  You can use Windows Movie Maker, iMovie, ScreenFlow and some other programs. This probably explains why there are so many bad ones are out there.

A couple of more examples:

Below is the first trailer I found under “women’s fiction trailers” in Goodreads.  I actually think it’s pretty decent compared to others I’ve seen.  She keeps it simple–that’s all you can do.

Famous authors usually just sit and talk about the book because they can do that.  Their faces and voices are enough to entice you!  Colson Whitehead’s trailer for Sag Harbor was one of the first I ever saw:

And here is the trailer for Terry McMillan’s new book “Who Asked You?”