Thursday, August 30, 2012

Romance readers are a tough crowd

The title says it all, but this isn't anything new.  When I wrote romance back in the eighties and nineties, I didn't have a big readership. I had readers who were very vocal about my books, but those numbers weren't huge. So when I wrote The Girl with the Cat Tattoo, I knew I would be facing some of the same critics because I haven't changed that much.  And I'm not sure I'm such a good romance writer. Not sure I ever was. My strengths are suspense and crime fiction.  So the cat book was an experiment. It was a blast to write, and I really needed to delve into something light, but I knew it probably wouldn't have broad appeal. I was really surprise and thrilled when it was listed as a Recommended Read by Dear Author. And readers have been asking for the second book. 

I'm on the fence about that. The first book has done okay, but nothing great. It hasn't done as well as some of my backlist romances, but sales are steady. Reviews are either meh or love—similar to what I received years ago when I wrote romance. The big difference now is that I don't really care that much about writing sex. Heh!  And most romance has sex. 

I wasn't going to write the second book in the series, but I have a little block of time before several book events and appearances for The Orchard, so I started book two. It has many strikes against it, and I'm debating on whether I should just write the book I want to write and further limit my audience, or write a book that will have broader appeal. I've decided to just write the book I want to write. Maybe. I might not even finish this, because I really, really, really need to write the sequel to Play Dead.  It might surprise people to know that my Frasier books generate most of my income, but I need to carve out a large block of time to write one. Unlike the cat books or short fiction.

So here are some of the strikes against me for second cat book:

novella rather than novel
main characters aren't successful or wealthy, and in fact are kind of slackers
shy, rather frail dude
music, rock
no sex

Description: After a long spell of unrequited love, a young guitar-shop owner named Ben meets a mysterious cat and suddenly Ben is the coolest guy in Minneapolis. Girls notice him and want him, but Ben only has eyes for Lola (Melody's sister from Girl with the Cat Tattoo). But when the cat's old owner shows up to claim the mysterious cat, all of Ben's cool vanishes. Can Lola love a man without a Muse? Will the cat and Ben reunite? 

possible titles:

Cat in a Black Tuxedo
A Cat Named Sam
The Man with the Cat Tattoo
The Hipster with the Cat Tattoo
Like Cyrano de Bergerac

If I stuck with the tattoo titles, the third book would be something like:
The Psychic with the Cat Tattoo

My favorite title is The Hipster with the Cat Tattoo, but I'm pretty sure having hipster in the title will severely limit readership. 


  1. I think it sounds adorable! I like "Cat in a Black Tuxedo" best.

    There is a market for geek heroes, though frail might be a harder sell. There's also a market for romance with no sex. Not sure how to best publicize such, though.

  2. that's good to hear!! I like that title too. and yeah about the frail. i guess i don't see him as frail, but more like...not hunky. :D

  3. The Geek With the Cat Tattoo

    The series name: Cats With Hats (or) Cats In Hats

  4. oh, yeah!!!!!!! love that!!!!!!!!! love it!!

  5. Geek is much better than Hipster. Geeks are cool, hipsters are poseurs and arrogant. (Admitting bias: the heroine in my first book is uber-geeky, and I would never, ever write a hipster.)

    As for the bigger picture, the wonder of self-publishing to me is not the hope to get-rich-quick, but the idea that you can write what you love, and sell it for a long, long time. Sure, it'd be nice if the book (any of them) took off and did insanely well, but even if it doesn't, if it earns a little a month indefinitely and you really enjoyed writing it, isn't that worth it? Maybe do the math: if your time is worth X/hour and the book will take you Y hours to write and you're likely to earn Z/month (the earnings from the first book) - 20% (because of further limiting your audience), in how many months will you have paid for your time (and/or other costs)? If it's five years or less, it strikes me as an entirely reasonable risk.

  6. Wyndes, yes, totally different way of thinking. i'm used to getting an advance up front and rarely seeing another dime. the idea of being able to continuously make money on a book... that's like a retirement fund, which many/most artists don't have.

    And yes about the hipster pretentious issue. that was a concern of mine.