I aten’t dead. Just busy.
I suppose, after being extremely quiet for most of September, I should explain myself. You see, while I love self-publishing because of the way it allows me to write exactly what I want to write when I want to write it, it also follows that it takes some time to build up momentum on Amazon.
There have been countless books written about this and there will no doubt be countless more, attempting to explain the mysteries of SEO, how the Amazon algorithm works and how you can game the search engine to your advantage. I’m willing to listen to some of these theories, but ultimately if you want to carve yourself out a niche in fiction, keep carving. Write more books. Seriously. You want to be a writer? Good. Write. That’s pretty much how it works.
The trouble, of course, is that while you can pound out novels like there’s no tomorrow, there’s no guarantee that the damned things are going to sell. On reflection it may have been a bad idea to put my historical novels on Amazon when historical novels are not traditionally Kindle store fare. I’ve had some senselessly lovely reviews and I am grateful for each and every person who downloads them – thank you. I mean it.
I don’t think it’s unfair to say that Kindle favours genre fiction. In fact, the first time I ever heard of e-books, Nooks and Kindles was on the popular Romance blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. Romance readers were definitely the early adopters of e-book technology, possibly because e-readers meant they could read certain books on public transport without strangers making snap judgements about their intellect. Let’s face it, those old school clinch-covers were pretty painful. If there’s one thing Fifty Shades did do for the romance genre, it steered us toward the ‘moodily lit plot point’ cover. Admittedly this means Fabio gets less work, which seems a shame, since Fabio is quite nice, by all accounts.
There is also no getting away from the fact that romance readers are some of the most ravenous bibliophiles known to humanity. The Kindle store bears witness to this fact. The subcategories on Kindle fiction (UK) tell me that the smallest fiction subcategory is Sea Adventures, with a tiny 11 entries. The biggest is Romance, a behemoth with over 137,000 titles to choose from. (Close on its heels is Erotica with 108,000, although this is hardly surprising since Kindle porn ‘books’ are usually under 10,000 words and the authors are terrifyingly prolific.)
Historical fiction? A modest 33,000.
Numbers were very much on my mind last month, as I perused the phone bill and read the last rites to my elderly washing machine. It was obvious that I needed another, more lucrative string to my bow.
So, without further ado, meet my alter ego – Jessica Pine.
Just A Small Town Girl will be available at Amazon.com for just $2.99, and it’s a sweet little love story featuring antiques, stoners, bikers and the cosmic question of whether the vegetable Bog was hollowing out for a bong in chapter seven was in fact a rutabaga or a turnip.
Follow the cut for a nibble.
I was in a bad enough mood when I went to announce the day’s takings, but it took a turn for the worse when I went back in the workshop and saw my aunt there.
Aunt Cassandra (never Cassie) was my Dad’s youngest sister and in an unguarded moment he’d said that she’d never quite gotten over being the baby and the pretty one in the family. She was pushing forty now and her sylphish figure had given way to almost cartoonish curves. She was wearing tight blue jeans and a striped Breton t-shirt, and when she turned I saw the neckline was scooped low enough to give even Katy Perry cause to pause. The long bangs of her chin-length blonde hair were combed carefully upwards and trained to fall over her eyes in a Monroeish tangle; the other year on her thirty-sixth birthday she’d remarked that this was as far as poor Marilyn had come, at least in this life. Her boyfriend of the time failed to point out the comparison she was fishing for and so was now an ex-boyfriend.
“Here she is,” she said, when she saw me. “How’s the next Great American novel coming?”
Cassandra had always had a way of needling me, but it was like she knew that this was the particular combination of words that made my spine stiffen. The other favorite of hers was “Lacie is creative,” with the adjective larded with a mocking distinction.
“I was minding the store,” I said, trying hard to keep my cool. “Working.”
“Was it busy?” asked my Dad, looking up from the lathe. I knew he was only asking because he wanted to know but right away I saw the flash of apology in his eyes when he realised he’d dumped me in it with Cassandra.
I felt my lips form the word ‘no’ and Cassandra arched an eyebrow. “You could always write in the store,” she said, with maddening predictability. “Everything has a keypad on it these days. Or just use a notebook. Have you heard of those? They used to have those back in prehistoric times, back when me and your Dad were at school.”
I ignored her as best I could. “Dad – Courtney’s thinking of coming up from New York for a weekend. Would it be okay if she stayed?”
“Sure, Pumpkin. Which one is Courtney?”
“The blonde. You met her at graduation.”
“The real pretty girl?”
“What’s she doing in New York?” asked Aunt Cassandra, who was never happy unless comparing herself to someone else.
“She’s going to be a model.”
Cassandra shook her head. “Leaving it kinda late, isn’t she? Most agencies like to start them at fifteen or younger, if they can get them. That way they can make sure they give up food before they develop proper curves.”
“Courtney’s gorgeous,” I said. “She’ll do well.”
“It’s not a case of gorgeous,” said Cassandra. “Most times it’s a case of thin.” She spoke with a certain bitterness. She had won a beauty pageant as a baby and gone on to smile cutely in advertisements for apple-juice and jump about in neon-bright kids clothes. Her career had been cut short by her failure to grow much above five foot three, a trait I’d also inherited from my grandmother.
“I’m glad you were too short for all that crap,” she said, as if reading my mind. “It’s no world for a young girl. From what I’ve read it’s all heroin and eating disorders.”
“Jeez Cass,” said Dad, who preferred not to hear about the seamier side of life.
“What? They do. It keeps them thin. I’m told they shoot it in the soles of their feet so nobody sees the marks. Or under their toenails.”
I shuddered, my teeth itching at the thought of it. Cassandra laughed. “See?” she said. “There’s always a bright side, Lacie. Sure, you’re probably never going to set the world on fire but hey – at least you won’t be shooting heroin under your toenails.”
Even my Dad winced at that one.