Discouragement comes to all writers. Many face it while working to finish their first novel. Some face it while hunting for an agent or a publisher. For me, though, discouragement didn’t come for the first time until after I’d released my third book.
The First Attempts
I published my first book, Shadow Heart, in February of 2014. Six months later, I published a non-fiction book entitled “Networking for Introverts.”
I got a lot of critique on the “romance” part of the book and got some advice from my first marketing guy who wanted me to put it in contemporary romance. He said it would benefit sales. That proved to be a big mistake. It drew the wrong readers. Contemporary romance readers look for happily ever after. My story may end that way, but it’s definitely not what the book is about.
Revising, Re-Designing, and Re-Releasing
This was 1.5 years into it. I re-released the book after getting two really good editors to help me, re-designing the cover and, with the help of a writing coach, refocused the genre to coming of age, women’s fiction, and family saga.
I didn’t do anything drastic to the covers, only changed genres. But I did significantly change the back cover description to lessen the ‘titillation’ of the love story and put more bones into why I’m telling it through a love story. I wanted my readers to see what growing up in alcoholism does to affect relationship choices, how we seek intimacy and interact in relationships.
Small Changes, Big Results
Those small changes turned things completely around. I was getting exactly the audience I was looking for. The book went from an average of 3-4 stars to 4-5 stars despite how subjective the review system can be. Plus, the reviewers were appreciative. One young adult even said, “I’ve been looking for a book that had some meaning behind it and found it!”
That was rewarding. Everything was going really well. Books 1 and 2 were getting glowing reviews, and I was confident books 3 and 4 were going to do just as well.
The company that I hired to do some marketing for me pushed book 4 before book 3. Book 4 got equally glowing reviews. But for whatever reason, book 3 wasn’t getting those reviews. Same editor, same writer, same cover designer – but the audience wasn’t happy with the story.
The Problem with Book 3
The heroine in book 3 has fallen for an older man. But, that’s part of being raised in alcoholism. She needs the security and stability, and an older man seems to be the ticket. However, my readers aren’t looking at the why’s behind what she’s doing. They’re just unhappy with what she’s doing.
The reviews of book 3 have been so far off target it makes me wonder if I went wrong somehow or if my marketing lady has pushed it out to the wrong audience. I’ve never felt discouraged or tempted to quit writing until now. When I get a negative review it bothers me only if they don’t get the point of the story.
If they don’t like the story, well I can’t do anything about that, but if they don’t get it, I feel like I’ve let them down. I’m trying to reach coming of age women and the negatives often come from 30’s readers who are embroiled in family and are not looking inside at that point. I’m at a crossroads for sure.
Listening to the Reviewers
Some of the responses have been that the book “seems repetitive,” and it is. I’m trying to show a variety of scenarios in which every day choices have been impacted. I grew up that way, and the things I learned from it are that every good thing will eventually end, an extreme fear of being abandoned, and that feelings and opinions are discounted. It makes having a healthy relationship very difficult.
It’s like a double edged sword. I’m trying to demonstrate how difficult it is to be intimate and close in all relationships, but then I get people focusing on the romance. When I market the family saga, it gets better, but then others don’t get the lesson. I’m caught in between.
Another issue for readers has been that she holds onto her childhood guy friend, not realizing what she’s doing to both men. The purpose isn’t trying to play two men; the purpose is her extreme fear of abandonment. She’s certain the successful older man will drop her and she doesn’t want to lose the friendship of the younger boy who is her own age. some readers aren’t relating to her and don’t like her which, I guess, is another problem.
It’s also been an issue with people starting the series at different points in the story. I try to bring readers up to date with a story summary, but all the subtle happenings are missed when you start with book 3 or later.
The Value of Support
Writing definitely has its challenging moments, and there are times when I feel like quitting, but I can’t imagine anything else I’d rather be doing. Fortunately, I have a good group of friends who help encourage and support me. I think that’s the biggest key to getting past discouragement.
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