Fiction update and lessons learned

Photo by Haitao Zeng on Unsplash

There is so much happening in my fiction life right now that I thought it would be a good idea to pour everything out and let readers pick through the pieces that interest them.

First up, an update on The Royal Companion

What started as an almost reluctant publishing of my first novel has grown into something much more than I could have fathomed. Am I suddenly rich and hugely successful? Hell no. Is my husband trying really hard to be supportive of my goals while not freaking out about the business expenses that keep popping up on the old credit card? Yep. But to his credit, he hides his fear well.

So how else does one measure success if not by profit? Well, I can only answer for myself, and as this is my safe space, I’ll tell it how it is.

  1. Regular sales

I sell copies of the eBook every single day. I honestly thought no one would buy it, so imagine my surprise when five months after its release, it continues to sell. Is it loads of money? No, but it’s a daily income I didn’t have previously, and it’s an income from writing fiction.

  1. Reviews and emails

The majority of my reviews are positive. People send me emails thanking me for the story and the characters. Many of the people reaching out are bed-ridden and escape their lives via fiction­—which I love. I appreciate every email, and I’ll never tire of hearing that love stories help people escape their pain.

  1. Subscribers

As of today I have 1572 subscribers on my mailing list. At the start of the year I had zero. I’m really proud of this.

  1. Personal happiness

This is the biggest one for me. I have figured out a way to make an income from telling stories. The image of the starving artist was so ingrained in my subconscious that I convinced myself I had to do it as a hobby on the side of ‘real writing’. Not true. People need stories and they are happy to pay for them. I love writing fiction, and my goal is to be writing only fiction by the time my youngest starts school. This is no longer a pipe-dream, I am working my butt off to ensure it’s an achievable goal.

  1. Recognition

Some of you may have heard The Royal Companion was shortlisted for ‘The Woollahra Digital Literary Award 2017’. I didn’t win, but I was so chuffed at being shortlisted I didn’t care. Why is this so important? Two reasons: I am an indie author, and I am a romance author. This shows that the stigmas attached to both are slowly falling away. 

What have been the biggest lessons learned so far?

Holy cow, how much time do you have? Let me just list my top three.

  1. Not paying for a proof-reader the first time round

Authors need as many eyes on their books as possible prior to publication. These can include a developmental/structural editor, beta readers, copy/line editor and proof-readers. Indie authors obviously have to pay for these services without knowing if they will ever get back the money they put in. I was cautious of spending too much money on something ‘no one would read’, so I paid for copy/line editing only and skipped the others. Big mistake. Structurally the story is sound (thanks to spending five years revisiting it), but the first few days after publication I was fixing up typos that readers were pointing out. It was stressful and embarrassing. You only get one chance to make a first impression.

  1. I spent too much time marketing one book when I should have been writing the next one

Do you want to know the best way to sell more books? Write another one. Romance readers in particular are veracious readers. When they finish a book, they want the next one. Moving forward the writing will be prioritised.

  1. I didn’t know who my target audience was (and still don’t)

The Royal Companion is a romance hybrid, but it still needs to fit somewhere. My editor suggested I market it as a ‘Royal Romance’ which falls under the ‘regency’ sub-genre on Amazon (from which 95% of my sales come). The problem with that? It’s written in a medieval setting which is confusing for regency readers. To make matters worse, it’s not set in this world, which technically makes it a fantasy novel. The problem with that? Fantasy readers want world building, magic, maybe a dragon or two, and I just wanted to tell a love story. Ah, the joys. It’s currently selling best under historical romance > medieval, so it’s staying there for now!

Ok, this part is for the readers wondering when the next bloody book’s going to be published already…

The Common Girl is due to be released in September 2017. Aldara and Tyron’s story continues in this book. For anyone interested in a detailed progress report, here it is…

  • The “finished” manuscript has just come back from beta readers who provided really valuable insights. It seems I still have a little work to do on the ending, but some of the more positive comments included:

‘Excellent chapter–I felt my heart rate and breathing pick up when they started their pursuit.’

‘This is powerful. My heart is breaking with hers right now. Nice emotion here.’

And my favourites…

‘I want to kick him in the groin. I don’t care for him at all. He’s callous and it has taken me this long to notice he has some other interests going on.’

‘I knew I liked her. Preach Mama Queen, you tell that kid to shut up.’

  • I have just briefed the cover designer (yay). I can reveal that the tagline for the book is: Love has never been more dangerous. The image is gorgeous and I can’t wait to share it with you in the coming weeks.
  • The manuscript goes to the editor for copy/line editing early August (that takes around 3 weeks).
  • It will then go to a proof-reader early September (this takes two weeks).
  • Next, advanced copies go out to my awesome launch team who have two weeks to read it and post their honest reviews.
  • Then finally, Launch Day at the end of September (assuming there are no hold ups).

What’s next?

Book three, The Majestic Impostor (this title may change), should be out in January 2018. This is the final part of Tyron and Aldara’s story. I will be having a break from The Companion Series at that point, but I have ideas for the minor characters that might see me return to it at a later date. I get a lot of women crushing on feedback about the my fearless, handsome and witty knight, Leksi. So I might have to find out what is in store for him later on.

Probably the biggest news I have is the announcement of my next series. The working title is Domitian’s Gladiators. You may have noticed my interest in historical settings, and it’s no secret I am fascinated with medieval warfare and practices. This will be a three book historical action romance series following three female gladiators, each with their own book. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to write strong female protagonists with fighting skills. There is a fair amount of research to do for this series, but I expect to have book one released in the the first half of next year.

Would love to know whether this is something my current readers would be interested in? Hoping some of my medieval readers will give it a try. Comment below or drop me an email.

So, wow, what an info dump. I hope at least parts of this was of interest to someone. Below is a bunch of links for anyone wanting to connect on other platforms. I love hearing from readers.

Join my mailing list (and get exclusive content)

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Read Tweets at @TanyaBirdWriter

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