I finished Anyone But Nick about four months ago and was faced with the wide open unknown. It’s always an exciting and daunting prospect to finish a series. It means coming up with a “brand” for your new books. New titles. New cover concepts. New characters, etc. As fun as all of that is, it’s scary, too. Every little decision could be one that ultimately comes back to bite you and tanks your series. No pressure!
A lot of my stories pop in my head with the meet-cute moment. I’ll have an image, like I did for Her Cherry. I saw William coming in her shop and “stealing her cherry.” That was pretty much all I had when I started writing the first chapter, but an exciting idea like that can really power the story for me.
This time, it came a little differently. I knew it had been forever since I’d dabbled in the world of BDSM, and I wondered what it would be like to write a BDSM book as a romantic comedy. And four months later, here we are.
The path from there to here wasn’t exactly smooth, so I thought it’d be fun to talk a little about the issues I ran into with getting this book off the ground.
The Cover and Title
Problem number one was that I originally planned to sort of “pitch” this series to Montlake. If they liked my pitch, it would mean a contract for another group of books I’d do with them. The part I didn’t realize is that Montlake can’t advertise BDSM books. Whoops.
I also didn’t realize Anyone But Rich and Anyone But Cade weren’t exactly going to be bestselling hits. I’ll probably make a post talking about that whole situation soon, too.
But my early drafts of titles and covers were all with the idea of pitching the series to Montlake. So I was trying to make more cute kinds of titles that were clean and wouldn’t create any advertising issues. One of my leading concepts was something like, “How to Tie Down Your Boss,” or, “How to Tie Down A Dickweed,” etc. The cover was just going to be a guy’s hands tied to the title by a tie on a white background. Very simple, very rom-com, bla bla.
Well, once I learned that the book I’d started writing wasn’t something Montlake could touch, even if they wanted to, my options opened up. I still remember showing my editor my cover (she’s usually my first critic with covers, and I’ve come to really trust her opinion). I was almost done with the hands being tied to the title and I basically presented it to her thinking she was going to congratulate me and tell me how talented I was.
Instead, she said the title was kind of “meh” and the cover wasn’t really working for her.
Womp womp. I didn’t exactly believe her that it was bad at first, but I was kind of driven to make something crazy just out of frustration. So I don’t even quite remember how the idea popped into my head, but I thought it would be wild to call the book, “The Golden Cock” and just have a golden rooster emblem on the cover. When I showed her the finished draft, she loved it. She said it reminded her of the kind of crazy that made His Banana so fun.
I kind of mulled it over, just like I had with His Banana. The title “The Golden Cock” was almost guaranteed to draw some unwanted attention from the watchful eye of Amazon. But I really liked how brash and in-your-face it was. It was fun, and I love fun things. I also didn’t really have another word for Cock that would’ve worked with the chicken image as I was brainstorming. I considered maybe just calling it “The Golden”, but it felt so safe and a little boring.
That was when it hit me. Pecker! No, it didn’t have quite the impact of “Cock”, but it was also about 99% less likely to get me banned from Amazon. So Pecker it was.
The cover itself went through 0 drafts once I had this concept. It was a rare case where the image in my head is pretty much exactly what I got on the cover on my first try. If only they could all be like that.
Ugh. I learned a very important lesson about writing books early in my career: editing is something you do once the book is finished. At all costs, avoid going backwards and making changes that will require re-writes and deletions when you’re still in the process of writing.
Basically, if you want to write a book every month or two, you really can’t afford to bounce around and re-write things. You’ve got to do your best on the first round, and then attack the finished manuscript in editor mode as much as you can once it’s all in place. That way, you’ll stop yourself from changing things that don’t absolutely need changed.
So, what did I do with this book? I jumped around like crazy. I constantly went back and re-imagined how I’d open the book up. I changed motivations, rules, personalities, even names.
This will come as a surprise to absolutely no one, but books are complicated. If you’ve written 25 chapters and you decide to change something in chapter 2, you’re most likely creating a ripple effect. Just for fun, let me give a real example from this book:
I ended up changing the hero and heroine’s dynamic for the first few chapters, which meant I also had to axe some lines that didn’t fit with the new tone of their encounter.
One such axed line was the heroine (Andi) joking that she doesn’t usually cum until the second date.
No big deal, right? Except while I was carefully re-reading after making a bazillion changes, I noticed a line where the hero (Landon) and Andi are debating whether something qualifies as a date. This prompts him to make a reference in some way to the fact that she doesn’t cum until the first date and how he plans to challenge that, etc. THEN, that comment also leads the conversation down an entirely different path that I liked. So now I needed to find some other way to pivot the conversation naturally in that direction, delete the reference, etc.
And THEN even farther down the line there was a joke about how she doesn’t sign sex contracts until the third date, which didn’t make sense anymore. So that had to go, along with the conversation it led to.
Maybe it seems crazy that you wouldn’t remember all the spots you reference back to things in a story or build off of them as the author–but it all blurs together. So the only way to really be sure you’ve covered your tracks when you make a change is to re-read the entire story.
I wound up re-reading the entire story three times before sending it to my editor to scan for inconsistencies like that, and then another time when I got the edits back to make sure the additions I made didn’t make new problems.
My brain probably looks like a fried potato right about now.
The Good News
It’s done now, and I’m super happy with the finished product. I’m also relieved to finally be launching another self published book. It has been way, way too long, and I regret how I started shifting my focus to the world of traditional publishing so much.
Yes, I still want to take advantage of the opportunity to work with publishers if I get another chance, but I’m also not going to be so ready to jump off the self publishing train. This is part of who I am. All the marketing and hustling it takes outside of actually writing the book is how I’ve helped make a career for myself. Completely leaving it behind just wouldn’t feel right.
Oh, last thing! I probably won’t really go into talking about this anywhere else because it’s kind of awkward to bring up, but I’m going to give a test run to launching my books at the $3.99 price point instead of $0.99. If you’re a Kindle Unlimited member, it won’t impact you at all. Borrowing is still free.
The reasons behind the change could make for a post by themselves, so I may holster that one and save it for another day. The short version is that there is a growing feeling among authors that we can’t afford to keep giving away our books for pennies (we earn $0.33 per sale at $0.99). The last thing I’ll say on it is that the only reason $0.99 books are so common is because it’s essentially a marketing strategy. You are trading the monetary value of those sales for rank and hoping your gamble pays off. If it does, the book ranks high enough to gain organic traction and it can repay what you lost selling it for so little. If it doesn’t, you basically wrote, marketed, and planned an entire book for nothing. A higher price point lets your loyal base of readers enable you to have a living wage without feeling like you’re rolling the dice with every launch. In theory, at least!
Anyway, that’s all for now. I just mentioned two things I need to make posts about soon, so I will try to remember to get to those soon. Thanks for reading!