By Joanne Hill
I've been independently publishing sweet category-length romance on Amazon and Smashwords since late 2012 and even then, I was late to the party. For a start, I didn't possess an e-reader beyond my laptop. I had a bias against indie publishing; I considered it was no different to the old vanity model and over my 20 odd years of trying (and failing) to sell to M&B, I was never about to do that. And it also seemed that because I choose to write sweet, it was a waste of time when sexy, erotic, and paranormal seemed to be the winners in the digital market. In fact, every so often I'd read or hear something on the tv about an unknown writer or husband and wife team making a mint out of their x-rated romances. I didn't seem to hear anything about a nice, heartwarming story with no sex taking the world by storm.
But I thought about it, I researched it, and realised I had nothing to lose, especially as publishing on Amazon and through Smashwords is free. As far as royalites went, it seemed you could earn some money being indie. Considering my only writing income had been from the odd short story and article, that sounded pretty good. My rejected manuscripts were doing nothing sitting on the hard drive so it all added up to this being a legitimate course of action when up to that point, my dream had been to sell to one of the big publishers - or nothing. I'd heard too many stories of authors selling to small publishers and living to regret it.
|Available from Amazon.com|
So it's now been eighteen months and here I am with five books out there, some great reviews on Amazon, royalty cheques some months (and other months, nothing) and it feels right to be in this place. I'm encouraged by a sweet romance group (www.sweetromancereads.com) of inspirational and secular authors who formed from an indie loop late last year. I like the fact we're there loudly saying that romance isn't just "50 Shades", that there are still books out there your teen daughter could read, because I honestly believe a lot of the public think contemporary romance does mean sex. That if you don't have some action in there, you must be writing "religious" books.
A few months back I finally told church friends I was writing romance. I'd put it off, anxious about what they'd think. Would they be judgmental? Look sideways at me? Look down on me because I was writing romance novels, and even more, romance novels that didn't mention Jesus?
In fact, they were curious. Some bought books, some were just pleased for me to have this sideline, when for a few years they'd known me as the church secretary who wrote a bit. It didn't seem to matter that I wasn't published by a traditional publisher, either. If they could go on line, see a cover and buy the book, that was good enough.
As far as the non-writing work goes, I do a lot of it myself. I format the books, which isn't really too difficult. It just means you should do as one guide suggests and hug your family good bye because they're not going to see you for the rest of the day. I have paid for proof reading. I buy images from Dreamstime, but design the covers myself. I get great feedback on them, and the process isn't too hard - thank goodness for free software like GIMP and for Youtube tutorials. But finding that perfect image has proved a killer. Especially when you're looking for a gorgeous photo of a guy, on a ranch, actually wearing clothes.
Where I am feels about right. I'm a Christian but I'm not an inspirational author. I read inspy, I've written some in the past, but I don't get the feeling that it is where I'm meant to be. If I thought God was leading me to write for that market, I would focus on it, but I don't think he is. It feels that here is the right place: writing romances I can let my teen and adult kids proof read, and where the only blushing going on at my end is embarrassment when they point out the dodgy grammar and lame plotting.
JOANNE HILL is a founding member and past president of Romance Writers of New Zealand. Besides writing, she works in public libraries and recently completed her MIS (Masters in Information Studies). Her research project looked at readers advisory and Mills and Boon romance novels in public libraries. She lives with her family in Auckland, New Zealand. Her website is at www.joannehill.com