4 February 2020
Note From Rochelle
So, are you procrastinating signing up for my class, Procrastination Proof Your Writing Life? I didn’t get many sign ups, so I moved it to March. And I’m still not going to charge you if you attend live. So go ahead and sign up at the WORKSHOP PAGE. (And note: the sign up tool is a little wonky! Once you click schedule appointment, you will need to set your time zone, then click on the date (March 2) and choose “continue” before you can enter your information. And if you can’t attend live, you can purchase the workshop.
I am delighted to welcome Zoe York to the blog! She’s a thirteen-time USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance. I met Zoe when she presented at a small conference held at my local library (Thank you to the Milwaukee Public Library East Branch for consistently awesome programs)! I knew Zoe needed to be a guest on my blog when I heard about her awesome new writing guide, Romance Your Brand: Building A Marketable Genre Fiction Series. Welcome Zoe! )
An Interview with Zoe York, Author of Romance Your Brand
By Rochelle Melander
Welcome to the blog, Zoe! Can you tell the readers a bit about you and your publishing journey?
Thanks for having me! Like a lot of romance writers, I’m a life-long reader, and was an avid romance fan before I started writing. When I was on maternity leave with my younger son, a friend gave me a Kobo e-reader, and it shifted how I thought about book series in a big way. The digital metadata connection is so much more obvious in ebook form, and being able to digitally grab the next book immediately was amazing. I stormed through a number of series, back to back, and when I came to the end of the last one, I thought, I want to write that. Two years later, I published What Once Was Perfect, my first small town romance. That was June 2013, and since then, I’ve released more than fifty books.
Congrats on your new book, Romance Your Brand. Can you tell us about the book: what it’s about and who it’s for?
This is my first non-fiction book, and it is an adaptation of a four-week long course I taught once, in 2016, on building a marketable genre series. It represents everything I have learned from the romance community, all the high-level points we know we should hit in a genre fiction series, organized in a step-by-step process that reminds us to check in, and see that we actually are building a series with intention that will sell in the marketplace. It’s for anyone who is ready to start crafting a new series, either something completely new, or a tighter, better, hookier Series 2.0 version of what they already love to write. Previously published genre fiction authors will probably get the most out of it. It’s not a how to write book, more about how to publish.
Can you talk about self-publishing and why writers who do genre fiction do better with series versus stand alone novels?
This loops back to what got me tangled up in this writing business in the first place: digital metadata. To understand why series sell so well, we need to look at how people use ereaders, how they find books to try from new-to-them authors, and how they navigate digital bookstores. One of the big entries to e-reading is BookBub. They are a marketing behemoth, a company that actively advertises to people who do not know about ebook reading until they see a BookBub ad. (As hard as it is for some authors to imagine, we are still in the early adoption stage of ebook reading, so there’s a big market out there to convert still to digital reading.) When someone clicks on a BookBub ad, they create a profile, and then the next day, BookBub starts sending them daily deals. Free and temporarily discounted books. When they click on one of those deals, the digital retailer immediately informs them of the next book in that series.
That, right there, is the golden ticket to a writing career instead of a writing dream. (Of course it’s not that easy, but it is that simple.) Standalone books make sense when the buyer is a single person you need to pitch on a high concept idea: the Walmart buyer, the Target buyer. And standalone books can soar in the social media market, too! Clever marketing and a slick ad campaign will do wonders. But for most midlist authors, who primarily want to live in a writing cave and pound at the keyboard, that’s not a great fit for their business plan.
Enter, the series. And while not exclusively the domain of self-publishing, because the long running series pays off for some writers with traditional houses too … if you are your own acquiring editor, you can decide when the series is done. And for a self-published author, who has a publishing house of one person to support, the metrics on what a successful series is can be radically different than what NY wants to see in numbers to continue a series.
In your book, you talk about how success is found outside one’s comfort zone. What do you mean by that and what are some ways writers can move outside their comfort zone?
I think when we write something safe and comfortable, we can accidentally take shortcuts around the beats and elements that appeal to a wide audience. For me, that often means skipping the rising tension toward a truly low moment where all is lost. It’s not my thing, if I’m being honest. But over the years I’ve learned to push myself out of that spot and try to work with tension in different ways, sometimes ways that are extraordinarily hard, to deliver the most compelling book I possibly can. This is very much a work in progress for me, and always will be! I also talk about needing to retreat to that safe and comfortable space for some projects, because it refills the well and reinforces what your id list is (hat tip to Jennifer Lynn Barnes for the id list concept).
You have written a lot of books. Can you give our readers any tips on productivity?
Almost certainly not. Today I wrote 308 words and spent most of the afternoon in existential dread over my apparent loss of the ability to write. I’ll probably do the same again tomorrow. But over the course of an entire month, with some days off and a few spurts of actual “significant productivity,” I’ll probably have written about 15k words. That was my monthly average in 2019, except for two months (deadline months), where I wrote 50k each month.
Okay, you can take some tips from my messy habits, if you want. Try to keep writing, even if it’s just a hundred words. But take days off. And if you’re an inconsistent writer, who sprints to a deadline, give in to that. But! Everyone is different, and each of us has a different speed. Your best tips will probably come from examining your own habits and leaning into them rather than looking at mine.
Finally, what are you reading?
In ebook, Ann Christopher’s On Fire (Journey’s End book 3). I love small town series with big families, and this is a great one. And after that I’ll read Rebecca Crowley’s third London Phoenix book, Off the Record. Another series around a group of brothers. In this one, they bought a newspaper in London, England. I really enjoyed the first two in the series.
About the author. Zoe York is a thirteen-time USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance, often with military heroes, and always with scorching heat between the pages. Between her two pen names (she also writes erotic romance as Ainsley Booth), she has published more than fifty books since her debut in 2013 with What Once Was Perfect. Notable hits include Prime Minister (USA Today bestseller twice, in 2016 and 2017), the SEALs of Summer anthologies (NYT bestsellers in 2014 and 2015), and the fan favorite Canadian small town series, Pine Harbour and Wardham. You can find her non-fiction books at www.romanceyourbrand.com and her fiction at www.zoeyork.com and www.ainsleybooth.com.
Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander is a certified professional coach, experienced publishing strategist, and artist educator. She is the author of eleven books, including Level Up: Quests to Master Mindset, Overcome Procrastination and Increase Productivity. She provides solutions for people who feel stuck, overwhelmed or confused by the publishing process. She is the founder of Dream Keepers, a writing workshop that supports teens in finding their voice and sharing their stories. Sign up for her Write Now! Tips Ezine at https://www.writenowcoach.com.