We’ve got something different for you today at Romance University. Authors Michelle Monkou and Denny S. Bryce sat down to chat about what happened in 2012 and we got to eavesdrop.
Catching The Wave: A Wrap Up on 2012 with Multi-Published Author Michelle Monkou
Michelle Monkou, multi-published author, USA Today Happy Ever After
(HEA) reviewer, former president of Romance Writers of America (RWA), and Washington Romance Writers (WRWDC) and co-chair of the 2013 WRWDC retreat (April 19 -21) joined Denny S. Bryce, also known as ‘waiting on the call’, one Saturday afternoon in December to chat about the publishing industry, the history of multicultural romance, the trend-setters of 2012, and what to look for as 2013 kicks off.
And yes, with all of those topics to cover, we talked fast, but it still took four hours. Following are highlights of our conversation. We hope you’ll find the topics interesting, helpful and entertaining as you settle into thinking about the ups and downs, and the successes and joys of writing (and reading) romance 2012-style.
Denny S. Bryce:
Okay, Michelle, tell me about your new book(s) and what you’re working on these days.
I have a new book out with Harlequin Kimani, published in December called Racing Hearts—daredevil racecar driver and his no nonsense, sexy doctor. I also recently released my first e-book, Scandal, Secrets and Seduction (formerly, Open Your Heart, for which my rights were reverted), available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I’m also very excited for 2013 with the final book in my millionaire hero stories – Passionate Game (video game designer challenged by a youth activist) and for 2014, I’m already writing a four-book, new family series.
What do you see as the biggest change in the publishing industry in 2012? Fifty Shades of Grey started a fire that’s still burning. It brought international and national mainstream media attention to the romance publishing industry.
Fifty Shades… certainly got people talking about or pretending they weren’t intrigued by sex stuff because that seemed to be the fixation (IMO). For most of us, authors, 2012 was a year to explore your options—the big buzzword that meant digital publishing, indie-publishing, traditional publishing, conquering social media, honing marketing techniques.
2012 should have been the wake-up call that an era was closing on the idealistic myth of the author who writes her story, sends it to the publisher, waits for them to fall in love with the work, gets paid—actually makes decent money, and returns to the writing cave to write more stories. Now, you write and promote with the super bunny energy level as if you are self-published, even when commercially published. Probably even more when you’re commercially published because sales goals have to be met or else.
And from the African American author experience that fairy tale had been stuck on repeat cycle at “waiting for the publisher to fall in love” stage. In 2012, as in history, the AA author community and with the support of their readers, authors are empowered to circumvent gatekeepers, whether commercial publishers or marketing experts, to gain direct access to the end users—hungry readers.
Now do I think that we don’t need publishers – Of course, not. Marketing experts – Of course, not. But I think that a poor job has been done to create, sustain and build reader appetite (take a few lessons from the snacks, soda, even gambling industries), as though it would magically happen on its own or when it doesn’t happen, it’s solely at the author’s feet. I do see publishers pushing the team spirit with their authors, more so now than before.
You mentioned that some of the African American authors writing romance you review for HEA are self-published or balance both worlds of self-publish and traditional publish. Is this a trend you see continuing or just a result of the opportunities available to writers?
African American authors, in general, used the self-publishing platform because commercial publishers didn’t recognize their value. Once the publishers determined that it was a viable financial option, then they created imprints dedicated to African American markets and/or mixed their inventory with AA authors. But the honeymoon period is waning and as publishers merge, bookstores expire, the trickle down affects all authors, including a large percentage of AA authors.
Technology came to the rescue for authors, empowering their decision to bring a product direct to the consumer. The quality of that product faces less barriers to entry into the market, which means that the book may be poorly edited, designed, or marketed. However, the editor’s role will never be defunct and can come to the rescue by working with the self-pub author, along with all the free lancers who provide needed services.
What I have noticed is that the reader doesn’t hook their preferences on who publishes the book, but by the reputation of the author’s work. For AA authors who are overlooked by commercial publishers or whose work is not considered to have a viable market, they can build their readership. Hard work. Uphill climb. But we started out on unleveled playing field, so why should the trek stop us now.
Readers are dissatisfied and have communicated their frustration at not getting the works by AA authors. Some will only buy self-published books out of a show of solidarity. They do have the discretionary income and fervor to support and boost individual authors, thereby raising enough online attention. Once that attention is garnered, then the editors reach out to those very authors that they’d ignored. That’s 2012 and beyond for you.
What do you think romance readers want that might differ from what publishers and even writers of romance think they are looking for?
Not sure because surveys would be needed. I know that RWA does provide a good survey, along with other reputable sources. But, for the AA reader, they are very rarely, if ever, surveyed on AA authors or stories. Someone decides for them what they think they want and yet, online, many voice their frustration that all they get is one type of story, or one general type of heroine or hero. They want stories that are diverse in age, in state of life, etc. For instance, once something is successful, then the readers are inundated with that type of story until they get “sick” of that type of story.
I also wondered…
Hold on a moment. I want to ask you a question or two. As a pre-published writer of urban fantasy, multi-cultural contemporary romantic suspense and YA, what industry happening of 2012 is top of mind for you?
The most important thing I can do as a writer is to keep writing. Sounds cliché, but we know that’s our bread and butter. And to help us stay focused – gather that network of support. Be it with your RWA chapter, a critique group or critique partner, or group blog buds, when the going gets tough, those groups and/or individuals can help you through. Enough about me, now I have another question.
What do you think of my secret ambition to become the Sondra Rhimes (creator, producer and writer of Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice) of multicultural contemporary romance?
Consistent with some of your other deep-seated issues.
lol! You will watch Scandal, and besides, your re-release of your first book you renamed Scandal, so alas, the name is already in your blood. But seriously, I know you’ve read a lot of books this year, what book or books written by African American romance authors in particular come to mind, when I say a word like “daring” or “heartfelt” or “quite the ride”.
I am going to plead the fifth for my personal faves because I hate mentioning authors and then missing someone because my brain cells went “poof.” However, I have been online and noticed some names that continually pop up with fans: Celeste O. Norfleet, Maureen Smith, and Adrianne Byrd get mentioned in the same breath for sizzling hot, contemporary or urban romance; Farrah Rochon was the first AA author to be nominated in RWA’s published author contest for contemporary romance. Brenda Stokes Lee, Author SK, Keith Thomas Walker for indie erotic romance. Traditional published authors now successfully publishing indie Bettye Griffin and Marcia King-Gamble; and the pioneers who are still knocking it out the park like Brenda Jackson, Francis Ray, Donna Hill and Beverly Jenkins.
And as we wrap-up 2012, what do you see as the biggest opportunity for authors as we look ahead to 2013?
That reader demographics don’t end in the U.S. or North America for any author. Technology is taking down borders and barriers and making the world more accessible. Social media provide the gateway and the bridge to communities and cultures that may never have been known to the author.
Denny: What should I have asked that you really wanted to talk about?
Michelle: Nada. You’re already making me spill my inner thoughts.
Denny: Thank you Michelle Monkou!
And we will be giving away an e-book copy of Michelle’s two more recent releases: Racing Hearts and Scandal, Secrets and Seduction. All you have to do is comment below.
Happy New Year!
Okay, Michelle is our virtual captive today and she has so much knowledge and experience. What do you want to know?
MICHELLE MONKOU became a world traveler at three years old when she left her birthplace of London, England and moved to Guyana, South America. She then moved to the United States as a young teen. An avid reader, mixed with her cultural experiences, set the tone for a vivid imagination. It wasn’t long before the stories in her head became stories on paper.
In the middle of writing romantic fiction, she added a Master’s of International Business to her Bachelor’s in English.
Michelle was nominated for the 2003 Emma Award for Favorite New Author for her debut novel — Open Your Heart. She followed with several notable series, such as, the Glen Knolls, Mastersons and most recently, the Ladies of Distinction about five sorority sisters.
DENNY S. BRYCE A 2012 Marlene Contest Finalist (WRW-DC), and 2011 Hold Me! Thrill Me! Contest Finalist (SWFRW), Denny is a romance writer who specializes in urban fantasy, YA paranormal and multicultural contemporary romance. Hot on the tracks of her first sale, she is currently polishing her novel about a vampire FBI agent who is struggling to keep a promise he made to a witch. She also has several WIPs in the works including a post-apocalyptic urban fantasy centering around a female protagonist who must battle a society of ancient vampires with the help of a beat cop who keeps getting into his own brand of trouble.
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