Posted On December 28, 2012 by Print This Post

Catching the Wave: A Wrap Up on 2012 with Michelle Monkou

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

Michelle Monkou

Michelle Monkou

(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.

 Michelle Monkou:

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.

Denny:

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.

Michelle:

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.

 Denny:

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?

Michelle:

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.

Denny S. Bryce

Denny S. Bryce

Denny:

What do you think romance readers want that might differ from what publishers and even writers of romance think they are looking for?

Michelle:

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.

Denny:

I also wondered…

Michelle:

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?

 Denny:

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.

Denny:

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?

 Michelle:

Consistent with some of your other deep-seated issues.

Denny:

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”.

Michelle:

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.

Denny:

And as we wrap-up 2012, what do you see as the biggest opportunity for authors as we look ahead to 2013?

 Michelle:

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?

***

Bio:

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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19 Responses to “Catching the Wave: A Wrap Up on 2012 with Michelle Monkou”

  1. Hi Michelle and Denny! Thank for being with us today.

    What was a favorite read of your in 2012?

    Robin

    Posted by Robin Covington | December 28, 2012, 8:09 am
    • Okay, trying not to write the long, long, list, I’ll just go with the first three (or four) that come to mind…Brenda Jackson’s Quade’s Babies, Chelsea Cain’s Heartsick, Lisa Jackson’s Malice (yes, I know not the latest releases, but wonderful books), and Darynda Jones’ First Grave on the Right.

      And then there’s Allison Leotta’s Law of Attraction, and Alma Katsu’s The Taker – the first in her trilogy.

      See – this is what happens…:)…also Cherry Adair’s Hush…and a few others.

      Posted by Denny S. Bryce | December 28, 2012, 8:37 am
    • I came across Niobia’s Bryant’s Red Hot and Maureen Smith’s Inferno.

      Posted by Michelle Monkou | December 28, 2012, 8:40 am
  2. Hi Michelle and Denny,

    For self-publishing, is a freer format or tighter? Once you have a reader base should you write more with them in mind or is expanding the base become the goal? I have been told once a writer has established herself she should stick to the program. For example, once a mystery author, always a mystery author.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | December 28, 2012, 9:13 am
    • Hi Mary Jo,

      I believe you write your best book first, and keep writing them. Yes, readers enjoy series – once they fall in love with characters they want to keep reading about their adventures, but what I’ve noticed with self-publishing, digital publishing and so-called traditional publishing, the author holds the reins these days because you have options. Get published with a digital publisher with your mystery series, self-publish your erotic romance and your urban fantasy trilogy goes to one of the Big Six. To me, these are realistic possibilities (and goals, maybe not in that order) for today’s published author. Or if you write in one genre – great. Then build your following in whatever distribution channel and then expand into the others. And yes, I’m an optimist:)! And also a marketing PR person…thus the distribution channel stuff.

      Denny

      Posted by Denny S. Bryce | December 28, 2012, 9:41 am
    • There is no rule in this game. For every rule or template, there is an exception. Timing, talent, luck are varying ingredients in the writer’s arsenal.

      Self-publishing is only free because no one is there to prevent you from putting out that product — good or bad.

      Once you have published, by what ever means, you build on readership with more good books. You can market until the cows come home, but if you’re a one or two book wonder, readers will not come. If you write quickly, but release poor quality books, readers will not stick. It’s not a race with anyone.

      Publishers pushed the author branding as their marketing program. I don’t think that takes into account some authors who are talented enough to write various genres. That’s where a good agent can make the difference.

      I’m a rebel, so I don’t believe that there is only one dress suitable for the party.

      Posted by Michelle Monkou | December 28, 2012, 11:33 am
  3. Thank you Denny and Michelle for sharing your thoughts with us on the multicultural market. It’s good to hear the lessons learned from 2012 as well as your thoughts on what is to come.

    As a writer of multicultural fiction this post was a goldmine and it gives me a lot to think about. You’ve also introduced me to lots of new authors. Heading to my Kindle later to add to my To Be Read List.

    Wishing you both a happy new prosperous year!

    Posted by Reese Ryan | December 28, 2012, 9:14 am
    • You’re welcome. I’m by no means a forecaster. With anything, do you research, ask questions, but then, you’ve got to go with your gut.

      Good luck with your goals.

      Posted by Michelle Monkou | December 28, 2012, 11:21 am
  4. I did a couple of questions for Michelle.

    Will you be publishing all four books of your 4-book family series in 2014?

    When planning a series, what is the ideal timeframe in which to space the releases? For instance, should an author plan to publish them three months, or six months apart?

    Posted by Reese Ryan | December 28, 2012, 9:18 am
    • I will be publishing the 4 book series in a two-year span (2014 & 2015). What I plan to do is write a few e-novellas of side characters to give readers add’l treats while waiting for each book.

      There isn’t an ideal timeframe. If a writer is a fast writer, then forcing them to come out faster than they are capable of writing will result in a weak product. BUT, there is the reader’s appetitie to think of because they often want that book to feed their addiction.

      I’d leave that to the author to come up with her own schedule. I tend to have a six-month separation between books, but I’m challenging myself with a three-month schedule. So we’ll see.

      Posted by Michelle Monkou | December 28, 2012, 11:12 am
  5. Morning Michelle!

    Wow, that’s a great list of books! (I’ll add my kudos to Darynda’s books from your reply to Robin above as well!)

    Do you think Fifty Shades was a boon to romance writers? I know it made a lot of people sit up and take notice, but will those same people expect that type of story from their romances now? Do you see it turning the tide from romance to more erotica?

    Thanks for posting with us today!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | December 28, 2012, 9:22 am
    • Fift Shades reached out to non-readers and non-romance readers. I don’t think it necessarily acted as a bridge to romance books. Those readers, however, may look for more erotic/erotica material.

      Publishers, on the other hand, may fill their coffers with similar work. Writers may feel pressured to put more sex in their books. That’s how trends work.

      And yet, there will be those readers who still want their standard romances.

      Using music as an example, there was a time when hip hop had just blown up in midstream and everyone had rap or hip hop beats in their music. Some artists sounded fake–I still remember Madonna rapping; remember Blondie. Those people aren’t doing that anymore, they went back to their “roots.” But they jumped on the bandwagon in fear of being left behind.

      Posted by Michelle Monkou | December 28, 2012, 11:19 am
  6. I love the term “pre-published!”

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us, Denny and Michelle! 2012 has been such a tumultuous year in the publishing industry, I don’t know whether to be excited or scared about what 2013 might bring!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | December 28, 2012, 11:42 am
    • Always stay excited. The era of the storyteller has been around from our times around the campfires as hunter/gatherers through to the present with our technological gadgets.

      Onward and upward, 2013.

      Posted by Michelle Monkou | December 28, 2012, 4:45 pm
  7. Hello Denny & Michelle!

    Oh man, I wish I could write like Shonda Rimes. I’m a huge fan of her latest series, Scandal. All of her shows are a great example of characterization, dialogue and pacing.

    Thanks for joining us!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | December 28, 2012, 2:55 pm
    • I heard the label the next Aaron Spelling for Shonda. I’m sure she faced rejection in her time and kept pushing forward with her dreams.

      As I always say, it’s great to have one Shonda Rimes, but I want to see more like her.

      Posted by Michelle Monkou | December 28, 2012, 4:48 pm
  8. Great interview, ladies! (Don’t put me in the drawing, because I won’t have time to read these books for ages, so they should go to someone who has the time to read them – and I plan on buying your books for my nook anyway, Michelle.) Publishing is exploding in a number of different ways, and you’re a wonderful spokesperson for romance and AA writers, Michelle. Keep writing! xoxo

    Posted by Bobbi | December 28, 2012, 11:27 pm
  9. Happy New Year!

    I wanted to announce the winner, selected randomly, of e-book copies of Michelle Monkou’s latest releases, Racing Hearts and Scandal!

    Congratulations Reese Ryan!

    Denny

    Posted by Denny S. Bryce | January 1, 2013, 12:58 pm

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