Beyond the ‘Zon

Hello! I’ve made a decision, and have it almost fully implemented: I’m going wide with all my titles. Yes, from here on out I am no longer in the KU (kindle Unlimited) program, which required Amazon exclusivity. Now my books are available at Barnes & Noble, kobo, All Romance, and other major retailers. (I’ve updated my “books” page with buy links)

I’m not sure if this is a good choice or a bad one, I guess we never know that about any decision until it is too late, right? I’m just hoping this isn’t a mistake. But I suppose, if it is, it can be reversed.

I’m kind of sorry to be out of KU, only because I loved the idea of an amazon subscription service. As a reader, I think that kind of thing is fantastic. But as a writer, having to be exclusive with one retailer is tough. It means if I don’t get enough “reads” on the subscription, the program is not really worthwhile. I wonder about non-exclusive sites like 24 symbols and  scribd (which I have a few books on!) and how long they will last. It seems most of the subscription sites have been short lived, especially the ones that paid authors well.

If you’re a reader, and you prefer a retailer other than Amazon, here are my pages on Barnes & NoblekoboAll Romance e-Books

If you are an author, what are your thoughts on KU now? Is it still working for you? Or are you out, as well?

What was your first writing?

Hello! Welcome to another Insecure Writer’s Support Group post 🙂 It seems these are all I post, lately… Sorry about that. I will try to get more active in posting to this blog.Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

This week’s IWSG question is: “What was your very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer? Where is it now? Collecting dust or has it been published?”

My first piece of writing was an erotic short story I called “guilty pleasures.” It was pretty awful. I kept thinking about it, though, and I couldn’t stop writing it. The weird thing was that even though it was a very smutty piece of writing, I didn’t really feel very aroused about it. (Sorry if that is TMI.) It just came to me as a powerful little story and so I wrote it down. I’d never written any fiction, at least not seriously, before. But this story I did feel kind of serious about, and I published it myself on Amazon, because I could. 🙂

I never told anyone about it, although I had to tell my husband. I had to explain what I was doing on the computer so much! LOL! When I sold my first copy, I was sure he had bought it. I confronted him, and he reminded me that he didn’t even know my pen name. That feeling of knowing that a complete stranger was reading the crazy (and embarrassing) words I’d written was probably the weirdest emotion I’d ever experienced. casual man acting as a fortune teller

I went on to write two follow-up novellas, and one of them was essentially a m/m romance. That one (honest desires) sold quite a bit, and that success led me to focus more on m/m stuff. But my heart still beats strongest for menage stories. ❤

I unpublished Guilty Pleasures a while later. (Though I did leave it out there for much too long. If you bought the first version: I’m so, so sorry.) Last year I revised it and re-published it under my “new” erotica name, AC Bishop. So if you want to read it, you can now find it here. No one ever buys it anymore. It is a very dirty fairy-tale type story, m/m/f menage, a little on the kinky side. I probably should be way more embarrassed than I am about it!

Anyway, what about you? What was the first thing you ever “seriously” wrote? What happened to it? I’d love to hear! 🙂

What is my work worth?

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeHi! This is a post for the insecure Writer’s Support Group, we post the first Wednesday of each month to air our writerly insecurities. Join us! Or just hop around and read our posts, and feel less alone in your own insecurities.

Usually I try to keep my IWSG posts fairly short (I think it is a group rule actually) but this one will be a little longer. Sorry! I haven’t posted to this blog in almost a month, and I’ve got a few extra words to say.

So let me start at the beginning… My favorite genre, the genre I read and write in most, is Gay Romance, or m/m Romance. And in m/m, the drama level is generally higher than normal for some reason. I’ve learned to deal. It does suck me in sometimes, though! The latest drama storm has a few centers. One is about the way readers will “read and return” e-books to amazon, or pirate our work, or just demand lower prices. Overall, this sucks. But let me break down the layers of suckage:

Layer 1: Amazon lets people return a digital book, no questions asked, within 7 days of purchase. In some ways, this practice is good for me as an author. It means buying my books is a zero-risk decision. Don’t like my book? Send it back. So people can feel free to click that “buy” button without worry. The trouble is, it is SUPER easy to keep on reading for free by returning. Even if Amazon catches on and cuts you off, you can just make a new account and keep on scamming. I have very few returns, so I don’t personally have a big problem with this Amazon policy, but it does hurt some authors, and I will back them up before I back up Amazon.

Layer 2: Pirates. There always will be thieves, we can’t stop that. But book thieves are an odd breed, who somehow think they are doing us authors a favor when they steal our books. As if we get some kind of power or boost just by being read. Uh, no. I’m not Lord Voldemort, and simply saying my name (or reading my words) does not pay my mortgage. Pirates don’t help authors. That is a lie they tell themselves because they know damn well they are doing something wrong. It might help them sleep better, but it is still a lie. Yet I can’t stop pirates, I am powerless against them, so I guess I should not waste my energy worrying about them.

Layer 3: Readers want lower prices, would prefer all books be free or .99. And oh yes also they’d like books to all be over 200 pages, please, otherwise it’s not really “worth it.” I will admit I have a lot of sympathy for the price issues. As a reader I also balk at books over $5. Romance readers are THE BEST readers, and I’m not just saying that because I am one (okay maybe that’s why) but because we read a lot. Most of us can happily tear through a novel a night. And at $5 or more per book, well, that means we can easily spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars each year on our reading habits. That’s…nuts. So we constantly search the current free lists, subscribe to bookbub, and whine about “overpriced” books. I get it. I’m with you. BUT: I also write and self-publish, which takes a lot of time and money, and when people tell me that my art isn’t worth as much as a cup of coffee, it hurts. And it also means I have to write less, because if writing isn’t paying the bills, then more of my time has to get diverted to a job that brings in real money.

So all that is one part of the drama. Another is about an author who is really a group of authors. I guess someone noticed that an author was popping books out at a crazy pace, and those books were all making rank, and they got suspicious. It might sound distrustful or mean but I do understand their worry. With the abundance of plagiarists and scammers out there, especially (it seems) in m/m Romance, their suspicions were reasonable. (And how sad is that? 😦 ) The author responded by admitting they are actually a group of authors working together to produce books quickly, and that explained that. But it left me with an odd feeling. I don’t begrudge this author-group their success, still I don’t like what it means: that a single author’s chances of “making it” are slim. Amazon’s algorithms reward new releases and readers reward quantity. But even the most prolific of us can rarely get more than three books out in a year. How can we compete with “authors” who can put out one or two a month?

All these things devalue writing. Treating books as less valuable than almost anything else you can buy sucks. (Seriously what can you buy for $3 nowadays besides an e-book??? And how many of those things will entertain you for hours? Make you laugh, cry, think, feel??? Let me know when you think of something.)  Expecting authors to be like machines, who need to pump out product at impossible rates while still interacting with readers and posting blogs and tweeting and instagramming and whatever else also sucks. These expectations, combined with Amazon’s algorithms and policies which shower the top earners with more exposure while keeping the unknowns unknown, make it a minor miracle anyone can earn even a hobby income from publishing these days.

It all leaves me wondering: what is my work worth?

Is it only worth what people will pay for it (so, basically, nothing)? Or is it priceless, as art, with an intangible value beyond dollars and cents? Is it worth your time? Is it worth mine? Is it worth less if people don’t like it, and more if my star-rating average is higher? I have no idea.

What I will say is a giant THANK YOU to those who buy, read, and review books. Not just my books, all books. You are keeping authors in business, literally. You are awesome! I love you.

I also love my fellow authors who constantly try to produce great books, who share their tips and tricks, who dive in to author/reader communities even though it can sometimes be a crazy jungle of feelings and opinions, filled with innumerable dangers. You also are awesome! Thank you for being part of my community.

I want to keep producing quality, carefully crafted books. I want to earn some money by doing that. I also want readers (and society at large) to appreciate the diverse beauty and multi-faceted influence of fiction. I wish I knew how to help these things happen. Any ideas? I’m listening.

Rainbow Book Fair

I’m going!

I’m super nervous about it, though. Mainly because it is a book fair, where I’ll need to face, live and in person, the reactions of people who look at my books. I’ll have to watch them make the decision to buy or not buy! Horrifying.

I’m also nervous because it brings up all my feelings of not really belonging in the LGBT community. This is not a Romance convention, this is an LGBT fiction event, and I kind of feel like maybe I have no right to be there? My writing is not very serious or deep, it’s just fluffy Romance with LGBT characters.

But… I’m going.next-ad-final_b

I’ve ordered paperbacks. I have bookmarks and business cards and I’ll be bribing passers-by with chocolates 🙂 So if you’re going to be in New York City on April 9th, come see me!

More Than Love

My m/m contemporary More Than Love is live!

I hope people like this story. It’s not very action packed or dramatic: it’s a quiet story of love. I know that is not as popular as other styles, but I hope maybe some people will enjoy it anyway.trustme_cover_v3

The two main characters are Dan and Ian. Dan is the point-of-view character the whole time, he’s a cop in his late 30’s who is longing for a relationship. Ian is a guy he dated in college and never forgot, and this is the story of their second chance at love.

If you are looking for a gentle love story with a happy ending, give it a try!

Thanks ❤

Cover reveal!

Hi! I have a cover for my upcoming release More Than Love!!trustme_cover_v3

It’s a little different from my usual kissing/embracing covers. I hope it represents the story and draws people in, anyway. Here’s the blurb:

Dan watched the people in his life settle down, get married, and have kids, while he cycled through a seemingly endless string of break-ups and disappointing relationship fails. So when Ian, the college boyfriend Dan never quite forgot, comes back to town and wants to get together, Dan jumps at a second chance with the one who got away. And despite his track record he holds out hope that he and Ian might make it work this time.

While Ian is still just as sweet and sexy as he ever was back in college, he’s also harder, slicker, and more secretive than Dan remembers. As a cop, Dan’s suspicions are roused by Ian’s behavior. As a man, he wants nothing more than to ignore those worries and fall headfirst into their new relationship. If Ian is a criminal, turning him in will break Dan’s heart. But ignoring Ian’s crimes could ruin Dan’s career.

Sometimes, what destroys us are not the things we fear, but our fears themselves.

Release date: March 25!!

If you’re interested in winning a copy before you can buy one, enter my goodreads giveaway! If you win, you’ll get a spiffy paperback signed by me 🙂

Bisexual Romance!

It exists ❤

So here’s a story: I was scrolling facebook and I saw a post on queer sci-fi asking “what topics would you like to see discussed?” and I answered “Bisexual romance” (actually I wrote a bit more than that, basically outlining my concerns over including bisexual characters in a meaningful way, and increasing bi-representation in fiction.)

So then the other day I’m scrolling facebook again and I see that my topic idea got picked! Cool! There was a nice discussion on the queer sci-fi FB page (I thought so anyway) and I was pretty happy to see such a lot of participation on a topic that is so important to me. Nice.

Then someone made a blog post of their own about it (well maybe more than one person but only one I saw) and their post sparked some more heated discussion, and was taken down. I missed the drama of it all (thank the gods) but I would like to add a little bit. Not because I want to make drama (this won’t be dramatic don’t worry lol) but just because I think the problem is worth consideration, and is important enough that it should be talked about and not just brushed aside to keep things copacetic.

My original question was poorly worded (hey it was a facebook comment give me a break!) but my essential question was: what level of representation in a story is “enough” to label it a bisexual romance?

And the author of the drama-inducing blog post touched on this, as well. It is a real problem, and I think they actually pointed out the root of the issue: When we label romance, we do so based on the genders of the main couple, not their orientations. This is a problem, obviously, and leads to massive bi-erasure. So yes there are prejudices against bisexuals, lots of harmful stereotypes, and even outright disdain for bi’s in romance and, well, everywhere. But I don’t think that is the whole problem. In Romance, we also have an issue with marketing, labeling, and even just talking about bisexuality.

One point that blogger made was bisexual romance is a label used primarily for menage. I’m sure that was a hurtful statement for many. Unfortunately, it’s true. The bisexual romance shelf on amazon is pretty much a selection of mmf menage stories. And hey, I love bisexual menage stories (I’ve written some! *shameless plug* Buy my mmf!!) but mmf is hardly the typical bisexual love story, let’s be honest.

Here’s the thing: there are LOTS of bisexual characters in m/m Romance. Lots. Want to find one? Good luck! Because there really isn’t a way to search for them.

Imagine if there was just one LGBT Romance category on Amazon. And when you brought up a search for “gay romance” you automatically got bisexual, trans, gay, and lesbian titles all mixed in with no filtering. Good? Maybe for some, not for others. Well, when you search up “bisexual romance” you get a lot of menage, maybe a few m/m stories where the author tagged it bisexual, and that’s it. All mixed in, and many of the m/m books with bisexual characters are not there at all. When you search for “gay” or “lesbian” you get lots of bisexual in there, with no way to tell which is which. Sometimes, it’s not even clear in the blurb. And readers will call bisexual characters “gay” as well. Rarely is the word “bisexual” even mentioned.

There ARE bisexual characters in m/m. I’ve written them, I’ve read them, they’re totally there I promise you. For an example, Cut and Run’s Ty and Zane are bisexual (right?) and they’re pretty popular with readers. Yet those books are not listed in “bisexual romance” on amazon. Why? Because the main pairing is two males. So it’s m/m. But…m/m does not always mean “gay.”

Yet amazon (like most vendors) does not have an m/m category. You’ve got to pick an orientation. (Did you just cringe a little? Yep, me too.) Do you pick bisexual, and get your monogamous m/m thrown in with menage and thereby miss reaching the majority of your readership? Or pick gay and erase your bisexual characters? (I usually pick both, but to be honest it’s the “gay” list I’m trying to rank on, as it is the bigger market.)

Representation matters. But so does getting our books to the readers who want them. (bisexual romance authors gotta eat, too)

I’m not sure what the solution to this is. How can we spotlight our bisexual characters and still appeal to our readers? How can we change such a big thing as amazon’s categories? How can we openly recognize bisexual characters in romance? I wish I had more answers. As always, I’m open to ideas 🙂