Monday, 24 January 2022

Self-confidence, social media, and the hell that is marketing...




When I was dropped by my publisher back in 2017, it stung. To be honest, it wasn't completely unexpected, I don't think we were ever a good fit from the start, in hindsight. But, the brutal way in which it happened was a bit of a kicker. Basically, they just ghosted me. That's it. The end. You release that final book that you're under contract to release, after they've given you a task they were never going to give one of their big hitters because it had a 70/30 chance of failure and those odds were never going to be on my side. But, even though I knew it was coming, it still felt like a kick in the teeth. If you aren't up there with their favourites, earning the money and bringing in the sales then you are absolutely expenable, and instantly forgettable. And, yeah, it was like a punch to the gut. Something that dented my confidence big time, and I'm not sure that confidence ever came back. 

As a writer - and I'm sure I'm not alone in this - you sometimes find yourself comparing yourself to other authors, and asking those same questions over and over again: am I as good as them? Why can't I be as successful as them? What do they have that I don't? And it's impossible to answer those questions, in reality. But, you know, yeah, you probably are as good as they are, but you probably won't ever be as successful as them, at least, that's what I keep telling myself, because the things that they have that you - that I don't have are, well, that's a long list: an agent, for one. Money to throw at advertising and marketing. A huge readership gained through social media/blog tours/word of mouth. All things I have none of. Nothing. No agent, no money to throw at marketing, and only a tiny, but loyal readership. I struggle with everything as far as my writing goes now, to be honest, and lack of confidence has a lot to do with that. I find myself second guessing everything, which is probably why I have about 8 started but not finished manuscripts, and notebooks full of scribbled ideas that I think, at the time, are going to be the next best thing, but soon find myself pushing aside because, well, I'm not sure it's going to be something people want to read.

But then there are also days when I read back through chapters I've written and I know I can write. I know I can. But the frustration at not being able to get the word out there about my books just takes over, and I'm once again second guessing, losing focus, wondering whether it's worth putting in all this work when only about 6 people are going to read it. I can't compete with those authors who have this marketing shit down pat. I don't have the confidence to put myself out there on blog tours, even if I could afford it, because I'm not sure my books are what those readers want to read. I don't have a YouTube channel or a TikTok account, and I'm not somebody who feels comfortable pushing themselves or their work, and that's been my problem from the start. That's another reason why my publisher dropped me. If you aren't out there, with a huge social media presence, you're no good to agents or publishers, because don't for one second think signing to a publisher means you get your marketing done for you. You don't. You really don't, not unless you are a BIG name. And while, in reality, I'm glad to be free of that pressure, I just don't know how to promote my books when I'm technically doing it completely alone. Should I just keep pushing myself forward? Won't people get sick of that? Sick of me banging my own drum? Well, you know, who else is going to do it if I don't? 

Anyway, this has been yet another rambling post, but that's what this blog is for, really. To get it out there, what I'm feeling. Thinking. A way to get it off my chest, and maybe find a way forward because talking about this stuff does help, even if I'm just shouting into a void. And the thing is, I write because I love it. It's what I've always wanted to do, what I've dreamt about doing since I could pick up a pencil, I've been making up stories and putting them down on paper since forever. And to be able to do that now, day after day, and actually publish them, even if only half a dozen people read those stories, that's good. That's OK, I never wanted to do this for money or fame, I just wanted to write books. And I feel so, so lucky that I can sit at my desk and create these characters and their worlds, and lose myself in their journeys. So maybe I should stop whinging and just get on with that, huh?

In the beginning, at the very start of my writing journey, when there were very few of us out there selling our self-published books on Amazon, I was asked what advice I would give to any other new authors out there, and I still remember it to this day. And I still, every time I have these bad weeks, when I feel down on myself and wonder if I should just do what many others have done in the pursuit of success and write about a nice little teashop in a cosy village/seasidse town rather than the dark romance I'm so much better at; the bikers and the cartel kings and queens, I'm good at that shit. So, yeah, that advice. I said these words, and I still believe them. And I should listen to them more...

Find your own voice, and learn to love it. Don't aim to be the next whoever, aim to be the first you.

And now I'm off to finish my latest work-in-progress about a hot-as-hell bodyguard and a woman he knows he can't have, but that's not going to stop him from trying...


Speak soon!


Michelle x

Thursday, 6 January 2022

How the menopause changed my writing...

It feels like a very long time since I was able to knock out 4 to 5 novels a year, but in reality it wasn't that long ago. It's just that shit started to get in the way. Shit like the menopause, and a global pandemic but that's a whole other blog post, that is. The menopause, though, let me tell you, that one hit me hard! The lack of focus, the inability to concentrate, and the one thing I wasn't expecting - the inability to write a decent sex scene, something I used to be able to do in a heartbeat. Check out my first Christ knows how many books, they used to call me the Queen of Steam, but for the past couple of years I've struggled to even want to write a sex scene. My entire writing playbook has changed, and I think that's thrown me more than I realised. Let's get one thing straight, though, I'm not saying I now suddenly want to write nothing but cosy romances involving Cornish tea shops, things haven't reached quite that level yet, I'm still very much a writer who's sitting on the dark side of romance. I can't see that changing, but as far as my books being littered with sexy scenes that leave nothing to the imagination, well, you better get that imagination working. For now. 

Am I comfortable with this? No. I'm not. The menopause isn't something to take lightly, it's a bitch, and it's affected a lot more than my writing, I just don't talk about it, that's all. I've had the hot flashes, the mood swings, I've thankfully avoided the night sweats, but my sex drive has - and I'm being brutally honest here - gone. Completely. When I can look at Alexander Skarsgård - a man who has influenced many a hot and heavy sex scene in many of my books - and think, yeah, I could do coffee with him, that's worrying.

So, what can I do to change this? To fix it? Well, as soon as my GP surgery starts taking appointments again I'll be giving the old HRT a go, that's a definite, but until that happens, I guess I'm just going to have to get creative, gain some much-needed inspiration from somewhere, probably involving Alexander Skarsgård, and think like the writer I used to be, and can be again. Make shit up. Whether I'm feeling it or not, I have to think of my characters, and to be honest, sometimes sex is necessary to drive the story forward, but having said that, I'm actually proud of the fact that I can write an entire story with minimal sex but have those characters steaming up the pages with insane sexual chemistry. Maybe, in the long run, this is just another lesson in my writing journey. Something else to add to that growing arsenal of advice and tips and stuff we just have to go through to grow and evolve as authors. Not a lot of sex in books isn't always a bad thing, right? I mean, I'm not an erotic romance author, although I have written an erotic romance trilogy - The Forbidden Series - in the past. 

I'm an author who just goes with the flow, takes whatever crazy idea is in my head at the time and weave a story out of it. And, funnily enough, just writing about this - because, remember, I said I've never talked about how the menopause has affected/is affecting me - is inspiring me to get back to the writing and embrace this change that, you know, might have always been coming anyway. I'm growing older, learning more, reading more, and I like that my style is taking little twists and turns, no matter how unwelcome I thought they were. Yeah. What a therapy session this post has been! 

Anyway, I'm kind of curious to know if the menopause has affected anyone else's writing, because it's not like it's something we women can avoid or forget about or pretend it isn't happening. It happens, whether you like it or not, and I don't like it. But, I'm learning to live with it. And my writing, well, that's just going to have to live with it, too. And to give it a kick start, I think it might be time for a little Skarsgård inspiration... 


Michelle x


Tuesday, 4 January 2022

Welcome to my writing world...

OK. Here we are, a handful of days into a brand a New Year, and I'm kicking off 2022 with a very different attitude, a much clearer focus, and a spanking new blog!

Turning The Page is going to be, I hope, something not just for me but for all my fellow writers and authors, especially those who are, like me, indie authors. Because the struggle is real, right?

Posts on this blog will take the form of, well, anything, really. Some will be diary posts, my own writing journal if you like as, 30+ books on, I continue to navigate the world of indie publishing. These posts may be nothing more than ramblings, they may sometimes contain something mildly useful to somebody else, I don't know, I'm kind of making this up as I go along. But one thing I do want this to be is a place where I can, hopefully, connect with others, be they authors, readers or fellow bloggers. Writing can be a lonely business. I'm trying to make it less so.

Anyway, before I begin any of that, I should probably tell you a little bit more about me.

My name is Michelle Roberts, but I write under the name Michelle Betham. My maiden name. I've also written one book, a psychological thriller/domestic drama called The Wife (published through One More Chapter) under the pseudonym M.L. Roberts, but that pen name will never see the light of day again. Pyschological thrillers are, for me, great to read but not so much fun to write. But, you know, I was willing to try anything once. Still am, to be honest.

Age-wise I'm 53 going on 25, love going to dance music festivals, and if I could have my life all over again I'd find the time to fit DJing in there somewhere. But, getting back to the writing...

I started out as an indie author back in 2011, when KDP was in its infancy, but it was always my dream to be "traditionally" published. So, after self-publishing a handful of books I started submitting to publishers and, to cut a long story short, I won a competition ran by One More Chapter (formerly Harper Impulse, a division of HarperCollins) in 2013 with my Lapland-set romance The First Christmas Without You and ended up publishing 6 books in total with them. My contract wasn't renewed after the publication of my final book with One More Chapter, The Wife. Was I upset? Yeah. A bit. Of course I was. But by that time, the world of social media was taking over everything, and quite honestly, I knew I couldn't compete with those authors out there who had You Tube channels, tens of thousands of followers on Twitter; a super-popular Instagram account, authors who knew how to market the hell out of their books. I'm completely and utterly crap at marketing, believe me, I suck at it.
Agents were also starting to come into play again, and I knew in my heart of hearts that the kind of books I wrote were never going to be taken on by an agent. I'd tried, when I was writing for One More Chapter, to write the kind of things I thought readers wanted to read, and what publishers needed to see from their authors, and I just wasn't enjoying it. I write in several different romance genres, having published everything from romcoms to dark romance to erotica, I kind of let my mood guide me and take it from there. And even though I knew I was letting go of a dream by deciding not to submit to agents or publishers again, I'm ultimately much happier now, back as an indie author. Traditional publishing, and all the stress that accompanies it, it just wasn't - isn't - for me. I never started writing to make money or to be famous, I write because it's all I've ever wanted to do. Simle as that. I've been scribbling down stories since I could pick up a pencil, and now I'm writing entire books, bringing characters to life; every day I sit at my desk and lose myself in these worlds that I've created. I'm very lucky to be able to do what I love. Very lucky.

Outside of writing I, of course, love to read. And I'll read anything. Any genre. I love them all. But my biggest influence has to be the late, great Jackie Collins. I loved her books, her characters, the escapism she created; big, bold stories that took you on a rollercoaster of a ride. I have a signed photo from Ms Collins herself, a personalised autograph, and it sits on my desk so I can look at it every day and be inspired to be the best writer I can be. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. During the pandemic my writing suffered, and I don't think I was alone in that. The inspiration and focus just wasn't there, but it's coming back. I'm getting there.

I also love music - I'm one of those authors who needs music playing when I write, some of my best ideas have been inspired by a song or a lyric, I can't write in silence. I can't do that.
I'm addicted to streaming services, I mean, who doesn't like a good binge-watch? Seriously, I struggle to think of a life without Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple+TV... is that sad? Maybe. But you never know when a TV show might also throw you that tiny glimmer of inspiration you've been looking for...

OK. I think I may have rambled on enough now. Hopefully that's given you some sort of an idea about who I am, but as time goes on I think you'll get a better grasp of that. I'm just someone who loves to write, and now I get to do that. I'm also immensely proud to be an indie author. We get some bad rap, at times, from people who seem to think - still - that being an indie author means we have no ambition or that we're just not good enough to get that publishing contract. No. Wrong. I had that publishing contract, and I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that my writing is more than good enough to gain another one, I just don't want that. I don't. The reasons why I don't want to go back there are numerous, and I might talk about it one day in another, separate post, but in the meantime, underestimate an indie author at your peril. There's an army of us out there, and we're ready to take on the world...


Michelle x

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