More on: Support your communities. Support ours too.
I was interviewed by M. Paramita Lin for The Unpublishables. Really appreciated the questions! Wanted to highlight this particular one, and maybe talk about it some more.
You’ve done a lot of workshops and mentored quite a few romance writers. Can you tell us what the biggest misconception or mistake aspiring romance writers have and what they can do to address it?
That writing romance is easy. The classes I did to start the community were free, so we had a lot of writers coming in with this mindset. The classes are still free, but now I require anyone joining to read at least five books (one of mine, and four from other Filipino authors of romance) before the class starts, especially if they’ve never read romance in English by Filipino authors before. And then I talk to them about the books they read. Sometimes this conversation reveals that they don’t like the genre all that much, but it’s got a large readership and the class is free and maybe they’ll do this first before writing the book they really want to write. And I…tell them this is not how it works. The community can’t help them become successful at this if they don’t understand it, and may in fact dislike it. They really should just write what they want to write, and let us spend time and resources on people who are on the same page, have the same goals.
The first time I tried answering this question, I went a little long, haha. So this answer is an edited, nutshell version, but I wanted to add something that maybe needed its own blog post.
I know what I know because of the romance genre and its community. If I try something and it works, it will be because of the romance genre and its community–how I’ve understood what readers need, and the trust that led them to give me a chance.
I’ve done a lot of speaking, and panel appearances, and workshops in the past nine years. In many rooms out there it’s an endless discussion of why doesn’t something work, why isn’t it being read, why doesn’t it sell. I’ve attended meetings and helped mentor, suggested methods of access and distribution that worked for me and my genre, to boost readership for others. When it works, wonderful. If it works, it’s because of lessons learned from creators and audiences of romance, of teen fiction, of online fiction, of fanfic, of indie publishing. I’m a creator and audience in all of those, and they often don’t get credit for the creative, editorial, and publishing innovations they introduce. We’ll be a stepping stone, a thing someone studied with curiosity before taking what they needed.
If you’re here on my blog because you want publishing “success” advice but don’t write romance, here’s what I know can work: Focus on your book’s community. Think about the readers. Make things easy to access (whether it’s to buy or borrow or read free), and think about unexpected audiences.
If you need me, my community, my genre, our publishing methods specifically, then support us too. Support us first. Read our books, buy our books, go to our events, refer opportunities to us if you feel we have more experience or know the answers. If anything we’re doing works, it’s because of the time and effort it takes to do all of this, and the nerve it requires to take a risk and evaluate the results. We can’t teach that in an email, or even a workshop. Support the communities doing the work that you aspire to do, reaching audiences you also aim for. That’s everyone, not just us.