I have written four books and recently realized I’ve made consistent efforts to gain new readers for my last three, but I’ve pretty much ignored my first baby, and had to ask myself why. I’ve always reasoned that its genre is just too difficult to pinpoint, so who exactly is the market for my lonely little novella? Whenever you submit your book to a promotional site, you must provide its genre.
Believe is a story that deals with grief, spirituality, loss of faith, and forgiveness. I would say the strongest element is the spiritual aspect, but spirituality is often associated with religion. How many times have we heard someone say, “I consider myself spiritual, but not necessarily religious,” or something of that nature? If there wasn’t a close association between the two, why would someone feel the need to make such a statement?
So spiritual fiction and religious fiction are often lumped together, and the problem with that is many readers expect their religious fiction to follow very strict guidelines. Well, I’m telling you right now Believe has a few naughty words in it, so readers of religious fiction generally don’t appreciate that. I know because one reader said she was permanently removing the book from her Kindle because of the potty mouth language. (Okay, I’m making an assumption that she was expecting religious fiction—I don’t know that for a fact.) In any case, she was certainly entitled to those feelings.
But going back to genre placement, let’s scratch religious fiction, or even spiritual fiction because of its close association with religious fiction.
Then there’s women’s fiction or plain ol’ contemporary fiction, which I have used in the past for promotional purposes for lack of something more appropriate. However, contemporary fiction is so vague. And women’s fiction? It’s an okay choice for the story, but still not great.
By now you’re probably thinking, “Alright, enough already about the genres! We get it. You can’t figure out what your book is. Can we move on?”
So here’s the real truth about my reluctance about promoting this book. It has very little to do with the proper label and everything to do with its content and what it means to me. Every author has a certain amount of emotional attachment to each of her works, for varying reasons, but because this book was my way of working through the death of my daughter, I get very nervous about how it’s received by readers.
I’ll admit the writing wasn’t as polished as it hopefully is now. After all, it was my first work and as writers we all hope to improve our craft with each book. Not long after it was published, I ran a free promotion that resulted in several unfavorable reviews on Goodreads. After that, I was afraid to put it out there again.
All authors need to learn how to deal with negative feedback, especially first time authors, but because this book was so painfully personal, any criticism against the writing felt like invalidation—not only of my experience, but more importantly, my daughter’s. It’s quite ridiculous, really. It sounds like I’m saying the topic in and of itself should have exempted the book from judgment.
Subconsciously, that may have been what I thought, because as I went on to write my other books, I pretty much gave up on trying to put Believe in front of readers with any amount of oomph. I wanted people to read it, but at the same time I kinda didn’t. Low ratings and/or meh reviews of my other works weren't exactly fun, but they didn’t feel as personal. Not only do those stories have lighter themes, but with each book comes the acceptance that you won't please everyone.
I’m nearing the end of a three-day free run of Believe in which the number of downloads at the time of this writing is just over two thousand. And no, that doesn’t mean a whole lot because there are lots of people who download free books and never read them. Expecting fifty reads out of two thousand is being extremely optimistic. In any case, I do have a little bit of a sick feeling in my stomach, anticipating reader response. In a writing group I belong to, I once asked if anyone else still gets a little anxious when discovering a new review. A fellow author described it best when she said she does a little cringe with a one-eyed peek. Yep. Perfect depiction.
However, my skin has become a bit thicker since I first released Believe. There will inevitably be readers who won't like it, or it won't speak to them in any way, and that's okay. At the same time, occasionally that review comes in when it’s clear your reader just “got it.” They got exactly what it was you were trying to accomplish.
And that, my friend, makes all the fear and apprehension worthwhile. :)
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