The Book Thingo podcast!

Jennifer-Hallock-Sydney-IASPR-2018

It was Kat’s “fault” that I ended up in Sydney. (Oh my, a “work trip” to a beautiful harbor city on the other side of the world, what a hardship!) While I was there, we were able to record a podcast chatting about historical romance, my Sugar Sun series, #UndressAndres, and more. Click on the image below to listen online, or stream Book Thingo on your favorite podcast service.

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If you would like to read my paper on “History Ever After: Fabricated Historical Chronotopes in Romance Genre Fiction” click on the following image. This page is where I talk about how and why Regency romance is deliberately artificial world—and why this is not necessarily a bad thing. But it can become a bad thing when perceived accuracy is used as a weapon against authors of historical romance outside this chronotope, particularly against authors of diverse books.

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The book we talk the most about on the podcast is Under the Sugar Sun. I followed the Regency model in creating my own chronotope of 20th century Philippines in which real political, social, and economic strife exists, but there is still room for a cross-cultural happily ever after. Hacienda Altarejos exists in a world of magical realism; the real world is just outside. By the way, if you own this ebook, please follow these instructions to update your version:

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Thank you for reading and listening!

A Sydneysider for a Week

#IASPR18 was eye-opening. There is nothing better than being with a room full of ridiculously smart people who believe that romance is important, intelligent, and beautiful.

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Check out the hashtag or look at Teach Me Tonight’s blog, which has summaries and links for each presentation. I gave my talk on “History Ever After: Fabricated Historical Chronotopes in Romance Genre Fiction,” in which I argued that the exclusiveness of the 19th-century British peerage chronotope—though fun when done well—can be harmful to the romance market as a whole, to the discipline of history, and particularly to authors of diverse books. Click on the image below for more:

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But what about Sydney you ask? How was the rest of the trip? It was amazing. I traveled light (carry-on only) so I didn’t bring my real camera. Crappy photos from my cheapo cell will have to do, which of course I posted on Instagram.

Before I sign off, here is the live tweet thread on Mina’s wonderful presentation for #romanceclass. Click on the image:

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Also, you should check out Book Thingo’s latest podcast, “All About Romance Lists.” (See what they did there?) It is amazing how much their discussion paralleled my own findings in “History Ever After,” and yet we had not talked to each other at all before they made the podcast and I wrote up my paper. Here’s the link to the podcast (click image):

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Now I have to get Sugar Moon ready…and I might have a few more surprises in store. Thanks for reading!

Discoverability: A Sneak Peek from the History Ever After Survey

(In preparation for my presentation, “History Ever After: Fabricated Historical Chronotopes in Romance Genre Fiction,” I created two surveys, one for readers of historical romance and one for those producing it. Now the results are in. Do you want to sneak a peek?

International Association for the Study of Popular Romance Sydney Think Globally Love Locally presentation by author Jennifer Hallock of Sugar Sun historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. History ever after.

I am not going to spoil the whole presentation now, but I will show you a little bit from the reader’s survey. Here were the questions asked:

International Association for the Study of Popular Romance Sydney Think Globally Love Locally presentation by author Jennifer Hallock of Sugar Sun historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. History ever after.

Question four is my topic of the day: discoverability. That’s the toughest nut to crack in today’s market so authors, listen up! Below are the options available to the respondents. (They also had a write-in option.)

International Association for the Study of Popular Romance Sydney Think Globally Love Locally presentation by author Jennifer Hallock of Sugar Sun historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. History ever after.

I wish I had a drum roll for the big reveal here, but since I don’t here goes…

International Association for the Study of Popular Romance Sydney Think Globally Love Locally presentation by author Jennifer Hallock of Sugar Sun historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. History ever after.

I know what you’re thinking: Social media recommendations won? Woot woot! I’m gonna throw promo around my favorite Facebook groups like graffiti! Well, hold on there, friend. Let me make an important disclaimer before you do. My survey link was distributed via social media, especially Facebook groups and, to a lesser extent, Twitter.

International Association for the Study of Popular Romance Sydney Think Globally Love Locally presentation by author Jennifer Hallock of Sugar Sun historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. History ever after.

It makes sense, then, that the survey respondents would take book recommendations via the very same channel that suggested the survey, right? So let’s not overvalue that response. But what can we learn from the results?

  1. As you might expect, book blogs do sell books. If you can get reviewed by several of these sites, especially the big ones, terrific! (It does not matter the grade they give you, believe it or not. I have heard both Sarah Wendell and RedHeaded Girl from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books say that—according to author feedback—the books with the biggest sales boosts might be those with the lowest-scoring reviews. Keep in mind that while the reviewer might not like bear-shifter-billionaire-alpha-hole-holiday-baby-surprise books, Jane the Reader might want to devour them like, well, a bear.
  2. Beyond book blogs, though, almost as many people find books through random browsing online. You can pay to promote on retail sites like Amazon, and how often your ad shows up depends on how much you bid for the spot. The real gold mine, though, is when a retailer promotes your book for free, especially in search results. To do this, you need to make friends with a nasty beast: the algorithm. How? Well, being a bestseller already is good. That’s helpful, right? To sell books you need to have sold books. Great, Jen. Thanks. Okay, how about this: a connection to another bestselling novel helps, too—those coveted “also bought” features. Outside of this survey, I have been tracking bestseller lists for three months, and I have noticed that sales on Amazon are strongly affected by our next marketing tool…
  3. Promotional newsletters like BookBub, Bargain Booksy, and others have changed the publishing industry. Initially, BookBub was a resource targeted at independent authors, but its tremendous success (millions of subscribers) meant that bricks and mortar publishers quickly got on board. While the big New York houses do not like to discount their books too close to publication date, they do use BookBub and others for their backlists. For example, Julie Garwood’s The Wedding, first published in 1996, was discounted to $1.99 this past week, advertised on BookBub on Tuesday, and now (on Thursday) it is still number 67 in the Kindle Store. That means it is on target to sell approximately 1500 copies today, according to Dave Chesson’s Kindlepreneur calculator. Before you rush to submit to BookBub, know that they do not accept everyone’s request for promotion. And, even if they do take your book deal, a spot in their newsletter is not cheap: from $66 to $4,000, depending on your genre, market (US or international), or book sale price. Is this worth it for an indie author? Maybe, after you have enough other books in a series to sell at full price to the new readers you attract.
  4. Speaking of newsletters, an author’s newsletter still has cache! (Did you know that you can sign up for mine here? Just checking.) In fact, author newsletters came in above promotional newsletters in the survey, but I put the paid ones first on this list because of their success in pushing sales. (By the way, I will be writing more about my bestseller tracking results after IASPR this summer.) Just keep emailing your readers—and do recommend the books that you enjoy reading, too, because people are listening. Read on…
  5. Fourteen people wrote in “recommendations by other authors.” This result could be compromised by the place I solicited for responses—two of which were big author pages—but I do think it is interesting that four percent of my respondents wrote in the very same idea (and that they felt it was distinct from other social media recommendations). So endorsements work. But you need to find an author with a big enough following to matter, and this is not always easy for debut authors without the support of a good agent or large publisher.
  6. Giveaways are popular in this survey, too, but I have a question about those: will entrants buy your book if they lose the giveaway? Anecdotal evidence from my friends says not necessarily, but I imagine that if your goal is to create name recognition, a giveaway on a site like Goodreads could work for you. I have no data to back this up, other than the relatively strong showing on this survey.
  7. Even digital people have a real life. The next response people gave was browsing in bookstores, superstores, grocery stores, libraries, and (yes!) yard sales. Obviously, this distribution channel favors print books; those who publish digital-only miss out. The deck is also stacked for traditional publishers who have distribution networks that reach into Walmart, Target, Barnes and Noble, and more.

That’s all for now. I am still analyzing the results of this survey, and these are just my first thoughts. Do remember that this is a survey for historical romance, and the results may have been different for readers of contemporary, erotic, inspirational, paranormal, or other romance subgenres. I will put this survey together with my other research to examine the most popular settings, plots, and characterizations in bestselling historical romance—the chronotopes—and see how flexible the market is. More to come!

[Background photo used in header taken by Jerzy Gorecki, used with permission under the Creative Commons CC0 Universal Public Domain Dedication 1.0 license.]

History Ever After: Sydney 2018

Love is global. One gift my writing has brought me is a connection with several awesome Australian reviewers, including Kat Mayo at Book Thingo and Dani St. Clair at Romancing the Social Sciences. (Check out these two awesome sites!)

I missed Kat at #RT16, but she told me about a different kind of romance conference that was happening in Sydney in June 2018: the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance’s “Think Globally, Love Locally?”

International Association for the Study of Popular Romance Sydney Think Globally Love Locally presentation by author Jennifer Hallock of Sugar Sun historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

But, whoa, academia. I chose to stop after my master’s degree and teach high school instead of university so that I could avoid the pressures of “publish or perish.” (And publish what I wanted to publish, i.e. romance.) But this conference! This looked cool, and I applied. Lo and behold, they accepted my presentation, “History Ever After: Fabricated Historical Chronotopes in Romance Genre Fiction.” Now I have to put it together.

Here is the gist of my investigation:

Over eighty percent of bestselling historical romance books published in the first half of 2018 were set in Britain, either during the 19th century or the medieval period. These two fabricated chronotopes are selectively accurate to history and narrowly focused on high ranks of the nobility—in other words, they are “escapism.” This presentation will consider what escapism means in this context, who it serves, and who it harms. While any reader can enjoy a good duke Regency every once in a while, the net impact of the most popular chronotopes may be to corrode our understanding of history, marginalize anyone writing from a wider palette of settings and characters, and exclude authors of color.

Just warning you, I am probably going to pick your brain in this process. I might be making a survey. I certainly will be talking to as many people as possible.

Goodreads International Association for the Study of Popular Romance Sydney Think Globally Love Locally presentation by author Jennifer Hallock of Sugar Sun historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

I especially need to crowd-source some book recommendations. If you know of historical romance books that may be of interest to this project, please add them to one of these two Goodreads lists:

For books outside of 19th century England (Regency/Victorian), Scotland, and the American West, click here.

For books (in any historical time period) that include political, military, or socio-economic conflict or complexity, click here.

Thank you for your help! You’ll be hearing from me.

[Background image of girl in white shirt by Jerzy Gorecki, used with permission under the Creative Commons CC0 Universal Public Domain Dedication 1.0 license. Image of the Sydney Opera House by J. W. C. Adam, used with permission under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.]