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Friday, May 11, 2012

Don't get Over-Exposed

By Lex Valentine

I spent last year recovering from and weaning myself from overexposure.  You see, my first couple years in this business I spent feeling driven to turn out more and more work. I had multiple releases in the same month with different publishers. I struggled to figure out how to do any promo and keep it fresh and relevant because I had sooo many releases.

And then I looked at my sales in months with multiple releases. What I discovered told me it was time to slow down. Like way down. My editors told me my work was still strong but despite their assertions I wondered if the readers weren't thinking I must be lacking in quality because I was turning out so much stuff in so short a time.

Perception is a big thing. I don't actually have to be turning out bad work for people to think that it must be bad because I had so many releases in a year, sometimes two in a month, once two in the same week. So I decided that multiple releases in the same month were not for me. Based on the few times it had happened to me in the past, I could see that sales on one of those books invariably suffered.  That’s when I started to wonder if fans assumed it wasn't a very good book because I’d put it out so quickly. And honestly, when it came to my sales, I think some books just got lost in my deluge of releases.

With a full-time, very demanding job, I live with a lot of stress and the pace I set for myself early in my career made it worse. When I crashed, I crashed hard and I had to take a good long look at what I was doing and whether I was helping my career or killing it by overexposing myself.

Initially, I didn’t like going a month without a release. I feared people would forget about me. Which is crazy. When I looked at it all logically I realized overexposure was more likely to turn people off me. When I allowed myself to take a step back and analyze whether putting out so many books in a year was really worth it, I discovered that I felt overwhelmed. And if I felt overwhelmed by my volume maybe my readers did too.

I realized I was doing too much. I couldn’t keep my promo dates straight without a calendar to tell me which book I was talking about and where. I had never ending edits and had to start calendaring when I got edits, when I sent them out, when I got them back…and I had to put a lot of time into planning promo so I wasn’t duplicating my efforts or wasting my advertising dollars. I was out of control and had to put on the brakes.

So I slowed down my frenetic pace of writing and promo. And having the time to build up a little suspense in my fan base over my next release has turned out to be a good thing. The buzz J. R. Ward builds among her readership between releases is amazing. Could she do this if she released so many books in a year that she had multiple releases in a month? No freaking way. Like Ward, I want readers to anticipate my next book and get a buzz going about it. I want them to throw a party when it does come out. And I want them to sigh with joy when they finally have their copy.

I'm not going to stop writing. If I happen to go through another driven phase, I'll just hold onto those manuscripts to help space out my releases. No more multiple releases in a single month. (Unless it's Christmas. Christmas shorts are one of those things that just have to come out in the holiday season no matter what!) In fact, no more releases every single month. I've decided that 4 or 5 in a year is my absolute maximum in order for me to concentrate on judicious promo of those books. This will make my advertising dollars have the biggest bang for the buck too. I won't be competing with myself for the time and money of readers. It's a win-win situation for me.

Will I be the next J.R. Ward. Not likely. But I will be able to spend time on building a buzz and a community of fans which is something I've always wanted to do but never had time for. Planning my career instead of letting the releases drive it, puts me in control. And I'm never, ever going to let overexposure happen to me again. I care too much about my writing and my readers for that. 

To find Lex on the web:   http://www.lexvalentine.com/


Lisa Kessler said...

Wow!!! You have been busy!!!

I'm glad you're able to step back and enjoy the releases you've got out there... :)

Great Blog!


Tricia Skinner said...

I found this entry refreshing. New writers like myself constantly read or hear that we must be as prolific as possible. But what I take fro your post is it's more than all right to slow down enough to enjoy what I'm doing. Thank you for sharing.