Writing and Designing a Successful Book

Writing and Designing a Successful Book

Yes it is 2020! That means I am revising all of my Author Essential books on writing, publishing, and marketing. I give these away to attendees in my free writing seminars I teach.

First up! Writing and Designing a Successful Book. I’m looking for beta-readers to let me know if I need to change or update anything.

Let me know if you’d like a PDF copy!

Game of Thrones

Erotica vs Romance in Amazon Categories

From the earliest days, romance has generally included even a faint concept of sexuality. In Pride and Prejudice, Lizzie’s younger sister, Lydia, runs off with Wickham to shack up together. Lydia enjoys the wild pleasure of having a guy of her own, without worrying too much about heading north to Gretna Green to get married without parental permission. Countless tales from the Odyssey to the story of Troy to the King Arthur saga involve characters being drawn passionately to each other.

Sure, some stories keep those scenes off the page. Some don’t even have a single kiss. Others allow kissing but only fully clothed. Old Hollywood rules mandated a character on a bed always keep one foot on the floor.

Fast forward to modern times.

Most romance novels now are expected to have a steamy scene or two. Heck, even thrillers like Da Vinci Code have their share of both violence and sex. They’re the “thrilling” parts of the story for many readers, male and female. It’s a commentary on modern society that for some readers the violence is quite fine but the consenting sexual scenes are considered “too mature” for younger readers.

So this brings us into the erotica discussion.

While Amazon doesn’t section off “too violent” books in their own area, and happily has the flaying scenes in Game of Thrones right in with other fantasy stories, for some reason they have a separate “Erotica” area for stories primarily about sex. This Erotica area is gated. That is, readers have to specifically say they’re willing to get search results intended for the 18-and-older set. Otherwise those results are filtered out.

If you really did write something which is solely a sex scene, and that’s its only purpose, then perhaps you don’t mind being in the Erotica category. You figure that is where people will go when wanting to find your story.

However, for most people writing a fantasy or science fiction or romance or thriller story, you absolutely do NOT want to be locked away in the Erotica category. To do so will lose your traffic and rankings, as large swaths of your potential reading public will no longer even see that you’re on Amazon. You won’t show up in search results. Never mind that people who are browsing your actual category – let’s say Romantic Suspense – won’t find you there.

Amazon Moves Your Book Without Your Consent

Here’s the big problem with this situation.

Amazon will move your book into Erotica WITHOUT TELLING YOU.

Maybe a user complains that they find a sex scene in your book. Somehow Amazon decides that your book needs to move. And they will relocate your book without telling you. Without even adjusting the categories you see on your KDP editing page. The only way you know is the next time you go to look at your book in the public Amazon listing, you’ll see it’s now in the erotica category.

And it’s probably lost a ton of traffic and sales as a result.

I want to say again that if your book actually IS erotica – if for example it’s a 10-page story solely about a shower scene between two college-age girls, then you probably don’t mind this categorization at all. That is what you wrote. But if what you wrote is a 200-page action-thriller involving car chases, gunfights, and tracking down suspects, and there’s just a normal 2-page sex scene at one point to build the characters’ relationships, then that does NOT count as erotica. That is a standard thriller storyline.

The erotica category in this case seriously hurts your sales.

How To Fix the Erotica Mis-Categorization Problem

The first thing to remember is to check your book entries on Amazon REGULARLY. Not just the KDP listing. The actual end-user page. Make sure your books are the way you want them to be. It’s a good time to check for typos in your listing, formatting issues, and to make sure your cover design is still current. You’d be surprised how quickly cover trends change.

Then, go into KDP and use the contact form. BE POLITE. The more friendly you are with the Amazon staff, the more likely you are to get good results.

Send them a link to your book. Gently point out that your book is a novel in the fantasy genre, a full 200 pages, and that it only has a short sex scene in furtherance of the plot line. That this does NOT qualify it as an erotica book. Remind them that many famous fantasy books (or whatever your genre is) also contain similar scenes. Ask them to please recategorize your book back to where it belongs.

This email to Amazon will take a few days to process, but it should do the trick.

Ask with any questions!

Cthulhu Book 4 Lisa Shea

Cthulhu Book 4 Cover

Bob and I attended Al Weem’s art show reception Sunday. It was in Providence immediately down the street from where Bob and I did our Cthulhu research a while back. Being there prodded me to get Cthulhu book 4 done! Let me know if you can read this short story (6k words) to give me feedback. Cover – Do you prefer left or right?

Cthulhu Book 4 Lisa Shea

Here are covers 1-3. This is the series I began on a dare. Someone told me, “a series absolutely must be in one genre only. It can’t cross genres.” I of course said, “Oh yeah??” and promptly began researching and writing this multi-genre short story series based on the works of H. P. Lovecraft. But as he was a white supremacist, I made the heroine a bisexual black woman .

Also, I’ve always been vastly intrigued that Amazon and other bookstores have main categories like “Mystery” and “Romance” – and “Sea Stories” is right up there as an equivalent main category. Sea stories?? So I always promised myself someday I’d write a sea story :).

A Time To Be Silent

A Time To Be Silent

I need readers to give me feedback! The 3rd (final) book in my novella trilogy is now complete!

A woman develops the ability to visually document past events. At first she and her team use this ability to explore historical events – the life of Jesus, how the pyramids were built. Events which will fascinate and educate our society.

But now they face a decision. Do they use the technique to prove to the world how politicians have been lying to them?

Would it even matter? If loyal followers had proof that a politician used a hate word, would they even blink their eyes?

A Time To Be Silent

Lumbee Native American

So thrilled! My narrator for my Lumbee Native American story is done with book one. It should be live shortly. This is based on my great-great-etc.-grandmother’s true-life experiences. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – book one is wholly FREE on Kindle. Give it a try! I’m working on book 4 in this series.

What are you up to today?