Wednesday, May 15, 2013

How to judge readers and alienate people.

Step one: write this blog post.  The post has since been deleted. But I'm still mad about it, and I still want to make a point here.

Kendall Grey feels that her art, her true passion, is urban fantasy, a genre that is apparently leagues above erotic romance in terms of merit and morality. I find this stance so patently absurd; I wrote some fairly successful urban fantasy, and no one seemed to feel those had any artistic merit. The most common question I faced from people who didn't "get" the genre or who thought it was some worthless fad was, "Isn't that just paranormal romance?" Because it wasn't enough. It was genre fiction, it wasn't smart, it wasn't worth reading.

Sounds kind of like what people like Kendall Grey would say about erotic romance.

I became so fed up with and hurt by people and their foolish misconceptions about what was and wasn't real writing. I loved my books. Writing them was fun, and I was proud of them. The added bonus was that I could support myself writing them. I didn't feel like I'd sold out because I wasn't writing literary fiction, because I was happy.

Those are the three magic ingredients to a successful writing career, by the way: Fun, Pride, and Money. In that order of importance.

Eventually, I burnt out on urban fantasy. It wasn't as fun for me anymore, and I wasn't excited about any of my urban fantasy ideas. So, I picked up a pen name and turned to a genre that was fun. The first book I wrote was Ravenous, a pirate-vampire-menage-a-trois. No, seriously. It was silly and fun and the prose got super purple. I had a blast. Did it make me ten thousand dollars in a week, like the book Kendall Grey only deigned to write? No. I don't think it's made ten thousand dollars since it came out years and years ago. But I'm still proud of it, and I still have good memories of writing it.

Next, I wrote Glass Slipper, a novella that I fell in love with from the first page. I could honestly write seven more stories just about Josephine and Julien and all the hot sex they could get up to as a married couple. You know, when you've been together a while and you can really let go? Yeah, they're doing something naughty right now, I'll bet. But I digress. I am proud of that novella, I had fun with it, and it made me a little money.

As I started out down the erotic romance path, I began to meet people who wrote in the genre, people whose paths I never really crossed before just because that's the nature of the business. They were all warm and funny and incredibly good at karaoke. The readers? They loved their genre without reservation. And everyone involved in that community? They weren't ashamed of what they wrote, read, and loved. Everyone was celebrating their love of reading and writing dirty books. I was writing something I really enjoyed it, I was proud of what I was doing, it wasn't making me the most money ever but hey, the other two made up for that. I felt like a writer again.

I recently had a book, well. Fail to meet my expectations for sales. I am devastated. For the past few weeks, I have been struggling in deep depression, doubting myself, doubting my career, wondering if all my failures are a sign that I should give up, that I am a terrible writer, that I am worthless. But do you know what keeps me going? The Boss. A story I wrote because it was fun, and I was having fun writing it. And I'm proud of it. I've never been so proud of anything I've ever written before (with the exception of a eulogy, but that's a downer and it was definitely not erotic romance because that would have been grossly inappropriate for the occasion). Is it making me money? Nah, I'm giving it away for free. Because I'm proud of it, and I want people to read this thing I did. And according to Kendall Grey? I'm doing it wrong:
"You can be noble and stick to your guns and say, 'Screw that! I’m gonna keep writing what’s in my heart no matter what!' Fine and groovy, as long as you accept that this guerilla mentality of badassery won’t pay your bills. More power to you for upholding your principles!"
I disagree fundamentally with anyone claiming writing anything will "pay your bills." See, I'm pursuing what I love- erotic romance- in a market that Kendall Grey seems to be claiming will make authors heaps of money, if only they compromise themselves. Here's a cold, hard fact: Kendall Grey made ten thousand in a week? I made ten thousand last year. Same "trashy smut" that's all the rage these days. And you know her failed UF series? Turns out that one of the most highly anticipated books of 2013 was Dead Ever After, an urban fantasy! What a fucking concept! It's almost as though no matter which genre an author writes in, some will succeed financially and some will fail!

I would be a liar if I said I didn't get bitter and envious when I see other authors, you know, paying their water bills or going to the dentist since 1998 or wearing clothes that don't have holes in them. At the end of the day, though, I'm a pretty happy person, and I consider myself a success. Because when I sit down to write, I'm not forcing myself to write something I don't care about, or actively hate. I'm not victimizing myself by choosing to write what I write. I don't walk away feeling cheap, dirty, or ashamed.

And another really cool thing about the path that I'm on? I'm meeting an amazing little group of weirdos just like me, but also just slightly different enough from me that we can all be interesting to each other. We can all bring something to the table.
"Once you’ve done your part to feed the reader machine, and you get paid ridiculous amounts of money for publicly shaming yourself and lowering your standards, you’ll be armed with the power to write what you want. Once you’ve built your readership, there’s a good chance many of your readers will follow you into your preferred, artsy-fartsy genre because they like you. Yes, you may have to compromise and write more sell-out books along the way to feed YOUR machine, but the beauty is that you can do BOTH and make it work."
I can't even get my head around a statement like this. When one of you guys draws me a flag of a fish with a severed arm in its mouth? That's amazing. When you tell me about how your husband passed away unexpectedly and my 50 Shades posts are the only thing you can laugh at? You have no idea how much that touches and baffles me. And then I see someone encouraging other writers to "feed the reader machine." This advice robs the struggling writer of the experience of connecting to their readers. A little over a year ago, I felt so incredibly alone and like such a failure. And now I feel like I have a success that, while unmeasurable in sales figures or dollar amounts, is truly greater than the money I was making before.

The reason Kendall Grey feels ashamed isn't because the genre is "trashy smut." The reason Kendall Grey feels ashamed is because she feels the erotic romance genre has no value or artistic merit, and she's prostituting herself to it. Because she apparently believes that erotic romance authors don't take the same amount of care and pride in their work as she did with her artistic urban fantasy. These are not problems with the genre. They're problems of an individual.

We would all like to experience the runaway success of a 50 Shades or a Harry Potter. But if that's why you're in the business, you're always going to be bitterly disappointed. There will always be a publishing company who doesn't want you. There will always be a book you work hard on that doesn't perform the way you want it to. And there will never be a rhyme or reason to why some books become insanely popular, while other books sell five copies. If the only way to make yourself feel better about your writing and your choices is to apologize for them and justify them with dollar figures... you're doing something very wrong. And if a part of that involves insulting readers and writers and tarring an incredibly diverse genre with a judgmental and narrow-minded brush? Then what are you even doing writing in that genre in the first place?

Erotic romance has plenty of detractors from the outside (and some from the inside). We don't have to be a Sunshine Sisterhood; that's a mentality I've complained about, myself. But we do at least owe the genre and the readers the respect of doing the best we can, and believing in our own work.

So to everyone aspiring to cash in on 50 Shades by dashing off a dirty book on your lunch hour: If you don't like erotic romance, then you shouldn't feel the need to grace the genre with your artistic presence. It won't suffer without you and the books you lower yourself to write.

56 comments:

  1. After reading Kendall Grey's post, I went and got the Kindle sample of her new book (Strings). The protagonist is a singer/bassist in a rock band, and she's struggling financially because her art is not appreciated (hmm). What then followed was really hilarious, because I've never seen so many different euphemisms for body parts and sex acts randomly thrown into a story. It reads like a giant FU to erotica, but it's so over the top that I actually enjoyed that little snippet, and am considering ponying up for the full book (only 99 cents!).

    Interestingly, the first book of her Just Breathe series is free on Kindle, so I grabbed it to see if it is any good. It gets good reviews, but it may just be that she had expectations for it that are just way too high.

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  2. There's this episode of Family Guy where Brian is all pissed off because his book didn't sell, so he tosses off a self-help book called "Wish it, Want it, Do it." This book is a huge success, and he eventually ends up on the Bill Maher show. Maher and Arianna Huffington are criticizing him for the vapidity of his book, and Brian is all, "But I did it to show how stupid these books are!" And Maher is like, "If you're gonna do something, own it."

    Kendall Grey should maybe watch that episode.

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    1. Also, you are such a good writer, Jenny, and you inspire me.

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    2. Ah great, now I have to fire up Netflix and watch that episode!

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  3. Hey Jen, my clothes are full of holes too! I'm often mistaken for a homeless person. I also made $10,000 last year (okay, it was $9thousandsomething... CANADIAN) and, yeah, living below the poverty line isn't always fun, but you know what is fun? Of course you do: WRITING SMUT EVERY DAY!

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    1. Yay, high-fives poverty people! My fiance and I made 10k combined, and I haven't gotten new clothes since junior year of high-school. (I've been graduated from college for almost two years now)

      Obviously we just haven't learned how to properly sell our souls yet, or else we'd be rolling in the dough.

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    2. If you want to be in poverty but still buy clothes, you need to live with your parent/s. That's how I exist.

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  4. I have never understood the "genre fiction is trashy, high literature is ART!" mentality. Much less the idea that erotic romance (or just plain, romanceless erotica) is somehow shameful or extra-trashy. Literature is literature. It doesn't matter how you choose to convey your dreams and thoughts, or your worldview. What matters is that you pour them onto a page and someone else is touched by it, even in the smallest way. That's what matters. That you're doing what you like, that you're writing what is true to yourself.

    She has no clue what she's saying. She has completely lost sight of what it means to be a writer.

    That woman has issues, Jen. And she's taking them out on innocent people like you and many of your readers. You shouldn't get upset by the things she says. They are literally not worth your time. Your time and writing talent are worth good money, and her angsty ragefest ain't worth either.

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    1. Same here. I just don't understand how literary is seen as so perfectly wonderful all the time and genre is trash. Some genre is amazing (Harry Potter is genre, and it's incredible), and some literary just draaaaaaags. I think there's this misconception that genre never has character development that helps drive the story, but rather has stick figures that just hold the place of "real" characters. Actually that's how a writing instructor put it in a class I dropped out of halfway through the first class last year (I've got no shame admitting that I decided to take a fiction-writing class to see if I could learn something new since I believe that it never hurts anyone to actively seek out new informations and tips no matter how professional they are).

      I think the best books have a balance. Experiences in the story can drive character development, and a character's development can fuel the story.

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    2. Yeah, I couldn't agree more. I have heard that the so-called deficiency of genre fiction is that each genre has an archetypical story that gets repeated ad nauseaum (and is therefore formulaic and uninspired), but I just don't think it's true. I think that each author has their own viewpoint, and only the "sellouts" write formulaic trash. The authors with real soul write works that are genuinely unique and, in my opinion, a lot more entertaining than literary fiction.

      You're very brave to just walk out and leave. I'd probably have put up with it while fuming on the inside. That's great advice, don't be ashamed of it; we should all be willing to embrace the possibility of learning something new.

      Other than that, I'm in total agreement.

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    3. I did a media degree, and the one lecture that stuck with me was when they were talking about story structure (okay, they meant for TV, but still) and they said no matter what format, or genre, there were seven stages to a successful storyline, whether the outcome was good or not. And then they spoke of equilibriums (which I was grateful for, since who knows if the new outcome is better than the old? You just need a constant at the end) but not once did they tell us that say, watching Buffy was worse than watching the latest melodrama, because both would stick to the template.

      Because of that, I'm firmly in the camp that the genre doesn't matter, the skill of the writer does. I will read anything, so long as it can capture my imagination, and I can see how the writer has followed that base structure. I know there were seven points to it, but I can't remember them all :( that sucks.

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  5. My book never got picked up by a publisher, so I put it online on Kindle and it has sold precisely 7 copies. But...two of them were to strangers, and one then commented to say how much they liked it! That makes me feel proud - I do it because I love it and I can't understand why people would force themselves to write something they hate. Sounds like a good way to kill your soul to me.

    There aren't any bad genres, either; there are bad writers and good writers, but no one genre can be bad by itself. How could it? There are too many different stories you could write within a genre.

    I've never really read any erotic books - I came to your blog because I started reading your 50 shades posts - but I am LOVING The Boss. This is at least partly because I love all the characters and reading about them makes me happy and I want to see how it all turns out :)

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    1. What's your book? I love supporting indie writers. Please share a link, a title, something.

      You can win a copy of mine: http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/52595

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    2. I'm currently writing one which is a blog: http://amylyall.blogspot.co.uk/ That's more set in the world we live in, but I also have a fantasy novel for sale on Kindle here: http://tinyurl.com/9up9538

      If you do take a look, let me know what you think. I'm seriously into constructive criticism :)

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  6. Have you ever read Bill Watterson's Commencement Speech? http://www.graduationwisdom.com/speeches/0025-watterson.htm

    I was looking for his quote about "there is no high art or low art, just art," but apparently he never directly said that. But what he does say is fairly in line with this post.

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  7. It's funny, I'm putting my first book up on my blog for people to comment on, and there is one commenter on there at the moment who keeps wanting to change things about my story. I'll be completely honest in saying I'm not exactly sure what genre it is, but it's written more for YA because that's mostly what I enjoy, and what I know (yeah, I know, YA gets a lot of crap too) but I think she's reading it with the mentality of 'the two main readers are in a romance and will get together at the end' (no) so she's telling me what won't work on that basis. Also, one of my narrators is depressed, and she keeps saying she knows that, but the character should be doing x,y and z (which a person who is depressed wouldn't do) and then she told me because a character repeated themselves, I was basically writing 50 shades again.

    How do you not alienate a reader after that?

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    1. And I know depression isn't a flaw by the way, but it's the state that the character is in when she's introduced in the storyline. I just got incredibly insulted at the 50 comparison. I mean, there are parallels because one character was raped at 13, but that character doesn't then use it as an excuse to beat other people up, it's more about how their friend helps them to change their mindset about what happened and to stop blaming themselves and start living for them, and no one else. Hence why I don't have a set genre for it.

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    2. Man, I have no idea how to respond to someone like that without blowing a rage gasket. =\

      Maybe just a neutral "Thanks for your comments; I'll take them under advisement." ?

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    3. I took a few days, then I referenced a book similar to mine, pulled a phrase that was repeated in much the same way mine was and said there was a difference between a catchphrase and two people repeating the same conversation for three books.

      Although two of my characters are in a terrible relationship and they have the same argument over and over, but what terrible relationship doesn't? Eventually, one of them cuts the ties, and that's the other big difference with 50. But still ... yeah, the rage gasket happened off-blog.

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  8. I enjoyed the post, and I have to admire your attitude and ethic. You're kind of a hero, you know?

    I'm at a point where I'm still struggling to find what I want to write, what I LOVE to write, but when I find it, you know I'll be sticking with it until the bitter end. Why would I do otherwise? This is something I'm doing in what little free time I have since I have a full-time job. One of its purposes is to help me vent, to relax (I know, foolish me). Why in the heck would I stress myself out by not writing what I love? I don't think I even have it in me, this ability to be some kind of imposter and sneakily sell targeted, deliberate crap to line my pockets with ducats, laughing all the while.

    Whatever my writing love is, knowing my taste in books and TV/movies, it will be deeply ensconced in the SpecFic ghetto, so I don't expect to be lauded as a genius and sell billions of copies to everyone and their cats (dogs don't read, they get audiobooks). I'm not going to be the writing equivalent of Bill and Ted, bringing peace across the universe. For one thing, I haven't traveled through time yet.

    Sorry, I'm rambling. Side effect of breaking out of my block, I think.

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  9. Argh genre snobbery at its worse.

    I mean, I don't particularly care for erotic romance and I love urban fantasy - but that hardly translates to erotic romance being drek and urban fantasy high art - it's simple taste. Her rants are snobbery and - I dare say - more than a little prudery

    Amen to everything you say

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  10. So apparently there are actual subgenres in literature besides whatever Jane Austen did, ChickLit, Vampires, and stuff to masturbate to. Who knew? And if I want to write down a story, I actually have to know which of these genres my story falls into? Hm. I need to go google "Urban Fantasy" now.

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  11. I am my own worst critic. I have had a great idea in my head for more than a decade that I just cannot seem to get right on paper. But my latest attempt? I've written 41 pages. I took a break to work on editing something for a friend. Then I went back and read 21 of those pages and for the first time, despite a couple wording edits, I loved it. I think it's nearly perfect. And I'm going to finish it. It will sell and make money or it won't. I can't control that. But I will still be proud of myself.

    I don't care about genre. I care if a book is written well and has good story. Period.

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  12. If you don't like erotic fiction (or...insert genre), then you shouldn't be writing erotic fiction. It's going to be fairly obvious to the majority of your readers... as will the fact that you probably don't understand the genre.


    I think it's safe to say that _you_, Jenn, understand and enjoy it. __REEEAAALLLYYYYY enjoy it. __ And that makes all the difference.
    A reader can tell when a writer is selling a story, and when she is sharing it. And I don't mean $.

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  13. "Feed the reader machine...." You know the first person who came to mind with this? James Patterson. I used to enjoy his books, especially the Women's Murder Club... until it became a TV show. The quality of his work is, how should I put this, like shopping at Wal-mart. Chapters that are literally a page or two long... stories that are clearly written to be adapted into TV shows... and how many books has he published? I say published, not written, because how many books is he putting out nowadays that he has actually written, on his own, without someone else? But, people eat them up, still. They still check them out from the library, they still buy them, and he is still popular. More power to him, I guess. I've moved on to more interesting reads, personally. Same goes for Steel, and other authors that seem to churn out a new book every 3 months. Yeah, it's great, you have a new book from your favorite author every 3 months... and then you realize, hey, this story is pretty much EXACTLY the same, just with different names! I'm pretty sure a lot of these authors are now using outlines, repeatedly, and just changing the bare minimum to call it a new story.

    I have several of your books. I had no idea you had started writing under a new name, and were writing in a new genre. I have to say, I am EXCITED to read the new stuff. Why? Because I subjected myself to 50 Shades and found it HORRIBLE. Then I read A. N. Roquelaure Beauty series, figuring Ann Rice would surely know how to write erotic romance that is better than this crap, and while it was... different, it was still more captivating than 50 Shades of crap.

    People should write what they enjoy. Not what they think someone else wants them to write. I agree with you whole-heartedly on that. Believe it or not, your critique of 50 Shades was helpful to me, because I'd love to write something, and have something started already. Your commentary about her glaring mistakes will make me more cautious in my own writing. Heaven forbid I end up with a tie that "regards me shrewdly" and looks like RPattz. :)

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  14. I am now and forever your fan girl. I write erotica because I love it. And I'd never, ever shit on my readers. I love each and every one of them like the special snowflake they are.

    Commercial success would be awesome, my car really needs new brakes...but just being able to say that I'm published, that I finish what I start, and that I have a small following of people who email me and ask for the next book? Shit man, what else can I really ask for?

    I find Grey to be offensive, appalling, and I think her karma is about to turn around in a really bad direction. Never, ever make fun of or treat your fans badly. They don't owe you shit. With all the free books and bazillions of authors out there, you're lucky as a writer to get any attention at all. To be successful to the tune of 10K in 2 weeks? Your ass should be giving out free mani/pedis with happy endings. ;)

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    1. She's gonna need that 10k to live off of once her cash cows dry up and fall dead.

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  15. I'm sorry you found yourself exposed to such an upsetting-sounding post. I'm here too late to read the original, but:

    I don't understand authors who slag one kind of book and insist that something else is artistically "better." We all face the same struggles with creating characters, world-building, plotting without holes, and turning that vivid head story into a page story, no matter what kind of book we're writing. And we should respect that from all authors, of all kinds of books. We all think we're making an artistic endeavor -- because we are.

    I'm not saying we all need to join the "Be Nice" club -- there are certainly bad books out there that deserve bad reviews -- but we need to state firmly that there are very good books, with very good writing and very deep stories, in all genres. And sadly, sales don't always reflect the "quality" of a book. There's so much luck involved in what happens to catch on at a given moment. So while one's talent and ability to feed the reader machine are surely part of the equation, they aren't all of it.

    We could all join James Frey's book factory or sign up to be Babysitters Club ghostwriters (or whatever the current equivalent is) if we just wanted to feed the reader machine. But there's something to be said for writing our own works, from our own hearts. Those are the stories that have heart, and soul. And one of them may yet make $10,000 in a week. We'll never know unless we keep writing, and encouraging each other.

    So hugs, Jenny. I enjoy both your writing and your blog posts.

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    1. Awww, don't say that, the BSC was my childhood.

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  16. Ah snobbery... Don't you just love people who know everyone better, because they've done it all and can do it all better than you? I can't even.... Sigh.

    When I first started College, oh so many years ago, I wanted to be a writer, so I chose a Litterature Major, with some pshychology classes for fun. In the actual Litterature classes, we were being lectured on to the fact that being in Lit studies made us part of the Elite, that we were better than everyone else and what was "Real" lit and was what "trashy/commercial" books. It infuriated me to no end. I had so many fights with my teachers in the middle of class. I couldn't believe that rubbish.

    And on the other side, in my regular French (I'm French Canadian) classes we had to read the Harry Potter books....

    So yes, I happily dropped out of that major, changed for Cinema / Script-writing, got bored of that too, ended up working in IT Customer Service, completing a Translating Degree and writing bad fanfiction. I am extremely happy and would never want to be part of a group/genre that refers to itself as "Elite." F that so much.

    Btw, Jen you rock so f-much, I gotta catch up on the Boss and "buy" it ;)

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    1. I wonder if you either had the same instructor I did for a lit class (she panned genre fiction so hard I literally walked out in the middle of the first class), or if this hatred of genre fiction across the board if just a common thing on college and university classes.

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    2. Hmmm.... I adored my college Lit professor. Don't recall any 'elitism.' (It was the '70s, and a small school, if that made the differenc). I was an art major, but decided to take a course in Shakespear. Loved the professor's approach so much I took a couple more of his classes - including one on writing. He was obsessed with word usage. The words used to convey ideas/stories are as important as the ideas themselves.
      What I learned in college was to pay attention to words, negative spaces and anything slightly out of focus.
      And to question everything.



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  17. Read the excerpt on my kindle. Reminded me of those kids in high school who were trying too hard to be hardcore and non-conforming.

    The disclaimer/warning on amazon is just insulting all around (especially in light of her blog post.) If you don't like this you're a giant prude who just can't handle the author's extreme darkity darkness (reminded me of Laurell K. Hamilton's "Dear Negative Reader"), but at the same time if you do actually like the book, you are liking shallow characters and dumb plots. Just can't win.

    Some of her post (or maybe all, I didn't see the original myself) can be found here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/596748056

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  18. I love you, Jenny and I especially love you for that post?

    Of, course, like everyone I dream of becoming a super-famous author who'll get to see her books on the New York Times' best selling list and turn into movies/tv shows, and all of that from my vacation villa in California/Paris or my huge penthouse with a view toward Central Park. But I won't sacrifice my integrity to do that. I would prefer to be broke and living in a single-room apartment, in some dangerous neighborhood with 2 roommates, but still write what I love.

    And frankly, I love erotic romances and I'd love to write at least one, but I would prefer to be better known for YA urban fantasy books. That is in no way to say I wouldn't own the hell out of my erotic romance book(s) - well, maybe except to my parents, but that doesn't count. :D

    And I hate snobbish people, who are all like "this isn't literature." F u, bitch, I like it, no one's forcing you to read it. Overall, I hate people who are just selling out and on top of it, are obnoxious about it. Everyone should read and write whatever they enjoy, even if it isn't Jane Austen (it doesn't necessarily make it worse) and it doesn't bring you 10 grand in two weeks. =)h

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  19. We all love you Jen. I''m thrilled that you are proud of The Boss because you know why? It's DAMN good and the fact that you enjoyed writing it shows in every chapter.

    It's all about doing what you love and what keeps you happy. I have a friend who is a singer. She's not looking for a big name recording contract. She get's gigs here and there and makes enough and she keeps on because she loves it and her fans love her. She knows not all of her songs are going to be 'hits' or what have you, it just inspires her to write the next one.

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  20. I have to admit that erotica and romance are not my cup of tea, which is why I haven't read any of Jenny's books. I understand that there are some people who enjoy them, and I don't look down on them for it.

    I personally enjoy writing, and would love to figure out how to get published. The trouble is is that as I get older, I seem to not have as many ideas as I did when I was younger. Once I do have one I really enjoy writing, it's just hard to know what to write about. I have considered trying to write something I don't like just to see if it would sell, but I'm kinda meh about that.

    I don't see going into writing full time anyway, but as more of a side thing (For now I just want a stable job that pays the rent each month, THEN I'll think about following dreams.)

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  21. Some people feel they need to compromise themselves to become a success but really what is money without loving (or even liking) who you HAVE to be?

    Jen - you do you. I love your writing and am happy to say I bought one of your books with cash money to show I appreciate your work and believe you should be able to support yourself.

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    1. Some people consider financial earnings to be success and some consider enjoying the process and finished product to be a success. Neither is wrong unless someone decides that their way is the one and only correct way. Jenny says aim for what you want while Kendall dumps on those who don't "feed the machine." If you want to feed that machine, fine, whatever, but don't trash the writers who write what they love even if it's not likely to be a best-seller. Kendall is just plain disrespectful to everyone.

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  22. Boy oh boy oh BOY!!! I just had an odd and only slightly disturbing mental image of you "feeding your reader machine". *snickers like a 12 year old upon hearing the word "sex"* Anyway, my depravity aside. Is it just me or were some of the world's greatest works totally about sex? I mean toss a dart at the Bard's work and guess what you find? Folks gettin their nookie on. Do you think he was worried about whether or not it would pay the bills or that people would climb their high horses and call it smut? Obviously not. It seems to me that if you're writing only to pay your bills then you're likely to end up hating it and burning out. It is incredibly condescending to tell another author to write something they really don't want to write just to earn money and the security to then write whatever their pea-pickin lil heart desires. Some people just flat out suck.

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  23. If you don't love your writing - your readers won't. And you, Jenny, clearly love your writing; and I'm here to tell you 100 000 page views speak the truth. When Neil Gaiman was faced with a derogatory-type question regarding FSOG, his reply increased my respect for him.
    "You should read what you enjoy reading."
    I'm touched by your statement that you're baffled about how your 50 Shades posts got one reader through a dreadful bereavement; you underestimate yourself. You have no idea how many difficult days I get through knowing it's the 15th/30th and I will have a chapter of "The Boss" to look forward to.
    Your art is YOUR art, and you craft it as you go; and we love it.

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  24. I started reading your blog because of your excellent FSOG posts, because I hated that book so much and was so annoyed that people I liked thought it was great and sexy. But I kept reading your blog because you have so many other great things to say and then I started getting your books as well and I enjoy them. I mostly read sci-fi and fantasy but I read a lot of other genres as well and I enjoy a good romance, especially if it's like yours where the women are allowed to enjoy themselves and have some control over things. What was my point? Um, just keep doing what you're doing and ignore losers who denigrate you, your chosen genre, or your readership.

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  25. What Kendall really doesn't seem to understand is that you can write for the masses and still fail. You can write what you love for yourself (as Erika claims to have, and since she gets a hardon for Chedward, I think she did), and end up one of the richest writers in the history of the world. To some extent what will be popular is an anomaly. Wonderfully written books of all sorts fail to catch on while trash of all sorts becomes smash successes. In her patronizing post she shows that she doesn't understand this.

    Unfortunately for her, she's shown her own fans that she thinks of them as nothing more than salivating dogs who will follow her when she switches from giving them steak to giving them salad. Some people love salad. Some don't. But she expects them to follow because they love her, they really love her! She also clearly doesn't think that readers are capable of liking some of what a author writes while not caring for other books by the same author. If they like one book, they are obligated to love the rest.

    A little humility would have served her well here. "I started out writing X genre to build a fan base, and I hope those who love what I've done so far will give my new work in a different genre a shot," would have both been honest about what she's doing while also removing the finger snap and her "Her, doggy!" treatment of her fans.

    I have not read any of her work, and now I don't care to. While I can usually separate my enjoyment of a piece from its maker, I will not put money into a business (I see each writer as their own business) that holds such contempt for those who've supported them to date or who mistreat those who work with/for them (whether this is a writer treating their editors as if the editors owe them something or WalMart effectively ignoring dangerous factory conditions while paying stateside employees poverty wages). Treat those who work with or for you with respect and don't treat your buyers/fans like dogs, or you won't get a dime from me.

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  26. This is really funny to me, because I seem to have the exact opposite relationship to erotic romance that Kendall does: I can't not write it. I keep trying to write other things, and then people end up f***ing each other. I was thinking it would be better in some ways (like, you know, my mom could read my books) if I could write something NOT dirty, but so far... no dice. And I think that only bothers me because I must share the prudish and lame idea that there's something wrong with that. So, maybe this post is my wake-up call. Nothing wrong with writing sexy if that's what you like to do. Just get over it and find the people who like to read it.

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  27. "Once you’ve built your readership, there’s a good chance many of your readers will follow you into your preferred, artsy-fartsy genre because they like you. "

    I won't list the authors I've stopped buying/reading over time because I didn't like the way their writing changed over time.

    I'm no expert in writing, but I am a consumer. I don't buy books solely because of the name on the cover. I don't go see every movie with X actor in them either. They have to interest me. I'll give an author a couple of books before I stop reading their stuff, but if a couple of books aren't enjoyable, I spend my money elsewhere after that. I'm not concerned with genre, I'll read pretty much anything as long as I enjoy the writing style. I

    Treating the target audience like some kind of machine to be fed is a really crappy attitude in my opinion.

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    Replies
    1. JK Rowling is huge proof of this. Most Harry Potter lovers hate the casual vacancy, and hate her change in genre. But kudos to Rowling, she wrote the story she wanted, and she shared it in case others loved it too, but whether they did or not, she never wanted to detract from Harry.

      Regardless, she didn't have the attitude of 'the casual vacancy is better' but 'this is written for me. Yes it's different, no it probably won't sell as well, but that's not the point.' I guess you could argue she wrote Harry in order to do what Kendall Grey is talking about, and maybe she did, but at least she had the grace not to mention it.

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  28. Hopping in without reading the above comments (I know, for shame! Sorry guys!!) But just had to let Jenny know that reading your Buffy/SOG recaps and blog posts are something that has been keeping me going during my ridiculously intense grad school. When I'm overtired and stressed because I have a report due in two days and have no idea how to score a client's test and I see that you have a new blog post up, sometimes it feels like the universe has got my back. Which is a totally rare feeling for me nowadays. Also, the Boss is making me rediscover my teenage love of erotic romance and making me remember that reading can actually be fun and not a horrible chore. In any case, keep it up, Trout! We love you!

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  29. I have a complicated relationship with this idea. I'm a freelance artist, most of my friends are artists. It's generally accepted that what we do will never make us rich, even though we love it. Artists are not hugely appreciated in society and a lot of us work in niche segments of the market that are sniffed down upon even by other artists. It's not "serious high brow art" like painting or sculpture, and it's not fancy design work like Mad Men. We do design work, but it's flash-ads for websites or simple illustration. Yes, in a sense we're shilling our talents to pay the bills...but so what?

    Everyone takes jobs with the intention of paying the bills, even if they don't like the job itself. No one, not a single one of us, refers to these jobs as "selling out" or ever thinks less of fellow artists for taking the work. No one talks about turning down work like it's "principles" or some ephermeral self-important sense of being the lone guerilla artist. No one talks about accepting a stupid job (and illustrating yogurt cups IS stupid) as if you are "publicly shaming yourself" or "lowering your standards." You're not "compromising yourself." "Compromising yourself" is what happens when you start accepting or submitting work for the KKK.

    Her attitude (and I wasn't able to read the original post, so sprinkle this response with grains of salt) seems to be to make a Big Fucking Deal out of "feeding the machine," and that's where my main problem is. We all know that sometimes you just have to be a cog for a little while so that you can get some of that sweet sweet rent money, but at the end of the day you go back to doing what you love. Because you love it.

    Her quotes also make it sound like "well the only reason my REAL art isn't making me money is because this other thing is really popular right now." That's not how it works. This is not a zero sum game. If all the erotica dried up tomorrow and the existant copies vanished in a puff of flavored body glitter, that would not mean those readers would decide to seek out urban fantasy. She might make a few bucks cashing in on the current trend, and I don't think less of anyone for doing that. I DO think less of her for making a public rant about how she hates doing it but what can a helpless little writer do but feed the machine, just know that when she writes these things she doesn't really mean it.

    Way to be a petty, pretentious twit. If writing outside of your preferred genre offends you so much, go work in retail. Then you don't have to write anything.

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    Replies
    1. If it were the case, I'd be a huge sell out. I work in a McDonald's and I'm wheat intolerant and had my gallbladder removed at 23. But I often refer to my job in the above way, slog my guts out, come home and am surrounded by my characters and their world. It's not a brilliant trade off but like you said, it pays the bills.

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    2. I got lucky in that my "day job" is still very much in my field, so no matter what I do I'm always drawing comics. A lot of the people I know learned Flash because it's the hot thing to know and corporations will pay a bundle for really fast Flash ad turnarounds. I've even considered doing it myself (although the program is just MYSTIFYING to me). No one ever thought, "well, Jane is clearly just giving up on her personal art to do this sell-out work."

      Only shitty people would think that.

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  30. I originally came to your blog for the 50 Shades recaps. I'm into mysteries and science fiction for the most part-- I don't think I've read any erotic romance since high school, and I'm pretty sure I've never bought any before. But The Boss was so awesome I went and bought a bunch of your other books too. They're fun and I enjoyed reading them. You absolutely should be proud of them!

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  31. I think I've outgrown my erotic romance era. The older I am getting, the pickier I am becoming. Anyway, whatever that person said is dumb.
    It's like she's setting people up to feel bad for themselves.
    I write fanfiction, and yes, I like to get reviews and I get bummed out when a chapter or story that I put so much thought into get's almost no reviews, yet I see stories that at least to me seem a lot more amateurish and cheesy than mine get a whole lot of praise. But then again, cheesy might be in, and I cannot make myself write something like that. I have flirted w/ the idea, but I cannot even start to imagine how I would go about writing something so unlike me.
    For example, I am a huge vampire fan, but I, for the life of me could never get into Twilight. It had everything I don't like, an annoying, weak female protagonist and an annoying really "good" guy. I like more morally ambiguous characters, so when I write, that's what I write, even though I am almost certain that I will not become rich and famous. I like reading, and I wish there were more books out there that had stronger female characters than didn't fall in the "bitch" category, and more anti heroes that get the job done, regardless of how dirty their hands get.
    In general, I don't care for mushy romance, or characters w/ a strong sense of justice, or really good guys.
    I want to read about characters that act more like real people, so that's what I try to write, regardless of whether it will make me money or not. In the end, I know that writing, drawing may not make me rich, but I want to do it and if I make a little money on the side, that's cool, if I don't, well I'll still be happy if even one person was enjoying what I wrote.

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  33. Meh. Ever since I enjoyed DeviantART, I started to find a new perspective on these things. Mind, I don't intend to make a living out of my art, I mostly do it as a hobby, so it's unlikely I'll find myself conflicted over whether to draw/sculpt what others like and gain more money or what I like and make less. But you know what I envy now? Not those people who make a ton of money (well, those a little too), but those fic authors with fifty or a hundred fans who draw fanart for them, who get hooked having conversations about what's going to happen next, who hold request drawing streams and have a blast chatting about the work and other stuff. If a work of mine gave me those, I would be fulfilled even if I had to find some other way to earn money.

    - Nana

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Say some stuff! If you can't think of anything to say, leave a link to a cute dog picture. I'm easy.