The last day of February, I was exchanging texts with my best friend and discovered something shocking. We were texting about a writer’s group and I opened my sales data workbooks for the last 6 1/2 years (August 2012 – February 2019) and then I decided to do something I’d never done before, add them all together. The industry considers “free books” sold books, so keep that in mind when I tell you that I have “sold” more than 1 million books in 6 1/2 years.
I think I mentioned in an earlier post that my writing mentor says I’m a niche writer. If not, I have a writing mentor through my affiliation with one of the groups I’m in. He’s a traditionally published author that’s been at this a while. When I do talk to him, it’s usually about not writing crap, something he claims every writer does from time to time. We both are in agreement that if I didn’t fill a niche, I wouldn’t be even remotely successful.
What is that niche? I write “anti-romance” novels. His word, not mine. Even books that could have romance, don’t. Take Strachan and the Dysfunctional Chronicles. These could have romance in them and instead they have “real relationships.” Zeke and Nadine get along well, but they even as newly weds weren’t sneaking off for trysts. Zeke doesn’t tell Nadine she’s beautiful every day. He just expects her to know that he finds her beautiful. And she doesn’t tell him he’s hot all the time, she just expects him to know she thinks he’s sexy. They don’t exchange long lingering glances. And they are comfortable in their relationship. Neither feels the need to change it.
My mentor says this is the way a “real relationship works.” The first giddy weeks might be filled with long lingering glances and sweet nothings whispered in ears, but once you get past the adrenaline of the “new romance” it’s about burned dinners, conversations regarding crazy family members, and occasionally loud farts. It is “anti-romance,” because it is a real relationship. However much he hates my writing, and he does, he approves of my anti-romance writing.
We recently discussed the challenges of writing Oh My Wizard and Goddess Investigations. He warned me against falling down the romance rabbit hole. He said if you want your characters to have boyfriends, go for it, but don’t get caught up in the romance of it, because that isn’t what appeals to your readers and while, you could branch out, you’ll become a faceless name among a sea of other faceless names when you jump out of the anti-romance niche.
I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit since realizing I had surpassed this milestone. Hadena James the anti-romance novelist? I wasn’t sure I was okay with being a niche writer at first, but the more I thought of it the more I realized I liked it. It’s like a badge of honor. Welcome Hadena James who writes novels without love, sex, or all those things one expects from a book in this day and age. Especially since I’ve been told repeatedly by agents and publishing houses that if I want a contract, I’ll have to change this and change that because romance and sex sells.
Of those million books nearly 3/4s are D&R. A series where the main character is an asexual female. Doesn’t that prove that there are plenty of readers out there that want to buy books without romance and sex in them?
I can’t help but wonder, doesn’t this mean that the industry is missing a large chunk of readers, readers they are force feeding romance and sex to, simply because they firmly believe that is the only way to sell a book? Also, D&R continues to maintain a retention rate of more than 30% from book to book, which is fairly high for a series. Even after Flawless and Demonic dreams, it maintains a high retention rate. I had expected a massive drop, but didn’t see one. Again, doesn’t that prove that the niche I fill is a very underserved market?