I eyed her warily. Bea is one of my more outspoken heroines. "Maybe what he really means is to be entertaining," I said.
"If he means that, why didn't he say it?" This came from Molly. She was munching M&Ms, which she sorted by color to achieve the right psychic balance of energy from the candy. When I created her I had no idea people actually did that. The email I got when her book came out told me otherwise. Who knew?
"Let's talk about publishing," I suggested. "After all, his blog is about publishing."
"It's about being an agent, isn't it?" Dr. Jane Renard said. She had been chatting with my other 13 heroines and now turned to us.
"Nope. This isn't one of those. This is some guy in marketing or sales at a publisher."
Bea leaned back in the chair and shot me an incredulous look. "Marketing? How can a publishing house market themselves out of the mess the industry is in?"
I was starting to wonder if getting them all together was a good idea. After all, 3 of them are time travelers, 2 of them live on another planet, and the other ladies are 'people of strong opinions'. Just because I created them, that didn't mean their opinions all meshed. Au contraire. "Don't all industries evolve over time?"
Molly took a green M&M (harmony, stability) and popped it in her mouth. "Publishing isn't evolving. It's collapsing, isn't it? Look at Joe Konrath and the monkey wrench he threw into the works."
Jane laughed. "He did that, indeed." She said something in a guttural yet fluid tongue. My other characters and I stared at her blankly. "It's Rom. 'The kettle that lies face down cannot get much sunlight.' Publishers need to wake up and see what's happening in the world around them. They've been turning a blind eye to the change in their customer base."
"We're competing with movies, DVDs, downloads, and porn," Bea said, pushing away from the computer. Her long braid swung behind her as she swiveled to face us all. "When small publishers came out with 'hot' romance lines, people got accustomed to downloading their books. Then Amazon came along with the Kindle and it really hit the fan." Her eyes went to me. "What are you going to do? Are you going to stick with small publishers? Are you going to make a stab at a 'real publisher'?" Her voice dripped with sarcasm.
I answered, thinking carefully as I spoke. "I'm not sure. There's a part of me that wants to see my books on a shelf in a bookstore, so anybody can just walk in and buy one."
"The Browse Factor," someone murmured. "That's how most books are sold."
"But I've had a good run with smaller publishers." I ticked off points on my fingers. "I have a lot of input into cover art. Most of my covers are great with just a few clunkers." Hannah made a face and I sympathized with her. The cover for her book was lousy but despite that, it still sold well. "I get several release slots a year. I have great reviews. My backlist sells well."
"Thank God," Jessie muttered. "I was feeling lonely for a while."
"My editors are great," I continued, still thinking out loud. "I've had a couple who were a pain, but mainly they're excellent. Promotion is relatively simple. Most of it is done online, so it all fits in with my Paycheck Job."
"How much money are you making with your writing?" Molly asked as she chose a blue M&M (honesty, fidelity). "Is it worth it? We know you're not making enough as an author to live on." She downed the M&M. "Are you?"
"I never expected to. Most authors don't. How many authors do you know who don't have a regular full-time job, or a spouse who can cover the retirement benefits and medical expenses?" I looked around the room.
Bea laughed. "A handful. I'm one of them but only because I got a grant that let me quit my job. Without that, I would still be writing software documentation while I write mysteries at night." She grinned at me. "Like someone else I know. Well? Are you going to follow Konrath's example and give self-publishing a try? Do you believe what he says about making a bundle on the Kindle?"
I looked at my heroines, my creations, my imagination given life. "I may try it with some of my lesser-selling books." I glanced at Penelope, Lucinda, and Dora. They were watching me attentively. It was their books that didn't sell despite the awards they had won. Perhaps the public wasn't ready for time travel and reincarnation love stories. I wasn't ready to give up on them, though. "I think I'll give it a shot."
Jane shook her head. "You and everybody else."
Molly washed down her last M&M with a quick sip of bourbon-laced coffee. "If you do well, you should come back and report to this guy on his blog about your success."
I turned back to the computer and clicked the Close icon on my blog draft. "What if I don't do well?"
I looked over my shoulder at my heroines.
Hmm. Gone. All but one, sitting near the fireplace. Genny raised her wine glass in salute as I opened a new Word document on my screen.
I had a book to write.
J L Wilson is a Midwestern author who writes 'mysteries with a touch of romance … and romance with a touch of gray.’ She also writes time travel books and has a paranormal series set on another planet. You can find her here.