Reading Maggie’s blog about the unique backgrounds of individuals now writing romance novels caused me to think about writing as a career and how some authors are able to make a success of it for years and even decades, while others fall off the map. Think of all the authors that you loved who no longer have a current contract. (The ease of self- publishing eBooks has given me hope that they will be back.) Some are able to carve out a very comfortable and in a few cases, even wealthy, lifestyle, but then there are many others who have to keep their day jobs. Ability, commitment, hard work, and a bit of luck all have a hand in an author’s longevity. And I think one other element helps authors as well: a perception or aptitude to keep their books unique but familiar.
Falling in love with an author’s work is easy, but staying in love? Well, that just like being married. I’m not sure how many books it takes to inspire loyalty. And of course there are degrees. A fan checks out every book, and most likely buys it, a loyal fan buys every book, and then a true fan girl excuses any disappointment with the saying, “even a bad book by (insert name) is ten times better than what is out there now.”
It is not always the first book that fires our passion for the author’s work, but there is enough there to bring us back Then there is the book. You know what I am talking about. It is perfect, and you wouldn’t change a thing about it. You stand in awe of the writer’s talent and ability. So now you are a fan, and you buy the next book, and then the next one, and the next one until you are up to book seven or so. By this time you are well on your way of being a loyal fan totally in love, or you are not quite feeling the same love because you have figured out her formula and it’s always the same, or because in an effort to shake things up she has blindsided you with some crazy plot device that just did not work.
That is an author’s catch 22. They have to incorporate the items that made us a fan but to generate talk and keep most of us interested they also have to take risks. Twenty years ago, I couldn’t read enough of Linda Howard, Nora Roberts, Jayne Ann Krentz, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s books. Ten years ago Suzanne Brockmann’s books fascinated me , and five years ago Nalini Singh’s books captured my imagination . Over the years my love for their books has either grown, diminished or completely faded based on how fresh their books still feel. But like a marriage surviving the seven year itch, these authors have proven their longevity. How did they do it? They had the savvy ability to connect with readers with innovative plot devices, or characterization or world building.
Howard, Roberts, and Krentz all started their careers writing series books. I do remember that their books stood out from the others with their protective macho heroes, sassy heroines and the way there were able to evoke so much sexual tension and chemistry. And then all these authors branched out with different types of stories. Jayne Ann Krentz’s imagination took her into historicals, and futuristic in addition to her contemporary books. Nora Roberts continued to write series, but made a name for herself with her romantic suspense, and then her futuristic crime novels. Linda Howard took more and more risk writing her romantic suspense novels with her unique situations and types of characters. Susan Elizabeth Phillips has stayed on a more traditional route, but her books are so uniquely different from each other.
Did I think when I first picked up Susan Elizabeth Phillip’s Glitter Baby, that I would still be reading her books twenty years later? Not really. I knew I loved the book and I loved the humor but I had loved Judith Krantz’s Princess Daisy and Kathleen Gilles Seidel’s More Then You Dreamed, too.
Do I think these authors still take risks? Some of them, not so much, but now they have name recognition and comfort status. Others, I buy their book on the release date because they still delight me and write books that feel fresh.
Feel free to talk about authors that have proven longevity for you. Are they still risk takers? However, I would love to get your input on the current crop of newer authors. Whose books do you think you will still be reading twenty years from now? How has this author created her special niche? Does she have a proven track record yet of being innovative?
– Leigh Davis