Saturday, January 5, 2019

As We Head Into 2019


Our topic this week isn’t actually “resolutions” (per our Google calendar), it’s whatever is on our mind. I guess for most of us in this time frame, it would be our plans for 2019, however, so here goes!

For 2019, my personal watch word is going to be ‘mindful’.

Yes, I do have a strategic plan and specific goals and I revised that in late December. (Learned to do strategic planning in my long career at NASA/JPL before becoming a fulltime author and the habit stuck with me.) I update my plan every December for the coming year, besides looking at it once a quarter to check on my progress.  I don’t do fabulous spreadsheets like Jeffe (because no one else can remotely approach her level of expertise!) and the longer I’ve been gone from the old day job, the more informal my strategic planning process has become.  Also much quicker to do!

The choice of one word as my theme, however, is to ask myself to focus on whether the activities I’m spending time on are really advancing what I’d said were my priorities for the year, and if not, to evaluate if I need to revise a goal to respond to a new development. OR to consider whether I’m simply indulging myself in too much time on social media and letting that soak up too much of my energy, for example! Yes, I connect with readers there but I also have a tendency to dive into rabbit holes of discussion on the current hot topic or research. I’ve also been a little too quick to say yes to too many things in the past few years as a fulltime author and ‘mindful’ reminds me to really think through the time commitment and opportunity cost (“if I do X, I won’t have time to do Y”). I’m getting better at not doing magical thinking that each day contains 48 hours of time to write and Do All The Things. Being mindful is a further enhancement. Look before I leap.

And of course very shortly after doing my plan and priorities I was unexpectedly invited to participate in a new scifi romance project. Plans are made to be changed, as they say! In this case, I pondered long and hard and decided the project didn’t fit with my established author brand in SFR, although it was lovely to be approached. I even tried out a few book concepts to see if my Muse took fire with going in a slightly new direction and….no. But it was a good reminder to be open to new possibilities and to stay flexible.

I’m sure there will be more changes ahead in the indie publishing world and I’ll have to adapt to those. I believe an author needs to stay nimble and adaptable. Being a successful author is a long game and takes time and fortitude to build a solid backlist and a readership.

I released seven books in 2018, all SFR, and hope to do the same this year but perhaps squeeze in one or two more titles. I’ve committed to my readers to write at least one of my ancient Egyptian paranormal romances this year, while continuing to add new adventures to my award winning, bestselling Badari Warrior  SFR series. We’re also doing the fourth Pets In Space anthology so I’ll be writing a new Sectors novella for that. (And the new project I mentioned above would have severely altered the overall plan, without knowing if my existing readers would follow me to the new shiny thing or if new readers found there would have enjoyed my backlog of other titles.)

I also have a fantasy world which I’m dying to write new stories for, but unfortunately I can only work on one book at a time, according to my Muse, and my writing speed works out to a book about every other month. A bit more if I avoid that social media black hole and buckle down on the writing!

Having chastised myself on overdoing social media, I do want to become more of an Instagram person in 2019. It’s not at the level of a goal, but more of a strong desire. I have an account but to date I’ve only done a few videos and shared pictures of Jake the Cat (always popular) and blingy earrings. 
Bookstagramming is so big now that I feel I need to try my hand at it.

One significant change for me is that USA Today shut down the Happy Ever After blog as of December 31st, where I wrote the SciFi Encounters column, focusing primarily on SFR. The loss of the HEA platform means more time for me to devote to writing novels. I always try to find the most positive spin, can you tell? But…not so fast, I’m exploring a couple of possibilities to keep my hand in on doing author interviews and special posts elsewhere. And of course I’m happy to be on the Amazing Stories Magazine blog and Love in Panels! (And here…)

A few trends I foresee for SFR in general in 2019 - the romance subgenre will continue to be popular with readers. I don’t see any loss of enthusiasm in the various places and groups where I interact with the community. I do see the traditional publishers moving away from romance (or calling it something else) now that indies are so dominant. I see some authors continuing to move back and forth between trad and indie. Some of us are firmly committed to being exclusively indie and it’s wonderful that there are so many opportunities now for getting books into the readers’ hands. Or on their e-readers. Or released as audiobooks, another huge and growing market.

Cyborgs will continue to be a popular trope for the SFR hero (and sometimes for the heroine as well. Starting to see a few female cyborgs.).

Dragons and dragon shifters are still popular but I think their momentum is slowing a bit. Some authors have been trying to switch to griffins but I haven’t seen that catch on in a major way.

There was something of a move to writing standard ‘Harlequin type’ plots for SFR novels in 2018 – the billionaire dragon shifter alien’s secret nanny’s baby kinds of things but again, I haven’t noticed a huge wave of best sellers along that line.

Colorful barbarians on various icy planets are still being written and enjoyed but that’s not a cutting edge trope any longer. Still fun, many good stories releasing every week for your reading enjoyment, just not the ‘new thing’.  Nothing wrong with that! Ruby Dixon published her first one in 2015, which really put energy into the concept. I wish I knew what was going to take its place as the HOT trope to write! Keep your eye on Ruby because she’s very good at identifying and writing the ‘next new thing’.

I’ve been seeing more prison planet tropes of late…

MMPREG (featuring male pregnancy) is a thriving SFR subgenre…

Reverse harem (RH) is still selling well for romance in general. I haven’t seen too many SFR RH novels as yet though – most seem to be in the fantasy or paranormal genres and are definitely a hit in the Kindle Unlimited market.

Diversity in the stories being told will continue to increase…as will the number of “own voices” authors…

Series continue to be the way to go, versus standalone novels. No cliffhangers, please. Or if you do write them, let us know up front in the book blurb. (My personal preference here - some authors swear their readers eat cliffhangers up and call for more. Myself as a reader=a hard NO and I'll probably never read you again. Shrug.)

Many authors who were early trail blazers in SFR and who had published traditionally are getting their rights back now to older novels and are updating and re-releasing those titles independently, which is exciting. I think many of the current readers have come to the genre in the last few years and may not have seen the older titles by popular authors (Susan Grant, Kim Knox et al) before. Of course a flood of those titles may temporarily depress the market a bit but romance readers are voracious consumers of books (yay!).

So, there you have it – what do you foresee coming in romance or scifi romance for 2019?

(Portions of this post appeared on the Amazing Stories Magazine blog on January 3, 2019.)