Experimenting With Books: How Do We Get It “Just Right?”
by Alicia Quigley
Thank you for giving me a chance to be a guest blogger at Susana’s Parlour again!
Today I want to talk a bit about experimenting with our work, and how that is a big part of where I am in my writing. I started writing Regency romances almost twenty years ago, but it was just so hard in those days to get published that although I had a few houses take a second look, I never got a book contracted. So, when I decided that the indie author route was interesting, I had quite a few manuscripts to work with. But, they were kind of dated. They needed some rework, and one of the questions I had was whether I wanted to do sweet traditionals, or handle sex in the more modern “pull up a chair next to the bed and get some popcorn” kind of way. In the end, the answer was “both” as I mentioned in my previous guest post.
What I’ve learned from that experiment so far is that the plot and the characters seem to dictate which stories will sell best in which format. So, in the Bluestocking series, which begins with The Secret Bluestocking (Traditional) and A Lady of Passion (After Dark), and continues with The Yuletide Countess (Traditional, no After Dark version) and most recently An Honest Deception (Traditional)/An Indecent Charade (After Dark) the sweet traditional version of the book has outsold the more modern one. These stories are all driven by the heroine, and her need for independence as well as love and the financial security that marriage was the only real provider of for women in the early 19th century. However, A Collector’s Item (After Dark) far outsold That Infamous Pearl (Traditional) in the first book of the Arlingbys series, which will all include a little suspense or intrigue as well as romance. As a result, there will probably not be a Traditional version of the second book, The Contraband Courtship, which I expect to release in the first half of June. It seems that romantic intrigue/suspense is a lot more interesting to readers when the sexual tension is overt.
Right now, I’m interested in whether there is a “just right” length for a romance as well. In December, I released my first novella, The Yuletide Countess, which was the #1 Historical Fiction book on Amazon in the US and UK for about a week, and a top seller for most of December and January. I wonder if this was related to the length, or just enthusiasm for Christmas-themed books. It definitely seems that shorter format works are growing more and more popular, especially in e-books. This makes sense for a lot of reasons – costs to produce and publish aren’t affected by length in e-books, and readers may find novellas more user-friendly if they are taking their e-reader on a road trip or just want something quick and easy to read on the airplane. They can also be priced well, which gets them a lot of promotion on sites that feature low cost books.
We received some feedback that An Indecent Charade was too long and slow, and that the troubles the heroine’s deceased husband and living male relatives cause her in the story detracted from the love element with the hero. So, as an experiment, we decided to do a third treatment of this book, which is titled Lady Morgan’s Revenge and we are subtitling it Letitia’s Naughty Novella because who doesn’t love alliteration? and some sex scenes that were “left on the cutting room floor” as being perhaps a bit too spicy for Letty’s character, have been included in this one. It comes in at a slim 47,000 words instead of 82,000, like the original book, so it is also an experiment in the shorter format.
We made these decisions after considering what readers said, and thinking that a stronger, more independent, take-charge Letitia might have greater appeal for our After Dark audience. So, we focused entirely on the hero/heroine relationship, as well as putting the “extra spicy” back in the text. We want to make an offer, by the way to any readers of this post who have purchased An Honest Deception or An Indecent Charade, and don’t feel they should have to buy the novella as well in order to enjoy the limited new content: email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you a free copy of Lady Morgan’s Revenge.
Traditional publishers are finding that their business model, which doesn’t always serve authors or readers that well, but does seem to serve highly paid editors and executives with lovely offices in expensive cities very nicely, is being disrupted. Indie and small press authors are inventing a new business model, and I am all in favor of using the speed and lack of friction in e-book platforms to understand better what readers enjoy, what suits the amount of time they have in their lives to devote to books and to experiment with providing them those things.
To that end, I invite your readers (and their friends) to take the following survey. Their answers will be very valuable in helping me plot out (no pun intended) the course of my books for this year and beyond. As a thank you for participating, I’ll be randomly selecting five (5) survey takers and sending them a free copy of The Contraband Courtship when it launches in June. Thank you in advance and have a lovely summer!
About Lady Morgan’s Revenge: Letitia’s Naughty Novella
Author’s Note: This version of the story is a “modified” version of An Indecent Charade. You spoke, we listened: you said that An Indecent Charade was too long and that Letty’s interfering male relatives bogged down the story. We agree! We want to present you with Lady Morgan’s Revenge: Letitia’s Naughty Novella, in which the bumbling idiot relatives have been removed, the hot sex scenes kept (one even extended!) and the inclusion of a very hot scene that was left on the cutting-room floor.
If you want the Traditional, no sex version, please see An Honest Deception: Letitia’s Traditional Regency Romance.
After the death of her wastrel husband, Alfred, Lady Letitia Morgan wants nothing more than to settle into the peaceful life of a widow. Her limited finances are enough to provide Letty and her two children that simple life.
Phillip Masham, Marquess of Eynsford and long-time friend of Francis, Lord Exencour, finds himself very much interested in Letty. Unfortunately for him, Letty’s opinion of men of the ton was quite soured by the late Baron Morgan. Not one to give up, the creative marquess becomes Mr. Phillip Markham, a solicitor in the Inner Temple, in hopes that Letty will get to know him for who his is, beyond his title. Letty and Phillip embark upon an affair that may deepen into love, but will it survive the truth?
More importantly, will Letty’s revenge for Phillip’s deception satisfy her and open her heart to happily ever after?
Find out in the latest by Alicia Quigley, chart-topping author of The Yuletide Countess and The Secret Bluestocking.
Letty turned away, tears welling up in her eyes. “I have tried to tell you that I am too recently widowed, and that Alfred’s behavior and your deception make it impossible for me to know my true feelings toward you, but you will not listen to me!” she cried. “These past moments are the some of the first we have spent together since I became aware of the truth, and – and – and this what happened! I know no more about you than I did an hour ago, but I have learned I cannot trust myself near you. If you cannot wait for me, perhaps I am better off without you.”
“This happens” Phillip growled, “Because we love each other, even though you will not admit it.”
Letty gazed speculatively at Phillip. “So, you think I should simply forgive you for your deception,” she snapped.
He faced her squarely. “Yes, I do. I acknowledge my faults in pursuing your acquaintance before you were ready, and lying to you about my name and occupation, but I am in earnest when I say I love you and want your forgiveness.”
“What if I am not in the mood to just let bygones be bygones?” she asked, arching a brow at him enquiringly.
“Take some revenge on me then,” he exclaimed. “I hurt and disappointed you; what would make you in turn feel that the score is settled between us?”
Letitia pondered his words. Her body still felt a lingering arousal from the lovemaking they had shared, and a pulse beat in her breasts and between her legs, a drumbeat reminding her of the desire his caresses always provoked in her. There was no denying that she missed Phillip’s company in bed as much as his conversation, and that she wished for a permanent break from their relationship as little as he professed to. So what might effectively banish the specter of his betrayal?
“What punishment would fit your crime?” she wondered aloud. Phillip eyed her from under his lashes. How daring might his delightful Letitia be, he wondered. As memories of her enthusiasm during their trysts ran through his thoughts, it occurred to him that she might be quite inventive, if given enough encouragement.
“I have gravely insulted you, Lady Morgan,” he responded. “You may need to discipline me rather, ah, severely.”
Letty looked somewhat surprised as he answered her, but she noted a bit of smirk on his handsome face, and a sudden recollection of her cousin’s complaints about discipline at his boarding school arose in her mind. “Indeed I may,” she answered coolly, allowing herself to look him slowly up and down, with a considering gaze.
Her insolent inspection sent a frisson of arousal through Phillip, and he felt himself begin to harden again as he waited, silent and impassive, for her to speak. Letty, who had noted his excitement, allowed her eyes to linger on his crotch just long enough to make him even more uncomfortable, before looking up at him.
“Very well,” she said imperiously. “You may present yourself at my house for your punishment in the afternoon, two days hence. Do not attempt to contact me before we meet.” She turned her back on him and walked out of the little passage, closing the door behind her. Phillip stood looking after her, astonished at the way their conversation had ended.
About the Author
Alicia Quigley is a lifelong lover of romance novels, who fell in love with Jane Austen in grade school, and Georgette Heyer in junior high. She made up games with playing cards using the face cards for Heyer characters, and sewed Regency gowns (walking dresses, riding habits and bonnets that even Lydia Bennett wouldn’t have touched) for her Barbie. In spite of her terrible science and engineering addiction, she remains a devotee of the romance, and enjoys turning her hand to their production as well as their consumption.