1) You have published a number of books on Amazon.com, are you a writer with lots of ideas or have these been written over the years?
The short version is: both. I started reading romance in my teens, and by my mid-twenties I was really into it. I decided to try writing it myself, and got involved in the community, joining a listserv (RW-L), RWA, a local group, and doing lots of research. Within a couple of years I’d written five books, most of which had been requested by editors, and had a powerhouse agent. I took it very seriously and loved doing it. Ultimately, my stuff was too “quirky” for the market at that time, and graduate school derailed me. All that was a million years ago (okay, 18? 19?). It was a totally different landscape, publishing-wise.
I self-published one of those books this past summer as a kind of learning experience. I’ve since also published two more of those older books as a bundle under another pen name.
So since June 2016 I’ve published three novels (two under another name), two novellas, three shorts, and one non-fiction book (under yet another pen name). Everything except the three novels have been written since the summer.
I have a ton of ideas, and the biggest problem is deciding what to write and when.
2) When did you start writing and why do you continue to do so?
See above. I’ve written professionally in different forms for years, from freelance journalism to academic articles and copywriting. My path to self-publishing started because I’d been hankering to write a book on traveling with babies and toddlers (I’d taken my twins on 20+ flights before they turned one). I sent out a proposal last year, but my agent retired and the market wasn’t strong enough for me to get a new one for that book. I decided to do it myself this spring. [Items May Have Shifted: How to Travel With Your Baby or Toddler, by NJS Kaye] The process was fun and intense, and reminded me how much I’d missed writing. I decided to try some sexy fiction.
At first my plan was to alternate erotica shorts with non-fiction titles, but I discovered that I was happier writing fiction (and it’s a lot less work). So then I just dove in.
When I released Once Should Be Enough in mid-August 2016 (my first new fiction in nearly 20 years), I knew very little about the current market in romance or erotica—it was just a story I wanted to write. So I’ve really only been self-publishing for (pause while I count on my fingers) four months? Ack. At some point I made myself a deal—I would give it six months and see what kind of progress I made, then reassess over Christmas. But frankly, I don’t think I could stop now. I’m enjoying myself too much. Much to the chagrin of my children, who got used to me being able to play with them much of the time, I could happily spend 12 hours a day writing now. So the hardest job right now is balancing everything.
3) What, or who, is the biggest influence on your writing?
Gah. I have no idea. There are authors I admire for their style, productivity, success, characterization, sense of humor, etc. I started writing fiction again this summer without actually having read a lot of what was currently on the market—I just wanted to see what my brain would come up with. To some extent the first new story I published, Once Should Be Enough, was an experiment. I was surprised to discover that my natural writing style aligned with a lot of stuff out there.
4) How do you choose the titles and cover art for your novels?
Much of the time, titles are the first things that come to me. I was like that with academic stuff too—often brainstorming the title and concept before creating anything else. My area of expertise was the intersection between entertainment and marketing; so often I’ll come up with a title and blurb first, like a high concept movie.
From the beginning of this process, I decided to brand myself and worked hard to come up with covers and other visual materials that would keep that branding consistent. Of course, that wasn’t really to market, which does make a difference. I’ve heard from people that they like my covers, but the reality is that if they don’t fit perfectly into the market and look more homemade (which they totally are, with Canva), then I’m not giving myself the best chance I can to succeed. So my covers will all be changing, as I now have a publicist who knows better.
5) Have or do you write in many genres? Why is this?
I’ve struggled with straddling two genres—erotica and romance. It’s sometimes hard to tell what’s what these days. I wrote a blog post about it, in fact (http://www.nikkykaye.com/blog/Scattergories). You’ll find authors like Alexa Riley and books like 50 Shades of Grey cross-categorized in Erotica, Romance, and Women’s Fiction.
I had started with trying to write pure erotica, but the characters kept getting in the way. And then people said that the stories had messages in them. Huh? Okay. So essentially I’m writing erotic romance, for the most part. I’ve experimented with a few erotic shorts—all in different niches, but I find it hard to just do Tab A into Slot B.
One thing that consistently comes up in reviews and reader feedback is that my stories are funny. It’s not really planned or intentional, but I think it’s just the way I write. A few authors I admire have told me that the balance of heat and humor in my stories is really great, which is a wonderful compliment. Sex can be silly and fun, and people are just weird, hilarious creatures by nature.
A fan made a typo in an email to me a while back, and I loved it. She said I wrote “fuction.” So there you go, I write fuction. LOL!
6) Which method do you feel works best for sharing your work: workshops, festivals, social media etc.?
I wish I were more adept at social media. I’d never been on Goodreads or Twitter before I started self-publishing, and Facebook only infrequently in order to keep up with friends overseas. I’ve never been on Instagram. I’m still learning how to make connections with readers and other authors, but it amazes me how many blogs and review sites and networks there are out there for booklovers. As a reader, it’s fantastic, but as an author it can be a little overwhelming!
I decided to go to Indie RomCon this October, which was a great decision. I was really nervous, but everyone was so incredibly welcoming. I felt weird about even registering as an “attending author,” hoping that there would be a “fraud” section at the signing for my table. I still put a lot of thought into how I wanted to present myself and my books, and tried to be as professional and friendly as I could. I had a fantastic time and can’t wait to go back next year.
As for sharing my books (or getting more visibility), it’s a work in progress. I made a spreadsheet with 200+ review sites and book blogs that I contacted individually to ask if they were interested in reviewing my first new fiction (Once Should Be Enough). I also had the balls early on to email a few of my favorite authors and ask if they had any advice for someone starting out. One high profile author graciously referred me to their publicist, who was crazy enough to take me on as a client. I’m looking forward to seeing how things develop with her on my side.
I think you just have to find ways to put yourself out there. I’ve really enjoyed the experience I’ve had with some multi-author promos, as well as “read and review” groups on Goodreads. From the beginning I’ve had a mailing list and sent out funny, brief newsletters, even when it was just three people. Now it’s gone from 3 to (just checking) 2316 in a few months. Oh dang, I just realized I’m going to have to start paying for MailChimp! Hahaha!
7) What was the motivation for publishing your books?
It began just with that one non-fiction book. Obviously I’d always wanted to be published in fiction, but never made the time to sit down and finish something. Over the past few years I’d started a few projects—a literary thing, a young adult concept book, a few non-fiction things. Having young twins didn’t help. I was lucky to finish a meal, much less a book. Now they just turned six and it’s a lot easier to hypnotize them with the iPad or Lego so I can work.
More than that, writing is a kind of creative therapy. It’s something that is just for me (and readers, obviously)—not for my kids, my spouse, or anybody else. I fall into the trap that I think a lot of women do, in doing things for other people and not taking enough time for myself. This is for me.
Publishing them just seemed to make sense. I haven’t bothered to look for a new agent or anything. Unlike before, you might write a dozen manuscripts and they’d sit in a drawer somewhere. Now you can actually get them out for someone else to read and discover, which is awesome. Of course, that means that there are lots of books you can buy that probably should have stayed in the drawer. But the autonomy of it is amazing. I like the control I can exert (for the most part) over what I’m writing, when to release it, learning about the business and so on. Granted, it would be nice to make money from it (I’m probably literally making $0.12 an hour if I do the math), but I still am enjoying it too much to stop.
8) Do you read? If so, who are your favourite writers?
What I love to read isn’t always what I write. My favorite author is Susanna Kearsley. I have been a Diana Gabaldon fan since 2004 but could never write anything like what she does. I love historical mysteries, and read a lot of non-fiction as well. I’m lucky in that when I read fiction, I can still lose myself in it. I’m not analysing it as market research or parsing the formula or beats. In romance, auto-buys for me these days are Vi Keeland, Lauren Blakely, Max Monroe, Penelope Ward, Lucy Score… But honestly, these are all writers I’ve only discovered in the last six months. I’m constantly trying new authors and I love that self-publishing makes it so easy to find and read new things. I’m still new to this game.
9) Other than writing brilliant books, what else are you passionate about?
Passion? Hmmm. That’s a problem. I’m not a very passionate person! I know, I write it but I don’t live it. I’m BORING. I am possibly the only person in the world who looks forward to going to Las Vegas by herself to sleep and work on my laptop.
I suppose I’m passionate about movies. For about twenty years, my professional focus was Film. I was a professor, entertainment journalist, critic, screenwriter, policy wonk, and worked in motion picture and TV production, research, studio promotion, and even as on-camera talent.
I also love art and museums. In another world I would have loved to stay working with UNESCO in Paris doing Cultural Heritage policy work.
Other than that, I love my children. I love traveling. I love napping. I love writing. I love reading.
10) Do you have any words of advice (or caution) for other writers?
Be honest. Be honest with yourself and with your readers. It’s hard to regret being sincere and genuine. Try writing different things and figure out why something works for you or how it doesn’t. Keep learning, about the craft and business, readers and their expectations. Have confidence in yourself but try to avoid narcissism. I’m always shocked and delighted when I receive an email from someone who read something of mine and took the time to let me know they liked it. Really, it makes my day.
11) What are your future ambitions for your writing?
World domination. Oh wait, that’s the narcissism coming out.
In terms of practical matters, I’m just finishing a novel (about 75,000 words) that I’m excited/nervous about, titled No Excuses. It’s a kinky boss/secretary-type romance about learning when to take a leap of faith. Next up I’m writing a sequel to Once Should Be Enough called Twice is Too Much. Then I’m doing a short four-book series called The Billionaire Book Club, and another longer book tentatively titled Junk Punch. I also plan to write some erotic shorts as well—they’re like palate cleansers in between longer projects.
That will take me from now at the end of November 2016 to probably March-April 2017. Beyond that, I’m not entirely sure! I’m always coming up with ideas, but I’m interested to see how these play out.
By next summer, at one year of self-publishing, my goal is to have put out at least four novellas, six short books, four longer books, and probably a dozen short stories. Hopefully by then I’ll have a good idea of what’s working and what isn’t!
Thanks for the opportunity to chat! I can’t believe it’s only been a few months since I started publishing, and I’ve gotten to meet so many fantastic people. I can’t wait to see what happens in 2017.