25 Years of Romance

“You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how.”

Do you know this quote? Who said it? What movie?

All romance fans please raise your hand. Or, leave your comment below! I'll confess that this is the movie that turned me on to writing romance stories as a very young girl. While the storyline is not a true romance, a fact that my twelve-year-old self fully embraced, I set out on a path to craft happily-ever-afters ever since—even if it did not happen for the couple in this movie.

Enough clues yet?

Let's move on.

Now, the title for this blog post may indicate some ramblings about undying love and an enduring marriage and an oh-so-sweet-and-satisfying happily ever after. I assure you this post is not that. My track record in marriage is not stellar, to be sure. Three marriages and three subsequent divorces—it took me getting through all of those to finally (re)find to the love of my life—who turned out to be the boy I broke up with in high school.

Talk about going full circle.

There's a story there, too, but it's not for this blog post, either. I'm convinced there is something to young love, and the bond that is created during that tender and innocent period of life, that is, well, timeless. 

Another blog post. Another day. Wait for it.

This post is about 25 years of publishing the romance novel. Yep. That's where I am. On November 24, 1997, Kensington Books published my first romance novel. It was traditionally published, of course (we are a few years before self-publishing at this point) and it took me ten long years of hard work to get there. (See left, pre-divorce #2 author name!)

So, in reality, I've been writing romance for 35 years. More years than all of my marriages put together. :)  That's a long time.

By the end of this year, I will have published over 70 stories of romantic fiction, be they short stories, novellas, or novels. What can I say? I'm a sucker for a HEA, or at the very least, a HFN satisfying relationship ending.

Over time, I've seen the industry wax and wane. I've had editors come and go. Publishers come and go. I've been orphaned and I've stopped writing. I watched the controversial insertion of erotic romance into the romance world, and experienced ebooks for the first time on a CD stuck into my computer hard drive. I was there during the wild west (not sure that's even over yet) 2010-2012 self-publishing boom, when I made fistfuls of dollars, and I survived the Kindle Unlimited (KU) debacle of 2015 when I lost 80% of my income within 6 months of its launch. (Yes, I do not trust the KU world, which is why I publish wide.)

I've seen romance genres come and go, rise and fall. Like, romantic comedy. The same with paranormal, period stories, time travel, vampires, and more. I've heard editors say "That's last year. No longer selling. Not interested." And have seen indie published authors take those same niche genre novels to the bestseller lists. 

I've learned to survive in the indie publishing world by learning how to market. I've spent the time and enegy to educate myself in various marketing methods and strategies. I've determined what works for me, stopped listening to all the "experts" who tell you there is only one way to do it, and learned to trust my own educated gut.

Hey, 35 years of working at something can't be ignored. Right? I actually know stuff too. Learning to trust my gut, my instincts, and my knowledge, is probably the best thing I've done for myself, and my author career. 

In short, I've learned that I enjoy my author career the most when I travel the road solo. When I, alone, drive my career and my next steps. That doesn't mean I don't reach out or partner with other authors. I do, but only when we share similar goals that fit within my own author goals, publishing, and marketing strategies.

But enough of that. In this celebratory year, I've decided on a few things that I want to accomplish this year. Here's a brief list:

1. Give back to the author community. I'm doing that with my free Write Path posts on this blog. If you've read any of them, I hope you find them useful. I've also opened up my blog for authors to share their new releases on TuesdayNewsday.

2. Give back to readers. I've created a number of free reads and bonus content to release this year. If you stick with my newslettter, you get access to those throughout the year. Not on my newsletter list? See this link: https://www.maddiejames.net/p/newsletter.html

3. Attend the NINC conference. I've tried to attend the Novelist Inc. conference for the past three years. My first cancellation came when my day job travel conflicted with the conference. The next two years I spent taking care of my Dad. I thought I could get away for the conference, but no...  This year, I'm heading to Tampa to soak up some more education (and maybe sun). Very much looking forward to this writer getaway!

4. Reflect on my writer/author journey and feature backlist books on this blog. For the second half of this year, 2022, watch for posts about my backlist, particularly my earlier books. I'll talk about how they've been launched, rebranded, recycled, new formats, and more! 

So yeah, 25 years of publishing romance. The industry has rolled over and twisted and changed many times over that quarter of a century. (Damn that makes me feel old!) The years were exciting in the beginning, with some sagging times in the middle, a few black moments along the way. My author story is not all told yet, but I am totally and completely satisfied with my career at this point, and hopeful for increased and continued success in the future. 

In fact, I'm planning on it.

It's been an incredibly satisfying ride.