Taking control of every aspect of your writing career, from writing to marketing to standing proud behind the results of your efforts, is something that Jessica Aspen is passionate about. Jessica has a list of books, FB group, newsletter, mailing list and is currently in the running for a Kindle Scout publishing deal. We chat about the benefits of contests to build your email list and readership, the difference between warm and cold leads, and the benefits of belonging to a writing group. Oh, and pen names and winning awards, the importance of measuring your success and keeping up with trends in your genre. Jessica writes twisted fairytales in the paranormal genre and new adult novellas found their way into our conversation. As did Jessica starting her own Wiki. You can find out more about Jessica – and vote for her in Kindle Scout – here.
My sponsor for this episode is fitness coach, Jennifer Gale, at Fit ‘n Fifty Plus. You can visit Jennifer here.
Melinda: Welcome to another episode of Writer on the Road. Today we're crossing to the other side of the world and I am really naughty, I forgot to ask where. So I have the beautiful Jessica Aspen with me this morning and she lives in a world of spicy, twisted fairy tale romances. Now what a great way, it's five am here in Australia, what a great way to start the day, spicy, twisted fairy tale romances. Good morning Jessica.
Jessica Aspen: Good morning.
Melinda: Good morning, where are you?
Jessica Aspen: I am at the foothills of the Colorado Rockies near Boulder, Colorado.
Melinda: Welcome to Australia, welcome to Writer on the Road. Tell us what you do, it sounds intriguing.
Jessica Aspen: Well I do exactly what you said, I write twisted fairy tales, I have two different series out currently, one is more of Tolkien, modern Tolkien twists on fairy tales set in a Faye world of Underhill that intersects with our and the other one are short, and a little bit spicier novellas set in the modern Colorado Rockies, so right in my backyard pretty much.
Melinda: The thing I want to unpack with Jessica today everybody is that short writing and I guess novella length leads to a lot of creativity, I'm pretty excited about this form of writing as everybody knows because I keep raving about it now. You said you have quite a few in your novella series?
Jessica Aspen: I have six, I have six in the novella series. One's a little long to be a novella, I struggled with that one but it's a little long. But the rest are all between about 32 and 36,000 words, they're long novellas, they're not the super short.
Melinda: They sell very well. I notice that there is some awards on your webpage here, you've won the OK RWA International Digital Award 2014 Finalist.
Jessica Aspen: Yeah I finaled a lot. So always a finalist never a bride.
Melinda: Hey I think being able to put those things on your website is pretty impressive and here in Australia there is a lot of women who or some of my writing friends they're always putting up these little red signs saying I'm a finalist in this and I'm a finalist in that, readers I think appreciate those kinds of things.
Jessica Aspen: I hope so, I enjoy entering them. I particularly enjoy entering contests that are judged by readers and librarians rather than authors, I think there's a different view on books that readers give.
Melinda: We have a very strong reader network here in Australia, especially with the romance guys. They're very well respected among our writers because they're very supportive. Now you've, you follow up that quite a bit where you are don't you, you interact with your readers fairly well?
Jessica Aspen: I try to. I have a newsletter group, I have a Facebook group. I really enjoy doing the newsletter because I find that they email me personally and I, I thought it would be a lot of work answering emails personally but it turns out to be a joy, I get these wonderful emails from people sharing personal details of their lives with me and it's like having a whole new set of friends and I really enjoy that.
Melinda: You've built your email list up.
Jessica Aspen: Yes, really this year. I started off the year with about 300 and I now have nearly 4,000.
Melinda: That's amazing because we all hear that building our email list is something that's really, really important and it's integral to selling our future work. So would you like to talk to us about how you built that email list so very quickly because I think going to 4,000 in such a short period of time is pretty exciting?
Jessica Aspen: Well I've had it in the back of my books, so I've had that organic growth you have. I also have it on my Amazon page, I have it on my website, I have it everywhere you see it. So I get a little bit of organic growth that way. But what I did this year was I decided to focus on it and I took Mark Dawson's class on Facebook advertising and floundered. I just struggled with the technical things on it. I can do technical things but it was very stats oriented, there were all these things you had to do.
So a friend of mine was using a service by a man named Johnny Andrews and it was called I Love Vampire Novels and he has now broken out where he does other types of books, he does all different types of books now, but what he was doing was doing the Facebook advertising for you and for a very reasonable price and I told her try it and then she did well with it, so then I decided to do it.
So for a, I think a fairly minimal monthly price he will handle the advertising for you and the way he does that is with contests. So every three months your contest rolls over. So you give prizes, everybody wins a free book from you, so everybody gets a sample of your writing, everybody gets put onto your newsletter list and then you have people who win prizes. So it's what I would call warm leads.
So the people who sign up through the back up my book I'd say that's a hot reader, they know me, they like me, they signed it through the back of my book. The ones I get through Johnny Andrews and I Love Vampire Novels I would say are more warm leads. I know they like paranormal romance because they're clicking on it, I know that they are open to all of this because what they do get to win are books, so I know they're readers, I know they're paranormal romance readers but they are also there for the prize, maybe they're not so interested in me, maybe they don't know me. So I get a little bit of a drop off from that. They're not quite as enthusiastic as the hot leads, but they're still interested and most of them have stuck around.
So I've been very happy with it. It's been a very easy way to build my mailing list because all I had to do was pay a little money for it and I don't have a ton of money to put towards things like that but that seemed worth it to me.
Melinda: Yeah I paid for the Mark Dawson course as well, I don't know many of us who don't because we all live with high hopes and I paid for that, oh ages and ages and ages ago and unlike Nick Stephenson's, what is it, First 10,000 Customers, I actually looked at some of the modules on that, Mark Dawson's I never even opened. I thought oh it just makes my eyes glaze over and I thought I paid all that money and I'm just going oh give me a break.
I found a lady here in Australia, I went to this absolutely Business in Heels networking event, didn't I everybody, I tell everyone on my podcast how bad I was at networking and how I sort of hid in the corner and didn't want to talk to anybody, couldn't climb out the window fast enough, but I met a beautiful lady by the name of Amber and I've just handed all my Facebook advertising for my course over to her.
Look, it was a reasonable price for the time and effort it would have taken me to ramp up, I guess it was well worth the money to have someone else do it for me. So I'm going to, everybody, I'm going to actually get Amber to start a little contest and I'm just trying to think of something that I could give away, I've got some middle grade fiction books so I might give those away and get people interested in the course in that way. So thank you Jessica, that's it from Writer on the Road, I've got what I wanted out of this today, I'll see you all later. No.
Yeah, now when we started this conversation with Jessica today she very kindly said that she doesn't think she's an expert but already ten minutes in you're giving us great tips. Do you think as authors we under sell ourselves? We have skills that we don't, that we take a little bit for granted but there's always someone better than us and doing things differently and more effectively so we, I guess we undervalue our own skills.
Jessica Aspen: I definitely think that's true and it might be particularly true for women. I know in my own case I felt like, I got my degree and then I didn't do a whole lot with it, I stayed home and I did small jobs for lots of different reasons. So I didn't end up having a big career and a lot of people I know in the business, one of the successful authors I know is a lawyer, actually I know several lawyers and engineers and people who were in marketing and now they're writing romance and they're taking all those skills they learned in the business world and applying them, Joanna Penn's a good example. She had a huge job advising businesses on how to do almost exactly what we're doing, I mean a she had a big, big job. So they start off right out the gate, 20 years ahead of where I am and so I feel like I'm always a little struggling, especially at the beginning I have felt like that and maybe I tend to carry that along with me, I don't tend to realize what I have learned and accumulated until I start talking to someone and they're like oh you know that.
Melinda: Yeah and everybody I was attracted to Jessica in our Joanna Penn Creative Freedom, what do we call ourselves, I guess we call ourselves support group, Facebook group, whatever we are but there are a group of amazing women and I'm wondering whether like indie authors and self-publishing is becoming so mainstream now and so professional because of the caliber of, I guess, writer/ businessperson that it's attracting.
Jessica Aspen: Well I think, I think that's always been true in romance, I think it's been a big secret that the romance writers have been business oriented. I didn't realize it until I started talking to people in other genres, they were five years behind where the romance writers I knew where and you'll hear it over and over again in the podcasts, they start interviewing the romance writers and they're way ahead on the business side of things a lot of times so and a lot of them had huge careers and then were writing romance on the side for fun and then applied all that in there.
I think romance is a dirty little secret sometimes even it doesn't matter what kind you write, it can be sweat romance, it can be spicy romance obviously. But even sweat romance I know people who don't want to tell anybody, it's they've got this secret. So they're keeping regular jobs and they still have all of this. So I don't know, I think I've always run into very smart women in the industry through Romance Writers of America.
Melinda: Yeah and it's interesting isn't it that I'm surprised that you're saying that writing romance is still a secret because like it seems everybody either is writing romance, knows a romance writer or reads romance but that could be just in the field that we move in but I also know that Joanna Penn who is our, I guess, our head honcho/our matriarch, she writes thriller-adventure novels but she's also paired up with someone to write romance as well.
Again, this is what I love that pushing boundaries, that trying new things. As indie authors we have this wonderful opportunity to try all these different things and writing short which brings me back to where we are with your spicy romances, is particularly good for being able to twist things around and try new things. Now I notice you do write these twisted fairy tales, these spicy, twisted fairy tales can you tell us a little bit more about those because I'm intrigued.
Jessica Aspen: Well I started off writing the long twisted fairy tales, 90,000 words, and I stumbled across a contest for red, hot fairy tale novellas and I thought oh I can't write that oh no way, so I spent three weeks and churned out thirty thousand words and sent it and it was through a publisher and they kept my manuscript for six months, they almost published it, they finally decided not to, it didn't win the contest and one of the reasons was that the person who put it out there had decided they wanted traditional fairy tale twists and mine, it didn't say that in the ad and mine was a contemporary, it was a contemporary story but they still kept it and almost published it, it took them a long time to decide not to publish it. So that's how I ended up writing the shorter ones it was almost just completely out of the blue.
Jessica Aspen: And the hots ones because I never thought, I thought maybe I'd publish under a different name because I wasn't sure anybody should be reading that I knew.
Melinda: Do you publish under other names or is it all under your own name?
Jessica Aspen: Right under it's under one name, this is a pen name, Jessica Aspen's a pen name and I actually started that so I could keep it a secret. I did, I decided that I didn't want people to know, my husband's family I thought would be too conservative, but it turned out my husband outed me right away, I was like no! So he did it first and all the way up to its 80 something year old aunt started reading my spicy books I was like okay, what was the purpose of the pen name.
Melinda: So I'm not talking to the real you, this whole pen name thing has got me intrigued. I just, yeah go.
Jessica Aspen: I go completely by Jessica Aspen now, I do everything, register for things under Jessica Aspen, I do everything under it. I don't do taxes or actually business work under it but everything else I do because it's too confusing to have two names.
Melinda: Yeah okay well everybody I have to ask, I'm sorry close your ears, I want to know and I had a friend in north Queensland and she lives entirely off her income writing gay erotica, now I don't think yours tips into the erotica at all but it's certainly spicy and one of the things that intrigued me is that you have great men who are really, really strong and I've written down all these quotes here but your women are equally as strong. So you must have these really dynamic things happening on the page.
Jessica Aspen: I hope it's dynamic! I like, it can be difficult because I really like books that move. I came from a background of reading everything, so I grew up reading science fiction and fantasy and action/adventure as well as romance. So I like books that move, I don't like slow books. Even though it's funny, I also like books from the 1800s because I'm still an English lit major, so I still love Sense and Sensibility and all that. But when I'm writing I want those books to just go boom, boom, boom, boom. So I want tension in the storyline, I want it in the action, I want my evil person to be complex and tense and then my hero and heroine I want them to be tense.
It's funny because my very first book The Dark Huntsman the one criticism that I do get on it is that the girl is not as strong and part of that's because it is a fairy tale twist and it's a Snow White twist and if you know, if you're familiar with the Snow White story, Snow White's a wimp. She just gets pushed around by everybody and she's stupid. She eats the poisoned apple and then she takes the poisoned comb and she ends up marrying the guy who kisses her when she's dead, it's a really horrible thing.
So I thought I was making my Snow White fairly strong and she marries, she doesn't marry the prince who has the necrophilia tendencies, I feel as though that was a little weird. So, but that's the one thing I got with that. But I learned after that that if you're going to write fantasy novels and paranormal novels readers want very strong heroines. So if your heroine is not strong at the beginning, she needs to be strong by the end.
Melinda: Wow I'm still recovering from Snow White being a wimp, I love it.
Jessica Aspen: Snow White is a wimp, let's face it.
Melinda: We're going to stop talking writing now and we're going to trash all our Disney heroines everybody. Talk to me about paranormal, I don't know a whole lot about paranormal and I know it's a huge genre and especially along my teenage students they can't get enough of it.
Jessica Aspen: Yeah actually, well paranormal is huge and it covers a wide variety of smaller genres. When I first started writing twisted fairy tales and my longer ones are called fantasy romance because they're like, they have like Tolkien-type elves and high fantasy elements in them, there was no fantasy category, there was no fantasy romance category, it was myself and probably six other people out there and there was no way, there were no key words for it, you couldn't get listed for it. So I put it under paranormal and paranormal just, it really is all the supernatural elements of romance. So I actually belong to Romance Writers of America has a group called the Science Fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal, Time Travel, it's got all these initials. But all of those kind of get lumped under paranormal sometimes. But we're starting to get more individualized.
Melinda: Yeah and these are so, I guess these kinds of conversations are so important. You talked about key words and all that kind of stuff getting listed on Amazon. I notice even when I try to put up my little things, trying to find the right category is just such a nightmare because they're just so broad and they're so general.
Jessica Aspen: Well I think Nick Stephenson's class has helped tremendously, even his free videos. I think he has three free videos that you can get so even starting with the first three videos was amazingly helpful for me. I haven't worked my way all the way through his class yet but the little tweaks that I have done that he has suggested have been very, very helpful. I think with keywords one of the things is that every once in a while you kind of need to go back to them and see what's working and what isn't working and tweak them and sometimes I'll do different keywords.
So my shifter books are fairy tales, they're shifters, they're contemporary, they're paranormal. They've got so many different things, they're also really new adult because they're stories about early twenties. My first one Red is about a shifting, a wolf shifter who wants to go to college but her mother thinks she shouldn't go, she wants to keep her home. So it's a very new adult thing where the mom doesn't think she's capable of going to college and she really badly wants to go. So that's a new adult theme. So trying to find the right place for books like that that have so many complex themes is very difficult. It's one of the blessings of being an indie writer that we can write things with so many themes but it can also be a handicap trying to market them. That's why the big publishers don't do that as often.
Melinda: Even as you're talking there Jessica I've written down all these words, measuring your data, measuring your success, new adult, keeping up with trends. I don't even know what a shape shifter is.
Jessica Aspen: Well when I first started writing them I called them werewolves, but they're not werewolves, werewolves are the scary ones that shift into man-eating crazy creatures that look half man, half wolf. Shape shifters shift into beautiful elegant wolves or mountain lions or something else very attractive. I've even heard of swans Laurell K. Hamilton has, I think she calls them swanmares or something. They're not very alpha, they don't have alpha swan. Almost thing.
Melinda: I'm out of my depth. I thought I was going to get out of my depth on the red hot fairy tales but I'm out of my depth with the new adult stuff. Everybody I'm losing it but again that's what this podcast is for, that's what this podcast is about because it does open up our minds to new ideas. I'm pretty excited just talking to you Jessica because I have to go back to school and talk to my kids and say I just spoke to this lady and I didn't know what she was talking about.
Jessica Aspen: Well look your kids will know, my kids help me a lot with coming up with ideas or I test things out on them. So it's very helpful to have, to have your kids kind of bounce back at you.
Melinda: Yeah and my youngest daughter reads science fiction and I just say oh don't tell me about it and she just, they can't get enough of it. They are buying these things, they are big, fat books and they come in series and just buys one, two, three, four, five and then she's looking around for the next series and she gets it off her friends of school so that word of mouth thing is absolutely huge.
Jessica Aspen: Yes, yes, it is.
Melinda: So it's tapping into that. New adult is reasonably new, a new genre isn't it? It's only been around for a little while.
Jessica Aspen: Yeah it's interesting because it's a question sometimes of if it is a genre. They've decided it's a genre, it is a genre. But it's been difficult to shelve, it's one of the reasons it's taken off for indie publishers is because I think that the bookstores and the publishers did not know how to market it because it's really something that we used to do, when I first started reading romances they were all about women who were 22, 24 years of age and then people started writing about women of different ages, they wrote about women who were in their, oh my gosh, thirties or maybe forties or fifties now, we have cougar romances.
Melinda: Oh no.
Jessica Aspen: I know somebody who writes that. So there's actually, so the early twenties kind of got left behind and back when the, the romances that I read as a younger person, they wrote these naive young girls and these billionaires so we know what that looks like now, yeah naive young girls she's just become a nurse and she meets this doctor who's like 35 and sweeps her off her feet. I can't tell you how many Harlequins there were of those in the, between 1950 and probably 1990.
But the new adult stories that are coming out now really have a slightly different feel. There's a wider variety to them, I think there's still a tremendous amount of that naive girl being swept off her feet and Fifty Shades of Grey is a really good example even on the hotter side, that really super naive girl and the worldly, wise, older gentleman. But you're also going to find things like I've written about where she's struggling to be free of her parents and find out who she is, what her identity is as an adult.
I think it came about as a strong movement really because Twilight was so strong for young adults and those women and probably young men who read it read those stories and then they grew up a little bit and they wanted something a little bit older, they were ready to continue the story and there was nothing there for them. So they started writing them and women like me started writing them. I didn't know at the time that I first wrote this book when it first came out that that was a trend, it was just, just starting. I think that was 2012. So it is very, very new but it's really, it's an age group, new adult so there's all kinds of subgenres within it. So what I write is basically speculative new adult, it's a paranormal romance but it takes place around a new adult theme. Does that make sense?
Melinda: Look, it does and I'm sitting here listening to you Jessica and I'm really excited because it's not a matter of just going oh I'm going to write what I want, I'm going to throw it out there and throw it against the wall and someone will buy it and I don't care. It's, you've researched it, you've thought about it, there's a market there. You can adapt to that market very easily and very quickly. It's being able to pivot and turn and find out what people want and provide it. So it's clearly a research thing with you've, you've studied the markets. No? You throw it against the wall?
Jessica Aspen: No, I threw it against the wall. When I first wrote these books there wasn't a new adult market, there wasn't a fantasy market, twisted fairy tales weren't popular yet. I wrote all this stuff like two or three years before twisted fairy tales started taking off. I actually had to change something in my book because I started writing the Dark Huntsman in 2008 and it didn't get published and I finally had some offers on it, I ended up turning them down and publishing myself. By the time I published there was a movie out called Snow White and the Huntsman and I was like oh no! My stories different but I actually had some things in there that were kind of, I was like how they could know what I wrote, did they get a copy of my book.
But I seem to have been writing things right before they hit but knowing it and not knowing how to market to it. I've since learned now how to take advantage of that wave but that's been a long, long haul of learning and taking classes since I first, I first published in 2012, so I and my publisher, I had a publisher and my publisher did nothing for me, the cover was awful, the book was priced too high and it was just not, not marketed well. So, it wasn't marketed and she basically said well when you write twelve books you'll start to sell and I was like whoa twelve books, I can't wait that long! So I had to learn myself.
Melinda: That's a fairly, that's something that we hear a lot on Writer on the Road is that taking control of your career, taking control of every aspect of your marketing and standing out there in the front row and saying this is my work, I'm proud of it, I'm a strong author and I'm putting it out there, it seems to be the way to go and we've got so many statistics to back that up now with Hugh Howey and all those kinds of people that are out there documenting it for us and as you said we've got our trailblazers like Joanna Penn and there's lots of guys who write as well who are very strong, Mark Dawson is one of them. But it's giving people like you the freedom to get out there and try different things. Have you done anything that you've tried and it's failed?
Jessica Aspen: Yes, yes. I have a book that is a gothic romance, I love, I grew up reading gothic romances.
Melinda: Daphne Du Maurier?
Jessica Aspen: Oh yeah, yes. I love those stories and I grew up reading them and I always wanted to write something like that. So I actually have a book called Ghosts of Christmas Past and it's a lovely book and everybody who reads it, it's actually my mother’s favorite, so everybody who reads it loves it but it does not sell, it doesn't sell at all and I don't know if it's because it's a Gothic and there just isn't a big market for it, if it's because it's all by myself. I would love to go back and write a series to go with it, because I actually had a whole series of books plotted to go with it because at that point in time I was actually learning how to plot because I originally started off not plotting, now I'm a huge plotter. So, but it doesn't sell. So I'm not putting the time into it. I'm putting the time into the books that do sell.
Melinda: Yeah and that's, that's clearly a marketing strategy and you monitoring your sales very closely?
Jessica Aspen: Probably not as closely as I should. I mean I know what's selling and what's not and I do keep an eye on it. I only really recently had enough, I guess real data to figure out which series was doing better and that's partially because I only last year published my sexy shifter series on my own. Before that they had been with my publisher. I had three books with my publisher and I got the rights back so I wrote three more and published all six myself last year. So now I own, now I have data between two series and two styles of books. They're both twisted fairy tales but one's contemporary shifters and one's high fantasy and now I can see which one sells better.
Now I don't know whether they sell better because of the topic or the length but I can tell you right now my high fantasy sell way better than the shifters which you wouldn't think because shifters are incredibly popular. But I think it's more of a case of there's a lot of shifters out there, there's a lot. So the fantasy books there might be less of, so that's, you always have to look and try and figure out why your books are selling. Is it the heat level? The shifter books are a little spicier so and I, everybody says that's selling well but my fantasy books are a little less, they still have, they still have some heat but they're a little less spicy. They're so much longer and there's so much more plot that the spicy scenes are fewer and farther between because my people are out there fighting and doing stuff.
Melinda: So this is your non, these are your 90,000 word novels?
Jessica Aspen: Yes, yeah, yeah, they're right around 90,000 words and I have a forth one coming out in January. So do they sell better because they're longer? Do they sell better because they're less spicy? Do they sell better because they're fantasy or fairy tales? It's very, very hard to figure out why something is selling.
Melinda: Yeah and there's a discussion going on at the moment Jessica and I listen in fairly closely because there's, they say that short fiction doesn't sell and people are looking for the longer novels yet as you said you've written a lot of novellas but your longer books are doing better. Do you think our readers actually want a good story that they can actually, I guess, sink into?
Jessica Aspen: Absolutely I think it's a disservice to readers to say that they only want to read short, they only want to read on the train. That may not be true. A lot of the really dedicated readers are fast readers. When I was reading in high school and college I could read a book a day, if it was short it would be a book a day. If it was longer it would take me three days. Well that was wonderful especially if it was a great book, I could immerse myself in that book and really enjoy it. I think people are binge watching TV now too, they get a series like Game of Thrones and my husband I did this, we waited until there were several seasons out and then we watched all of them in like three months. We watched all the Game of Thrones, it was a lot but it was wonderful and we couldn't get enough of it, and that's almost like reading a chapter after a chapter after a chapter and when it was stopped we were like no we need more. So I think there's a hunger for more content, faster. More content faster.
Melinda: Yeah and that's interesting because I bought the, I'm showing my age, I bought the Downton Abbey series.
Jessica Aspen: Oh! I love Downton Abbey series.
Melinda: And I just watched from where to go and now we watched it from where to go again. I don't think I've got the patience, see and I guess it's that waiting thing, we want it and we want it all now and that might be something that we can transfer over into our novels. I hear a lot of people say oh should I not put out my books until I've got the whole series ready and I'm going well you've written a book why don't you put it out, but maybe there is something in holding it back and putting it all out at once so that the readers can just buy all six.
Jessica Aspen: I think there's a lot of things going into that decision. So first of all I've done both, I've dribbled my books out and I've also put them out all at once. I am now working hard at getting to a schedule of about every two to three months because the thing that you're working with is twofold.
First of all does anybody know who you are? Because if you put a book out there and it's one book it's going to languish because nobody knows who you are, unless you can put a lot of money behind the advertising you're not going to catch that algorithm because you're not going to have the reviews, you're not going to have the also bots, you're not going to have a lot of things there. So if you put one book out and you wait a year to put out another one you've totally missed a lot of the things that help you move along. If you do them too close together which is what I did last year because everybody, that was the big thing last year was to put out books very quickly and close together. You get this great surge and then it drops off and you miss the sustained purchasing. So and the algorithms change.
I think what was working two or three years ago, Amazon's constantly tweaking what it's doing. So currently I would suggest yes, wait until you have more than one book written if you are a slow writer. It took me a long time to write that first book. I don't know about you but that first book takes a long time and lot of rewrites and the second book takes less and the third book takes less and now, now I'm actually writing fairly quickly and can get them out at a reasonable rate, but I'm certainly not one of those people who's going to be able to publish once a month. I know people who do that and they're killing themselves to do it. So if you can only put out a book once a year you might be better off waiting until you have a couple to put out at a reasonable point in time so that you can build that audience and utilize some of those marketing strategies that you can't utilize if you're only putting out a book and having it sit there by itself.
Melinda: Yeah and that's an interesting thing too because I'm picking up on the burn out factor here. I know a lot of romance writers have done very, very well but they're tired.
Jessica Aspen: Oh, there's a woman I know online, she's, I think she's 27 years old and she's, her eyes are failing her. She went to the doctor to get new glasses, she's apparently staring at the computer too long and she's 27, that's ridiculous.
Melinda: I think we're not building anything that's sustainable. I know we've got voracious readers out there but there's also a lot of writers. I used to think a book a year was pretty good and I used to, there used to be, what was her name Penny Vincenzi and all those kinds of people, Audrey Howards all those old romance writers, they used to put out their book a year and everyone was happy with it but the expectation now is that you write a lot quicker. But I'm not sure that that's the same with our adventure thriller writers no one expects them to put out a book a month, do they.
Jessica Aspen: I think you're right, I think romance writers have trained readers to expect more and a part of that was because a lot of them were writing novellas, they were doing serials. They did serials, they did novellas, they did very short things. A full length novel is 50,000 words, that's NaNoWriMo 50,000 words and Harlequins are right between 50 and 60,000 words.
So if you're writing a 50/60,000 word book that's a lot and putting out one a month that's a lot different than putting out a book that's close to 100,000 words. Some of those historical novels are 120,000 words. Those books that are you're talking about a lot of them were big chunky books, they were long, long books. So if you're going to put out a long book I think it does take longer. Fantasy I know takes a long time because my fantasy books take a lot longer to write.
Melinda: Yeah, do you have fun creating your worlds? I love, I've read a lot around Tolkien there at one stage and he created his own language and he just had so much fun with those things. Do you have your own little world mapped out and drawn out?
Jessica Aspen: I haven't mapped it out, but I do really enjoy keep track of it and that actually can be a challenge too, I really want to start my own wiki, you know like Wikipedia, you can do your own Wiki because then I could search and find things, I can be like oh wait what color were her eyes and I could search it on my own wiki. So that's probably it. That's a next step for me, I looked at doing that but I'm not quite there yet.
Melinda: I could get some of the kids at school to design it for you, they're very much into all that kind of stuff.
Jessica Aspen: Yeah, get them to work.
Melinda: Yeah because it's very physical for the kids. They like to be able to see, they like to be able to get online and do all that kind of stuff don't they.
Jessica Aspen: Yeah I use, like I said I use my daughters all the time, they've helped me with a lot of things. They helped me figure out my Skype today.
Melinda: Yeah my daughters just handed my podcast back to me, all the editing all the editing all that with Garage Band whatever else we use and auditions or whatever we do. I just go oh this stuff gives me a headache. So if this podcast stops everybody you know why.
Alright, last question you write, we've talked about novel lengths and all that kind of stuff, your daily work habits. Do you write every day?
Jessica Aspen: I don't, I would love to write every day. I have one of those lives where everybody's life starts to impinge on it. I'm really working hard, that's one of my personal goals is to not let everybody else's life run my life. I have aging parents, my kids are away at school which you would think mean they needed less but they actually sometimes need more because sometimes I have to drive up and get them so that's a three hour round trip driving up and getting them and then I have to take them back because if you go up on a Friday you need to go back on a Sunday night so that they're there for school, so that's actually six hours out of my week just driving and picking people up. Or my parents, I go take care of my parents on the Thursdays, today actually I was taking care of my dad today, doing things with my dad because I couldn't get a doctor's appointment.
So I find that, so today I was supposed to be writing but instead I was at the doctor's with my dad. So I struggle with that. But that is definitely my goal. My goal is to write every day because what happens is when you don't write every day is you lose the momentum, maybe that's not true for everybody but I find that's true for me. I lose the thread of the story and I have to get back into and that resistance that Steven Pressfield talks about starts to take hold, so it's two fold. So not only do I have to get my imagination back into where I was but I have that little voice in my head saying oh but you have so many other things to do and you should be doing this and you should be doing that and the writing's not going very well today anyway so just don't that. But if you write every day that resistance voice is slowed and the pattern of writing, the flow of the story is sustained. So that's my goal.
Melinda: Isn't it funny everybody, we write about these very strong women and how they take on these very strong men and everything gets all sorted out and the women win. When it comes to our own lives, we just exhaust ourselves. We should, women unite! We should start standing up and saying get out of the way everybody our writing comes first but we just don't and we can't and I could not imagine having this conversation with a male and the males that I've interviewed on this podcast I don't have these conversations but with every woman it's how do we fit everything in. So it's interesting and it might be something that we might have to unpack one day. It reminds me Jessica, I probably need to get a few more males on my podcast.
Jessica Aspen: That is true. I know a lot of female authors and not as many men because I do delve in the romance world. But I'm sure if you go tip-toe over to the sci-fi/fantasy/thriller side there'll be a lot more men over there.
Melinda: Oh Kevin Tumlinson you're going to have to come back on for the fifth time just to talk about that. Alright now Jessica I did have lots more to talk to you about but I think just having those very nuts and bolts conversations are beneficial to all of us. So if you want to know about Jessica's secret page she has, we haven't even touched on it, but she's got a secret horror page that she must just have slipped in for because she got bored one day.
But there is so much more to this lady that we just don't have time for this morning. Jessica's in the middle of renovating her house and we've been watching with great interest on Facebook as her kitchen's gone back together. So even though she's writing her red hot fairy tale novellas and her fantasy 90,000 word romance novels there's a real world happening behind the author. Being an independent author I think my big takeaway today is once you took back control of your writing it really started to take off.
Jessica Aspen: Absolutely, absolutely, but that's a whole other conversation right there about the things that I decided to do differently than my publisher did starting with branding and covers. I'll have to show you my old covers sometimes.
Melinda: Branding and covers, these are the conversations we need to have. I'm sorry everybody I've let you down there's so much more that we could talk about but we're out of time, Jessica we might have to save that for another day but thank you.
Jessica Aspen: Well thank you for having me on, this was so much fun. I appreciate it.
Melinda: Yeah and now you go and do some writing you naughty, naughty girl. Okay I will put Jessica's website up everybody so you can have a fossick through if you're into fantasy and you're into, what was it shape shifters, certainly pop over and have a look and we might talk branding another day.
Jessica Aspen: That would be fun.
Melinda: Okay and it's bye now from Writer on the Road.