You know that feeling when you think you’re about to drink a soda and instead it’s a glass of tea? Both drinks are tasty, but if you’re in the mood for one and get the other, it can be disappointing. Well, that’s what can happen to a reader if they pick up a book thinking it’s one kind of story and it winds up being a different kind of story. Sometimes that’s what happens when the genres of “women’s fiction” and “romance” get tangled together. The reader is unsure what they’re tasting, and doesn’t quite know if they like it or not.
To be vulnerable with you two days before my newest book Anything but Graceful comes out, I’m going to share that it’s not getting the love from NetGalley reviewers I’d hoped for. NetGalley is a service where authors and publishers pay to make their advanced reader copies of upcoming books available for people to request to read for review. A lot of avid readers have found that signing up as ARC readers is a great way to get free books and discover new authors. For authors and publishers, it’s a good way to launch a book with a handful of reviews already posted. People request to review the book, and the author or publisher gets to accept or decline recipients. Naturally, we want to give it to as many people as possible to up the results, as many people will never leave a review.
I’ve only used this service once before, back in 2019 when my YA romance novel All the Love You Write was released. It was recommended to me because I always struggle to get organic reviews from friends or readers who purchase my books. Unfortunately, the worst reviews I got for All the Love You Write came from NetGalley. They didn’t like my male protagonist at all, and some said very harsh things about it. As an author, I have to let it go, but it does hurt to know that people didn’t “get” my story or love Mark the way I do.
I didn’t bother with this service for the release of the Songwriter Romance novellas in 2021 or my latest YA release, Dragon Surf. But I thought a full length, traditionally published, women’s fiction, second chance romance like Anything but Graceful might get a different response, so I decided to brave it again. It has gotten LOTS of requests.
It is getting some nice reviews, but nearly all the reviews seem confused that the book leans toward women’s fiction and not romance. While none of the reviews are saying anything unkind or overly critical, many are giving the book a lower star ranking because it’s not the book they expected. Tea instead of soda. I am confused by their confusion, because in every social media post I’ve done about the book I have said or written that it is a “women’s fiction, second chance romance” novel. It’s listed under women’s fiction and romance on the NetGalley site. And I think the blurb makes it pretty clear that this is a woman’s journey of self-discovery and resilience = women’s fiction. (Click here to read the blurb and see what you think.) *I will admit that the cover does have a banner with “a second chance romance novel” on it.
And that’s why I want to discuss the difference between “women’s fiction” and “romance” genres.
Because the marketing world likes to put things under specific labels to make them easier to find, books that are written by women, feature a woman as the main protagonist, deal with women-centered issues, and are read primarily by women are called “women’s fiction.” The same kind of book that is lighter in content or leans into humor might be called “chick lit”. (There are no “men’s fiction” or “dude’s lit” categories, but that is a subject for another time.) Women’s fiction does not have to feature romance. It can be about a woman’s psychological, spiritual, or physical journey. The relationships can be between friends or family. Women’s fiction novels aren’t required to have happy endings. Some recent women’s fiction titles I’ve enjoyed were Lessons in Chemistry, Someone Else’s Shoes, Hello Beautiful, and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. A lot of these stories have love interests, but the stories center around the journey of the main female protagonist(s). WF is also either contemporary or historical fiction and considered literary fiction. You don’t see it matched with speculative genres like: scifi women’s fiction, thriller women’s fiction, or fantasy women’s fiction.
How does this differ from romance? Many ways. First of all, romance must have a satisfying happy ending: either “happy ever after” or “happy for now”. There are tropes that romance readers require such as “enemies to lovers”, “friends to lovers”, “fake marriage”, “hidden identity”, “second chances” and so on. There are a lot of them to choose from, some more popular than others. There must be an identifiable love interest, and the story needs to primarily be about that relationship. How do they meet? How do they fall for each other? What are the problems that might keep them apart? How do they surmount them? Often, a romance novel will have more than one point of view, going back and forth between both of the main characters. Some publishers have very specific genres, word counts, and spice levels for their romance novels, and the books must fit those parameters. Romance novels are often paired with speculative fiction genres like: fantasy romance, time travel romance, mystery romance, etc.
I always knew that Anything but Graceful leaned more into women’s fiction territory. It shows her journey from a timid college student overwhelmed by rejection growing and changing into a fifty-year-old woman finding a way to believe in herself and her talent. The love interest, Tyler, breaks her heart when they are 19 and shows up again in her life 30 years later. Can that relationship be rekindled, or is Grace unable to see that he might be different than he was as a teenager?
When I queried this book to agents and publishers, I did call it a women’s fiction novel with romance. It finally got accepted by Satin Romance Books. They liked that this was a story with a middle-aged protagonist, as there aren’t many of those in the romance book world. My editor, proofreader and I reworked a number of things, but no one asked me to increase the amount of romance in the book or change the ending. For a lot of the final act, Tyler is absent from the story while Grace goes through a journey of self-discovery and decides what she values and needs from life.
I won’t write any more about how it ends, because I do want you to read it. All I want to say is that Anything but Graceful is a “women’s fiction” novel, AND it is also a “second chance romance” novel. It is not one or the other. So, don’t be surprised. And if you do read it, please leave a review.
I’d love to hear from you. What are your opinions about these genres? Do you have any women’s fiction titles you’ve enjoyed and can recommend? I’m always looking for good books to read. Please leave a comment below.
I’ve been a writer longer than most people think.
Most of my friends, the ones I communicate with primarily through Facebook, know me as a theatre person. That makes sense. I did theatre all through school and got my college degree in Theatre Arts. I have been a performer in some capacity for most of my 54 years of existence. The vast majority of my friends, whether close or in passing, met me in a theatre setting. We have done shows together or have mutuals who have done shows together.
But all this time I’ve been a writer. Yep. The whole time while I’ve been performing and teaching, I’ve also been a writer.
I started writing as a child. I was passionate about writing stories, poetry and song lyrics. I illustrated my stories, stapled them together and gave them as gifts to my parents. Any time I could get near a piano, I’d tap out notes to figure out the tunes for songs in my head. I can still sing a couple of them to this day.
My senior year, I took a creative writing class, a playwriting class, and a literature course about fairy tales, and all three inspired me to write a series of original fairy tales over the next few years. Several of those eventually got published either in anthologies or as novellas.
After college, I had two original children’s musicals of mine produced by Imagination Theatre Company in California called A Pirate Tale and Who Stole the Circus? Those plays got me excited to write children’s books. I wrote Saving Christmas Spirit (a fantasy that I ultimately self-published) and three middle grade novels that were published by a small press that went out of business in 2008.
I had several stories and articles published in magazines, books, and on websites in the 90s and early 2000s. Then I got a contract to co-author five nonfiction books about classical composers for Morgan Reynolds Publishers. After those came out (to great reviews and a couple awards), I was asked to write another book for them about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. That publisher, sadly, is also no longer operating. I’m very proud of these books, however.
I moved to Tennessee during this time, and I got an opportunity to direct my play A Pirate Tale again and revived my one-woman show Donna’s Day (a music-filled biography about Doris Day that I originally performed in Los Angeles in 1996).
I had the opportunity to write and direct another play called Don Coyote: A New Western Musical for Kids at the Larry Keeton Theatre in 2012, and I got a contract to ghostwrite a series of romance novellas that same year.
Around that time, I decided to abandon writing under the name Donna Getzinger. With my books under that name all out of print, I felt like it was time to take on a new name and start fresh.
I decided on D. G. Driver because Driver was my new last name. I chose to use initials because at the time I was working on a couple middle grade books that had boys as the leading characters. Funny enough, the main character of what was On the Water, was ultimately changed to a girl, and that book Lost on the Water, was published in 2018. The other book, No Lifeguard on Duty, is finally being published as a YA novel called Dragon Surf. (Preorder the ebook today!)
If you’ve made it this far through my little autobiography, I think you’ll understand why it always seems odd to me that my friends seem surprised that I am a writer. Reactions to my posts about my books or writing career are often met with indifference in comparison to posts about theatre. (Also, TBH, I think FB hides a lot of my posts about my books.) In person, I’m often asked if I’m “still writing”, even though I feel like I’m constantly posting updates about my writing progress. Under the name D. G. Driver, I have 14 books published and stories in 7 anthologies. It's been a busy 9 years, as I've done all of this while still teaching full time and doing theatre.
I’m aware that I’m not with a major publisher. I haven’t had that kind of luck. You’re not finding my hardcovers at the big bookstores when you’re browsing the shelves. My publishing life is similar to my theatre life: small but satisfying. I mostly do community theatre here in Nashville. I get paid a little for directing and nothing for performing. The reward is getting to perform and delighting in the finished project. My writing career is kind of like that.
All of my YA books and my upcoming women’s fiction novel Anything but Graceful are with a traditional, small publisher. I do get royalties from them based on the sales of my books. It’s not a lot of money, but it’s some. I have a few self-published works as well for which royalties trickle in. Knowing I won’t get rich at this means that I do it a lot for the joy of creating. Getting the books published and available for others to enjoy is the reward. I've also met so many authors in person or online that I now consider friends.
I get a lot of rejection as a writer from agents, major publishers, and sometimes book bloggers or influencers. The seeming disinterest from friends does hurt. I often think about quitting and using my weekends to do other things besides sitting at my computer. After all, I have friends who make a lot more money babysitting than I do pouring my heart into a manuscript. Only, right when I think I can’t write another sentence is when my characters will call out to me, or a reader writes something encouraging to me. Then I’m back at it, struggling to find the right words for the ideas in my head. And I have so many stories to tell.
I get enough yesses and good reviews to keep me going. This year, in particular, is an exciting year for me. I’m releasing two books: Dragon Surf (a YA urban fantasy co-authored with Jeni Bautista Richard) with Fire and Ice YA Books on March 28th; Anything but Graceful (my first full length women’s fiction romance novel) with Satin Romance Books in June; and I’m having my original musical Songwriter Night produced at The Larry Keeton Theatre in September. I’m revved up and working on a new romance story right now!
So, as you now see, I’ve been writing all along. It’s not a secret thing I do. It just feels like a secret. If you asked me to define myself, though, I think I’d say I am an author before I call myself anything else.
I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment or scroll through the pages of my website and see if something I’ve written appeals to you. Then go order it and let me surprise you!
I’ll be honest, I’m about to write my yearly creative wrap-up, and I’m not sure how it’s going to come out. There’s a part of me that feels like I was super busy all year, and there’s a part of me that feels like I didn’t accomplish much. Let’s dig in and remember, shall we?
As a writer, I didn’t publish anything new this year. This is the first time I haven’t released a new book or at least a story in an anthology since the publication of Cry of the Sea, my first book as D. G. Driver, in 2014.
I finally gave up querying agents for both my middle grade fantasy novel Dragon Surf and my women’s fiction novel Attitude of Grace. A quick Facebook interaction with one of the women who runs Fire and Ice YA Books (publisher of my other Young Adult novels) where she asked me “When are you going to write another book for us?” made me re-evaluate Dragon Surf. After a conversation with my co-author Jeni Bautista Richard, I spent all of January revising the novel so that our main character Eric would be 15 instead of 12. I submitted it to F&I, and they accepted it! Dragon Surf, now a younger YA (similar to my novel Lost on the Water) is scheduled to be published in spring of 2023.
I submitted my women’s fiction novel directly to small press publisher Satin Romance Books, and it also was accepted! Woo-hoo! It will be released in summer 2023 under its new title Anything but Graceful.
I’m very proud of Dragon Surf. It’s a fun story that has taken a long journey of rewrites over the years. However, I am planning on this being my last YA or children’s book. Unless something changes wildly for me this coming year, I don’t intend to write anymore books for younger readers. That said, I have great hopes for my first full-length women’s fiction/Gen-X/second chance romance novel Anything but Graceful. I’m hoping that it will finally be the book and genre that finds a steady audience, and I have several ideas for other books in this genre.
As far as new writing goes, I did step back into the novel I abandoned in 2021, and then I abandoned it again. It may never be completed. I got a new, fresher idea that I feel is more complimentary to Anything but Graceful. For the moment, I’m calling it The Cabin Plan, and I 'm about half-way through the first draft and hope to finish it early in 2023.
The other writing project I did this year was to adapt my audiobook musical Songwriter Night into a script for a staged production. The story is the same, but I’ve added three new songs. Caleb Dinger, who composed the music for the audiobook, is now a member of the U.S. NAVY band. We thank him for his service and wish him well. Due to that, I've asked another friend of mine to assist me with finishing up the music for the new numbers. I’ve got a meeting set up in January to pitch the musical to a local theatre here in Nashville. Cross your fingers that it goes well! It would be so exciting to see it performed!
Speaking of theatre. I didn’t manage to get on stage at all this year (except singing two songs in a fundraiser cabaret). However, I did direct two wonderful shows at The Larry Keeton Theatre here in Nashville. In the spring, I directed the silly musical Once Upon a Mattress, and in October I directed the classic Noel Coward comedy Blithe Spirit. Both shows were a delight, and I had so much fun! My husband builds all the sets for this theatre and created brilliant sets for my shows. I also had the added delight of featuring my daughter in a prominent role in Mattress. She was so lovely, and I was very proud of her.
I’m not sure what 2023 will bring theatrically. I’ve chosen to take the first part of the year off to deal with writing career stuff and my daughter’s final semester of college. I’m hoping the second half of the year is full of theater.
My other big creative pursuit all year was joining TikTok, or more accurately, Booktok. I started making posts at the end of January and have tried to post at least one video a day. It took nearly the whole year, but I’m now close to 600 followers. I also had my first video go viral last week. It’s at 23K right now! I know that I’ve sold a couple books through doing this, mostly my fairy tale novellas that are on Kindle Unlimited, but not enough to say it’s the foolproof way to sell books. When I get over 1000 followers, I can finally add a link to my webpage, and I hope that’ll make a difference. So, go follow me!
Now it’s time to write about all the wonderful books I read or listened to this year! According to my Goodreads Challenge, I got through 49 books, which is a record for me and 9 over my goal. Yay me! It is once again an eclectic mix of all kinds of genres, but I definitely read a lot more romance and women’s fiction this year than I have in the past. If you want to see all the books I read, go to this link. Otherwise, here comes my list of faves.
Most Surprising: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. Okay, I shouldn’t be surprised that a Libba Bray book is good, but this is such a wild departure from the gothic fantasies I love so much. It’s an absurd, hilarious story that packs a whole lot of punch about a group of beauty queen contestants that crash land on a deserted island. I can’t express how ridiculous this book is, and yet I laughed out loud more than I ever have from a book before. I listened to the audiobook book, and it is narrated by Libba herself. She does a brilliant job. As an extra bonus, there was an interview with her at the end. Complete fun!
Runner up: Fantasticland by Mike Bockoven. I picked this up because it was free on Audible. This creepy horror story about amusement park employees stranded for nearly two months after a hurricane sounded like it might be too outlandish to hold up, but it wound up being riveting until the bitter end. It’s told through a series of interviews, with two actors narrating the audiobook and doing different voices for each character. Very clever writing that made me think a lot about the nature of people under pressure.
Best Self-Published or Small Press Book: This is a tough one. As promised, I read more indie books this year. I think I’m going with Fae’s Ascent by Nicole Kilpatrick published by Fire and Ice YA Books. I was really looking forward to this follow up to her clever YA leprechaun fantasy Clover, and it didn’t disappoint. It was full of action and had a lot going on with it. I highly recommend this series if you like romantic fantasy books with FAE (but maybe don’t want all the smut). Also, isn't this cover art GORGEOUS?
Runner up: Her Best Friend’s Lie by Laura Wolfe published by Bookouture. I’m a big fan of Laura Wolfe’s thrillers. This one was especially spooky, about a group of women who were friends in high school going on a retreat together at a secluded cabin. And then people start dying! It was scary, and it kept me guessing until the end. If you haven’t read her books, put them on your radar.
Best Audiobook: Playing with Myself by Randy Rainbow. I know, it’s not fiction. This is an autobiography by the famous YouTube star, obviously read by him. It made me laugh, but it also made me cry multiple times while driving around in my car. It is wildly funny, irreverent, and very moving.
If you want me to pick a novel, well, I’ll choose Hail Mary by Andy Weir. I'm not a big scifi fan. I don’t think I would have liked this book as much if I’d read it. Listening to the amazing narration of this audiobook made it work for me. I loved Rocky so much. IYKYK.
Best Big Publisher Book: The Recruit by Alan Drew. This is a sequel to his mystery novel Shadow Man set Orange County, CA in the 1980s. This one was about the rise of neo-nazis in Southern California and a series of murders and terrorist activities caused by them. Do not read this book if you are squeamish about these issues because it is very disturbing at times when the author gets into the head of the villain. It was well done and incredibly thought-provoking. I’m proud to say that I knew this author as a teenager when we both grew up in that area.
Runner up: Fairy Tale by Stephen King. You know I can’t do one of these lists without mentioning my favorite author. Loved his new book. It’s more fantasy than horror, takes a moment to get to it, and is really a young adult novel. That said, I enjoyed every word.
Best book I read in 2022! City of Flickering Light by Juliette Fay. Didn’t I say last year that this spot always winds up being historical fiction? I read a slew of books set in the 1920s and '30s last year, and this one was so compelling. It was about three friends trying to make it in silent films in Hollywood in the 1930s. Everything about it was fascinating, and I adored the characters. I found out that Fay’s novel The Tumbling Turner Sisters actually takes place before this story (about vaudeville) and promptly read it next. It was also great, but not as great. I highly recommend both books though – and maybe read them in order.
Well, that’s it for my year. How was yours? What books did you devour this year? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment.
Oh, and if you’re looking for something good to read, try one of the ones that I’ve suggested or bop around my website and see if I’ve written anything that would appeal to you.
And sign up for my newsletter. I'm going to try to actually start sending them out next year.
Over the past couple days, friends of mine have been posting pictures of their Taylor Swift concert ticket purchases. They waited patiently and eagerly to get them and shelled out the money. This was important to them and worth the price.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what gives entertainment value. Why will people pay high prices for some forms of entertainment but not others? Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand why people want to see Taylor Swift perform. However, if there were a new singer playing at a venue downtown, would these same music lovers hesitate to spend any money at all to go see her? Even if she was a friend?
To be fair, I’m not a person who pays high ticket prices. I have a modest income and a family to support. I’m a teacher, indie author, and community theatre performer. What little extra money I have – and it is VERY little – usually goes back into my books or shows or goes toward buying my friends’ books or seeing my friends’ shows. I didn’t even think about getting Taylor Swift tickets. Didn’t cross my mind as an option.
I'm always amused when new self-published authors on the scene do the standard complaint: “People will pay five dollars for a Starbucks coffee but won’t pay ninety-nine cents for my book.” It makes no sense to compare those things. Food/drink verses entertainment? No. You have to pit similar things against each other.
Here’s an example. I have a friend who devours young adult novels. She posts about them frequently on her social media pages. We’re Goodreads friends as well, so I see her reviews. She’s often asking for suggestions for her next read. She buys hardcovers of the newest hit books as soon as they are released.
She has never bought one of my young adult books. She’s never asked about them. She’s never talked to me about them. If she has a Kindle, she could get all five of my YA books for less than the price of one of her big name hardcover novels. Doesn’t matter. I could offer them for free, and she still won’t get them. She doesn’t see small press published books as worthy of her time.
Another friend of mine has spent a fortune on air fare, hotel rooms in Chicago and New York, along with hefty ticket prices to see Hamilton MULTIPLE times. She has season tickets to the Broadway shows that tour into town. The only times she’s ever come to see shows I was in or directed was when I’ve given her free tickets, and even then has turned me down a couple times. To my knowledge, she’s never paid to see a community theater play. She doesn’t see amateur productions as worthy of her time.
Okay, I’m whining a little.
Still, the point is (whether about my work or not) that some people have a definite idea of what has value to them. With regard to entertainment, value is often weighed more against time spent than cost. They will spend good money on something that is guaranteed to be good. There’s no question Taylor’s concert will be great, Hamilton will amaze, and the newest novel by a favorite famous author will be riveting.
People are less likely to spend money, even if the price is dramatically lower, on entertainment that isn't guaranteed to be good. That new singer at the small venue might have a few clunky songs. The community theatre play might be poorly acted or have bad costumes. The book by that indie author might be full of grammatical errors or fail to make sense. So, even if all it costs is a cover charge and a beer, a low ticket price, or a dollar at Amazon, it feels like a risk to spend money and time on something that might not be good.
But what if it is.
It takes people who are perhaps more generous with how they use their time to trust or even seek out entertainment that isn’t a guarantee. Often this starts as a favor. Your friend is singing in a band or acting in a show. She’s asked you to come many times, and you finally have a free night and decide, “what the heck, I’ll go check it out.”
Or someone you work with has written a book. You know it’s not the kind of thing you usually read, or maybe you don’t read much at all. Still, she’s been talking about it for a while, and over your summer vacation you choose it to read it while you suntan at the beach.
And maybe the show is great. And maybe the book is fun. Now you know you can trust this person to entertain you, and their entertainment value goes up. At least a little.
Of course, the opposite may happen. The show isn’t good. The book doesn’t grab you. Unfortunately, this confirms your conviction that local shows (or artists or talent or writers) aren’t good enough for your time or money. This is too bad, because they aren’t all equal. There’s no way to know. It’ll always be a bit of a risk.
There’s a bias that most people have that if you know the person who wrote the play, book, or song, then it probably isn’t very good. We don’t trust it. These normal people that we work with or are friends with couldn't possibly be that talented or they'd be making a living with their art. Right?
I have definitely been to some original plays that were boring or weird. I’ve been in a couple that were bad. However, I’ve also seen some that were absolutely brilliant, and I’ve had the privilege of performing in a couple that were extremely well written.
We're taking a risk when we go see something new. Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn’t.
How daring are you with your time and money?
I’ve discovered authors who had their books on sale or free, and now I read every book they put out. I’ve tried other authors this way and was not impressed enough to read more of their work. I know which theaters in town put on plays that knock it out of the park each time. I know which ones are unpredictable. I also know when I’m going just to support a friend regardless of the quality of the show. Because sometimes it’s cool to do that. It gives the entertainment a different kind of value.
It gives your friendship a different kind of value too.
All right, I’ve spent too much time ruminating about this when I should have been writing my novel. I’m curious about your thoughts on the subject. How and where do you prefer to spend your entertainment dollars? What do you value? Is it saving up for big concerts, professional theatre, or the next New York Times bestseller? Is it discovering the unknown gems? Or do you do a little of both?
I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment.
In my last post, I hinted that to ramp up my marketing strategy for my books, I might get brave and start doing some TikToks. Well, I did. I’ve been at it for two solid months now and have done 35 posts. I wanted to share with you how this experiment is going so far and what I’ve learned.
I avoided using this app for a long time for a couple reasons: it seemed to be mostly for young people, and I knew it would be a big time-suck. My daughter and a friend of mine at work insisted that there was much more to it than teens lip-syncing songs and dancing, so I finally gave it a chance and put the app on my phone. It took a moment, but the algorithm discovered the stuff that entertains me. I was wrong about it just being for young people. I was right about it being a time-suck. It’s really easy to get trapped on that app and not even notice how much time is passing.
As for making my own content, that’s a whole different story. I have a couple friends who are doing tremendously well on TikTok, but they aren’t authors. They’re doing well because of the persona or message they're putting across.
What on earth would anyone want to see this middle-aged indie author doing or saying? Obviously, I’m on there to promote my books, but so are thousands of other writers. No one wants to see outright sales pitches, so I had to find my way of expressing myself. In addition to writing, I’m also an actress/singer with a huge love a musical theater. I decided to combine my passions and create content where I would sing showtunes that either go thematically with a book of mine or that reflect things that happen in an author’s life.
Honestly, I thought this gimmick would be cuter than it is, but it’s only getting a lukewarm response. This is actually my most viewed and liked one where I'm singing. I have one that only has eleven views (sigh) and most have less than ten likes. (Oh, and did I mention my book Songwriter Night won an award? Yay!)
My daughter told me I’d be more successful following the trends on the app, doing some lip-synching, and using trending sounds. That makes sense, and while I’ve done a couple of those, I feel like I’m just one of a million when I do them. It's fun but feels insincere.
I’m also still figuring out how to make these videos. I have a small house that doesn’t have a lot of great places to shoot anything with a good background. I get embarrassed to shoot these when other members of my family are home.
I don’t wear makeup regularly, but I have to put some on for these or I look like death warmed over. So, I try to shoot a couple at a time.
Editing them together is challenging and takes more time than I thought. Most of the effects don’t work unless you record directly onto the app. I’ve edited a couple longer videos on Canva and uploaded them. It’s taking an enormous amount of time to put these things together, and some of them are literally only a few seconds long.
The pro tip is that people should be putting content up at least 4-6 times PER DAY to grow a following. I’m lucky if I can do 4 a week. It’s honestly so much to do even the small amount of content I’ve created. I’m absolutely enjoying the challenge and happy with what I’ve done, but I can’t sustain this pace, not with a full-time job and other commitments. Making TikTok content has stolen away a lot of my writing time and attention to other forms of marketing. A month from now, I start directing a big musical that goes up in June. I will have zero free time on my hands for making silly videos of me singing or lip-synching.
And is it even working? Not yet. I’m still new on there, but in two months I’ve only gained 40 followers. I haven’t topped 250 views on a video. The likes are going up for each video, but the most I’ve gotten is 24. That was for one of the “trending” style ones that has nothing to do with my writing, and I think most of those people liking it were creepers. As far as I can tell, I haven’t sold any books due to these videos.
I’ve shared some as reels on Instagram, and it’s interesting how different the responses are to these videos from one app to the other. I can tell that my Instagram followers are more interested in my singing/personal ones than the TikTok community. Also, it’s very clear that short, punchy videos do so much better than long, talky ones no matter which app I use.
I’m not done with my experiment. I’m still at the start of it, and I’m curious to see where it will go. I’m not convinced, however, that this is ultimately the best way to spend my precious creative time. But hey, I am posting a lot more on there than here on this blog, so please come follow me. I’d love to know what your experiences are on TikTok, either as a consumer or a content creator. Leave a comment below.
It’s time once again for my annual wrap up of the year: what I’ve been doing creatively and what I’ve been reading. It feels like I just wrote this post for the end of 2020, and if you scroll back through my very inactive blog, it sure looks like I just wrote it. Nevertheless, a whole year has indeed gone by, one filled with ups and downs.
The year began on a big high as I figured out how to publish the sweet romantic Nashville inspired audiobook I’d worked on so hard with songwriter Caleb Dinger and a cast of talented Nashville actors. We chose to go through Findaway Voices, and that made Songwriter Night: A Musical Romance available on every audiobook platform, the biggies being GooglePlay, Apple Books, Chirp, Kobo, Audiobooks.com and Audible. Yes, you can even borrow it from your public library.
Caleb and I got to do an interview on Today in Nashville, a local daytime news show, with a song from the show sung by our leading actors Jack Forte and Caylin Maguire. We got some wonderful reviews, and it was all very exciting.
We even did a “Listening Dinner Theatre” event in the spring where people bought tickets to enjoy a nice meal while listening to the 3-hour story. It was a blast, and I loved watching people react to everything and sing along to the song at the end.
Next, I worked on releasing Songwriter Night in ebook and print. It took a little revising because the story had originally been written in script format. I did a guest blog post about that process for Stacy Juba’s Shortcuts for Writers. The book version got some lovely reviews as well.
Once that came out, I took some time trying to figure out what to write next. I started and stopped three different novels. I liked the ideas behind all of them, but I was struggling with what my next steps as an author should be. The women’s fiction novel I wrote in 2020, Attitude of Grace, has gotten a couple full requests from agents and one publisher, but it hasn’t passed through the gatekeepers yet. I feel like that book will eventually find a home, and I want to have some solid foundation on another novel in the same genre to follow it.
In the end, however, my heart urged me to continue the love stories I started with my Nashville songwriters. So, I wrote a sequel called Songwriter Showcase. It was a blast to write because I had the voices of the actors from the audiobook in my head, and I could hear how they would read the lines. I also mined through the collection of songs I’d written in my twenties and used several of them in the story.
I released Songwriter Showcase with little fanfare in October and haven’t had much time to do any marketing for it. I’m hoping to fix that once we get past the holidays. (If you’re interested in review copies of either book, please let me know.) I also hope to record some of the new songs that I wrote for this story. It is a tremendous amount of work to record a full cast, musical audiobook, and this story is almost twice as long as the last one. I’m still trying to figure out a way to do it that will work. I’m toying with the idea of recording a staged reading of it, but I haven’t run that by Caleb or my actors yet. I’ll definitely let y’all know what happens.
In the new year I plan to revisit these characters once again to adapt Songwriter Night so that we can perform it as a live stage show. After that, I think I will go back to one of the novels I deserted last spring.
All of that seems exciting creatively, but I'll confess that my sales for all my books have been especially low this year. Nothing is working, and I’ve considered hanging it all up multiple times. I’m going to have to explore new ways to get attention to these titles. I’ve been trying to avoid it, but a TikTok account may be in my near future.
The theater side of me got to wake up once again after a long, long 18 months. My husband and I were asked to be in an original musical written by composer Michael Kurek called Dear Miss Barrett back in June. We were very proud to be part of this world premiere performance here in Tennessee. Immediately after that show, we FINALLY started rehearsals for the long-awaited Mamma Mia. We performed in August at The Larry Keeton Theatre, and it was SO MUCH FUN! I have never had so much fun doing a show, and there were so many tears at the end.
The woman playing Rosie to my Tanya in Mamma Mia was slated to direct the Christmas show, and she asked me to assistant direct and choreograph Miracle in Bedford Falls (a musical based on the film It’s a Wonderful Life). That turned out to be another magical experience that again left me in tears on closing night (only one week ago as I write this). I loved the show so much, and the cast was so delightful.
I’m not entirely sure what my theater plans are for 2022 at this point, but I have my fingers crossed for more opportunities to direct and at least one chance to perform.
And now for my 2021 Books of the Year list.
According to my Goodreads Challenge, I read 39 books, and I have two more I should finish before the new year. Once again, my reading genres were all over the place. I can’t help it. I like stories of all kinds. My list is heavier on audiobooks because I listen during my long commutes. I read a little YA, romance, women's fiction, some thrillers, and a couple non-fiction works.
Biggest Surprise: Girls with No Names by Sandra Burdick. Like usual, my biggest surprise came from plucking a book out of a Bookbub sale notice. This historical novel about the condition of life for wayward girls in 1910 was fascinating. It’s a heart-wrenching tale, and it had me captured from beginning to end. I listened to the audiobook for this, and it was expertly read by 3 different actresses. I highly recommend it if you like historical fiction.
Best Self-Published or Small Press Book: Okay, I deserve a little slap on the wrist for this, but I didn’t read many self-published or small press books this year. I know. As an indie, I should be ashamed. I will do better next year. The one I enjoyed the most was A36 by Teri Polen. It’s a YA science fiction/dystopian novel about a society that farms genetic codes from people and sells them. It’s very exciting with great fight scenes and a cast of characters that is multi-cultural and inclusive of LGBT characters. I am definitely looking forward to the sequel.
Best Audiobook: This is hard. I’ve listened to so many good audiobooks this year. I’m going with Stephen King’s Billy Summers. I always love a good King novel, and I read 3 of them this year. The narration in this is fantastic, and the story zips along. It is not a horror novel at all but more of a suspense story. It’s interesting caring so much for a character who is also a hired assassin. If you love the TV show Barry, you will love this book.
Best Large Press Book: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins. This book is a prequel to The Hunger Games series and the origin story of President Snow. I know that a lot of people didn’t like it as much as I did, but I found it riveting. I also love when Santino Fontana narrates books. He’s amazing. I just wish he’d sung the songs instead of reciting them.
Best Book of the Year: The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah. I suppose one of these years my favorite book won’t be historical fiction, but that genre always seems to score highest with me. It’s not often an audiobook has me weeping all the way to and from work while I drive. This one did it. This story about a family striving to survive the Great Depression tore my heart out and left it raw. Beautifully written and so epic. I can’t recommend it enough.
Have you read or listened to any of these books? What did you think? What were your favorite books of the year? I’d love to hear from you, so leave a comment. And, of course, if you’re looking for something fun to read to start off 2022, pop around my website and see if any of my books appeal to you.
Happy New Year! Let’s hope it’s a happier, healthier one!
My last post was six months ago, and if you read it you know I was going through a struggle over how or if I should proceed with my writing. Well, that battle continues to rage in me, but my determination to create seems to keep winning. After three starts on full length novels, I decided that I really wanted to continue the story of my Nashville songwriters and wrote a sequel to Songwriter Night: A Musical Romance.
This book, Songwriter Showcase, wound up being almost twice as long as the first story, although the main plot still takes place in one evening.
My plan is to release the book on November 9th, and it is available for pre-order on Kindle now!
Here is the cover for the new book! Do you like it?
What's it about?
Emotions run high and jealousy reigns when the members of songwriter group night enter a talent competition against each other.
It’s been a couple months since Trish attended her first songwriter night and started her relationship with Lyle. Things have been going nicely for them but haven’t been quite as smooth for Odetta and Neil. These new relationships are put to the test when all four of them enter a big songwriting competition where the finalists will perform in a showcase in front of a panel of judges. The winner will get an offer of agent representation and a possible recording deal. Now they’re all in competition, trying to figure out how to support each other while still wanting to win.
It doesn’t help that both Lyle and Neil feel slighted because Trish and Odetta are singing songs they’ve written about former relationships. There’s also a striking young woman named Carly who could definitely snag the prize away from any of them.
Oh, and one more problem. Aiden Bronson is one of the judges.
Is the love between Trish and Lyle or Odetta and Neil strong enough to survive this tense night? No matter the outcome?
It's now my intention to do a series of these Nashville Songwriter Romance novellas, exploring the romantic and platonic relationships between the main characters from the original story and adding some new characters as it goes along.
Each book will continue to feature song lyrics, but at this point I'm not planning to do full cast audiobooks for the sequels. I would like at some point to record the songs, however. So, stay tuned for that.
If you haven't read Songwriter Night: A Musical Romance, I'm keeping the price at 99c for the ebook for now, and the audiobook is still at a low $5.25 at most audiobook retailers. It's gotten great reviews, and people seem to really enjoy it. I'm crossing my fingers for the possibility of putting it on stage as a live musical sometime next year.
What am I working on next?
I wrote Songwriter Showcase on weekends between rehearsals for two back-to-back musical productions this past summer. We just finished up Mamma Mia (at long last) two weeks ago. So sad that it's over, but so happy we finally got to do the show!
I'm about to go into rehearsals for a Christmas show that I'm choreographing and assistant directing. That'll keep me pretty busy through the remainder of the year.
Next up for Lyle, Trish and the gang will be Songwriter Session, but I need a break from them for a moment while I concentrate on marketing the existing titles. I'm planning to go back to one of the women's fiction novels that I started during the spring and see if I can make some progress on it. I'm still sending my other women's fiction novel Attitude of Grace to agents and publishers for consideration. It's a long, slow, painful process, but I have hope that this book about rediscovering yourself in mid-life will find its place in the world.
I'd love to hear from you! Comment to tell me what you think of the new book cover. What have you been reading lately? I'm always happy to answer any questions you may have. All the best to you!
I haven’t done a blog post yet this year. I’ve thought of a couple ideas. I even wrote a short one a couple weeks back about my current reading habits, but then I thought it was pointless and didn’t post it. And that’s kind of the thing with me right now, I’m second guessing my ideas. I’m second guessing everything that I write and if anyone would be at all interested in reading it, whether it’s a blog post, a tweet, a Facebook update, or a novel.
D. G. Driver
Author D. G. Driver's
Write and Rewrite Blog
“There are no bad stories, just ones that haven’t found their right words yet.”
A blog mostly about the process of revision with occasional guest posts, book reviews, and posts related to my books.