Good, Bad or Indifferent – is being hated better than forgettable?

Let me tell you a story…

A few years ago, about three I’d estimate, I read an article about an author self-publishing very erotic stories. They estimated she’d hit $1 million in sales that year. Remember, this was pre- 50 Shades of Grey, so those numbers were impressive. I downloaded one of her stories from Amazon and had to admit, it was really, really dirty, even by my standards, and it was selling like hotcakes.

So I took a story I had lying around, a threesome that had been rejected by 2 publishers because the heroine was unsympathetic. I took Educating Ansley and I dirtied it up. Added all the sex scenes I’d been afraid to add at first writing. I even took the constructive rejection feedback to heart and gave Ansley a backstory to explain her behavior and character. Then I threw it up on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and didn’t say a word. I was a little afraid to since I wasn’t sure how it would be received by my regular readers.

EducatingAnsley A red hot menage with cowboys by Cat JohnsonWithout promo it almost immediately began selling over 200 copies a day at BN alone, matched closely by the Amazon sales. That’s when I started to promote to keep the momentum going. When all was said and done, I’d sold 6,000 copies of Educating Ansley over the 6 weeks after release. For those who have no gage for if that was good or bad, it was shortly after this that Snooky hit the NY Times list with 9,000 in sales.

Then sales started to decline rapidly and I realized BN had begun hiding the erotica titles because of the rash of ‘daddy books’ on the market at the time. My reign of terror came to a screeching halt, but even if the monumental sale numbers fell, today, 3 years after release, Ansley still outsells daily most of my other, newer self-pubbed titles.

But whenever something sells well, you get a mixed bag of responses. Some people loved it and demanded a sequel. Some people hate it and articulated that fact loudly in their 1-star reader reviews. There was hardly anyone in the middle. So now, years later, I find that I have more 5-star reviews than 1-star reviews, but not by much. The love and the hate are nearly equal.

What makes this story so polarizing? I’m really not exactly sure myself. The level of sex may be one reason, but who knows.

Is it better to be both loved and hated because at least I’ve made them feel something? Perhaps being forgettable is death to an author and rage on the reader’s part is preferable.

I posted this today because Educating Ansley has been put in the hands of A LOT more readers over the past week.  It is included in the ALPHA BAD BOYS bundle, which hit the top of the best seller charts at Amazon, BN and ARe since it released last Tuesday, so we’re talking sales figures that have impressed even the best selling of the authors in our group. And I guess I’m bracing myself for more reactions of all varieties–the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The requests for a sequel have been coming again and yes, I’m considering it. Very seriously in fact. With some help I’ve kind of planned out not one but two more books to follow up Ansley. Three sounds like a nice number. I suspect my plans for the threesome will bring on even more volatile reactions, but maybe that’s a good thing.

If you haven’t picked up the bundle yet, you might want to do it today. It’s still 99 cents for 7 complete stories by 7 authors, my Ansley included, but not for long. The price is going up VERY soon. Since the list price for Ansley alone is $2.99, that’s a real bargain.




Amazon (International)

Barnes & Noble

18 responses to “Good, Bad or Indifferent – is being hated better than forgettable?

  1. Yep, I think it’s better to generate strong reactions one way or the other rather than be forgettable. There’s a saying, “Moderation isn’t pleasing to the crowd.”

  2. Cat do you at least feel vindicated that it was turned down by your publisher, but by sexing it up at the “perfect time” the industry was taking off you did it on your own without their help? I say you made your own success and by rejecting it you were able to hopefully make more money on your own!! Can you help out all us readers? What does an author make on a publisher paperback at $7.99 retail. What does a self published author make on a $2.99 eBook and also on a 99 cent eBook? How must does Amazon demand in fees to sell on their site. I mean really 7 authors splitting 99 cents can’t not be worth it? Thanks for explaining behind the scenes to us readers!

    • Actually, I never submitted it to my publisher Samhain because I was so afraid they wouldn’t like it, they’d reject it and I didn’t think I wanted a rejection on my record there, so I sent it to a couple of other small presses–Liquid Silver and Totally-E-Bound, if I remember correctly. Or maybe it was Loose Id?

      Anyway, for a 2.99 self pubbed ebook you make 70% of the sale price at Amazon and 65% of the sale price at BN, so to round it off it’s about $1.90 – $2 per book self pubbing an eBook. BUT the percentage goes down dramatically if you are not at that sweet spot price range. Any eBook above $9.99 or below 2.99 (which includes 99 cent books) gets 35% from Amazon.

      So, Amazon and BN don’t charge fees, what they do is pay you a percentage of the sale price.

      Now, through a publisher for a print book the commission to the author is very low. It’s all confusing and the contracts are complicated with net vs gross, and it’s different for every pub and for every sales outlet (publisher sales, third party sales, bookclub sales, foreign sales, etc) but it’s very low. VERY low. I’m guessing here because math is so not my strong point (and I’d say well over 90% of my sales are in eBooks not print so I never really pay much attention) but I would estimate an author earns well below $1 per print book. Closer to 50 cents. I believe it’s like a 6% commission on print.

      Hope that helps explain things!

  3. I find in this industry you have *haters* but it stems from *jealousy and envy* .. You are a gifted writer and it is evident you are walking the path you should. It’s them ..all them. keep that light in your heart and you will soar .. 🙂

  4. Cat, just remember the saying… You can please SOME of the people ALL the time, but you can’t please ALL the people ALL of the time.

    Just keep doing what you do best, take the bad reviews with a pinch of salt and listen to their viewpoint, but don’t dwell on the negativity. Look at the good/brill reviews you have (or had) and see who comes back, time and time again to your books/blog etc.

    After all, everyone needs a buck up (or a hug) and some point in their life (Those who claim they don’t are lil’ fibbers!)

  5. Cat,

    I am one of your readers who has been on-the-fence about “Educating Ainsley,” for not other reason than she just wasn’t on my radar. You’re one of my military go-to authors, even though I know you write different genres. That being said, I’m one of the thousands who ordered the Alpha Bad Boys Bundle because there were three stories I didn’t own and the price was right. (Who cares about duplicates when it’s $0.99?)

    But, to your topic – hated vs. forgettable. Hated. Hands down. Hate is a STRONG emotion. It is not the “opposite” of love, for that is, indifference. Hate is visceral, it festers, turns people against themselves and each other, and requires a leap of faith to overcome. Think Cruella de Vil. Serverus Snape. Hannibal Lecter. These characters are HATED, but so incredibly rich in their development, that they elevate the story.

    I wrote one negative review (that I published), along with a one-star rating. It was because the heroine was NOT MEMORABLE. There was research done on the hero, his job and backstory. But, the heroine, NOTHING. She was a whiny, harpy fishwife, who constantly belittled the hero, but we NEVER knew why. What would possess her to be so ugly towards him? What life experiences did she have that would make her so negative towards a man, who was clearly attracted to her, loved having sex with her, and eventually fell in love with her? It was never revealed. So, after struggling with 3/4 of the story, I threw my hands up and said, “meh, not worth my time.”

    I don’t have to like the characters to be drawn in to the story, but they have to give me SOMETHING. Inspire some emotion or reaction, because indifference is death.


  6. Cat,

    This is something I worry about as well, with my writing. I only have one Romance out, so for me the unknown is a factor as well. If they hate my first will I even get a chance at a second. I don’t know and that is scary. Because I don’t write just to make money, I write to share my love of Romance stories in whatever form they come in, just as every other Romance writer out there does. Now the writer in me, says “I want everyone to love my book as much as I do”. But the reader in me knows that is not possible.

    I think in the end if it gets people talking about your books it will lead to more people that will like your books. Not all. As others here have already said, you can’t please everyone, but the ones you do please will keep coming back. Like myself.

    Your fan,
    Rachel Rain

  7. I remember this book. I really enjoyed it but I was a little disappointed with the ending because it left with a bunch of unanswered questions. Did they stay in touch, did they have a HEA. I want to know what happens to the relationship. Now when it comes to sex. The more the better, the dirtier the better, the detailed the better in my opinion. I like it when you get so wrapped up in the scene you need a fan and a large cold drink to continue. But I have seen the growth in your writing since discovering you in 2010. Some of your earlier work was one dimensional. Now, when I read one of your books I get so wrapped up in it that I forget all else and have now idea what has gone on since I started the book. I noticed that especially with One night with a Cowboy. It wrapped around me like a blanket and kept me warm until I finished it. When it was over I immediately checked your website to see when the next one would release.

    • I forgot to answer the question. If I was a writer which I am not, I would only care if the “hate it” reviews were more than the “love it” reviews. If that was the case I would then try to figure out why. Other than that no one want to be forgettable.

    • Thank you, Laura. I agree with you, when I reread things I wrote in 2006 I can see the difference in my writing. I guess it’s like anything, the more you do it, the better you get. Thank god for that! Better than going the other direction. Thanks for your comment!