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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Writing in Different Genres: Erotica & Children's Books - Jennifer Probst

Hello Fellow Writers!
We have a guest blog today from Jennifer Probst, a multi-pubbed romance author and children's book author, who is both traditionally published and self-published, and is rocking both markets!


By Jennifer Probst

I’m a romance writer. And damn proud of it. I’ve always known I’d write romance novels, and when ignorant people would question whether I would write a “real” book one day, I’d launch into my tirade armed with facts about the romance market. It took me years before I made my first sale to a print on demand publisher. It wasn’t my first choice, but my best choice at the time. Sales were dim, but I made a name for myself and learned a lot.

My second book was better suited to the erotic romance market. Red Sage was an up and coming publisher and I was thrilled when they bought my novella, “Masquerade” for Secrets Volume 11. Then life took hold and I got married, bought a house, had a baby, then had another one. My writing focus switched to papers for my master’s in English literature, and parenting stories regarding the journey in motherhood. When things settled, I got back to my first love of romance and sold another novella to Red Sage, “The Tantric Principle.”
But something else happened along the way.

My niece told me this wonderful story about a rabbit named Buffy who fell in love with a carrot. My boys begged to hear it over and over again, and something sparked within me. I felt the story could do well as a book. I believed in it, and wanted to encourage my niece to pursue her dreams and let nothing stop her. We sat together and I drafted the story, changing it for publication. Then we drafted ideas for the illustrations and recruited a family friend to do the pictures. We edited until it was perfect. Buffy and the Carrot was born.
Then I sent it out.

I knew the romance market well, but had never researched the children’s market. I found it a bit difficult without a prior track record or an agent. I made a detailed list and forwarded the story to numerous publishers. Then received multiple rejections.

But I believed in this story. Enough that I decided to take a chance on an alternate route. I wasn’t interested in publishing an e-book. But a company called Strategic Marketing peaked my interest so I sent them a query.
They offered a joint venture contract. This means, they split the cost of the book with me 50/50. That way, I also got 50% royalties. Their traditional publishing contract offers no payments up front, but only limited royalties on the book. If I sold 1000 copies, I’d automatically be placed in another tier and would never have to pay for them to publish my book again. In other words, I needed to prove myself by sales first.
I spoke with my brother and we decided to split the cost and give it a try.

Benefits? You don’t have to figure out how to do anything. You submit your edited text, your illustrations, and they take care of the rest. They get you a cover. They do the back cover. They do the setting and the printing. They give you your own author webpage for sales (see mine here)

They give you a specialized royalty site so you can track your book and get your royalty checks every quarter. They get you on Barnes and Noble.com and Amazon.com. They give you free marketing tips, and offer press releases. They have a huge marketing program you can take advantage of – but most of it costs extra. You can pick and choose what you’d like to participate in, including book expos in other countries. They give you the tools to succeed. They offer personalized marketing coaching if you have questions. Whenever I did have a question or problem, they immediately got back to me so I had no issues with customer service.

Drawbacks? Like self publishing, you’re on your own with the editing. I had a few people go through the manuscript, but I still missed one tiny thing that was too late to fix. You will not be in brick and mortar bookstores. You have to price your book pretty high – mine went for $11.50 – because if you sell through Amazon or discount sellers they take a high cut. The royalty on the Strategic site versus Amazon is pretty hefty, and most customers stick with Amazon. They have limited advertising – a facebook fan page and limited press release. Everything else is extra money.

With the advent of self publishing and indie books, there could have been a better alternative, but this was the right match for me. I wanted to see this book in print. I did not feel like spending days learning how to self publish or format a children’s book myself, especially with illustrations. The fee wasn’t hefty enough to be impossible – but it was enough to give me the incentive I need to go out and sell books to reap my money back. Then the rest is all gravy.

Marketing is key. With the amount of books available, we concentrated on the uniqueness of a young first time author taking the lead. We scheduled library book signings and interviews on various blogs. We sent books to review sites, used social networking tools, and read to pre-k classes. Because we both live in different cities, our fan base is spread out and more book sales can be completed. We placed an ad in the pennysaver and local papers for little cost.

For my niece, this experience has been priceless and well worth the effort. We have something we wrote together that can sell for many years down the line. The key is being smart with marketing – do a different event each month to keep your name out there. I always have giveaways ready for the kids, and birthdays and holidays I always suggest giving a book as a gift.
What I found most difficult on a personal level is the mingling of a children’s book with an erotic romance. They are on opposite sides of the camp, and I am using the same name. This presented a unique challenge but I felt strong about using my own name and building both platforms. I created a tagline A Little Bit Naughty…A Little Bit Nice…

I split my followers into mommy bloggers and romance writers/readers and made sure to comment and be a good friend to both camps. I belong to two separate groups in Linked In and Yahoo and built up my contacts. After all, romance authors have children. They buy children’s books. I believed it was possible to tap both markets.

I divided my marketing campaigns. I advertised and focused on my romance novels one month, and my children’s book the next. Cross sales will hopefully benefit my older titles, and my upcoming titles.
I am a firm believer in loving what you write. Some authors are born to be two different identities and write for different genres. I enjoy the challenge of building up my own name in all of my endeavors.

I currently have a short story regarding a dog I will be self-publishing in e-format soon, so that is another market I am venturing into.

Author Jennifer Probst
A writer must always grow, and feel challenged by the subject. The first motto an editor drilled into my brain was the following statement: “Write a great book.” The first motto an author drilled into my brain was the following statement: “Write the book of your heart.” By combining both of them with some savvy marketing techniques, I believe a writer can have it all.

Check out my website at: http://www.jenniferprobst.com
Check out my blog at: http://jenniferprobst.wordpress.com
Follow me on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jenniferprobst
Visit me on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Jennifer-Probst-Fan-Page/111073648957581
Visit my mommy blog at: http://4badmommies.com


  1. Great post, Jen!
    Very informative.
    Boy are you busy!

  2. HI Wendy!! Thanks so much. And you, my dear, are just as busy!!!

  3. Wow. Interesting as I too am a romance/women's fiction author who recently self-published but also have a children's book -- currently shopped out to agents. I feel the children's book definitely needs to be in print -- for schools and pictures -- and had no idea there was another route. Thanks for the info!

  4. I find myself writing erotic and YA -- both set in the same world, what would you do with that? I'm trying to concentrate on my writing and not worry about the logistics...I do love your line "A little bit naughty, a little bit nice"

    Good luck with this, and what a wonderful gift you've given your niece.

  5. HI Amy! I think you are right by focusing on the writing first. If it's a great book, you work from there. I truly believe you can write in both worlds and sell, as long as you have a savvy marketing plan. I purchased the children book's domain and linked it straight to my website. You can create different blogs and link them later. Brainstorm - or feel free to twitter or email me and we can brainstorm together! Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Congratulations on your children's book! It's so exciting, I wish you much luck with it. So glad I can share some info you find helpful!

  7. Jen,
    I love your writing... I hope it all continues going well... I admire you for following your heart and dreams....
    Take care,

  8. Great article and I know where you're coming from since I have a tendency to spread myself among genres. Hope your career continues to grow, especially since I've been one of the investors in your career.

  9. Thanks for sharing this truly interesting journey, Jen. Conquering two such diverse markets at once is a huge challenge, but you are definitely the person who can do it!


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