Sunday, September 30, 2007

More feedback

Anonymous left a comment to my last post and suggested some reasons for the low sales. It's always good to get feedback - thanks!

It's great that he liked Love and Braces as a "braces fan" and I guess I am beginning to wonder whether the appeal of the books maybe really doesn't reach beyond fetishist readers. But I still find that hard to believe. With millions of kids going through having braces I would think that there's a broad continuum of different reactions to having them, from forgetting about them completely as soon as the treatment is over to, I guess, becoming obsessed with them. And I thought my books would fit in one big part somewhere in the middle of that continuum, but maybe they really are much closer to one of the smaller extreme parts of it.

Anonymous points out some of the parts of L&B that are apparently fetishist. I guess some of that, like especially the exaggerated braces, makes sense, but some was just necessary or natural for the story. Colleen's braces (she's the one who doesn't really need them) are obviously unrealistic, but I needed an adult with braces as a friend for Sylvia and I thought it would be good to have a contrast - better than if Colleen were going through the same thing Sylvia is, even if it meant inventing an unrealistic reason for her to have them. And the kiss between the female characters seemed appropriate in those circumstances (just like the different kisses between Sylvia and some of the male characters).

I almost regret not having more of the "hot" stuff in L&B, but I find it hard to try to imagine what would work. There's only so often I can describe the glistening silvery metal and all that sort of thing....

Anonymous also mentions the lack of information and lack of juicy excerpts. I'll have to try and think how to improve that, but it's hard to figure out what to post on the website. There aren't that many passages that are self-contained, which I think is the best kind to post, and I also don't want to give away some of the good parts. But obviously I have to do a better job at getting readers interested, so I'll try and see if I can come up with better or more descriptions of the stories, and maybe some different or additional excerpts.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Weekly update

This month alone over 1000 people have come to the IoPress site and read the 94 Weeks and Single Episodes essay about braces on TV and over 200 have read the essay on Lolita's Braces. That's awesome, and it's gratifying to see so much interest in some of my writing. But even though all these readers also see some information about the IoPress books when they come to the site it's really disappointing how few copies are being bought. Even if only 1% of the readers of the essays bought them, that would already be quite a few copies sold, but in September it's been a lot less than that.

I'm not sure whether I have the wrong information about the books at the site, or not enough information, or whether the books just don't sound interesting to everyone who comes to look at the site. It's very confusing, and also kind of disappointing. I really thought that with all the people who get braces every year - literally millions in America alone! - there would be a good audience for books like mine, but either I haven't been able to reach that audience yet, or they're just not there. It's frustrating and I'm not really sure what to do about it. I like writing the books, no matter how many or few I sell, but it is a bit harder to be as enthusiastic if I can only get so few people interested. And I would like it if the books at least paid for themselves - I'd like to make enough to cover the Lulu and website costs. It's not that it's a lot of money, but it would be easier for me to justify continuing to do it to myself. Right now it seems almost like a vanity publishing project. If I sold enough to cover my costs then it would be like being a real author and publisher (even though lots of publishers don't seem to make much money with their books either!).

Meanwhile, the next book is going well, except I want a better title than "The Girl Next Door" which is the working title I've been using. Parts of the book have gone off in directions that I didn't expect, and that's a lot of fun. The characters really take on identities of their own and they sort of force me to let them act in particular ways. But it's still a long way from being finished. And it's also going to be really long - which is a pain because it means it will be more expensive too.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Another target audience?

Bracer left another comment - thanks! - and thinks fetishists might be a target audience for my books. Since I started publishing these books I have become more aware that a lot of people have this sort of greater interest in braces, and I have wondered how what I'm doing fits in that.

I think what I do in the books is try to convey the intensity of the experience, of what having braces means. I can see how a lot of that would appeal to fetishists. But is it enough? I think there's also stuff that is missing. Especially the sex. I'm not really sure what fetishists expect. If they want a lot of descriptions of braces and getting them and people's reactions to them I guess the books do have that. But there's almost no sex, and even in the book with adults with braces, Love and Braces, the braces don't have that much to do with the little sex there is. I mean, they're always there in all the situations that I describe, and Sylvia always thinks about them. But are the braces sexualized enough (if that's the word)? I mean, they take on all this importance, but does that make them fetish objects?

Maybe the intensity I'm trying to recreate is a lot like what fetishists feel. Maybe it's the same thing, except that I don't think of it sexually so much. But I don't know if it's right to say that fetishists are my target audience, because I think they'd probably feel let down by the lack of sex, or at least by the way the romance or sex is described. Of course all my characters are worried about how braces affect their love-lives, but since most of them are teenagers the main worries are just exaggerated adolescent concerns that almost every girl has. Except for in L&B they're almost all just trying to begin to come to terms with the feelings they have for boys. The braces are just an added complication. For a lot of them dealing with the braces is just a different way of dealing with all the confusing growing-up issues they are facing (and even Sylvia in L&B is sort of like a bigger teenager, I think, still dealing with a lot of the same issues). That's why I thought older teenage girls or college students who had a hard time going through all that were the likely target audience for my books.

Another part of the books that might appeal to fetishists is the way the braces and the treatment are exaggerated. There's not too much of that, at least of things that are completely unrealistic, but a few things are different from "real" braces. The one element I thought about hardest was how Dr.Wrighting straps her patients down in the examination chairs. I don't think any orthodontist does that anymore. But I think it's really effective in getting across that feeling one has in the examination chair, so that's why I decided to do that. Plus I wanted the Dr.Wrighting experience to be different from a normal orthodontist visit. But I always try to make it as harmless as possible. No one gets tied down against there will or anything like that. Dr.Wrighting always makes sure everyone is comfortable. The way I like to think of it is like the way young kids are strapped in car safety seats.

The other exaggerations, especially how the devices look and how uncomfortable or embarrassing they are, are also more to make the experience seem more intense. For most people having braces maybe doesn't seem that bad, especially in retrospect, but I think there are moments when everyone feels it really, really is. And I think in my books I try to focus on those moments.

So I'm glad Bracer likes L&B but now I'm worried that I don't have any target audience at all because the books are too inoffensive for fetishists and too weird for "regular" readers! I hope that's not right, but I don't know. It's so weird, because I know they're exactly the books I would have loved to read, or would still love to read if someone else wrote them. And I would have thought that with the millions of kids who get and had braces there would be some who felt just like I did!

(I'm not sure how I would feel if the only ones who liked the books were "fetish" readers. As long as the readers get something out of it I guess it is sort of satisfying, even if this isn't really what I had in mind. But I guess I would be a bit disappointed if I wasn't reaching those readers who I think would get the most out of the books - readers like me!)

I'll probably write more about this too, once I've thought about it more. The next book also raises some issues of who the target readers are, so I'll have to deal with it then too.

It's also cool getting some feedback, especially since I hope that helps other readers decide whether or not they want to read the books. Now I hope some readers leave reviews at Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Lulu or wherever they bought the books! I think it would be great if those who might be interested in the books could see what others thought of them, since even with all the information I put up at the Intraoral Press site maybe I'm not able to convey exactly who might like the books best, and for what reasons.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Target readers?

Last week Bracer left a comment on the blog (thanks!) asking who I am aiming these books at. I think the explanation at the page about IoPress still covers a lot of that, even though I wrote it just when I was starting everything. I guess I think that there are some kids who have braces and then when they're done with them are able to just put that behind them, but that there are also a lot who find it more difficult both having braces and then forgetting about them. Not that it was necessarily a totally traumatic exerience or anything but it was a big deal and something that's hard to totally get over and where they might want to read about others' experiences dealing with braces. I know that when I was a teen, when I had braces and afterwards, I was really disappointed that almost no one in all the books I read had to deal with all this braces stuff, and even if a character had braces it was maybe mentioned but the author never really wrote about what that meant and how it affected the character. My books are sort of the other extreme. All braces, all the time. I know they're the kind of books that would have helped me, so I guess I just think there are others out there who feel the same way I do.

I think I would have especially needed the books AFTER I had braces, almost more than when I did have them. Letting me relive and work through the experience. Which is also what I guess I'm doing by writing them.... I don't know if that works for other readers, but I hope so.

The books I've written so far probably aren't right for younger patients going through having braces now. Like I think my girls would still be too young for them. But Retainer Girl might be helpful for a teenager with braces. I'm not so sure about Love and Braces and The Braced Experience. On the one hand, I would have devoured them when I was like fifteen or sixteen. Especially L&B. But now as a protective mom I'm worried what my kids are exposed to, and even though the books aren't explicit the total focus on braces, and the fact that there's some fantasy and exaggeration about the actual orthdontic treatment makes me worry a bit that kids who can't handle it would be upset by them. But then I think that when I was a teen my mom would have thought the same way, while I would have totally been able to handle them....

So who are my target readers? I guess anyone who wants to read about what it's like having braces - not just what it's really like, but a sort of heightened fictional version. Because some of the stuff is exaggerated it probably isn't right for people who haven't had braces yet but want to know what it will be like - especially kids! - but I think anyone who has or had braces will get the exaggerated parts, and will find the books more entertaining because of them.

I think the readers who will enjoy my books most are those who had a bit of a tough time with braces and still have strong memories of those years - readers just like me. If I had to narrow it down to one person, I think my target reader would be a 17 or 18 year-old girl, maybe just starting college and away from home for the first time, who had braces during those awkward years of puberty and had a bit of a rough time handling that and everything else. I see her getting ready for bed, putting in her retainers, and then opening one of my books....

I haven't had much feedback yet on the books, but the few readers who have e-mailed say they've really liked them, which I think is great. I don't know if I'm reaching my target readers yet, but I'm glad that some readers are finding the books, and are enjoying them!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Weekly update

Back again, and I'm glad, even though it takes a while to settle in again - and catch up with everything! For a few more days the new book and the old books and all the IoPress stuff will have to wait.