Jeff & Will spoke with Lucy Lennox during GayRomLit in Albuquerque. They discussed the inspiration behind the PAGE event along with how and why Lucy decided to add it to her author business. The success of King Me, which reached #1 in the Romance chart on Amazon this spring, is also examined as Lucy talks about what she’s done in her career to help make that happen.
Here are the things we talk about in this episode. Please note, these links include affiliate links for which we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase.
- Lucy Lennox website
- PAGE website
- L.A. Witt website
- Gay & MM Author Network Group on Facebook
- Romance Mastermind website
- Lucy’s Dragon Dictation Demo in Gay & MM Author Network Group
- Lucy’s News Letter magnets Facebook Live in Gay & MM Author Network Group
- 20 Books to 50K Group on Facebook
- BookLovers Con website
- King Me by Lucy Lennox on Amazon
- Jeff & Will’s Websites & Social Media:
Will: Welcome to the “Big Gay Author Podcast” the show that invites you to follow along as two writers attempt to transition from part-time to full-time authors of gay fiction. I’m your host Will Knauss and with me is my fellow writer and husband. Mr. Jeff Adams.
Jeff: Hello everybody. Today is October 16, 2019 as we’re recording this and we’re glad you could join us. We are at GayRomLit in Albuquerque with our special guest Lucy Lennox.
Thanks so much for joining us. It is so exciting to have you here. We wanted to talk to you specifically about a couple of things that have been going on and we’ll kick that off with the PAGE event that’s happening in Atlanta next April. Registration just happened for that a couple weeks ago. First of all for folks who haven’t heard us talk about it yet or haven’t seen everything on Facebook, tell folks what PAGE is and kind of the overall vision for the event.
Lucy: Okay, really excited to produce an inaugural event that’s purpose is education for published authors of gay and m/m romance. This came about after I went to a few author conferences looking for author education and every class I took, every panel I sat on even if there was great information, I always had to learn it through this filter of “would this work for me?” “Would this work for this niche for selling gay romance for writing? For even craft questions about writing m/m, it’s just not the same thing as writing het romance and selling het romance.
Over time I had more and more of this wish that there was something specific to our niche where all of these classes were very focused and very specific. That goes for subjects from craft… There are certain certain tropes that don’t work quite right in gay romance.
And the readers are a little bit different, pricing is different, what percentage of readers are wide versus in KU is different. There are a lot of aspects to it and it’s very difficult, especially as an indie author, navigating that on your own if you’re in a vacuum.
A lot of authors who learn how to navigate this and have their own way of doing it have great knowledge to share. The first thing that I did was created an author group on Facebook and it’s a place where we can all come together and share this information, sort of have a cooperative learning environment. But, I wanted to have an in-person event that took that one step farther where we could have some subject matter experts come in and talk about some of these subjects in more depth than you would get in some Facebook posting.
So I created this event. I’m starting fairly small. It’s capped at a hundred attendees, and it’s two days in Atlanta. I’m really excited about it. We have solo presenters, panel presentations, roundtables, networking event and some keynote speaking.
Jeff: There’s the the Ask Me portion as well, which I was kind of fascinated by. How you decided to go that route and and split up those topics?
Lucy: The Ask Intensive is a smaller group. I did a big survey before planning this event to find out what authors needs were and what people were most interested in learning. I wanted to make sure that I tailored this event to what people wanted and what people needed. One of the pieces of feedback that I got from some people is that being in larger groups can be intimidating and some people aren’t as likely to ask questions or share personal information if they’re in that larger hundred person group.
Just because of the nature of it being a first year event, I don’t have separate tracks. So all of the people at PAGE are going to be in the same room for all of the primary presentations, so I wanted to have an optional add-on. That’s a smaller, more intimate feel and then when it came to deciding what subjects to have during that time
For instance, L.A. Witt is doing an ask me anything type format on juggling and this is juggling hybrid like traditional and Indie, juggling different genres, juggling different pen names. To me that was the kind of information that really needs to be tailored to the people who are interested in asking questions of those things. So instead of giving a presentation to a room of a hundred people on how to juggle pen names where we don’t know if there may only be two people in the room who are interested in that, we can have somebody with that experience sit in this group of 20 where people can really say, okay I’m considering starting a new pen name. I want to know about that. Or, somebody can say I’m in the middle of pitching to get an agent for traditional deal. Can you talk to me about that? Basically it’s closer access to these presenters so that they can dig in to meet the needs of the attendees a little bit better.
I really wanted to have some added value in that add on as well and so one of the panels being offered is a panel of six-figure authors where you can just ask anything. How did you get to earn six figures? How long did it take you? What type of income streams make up your income? What do you recommend for somebody who’s just starting out how to get there? How to grow your business? What would you have done differently? Some of those questions. I tried in planning this event to think about what would have been helpful to me at different stages of my experience.
Jeff: And you certainly hit something I think. Not just with the event but the Ask Me because the Ask Me sold out.
Lucy: It sold out right away. Like within a couple hours.
Jeff: As we sit here, are there still openings in PAGE?
Lucy: There are openings in PAGE. A lot of people who are attending started posting about it this week. So tickets started selling pretty quickly. So definitely if you want to come, check in there fast. The website is www.PAGEevent.com.
Jeff: I assume they’ll be a wait list too.
Lucy: There is a wait list already for the ask add-on. The same wait list lets you, when the event sells out, to take regular attendee wait list as well. And all of that is on the registration tab of the website. And then if anyone wants to contact me directly through Facebook private message or email, firstname.lastname@example.org, I can answer any questions.
Jeff: How did you decide to integrate this into your author career and essentially your author business because you’re already writing full-time and generating a number of books each year. Now you’ve taken on the Facebook group and you’re responsible for an event that more than a hundred people going to come to between the attendees and the authors… Some might say you’re crazy.
Lucy: Yeah, my husband.
Jeff: What brought all this on?
Lucy: That’s a very good question.
So my background is in corporate event management. When I got out of college, I just landed a job at a media buying agency and that led me into marketing and I ended up finding my home with event marketing, corporate event marketing. I had a lot of experience traveling all over the country, putting on sales seminars. Then I became a trade show manager for UPS Corporate before I had kids. So event management has always been something that I have loved doing and I know how to do it. Even when I was a professional quilter, right before I started writing. I put on a big quilt event for like 70 quilters with corporate sponsors and everything for modern quilters.
I love bringing people together. I love harnessing the power of shared knowledge. I’m a people person. The event management part of it kind of comes easy to me. I know what to do, and I know how to do it. So that doesn’t intimidate me. Having said that I really hesitated to do this and I’ll tell you why. I didn’t want to add this to my list of things to do. I already work very, very hard at my author job. And since I started I have been going, going, going and so if anything it’s time for me to slow down and spend more time focusing on my family. My kids are going off to college in a few years and I don’t want to turn around when they’re in school and be like, “Wow. I was never around I was working too hard,.”
At the same time I was home with them for years and years in the beginning and this is happening now. This is the time when this all just sort of came together for me and so I don’t want to miss that either. So when I started going to these events and thinking wow, I wish this event was a little better fit for me. What would that look like? I started anticipating if I were to run the circus, what would it be? What kind of format what I want it to have? Then when I went to Romance Author Mastermind that Sky Warren puts on in Houston last fall. I realized that format really worked very well. That size works very well. The format worked well and people were hungry for knowledge and they were hungry to learn.
Once I had that experience under my belt, I could picture it better. I could picture how I would do it. So I started talking to other authors about it to sort of judge anecdotal interest and I came really close to pulling the trigger on it. My sister and my husband were both like, you know, if you do this, that means at least a full novel off of your production schedule. That has some implications in terms of your momentum and your income and everything else. That was really eye-opening to me because it’s true. I mean it takes a lot of time and work to put on an event like that and so I skittered away from it very quickly. I was like, no I’m not doing this.
I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I finally was like the only way I’m gonna be able to stop thinking about it is to make sure I think about it every single day. i gotta get it out of my head and onto paper and I just went for it. I think it was sort of serendipitous because I didn’t really intend to start the Facebook group the way I did. But when it took off and it got so much active participation and everybody seemed to really be anxious to help each other and anxious to learn I got more enthusiastic about the idea of doing an event. Also all the timing was right.
But then I was still I’ll just go down to Midtown Atlanta where I would want to have this and I’ll look at hotels and then I found a hotel that I thought was perfect. And then I was like, well that’s kind of a sign, you know, and then it just sort of okay. I guess I’ll sign the contract for the hotel and once you do that you’re doing it. So yeah, I’m doing it.
Will: There’s a lot going on in the author information space right now when it comes to either in person events or webinars or online courses or even how-to books. I’m curious from what you’ve just said. It feels like an in-person event seems like it was the one and only thing that ever crossed your mind. Is that true? Or was like, maybe, “Lucy’s 101 Ways to Succeed at the Biz” ever an option for you?
Lucy: That’s a really good question. I did think about that.
I did consider that but, and this sort of goes back to the author group. I actually started the author group a year ago in October. Nobody was in it but me and the reason I started it was because I get asked a lot by other authors, and especially new and aspiring authors, but also authors who have been doing this for a long time who don’t have the success that they want. They come to me for advice, individual questions or just general questions. But what happens is I end up answering the same questions over and over and so I got to the point where I needed to create a common database of answered questions so I can say. I’ve already answered this. I’ve already written out all my thoughts on this topic and it’s over here. So I thought I’ll start a Facebook group and then when somebody asks me I can say I’ll add you to this Facebook group where I’m collecting this list of Lucy’s posts about different topics.
Then I never did it because it seemed like such an egotistical, “Well, this is Lucy’s way of doing everything.” Who cares what Lucy’s way is? Lucy’s is only one opinion. Lucy’s is only one way. That’s why I never invited anybody into it. And then this spring when I decided to do a Facebook live demo on Dragon Dictation and I thought well where can I have it? I didn’t want all the readers to watch it and kind of know how the sausage is made. And so I thought ,well I have this Facebook group that I’m not using you know, so everyone can come in there for that and it was mostly authors.
So I thought now that everybody’s here, if anyone wants to stick around to share information. But again, I don’t want this to be The Lucy Show. I just want us all to help each other because I don’t have all the answers and I only do everything one way. So that’s what has stopped me from putting on a Lucy event because I feel like… I’m super bossy in general and I’m super opinionated in general and I could absolutely give you a class that’s all Lucy all the time. I would just talk your head off and give you all my opinions about everything but that’s only going to give you one way and that might not work for you.
There are so many other things that I don’t have knowledge on. Up until recently I didn’t sell wide. I don’t sell traditional. Those are areas that I can’t help you with. And there are a lot of these types of subject matter that I’m covering at the event with roundtable discussions.
There are a lot of smaller topics that we don’t have time to do a full solo presentation on. But let’s say MPEG for instance, all the MPEG authors want to be able to get together and sit at a table and have a conversation about MPEG. I’m not going to have an MPEG presentation in front of all hundred other authors because it’s not relevant to everybody. It’s the same thing with like podcasting interviews, or editing, or I mean obviously editing hopefully applies to all 100 authors.
But audio… There are so many topics that I want to cover but we can’t cover all of it. So that’s the other thing, if I were to put on a Lucy event it would be my take on all of those different topics and no nobody wants that.
Jeff: Did you expect as many people showing up for the Dragon demo has did?
Lucy: No. I thought there would be six to eight people who were interested in learning about Dragon Dictation. When I started the demo that day, there were a hundred people in the group.
Jeff: It was amazing I showed up because I wanted to hear how you used it. Yeah, I’d been using it. I was looking for other opinions.
Lucy: It was crazy because I’d only been using it for like three weeks and I had said listen, I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’m not here to do a training course because I don’t know it. I’m only here to tell you I just recently overcame obstacles to try it. And so I wanted to give you my thoughts on overcoming obstacles because I know a lot of us have the same obstacles. That was all it was supposed to be and then everyone was like, well Lucy would know how to do that… But I’m like, no, I don’t I don’t know how to do any of this.
Jeff: But, you know, it turned into such a nice give and take in the comments with people sharing information.
Lucy: That’s the point of the author group now.
Jeff: And it seems to be working so well.
Lucy: It’s the sharing. There was a post in there today about adding an m/f book into an m/m series and you’ve got somebody like Amy Nicole Walker who’s done it who can come in and say here was my experience and Ella Frank who can come in and say here was my experience. That is not something I could help anybody with.
That’s the power of cooperative networking and business help. We can all help each other. It’s amazing. Otherwise we’re all trying to reinvent the wheel with everything.
Jeff: How much difference have you noticed, because you mentioned this is why you started PAGE, between traditional romance and m/m? In some ways we seem part of the the overall umbrella, but from some of the events you’ve been to it sounds like there really are hardcore differences that make the business different.
Lucy: Yes. There are I think that… And the reason I sound so hesitatnt… Which part of it do I start with because one of them is straight up distribution channel. I’m sure there would be people out there to argue with me against this but you really are not going to have a huge business selling m/m romance traditional in paperbacks. Nobody ever got super wealthy–I mean there are exceptions to every single rule but our readers in general in the gay romance niche, don’t go into their local Barnes & Noble or their local Walmart book section to pick up a gay romance.
So the bulk of our readers are reading ebooks. That’s just how it is in m/m romance. I mean the bulk, but if you were to look at all m/m stories that are out there for sale in all formats. I feel very strongly about this, without any scientific data to back it up, the massively primary method of consuming gay romance is ebooks.
That’s not necessarily still the case with the contemporary. And by contemporary I mean het so het romance. There’s still a huge market for paperback sales. There’s still paperbacks at the airport, paperbacks in the drugstore, and at the grocery store and people ordering them off Amazon and having them on their bookshelves.
So that’s different in and of itself. It’s just a method of distribution. Let’s just look at ebook romance sales in het romance. There’s so much competition and so much saturation that a lot of the authors in het romance who are really high on the charts and let’s say contemporary authors are spending a ton of money on advertising that you just don’t see in gay romance. That has to do with the comparison in the number of readers compared to the supply. The supply and demand basically is the percentage of supply and demand the number of authors who are producing compared to the amount of books. I won’t even say the number of readers because our readers are voracious and and also in het romances. Romance readers in general are voracious but e-readers are also very voracious just because it’s more affordable to be voracious when you’re reading ebooks So because of that competition and because of the saturation of het romance in ebooks, especially in indie.
So let me back up. What I’m getting ready to talk about is pricing. So there’s this concept in het romance that we don’t really do anymore. We used to do it in gay romance, which is to have a loss leader first in series where you price it either permafree or 99 cents. That’s necessary because you’re competing with so many other readers in het romance and you want to get that reader and pull them in. So use that loss leader to attract them and then pull them in for the rest of your series.
For us in gay romance, we just don’t have to do that. I think there’s a number of different reasons for that. But again that’s just a difference. So those are just two that are off the top of my head.
I think there are a lot of… I don’t know if cultural differences… That’s not really the right word. There are a lot of themes and issues that you can write about in het romance that you can’t write about in gay romance. That gay romance readers would never let you get away with writing some some of the… and a lot of it has to do with gender dynamics, but there’s just some het romance novels that have problematic themes that gay romance readers just wouldn’t put up with. They’re different readers.
There’s overlapping. There plenty of people who still read both. so when you’re talking about your content too, obviously content’s different between het and gay. But you know, I think there’s some deeper issues there too that I haven’t really done an in-depth study on it’s more anecdotal from my own experience. So again, Lucy’s opinion. Nobody needs to hear it.
Jeff: Given how PAGE is looking in its first event. Do you think it’ll become annual?
Lucy: I think probably it would be more likely to be every other year. Part of that is because 2021 spring is my oldest child’s senior year so he would be graduating around that time. It would just be difficult logistically for me to do it because I would actually like to rotate location. I would like to do it more on the west coast next time to make it a little bit more accessible for people in different areas. That would be hard for me to do from a personal reason because the problem the year after that is my next child’s senior year.
So I can’t say I’m trying not to make any kind of commitment to the future until I see how it goes. I feel like all of the other author education that’s out there is very valuable–like Romance Author Mastermind for instance or 20 Books to 50k Las Vegas or Book Lovers con.
There’s so many other avenues to get author education that I don’t necessarily know that we need a gay romance focused one every year and I don’t know if I could sacrifice that kind of time every year either. That’s kind of what I’m thinking now is every other year.
Jeff: So shifting topics a little bit, earlier this year you hit the number one romance spot on Amazon with “King Me.” First time that’s happened with an m/m book. Aside from the book being awesome, which it is, we reviewed it on the Fiction podcast. We all loved it. What in your career set up “King Me” to be able to do that?
Lucy: That is a very good question. And this is sort of sort of a joke. But the first thing that you have to do is categorize in that category. So I sort of say that a little bit lightly, but it’s really important. It’s important for us to realize that yes, we’re writing a romance with gay characters but romance is romance.
So there’s no need to just stay over in our gay romance category when this book is also contemporary romance or historical romance, mystery, shifter, whatever your categories are. It doesn’t just have to be the gay version of that. So that’s one of the first things I tell other authors. If you want to rank in these categories you have to put yourself in those categories. I think what’s important is to get in that mindset of believing that you deserve a spot at the table in these larger categories.
In terms of how I got there, I think that a confluence of different events came together.
When you look at listing, a lot of what goes into, call it getting lucky in the charts is like timing and everything too. For instance if you launch a book in December, you’re up against all the gift books and all of the kids books and whatever because people are buying them for gifts.
So so I think part of it was it was summer. Sometimes summer is a slump. So maybe I got lucky in certain cases. But it wasn’t all luck for sure. I think one of the things that that benefited me is growing my mailing list. This is one of the things that I talked about a lot in the author group and we’re going to talk about a lot at PAGE. The power of harnessing your readers and your fans to make sure they know when you have a new book out.
As a reader, nothing’s more frustrating than knowing one of your favorite authors has a new book out and you somehow missed it. Readers want to know when their favorite authors have a new book out.
I talked about how to use free short stories to grow your mailing list. So, over the last two and a half years, I’ve grown my mailing list to 20,000 recipients. So when I have a new release now, I send out an email to 20,000 people who’ve read my books before. That’s powerful. That’s a very powerful way of making sure your readers know that you have a new book out so they can all run out and buy it.
So I think that helped a lot just from a marketing and business perspective. But the other thing is I feel like when you… And I didn’t necessarily set out to write a heist book because I thought it was an underserved trope. But I think one of the reasons why it appealed to a lot of people is because it’s an underserved. I don’t even know if trope is the right word to use for a heist, but it’s underserved subject matter in our genre.
I don’t know of a lot of heist books. There have been a few heist books, but I think if you can find a type of story that people in general would one click. You know, like for me, if a heist movie comes out on the big screen. I’m going to see it. I just love heist movies. So, you know, there aren’t a ton of them but like “Ocean’s Eleven” and “Thomas Crown Affair” and “The Italian Job.” All of those kind of movies you have me. You know for some people it’s natural disasters and if you have a natural disaster movie… That’s how I felt about the heist concept in this. I felt like that international intrigue, that sort of spy feeling of the book, got a lot of people’s attention.
I felt like the cover was super hot. It was super sort of to market and on trend hot guy, but it also had the Hungarian Parliament building in the background. I thought it was kind of super sexy.
So yeah, I just I don’t know.
I think building up over time that following, building the readership, gaining readers trust that you’re going to deliver the promise of the premise. So if I say, this is a heist romance, it is a heist romance. You can count on that.
Jeff: And that makes a lot of sense that it’s combination of mailing list and right book.
Jeff: And as you said categorizing yourself. I don’t know how many of our authors actually do that. Probably not that many even though it’s romance.
Lucy: There’s a fear when you categorize these bigger. So if you were to write, for instance, a gay sci-fi book, putting it in sci-fi means you’re a much smaller fish in a huge pond, in this giant ocean of sci-fi. So part of why you want to put it in lgay sci-fi is that you’re really going to reach your intended readers that way but it’s a much smaller pond. It’s scary to deliberately try and be a little fish in a big pond because there’s a chance nobody’s going to notice the little fish if you do that. I was fortunate in that I knew my overall Amazon store ranking had been going stronger and stronger with each release. So I didn’t feel like it was as much of a risk.
Jeff: Had you been going into romance consistently with the “Wilde” books all along?
Lucy: I think I started with with “Hudson’s Luck.” Might have been “Wild Fire” but I think it was “Hudson’s Luck.”
So it hadn’t been that many. I can’t remember if I put “Wilde Love” in contemporary. I probably did. I can’t remember right now because I might have even thought about it as historical, which I don’t think technically it’s historical because after 1950 is not considered historical, but I did I know I didn’t put in historical but I’m blanking now on where I categorized it.
I feel like for me if I can choose two categories, which now they’re saying you can choose more, but in the beginning you can choose two and I feel like for me I used to choose gay fiction and gay romance. I feel like those are a lot of times the same readers and somebody who’s only looking for gay fiction and they’re not looking for gay romance doesn’t want my book.
So there’s no reason for me to categorize in gay fiction. Yes that does put me in front of more readers potentially who may not know they want a romance novel, but they’re open to reading a gay novel of some kind but that’s not really for a romance novel. You really need someone who’s looking to read romance.
So it’s in my better interest to categorize in gay romance and then some other kind of romance. So that was another part of the thought process.
Will: As you were speaking to earlier about the power of your newsletter and having a really great book with a fantastic cover and a really amazing hook. I’m going to ask you this but I there’s probably no way that you can absolutely know. Do you have a sense of how much of “King Me’s” audience was new to you? Was it the new eyeballs that kind of pushed you over the top to that number one spot. Do you have a sense?
Lucy: I don’t feel like I necessarily got a lot… You can’t say I mean sometimes you… I feel like in this genre were sort of always getting new readers in so I feel like I’m getting new eyeballs just because they’re coming into the genre and not because I’ve done anything different with the book, but I anecdotally I can I don’t feel like I necessarily got a lot of new followers or readers from that book.
Will: It’s really more about the slow and steady build that you had.
Yeah, and I don’t want to discount the confluence of events in the marketplace to because you know rank rank is relative. So rank is also based on what what’s happening with other people. You know and if you’re releasing in a week that just doesn’t happen to have a ton of competition or it just doesn’t happen to have the huge names releasing or if there were tons and tons and tons of authors that had they been releasing the same week, i wouldn’t have hit that because you know rank is all so relative to other authors. So I definitely think that played a huge part of it, you know. I got lucky and I don’t say that about a lot of things. But for sure rank… So much you can’t control you can’t control rank.
Jeff: There’s certainly something about the power of 20,000 people either pre-ordering or buying the book as it comes out. And, of course, put your category as romance.
Will: So much wonderful information information. Congratulations on the success of “King Me.” and thank you for an event like PAGE. I think it’s something unique and special and I don’t know about everyone else listening but I’m really really looking forward to it next year.
So, I think that’s going to do it for right now. If you’d like links to anything we discussed in this episode, simply go to the shownotes page for episode 16 at biggayauthorpodcast.com. On the shownotes page, you’ll also find the links to all of our individual websites and social media including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Jeff: Speaking of Twitter follow us at BigGayAuthor where will share things during the week to catch our attention. Plus if you want to give us feedback on the show, have suggestions on topics, or anything else, you can tweet us or leave comments on the shownotes page. Also be sure to subscribe to the show so you never miss an episode. We’re available anywhere you listen to podcasts.
Will: Thank you everyone for listening. We hope that you’ll join us again next week. Until then everyone, keep writing.