Friday, 21 December 2018

2018: Year in Review

As we’re coming to the end of another year, I thought I would look back at what, at least for my writing, has been a pretty memorable twelve months.

I started 2018 with the goal of self-publishing my first novel as an e-book. I’d never published a book before; the most productive thing I had done with my writing was sharing short stories on erotic fiction sites. Sharing stories on these sites is pretty straightforward; you write your story, think of a title and blurb, post it all into a web form and the site does the rest.

Putting together and publishing a book was very different to that and required a lot more work. I went into 2018 very excited because towards the end of 2017 I had finished writing my first erotic novel, Best Friends With a Naked Girl, and I had a target to publish it in the first few weeks of 2018.

Well, I managed to meet my target but the book was far from perfect, with a poor quality cover that had to have some very clumsy edits in order to be accepted by the platform Smashwords, which I was using at the time, so they could distribute it to other e-book retailers who might be a bit squeamish about having so much nudity on the cover.

So I published it, but it still needed some work.

As 2018 went on I began to think about how I actually wanted my book to appear, the image I wanted it to have, and I went back to one of my influences, Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise comic. I decided I wanted to have an illustrated cover rather than one which used photographs. I can draw a little myself but not well enough to put on the cover of a book I was expecting people to pay money for. After a lot of searching I found an illustrator (Danielle Fenner) through the site DeviantArt who took commissions and was happy doing mildly erotic work with some nudity, and whose style looked like what I had imagined in my head for the book.

I republished the book with its fantastic new cover showing the two main characters; Becky (the titular ‘naked girl’) and Lisa (the ‘best friend’).

I had few expectations of how the book would sell and indeed, in the first couple of months it was in publication, it sold about what I imagined it would. I was happy with any sales at all; I didn’t get into writing to make money (if I had I wouldn’t have chosen nudist/exhibitionist erotica as my genre, I’d have gone for something more profitable!) and it was nice that even a few people had bothered to check out my work and seemed to like it.

This was encouraging to me and it caused me to go back to a book I had begun working on earlier in 2017. This was a slightly different novel – an alternative universe version of our world in which public nudity has become legal in the USA, I called it Brave Nude World because I can’t resist a pun!

Although I had not expected to finish Brave Nude World any time soon, I was now inspired and I ended up publishing the book as my second novel only a few months after the first, in April. I learned a lot from my first experience of self-publishing and this time I made sure that the book was perfect exactly as I wanted from the start, including commissioning a new cover from Danielle.

Although Brave Nude World was not a smash hit, it seems to have boosted my profile a little on Amazon and Best Friends…, which had begun to lose attention, really picked up following the publication of Brave Nude World. Both novels continued to well exceed my expectations for sales throughout the rest of the year, and as the year ends I have sold a few hundred and a lot of borrows through Kindle Unlimited too. I’m not sure if it is a lot or not, but I had told myself at the start of 2018 that if I sold 30 copies I would be happy, so I’m delighted that so many people are responding to and enjoying my fiction.

I only published one short story in 2018, much of the rest of my writing time has been given over to novels. It isn’t that I prefer one over the other, but I confess I’ve been a little short of ideas for shorter stories lately. The story, (NIP) Nina In Public, was written for a competition and although it didn’t place highly, it was fun to write.

Much of the rest of this year has been spent working on my next novel, Love Life of a Naked Girl, the sequel to Best Friends… I was fairly certain when I published Best Friends… that I would like to do a sequel, there seemed more of the girls’ story to tell. In particular, Best Friends… is mostly told from Lisa’s perspective; Love Life… goes into Becky’s character a lot more, as well as introducing some other characters to be more of an ensemble piece.

The other thing I have been doing throughout 2018 is working to promote my writing through social media (mostly Twitter and this blog). I’m not sure how effective my advertising is, but I quite enjoy doing it and I think if you are a self-published author, being active on social media is quite important. That said I am perhaps not as prolific a tweeter as others, my Twitter largely ignores both things happening in my life away from writing, and also politics, which are two big and popular things to tweet about. I just feel, as a thirtysomething male author, that the sort of people who read my books (which are usually about pretty young naked women) aren’t really going to be that interested in my life!

I do browse Twitter a lot though and one person I am a big fan of is the model, artist and self-described “Naked Person” LucyMuse. It is Lucy’s thoughts on the intersection between creative nudity, erotic nudity and non-sexual naturism, and where she places herself in that, that have inspired me to label my writing Naked Fiction this year. I feel that while my writing is undeniably erotic and therefore sex-positive, I try also to promote naturist values in terms of the enjoyment and empowering qualities of non-sexual nudity. While many naturists would probably be angry that I use naturism or a version of it in my fiction, I hope to be seen as a little different to many erotic writers in that I’m not seeking to sexualise naturism; instead I’m writing about naturists who also happen to have good, fun, interesting sex lives. So I would not call my writing “naturist fiction” but also I would not consider it purely “erotic fiction” either – hence, naked fiction.

So at the end of a busy 2018, what does the year ahead hold for me?

Well, in January 2019, probably around the anniversary of the publication of Best Friends… I will be publishing Love Life of a Naked Girl, which as I have said is the sequel to Best Friends… and follows the further adventures of Becky and Lisa.

I have already begun work on my next novel. I had planned to take a break from writing for a while in 2019, I have many other things in my personal life I would like to do that don’t involve sitting at a computer. But inspiration struck me and I found myself revisiting some story fragments and plotting a novel around them, which is already progressing well. So without wishing to set myself up for a fall, you can expect a fourth full-length A D Rowen novel at some point in 2019.

Beyond that, I would like to finally attempt to write a non-erotic work, one which explores naturism and nudity for the main character but without the sexualised element in my other books. I’m not sure this would find its target audience (I’d like to write it for Young Adults) but it could be a fun experiment.

I’d like to end by (once more) thanking everyone who has read one of my novels, checked out my short stories, followed and interacted with me on Twitter, read my blog, and especially those who have offered advice and encouragement and indulged my weird humour and tendency to over-philosophise.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a great and prosperous New Year.

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