Most authors love to brag about hitting a bestseller's list of any kind at all. I once made it to the top of the free-giveaways in romance on Amazon with Trashy Affair, not exactly a great triumph. Few of us want to talk about our failures though we analyze them endlessly and swear never to do that again! I will say that in every book I write I strive to create wonderful characters and interesting plots. I have never "phoned" one in as some well-know authors do knowing the public will buy anything they put out. I can't afford to disappoint, but sometimes despite my best efforts, I do.
First, I have learned the hard way that covers with a single women on them don't sell nearly as well as those with studly guys. My books have sex scenes, but aren't particularly steamy so I prefer less explicit covers--but my worst sellers have lone women or discrete flowers on them. This applies to Will of her Own, Always Yellow Roses, A Wild Red Rose, and The Courville Rose. Might as well reveal my worst sellers now.
Choice of characters also plays a part. Few like the bad girl turned good because it takes a while for her to become likable, example Wild Red Rose. The kick-ass heroine is very in. Not many want to watch a naive young woman grow up and gain strength as in Will of her Own. Loosely based on my my college years and wanderings after that with a self-centered first husband who was not a rock musician like the one in the book, this is women's fiction, girl growing up if you want to call it that, not romance, and maybe a little too real. There is humor though of a dark variety and a happy ending, but that does not suffice. More than one reader has said they will stick to my Sinners football romances.
Plot can also cause a crash and burn. Reincarnation doesn't seem to be popular right now.. In Courville Rose, a ghost condemned to haunt her ancestral home forever because she committed suicide when her fiance dies in the Civil War (she wasn't very stable to begin with), notices the souls of people she knew being returned to earth in modern times. She vows to seize a new body and drive the other soul out so that she can search for her lost love in hopes that he has come back, too. However, the only soul she deems weak enough to take over, turns out to be a fighter and refuses to leave. So, she must share the body of the child, grow up again, and try to convince her host to marry the man she wants, not the choice of the girl. Maybe it is the time spent in childhood that harms this book. It's only gotten two reviews, both favorable, so I don't know. Usually if someone hates my books they say straight out why, but few have purchased or read this one.
My worst failure, ranked at 5,938,618 among Amazon's millions of titles as compared to Trashy Affair at 106,000 (if you don't think that is good, let me tell you it is) is Always Yellow Roses, a family saga that starts in Louisiana in the 1830's, goes up to the Civil War, then in the second half switches to the 1980's when a teenage girl meets a guy she is sure is her reincarnated lover from the past--and proves it, more or less. The book contains lots of strong and persistent women, but perhaps Noreen is too young when she comes into the tale as a teenager. She, too, grows to adulthood and gains her HEA, but I am thinking her youth and the reincarnation theme, and maybe even the Civil War killed this one. I don't know. Personally, I love it. Or it could be when the first of the Roses series came out (The Convent Rose), a short, light-hearted romance, it was immediately within hours of release attacked by a troll who couldn't even get the name of the hero right, garbled, and revealed the plot so that series never thrived. The ugly review is still there, the longest one of course, and despite the several good reviews, readers see this one first as it is the only negative one.
Then, we come An Ashy Affair,which I talked about in Writing Disasters. It should have been a hit being a companion piece to Trashy Affair, having a sexy guy cover, a good and complex plot with a mystery subplot and well-developed adult characters, plus the HEA, but defective early reviews copies containing only 122 of the 364 page book drew so many ugly reviews about how incomplete and plotless it seemed, I don't know how to stop the flood. Evidently many Net Galley reviewers downloaded it and the ugly continues to flow. I contacted every one and informed they should ask for the complete book.Only one responded and raised the rating from two stars to four. Another said she knew it was defective but was just going to judge the entire book on the first 122 pages because that's what she has. Terrible review followed of course. With that attitude, no wonder. Destroys my faith in Net Galley for sure. Not their fault, but the publishers for sending out the bad copies, but what kind of reviewers do they attract? And to think I had to pay for their opinions!
Well, enough crying in my wine. I wish I had some right now. The Sinners series still rules in my ratings, seven titles in all with the eighth, Sister of a Sinner, coming out in the spring. Another rule I've learned is just keep writing your most successful series. It is what your readers want no matter how much you want to spread your author's wings and fly in other directions.