When I started writing Love’s Forbidden Flower, I knew it would be a hard sell. The up side is that though the subject of siblings in love is normally handled as erotica or the characters are made dysfunctional, mine are simply soul mates who are born into a world of cruel realities. The down side is, well, you saw that part about them being siblings, right? I spent a very long time polishing the query and gathered a lot of feedback. I was told it was beautifully crafted, as was my entire pitch for the story. Despite the black cloud over the subject matter, I went into the agent querying process with confidence.
It’s pretty well known that the turnaround time for a query response is several weeks, sometimes months. For me, the turnaround time was so short it seemed like I hadn’t even hit the send button. Two responses were common: “No, thank you.” and “Your writing is very eloquent, but we are unable to publish your story given the relationship of those involved. Feel free to submit again if changes are made.”
While I was certainly open to the possibility that Love’s Forbidden Flower could use some sprucing up, some things were sacred, like the part about Lily and Donovan being siblings. That was the biggest complaint, and without that key element, the story would not work. Meaning, in order to get published I’d easily have to change over half of the book.
No, thank you.
Instead, I self-published. Now I was left to face a big issue all by my lonesome: How do you market a book that agents and publishers don’t want to touch because of its subject matter?
I tried to get blogs to write about it, but it was really hard to get traction. I was very upfront about the subject matter and many people wouldn’t respond to me. It was interesting to feel the push of discrimination.
Then I reached out to people at Goodreads who had read other books that contain the topic and asked them for honest reviews in exchange for free copies. The support was absolutely overwhelming. It was phenomenal how quickly my book took off within that community. Still, the bloggers wouldn’t bite.
I took a chance and signed up for blog tour. The problem here is that the book blurb for Love’s Forbidden Flower does not mention the relationship of the characters because I wanted to appeal to the reader’s emotions, not to fetishes. Instead, a disclaimer was attached. Apparently quite a few people missed the disclaimer. Thus, the majority of the people who reviewed had absolutely no idea what they were getting themselves into. Of those, the vast majority absolutely loved the book! The common response was: Had I known what it was about, I never would have picked it up. I’m so glad that I didn’t miss out on an amazing journey.
So, how do you market a controversial novel? A great question. I’m still learning. It all comes down to finding your audience. I had to put a disclaimer on it stating it’s not a work of erotica, because people commonly think any type of romance involving siblings would naturally be just about sex. However, in learning that, I found that audiences who enjoy erotica are much more likely to read Love’s Forbidden Flower.
The disclaimer seems to be the way to go. The blurb reflects the spirit of the story while the disclaimer lets the reader know what they are getting themselves into. I made the first chapter available on my website, and I post links to it on Twitter and Facebook often. By the end of that chapter, you fully know what you are in for. Sometimes I get flack for throwing the reader into the relationship so quickly, but you know what? I’d rather get a little bit of flack than mislead people into reading fifty pages before they see where everything is going and quickly decide they are done.
The final thing that helps is letting others know the mission—the whole reason why I wrote what I did: Love’s Forbidden Flower is a controversial, civil rights piece about siblings that makes you ask the question, “Why do we make love laws?”
Love’s Forbidden Flower is available on Amazon and Smashwords.