Gay romance fiction

Your Best Flaw: turning manure into roses 

by Damon Suede

(A-game Advice was a monthly column offering practical tips for winning promo that fits your personal style, strategy, and measure of success.)


Discoverability is a marketing concept that’s gained a lot of traction in recent years. As publishing mutates and bookshelves groan under tottering mountains of new titles, authors scramble for ways to boost their signal above the noise. For readers to buy our books, they must first know that our books exist.

On the other hand, the romance community stands out for its cooperation, reciprocity, and graciousness. Romance writers are a spectacularly nice bunch. As someone who started out writing for film/TV/theatre I can attest to the venal and carnivorous bent of most entertainment pros. That essential kindness has built a powerful community and elevates our profession as a matter of course. We cannot predict the next trend, but we can write it.

In a glutted market, standing out is your job. How can any one author get attention in a tsunami?

To claim your space on the genre bookshelf, fans need to be able to articulate what is special about you. Attracting the attention of editors, agents, and vendors requires being able to point to your unique appeal. If your goal is to create work that tests your mettle and changes the landscape, you must take the risks of which only you are capable. You need an edge.

Worried that you aren’t remarkable? Pay attention to people’s remarks about you. Disapproval can point you in the right direction, because your most aggravating quality often broadcasts your greatest asset. Ask yourself: what makes you extraordinary? Remember: the secret of remarkable people is that people make remarks about them.

Strengths and virtues are all well and good, but if you have any doubts about what kind of edge you have, find that thing in you that irritates people. That friction indicates what makes you unique and is the characteristic that will make you successful. As Cocteau says, “What the public criticizes in you, cultivate. It is you.” The things that make each of us stand out are exactly those qualities that rock the boat and disturb the peace. Flip the rock and see what squirms:

  • What habits do you abhor or fear within yourself? How do you hide them?

  • What are your worst, unshakeable habits? What trait gives rise to them?

  • How does that personal characteristic disrupt and disturb the status quo?

  • How have you used this essential quality to excuse bad behavior in the past?

  • What are the positives buried within that unhelpful tendency?

Perfection is a myth. We all suck at something. Every silver lining comes with a cloud and no HEA solves the world’s problems for good. Each one of us carries flaws and foibles that others find annoying, frustrating, or infuriating. For romance writers that’s often a bitter pill, but our genre expects us to reform rakes and transform vices into virtues. We all have traits which don’t blend well in community settings. Own your flaws and you wield a sword that cuts both ways.

Please don’t imagine I’m advocating bad behavior. Simply acting like a jerk or a hack accomplishes nothing good. Instead look for the primal spark you can't always control, that take or trait that drives people bonkers when you're at your worst. Harness that impulse, direct it properly, and your edge will do more for your promo than all the swag and gladhanding in the world.

Transmuting that negativity does double duty. On the one hand, it redirects negative perceptions so that your efforts aren’t wasted or misconstrued. On the other, criticisms are always easier to hear than complements. Once you face your most annoying traits, you can take ownership and control of authentic deep-seated power at the core of your personality. After all, a knife is only as useful as its edge.

Help the public see your work clearly and steer them past wrong impressions. Set yourself up for positive interactions by embody your authorial voice, loud and clear!

Transform that core behavior into a professional guarantee which reflects your brand,

Don’t think about your flaw as a flaw. Think about it as the point on which you can pivot yourself. If you tend to deflect attention and huddle in corners, redirect unwanted attention by enthusing about other authors. If you’re a jokey babbler, use your volubility to encourage shyer, quieter folks. If you’re a bossy nitpicker, provide structure for the scatty improvisers in your circle. As Cocteau put it, “One is either judge or accused. The judge sits, the accused stands. Live on your feet.”

Here’s the best part: as the folks around you develop their own professional edge, the reciprocal benefit is exponential. Our repurposed flaws compliment and supplement everyone else’s. Not only will you help your own career, but every other career in your orbit. Win-win ad infinitum. Look for the places where your irritating trait becomes the edge which opens up possibilities for the community.

  • What misconceptions or negative impressions can you head off at the pass?

  • How does your edge amplify the core appeal of your brand and your work?

  • Where does that edge influence your voice and your books?

  • How can you reboot public perception and adapt for future interactions?

  • Who can you help with your unique approach to the genre?

For readers to find our books, we embrace the romance community while making it clear why our books might matter. The shadows matter as much as the shine. 

Our flaws really do cut both ways. They are an authentic warp in our weave that ain’t going away. Like Prospero with Caliban, you should embrace your detriments and release them: “This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine.” Make the most of your habitual failings and you’ll unleash all the power they mask.

Your professional edge can cut a sharp, sure path toward the success that matters most to you.

A professional development article for writers by M/M author Damon Suede

Copyright 2017. Damon Suede. All Rights Reserved

Originally published as part of A Game Advice for the Romance Writers Report.

If you wish to republish this article, just drop me a line.