They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I’d say…they were right.
Today marks the four-year anniversary of my most “notorious” book, The Wild. It’s a book that not only took me by surprise, but apparently, the entire book world. We weren’t ready. Not me, not my readers, no one. It caused more than a stir…
The Wild turned my world upside down and gave it a hard, violent shake.
Calm Before the Storm
I love pushing boundaries. For years now, I’ve allowed my characters to take me on adventures that even surprise me. It’s fun to allow them to run in any direction they so please. I certainly find it entertaining.
In the summer of 2017, I was feeling the itch to write something epic, dark, and juicy. I’d been completely enamored by Selena Kitt’s Temptation. The story was filthy, emotional, taboo, and totally had me biting my nails in anticipation. I loved how she wrote so beautifully on a topic that could literally make you cringe. I wanted more. Problem was, I couldn’t find it. At least, not what I was looking for.
Most authors write the books they want to read. I was no exception. Being that I love all things survival-related, I thought it’d be fun to put that spin on a forbidden romance. To make it feral and wild and lawless.
This book sucked me into its void and for a solid week, I wrote nonstop. Yes, you heard that correctly. I wrote this book in a week. That week, looking back, was a blur. I don’t know that I even spoke to my family or changed my clothes. I was a woman obsessed with the world I was creating.
A Ping on the Radar
After I wrote The Wild, I sent it to my best friend, Misty, for her to have a read. She gobbled it up and was just as excited as I was about the story. But then, I got my first ping of warning that maybe this book might not be for everyone.
The betas were startled. No, they were completely knocked over and responded with a mixture of “what the f*ck is this but I sort of love it.” I took it as a compliment. Ha! Still, despite the unusual, and not normal reaction, I kept going along my merry little way.
It’s just a book. I’ll put a massive warning on it.
Here was the original warning:
The Wild is an extremely taboo story. Most will find that the themes in this book will make you incredibly uncomfortable or maybe even offend you. This book is only for the brave, the open-minded, and the ones who crave love in even the most dismal of situations. Extreme sexual themes and violence in certain scenes, which could trigger emotional distress, are found in this story. If you are sensitive to heavy taboo themes, then this story is not for you.
Seriously, you’ve been warned.
Don’t say I didn’t try.
You’re probably going to cringe many, many, many times.
Even if you’re on the fence, it’s probably not a good idea to proceed.
However, if you’re intrigued and fearless and kind of sort of trust me, then carry on. This book is for you.
I thought I did my due diligence. Basically I warned them if they’re even a bit unsure, then they probably shouldn’t read it at all.
First the Rain and then the Downpour
The Wild went through the typical book release process that every book goes through. I had it set up through Kindle Unlimited and on a pre-order on Amazon. I’d been thrilled to give my current boundary-pushing-loving readers something…more. At this point, I loved this book so much, I’d read it at least three or four times just for fun. (Any author will tell you we don’t like to read our books for fun, but there I was loving the hell out of this book.)
Advanced reader copies went out, and like with any other new release, I was eaten up by nerves hoping they would like the book.
But before I could fully enjoy the excitement of those who did, I was slapped right in the face by the words of those who didn’t. You have to have tough skin to be in this industry and to take criticism, but I wasn’t there yet. I was the girl who wouldn’t read anything less than a glowing five-star review because I didn’t want to get my feelings hurt. I avoided Goodreads like the plague.
I couldn’t avoid this.
Before I knew what was happening, it seemed as though the book world was exploding with buzz about The Wild, a lot of it not good. I did my best to try and ignore that stuff because I was having tons of people gush over the book.
Every author wants to be the talk of the town, their book’s title on everyone’s lips. But not like this. In a flash that caught me by complete surprise, suddenly the entire book world was in an uproar about this coming book.
It hadn’t even released yet.
We were just a couple of days from release and people were screaming about this book on every platform.
Like any storm, I was hoping it’d blow over and I’d be yesterday’s news by tomorrow. That didn’t happen. With each passing second, this storm aka my book release was becoming stronger and more violent. I could see it was on a path of destruction…for my career.
At this point, there wasn’t any stopping it. All I could do was batten down the hatches and pray to resurface on the other side unscathed. Boy, was that naive thinking. By the eve before release, my book was being reported viciously to Amazon, social media was in all out war, and I was sick with worry.
What was going to happen?
The simplest thing should have been that my book got blocked/banned for the content, but it didn’t stop there. Lightning struck, caught fire, and The Wild raging buzz was unstoppable. Everything with my name attached to it was in its path and doused in gasoline.
Complete and Utter Destruction
Despite the naysayers and vitriol surrounding the pending release of The Wild, my pre-orders were an insanely high amount. But, alternatively, my returns started pouring in just as quickly.
The. Book. Still. Hadn’t. Released. Yet.
Amazon informed me they were blocking the book from sale. This complicated and confused their system. Since the book was in pre-order, it basically was the first thing they had to move out of the way for their system to block my book. They first revoked my pre-order privileges (for an entire year!). Because the book still hadn’t been processed as blocked, people could continue to pre-order. It was a question as to whether or not they’d actually receive it.
The Wild was officially THE talk of our beloved book town.
It was nasty. I’ve never seen so much hatred in our community as I did in August of 2017. Not only aimed at me, which really, really sucked, but at each other. People were definitively on one side or the other. Friends were fighting with each other. I was disgusted.
I did this.
I started this war and didn’t even mean to.
Worse yet, I had no clue how to stop it.
The book eventually went live…for a few hours. It dropped all the way to the top 100 on Amazon because so many people were curious about it. All my dreams were coming true, but somewhere along the way they’d morphed into a nightmare. Sure, I was selling more books on a single day than I’d ever done in my entire career, and was actually ranking on the charts, but I also didn’t know if the readers would actually get to keep the book they purchased or what.
So stressful. Oh my God. I can’t even begin to describe how stressful this was. And it was only the tip of the iceberg.
Within a few hours of the official release of The Wild, the pre-order block fell off and then they actually blocked the book. Luckily, those readers who had purchased it (and not returned it) or borrowed it on Kindle Unlimited had this book on their device. Some of which, already read it in those short few hours. Everyone was worried it would suddenly disappear and they didn’t want to miss out.
Yet, it stayed.
I kept all those sales. Amazon didn’t take them away. Nor did they remove the book. Whew, one bullet dodged. Now what about the rest?
Because Amazon was quick to remove my book, I was already onto trying to get the book up on other retailers. Readers were flooding my inbox with the same message: How can I get the book? I was able to direct them to the paperback which was still up on Amazon since The Wild was uploaded through their sister system, Createspace.
Again, the book was charting…this time, the paperback.
But, because people were so fired up about this book, they took to reaching out to the printing company to report the book. Not long after, Createspace also blocked my book. And then all the other retailers followed. I even created an account for Smashwords. At one point, they were the only retailer selling it. That lasted all of about twelve hours before I was blocked there too. They even cancelled my entire author account. (Luckily, after a strongly worded email, I was paid any monies owed and rather quickly.)
I wanted to crawl into a hole and die.
I was stressed to the max, disgusted at the hatred, and slightly terrified of the momentum.
How would it impact my career? Was I finished?
If it weren’t for the hundreds and hundreds of daily messages asking me how they could purchase the book, I’d have thrown in the towel. I was so defeated and overwhelmed. I lost fifteen pounds in the span of a week, my teeth continually chattered from nerves, and I cried all day every day.
My kids were worried. My husband was ready to torch the world to the ground.
I just wanted it to go away. I wanted to hide from it all and pretend it never happened.
But it did happen and there was no hiding.
I like to think of myself as a strong person, but there were days that I could barely get out of bed to face the day. I kept wondering how a person without such a solid network of supportive friends and family and readers would be doing in the face of something so terrible. It was eye-opening because I knew without a shadow of a doubt, it could destroy a person. It was destroying me. (These feelings led me to write The Day She Cried where I channeled all the emotions and bullying into a new adult romance book that was “Amazon safe” just to prove I’m more than just a taboo book writer, but that’s another story for a different day.)
Clouds Began to Roll Away
Somewhere along the way, I managed to set my website up (thanks to IndieSage PR for their tireless help and support) and direct the readers to a place where they could purchase the book. Among the many emails and messages calling me every disgusting name in the book, I was receiving tons of support. For every reader who called me sick, a hundred more would tell me how much they loved the book. For every big author who smeared me on social media, ten more were in my inbox assuring me they supported my efforts. For every person who unfriended me, hundreds more wanted to know me and be my friend.
The haters during this time didn’t think punishing me for writing The Wild was enough, so they went on a crusade to take down as many of my books that toed the lines as they could. It was frustrating and exhausting to say the least. These same people were tagging the publisher I had a book deal with trying to get them to cancel me for writing such a “sick story.” Luckily, since I didn’t join in on any of the hatred or say anything cruel back to these people, the publisher continued their relationship with me. Being professional always wins in the end.
Every day, I had five hundred fires to put out. I couldn’t write or get anything done, but each day, I was learning. Growing thicker skin. Getting wiser, tougher, stronger.
Look, a Rainbow!
Beyond the storm, opportunity presented itself to me on the horizon with a promising rainbow. Suddenly, I had an agent, I had podcast interviews lined up, I had thousands of new readers. It was incredible once I made it through the worst of it. People wanted me at their signings, in their book groups, and so much more. And, best of all, they were flooding my site to buy this book.
During this time, a book friend, Robyn Crawford, felt so strongly about what I had gone through that she felt moved to start her own platform. A place where people like me could put their book up for sale without worry of having it removed. She spent countless months building Eden Books. Now, it’s grown into a competing platform geared toward romance readers. It’s fantastic and has many new, exciting things that will be happening soon. (If you’re an author who publishes wide, you need to add Eden Books to your list as I make a decent income from there!)
The Wild went wild, but it also burned us a new path. People could see that a person could write a daring, boundary-pushing book and not be blocked or banned out of existence. That, through some hard work and perseverance, they could continue to sell their stories because the readers were ABSOLUTELY there for them.
And they’re still here.
My readers love The Wild and the other banned books or unsafe for Amazon books that I have. They continue to flood my site and Eden Books looking for these types of forbidden, unsafe for all platforms reads. The support is incredible and inspiring. For every hate thread on Twitter, I’m sent tons of new readers who want to read The Wild and my others. It’s true what they say about how negative press is still good press. Each time they speak of my book, they’re advertising for it. For every one-star, scathing review on Goodreads, I receive so many new lifelong readers who found me because of The Wild.
I weathered the storm and survived.
I love writing and will continue to write. I’m always asked if I’ll write more books like The Wild, The Free, and Hale. The answer is…absolutely! If the forbidden stories come to me, I’ll write them. I’ll continue to get them to the readers, even if that means loading up a bus and driving around the world to sell it to them in a dark alley.
I’m not ashamed and neither are my readers! We read what we want.
People don’t like being told they can’t read something. We humans are built to make our own decisions. None of us like being told we aren’t smart enough or strong enough or brave enough to decide for ourselves.
I see a future where authors will continue to write stories that push boundaries and make us think. A future where our readers will continue to come out in droves to find this content. Now that The Wild has sort of paved the way for everyone, I feel like people are more comfortable with voicing the fact that they enjoy books like these because it takes them out of their comfort zone. That they can read stories like this and still go back to their normal every day, rule-following lives. They understand fiction is just that. Fiction.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me on my author journey. For those who are curious and take a chance on me and my stories. Thank you all. If you’re not ready to take a step into The Wild and want to get your feet wet first, dive into these 6 Standalones for the Ultimate K Webster Experience. If you’re ready to read all the juicy, super-naughty stories, check out 6 Best Incest Books to Make You Question Your Morals.