Thanks so much for sharing this, Annie. You gave me some great advice when I was first starting out and I hope I can return the favor.
Do you actually want to write slow burn romances? If it's been two years since you've had a romance hit, then you've probably lost a huge chunk of your romance readers. I think you should approach this as if you are starting over (unless you have a really easy way to speak to your fans--like a newsletter of 15k or something). What would you do if you were starting over? What do you actually want to write that will actually sell?
New adult is incredibly saturated and competitive right now. I think New Adult and PNR are probably the most competitive genres, and they're filled with .99 KU books. Big authors are spending five-figures a month on Facebook ads and releasing constantly at .99. Midlist authors are also spending tons and releasing regularly, and at .99. It's effing hard to sell a 2.99+ book in New Adult, even if your book is really on market. If I didn't love writing sexy NA, I would run from the genre for one where people price to make money off sales and not just off (stuffed) KU reads. And I made six figures of profit last year.
If legal thrillers are what call your name, I would start writing legal thrillers under a pen name (granted, I know nothing about legal thrillers). If you want to stick with romance, I would approach this as a big rebrand. Maybe start a new pen. Maybe revise and re-release (under new names/with new covers the series that didn't do well).
Yeah, I started to doubt myself. And I wanted to write to market, so I wanted to get in on the E-Rom action. Big mistake. I didn't enjoy writing it because I don't really enjoy writing about sex nearly as much as I like writing about emotions and story elements. As for Temptations - I don't know what I was thinking there. That's a book that doesn't know what it wants to be when it grows up. Murder mystery or erotic romance? Either way, my fans didn't want to touch it. Lesson learned!
I see this sort of talk in romance (sub)forums all the time and it's always a This Person Doesn't Actually Like/Read Romance
red flag. The sex in romance should always be about the emotions. Especially in erotic romance. Romance readers enjoy hot sex scenes, absolutely, but they are there for the emotional connection.
Romance is a really broad genre with a lot of different tones, heat levels, and subject matters. I started writing in a niche I really love, and that is when my sales really took off. I'm on the same wavelength as these readers, so I instinctively know what they want in books (and I get more experience every book). Even so, my second series isn't doing nearly as well as my first did. My numbers are great by most people's definitions, but I am greedy and I want more. It's frustrating trouble shooting. Things change constantly. Permafree stops working. BookBub doesn't perform as well. Facebook CPCs go up. In my case, I don't think it's the books, the covers, or the blurbs, but I can't be sure. I think it's increasing competition/more expensive FB ads, but I don't know. Even though I made five-figures last month without a release, I spent the whole month stressing about this.
So I get it. Sales are mysterious. The market is mysterious. Even when you think you know what's working with Amazon and/or advertisers, it can change at any moment. My last two BookBubs were lackluster (but still profitable).
I write rock star romance specifically, but at it's heart, the books are really family romances with tattooed, manwh*re heroes. It's just that the family isn't always a blood family. It's the band. Having a specific niche is great in that I have less competition, but it also limits my mainstream appeal. Which is why I'm going to try a family romance series next-- one that captures the same fun, sexy, a little bit angsty, damaged characters helping each other heal tone. That might fail epically or it might be awesome. The only way to find out is to do it.
It took me a lot of books to figure out what I wanted my "brand" to be. Now that I have it, I'm tempted to unpublish/switch pen names of some of my older books (even though many of my readers tell me they love them), but I think as long as the blurbs and covers make the off-brand books really clear, I'm okay.