The other day, right after I finished bitching about my “super bug” here, I found out that my girl friend, her husband, and her youngest daughter all have the same thing—killing my theory that this was just my immune system being an asshole. My girl friend said she and her husband were convinced it’s the flu, which made me stop and think. I’d said several times to Mike that this felt like the flu. Could it really be, even though I’d gotten my flu shot?
For hahas, I looked up flu symptoms and yup, it’s the flu—to a T. I had to come out of denial and surrender to the enemy. It was way too late for Tamiflu, so I’ve had to just ride it out: DayQuil severe, Gatorade, ginger ale, and rest. I didn’t bother with seeing a doctor, because there’s nothing they can do for me.
12 days in, I’m still exhausted. Today I have a bit more energy, so I’ve mostly been reading Let’s Get Visible by David Gaughran on my iPad and doing some administrative things with my books (categories, keywords, etc)—when I have a bit of energy. The tiniest things wipe me out, which sucks. I’ve said “This sucks!” more times in the past two weeks than I have the entire time I was a surly teenager.
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I’d planned a blog hop, which pretty much got blown because almost 50% of us have the damn flu. I’d also planned on finishing beta reading for my CP, which I’ve been doing in tiny bursts. And I’d planned on re-outlining SOF4 this week, but my brain is mush, I tell you.
I’m not good at resting. I’ve always been a go-getter, so one of the things I’ve struggled with the most since getting sick in 2007 is just resting. I’m stubborn and impatient, so sitting still is not my forte. I’m absolutely sick to death of Netflix right now, so reading marketing books is a compromise. And even then, I can only do it in bursts because brain fog.
Just writing this blog post will cost me—which feels pathetic to me and not many people understand how this can be. But that’s the thing about autoimmune diseases and chronic illness in general; the invisible illness takes such a toll on your system, it’s exhausting. Throw in an illness like the flu, and you’re microwaved zombie.
You’d think, after almost 10 years, I’d be used to this by now, but no. I still hate it, I still get frustrated with myself, and I still stubbornly try to push my body. But the harder I push myself, the more I pay for it after.
The good news is, the flu won’t last forever, and the Prednisone/Plaquenil cocktail I’m on now should help with the pain and fatigue. Granted, it’ll be about six months before I notice any real difference. In the meantime, I need to practice patience with myself—which has been a theme in my life.
I’m getting there.
Need to get in the holiday spirit? I’ve got goodies for you!
Speaking of Just One More Minute, I’m currently writing a Ro/Matt Christmas story, “Just One More Christmas”! It will be available very soon for $0.99. Make sure you’re on my email list; all my subscribers will get a free copy.
Re-launch the South of Forever series. Over at my story studio blog, Maietta Ink, I wrote a bit about how I’d like to re-launch the SOF series with more genre-appropriate covers. The post is long, and doesn’t go into too much detail on SOF, but the gist is: this series isn’t moving as much as it should, and I think it can do a lot better—especially based on your reviews! I think more rockstar romance-y covers will be just the trick. More on that soon.
Write my 2017 business and marketing plan. This one’s pretty self-explanatory. It’s time to prepare to kick some ass in 2017!
I’m also reading a lot more. I missed reading! I recently finished I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai—the girl who fought for education and was shot in the head by the Taliban. It was an inspiring read, and also really insightful into the war on terror and its global effects. I strongly recommend every American reads it! We tend to live in a bubble out here.
I’ve also been reading Cold Fire by Dean Koontz—which is, as always, very good—and Chris Fox’s Write to Market. I’m learning a lot about writing better books, which is always a good thing! For some reason, I never finished David Gaughran’s Let’s Get Digital, so I restarted it. I think I just forgot I was reading it, to be honest. Brain=mush. Mostly, though, I’ve been focusing on the Koontz and Fox books. Then there are the many books on my iPad that are begging to be read…
Bookworm problems, am I right?
That’s it for my December goals!
What are yours? Leave me a comment and let me know!
I’ve been working in the indie publishing industry for five years, with a smattering of trad pub experience right before that. I mean a very tiny smattering; I had a couple short stories and poems published in journals before I got addicted to self-publishing, and I was with a small press for a year. But I’ve always been an introvert, and the thing most people don’t know about us introverts is that we’re super observant. We may not say much, but we see everything. And we pay attention.
Lately there’s been a lot of ugliness in the lit community. Some high profile authors were outed for attacking readers, there’s been a lot of mudslinging over diversity in fiction, and now I’m seeing a lot of authors griping about how “oversaturated” the industry is.
I get it. Amazon sales have tanked for everyone this month. In general, there’s been a decline in sales. The industry has been plateauing, trying to find its footing in the midst of this digital revolution. But I’ve noticed the panic really dig in to authors when Amazon changes something. And then things get ugly.
I’ve been doing this for five years. It’s not a long time, by any means, but I’ve seen a lot of things change. It’s completely natural to look for something to blame when the industry shifts, but it seems kind of petty to lob it at the increasing number of authors and books out there.
For one, the market has always been full. Even before indie publishing took off—back when it was considered vanity publishing to go and print copies of your books and sell them out of your car—there was a vast traditional market. Book stores became more and more selective with who they gave shelf space to. It was a game of dollars—which publisher could pay the most to get their star author front and center in stores. And it still is.
New authors are debuting every day in the traditional world. Some never sell. Publishers are taking a huge gamble on them. Many authors will not publish again, or will and remain low- or mid-list. Those who buckle down for the long haul will ultimately have the most rewarding careers. Some will become overnight bestsellers and will be completely okay with their single famous series.
It’s the same on the indie side of the fence. The only difference is whose dollars are backing the production and marketing.
Authors, we’re not competitors. There are millions of readers around the world, with new markets opening up every single day. (Right now India and Nigeria’s ebook markets are booming, by the way.) Readers don’t play favorites. Sure, there are authors they love who they will always buy from right away. But most readers are just looking for something good to read that fits their tastes and their budget—especially while their favorites are in between releases.
We’re not competitors, the same way sushi and pizza aren’t. They’re different foods, with different flavors, but they’re still tasty. Depending on the day, I’ll have a craving for one or the other (or a variety of other foods).
Amazon tweaked an algorithm that slashed sales. Okay. That does sting. My sales, for example, aren’t that high in the first place. Being disabled and low income, I work hard so that my book sales help pay my bills. I more than understand the stress. However, Amazon isn’t the only retailer out there, nor are they the only avenue of income for authors.
For example, over on Kobo my sales are business as usual. I’m participating in a 30% off promotion and my standalone romance The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos is currently selling all over the world, with little effort on my part at this point. All I did was sign up for the promotion. Thanks to Kobo, I just sold my first book in Sweden. A couple months ago, I broke into the UAE market for the first time.
Kindle Unlimited is just not a long-term business plan for indie authors. It’s great in the short-term, but as Amazon tweaks algorithms to better service their customers, it affects the authors. And that’s fine, because Amazon is a business and they have to do what’s best for their customers. They don’t owe authors anything. Their job is to keep their business running—and our job is to keep our businesses running.
I was recently listening to an episode of The Creative Penn podcast and Joanna Penn said something like “readers don’t owe you a living.” This really resonated with me.
Amazon and readers aren’t obligated to keep our businesses running. We are. And we do so by being open to other streams of income, such as going wide (maybe rotating series in KU but not putting our entire catalogs in), writing in multiple genres, writing nonfiction, and looking for related work, like teaching courses and workshops.
Our entire careers do not and should not depend on Amazon. Our sales do not depend on whether other authors are releasing. Our sales do not depend on readers.
How well we do is up to us, the author—the entrepreneur at the head of our own businesses.
Our careers depend on how hard we want to work. It’s as simple as that.
I’m in it for the long haul. And no algorithm tweak or market condition is going to change that.
Today marks five years since I started self-publishing, when I hit publish on my award-winning short story, “Moon Prayer.” To this day I still get that feeling of anticipation and excitement when I publish a new book. It’s a feeling that never gets old, one that I think will be familiar throughout the rest of my career. It’s crazy to think that five years is such a short and long time; it’s only a blip on the timeline of a lifelong career, but it’s also the hardest period when starting a new business. And I’ve accomplished a lot.
In the last five years, I’ve:
published nine novels, with my 10th coming out next month
been signed by a small press publisher (now closed)
done several signings at book stores
made a lot of lifelong friends
done several interviews—including a podcast
Since I want to look back on posts like this, I’d also like to mention what I’m currently working on:
My 10th novel, standalone NA romance Just One More Minute, comes out November 18th. It’s part of a duology; the other book is a standalone about another couple.
Throughout the next couple of months, I will be writing and editing the fourth book in my rockstar romance, the South of Forever series. I hope to release it in early 2017.
I’m extremely proud of everything I’ve done in the last five years, and I know that the next five will be just as fun. I’ve learned many things so far, but here are a few of the most important.
Self-Publishing is an Agile Business
In this industry, change happens quickly. No one knows the formula to an overnight success, and what catches fire in the market changes with the wind. Billionaires, for example, are out, but small town farmers are totally in. You can write to market or you can write what’s in your heart and wait for the market to catch up. (It will eventually.) In that same sense, marketing tactics come and go, too. Amazon could tweak one algorithm tomorrow and your marketing plan could come crashing down.
Good or bad, you have to be ready to pivot and apply everything you’re learning to what you’re doing in the trenches. Sometimes I’ve had to make decisions on a whim based on new information. This business has been one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever done.
Publishing Exclusively With Amazon is Super Risky
You know how your grandma always said “Never put all of your eggs in one basket”? She was right.
Before I started building my empire, I was a web designer. I ran workshops and did presentations all the time, where I advised clients not to rely on free websites or social media—they needed their own domain where they could control everything. Facebook, for example, could change their terms of service at any time, completely destroying everything my client had built. With their own website, though, they owned their content and held the keys.
When I came to self-publishing, I applied this same philosophy to the retailers I sold at. Being wide—avoiding programs like KDP Select—put the control in my hands. Many a horror story has been told on Kboards about authors who were Amazon-exclusive and one single algorithm tweak brought their income to a screeching halt. Kindle Unlimited can be great to get a new author started—you can make a lot of money in a short period of time—but it’s not a good long-term business plan.
If I was a brand new author just starting out, I would release a trilogy straight to KU. After 90 days, I would go wide and stay wide. Then I’d repeat it with my next series. As I started seeing income rise at the other retailers, I would start publishing directly to all of them—skipping KU entirely.
Setting Up Multiple Honeypots is a Great Way to Maximize Your Income
For the longest time, I was lucky to make $10 a month at Amazon. I was publishing short stories, which I later discovered aren’t the best length for steady sales. However, even with shorter works, when I published consistently, I was able to make at least $10 a month at each of the retailers. This multiplied my income, especially once I joined Kobo’s promotions email list (which is now a tab built into the KWL dashboard for select indie authors).
Each retailer has really great assets. Finding and leveraging those strengths to your advantage is the key to success. For example, distributors like Draft2Digital and Smashwords have reps from Apple and Barnes & Noble that will merchandise your books. I’ve even heard of authors who publish direct being contacted by reps and having their books featured. And Kobo’s promotions, as I mentioned, are a fantastic tool for reaching more customers.
But having honeypots doesn’t just mean being wide. It also means finding related streams of income, like writing nonfiction, speaking, and teaching. I even know indie authors who are also ghostwriters. Another honeypot is doing signings, conventions, book festivals, craft fairs, and art shows. Basically anywhere there’s going to be a crowd of people willing to spend money. There are so many avenues and opportunities—especially in this exciting digital age.
It’s Ridiculously Easy to Burn Out Really Quickly
All of this excitement can easily become overwhelming. After all, indie authors have a lot of work to do on any given day, and that can become stressful. It’s even worse when you get a case of comparison-itis. I often find myself comparing myself to other self-published authors, wondering “How come I’m not making a living?” and “Why can’t I write that fast?”
This is why it’s super important to do two things on a regular basis: put things into perspective, and fill the well.
You can’t compare yourself to someone who’s been writing for decades, for example. I catch myself wondering why I’m not more like Tarryn Fisher or Colleen Hoover all the time. In reality, they’ve been self-publishing much longer than I have. It took me a few years to find my voice and niche—I only just started consistently releasing a series last year—so realistically I’m at a completely different place.
I used to try to jump straight from one project to another. It took me some time to figure it out, but I’m much more productive if I take some time off in between and fill the well. This can mean reading a couple of books and binge-watching a series on Netflix. It’s especially beneficial if I just focus on relaxing.
It’s also important to write a business plan and keep strict business hours. I revise my business plan every six months or so, and usually write a separate marketing plan for each book. I only work Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm. It took me a few years to realize that even though I wanted to work a lot of hours and even enjoyed it, those long days were wearing me down. Occasionally I break this rule—like when my publisher closed or when I wrote a novel in two weeks. Otherwise, I’m super careful about how many hours I put in—especially since I have a chronic illness. YMMV.
Writing Doesn’t Have to Be a Solitary Career
The best thing that’s happened to me in the last five years was hooking up with other authors who write in a similar genre. I met J.C. Hannigan back in the day when we were both aimlessly blogging through our twenties. After a few years of me harassing her, she came over to the dark side and started self-publishing too. I call her my “work wife” and love her to pieces. I also happen to adore her books! For a long time, I was pretty much on my own, but when she started self-publishing, I was thrilled to finally have someone I could really talk to.
I met my critique partner, Molli Moran, on Twitter. I liked her a lot right away and fell in love with her books. We chatted more and more frequently, sharing story ideas and marketing tips. Eventually we started swapping manuscripts for beta reading, and it was a perfect fit. It only made sense that we become critique partners.
With these two lovely ladies and the sweet Rebecca Paula, I co-founded Romance Readers Anonymous on Facebook. Just the simple act of coming together to do something nice for our readers keeps the ugly loneliness away, but we also bounce marketing ideas and plots off each other. Our group is so lovely in the sense that we respect and take care of each other. Recently we all realized we were a little overwhelmed and decided to make October a roll with it kind of month, rather than scheduling themed posts and games. It’s so easy with these three ladies and I’m so grateful to have them in my life. Eventually we have got to have a meetup!
The last five years have been quite a ride, but I’ve far from reached my destination. In the next five years, I hope to:
be making a full-time income ($5,000 a month is totally all right with me)
publish at least two memoirs (one about my chronic illness and the healthcare system, the other about PTSD and the mental healthcare system)
have several series in genres ranging across YA, NA, and adult fiction
train Dragon or some other speech-to-text program so that I can save my poor wrists 😂
be losing my mind because maybe I’ll be trying to write books while raising babies
It’s all within reach, because the magic is already inside of me.
Thank you so much to all of my readers, family, and friends for your unwavering support and love throughout the past five years! This journey has never been easy, and many have doubted me—including myself—but your faith has carried me through. As a thank you for being there, I will be sending my email list a FREE copy of “Moon Prayer”—that award-winning short story that I self-published five years ago.
Sign up now* to get your FREE copy.
*Make sure you check your inbox and confirm your email address so that you receive it. I will be sending out the email around 5pm EST.
Alliteration! 🙃 Okay, but seriously, I strongly feel that this needs to be addressed.
The publishing community—also known as the lit community—is like a small town. There are two major neighborhoods: the trad suburbs and the indie village. Everyone knows everyone, and you’re often as strong as your acquaintances. So I can understand why some townspeople might feel as if they’re better off not standing up to the bullying selectmen and mayors. But when those prominent figures start vandalizing buildings on Main Street, there are only so many times you can scrub the bricks clean.
I think we’ve seen enough episodes of Authors Behaving Badly. As public figures—yes, even those of us who are prawny and barely make coffee money off our writing—we ought to hold ourselves to certain standards. Siccing our Twitter followers on someone who had a differing opinion or belittling another author’s reading comprehension on a public message board falls miles short of that. As writers, you’d think we would understand the weight of our words and actions.
Yet it happens over and over.
Occasionally, it spawns a series of Twitter threads and blog posts calling out the bad behavior and attempting to correct it. Too often, though, it goes completely ignored—especially if there isn’t a group to support us and back us up. We continue our friendships and business arrangements with authors who repeatedly let their tongues go hurtling out of the yard.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t want to be associated with someone who purposely walks all over other people.
Everyone is entitled to a bad day. Sometimes our words get jumbled and what we thought sounded right and correctly conveyed our feelings was simply hurtful. We apologize and we move on. We are forgiven and we learn from our mistakes. But I’m not talking about those people.
I’m dismayed and nauseated when I see respectful authors buddying up with authors who have a history of attacking readers and bloggers. My reputation—my business’s brand—is much more valuable to me than thousands of dollars in royalties. I’d rather stay prawny than know I got to the NYT bestseller list because I turned the other cheek while friends were steamrolled. I’ve put my foot down and walked away from seemingly amazing opportunities because I couldn’t stomach the Napoleon-esque, demeaning behavior.
I want more of us to do these things.
What one of us does and says reflects on all of us. Even though it sometimes may seem like everyone out there is an author, we’re actually a very small community. While I’m not arrogant enough to think that we should have a blacklist along the lines of Writer Beware, I do believe more of us should have a little more pride and integrity in our little town.
This shouldn’t be a witch hunt; we’re no better if we start publicly outing people and burning them at the Twitter stake. But maybe if, while we’re strolling down Main Street, we see someone pull out that graffiti can, we can say,
“I see you, I disapprove of your actions, and I will not work with you.”
This is three times now in one week that a page I like on Facebook has been incapacitated in some way. It’s frustrating for both the entity and fans. I too have had the Facebook hammer of doom fall down on me. My personal profile has been suspended for impersonating myself. And even though I requested a verified badge for my New Adult author page a week ago, I’m still waiting to hear back. It’s times like these that remind us how very much we rely on Facebook for our businesses.
We all do it. The thing is, relying on any one platform is not a good practice—specifically because if something happens to that platform, your business is crushed. For example, when Facebook changed the visibility of pages’ posts, a lot of authors I know panicked because their readers weren’t seeing their posts as often anymore.
I used to be a social media consultant for small businesses and non-profits, and I spent a lot of time coaching my clients to treat their websites as their hub and their social media as the spokes. Everything you do should be funneling your audience into your website. Your website is truly the only thing you control. Your content is 100% yours. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc can change their policies or kill your account at any time, for any reason.
So, if your website is the hub of your business, your spokes are:
social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc)
search engines (Google, Bing, etc)
email list (Mail Chimp, Constant Contact, etc)
and anything else you do to drive traffic to your site (traditional advertising, RSS, etc)
Arguably, you also have control over your email list (as you can always download your contacts and import them somewhere else).
If you’re finding that you’re greatly affected by changes that, say, Facebook makes, odds are that you’re relying too heavily on it and need to adjust your strategy. There are a few things you can do to change this.
Use several different social media sites and grow them equally. If one goes down, you still have followers on the others.
Incorporate SEO (search engine optimization) into your website. If you use a CMS (content management system) like WordPress, you’re probably already doing this without even realizing it.
Use every opportunity to encourage your audience to join your email list. Offer an incentive, such as exclusive content, a special service (like rounding up your best articles in a given week), or a giveaway. Send regular emails to your list.
Make your website a prominent part of your branding. If you hand out business cards, add your URL; if you run a radio ad spot, make sure you mention your dot com.
I’m sure I’ve missed something, so if you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments!