Laugh or Cry? You Decide

Oh Amazon, what am I going to do with you?

In reality, it really isn’t Amazon that I have to contend with, but the luck of the draw. Which rep receives and reviews my ads is what really matters. Specifically, I’m encountering difficulties with my ads for The War on Drugs: An Old Wives Tale being approved.

Amazon seems to deny at least half of the ads I send to them for approval, so much so that I just gave up a few months ago, but now I’m thinking it is time to change that attitude.

I’ll explain.

Amazon does serve as the morality police. They have many rules, which you can find listed here, that state what you can and cannot have in an ad on their website.

And that’s fine, it’s their website and so, consequently, it is their rules. But the rules are inconsistent. Last week, I submitted this ad:

A unique look at how the War on Drugs is a war on people. Learn about the history of marijuana prohibition, private prisons, drug courts and more!

It was approved and is currently being displayed on Amazon to a targeted audience.

But with some ads, while I’ve gotten plenty of clicks, I haven’t seen the viewers turn into buyers, so I wrote a different ad:

The War on Drugs is a war on people driven by a lust for money and control. Learn how marijuana became illegal and what drug courts are really like.

And this one was rejected. I wrote them an email pointing out that the book does not endorse illegal activity, it does not explain how to grow marijuana, and is not a treatise on how to be a stoner. I received an email stating that a manager would review it and I would hear back by Tuesday.

And here is their response:

Hello,

 

This is a follow up email with regards ads.

 

I’ve checked with the technical team and they have informed me that they have reviewed your ad they determined that your ad, or the book being advertised, is related to illicit drugs. We do not allow ads related to books that are centrally themed around an illicit drug irrespective of the content of the book.

Also, the cover of your book contains the image of a marijuana plant which is not appropriate for all audiences. As per our policies, we don’t advertise books that have images of illicit drugs on its cover.

Le sigh. Sooo annoying! And I wasn’t about to reply and point out that there already was an ad out there for this very book that had been approved.

I’m not giving up. I submitted this ad this morning:

The war on drugs is still raging. Learn how marijuana prohibition began and what drug courts are really like in a unique, personal account.

I see the writing on the wall. It is a hit or miss proposition and I’ll be taking the low, quiet road from here. I could fight it, point out their inconsistencies (and potentially get some good, enlightened soul in trouble), and try to trump them intellectually.

However, my experiences in the corporate world have taught me how pointless and impossible that is. Instead, I’ll just test out a different theory. I’ll submit an ad and make note of when I sent it. If it is approved, I’ll repeat my submissions in that particular time frame and hope I keep getting the ads reviewed by the more enlightened folks.

I’ll keep it quiet and operate under the radar…some day our country will come to realize that marijuana isn’t the problem and things will change. And after all, that is what my book is about.

This is a joke, folks. A JOKE!

To Wish or Wash

Behind me, I can hear an owl hooting away. I just needed to mention that, here in the middle of the city, that an owl is busy making himself known.

“Wuh, wuh, wuh, wuh, wuh, hoo!” He is loud and proud.

Wishy Washy

A few days ago, I gave myself a pep talk. To sum it all up, it was essentially, “Girl, get some writing done! Pick a project, knuckle down, and get it done.”

And I dutifully picked a project that stands at nearly 38k word count – Book One of The Chronicles of Liv Rowan.

A day later I was discouraged and feeling snippy. The words on the page felt insufficient, juvenile, and contrived.

And then, as has happened time and again over the years, I found myself questioning what I was doing, how to make it better, and walked away in disgust.

I set the problem into the back of my brain and concentrated on other things. Don’t know an answer to a problem? Set it on the back burner and let it simmer. Meanwhile, I pulled out The Hired Gun today and was like, “Oh, hell yes, I need to do THIS!”

I feel like I’m being wishy washy. Like I can’t commit to a single course of action.

Work/Research

A couple of things did occur to me on how I can solve my Chronicles of Liv Rowan problem.

  1. Make it first person – It used to be a huge no-no to write in the first person, and I’m a product of my time because I still have hangups about it, but first person is being used more and more, especially in the genre that Chronicles is slated for – Young Adult. I suspect that changing from third person to first person might actually liberate me in some ways and help remove the awkwardness I’m feeling with the story.
  2. I need to talk to my characters – As the problem of how to make Chronicles better simmered on the back burner, I realized that I need to have a talk with my characters. Like a real, get to know you kind of talk. I’ve got a decent line on Liv, the main character, but what about Lord Glass, or some of the villagers? What about the guard that Liv gets sweet on? I need to understand them, their histories and their motivations. This could help me write about them with more eloquence and detail.

Spinning Plates

Each day has less hours than it does projects to fill them – even with my erstwhile offspring gallivanting about Europe.

Currently my thoughts/focus are darting between:

  • Practicing a keto diet, weight loss, glucose monitoring, and continuing my physical therapy exercises so that I remain pain-free
  • Working on running my neighbor’s Airbnb and getting our Airstream up and operational
  • Creating a closer connection with my foster daughter, especially after our most recent Family Support Team meeting. And also trying not to worry about my 12-year-old so far away in Germany right now.
  • Audiobook recording and marketing my already published books.
  • Getting one of my many book projects finished. Soon!

They bounce about, some pushing to the forefront of others, shifting, jostling about. Plates keep spinning and so do I.

Money/Marketing

My feet are firmly planted in reality. I look at every income source (from fostering to managing our neighbor’s Airbnb, to the state paying me to care for my dad) with the down-to-earth view of maximizing profit. I keep my expenses as low as possible without sacrificing quality of life and I make every dollar I earn bring dividends if possible. That means renovating the Airstream and renting it out as an Airbnb to pay for its improvements, or taking the couple of hundred dollars in extra income I get running my neighbor’s Airbnb and putting it directly into our Renovation Fund to accelerate the projects.

The income I make on my books is small – anywhere between $60 and $350 per month, but averaging around $175. Around 97% of that income is from one book – Get Organized, Stay Organized. Pretty good for being my first book!

But I have five other books out there that are barely selling. Why?

I’ve redone the covers. I’m working on getting more reviews for each of them, and that leaves my covers, blurbs on the back, and ad copy as possible fail points. I redid all of the covers, so I’m guessing this is means a failure in either the blurbs on the back covers or the ad copy. I’ll be working on these issues and attempting to get more book sales across the board.

Imagine if each of my books was earning me at least $175 in sales each month. That would be a nice chunk of change! This is doable, I just need to learn how to market better.

‘Scuse Me While I Disappear

Yesterday was stressful. I woke up thinking of my kiddo, thousands of miles away in Europe and wondering how she is doing. By the time I opened my eyes, she had landed. And now, over 24 hours later, still no word.

We really miss her, my husband and I dance around the subject, but it is so hard to have her gone.

Just to throw a couple of monkey wrenches into everything, my husband’s plan to drive himself to work was crushed by a flat tire on his car. Later, as I was driving to my first cleaning, my van shut down, just went black for a moment, and then started back up. Not reassuring at all, but we will have it looked at soon.

My day was filled with a physical therapy appointment and then two big cleanings. At the first cleaning, I hit something and the vacuum just made this horrible noise and shut down. Luckily I was near the Oreck store and they cleared the jam and sent me on my way with no charge. I love those guys, they are awesome!

By the end of the day and no word from my child I was twitchy and stressed beyond measure.

I’ve been dealing with my dad’s antics as well, which has me stressed out. He has dementia but is convinced he can live on his own and manage his own financial and health care choices despite his doctor’s advice.

All of this led to a thundering headache that was helped, thank goodness, by the physical therapist. I had slipped on my front stairs on Monday and went flying down the icy steps, slamming my rear into each step and bruising my right wrist deeply when I fell on it trying to catch myself. The PT took a good look at my alignment and helped adjust me. My headache disappeared, and I took a deep breath in and sighed in relief.

As I cleaned the two houses, I was alone and so I gave myself a good pep talk. All the things running through my head…

Dad will die if he goes to live on his own. He’ll forget his meds, he’ll eat foods that are bad for him.

Where is my child? Why hasn’t she emailed, Facebook Messenger, or Skype’d me back?

What is wrong with my van? What if it’s something major?

My body hurts, how do I make it better?

And on and on…

All of it cycling through my head.

And suddenly, it all hit. Except for the last one, they were things I could not control.

“Focus on what I can control. I can control my cleanings and how I do at them. I can control my writing. I can continue to learn better marketing techniques, better blurb writing, et cetera. Focus on what I can control.”

Over and over I tell myself, “I’ll write a book soon.” And then shit rolls down the pike and it all falls apart. Because I’m more than just a writer. I’m a mom, a wife, a foster mom, a caretaker, a business owner, and more.

I take things on and let them stress me the hell out. But as long as I do that, the writing takes second, third, hell, last place. I don’t finish the books. I just stress out and get nothing done but marathons of tv shows that mean little and cannot change my life.

The writing can.

I can.

I can change my life.

So excuse me while I disappear. I’m pretty sure I’ll be back soon. Preferably with updates and progress. That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

Waiting for the Tide to Rise

Waiting for the Tide to Rise

The urge to write, it comes in waves, a lot like a rising tide. I can feel it, slowly rising inside of me, impatient for me to take the words, images and dreams out of my head and into some form of physical being.

There is little point in ordering it to appear, or even wishing for the tide to rise. It rises when the moment is right.

I wait for it, and when I feel the rise and swell, I pull out a pen or my computer and I get to work.

Sure, I could force it. I’ve done that at times – pushing, shoving, taxing my gray matter to provide me with something, anything, and to make progress.

But there are other battles to fight – a house to paint, children to raise, and so much more.

I’ll wait. The tide will rise again. Hell, it could start to rise tonight for all I can tell.

I Need a Bigger Space

As I wedged myself into the tiny closet, which really barely qualifies as a closet, I realized just how small it was. I gave it a try, I really did, but it is stifling in there. I really just need to create a recording studio in the attic and use it during temperate times (like right now).

I hope to start on this project next weekend by re-organizing our attic, asking our bat resident as politely as possible to get the hell out, and then create a recording box I can comfortably sit in.

The sooner I can get this done, the sooner I can get the books recorded and available for sale.

The more and more I think about it, and listen to Joanna Penn’s podcast, the more certain I am that audiobook versions of my books could really make a difference in my future earning potential. After all, my husband is an auditory learner, he loves audiobooks! And the number of audiobook “readers” continues to grow each year.

Studying Away

As I continue to run my housecleaning business, I listen to my top 3 podcasts that include writing, publishing and marketing advice. Here they are if you want to check them out yourself:

Between these three I’m learning a great deal about a variety of subjects. Recently I listened to an interview with a sweet romance author and how she is making five figures a month. Yowza!

And while, for now, I’m not pumping out four books a year (or more) like some of these folks, I am listening to their ideas and learning from their experiences.

I hope to be able to attend a writer’s conference in either 2019 or 2020 at the latest. I’m looking especially at the Indie writer’s conferences – 20 Books to 50K is having a conference this November and is already sold out. I’m marking my calendar for next year and I hope I can make it then.

A New Business Opportunity

When our neighbor asked me if I would be interested in managing his Airbnb, I immediately said “yes.”

After all, that is what I’m moving towards with our two houses – Cottage East and Cottage West – in two and four years from now, they should be ready to rent out. And having the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of the business now is invaluable.

Soon it might be several Airbnb’s, not just one, that I would be managing. And if I can get a handle on the process, I could possibly sell the idea of being an Airbnb manager to the owners of the two apartment buildings across from me as well.

The way I see it – the additional income will go straight into renovating the Cottages and we will have them done even quicker.

3rd Quarter 2018 Income Report (and more!)

It’s official, we are in the last quarter of the year!

Honestly, it has been a great year. Especially when I think of how my attitude towards writing and publishing has changed. It’s gone from…

“I make no money, I’ll never make any money.”

To…

“Holy crap, I’m making money at this.”

To…

“How much do I need to write to make a living at this?”

To…

“Do I want to chase the almighty dollar bills, or do I want/need to write less (with better quality) and be the mom and wife I need to be?”

Lots of changes, but with it has come some amount of clarity. I’ll explain…

Earnings for This Quarter

July Payout: $14.76 from CreateSpace (paperback sales) and $119.41 from Amazon (ebook sales and page reads)

August Payout: $31.20 from CreateSpace (paperback) and $307.06 from Amazon (ebook sales and page reads)

September Payout: $204.05 from Amazon (ebook sales and page reads) and $2.95 from Draft2Digital (ebook sales)

Total income from 3rd Quarter 2018 (Book sales that occurred from May 2018 through July 2018 and were paid out from July through September): $679.46

This is an increase from 2nd Quarter 2018 (book sales that from February 2018 through April 2018 and were paid out April through June) where I was paid a total of: $237.72

And an increase from 1st Quarter (book sales that from November through January 2018 and were paid out January through March) where I was paid a total of: $414.01

My average income across the year so far has been about $5.58 per day every day of the year. Obviously, I have a ways to go.

Going Wide

I made the decision to give up exclusivity with Amazon and go wide. I did this knowing that I would no longer be able to reap the benefits of the Kindle Unlimited page reads, but I am hoping that I will gain a following on other ebook platforms.

Limiting myself to just Amazon did not seem to be in my best interest.

This Is Where I Need to Be…in Two Years

I’m the financial planner of the family and I have budgets lined up for years in the future, taking into account conservative estimates on my husband’s pay raises, on our potential income as landlords of one (and soon to be three) rental properties, and more.

In my August 2020 budget (yes, I really do plan ahead!), I have scheduled myself to stop cleaning houses and also to begin tapping the writing income I’m currently accumulating. Just $200 per month is what I have listed, and I’m pretty close to being at where I need to be in two years. My average monthly income so far this year is $147.22, but the last two months have been over, or right at $200 per month. That’s with a majority of my sales being generated from Get Organized, Stay Organized.

I plan to roll out a 2020 update on Get Organized, Stay Organized with more bonus content based on my monthly newsletter advice as well.

So, all in all, things are looking good.

Lessons Learned

A little less than a year ago, I decided to up my game. I was determined to get more subscribers, write a ton of content, and sell a zillion books.

And less than a year later, I have learned a couple of things about myself.

#1 – My creativity does not perform well under pressure.

Honestly it has felt stilted and contrived, a place no writer wants to be.

#2 – My desire to spend time with my daughter and craft a well-rounded life in our home insists on less writing not more.

I can’t go back in time, and staring at tomorrow instead of today does little to raise my daughter, whose formative years mean so much to me. I know that, after the next six years, I’ll have more than enough time to write and fill my days with words. But for now, I’ve got a tween to raise and homeschool.

#3 – I need to set the foundation in place in order to unleash the creative focus.

I’ve talked about it before, but the way I plan on managing this is through our rental properties. My husband likes that saying “Hang on to land, they aren’t making more of it,” and he is definitely on target. I’m a woman with a mission – but my plan for the two properties on either side of us means setting into place a foundation that provides evergreen income for the rest of our lives. Once I’ve done that, my days will be open to more writing.

Writing Is My Secret Weapon

I’ve also said this before, but really, when you think about it, writing is my not-so-secret weapon. It is the unknown that could change everything. Did Andy Weir realize he had a bestseller on his hand when he was writing The Martian? If so, putting it on his website for people to read for free was an odd choice. No, he just wanted his story read, and if getting it read meant putting it on Amazon so folks could download it easily, that worked for him.

He turned around twice and had a publisher on his doorstep and sales out the wazzoo.

And even if that never happens for me, it’s okay. No really, it is okay.

I’ll admit it, I read about Mark Dawson’s $80k months and really, really wanted just a fraction of that. What could I do with $10k a month in sales?!

Don’t get me started, it’s like dreaming of winning the lottery.

But so much hinges on the whimsies of fate, that perfect combination of phenomenal writing, timing, and the interests of just the right readers and reviewers. It feels like I’ve been tasked with capturing lightning in a bottle.

I’d rather be content. I remember a coaching client once telling me that she shared that dream, one of contentment, with her father and he replied, rather scathingly, “What, you want to be a cow? Cows are content, they chew their cud and stare at the world vacantly!”

She said it with a great deal of hurt. Decades later, his words still had the power to wound her. But here, midway through my life, I understand the sentiment. The drive to change the world has faded. I just want to live peaceably, comfortably, and let the winds of fate blow someone else around.

That said, if anything is going to drastically change my plans in the next few decades, it will be in the writing arena. And if it comes, I will welcome it, I’m just not betting my future on it.