Step By Step

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Step One

It only took me ten years of self-publishing to figure Step One out, but it is a doozy.

Step One – Making Writing a Minimum of 500 Words Per Day Every Day a Habit

Sure, I’ve told myself to write every day. But somehow, figuring out that I could have written 18+ books in ten years instead of the six books I actually wrote and published, that really slammed it home with me.

And 500 words per day takes me as little as twenty minutes.

Twenty minutes.

That’s it!

Day 20 – Still Going Strong?

I started logging my progress on Christmas Day. At that point, I still had some rather high expectations, so high that I quickly tossed them out of the window and embraced the “500 words per day” edict I should have had all along.

When I’m in the swing of things, 500 words is just the start of what I can do. Many days I have written far more than the minimum, so much so that to date I’ve written 15,723 words, an average of over 827 words per day.

No Regular Schedule…Yet

I am a wife, a mother of two (my 12 year old daughter and my 3 year old foster daughter) still at home, I homeschool the 12 year old, my elderly father has dementia and lives with us, I run a cleaning business, and we are working on getting the two cottages on each side of our house renovated and open for Airbnb clients.

My schedule is different every doggone day!

So sometimes I am writing at 5:30 in the morning, other times it’s sandwiched in between fixing breakfast for my elderly father before he goes off to grandpa daycare and a day filled with cleaning other people’s houses. Occasionally, I come limping in with my 500 words in the early evening after the sun has sunk behind the horizon.

It matters not. What matters is that I put the words out there. Every day.

Rules and Regulations

It can’t be writing 500 words in just anything. It has to be on the chosen project of the moment. At this point it is Hired Gun, my first (but most assuredly not last) erotic thriller.

If I want to write more, great, but it doesn’t count towards the next day. Each day starts over at zero.

Step Two – Learn How to Dictate

I have Dragon Naturally Speaking but I have felt self-conscious trying to use it. I recently heard yet another podcast guest who has had great success with it and it made me realize that I could take that 500 words and, with a small learning curve, I could turn that into 2,000 words a day. For literally the same time that I spend writing 500 words, I could quintuple my output!

Cross-Genre and Completely Unapologetic

As I write in Hired Gun, I take notes in my sci-fi sequel to Gliese 581: The Departure and also write the occasional note in So I Wrote a Book, Now What?! and I continue to think about revisiting Quit Your Job, Change Your Life: 40 Life Changing Strategies for the Disaffected and of course, the Chronicles of Liv Rowan (a 12-book young adult fantasy series). Winter’s Child, a suspense/possible horror novel is also banging about in my head.

Yes, I’m all over the place.

I will never be a one-trick pony.

At some point, I might need to separate author names to avoid confusion. Joanna Penn does this. She writes under Joanna Penn for her non-fiction and JF Penn for her paranormal thrillers. I will certainly do this when writing the Chronicles of Liv Rowan because the last thing I need is to have erotic thrillers and young adult fiction in the same place!

I went back and forth on this for a while. “What if I confuse my readers?  What if I lose readers?”

In the end, I write what interests me. And once I am done writing what interests me, it is my job to cover it and blurb it in a way that will interest readers who will want to read a story in that particular genre as well. That’s it. I’m not going to make everyone happy. I’m not going to appeal to everyone in every situation. And that is perfectly okay.

The Purpose/Focus of This Blog

I’ve been thinking about it a lot. What is the purpose of this blog? Is it to gain readers? To educate/inspire others? To just provide regular updates on my writing?

I find myself going back and forth. I want to share knowledge, I want to share inspiration, updates and more. In the end, like my writing, it doesn’t seem to be genre-specific. Perhaps, like me, it is far too idiosyncratic to be set in any particular label.

C’est la vie!

Lessons Learned From 2018 and Ten Years of Writing & Self-Publishing

4th Quarter Income Report

Whoo doggies, it has been a year of ups and downs!

I’m learning a lot, mainly about how to market my books, and I fully expect that trend to continue. Here is a review of the last quarter of 2018, however:

  • December 2018 Earnings – $270.92 from Amazon, $0.00 from other sources, less $134.56 in advertising = $136.36 net profit
  • November 2018 Earnings – $393.36 from Amazon, $0.00 from other sources, less $505.80 in advertising = -$112.44 net loss
  • October 2018 Earnings – $231.61 from Amazon, $3.57 from other sources, less $93.50 in advertising = $139.62 net profit

When it all shakes out, I sold $2,441.29 in books in 2018. Of that, I netted $741.10 after advertising costs.

This amount does not take into account what I spent on education (Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Formula as well as several books), book blurbs and ads (through Best Page Forward on four different books), or on book covers (both ones I designed and needed to purchase images for, or the cover for Hired Gun).

If I did figure those in, I’d probably be around $1,200 in the hole.

In other words? I have a ways to go.

Keep Writing, Don’t Stop

Looking back and realizing that I’ve written six books in ten years has really given me a kick in the ass. I need to stop second-guessing myself and get these stories done.

Life is too short and I have so much to say, share and entertain others with. It’s all in there, hidden in those folds of gray, waiting for me to put them out there.

If you think you have an idea of a good book – write it down, and begin writing your book. Don’t wait. Don’t marry poorly (it took three tries before I got this one right) or tell yourself you don’t have time because there are other more important things to do – get those words out. Every day. Get them out there and spread them on the ground for people to trip over and find.

My only regrets over the past ten years have been:

  • Questioning my own worth
  • Not getting serious about making money as a writer sooner
  • Coming up with excuses to not write more

Ads Are Necessary, Make Them Count

The first step in the journey was understanding that ads would make the difference between sales and no sales. That was a tough one. I really objected to having to pay money to get my words in front of people.

But I see the difference it has made and, when done right, it can be quite profitable.

Now I need to progress through the second part of it, making ads work for me. How do I:

  • write effective ad copy
  • put it in front of the right people (i.e. those who will press the Buy button)
  • keep my ad costs as low as possible?

That’s the learning curve I’ll be on in 2019.

500 Words or Bust

I mentioned it in previous posts, but I’m really embracing the idea of writing a minimum of 500 words per day, every day.

There is more to it, however. Isn’t there always?

Call them ground rules.

  1. 500 words per day, every day (except when I am sick, which is thankfully, rare)
  2. The 500 words must be in the assigned project (one project at at time, right now that is Hired Gun)
  3. Additional words are welcome (blogging, other projects, etc). The 500 words per day is simply a base amount.
  4. Additional words do not carry forward (so in other words, if I write 1,000 words, I can’t use them as an excuse to skip a day of writing) or backward. Each day is a new blank slate.

Stop Waiting for the Writing Ship to Sail In

If you want it, you had better stand up and take it. Grab that bitch by the anchor and start pulling.

I’ll admit it, I joke about making my writing pay. I play the world’s tiniest violin and occasionally dip into self-pitying indulgences or don’t write for days or weeks on end.

Steven Pressfield would say that is probably Resistance rearing its ugly head. I’m determined to beat down Resistance in any way I can.

I want the writing to pay. I want it to be my “go to” for income, but I know that I have a ways to go. I need to understand the business side of it better and to that end, I am determined to learn a little every day. And not just learn, but implement what I have learned.

2019 Aspirations and Dreams

In 2019, I hope to do the following:

  • Finish at least two manuscripts – Hired Gun and one other (which one I’m not sure of yet)
  • Put into place a triad of daily activity: (write in one book, edit a second book, and plan a 3rd book)
  • Attend a conference (and do this once a year from now on)
  • Grow my readership and multiply my subscriber list to 1,000

I was so excited to book tickets and lodging at the TRIBE conference for this September. I’m really looking forward to the trip!

And Remember, KEEP WRITING!

I have wanted this dream for so long. And I’m beginning to truly understand that I am the one who holds myself back from it. Every time I take on a new cleaning client, schedule another event to go to, avoid writing my 500 words per day, or come up with an excuse on why I need to reconcile a credit card statement right now instead of writing.

Whether you call it Resistance, or procrastination, or LIFE – the end result is the same. The words remain unwritten, the dream unrealized.

As I approach my 50th year on this planet, that is no longer an acceptable situation. I have so much to say, so many tales to tell.

Keep writing.

Keep writing.

KEEP WRITING.

A New Year’s Tradition

As I sit here, ridiculously sick and miserable with a cold – one that began to show itself on Sunday and ramped up on New Year’s Eve, I’m chomping at the bit to do something, anything.

But my nose is plugged, and when it isn’t thumping, my head is fuzzy with pain from the enormous sinus headache. Worse, I’m one-eyed. The virus has invaded my left eyeball, which gives me some moments of sight, intermingled with burning, itching and even weeping large tears in protest when I try to use it.

I cannot read, I cannot focus much on writing, and my Type A personality is screaming for something to do besides sit here and be miserable.

Enter Neil Gaiman.

Each year, he posts a lovely New Year’s post and more importantly, a New Year’s wish.

They are beautiful, magic-making, thought-burbling pieces of love and compassion that he sends out into the universe and they always make me smile, cry, and be inspired.

I don’t read his blog on a regular basis, which is good because he is far too busy to maintain it and write in it more than a few times a year. I don’t worry about missing too many drops of wisdom as a result.

Inevitably though, on New Year’s Day or soon after, I remember to check out his blog and see what he says for New Year’s. And this year, while threatening to NOT write one, he did actually have one for the world:


Be kind to yourself in the year ahead. 

Remember to forgive yourself, and to forgive others. It’s too easy to be outraged these days, so much harder to change things, to reach out, to understand.

Try to make your time matter: minutes and hours and days and weeks can blow away like dead leaves, with nothing to show but time you spent not quite ever doing things, or time you spent waiting to begin.

Meet new people and talk to them. Make new things and show them to people who might enjoy them. 

Hug too much. Smile too much. And, when you can, love.

Thank you, Neil. These words especially ring so true:

Try to make your time matter: minutes and hours and days and weeks can blow away like dead leaves, with nothing to show but time you spent not quite ever doing things, or time you spent waiting to begin.

After I read his New Year’s post, I read the previous one, which he wrote about Harlan Ellison, his friend for 33 years, dying. I remember hearing about his passing and being quite sad. While I have not read his work, I enjoyed the documentary about him – Dreams With Sharp Teeth – very much.

Neil also wrote that Harlan taught him that:

anything more than twelve minutes of personal pain was self-indulgence

Which, if you take cues from the universe as I often do, was something I needed to hear right then.

Time rolls on. And you can tear yourself apart wishing you were loved in the way you have always wanted to be loved, or you can take what you have and make it work.

There are times when I sit here and feel pretty damned sorry for myself – I wonder why my parents or my eldest daughter don’t love or accept me in a way I have always hoped that they would. I fear the future, growing old, losing the husband that I love and who makes my life better each and every day. I fear the intransigence of life that promises no happy endings, only an end in death, which will come to us all.

The reality is, and this is true for all of us, that we can’t go backwards and change the past. That past has helped to shape the people that we are today. It is also up to us to change the future, one moment at a time.

I can wish all day that those people who I love could understand me better, ask questions instead of make assumptions, or accept that I am only in control of this moment on forward – but that isn’t going to change reality.

I’m not in control of them. I’m in control of ME.

Neil’s words are better than any New Year’s wish I could visualize much less write. So I will take these words to heart:


Meet new people and talk to them. Make new things and show them to people who might enjoy them. 

Hug too much. Smile too much. And, when you can, love.

And I hope you will as well.

Happy New Year’s, everyone. May this year be everything (and more) that you have dreamed it would be.

500 Words Per Day

Atomic Habits

I just received it today and I’ve already cracked it open and read the Introduction. I can’t wait to dig in. Right now, I have three non-fiction books vying for my attention:

Indulge me for a moment. If you have read much here, you will have picked up on the fact that I like numbers. I’ll never be a statistician or mathematician, but I do enjoy marking progress through statistics and more.

As I was driving to a client cleaning the other day, I found myself mulling over the following question:

What If I Wrote 500 Words Per Day Every Day for Ten Years?

500 x 365 x 10 = 1,825,000 words total

After all, it had been ten years (and four months) since I published my first book. And five more had appeared alongside the first. But I had to wonder, what would 500 words a day look like?

Now, let’s say that none of those words were wasted or cut out and let’s also assume that each book I write is 100,000 words long (true of fiction, but non-fiction has been far shorter than that).

1,825,000/100,000 = 18.25

Eighteen books?

Eighteen?!

That’s an amazing number!

And what if what I am making now, on the six books I have for sale, was multiplied by three? I would be making at least $556 per month in sales. Not earth-shattering, not quit your job today, but still, more than what I am now. And realistically, if I had that many books out, I would also be better at marketing, book blurbs, book covers and more by now and that would translate into better sales.

All from just 500 words per day.

What About 1,000 Words a Day?!

And before you say, “Christine, seriously, that’s doubling your word count. How are you going to do that when we all know you aren’t even hitting the 500 mark every day (obviously, otherwise I would have far more books published!) I need to point out just how short of a time it takes me to type 500 words.

20 minutes.

When I knuckle down and concentrate, that’s how long it takes me to write 500 words.

So yeah, 1,000 words a day is totally possible.

Clarification

I would say that I write at least 500 words a day already – easy peasy, in my blogs, my journals, my Facebook updates. What I’m talking about here is novel writing.

So when I set a goal of 500 words or even 2,500 words in a day it is with the understanding that those will be written in service to finishing the book of the hour. Which in this case is The Hired Gun.

But Will It Actually Happen?

Damn, who knows? What if I did, though? What could I get accomplished in a year? In five? In another ten?

Today I was up at 4:45 in the morning, good to go. I sat here, and I slipped away on tangents, opened up internet rabbitholes, and found a dozen other things to do but what I had assigned myself.

I had set a goal of 1,500 words and at noon I had managed 576. I kept coming back to it, kept working on it in spits and spurts and finally at 5:45, I checked my totals and I had written precisely 1,650 words.

Mission accomplished. See you again tomorrow.

Little Goals, Big Goals – LIVING Goals

Two years ago, after my crazy, stressful flight to Panama and back, I realized that I have spent most of my life just getting by. 

Pay the bills, work my ass off, and try and be a good mom, wife, and human being. Rinse and repeat.

They aren’t bad goals, and they aren’t without moments of joy. I have a great life, I really do. But the older I get, the more I want to see the rest of the world, explore foreign cities, stand in a castle centuries older than me, and dip my toes into strange and distant shores.

I have also wanted to go to a writer’s conference for at least the past six years, possibly longer. I want to rub shoulders with other writers, listen to what works for them, and take a few days to just be in my writing world, all by myself, without family commitments.

So after hemming and hawing back and forth, I made the dual decisions. 

  1. I’m going to a writer’s conference in 2019
  2. I’m really REALLY going to go to Europe for my 50th birthday.

Here is how I think it will all shake out.

20 Books to 50k

November 2019 is the 20 Books to 50k Las Vegas conference. I’ve already booked a room and I plan to buy tickets to the conference when they go on sale in a month or two.

I’m going by myself, as in, alone. The thought of it gives me some level of giddiness. No kiddos, no husband, just me and my writing dreams for a few days in a strange city. I’m so excited at the thought!

Naples, Italy

For years I have dreamed of visiting Pompeii. I also desperately want to visit a range of destinations – from my family’s ancestral home, Schloss Sandfort in Germany, to the beautiful shores of Ireland and more destinations than I have time to detail.

But one thing at a time.

For now, I’ve settled on a trip to Naples, Italy in 2020. On May 17th, 2020, I will step off the plane and spend two weeks bopping about Naples. I would love to climb Mount Vesuvius, explore some catacombs, take an authentic Italian cooking class, explore Santa Lucia, and yes, of course, see Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Two weeks will barely scratch the surface of what Italy has to offer, but I know I will love it. And I hope too, that we will then be able to repeat our trips to Europe, every other year, and slowly tick off the wonderful and amazing destinations I have longed to explore since I was my daughter’s age.

I will be learning Italian through DuoLingo. I love the app, we have been using it to learn Spanish as part of my 12-year-old’s homeschool, but I really want to learn Italian so I’m less of the “ugly American.”

Em says she wants to learn it as well, so it looks like we will be adding it to our homeschool curriculum in January. Beginning January 1st, I’m committing to taking two lessons every day.

I found a great article: 15 Best Things to Do in Naples for when we are there. Most of them sound like “must see” destinations to me!

And Last, But Certainly Not Least

My writing goals for this year are as follows:

  • Finish The Hired Gun and get it edited and published. I hope to see this happen by March 2019. This also means completing Better Choices, a novella that will be a giveaway for readers of Benton Security Services series (of which The Hired Gun is book one).
  • Make progress on Zarmina’s World, the sequel to Gliese 581: The Departure
  • Write Winter’s Child – I have the outline, I know where I’m going, I just need to write it, edit, and publish it. That’s all…just, you know, the whole burrito. No problem!
  • Make progress on The Chronicles of Liv Rowan

That’s a lot of writing, folks. We will see if I am up to the task.

One General Malcontent, Reporting In

It’s Friday, so I figured it was time to report in and update on my progress. Small and measurable, but still, progress.

Books sold: 14 this week, 57 (this month) and total for year: 532

Words written this week: 3,500 (approximatation)

This includes several blog posts, two synopses, several character developments, and around two chapters of actual, you know, words, that folks will someday get to read.

I finished reading Tim Grahl’s book Running Down a Dream. And while at parts I found myself wondering when he was going to really get on with it, in the end I appreciated his candor. The journey to becoming a writer can be full of pitfalls and self-hatred, I know, I’ve found myself there multiple times. He gave me some great ideas at the end of the book on how to move forward, inexorably, from here.

Last night I wrote down in my work journal a list of tips from the back of the book. Here are a couple of them to get you started, but I highly recommend the book for the full list (along with Tim’s own story).

  • What is the most direct path to my goal? (to write at least 500 words every day)
  • Stop doing everything (I’m working on it. Right now the hubs is cooking dinner)
  • No seriously, STOP doing everything and really focus on what you should be doing (go granular, figure out your daily “to do’s”, figure out what is essential, and remove the non-essential.)
  • Create systems for the essential tasks

There’s more, lots more, but I will be focusing on these for now. I’ve already been reducing the things I do, but there is definitely room for improvement. More on this in another post. I’ve also recently added Jeff Goin’s podcast, The Portfolio Life, to my “must listen to” podcasts.He has some good ones on the writing craft as well as profiling interesting writers and other creatives.

P.S. Sorry, Not Sorry If I Offended You

So this is just the weirdest fucking thing and I have to share so that someone will please tell me exactly how this post was offensive, because I’m boondoggled if I understand it. And as a lifelong auto-didact (it means self-learner folks, it isn’t some pervy thing) I really do WANT to understand weird shit like this.

Here is what happened:

This morning, thinking about my husband’s birthday in January, I thought about how I want to take him to somewhere really special for his birthday. He wants sushi, so I thought Why not go somewhere we have never been before?

And at about that same time, someone on the Kansas City Eats Facebook page posted about a restaurant and I thought I’ll ask them! So I wrote:

“Your favorite sushi restaurant…Go!

p.s. I’m trying to find a really good one to take my husband to in January for his 50th birthday. He loves sushi.”

And then I went out and about – work, errands, homeschool, and finally picked up a friend of Em’s who is spending the night. I come back to a huge list of recommendations and this:

Is GO a trigger word? I even searched the internet to try and figure out if I had somehow offended someone. Or are we seriously just getting in a kerfluffle over the word go?

By the time I was home and could check my email, some admin had even turned off the commenting feature on the post, so I couldn’t even ask what the hell was wrong with the word “go.”

And then I realized that I really don’t give a shit. Life is too short to wonder about the weird and freakish eccentricities of others. I mean, I didn’t scream “cockroach!” or “All hail Trump” or anything else incendiary. Just that awful, terrible, ridiculous word…GO.

Well here it is again. Take your offense at the word “GO” and shove it straight up your…

[deep breath]

Hey now, I might swear on my blog. Occasionally. Okay, sometimes more than occasionally. In any case, I decided I didn’t really want to know what grave offense I had committed, offend the group hive mind’s delicate sensibilities, and I exited the group.

Life is just way too short for that kind of silliness.

Back to writing I go. I think I can wring another 500+ words out of today. Maybe one of them will include the word…GO.

Better Habits

Weekends Are for Marketing & Blogging

The world of self-publishing is really opening up to new authors, and even established authors no longer satisfied with the status quo. Each week I tune in and listen to several excellent podcasts. They give me great ideas I can implement, and continue to buoy my spirits. 

Each week I make it a point to listen to:

  • The Creative Penn – Joanna Penn is in line with the cutting edge of new developments in the publishing world
  • The Book Marketing Show – Dave Chesson, creator of KDP Rocket (an essential tool for keyword searches for ads and more)
  • The Self-Publishing Show – Mark Dawson is living proof that you can make it as an Indie author. I’ve signed up for (and need to continue learning from) his Ads for Authors course
  • The Portfolio Life – Jeff Goins has some great insight as well into the processes of writing
  • Don’t Keep Your Day Job – Cathy Heller is inspiring. This podcast is for all creatives.

Sometimes, however, the amount of knowledge that is flowing in is rather overwhelming and I noticed a rather extreme dip in my writing output over the past year as I learned more and more about how to be successful in publishing.

And not just that, but it’s kind of addicting to watch my stats on the KDP dashboard. It faithfully records sales and I find myself checking it multiple times in a day, which distracts me from my other tasks.

And of course, there are plenty of family and home obligations. Every day is full!

Tons of Info + too many distractions + family obligations = not enough writing

I’m hoping to break it up a little, though. Weekends are busy times for us, but I can usually scratch out a little time to go through my AMS ads, figure out what is working and what isn’t and adjust my ads accordingly. It’s also a good time to go through and create a blog update, like this one!

When it comes to the more creative side, that still needs to be woven into the spaces between cleaning houses, homeschool and family life.

I can’t do much about eliminating those time sucks. After all, I want them in my life, or else I wouldn’t have had children and become a foster mom! And the cleaning houses is necessary for at least the next 18 months.

Adoption Gone Wrong?

As foster parents who hope to adopt, we are required to take additional classes to prepare us for adopting a child in the future. We are eight months into fostering a little girl, and the case goal is still reunification, but 2019 is promising to be a year full of activities, and so I figured we needed to get all the training done now instead of when our lives are even more busy than they currently are.

As we sat in class and the instructor was busy telling us that there would be no “take backsies,” I was suddenly struck with a story about an adoption gone wrong, and a dangerous violent, evil entity trapped within an innocent child’s body – and it only comes out in winter.

I was listening to Jeff Goins talk the other day about how writing a great book is typically about taking an idea that is 80% someone else’s and 20% your own unique spin. Said another way, readers look for stories that remind them of other stories they have read.  As Goins put it, “Like Lord of the Rings, only everyone is trying to kill each other” (a.k.a. Game of Thrones).

I’ve begun taking notes on it. It’s working title is “Winter’s Child.”

Keep Moving, Don’t Stop

I think the biggest thing I try to remember is to keep moving, don’t stop, and above all, stay positive and don’t lose hope. Nothing truly worth doing is going to be a 100% walk in the park. It’s hard, it’s frustrating at times, but I keep on going.

Full steam ahead!

Creative Process and Audiobooks

I’m reading, marketing, blogging, writing, and otherwise doing what I need to do to move forward on my goals this week. I’m feeling good, I just need to hold on and keep the momentum going!

It goes something like this…

EVERY Day

Each morning this week I have opened this book (yes, it’s my work journal) and detailed my goals and accomplishments.

My goal each day has been: Sell 105 books today

And yes, I still have a way to go to reach that goal…

Each day, the goal resets to 105. Basically, it is my magic number.

My “freedom” number, if you will.

I looked at the two things I would prefer to stop doing – cleaning houses and caretaking – added up my income and threw in 20% taxes, marketing costs for each book sale, as well as Amazon’s take (30-40% of all sales), rounded up and arrived at the magic number of 3,200 book sales per month necessary in order to stop cleaning houses and be able to put my dad in an assisted living facility.

If my sales increase to say 1,600 book sales per month than I will most likely stop cleaning houses but continue caretaking until I reach the 3,200 book sales per month goal.

Yes, it is a huge goal, expecting to move from a handful of sales per day to a total of 105 or more every day of the stinking year. I’m aware of just how big it is. And anytime I start to lose faith, I remind myself of where I’ve been.

Last year I sold a total of 32 books, 31 of which were in November and December.

This year I’ve sold 504 books.

Give Credit Where Credit is Due

Over 500 books, that’s huge! And the reason for it? Well, as labyrinthine and odd as it might be, the thanks for it can be laid directly at my eldest’s feet. In a sense, it is like a sad version of “If You Give a Cat a Cupcake” – but one thing definitely led to the next:

  • The schism with my eldest last year led to me questioning everything – especially my parenting and even homeschooling abilities
  • This questioning led to a crisis of confidence and me deciding to enroll my tween in 5th grade at the local public school
  • Without her presence during the day, and my days filled with my housecleaning biz, I quickly grew bored with listening to music and started listening to podcasts
  • The podcasts, first Airbnb-related, quickly turned to writing-related and I began learning (and implementing) ideas into my writing business, thus increasing sales.

I would never have turned to podcasts if I hadn’t have had hours of free time with no one to talk to. And without those podcasts, I might have never learned the techniques I have learned (and am still learning) that continue to make a difference in my writing career.

A year later and we are back at homeschooling BUT I do not take my daughter with me to most cleanings – those are my prime podcast listening times!

And so, as strange as it might sound, I am quite thankful to my eldest. She might have broken my heart, but her departure from my day-to-day life also helped me to move past the point where I was stuck for years, waiting for a writing ship to sail in instead of hunting down that damned ship and grabbing it by the anchor.

p.s. Ships are very heavy, this might take a while.

My Creative Process

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Most of everyone I know is a little of both. We know to some extent where a story is going, but it isn’t totally mapped out.

For me, the creative process means that I usually have a scene or a series of scenes visualized in my head, but the characters walk into the picture where I’m least expecting them. They pop up, barely introduce themselves, and then just start doing whatever the heck they want to in the scene, without so much as a by your leave.

I found my character Shane looking out for this poor junkie down the hall from him in his apartment building. Where Kenny the Junkie came from, I have no idea, but damned if he wasn’t insistent on me writing him in.

Audiobook Dilemma

I have this great speaking voice. No seriously, I really do. Years of work on phones, in call centers, secretarial work and more have cemented that fact. My daughter loves for me to read to her, she says I act out the voices and make the stories interesting.

So between that and the fact that paying someone to transform your book into audiobook form was incredibly expensive, I just figured I’d muddle my way through it and record my own.

And since I’ve solidified on my goals for 2019 in the past week, the idea of needing to record my books was stressing me out. How was I going to fit that in among all the other stuff?

And it wasn’t just the recording time, but the editing time, which most folks will tell you is about five hours for every finished hour of recording.

Talk about a steep learning curve! I needed to:

  • Learn how to record my voice in a way that would sound professional (i.e. without the sounds of sirens, heaters, children, and barking dogs)
  • Learn how to edit the files
  • Spend approximately 60 hours editing the files once I had recorded them

OR…

Go to a company, enter into a deal where I split the profits on any sales 50/50 for seven years.

OR…

Pony up around $2,500-$4,000 per book to be recorded that I could then sell royalty free.

Option 1 – too much time, not enough experience or comfort doing it myself

Option 3 – no money, honey

So Option 2 it will be. I’ll be working on getting Get Organized, Stay Organized recorded after I do a complete re-edit of the manuscript. After that, an edit of Gliese 581 and then I’ll have that recorded as well. The others will wait until I see how the sales for these two go. Who knows, they might give me the $$ I need to pay for Option 3 for the rest of my books.

Forward Motion – One Day at a Time

I wake up every day with the following assignments:

  • Write something
  • Learn something
  • Edit something
  • Market something
  • Interact with someone about writing

One day at a time. Every day. I’ll make it work. Just…you…watch.

Time to Get Serious

I’ve been listening to podcasts for over a year now. And I have found that I love them. They have interested, inspired, and informed me. Listening to them, in those moments when my hands were occupied, but my mind was not, has changed my life.

Last year, as I mourned the loss of a family member I had built so much of my life around, I enrolled my then almost eleven year old in school for the first time. I questioned everything, up to and including the meme above at times. It isn’t easy when relationships end. It isn’t simple, or clear cut, or easy to walk away.

I questioned it all.

Was I a good person?

Was I a good mother?

Was I a good teacher?

Was I a good writer?

I cleaned my client’s houses, I listened to the podcasts. I learned.

I changed my covers, fixed glaring errors and dove back into the self-publishing world. As I did this, my daughter’s school conducted placement testing and I learned that not only had I managed to educate her in a reasonably efficient manner, but that, at worst, she was grade-level in math, and at best she scored six grades ahead in science.

She excelled that year in school and I regained the footing I had lost in those months of agonized questioning and fear and doubt. Not just that, but all of sudden, I was selling books.

Not a “oh my god girl, you are a millionaire!” kind of way, but a bright, bright light at the end of the tunnel. A “this is possible, this can be done” kind of way. Every day, I listened to people whose incomes were growing, exponentially.

Joanna Penn – whose income is now in the mid six figures.

Mark Dawson – whose income in book sales alone is around 80k per month

And several others.

And as I listened to them, and implemented so many changes, some effective, some rather expensive – I realized a few things.

  • You can be creative AND make money
  • I want to write books but I also want some form of security (a.k.a. passive income in the form of rentals or Airbnb properties)
  • Whether or like it or not, I need to learn marketing.

And I have kept learning, and trying, and experimenting. And yes, at times I feel as if I’m banging my head against a wall.

I realized too that as the months wore on and I wrote little or nothing that it was a combination of issues that were stopping me…

  • My dad – his presence in my life has always caused me to question myself. He thrived on it, sort of like a vampire, and seemed to enjoy unsettling me. This continues, although I have managed to make it clear that he is the problem and not me. This toxic relationship is not one I prefer to continue, but there are economic and logistical issues that stand in the way of moving him into a nursing home. For now, he is an unwilling part of our lives.
  • Excuses – damned if I don’t have one for every mountain that appears in my path. But mountains can be climbed. And if I want this bad enough, I need to get the fuck over them.
  • Family, projects and more – as much as I want to cut back, I recognize certain parts of my life take at least a chunk of priority. One cute three-year-old who we hope to adopt, a 12-year-old who is back to homeschooling, a wonderful husband and our Airbnb projects.

As I listened to the story of Shayne Silvers, a fellow Missourian who wrote his first book in 2012, and then returned to writing in 2016 with stunning results, I knew it was time to get serious.

To write and be successful, you need:

  • A great story, well-written, that appeals to your target readers
  • An excellent, well-edited manuscript that isn’t full of errors
  • A book cover that reels in readers
  • A book blurb that peaks readers interests
  • A host of compelling ads that encourage folks to click the buy button
  • A subscriber list so you can engage in personal interaction as well as low-key marketing to the readers who are already interested in your writing
  • A book magnet – a freebie giveaway that gets folks interested in your series so that they want to read more.
  • Interaction/availability – to your fans who want to know more about you or your universe of characters (fiction) or your knowledge (non-fiction)

And while there are some areas that need improvement (editing, some book covers, a bigger subscriber list) I’m on the right track, but now it is time to seriously move forward.

The end of the year always spurs thoughts of how next year should go, and this December is no exception.

I know that I want to stop cleaning houses and that I need to move my dad into a nursing home. That want and that need clash with a very basic issue, that of money.

In order for those two things to happen, I must sell 3,200 books per month. That number was arrived at through some rather labyrinthine calculations, and include setting aside 20% for taxes and 30% for Amazon’s bite of the pie, and an advertising budget that does not exceed 50% of the income I receive from sales.

Like I said, labyrinthine.

As of last month, I sold 124 books. That means I’m at 3.8% of goal.

In total so far this year I’ve sold at least 491 books. That’s a huge difference from last year in which I sold a total of 32 books. That’s an improvement of 1,534% over last year! A big thanks to Stephanie Adams for helping me with that math problem. So, going along with that concept, I need to sell 38,400 books per year or increase my sales from this year by 7,821%.

Here is how I’m going to do it.

One…

bite…

at…

a…

time.

The way I figure it, every single stinkin’ day for the next 2-4 years I need to be:

  • Writing something
  • Learning something (marketing, writing ad copy, improving my writing)
  • Editing something
  • Marketing something
  • Interacting with somebody about writing

Every single day. Without fail.

I can do this.

I’ve been homeless.

I’ve been married to shitty human beings (and even shittier husbands).

I’ve gone through divorce, custody battles, raising one teenager, bankruptcy, and a host of other challenges.

I can do this.

Stay tuned.

 

When In Doubt…

Even after ten years of writing, I’m still learning new things. Being an Indie writer means being independent, self-sufficient, and creative at things that aren’t necessarily primary in my wheelhouse.

Creating book covers, uploading my books to different platforms, learning to write effective ad copy – this last year has been challenging.

When In Doubt, Ask for Help

On Monday, I was ready to tear my hair out. Joanna Penn, a rather well-known podcaster and author in the Indie world, has continued to talk about Ingram Spark as a good platform to place Indie books on.

Doing so, gives an Indie author even more exposure to bookstores and libraries.

Say no more, I was on it.

Except…the dreaded book cover.

And while I have created plenty of book covers, good ones, in Canva.com – they were not the full book cover. Instead of this:

I needed something that looked more like this:

And despite Ingram Spark’s oh so helpful customized template in pdf format, I had no idea how to do it.

After a couple of hours of banging my head on the keyboard (note to self: this does not induce deeper, tech thoughts only a nasty headache) I posted a rant on Facebook and a friend popped up and volunteered to help.

She got it together pretty quickly, unfortunately, one of the fonts I had on a print version through KDP sparked an error message from Ingram Spark. I’ve got a good idea of what to do, however, and will be able to fix it from my end in a few days.

I was reminded, yet again, that there are plenty of folks willing to help, for no other reason than kindness.

When in doubt, ask for help!

Most Money In…and Out

I’d been getting real excited about this month’s earnings in book sales. Most months this year have been averaging nearly $200 in sales per month and when I broke $200 by the 12th I was convinced it would be my best month ever.

Until I checked my advertising tab.

Sheesh.

As of the 20th of November, I had earned $301.92 in book sales, a total of 125 books (ebook and paperback).

And my advertising fees had accrued to a whopping total of $304.27 and counting.

Duh, duh, duh DUH.

AMS ads were eating up every bit of my profit, and then some.

In other words? I have a lot to learn about advertising.

Brick Walls Have Got Nothing on This Writer’s Block

I’m a planner and a dreamer. I can create a plan of action like nobody’s business and I’ve made plans among plans. When it comes to writing I have attacked it from several angles:

  • I won’t make it about money
  • I will make it about money
  • I need to write XX books this year
  • I need to just write something, anything

And so on, and so on.

In the end, every time I look at one of my bigger projects (Chronicles of Liv Rowan Book 1, The Hired Gun, Zarmina’s World, or a host of others), I tell myself, “Just write SOMETHING” and I sit down, stare at the screen, and my mind slips sideways.

I feel like I’m skidding on glass.

And it feeds on itself, making me question whether or not it will ever just be natural. After six books, it is easier, and yet there are times when I wonder “Is this it? Am I out of viable ideas?”

I know that I’m not, the world is full of ideas and I’ve had some doozies. But sometimes the implementation of those ideas seems strained and difficult. I’m going through that now, in no small part because of the marketing side of things, which really throws me off. I’ll figure it out, I always do.

Disaster…

Ugh. I was over 6 1/2 hours into recording Gliese 581: The Departure into audiobook form. I was sure I had saved the file, but this morning, at 4:30 a.m. in the chilly attic, I discovered I had not. The file is gone, over 6 1/2 hours of recording has vanished and to say that was frustrating does not begin to cover it.

I thought briefly about giving up, especially as I listened to the sounds of traffic and sirens in the distance. I couldn’t record in there even if I tried.

I think I need to move back down to the closet and instead of having the laptop in the closet, have just the external monitor and mouse inside (the microphone picks up the hum of the laptop).

When I begin recording again, I will record Get Organized first. I’ve read that non-fiction is hot in audiobooks, so I’ll start there.

And Now, A Request

As I work towards understanding what ads make me money, and what don’t, I’m doing my best to make money wherever I can. The combination of blogging and the Amazon Associates program is one of those ways, but it hasn’t been paying off so far and Amazon has sent me a notice telling me they will be terminating my Amazon Associates account unless I get some sales. So I’m going to ask a favor of you, my loyal readers.

If you shop at all on Amazon in the next few weeks, please consider shopping through this portal.

It doesn’t cost you a dime and it will keep me from losing this potential income generator. Even a few dollars of income here or there makes a difference.