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.


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.


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.


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.

Damn, What a Ride!

I have lived this moment before, I’m pretty sure I have. Yet, every time it hits me, it feels new, transformative even.

The past few days have been absolutely incredible. The words have pushed, shoved, screamed at me to get out on the page. They march out, like a tiny army of ants, ready to conquer the blank pages, and fill the screen.

There are moments when I think that becoming a writer is some awful form of self-torture. Those moments when you sit there, staring at a blank screen thinking, “How the hell do I get Y character from Point A to Point B?”

There are times when the dialogue is so stilted, my ideas and thoughts so scattered that I’m ready to commit seppeku. Seriously, hand me that sword.

And then there are those rare moments, words wrapped in joy, that fall onto the page.

I can’t properly describe it, but when it occurs, the only thing I can do is hang on and WRITE. As fast as possible, notes everywhere, words, phrases, connections – they dance, DANCE out of me in a flood.

And in that moment, everything in my life makes sense. As if every moment I have lived up until this time has brought me inexorably to this place, where the stories breed, the characters laugh, love and hate.

I swear, I could stand on top of a mountain and sing like that overly happy woman on The Sound of Music.

Let me tell you, sometimes writing is one hell of a ride.

p.s. I expect to have the first draft of Schicksal Turnpike done this weekend

Time to Get Serious

Today I am nursing my second major headache in less than two days. Yesterday was a massive one that nearly had me yakking at my client’s house. No bueno, I had just finished cleaning that toilet! And I wasn’t functional until nearly 5 p.m. afterwards.

Today, waking up with yet another headache, I got up, headed toward my computer and started working on our budget. Before any major decision, I tend to hit the file in Excel – it allows me to fiddle with numbers, trim here, fix this other number over there, and keep us on an even keel. I made a copy of the current worksheet and started with a couple of premises, one that included me making no money on a monthly basis.

How I wish I could do that! But the fact is, we have more expenses than one job outside the home can handle. If we didn’t plan on paying off our mortgage until our late 60s, or having any kind of savings, or traveling or ever eating out – well maybe my not earning an income would work, but not otherwise.

I played with the budget until I found a plan that satisfied me, and that included some of these highlights:

  • Dave finding an excellent paying position (there’s one in the works, and I’m really hoping it pans out)
  • I will take over Dee’s cleanings once she is full-time employed (this seems quite likely to happen in the next couple of weeks) for the rest of the year.
  • I will finish the edits on Gliese 581: The Departure (go Like this page, will you?) and get it up for sale on Amazon
  • I will write Book #6, edit it, and get it up and published this year and begin work on Book #7. (It’s a numbers game, folks, write enough good stuff and the money will follow)
  • Reduce my cleaning clients down to a small handful by the end of the year (no more new clients).

By building up some savings during the rest of this year, we have something to fall back on at the beginning of 2017 when I reduce/eliminate my cleanings.

My body is telling me – enough is enough. I have to listen to it. It’s time to get serious.

Changes, Schemes, and Grand Plans

I think out loud.

Actually, I think quietly to myself and then bounce ideas off of others. And I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately.

Mainly I have solidified, finally at the ripe young age of 44 years, on exactly what I want to be when I grow up.

I want to write.

I want to teach and inspire others.

I’m doing this, but I’ve allowed myself to become distracted.

I’ve allowed my concerns about money to dictate what writing I chose to focus on above other options that would produce money, just not as immediately as writing for Bubblews has done for me. And I’ve spent hours each day writing for pennies. Granted, those are pennies that added up to around $25 average income per day. Which may sound like peanuts, but really, really helped that bank balance.

Bubblews stopping from paying regularly was a bit of a shock to the system. I had convinced myself I was under a charm, a protective spell, that others simply couldn’t seem to find. My payments came in, with only two exceptions, within days after they were promised. And when they suddenly stopped, in late September, right as I had committed to writing for publication (predominantly on Bubblews, but also magazine submissions on parenting, homeschool, and so much more) I was thrown for a loop.

However, I have dusted myself off, and re-assessed my situation.

I looked over our current budget, which is quite lean, and asked myself if I was willing to set aside some projects – like working on The Cottage, and focus on writing instead.

Whatever I write now and get accepted (when it gets accepted) will take months before I see any payout. Was I willing to commit to that uncertainty?

The answer was “yes.”

But it isn’t just my decision. I have a family, a husband, and a certain number of responsibilities. I HAVE to bring in income, and the more the better, but after explaining my thought processes and getting a “I support you fully” from my husband I’m jumping in now, with my eyes wide open and my heart committed.

I’m going to continue cleaning houses – we can’t give up that income. But I won’t be taking on any new clients. I will still teach classes, perhaps I will even expand my offerings, which are now at 46 different classes. Teaching, sharing knowledge and inspiring others has quickly become a “must do” that I don’t see abandoning anytime soon. And I will be promoting my books and continuing to maintain my three websites: The Deadly Nightshade, The Homeschool Advocate, and this website (of course!).

And I will be preparing articles and submitting them. I’m going to try and work my way up to five per week. Right now I’ve got two in process and more ideas popping up all the time. Like the classes I teach, these come from my own experiences, voice, and life. I hope I can find the right publications to fit those words into.

So in any case, comment away. Please. I get so much damn spam that I sometimes wonder if anyone is really reading these. And I really like that you do. Just so you know!

Damn You, Muse, You are Truly a Pain in the Patoot!

My muse has ADD. Actually, it probably has ADHD.

It flies about, madly bouncing from one project to another, causing nothing but havoc in my life.

Goal for rest of July/August: Finish War’s End Book 2

My muse took a look at that goal, which was a good one by the way, and said, “F#@% that! What about Gliese 581, huh, huh, huh? Why do we have to work on some boring old chapter that we can’t figure out what happens next? Let’s talk space travel instead!”

“Muse,” I said, “we have to finish what we started. And the chapter isn’t boring, it’s just unfinished.”

“Don’t wanna.” sez the muse. “Hey, is that Zentangle®?” She distracted me by pointing to the bookbag sitting nearby, filled with Zentangle® books, several drawing pads, pens and a mishmash of Zentangle® projects.

“Yes, that is Zentangle®,” sez I, momentarily distracted.

“Ooh, let’s do a book on that!” sez my muse, eyes dreamy and distracted.

“What?!” I’ve got War’s End to finish, and then Gliese 581 and the Plague Tales, and did I mention I also have that twelve book series on the Liv Rowan Chronicles (and 60 pages of notes) plotted out that needs writing. Another project? Are you insane?!” I yelled. I did it in my head though…silently. Otherwise people think you are a little bit off.

The muse was undeterred. “Yeah, I really think we need to write a book on Zentangle®.”

I groaned. “I really hate you sometimes.”

Muse…”Yeah, the feeling’s mutual. Go with the flow, baby.”

Follow the Writing Path

Someone recently asked me, “How do you come up with these stories? Do you always know what comes next?”

My answer was to shrug and say, “I have no idea, they just spring into my mind. And no, I have literally no idea what comes next.”

And despite my wishes to the contrary, another aspect of writing for me personally is the non-linear quality of it. I think in what I refer to as “snippets” – little pieces of scenes that are, quite often, completely out of the blue, unrelated to much of anything, and nearly always out of order.

I wish that I could write in order. The vision of it appeals to my obsessive-compulsive side.

But I don’t.

I should be working on War’s End Book 2. Instead, I find myself writing an involved scene in Book SIX of the Chronicles of Liv Rowan. Is now a good time to mention that I haven’t actually written Books 1 – 5 yet?

So how does one get to Book 6 with little or nothing written in the middle?

In the case of the Chronicles of Liv Rowan, I found myself taking a snippet – Great-Aunt Martha’s Car – which I wrote nearly sixteen years ago, and envisioning a very real and detailed storyline. So much so that I have over 38 pages of Notes, plus a half ream of paper dedicated to genealogies, maps, creatures and more.

So I literally have twelve, yes TWELVE, books outlined. Not written, but outlined.

And the other day, as I woke up, I visualized another “snippet” and found the perfect place for it, in Book 6.

I hope to write it out and then get back to work on War’s End. Who knows if I will, but it is my hope.

To sum this post up, I would give the following advice – follow the writing path. Don’t be afraid of going off topic, off book, off project…you know…OFF. Follow where your writing leads you. It may be maddening, it may cause you to wonder just how this will be of use, but follow it anyway. It’s all writing, and all good, in the end.

When They Make “War’s End” Into A Movie…

I will have a woman sing an acoustic version of The Decemberists’ “This is Why We Fight” in it.

Think of the small town that Kevin Costner goes to in “The Postman.” They all gather at the Foster’s Freeze and eat and sing and dance.

As for me, my song will be “This is Why We Fight” – somehow I’ll work it into the damned contract.

Come the war, come the avarice
Come the war, come hell

Come attrition, come the reek of bones
Come attrition, come hell

This is why, why we fight, why we lie awake
This is why, this is why we fight

And when we die, we will die with our arms unbound
And this is why , this is why we fight, come hell

Bride of quiet, bride of all unquiet things
Bride of quiet, bride of hell

Come the archers, come the infantry
Come the archers of hell

This is why why we fight why we lie awake
This is why this is why we fight

And when we die,  we will die with our arms unbound
And this is why , this is why we fight

Come hell, come hell

This is why why we fight, why we lie awake
This is why, this is why we fight

And when we die, we will die with our arms unbound
And this is why, this is why we fight

Come to me, come to me now, lay your arms around me
This is why, this is why we fight

Come hell, come hell, come hell, come hell

Yeah. That’s the song.

I don’t dream small…

Tip #1 – Write Down Your Dreams…Right Away

Status update: No Change

Damn it all, I know this rule, and yet, I didn’t follow it. I was so darned sure I would remember my dream last night that I did not get up and write anything down. I remember actually saying to myself, “Now, remember this, it’s important to the story.”

That was approximately 2 or 3 a.m. this morning.

Can’t remember worth shit whatever it was. All I can tell you is it was important. So important, that I spent the rest of the night tossing and turning and dreaming of the book, only to forget all of it by morning. Worse yet, I was really looking forward to writing in it. Realizing this morning as I booted my computer up and tried to peer through the non-headache pulsing eye that I couldn’t remember a thing was distressing and rather depressing.

I’ve pretty much kicked the headache.

So my week looks like this:

Monday (today) – Emily and me alone today, then Supervised Coaching from 8-9:30. I need to review the ICF competencies and prepare for my oral examination as well for tonight. It is a good day for writing!

Tuesday – 5 am ICA call regarding the Research Paper, then story time with Emily, up to Mom’s to drop her off, and then down for a 2pm cleaning in Belton. An Ecosystems class at UMKC from 7-9pm, but I should have some writing time in the mid-afternoon.

Wednesday – two cleanings, and Supervised Coaching from 8-9:30. I should have time for some writing in late afternoon, early evening

Thursday – morning is totally free. Hopefully I can get some writing done but I also need to get together a handout and the supplies for the Purse Magick class and of course verify that the class does has participants. Then it is off to Hallmark for a research study in the early afternoon and then up to North Kansas City for the class if it is a go.

Friday – THREE cleanings, starting at 8am in the morning and then straight up to Mom’s to pick up Emily. I doubt I will have any time for writing on Friday.

So…I think my goal will be this…

Monday (today) – 1,500 words, Tuesday 2,000 words, Wednesday 2,000 words, Thursday 2,000 words – for a total of 7,500 words for the week.

I’m currently at 19,055 words. I would like to see that number increase to 27,000 by the weekend. That’s a little more than I’ve detailed above, but I think it is do-able. I was reading today in Chris Baty’s book “No Plot? No Problem!” that a deadline really helps. So there you have it, my deadline/goal is to be at 27,000 words by 8/21/10.

Oh and today, I have around SEVEN books I’ve sold on Half.com that I need to take to the post office. I also need to get together a list of foods to buy from some of the healthy foods classes I have taken recently and go by Wal-Mart for that and other supplies. Past that, I don’t think I’ll be doing much else!