My Three-Year Journey to the 10K Cake Club

spice-cake-su-1673099-lIf you’ve never heard of the 10K Cake Club, it’s the name given to that elusive group of authors who reach the milestone of selling 10,000 copies of their book(s). Now, given that statistically, most authors will never sell more than a hundred copies (no kidding), reaching this milestone is an amazing feat. But we all know how numbers and milestones are relative, and our own expectations can often derail even the most wonderful achievements.

PJ Sharon here, celebrating with you, my dear friends, my three years as an independently published author. I released my debut novel, HEAVEN is for HEROES in September of 2011. (In celebration, I’m giving away an audiobook copy of HIFH over on my website blog. Stop by and leave a comment to enter and feel free to share the post with friends on FB or Twitter. Contest ends September 30th at midnight. )HIFH_audiobookcover (2013_06_07 00_53_00 UTC)

Now, I recall being asked, while on a panel of Indie authors, what my sales goals were as a newly self-published author. At the time, self-publishing was on the rise, Indies were on fire, and sales were through the roof for newcomers. Being the ambitious and overachieving sort, I replied with confidence that I wanted to sell 10,000 copies a year, netting me about a $20,000 dollar a year paycheck from my writing–what I saw as realistic and an amount that would make all the hard work worth the effort.

This was a reasonable goal, but one that I soon found was more or less beyond my control to achieve. I did not foresee the effects of market saturation, the need for endless promotion, or the ever-changing Amazon algorithms that would make it nearly impossible to gain traction on the discoverability front. Basically, I could not have predicted the “luck” factor.

When, in the first year, I sold over 5,000 books (I had three titles out by then), I was not unhappy with my results. After all, goals are merely guidelines…a star to shoot for. But in the second year, when I had the brilliant idea to switch from Contemporary YA to writing a Dystopian trilogy, and sales dipped to half of what they did the first year, let’s just say I was less than thrilled with the results of my ongoing efforts. I shuddered to consider my hourly wage as a writer and decided it was best to stop looking at daily sales reports, screaming into the wind about my books, and beating my head against a wall trying to figure out what the heck the secret to success actually was.

My third year hasn’t been any more profitable than the previous two, despite the fact that I–at the suggestion of Indie superstar Bella Andre no less– went back and wrote another Contemporary YA. In fact, I’ve spent more on covers, editing and formatting on PIECES of LOVE than I have on any of my others simply because I’m trying to compete in the market and feel that others do a better job of these things than I can do myself. Added in is the cost of producing a theme song for POL (thinking that this might be a novel idea and help with sales, but has as yet, not appeared to make any difference at all). With production costs up and sales down (thanks to Kindle Unlimited and the insane amount of new product coming into the market), I’ll be lucky to recoup my costs over the next year.

I’m hopeful that once I finish the Dystopian trilogy, add a boxed set or two to my cybershelf, and get back on the promotional wagon in 2015, that I might see some real return on my investment.

Lest you think that any of this is sour grapes on my part, think again.

I went into this with eyes open that it would be a LOT of hard work, gave myself five years to turn a consistent profit (this is typical for any new business), and expected that there would be a steep–and ever-changing–learning curve. I’ve had to adjust my expectations for financial success, but am hopeful that with perseverance, the pay-off will be worth the continued effort. This is, after all, my retirement plan, and being that I have another fifteen years until retirement, I’ve got plenty of time to make it happen, right?

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is that success is measured in many ways. Positive reviews and happy readers who are excitedly awaiting my next release are priceless in the grand scheme of things. Knowing that over two and a half million readers have enjoyed SAVAGE CINDERELLA on Wattpad thrills me beyond words. And the awards and accolades for my books tell me that I’m doing something right. Reader reviews continue to average 4.5 stars across the board.

Another important lesson for me–one that continues to be challenged daily–is about finding balance. I worked around the clock that first year and a half, typically putting in 80 hours a week between my two jobs. I finally decided this past year to set myself a schedule. Knowing that I need to work my day job at least 20-30 hours a week to earn a  guaranteed paycheck to cover expenses, I set a limit on my writing/publishing time to 25-30 hours a week. Perhaps that’s partially to blame for the decrease in sales numbers, but I will say, I’m much happier and healthier these days. Time with family and time to take care of myself are far more important to me than sales figures and financial gain. If I’m in this for the long haul, that’s the way it has to be. I’m good with that.

It’s taken me three times longer than expected–and I’ve stopped comparing myself to others who have done it seemingly effortlessly–but I’ve finally made it into the 10K Cake Club. very-excited-girl (2013_02_16 17_00_55 UTC)

Cake and ice cream all around! And perhaps a bottle or two of wine…

What milestone can you celebrate today? I hate to eat cake alone.

SCUBA Research, Katy Lee Style

Hello Scribe Followers! I shared this post at the Jaunty Quills last week, but wanted to share it with you all, too. I’m here to tell you about the third book in my Stepping Stones Island, Maine series. Sunken Treasure released this month and was a book I had to really step out of my comfort zone to write. You see, my hero, Gage Fontaine, is a wreck diver which meant I had to gear up and take the plunge.

GearSCUBA (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) diving was an integral part of the book since an old sunken pirate ship, treasure and all, lay off the coast of the island. For my hero, diving is no big deal, but for my heroine, Rachelle Thibodaux, who has never had the opportunity to breathe underwater, I had to know what she might feel like when the modern-day pirates pushed her in. I had to know the panic she would experience when she watched the surface grow farther away as she sank deeper and deeper in the dark, cold sea. I had to know what one would do when their mask came off, or they came up against another kind of hunter of the shark variety. Yes, I could have researched and read to acquire the knowledge, and for much I did, but there is just something about breathing underwater that needs to be experienced in order to write it right.

face maskBut, I‘m also a little chicken, so I took my daughter with me.

She’s a competitive swimmer and used to holding her breath for a whole lane. She’s also used to moving fast in the water, something SCUBA divers don’t do. It’s a very slow and methodical process. Because of this SCUBA diving was not for her. She kept getting yelled at for not breathing. (The instructor knew because she made no bubbles.) One time she submerged without her regulator (mouth piece) even on. I thought the instructor was going to blow up. After that she said she would stick to swimming and just took pictures for me.

SuitAs for me, I’m not sure if I would strap on tanks anytime soon again, but I won’t say never again. Writing has taught me to never say, never. If I want my readers to experience what my characters are experiencing, I am going to have to partake in activities, too. However, I draw the line at skydiving out of a perfectly good airplane.

 

But not driving fast cars. That I will do any day. (Yes, that is me driving a Ferrari, all in the name of research.)

IMG_5117

 

9780373446216 (1)

DANGER ON THE HIGH SEAS

Shipwreck diver Gage Fontaine is used to modern-day pirates chasing after his boat and the buried treasure he salvages. But when he unknowingly leads a dangerous criminal to the waters off Stepping Stones Island, he puts a beautiful fisherwoman in grave danger. Rachelle Thibodaux has spent the past year hiding on her boat to avoid the town’s censure for her father’s crimes. But when she comes face-to-face with a gun-wielding pirate, she becomes a new kind of target. To save her own life, she’ll have to work with Gage to find the treasure before the pirates do.

Amazon

BIO

Katy Lee writes suspenseful romances that thrill and inspire.  She believes every story should stir and satisfy the reader—from the edge of their seat. A native New Englander, Katy loves to knit warm wooly things. She enjoys traveling the side-roads and exploring the locals’ hideaways.  A homeschooling mom of three competitive swimmers, Katy often writes from the stands while cheering them on.  Visit Katy at:  www.KatyLeeBooks.com. There you will find FB and Twitter links to connect with Katy further.

Don't Blink

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Welcome friends! Casey here.

Technically, I don’t get a summer vacation but I do have a boat load of vacation time (thanks to twenty-five years with the same employer).

So guess what?  Have you ever been cornered by someone eager to share their vacation photos?

Yes? No?

Well, I’m about to do that to you right now! Seriously, it’s hard to believe another summer has come and gone. While I did find time to pen another novel (see #2), I also made sure to have plenty of fun too! Without further ado, I present – my summer in pictures.

1. May – Sheep shearing at Old Sturbridge Village! Yes, May is not technically summer yet, but my kids college classes were over so close enough. Sheep Shearing2. JuneOver Easy was well underway thanks to a helping hand from Scrivener. I’m happy to report that I finished the first draft by the end of July and it’s currently in the hands of my beta readers. The photo below is from a night at Muse Paint Bar with my writer friends. The painting on the left is mine.Muse Paint Bar3. JulyConnectiCon 2014 KICKED ASS. For three glorious days, my family was knee-deep in geeky heaven. The highlights for me and Hubby – meeting Rob Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche. You may recognize their voices from Pinky & the Brain. They were personable and during their panels – freaking hysterical.Pinky & the BrainThe boys were enamored of Lauren Landa – famous for voicing Annie in Attack on Titan. Look at her. She’s gorgeous.Lauren LandaAnd once again the costumes were amazing. These are some of my favorites.Fro- ZoneToothlessClassic CybermanSeriously – attend this convention! There is so much to do and the Connecticut Convention Center is a great venue.

4. AugustRedcoats & Rebels. Another fun year even though it was a big soggy in the morning. The rain made for light crowds at first but we still had fun. By day’s end, the sun appeared and we captured some awesome battles pictures.IMG_0639IMG_0504IMG_0379Ahh. So much fun. Well, back to writing. I have another book to plot and a few to edit. For more photos, check out my Pinterst page. Thanks for stopping by. I hope everyone had a great summer too.

If you have a moment, please share your favorite summer time moment.

You Talkin’ To Me?

Okay, people. Confession time. This is a biggie in my house. So maybe if I say it out loud, I’ll be more conscious of it.

I talk to myself. A lot.

Oh, you’re not surprised? You do too, don’t you? And it drives your husband crazy, right? Mine too. He never knows if I’m talking to him, my son, the cat, the tv or the wall.

Well, why should he? I ask myself. But then, we’re always talking to each other, even about the most mundane things, like “I’m taking out the garbage.” So, John reasons, how is he supposed to know that I’m not talking to him?

People, I hate it when he uses logic. So I did what any self-respecting author would do: I wrote a lyric.

I live in my imagination
conversations are ongoing there
you don’t have a prayer
are you talking to me
no, I’m talking to me
well, how would I know
your voice is so low
so what if I do
what’s my talking to you?
at least give me a clue
if the conversation’s here
or it’s somewhere over there
please signal with a bell
so at least I can tell
if you’re talking to me
or still talking to you.

There, that solves the problem altogether. Want to confess? DO you talk to yourself?

Thea Devine’s books defined erotic historical romance. “Beyond the Night,” the sequel to “The Darkest Heart” will be an October 2014 eBook release from Pocket Star.

Kindred Spirits

Greetings Scriblings! PJ Sharon here.

I had the good fortune of attending a few days of the 2014 IWWG Summer Conference this week. If you aren’t familiar with this acronym, it stands for International Women’s Writing Guild. Despite the fact that I’ve been heavily involved in the romance writing community for several years, I’d never even heard of this organization.  Here’s why.

Romance writers and literary writers tend not to associate or travel in the same conference circles. Whether this is due to some misconception that one is better than the other or that the two are diametrically opposed, I can’t say, because my experience with this incredible group of amazingly talented women was nothing but educational, inclusive, and uplifting–not to mention well organized and fun. These ladies write everything from poetry to memoir, creative nonfiction to essays. A few write fiction as well, and many are published, either traditionally or Indie.

Workshops included a study in Metaphor with the fabulous Susan Tiberghien,  a chance to make “mischief” with Kelly Dumar, where we explored our childhood prankster selves and acted out stories of our misspent youth.  I learned some new plotting strategies from the excellent Chris Eboch in the workshop, What I Learned from Nancy Drew,  and Dr. Dixie King’s extremely helpful Nourishing the Writer Within was an eye opener! Dr. King took us through a step by step guide of smart goal setting and challenged us to pinpoint the barriers and limiting beliefs that hold us back from achieving our goals. I was only able to attend two days of the five day conference, but I felt so welcomed and appreciated by the group that I felt as if I’d met some kindred spirits.

IWWG conf. 2In addition to the wonderful workshops and new friends I met, the food was outstanding and the venue at the Wisdom House in Litchfield, CT was absolutely lovely. I even walked the labyrinth at sunset and spent some time in meditation, which is an area of my life I’ve been neglecting and was sorely needed.

IWWG Conf. 6There was an opportunity to showcase my books at the book fair and take center stage to share from one of my stories.  I was completely floored by the quality of each and every writer’s work that was shared. Poignant stories of family,  deep inner journeys, and prose that gave me chills and had me laughing and crying within the same three minute reading. These women are powerful and brilliant, I tell you!

Regardless of genre, we were all writers and all women–sisters of the pen–there to support each other. I feel so blessed to have been a part of this group if only for a couple of days. It gave me just the shot in the writer’s arm that I needed. I learned some important things about myself in the process and hope to meet these lovely women again in the future. My eyes are open a little wider and my heart has been touched by the gift of their words. Thank you IWWG!

Here’s a little about the organization:

The IWWG, founded in 1976, is a network for the personal and professional empowerment of women through writing and open to all regardless of portfolio. As such, it has established a remarkable record of achievement in the publishing world, as well as in circles where lifelong learning and personal transformation are valued for their own sake. The Guild nurtures and supports holistic thinking by recognizing the logic of the heart–the ability to perceive the subtle interconnections between people, events and emotions- alongside conventional logic.

Have you stretched your wings and made some new friends lately? When was the last time you just wrote for fun? Because if you aren’t having fun, what’s the point, right?

Debt-Proof Living by Mary Hunt: A Review

Hello, Readers,

Debt-Proof-LivingTypically, I review fiction, romance particularly. But when I was asked to review Debt-Proof Living by Mary Hunt, I read the book’s description and jumped at it. Here’s what it says:

Your fool-proof guide to paying off debt, planning for the future, and breaking free of our debt-loving culture.

The consumer credit industry wants us to believe that debt is necessary to bridge the gap between our pitiful incomes and the lifestyles we desire. But the problem is not that we don’t have enough money. It’s that we don’t know how to manage the money we already have. And until we learn that, more money will never be enough.

In this life-changing book, Mary Hunt shows you how to live a rich, fulfilling life without any consumer debt. By applying her simple principles and specific methods, you will learn how to effectively manage and maximize the money you have. No more guessing, wondering, or worrying. Just peace and a more abundant life. What have you got to lose?

So, like I said, I jumped at it. What did I have to lose? Nothing, except debt, maybe.

However, since I just finished reading the book, I can’t say I am out of debt already, but I took some of Mary’s eye-opening techniques and have started using them in a day to day spending plan. I haven’t tried all of her ideas. I think with many of these financial books, you take from them what is pertinent to you and leave the rest behind. But, you know what? She’s okay with that. In fact, she says don’t worry about starting this perfectly. Just get started. As long as you are managing your money according to the plan, you will begin to move toward success. It may feel confining at first, which I’ll admit it has, but each day gets better.

Mary’s most important point in the book: “Money is not for spending. It is for managing first and then spending.”

That was one of the many eye-openers for me. I think our society has trained us to see this the other way around. And I thank Mary Hunt for straightening my thinking out. I look forward to living debt-free.

Oscar Anyone?

Don’t Be Guilty of #Word Crimes!

Hey there! Casey here!

Recently, Weird Al released another album which shot straight to number 1 on the Billboard Chart. Not since 1963 has a comedy album taken the top spot. Kudos to Weird Al!

And lucky for us writers, he’ s addressed a pressing issue – #Word Crimes! Please watch the following instructional video.

Be sure to laugh out loud if you feel so moved!

 

And then, please reflect upon Weird Al’s wisdom.

In an age where social media reigns supreme, it does seem like grammar is becoming a lost art. Sure, for us writers, solid knowledge of grammar is a must.  But it wasn’t until I chortled my way through this song, that I realized how many of these  mistakes also drive me mad.

Now, to be fair, before I began seriously writing, I’d forgotten some of those rules too. Comma placement continues to stump me. See the previous sentence – I probably used too many commas.  I don’t always punctuate dialog properly and the distinction between blond and blonde often baffles me (largely because publishers all handle it differently).

I am, by no means, a grammar nit-picker but one thing that does drive me nuts is spelling words wrong on purpose.

I’m looking at you SyFy Channel. For shame!!

I’m curious to know – which grammar mistakes drive you batty?

 

%d bloggers like this: