Category Archives: Writing Career

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.

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.

Goodreads Giveaway of SUNKEN TREASURE by Katy Lee

Hello Readers, Katy Lee here.

Lots of good news to share with you all.  First, I am holding a9780373446216 Goodreads Giveaway for my September romantic suspense release, SUNKEN TREASURE!  You have until August 31, 2014 to enter and can go right to www.KatyLeeBooks.com to press enter.  Simple as that.

Romantic Times Book Reviews announced its review of SUNKEN TREASURE yesterday.  Here’s what they had to say:

4 Stars! Compelling. A Page-Turner!  “Shipwreck diver Gage Fontaine is trying to outrun the pirate after his treasures. He unwittingly places fisherwoman Rachelle Thibodaux in danger when he leads the pirate to her boat. Rachelle has been in hiding due to the shame she feels over her father’s criminal past. Now she must work with Gage to survive. The use of a female pirate is a nice twist on the movie-fantasized life of pirates and treasure hunters. Bible verses are nicely tied to the storyline. The analogy of God seeing us as lost coins is encouraging.”  ~RT Book Reviews Magazine

And now it’s time for my other news.  This week I accepted and signed a contract with Harlequin for four more Love Inspired Suspense books.  I’m super excited about this new series that involves fast cars and fast-paced suspense!  Stay tuned for pictures of me driving a Ferrari!  All in the name of research.  I LOVE my job!

Thanks for stopping by to hear my news.  Don’t forget to enter to win a copy of my September release, SUNKEN TREASURE  at www.KatyLeeBooks.com!

 

Chapter 2

Sugar here, calling myself out for not posting this morning like I was supposed to. But I had 2 good reasons. I thought next Monday was my day.  AND today was my last day at work. I have worked in the same place for seven years. My very first job out of college. I love my coworkers and my building, but I don’t love the job anymore.  I was finding myself so exhausted, so stressed out that I couldn’t write.  My brain just couldn’t handle another thing and there were times when I was so overwhelmed by it all that I just didn’t want to get out of bed.  I know they call it work for a reason, but I knew I couldn’t go on like that. So I made the decision to leave.  I’m not going to be able to survive on writing alone. I’m going to work but at job that won’t suck the life out of me.

I need to write. Some people do it as a hobby. They can pick  it up and put it down when they want. But I need to write and when I can’t do it I feel bad, like I’m depriving myself of some sort of essential nutrient. And that job was making it hard for me to do what I love. So today was my last day and while I have very good memories of that place I don’t for one moment regret  saying goodbye.  I have two books coming out this fall. I’m under contract for three more. I am lucky. I know it’s a blessing to have these things when so many writers are dying to get where I am. So I am going to take this opportunity now, because I don’t I’ll always wish I had.

I feel like I started chapter one of my adult life there. Now it’s time for me to start working on chapter 2.

He Ain’t Heavy…

This post originally appeared on The Jaunty Quills , but I thought it was good enough to post here too.

As a writer I love getting emails from readers. Who doesn’t?!  It really is one of the unexpected pleasures of the job.  But what was even more unexpected was the subject of so many of the emails that I have received this year. His name is Walter, and he is a character in my first book, Dangerous Curves Ahead. A lot of readers have really connected to him. And that surprised me. Walter is not my hero, or some other hot guy in the book. He’s my heroine’s father. A sixty year old college professor/ scientist with a vast knowledge of useless information and an awesome collection of ties.  Walter also has Asperger’s. If you don’t know what Asperger’s Syndrome is, it’s a part of the Autism Spectrum disorder that is characterized by significant difficulties with social interactions.  I’ve gotten so many emails from women who have someone like Walter in their lives.

The question I get most from them is how could you have written Walter so accurately?

The answer is simple. I can write Walter so accurately because I have a Walter in my life and his name is Jason.  Unlike Walter, Jason is no brainy science guy. He’s just my big brother who loves chocolate cake, bouncy balls and visiting Disney World. Jason has a more severe form of Autism than Walter. He’ll never live alone or drive a car. He’ll probably never have a family of his own, but that doesn’t mean his life is empty.

It’s hard to explain what it was like to grow up with an older sibling that isn’t “normal”. It’s different experience than a parent raising child with a disability. I didn’t go through the grieving process. I didn’t have to put in all the work that my parents did to make sure my brother had a full and happy life. I was simply born into a world that built so much around Jason. It’s a nice world but, as a sibling it was hard to know my place at times. I had no brotherly guidance, no one to scare boys away, none of the typical big brother experiences that my friends had. Instead of my brother going first through the world, my parents looked to me for all the major milestones. I was the first to read and write and navigate social pressures. I was the first to drive a car and go off to college. And I wanted to do everything so well because I knew Jason couldn’t.

It wasn’t easy having a brother who covers his ears when things get too loud, and talks to himself, and spends so much time staring off into space. It’s was annoying constantly apologizing to people when he bumped into them because he has no awareness of his body. And it was annoying that the only thing he ever eats when we go anywhere is a hamburger. As a kid the only thing you want to do is fit in, be like everyone else. But it was hard for me be like everyone else when my brother is like no one else I know.

I think I once said to him, “If you’re going to be Autistic, why can’t you be cool like Rainman and count cards?”

To which my father replied, “I know. You could at least help me pay off this mortgage.”

Some people might be horrified at that exchange, but that’s the way it is in my family. Yes. He’s different. And maybe he won’t do all the things I got to do, but he’s NOT to be felt sorry for. He’s not to be treated less than. We joke and tease because that is what our family does. That’s how we show love. Autism is a huge part of who Jason is but Autism is not all he is.

He’s the oldest of five kids and he knows it. He doesn’t let us boss him around, and if we try to he says, “Go ahead with your own life. Leave me alone!”  (Which I didn’t realize that he got from a Billy Joel song till I was older. How awesome is that?)

He’s a pretty smooth liar. He once called me the B word. (I probably deserved it.) And when I asked him to repeat himself he said, “I said pitch. Pitch the ball.” (No, he didn’t.)

Jason is also incredibly sweet. He likes to squeeze my nose to show me affection. He makes sure I don’t go more than three weeks without visiting him and when I see him he always tells me I’m beautiful.

I love him. Probably a little more than I love my other brothers and I’m protective of him. Because he is different, because so many people just don’t understand him, I go out of my way to make sure no one takes advantage of him.  It’s not a position a lot of little sisters find themselves in, but I don’t mind because I know if he could, he would do the same thing for me.

So, I may not have had the big brother experience that most people have had but, having a brother who is different has shaped who I am. He’s made me more patient, more understanding and more open than I would have been if I didn’t know him.

Plus he helped me write Walter . And Walter is a pretty cool dude.

So what about you? Do you have a special relationship with one of your siblings?

Focus is not a Four Letter Word

Hey everyone. Casey here.

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. And while in my experience that seems to be true, it’s not always obvious that a behavior has moved over into the “insane” column.

ClockHere’s an example of what I mean. Between my family and my writing career, I manage several mailboxes (five to be exact, six if I count the day job). For the last four years, I’ve been deleting annoying and unwanted emails.

Every. Single. Day.

It had become such a habit that I didn’t realize I’d entered the insanity zone. I mean, did I think that by deleting them they would magically stop coming?

I dunno. Maybe.

Like everyone else in the universe, my time is limited and very valuable. So is yours. The world is filled with miniature, time sucking vampires like unwanted, unneeded, unread email.

Of course this got me thinking. What other subtle activities are robbing me of focus? And what can I do to get rid of them?

Do you have the same problem? I bet you do. Naturally, I have some tips:

1. De-clutter your inbox – i.e. stop receiving so many damn useless emails. Do you find yourself deleting the same kinds of emails over and over. Magazine subscriptions, sales at every store known to mankind: Macy’s, Land’s End, Kohl’s – you name it. Go to the bottom of the email and click unsubscribe then follow the directions. See? Easy Peasy.

One word of caution. Do not do this with spam. No, no, no. Actual spam (if it’s coming into your inbox) should be ruthlessly marked a such and sent to the spam oubliette where it deserves to rot.

2. Go to your social media sites and check your settings and eliminate all the needless notifications. Many social media sites send these because you fail to notice all those little check boxes when you first sign up. Or they change policy (looking at you, Facebook) and decide you need to know all kinds of useless stuff. Unless of course you like to know that your brother’s wife’s sister’s cousin has a strange alligator rash on her skin. Ewww.

3. Be in the moment. What does that mean, Master Yoda? It means don’t multitask. GASP. I know. Crazy, right? Believe it or not, it’s not really possible to write a book, talk on the phone, and make dinner all at the same time. Multitasking is a myth people! Focus on the task at hand. The end result will be better.

4. Disconnect. Yup. You heard me. If you want to get in your word count and you can’t stop visiting the world wide web – then turn off the wi-fi. Duh. Don’t worry. Your brother’s wife’s sister’s cousin’s strange rash will still be waiting for  you.

5. Unleash the hounds, Smithers! If your significant other or family can’t leave you alone when you need to work, then sorry, you have to let them know to please leave you alone. If escaping your house isn’t an option, might I suggest a pair of earplugs? They got me through years of younger son’s Call of Duty shouting matches with his friends.

That’s all I’ve got for today. If you have other tips, please share.

Remember to take time to enjoy the flowers.
Remember to take the time to enjoy the flowers.

Facebook Parties-Fab or Fad?

Good May Day, Scribe’s fans. PJ Sharon here. I won’t likely be dancing around a May pole today, but I will be celebrating Spring with over fifty of my author pals from the Book Lovers Buffet who are having a party over on Facebook this afternoon.

POL Music Cover Every fifteen minutes between 3-10 pm, EST, another romance author will be available to live chat with anyone who wants to stop by for a visit. I’ll be there from 7-7:15 pm. sharing favorite cruise destinations and giving away e-books and an i-Tunes download of the single, PIECES of LOVE, the theme song from my upcoming release.

Lest you think this is a silly waste of time, there will be oodles of giveaways and some enticing questions to draw a crowd throughout the day. Favorite paranormal creatures? Vacation destinations? Favorite perfume or men’s fragrance? Fashion, dance, Texas hunks…topics for everyone. There will be gift cards, e-books, audiobook giveaways and more!

So what’s with all the Facebook parties lately? Is it just the latest trend in author promotion? Or is it a savvy way to use the platform that so many of us have worked to build? Since connecting to readers is an all important part of our job as authors, hopping on the FB train seems like a good idea…at least for now. As with any new promotional trend, I suspect this one will burn itself out fairly quickly, but for now, I’m having fun with it and plan to use it for my book launch in June.

Here’s how it works (to the best of my knowledge and limited experience). To create a FB event:

  1. Click Events in the left menu of your homepage.
  2. Click Create Event in the top right.
  3. Fill in the event name, details, location and time, and then choose your privacy settings. Keep in mind that you must include an event name and time. (TIP: Keep the time limited to just a few hours if you are doing this on your own. It can be quite hectic and draining!)
  4. Click Invite Friends to add friends to the guest list. Check the names of the people you want to invite and then click Save.
  5. Click Create.

You’ll be taken to your event where you can share posts, upload photos, invite more guests, and edit event details.

That’s it!

Of course, you’ll want to create a theme for your party, upload a flashy new banner, offer incentives for people to stop by, create engaging content ahead of time so you can keep momentum going throughout the party, and maybe even have a famous guest or two stop by at a scheduled time so readers can pop in and live chat for a few minutes with your celebrity guest. You may want to enlist some help spreading the word via Twitter, Google+, Goodreads or other social media outlets.

Be creative and think outside the box. What do your readers love about your books? If you write cozy mysteries maybe share some recipes or craft ideas. If you write romantic suspense, maybe ask about favorite suspense movies, creepiest actors to play villains, etc. Consider your audience, make it fun and entertaining, and have some prizes to encourage reader engagement. Use Random.org to choose your winners. The way I use it for free is to keep a numbered list of commenters and then plug in the range of numbers (1-10 for instance if I have ten folks who have left comments) and let Random pick the winner’s number.

The bottom line, as always is that it’s not so much about “buy my book” as it is “hey, I’m a human just like you…let’s hang out.” Readers are much more likely to want to chat about books in general, life’s little entertainments, and what they can get for free than they are to respond to “buy” messages, so keep it real, keep it fun,  and keep it friendly.

I hope to see you all later over at the party!

What do you think of FB Parties? Fab or Fad?

Meggan Connors Shares the Worst Piece of Advice, Ever.

Hey friends, Casey here.  Please welcome my guest and fellow Soul HighlandDeceptionMate Publishing sister, Meggan Connors.

I’ve had the pleasure of reading her latest release Highland Deception and it doesn’t disappoint. If you enjoy Scottish highlanders, historical romance or just hot guys in kilts, don’t miss this book.

Without further ado, take it away Meggan….

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Not so long ago, I was asked an interesting question in regard to my writing: What is the worst piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

Now, I’ll be honest: most of the advice I’ve gotten from fellow writers is pretty good advice. Writers are a helpful lot. But bad advice tends to come from the people who know you—or think they know you—the best.

It comes from family.

So, the worst piece of advice came when I was prepubbed—you know that period of time when you need the support the most. When a part of you believes you can’t write for a hill of beans, or you’ll never get published. It tends to come right after you’ve gotten rejected for the first (or the tenth, or the fiftieth) time. I got my advice right after I had joined my first writer’s group, and my first third place finish in a contest.

And here is what she said: “You know you’ll never get published, right? You should stop writing altogether.”

A part of me believes it’s just this person, that this particular person has an issue with writers in general and me writing in specific, but I don’t think it is. I have heard enough writers complain about unsupportive spouses or parents or siblings or friends. Luckily, I have a very supportive spouse, and my friends have been generally supportive as well. I could ignore the naysayers.

I honestly believe that the doubters, the haters, whatever you want to call them, truly think they are doing us a favor, that they are grounding us from being crushed by an impossible dream. Maybe life has crushed them in some way, and they don’t see the beauty in chasing a dream, no matter how impossible it is.

Whatever. I’m here to tell you that there is no harm in trying. I’m here to tell you that the only way you’ll never be published (traditionally, self-published, however you choose to pursue your goal of publication) is to not try at all. It’s to let the rejections and the naysayers crush you into believing you can’t.

And believe me, you’ll be tempted to give in.

Every rejection, every time I got bad advice, every time I had a critique partner or a judge in contest say she didn’t like something… well, the first several times, it crushed me. I thought about quitting every single time.

Because my naysayer was right: I had a lot going on. There were so many other things I could have been doing with my time. Sleeping, for instance. I’ll admit, I miss the sleeping thing.

She may have been right, but she wasn’t right enough for me to stop. After all, if something is really important, you’ll find the time for it.

So, my advice to you is this: keep trying. People may tell you you suck, and, shoot, maybe they’re right. But they won’t always be right (suckage is always temporary). If you keep trying, keep practicing, keep honing your craft, you won’t suck. You’ll get better. In time, you’ll be awesome. After all, they say people who read for an hour a day in their chosen field will be international experts in seven years.

Think about it.

What does this mean for you? Follow the dream, and practice your craft. You’ll get there eventually.

But not if you give up.

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Meggan Connors’ latest novel, Highland Deception, came out in March of 2014. She loves to hear from readers, and you can find follow her on her website (www.megganconnors.com), Facebook (www.facebook.com/pages/Meggan-Connors/120715354695518) Twitter (@MegganConnors).  Where you’ll get to hear about her latest camping trip, books she’s reading, musical musings, and her small obsession with cute shoes she can’t wear (because they’re cute, you know?).

Highland Deception is available through Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Highland-Deception-Meggan-Connors-ebook/dp/B00J3D2JS6/

Blurb:

When Kenneth Mackay, long-banished rogue and thief, returns to the Mackay holding at the request of his brother, he has no idea what he might find. He certainly doesn’t expect to be confronted with his twin’s imminent death, or with the plan his brother has concocted.

Ten years before, Malcolm made a tragic mistake, and, to preserve the family name—and his own skin—he allowed Kenneth to take the fall. Now that he is dying without an heir, Malcolm plans to atone for his mistake: by giving Kenneth his life back. All Kenneth has to do is assume his brother’s identity. But complicating matters is the unexpected return of Lady Isobel Mackay, the daughter of an English marquess… and the wife Malcolm didn’t want.

Isobel barely knows the husband who abandoned her even before their marriage, and she’d long since given up on having a real marriage with him. Yet when she returns to the Mackay holding far earlier than expected, she finds her husband a changed man. Despite the hurt between them, Isobel’s heart responds to this man who cares for his entire clan as if they were family. Who, for the first time since their marriage, cares for her as if she is, too.

Falling in love with her husband had never been part of Isobel’s plan. But when their future is suddenly in peril, Isobel must find a way to save him—from himself and from the deception threatening to tear.

I’m so grateful that Meggan ignored her naysayer. Otherwise, I’d never had the chance to meet her or read her awesome stories.

Got comments, questions for Meggan or want to share your own worst advice? Don’t be shy!  Please share.