Tag Archives: goals

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.

Self Sabotage? by J Monkeys

Hi there!  J Monkeys here with a confession.  I saw one of those memes the other day.  You know the one – “take small steps toward your goals every day”…or some crap like that.  Here’s one that took me WAY too long  to find on the internet.

goals

Normally, I scoff at that kind of self-help mumbo-jumbo, but this time it struck me.

 

 

 

I know that life is a journey – and like most journeys, I’ve got a destination in mind for mine.  Sure, sure.  I take time to stop to smell the roses and enjoy the trip.   But at the risk of over extending the metaphor, I’m pretty sure that I’m a little lost, or at least turned around.  Completely.

Not only am I not taking steps every day that will lead directly toward my goals, but most days, I’m actively walking in the opposite direction.

I have three main goals in my life right now, the same goals I’ve had for a while,  all of equal importance to me.   1 – Become a successful writer,  2 – Get myself healthier, and 3 – Take care of my family and household.

What road leads to becoming a successful writer?  How about writing every day.  Treating writing like the job it is.  Putting my butt in the seat and doing it.  I have not been following any of those paths.  In fact, I seem to come up with every reason in the world not to write every day, or any day.  Any distraction, every justification, focusing on everything going on in my life except putting my backside in my seat and moving my story forward.  Hmm. 

What roads lead to becoming healthier?  Well, for a person who is probably 70 pounds heavier that they ought to be with a family rife with heart disease, how about eating healthy foods, moving around until I sweat a little and staying away from those substances (ice cream!) that I know pave the path to diabetes and every other nasty thing looming in my future?  Have I been doing any of those things?  No.  I had donuts for breakfast – note the plural.  No water to drink yet today (it’s 11am,)  no exercise (been watching TV since I dropped the kids off at camp.)  And did I mention the donuts?  How about the Rice Krispy treats my sister-in-law made yesterday that are calling my name?  And where will I be getting lunch?  I don’t know, but I hadn’t planned on a salad.  Hmm.

What roads lead to taking care of my family and my household?  To be honest, I can say that while I’m walking in exactly the wrong direction in my journey toward my other two goals, I’m at least on a parallel, if long and meandering path to this one.  But it’s a scenic and not at all efficient road which often intersects with the direct route, but then detours off again.  Hmm.

What conclusion have I come to after this painful self assessment?   I’m on the road to ruin instead of where I thought I was going.  But now, that I’ve gotten directions,  I have to decide if I’m going to turn this vehicle around.  Maybe I’d better think about that.  And get some water while I’m doing so.  Maybe wash a dish.  Or fetch a salad. 

Are your feet on a path toward your goals or are you self sabotaging like me?  Can’t fix it until you recognize it, right.

 

Fight for Your Goals, Live for Your Dreams

Happy Friday everyone! Casey here.

UndeadSpaceInitiative_400Now that I’m plotting my next book, I’ve been thinking about my writing career a bit. As a rule, I don’t think too much about where I see myself in the future.

Probably a bad thing, but I’m a worrier by nature and I’m trying to curb the habit by living more in the moment. That means learning to accept the things I can control and letting go of the things that I can’t.

One thing I’ve noticed since I’ve become published is that there is a lot more pressure (often not self-imposed) to promote the heck out of your books and/or yourself. I admit that I have promoted myself through social media, blog tours, paid ads, ect.

And for the most part, I’ve resented all the time it’s taken away from my writing. I am one of those people who subscribes to the belief that the best marketing tool is your next book. Yet, I got sucked into the promotional vortex and paid the price by only completing two books last year (and one of them two days before X-Mas!).

I know writers who would kill to finish two books in a year, but for me, I wanted three. Maybe this year, I will meet that goal.

Before I go further, there is a difference between a goal and a dream. A dream is something out of your hands (like winning the lottery, making the NY Times Bestseller list, going to Mars).

Hope Springs
Fake movie theater – Stonington Point, CT

While a goal, is something you can achieve through your own actions. Want to be on the NY Times Bestseller list?  First, realize this is a dream and not in your control. But what you can do, is control yourself by writing the best books you can. You can continue to learn the craft of writing so readers, when they do discover you, want to read more of your books. If you’ve been spinning your wheels on the same book for years, time to think about changing focus.

If you want to be on the NY Times list, you’ll also need to recognize one simple fact – you can’t make anyone buy your book. Remember, dreams are outside your control.

Not sure which is a dream and which is an achievable goal?

Dream: win a RITA (or other award) Goal: learn skill ___ to improve writing. Take a class, read a book on craft, find a mentor (wash, rinse, repeat) Goal: submit published novel (or unpublished manuscript) to contests (again, you can’t control if you win, but you can use it as a learning experience to improve your writing.)

Dream: become rich and/or famous with your writing Goal: complete a novel in 2013 or

Goal: submit polished novel to agent or editor or pursue indie publishing.

Filming - Hope Springs - Stonington Point, CT
Filming – Hope Springs – Stonington Point, CT

Dream: sell X number of books. Goal: schedule an appearance at your local bookstore or library.(Remember, you can’t make people buy your books but you can make a favorable impression.) Goal: write your next novel and stop worrying about sales.

Now before you raise your arm and shout “Blasphemy!”, consider this – Do you let other people tell you what to buy? If I followed you around a store, chanting, “buy my book, buy my book!”, you’d call security. Then you’d probably never buy anything of mine ever again because I was obnoxious and rude. Not to mention, no one likes other people telling them how to think.

Hopefully, you’re sensing a theme: you can control your time, your output, your quality and yourself.

So, no matter how much control we writers have over our work these days, some things haven’t changed. Readers want to discover good books and they will find you eventually. As my fellow Scribe PJ says of a writing career, “it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

In the meantime, here is my goal for 2013: head down, write more, learn more, and be considerate to others. Always!

Share and share alike. What has your experience been? What strategies do you use to fight for your goals?

Fear of failure or fear of success?

PJ Sharon, blogging from the Berkshires once again. I love these brief January warm ups that allow me to get out and snow shoe or cross country ski on one of the many trails behind my house. 0120011139After weeks of frigid cold temps, it felt good to be outside in the sunshine and breathing in some fresh air. It gave me time to contemplate my WIP, ponder my marketing strategies, and sing a few tunes to the wind. It also gave me an opportunity to take a moment to appreciate how far I’ve come and think about where I’m headed next.
A few hours of reflection led me to ask myself the hard questions: What is holding me back? Are there any obstacles I need to overcome to achieve my goals?

Then I remembered a lesson my sensei taught me many years ago. I had achieved the level of brown belt and he wanted me to compete in a regional tournament. When I refused, he shook his head, frustrated with my stubborn refusal. I tried to convince him that I couldn’t risk being injured, that I didn’t need to compete to know I was good enough, that I couldn’t afford it. I gave lots of excuses, and still he shook his head. Finally he asked me, “What are you afraid of?”

After a few days of honest analysis, I went to him after class. “Maybe I’m afraid of failure,” I admitted. He smiled. “I don’t think its failure you fear. I think you’re afraid of success.”

It took me a while to process this new perspective, but eventually I realized he was right. Competition at brown belt level for adults gets very tough, and it only gets tougher as you approach black belt. It requires a tremendous amount of dedication and focus to do well at that level. I was a married woman with a family and work responsibilities that were demanding. Taking on another huge commitment was not in my cards and I knew if I made the commitment to compete, I’d have to give it my all—which would have been more than I had to give. I decided that it wasn’t the direction I wanted to go with my martial arts. In that case, my fear of success was the litmus test that helped me decide my direction–a decision ultimately based on choice and not fear.

That lesson has been with me many times over the years since. Whenever I feel myself holding back or not embracing my highest good, I ask those hard questions and wonder if my fear of success is what’s keeping me from moving forward or if the path before me is perhaps the wrong direction.

To this day, I continue to wonder whether the writer’s life is truly for me, but I’m not ready to give up all that I’ve accomplished and I’m not about to let my fear of success—or failure—stop me from becoming all that I can be. I know I can’t be alone in feeling this way as a writer. I think fear is one of the biggest stumbling blocks people deal with. If you’re not sure how to tell the difference, fear of failure is that doubt monster that says “you’re no good,” “no one will read your books,” or “you really suck at this writing thing.” While fear of success looks something like this:

If I finish a manuscript, then I have to submit it (that means queries, synopses, and rejections). I would bet there are as many writers who fear acceptance from an agent or editor as there are those who don’t submit for fear of the dreaded rejection letters. Any agent will tell you that they only receive a relative few of the submissions they request at conferences.

If I become published, I will have to sell my books, have a social network presence, learn marketing, file taxes, etc., etc. Whether you are traditionally or independently published, you will take on these responsibilities and more. Not everyone is prepared for the business side of writing. In fact, most writers are not. Being a published author is a career—a very challenging and complex career that requires a tremendous amount of time, commitment, and hard work. As the scripture says, “To one who is given much, much is expected.”

As you look at your goals for the coming year—as you contemplate how far you’ve come and ponder the path ahead, ask yourself this question: Is your fear of success holding you back? What will happen if you succeed in achieving your goals? Are you really ready for it? If not, what do you need to do to prepare yourself to meet the challenges head on?

Motivational speaker and financial guru, Harv Ecker says, “People don’t have what they want because they don’t know what they want.” Be clear about what it is you want your life to look like. Enjoy the control you have over your career and the opportunity you have to grow into it at your own pace. Don’t let your fear of success–or failure–drive your decisions.

Unlocked secret:  If you love writing, but aren’t sure you’re ready for that next big step, don’t push forward just because others expect it of you, or you’re feeling the need to keep up with the crowd and prove yourself. Continue learning the craft, growing as a writer, and learn the business side of publishing to see if it’s the kind of career you really want, because it definitely isn’t just about writing good books. And if being a published author has always been your dream, don’t let anything stand in your way—not even your fear of success. This is your life—the life you are creating with every choice you make. Choose consciously.

What about you? Are your fears holding you back? Which is it…fear of failure, or fear of success?

2012 – How did I do?

Hello world! J Monkeys here. New Year’s Day is just a few turns of the earth away. Are you a resolution maker? Like Suze said on Thursday, NYR’s often get made and blown in just a handful of days, but what about goals? In the words of Pretty Woman’s Kit De Luca, “You got a goal? Ya gotta have a goal.” And they (you know them, right?) say that goals which are written down are significantly more likely to be accomplished than those that are not.

So, last year, I set some goals for myself. Check ‘em out. Before I announce my 2013 goals, I thought I’d see how I measure up for 2012.

1. Publish 6 Books: I’m behind, but not by much. Brook the Fish is complete and available for sale. The final version of DIY Publishing ~ Cheap & Easy will be uploaded to Createspace on 12-31-12. The final version of In the Woods will be uploaded to Createspace on 12-31-12. The next (and likely last) draft of illustrations for Dixie & Taco go to the Beach are available and awaiting my review. The first proof of Street Sign Scavenger Hunt will be ordered on 12-31-12. So that’s five nearly-finished books. I will absolutely have those done, and available for sale by 1-31-13.

When it comes to that 6th book, I’m less sure. The Fearsome Dane (a novella that goes along with my Livingston-Wexford Adventures) is 75% complete or more. My Genealogy Cookbook only wants for photography at this point. And I did create a personal organizer for 2012 which worked out so well that I’m creating one for 2013. The template will be available for sale by the end of January. Oh, and lest I forget, I’m about 1/2 way through the first draft of a new book as well. That’s five done in 13 months, with 4 others solidly in the hopper. Even though I didn’t actually publish 6 books in 2012, I’m happy with my progress and I’m calling it a win.

2. Sell Books: See, now, this was a poorly stated goal. I did sell books in 2012, so I could say that I met it, but I didn’t sell anywhere near as many as I would have liked. I had a marketing plan, I just didn’t follow it. I think that might be where I went wrong. But I sold books and I have better idea of what I need to do in the future so I’m calling it a win.

3. Lose 51 pounds: Sigh. Nope. Didn’t do it. On the flip side, I didn’t gain any weight either. In fact, I’m down 10 pounds from my January 1, 2012 weight. Not a win, but WAY better than 2011. Let’s call this one a draw.

4. Improve my credit score: Wow – sadly I REALLY didn’t make any progress on this one this year. With one thing and another, our credit score probably went down a smidge instead of up. Epic Fail.

5. Scrapbook 5 pages a week: Nope – I didn’t do this one either. But the spirit of it was to do things for myself, things that I like to do. And I have done that. My BFF-from-high-school-who-was-also-my-college-roommate and I have managed to get together for lunch 8 or 9 times this year which is GREAT! I’ve really missed her. Plus, I had not one, but two scrapbooking retreats in 2012 and I’ve taken the odd day for myself here and there. Let’s call that a win.

The total for 2012: 3 Wins, 1 Draw and 1 Fail. Not too shabby.

Today’s Secret: Write well defined goals and don’t forget to go back and see how you measure up. Remember why you wrote the goals that you did. Sometimes even when you don’t meet the stated goal, you might meet the spirit of it. Plus, they are your goals. Cut yourself some slack and take credit for the things you did rather than beat yourself up for those things you didn’t get to yet.

Today’s Question: How did you do with your 2012 goals?

And just for fun: here’s a link to a bit-o-fun for the year to come. Oh Alex…rumored to be Tarzan? I’d SO go see that movie!

2013, Here I Come

Hey, all, Suze here. This is my last post for 2012 and, frankly, I’d like to thank all those people who misinterpreted the Mayan Long Count Calendar.  I’m thrilled to still be here, and I’m glad all of you are too!

So, instead of talking about the Year in Review, I thought I’d talk today about the Year in Preview. I’m not talking about New Year’s Resolutions. Those tend to get shoved under the bed with the dust bunnies around January 10th or so. I’m talking about what I want my life to look like a year from now — here’s what I see. May I say, the view is pretty fine! Not in any particular order of importance:

I’m a published writer! Woohoo! I don’t know what form this will take: indie, digital-first press, or traditional, but you will be able to buy my book(s) before the end of 2013.

I’m in control of my health! I’m consistently making good food choices and exercising regularly. I may even have run that 5K. Catch me if you can!

I’ve finished two WIPs — great stories that have been sitting around and just need a few weeks out of my 52 to see the light of day.

I’ve finished (and sold!) at least one more new novel! 2012 was not exactly a banner year for me in the producing-new-words department. 2013 will see a huge jump in my lifetime word count, putting me closer to that magic 500,000 word mark.

I’ve made many cosmetic updates to my home environment. You know all those little things about your house that bug you and would be easy and inexpensive to fix, but always seem to get put aside? That tiny missing piece of molding? New paint needed in the dining room? Loose knob on one of the kitchen cabinets? That stuff is all taken care of in 2013. Sweet!

I’ve nurtured my relationships and friendships. Because without friends and family, life is pretty bleak.

What does 2013 look like for you?

 

Gearing up for NaNo

I’ve heard about NaNo-WriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for a few years and have never officially participated for one reason or another. But this year, I’m all in. NaNo-WriMo is an organized national event where writers find support and camaraderie in their commitment to write 50,000 words during the month of November. Conceivably, this could mean someone would be able to complete a first draft of a full length novel in thirty days. Just ask our very own Casey Wyatt, who completed a manuscript last year which then became published!

 When broken down into a daily word-count, it means writing about 1660 words per day—a very doable task for determined and self-disciplined writers. For me, that’s about a chapter a day or five to six pages. But one of the reasons I haven’t participated in the past is that…and don’t tell anyone…I don’t write every day. That’s right; sometimes days go by and I haven’t written a word. Life, work, and family might require my undivided attention, or maybe I’m processing my plot, dialogue, or how my next scene will move the story forward. Other days, I may write for six or eight hours, producing as many as twenty pages or two or three chapters. Up until recently, I wasn’t even paying very close attention to my word count. I gave myself a certain number of months to write my first draft and figured out how many pages a week I needed to write, but never felt the need to focus on the actual word count. 

That is until Susannah Hardy challenged the CTRWA members to start doing “sprints” on FaceBook. A sprint is when a bunch of people agree to spend a few hours at night writing their little hearts out to make a predetermined word-count goal. Ironically, the average writer is able to put out a thousand or fifteen hundred words in that period of time. Some more and some less, but the actual goal isn’t important. The sprints (and NaNo-WriMo) are successful because it gets everyone working toward their individual goal and is a way for this isolated work to feel much less lonely. It also holds us accountable to a group of people (nothing like peer pressure or the threat of public humiliation to get the muse musing). A little competition and some recognition for a job well done can’t hurt. Not to mention that you may just write the novel of your heart in a mere month—something that takes some writers a lifetime to accomplish. I figure I have nothing to lose by trying. Even if I don’t finish, I’ll be a heck of a lot further along than if I hadn’t tried.

This is where I’ll be in November

Here’s my challenge to myself. (I’ll share it with all of you since I’m highly motivated by accountability and the threat of public humiliation.) I’ve recently started my new work in progress (WIP), Book Two in The Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy. Since the book is set to finish at about 70,000 words, I figure I’ll get a jump on NaNo-WriMo and try to have 20,000 words written by November 1st so I can plan for the other 50k and finish my first draft in a month. I’ve only managed a sixty-thousand words in six weeks pace one other time and that was when I wrote Savage Cinderella back in 2009. I may still not be able to write every day during November, but I’ll set my weekly goal for 10-12,000 words which is about 30-40 pages a week. That’s a pretty aggressive pace, but with the help and support of my writing family, I’m going to give it my best shot.

How about you? Are you going to participate in NaNo? Do you have a daily word-count goal? Do you write daily or have a weekly page count? I’m curious.