Tag Archives: success

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.


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?


The Art of Letting Go

Happy Friday everyone! If you have a moment, visit me at my blog where I discuss the 16th president – There May Be Blood, Mr. President.

These past few weeks I’ve been on a scary journey – teaching my youngest son to drive.

Yes, my baby, the Eagle Scout has a learner’s permit. As a parent, there are many fears (some real – kidnapping, some improbable – alien kidnapping) that keep you awake at night. Your child getting their license is probably at the top of the list. Especially the realization that your child will be driving a car.

With you in it.

Now, I went through this process with my older son last summer. He was reluctant to learn and by nature is very cautious. And no big surprise, he drives that way (and I am not complaining!). I’m probably one the few parents who’s told their teen driver, “speed up, you’re driving too slow.”

Not so with younger son. During our first few lessons, in our vast local middle school parking lot, he eagerly mastered steering, braking, and acceleration. I’m not suggesting his attitude is cavalier. He does understand that he’s responsible for wielding the giant hulk of metal and to quote Stan Lee – with great power, comes great responsibility.

He’s not alone in his journey. I’ve had to learn how to let him go – to trust him and the universe (okay – honestly, I trust him more than the universe).

It sure hasn’t been easy. These are my babies!

I also noticed something else. About a week into younger son’s driving lessons I made the comment to him,”Funny, same time last year, when I was teaching Older Brother, I was writing The Undead Space Initiative.” I managed to complete that book in about 6 weeks. The bulk of the writing took place while I was giving driving lessons.

And coincidentally, the same week I started teaching younger son to drive, my word count on my latest WIP skyrocketed to almost 3,000 words a day.

What is up with that?

Upon reflection, I believe I was holding back. I wasn’t “letting go” on the page. Too much caution, too much thinking, dare I say – doubt. I had myself in a mental stranglehold. I had been writing, but it was slow, laborious, and at times, painful (you know, staring at a blank screen taking hours to get down a few hundred words).

For younger son, he’s made mistakes (none so far resulting in damage). I’m fine with that. In fact, I want him to mess up (safely, of course) because nothing teaches better lessons than mistakes!

So here is what I’ve taken away from this experience. If you find that you’re in a rut or just sluggish, give yourself permission to let go. Write crap if you have to, but don’t hold yourself back. Even if you end up chucking it all later, it’s better to try and fail, than never try at all.

And if next year rolls around and I find myself in a slump – who’s got a teenager in need of driving lessons?

What are your tips for “letting go”? And what have you been hanging onto for far too long?

Dad and younger son

Pitch Perfect

Happy Friday everyone! Casey here.

On May 12, 2012, CTRWA (Connecticut Romance Writers) will host their annual Fiction Fest event (for those of you in the area – there’s still time to join us). After much dithering on my part, I decided I would pitch again. This is mostly so my skills won’t get rusty and to motivate me to stay on top of my writing goals for the year.

Here are my tips for pitching to an agent or editor. Full disclosure – this is what has worked for me. Give them a try. It’s better than pulling out your hair or giving yourself an ulcer.

1. I know this is obvious – plan out what you are going to say. I don’t memorize my pitch. Last year I read from my query letters. This doesn’t mean I stared at the paper and barely made eye contact. The trick is to know what is on the paper and loosely follow it along. The editors I pitched to didn’t mind at all (I pitched 4 times and got full/partial requests from every editor).

2. Practice what you are saying. I know I just told you not to memorize a speech. But reading always works better if the words are familiar in your mouth. Say them aloud so you sound convincing when you speak. This is to build your confidence in what you are saying and it will make the pitch easier when the time comes. I have heard repeatedly from A/E’s that they don’t like it anymore than you do if you approach them as a blathering ball of nerves.

3. Do not ramble – see #1. (Please, please, please, do not pepper your pitch with “umms” and “I knows”). Last year, I used my query letter format because a query contains important information like word count, genre and the premise of the novel.

4. Listen to editor or agents questions, then pause before answering. Think, then speak. If you don’t understand the question, ask for clarification.

5. Slow it down and take your time when speaking. When you’re nervous or stressed, it’s natural to speed up your speech so make an effort to slow down.

6. Ask questions. This means you should research, ahead of time, the agency or publisher before you sit down in front of them. Do not waste their time pitching a genre or story they are not interested in.

7. If they make a request (congratulations), write down what they want. Repeat back what they have asked for. Better to be clear now, them send the wrong information later.

8. Smile. Relax. They put their pants on one leg at a time like the rest of us. They want to find the next great story as much as you want to sell it to them.

9.Thank them for their time. Again, obvious, but you’ll probably be elated/nervous and it’s easy to forget. And please, practice a firm handshake. No wet noodle, limp hands.

One final note, because this bears repeating. Jamie did an awesome post about appropriate dress for pitching. Please read it.

At all the conferences I’ve pitched at, the agents and editors have all dressed professionally. So I say take your cue from them. Publishing is a billion dollar industry. Show them you are serious and dress accordingly.

Many times when I write, I am in my pajamas or sweatpants. I would never go to an outside business meeting dressed that way. Or a job interview. I work from home full time, yet I do have an outfit or two I can wear to the office (or funerals or writer’s conferences). Invest in your image. Even if you are indie published, I hope you wouldn’t go to a book signing dressed in pajamas. Respect your industry. Just saying.

Okay. Had to get that off my chest. I’ll stop beating the dead horse now.

Remember – Believe in your book. Believe in yourself. Because if you don’t, no one else will either. Good luck. You can do it.

Who wants to share pitching stories? Successes? Disasters? What words of wisdom can you share for anyone apprehensive about doing it?

Are you ready for success?

Hey Scriberettes, PJ Sharon here, and after exactly one year into my indie-pub journey, I’d like to talk about how I measure success. I’m not talking about sales numbers, earnings, or rankings today. So, what are we talking about?  I suppose to measure success we first have to define it. My little Oxford Dictionary defines success as: The attainment of an aim; or of wealth or status. For some people, attaining wealth or status is very important. For me—not so much. As a matter of fact, the last thing I want is fame and fortune. You might be thinking that my twenty blog tour appearances over the past two months don’t necessarily support that statement. Don’t get me wrong; I like being recognized for my accomplishments, and I’d like to be able to earn a good living off my writing, but what is truly important to me is being able to do something I love to do, and having it make a difference in people’s lives. There is no doubt in my mind that neither money nor fame will ever lead to happiness.

“Attainment of an aim” is more the definition that works for me. In writing the types of young adult novels I write, my aim is to share a message of hope with readers of all ages, but especially teens. In order to do this, I have to find readers, which means I have to put myself out there by whatever means necessary, and let people get to know me. If that means that I gain “fame” as I gain recognition, then I guess I’ll have to deal with that, but honestly, that’s the part that scares me more than failing to accomplish my goals. I’ve heard of people fearing success as much as they fear failure. I totally get that! And it can be just as much of a stumbling block to success. I’ve had enough failures in life to have learned to transform them into learning experiences rather than letting them make me quit trying, but what will I do if I actually succeed in becoming “famous”…eeek!

Someone I hadn’t seen since high school recently contacted me and was so excited to find that my books and my picture were on Amazon. She asked me how it felt to be famous. I said, “hmm…umm…really?” I’m super excited about seeing my books in print and knowing that readers like my stories, but really, it feels like just another job at this point. FYI, I’m currently earning approximately minimum wage as an author, so it’s probably good that making a fortune is not high on my priority list.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ve heard me talk about sales numbers and goals, marketing and promoting, creating production schedules and so forth. I dove into the indie-publishing pool a year ago, knowing nothing about any of these things, and worked hard to learn because I wanted to succeed in two things: Getting my stories in front of readers, and earning a steady income from my writing. As far as the success journey, I’m making strides. But there is always more to do—more readers to reach, more stories to write, and an income potential that makes early retirement achievable if I’m willing to work hard for the long haul. As I continue to focus on those goals, the byproduct is exposure. I want that…don’t I? I’m sure there are lots of writers who think that they do, but once you become published and you have to start promoting not only your books, but yourself as well, the question as to whether you really do want “fame and fortune” will hit you square on the nose.

I’ve heard it said that there is a price to be paid for said “fortune and fame.” It comes with responsibility to your readers, hard work to maintain the status you attain, and the risk of losing sight of your true goal, which for most of us is doing what we are passionate about—writing.  

Writers who are pounding down those agent’s and editor’s doors, or considering the indie-pub route might want to ask themselves if they are ready for success and all that comes with it.

Are you ready? How will you measure success?