Looking Back at 2018

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This past year was a productive one for me. I released a poly novella, took three short stories I’d previously released as a novella and turned them into an mm novella. I released an mm novel and a short paranormal mm story with K. Evan Coles. Released an mm solo novel, took two novels and turned them into a single very long mm novel, re-released a mm holiday short story, and wrote an mm YA holiday short story.

Am I tired? Well, yeah. My brain is pretty full these days and the hours I put in are long.

But it’s been an interesting year. Since I began the writing full-time journey in mid-2015, my sales have steadily declined. Some of it was because the market had changed and my divorce took me away from that at a critical time. I needed time to recover emotionally and then I took some more time to take care of myself better physically. But even once I got back to writing, it wasn’t working anymore. I had missed so much and I felt like I could never get back on track.

Book releases were flat and disappointing. Nowhere near where they’d been before and not even close to allowing me enough to move out of my parents’ house. I’ve been here for three years now, far longer than I thought I’d be. Several times I’ve reached a point where I seriously considered throwing in the towel and finding a new career. Nothing I tried was working.

I got progressively more and more frustrated until about August. I knew I wasn’t as organized and focused as I needed to be. I complained to someone I was dating at the time and he said, “I can help.” His career requires him to manage a ton of projects with shifting deadlines and multiple stages of work–pretty applicable to being an author.

So we sat down and he helped me create a paper calendar with color-coded sticky notes that’s infinitely flexible. I organized current projects and also laid out a plan for which books to tackle next. It’s glorious. And as I moved forward with that, I stopped feeling like I was flailing around with no focus. I had a plan and a way to achieve it.

I decided that this was it. My final shot to see if I could make a living at writing.

I wasn’t thrilled about putting books in Kindle Unlimited. I’ve never loved the idea of being exclusive to Amazon, even if it’s only a 90 day period, but I had to decide which I felt more strongly about. I could live with putting books in KU. I couldn’t live with giving up on my career.

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So I did a shitload of research and threw everything at the wall to figure out what worked. Since September, I’ve put five books in Kindle Unlimited, organized two PW giveaways to build up the following for my newsletter with K. Evan Coles, started experimenting with BookBub and Amazon ads, ran a Kindle Countdown Deal promo, took part in a ridiculous amount of Facebook events and group takeovers, and generally pushed myself as hard as I possibly could without burning out.

Some of it fizzled, but you know what? Overall, it worked. Sales have dramatically increased since September.

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Now, it’s all relative. It’s still a fraction of what I made working for a hospital in a relatively low paying job. I’m still wildly below the poverty line. But it gives me hope.

I finally, finally–for the first time since I quit that hospital job–feel like I’m on the right track again. It gives me hope that as long as I keep writing and releasing books on a regular basis (I have a plan for that!) and trying new things, I have a chance of getting there.

Being a full-time author is a fucking hard job. I’m not going to sugarcoat it in any way. The hours are long, the amount of time I spend working and thinking about what I need to be working on are ridiculous.

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That meme is painfully accurate.

But I love what I do and I’m going to fight to keep doing it. I love creating characters and stories and making them come alive. I love the feedback from readers and the connections I make with them through my books. I love that I have the opportunity to keep trying to support myself. It’s an amazing feeling to check my dashboard and see that I am reaching more readers. My books are finding their way to more people. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.

So I want to thank all of you who helped me get there. K. Evan Coles, my co-author, has done so much to help me. Enough I could write an entire post about, but there isn’t time for that. So I’ll just say I’m deeply grateful for her. I’m thankful for my parents allowing me to live with them rent-free while I struggle at this. I’m thankful for all my friends who let me vent. For the bloggers and reviewers and organizers and every single person who shared my book releases and helped me do this. I appreciate my beta readers and my editors. And I appreciate you readers. Because your joy in my stories is what keeps me going.

I’m ending a very tough year on a high note and a lot of hope.

I don’t know what next year is going to bring and I know I have a shitload of work ahead of me. But I have a plan and a renewed sense of determination that 2019 will be better than 2018.

And I can work with that.

 

Doc Brodie and the Big Thank You

In the past few months, I’ve thought a lot about where I’m going with my writing career and if I’m really cut out to be a full-time author.

Sales for “Connection” were subpar (my own fault for not promoting it adequately). Sales for “Trust” were better (but being the second book in a series I hadn’t promoted enough made them less than stellar). Sales of my backlist were solid; enough to pay the bills while I’m living with my parents, but certainly not enough to pay rent if I moved out.

When road blocks hit as I was writing “Push & Pull” (the second in the Midwest series) I began to panic. What if I’d been fooling myself? What if I wasn’t cut out to be a writer at all? With depressing thoughts of having to get at least a part-time job again whirling in my head, I gave myself an ultimatum. If my next two releases didn’t do well, I’d look for the part-time job. In the meantime, I’d stop panicking about the fact that I’m only a few months away from having lived with my parents for a year. My goal was six months.

I threw myself into getting print books out and writing “Doc Brodie”. I contacted Rachel Maybury of Signal Boost Promotions and planned a Book Blitz and Review Tour to get the word out to new blogs and readers. After a minor panic when the first two days of sales for “Doc Brodie” were sub-par, a kind word from a fellow author prompted me to take a look at my pricing. I realized that based on the length of the novella, I’d set my price too high. I adjusted that and since then, the book has been flying off the (metaphorical) shelves!

Sometimes it’s hard to know what exactly leads to good sales. The time of year, the type of book, what else is going on in the world, along with a host of other factors can greatly influence sales. In general, the summer is a good time for shorter, lighter reads so I think that certainly helped with Doc Brodie sales. I wish I could say that it was because it was such an amazing book, but I know book quality is not always correlated to sales numbers. I am certainly proud of “Doc Brodie” and I never put out anything but my best effort, but I know I still have a lot to learn.  Unfortunately, I know very talented authors whose books don’t sell well.

In the two-and-a-half years since I published my first short story, the biggest thing I’ve learned is that marketing makes a big difference. In the list of people I want to thank for Doc Brodie’s success, Rachel Maybury is definitely one of them. I can’t recommend her highly enough. Her fee was reasonable, she was timely in responding to questions, and I feel she more than delivered what she promised. While it’s difficult to say exactly how much her marketing contributed to the book’s success, I honestly believe it played a substantial part in the fact that Doc Brodie sold more copies in the first month than any previous book I’ve released!

The book’s success puts me in a solid place to focus on “Push & Pull” (with a tentative September release) and I am hopeful that as long as that goes well I will be able to move out sometime this fall. *crosses fingers*

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This blog post is my very long-winded way of saying thank you to all of the people who helped with the book. In addition to Rachel, I’d like to thank Allison Hickman and Helena Stone for their beta work, Sally Hopkinson for her editing, Jessica Stuhr Kurvers and Amy Keating Casey for the proofreading help, and the handful of pre-release reviewers from my private Facebook group. And of course, huge thanks to the bloggers and readers who reviewed and spread the word about the story. Much love and appreciation to all of you. I simply cannot thank you enough. ❤