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The Honest Truth

With a title like that, you know this is going to be good. Don’t you? You also know, hopefully, that I’m not going to lie to you. I could, but that wouldn’t help you. Or me. Nope. This post is going to be full of hard lessons, real confessions, and maybe a little bit of pain.

I’m not writing this to complain. Really. I’m not. Because I wouldn’t change a thing. Well, okay. I’d love to win the lottery, be twenty-pounds thinner, three inches taller, and still have my coppery red hair rather than this odd mix of red, brown, and white that I’ve currently got going on. But besides those things, my life is mostly the way I want it. So I’m not writing this for you to feel sorry for me or to throw myself a pity party. I’m writing this because there are things I wish I’d known before I started this publishing journey. No, none of these things would have changed my decision to write or publish. But I would have gone into it all with my eyes open.

Writing is hard work.

Well, duh. I don’t think that was really any big secret. Yes, I have wonderful days when the words simply flow. But there are so many days where that doesn’t happen. With my last book, A Shift in the Water (coming out on September 23, 2014), I had 5,000 word days. Yes. Really. I think I even had an 8,000 word day once. But I had a hell of a lot more days when I managed a paltry 200 words and even those were like pulling a cantaloupe through a cocktail straw. But here’s the deal. Those 5,000 word days? They make the 200 word days totally and completely worth it. You might not feel like that when you’re in the middle of a string of ten of the bad days, but trust me. Once you break through whatever it is that’s blocking you, the memory will fade and you’ll be on top of the world again.

The part of this that I wasn’t exactly prepared for, however, was the part where now that I’m published, people actually expect things from me. No, no one’s holding a gun to my head and forcing me to publish a book every three months, but as I write series books, I’ve come to realize that I do have a bit of responsibility to my fans. I’m asking them to support me in my efforts, so I should make a reasonable effort to do what I’ve told them I would. Write books. Finish story arcs. Publish on a semi-regular schedule. Granted, this is largely a commitment I force upon myself, as my fans are awesome and have only threatened to duct tape me to a chair once in my memory, but still, if you’re going to write series books, especially if you’re going to write them with cliffhangers, you need to have at least a vague plan of when fans can expect the next book.

Writing is only the beginning.

This was something I was woefully unprepared for. I admit, I was naive. I thought that if I wrote a good story, that the rest would be like Field of Dreams. No, I didn’t expect to be a bestseller. I was at least that realistic. But I figured I could sell a few hundred copies in the first six months. Instead, I sold less than fifty and probably half of those were friends and family. Reviews were awesome, and while By the Fates, Freed was my first book, and my writing has vastly improved since then (so much so that I totally re-wrote the book six months ago to fix the writing), my sales were woefully low. I had to figure out how to market myself. I’m still working on that. It’s a continually-evolving machine. The one thing I knew I had to do, though, was continue to write. I started a second book. Then a third. All while trying new things. I gave Goodreads ads a shot. Not overly worth it. I tried Facebook ads. Those were better. I submitted my books to Read and Review groups. Marginal success there. And I kept plugging along.

And here’s where we get to the part that I wish I’d known earlier. If you intend to be a success at this, and get to the point where you’ll make money, you have to continually take on more and more. Oh sure. There are the few lucky ones who write a bestseller their first time out, but for most of us, we’re operating in a sea of hundreds, thousands, million of other authors who can write just as well as we can. It took me about eight months of continually increasing responsibilities before I gave up. No, I didn’t stop writing. Remember that upcoming novel release date? (A Shift in the Water releases September 23, 2014.) But I came to terms with the fact that I couldn’t do it all on my own.

I hired an assistant.

Double down and hope for the best.

When I hired my former-assistant-now-marketing-manager (I kind of gave her a promotion in my head halfway through our relationship because I’m not paying her to mail prizes for me or answer my mail), I looked at the expense and thought, “This might break me. It’s not like my books are profitable yet.” But it didn’t. It made me. It made me a better person. It made me more pleasant to be around because I no longer had to spend hours agonizing over how to coordinate my cover reveal and my book launch. It let me focus on the things I’m good at. Writing. Editing. Launching a new company. In short, it was possibly the single best decision I’ve ever made outside of marrying my husband. Or perhaps the decision that allowed me to meet him because that needed to happen before I could marry him. I’m not a mail-order bride.

Now, I admit that I was pretty damn lucky. I found an assistant/marketing manager I loved. She’s me, but with all the skills I lack. She’s so awesome that when I thought about starting a company for authors that would encompass editing, publishing, marketing, and cover design, there wasn’t anyone else I thought about asking to join me. We’re partners in PageCurl Publishing and Promotion. Hey, I have to do at least a little self-promotion. It’s only responsible, right?

Okay. Back to the brutal honesty.

I’m incredibly lucky. But I’m also incredibly tired.

Let me tell you what a typical evening and weekend are like for me. You see, I work full time. From 8-5, Monday-Friday, I can’t do anything writing or PageCurl related other than a few simple emails or text messages. When I get home from work, I either make or eat dinner (the husband and I do a fair bit of local co-op hot bar or takeout). After that, I sit down with my laptop and get to work. I answer emails. I schedule tweets. I write blog posts (not so much recently, but that’s coming back). I chat with my marketing manager. I spend some time brainstorming on upcoming contests or PageCurl promotions.

It’s usually at least 9:30 at night before I even think about writing. And then I write. I write until 11pm. Every night. Well, except for the nights I’m still working on blog posts or adding a new page to my website. It’s 10pm now and I haven’t written much of anything tonight. I get to bed by 11:30 and then I do it all again.

Weekends are the same way. I wake up and I might go for a run or to the farmers market. Then I come home and write for a few hours. Then it’s on to emails. Blog posts. Facebook tending. Twitter scheduling. Brainstorming. More writing. If I’m lucky, I get to go out to dinner or to a movie or get to have a beer with a friend. And then it’s back to the computer. Up until midnight. Sleep. Back at it again on Sunday.

Would I change things? No. Well, other than that lottery thing. Oh, and I feel like if I’m getting wishes, I’d like for my business partner to win the lottery too. I mean, I’d love World Peace too, but I feel like that’s asking too much. I don’t regret my hard work. I take time for lunch with my husband. We still manage to get out in the garden here and there. When I want to see a movie, I see it. I even get to take the night off and read sometimes. But not often.

And here’s where the life lesson comes in.

Have you seen Fried Green Tomatoes? “I’m older and I have more insurance.” I’ve been feeling like that a lot lately. I’ve been at this for a while. I’m finally at a point in my authoring career where I’m close to making a profit. Not a huge profit, of course, but hell. I’ll take $10. I’ll take $0.01.

Do you want to make a go at it writing and publishing your books? Good for you. I support you. I think more people should take the risk because I think almost everyone has a story inside them that needs to be told. But go into it with your eyes open. Realize that while it’s entirely possible that you’ll be a bestseller right off the bat, you’re probably going to have to work pretty darn hard. Don’t get me wrong. The hard work is SO VERY WORTH IT. I took a huge risk this past week and offered up free review copies of one of my books. Everyone who took one loved it. I teared up when I read the reviews. I’ve found a writing community (several of them actually) that’s unbelievably supportive and encouraging. But all that’s happened in the past three months. It’s been a long slog towards happiness. But I think I’m there. I’m an author. I’m damn proud of it. And I know what I have to do to be successful. I have to work my ass off.

A tiny bit of self-promotion

If you like Paranormal Romance, check out my By the Fates series or my In Blood series.

If you like Erotica, I hope you’ll read In His Silks, a smart and empowering BDSM novel.

And if you’re an author (indie, traditional, or hybrid), I hope you’ll check out PageCurl Publishing and Promotion. We’re a company by authors, for authors. Let us work with you to take the scary out of publishing.

PC3

 

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