Thursday, February 12, 2015

Anniversary Come and Gone

It is funny how life can sometimes get so normal, an anniversary can pass and out of the blue you suddenly remember that just a few years ago, life was very different.

I have been a full-time writer now for two years.  January 4, 2013 was the magical anniversary day, to be exact.  I emptied out my desk in my windowless cubicle and walked out the door of an institution I had called "job" for close to ten years.  That night, there was a party going on, so as I rolled my cart full of old pay stubs and random desk chum, there were literally bands playing and lasers going off.  That day, my publishers had also secured a special promotion for my book, so as I bid my co-workers goodbye, explaining I was off to become a fancy-pants writer, I also found myself saying, "And today there is this sale on my book and it looks like I'm also #4 on all of the books on all of the Amazon."

But much like a wedding, being an author is actually about the life before and the life after.  They say that success is being prepared when opportunity knocks, and I have to say that my journey has been a reflection of that truth - a mixture of dumb luck backed up by the work I put in when nothing is happening.

So, to mark this anniversary, I thought I would share some of the things that worked for me.

I self-published.  I went through five years worth of rejection letters before I made the decision to self-publish, but none of my success would have happened if I had not to taken that chance.  In fact, the moment I made The Decision, I was still waiting for a response from Simon & Schuster for a book they requested nine months earlier.  It's been four years now, and they still haven't gotten back to me.  In that time, that book which never got past their slush pile has sold close to 80,000 copies.

The sites I use to self publish are:

These are all free.  Self-publishing is not like it used to be where you had to buy 1,000 copies of your book and sell them out of the back of your car.  CreateSpace is print on demand, so when someone buys a book, they print a book.  They take a cut for the cost of printing and you get the rest.  Draft2Digital is an aggregator.  You upload your Word document, they convert it into a beautiful ebook, and they list it on all the sites for you, collect the  money, and deposit into your bank account each month.  They charge a small percentage, but it is about the same you would be paying out if you had an agent.  And KDP is Amazon's Kindle publishing site.  You take the beautifully formatted book from Draft2Digital, upload it on KDP, and you're published on Amazon.

It is important to make sure your book is something people will enjoy.  And that means you HAVE to get some other eyes on your project.  I start off with beta readers - they are trusted friends and readers who read through my book and point out plot holes and confusing parts.  In exchange for their time and talents, I beta read for them anytime they ask.  I also recommend grabbing a copy of The Complete Indie Editor.  It is worth EVERY penny.  It has a list of simple search-and-replace suggestions for common errors (its/it's, their/there/they're, that/which, lightening/lightning, etc.)  I then hire proofreaders and editors to go through my books and look for any boo-boos.  Here are some of the people I have used:

The other HUGE part of having a successful book is having an eye catching cover.  Unfortunately in our digital age, your audience will make its decision based upon a thumbnail sized picture, so the artwork you pick will need to be attractive at 3/4" tall.  If you invest any money in your book's success, THIS is where to do it.  Everything hinges on a lovely cover.  Here are the cover artists I have used that are still in business:
But there are are a ton of beautiful cover designers out there.  Here's a list of designers, many who do "pre-made" designs.  

That means the cover is all done, they just insert your title and author name, but it costs shockingly less than a custom design (so if your budget is stretched, take a look at a premade.  Many of them are only $25-$100, as opposed to $100 - $700.)

Cover design has been a place where I have gotten into trouble in the past, so as a word of caution, pay 1/2 up front and 1/2 upon completion, and establish a specific date for delivery ( and make that date several weeks before you actually need it because, with nothing but love in my heart, I have had more than one cover artist flake.) 

Write and release often.  The visibility search engines favor those who release a book every thirty days, but you can streeeeetch it to ninety days before crisis hits.  Now, I know that many are concerned writing at such a pace might have an impact on quality.  I only share this information as a reflection of a cold, hard truth we have no control over.  It is just the way the world works and expectations should be adjusted accordingly.  As a fellow author once remarked, "If you expect to make a full-time wage as a writer, you have to put in full-time hours."

SO how do you write that much?  When I get out of the habit, my attention is usually waning after about twenty minutes. Much like running a marathon, ya gotta train up to it.  What I recommend is using a timer.  This was taught to me by my mom who started using it through a site called The Fly Lady.  The premise is that you can endure almost ANYTHING for fifteen minutes.  So, set a timer for fifteen minutes and then write.  No distractions.  No getting up to do laundry.  No checking your email.  Just write for fifteen minutes.  And then once the timer goes off?  If you're mentally done, get up guilt free.  But if you're having a good time, keep going.  Repeat throughout the day.

Gather together a group of people to keep accountable to.  Over the years, for me, this has taken the form of meeting up with other writers in a place to write, checking in with other writers via email every week, taking part in NaNo.  Let's face it.  If left to my own devices, I will binge watch old episodes of Top Gear all day.  The reality of having to 'fess up to someone that I slacked all week keeps me honest.  Let peer pressure work for you!

The other thing I have started to do is to get more organized so that I'm using my writing time more effectively.  I recommend a book called 2k to 10k.  It teaches you how to go from writing two thousand words a day to ten thousand words a day.  And it works.  You spend a couple of lousy, mind melting days figuring out characters and an outline, but from there on out?  It is a piece of cake!  You just write from point to point and your fingers fly!  I have found if I don't use the 2k to 10k method, I spend months breaking my brain.  So, three lousy days or three lousy months.  It's a choice.
I stay on top of marketing trends.  I recommend The Writers Cafe on  This is a forum of indie authors very generously sharing their experiences.  The atmosphere here shifts, so sometimes it is super helpful, sometimes people are being jerks (much like any forum), so I would say lurk around, take what you can use, leave the rest.  But when something new hits the indie marketing scene, this has been the most reliable resource for information I have found, especially if you are new.  Other helpful blogs you might check out are:  Hugh Howey, A Newbie's Guide to Publishing, The Passive Voice, Dean Wesley Smith, Steel Magnolia Press, Courtney Milan... the list goes on and on.  

But speaking of blogs and awesome people, get to know your peers.  Don't be a jerk.  This is not a zero-sum game.  Shared success breeds success.  So much of the good stuff which has happened to me is because of a gal named SM Reine.  A billion years ago, we came onto each other's radar on kboards.  She then invited me to participate in a group book promotion, which led to massive success for my Maggie book.  Then, she invited me to be a part of a boxed set with darlings Deanna Chase, Dannika Dark, and Jovee Winters which hit the USA Today bestseller list.  The pattern repeated itself with other boxed sets and other wonderful publishers and writers.  But what's great is that I look at the people I do business with now  and I genuinely like them.  They are generous of spirit, they look out for others, and they are not afraid to lend their shoulders for others to stand upon, because they know that person will turn around and lift them up and over, too.  Surround yourself with people like that.  Help them.  They will help you.

And most importantly, write what you love.  Keep in mind that if you are successful, that means you are going to have to write MORE in that world, not that suddenly buckets of money will rain from above and suddenly you'll have the opportunity to write what you really want to write.  No, your time will be gobbled up with demands to stay in that world you never really wanted to be in the first place.  So don't write for exposure, don't write for opportunity, write because it is something you love.  As an author, you get to play pretend all day.  You get to decide what game of make believe you want to be real.  So make it something which brings you joy.

Now get in that sandbox and start building castles!


  1. Happy Anniversary!! I adore you and I'm so damn proud of you. xoxo

  2. You guys are awesome! Thank you! Couldn't have done any of this without you! I MEAN IT!

  3. <3 To many more years of life without cubicle walls!

  4. Having just had my two year anniversary it seems to be an auspicious time for indie authorpreneurs. But as you've noted, it's a full time career. A lot of people start out today and expect to make money overnight. That rarely happens. It takes hard work, an eye for business, and a love for the genre. Congratulations, Kate! *raises glass* Here's to many more years in the biz ;)