Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Who told you to Quick your F-ing Day Job? An Author's Journey

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything for my blog, so I figured I’d take another look at what has to be the information searched for most often by aspiring authors. Because really, when you’ve got your book all polished up and you’ve made sure to get the beta reads, ship it off to an editor, revise, rewrite, get it edited again, then lovingly pass it on to ‘The Gatekeepers’, you expect something to happen. So you wait.

And get rejected. Almost guaranteed, your first time you get rejected. You’ve got a better chance of winning the lottery than getting picked up by one of the BIG 6—or is it 5 now? So while you’re waiting on them, go pick out your numbers and really, don’t bother doing anything else because either you’re hitting the best seller’s list by the end of the week or climbing in a limo to accept that big assed check!

Wait, what??? Didn’t happen?

Okay. Give up. It’s hopeless. There’s really no point to trying anymore because there’s nothing between being a number one bestseller and starving on the street while scribbling your stories on paper you salvaged from the high school trash can. “I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you . . .” Come on! You know the song right? ;)

All right, time for a great big reality check. One of my series makes me enough to support myself and my kids as a single mother. I’ve made a career of my writing and I’m damn proud of where I’m at. But my first book? Well, some months I barely get enough for you and me, me and you, to grab a coffee and donuts at Timmies.

But wait, I’m a success story, aren’t I? A rarity, a breakout, a bestseller!

Umm…no. I’m a self-published author that scraped her way up over years AFTER spending years trying to get my first baby out there. Still planning to publish THAT book, BTW, but here’s where the whole marketing thing takes over.

I love all my books. From Rosemary Entwined—my coffee money book—to Deadly Captive which has been called a classic in the making (Scared me more than made my head swell! Lol! Hard to top that!) to my beloved Cobras. All my WIP patiently (yeah right) waiting for my attention have pieces of my heart. But sales go up and down as the months go on after a new release and if I’m going to continue with my career I have to prioritize.

Now, readers often ask when the next Cobra book is coming out, but they also ask about the third Deadly Captive book. Deadly Captive is popular enough to rival my earnings from my hockey series if I put that next book out. I enjoy writing dark, so it would make sense for me to delve back into that world.
Except, Deadly Captive is contracted with a publisher. So I only get about 40% of my earnings from them. That aside, there have been many other issues that I won’t address here because I’ve gone there before. The point is, I’m not going to sell my soul, or lower my standards, in how I expect to be treated as an author, by focusing on that book right now. No matter how much money it could make me. I’ve even stated that at some point, if I can’t get my rights back and I have the time, I will write the book and give it away.

This ain’t telling you too much about how you’re gonna make it though, right? How about this. You’ve got this book you’re so proud of. You put it out there. It sells 3 copies in a month. Depressing? Well, put out another one. Yes! Now you’ve gone up to 6 copies a month! Time to quit your job!

Ah…yeah. No. BUT what I can tell you is that as you keep putting books out, as you keep using social media and finding ways to connect with readers and other authors, those numbers will go up. Read everything you can find, and I don’t mean just books—though I can’t stress that enough. Read blogs, read FB posts by authors who don’t come across like car salesmen/women, find betas who will BE HONEST with you. If they always love everything there’s something wrong. I beta read for Cherise Sinclair. The first time I chatted with her online I got all giggly and told the man, my dad, my kids, and anyone who would listen that ‘OMG! Cherise Sinclair answered my letter!’

Ask her. I’m one of her toughest crits!

Do I believe each and every aspiring author out there will make it big? No. This line of work is no different from pro sports, acting, singing, and all those other things you can’t just go to school for and do well. The thing is, in this new world with so many different ways to reach your readers without worrying about gatekeepers, you WILL get that book you love so much into someone’s hands. If you continue to write, to improve, to work your ass off, doing the thing that didn’t make you a goddamn cent last year will start bringing in some money.

Stop and think about that. What does that money mean?

Umm, no. Stop trying to quit your job! Suck it up chuckles, and yes, they want fries with that. :P
The money means your baby is now a product. With value. We can get into the whole issue of hanging onto your baby and stalking all the readers who bought it some other time, but for now, I’m going to tell you what your next step will be…

Write another book. Yes, I’m repeating myself, but this is the end all. That first book might take off quickly, or, like me, you’ll have to get four or five books out to start getting noticed. Crazy, but some people still don’t know who I am! ;)

I would suggest that series are probably the easiest way to move into being a career author, but at the same time that series would have to resonate with enough readers. So I think it’s a good idea to explore all those shiny ideas your muse is flashing around for you. Try to publish a new book every 3-4 months (I’ve started breaking this rule, but my books are long!). Talk to your readers—or potential readers regularly. And no, don’t follow them around like a salivating dog looking for attention, posting on the walls and PMing them with ‘Buy my book? Don’t you wanna buy my book?’

Be YOU. Who you are with your friends, the person everyone wants to get to know. I’ve checked out a lot more books from people I could have intelligent conversations with than with people who spam my walls. I’m not saying don’t talk about your book ever, but if you’re gonna bring it up, make it interesting! Give me a picture and a bit of a scene. Share your excitement over an award or your word count. Yeah, the last one may seem weird, but I’ve never gotten annoyed over posts like that. My readers encourage me when I’m running a writing marathon. Call me fucking idealistic, but I truly believe most people feel good supporting others.

For the book itself, don’t aim to be one of the flukes. A shitty book that sold thousands or millions (not naming names here, could be a lot of books! <g>) because that’s the flavor people wanted at the time. Here’s the funny thing about how book sales works. One person picks up the book and finds something that snatches them out of a long boring day. Made them laugh or smile. They tell more people and on and on. Doesn’t mean the book is gold or that the author is better than you. Doesn’t mean the book is necessarily crap either. But it could seem like crap to you and that’s okay. Because you’re not worrying about being THAT author.

You’re writing your goddamn book! And the next one, and—who said stop?

Ready to give up? You sure, because if you don’t fucking love (sorry, one of my characters swears a lot, trying to keep the rhythm!) what you’re doing, you won’t be in this long enough to get where you wanna be. If you don’t bleed for your work at some point, you will be forgotten even if you DO make it. Not making much money is MUCH worse than being forgettable.

But passion? Passion is addictive. If you feel that, if you can drive that, then your name will be the one readers mention to their friends. Your book sales will mount and . . .

Yes. Now you can quit your day job!

So, while you’re doing all your homework reading and learning and taking steps towards the part of your future that YOU can control, I want you to keep one thing in mind. You will hear all kinds of different advice. You may be told adding sex to your stories will get you more sales.

The truth? No. It won’t. You may get lucky, but there are a long more struggling authors out there that tried that angle then there are on the bestseller list. If you like writing wet wild monkey sex, go for it. Have fun! But don’t expect the book to get you any further than if you wrote any other book. If whoring yourself out would make you rich, the street corners would be a bit more crowded. And I'd be out there because making money doing something I love anyway?
Just kiddin'. I wouldn't sell my body. I mean, lots of hot guys are broke, so I'd just give it away. I'm more of a slut than a whore! :P

But away from the slut shaming--I'm a proud wanna-be slut, thank you very much--this business is pretty straightforward. From your mind, to your fingers, to the virtual shelves. Then it’s out of your control. You can do your best to make sure you’re not invisible, but you cannot decide what will be the flavor of the week.

All you can do is offer up another scoop. And remember that readers are hungry for new books, for an author who will give them a story they can dive into and not want to surface for hours.

I know I do!

Questions and comments are welcome. As well as suggestions from other authors. I’ll pop in when I have a chance and answer anything directed to me. Or just because it’s my blog and I love reading comments! Lol!