Last week I had coffee with a woman who has read my book, The Summer of Annah, and she asked me ‘Why do you write?’
I almost blurted out ‘Because I like writing!’ However, I then took a moment to sip my coffee and pondered the question.
Here’s what I told her. I write because I love to create new worlds.
My companion seemed satisfied. We finished our visit and went our separate ways. During the drive home, I thought over her question and almost called her to add to my answer. This is what I would have said:
I write because I see the world differently than most people. In my day-to-day living I taste, drink, smell, and touch potential stories. Everything that happens to me, or around me, is fodder for my imagination.
I write because it is who I am within the depths of my soul. In my past life I was the person sitting in the glow cast by the fire, weaving stories for the other tribe members.
I write because it’s in my blood. As a young child I told stories to my classmates (much to the annoyance of the sisters at St. Francis of Assisi). Out on the playground, you would have found me surrounded by other children as I entertained them with magical tales. My words would take them flying.
I write because it is who I am and I am unique. No one else has my voice, my mind, my vision–my stories. I’m passionate about the characters I bring to life. There are days when I would love to drive to Copedale and share a Boston cream doughnut with Annah. Or, chat with Isabella about Under the Tuscan Sun.
I write because it’s a grand high when a reader tells me she stayed up all night because she had to finish my book.
I write because it’s what I do. It’s who I am. What about you? Why do you write? Why do you read? Share your thoughts in the comments section. I’d love to hear from you.
Why my doctor would recommend I stop eating it is beyond me. Without a daily hit of Ben and Jerry, The Summer of Annah would have never been published. My recommendation for aspiring indie-publishers–stock up!
#2: A thick skin is a must.
Everybody and her sister are going to make comments about your work. If you’re lucky enough to have a publisher buffeting the world, rock on. But for those of us who publish indie, we wear a large target on our backs. And while you’re growing that skin, learn how to roar. Because you’ll need that talent for number 3.
#3: If you roar loud enough, some one will hear you.
How else will the world know you’ve published a book? Over 10,000 books are uploaded to to the big three: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iBooks, each day. (This is on a global scale but I’m still not convinced the data is correct. However, I do know that in 2014 Claude Nouget estimated that a book was uploaded to Amazon, every five minutes, 24/7.) Regardless of the numbers, there’s a whole bunch of books out there. Roar, baby, roar!
#4: Develop a marketing plan BEFORE you publish your book.
You wouldn’t go to Disney World without a plan, so don’t published your book without a plan. Know ahead of time what you’re going to do and when. Nail that sucker down to the last minute and be prepared with contingency plans when things don’t work out, because, they won’t. See #1.
#5: Tweet your ass off!
Twitter is a great way to develop an author platform. But, and this is a big BUT, make sure you’re tweets are relevant. Tweeting about your cat barfing on your comforter has nothing to do with your book, unless the book is about locations where cats prefer to barf, then, well you get the idea.
#6: Dive in. The Facebook waters may be shark infested and full of the remains of despairing authors but at least you won’t be alone.
An author page on Facebook is a must for every aspiring indie author. Why? Well, how else will you pass the time while your waiting for your book to sell?
#7: Invest money. And when you think you’ve spent enough, borrow some and invest more.
To date, my debut novel has cost me… a lot! Let’s see, there was editing, cover art, formatting, marketing, more marketing, a website, web hosting for the website, more marketing, triage for when the reviews stopped, requests for reviews, book purchases to send to reviewers, postage costs, ice cream, wine, larger clothes. The list just keeps growing. I recommend a second, third, or perhaps fourth job to help pay for your book. And the ice cream. And the wine. And the larger clothes.
#8: Find a good therapist.
Either Jack Daniels will do or someone with a degree who can help you figure out why you wanted to self-publish in the first place.
#9: Ignore the hordes of other authors pumping out books.
You’ll be one of millions but your book is yours. It’s unique because you wrote it. Cheer for the other authors and bless their success but stay focused on what you’ve written. Unless you’re getting trampled by the other authors. Then, I suggest revisiting lessons #1 and #9.
#10: Be true to your calling.
Writing isn’t for everyone. It takes courage to put that pen to paper, or key the letters into a computer. Courage and tenacity. When the voices in your head refuse to speak to you, it takes a gentle hand to get them to play along. If you want to write and publish your book, stick with it. But remember, when in doubt, follow rule #1.
My marketing plan for my self-published book, the contemporary women’s fiction The Summer of Annah: A Midsummer’s Wish (shameless plug) continues to be a raving success. At least I think it is. I’m ticking items off my list and spending money like a drunken fool, so it has to be.
The newest task was to schedule a Goodreads giveaway for four books. Another item I can check off. The promotion opened last night, July 15, 2016, and closes on July 31, 2016.
So far, as of 2:07, EST, on July 15, 83 people have entered. Get in there while the getting is good. Click on this link and register for your autographed copy of The Summer of Annah: A Midsummer’s Wish (another shameless plug).
What’s next on the list? Hmm, let’s see. Contact local newspaper – check; contact the Boston Globe – check; contact independent bookstores – check. (The Summer of Annah is now in three stores in Massachusetts: Willow Books in Acton, Bookends in Winchester, and Wicked Good Books in Salem. Happy Dance time.)
So what’s next on the list for my women’s fiction, The Summer of Annah? (Yup. Another shameless, beating you over the head, plug.) Oh, yes, argh!!!!! Learn how hashtags can help me market my contemporary fiction novel.
This is what I’ve learned so far. A hashtag, #, before a word or string of words, can link my posts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to all sorts of locations. In other words, I’ll be one person floating in the wide-open sea, hoping someone will find me, or rather, my book.
To make matters more interesting, millions of other people will be floating in the same sea. Kind of like Where’s Waldo without the striped hat.
However, if done correctly, according to the sources I read, hashtags can be a powerful marketing tool to help give me, the self-published author, recognizably. Or, as I like to say, findability, which is a whole different topic for another blog post.
Before I go nap, let me leave you with this final thought: Enter my Goodreads giveaway for an autographed paperback copy of The Summer of Annah (Plugs galore in this post.) AND buy a copy of the ebook to help support a struggling, self-published author who wrote a magical story and isn’t afraid to throw shameless plugs into her blog post. (Correct. That was, in truth, two thoughts.)
I’m a self-published romance author. To be exact, I’ve published my novel, The Summer of Annah: A Midsummer’s Wish, a contemporary women’s fiction. I’m in the similar sub-genre as Nicholas Sparks (although not as successful), which, interestingly enough, brings me to the topic of this post–how should I measure my success as an author?
How does a person measure success? Money? Fame? Glowing accolades? Affording a new boob job? Having Ben and Jerry name an ice cream after them? Hmm, how about Sexy Shortbread Author or Tinthia Toffee Nutty Swirl? I’ll have my marketing manager work on that as soon as she figures out how to market my book. (Don’t rush me, I’m still trying to figure out how to market your damn book.) Sigh, the voices in my head are starting to annoy me. Where was I? Oh yes, success. There isn’t a yardstick that a person can use to determine success. It would be great if there was. I could say, ‘Yup, I’ve reached success. See here. I’m at this little bold line. Sure thing. I’m successful!’ And success isn’t a one-shot occurrence. A person will have many successes and, sadly, many failures, in her (or his) lifetime. For simplicity sake, however, I’m focusing on my success as a debut author.
Allow me to reword my original question: How will I, a newly published author of contemporary women’s fiction, determine when I’ve reached success with my debut novel, The Summer of Annah? My son posed this question to me just the other day. I almost blurted out, ‘When I’ve sold a million copies!’ But then reality took hold, I paused, allowed his question to register, and pondered it a while. How will I gauge my success? What will be my yardstick?
While contemplating his question I thought about birds and flowers. Here on the Concord River I have an abundance of both and I often draw wisdom from watching how Mother Nature uses them for her own success. So, as I sat and considered my son’s question, I thought about a robin’s nest I found this past spring. Like all birds, American robins will lay more eggs than can survive. It’s just one of the many laws Mama Nature set in motion eons ago. (Stay with me, I’ll get back to books in a moment.)
This particular nest contained four eggs. A few weeks later, by the time they were ready to hatch, only one egg remained. Two eggs had been eaten by a pair of grackles and, sadly, one resembled Humpty Dumpty. Not even the king’s men could have helped it. The parents were left with one egg, resulting in one fledgling. Were they successful? Think about it for a second. Seventy-five percent of their progeny died!
However, as far as Mother Nature was concerned, the parents were successful. Evolution granted them a large clutch to allow other animals to continue their own survival while allowing the robins to continue their genetic line. Get it? It’s a number game.
Now, let’s consider plants.
A single dandelion can produce over a thousand seeds in a growing season with each flower generating close to 200 seeds. If even one tenth of the seeds germinate, that translates into loads of dandelions, which will probably find their way onto my lawn however, that’s another story for another blog. Back to success. Even if one dandelion plant produces two additional plants, that’s success in Ma Nature’s eyes.
Most sunflowers will generate up to 2000 seeds from a single flower! Again, if a one sunflower plant results in two additional sunflower plants producing their own seeds, success has been achieved. Have I lost you? No? Good, because not it’s time to come back to the whole reason for this post–measuring my success as an author.
My book, The Summer of Annah, which is available on Amazon in ebook and paperback, (Granted, that was a shameless plug but since I’m paying for the web hosting of this blog and this is my blog, I can damn well plug anything I want. This blog post is full of shameless plugs.) is, as already mentioned, on Amazon, the largest virtual book warehouse in the world, possibly even the universe.
Placing The Summer of Annah on Amazon‘s virtual bookshelves is similar to scattering thousands, no, tens of thousands of seeds into the wind. How many do I need to germinate to represent success? Well, if one person buys my book, that could be construed as success. Correct? Does the reader who purchased my book have to enjoy it? Well, dah! So, my success will not only be measured by someone buying my book but actually enjoying the story I wove. Okay, how about leaving a review? Does the person have to leave a positive review on Amazon before I’ll admit to myself that I’m a success? Yes… No… Perhaps…Wait, most people don’t write reviews. The reader could still enjoy my story, so… no. Then how will I know she enjoyed the story without the review. So… yes. Emphatically, yes! The reader must buy the book, enjoy the story, AND leave a review.
According to Amazon, six people purchased my book and they’ve left great reviews.
Therefore, more than one person has purchased my book, enjoyed the story, AND left a review. Translation–I’m a success. Hooo Yeah, time for a happy dance.
Then I thought about it some more and came to a different conclusion.
When I saw my son later that day I told him all I needed to be a successful author was to write a story as best as I could. If my readers like the story and leave reviews, that would be gravy on the mashed potatoes of life (or ice cream on the cake). “I’m 60 and I want to start a career as a storyteller. I may not be as successful, financially speaking, as Nicholas Sparks, or as popular as Nora Roberts, but if I write true to my heart, I’m a success.” (By now my son’s eyes glazed-over and he was probably thinking about his next snack.)
In closing, The Summer of Annah is my first book. Oh, I’ll grow as an author. (Goddess willing I have enough years left in me to remember the difference between a dangling participle and modifier.). For now, though, I’ve written the best I had within me.
I want to thank those of you who have journeyed to Copedale, New Hampshire, to share the love story of Annah and Eric. Thank you to the readers who have left reviews on Amazon. In addition, thank you to my future readers, whoever you are, for taking a chance on a debut author of women’s fiction. Youare my yardsticks to the success of my journey into storytelling.
The Romance Writers Association New England Chapter’s conference is over. All the writers have withdrawn into their collective corners to sort through the networking names they collected, write down the ideas they acquired, and, as in my case, shake their heads about their literary agent appointment and wonder, WTF!
The appointment was seven minutes in length. I prepared myself by admitting it could either be the shortest seven minutes of my life or, to date, the longest seven minutes. It fell somewhere in-between.
Although the agent was a lovely young women (young being the operative word) she proceeded to tell me there wasn’t a market for romance novels with older heroines. Really? Well, bull-oney!
Let’s go over some facts. According to the U.S. Census, between 2000 and 2010, 45 to 64 years old grew in number from 31.5 percent to 81.5 million. Since women make up over 50% of that population, that means there’s, hmmm, let me see, carry the two, move the decimal, oh geez, there’s a whole lot of woman who need older heroines!
Even young girls need older heroines. How else will they learn about strong women who can stand on their own two feet, survive and prosper–and still have hot sex?
Spread the word. It’s time to take back romance novels and show those youngun’s a thing or two about being a heroine. We own it!
Join my poll on my Facebook page. Choose and be counted. Do you want older heroines or young, inexperienced, moody, emotional, pouty heroines?