July 27, 2014

The day job

For the past month I've been freelancing in advertising. Years ago I tried to make a career in advertising when I didn't know how to do what I really wanted to do, which is write. Now I do it to pay the bills. I can say this freely and unabashedly without losing a potential gig because the people who hire me already know this. They knew it before I did.

Freelancing has been a wonderful tool as I navigate through this current chapter of life -- the one about becoming a full-time author. Advertising has been the bane of my existence and the blessing. I don't love the industry, and often question the moral and ethical aspects of it, but I've been doing it a long time and do my job pretty well -- and there is always work. This last opportunity came up when I was in the middle of my first draft for the third book. At first I wasn't going to take the gig because I've been struggling with my writing (third person is a challenge for me), but seeing the dollar sign got the wheels spinning. Money does have a sorta magical zing to it, doesn't it?

Here's my mantra with regards to money and cultivating my creative life: 1) The more money I make, the less time I spend in advertising and 2) The less money I spend, the less time I spend in advertising.

The common denomenator?

Pretty obvious, huh?

Spending less time in advertising.

So I took the gig because I wanted the money -- I didn't need the money, which is a blessing in itself (go back to rule #2 if you want to know why I didn't need the money).

The work has been interesting and the people great. I've been chatting with other authors, two who are currently working on their novels, and another who's launching his second this winter. We're everywhere, chilling in the shadows, waiting for our big break so we can quit the day job.

The gig ends in three days and then it's back to full-time writing (some of you may have heard a sigh of jubilation). Since I only had an hour here or an hour there to write, I'm at the point where I'm desperate to get back to it. The job not only provided me with more money to spend less time in advertising, but it reinvigorated my desire to finish this draft. There's something to be said about having the thing you love being removed from your daily routine. I want it back!

And I'm gonna love it and hug it and pet it and squeeze it.

Just like this:

Keep writing. It saves lives.

July 8, 2014

How to do a free ebook promotion

As part of my ongoing book marketing, I decided to giveaway both of my ebooks over the holiday weekend. I used Amazon's KDP Select, which is a wonderful tool for authors. The results were phenomenal: 15, 564 people downloaded my books.

While I didn't make a dime, that's a TON of exposure. I landed the #1 and #2 slots in Kindle's Top 100 Free Books in Post-Apocalyptic, Genetic Engineering and Dystopian. Plus I hit #11 and #27 in overall Kindle's Top 100 Free Books.

Some of you may wonder why I would give away my books -- don't I want to make a living as a writer? Um, hell yes I do. These days, most people are figuring out the constantly changing landscape and new trends, which is why I try out new ways to market my books. After this weekend, I think it's safe to say, people love free stuff. Of course, when I saw the number of downloads rising I started panicking (I always find something to panic about). What if this cuts into my sales? What if nobody ever buys my books ever again? What if I end up on a park bench talking to myself?

I reminded myself: Exposure is better than sales. More exposure eventually leads to more sales. My first goal is getting my work in front of multitudes of people. The money will come.

I've been in the advertising biz long enough to know the best advertising is word of mouth. And 15,564 is a lot of mouths. Even if only 10% actually read my books, that's 1,556 mouths. Hopefully some of them are big. Maybe a few of them know people in the film industry. You just never know. The first day I went back to the regular price I sold 75 ebooks. So I think I'll be okay. No park benches just yet.

I must note that nobody would've known about my free days had I not promoted them on facebook, twitter, google+ and goodreads. But THE most helpful tool was posting free ads on websites to spread the word.

Here are some awesome websites to post free ads for your free ebook days:

These pictures are worth 15,564 giveaways!


Keep writing. It saves lives.

July 1, 2014

Eleven essential things I've learned about writing

I've been writing since I was a little girl. By the time I got to college, I had grand dreams of being like one of those infamous authors who spent time at the Les Deux Magots, sipping wine and writing the next great American novel. Instead I just drank wine. I'd always finish the bottle, but never the first page.

I stunted my growth for decades, too afraid to write and too tortured not to write. Until I was politely shoved off a cliff and landed at the bottom with a broken soul. That's usually how it goes for alcoholics. They rarely see their own ending coming because they're too wasted during the climax.

So I did what any desperate writer who wants to keep living does: I got sober. And I started writing. But more importantly I started finishing things.

Since I enjoy sharing my experience with other writers, I've put together eleven essential things I've learned about writing:
  • Write for yourself. Most people (including loved ones and close friends) suffer from Cranial Rectal Inversion Syndrome, more commonly known as "head up the ass" syndrome. I'm fortunate to have a solid support system (I'm relentless), but not everyone you know will buy your book or give you kudos for writing one. They have lives. Writers are needy. Save your friendships and get a therapist.
  • Write every single day. Even if it's one sentence -- WRITE. The only requirement for being a writer is to actually put sentences together. Don't complicate it. Just shut up and write.
  • Read. Read. Read.
  • Take a class or two and be done. You can make a career out of taking classes on how to write and never get anything finished. Experience is the best teacher.
  • Read a book or two on writing. Beware -- there are hundreds. You only need to read a few. I recommend starting with The Writer's Journey, On Writing and Wired for Story
  • Learn to love making outlines. The painful moments you spend upfront meticulously working out your story beats will save you months (or years) of agony.
  • If you finish a first draft, put it down for a few weeks (or more) before you start the editing process. Editing is where the real writing begins. Edit, edit and edit until you can't stand the sight of that manuscript. Sit on it again, then go back and edit some more.
  • Share your work with people you trust. Also, expect to hate those people when they tell you the truth. But don't worry, you'll get over it and thank them in the end.
  • Find an editor who loves your genre. You'll probably think they're secretly trying to kill you, but they love you in their own special way. Remember that your editor might be brilliant, but if you don't agree with something don't be afraid to stand behind your work. Unless it's about pride, then shut up and make the changes.
  • If you're going the traditional publishing route, you'll need to write a kick-ass query letter. One that sings like what's her name in the Sound of Music. One that will stand out among hundreds of thousands of other query letters. You can find great advice on Query Shark. Warning: Not for the faint at heart. Take that killer query letter and send it out to as many agents and publishing houses as you can. You can join Publisher's Weekly for a small fee to get lists of agents in your genre. Another good resource is Writer's Digest. After you send out your hundreds of queries you'll want to invest in a suit of armor, or if you're a drinker, vodka. Anything to numb the stab of rejection. You'll get plenty.
  • If you're going the Indie route, bless your heart. That's what I did because I wanted to learn about the industry and I wanted control of my work. You'll need to pull together a team of people including the content editor, proofreader, book cover designer and interior designer - both print and ebook versions, a street team to help market your book and pre-readers. You'll also need to reach out to bloggers, podcasters, magazines, newspapers, radio stations, libraries, book stores to help spread the word. Self promoting is a beastly job and requires patience and tenacity. These days, most authors have to self promote, so there's no getting out of it, unless you're Stephen King or Suzanne Collins. The work doesn't stop after you hit "Publish" -- you'll need to stay plugged into the industry and your social networks, as well as keep up with the advertising and book promotions that are working. Or you can just publish it and let it go. It depends on your goals. 
Which one do you think is the most important?

Yeah, it's the one about writing.

Keep writing. It saves lives.