August 25, 2017

Will write for money

I've been independently publishing for a while now. In addition to voraciously studying the craft of writing, I've scrutinized every aspect of marketing. I've done the research. And I've done most things right. No, I have, trust me. I've had the best cover designers, killer blurbs, made sure the stories hit all the marks and were well edited, priced my books right, used targeted keywords, bought the best marketing I could afford, did cross promos with other authors, Facebook ads, AMS ads, newsletters, giveaways ... You name it, I did it.

And it worked! I was able to make a living from my book sales.

And then it stopped working. It stopped working hard.

For months, I've been in downward spiral, propping myself up and pretending like everything is okay -- except it's not. It's not okay. My writing career is floundering. I'm struggling to sell books for $3.99 when people are buying $6.00 lattes on a daily basis. 

"Maybe it's time to get a job ..." (actual words spoken to me)

Last time I checked, writing is a job. I work harder now than I did in my twenty four years in advertising (an industry that left me depressed and suicidal). It's not only hours of writing, but there's a ton of marketing and research. It's actually two jobs that take up a lot of time and energy. Ask my friends who rarely see me, even on the weekends, because I'm always working. All the time working.

To supplement my dwindling book income, I took a part-time nanny gig. Now it looks like I might have to get another job to supplement my supplemental job. And this is with thirteen published books, friends. Books that are not terrible. Books my readers love. I have no idea why they don't sell.

Here's the thing, the real struggle isn't financial. My husband won't kick me out on the streets if I don't bring in enough money. The struggle is emotional. I'm sad. I'm angry. I'm bummed. I'm ashamed I can't figure it out. I just want to write books. Let me rephrase that, I want to make a living writing books.

Yeah, I know this sounds whiny, but seriously -- why can't I have both? Write books AND make money. Thousands of authors are doing it quite successfully. I was doing it for a period of time.

I don't know where my writing career will go from here, but I do know -- without an inkling of doubt -- that I'll keep writing. No matter what. 

If you're a struggling author, my heart goes out to you. You're not alone. What helps me is to remember that writing is a gift. And while the world might be indifferent whether I publish another book or not, it matters to me. It matters to the One who bestowed me with the gift of writing. 

As writers, it's our job to keep writing -- no matter what. We don't know who will read our words or what sort of ripples they may make in the world. Maybe we'll make one person less indifferent. Or maybe we'll inspire someone to write their own stories. Or maybe we can show people that reading books is far more fulfilling than coffee. 

Winnie is bummed, too. 

Keep writing. It saves lives.

April 26, 2017

Anxiety is the gateway drug to depression

So ... I've been a bit busy. I'm about to launch my thirteenth book into the world. Consider this a warning to those who are close to me. Post-launch aftershocks are real.

For the last nine months, I've been experimenting with a concept called "Write to Market." Basically, this is selecting a specific trending market and putting out frequent content in hopes to sell tons of books. There's a lot more to it, but that's the gist. At first it was fabulous ... but then the pendulum swung the other way. Now it's just exhausting. Don't get me wrong, it was an incredible experience. I loved writing every single one of those books. I think they're solid, action-packed page-tuners. I wouldn't publish something that wasn't up to snuff. I respect my readers too much to hack it out. I'm just saying they're not literary masterpieces. Child please, I write swashbuckling science fiction. 

Now that I'm finished with my commitments (except for this one last dragon-themed novella that's due in a month), I'm at a crossroads. I don't know what to write next. This is unprecedented for someone as anal retentive as me. I usually know what's happening the next six months out. I'm a planner. A producer of things. Type A. I don't relax or go with the flow. I'm uptight. This might be why I suffer from frequent bouts of depression. 

Anxiety is the gateway drug to depression.

If any of you writers out there suffer from the insanity of being a creative thinker, you're not alone. Writers are experts at concocting mental torture because that's what we do--come up with the worst or best case scenarios. All day long. Add publishing to the mix and, well, it's a recipe for disaster. My sponsor looked at me the other day and said, "I think you get triggered every time you launch a book." I laughed. "You think?" Triggered is code for FUCKING INSANE. I've launched twelve books and it does NOT get easier. 

But I wouldn't change a thing. 

So why on earth would I continue to torture myself on a continual basis?

This is how I explain it ... I've never had babies, but I think it's kind of like that -- you spend months creating your book, the process has been painful and grueling, but incredibly rewarding and amazing. When your book is finally finished, you're ready to "give birth" to the thing. So you launch it into the world. After that happens, you're nuts for a little while. You might even have postpartum depression. Then things taper out and you forget the misery you just went through, you only see the best parts. So you get pregnant again and go through the whole mess all over.

So yeah, it's a form of insanity, but whatever. I can't imagine how much more insane I'd be if I weren't writing. Oh wait, yes I can. I put off writing books until I was in my mid-thirties. Up to that point, I was boozing and using like nobody's business in hopes to stifle the relentless voice in my head that wanted--needed--to be heard. I'm putting this lightly. I was bat shit crazy. Ask my ex-husbands. 

It's a miracle I'm alive today. I owe it to God for pulling me through the fire and not letting me haphazardly throw away the gift He gave to me. The call to write. If you've heard it, I'm telling you now, there's no way around it. So go write something.

Keep writing. It saves lives.