Monday, June 18, 2012

Life is good...a rambling post

There. I said it. Life is ridiculously crazy wonderful.

And guess what?

It’s not just because AMAZING writerly things are happening to me. In fact, I like to think that amazing things are happening to me because I am truly grateful and happy with my life and I have been for a while. I have been married for over 25 years. For many of those 25 years, my husband and I didn’t have time for each other. He took a kid to the soccer game. I took another to basketball. He worked overtime. I went to a teacher's meeting. Even during open house at the kids' school, he met one teacher, while I met another. Our honeymoon was a weekend trip a few miles away. We spent a weekend at Laguna Beach for our 20th anniversary. So, the moment I realized I was making some money writing, I planned a five night trip to Hawaii, just the two of us. Not too long after, I bought our tickets, Amazon invited me to New York to speak at the BEA. So my husband came with me and our vacation was extended. Hawaii and then New York for wine and cheese, cocktails on rooftops, and dinners out. My head is still spinning. So much happening so fast!

Theresa, Sally, and Cathy on Abbey Road
I always feel sort of bad IF I’m the only happy one in the crowd. But screw it. I’m happy and proud of it. It’s not easy to be happy. Even before I sold one book on Amazon, I had decided that enough was enough. Yeah, like many of you, I had some pretty crappy things happen to me when I was growing up. Things I don’t want to talk about. Maybe not ever. Also, like many couples do, my parents divorced. Suddenly my mom had five girls to look after and she'd never held a job…well, maybe during high school. We sold our house on top of the hill, moved to the haunted house down the street, and ate beans. I was paying for my own dentist bills at the age of 14 and I had to get a work permit from high school so I could leave school to waitress. It took years for me to realize that I learned my greatest lessons from the tough times. For instance, I learned forgiveness. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you forget what they did. It just means you choose not to be angry and bitter about it all.

911 Memorial
And obviously...every day is not a stroll through the park. Sure, I still get annoyed at times. But it doesn’t happen often and any agitated feelings are like a blip on a radar screen. Road rage has completely left me. If someone is flipping me off or cursing me from another car, I don’t know it because I keep my eyes on the road. Back in the old days, if someone cut me off I tailed them for a mile or two, making sure they knew I didn’t like what they did. Stupid. I wasted too many precious minutes being angry at drivers who probably had no idea I was angry. My kids have many stories about those days, which is sad. If I could do it all over again, things would be different. My attitude would be different. 

BUT even amidst the bad days, there was always good. I always had my mom and my sisters. All four of my sisters have always been encouraging and supportive. My sister, Cathy, loves to travel and has taken me on many amazing trips. During the two decades when I was writing but not selling, she was reading all of my books, too. She told me to keep writing. She couldn’t understand why I wasn’t selling and my not selling seemed to frustrate her more than it did me. She's read every book I've ever written dozens of times. She combines characters and cuts others completely. She can get a little crazy with her red pen. It took me years to be able to take her criticism without feeling crushed. She has made me uncrushable. Cathy and I love reading self-help books. She follows the books to a tee and I take the stuff I like and leave the rest. She says tomato, I say…you get where I’m going. We are opposites in many ways. She’s way nicer than me. Way nicer than most everyone. She has one kidney and that one kidney produces kidney stones, which worries me because I can’t imagine a life without Cathy in it. Anyhow, one of the self-help books we read talked a lot about affirmation cards. You write down something you want to happen on an index card and carry it with you until it comes true. Cathy always keeps three cards in her purse. She won’t show anyone her cards. If a card produces results, she puts that card away and writes a new one. A few months ago, she gave me a card she had written and carried around for years. If you look at the picture you can see that she wrote the original index card in 2008. That was when I was a double finalist in RWA’s Golden Heart contest. Maybe she felt enough was enough. Time for a card! Anyhow you can see that she changed the year 2008 to 2009 and then she just wrote 2010 over and over and then 2011 and then she really messed with the affirmation card gods when she started scribbling words like “power” and "strength" and "positive" and exclamation points!!! The card had no choice but to work. A few months ago, Cathy gave me the card. I’m going to frame it. I don’t know if I could have continued to write without Cathy pushing me onward with her never-ending support and encouragement.

Being positive and finding the good in most things is easy for me now, but it took practice. I didn’t know learning to be positive, learning to see all the beauty right there in front of me, would take practice. But I know it now. I get it. I’m done complaining. Yeah, not publishing for 19 years was getting old, but a few years before I sold a book, I knew my time would come. I didn’t know when or how, but I knew I wasn’t going to give up until my books were read by complete strangers. Now that my books are being read, it’s just too darn amazing for words. Every single sale is amazing. The Taleist did a survey recently and I believe it showed that most indie authors surveyed average $10,000 a year. Half of those surveyed made $500 a year. For two decades I didn’t make a dime so $500 a year for those 20 years sounds pretty good to me. My favorite part of the survey is that 95% of those surveyed consider themselves to be a success. How cool is that? That’s all that really matters. The meaning of success is different to all, but to me success is being able to look in the mirror and like who you see.

And another thing…I don’t know about you, but every day I read about someone with failing health or worse. All of those clichés that people are tired of hearing are clichés for a reason. LIFE IS SHORT. It’s true. Don’t waste another moment worrying about sales. WRITE. Write better than ever. Focus on the writing and the characters and you just might be the author with the next bestseller.

It could be you. Believe it!

Jared's welcoming party in south sudan
And while you’re at it, practice being aware and grateful for all you DO have. I am grateful every day to have water to drink. I like having access to drinkable water. I can’t imagine living in a country where water isn’t readily available. My nephew is in South Sudan. He’s there helping others because he wants to be there. He’s an amazing human being. All of my nephews and nieces are, but I’m talking about Jared now because I find myself often wondering if Jared has enough water. Where he is living, local court is held under a shade tree. A young boy and girl were doing “things” in a hut and they got caught. Court was held beneath the shade tree and the boy’s family now has to give a cow to the girl’s family. Case settled. Sounds a little steep if you ask me. I asked my nephew in an email if there were lakes and rivers and this is what he wrote back: “No rivers or lakes around here. Hence this is where we are to respond to emergencies from chronic drought and the like. And all the animals are long gone. There's been war in these parts for 30 some odd years so they were all smart enough to run far far away. Just lots of lizards, scorpions, snakes, eagles, vultures, and bats.”  Reading this makes me thirsty.

A few days ago I read a post written by Gordon Kirkland at the WG2E. I don’t know Gordon, but I’m sure thinking about him today. Maybe that's why I decided to write this post. His health isn’t so great and so he’s not going to be writing for a while. He needs a new liver. Livers are not easy to come by, but I sure hope he gets one soon. I don’t want to have to read stories like Gordon’s in order to remember to be grateful. If you have good health, be grateful for it. If you have arms and legs and good sight, be grateful. If you have a roof over your head or wonderful sisters, be grateful.

Sorry for rambling on--a rambling post with random pictures. I really just wanted to say that life is good and this water tastes great!  

Monday, June 11, 2012

My First BEA

Speaking at the KDP Booth
Amazon invited me to the BEA last week and because I told myself I would try everything at least once, I said YES and my husband and I flew to New York to see what the Book Expo of America was all about. Energy and excitement are two words that come to mind as I think back on my week. Thousands of people were walking the aisles, but I didn’t see much of that because CreateSpace and KDP kept me busy. I was lucky enough to talk on a panel at the Upublishu on Sunday with authors CS Marks (hilarious), Brittany Geragotelis (enthusiastic) and Darcie Chan (professional and kind). I was able to meet a lot of the behind-the-scenes people at Amazon and what a treat that was. So welcoming and friendly. So REFRESHING!

Speaking on a panel with Darcie Chan,
CS Marks and Brittany Geragotelis
This was my first opportunity to speak in front of a large group. I would say there were a few hundred people in the audience. It was Sunday morning after all and very early. Thank goodness. I was very shy growing up and so I was apprehensive about speaking on any panel anywhere. I had index cards just in case I froze. In the past, when I attended RWA conferences I would freeze when I came face to face with an editor. Why? Because all of my hopes and dreams felt as if they were riding on that 30 second talk. Ridiculous but true.

My first book signing
At the BEA it was a whole different ballgame. Since self-publishing in March of 2011 I have had full control of every aspect of my writing career…and guess what? I like it. I like it a lot. I have no reason to fear editors and agents or anyone else (I do realize I never had reason to fear them, but it just felt different back then because they were the decision makers, the people who held all the cards). One of the things I am enjoying most about self-publishing is that I don’t have to send queries out every week. I don’t have to open any more rejection letters. No more queries. No more waiting. No more rejections.

I am one happy writer.

Amazon has spoiled me. I tell other writers to be patient with every aspect of self-publishing, but it’s not easy to do. I want to do everything and I want to do it now! After 19 years of queries and months and months of waiting for another rejection, it’s so nice to know that when my book is ready to go, I can release it to the world and let readers decide if they like my book, or not. Not one reader, but hundreds or thousands if I’m lucky. I don’t have to wait for an agent to send my book to twelve publishers and then wait months while those individuals decide if my story meets their requirements.

Wardrobe check before video shoot
Anyhow, back to the BEA, did I mention that a limo picked me up from the airport? Surreal would be putting it mildly. I was asked to hang around the CreateSpace/KDP booth for a few days during the BEA and I’m so glad I did. I was interviewed by Mercy Pilkington at Good Ereaders. I was jet-lagged and pale and I found myself looking up at the Heavens instead of at the interviewer. It’s all a learning experience. Hopefully I’ll be invited to other events so I can practice! I spoke to the Huffington Post and Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Len at Pod Chronicles. The man from Huffington Post didn’t understand why I would sell my Lizzy Gardner Series to Thomas & Mercer when I am making so much money on my own. I told him that I wanted to try everything. I want my books on audio. I want foreign sales and the chance to have my books in a brick and mortar store somewhere in the world. Maybe in an airport someday. I want to give my books a chance to be translated into another language and T&M might be able to do all of that and more. I also told him to talk to me in a year and we’ll see if I am happy with my decision. It’s all experimental.

Talking to Andriana and my husband, Joe, on the
rooftop of Ink 48 Hotel in NY where we stayed

I was asked to give two short talks at the KDP booth and then answer questions and sign a few books. My first book signing! The icing on the cake was a three hour video shoot for Createspace/KDP (see last year’s video) on my last morning in New York: hair, makeup, sound, directors and wardrobe. The toughest question I was asked…the question that made me pause was “If not for Amazon, would you have ever been published?” That’s a tough one, but my answer was and is, “One thing for certain is that I never would have given up.”

Not only did I get to see my son, Jesse, and his girlfriend, Andriana, (they live in Brooklyn) while in New York, I met James Altucher (and his wife Claudia) author of I Was Blind But Now I See. James is a very interesting person and I wish I had had more time to speak with him. James has been on a quest to find the meaning of happiness since the age of six. He is a positive force and I am very excited to have met him (read his blog post).  Meeting Frederick G. Dillen, author of Fool, was another highlight of my trip. He was kind-hearted, super interesting and adventurous. Traveling to New York just to meet Fred would have been enough for me, but I was also lucky enough to meet Alexis Harrington, Vincent Zandri, Blake Crouch, Justin Luke Zirilli, Jim Fusilli, Dan Mayland, Greg Smith, Darcie Chan, Brittany Geragotelis, CS Marks, and many more whose names I never learned!

Getting direction from interviewer
I was invited to speak at a conference in Idaho in November and I met many wonderful people from Audible and ACX. Pam Spector and I tried to connect, but never did. We did wave from across the room. I met Jennifer Bassuk and Anthony Roberts, a really nice guy. 
I also met my editor from Thomas & Mercer, Alan Turkus. What a treat. He’s as nice in person as he is on the phone. I was lucky enough to meet Andrew Bartlett, Libby Johnson McKee, Alison Grand, John Fine, Jennifer Butler, Brittany Turner, Thom Kephart (he looks 19!), Hande Ormen, Whitney Hall, Mia Lipman, Nader Kabbani (a real slacker...Not! Nader is a pianist, a swimmer, a husband and father of four beautiful daughters, and who knows what else he does!), Atif Rafiq, David Symonds, Sean Linehan and Jacque Ben-Zekry. These are only some of the wonderful people I met from Amazon. There were many more, but I’ve only been home for a few days and this is all from memory, which isn’t what it used to be.

A great group from KDP/CreateSpace
Overall, during my time spent at the BEA, I have to say that the opportunities for independent authors, now and in the future, appear to be endless. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

May Update II

BOOKS SOLD as of May 31, 2012: 293,202

*Total(s) are as of May 31, 2012 and do NOT include over 250,000 FREE downloads
(Amazon and B&N combined Sales)
Borrows have NOT been included in total sales

Return of the Rose - Released March 2, 2011 $2.99
Medieval Time Travel Romance

March: 298
April: 894
May: 1,600
June: 1,475
July: 1,291
August: 2,352
September: 1,955
October: 1,527
November: 981
December: 1,074
January: 1,457
February: 1,519
March 2012: 1422
April 2012: 1800 (289 borrows)
May 2012: 944 (178  borrows)
Total: 20,589

A Knight in Central Park- Released March 18, 2011 $.99/$2.99
Medieval Time Travel Romance

March: 247
April: 6,071
May: 4,306
June: 2,414
July: 1,330
August: 9,812
September: 2,088
October: 1,348
November: 876
December: 2,383
January: 2,685
February: 1,485
March 2012: 1,620
April 2012: 1,032
May 2012: 680
Total: 38,377

Taming Mad Max - Released April 25, 2011 $2.99
Contemporary Romance

April: 30
May: 182
June: 265
July: 310
August: 934
September: 1,872
October: 2,125
November: 2,150
December: 1,561 (272 borrows)
January: 4,393 (782 borrows)
February: 1,088 (99 borrows)
March 2012: 1,692 (114 borrows)
April 2012: 872
May 2012: 880
Total: 18,354

Finding Kate Huntley - Released May 5, 2011 $2.99
Romantic Suspense
May: 187
June: 261
July: 325
August: 1,159
September: 3,363
October: 2,089
November: 1,095
December: 4,421 (1,088 borrows)
January: 2,523 (791 borrows)
February: 1,908 (123 borrows)
March 2012: 2,077 (46 borrows)
April 2012: 1,384
May 2012: 945
Total: 21,737

Abducted - Released May 29, 2011 $2.99
Romantic Suspense/Thriller

May: 25
June: 694
July: 1,708
August: 12,917
September: 39,413
October: 18,176
November: 6,645
December: 3,649
January: 2,118
February: 32,500 (5,088 borrows)
March 2012: 18,188 (3,674 borrows)
April 2012: 6,103 (893 borrows)
May 2012: 3,045 (690 borrows)
Total: 145,181

Dead Weight - Released December 22, 2011 $2.99
Romantic Suspense/Thriller

December: 451
January: 1,430
February: 11,385 (325 borrows)
March 2012: 15,836 (1,399 borrows)
April 2012: 6,934 (738 borrows)
May 2012: 3,171 (418 borrows)
Total: 39,207

Having My Baby - Released April 13, 2012 $3.99
Contemporary Romance

April 2012: 3,855 (378 borrows)
May 2012: 5,902 (986 borrows)
Total:   9,757

I leave for New York very soon. I will be speaking on a panel with other writers at the BEA and I can't wait! I will also be meeting many people from teams and consultants and my editor! I will report back when I return.

As you can see, my sales are dipping, but I never worry about that. Besides, I would never complain about having over 15,000 sales in a month! More than anything, I can't wait to get back to writing my latest book. I love writing and connecting with readers and that's all I really want to do.

If you are thinking of self-publishing, go to my LINKS tab above and see what I did to get started. There are also links to the IRI group, 1000+ members who are not only welcoming but also willing to share tips with you!

Self-publishing and being an independent authors is lots of fun and a lot of work, but if you are patient and take one thing at a time, you'll enjoy every step of the ride. Just like writing a book, it can't all be done in one day.

If you are a new writer, remember that learning the craft and writing every day is the most important thing you can do. Your book must be the best it can be. Hire a proofreader at the very least. If you have a great book ready to go, release it to the world and good luck! Stay positive and don't worry about slow sales at first. Say YES to interviews and blogging. Try to get your books reviewed. Send one request to a reviewer every day and eventually someone will agree to review your book. Remember...what works for one author, might not work for another. It's all up to you. Believe in yourself and your books. You can do it!

If you are a READER, thanks for stopping by. Let me know what you would like to see posted!