So you think you can guess my pen name?

pennameI love that so many of you are wanting to support my romance writing by reading my books.  Unfortunately,I made a promise to myself and my neighbor,a fellow author.  I’m not revealing it until I have sold 1 million copies.  It’s true and I’m not going back on a pact that’s been sealed with a pinky-swear. That’s just not neighborly. If you’re not a fan of romance novels,you’re not my target market anyway and if you are,then maybe you’ve already read it. But here’s my promise to you..

1- I swear I’m doing everything humanly possible to reach that 1 million sales goal.  I’m pretty sure I can kick my neighbor’s ass,romance sells way more than wizarding world fiction,with the exception of Harry Potter. Wait- did 50 shades sell more than HP?  I don’t even know,I just know my market is bigger.
Continue reading So you think you can guess my pen name?

Tools for Kindle Marketing

Amazon Kindle has their own built-in ad platform,and it’s super effective but since they pay authors 2 months later for sales and they require a $100 commitment,you need to either set very short ad run times or risk that $100 that you might not see back for a while. On the brighter side,you can bid as low as 15 cents per click and I’ve never had a book not sell enough copies to make this effective. So it’s a good thing. Just don’t spend money you don’t have yet since you won’t see those royalties for 2 months or more.

Kindle ROI –this one is a Chrome browser plugin that sits to the left of my address bar.  I use it in conjunction with the KDSpy tool (from the same creators) that shows me how profitable other authors are.  I’ve actually used the KDSpy tool to create a spreadsheet I can use to study the success of authors I find making $10k or more per month.  Watching their marketing habits is one of the reasons I like the Kindle ROI tool because they all seemed to be using the newsletter submission tools while they built their own email lists.  KDROI has 31 email newsletters that you can submit to with just one form.  One thing I wasn’t prepared for when I first started using this was that even though it takes only 15 seconds to fill out the form,you have to go straight away back to your email account to confirm many of the listings.  It’s still easier than hunting down the newsletters and using their submit form and figuring it out alone.  I have since subscribed to the relevant email newsletters and I’m using them to find books and authors whose success I’d like to emulate.

Facebook ads are also effective. Choose your audience wisely,and very narrowly.  There’s no limit to the number of ads you can run at once and you can really learn a lot about your readers by making audiences very specific. For example,if you’re writing horror you can chose to advertise only to members who like Steven King or something.  You can also choose an audience based on age,income,location,favorite TV show…

 

And finally,as always,your OWN Facebook author page should not be overlooked,or your twitter account. Some authors seem to enjoy joining Facebook promotion groups (or maybe those are just fiverr people getting paid to post your link on a bunch of facebook groups) either way,I find these ineffective in the least,annoying as hell at the worst.  Unless you’re writing about writing,the audience for your book is probably NOT a bunch of other writers who are also trying to sell their books,so groups whose sole purpose is self-promotion are really stupid IMHO.

Writing in the middle of life and everything

So life has become super complicated. Suddenly I’m a mom of kids with medical needs in the midst of my own medical needs. My 15 yr old had surgery a couple weeks ago and I just brought my 19 year old home from the hospital,she had pneumonia and sepsis. One day she’s fine and less than 24 hours later we’re in the ER and she’s being transferred to the bigger hospital with the ICU care she needed. And I know there isn’t a “good time”to have a child staying in the hospital but seriously,my car was in the shop so I was spending over $60 a day to get back and forth using Lyft. (Do you hear that,Lyft? I should get a reward or something. No punchcard?)

Anyway,I was able to meet my daily writing goals even while sitting at her bedside. The irony that for so long working outside the home kept me from living the life I needed to and suddenly I’m writing again and can handle (almost) all of the new shit that’s come my way is pretty intense.

My October earnings so far are bigger than the past 3 months combined,so selling fiction seems to be a lucrative business,plus the Workbooks for Writers series I’m working on is also pretty fun.

Anyway,super big thank you to friends and family who have helped with the car repairs and hospital expenses. Super big thank you to everyone who reads fiction on Kindle also,that’s what’s going to get me out of this mess.

<3

Lisa

 

Side note- Geoff Shaw’s Kindling program is amazing.  I’m working through it slowly but surely,there’s a wealth of information there for anyone who is serious about writing fiction professionally.

Back at the keyboard

OK,so my 2 years of job experience has taught me a few things,most prominently that I’m not cut out to be the mom that works 50+ hours outside the house with little chance of building real wealth or independence.

About a month ago,I set off on a vacation with my kids. I knew I was tired,I knew I needed a break and the annual family conference is something we look forward to all year long.  This is the one week a year where I et to visit with my soul sisters,surrounded by our children playing word games,visiting and attending workshops that help us parent in line with our principles. This conference feeds my soul all year long and ever since the first one I attended in 2011,I knew I had found my tribe. I will never miss one.

Except this year. I actually slept through pretty much the entire thing.

My kids were busy shuffling off to hotel room slumber parties with their friends,attending funshops and swimming in the pool.  My girlfriends were happy to chip in and keep them safe,kids travel in packs and there was plenty of help,unlike at home. It was clear that I needed to rest,I couldn’t keep my eyes open.  When it was my turn to supervise the kids by the pool,I could barely stay awake.  I’d sleep,wake up and text my kids,meet them for a meal,visit for a few minutes with friends and then go take a nap. I only made it to one workshop at the conference.

I returned home and jumped right back into work,with a meeting at 7am the day after we returned.  Only I couldn’t stay awake.  I took off another couple days to “recover from the conference”only I didn’t. And I was worried.

Here it is a month later and roughly 12 doctor’s appointments later. I have used up all of my sick pay and aside from an ulcer near my vocal cords,likely caused by reflux. I’ve been diagnosed with GERD but other than that here’s nothing they can find wrong with me.  I still have more tests and my energy level is up a little bit but not exactly like a normal person.  I’ve been put on a very restrictive diet (seriously,no cheese,no fried foods,no citrus fruit,no tomato sauce) and had cameras stuck up my nose,vampire-levels of blood drawn,a chest Xray and other than the GERD all they’ve found was a vitamin D deficiency. Surprise,I live in Seattle. So I’m on a supplement for the D and a restrictive diet for the GERD.

I’m also not going back to work.

The one workshop I attended was from a friend of mine who has been publishing on Kindle. After six months she was making enough that her husband was able to quit his job.  Now she’making more in one year than I’ve ever made in my four best years combined.  Another friend heard her give the same workshop at the last conference and now,after her first year at this she’s going to be making more than I have ever made in my best two years combined.

Writing has ALWAYS been my very best method of earning money.

Writing for Kindle is different than the writing I’ve done in the past. When you’re writing web content,you’re paid once and the material is often used by the purchaser to profit from for the rest of time (presuming it’s evergreen).  But when you write for kindle,you earn royalties for as long as it’s for sale.

  • If they can do it,so can I
  • I’m already a professional writer,now it’s my turn to profit indefinitely from my own work
  • Other people are making money from eBooks I’ve written as a ghost writer and I’m really annoyed that I’m not marketing and profiting from all of that work.
  • If they can do this,so can I

 

I know I spouted off earlier this year (or was it last year) about children’s books and I’ve written several but in order to profit from them I’d have to also have them illustrated. That’s a ridiculously complicated process and I have absolutely no artistic ability to do this myself. I’d have to invest in an artist for every single page. And the end result would be books that live in a genre that only occupies a very small percentage of the book-buyer’s market.

More money is spent on fiction than nonfiction. More money is spent on romance than on any other genre.

So I’m writing romance.

I tried this a little over a year ago and had immediate success,but I got a promotion at work around the same time,backed off and since then Kindle has changed the way they pay authors. My old approach wouldn’t work today. My books need to be longer,they need to look professional and I still need to invest in editing and cover design (still cheaper than a children’s book illustrator).

Writing fiction is harder than I imagined and easier than I imagined.  it’s harder because crafting a tight plot with subplots is complicated. It’s easier because you’re just making things up. Anything can happen at that’s pretty exciting.

It won’t pay off immediately. Like I said before,it took friend A 6 months to feel comfortable supporting her family this way.  I don’t know if the other gal is self-sufficient yet because I don’t know what her family’s expenses are but if I were making what she is making after 1 year I’d be more than stable.

Since it won’t pay off right away,I am still writing web content to make ends meet.  But the best part is that I don’t have to commute,I don’t have to pay for parking,I don’t have to spend 50 hours a week away from my kids and my home.

I’ve opened up a self-employed retirement savings account because I’ve never been employed by anyone who offered this.

I’m 100% confident that I’ve spent my entire life preparing for this.

Finally,I will not share my pen name with you or anyone else until I reach the 500k a year mark (which,by my estimates,should be in 2019*)

I don’t know if I’ll be making enough to purchase my house when my lease expires but I do know that this is the first bit of hopefulness I’ve had that I’ll be able to support myself after that.

*I know that sounds crazy but I actually compiled spreadsheets filled with data about what several other authors are making. Based on their release schedule,the numbers of books they have available and how long they’ve been writing. I was able to determine who to study and who to ignore. the key factors I have identified as being the “markers of success”are aggressive marketing and frequent publication. I’m a fast writer and I can TOTALLY do this.

Right on schedule…

Today I officially published my first actual book. With my name on it.  I can’t even count how many ebooks and physical books I’ve ghost-written over the past few years.  I was always surprised by how much actual work goes into them and watching my work rise on the sales charts with someone else’s name on it was bittersweet.  But whatever.

 

So today I tasked myself with finishing a project I started for a client a few years ago.  He decided he was unable to pay for the rest of the book,so I finished it without him and published it on Kindle today.  It should go live on CreateSpace soon,so readers can order printed copies of this.

 

When I published the romance books,I had someone else do the formatting and layout. This time,I did it myself and Whoa my goodness,what a royal pain that was.  It looks one way on my laptop,another way on my phone,another way on my kindle,another way on the iPad and an entirely different way on the kindle cloud reader.

 

In the end,I gave up.  Literally.  I just said “fuck it”and published.  I’m done.  It’s 5pm,I’m clocking out.  Except I’m not really clocking out,just moving on to the next project.

 

So here it is…Gluten Free Pregnancy

 

For the record,the magic tool that enabled me to get this done so quickly is called Scrivener. I absolutely love it and I already have all of my projects (a gluttonous 12 right now) loaded into Scrivener. When i was watching a tutorial,I saw the funniest tweet about Scrivener and I totally agree with,it said something to the effect of “I want to marry scrivener and have its little organized babies.”Scrivener is insanely organized and so easy to use. If you can sit through tutorial videos,that is. I went through the Scrivener quick-start tutorial and I got as far as step 5D before I gave up. I watched a 2 hour video tutorial (played it in the background while I tended to other tasks) and as I was working,I checked youtube for specific instructions to specific issues I was having. So there’s a learning curve,you can’t just jump right in and feel the magic. But once you do,it’s amazing. I love Scrivener. So much

Buy Scrivener 2 for Mac OS X (Regular Licence)

 

I used a coupon code WINTERFEST2015 to get a 25% discount and you can too. And besides,there’s like a free 30-use trial (not 30 days,30 uses so every time you open it it ticks another one off the count. That’s how they got me. I downloaded it a few months ago and I hate when free trials are on a timer because I wouldn’t have had the chance to actually use it if it had been 30 days counting.

 
Buy Scrivener 2 for Mac OS X (Regular Licence)
 

Today was a success. I’m off of work until Sunday,so I’ve got a little more left in me during this run. Happy Wednesday to you :)

Quick update (Aww who am I kidding,it’s a state-of-my-writing address)

My writing adventures were stalled for a while because I thought life would be better working outside of the home.  For a while,I was right.  Writing from home had become a little bit of a drag for a while because I wondered if I could even make it in a “real”job.  I felt the need to “break up”with my dining room table and surround myself with actual living breathing other people who I didn’t give birth to.  As a divorced mother,I believed that maybe the best way to generate income for my family would be to seek outside employment. Because isn’t that what stay-home moms “have to do”when they get divorced?

Well,there’s good news and bad news;I made it.  I started off as a cashier in a boutique grocery store (think Whole Foods meets Circle K;it’s general store with tons and tons of local delicacies and some housewares and home decor.)  It’s an amazing little store and I feel insanely blessed to be part of the company.  It has everything I wanted in a workplace;it was a startup,which appealed to my sense of creating something bigger,my coworkers are rock stars who work their @$$#s off every single day to provide an awesome experience for the customers.  They care about their work and each other and overall the experience has been phenomenal.

After ten weeks,I was promoted to store manager and I made important changes to the way the company works,changes that have helped the company to grow and we’re now in the process of opening additional locations,the success of which will be directly impacted by my work.  It’s an amazing feeling and I’m incredibly proud of the work I’m doing;creating a marketplace for small food producers and contributing to a company that strives to service the needs of an entire community in a way that’s sustainable and responsible (and utterly adorable;you should see this place).

These days,I find that many of my tasks now are related more to the growth of the company instead of the minutiae of running the store (developing training materials,analyzing data,communicating with vendors…),and that puts me right at home;listening to my kids play,cleaning the house and typing away at my keyboard like in the old days.

I’m missing those old days.  That’s the bad news.  Or is it also good news of a different sort?  I’m missing the control I had over my work schedule;For a while my mother was living here with us and watched the kids while I was away at work.  She’s moving away in a couple weeks and I’m looking into childcare arrangements and I’m not really impressed with my options.  I’m also remembering the days when the kids were able to participate in all sorts of activities,when I was able to sleep in or stay up late and when I could travel easier.

I’m missing the freedom to choose my own income. When I was working from home,it was easy to decide I needed an extra thousand dollars for plane tickets or dance recital costumes.  I remember feeling overwhelmed by my own schedule,and how I kept using a million different tools to keep myself organized,but the experience I’ve had over the past 18 months has really helped me master the process of scheduling my time and I’ve found the perfect tools to keep myself in check.  If you’re wondering what my favorite tool is,it’s Priority Matrix from Appfluence.  Hands down,this is my absolute can’t-live-without-it favorite tool for organizing tasks,projects and keeping track of things I’ve delegated.  I am 100% sure that the rigors of this job would have bogged me down if I hadn’t discovered this tool.  I’m also 100% sure that if I’d been using this tool 4 years ago I would have been so much more productive.

I’m missing the projects I put on the back burner.  When I first started working,my royalties and commissions and ad income from my niche websites in addition to the revenue from web content contracts that I had outsourced were enough to sustain me minimally.  Little by little,without any TLC from me over the past 18 months (OK,maybe 3 years),those revenue streams have been reduced to about 1/3 of what they were when I started.  My niche websites have lost rank,the content isn’t fresh anymore,my forums haven’t been maintained,a few databases have crashed and even my eBook sales have disappeared because I failed to maintain the lead pages.

So basically,for a while,I was benefitting from the 7+ years I had put into my writing career with a great passive income that I took for granted.  Today,with that income reduced to just a fraction of what it was,I’m growing a little tired of my (otherwise awesome) adventure and wanting to bring back my writing business and get back the freedom I had when I was self-employed,while still keeping the awesome connections I’ve made working outside the home and contributing to the growth of this little company I’m completely in love with.  Yes,this is me wanting the best of both worlds.

I first started feeling this way last November when I took a crash course in romance writing.  From November to February,I published five little romance novels and uploaded them to Kindle.  I used a pen name and cranked them out like a madwoman(and no I will probably never reveal that identity). After a while though,the work of managing a store consumed me and I didn’t check it again until June when I realized that I had nearly $800 in my Amazon account just waiting for my payee information to be updated.

That was exciting.  And once I dig up the name of the program I will publish a review of it here.

So my mother is moving away,my childcare is disappearing,I’ve grown weary of the 6am-2pm schedule I’ve created,I’m missing my kids and I’m discovering all of these amazing writing tools (hello Scrivener,you sexy thing)

I think I’m back.

It will take a little while to make sure the company is in an awesome position to move forward with less of physical me,but I am committed.  During that transition,I’ll be weaning myself back into writing.  I have some super exciting projects in the works and thanks to Priority Matrix,I’m simultaneously working on 4 different kindle/ CreateSpace books (each the beginning of a series) training materials for the company,data analysis for the company,social media for the company,inventory management,store management,managing my kids and my home and forcing myself to sleep 6-8 hours a night. (That’s a lie,I don’t actually get that much sleep).

But I’m back. And I’m energized and I’m scheduled and I’m organized.  And I’m writing. Life is awesome.

I'm back,bitches

Be Better At The Grammaring

grammar-mistakes

An excellent resource for editing for clarity

Explaining the Hemingway App without actually copying and pasting from their website would be kind of lame because once you click on it you’ll end up seeing what it’s about anyway. So click on the words Hemingway App above and find out for yourself. It’s pretty awesome. Enjoy.

And Suddenly I Realize I’m an Avoider of Phrases…

suddenly-a-goatI don’t claim to be any kind of awesome writer,and because of this,there are phrases I avoid simply because I don’t like them.  Until I started listening to the Grammar Girl podcasts I wasn’t really interested in knowing the truth. I can’t control what anyone else says or does in their writing so rather than learn the truth I just decide to avoid using terms I’m not sure about.

Until today.

Apparently I’m not the only one who hates “All of a sudden”and its cousin “All of the sudden”because the debate is pretty fierce.

What’s a sudden?

What’s the sudden?

Apparently “all of a sudden”is correct,but if you (like me) can’t stomach saying either,then let’s join together and use the word “suddenly”when it’s necessary. There’s always a different way to say it and with such a hot debate between the two phrases,does it really matter which one you use? Someone will always think you’re wrong.