2013

Was the year I stopped dreaming and started doing. It was the year I grew up and it was the year I stopped being afraid of fate.

I published my first novel the last day of 2012, a milestone that officially belongs in this year’s review because this was the year I decided to be a writer. A real one. And not because someone else bestowed me with the title or because I earned a bunch of money or accolades validating this fact but because I made it so. Because I made a decision to follow my passion and create my own identity. Because I decided to be brave.

And that’s truly been the greatest lesson I learned this year:How to be brave. It’s not just about facing fears. It’s not just about taking risks. It’s about giving yourself permission to be great.

I hadn’t even realized that I needed permission until I realized that it wasn’t just the fear of failing that had held me back in the past but it was the fear of not. Unfortunately, failure is more than just a possibility for most of us, it’s an expectation. Why? Because when we expect failure we’re allowed to make excuses and we’re allowed to settle for just good enough and we’re allowed to exist within our comfort zone undisturbed. And unfulfilled. I was afraid of failing but even more than that I was afraid of achieving the kind of success I know is meant for me. The same success that’s meant for all of us when we work so tirelessly at something we love.

I published three novels this year and wrote two more but despite all of that hard work I still didn’t reach the kind of success I’d always hoped for. I lived out one of my biggest fears this year. In a lot of ways, I failed and I was…relieved.

But it’s time to stop prolonging my destiny. It’s time to start being brave in ways beyond just declaring myself a writer. It’s time to open up and let people in. It’s time to stop being afraid of the one thing I want more than anything–success. And I don’t just mean the humble spiritual kind that could never be measured in something as material as money. I mean all of it. I want it all and I’m giving myself permission to have it in 2014.

So what’s so special about 2014? Well, first of all, 2013 was all about learning the ropes. I self-published for the first time and along with that comes the adventure of formatting and marketing and cover design and planning blog tours and sending out books for review and well you get it (all of which I plan to discuss here on my blog this month in my new feature “The Indie Experiment”  where I’ll do my best to be as transparent as possible in order for other future/current self-publishers to make better informed decisions). I made a lot of mistakes this past year and had to learn the hard way just how important it is to put yourself out there, lest you be forgotten or even worse (which has been the case for me) never discovered in the first place. Conquering obscurity has definitely been the biggest challenge for me and one I’m still faced with on a daily basis.

To put things in perspective, here are some cold hard facts about my first year as an author. *Takes deep breath* I have sold less than 50 (no, I’m not missing a third zero there) copies of ALL three of my books in the past year. I’m officially in the red by like…a lot. And despite the thousands (yes I said thousands thanks to a successful KDP giveaway, contacting reviewers, and one official blog tour) of copies I gave away my number of reviews is also under 50. Not the best results after an entire year devoted to getting my books out there.

I definitely subscribe to the notion that so much of success in the self-publishing world has to do with luck. But I also know that there are a few things I could have done differently.

1.Blogging before the book-I attempted this but not soon enough. Honestly I didn’t think I really had much to say and there’s also a certain amount of accountability you’re held to when you start blogging about your dreams and if you don’t make them come true then that failure is made public to the entire world.

2-Interacting more on social media-I never use my Facebook and I didn’t have a Twitter until just recently. But what I didn’t realize before I started blogging is that there’s an entire community out there sharing in this same artistic struggle and that they aren’t all there just to observe each other’s successes but to help one another get there.

3-Letting go of the naive idea that a good book will sell itself-I didn’t spend a dime on marketing last year and while I’m still wary of paying for something so unpredictable, I acknowledge its occasional value and plan on investing more in this area in 2014.

All that being said, this past year did come with its own unique successes, some of which have meant more to me than any monetary success ever could have. So what made this year totally worth it and one of the best ever?? One word–READERS! You may be few but you are generous. SO incredibly generous and encouraging and kind and the way you’ve totally embraced both me and my books is beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I’ve received emails, yes actual emails from people who’ve actually read my books and not just read them but enjoyed them! I mean that’s just so insanely cool! And now when I’m having a rough day and feel discouraged creatively all I have to do is remember that despite the numbers and the stats, the truth is I’ve already accomplished the very thing I set out to do–to tell stories that mean something to people and that make them feel not only understood but appreciated for who and what they are, imperfections and all.

And that’s what makes 2014 so special. Because I’ve already accomplished something so sacred when it comes to writing any future success is just going to feel like icing on the cake. And despite any unmet expectations I may have had for my first year as an author, the truth is I was so incredibly blessed this year. I write every day and thanks to an opportunity to work from home writing can continue to be my number one priority, which means even more books in the coming year and more specifically a top secret YA trilogy that I can’t wait to tell everyone about. So here’s to 2014! To even more writing, more great books, and making even more great connections with all of you!

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25 thoughts on “2013

  1. mrs_ske says:

    What wonderful reflections. Thanks for your commitment to helping other writers; it’s truly wonderful. Thanks for being transparent about your year. It takes a lot to be that honest. You are an inspiration to me to follow my dreams and continue forward despite the possibility of failure … or success! Here’s to a wonderful 2014 with many more lessons learned.
    -Sara

    • Thank you so much! I spent a lot of time trying to decide how I wanted to approach this post, especially since my goal is always to share things that are truthful and yet ultimately hopeful. I’m so glad that despite it not being some wild success story that it still inspired you!

  2. what an insightful and honest reflection of the past year – it was inspiring to read about your decision to write out of passion, and it’s even more inspiring that you’re continuing to pursue your dreams/goals even without receiving any sort of fancy recognition. i just finished reading ‘this is the story of a happy marriage’ by ann patchett — the book is absolutely not about marriage, but about the process of being a writer, and what it takes to make it in publishing. she talks about how a violinist would never give up if the first solo performance wasn’t considered a hit (they would continue practicing) but a novelist often stops writing after one bad book review. anyway, longest post ever, but some food for thought ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I’m so glad you found it encouraging. I actually think a lot about what you mentioned about writers having a tendency to not pursue writing, or maybe just publication, after a bad experience. I’ve always found it strange that other artists somehow have permission to keep trying while writers only allow themselves a certain number of chances even though writing is as unpredictable an art form as anything else. Luckily though, I think there are a lot of writers who couldn’t give up even if they tried and those are the ones who will ultimately make their dreams come true.

  3. This is such a great post Laekan. It’s so good for me to hear that I’m not the only one struggling to have sales. I’d been feeling pretty down about that lately but reading this encourages me to focus on the positives.

    Like you I had a very successful free promo via KDP select but after that my sales went flat. Anyway, we’ve just got to keep on keeping on as they say and the main thing is to continue writing. Sounds like you’ve been quite prolific in your writing – 3 novels (one of which I’ve bought!) in a year is fantastic! Puts me to shame anyway.

    I won’t give up with my dream of (possibly) being a successful writer and nor must you!!

    • Wow! First of all, thank you so much for getting a copy of my book. I hope you enjoy it! I tried my hardest not to focus on sales but when reflecting on the year as a whole I was discouraged as well. Especially after reading about other authors who were not only selling at least a few copies a day but who were actually complaining about it. I know everyone measures success differently but I would be so grateful to just be selling one copy a day. Luckily though, I’m not in a position where I have to choose between writing and a day job so I can take all the time I need to do things right. Being prolific has definitely been my saving grace though. There’s truly nothing more hopeful than that first blank page.

      • Ah the hope of a blank page – that’s a lovely way of putting it. ๐Ÿ™‚ I agree with you about selling one copy a day *sighs*. Maybe one day… Till then I’ll just keep keeping on!

        • Exactly! As long as we just keep writing, success will come eventually and with a full backlist waiting to be discovered it’ll let readers know that we’re not some one hit wonder, but a career author they can count on to be around for a very long time.

  4. A very honest post. You can only learn from your mistakes, and it is good that you got your work out there; that can be the hardest thing to conquer.
    Making new objectives each year, maybe quarterly, can help with progress, always reevaluating things can also bring about its own kind of reward.
    Good Luck with your goals and objectives this year.

    • I think that’s really great advice. There were so many times throughout the year that I felt discouraged and I used to use planning for the future as a way to cope when I should have taken more time actually living in the present. If I had I would have seen that there were already so many things to be grateful for and that I’d already accomplished many of the things I thought I was still lacking. Like getting my work out there. You’re right that it’s one of the most difficult parts of the entire process and I managed to do itthree times. Thanks for the reminder to reflect!

  5. vevacha says:

    It’s so great that you’re willing to so openly share your experiences of self-publishing, and as an aspiring-to-be-published writer I really appreciate that you do. I also wanted to say that I’m still reading through Breathing Ghosts and that your prose is absolutely gorgeous. I also think it’s great that you’ve been able to accomplish so much writing-wise while also holding down a full-time job! Keep on keeping on, and I hope 2014 brings you all the successes you deserve.

    • Yay! That’s great news! I really hope you enjoy it. And I’m glad you found this post helpful. I know when I first started blogging the other self-published authors I found who were blogging about their experiences seemed to actually be having some success, not only that but attainable success. And because no one without any sales was willing to share the truth about what they were going through I had this misconception that selling a book a day would be a piece of cake. Turns out it wasn’t. Unfortunately I think a lot of indie authors subscribe to the idea of “fake it til you make it” and think that revealing that they’ve only sold a handful of their books over the course of an entire year somehow creates the impression that their books aren’t any good. But even just scrolling through the feedback I’ve gotten on this post I can see that there is absolutely no judgment, only understanding and appreciation for the truth.

  6. You have a great attitude and I look forward to reading your feature on your Indie Experience. You’re way ahead of the game…you’ve paid your dues…

    • Thank you! And oh God I hope so. I’m definitely ready to see the fruits of my labor. But if 2014 turns out to be just another “growth” year at least I’ve already built up the resolve I’ll need to keep going. And I will keep going. That much about the coming year I know for sure and because I won’t give up, I know that eventually (hopefully before I’m eighty) the success will come.

  7. I love your honesty and look forward to reading all about your experiences with self-publishing. I’m at the editing phase of my first book and am deciding whether to seek traditional publishing or self-publish, so love any and all advice on the topic. It was great to hear your reflections on the year. Thanks for liking my blog by the way, and I look forward to connecting more in the future ๐Ÿ™‚ Here’s to a great 2014!

    • I’m so glad you found my honesty helpful. I struggled with the decision to self-publish for about two years prior to putting out my first book, during which I actually queried it to agents. One of my college professors was really adamant about me holding out for a traditional deal even when a small press wanted to publish the book. But none of those options felt like a good fit for me. Besides, I knew the lack of interest from agents was based on the genre, or lack thereof, I was writing in and I knew that wasn’t going to change so self-publishing was just the right option for me. Good luck on your journey! I hope you continue to find my blog helpful.

      • I love hearing about an author’s journey, you can be assured I will be back to read more on your blog! You write New Adult, yes? With romance but it’s got more to it? I added Breathing Ghosts to my goodreads shelf – it will be purchased on my next book buying rampage ๐Ÿ™‚
        Cheers,
        Ali

        • Yes! Awesome! Again I hope you find it helpful even though I definitely wouldn’t consider myself an expert. Even though it’s been a year since I first published I still feel like I’m just getting started. And yes, I sort of fell into the New Adult category. My novels do center around romantic relationships but I’d classify them more as coming-of-age stories so there’s not as much romance as people usually associate with NA. Thank you so much though for considering reading Breathing Ghosts! I hope you enjoy it!

          • I understand why you look towards self-publishing, I’ve been considering it for the same reason- my work is more NA ‘coming of age’ with romantic elements too, it’s hard to pitch! I was going to stick with NA romance when seeking trad-pub and see how I go :/ Anways, thanks for the chats ๐Ÿ™‚ I can’t wait to read breathing ghosts! X

  8. Beth M says:

    Thanks for the honesty about publishing a book. It’s something I’d like to try one day, and I wondered about the marketing and pre-blogging aspect of it. Seeing favorite authors of mine (Gretchin Rubin for example) undertake the work of both blogging and writing gave me an idea, but this post gives more clarity as well.

    Good luck in 2014!

    • Blogging is definitely something I would recommend. There are just too many benefits not to–learning to stick to a schedule, meeting and learning from new people, and building a readership that you know in anticipation of your release date already enjoy your writing. Marketing is much trickier. Like I mentioned in my post so much about which methods work and which ones don’t and just self-publishing in general is about luck. But it’s definitely one of the aspects of going indie that I’ll be exploring a lot more this year so hopefully I’ll discover some things you might find helpful.

  9. Julie Israel says:

    Congratulations on all your hard work and progress, Laekan, and all the best in 2014! Thanks for being candid about your experience launching as a self-published author. I think it’s a good reality check for other aspiring authors, but in your case specifically I also see it as a sign of determination. You are someone who won’t give up, and that is a beautiful, encouraging thing.

    Because you mentioned how incredible fan mail is, I think I should tell you again that I absolutely LOVED Breathing Ghosts, I can’t wait to read more of your work (beta read pending!), and I have always been uber impressed and encouraged by your goals and the work you put into them. Keep going– you’ll get there! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thank you! And trust me it was definitely a reality check for me too. But rather than deter me luckily it’s only further solidified my commitment to making this happen! The way I see it, even though I’ve already published three books I’m still technically starting with a clean slate seeing as no one knows who the check I am haha. And that might actually be a good thing. Sort of like getting a second first chance. And thanks again for your wonderful feedback on Breathing Ghosts!! Actually your initial reactions to each chapter is one of those things I saved and look back on every now and then to cheer myself up because it’s just so awesome!

  10. Reblogged this on laekanzeakemp and commented:

    *To celebrate my two-year blogging anniversary, Iโ€™ll be re-blogging some of my favorite posts from 2014 throughout the month of December*

  11. I loved reading this. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences! It really helps to know how others are faring on their writing journeys. Your 2013 is my 2014. I finally made the decision to stop treating my writing as a hobby and do what I needed to do to get my book published. I’m looking at a tentative February 2015 release date, and I’m so glad I took that giant leap out of my comfort zone. The Girl In Between and The Boy In Her Dreams are both on my Kindle now and on my TBR list. I’m looking forward to reading them.

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