The Fog

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For a while I thought I’d start 2017 off with a TBR list or a WIP Wednesday (haven’t done one of those in forever). Something optimistic. Something about my productivity. But unfortunately, there hasn’t been any. And apparently I’m not the only one.

For weeks I’ve been waking up at 5:30 to write before school but instead of writing, my thumb swipes the twitter icon on my phone and before I know it I’m drowning in one awful thing after another. I read an article the other day about how much productivity has slipped across all job sectors due to the chaotic state of our democracy, as well as the world. People are living in a fog–anxious, helpless, unable to concentrate on the future or the possibility of it containing anything good.

Depending on the breaking news, some days the realization that I’m a teacher and the huge responsibility that comes along with that makes me feel even more helpless. On the one hand I am doing the most meaningful work I possibly could be right now. On the other, all of my students are immigrants and when they ask me if everything is going to be okay, if they are going to be okay, I don’t have an answer. I am just as worried and afraid as they are and I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a child in this world where even the adults you trust can’t offer you comfort.

The stakes right now are sky high and in my tiny classroom in my middle-class neighborhood I feel the weight of the world. I want to teach my students how to save it. How to save themselves. Us. Because I know that they are the only ones who can.

Unless we destroy everything before they even get a chance.

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New Year, New Goals

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I am a planner. Always have been, always will be. But that doesn’t mean my plans always pan out. I had planned to blog more this past year and reconnect with the blogging community. This did not happen. I’d planned to release TDOTN in June. That did not happen. Filling in my writing/revision calendar used to be a compulsory obsession and I haven’t touched it in months. I haven’t touched this blog in months. But now that I’ve finished my master’s degree and successfully survived my first semester of teaching, it’s time to find my way back to these important touchstones–the places where I first began to dream. The places that held me accountable and connected me with other dreamers in pursuit of the same dreams.

So, on that note, here is my new list of dreams.

*P.S. I live 90% of my life in the future, which means that my 2017 new years resolutions were actually planned years ago and now it is simply time for them to manifest*

1. Buy a home

I have lived in apartments for 8 years. That’s 8 years of listening to couples scream at each other on the other side of the wall; 8 years of possessed toilets and ice makers and broken dishwashers and bugs so big they were almost alien; 8 years of confined quarters and a pile of dirty dishes being the “heart” of the home; 8 years of wishing for a window, for a porch, a place to play our music loud, and a yard for our dog to run in. But this year, no more wishing. It’s time to put down roots.

2. Finish my next book

I wrote the rough draft of this novel years ago. But then TGIB series got so big that I never had time to go back and finish it. It will be my return to contemporary fiction and I can’t wait to start writing in the real world again. I’ve already locked my schedule in and will be writing/revising on Sundays until it’s finished. Not when I want it to be finished and not when some pre-order deadline says it’s finished (did I mention I’m never doing pre-orders again?) but when it is finished.

3. Start writing THE BOOK

I’ve blogged about THE BOOK in the context of when is it okay to follow a plot bunny even though you have other books to finish. I have been fantasizing about the plot of this story, reworking it, and falling in and out of love with it for about 2 years now. But I still haven’t written a single word. In 2017 all of that will change. I’ll be writing the 1st draft of the novel over the summer and then, based on CP feedback, I might consider subbing it. I’m still not sure how I feel about that yet. There’s a lot to consider before making that decision. But the possibility keeps nagging at me and I just feel like it’s something I need to explore.

4. Hire a website designer

I finally created an official website this year but it’s pretty plain and doesn’t really speak to the content of my books or my personality. Because of the issues I had with Amazon this past year, as well as all of the changes they keep making that make it harder and harder for KDP authors to sell books on their platform, I need my website to be a source of reliability and consistency where readers feel safe shopping and I have more control over how issues are resolved and how quickly. I also want to be able to start offering exclusive content on my website, which means I need a design that’s more attractive and easier to navigate. If you have any recs for great website designers let me know in the comments!

5. Create paperbacks for all of my books

This is one example of the exclusive content I want to start offering on my website. So many readers have emailed me asking about paperbacks. Seeing my books in print has always been a dream of mine but I just haven’t had the time or the space to devote to doing it right. Now that I’m done with school and will *hopefully* have more space soon I am going to start looking at costs of illustrators and professional formatting. I recently read one of Ksenia Anske’s blog posts on paperbacks and how, in the digital age, they’re being considered more like collectibles or works of art. I absolutely agree with this and because of that I plan to be really intentional about the design, possibly incorporating illustrations and other design elements. I also want to be able to sign every single paperback, hence the need for more space to store them and more time so that I can ship them to readers myself.

Numbers

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Yesterday’s blog post was a bit out of character for me. It has always been my goal to make my blog a positive space where even my mistakes can be used to offer perspective and encouragement to other writers. But, because it’s also always been my goal to be transparent, I decided to be very honest about how I’ve been feeling about my latest release. Not to encourage or even discourage other writers, but to show people that no matter how many positive reviews you get, how many books you sell, criticism still hurts. Success does not separate the art from the artist. Nothing can. My books are me and when those pieces of me are rejected it feels like I’m being rejected too.

I’ve chosen not to dwell on that feeling today. Instead, I’m forcing myself to focus on data in the hope that I’ll gain some much needed perspective. You see, 2016 was an amazing year for me as an author. Denying that would just be another form of rejection, except this time I’d be the one rejecting myself. The truth is I maintained a level of success other authors only dream about. Just two years ago I was one of those dreamers. For five years I worked and hoped and worked and hoped and still I remained invisible. But I’m not invisible anymore. I’m not a millionaire but I’m no longer alone on this journey.

Readers-strangers I’ve never met before–are buying my books and then telling their closest friends who are telling their mothers who are sharing them with their daughters who are recommending them to their classmates who are showing them to their teachers and it hasn’t stopped. For 2 years these books have been working their way across oceans and continents simply by word of mouth. I have paid for 0 advertising. I haven’t begged bloggers to review one of my novels in almost three years. I am so incredibly lucky and I hate using that word to describe any part of my success because I have also worked my ass off writing 7 novels. But when I think about all of the other indie authors out there who are doing the same…and paying for advertising, and organizing their own blog tours, and taking every online course and reading every self-publishing handbook to try to conquer their own obscurity, I’m faced with this question: why me and not them? The only answer I can think of is luck.

So, while I realize that my blog may no longer be a place (and maybe it never was a place) where other authors can find formulaic advice guaranteed to help them duplicate the success I’ve had, I still believe my honesty and transparency can help someone out there gain some perspective on what it’s like to be an independent author.

It’s been a while since I talked about numbers, but when I was first starting out, they were the one piece of the publishing process I was the most interested in. Why? Because numbers don’t lie. They show the reality of what it means to be indie, and even though some indie authors are making a lot more money than I am, there are also many who are making a lot less.

*According to authorearnings.com any writer making more than $25,000 a year is considered mid-list and this is where I fall. You can check out the earning report for October 2016 here*

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These are screenshots of an excel spreadsheet where I track my monthly/yearly sales. If you look up at 2015, you’ll see that it was May when I finally got my miracle. I still don’t have an explanation for the huge jump in sales but after 20 months they still haven’t slowed down. Every once in a while I’ll get a spike in sales (again, for reasons I still do not understand since I do absolutely 0 promotion) that will take me into the $3,000 or $4,000 range but for the most part over the past 2 years I’ve been consistently making about $2,000-$2,500 a month. That’s almost what I make as a 1st year teacher.

TDOTN came out in October so payout for those pre-orders will be on 2017’s spreadsheet. However, you can still see the surge in downloads for that month, which adds up to about $7,000. Since then, November and December have also seen an uptick in sales due to the addition to my backlist. In November I made about $5,000 and this month I’m on target to reach $4,000. I’ll be interested to see if the addition of TDOTN keeps me in the $3,000 range once things settle down a bit or if sales will fall back down to the $2,000 range. Whatever happens should give me a better idea of how much I can expect to make with the release of future novels.

These projections will be important for figuring out when I might finally feel comfortable transitioning to writing full time or how I should reinvest that money in order to grow my reach & diversify my product beyond just e-books. If things fall off unexpectedly, it might also help me determine if going hybrid and subbing a few novels rather than self-publishing them would be a good choice.

Some people might think I’m crazy to still be debating whether or not to make writing my full time job but in my opinion 2 years of steady sales just isn’t long enough for me to see the big picture. While $31,000 a year is definitely enough to live on if I were to continue living in an apartment and had no plans to reinvest in my business…it is not enough to grow. And not just my business but myself. I want to grow this thing I’ve created and that means minimizing the risk now so I can take a huge one later. One of the greatest lessons self-publishing has taught me is to be patient so that’s what I’m doing. I’m still dreaming, except I’m no longer dreaming of conquering obscurity. Instead, I’m dreaming of something else. Something bigger and not quite fully formed. Something worth waiting for.

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Disappointment

Every writer you know who has been shelving manuscript after manuscript; every writer you know who frantically checks their sales page every half hour; every writer you know who spends more time staring down a blank page than actually writing; every writer you know who is too afraid to even call themselves that isn’t actually afraid of not finishing. But of not being good enough. The fear of failure has crippled us all, and if we’re lucky we experience a little bit of success–enough to quell those fears for a while. But what no one tells you is that success fixes nothing. Because once you have a little bit of success, that fear of failure is quickly replaced by something else. The fear of being a disappointment.

While finishing TDOTN, every time I felt blocked, the words barely trickling out, I had the luxury of reminding myself that I had finished 6 other novels. I could finish this one too. I would. Success had leveled some of my doubt but it wasn’t the fear of running out of words that kept stopping me in my tracks. It was the fear of finishing, of coming to the end of the series, and it not being good enough. Not good enough for readers. Not good enough for the characters and the world I’d spent 5 years building.

I spent 2 years working on this novel–rewriting, revising, building it piece by piece and tearing it back down again. I came to a point when I realized that it would never be perfect–a moment of revelation I have with every novel–and that if I didn’t set some kind of deadline I would never be able to move on. I needed to move on. So that’s what I did. I set a deadline. I finished the novel. I published it. And then my worst fears came true. People were disappointed.

This blog post isn’t about me trying to explain the lesson in all of this. It’s still too fresh for me to find the value. I understand the mistakes I made and how I let down my readers who pre-ordered the novel by delivering a faulty file. I also understand how great of a risk it was to trust that Amazon would value its KDP authors enough to fix the mistakes they made as well. But I’m not talking about the disappointment surrounding how the book was delivered to customers. I’m talking about the disappointment people felt about the story. The story. My world. My characters. My ending. Right now…it’s way too painful to understand the lesson in all of that. But I will. One day soon I will wake up and not be so afraid to start again.

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The Daughter of the Night Pre-order Update! Cleaning Up Amazon’s Mess…

***Another update! Here are the step-by-step instructions on how to download the corrected file for The Daughter of the Night–> 1) Go to the “Manage Your Content and Devices” page 2) Click on “Settings” 3) Scroll down until you see “Automatic Book Update” 4) Switch it to “ON”. This should update the book on your device.

**Good news! Amazon has FINALLY uploaded the correct file. If you previously downloaded the version available this morning, you can contact Amazon customer service to receive the updated file or you can email your purchase receipt to me (lzkbooks@gmail.com) and I will send you the MOBI directly.**

Tonight at midnight The Daughter of the Night will be auto-delivered to over a THOUSAND KINDLES! I am so grateful to everyone who pre-ordered a copy and has been patiently waiting for the completion of this series. Because of that, I want to make sure that everyone has the most professional product possible. In order to make sure this happens, first, I must go on a very brief rant.

Thursday night was my deadline to upload the final version of the manuscript. In KDP’s guidelines it says this must be done by midnight three days before the book’s release. However, due to a glitch or the savage handiwork of satan, my book page was locked at 9:30PM. I emailed customer service and they never responded. This means that the version that will automatically download to your kindle devices is NOT the final version. While the story is complete, it is not the beautifully formatted version that I made with Vellum, it still contains some copyediting issues, and it is missing a Logical Table of Contents (Honestly, these are mostly minor issues and do not impact the plot of the story but I’m still furious).

KDP is rather unpredictable when it comes to WHEN exactly files will be made available to readers. I have my fingers crossed that files are delivered at midnight eastern time and that once the book goes live I’ll be able to quickly upload the updated version before many people download it. If you happen to download the manuscript that Amazon locked in error, you can email me directly and I will send you the corrected mobi file–> lzkbooks@gmail.com. Or you can email KDP customer service and ask them to send you the updated file of the book.

Hopefully, enough readers will see this blog post via Twitter or my newsletter and won’t download the book until the new version is live (I’ll be updating on my blog and on Twitter). But I definitely won’t be getting much sleep tonight as I wait to see whether or not this whole mess blows up. Please accept my sincerest apology for any inconvenience this may cause. I appreciate everyone who has stuck with me on this journey. You all have already been so patient and I hate to ask you to wait any longer. But I want you to receive a final product worthy of your time and money. I hope you understand. Thank you again for all of your support!

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