Tag Archives: indie authors

My Writing Process

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Yesterday’s post got me thinking about the value of indie authors being transparent about the diversity of their experiences and how seeing that every writer life is different can help us alleviate so much stress, envy, and anxiety from the creative process.

I don’t post about my personal experience as a writer because I think it should be the blueprint for all other indies. I try to be transparent about the ups and downs of my own writer life in order to show that I’m still just trying to figure things out and that I can still be “trying to figure things out” while also making good money from writing, which is proof that there is no perfect formula for self-publishing success.

This is good news. This means that despite what advice is floating around online, despite what other indies are doing (including me) there is no right way to do this writing thing. There is only your way, and as long as your way honors your beliefs and values and safeguards your health and well being, then your way is the best way. Keep doing it.

I think after reading about my own writing process, you’ll also begin to see that sometimes the best way actually means no way and that’s still okay too.

My writing process looks different during the school year than it does in the summer and for the purpose of full transparency, last year while I was teaching there were many months when it was pretty much nonexistent (hence why I’m still working on a novel that was supposed to come out in April).

Summer 2017:

7:00 AM–> Wake up *hey, I’m sleeping in a little*
*check KDP & Draft2Digital to calculate revenue for the past 24 hours and make sure nothing catastrophic has happened that will drastically change my projections for that month
*I’ve also been checking Tapas, which so far has not turned out to be as lucrative as I thought it would be *make a note to revisit Wattpad presence*
*Check email
*I should also be honest and say that I’m also simultaneously scrolling through Twitter while doing most of these other things

8:30 AM–> Writing time OR working out (it depends what time my Pure Barre class is that day *yes, I’ve joined the cult*)
*Right now, writing for me is writing this blog post but sometimes it means re-reading what I wrote the day before, making a few notes, and then getting back to work

12:00 PM –> Lunch, which is usually guacamole
*I’m lucky if I can hold my creative focus for this long. Sometimes I’ll write straight through, which usually leaves me with a HUGE writer hangover the next day, which I must recover from with the help of even more guacamole and a bunch of mindless shit on Bravo. But usually the three and a half hours between the beginning of my writing time and lunch are a combination of writing sprints and more Twitter checking

1:00 PM –> Writing Time Part II
*I try to grind out as many words as I can before my boyfriend gets home so I’m not glued to the computer screen while he’s trying to tell me about his day (sometimes this works but sometimes I’m nearing the end of a project–like now–and it’s more difficult to wrap things up, especially if I’ve finally found a bit of momentum)
*If my brain starts getting tired I’ll switch to blogging or reading (either my library books or blog posts/articles online). I’ve also started listening to podcasts a lot more lately

3:00 PM –> Try to relax *emphasis on TRY*

*Evenings* –> These are constantly changing…
*If my boyfriend wants to spend a couple of hours working on music before dinner I’ll try to get some more writing done
*If he’s doing live sound that night I’ll definitely make myself get some more writing done (I’ve felt guilty this summer taking writing breaks while he’s at work all day)
*If he’s exhausted from work I let myself be too and we watch TV until it’s time to go to bed, which for me is embarrassingly early *usually, 9 PM*

The next day…
*Sometimes I can get up and do it all again
*Sometimes I can’t
*When I was really in the meat of my novel this summer I found myself only able to write new material every other day and the days in between my brain only had enough energy for revisions. Sometimes I needed a break from both but anxiety over my looming deadline would force me to at least have the laptop open and my MS pulled up while I picked at it like a zombie

School Year 16/17:

August-October–> I was waking up every morning at 5:30 AM to spend a few hours working on The Daughter of the Night. It was miserable and I probably won’t ever do it again

November-December–> I hardly wrote at all and took a much needed break after all those early mornings and then people didn’t even like it and it really sucked and made me sad…

January-March–> Tried to write on Saturdays and Sundays. Sometimes that meant writing on Saturdays and revising on Sundays. Sometimes that meant writing on one of those days and sleeping on the other

April-May–> Pushed back my deadline to June; continued my weekend routine

June–> Pushed back my deadline to July; continued my weekend routine until school let out. Gave myself a week to recharge and then began my summer routine

July–> Even with my new summer routine of writing almost every day I still had to push my deadline back ONCE AGAIN to August

13 days in…and I’m praying I won’t have to push it back to September.

As you can see, I sort of need structure but I also need the flexibility to be kind to myself. What isn’t as visible from my descriptions above is how often I’ve actually been letting myself take breaks. Sometimes that means taking a 2-hour lunch in front of the TV before getting back to writing and sometimes that means doing no writing at all. It just depends on what my brain and body are telling me, which I think I’ve gotten much better at interpreting through the course of writing this novel.

What’s wrong with this way of doing things? Well, the novel still isn’t finished yet and it’s the only one I plan on putting out this year, mostly because I can’t produce anything at a faster rate. But because I know that about myself it’s not a huge disappointment. This means that instead of beating myself up every time I need to take a break I can just take a freaking break. After almost 8 novels I’m no longer trying to prove to myself that I can finish. I’m no longer trying to prove anything to anyone at all, except maybe to you. That YOU can come up with a routine that works for YOU and still achieve success. And the best part? It doesn’t have to be grueling. It can be kind. You can be kind to yourself and still reach the finish line, possibly more refreshed and more in love with writing than when you started.

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The Indie Graveyard

When I first started blogging I followed every indie author I could find; every writer, poet, and book reviewer. I was a sponge, reading every blog post and soaking in every bit of information on building an author platform, formatting e-books, and contacting reviewers. For a while I was sucked into this black hole of anti-productivity surrounded by a bunch of people who seemed to write about writing more than actually…well, writing. It’s that way for a lot of us in the beginning. We blog constantly about our dreams not realizing that what we’re doing is actually counterproductive to reaching our end goal–being an author. We make the excuse that we’re learning from our peers but really all we’re doing is spending hours scouring their blogs and secretly comparing ourselves to them. And comparison is more than counter-productive, it’s toxic. So I retreated, avoiding my feeder, Facebook, and twitter and I finished two novels.

Since then I’ve realized that social media must be kept at an arm’s length and that the only connections worth having online are real ones. While planning my upcoming revisions I started reaching out to critique partners I hadn’t spoken to in almost an entire year, some even longer, and found that many of them were at a standstill with their own projects…or that they had given up writing altogether during the past twelve months that we hadn’t spoken. I found the same thing as I started weeding through all of the blogs I used to follow in an effort to make my return to the blogging/writing community more manageable.Blog after blog had either been deleted or frozen in time and people whose journeys I used to admire had disappeared. After removing all of the inactive blogs I whittled my list down from almost 2,000 to just 200. The majority of the deleted blogs were former indie authors, people whose websites were a formal and defiant declaration of their dreams. And now they’re just gone.

The internet isn’t just a place for us writers to declare our dreams, it can also be a graveyard for them. If we let it. Blogs and social media can be dangerous if we use them for the wrong reasons, especially if blogging and maintaining an online presence become more important than our actual writing. But blogs can also be powerful tools for holding ourselves accountable. That’s what I’m looking for as I return to the blogging community. Not a place to compare word counts and sales numbers but a place to connect with other writers who are in this for the long haul.

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September Totals

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September started to show the dramatic downward shift I’d been anticipating, which was not entirely devastating since it was expected. But, it does prove that all success is finite and that if I want to continue making money as an author than I’m going to have to do the most obvious thing, which is keep writing. Which…I’m struggling to do right now while I’m in school. The good news is that I’m getting caught up on homework and will soon have lots of time–more time than I originally anticipated (due to quitting my full-time job and whatnot)–to finish TGIB series and move on to NEW projects!! But those things are still a long ways off (I’m shooting for a March 2016 release for TGIB book 4) and there’s still a TON of work to do in the meantime. Since it’s likely that I won’t have a new book for sale for another 5ish months I’m trying to research ways to break into more international markets. My success in the UK sort of just happened, which means that I’m not exactly sure how to replicate it. But my sales in territories like Canada, Australia, and India have slowly been on the rise and even though they’re somewhat minuscule at present I know that if they pick up I’ll have a stronger financial foundation to support future projects. I just have to figure out how to make that happen. So, if anyone has any resources–blog posts, promo sites, etc.–that talk about breaking into international markets, please share them and I’ll be sure to do the same!

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May Adventures

So this happened…

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Sometime around the end of April Amazon finally price-matched The Girl In Between and made it free on Amazon UK. Since then downloads have skyrocketed and sales for the other books in the series have steadily grown. Like…a lot.

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Amazon even put a cute little “Best Seller” flag next to the sequel!

The Girl In Between and The Boy In Her Dreams have both hit number 1 in several categories over the past week, which is the result of over 15,000 downloads and 1,000 copies sold.

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Looking at the rankings for The Boy In Her Dreams, I’ve concluded that you need to sell between 30-50 books a day in order to chart on one of Amazon’s bestsellers’ lists. I had a few days this week where my sales reached 100, which I have to credit for pushing the book into the number one spot on the lists below.

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Yes, that is THE Cassandra Clare stuck at number 4. And do you see who just so happens to be battling me for first under Teen & Young Adult Paranormal & Urban Fantasy in the screenshot below? Yes, that would be THE Veronica Roth. For approximately 24 hours I’ve actually been BEATING her in the Paranormal and Urban Fantasy category!!!!!

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As you can see May has been total insanity. In a good way. In the BEST WAY! Thank you UK readers!!! THANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOU!!!! You’ve made my dreams come true. It was just last year that I was barely managing to sell a few copies a month and for the past week I’ve been selling 50+ books each night in my sleep. It’s thrilling and wonderful and magical and I can’t believe this is actually happening. Thank you to everyone who has made this possible. Thank you for taking a chance on my books, for devouring them, for loving them, for sharing them with your friends. Thank you for supporting independent art and the daring individuals who choose to make it.

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The Tweak That Changed Everything

I can’t even remember how I stumbled across Nick Stephenson’s blog or newsletter but I’m so glad I did. The author of a successful thriller series, he’s recently been promoting a series of videos and workshop opportunities for other authors looking to increase their sales. I signed up for his newsletter on a whim, my curiosity piqued by all of the comments and feedback left by authors who’d already been helped by his advice. The first three videos were free so I had nothing to lose and after implementing the advice from just the first two videos alone, I’ve already experienced some amazing results.

In just one month I’ve gone from selling a couple of books a day (if I was lucky) to selling 10-40 books a day. And as far as free downloads go, I’ve gone from twenty or so copies a day to 300-800! My books are actually reaching readers and every day my audience is growing exponentially. I know some people might scoff at my results. Maybe it took them one book to achieve what I’m just now experiencing after publishing six novels, but as an indie author and as an artist, I know how detrimental comparison is. All that matters is my journey and I couldn’t be happier with the road I’m on and the results I’ve achieved.

When I first started self-publishing I knew absolutely nothing about the online retailers where my books were being sold. I was familiar with Amazon only because I was a frequent customer there but I’d never taken the time to understand how their search engine worked, especially when it came to keywords. But after watching Stephenson’s videos I’ve come to realize that keywords are KEY to an indie author’s success. Each online retailer is a little different in how they utilize keywords and allow customers to search but since Amazon is where I make 90% of my sales I decided to devote most of my time to making changes there.

Before making big changes to all of my books listed on Amazon I decided to experiment with just my paranormal series. Since it’s genre fiction I figured it would be easier to apply specific categories and keywords, not to mention the fact that those changes could be applied to all three books. It took me a few hours of digging up comparable titles, checking their rankings, and evaluating the competitiveness among each keyword–meaning how many books were categorized by that term (all these steps are explained more in-depth in Stephenson’s training)–but the changes I made were significant.

Prior to watching Stephenson’s videos I was using keywords that were way too specific. I thought narrowing down the keywords would place my book among less competitive search results, meaning it would be closer to the top of the list and much more visible. In fact, this was the very thing making my books invisible. For example, I might have used keywords such as “nightmares” or “dreams”. These mean nothing to Amazon customers. Think about the way you search for things on google or Amazon or any other search engine. Most people would search using broader terms first, especially if they’re just browsing. So instead of using keywords like “nightmares” or “dreams” I replaced them with keywords that were more genre specific like “paranormal romance for teens” or “free paranormal romance.”

Stephenson goes much more in-depth in his training videos and I highly recommend checking them out. I’ll be moving on to video three soon and if his suggested changes continue to provide me with stellar results I’m definitely going to consider paying for his other training as well. I’ve benefited so much from his generosity already so I encourage anyone who’s interested to please check out his videos for yourself or his Leopold Blake thriller series. Indies helping indies is a beautiful thing so if you’ve come across any life changing advice or resources please feel free to share in the comments below!

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